Work­ing harder to be united in our di­ver­sity

CityPress - - Voices -

In 1994, we voted for the first time for a demo­cratic state, thus ush­er­ing in a new demo­cratic or­der and re­spect for hu­man rights. As a na­tion, we have made strides to­wards the re­al­i­sa­tion of the so­ci­ety en­vi­sioned by our fore­bears. Is it enough? Ab­so­lutely not! The chal­lenges fac­ing our peo­ple re­main part of our daily re­al­ity. Our pre­vail­ing chal­lenges must not lead us to de­spair, but should in­spire us to find in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions and em­ploy col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proaches that will pro­duce a vi­brant and car­ing Mpumalanga.

This ad­dress is an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on our achieve­ments, to iden­tify and ac­knowl­edge our short­com­ings, and to put in place mea­sures to ad­dress these short­com­ings. We must forge ahead with the com­mon pur­pose of chang­ing the lives of all our peo­ple for the bet­ter.

Some of the crit­i­cism lev­elled at us as lead­ers is of our own mak­ing. We get pre­oc­cu­pied by our own re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of of­fice and spend less time talk­ing to the peo­ple and re­spond­ing to their needs. The ar­ro­gance of lead­er­ship must give way to hu­mil­ity. Lead­ers must re­spond to the is­sues raised by our com­mu­ni­ties. All lead­ers must make them­selves avail­able to lead and unite our com­mu­ni­ties to ad­vance the vi­sion of a prov­ince that is united in its di­ver­sity.

Make no mis­take, our peo­ple are not mere pas­sen­gers on this col­lec­tive jour­ney – they are our driv­ers, and when we take a wrong turn, they are surely en­ti­tled to point it out and to in­sist that we get back on track.

One of the prom­ises to our elec­torate is to grow the econ­omy and cre­ate de­cent em­ploy­ment to ad­dress the triple chal­lenge of un­em­ploy­ment, poverty and in­equal­ity. De­spite the eco­nomic head­winds we have faced in the re­cent past, eco­nomic data show that the coun­try’s econ­omy avoided a re­ces­sion in 2015, but barely grew last year. The prov­ince cre­ated 130 000 net jobs in the past five years, achiev­ing ap­prox­i­mately 36% of our an­nual job cre­ation tar­get due to lack­lus­tre eco­nomic growth.

More could have been achieved if it were not for the sub­stan­tial fluc­tu­a­tion in global com­mod­ity prices, which was fur­ther com­pounded over the past two years by the drought. The min­ing in­dus­try shed 23 000 jobs over the same pe­riod. Over the past five years, 77 000 jobs were cre­ated in the com­mu­nity and govern­ment ser­vices, mak­ing the pub­lic sec­tor the big­gest con­trib­u­tor to em­ploy­ment.

While im­por­tant strides have been made in set­ting our econ­omy to work for the peo­ple of Mpumalanga, there are still struc­tural con­straints to eco­nomic growth and job cre­ation.

Most of our peo­ple who have re­mained trapped in poverty have demon­strated re­mark­able pa­tience, show­ing that they un­der­stand that cen­turies of struc­tural dam­age by colo­nial and apartheid rule can­not be un­done in a few decades. We can­not ex­pect our peo­ple to re­main pa­tient forever. True so­cial trans­for­ma­tion re­quires steady and sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth, and, here, we have fal­tered.

We have not moved at the en­vis­aged pace due to a num­ber of fac­tors, both in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal. How­ever, we have taken ac­tion. We have in­ves­ti­gated the chal­lenges and iden­ti­fied the short­com­ings. The fol­low­ing ar­eas will be­come cross-cut­ting pri­or­i­ties in the com­ing fi­nan­cial year:

. We have es­tab­lished stronger links be­tween our ser­vice de­liv­ery de­part­ments and our lead im­ple­ment­ing agent for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment in the prov­ince, the de­part­ment of pub­lic works, roads and trans­port. As we re­fine and fi­nalise our plans for 2017/18, we are pleased to note tan­gi­ble im­prove­ments in our plan­ning and re­sourc­ing pro­cesses, in­clud­ing ac­cel­er­a­tion plans to en­sure that projects al­ready com­mit­ted to are pri­ori­tised and com­pleted as soon as pos­si­ble.

. To fur­ther en­sure that our big-ticket in­fra­struc­ture projects are rolled out as planned, we will be es­tab­lish­ing a pro­vin­cial project man­age­ment unit co­or­di­nated by the of­fice of the premier to man­age and over­see these crit­i­cal projects from start to fin­ish.

. Where we have ex­pe­ri­enced de­lays in the es­tab­lish­ment of our in­fra­struc­ture de­liv­ery fund, we have en­sured that, in the in­terim, we can em­ploy our own re­sources to fa­cil­i­tate the com­ple­tion of key in­fra­struc­ture projects.

. We will no longer find our­selves at the mercy of un­scrupu­lous con­trac­tors and sub­con­trac­tors vy­ing for per­sonal gain at the ex­pense of our peo­ple and the ser­vices they are en­ti­tled to. We have es­tab­lished a panel of ex­perts from across dis­ci­plines in the built en­vi­ron­ment, and we will be util­is­ing their ex­per­tise in all in­fra­struc­ture projects to en­sure both value for money and qual­ity de­liv­er­ables.

Through the land re­form pro­gramme, govern­ment spent R7.5 mil­lion to ac­quire and al­lo­cate 461 946 hectares for land re­dis­tri­bu­tion and a fur­ther 503 769ha for the set­tle­ment of land claims.

It is of great con­cern that, de­spite such in­vest­ment, most of these farms are ly­ing fal­low with­out any agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­ity. This is not right and can­not be ac­cepted. It un­der­mines our ef­forts of ad­dress­ing the land ques­tion. It af­fects the agenda of grow­ing the agri­cul­tural sec­tor to ad­dress food se­cu­rity, and of cre­at­ing much-needed jobs for the un­em­ployed.

The sit­u­a­tion is fur­ther ex­ac­er­bated by in­fight­ing within com­mu­nal prop­erty in­sti­tu­tions, which hold own­er­ship of these as­sets. In­stead of peo­ple fo­cus­ing on work­ing the land, much of their time is spent fight­ing over lim­ited re­sources.

We are con­scious of the chal­lenges faced by farm dwellers and farm work­ers. We are work­ing with the de­part­ment of ru­ral de­vel­op­ment and land re­form, the land own­ers and the farm dwellers/work­ers to find so­lu­tions to pre­vail­ing prob­lems.

Our land re­form pro­gramme must be an­chored to our agenda of grow­ing the agri­cul­tural sec­tor for both do­mes­tic con­sump­tion and ex­ports to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets. This is im­por­tant for us as a prov­ince be­cause this sec­tor con­trib­utes 3.4% to South Africa’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, ac­count­ing for 630 000 for­mal jobs.

David Mabuza voices@city­press.co.za

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