Premiers signal virtue in provinces

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has foregone a swearing-in ceremony, and his new MECs will not receive new vehicles either. (Antonio Muchave/Gallo Images/Sowetan)

Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has foregone a swearing-in ceremony, and his new MECs will not receive new vehicles either. (Antonio Muchave/Gallo Images/Sowetan)

Most provinces have scaled back on their inauguration ceremonies to cut costs, but Limpopo Premier Stan Mathabatha has gone a step further, ordering that no celebration be held to mark the swearing-in of him and his Cabinet.

Instead, the provincial government is to channel the money that would have been spent on an inauguration shindig to service delivery, according to his spokesperson Kenny Mathiva.

Mathiva said Mathabatha had announced his MECs on the same day he was sworn in, doing away with any need to hold a second event to mark the occasion.

Mathiva said people had been calling Mathabatha’s office since the day after elections complaining about roads and water and that spending money on an inauguration party in this context would be wrong.

“The challenges of Limpopo are numerous and the premier felt that to spend R5-million or R10-million on a celebration would not be proper,’’ Mathiva said.

He said Limpopo’s new MECs would not be splashing out on new vehicles because the province’s fleet had been refurbished in 2014.

MECs who did not live in their own houses would be accommodated in the province’s parliamentary village, which was built in 1996, he said.

In the Western Cape, the only province not governed by the ANC, Premier Alan Winde has promised lifestyle audits for his Cabinet, and his party, the Democratic Alliance, has challenged other premiers to do the same.

During his Cabinet announcement Winde said audits would take place at the beginning and end of his MECs’ terms.

“The MECs have all agreed and support my decision as part of my pledge to build on our good governance track record by setting a new standard for anticorruption. We have done this because we believe that, as public representatives, we must uphold the highest standards of integrity in the execution of our offices,” he said.

Winde has also hinted at cutting the number of provincial ministries in future. This is a common thread in provincial and national government, where buzzwords such as “realignment and reconfiguration of Cabinet” have come into vogue.

“This situation is untenable.
We can and we must be more efficient, putting more of your money back into your communities. This reduced government will be revealed in the coming months,” Winde said.

In the Northern Cape, newly elected Premier Zamani Saul promised he will introduce drastic cost-cutting measures in his province, including trimming the perks of being in government.

The Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province by size, but the smallest by population. It is also one of the poorest, with many people living in rural areas languishing as a result of the drought, unemployment and substance abuse.

“I have instructed the premier’s office and the department of public works to sell the state house and direct the proceeds derived thereof to the premier’s bursary fund so that we can educate, train and retrain the youth of this province,” he said during his first address to the Northern Cape legislature.

Saul also promised that more money will go to ferrying sick people to and from hospital, instead of buying new MECs official vehicles.

“[There will not be] a shopping spree for new cars for MECs. Cars for MECs will be purchased on the basis of absolute necessity and by the approval of the premier. All unused monies budgeted for new cars for MECs must be directed to the department of health to augment the budget to purchase ambulances,” Saul said.

Gauteng Premier David Makhura said newly appointed MECs will “put the interest of the people first and meet the highest ethical and service delivery standards in the conduct of their work”.

Yet he has reappointed MECs who have made some questionable remarks regarding service delivery benefiting the ANC’s 2019 election campaign.

In the run-up to the 2019 elections, then sports and recreation MEC Faith Mazibuko was forced to apologise after leaked audio showed her putting pressure on department staff to flout public finance procedure to fast-track the delivery of sport infrastructure to benefit the ANC’s election campaign.

She is now the MEC for community safety.

Mazibuko was also heard making racial slurs about white and Indian women in her department. At the time she said she was angry and admitted her comments were uncalled-for.

Newly appointed finance and e-government MEC Panyaza Lesufi took to social media to assure government suppliers and service providers they will be paid as soon as possible.

“My target will be to pay them [service providers] within 15 days or less if possible but surely not more than 30 days,” he said on Twitter in a response to a question on small and medium enterprises.

The Eastern Cape’s Premier Oscar Mabuyane has gone for an almost completely reshuffled Cabinet.

He’s also combined some departments into one portfolio.

Only one MEC from the previous administration, Weziwe Tikana, has remained in her position, but now the incumbent transport MEC also has community safety in her portfolio.

Mabuyane issued a warning to new members of his Cabinet that failure to deliver would result in a swift end to their employment.

“One thing I’ve said about deployment is that we may start together, but we may not finish together. Make use of this opportunity, not to profile yourself but to work for our people. We are not about self-aggrandisement, we are about [the] movement of our people,” he said.

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