Premier, David Makhura’s State of the Province Address (SOPA) today was nothing short of a whitewash, loaded with ambiguity to cover up his own government’s failures.
Makhura started his address with the Covid-19 pandemic that has been dominating the lives of South Africans the past year. While the Premier stressed the need of building pandemic-proof institutions for the future, it is still quite obvious that his own government still needs tender corruption-proof institutions.
The Premier emphasised on the pain and suffering brought upon by the pandemic, but did not completely acknowledge that such pain and suffering was exacerbated by his own Health Department’s irregular and corrupt procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the profound delays in building field hospitals before the first wave.
The enthusiastic accolade for the healthcare workers of the province was warmly welcomed, but was a serious reminder about the need for the provincial government to procure even more vaccines, especially for healthcare workers and other vulnerable residents. The Premier’s goal to have 67% of the provincial population vaccinated, especially within the year, is total pie in the sky. If PPE procurement was ravaged by corruption, the Premier cannot expect the people of Gauteng to still trust his government in rolling out such a bold and ambitious target.
It’s critical for the Premier to understand that his government cannot reasonably rely on only two centres for vaccination, as it will only hamper the process. The electronic vaccination system requires urgent improvement, with far more vaccination centres.
While Makhura finally acknowledged that poor road infrastructure implementation is due to incompetence, he fell short of recognising that such incompetence is evident in all departments involved in infrastructure development, as the public sector simply lacks the resources and expertise to delivery on these projects. This has been a direct result of prioritising cadre deployment over effective service delivery.
Makhura spent considerable time discussing the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone and the promising job creation that will materialise. Unsurprisingly, he did not acknowledge that this project is a result of confidence in effective Democratic Alliance (DA) governance, as it did not appear overnight but has been in the pipeline since 2017, when the DA was governing the nation’s capital city.
While DA good governance was brought up, Makhura’s own government has not been the shining example. The fact that he spoke about improving governance with ethics, integrity and accountability across the province, is simply an insult to Gauteng residents. The question is, where was that approach when he encouraged an illegal dissolution of the Tshwane Municipal Council last year that compromised the spirit of co-operative governance and cost taxpayers so much money?
Further to this, Makhura tried to paint a positive image of the Vaal Tourism industry that is built on the Vaal River, and includes water sports and waterfront properties. Yet the river becomes more and more polluted each day, making any dream of a fully functional tourism industry in the area more and more of a pipe dream.
In addition to this, the Vaal River Special Economic Zone is laughable. No one will want to invest in a municipality with no service delivery and has had a mayoral vacancy for six weeks, while MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lebogang Maile is still waiting for the municipality to respond to his department’s report, despite having already granted three extensions. A South African Human Rights Commission report concluded that the sewer spillage in the Vaal River is an abuse of human rights. All the while Emfuleni having been under intervention by the provincial government – an indictment of the Makhura administration’s failures.
And lastly, once again Makhura brought up the issue of lifestyle audits of the Provincial Executive. Naturally, he laid the blame for delay with the State Security Agency but could not admit his own shortcoming of having failed to initiate these lifestyle audits at the beginning of the term in May 2019. It was only after the explosion of PPE and Covid-19 related corruption in the province, that these lifestyle audits were given the go ahead.
Makhura’s admission towards the end of his speech that the people of Gauteng have lost trust in his government is a total concession that he is no longer fit to govern, and that credibility in this administration can never reasonably be gained again.