This morning, Premier Thabang Makwetla will be presenting his State Of the Province and as usual there are lots of expectations from the ordinary people of Mpumalanga who struggle to survive on a day to day basis. These multitudes will be crammed in dilapidated halls in townships and villages, watching the Premier on a big screen. But there will also be the filthy rich Golfers, mainly from his other home, Gauteng, who will be occupying Table 1 – at the exclusive opening of the Legislature which will be held in an air-conditioned underground parking at the Government complex. They expect the Premier to announce major projects such as Moloto Corridor and a whole lot of others that will make them even richer than they already are. Ziwaphi, presents what we believe could help have an impact on the lives of the people who put the ANC in power.
Expectations from ordinary people of Mpumalanga
It is that time of the year when the air of Mpumalanga is filled with anticipation, hope and despair. The people of the Province wait to hear how the people they have put in office to guide their fate respond to their needs. The event of the State of the Province Address has become, over the years, a signature event in the calendar of events for the Province for, not only the people of the Province, but also for hundreds of dignitaries from other provinces who come to grace and enjoy the occasion.
It all starts in the morning at the Legislature with a fanfare and a spectacle that is very rare in a dull city (in terms of entertainment rapport) like Nelspruit. It is an occasion that is marked by, colourful dresses and hats of all shapes and sizes, shiny luxury cars, conoe-shaped “bee” shoes, brass band, red carpet, drum rolls and later it is followed by a luncheon fit for the Kings. To end the day a gala dinner for the mink and manure crowns everything. This day is reminiscent of the ambience synonymous with the July handicap
For some it is a day to display their success and possessions, this will be exhibited in their shiny luxurious Import cars, their expensive cashmere costumes and taxedos, while for others it is a day where they hope their empty bellies will be filled, their shacks will be razed down and better dwellings be erected, jobs will be offered, skills training will be provided, bursaries will be made available, azt/ nevirapene cocktail will be freely available, better primary care services will be made available, schools will be built and safety nets will be provided.
The former group lingers around for the Premier’s golf event the following day. It is in this event where they mingle and talk business. The golf event presents a platform for powerful government officials and captains of industries to talk and tie up business deals. It is a networking platform where golf is just an excuse for high-powered business deal-making discussions.
On the other hand the common people of the Province are entertained to meals and music. On the occasion things are done according to class. There will be executive toilets for dignitories and ordinary ones for the plebeians. Tables are set according to order of importance. Protocols are very strict. The commoners are starkly reminded of their status.
The State of the Province Address through the eyes of the Plebeians
Plebeians are the commoners of society. These are the poor people who struggle to make ends meet . They are the voting cattle in the democratic state of affairs. They are by far the large majority of society. They are needed by any political party for the power they possess in their vote. They are ordinary people who struggle to survive on a day to day basis. Their demands to government are often simple and very basic, marked by the following wants:-
Roads and Transport
They want the Premier through his speech to promise and deliver good road network infrastructure. They want the Premier to provide commuter passenger rail transport to ferry them cheaper and more reliably to work and back home. They can hardly afford taxi and bus fares to go to work daily (Those who are lucky to have a job). Passenger rail is seen by this group as a panacea to locomotion problems. Fortunately, Mpumalanga has a good rail network on the ground which is grossly underused.
The plebeians would like to hear the Premier promise and deliver more and better schools for their children. They would like to see the gap in quality between private and public schools eroded away quickly. They would like to see their children not only pass but pass with internationally recognized grades that lead into meaningful future study courses or good jobs.
They would like the Premier to pronounce himself on the glaring non availability of a university in a geographic expanse province of about three million people as Mpumalanga.
They would like the Premier to deliver training programmes that would produce artisans and other scarce skills in the province. They would like the Premier to link the training programmes to the needs of economy. Training that should address the lack of skills that are needed by mines, manufacturing plants and tertiary services sectors. A more rapid roll out of the “no fee” schools would be highly appreciated
The people would like the Premier to address the shortage of medical doctors and other professionals in the sector. They would love for the Premier to not only give them assurances that the problem will be resolved. The gentlemen’s agreement with private doctors does not give a lasting solution for the people. They would like to have a programme with targets and timeframes on how their government will make available professionals to provide sustainable services.
The people appreciate the sourcing of doctors from Tunisia but they want a more permanent solution to this problem.
The province is largest producer of electricity in the country. However, in the last couple of weeks the province has had to endure unbearable power outages with devastating economic and social ramifications. While the people understand that the Provincial government had little to do with this problem, they still look up to the leadership for solutions. The people would like the Premier to advance a programme of renewable power sources. They would like to know the Province’s plan on solar, hydro and other alternative sources of energy. The Province, being the main role player in energy production, can ill-afford to be a bystander in strategies to resolve the power shortage problem. The province due to being main producers of electricity has earned a right to lead strategies to take the country out of this quagmire.
In line with the theme of greening the Province, the people would like to know the plan to venture into bio fuels production and its rich value chain benefits which if conducted correctly can produce much-needed power. If the greening of the province flagship project does not include the question of sustainable power production then it is an effusive effort that hardly qualifies the status it enjoys especially in the light of the province being blessed with greenery almost all over.
The President has promised the youth, of this country, opportunities for jobs in the EPW Programme. The Premier would do good to translate this promise in numbers and live projects. The plebeians would like to hear the Premier table concrete plans that highlight numbers of job opportunities that will be created this year in all the active sectors of the economy. In fact, the commoners expect up-to-date statistics of employment rates in the province. It would not hurt to hear the Premier give statistics of employment to senior management positions in his government and parastatals and also to reveal the recruitment policy of his office in so far as it relates to senior management and sources from where he recruits in particular, the geographic area of preference.
With only one month to go before the end of the financial year, the people would like the Premier to tell the Province how many business ventures has MEGA funded and how much of their budget has been expended on assisting emerging enterprises. It is estimated that the Agency has assisted less than thirty enterprises for an insignificant amount of money. Complaints from women and youth have been flooding Ziwaphi about the lack of service from MEGA. In the next couple of weeks Ziwaphi will be running a page of grievances from the general public mainly about the lack of responsiveness from MEGA officials
Land availability in most affluent geographic growth points has become such a thorn in the big scheme of developmental agenda of the Province. Land has become a prohibiting factor to settlement patterns in all the towns in Mpumalanga. The cost of land has become an effective tool to restrict people movement. The Premier would do good to address the question of shortage of land for settlement and development. What are the plans for growth of our towns and how do we ensure mixed settlement. The plebeians want to know if there are plans to bring their settlement closer to towns where they ply their trade for a living. In the absence of affordable public transportation, the plebeians deserve to be put closer to their workplaces.
Sanitation and water
While this might be seen as a municipal competence, the people would like the Premier to address the appalling state of delivery of water and sanitation services. Many townships and trust settlements are receiving poor services. Some time last year some townships were made to drink water mixed with excretum for days before the officials announced the “disaster” over the radio. In some townships water cuts are a daily occurrence. The water is visibly dirty and smells of faeces.
There are suspicions that big industries dump toxic waste substances into our water bodies. The plebeians would like the Premier to advance plans on how the Province would regulate the industries.
It would please the commoners for the Premier to pronounce himself on the non existent industrial strategy of the province. There has been talk of an industrial park being developed, the people would like to know the status of this and other anchor projects. The Province announced last year that they were establishing a Growth Fund to be used in development of bulk infrastructure outlay for economic and social use, the Premier would do good to report progress of this project.
Tourism and Conservation
Manyeleti Game reserve has become part of Mpumalanga after the re-demarcation of the municipal boundaries. Manyeleti is a significant conservation area which if well managed can create significant job and enterprise opportunities. It is also an attractive point which should rake in volumes of tourists into our province. It is expected that the Premier will lay out plans to develop this asset as catalyst to take the province back to respectable rankings in the affinity to draw visitors. At one point the Province rated among the most sought after places to be visited however that is history now. We cannot ask anybody to come and visit our province when in reality a significant amount of our own senior managers hightail back to Gauteng and other Provinces every Friday.
Sport and recreation
The 2010 FIFA World Cup finals promises a lot of opportunities for the commoners, however, the government need to lead these people if they are to benefit anything out of the energy created by the tournament. In Gauteng, the Premier, Shilowa, has announced during his State of the Province address that they are already training volunteers to provide services prior, during and after the tournament. The commoners expect no less from Premier Makwetla during his State of the Province address. It is only through organized participation that our people will see and grab opportunities.
The Premier must tell the people of what benefits are accruing to the sons and daughters of province currently with the construction of the stadium. Are there Mpumalanga companies enjoying significant part of the construction? Are there Mpulamanga companies supplying materials? What contributions are made by the projects now and in the future?
The Premier must tell the people of plans in the arena of entertainment and leisure that our people can latch on for empowerment.
Safety and security
Safety and security are two service areas that are very important for any development to take place. The people would like the Premier to assure them of their and visitors’ safety. I
The people want to have a responsive government. Last year the government suffered a spate of labour actions ranging from protests, pickets and strike actions. Mostly the actions were against certain senior officials with the HOD for Health and Social Services enjoying the abominable distinction of being the most targeted labour action object, the Premier made certain promises to the Union to call off the protracted labour action, it would be interesting for the Premier to tell the Province how he is resolving this and other looming labour disputes.
The Premier announced that the Province has no skills. It will be honourable for him to tell the Province how far he has gone in cultivating the necessary and requisite skill base in his tenure. Are we having senior managers from the province who should be ready to become HODs? How many has the Premier cultivated over the years to take over leadership roles in the government?
There has been a small exodus of HODs and senior officials from the province who just moved away. The people deserve to be told why that is. To mind come names like, Smangele Sekgobela, Mkhize, Maureen Sithole, Thembi Msibi, Adv. Soko, Ernest Khosa, Rina Charles, Ndumiso Matlala, Musi Skhosana, and Gladys Sibeko. Should we expect more departures soon? For a Province with skill shortage the Premier should announce a retention strategy.
State of the Province address through the eyes of table 1 (the golfers)
The needs of this group are simply for the Premier to announce BEE deals that would make them richer. Talk of basic needs are nauseating to them because they have long passed that stage of life. They need big and better purses.
What the Plebeians don’t want to hear
That story about the Makhonjwa Mountain is tired and the plebeians are also tired of hearing it. It took the Premier a number of years to complete research work into the heritage of the Province. This is important work but if it does not translate to solutions for present social issues of the day it becomes an academic exercise fit for the archives.
The people do not want to be told of skill shortage which the Premier identified in his inaugural year in office. They want to hear how far he has gone in addressing the problem.
The people don’t want to hear how the Province has been branded but how the branding project is changing their lives. They want to know how painting the beautiful bronze three rondavels green will help them get jobs. They want value for money. It would help if the Premier were to demonstrate returns on the R40 million public funds he is spending on branding the Province.
The people do not expect the Premier to announce any rollovers from the allocated budget of all departments. They want to assured that no department will get qualified audit reports from the Auditor General
Check Ziwaphi’s next issue for in-depth analysis of the Premier’s Speech. It will be interesting to see if the speech measures up to the expectation of the people the Premier is serving. A clear score card will be published scoring elements of the speech with the barometre set by this article.