Kwazulu-Natal Legislature, Pietermaritzburg: 25 February 2010
Discerning Members of the House will observe that
the Hon. Premier’s State of the Province address assessed
government’s commitments and accountability to the provincial plans
that were set out when this government took office last year. The
bulk of this year’s State of the Province Address was punctuated by
a bland extension and continuation of ongoing government programmes,
many of which predate this government and some of which have yielded
no tangible results to date.
Those of us who were looking for new initiatives,
details, data, targets and deadlines were largely disappointed.
There were few fresh ideas and little innovation. It was a routine
performance of a government that has been in power for more years
that it cares to remember, not one that is intent on offering new
hope and a fresh start.
We acknowledge that the Hon. Premier’s speech
covered some of the major priorities around the socio-economic needs
to create job opportunities, to build social and economic
infrastructure (including the 2010 World Cup infrastructure), and to
fast-track Expanded Public Works Programme in order to create decent
if non-permanent jobs, to provide resources improve the health care
system (including the National Health Insurance Scheme and
management of HIV/Aids), to provide decent education and, to fight
crime and corruption.
The IFP has been involved with its own
parliamentary outreach programme since December 2009 whereby MPs and
MPLs are conducting vigorous interactive sessions with communities
of KwaZulu-Natal. The parliamentary outreach programme gives the
people an opportunity to exercise their right to hold their public
representatives to account. In our quest, we have visited and are
still going to visit many areas and listen actively to what people
want and expect from this government. In the process of interaction,
the public has raised important issues that they want this
government to address and prioritise.
People not only tell us that they want government
to prioritise the creation of decent jobs, fighting poverty, crime
and corruption, improved access to health services, clean running
water, electricity and general maintenance of roads without
potholes. They also want to know how these objectives can be
achieved with their active participation. The feeling that I have been
getting in the countryside is that our people are no longer content
with the role of passive victims of the past assigned to them by
politicians but wish to become active participants in society and
the economy where they are now ready to shape their own destinies.
Having enlisted popular views and attitudes in our
constituencies, we have come here to remind government of all those
things that our people have asked us to consider. The Premier’s
State of the Province Address touched on some of those issues, but
failed to provide enough introspection or indeed direction. The
immediate past Premier introduced the Citizens’ Charter but nothing
much has improved in the work ethics of government officials.
We agree that the success of government depends on
a highly committed public service. In our parliamentary outreach
programme, our people related to us shocking stories about the
attitude of civil servants. We were horrified to hear how the
elderly people are being neglected at pension pay points. We have
heard many heart-breaking stories experienced by the patients who
wait endlessly in queues without seeing a doctor. We have heard
countless accounts of government officials who spend more time
answering their telephones rather attending to their
Such acts of corruption, negligence and
maladministration must be dealt with severely and the current
inaction and backlog of unresolved disciplinary procedures does not
inspire much public confidence in yet more promises laid out in the
Hon. Premier’s State of the Province Address.
The people of KwaZulu-Natal want their government
to make a commitment to do things differently. They want the
provincial administration to direct its energies towards spending
government purse on delivery issues, and not merely on intentions.
And in line with the need for prudent expenditure they want
government to focus on cutting the cost of ‘nice-to-haves’ and
prevent any wasteful expenditure.
The people also want government to review its
engagement with the service providers and to be very strict on
issues of value for money and demand high standards of performance
from civil servants and from anyone who does business with
government. Civil servants must take their jobs seriously and
government must review over-reliance on consultants in an attempt to
promote full utilization of internal capacity. Government must also
address the abnormal situation for the continued usage of labour
brokers in public institutions such as in the department of health.
By doing this, government will bring an end to abuse and
exploitation of these workers thus improving service delivery.
While we welcome the Hon. Premier’s announcement
that some government officials will be subjected to lifestyle audit,
we believe that such a measure must include the politicians
including Members of the Executive Council. It must be borne in mind
that when the issue of lifestyle audit first surfaced in the media
it involved a top politician and the government’s intervention must
not be seen to shun the subject of much publicized controversy.
Quality health care is a cornerstone of the
government’s priority areas. Although the Hon. Premier gave
statistics of poor health indicators including falling life
expectancy, child and maternal mortality rates, he failed to qualify
his remarks by acknowledging that this is a long-term result of
controversial Aids policy pursued by none other than the ANC
As Chairperson of the ANC’s Health Desk, the Hon.
Premier failed to use this opportunity to discuss the introduction
of the National Health Insurance Scheme. Similarly, during his State
of the Nation Address earlier this month, President Jacob Zuma
afforded the subject of the NHI a whole one sentence. We take this
as a tacit admission that the perennial post-election ANC promise of
universal healthcare is off the table until after the next election.
We expect government to engage with all
stakeholders and develop a turnaround strategy to revitalize clinics
and hospitals, reduce long queues and improve the availability of
drugs and medical equipment.
We welcome government’s decision to invest in hospital
infrastructure, starting with the construction of the iconic King
Edward VIII Hospital.
We have been watching closely the uneasy task of
bringing down the historically highest fiscal deficit KwaZulu-Natal
has ever experienced. We have particularly welcomed the R626-million
reduction in over-expenditure in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of
Health since September last year even though this reduction is below
even the government’s own target. With R2.312-billion, our
Department of Health still accounts for the bulk of the province’s
The credit for reducing the deficit in this
department must go to Hon. MEC Dhlomo and the joint task team
comprising the health department and the provincial Treasury. It
must be remembered that the initial efforts aimed at cutting and
consolidating the multi-billion rand health budget deficit, which
ballooned under Hon. Dhlomo’s predecessor, yielded no savings at
The IFP, however, does not accept the argument
that public health care in KwaZulu-Natal is underfunded without
qualification. As long as hundreds of millions of rands in
conditional grants go unspent and as long as internal inefficiencies
in the Health Department’s administration persist, we cannot blame
over-expenditure squarely on underfunding.
We welcome the Hon. Premier’s commitment to
programmes such as hospital revitalisation and against persistent
administrative shortcomings in the Department of Health that prevent
this province from utilizing conditional grants from the national
Treasury. The ongoing gross under-spending in Hospital
Revitalisation and HIV and Aids Grants in particular cannot be
justified given the sorry state of public health care facilities and
the scale of the HIV/Aids pandemic in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Official Opposition urges the joint task team
to refocus its efforts on addressing the internal inefficiencies in
the department’s administration of public funds. While the
department has managed to step up its collection of patients’ fees,
the internal inefficiencies involved in the procurement of goods and
services, particularly of medical supplies and the inflated cost of
laboratory services, persist. The multi-billion rand budget deficit
cannot be consolidated without these measures.
Similarly, this government cannot credibly deliver
on its promised extension of HIV/Aids targets unless we make an
effort to redefine the inflexible procurement rules and make way for
cheaper ARVs and medicine supplies in general. The economic
recession and our difficult financial position on the one hand
and the growing pressure on our public health care on the other mean
that we will have to do more with less. Let us therefore allow room
for innovation and creativity.
We need a new vision for what education can do for
our people in KwaZulu-Natal. We do not simply face the challenge of
unemployment for school leavers, but indeed their un-employability
when the economy is unable to absorb them. Our schools are not
preparing the children with skills to enter the formal economy and
the new technological demands of the computer age. We congratulate
the government on the modest increase in last year’s matric pass
rate but we feel the need to point out that this figure was a far
cry from the consistent achievements in this field of the IFP-led
provincial government prior to 2004.
Government must empower young people by way of
investment in their education and training through such programmes
as mentoring and skills development.
This will enable the youth to participate in matters of
governance and development. The agenda of government will not
succeed if the youth and their aspirations are not at the centre of
The global economic downturn has led to the
increase in the number of unemployed youth – who in their
unemployment turn to crime. Skills shortage that is necessary to
fuel economic expansion remains a challenge. This is the point that
the Hon. Premier missed when he hardly dealt with the most important
challenge faced by the youth of our province: the issue of youth
development and the status of the National Youth Development Agency
(NYDA). Government must prioritize youth programmes in tackling the
issues related to moral regeneration, self-help and self-reliance,
service delivery and economic development.
KwaZulu-Natal is a prime destination for local
tourists and we must be ready to take on the challenge of developing
our road infrastructure, particularly in rural areas. There is
something perversely glib in dubbing our province the tourist
destination when it was announced in SABC 2’s Morning Live programme
yesterday that we have the dubious distinction of having the worst
potholed road in the country – that is, the provincial road between
Ingwavuma and Manguzi. We hope that the top civil servants will find
time to consider such challenges instead of targeting members of the
public who bring these issues to their attention.
In closing, I would like to wish this government
good luck and pledge our continued support on issues where our
own policies coincide with this government’s plans. For the sake of
the people of KwaZulu-Natal, I sincerely hope that four years from
now, we will be closer to achieving the goals set out in the Hon.
Premier’s State of the Province Address. I have no doubt this
government will make mistakes along the way but when it does, I want to assure all of you that these
errors will be aired in the open in this House.
I thank you.
Contact: Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi, 082 516 0156