DA Budget Debate on Economic Development

Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL

DA Spokesperson on Economic Development

Note: The following is an extract from the speech delivered in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature today by the DA’s Spokesperson on Economic Development, Boitumelo Babuseng, during the budget debate of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism today.

I am devoting this budget speech to the late Mr Ivan Peter Saga. He was one of many who was destroyed by this government.

According to Stats SA’s First Quarterly Labour Survey, the Northern Cape recorded the biggest increase in unemployment since December last year. This survey indicates that the province’s official unemployment rate grew from 24.9% to 29%. At the same time, the expanded unemployment rate increased to a high of 39.8%, up from 35.5%. These are significant increases in unemployment and translate into the loss of 21 000 jobs.

The Honourable John Block tends to lay the blame for this province’s poor performance in terms of growing the economy and growing jobs on the global economic downturn.

But the DA doesn’t buy this excuse.

In as much as our country may be on the verge of or even in yet another economic recession, employment gains were observed in other provinces like the North West and the Western Cape. Why does this province remain the runt of the South African economy? After all, we have an entire department devoted towards creating an enabling environment for economic growth in the province.

What is wrong with the Northern Cape?

The answer to this question is, quite frankly, Honourable John Block and what prof. Njabulo Ndebele calls corruptive collusion. According to prof. Ndebele, corruptive collusion offers group protection and will be hostile towards any regulatory measures, whatever their merits, which emanates from outside the group. Any guilt from abandoning struggle values the group will share through ritualistic recalls of past heroism and numerous political declarations of intent and a plethora of policies. Even the national constitution is an outside phenomenon.

They deploy the mantras of ‘poverty reduction’, ‘job creation’, ‘combating crime and corruption’. These mantras have high appeal. But their effect weakens only because the more the subgroup in power asserts itself through a corrupted perspective, the less capability it demonstrates for solving social problems that require committed and principled effort. Corrupt concealment becomes the primary mechanism by which corruption in general spreads through the body politic. The impact on state governance is severe. Corruption becomes a principle of solidarity. It feeds and maintains solidarity.

The political party thus infected becomes itself the very agent of corruption. Corruption becomes its raison d’etre, lived but never declared, condemned generally, never specifically; and threatened, but never rooted out.

This corruptive collusion is best illustrated by what happened to the late Ivan Peter Soga, whose contract at the Liquor Board was not renewed after he had a fall out with the Honourable Block.

With all government doors shut in his face, the Mr Ivan Peter Soga found himself in a very dark and lonesome place.  Tragedy ensued and Mr Soga burnt himself to death in his shack in Marikana near West End.

I respectfully hold the Honourable Block indirectly responsible for this, just as I hold him directly responsible for the high levels of poverty and unemployment in this province.

This corruptive collusion has turned the department into “Department of Projects” than a “Department of Economic Development”.  This department thinks that its main priority is to create jobs by funding and managing mega events. It behaves like a conglomerate instead of creating an environment conducive for economic development and job creation. The department’s attitude of “we’ll do it all ourselves” is deeply flawed and is further seen in the department’s inclination to want to hog the limelight by completely side-lining the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture on its drive to promote extreme sports. It is because the MEC of this department is none other than Honourable Block, who is also the provincial chairperson of the ANC.

We have yet to receive a report on the Maloof Money Cup, now turned Kimberley Diamond Cup, and remain completely in the dark as to the ‘value-for-money’ aspect of this mega project. This project has, in the past, been responsible for significant over-expenditure and the excessive use of consultants. Why the vagueness? What is it that the department is hiding from us? The department leaves us with no choice but to invoke the provisions of PAIA and ultimately the courts.

We are told of a transfer of R5 million to the Northern Cape Economic Development Agency, whilst all duties of this agency are actually duplicated within the department’s very own Trade and Investment Promotion Programme, which in comparison to NCEDA, receives a budget of R31 million. Could it be that NCEDA is nothing more than a dumping ground for political cadres and unwanted projects? NCEDA’s past performance would certainly validate this suspicion. NCEDA received a disclaimer of opinion in the past financial year and has yet to bring any of its projects to full implementation phase, despite this agency having been in operation for about four years now.

The Tourism Authority, which receives an allocation of R18,275 million, is currently also adding to a bloated economic cluster, struggling to effectively coordinate job creation. This, while the department’s own Tourism Programme receives a whopping R48,162 million. And yet, domestic tourism in the province is stagnant. I would like to state that the department’s allocation to grow the provincial economy would have been better spent serving the directives of the NDP, and in turn business enterprises by:

  • raising levels of employment;
  • improving skills development;
  • reducing the regulatory burden on small businesses
  • streamlining the existing economic sector;
  • facilitating private investment;
  • giving leadership to economic development;
  • identifying and resolving market failures;
  • improving trust between the public and private sector. The department must treat the private sector as partners in policy design and implementation;
  • addressing constraints to public private partnerships.

We all deserve better than this department. And the DA will continue to fight for clear policy direction, performance, transparency and accountability within this department.