Speech by Hon. Sizwe Mchunu, MPP
Leader of the DA in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature:
Madam Speaker, I’m aware of the fact that it is not customary or the norm for this House to engage in a debate on the official opening speech by his Majesty, King Zwelithini Zulu.
However, I respectfully wish to use a portion of my time during this debate to convey the DA’s appreciation to his Majesty for his address, which tackled many critical issues that confront our province.
It saddens me to think of the many calls that his Majesty has made to this provincial government – requests which have largely been ignored over the years. These include giving the people of KZN what is deservedly theirs without attempting to loot them for votes, rooting out corruption even from within government sectors and broader consultation with various stakeholders and role players on matters that affect them.
I can only hope that one day sanity will prevail and some of these critical calls will be realized by this government.
The Premier urged us to give due respect to matters relating his Majesty and the royal households. The DA is in full agreement with this but such action should start with you.
– It is you that did not consult his Majesty about your intention to have the Royal Household department disestablished
– It is you that didn’t consult the Premier and Royal Household committee and went straight for the disestablishment of the department
– And, it is officials in your office who have not heeded the invitation from his Majesty to come and engage him on staffing and financial management matters relating to the royal household.
Mr Premier and the ANC, you must lead the way in giving the deserved and due respect to his Majesty and the affairs of the royal household.
I now come to what was meant to be a State of the Province address – but what was in effect a “state of the KZN Provincial Growth Development Plan (PGDP) over the past 5 years”…..
I hasten to add that, as residents of KZN we should be grateful we do not live in the North West or Limpopo – the two worst performing ANC provincial governments.
By the same token, I could also say that it is unfortunate that we don’t live in the Western Cape or Gauteng – the two best run provinces in the country as per the auditor General’s report/findings on the 2013/14 audit.
Instead we live in KwaZulu-Natal – a province which, if governed properly, has the potential to be right up there along with these two top performing provinces.
Speaker, the Premier’s speech and my role as leader of the opposition in KZN has prompted me to use this platform to convey the pleas of thousands of our province’s residents and voters.
They are crying out for a government that “listens to the people”. Today I want to ask you to hear their voices.
Last week’s SOPA showed just how out of touch the Premier is with the reality of the daily lives of ordinary KZN residents.
His speech failed to inspire people of our province – instead it was depressing.
Madam Speaker, the Premier by implication has admitted that his party and his leadership have failed the people of KwaZulu-Natal.
In his speech it emerged that;
- Despite having taken office some 10 months ago, he has not managed to achieve some of his own ‘100 days in office’ promises. One wonders if he will ever meet any of the commitments he made last week Friday
- The Premier indicated that there is a significant increase in a number of people that are now receiving social grants, meaning there are more people in KZN who are state dependent. This, in effect, means that the poverty gap is widening rather than closing.
- The Premier stated that KZN has seen an increase in the number of people/households living below the poverty line – this under ANC leadership
- The Premier pointed out that 42% of KZN roads are regarded as bad – yet he did not seem to regard this statistic as worrying
- The Premier indicated that there are still households that don’t access the 75 litres of running water, per day
- The Premier told us that, according to recent crime stats, serious and violent crime such as murder, attempted murder, rape, assault, arson and stock theft is still high
- The Premier told us that the rate of farm murders in KZN is also high
- The Premier told us of the high rate of failure of SMMEs and Co-operatives
In addition, the Premier was notably silent on the following;
- He said nothing about the matric results “cheating scandal” and teacher colleges
- He said nothing about the DNB – PMB business train
- He said nothing about learner transportation in KZN
Mr Premier, while your SOPA was far from inspiring I would not go so far as to call you a ‘broken man’.
Instead I would warn you that the cracks are starting to show.
The question I want to put to Premier Mchunu today is;
“How do you want KZN to be perceived? At the top of the list with the Western Cape and Gauteng – or down at the bottom with all the non-performers?”
The success of our province and indeed the overall test must surely lie with employment figures. This is the barometer by which we can measure the success of the ANC’s rule – and it is not a good indicator.
At a very recent KZN EDTEA portfolio committee, the department revealed that more than 40% of KZN are unemployed. To make matters worse our youth make up 70% of this figure.
These damning figures forecast a bleak future.
The ANC government has much to answer for. Today there are 1,6 million more unemployed people in South Africa than when Jacob Zuma came to office in 2009. In fact, 730 more people become unemployed in South Africa every single day that President Zuma remains in office.
The only province to buck the trend is the DA-led Western Cape where the broad unemployment rate is 23,6% – a massive 12,5% below the national rate.
The Western Cape also has the lowest number of discouraged work seekers, at 22 000 compared to KZN’s 616 000, Limpopo’s 403 000, or Gauteng’s 379 000.
This statistic more than any other shows how the DA government in the Western Cape has, with sound economic management and policy leadership, built a province of hope and opportunity. The unemployed in the Western Cape feel they have a reasonable chance of getting work, and indeed, many of them are able to find work reasonably soon.
We have shown that it can be done. We challenge the Premier to put his pride in his pocket in the interests of the people of KZN and do the same.
Today I will highlight the issues which the DA believes are critical to unleashing the potential of our province and, more importantly, making our province a better place to live and work.
* Achieve energy security; promote rapid growth in three key economic sectors with the highest potential for new jobs.
* Ensure delivery of high-speed broadband internet access across the province.
* Test effective e-learning models in our schools.
* Create after-school opportunities for young people to participate in sport, cultural and academic activities.
* Tackle alcohol abuse.
* Provide water and decent sanitation that exceeds the basic national minimum standard.
* Pioneer an integrated living model to restructure the apartheid legacy of our cities and towns.
On these issues, we expect the Premier to release plans which have measurable outcomes and defined timelines – all of which must have one common denominator – to improve the lives of the people in our province.
In writing today’s debate it was difficult to single out the challenges which KZN’s government needs to deal with – because there are just so many.
I have managed to narrow it down to the following;
This is the issue that most seriously affects the people of our province, yet there is not a day that goes by without another story of hopelessness.
Just an hour’s drive away lies the small town of Muden. Last week residents were left literally stranded when some – angered by ongoing poor service delivery and unresolved land issues – took drastic measures and dug deep trenches across the R74. Their complaints are not new, nor are their drastic actions. Since 2010 they have been trying to get the provincial government to notice them.
Also not far away is the town of Estcourt. Recently one community took the drastic step of cutting of water to a neighbouring settlement which has running water. They did this to get government’s attention.
These actions are indicative of extreme frustration and must serve as a wake-up call to the Premier and his cabinet to become more proactive. This sabotage of property cannot be allowed to perpetuate.
Stagnant leadership continues to affect the quality of health care in KZN. An under-spend on NHI and over-spend on the department’s wage bill show very clearly where the priorities lie, as does spending R150million on a laundry facility.
Cadre deployment, gross non-compliance and poor infrastructure maintenance have seen this department grow more and more sick. Just around the corner from here at Murchison Hospital the emergency room is old and crumbling while there is just a shed-like structure for out-patients.
In Ugu, the only MDR-TB unit in the entire district operates from dilapidated park-homes with almost no ventilation.
The department is plagued by one qualified audit after another. Meanwhile the Western Cape DoH has achieved ten successive clean audits. By contrast, KZN is positively primitive and the Premier needs to do something about it.
Another area in which the MEC and his department are failing is that of EMRS.
Further protest action is imminent with yet another strike planned by EMRS staff on Thursday. This shows that very little or nothing has happened since the previous protests,
Any death or disability as a result of an immobile emergency service lies at the MEC’s and his department’s door after the alarm bells have been severally rung.
A task team must be urgently established to investigate and resolve the long outstanding matters of this critical and essential sector of healthcare.
Fraud and corruption:
Fraud and corruption continues to bring our province to its knees. For the Premier to dedicate just eight lines in his 42 page speech to this massive scourge is either ignorant or disingenuous to the extent of the impact that it is having on service delivery in our province.
Just last week the DA established that, to date, almost R60 million was fraudulently spent by individuals within the KZN Agriculture department under erstwhile MEC, Meshack Radebe. The situation is so severe that the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has instigated its own probe into the department as whole. So far, the investigations have cost the department in excess of R10 million. Of particular concern is the admission that most of the fraud committed by departmental staff happened at provincial head office and not at regional levels with gaps in management controls cited as the cause.
We only need to look at our own Speaker’s Office to find wasteful expenditure. This office employs 18 staff with an annual budget of R13.144 million. Yet its counterpart in the Western Cape manages to operate effectively with just four contract personnel and an annual budget of R1.7 million.
The difference – more than R11 million – is money which should be spent on frontline services in Health and Education in KZN.
The Premier failed to tell us why his MEC is stalling on providing the housing list he promised months ago. He must also explain why the first 100 houses in the Masinenge Housing project have not been handed over as per his post-election SOPA promise.
We also want to know why a recent proposal by the DA – that members of the KZN Human Settlement portfolio committee adopt fair housing allocation as a priority in the committee’s Annual Oversight Plan – was rejected outright by the ANC.
The RTI Commission Report has yet to be dealt with. While the Premier has given us a sanitised summary, there is still no sign of the full report. Nor is there any sign of a progress report on the implementation of its recommendations and findings.
Despite having the biggest need, KZN spends less than almost every other province on learner transport. This is according to Equal Education who last week also revealed that children in Nquthu walk anywhere from 3 and 12kms to get to school. They arrive exhausted and hungry and certainly not in any position to absorb knowledge.
In the Umzinyathi district there are only 15 schools out of more than 500 which currently benefit from scholar transport.
While the department complains about budget constraints, fraudulent teachers owe millions after having received salaries despite non-existent qualifications.
Economic Development and Tourism
Despite being a potential game-changer for KZN, this portfolio has met only once since May 2014. Why is this?
During his SOPA address last year, the Premier stated that the tourism contribution to the National Economy is larger than that from mining. Surely this makes it fertile ground for job creation? Renewable energy in particular comes to mind.
While we are pleased to report that infrastructure is in place at Richards Bay’s IDZ – there are smart fences, great roads and a professional team on site – there is no industry yet so there is no job creation.
KZN is being left behind the other provinces as the department bleeds its tourism spend on all manner of schemes, including a Drakensburg cableway, despite objections from both experts and the local community.
Ongoing administrative bungling
The DA is astounded by the revelation, last week, by the PPP chairperson, who admitted that petitions have been lost in the system.
This raises serious concerns about the Community Safety Bill, submitted by the DA to the KZN Legislature almost two years ago – ever having made it past the Speakers Office
This Bill could form part of the answer to KZN’s serious crime problem. It is already making a big difference in the Western Cape. Yet its implementation is in jeopardy simply because we don’t know where it is.
I am pleased to announce though that my colleague, Dr Rishigen Viranna, will again table this Bill during the forthcoming weeks.
We expect acknowledgement and serious consideration of this Bill by the ANC in KZN.
The administrative bungling in some departments is so severe that they can be likened to badly run spaza shops.
This in turn impacts on the overall performance of government and again highlights the need to skilled and competent personnel.
Mr Premier, the people of KZN are running out of patience.
The ANC’s messages on billboards around the province will no longer wash.
One reads – “Be patient we are at work 24/7”. Another says- KZN government has a master plan to eradicate poverty by 2030 – 1994 Liberation 2015 Implementation and 2030 Eradication.
The question is how much longer must the people of KZN be patient?
It is almost two decades since the start of ANC rule in our province yet poverty is endemic and many still don’t have basic services.
Hon Premier – the people of our province are not asking for much.
All they want is a government which hears their concerns and responds to them
All they want is a Cabinet and officials who put our province before their political careers and bank balances.
What they don’t want is more of the same.
Your challenge, Hon Premier, is to make this happen and not to settle for mediocrity in any way, shape or form.
The future of our province depends on it..