Ray of hope for Limpopo as Sopa reveals grand plans for jobs

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Limpopo premier Chupu Mathabatha provided a ray of hope in his 2020 State of the Province Address (Sopa), which revealed ambitious plans for job creation and progress in delivering services to the people.

The province has attracted a whopping R36.3-billion in mining investment over the past seven months, despite the temporary closure of some mines and an economic downturn in South Africa.

Mathabatha revealed that at least five mines have committed to continue mining resources in two districts that harbour abundant mineral deposits. He cited the investment breakdown as follows: 

• R1.6-billion by Modikwa Mine for Platinum Group Metals in Sekhukhune; 

• R5.4-billion by Lesego Mine Project for Platinum Group Metals in Waterberg;


• R20-billion by Ivanplat mine for Platinum Group Metals in Waterberg;

• R5.1-billion by Exxaro for coal mining in Waterberg; and 

• R4.2-billion by Lejaja Mine for coal mining in Waterberg.

“Mining and ancillary services dominate our provincial economy at a 25% contribution to the GDP. During the period under review, Limpopo accounted for 24% of the national mining output,” said Mathabatha.

He said despite being a dominant sector in the provincial economy, jobs in mining had decreased from 106 000 to 86 000 between the 4th quarter of 2018 and the 4th quarter of 2019.

“Some of these job losses can be attributed to the fact that some mines in Sekhukhune, Lepelle-Nkumpi and Vhembe were placed under care and maintenance. As a matter of fact, we lost over 11 000 jobs as a result of these mines being placed under this process,” he said. 

Mathabatha said the province had recorded a marginal improvement with regard to economic growth. Statistics show that the economy has been growing at an average rate of 1% in the recent past. 

“It is within this context that we are implementing some of the major catalytic projects, which are aimed at stimulating economic growth and job creation,” said Mathabatha.

A number of initiatives for bulk water supply projects are approaching their completion in Limpopo. (Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media)
A number of initiatives for bulk water supply projects are approaching their completion in Limpopo. (Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media)

These projects include the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone (SEZ), the proposed Tubatse SEZ, the revitalisation of the Industrial Parks, and agricultural and several mining initiatives.

The premier also expressed confidence in SEZs being a key player in future economic development. He said an ambitious development program is in motion and is expected to stimulate development in the Musina-Makhado SEZ.

Musina-Makhado has been divided into two zones — North and South — with plans to tap into global trade. “As we speak, we have completed the External Master Plans for both the Southern and Northern parts of the SEZ,” he said. An Environmental Impact Assessment study for the SEZ’s Northern side is nearing completion, while the process is at 90% for the Southern side. 

The Musina-Makhado SEZ recently signed an additional $1.1-billion investment commitment, Mathabatha revealed, adding that Shaanxi CEI Investment Holdings has made a commitment of $5-billion for a vanadium and titanium smelter project. 

“We are also happy to announce that a local company has committed to manufacture, among others, new energy solar system products, energy electric vehicles, energy storage systems and high-density polyethylene water pipes,” he said. The Musina-Makhado SEZ project is projected to create between 21 000 and 26 000 jobs. 

Mathabatha said the Tubatse SEZ Master Plan has been finalised together with the infrastructure needs for the project. “This project has an investment value of R25-billion and it is projected to create over 8 000 job opportunities,” he said, adding that a revised business plan for the Tubatse SEZ will be submitted to the minister of trade and industry by the end of September. 

The Seshego, Nkowankowa and Thohoyandou Industrial Parks including agro-processing, manufacturing, storage facilities and recycling have already created a total of 6 256 jobs. 

Agriculture

Mathabatha said he has assembled a team of experts to work on a sustainable development model that will revitalise agriculture and the agro-processing value chain plans.

“We are hard at work to unlock the potential of agriculture in order to ensure the maximum contribution of this sector to food security, economic growth and job creation,” said Mathabatha, adding that the plan would be finalised in June.

The plan is expected to focus on research and development, land availability and access, finance and partnership models, production, markets and logistics, capacity building and training.

He said a cotton project in the Ephraim Mogale Municipality to benefit 74 small-scale farmers and irrigation projects along the Olifants River was underway.

Mathabatha revealed the projected harvest for cotton is 522 tonnes, with an estimated 300 seasonal jobs created during the harvesting period. 

Added to that, government is expected to complete the construction of the Masala Farmer Production Support Unit in Mopani and Vleisboom Farmer Production Support Unit in Sekhukhune.

He also announced that at least 306 farmers would be empowered with skills and knowledge through training initiatives.

Service delivery

Mathabatha noted that the province has surpassed its target in terms of the Limpopo Development Plan (LDP) to connect 90% of households to the electricity grid by 2019. 

He added that 6 232 low-cost housing units had been completed following last year’s commitment to build a total of 10 456 housing units. “The remainder are in various stages of construction and will be completed by the end of this financial year,” he said.

Mathabatha said a total of 515 schools in the province would benefit from a process of constructing decent school sanitation infrastructure. The appointment of contractors to build sanitation infrastructure in 215 schools will happen before the end of next month. 

“A further 300 schools will have their sanitation infrastructure built through the Presidential School Sanitation Infrastructure Grant,” he said.

He also revealed various initiatives for bulk water supply projects and road construction, which have been the subject of much debate in the province.

Among these are the Polokwane Regional Waste Water Treatment Works, which he said is at over 74% of physical progress, and the Mametja-Sekororo Bulk Water Supply, at 97% overall progress.

He said the other projects at various stages of completion include the Nebo Bulk Water Supply at 90% physical progress; the Moutse Water Treatment Works at 90% physical progress; the Malekana Water Treatment Works at 90% physical progress and the Nandoni to Nsami Pipeline project at 54% physical progress.

Fourth industrial revolution

The province has completed the Broadband Architectural network designs and the construction of the Data Centre, which will serve as the ICT nerve centre and a foundation of connectivity to various institutions.

He said government has also completed the Network Operating Control Centre and the training and call centres that are the operations and management facilities of the network. 

Mathabatha revealed that during this academic year, government will provide 75 secondary and 32 primary schools with ICT equipment. And in an exciting development, he revealed that the province will be introducing a coding and robotic curriculum in 110 primary schools in the 2021 academic year. 

He said currently, 15 secondary schools are offering Information Technology at grade 12 while 46 schools are offering computer applications technology.

State-owned enterprises

Last year the province approved a turnaround strategy for the Great North Transport, an entity responsible for ferrying workers into the economic centres on a daily basis, with a capital injection of R380-million.

Mathabatha reported that government has since purchased 75 buses, 13 of which were delivered last week and that the remaining 62 buses would be received by the end of April.

Health

Good news in the health sector is that the Voortrekker Hospital in Mokopane, a special hospital for children, is nearly ready. The hospital will specialise in mother and child care.

“We used to be the worst-performing province, but now we have managed to reduce our maternal mortality from 189 per 100 000 to 106 per 100 000 deliveries. Despite this achievement, one death of a pregnant woman is still one death too many,” he said, adding that “concerted efforts” will ensure that fewer women die when giving birth.

Mathabatha said the province has noted a drastic reduction in the Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV. “We are currently below the World Health Organisation target of 1% and continue to do well, with the latest figures showing an 0.7 % transmission rate,” he said. 

He said in the next financial year the province would procure an additional 50 ambulances and that the department of health in the province is being positioned to respond to the NHI by increasing the number of clinics to Ideal Status level. 

“Accordingly, we are ensuring that more and more of our clinics have good infrastructure, adequate staff, adequate medicine, good administrative processes, and sufficient bulk supplies,” he said.

Mathabatha said they will establish a Provincial Trauma Centre at Mokopane Hospital, which will be equipped and adequately staffed to respond to major traumatic injuries. The implementation of this project will take place over the next four years. — Chester Makana

Limpopo municipalities turn the corner on audit outcomes

Administration is being strengthened so that there is a compatible relationship between monies spent and delivery of services in municipalities.
Administration is being strengthened so that there is a compatible relationship between monies spent and delivery of services in municipalities.

Limpopo municipalities are slowly turning the tide in strengthening their financial management, which has resulted in improved audit results. 

Premier Chupu Mathabatha said the provincial government had put support systems in place in a bid to attract and retain the best skills, especially in the areas of engineering, town planning, financial and project management.

Mathabatha said this move is aimed at building the capacity of municipalities to provide basic services and to support local economic development through a sound yet flexible regulatory regime.

The premier said during the 5th administration that much focus had been placed on stabilising the provincial administration, including addressing issues of financial mismanagement and improving audit outcomes. 

“We have achieved much progress in this regard, although there is still more work to be done. We have completely eliminated disclaimer and adverse audit opinions in the provincial administration,” said Mathabatha.

Municipalities came under fire after auditor-general Kimi Makwetu’s 2017/18 report showed that only 18 of the 257 district and local municipalities nationally received an unqualified audit opinion with no findings. Makwetu found that a total of 101 municipalities had unqualified audits with findings, while 78 had qualified audits and 10 others adverse findings. 

But Mathabatha said in the last audit the province managed to receive two clean audit opinions and that the number of unqualified audit opinions had also increased. 

Mathabatha said the target for the current administration is to substantially reduce the number of qualified audit opinions and increase the number of clean audits, and this requires that issues of irregular expenditure be dealt with. 

He said he has directed that provincial treasury provide the necessary financial management support across all government departments and entities. 

“This shall include, but is not limited to strengthening control measures in all departments,” said Mathabatha. 

He said he will sign performance agreements with MECs and, following the recent adoption of Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) targets, this will be done before the end of next month.

Mathabatha expressed satisfaction that there are only three municipalities which require attention with regard to Municipal Infrastructure Grant (MIG) spending. He said the Musina Local Municipality, Fetakgomo-Tubatse and Modimolle-Mookgophong municipalities had spent less than 30% of their MIG allocation by December last year. 

“We are happy with the overall performance on MIG spending. However, as I have said last year in this House, our focus is now shifting from mere expenditure to impactful projects,” he said.

“Municipalities cannot be allowed to sign cheques or pay millions worth of invoices for water projects while communities remain without drinking water. There should be a compatible relationship between the monies spent and the actual delivery of services on the ground. There must indeed be value for money.” 

Mathabatha commended the municipalities that received an unqualified audit opinion. They include Makhuduthamaga local municipality; Waterberg district municipality, Thulamela local municipality, Molemole local municipality and Letaba local municipality. 

He also singled out the Capricorn district municipality for having achieved a clean audit opinion and the Thabazimbi local municipality for finally getting out of the disclaimer bracket.

Mathabatha said strong and effective municipalities are necessary pillars to support the District Development Model initiative launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year.

The president launched the Limpopo leg of the model in Lephalale, in the Waterberg District in November. The province has already launched the Capricorn District Development Model. 

According to the presidency, the Khawuleza District Development Model is “a new district-based co-ordination model [that] aims to address service delivery and economic development challenges through the synchronisation of planning across all spheres of government, working alongside social partners such as business and community”.

The model was launched and piloted in the OR Tambo district municipality in the Eastern Cape and eThekwini metropolitan municipality in KwaZulu-Natal before being launched in the Waterberg district municipality in Limpopo under the “One District; One Plan; One Budget; One Approach” theme.

“We are convinced that the District Development Model will among others be able to address the gaps in our models of service delivery,” said Mathabatha.

He said one of the gaps identified by Ramaphosa is a pattern of operating in silos as government. 

Ramaphosa said during this State of the Nation Address that this year government plans to expand the District Development Model to 23 new districts, drawing on lessons from the three pilot districts. — Lucas Ledwaba, Mukurukuru Media

Experts to drive revitalisation of agriculture

Storm clouds gather on farmland in Settlers, Limpopo, South Africa. Premier Chupu Mathabatha has announced plans to revitalise agriculture and agro-processing projects in the province. (Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media)
Storm clouds gather on farmland in Settlers, Limpopo, South Africa. Premier Chupu Mathabatha has announced plans to revitalise agriculture and agro-processing projects in the province. (Lucas Ledwaba/Mukurukuru Media)

On a piece of tribal trust land in rural Limpopo a group of women are producing over 27 000 boxes of table grapes for the European market.

The Peace Table Grapes co-operative in Moganyaka village near Marble Hall in the Ephraim Mogale District won the export category of the Female Farmer of the Year Awards in the province last year.

The province is renowned as an agricultural powerhouse, which consistently produces winners in the female farmer of the year national awards.

The Limpopo provincial government has now put together a team of experts to drive the revitalisation of the agriculture and agro-processing value chain plan to ensure more success stories such as Peace Table Grapes emerge. 

Premier Chupu Mathabatha said during the State of the Province Address 2020 in Polokwane that the plan is earmarked for finalisation in June.

He said it will focus on research and development, land availability and access, finance and partnership models; production, markets and logistics and capacity building and training.

Agriculture, mining and tourism are the main drivers of economy in the province.

Mathabatha also announced during the 2020 Sopa that as part of its commitment to invest in training and skills development of farmers, to date, the province has trained over 960 farmers. 

“In partnership with Agri-Seta and through our agricultural colleges, we have provided focused skills development programmes to a further 306 farmers across the province,” Mathabatha said.

At least 80% of Limpopo is rural and boasts an abundance of arable land which gives the province a competitive advantage in agriculture. Mathabatha said it is in this context that they are working to unlock the potential of agriculture in order to ensure maximum contribution to food security, economic growth and job creation. 

He said to date remarkable progress has been made in revitalising primary agriculture and supporting agro-processing. 

The premier said government has put together a team of experts to drive agro-processing value chain plan. He said the plan, which should be finalised in June this year, will focus on research and development, land availability and access; finance and partnership models; production, markets and logistics and capacity building and training.

Mathabatha said the irrigation scheme revitalisation program, which is part of the broader plan to revitalise agriculture, is well on track. 

“In Ephraim Mogale Municipality alone, a total of 345 hectares of cotton have been planted. This will benefit no less than 74 small-scale farmers in Zamekomste, Dichoeung, Tsimanyane and Readirabaswa. The projected harvest for this cotton is over 500 tonnes, with about 300 seasonal jobs [created] during harvesting period.”

The premier added that the process of de-bushing more than 100 hectares is in progress for the Mogalatjane Irrigation Scheme. He said the designs for 41 hectares at Tswelopele Irrigation Scheme in Fetakgomo-Tubatse Municipality have been approved. 

“In the same vein, we are concluding engagements with regard to the Kolokotela and Setlaboswana Irrigation Schemes,” he said about the projects the run along the Lepelle River in the Marble Hall area.

Mathabatha said government has committed to supporting black farmers in order to increase their entry into the mainstream food value chain. This, he said, is being done through ensuring access to supportive infrastructure and the markets. As part of this support, he said, the construction of Matsika Pack House is underway and the upgrading of tomato paste processing facility for Norjax Canning is near completion. 

“We have also commenced with the establishment of Farmer Production Support Units. These units are the first phase of our Agri-Parks. They provide a cluster of services for primary production, post-harvest handling, storage, as well as co-ordination of transportation logistics,” he said. 

Agri-parks are networked innovation systems of agro-production, processing, logistics, marketing, training and extension services located in a district municipality and comprise the farmer production support units, agri-hubs and rural urban market centres. One of the key roles of agri-parks is to support and revitalise rural towns and promote rural-urban linkages.

Mathabatha said during this financial year, government will complete the construction of the Masala Farmer Production Support Unit in Mopani and Vleisboom Farmer Production Support Unit in Sekhukhune. 

He said the construction for the Tshiombo Farmer Production Support Unit in Vhembe and Mapela Farmer Production Support Unit in Waterberg will commence in the 2020/2021 financial year. — Lucas Ledwaba, Mukurukuru Media

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Lucas Ledwaba
Lucas Ledwaba
Journalist and author of Broke & Broken - The Shameful Legacy of Gold Mining in South Africa.

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