North West’s economy inspires confidence

Marikana resident Maria Lekalakala said that hearing premier Supra Mahumapelo talk about the growing economy of Bokone Bophirima (North West province) assured her that her children would find employment in their own province and gain skills enabling them to create sustainable livelihoods.

Lekalakala was one of members of the public who defied the rainy weather to listen to Mahumapelo delivering the North West State of the Province Address (Sopa) on February 23 2018. The event, which also marked the first sitting of the North West provincial legislature, was held in Marikana Community Hall. This was the second Sopa to be held in Bojanala Platinum District since the 2014 party leaders’ meeting resolution to rotate the Sopa within the four districts of the province.

“People of Marikana, you are part of us and we are part of you. Nothing should be allowed to separate us. We chose Marikana because we must push and move forward with reconciliation, healing and renewal (RHR),” said the premier. In July 2017 the province officially adopted the RHR charter, meant to facilitate healing caused by past injustices and to ensure that the people of North West enjoy human rights as prescribed by the Constitution of South Africa.

Mahumapelo acknowledged the tragedy that befell Marikana in 2012, stating he has confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to move forward regarding the Marikana incident. “You heard the president during his State of the Nation Address, saying we need to heal the wounds of our past and move South Africa forward. We will gladly carry out the plan to be announced by the head of state and national departments,” said the premier.

Economy picking up

In 2014 agriculture, construction, tourism (ACT) and mining were identified as the main economic drivers for the province; as a result, the ACT programme was put in motion to curb unemployment, poverty and inequality, all contributors to the negative economic growth rate. Since then, the growth economic strategy has yielded positive results in the first three quarters of the 2017/2018 financial year.

“We are pleased to report that our economy grew above the national average in the last three quarters. We are also excited that our choice of agriculture as the lead sector in our economic growth strategy has been vindicated,” said Mahumapelo.

The ACT also formed the part of the province’s re-branding strategy to repositioning Bokone Bophirima as a business, leisure, recreational and tourism destination of choice. It is estimated that 50 000 tourists have come into the North West every year since 2014, creating over 20 000 job opportunities. “If the economy is growing, our children will be employed and finally have [the necessary] skills to make a living. The premier showed commitment towards ensuring that young people in North West realise their dreams,” said a hopeful Lekalakala.

The province’s economic rate grew exponentially, reflecting a growth of 3.4%, 4.9% and a further 4.3% between the first and third quarter of 2017. This was far better than the national growth rate of -0.6% in the first quarter, 2.8% in the second quarter and 2% in quarter three of the same year.

More growth is expected, as the province intends to forge ties with the mining sector as part of the Special Economic Zone initiative, and to respond to the ever-growing demand for platinum. The province and mining companies are looking into China’s plan to use platinum as a solution to its environmental and air quality control challenges.

North West Development Corporation

Mahumapelo believes that the results emanating from interventions and turnaround strategies put in place since 2014 will soon change ordinary people’s lives in villages, townships and small dorpies (VTSD).

“Government has a moral and legal duty to use the budget as a tool to level the playing field for black people in VTSDs. So far the North West Development Corporation has been tasked with ensuring the industrialisation interventions reach the intended beneficiaries and change patterns of ownership for black people,” said the premier.

The corporation’s objectives and successes include:

  • Using the learner support material budget allocation to set up a stationery manufacturing factory in the province to supply all schools and government departments with stationery, working together with existing retailers in VTSD areas. This project is aimed at establishing a provincial printing house. A process of sourcing potential partners is underway, envisaged to create more than 100 jobs and benefit local small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).
  • The introduction of People’s Security Services, which will create opportunities for the youth across all the VTSD areas, with an annual budget of R400-million per annum and R1.2-billion over the medium term expenditure framework.
  • The chicken bird holdings: due diligence has been finalised on the proposed transaction, and an agreement will soon be reached once the fair value of the business is determined.
  • The acceleration of VTSD agro-businesses to build small-scale agro hubs across the province.
  • The establishment of a provincial feedlot, feed-bank and abattoir scheme, working together with both commercial and small-scale farmers as part of the saamwerk-saamtrek initiatives.
  • Establishment of the North West Agricultural Fund through the department of rural, environment, agricultural development and the North West Development Corporation.
  • R110-million secured for the establishment of the Special Economic Development Zone. The project is estimated to attract investment to the value of R4-billion, potentially creating 6 045 jobs over a five-year period.
  • Establishment of VTSD retail economy and bakeries. The first has started operating in Potchefstroom, supplying about 100 small businesses in the area.
  • The saamwerk-saamtrek philosophy encourages provincial governments, private sector and the communities to collaborate towards socioeconomic and infrastructural development in the region. Through these initiatives, corporates such as Standard Bank, Anglo American, Glenco, Sibanye Gold, Rhovan Mine and many others have contributed to infrastructural development by building schools, libraries, and health facilities.

    These interventions will complement the province’s Youth Entrepreneurship Services initiative that was introduced in 2014/2015. So far it has produced over 1 400 jobs for young people in VTDS. The premier plans on having quarterly meetings with young people to explore business ideas in science, technology, innovation and sports so that such initiatives bridge the skills gap in North West. Through the already popular Setsokotsane 10×10 campaign aimed at improving service delivery, the premier outlined successes such as road construction of over 167km from gravel to tar, while a further 157km of roads were rehabilitated in the province.

    About 92 000 new households now have access to electricity, improving the North West electrification coverage to 86%. In the 2017/18 financial year alone, the Setsokotsane Operation Centre resolved just over 1 500 complaints raised by members of the public.

    No more wasteful expenditure

    In his address the premier reflected on the journey travelled since occupying office in 2014. His administration inherited challenges of wasteful expenditure, unauthorised expenditure and accruals. The premier said his cabinet was prepared for the huge task ahead, encountering and conquering many hurdles in order to bring good governance and deal with audits queries.

    First lady of the North West province, Kule Mahumapelo with Mr Lungile Dantjie, the provincial legislature speaker’s husband during the police parade ahead of the SOPA 2018

    The Provincial Advisory Committee has had constant engagements with provincial departments to account for the R10.78-billion recorded as fruitless and wasteful expenditure in 2014. Its efforts led to the recovery of R2-billion, and the province has cleared R829-million of unauthorised expenditure from its books.

    All provincial departments have shown commitment to paying service providers within 30 days, as mandated by the Public Finance Management Act. Previous noncompliance with the 30-day payment policy was a contributing factor to negative audit findings. According to the premier, the tide has turned: in the last three months of the 2017/18 financial year, five provincial departments recorded 95% performance in paying suppliers within 21 days.

    Transformed management

    Transformation of government departments ranks high on the priorities of North West government. The current administration has vowed to address unequal gender representation in senior management positions — half of heads of department are now women. This forms part of efforts to fill positions that were on acting capacity since the premier came into office 2014.

    In addition to gender equality, the province is committed to ensuring transparency in senior positions, hence the qualifications of all senior management were made public last year. To further strengthen good governance, the premier announced Special Investigations Unit would be doing lifestyle audits of current and former senior managers and executives in the province.

    “I will first avail myself, then an independent probe will be carried out to match my individual findings. This exercise is not meant to target individuals, but it is a resolution made by the ANC during its Nasrec conference to fight crime, greed and corruption, therefore it must be actioned,” explained the premier.

    Kabelo Mathole, a 31-year-old resident, said that for him, this announcement was the highlight of Sopa 2018: “The province has a legacy of mal-administration and misuse of funds; past mistakes will be repeated if we move on without finding out how we got to be in the auditor general’s bad books.”

    Another resident, Kedibone Modise, also supported the move, saying: “If our leaders know that they are being watched, they will have no choice but to focus on delivering houses, jobs and quality education in our province.”

    The House of Traditional Leaders has experienced lot of challenges involving succession disputes, which often result in long court battles. The High Court has decided that disputes need to be brought before a Commission of Inquiry for investigation. Advocate Mabel Sesi Baloyi has been appointed as the new chairperson of the Maluleke Commission to solve disputes involving Bakgatla Ba Kgafela, Batlhako Ba Leema and Bapo I & II.

    North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and speaker of the North West legislature, Sussana Dantjie during a ceremonial police parade during the official opening of provincial legislature and SOPA 2018

    While most interventions to turn the province around are bearing fruit, Mahumapelo expressed his dissatisfaction with the 2017 matric pass rate. “We call on former teachers to volunteer in winter school programmes and teach extra classes so that we improve our pass rate. It is important to highlight that some issues are related to discipline. Parents and teacher trade unions must assist in ensuring that learners and teachers are committed; as government we will do our part by providing school infrastructure,” said Mahumapelo.

    Foundational learning continues to be a priority — more than 500 science laboratories have been built in primary schools across the North West. Various Early Childhood Development centres have received jungle gyms and other learning equipment for the stimulation of young children.

    Water and sanitation

    A total of 636 waterborne toilets and water reticulation and sewerage systems have been constructed and installed in Matlosana local municipality, (Kanana & Jourberton) and Lekwa-Teemane (Boitumelong township in Bloemhof). Residents in these areas have benefited from the project, which eradiated the bucket system completely.

    The province has identified a phased approach to supply safe drinking water in Pilanesburg and Taung, through the Bulk Water Supply Programme that is marked to benefit over 30 areas in the province. The plans include buying reservoirs and upgrading existing water pipelines in certain areas. A total of 537 learners are now deployed in various municipalities to assist with fixing leaks.

    In 2017’s rebranding, repositioning and renewal programme, the province hosted sporting events such as the Annual North West games, the Cosafa cup, the Maize Soccer Cup, North West Sport Awards, the Provincial Boxing Championships and the Golf Challenge in various small dorpies.

    “We are happy to report that an agreement has been reached with NW Cricket to develop a Provincial Marketing strategy, which will see the province host major cricket international events such as Test matches, 50-over games and T20 matches. This strategy will be implemented in partnership with private sector sponsors to source funding for the upgrading of the Senwes cricket stadium,” announced the premier.

    The province is planning new initiatives to attract investors and tourists. Some of them focus on struggle hero Moses Kotane and his mother, Rebecca Kotane, who recently celebrated her 106th birthday. She is heralded as a “living guardian of our democracy”.

    To pay homage to the late sport commentator Cebo Manyaapelo, the Leopard Park Golf Club in Mahikeng will be renamed the Cebo Manyaapelo Golf Club on his birthday this year.

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