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DA wants Sopa nothing short of amazing

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The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the province is expecting no fireworks when Premier Stan Mathabatha delivers his all important State of Limpopo address to a select audience in Polokwane tomorrow (Friday). They rather see him using the opportunity to share a long list of elaborate promises and deliverables that would never materialise or get discussed again thereafter.
DA Provincial Leader Jacques Smalle was harsh in his criticism when analysing several commitments made by Mathabatha and his Provincial Cabinet that were touched on in previous State of the Province addresses (Sopas) in the past, which he reckoned they have failed to fulfil. In return he suggested clear plans and strategies to deal with things like bloated bureaucracy demanding streamlining and address the need for accelerated delivery of quality services.
Youth matters
In a breakdown of varying issues Smalle put youth-related matters as a priority and referred to the failed commitment to assign a Youth Development Directorate in the Office of the Premier as an example. He stressed that the African National Congress (ANC)-led government had failed the youth at multiple levels, quoting a Stats SA report on youth to be painting a bleak picture when reflecting on 1,5 million youths in Limpopo living under the upper bound poverty line. The province had a 25% youth unemployment rate while 17% of the youth of the province was seen to be discouraged job seekers and more than 100 000 youth were estimated to leave Limpopo every year, he stipulated.
Economy
On the economic front he lashed out at Mathabatha and his executive over poor commitment towards support for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to obtain growth, increase skills levels and create jobs and the streamlining of State-owned enterprises (SOEs). Smalle stressed that Limpopo’s unemployment rate remained unacceptably high at 19,3% and had an expanded unemployment rate of 34,1%.
Education
Next he tackled the commitment to address inappropriate school infrastructure, repairs to storm-damaged schools and provision of additional classrooms to areas experiencing growth as well as water and sanitation to all schools and achieving a matric pass rate of 80%. He referred to a worrying R21,4 billion infrastructure backlog and a backlog in maintenance of R1,8 billion in Limpopo.
Smalle simultaneously mentioned to an estimated 1 200 educators in the province being under-qualified and 13 schools having continued to achieve a pass rate below 40% for the last five years. Another issue that he highlighted was the sharp increase in the number of progressed learners from 13 227 in 2015 to 22 256 last year. “Only 101 807 learners of the 189 170 learners that were enrolled in Grade 10 during 2014 wrote matric in Limpopo in 2016,” he said and referred to an unacceptably high drop-out rate of 46,2%.
Social Development
The condition of special needs schools in the province being in a deplorable state, due to many such schools not being well maintained, having long waiting lists, are characterised by ageing plumbing, are understaffed and do not have adequate hostel facilities, remains a serious concern to the DA in Limpopo.
Smalle stressed that Limpopo had more than 1,8 million social grants recipients which could only point to a government that has failed to find permanent solutions to poverty and couldn’t solve problems through an approach of sustainability. He was of the opinion that the loss of 18 000 jobs in the community and social services sector in the fourth quarter of 2016 spoke volumes to the lack of support for non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and the social services. Another bone of contention raised is under-funded Early Childhood Development Centres of which 112 are reportedly not licensed or approved.
Academic hospital
Smalle raised the matter of an academic hospital for Limpopo and nothing forthcoming of an undertaking for the appointment of a developer for the project, saying that there still was no such facility and that information had been received that students in the interim would make use of the facilities at Polokwane, Letaba and Mankweng Hospitals. He emphasised a dire situation attributed to dilapidated infrastructure, shortage of equipment and emergency vehicles as well as negligence and shortage of healthcare professionals throughout the province.
Local government
He left the DA’s criticism of local government matters for last when pointing out municipalities in Limpopo continued to produce disclaimers and adverse audit opinions. “There is poor or no consequence management for those that flout municipal procedures, regulations and laws. Section 56 and 57 managers and other poor performing personnel are moved around from municipality to municipality to ensure ‘they continue eating’ instead of being purged from the system. The financial viability of municipalities is also of concern; municipalities have bloated organograms and the viability of municipalities like Lim345 is questionable.”
The delivery of basic services – such as refuse removal, water supply, the quality of water, and supply of electricity as in the case of Mookgophong where they inherited a situation where only 16% of households had access to electricity – remained a great challenge in Smalle’s view. He was equally vocal on corruption as well as wasteful, irregular and unauthorised expenditure continuing to cripple local government. Poor record management, lack of proper asset management and non-compliance with procurement and supply chain policies should be addressed immediately, he stressed.
DA suggestions for counteracting status quo
Smalle suggested plans for counteracting the status quo. It entailed, among others, a clear strategy to ensure the delivery of quality services and the acceleration thereof. “Municipalities and government departments need to have plans on how to rectify poor record management, ensure supply chain procedures are followed and there is consequence management for poor or corrupt conduct.”
He alluded to the need for clear plans to streamline the bloated bureaucracy in the province, especially in the Departments of Health and Education where large percentages of the total budget were dedicated to staff and most positions were redundant, a need that existed for sufficient funding for hospital infrastructure and emergency vehicles, as well as consequence management and disciplinary action for cases of negligence or ill treatment. The DA in Limpopo would also want to see adequate health professionals in positions which they considered key to quality health services, Smalle continued.
He went on saying there should be allocation of sufficient funds by the Department of Education to start addressing the infrastructure backlog and immediate maintenance backlog as well as a clear plan to immediately ensure eradication of pit latrines and in addition ensure reliable electricity and water to all schools. “A clear strategy to ensure timely supply of textbooks, Learner Teacher Support Material, placement of students in schools and the alleviation of overcrowding in schools. At the same time there was a need for further training of teachers in key subjects such as English, Mathematics and Science that would make the youth of the province employable as the subjects were key to jobs in demand,” he mentioned.
Lastly the DA would want to see a clear, feasible, sustainable plan to create jobs and reduce the number of social grant recipients and the lost generation represented by the 1,9 million individuals not in education, employment and training, Smalle concluded.