Mpumalanga SOPA 2015 debate: Address by Anthony Benadie MPL

Anthony Benadie MPL,

DA Provincial Leader:

The State of the Province Address delivered by the Hon Premier on Friday once again demonstrated the extent of the ANC’s disconnection with the people and the real state of the Province.

 

Hon Premier, it is a sad fact that you have become the master of saying the right thing, things you believe the people of the province want to hear, but which are grossly contrasted by your government’s inability to either understand what you are saying, or simply lacking the ability to implement the bold promises you make.

 

By way of illustration, over the past four years you have made repeated sensational announcements about the Moloto rail corridor, the high altitude sport centre, the fresh produce market and the cultural hub. But, I sometimes think you forget what you say from one SOPA address to the next. On Friday, you once again mentioned these, but the reality of the matter is that we are today none closer to the physical implementation of these projects than we were when you announced them the first time.

 

In fact, a careful analysis of your address on Friday reveals that your government has practically abandoned the construction of the cultural hub, the International Convention Centre and the High Altitude Training centre as in each one of these you have laid the responsibility to implement these projects squarely at the feet of the private sector. The same can be said of the required investment in broadband infrastructure, the skywalk, cable car and the bourkes luck hotel, all of which sound very positive, yet its success rests entirely on private sector investment.

 

If Hon Premier you were committed to securing private sector investment, to grow the economy and create jobs, why then the stark contradiction of recapitalising and commercialising the Zithabiseni Resort, but cunningly the town of Pilgrim’s Rest is to be rejuvenated rather than commercialised – is it perhaps due to the lucrative tenders associated with this historic town (perhaps MEC Mashego can tell us more).

 

Hon Speaker, the claim by the Premier that 86710 jobs were created in Mpumalanga since 2008 is yet again a carefully crafted untruth. The fact is that since 2008 the number of unemployed persons increased by an additional 162 000 persons, pushing unemployment from 23% to 29,3% in Mpumalanga.

In addition Hon Premier, you proudly state that 53173 jobs were created in the community and government services. However this begs the question, if you are employing so many more people, why then are we not seeing an improvement in service delivery.

 

Hon Speaker, we are sitting in Emalahleni today, and I attempt to consider the Premiers SOPA through the eyes and life of a resident of Emalahleni.

You refer Hon Premier to the triple burden of poverty, unemployment and inequality, especially under the youth, and by your own admission 70% of the unemployed are young people.

 

And, you are right Hon Premier, but the question is do you know the persons you are referring to? They are sitting right here, because if there sufficient jobs in Emalahleni, the majority of our guests today would be at work, and have the time to spend an entire day listening to ANC propaganda. But my questions is this, if you know that 70% of the unemployed are young people, how much longer will it take you before this government implements the youth wage subsidy, that will afford thousands of young people, right her in Emalahleni to get a job, acquire training and make themselves contributors to the provincial economy.

 

On a positive note, we once again (as we have for the past four years) welcome the announcement that the Moloto rail corridor development is now ready to proceed. For too long government has been dragging its feet on this project, and while dozens of innocent people continue to lose their lives on that infamous road of death, we certainly hope that we will now, at last see some action in developing this rail corridor.

 

Hon Speaker, what goes beyond comprehension is the Premiers obsession with MEGA, and year after year allocating mammoth responsibilities to MEGA, yet this entity consistently fails to deliver on those mandates. First they were tasked with assisting municipalities with the installation of bulk water supply services, they failed and the project was taken away from them. In this SOPA, MEGA is tasked with developing infrastructure for the fresh produce market, the setting up of a commercialisation plan to attract investment to MTPA parks, and they are being tasked with the responsibility to attract investment for the building of the 10 modern, high tech hospitals.

 

Hon Premier, MEGA no longer holds any legitimate right of existence, it is an entity in perpetual chaos, unable to even manage their own affairs, and I challenge you to mention even one project that MEGA has executed in the past year that has resulted in the creation of jobs. Indeed, MEGA is nothing more than a blood-sucking entity unable to deliver on a single mandate.

 

Hon Speaker, in terms of Agriculture, a sector that the Premier rightfully sited as being critical to addressing the challenges facing our province and we agree 100% with the Premier that something drastic must be done to improve the performance and output of this sector.

 

However, the declining output and employment in the agricultural sector can be directly attributed to the ANC governments failed land reform programme. While Premier Mabuza boasts that 921 981 hectares of land has been redistributed, the big question is how much of that land is currently productive.

You see Hon Premier, land reform and redistribution is not only about land ownership for residential purposes, but a programme that should be escalating emerging farmers, through proper government support and private sector mentorship, onto the arena of commercial agriculture.

 

Hon Speaker, the ANC must stop using land reform merely as an electioneering tool, and realise that the people of our province are not lazy, the people sitting here today are not lazy, they are ready to work, but they require support, skills and financial backing to turn land reform projects into commercially viable businesses.

How long, Hon Premier must the emerging farmers of Thembisile and Dr JS Moroka wait for government’s disaster relief support. Before election 2014, MEC Siwela was quick to visit these farmers and promise them that relief was coming, yet today, almost one year later they are still waiting.

 

Education Hon Speaker, remains the most critical factor to advancing one’s ability to participate in the formal economy. However, while year after year the ANC gloats on news of an increased grade 12 pass rate, it is a fact that this government is fostering and breeding a lost generation of young people.

The fact is that in 2012 84 585 learners were enrolled in grade 10 in Mpumalanga schools, however, in 2014 only 46307 learners actually wrote their grade 12 exams. In a space of two years, our education system lost 38631 learners. That is over 38 000 young people, whose chance of ever receiving a formal education that would render them employable is practically destroyed, and sadly Hon Premier – you don’t care.

 

Hon Speaker, allow me to express my disgust at the Premiers insult to the people of this province, by claiming that the current load-shedding, that has cost our economy over R300 billion since 2008, is a good thing. We all know that the Mpumalanga Highveld accounts for the vast majority of the country’s electricity generation.

Hon Speaker, it is a slap in the face of Emalahleni residents, that thousands of people go to work every day, travelling long distances, working long hours to produce electricity for the entire South Africa, yet return home at night to darkness, unable to reap the benefit of their own labour.

 

Hon Speaker, I can go on and highlight the inability of this ANC government to effectively turnaround the ailing health department, their inability to promote tourism in Mpumalanga and their inability to get our economy growing and to create jobs.

Instead I use my last few minutes, to raise serious concern about the ongoing political and administrative instability within the Emalahleni municipality. It is now common knowledge that the 20 month long intervention has not delivered the desired result. The municipality is today in a worse financial crisis than it was before the Administrator was appointed. Road infrastructure continues to collapse and the ability of the municipality to provide residents with a continuous supply of drinking water leaves much to be desired.

 

While some communities in Emalahleni have no water at all, others are left with dry taps for days on end. Most concerning, and notwithstanding the millions of rands already spent on this intervention, there is little to no sign that service delivery is set to improve any time soon, as residents continue to suffer at the hand of the uncaring ANC government.

 

Which links very closely Hon Speaker, to the Premiers announcement of the implementation of the ‘Back to Basic Campaign’, which we know is nothing more than a fig leaf of the ANC’s 2016 municipal election campaign, funded by public money. We will indeed monitor this campaign closely and expose any and every attempt of the ANC to use this campaign as an electioneering tool.

In conclusion Hon Speaker, the Premiers SOPA is noted and while he might believe much of what he said, the big test will whether his cabinet and administration can actually deliver on any of the promises made.

 

I thank you.