Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane delivered her state of the province address two hours late on Monday. Ironically, her speech at the University of Pretoria’s Vista campus in Mamelodi focused on “accelerating delivery with a strong emphasis on concrete deliverables”.
Mokonyane later apologised, saying that she was merely a guest of the legislature and had little influence over what had happened.
She said the legislature had invited and waited for veterans and other senior citizens to arrive and this had caused the delay.
During her speech, she addressed some controversial issues, including the state of the health department, the renaming of Pretoria and the contentious Gauteng toll roads. However, references to middle-class problems like the Johannesburg billing crisis, the proliferation of potholes across the province and the increasingly dysfunctional traffic lights on Gauteng roads were absent.
Health department split
Mokonyane promised to implement a “comprehensive turnaround strategy” for the provincial health department to make the delivery of public health services more efficient. Key among these changes is the splitting of the department of social development and health. From April this year, health will be a separate portfolio while social development will be bundled together with another, as-yet unnamed, portfolio.
She told those attending the opening of the provincial legislature that she had established a team to systematically address weaknesses such as public health financing, management, procurement, and operational systems relating to the supply of medicines.
Together with national government, the province would be revising its health funding model in line with pressures on the Gauteng health system and pursue a course of vigorous debt recovery, to recoup R1.4-billion owed to it by other provinces and national government entities.
Preparations for the introduction of the national health insurance scheme, including strengthening the district health system, are already underway, she said.
On the subject of toll roads, Mokonyane said that the province’s approach to the tolling of roads had to be understood within the context of its overall approach to the development of an integrated public transport network.
“As the provincial government, we are conscious that a solution must be found that will balance the considerations of affordability, impact on public transport but also honouring our commitment to paying our dues,” she said.
Mokonyane said that the province was working with a team convened by the finance minister to find a sustainable solution and that an announcement on the issue would be made “pretty soon”.
At a press briefing following the speech, she said various options were being explored but that the solution would “not be at the expense of its commitment to the cluster but also not put the road user under stress”.
The naming of Tshwane
Early in her speech, Mokonyane said that Tshwane was a “liberated city” now only second to Washington DC in the number of foreign embassies that it hosts, and a city which also had a very rich struggle history.
She later called for an end to the controversy over the renaming of Pretoria, saying: “We have to close the chapter on the uncertainties regarding the place name Tshwane. We urge all parties concerned to make meaningful contributions in the best interests of social cohesion and development.”
At the press briefing, she said that the matter was now with the minister of arts and culture and that it was time the matter was finalised.
Speaking in favour of the renaming, Mokonyane said: “There’s never been a place called Pretoria with the current characteristics. Pretoria used to just be a white domain with black reserves. Now Pretoria is a different place.”
Other highlights from the premiers speech include announcements concerning:
- The provision of housing loans for the income category between R3500 and R15000, which will assist civil servants, who in the past could not qualify for RDP housing or bank loans, to secure housing;
- A focus on resolving issues around the delay and non-delivery of the proposed Amakhosi Village sports complex in Mogale City;
- A plan to achieve 95% broadband coverage in the province through the G-link Project;
- The start of planning on the further rollout of the BRT across the Tshwane and Ekurhuleni metros will begin this year;
- The spending of R500-million on the construction and maintenance of provincial roads this year;
- The revitalisation of five provincial hospitals and, with the help of public-private partnerships, the George Mukhari and Chris Hani Baragwanath hospitals;
- The registering of 500 new early childhood education schools;
- The construction of township enterprise hubs, with a focus on the automotive industry, the services industry and manufacturing, as an avenue for entrepreneurship and job creation with.
The provincial ministers of various departments will expand on the premier’s state of the province address on February 23 and 28.