Tomorrow, Tuesday 25 February 2020, Premier, David Makhura will deliver his second State of the Province Address (SOPA) since the 2019 general elections.
In the months following his re-election as the first citizen of Gauteng, very little has been done by him and his cabinet to arrest the steady decline in the quality of life experienced by residents of this province.
I am in fact reminded of a poem by Myriad Dark entitled “Same old, Same old”, which reads:
“Same old places, same old words. Same old situations we’ve all heard. Same old hello tripping off our tongue. Same old goodbye when it’s all said and done. Same old spark that set us alight. Thought it would last forever all night, but then we woke up and realised, we were back where we began, were you not surprised?”.
Many of the so-called “100 day” promises have not yet come to fruition, were we surprised?
Are we surprised that we were promised the establishment of the fourth industrial advisory panel, promised a learner retention programme, promised the rapid land release plan, promised a plan to reduce poverty and hunger and so many more promises that haven’t been fulfilled?
Are we really surprised?
The truth is that the faces of Premier Makhura’s cabinet may have changed, but the problems remain the same.
Premier Makhura has been the leader of Gauteng since 2014.
In the years subsequent to his initial appointment as leader of the province, we have witnessed a decay in almost every aspect of our lives.
One need but travel to any municipality run by the ANC to witness first-hand the hardships endured by our people.
A visit to municipalities like Emfuleni leaves one with much despair as we see how our people have been subjected to sewerage flowing down the streets on an almost permanent basis, refuse piling up and becoming the new permanent feature on almost every corner.
One wonders where the hundreds of millions of the Evaton Renewal Project went. We are still asking what happened to the Alexandra renewal project millions.
We have been promised reports on these renewal projects, but nothing has been forthcoming. Are we surprised?
We have municipalities failing to render services because they are cash strapped. Some of these municipalities are owed millions of rands by the Gauteng provincial government departments.
These municipalities are failing to pay off debts owed to Eskom and Rand Water which puts further pressure on utilities.
Informal settlements mushroom on every open piece of land because the Provincial Housing Department is mired in corruption, mismanagement and financial negligence.
The chasm between delivery and demand grows exponentially every day, yet little is done to get this department into shape and to see that it delivers on its mandate. As a result, more and more people live in filth and squalor. These undignified hellholes are ravaged by crime, substance abuse and hopelessness.
This stems from a mix of policy uncertainty, cumbersome labour laws and legislation that cannot accommodate economic growth. These are but just a few of the impediments to economic stimulation.
In a half-hearted attempt to grow the economy, we have constantly heard about the TMR programme of Transformation, Modernisation and Reindustrialization.
These things sound nice in speeches, but the reality is that minor tinkering here and there has not resulted in economic transformation, there is minimal modernization while instead of reindustrialization, deindustrialization is taking place as businesses are closing their doors.
We spoke to a business owner in Kempton Park who is determined to save the jobs of all his employees, despite government’s threat to close him down or fine him if he doesn’t fire half the women in his employ for the sake of “gender parity” and a mindless box-ticking exercise.
Governments across South Africa owe businesses over R7.1 billion in unpaid invoices that are older than 30 days, and there’s no prize for guessing who leads the pack. Gauteng owes businesses R2.6 billion, this despite the promise to ensure that delayed invoice payments is the thing of the past.
We talk about empowering SMMEs, yet we fail to pay them on time for services rendered, which ultimately leads to many of these businesses shutting down, leaving thousands of people unemployed and wallowing in poverty.
This goes hand in glove with the crime epidemic that is taking its toll on our people. People are not inherently criminals. When they are backed into a corner, spurred on by hopelessness and despair – they turn to crime to make ends meet and provide for themselves and loved ones.
Everywhere you look there are people, of all professions and trades crying out for employment. Of these, the future generation of our workforce – the youth, are hardest hit. 49.4% of the youth in this province are unemployed, this is if one uses the official definition. The number rises to a staggering 58% if you use an expanded definition.
It leaves little to the imagination to understand why so many of our youth are hooked on drugs and practice anti-social behaviour.
On its current trajectory of growing unemployment, stagnant economic growth, rising levels of crime and service delivery collapse, this government is set to firmly entrench a substandard quality of life for all.
Same old, Same old. Are we really surprised?
Swift and decisive leadership is needed to address the multitude of challenges, many the offspring of this government’s inaction, if we are to set this province on the path to prosperity.
The challenges before us need to be addressed head-on in a holistic manner to ensure that this province and its people do not fail.
A SOPA address is an opportunity to strike at the heart of these issues.
Residents of Gauteng cannot endure another SOPA full of same old- same old half-truths, empty promises and wishy-washy dreams.
They deserve practical and implementable solutions.
It is our belief that the following issues must be addressed as matters of urgency and workable commitments must be put forth:
- The e-toll saga must be put to an end. The people of Gauteng deserve to be free of this unjust system of taxation that was foisted upon them;
- Gauteng must secure its own source of energy to mitigate the impact of load shedding;
- Real economic reforms, such as the establishment of Special Economic Zones, deregulation to allow new entrants into the economy and programmes that result in full time jobs – not “work opportunities”;
- Criminal prosecutions of public servants fleecing the state of public funds;
- The establishment of a provincial police ombudsman to strengthen crime fighting along with the establishment of specialized units to effectively combat crime;
- The mass roll-out of broadband and Wi-Fi throughout the province;
- Fixing an ailing health department that bleeds public funds due to negligence while at the same time kills businesses by not paying them on time; and
- Fast tracking human settlement projects to ensure people have dignified accommodation.
The challenges facing Gauteng are numerous, but they are not insurmountable.
They require a strong political will and a stern hand guiding the ship.
Over 15 million people require a functioning and capable government to ensure that they can pursue their dreams to their full extent and live a dignified life.
Any other alternative is non-negotiable.
Premier Makhura is standing at a fork in the road.
If he chooses to take up the issues we have repeatedly brought to his attention – and addresses them with vigour, Gauteng will be well on its way to prosperity.
Gauteng will have functional cities that are safe and free from gangs and drugs.
Gauteng will attract investors and have more business growth that leads to the creation of hundreds of thousands of the much-needed jobs.
If he deters from this course, then Gauteng is set to continue down the road to ruin. It will be same old- same-old
As the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen said:
“I truly believe there are enough people across the political spectrum who genuinely care about the future of our country, who share the same values and who want the same things. Let us now do whatever it takes to find each other”.