Andrew Louw, MPL
DA Provincial Leader:
The province has its positives and indeed, life is better than it was 21 years ago. The Democratic Alliance cautions against complacency. It is not enough to simply say that things are better now than before. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than the apartheid government. Overcoming the apartheid legacy of inequality is like climbing a mountain – you must rest halfway, admire the view and see how far you’ve come. Then you must take a deep breath and climb the mountain to the top. You cannot remain sitting halfway up the mountain.
We have indeed come a long way. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go.
The Democratic Alliance centred our 2014 election campaign around the theme “Together for Change, Together for Jobs”. To address poverty and inequality, we must ensure that we give the youth an opportunity for work experience and that we give every adult the chance to work. The unemployment statistics must set alarm bells ringing. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, the Northern Cape recorded the highest increase in unemployment in the fourth quarter of 2014. The expanded unemployment rate in the Northern Cape stands at 38%, which is four percent higher than the national average. While the quarter-to-quarter figures show gains of 18 000, the year-to-year statistics reveal losses of 9 000. Effectively, we have fewer people in employment now than we did in 2013.
The Survey also shows that the Northern Cape offers the worst job security in the country – the average worker here is employed for 27 months while the South African standard is 47 months.
Clearly we need to increase the amount and the duration of jobs in the province.
The premier mentioned in her statement that 18 000 job opportunities will be created through working with business and civil society. It is a promise than sounds better than it actually is. If this target is met, it will provide opportunities for only 5% of the unemployed people in the province. The Democratic Alliance believes that we must set our sights higher if we are to make a meaningful difference. It is no wonder that where we govern, the province has the lowest unemployment rate and the lowest number of discouraged job seekers in the country.
Furthermore, no clear indication was given as to how 18 000 jobs will be created. The specifics in the premier’s speech provides for just 6
850 job opportunities, which is a mere 38% of the job creation target.
According to the premier’s address, 1 500 temporary jobs will be generated in the construction phase of the new zinc mine at Gamsberg, with 500 permanent positions once it goes into operation. Fifty temporary jobs will be created through the development of the N14 in Postmasburg and 4 800 permanent jobs will be created through the River Valley Basin Catalytic Project.
So where, how and at what cost will the remaining 11 150 jobs of the 18 000 promised be created?
The Democratic Alliance believes that job opportunities created through the Expanded Public Works Programme is instrumental in alleviating poverty, but should not be the only means available to destitute people. We are concerned about the feasibility of the provincial job creation goals; in the previous cycle, the provincial government failed to meet 24% of its intended target. The premier gave no indication on how the shortfall will be addressed nor how provincial departments will improve their job creation programmes.
We must also consider the sustainability of EPWP opportunities. For participants to remain economically active, there must be a transfer of skills. We urge the provincial government to adopt the Western Cape’s internship model, which has seen the creation of 18 000 opportunities for the youth. Our youth needs to be equipped with knowledge and skills.
The Democratic Alliance appreciates the premier’s assurance that, “no child shall be prevented from learning”. Ongoing school shutdowns in the province proves that our children have become the soft targets for disgruntled community members. We are now in the sixth week on the school calendar and learning has already been disrupted in Kgatelopele and Dikgatlong due to violent community protests. The premier’s commitment must translate into an implementable contingency plan that can keep schools open when communities protest.
We welcome the honourable premier’s honesty on the mental health hospital. When construction started in September 2005, the promise was that the hospital would open its doors in December 2007 and would cost
R290 million to complete. A much-needed hospital which should have been operational already is now in its tenth year of construction and costs are escalating to more than five times the original estimate.
Too many construction and capital projects in the province are not completed on time and within budget. It is for this reason that the Democratic Alliance will be conducting our own oversight in the province.
As members of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, we have a collective responsibility to hold the executive to account. We cannot accept indefinite postponements of projects and delays in service delivery. The oversight responsibility of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature must be taken much more seriously. You’ll see in the
2013/14 Annual Report from the Legislature that only two oversight visits were held during the previous financial year – and both of them to Namaqua. Where are the oversight visits to the rest of the province?
To address the shortcomings of the Legislature’s current oversight model, the Democratic Alliance caucus will be launching our own oversight programme in 2015. We will be visiting construction sites, infrastructure development initiatives and public buildings to determine if and how departments are delivering on their mandates.
We will also monitor the public entities.
It is no exaggeration to describe the current Foetal Alcohol Syndrome rate in the province as an epidemic. If we want to end this epidemic, we must improve oversight and compliance monitoring by the Northern Cape Liquor Board. In its engagements with the Legislature in 2014, the Liquor Board frankly admitted that it falls short of the industry standards on compliance visits and needs an additional R2 million to meet industry requirements. While the Liquor Board knows it cannot enforce compliance, it still distributes liquor licenses freely – in the past two financial years, 1 004 liquor licenses were approved by the Liquor Board.
Poor monitoring of outlets and lax compliance measures make it far too easy for minors to obtain alcohol. The National Youth Risk Survey shows that Northern Cape learners are the most likely to drink alcohol on school premises during school hours, with one in five learners participating in sexual activities after drinking. The District Health Barometer of 2014 also indicates that the Northern Cape has the highest incidence of teenage pregnancies.
If we are to address the scourge of teenage pregnancies and FAS in the province, Honourable Speaker, the Liquor Board must be capacitated to perform its monitoring and enforcement tasks.
To further prevent FAS, the Democratic Alliance will table a Private Member’s Bill this year to provide for regulations that will prohibit the sale of alcohol to pregnant women. FAS has no cure, but it is entirely preventable.
I invite the honourable premier to be factual in her reply and to give informed answers on the concerns we have raised. We must climb this mountain together and overcome the challenges facing this province.
The Democratic Alliance wishes to hear the premier report on the current progress of the Bucket Eradication Programme; clarity on the costs of job creation in the province; how the provincial government intends to strengthen its planning functions in the Office of the Premier and whether or not any new posts have been approved by the Provincial Treasury; contingency measures that can ensure learning continues despite community upheavals; practical steps on how cost containment instructions from National Treasury will be implemented, especially as it relates to consultancy reduction plans as well as the accelerated delivery of title deeds.