Response on the SOPA debate by the Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, Northern Cape Provincial Legislature

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Honourable Speaker and Deputy Speaker Leader of the Opposition, Honourable McGluwa
Our dynamic Chief Whip, Honourable Maneng
Honourable Members of the Provincial Legislature
Ladies and gentlemen,
Comrades and friends
Members of the Media
Allow me to thank all the Members of the Legislature that participated in the debate and I want to commend the positive attitude that was displayed throughout the debate including by members of the opposition.

Honourable Speaker, the resignation of Honourable Member Andrew Louw is disheartening but marks a progression in our lives that is unavoidable. I want to thank Honourable Louw for your robust engagements, which you did diligently without being personal. You respected this house, respected every individual member and have respected the fact that all of us who are members in this House have families. 

What you have achieved, treating everyone with decency, is what I’m working hard on and in essence informs my daily engagements with each member here. I’ve never disrespected any member in this Chamber and I’m expecting the same in return. This is not a sign of weakness, but basic decency.

As your fellow colleagues, we must derive lessons from how you treated all of us. I introduced major changes to the Premier’s Bursary Fund because of the one-on-one discussions that we had. You decided to constructively engage with the 6th Administration not because you are a coward but because you are brave enough to embrace decency. To embrace decency takes courage, that’s the courage which cowards don’t have, hence they would resort to abuse, insults and disrespectful behaviour.

You raised your issues in this House emphatically, without shouting or being aggressive to anyone. Noise, threats of violence or chaos is behaviour traits of people with serious insecurities. So what insecure people do they deploy noise, threats of violence and chaos to hide those imbedded insecurities.

Thanks for respecting all of us, as your colleagues. For that I have the greatest respect for you and in that I see someone I can continue to work with beyond these Chambers. When I was in standard 5 (Grade 7) my English teacher, Mr Jantlo introduced a poem to me that has since shaped my character. I want to share this poem with two Honourable Members today; Honourable Louw and our Chief Whip, for standing firm yesterday and not get threatened by ill-informed noise. After this sitting I will email this poem to both of you.

The name of the poem is DESIDERATA written by Max Ehrmann in 1927.

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Honourable Speaker, I want to start my response to the 2022 SOPA debates with the words of Honourable Makatong, ‘that we have only one duty to serve the people of the Northern Cape and nothing else’. This point was further strengthened by Honourable Member Senye, who said that, with the massive socio-economic challenges ‘ons moet harder werk’. This speaks directly to what Agbare Lid Coetzee said ‘mense van die Noord Kaap is te belangrik  om vir hulle in die steek te laat’. 

The young Chief Whip sums this commitment brilliantly and said that, ‘we must sharpen our focus on what is relevant’. 

The SOPA as Honourable Makatong has said was our collective response to the people of the Northern Cape on the execution of our work, not just work but hard work as Honourable Senye has mentioned because ‘ons will nie die mense van die Noord Kaap in die steek laat nie.  We need a combination of hard work and sharpened focus to achieve the goals of building a modern, growing and successful province. No time for nonsensical sideshows.

Honourable Speaker, we have committed to modernise this province, grow its economy and make it successful. Despite the difficulties visited upon us by the advent of COVID-19, we have stayed on course. In the darkness of it all, our vision remained the guiding light. As a result, our opponents can only utter muffled words and at best claim our successes.

Let me just highlight some few achievements due to our hard work and sharpened focus on relevant matters:

  • When the sixth administration started in 2019 the GDP of the province was R 96 Billion and now it stands at R 107 Billion,
  • We managed to grow the economy under the COVID-19 environment and thereby created job opportunities, hence the Northern Cape has the lowest official unemployment rate in the country according to StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the 3rd quarter of 2021. This is not voodoo statistics or hyped sentiments. We are the only province in the country to reduce negative trends for both official and expanded unemployment,
  • After four years we managed to close the 2021/2022 Financial Year on a positive bank balance of more than R300 million,
  • There is an improvement in the Grade 12 results, this is a tangible indicator of the general improvements in public education,
  • Created collaborative efforts with law enforcement agents which led to the establishment of the SIU Offices in the province and this is accompanied by an increase in the number of corruption cases which are being investigated and the number of arrests,
  • All the state driven work  and training opportunities for young people in the province amounts to ± 26 000 job opportunities,
  • We have the lowest COVID-19 deaths per 100 000 people, which is an indicator of the general improvement of the capacity of our public health system,
  • There is an increased number of people in the province that now have access to third and fourth generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology and this is due to the more than half a billion rand investment in the province by MTN and Vodacom,
  • Government procurement to local enterprises increased from 34% in 2019 and it is standing at 47% now; translated in rand and cents, it is more than R1.2 Billion,
  • Through collaborative efforts with communities we see significant decreases in GBVF cases in the province, and
  • Increased spending on social infrastructure, with more rural roads upgraded.

Honourable Speaker, the theme of this State of the Province address is ‘The Peoples SOPA’. We have also used the opportunity to assert the unrelenting commitment of this sixth administration to ‘Build a Modern, Growing and Successful Province’. We have succeeded to position the Northern Cape as a nodal economic hub, we are increasingly playing a key role in the revival of South Africa’s role as a mining giant, and we have foregrounded the province as a hub of renewable energy.

This is a prime indicator that we are turning the tide against economic stagnation.

Honourable Coetzee, we indeed agree that we must continue our work to improve public education. We are busy establishing focused schools in each of the districts concentrating on restructured areas of learning for example agricultural and mechanical technology, robotics, agricultural sciences, engineering graphics and design, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Marine Science, to mention a few.

We want to urge our parents and learners to move away from the traditional academic stream choices and into these new and exciting areas of learning, in order to meet the skills needs of the country and simultaneously greatly improve employability of these young people.

We want to dispel the myth that our focus schools of technology, three-stream models schools and agricultural schools are of lesser standing, instead they represent our provincial efforts to grow our human resource capacity and respond to modernising our curriculum offerings.
We also want all the people and civil society to join our social compact for building safer schools. The vandalism of schools is not just a government problem; it steals the quality of education of our children; it is the theft of their future.

Honourable Speaker, over the MTEF period a total of R468 million is prioritised for the replacement of inappropriate structures, R96 million for 2022/23, R186million for 2023/24 and again R186 million for the 2024/25 financial year. Some of the projects entail full replacement of schools, other projects replace only asbestos pre-fab structures and specific classroom blocks of roofs.

These school projects include Carlton Van Heerden High School, AB Kolwane Primary, Sonskyn Intermediary, Bontleng Primary, Gaoshupe Makodi, Homevale Primary, Ikhaya Primary, Kgono Primary, Venus Primary, Dr Izak van der Merwe, Malherbe Human Intermediary, Prieska Gekombineerde Skool, Anderson Primary, Eureka Intermediary, Franciscus Intermediary, Oranje-Oewer Intermediary, Petrusville Primary and Laerskool Kleinzee.

Honourable Speaker, the administration of the provincial government is sound and we have taken a strong stance against corruption and maladministration.

Successful governments speak plainly in the fight against malfeasance and hence we re-affirm our commitment to work closely with state institutions dealing with fraud, corruption and related matters.

Honourable Speaker, the process of filling vacant positions for HoDs is underway, this will soon be concluded. We want to appoint the calibre of men and women who appreciate the challenges of our people and share the vision of our province. We will appoint HoDs who will endeavour to sharpen the focus of the administration on what is relevant.

Honourable Speaker, the leader of the opposition in this house Honourable McGluwa, correctly appreciates the strides we have made in positioning the Northern Cape as a green energy hub. We appreciate this sincere acknowledgement.

We further note the point that Honourable McGluwa makes to the effect that, ‘the lifespan of PV panels is only 20 and 50 years. We must grab the opportunity to fill this gap and take the lead in the disposal of more than 85-million tonnes of renewable energy sector waste.’ To this effect, we together with the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) have set aside an amount of R75 Million to promote new ventures in niche areas such as the green energy hub.

Further to this, Honourable Speaker, as per the Northern Cape Green Hydrogen Strategy, the objective is to position the Province as a green Hydrogen production and distribution hub. The MEC of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism will elaborate on this during his budget speech.

We have already answered the questions about the establishment of the State Construction Company as part of the Provincial Macro Organization of Government (PMOG). The registration of the company will occur around June 2022 and the relevant MECs will elaborate on this during their budget speeches.

Honourable Speaker, the SOPA has been explicit in the number of ventures we are undertaking in modernising the province, including the work we are doing at the department of health as one of the apex focus area. I gave progress on the implementation of the ambulance dispatch system, continual renewal of the ambulance fleet and the e-submission innovation to promote administrative efficiencies.

The Honourable McGluwa draws our attention to the challenges of Emergency Medical Services but it is important that we should not forget the work that we did. Since the advent of the sixth administration, from June 2019 to December 2021 we bought 92 ambulances and 32 patient transport busses. For the 2022/23 financial year, another 40 ambulances have been ordered.

I also gave an extensive report on the implementation of the biometric patient administration system amongst others.

This government has gone a long way in improving health services; I have announced the plans to build a state of the art district hospital in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District. The MEC of Health, Honourable Maruping will give more details on the completion and opening of a new mortuary at the site of the Kuruman Hospital during the Department’s Budget Speech. This will enable us to respond to the challenges in respect of the mortuary at Tshwaragano hospital.

Honourable Speaker, there are currently 19 state patients in Kimberley and 3 state patients in Upington. The plan is to utilise the mental health grant to appoint an additional psychiatrist at the Northern Cape Mental Hospital; we give due regard to the increasing number of mental health patients due to the difficult socio-economic period we find ourselves in.

Honourable Members, Once again I state, the City of Kimberley is the face of the province and the City has many challenges that we are collectively striving to turn around. This is what the constitutional dispensation enjoins us to do, to work collectively with our municipalities and we do not need any invitation to do so. The relevant MECs will give a comprehensive report on the R500 Million project, what work was done and the money spent.

Honourable Speaker, the municipalities have a deadline to perform an audit in order to establish a skill’s gap. In doing so, it will give the municipalities an idea on how to address the shortcomings identified through the skills audit. The LGSETA will then assist municipalities with creditable Work Skills Plans. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has proclaimed the Staff Regulations on 20 September 2021.

The regulations require municipalities to appoint qualified officials in vacant funded positions and staff members that have already been appointed and do not qualify must be capacitated to fit the posts.

Honourable Members, in response to the question relating to community consultations for the Boegoebaai development; I can state that Government has consulted with the Richtersveld CPA and the community on the construction of Boegoebaai port. We had extensive consultations during the period 21 September 2021 to 23 September 2021. There will always be areas for further engagement, this does not mean there is a crisis.

Honourable Speaker, as Provincial Government, we are hard at work with the National Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, including local and the farming communities to control the swarms of flying brown locusts. We call on farmers to allow our controllers to access their farms so that we jointly curb the spread to ensure that food security is not threatened. At the same time we wish to make a call to road users to exercise caution when driving through these locust swarms as they can obstruct visibility and affect the conditions of the road.

Honourable Members, one of the biggest breakdowns in today’s communication is that people listen to respond and not to understand. I never said the Provincial Government ‘sponsored’ tools of trade to Phokwane Municipality. I said the Provincial Government Officiated handover of the tools of trade. The money for the fleet came from savings of Phokwane Municipality and was procured at an amount of R16 Million.

Honourable Speaker, there is lots of drivel written by faceless individuals about me and many others on social media platforms. I’ve long taken a firm view and a principled stance not to glorify such trash with a response because of two reasons; one, lies have short legs and the truth is enduring, two because I’m too busy, too focused on my work and won’t allow myself to be distracted.

Honourable Speaker, I came across the letter of the EFF on social media platforms and I am dead certain that they placed the letter on those platforms because the letter was never meant for me to respond to it. With due respect, I firmly believe that it is not the Office of Speaker that did that, it is the EFF. They did the same thing in early 2020, wrote a long letter, poorly crafted, accusing me of all kinds of corruption and calling on me to resign as the Premier. This letter was undersigned by the Provincial Chairperson and thrown on social media platforms. So Honourable Speaker this is the Northern Cape EFF’s modus operandi.

With all due respect, I wish that Honourable Member Baartman can go and read the responses on social media platforms on that letter; one Facebook user asked a pertinent question, ‘Wat van die korrupsie wat jy en jou klonk  gedoen het hier in Nama Khoi Munisipaliteit’. With all the allegations in that EFF’s long letter against me, I am standing here addressing this honourable House not as an accused person.

But the Chair of the EFF is sitting here in this House as an accused person for allegedly squandering close to R80 million when he was a Municipal Manager at Nama Khoi Municipality. The eagerness around accusing others is in most cases, driven by sense insecurity.

I want to share with the Honourable Members four very interesting responses from Facebook users who commented on the post which contained the latest letter from the EFF.  I’m not going to mention their names for fear of reprisal. I have carefully chosen them just to highlight the dangers of having our engagements in this honourable House subjected to garbage collected on social media platforms.

The first user says, ‘As far as I know Zamani is still with his wife, can Shadrack first tell us why you divorced your wife’. The second user asks, ‘is Shadrack sure that he has never raped, but please first post your Grade 12 certificate’.

The third user says, ‘this is disgusting, how can a whole political party collect rubbish from social media, put it on its letterhead, sign and address it to the Premier. No self-respecting party would do that and no serious secretary would sign such nonsense.  For me this is not a letter but a piece of nonsense’.

The fourth user, who got supported by many others asked, ‘if you’ve got such information of a 15 year old that gave birth to now 15 year old child why are you not opening a criminal case of statutory rape, why these fools are writing letters?’

So Honourable Speaker, harvesting nonsense from the dustbins on social media platforms, placing it on the party letterhead, undersign it, address it to the Premier and maliciously distribute it on social media will not turn this ‘nonsense’ into a truth and will also not help our engagements in this Honourable House.

The letter that you sent me is correctly characterised by the user as a ‘piece of nonsense’. I want to state it categorically clear here and now that I am not going to respond to that ‘piece of nonsense’.

I’m not going to stand here, waste my time and respond to a ‘piece of nonsense’ which seeks to undermine our struggle against Gender Based Violence and Femicide.

Let me then advise the Honourable Member what he must do, go and open a case of statutory rape as you did with the corruption case against the officials in Umsobomvu and Phokwane Municipalities. So you know the procedures, if there are allegations of rape, go and lay charges at the nearest police station and stop playing out your insecurity in this house and clutching at straws.

So, Honourable Speaker, allow me to give members inside this House some advice. Honourable colleagues, if there is information on social media platforms that we want to use, let’s first verify it because social media is riddled with false and misleading content. The All-in-One Social Media Tool research highlights that there are more lies on social media than truths.

Honourable Members, there was a concern raised about the salaries of the employees of Renosterberg Municipality. The Provincial Government has been working on this issue flat out.  I am therefore happy to announce that we reached an agreement with Eskom to stop freezing the account of the municipality for the purpose of payment of salaries. The Provincial Government has already transferred R3.2 million to the Municipal account for the payment of salaries this week.

Honourable Members, as  I conclude, I wish to repeat the call that I have been making in this august house since my Inauguration, that we must work together to build a prosperous and successful Northern Cape. As we are busy with the reconstruction and recovery process we must ensure that our people are actively involved in the implementation of our vision. In so doing, it will be important to join hands.

Let us take up the challenge for the reconstruction and recovery of our amazing Province. Let us take hands to successfully implement the Developmental Agenda of the Northern Cape as set out in our Provincial Growth and Development Plan (PGDP).
Let us all go and work hard, “sodat ons nie die mense van die Noordkaap in die steek laat nie!”

Thank you

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