THE year 2017 was one full of highs and lows for political parties and the Eastern Cape government.
For the ANC, its now infamous “festival of chairs” at the East London ICC in September, features as the party’s lowlight of the year.
The opposition has not been immune to scandals either after the DA sacked its chief whip Edmund van Vuuren for sexually harassing junior staff. The Saturday Dispatch recapped some of highs and lows of politics and the provincial administration.
lFestival of Chairs: Many may have become accustomed to ANC branch general meetings turning violent due to the level of intolerance and power struggle among members. However, what played out at the provincial elective conference was never expected. Delegates – one faction supporting the newly-elected provincial ANC chair Oscar Mabuyane and the other, backing then provincial chair Phumulo Masualle – started hitting each other with chairs when they could not see eye to eye. Some had to seek medical attention.
lPublic protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane finds EC improperly misdirected R300-million: This province continues to distinguish itself as the serial mishandler of public funds. Mkhwebane found that the provincial government had in 2013 misdirected R300-million meant for social infrastructure toward preparations for late former president Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
lThe Eastern Cape remains poorest province in SA: Stats SA revealed that 36% of the households in the Eastern Cape survived on social grants as their only source of income. This was once again an indictment of the ANC-led government, which has been governing this province since 1994 but continues to fall short on the issue of eradicating poverty.
This while the underperforming Bhisho government continues to return grants, such as the schools infrastructure grant, to National Treasury as they cannot spend within the stipulated time while mud schools and under-resourced schools are the order of the day in the province.
lDA chief whip gets the boot: Van Vuuren had his membership terminated by the opposition party after complaints were lodged by a 25-year-old woman, who claimed he had made inappropriate comments to her. Van Vuuren intends appealing his expulsion.
lEFF ineffectiveness in Bhisho: The red berets might have impact in the National Assembly; the same cannot be said about the party in the Bhisho Legislature. Not only has there been a constant chopping and changing of their MPLs, but the members spend most of their time not at work having accepted the long-standing issue of their dress code in the house. All while still drawing a salary each month.
lThe upgrade of the N2 route: Being the busy road that it is, the continuing upgrade of the N2, which this year focused on the section between Dutywa and Mthatha, is good news. This endeavour, once the entire N2 Wild Coast project has been completed, will help ease pressure and see traffic move faster.
It is also expected to stimulate tourism in the province, which will lead to job creation. Government’s continued investment in this project is a sign that where there is political will, positive things do happen. Only if Bhisho could invest the same energies to improving education and health.
lAG praises EC as only province improving internal control: The provincial government outshone all other provinces and the national government departments on improving drivers of internal control in handling public funds in the 2016-17 financial years with all three indicators namely leadership, financial and performance management, and governance.
This was contained in the auditor-general’s Kimi Makwetu’s 2016-17 general report on provincial and national audit outcomes.
The AG said while the EC was on an upward trend on its internal controls, the likes of North West and Free State provincial governments were in the red on all aspects, something the AG attributed to the two provinces leading the charge in disputing this chapter nine institution’s findings instead of implementing recommendations.
lNo bail-outs for financially ill municipalities, resolved provincial Cogta: Finally, the provincial department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs has decided to let go of babysitting municipalities who cannot handle their finances.
This is a positive step for municipalities should improve their spending and financial control systems for their own sustainability.
Bailing them out was not helping but only perpetuating a behaviour, very much like that of a spoilt brat who breaks things deliberately knowing they would get a new one bought for them. — firstname.lastname@example.org