OPINION | Get basics right and investment will follow
When premier Phumulo Masualle tables what may well be his last state of the province address on Friday, after having served a full five-year term in office, he has to be credited for having delivered some pockets of good for Eastern Cape citizens.
However, until local government gets its act together and starts delivering in more than just pockets, we are doomed.
The province’s road network has improved remarkably over the past five years, thanks to his cabinet’s decision to allow Sanral to do the job on behalf of the Bhisho government.
Examples of this improved road network, among many, would be the resurfacing of the N2 between East London and King William’s Town and then up to Port Elizabeth.
It is also not magical that during Masualle’s term of office, there were limited incidents of conflict between labour and the state.
We came from a time when Sadtu, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, would down tools for weeks, resulting in a sad loss of schooling days.
Such stability may have contributed positively to the marked improvement of the 2018 Eastern Cape matric results when – for the first time in seven years – the province moved up the ladder from last place to second last and obtained a 70.6% matric pass rate.
It is also during his term of office that the province netted a sizeable share of investments. Among them are: Volkswagen SA’S R6.1bn capital expenditure in their Uitenhage facilities;
Beijing Automotive Group's South African subsidiary, BAIC SA’s R11bn investment at the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ);
South African Breweries’ R438m injection at its Nelson Mandela Bay (NMB) plant;
Aspen Pharmacare’s R3.4bn investment in NMB;
Mercedes-Benz SA’s R10bn investment at the East London plant;
Nestle’s R663m investment in its EL plant; ,
Yekani Technologies’ R1bn investment in the ELIDZ through the Black Industrialist Programme; and
R900m investment by MultiChoice in the ELIDZ.
Giving credit where credit is due, economic affairs MEC Oscar Mabuyane, while addressing the province’s investment conference on Tuesday, said all of these investments provide the Eastern Cape with a solid foundation “to grow our manufacturing sector and create jobs for our people”.
“Our interest though is to see real jobs and real beneficiation in the value chain from these investments.
“We must be able to point to the SMMEs that are benefiting from them and ascertain whether they are representative of our demographics,” said Mabuyane.
He was speaking on the same day that the Quarterly Labour Force Survey was released by Stats SA, which showed that unemployment in the province continues to rise, with the fourth quarter up by 0.5%, from 35.6% to 36.1%.
The survey also revealed that the Eastern Cape has the highest expanded unemployment rate at 46.8%, growing from 1.129million people in the fourth quarter in 2017 to 1.210million in the fourth quarter of 2018.
This means that, in real terms, in the space of a year, 81,000 more people are without work.
The Bhisho government is of the view that the situation can be turned around if they manage to source funding to kick-start major projects such as the Mzimvubu water project, Umthombo oil refinery project, and the N2 Wild Coast Development.
But how do we ensure that we attract and retain investors to keep these projects up and running?
One of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s special investment envoys Mcebisi Jonas gave this province a hint on Tuesday: “Get your basics at local level right!”
He said all investors want are simple things such as clean, safe environments, good schools, good health facilities and clean beaches.
Allow me to add that they would also require the provision of basic services such as electricity, on a regular basis, and access to proper sanitation facilities.
So premier, tell your mayors and municipal managers to go back to basics and clean city and town streets, resurface our roads, ensure there is medication at local clinics, and that there are properly run schools in all our cities and small towns and villages.
And most importantly, insist that your government enforces the policy of paying its service providers within 30 days.
Not tomorrow, but now.
Once these basics are adhered to, everything will fall into place, as this province will be an investors’ destination of choice...