Modise focused on delivery
The opening of the North West Provincial Legislature on Friday February 22 was a remarkably brief affair during which Premier Thandi Modise delivered her state of the province address in little more than hour. Events such as this can tend to drag on unnecessarily when political leaders feel the need to overcompensate by drilling into details of the minutest success. The brevity of Modise's address is less an indication of lack of progress than it is of the province's motivation to get things done.
"We remain the advance team upon whose shoulders lie the future of the people of this province," Modise said. "This instructs us to rise above the subjective opinions we hold about the development of this province and unite ourselves behind the unifying elements without which ours would remain a society in a regressive mode.
"I stand here, inspired by the hope that the masses have in us to resolve the vexing challenges they face. I stand here unshaken in my conviction that the angels of history did not conspire in bad faith to put us in the social space. It is in this that our unity lies. It is in this that we draw strength to build a non-racial, non-sexist society, mindful of its sad past but inspired by the bright future that beckons.
"The national development plan provides for rural provinces like the North West better opportunities to participate fully in the economic, social and political life of the country. The people should be able to access high-quality basic services that enable them to be well nourished, healthy and increasingly skilled wherever they are in South Africa." Reporting on the province's ability to deliver these essential services, the premier said the expanded public works programme has been successful in providing relief to poor communities, and that the community works programme had been implemented in 13 municipalities. This programme is dedicated to providing maintenance of infrastructure and has reached more than 9 000 beneficiaries around the province and created almost 21 200 jobs.
The province had also developed a 10-year provincial roads plan following a recent consultative forum with all stakeholders to ensure that the plan is more responsive to the needs of communities.
"Approximately R80-million will be spent in the 2012/13 financial year and R200-million during 2013/14, for the road rehabilitation and maintenance, through contract work, 80% of which will be allocated to local small, medium and micro enterprises," said Modise. Thirty roads projects and 24 building construction projects would be undertaken in 2013/14. These types of infrastructure projects would be guided by a set of documents the province has developed, including the provincial transport master plan, provincial rural transport strategy, integrated transport plans for the district municipalities and the provincial land transport framework.
Basic service delivery
Basic service delivery has also been improved in the North West province with 920 000 households having access to basic water. This number would be extended to the remaining households (roughly 80 000) in the next financial year, Modise said.
The province's aging infrastructure was also being addressed because it had led to water shortages in Botshelo and Magalies, while the upgrading of water treatment works was being discussed.
Progress has been made in providing basic sanitation services, which currently reach 914 000 households. The premier reported that around 61% of the municipal infrastructure grant had been spent, mostly on eradicating service delivery backlogs.
"The eradication of all pre-1994 bucket toilets in all municipalities will be achieved during the remainder of the term; however, the eradication of post-1994 bucket toilets will be achieved with some difficulty due to the mushrooming of new informal settlements. But we are committed to eradicating the bucket systems," she said.
Connecting households to the electricity grid was also moving apace and 826 000 households currently have access to basic electricity. It is expected that all urban households will be connected in the next financial year, although households in rural areas and in informal settlements are less likely of the same guarantee due to difficulties in gaining access in these areas.
More than R1.2-billion is to be spent in the coming financial year to build 15 230 houses in the province, up from the 12 248 houses built in the 2012/3 financial year. One of the success stories is the community residential units project launched in Tlokwe, which will be rolled out to other municipalities this year.
Education and training of the province's youth are a key priority for Modise's administration. A number of initiatives have been introduced to bolster the education system — from pre-school to grade 12 and beyond. "We are pleased to announce that the province has been able to improve the grade 12 matriculation results since 2009.
"The 2012 grade 12 results demonstrated another remarkable improvement because we managed to obtain a 79.5% overall pass rate and we are confident that the class of 2013 will make us even more proud than we are this year.
"The North West government and its people are grateful for the hard work invested by learners, teachers, school governing bodies, parents and the department of education in bringing about the improved results in our matriculation examinations year in and out. However, as a province, we are not happy with our performance in maths and sciences. We are going to re-train and capacitate teachers to make sure we improve in these subjects."
Infrastructure ans support
Physical infrastructure and support would continue to be extended to schools, particularly those in remote rural areas. The premier said six new schools would be built in Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality to complement the three in Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Dr Ruth Segomotso Mompati district municipalities and the completed school in Bojanala.
"In addressing challenges of sanitation in the schools, I am happy to announce that the premier's special projects will be commencing with the sanitation programme as matter of urgency," said Modise. "In the next financial year, we will continue to provide schools with the requisite infrastructure by providing sanitation, water, specialised rooms, fencing, renovations and extensions to improve the conditions of our schools. We will continue our efforts to eradicate all the dilapidated and mud schools. Last but not least we will assist schools to get information and communication technology infrastructure for both administrative and learning purposes."
The province's support for education of the young extends to early childhood development (ECD) programmes, for which the premier announced an increase in the daily subsidy per chid from R12 to R15. Support would also be given to the ECD sector through capacity-building plan and training. This response is partly due to the outcomes of last year's annual national assessment which showed that the North West fared worst in literacy and numeracy in grades 3, 6 and 9.
The province has made far greater gains on the health front, with it being confirmed by the national department of health as the first province to cure extreme drug resistant tuberculosis. The premier reported that the treatment outcome had also improved from 40.3% to 69.8% and that the percentage of patients who defaulted on treatment declined from 10.8% to 7.8%.
She said that the national health insurance pilot project in Dr Kenneth Kaunda district had made significant progress towards attaining the service quality required for the scheme. Other healthcare programmes have also shown strong improvement. The number of caregivers receiving a stipend increased from 4 050 in 2009 to 6 439 in 2012.
HIV counselling and testing is provided at all fixed health facilities in the province and 1 398 community counsellors are remunerated for their efforts and participation.
The North West achieved a 93% HIV testing rate by December 2011, which has translated into a decline from 30% to 29.6 % in the yearly HIV prevalence among pregnant women. The number of support groups for people living with HIV has grown from 90 to 150.
Thirty-five home community-based care centres and 25 drop-in centres were funded to reduce the impact of HIV/Aids on communities. These centres provide food parcels, school uniforms, cooked meals and supplements to 30 233 beneficiaries.
Physical infrastructure is also receiving attention.
Plans have been finalised for staff accommodation in Brits and extensions to the Mmabatho and Excelsius nursing colleges are under way. Nursing schools for Moses Kotane, Potchefstroom, Lichtenburg and Taung are at an advanced stage.
The premier said the province's hospital revitatilisation programme would continue, with the Brits Hospital practically completed and 10 community health centres planned.
Youth empowerment and employment is another area to which the province is dedicating considerable time and resources.
"This financial year we are prioritising youth empowerment through entrepreneurial and occupational skills development," said the premier.
"Four of our emerging youth cooperatives and 12 emerging women cooperatives were funded to the tune of R12.9-million to build their capacity for future participation in economic development initiatives with assistance from economic cluster departments."
Employment programmes such as internships in provincial departments will also be introduced and could provide opportunities for as many as 586 unemployed graduates. This follows the successful recruitment and appointment of 40 unemployed youth through the building and civil construction learnership programme in the 2012/13 financial year.
A total of 119 bursaries for scarce skills will be awarded to deserving students studying town planning, agriculture, mining engineering and other engineering fields, health, accounting and finance.
"I extend a hand to all to join government in putting our people first. All who agree with this philosophy shall adjust their mode of operation to suit the challenges we face; they shall refashion their approaches to be more inclusive so that we can all take collective responsibility of our successes and imperfections. In this unity, I believe," she concluded her address.
This article was supplied and approved by the Mail & Guardian's advertisers. It forms part of a larger supplement.