Pietermaritzburg: Tuesday, 6 December 2011
On behalf of the Official Opposition, I would
like to join the Honourable Premier in extending our
appreciation to his Office and the entire provincial government
for honouring this year with appropriate celebrations for His
Majesty the King on the 40th anniversary of his accession to the
throne and our Indian community on the 150th anniversary of the
arrival of indentured Indian labourers to South Africa. We are
indeed proud to have taken part in these celebrations.
I also congratulate the Honourable Premier on
the recent cabinet reshuffle. This House will recall that the
Official Opposition has been calling for one since last year and
it appears that we have even correctly identified the
individuals in the previous Executive Council who failed to
perform as MECs and needed to be replaced. The cabinet reshuffle
was long overdue but, as they say, better late than never. While
it is refreshing to see new people joining the executive, we are
concerned about some failed MECs being simply redeployed to
other departments where they are responsible for even bigger
service delivery agendas with much larger budgets. It is a pity
that in these instances, political considerations have
outweighed the need for accountability and competence one would
expect from members of the provincial executive.
In his address on the occasion of the tabling
of the Medium-Term Performance Report, the Honourable Premier
listed a number of achievements by his administration since
taking office in April 2009. However, on the subject of two
immediate challenges facing our province, the Honourable Premier
said very little of substance:
Despite many repeated promises to help create jobs, the
provincial government’s record on job creation is virtually
non-existent unless one considers the continued growth in the
public sector employment.
- And despite much focus on the numerous challenges facing
our public healthcare, the persistent management challenges in
the Department of Health continue to suggest that KwaZulu-Natal
is largely unprepared to start implementing the National Health
Insurance during the next financial year.
In March this year the Official Opposition,
when this year’s provincial budget was presented in this House,
we welcomed its declared focus on job creation. Yet, at the
same, time we expressed our reservations about the credibility -
and indeed practicality - of the job creation agenda that had
failed to create sustainable jobs in the past.
What the employment policies of this
government produced in the past were scores of seasonal EPWP
recruits, Community Development Workers, Extension Officers and,
most recently, Youth Ambassadors. These are not real,
sustainable jobs. These are mere short-term employment
opportunities where little measurable transfer of skills takes
In the absence of a credible job creation
agenda, we presented alternative policy proposals to boost job
creation against the backdrop of a fragile economic recovery in
KwaZulu-Natal. Our policy on job creation is straightforward. We
acknowledge the reality that government cannot create new jobs.
Only growing businesses can create jobs. Government's role is to
create an environment that attracts investors, encourages
innovation, supports initiative and creates opportunities. In
such an environment, growing businesses hire new employees,
train them and empower them to fulfil their potential.
Our proposals, outlined in our Alternative
Budget Framework for KwaZulu-Natal, therefore included
meaningful incentives to entrepreneurs and small and medium
businesses who are the only real and sustainable job creators in
our economy by way of a wage subsidy for every new job created.
We also advocated cutting red tape for setting up new
businesses, marketing KwaZulu-Natal as South Africa’s province
of choice to do business in and improving the efficacy of our
public entities, many of which have been set up to create jobs
but have so far created precious few.
In addition to measures aimed at stimulating
job creation, we proposed future-focused investments in
education, health and public infrastructure, not mere emergency
measures to plug the gaping holes in these key areas of service
delivery. For the sake of the people of this province, we were
hoping for bold action and the political will to tackle the
challenges KwaZulu-Natal is facing with workable and sustainable
solutions. And of these, unfortunately, we have seen very few.
The ruling party announced with great pomp its
intention to implement, in phases, the National Health Insurance
from the next financial year onwards. This is arguably the most
ambitious, the most expensive and the most extensive public
policy initiative our country has seen since 1994. The
KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health will have a significant role
to play in the implementation of this plan as it prepares to
offer its healthcare services to NHI patients throughout its
The Honourable Premier’s Medium Term
Performance Report made no mention of this important policy
initiative. Wouldn’t it therefore be right for the Honourable
Premier to outline the implications of NHI for KwaZulu-Natal as
well as his government’s plans to implement this programme now
when one of his key service delivery departments is already
preparing to do so? We believe this question deserves an answer
in light of the numerous management challenges and spending
pressures the provincial Department of Health is having to
contend with at present.
The Honourable Premier has reiterated his
commitment to a clean government and this we all duly
appreciate. We have long argued that corruption is nothing less
than stealing from the poor, those most in need of the state's
assistance. It saps confidence and drives away investment.
Corruption makes poor people poorer. And service delivery
failure as a result of corruption is a waste of good money and a
breach of public trust.
On a more practical level, we also appreciate
all the effort on the part of the Office of the Premier with its
dedicated Integrity Unit and Provincial Treasury that has gone
into ensuring that cases of corruption can be better detected,
investigated and prosecuted. While it appears that more
disciplinary cases are being conducted against offenders in the
public service, we need to see more convictions to create an
effective deterrent to discourage corrupt behaviour.
We also hope that, in time, concrete measures
will be taken to blacklist contractors who violate terms of
their contracts with government and that public servants will
eventually be prevented from doing business with government –
even though the ruling party appears to be succumbing to vested
interests of its many tenderpreneurs for the time being.
While clean government is essential, it is not
enough. Government must also spend taxpayers' money effectively
and make a measurable difference to peoples' lives. We encourage
the Honourable Premier to insist, as head of the provincial
administration, on quantifying every outcome his government
intends to achieve. The provincial government needs to link each
output captured in its Annual Performance Plans to its outcome
indicators to ensure coherence between what individual
departments do and what they aim to achieve.
On a related note, we urge the Honourable
Premier to champion more comprehensive measures to assess
performance across the provincial government. The current
performance contracts are an arbitrary tool and, in any case,
they are being largely ignored by those who are supposed to sign
and monitor them. Productivity is a key element in achieving
effective governance and at present we have few reliable
indicators to provide us with an objective picture of
performance in the provincial government.
We also welcome the overall decrease in the
number of critical vacancies across the provincial government as
indit, but we urge the Honourable Premier and the relevant MECs
to focus on the filling of critical posts, especially in the
Department of Health and at Provincial Treasury. A great deal of
success in achieving clean governance and service delivery
depends on the provincial government’s capacity to execute its
mandate and it is clear that many of the current challenges and
goals cannot be tackled without the requisite skills.
We urge the Honourable Premier who is also
Provincial Chairperson of the ANC to silence what he must know
is a reckless and damaging debate within his political party on
nationalisation and expropriation without compensation. We
appeal to the Office of the Premier and Provincial Treasury to
do more to contain the massive leakage from the public financial
And finally, we call on the entire provincial
executive to work on and present to this House in its future
budgets a workable plan on how our public spending patterns can
be changed from the current expenditure geared towards mere
consumption to more productive and future-focused spending on
skills development and infrastructure.
Honourable Speaker, as I conclude I wish to
make it clear that the Official Opposition in this House is not
opposing the provincial government for the sake of opposition.
We are opposing failed policies of this government, chief of
them its failure to prepare our children for employment with
marketable skills and to create sustainable employment for the
millions of unemployed citizens of this province in order to
help them find a way out of poverty.
If the Honourable Premier can show us exactly
where and how his government is delivering skills, jobs and
other public services his government is responsible for, we will
be happy to applaud his achievements.
I thank you.
Contact: Blessed Gwala, 083 693 4600