SPEECH BY BRETT HERRON, GOOD MEMBER OF WESTERN CAPE PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT & SECRETARY-GENERAL
18 February 2021
SOPA2021: WE NEEDED A PLAN TO MEET THE CRISIS. THE PREMIER FAILED TO DELIVER ONE.
Yesterday’s SOPA was probably the most anticipated and important provincial government statement we can expect in our lifetimes.
None of us have lived through anything quite like the last 12 months.
None of us could have imagined this nor prepared for this.
The magnitude of the human, social, psychological and financial devastation is unprecedented.
The Premier prepared a SOPA, but told us it was two hours long and we could read it on WhatsApp.
At a time when the circumstances, and the universal anxiety, required assuring and serious provincial leadership our Premier told us none of us probably want to listen to his long speech.
The frivolity was unfortunate and ill-timed.
It is consistent with the kind of remarks the Premier has made throughout the pandemic which have undermined the Covid19 regulations.
Those who defy the regulations have consistently set us back and resulted in lockdowns and hardship – they should not have cover, implied or explicit, from the Premier of this province.
Our number one priority right now is to manage this pandemic so that we can recover our lives.
The world has moved from managing the contagion through isolation to preventing contagion though medicine – the vaccine.
The Premier recently announced that the Western Cape will “go-it-alone” and procure its own vaccine.
He takes issue with those who question this. But he fails to grasp the nature of the questions.
The question is not whether the Western Cape is constitutionally entitled to purchase vaccine.
The questions are how this will happen, when there is a global shortage, and what the impact will be on the national programme.
He says that the centralised vaccine procurement programme has not secured enough vaccines for the country to achieve immunity this year.
Is the Premier saying that this is due to lack of trying or does he acknowledge the global scramble for the vaccine and thus the shortage?
If he’s saying the there is insufficient supply by central procurement because they started too late – then what does he say about his government only now making calls to manufacturers – several months later than the central procurement system.
The trouble is the Premier made a bold politically opportunistic announcement but is unable to back it up with a plan or with facts.
The idea of officials calling around looking for vaccines is embarrassing – like a scene straight out of the old radio show “Men from the Ministry” or “Nommer Asseblief”.
Yesterday was the time to put some details to this promise. I mean the DA is going to the High Court to compel the National Government to release a detailed plan – but you tell us your plan is phoning around looking for vaccines?
The Premier needed to spend a lot of time detailing to our residents how our province will secure additional vaccines and how these will be rolled out.
RESCUING OUR ECONOMY & CREATING JOBS:
In October 2020 we welcomed the Premier’s promise of investment in infrastructure.
There is good precedent for the role that infrastructure development can play in resuscitating an economy and creating large numbers of jobs.
The creation of a Infrastructure Agency was bold and ambitious and we would get right behind it.
But the Premier failed to address the progress of this Agency in any real detail and its passing mention raises questions as to whether this isn’t another of this government’s grand sounding announcements without the substance.
The prospect of a major public investment in infrastructure, supported by the private sector, is a massive intervention and it deserved a lot more attention than a passing mention.
What we needed to hear was how the agency will work, what infrastructure will be built and prioritised, and a real plan that the people of this province, and businesses in the construction sector, can rely on.
A TRANSPORT AUTHORITY: BACK TO THE FUTURE
We welcome the Premier’s call for the establishment of a single Transport Authority for the greater Cape Town area.
It’s a little laughable given that we established a Transport Authority in 2012 and attempted to secure it from changes in government, from one party to the next, with a Transport Authority By-Law.
How ironic, that in December 2018 Mayor Dan Plato rescinded the by-law and destroyed the Transport Authority together with all of the work that had been done to create a reliable and efficient multi-modal transport network under one authority.
Nevertheless, we welcome the about-turn.
This is really a local government mandate – but we urge the Premier to persuade Mayor Plato to re-visit the By-Law. The work has been done – you do not need the feasibility study and business case you refer to you’re the SOPA document.
The delivery of free and affordable housing is in crisis.
For as long as this government rolls out the national housing programme as a take-what-you-can-get recipient of national grant funding you will never solve the housing crisis. You are limited by conditional grant funding only because you choose not to prioritise housing.
If you want to be a government of innovation – be innovative where it counts – where it will make an impact on the lives of the homeless.
In housing you will have to leverage public land and buildings, and forge partnerships with private companies and with civil society. You will not make progress if you plan to go to war with those you disagree with.
The Premier wants to “lead from the front” but failed to detail how the Province can “lead from the front” when it comes to housing and find a way to increase delivery despite national funding cuts.
The delivery of inner-city affordable housing remains zero and yesterday we heard no real commitment or plan to remedy that.
The announcement of 13 000 housing opportunities in “CBDs” is reminiscent of the promise of 10 000 inner city affordable housing opportunities promised for Cape Town two years ago in March 2019.
While the Premier spoke of 13 000 housing opportunities in CBDs – his actual SOPA document said the 13 000 opportunities were linked to 130 hectares of land that had been acquired.
Again the lack of a detailed plan, shared with the people of this province, creates ambiguous promises. This time next year we will be wondering what happened to the 13 000 housing opportunities and the 10 000 housing opportunities from 2019.
It is disappointing, but no longer surprising, that this government will not prioritise restructuring our apartheid planned towns and city so that affordable housing is available in well located areas and in areas that were declared “whites only” by the Group Areas Act.