Department of CoGTA is a sinking ship

By Bosman Grobler, MPL:

The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA’s spokesperson on CoGTA, Bosman Grobler MPL, during the tabling and debate on Policy Budget of the Department of CoGTA. Vote 4

Hon Speaker,

Hon MEC you are the captain of a sinking ship.

Local government in Mpumalanga is in the worst state it has ever been. Municipalities have lost their ability to protect their citizens. And municipalities have lost their ability to provide job opportunities for their citizens. I say this because I had a first-hand experience last night, when both Hon Benadie and I became victims of crime, when our laptops were stolen outside the Crossing Spar on our way back home after the sitting.

So bad is local government, that Minister Gordon ordered the publication of section 26 notices to amalgamate 10 municipalities in Mpumalanga into 5. Sighting financial viability as reason for the amalgamation, he proves that local government is not in a healthy state. He could have used many other reasons for the proposed amalgamation. I can think of poor service delivery, inability to deliver on mandates and collapse of infrastructure in municipalities.

Hon Speaker,

We all know what I am talking about. It is even clearer when you hear ANC members of the committee lead with the department in meetings. “Please, next year is local government elections, and we cannot lose this one.” It is this department that is at the coal face of service delivery in Mpumalanga. If this department does not perform, it is public representatives who stand embarrassed when they campaign for votes.

Hon MEC, if it makes you feel any better, you have my sympathy.  You have been mandated to do political oversight in municipalities, but you have to work with egocentric cadres who are in the most only there for personal gain.  As the saying goes, “Too many chief and too little Indians”. This is the situation in our municipalities nowadays. Luckily, there should be a cabinet shuffle soon, and you will be relieved of the responsibility of trying to resuscitate a corpse.

Before I speak about specific programmes, I would like to make general comments on the budget we are debating.

  • Municipalities are underspending their Municipal Infrastructure Grants – the nett result of this is money sent back to Treasury, and a smaller allocation the next year. We know the consequence, yet we don’t put pressure on municipalities to spend on infrastructure.
  • The other extreme of this is the fact that municipalities use funds allocated for infrastructure development for the day to day operational cost of a municipality.
  • Another concern is the huge proportional increase in percentage spent on salaries. This is very concerning, even if it is as a result of a smaller nett allocation. The smaller net allocation is due to the fact that municipalities are not spending on capital projects.
  • There is also poor monitoring and evaluation mechanism of CDW’s with regards to their roles and responsibilities.
  • Increasing debts to Eskom and Rand Water, although this is a short sentence, it has a huge impact on residents of Mpumalanga. I want to make it clear that it is of utmost importance to ensure that there are systems and structures in place to ensure that these invoices are paid timeously.

To speak specifically about every programme:

The total budget allocation for the department of COGTA is R443 898 000 for the 2015/16 financial year.

Programme 1 (Administration)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme is R111 771 000 – the programme has set 64 targets.

Programme 2 (Local Governance)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme is R152 978 000 – the programme has 722 planned targets.
  • The role of CDW’s is still unclear – the department has failed to make provision of increasing CDW’s in the current financial year. There continues to be a concern that the payment of CDW’s will result in fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
  • There continues to be a lack of monitoring of municipalities especially because municipalities are indebted to Rand Water and Eskom. This is notwithstanding the fact the department also owes Rand Water a sum of R21 million.

Programme 3 (Development and Planning)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme Is R61 860 000 for the 2015/16 financial year. The programme has 24 582 planned targets.
  • It must be noted with concern that the department has increased its compensation of employees from 37% to 70%. This raises questions about the department’s commitment to meet its targets, when most of its budget is dedicated to compensation of employees.
  • According to the Auditor General reflect a 10% under spending of conditional grants by 50% of municipalities – this has resulted in a lack of operations and maintenance of existing infrastructure.
  • The programme does not provide reasons as to why their planned targets are silent on the collection of payments for municipal services from affording households. This has been one of the factors that have led to many municipalities owing/indebted to service providers.
  • The DA welcomes the Integrated Municipal Support Plan; however this initiative seems to be moving in a very slow pace. We can only hope that this plan will be able to assist municipalities to pay for infrastructure upgrades and maintenance.

Programme 4 (Traditional Institution Management)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme R100 811 000 for the 2015/16 financial year. There continues to be lack of coordination and communication between traditional leaders and municipal officials/municipalities.

Programme 5 (House of Traditional Leaders)

  • The total budget allocation for this programme R16 478 000 – there are 73 planned targets for this programme.

Hon Speaker,

Let me finish by asking the MEC, and perhaps in absentia the Premier, on behalf of the residents of Mpumalanga. It is unacceptable that only 9 out of 21 municipal managers comply with the minimum competency levels as set out by National Treasury. Please appoint capable, skilled, qualified and equipped administrative personal in municipalities across the province. Do not use our municipalities as a reward for political loyalty or a dumping ground for worn out politicians.

This department needs excellent performance in order to improve every aspect of basic needs for the residents in our province.

I thank you.

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Budget vote speech: COGHSTA

By Jacques Smalle DA MPL:


The following speech was delivered by Jacques Smalle DA MPL, to the Limpopo Provincial Legislature on 28 May 2015 during the Debate on the 2015 Budget of the Department of Cooperative Governance Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs.

Recycled promises won’t hide mediocrity

The DA believes in a society that is characterised by FREEDOM, FAIRNESS AND OPPORTUNITY.

It is in this spirit of fairness that the DA recognises COGHSTA’s achievement of a ‘Clean Audit’.

The Development of human settlements is at the core of your department’s mandate, yet about R644 million was returned back to National Treasury in 2012/13.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the programme under spent the total allocated budget by R449,4 million.

At the end of 2014/15 financial year, COGHSTA  was most guilty of ‘underspending’ of all departments and recorded a failure to spend a staggering R562 397 million, at least according to the

Limpopo Adjustment Appropriation Amendment Bill of 2015.

Hon.MEC

No amount of promises can hide the mediocrity that has cost this province at least 9, 259 basic RDP houses that would have been built had you not lost this amount.

The DA believes that houses are an asset which for the poorest in our communities are leverage and empower many out of trappings of poverty and debt.

Yet, this dept. promised and failed to provide the people of Mutale in Vhembe their dignified right to shelter.

Where the DA governs high quality services are delivered consistently and sustainably, unlike this dept. which is willing to now spend R1.5 million on assessing substandard housing which was supposed to be built properly in the first place.

The mediocrity of your promises in your budget vote leaves us with more questions than answers.

At the heart of Cooperative governance is providing technical and oversight support to municipalities for them to complete their mandate.

There are Municipal Public Accounts Committee’s in our municipalities yet, they are on the verge of collapse.

It befits mediocrity Hon.MEC to celebrate and solely focus on ‘good’ municipalities such as Waterberg, Blouberg etc and conveniently leave out the ‘messy’ ones.

You forget that a dept. is only as strong as its weakest link.

In April, five municipalities owed Eskom more than R 221 million.

Hon. Speaker the MEC mentioned that Capricorn DM has raised the bar i.t.o audit opinion , yet  a January 2015 report of the Auditor General reveals that the Capricorn District Municipality failed to spend R276 million in the 2014/2015 financial year.

Essentially, R130 million was underspent from conditional grants for infrastructure and a further R146 million was underspent from the capital budget.

The rate at which this dept. delivers essential services is appalling. In the 3rd quarter of the previous financial year no new sites were connected to basic water and electricity, yet 500 sites were identified and targeted.

Hon.MEC, explain to our communities why your indecisive political  will and  a lack of leadership led to Limpopo municipalities only spending  a mere 34.9% of their Municipal Infrastructure Grants?

For far too long our people have been waiting for homes and services while the ruling party delivers sanitized sales pitches in the form of Batho pele principles, Operation clean audit 2014 and Back-to-basics and now the Limpopo Development Plan.

Till today, we have no comprehensive feedback report by your department and other ones, on the performance of each of these promises so how can we measure the success of each programme let alone keep you accountable?

Unlike many opposition parties the DA is not opposing for the sake of it. We have an alternative plan that actually works and it goes as follows:

  1. Nationally, the DA has called for the Finance Minister to effect regulation which will ensure that at least 7% of the minimum annual expenditure of municipal and provincial budgets is secured for infrastructure maintenance.
  1. Provincially, we urge you as the MEC to secure at least 7% of your annual municipal budget to strictly servicing the massive infrastructure backlog in your municipalities.
  1. Fast track housing backlog :

allow the private sector greater scope to become involved and to develop innovative models for housing delivery and affordable integrated housing developments.

  1. Restore human dignity

make greater use of the energies and commitment of the poor, rather than seeing them as passive recipients. Give them skills and involve them in the building process of their own homes.

Prioritise spatial redress:

Human settlements policy cannot be separated from its immediate and related context- place people where they’re close to work opportunities, where they regard their properties as the fruits of their own labour rather than gifts from the state.

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Budget vote speech: Agriculture

By Jacques Smalle DA MPL:

The following speech was delivered by Jacques Smalle DA MPL, to the Limpopo Provincial Legislature on 28 May 2015 during the Debate on the 2015 Budget of the Department of Agriculture.

THE ANC WANTS LAND REFORM TO FAIL

Madam Speaker,

The Honorable MEC wants no piece of land  to lie fallow because this will be akin to casting seed on arid ground.Indeed an attainable vision in the HonorableMEC’s budget speech if the department has the political will to deliver.

However, Limpopo’s Agriculture’s current state is better described by ANC cader Tito Mboweni when he tweeted recently“Most of the farms we returned to communities are today un-farmed. We rely on old commercial farms for our food, yet we do not support them”

The truth is, the ANC wants land reform to fail so that government can ultimately become the owners.

And make no mistake madam speaker –land reform IS failing in Limpopo.

Honorable MEC: Did you yourself have ANY input in the Limpopo Development plan which was never discussed or presented at any committees of this Legislature?

Do you know that the specifics for Agriculture is set out in only 2 pages yet Agriculture is  2ndonly after mining in income generation in the province?

Let us unpack the four 5year objectives:

1)       To increase productive land owned by previously disadvantaged people from 11,5% to 20% in 2019,means that the FetsaTlala and IllimaLetsema and RESIS support programmes must work optimally.

During the previous financial year, only 48% of the targeted hectares were ploughed.The DA also questions the costly R10 000 that the taxpayer pays per hectare to plough the fields of subsistence farmers.Robert Makhubethu, a subsistence farmer in the Sekhukune district received 2 hectares  on which to farm. On The FetsaTlala programme only 1 hectare gets ploughed, regardless of the size of your farm and a bag of seeds gets delivered.

No soil preparation, irrigation or education is provided. The farmers in Sekhukune refer to the project as TlisaTlala which means “bring hunger and starvation”.

2)       To ensure that by 2019 7,2 million hectares will have been transferred (as compared to 4 million in 2013). There is currently 742 outstanding land claims in Limpopo and 22 will be finalised this financial year, if an average of 25 claims gets finalised each year the outstanding claims will be finalised in 2045.

3)       Reduce the households vulnerable to hunger from 11,5% in 2011 to 9,5% in 2019. With the way FetsaTlala is managed, this worthy objective remains a pipe dream.

4)       Reduce rural unemployment from the current staggering 49% to less than 40% in 2019. This calculates to 106996 jobs which is 21399 jobs per year. The Honourable MEC indicated in her budget speech that the department will create 5000 jobs for the different programmes and with the R5 million EPWP grant.This target falls 16399 jobs short of the target in the LDP

Where the DA governs a conducive political environment allows farmers to create jobs.

Currently the caps on agricultural land, the looming expropriation bill, minimum wage and the regional political instability caused by the xenophobic attacks are challenges in agricultural job creation

The DA opposes any caps on agricultural land ownership as it will cap investment and job creation. This will preclude investment across the sector, including in black-owned agri-businesses that have grown beyond a certain point.

The DA’s approach to land reform:

  • Identifies with the NDP
  • States that the restitution and land reform process have been too slow.
  • There has been insufficient support for reform and restitution beneficiaries to build a livelihood on land
  • Money allocated to land reform has not been used effectively. The Makgoba tea estate here is a shining example of wasteful expenditure and lack of accountability of the community in who the land is vested.
  • Less than 10% of land has been transferred under the ANC. The DA believes that ownership must vest in those who work the land in order to provide financial security
  • South Africa needs a fresh approach with the private sector, commercial farmers, universities collaborate with government to make a success of land reform, which is ultimately critical for food security in South Africa

The DA welcomes the establishment of the advisory council and can but hope that the advice will be implemented into the programmes to make them more effective.

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For Mpumalanga to succeed our communities must be safe

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA spokesperson on Community Safety, Security and Liaison:

The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA spokesperson on Community Safety, Security and Liaison, Jane Sithole MPL, during the tabling and debate on Policy Budget of the department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison: Vote 9

Hon. Speaker, pretending that everything is all hunky dory is like pretending death is impossible. Singing praises even where things are wrong is like praising a fish for swimming.

Hon. Speaker, I must say, I feel very safe today, when I look around me as I see so many law enforcement officers who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect ours.

Hon. Speaker, it is our duty to promote and protect the fundamental freedom of all citizens. Every person should feel free to exercise their freedom of choice and I stand tall and proud in my choices, especially my choice of a political party.

Hon. Speaker, violent crime tears apart the essential fibre of communities. This is painfully evident in the recent murder of Constable Joseph Baloyi. Incidents such as this are not only a terrible loss for the families but for the community at large.  This underscores the need for focused attention on crime prevention. It is for this reason Hon. Speaker that crime prevention is a critical piece of keeping our communities safe.

Hon. Speaker, the Civilian Oversight programme has received a total budget allocation of over a million for the 2015/16 financial year. The DA remains concerned that some police stations do not have Victim Friendly Facilities (VFF). Citizens need to be assured that law enforcement stands ready to respond at all times. It is also important to ensure that victims of crime feel safe to report crimes.

Hon, Speaker, transport regulations programme have been allocated over R434 million. This programme needs to ensure that it prioritize the lives of our people on the roads and it must ensure that road carnage and high number of road deaths are reduced through mandatory interventions. Our traffic officers are indeed doing a thankless job, especially during Easter holidays, long weekends, Christmas and other holidays. We owe it to them, and for that we would just like to say thank you.

Hon. Speaker the Democratic Alliance would like to commend the police men and women who on a daily basis go out there and sometimes even arresting their own. Criminality within SAPS needs to be tackled head on, we cannot sit and watch a few rotten potatoes ruin the reputation of our police men and women.

For effective management and oversight of this department, the following must be considered:

  1. Drug related crimes are escalating and families are destroyed by drugs such as nyaope in our Province. We need more police with investigative training that will ensure that this drug is taken off our streets. Our call for specialised narcotics unit to combat this scourge of drugs on our communities remains.
  2. If you want to make Mpumalanga communities safer, the establishment of fully functional municipal police service is essential, in order to assist the SAPS.  Research has proved over and over that criminal activity is less in Municipalities that have a functional municipal police service where Municipal by-laws are enforced.
  3. Training and capacitating our police officers is essential, with the large increase in service delivery protests, our men and women in uniform need urgent training on crowd management, we have seen in recent months how easily crowds get out of control.

The fight against crime is everyone’s responsibility. The Democratic Alliance would like take this opportunity to once again wish Lieutenant General Mark Magadlela and his team all of the best.

I also wish to pay tribute to the many officers in our province, who risk their lives every day, to ensure the safety of ours.

I thank you.

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Healthcare facilities across Mpumalanga continue to deteriorate

By Jane Sithole, DA spokesperson on Health:

The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA spokesperson on Health, Jane Sithole MPL, during the tabling and debate on Policy Budget of the department of Health: Vote 10

Hon. Speaker, South Africa comes from a very difficult, complicated and a severely racially divided past caused by the apartheid system. It is our duty to redress the injustices of the past and create a society that thrives on freedom, fairness and for all South Africans to have equal access to opportunities.

The department of Health is one of the few departments that have been excluded from the moratorium on filling of vacancies and they should take full advantage of this and sort out the number of vacancies within the department.

Hon. Speaker, the DA acknowledges the efforts made by the MEC in making positive strides towards the high vacancy rate and particularly the appointment of the HOD, we hope the HOD will stay longer than the previous ones.

Hon. Speaker, one of the major concerns in this department, is that, the appointment of senior managers takes more than 8 months for the executive council to approve. One cannot help but wonder if the delay is caused by jobs being reserved for the politically connected, instead of qualified individuals or if the delay is caused by sheer incompetence?

Hon. Speaker, just last week, members of this August House moved and adopted a motion to congratulate the department of a health on a successful “Orthopaedic Letsema”, knowing very well that the department had postponed the Letsema project until further notice. However, that did not surprise us Hon. Speaker, it has become a daily occurrence in this August house that a fish is praised for swimming.

Hon. Speaker, it is common knowledge that our Province suffer from chronic shortage of specialists, especially orthopedic surgeons, it is costing the department thousands because such patients are forced to spend weeks if not months in hospital waiting to receive surgery.

Hon. Speaker, the DA welcomes the budget increase for the Emergency Medical Care unit. This budget has been increasing at a healthy rate over the past two financial years, the MEC must ensure this unit and its medical professionals are properly equipped to perform their jobs, urgently address staff shortages in this department and pay their overtime where it is due.

Hon. Speaker the budget for Health Science Training has been reduced by 11%. It is disturbing to see the department does not realise that staff training is a necessity and not a privilege.

Hon. Speaker, it is worrying that over the years, litigation cases against the department of health for medical negligence has escalated and according to the MEC not a single member of staff in the past two financial years has been held liable, and what adds salt to the wound, is the fact that there is no strategy in place to deal with officials who are found guilty of negligence.

Cutting down the training budget will not assist the department, common sense should tell us that the more untrained people are the more mistakes they will commit. The more these costly mistakes increase, the department can expect more litigations and that is just not acceptable.

Hon. Speaker, Healthcare facilities across Mpumalanga continue to deteriorate and are in desperate need of renovations and maintenance. Every year promises of new hospitals and clinics are made in spectacular speeches, yet only a few materialise. Such an example is the KaNyamazane Community Healthcare Centre, a presidential project promised to the people yet we see no money allocated to build this Community Health Centre.

Hon. Speaker, our Provincial Health Department is notorious for failing to spend on its conditional grants money allocated by National Treasury to improve the delivery of services in our health care facilities. Once again Mpumalanga residents will bear the brunt of this government’s inefficiencies because National Treasury has once again reduced this money while we watch our Public health facilities crumble.

Hon. Speaker, googling and singing about the freedom charter and repeating the same speech in every debate will not and does not change the conditions at our clinics and hospitals. This country has got more money that it has ever had, yet the so called gigantic organisation is moving at a snail’s pace because those in power want to benefit and get a share of the money, rather than making sure that the needs of the people are met.

Hon. Speaker, actions speak louder than words! If the actions can match the insults thrown at others, if the actions can match the singing and ridiculing of others, if the actions can match the grand speeches that we hear, if the actions can go hand in hand with the venom that you spit in this house, if the actions can match the amount of hate speeches we hear in this house, maybe you will get somewhere.

Mediro e bolela go feta polelo

Dade beteken meer as woorde

Min Tiro Ya Vula Vula

I thank you.

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DA welcomes the Shovakalula initiative but a lot still needs to be done

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA spokesperson on Public Works, Roads and Transport:

The following speech was delivered in the Mpumalanga Legislature today by the DA spokesperson on public works, roads and transport, Jane Sithole MPL, during the tabling and debate on Policy Budget of the department of Public Works: Vote 8

Hon. Speaker, our constitution was born because of the heroes and heroines of our beautiful country and the rest of the world who surrendered their lives so that we could be free.

The sacrifices made by these individuals, in many ways, gave many like me the freedom not only to vote, but to vote for a political party of my choice. My affiliation, my association, my organisation, my DA, my future.

That Hon. Speaker, is called democracy. It is becoming more and more apparent that some people are far from even beginning to understand what the word democracy means, simply because their focus is more on insulting and intimidating those who don’t share the same views with them. Instead, they fail to address the real issues that affect our people.

Hon. Speaker, the DA welcomes the Shovakalula program which assists learners to get to school using bicycles. It has become a norm that at the beginning of each year we hear stories of our children being stranded somewhere on the side of the road, unable to get to school due to the Department’s failure in ensuring our children have safe and reliable transport to and from school. There is no doubt, Shovakalula will alleviate and reduce this problem in some areas in our Province.

Hon. Speaker, as much as the Public Works extended program serves as a short term measure to alleviate poverty and assist families, this is not the answer to the current high levels of unemployment. These are short term engagements that do not provide a lasting solution to the current unemployment problems. Many in our Province are not only unemployed but they are unemployable.

Hon. Speaker, without jobs, the pains of poverty will continue to plague our province and our nation. With that said, the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport (DPWRT) stands at the core of job creation in our province. The construction of proper roads will allow for an increase in mobility and accessibility to markets in our province, and so is the infrastructure investment – which is a proven way of stimulating economic growth and job creation.

Hon. Speaker, we welcome the planned upgrades of major provincial roads that have acted as a death trap for many motorists across the province over the years, in particular the R555, R50 and R40. However, Hon. Speaker, we remain concerned about the quality of the work done by contractors on these roads as many of them are dilapidated after a few months. The quality of these roads is the difference between life and death in many accidents and needs to be taken seriously.

Unfortunately Hon. Speaker these upgrades are as good as it gets, one needs to look no further than Pilgrim’s Rest, a National Heritage site, neglected and abandoned by government. Pilgrim Rest is being destroyed by the indecisiveness of this government. The entire future and sustainability of this tourist jewel is being threatened by uncertainty of property leases facing local businesses. There is continued confusion on tender processes that prioritise political interests rather than businesses. Hon, Speaker, unless government makes up its mind about the future of this town, Pilgrim’s Rest will soon be lost forever. Buildings are falling apart, and service delivery is shocking. The constant blame shifting of responsibility between the department and Thaba Chweu Municipality has compromised this National Heritage severely and cannot be accepted.

Public Works Infrastructure has continued to suffer from incomplete projects, Hon. Speaker. We note with concern that the department has failed to conduct assessments on 600 state-owned buildings it had targeted in the previous financial year. It has now scaled down to assess a mere 100 buildings even though there has been a budget increase.

The DA believes that more than ever, the department’s central goal should be focused on expanding the industrial base, expansion and maintenance of infrastructure and sustainable upgrades. The department needs to ensure that our roads operate as networks where all the people of Mpumalanga are able to travel safely.

Hon. Speaker, the procurement process around infrastructure projects must be handled with integrity and transparency. The department needs to ensure that it puts measures in place to prevent the non-completion of projects at a set time frame through monitoring and imposing penalties.

Hon. Speaker, as we welcome this total budget allocation of R4 358 billion for Public Works, Roads and Transport, we can only hope that this money will do what it’s meant to do. The department continues to pay exorbitant amounts of money in compensation on legal claims for pothole damages

Hon. Speaker, we have an obligation to exercise oversight or else the Department of Public Works, Roads and Transport’s ability to deliver on its mandate will continue to be compromised.

I thank you.

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Budget vote speech: Education

The following speech was delivered by Anthony Benadie DA MPL, Leader of the Official Opposition, to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature on 21 May 2015, during the Debate on the 2015 Department of Education budget. Vote 7.

Quality education is the foundation of a successful society. It is through education that individuals acquire skills that make them employable and equip them to access opportunities that improve their lives.

South Africa’s Apartheid past has left our society grossly unequal and while we cannot undo the past, we have a duty to redress any disadvantages caused by our past, so that all South Africans may make equal use of their opportunities;

A prosperous future for South Africa can only be assured when every South African child receives a worthwhile education that enables them to access dignified employment.

Therefore Hon Speaker and MEC, the R16 billion budget tabled before the house today must be dedicated to redressing the inequalities that still exist in our education system. It simply cannot be acceptable that after 21 years of democracy, given our annual investment in education that the quality of education received by a learner in Nelspruit is of substantial better quality than that received by a learner in Bushbuckridge.

But, Hon Speaker, it is not the fault of the learner but points to the complacent leadership culture within our education department. This department has lost 57 182 learners between grade 1 – 12 between 2002 and 2014. This figure is duplicated year on year, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Mpumalanga children not being educated and doomed to a life of poverty.

In the 2014 Annual National Assessments the average marks for Mathematics for a Grade 9 learner in Mpumalanga was a shocking 11%, with less than 3% of grade 9 learners passing maths with marks higher than 50%. In contrast, the marks for grade 1 learners were on average 68%.

Results across all assessments indicate a drastic drop in marks attained in higher grades essentially illustrating that the longer a learner stays in our education the worse they perform.

Hon Speaker, producing quality learners requires a quality learning environment. We need quality schools, with adequate infrastructure, enough classrooms, sanitation, electricity, water and sporting facilities. This however cannot be done with the infrastructure budget cut of R80 million. It simply doesn’t make sense that the department intends to develop less school infrastructure, yet the budget to rent mobile classrooms is increasing from R4mil, to over R20 million in this financial year.

Hon MEC, the department’s decision to backtrack on the building of the Aerorand school in Steve Tshwete is of serious concern. As the town rapidly expands the demand for English medium education is ever increasing with children simply having no-where to go. This must be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

Hon Speaker, I was shocked by the MEC’s reply to a written DA question, where she states that no school in Mpumalanga pay a toilet levy. It’s disgraceful when considering every single school pays a sewer charge to their municipality calculated according to the number of toilets they have at the school. This levy places a severe burden on school finances and I appeal to the MEC today to have this reviewed.

Hon Speaker, for years the MRTT has been a model parastatal in our province, but in recent years the red lights have begun flashing especially in terms of their financial management, their funding versus actual output. In this financial year the MRTT will receive an additional R128 million to target 1000 Artisan learners. This is at a cost of R128 000 per learner, per year making the MRTT undoubtedly one of the most expensive training institutions in the country. It is simply impossible.

Hon MEC, I have not even mentioned scholar transport, school nutrition, the department’s legal battles and arrogant ignoring of court orders but what is clear is that our education department requires new energy. Merely existing, year on year despite receiving billions of rands, is not good enough.

No other department has a greater responsibility to building a better South Africa than this one. The future of our children and our nation depends on the success of our Education Department, you dare not disappoint them.

I thank you.

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