FS State of the Province: Ace Magashule’s seven years of failure

Roy Jankielsohn

Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

This year marks Ace Magashule’s seventh year as premier of the Free State. In these seven years, the people of the province have increasingly found themselves living in a failed province.

For the last seven years we have repeatedly heard numerous promises flowing from Premier Magashule’s lips. If his government could only have delivered on half of these promises, the Free State would be in far better place.

But, where are we today? We have no doubt that Premier Magashule, on Tuesday next week, will once again promise us that the Free State is a province of milk and honey. Unfortunately, the realities millions of our people across the province face is that of inequality, the horror of entrenched poverty, and the scourge of unemployment.

Our provincial government is virtually bankrupt, both financially and morally.

The people of the province lost almost R8 billion because Ace Magashule’s government does not want to manage the province’s finances appropriately.

Due to the inability of the provincial government to effectively manage public finances, the province, at provincial level, lost almost R3 billion to questionable financial management practise.

At local government level, Free State municipalities lost R4,858 billion towards unauthorised, irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure while carrying an outstanding household debt totalling R5,4 billion. Our municipalities can’t pay ESKOM for electricity or the Water Boards for water. The provincial municipal ESKOM bill totals just over R1,1 billion and another R1,13 billion is owed to water boards.

Two key provincial departments are struggling with addressing multimillion Rand shortfalls due in accruals. Accruals in the Department of Health tops almost R800 million, and R1,3 billion for the Department of Education.

But despite the shocking state of the province’s finances, Ace Magashule took a 72 person delegation on a 15 day holiday trip to Cuba at a cost of R14.1 million. A small amount of money considering the province’s financial situation, but on this trip he not only wasted money that could have helped millions of people, but he took with him mayors and municipal managers and MECs that should have stayed here in the Free State and tried to solve the problems of the province.

Since 2009 Ace Magashule’s government ate and drank and danced at gala dinners spending R325 million of the people’s money on caterers and entertainers. Money that could have contributed to solving many of our problems.

In just one year, under Magashule’s premiership, the Free State dropped five places in overall good governance and performance indicators. The province scored an overall 60% below the line for partial to total noncompliance with key indicators. This was revealed by the ANC’s own governed National Department of performance Monitoring and Evaluation’s annual Management Performance Assessment Tool (MPAT) for the 2013/14 financial year.

The Free State province is today the second worst governed province after North-West.

Considering the poor governance of Premier Ace Magashule it came as no surprise that the long-term unemployment increased in the Free State over the last seven years. Long-term unemployment refers to those individuals who have been unemployed for more than one year.

In 2008, the prevalence on long-term unemployment in the province came in at 57.1%, seven years later in 2014 it stands at 69.9%. The second worst performing province after Mpumalanga.

The statistics show that out of a total working age population of 1,858,000 million people only 755,000 thousand people in the province are employed, down from 834,000 people who worked in 2008.

Out of 399,000 unemployed people searching for employment in the Free State, almost 280,000 people have been searching for more than one year, and 149,226 persons in the province have been searching for a job for more than five years. This is what we mean when we refer to the scourge of unemployment.

Worst still is that 627,000 people in the Free State of working age are not economically active in any way.

Almost half the population depend on social grants to help ease the suffering of inequality and the horror of entrenched poverty.

This is not a good story to tell. It is a heart-breaking story of misery affecting millions of people across the length and breadth of the Free State.

What we want to hear from Premier Ace Magashule next Tuesday is a radical change in his administration’s approach to governance. We do not want to hear more empty promises of delusions of grandeur or history lessons that have no relevance to Magashule’s poor performance as premier.

It is quite simple. We have five key areas for this government to address:

  1. A clear strategy with marked deliverables to turn the financial situation of the provincial government around, especially within the Department of Health and Education. This means that all nonessential luxury trips and massive delegations are a thing of the past. That Magashule’s government will start eating dinner at home like normal people, instead of eating out;
  2. That he will take decisive action to root out corruption and take action against those implicated in corrupt activities. He could start by setting a strong example by firing MEC Malakoane and MEC Leeto;
  3. That his government tables a clear strategy to intervene in local municipalities to sort out the mess created by years of poor, selfish and unaccountable ANC governance;
  4. That his government appoint qualified and experienced individuals and invest in them the authority to clean up departments and deliver services;
  5. Announce an infrastructure build programme that will see our water infrastructure repaired and expanded, our dams de-sludged, our roads tarred and houses built.

Anything less and we can expect more of the same. Our people will suffer and Ace Magashule and his comrades will sing, dance, and be merry, while the people of the province pay for this lavish lifestyle at the expense of service delivery and good governance.