Mabuyane takes swipe after disappointing speech focuses on past
With the clock ticking and the axe poised for his imminent removal, Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle yesterday failed to articulate how the government planned to revitalise the provincial economy this year, focusing instead on past investments and successes.
The economic lull in the province, coupled to a climate his political bosses have complained is not conducive to the growth of black businesses, was among the reasons for the mark against his head, as well as the decision for a cabinet reshuffle.
Apart from major roads projects currently under way and others planned for the eastern part of the province over the next four years – to the tune of a combined R13-billion – Masualle’s state of the province address focused largely on work already done.
ANC provincial chairman and newly sworn-in MPL Oscar Mabuyane said he was disappointed Masualle had failed to mention key catalytic projects – like the Umzimvubu Dam, which is meant to be a flagship project for the province.
“As the ANC we are disappointed about the fact that key catalytic projects were not really crystallised again. We want to hear more about them.
“If they are stagnant, why are they stagnant? And if they are being implemented, at what stage are they?” Mabuyane said.
“We are generally happy about a number of other issues.”
Earlier yesterday, Masualle said the project was not mentioned because there was nothing new to report, adding that there were still funding problems for what was meant to be a R12-billion project that would create about 6 000 jobs.
Taking a swipe at the premier, Mabuyane said small to medium businesses were being “killed” because they were not getting work.
He said something should be done about this. “We should not be crying about it, we must do something,” Mabuyane said.
Delivering his speech in sweltering temperatures in Bhisho yesterday, Masualle painted a bleak picture of a stunted economy struggling to create meaningful jobs.
The situation is likely to remain unchanged, with the province’s GDP forecasted to grow by only 1.7% next year.
“The economy of the province has not been in the shape it needed to have been, such that we can effectively address our challenges.
“Since the beginning of the term, the level of unemployment has consistently remained unacceptably high – far above the national average,” Masualle said.
Already battling to get by with the reduced budget allocation from national Treasury over the medium term – caused by people moving to other provinces for work, Masualle said they were expecting further cuts in conditional grants meant for infrastructure projects.
On Wednesday, Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba announced that the budget allocations to all provinces and municipalities would be slashed to be able to fund free higher education.
This places further pressure on Bhisho’s fiscus.
Masualle said the emphasis on improving the road network would hopefully give impetus to economic growth and also boost the tourism sector.
Emphasis would be placed on promoting the province as a tourism destination of choice, he said.
Other highlights from his speech included:
- Improving water, sanitation, roads and electricity infrastructure in small towns;
- 25 000 households will be supported with agricultural inputs to strengthen food security;
- A focus on digital transformation in education;
- Cuban professors to assist the province in improving maths, science and technology subjects; and
- Refurbishing 11 healthcare facilities.
While he touched on the drought crisis that has gripped the province, and particularly the Bay, Masualle did not provide details in his speech about the specific role his administration would play to mitigate the impact.
Nelson Mandela Bay’s dams have reached the lowest levels in decades, at a combined tally of about 25%.
Responding to questions from the media, Masualle said they welcomed the R6-billion announced by Gigaba to be made available for water projects across the country.
He added that they were talking to the provincial disaster management centre to build its capacity to plan for disasters such as droughts.
Asked what he thought about his performance as premier over the past four years, Masualle said he believed that he and his executive had met their objectives.
“Our government system is premised on political parties; we are deployed by them.
“From time to time such deployment is evaluated and assessed and a decision gets made about whether or not you are fit for the purpose,” Masualle said.
“We are here to pronounce on the progress we are making, and we are moving ahead.”
He said that anyone who doubted his capabilities should check for themselves and that he believed he had a strong team.
Opposition parties felt his speech lacked a proper vision and plan for the economy and jobs for the province.
DA leader in the legislature Bobby Stevenson said: “It had absolutely no heart, it showed that it was coming from a man who is on his way out.
“In fact, Masualle should not have delivered the state of the province address.”
Stevenson said the speech was proof that the province needed a complete government overhaul.
“The premier even mentioned that he is going to call a senior management conference – but what is lacking is core leadership that takes tough decisions and ensures we take value for money.”
Mabuyane also believed there was no need for a conference for senior managers, saying: “Managers are employed to implement decisions of the ANC. We don’t need to negotiate about that; we don’t have to go to a conference about that.
“Leadership of the ANC must provide leadership and parliament must provide oversight.”
UDM MPL Max Mhlati said he was disappointed there were no new economic drivers for the province announced.
“The only jobs you hear about are these EPWP jobs for people, which are your [pick and] shovel jobs.
“What about the graduates? There are no jobs for them.”
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