Deputy Chairperson, Cde Mlungisi Mvoko,
National Executive Committee Members present,
Members of the PEC,
Leadership of the Alliance,
Leadership of our Leagues and MDM formations,
Cadres of the ANC deployed in key strategic positions both in government and State-Owned Entities (SOEs),
All invited guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Kindly receive our revolutionary greetings as we gather here for the two-day Provincial Executive Committee Lekgotla.
But before I go any further it is important to remind all of us that our organization is 111 years old this year. This is a very important milestone comrades to us who have known no other political home but the ANC.
The challenges of the past few years have threatened the very existence of our movement and it is upon every member of the ANC to work for the unity and renewal of the ANC. We held our January 8th celebration in the Chris Hani Region to reconnect with our people and I must say our people continue to have confidence in the ANC. The results of the recent bi-elections indicate that the ANC remains the trusted party to the masses of our people, we must repay their trust in the ANC by delivering on our commitments.
As you know comrades the ANC theme for this year is: The Year of Decisive Action to advance the People’s Interests and Renewal of our Movement. All of us must live this theme with our words and with our actions, particularly ANC deployees in government. Part of the reason our people feel let down by the ANC is the disconnect between ANC deployees in government and our communities. You hear people saying we have never seen our councilor ever since we voted him/her into office. This creates a vacuum that is easily exploited by opposition parties and its is the responsibility of Regional Leadership and Branch Leadership to address this matter.
Comrades, coming back to the business of today. It is the tradition of our movement in the democratic era that from time to time the ANC invites all its key stakeholders under one roof to assess the implementation of its Program of Action.
This Lekgotla is of critical importance in our calendar year because historically and traditionally it brings together the political and governance leadership including all the ANC deployed cadres in various spheres of government (National, Provincial and Local).
This Lekgotla will look at the actions that government must take in the next two months to resolve the electricity crisis, grow the economy, create employment, tackle the high levels of crime, poverty and destitution. It will also set the tone for cadres of our movement about programmes the ANC will undertake this year, particulalry cadres who are given leadership responsibilities in the levers of state power.
This Lekgotla comes after a very successful 55th Elective Conference of the African National Congress (ANC) that was held in December 2022. The Conference was a watershed moment for our movement as many cynics were writing the obituary of the ANC- a glorious movement of our people.
But as ANC members had done before they rose to the occasion when it mattered most and delivered a very successful national conference that adopted progressive policies and elected a leadership collective that reflects the unity of purpose notwithstanding diverse views and preference prior to the conference.
We now have an NEC that is highly inclusive.
As the ANC in the Eastern Cape, we should be proud of the role we played in ensuring that the outcomes of the 55th national conference especially policy resolutions are progressive including the leadership collective that emerged.
We were correct to consistently advocate for the renewal of the ANC. The NEC we now have is an epitome of renewal, there is an aura of unity in it and comrades are genuinely committed in addressing societal challenges. Surely, in this leadership collective petty political bickering and holier than thou attitudes will have no space and will not be entertained.
Surely, it has finally dawned to all ANC cadres that our revolution is under serious threat in 2024. There is no time for internal fights amongst us. We must close ranks- at all times in defence of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
The closing of ranks that we see comrades after the 55th National Conference might just win us the 2024 elections convincingly if we continue with it because it will rub off positively on our people. Our people have been crying to see an ANC that is concerned and pre-occupied with the resolution of their daily challenges and 55th National Conference answered their cries. However, there are urgent tasks we must perform to convince the electorate to entrust us once again with the electoral mandate and responsibility to govern South Africa in 2024 and beyond.
Comrades the tasks I am referring to were spelled out by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he delivered the ANC NEC January 8th Statement to mark the 111th birthday of our glorious movement. Firstly, the NEC chose a theme that has resonated very well with our membership and the masses of our people. The theme for this year’s January 8th Statement was: The Year of Decisive Action to Advance the People’s Interest and Renewal our Movement.
Simply and loosely translated this means that it is business unusual, and all hands should be on deck in 2023. The best amongst us must shoulder this heroic responsibility of serving our people with honour, honesty, and dignity.
Secondly, the NEC outlined key priority actions for 2023 that talk to addressing socio-economic challenges facing our nation currently and are as follows.
Economic recovery by increasing employment and investment.
Better service delivery and maintenance of infrastructure.
Strengthening the fight against crime and corruption; and
Taking action to build a better Africa :
These six priorities comrades do not clash with the priorities that we set out in our 2019 election Manifesto. If anything, they are meant to ensure greater agility towards the achievement of our electoral mandate and commitments. If I can remind you our 2019 election manifesto priorities are:
Creating new and decent jobs
Transforming the economy to serve all people
Ensuring universal access to quality health care
Providing comprehensive social security
Building safer communities
Fighting corruption and strengthening governance
Uniting South Africans and embracing our diversity
Having said that comrades we are expected as this PEC Lekgotla to look at the six priorities outlined by the NEC in the January 8th Statement, discuss what they mean for the province and produce an action plan with clear timeframes for implementation. We have less than 13 months before the end of the term, elections are coming up and therefore we do not have the luxury of time.
Before I talk on these six priorities let me briefly reflect on the progress, we made in 2022 towards the fulfillment of our electoral mandate. Comrades addressing unemployment is the top priority of our electoral mandate. Despite the impact of Covid-19 on the global economy we had a good year on the economic front in the province. We say so because for three consecutive quarters the Eastern Cape unemployment rate decreased and there was an increase in the number of people employed. This means the economic recovery plan of our government is working. I would like this Lekgotla to pay particular attention to three areas in Q3 Labour Force Survey Results for our Province. The first one is that the Eastern Cape youth unemployment rate is at 53.6 %. The second point is that the female unemployment rate is at 43.6 %. Lastly, within the unemployed people in the province 55.6 % have not completed secondary education. This is crucial information for this Lekgotla because our discussion on the economy must give us answers to address these three areas.
In 2022 we attracted 11 new investors to our Province worth R46 billion that are going to create new jobs for our people. The highest concentration of those investments remains largely in the Metros, meaning the Metros must be ready for an influx of people from rural districts in terms of housing and basic services. These new investors are a welcome addition to existing investments in our province that are anchored by the auto sector.
It is important comrades that we act decisively and with speed to develop infrastructure in rural Districts of our province so they can be attractive to investors. Work on major roads projects in our province by SANRAL is gaining momentum and will change the face of our province. I was with the Minister of Transport and Minister of Finance in Matatiele and Mbizana to introduce contractors for the R56 (which links EC and KZN) and Mtentu Bridge respectively.
These are multibillion-rand projects that have long term socio-economic benefits for our province. What is even more exciting are the benefits for local people in terms of jobs and local business enterprises in subcontracting that are worth billions. ANC branches and Regions should get closure to developments of this nature so that they don’t get hijacked or stalled by people who want to confine our people to generational poverty, unemployment, and inequality.
But comrades our infrastructure delivery should not be dependent on SOEs such as SANRAL. We must leave no room for not spending conditional grants. We will henceforth establish Rida (Rapid Infrastructure Development Agency) to deal with the challenge of poor performance on infrastructure budgets across socio economic spectrum.
In 2022 we also made headway in the two apex priorities of the ANC, that is education and health. Firstly, we must appreciate our allies in Cosatu for the stability in both the education and health sector in our province. We must continue to sit on the table to address labour issues without disrupting operations in these key sectors that are so crucial to the people of our province. Secondly, it gives me great pleasure to acknowledge in this Lekgotla that our Matric Class of 2022 has made history by achieving a 77.3% pass rate. That is a jump of 4.3 percentage points than the 2021 results. We must give our deployee in the Department of Education comrade Gade and his team a solid round of applause. We are poised to get the 80 % that the ANC in this province set as a target for this term of government. The support we have given our schools with 40 000 young people employed as GAs, EAs and Reading Champions has lifted load from the shoulders of our educators to focus solely on teaching.
The health profile of our people is improving. Covid-19 tested our health sector to the limits, but it is still standing strong. We capacitated our health facilities to improve service delivery by setting aside R710-million to fill 2,941 vacancies across the province in this current financial year. Of that number Clinical and allied services are allocated 1,660 posts which makes up 75% of the recruitment budget. The issue of Medico Legal Claims is receiving attention with the resourcing of our hospitals with state of the art equipment, and improved patients record management systems. There is more than meets the eye in the Medico Legal Claims and we have established a Unit in the OTP to fight unreasonable litigations.
Comrades we have a good enough reason to celebrate improvements on governance. According to the words of the Auditor General Tsakani Maluleke the “Eastern Cape received the most clean audits in its history”. But this achievement must spare us on to make achievement of clean audits a norm. Our concern remains in local government, where we are seeing minimal improvements. I want to tell our deployees in local government that clean audits are achievable, but they don’t happen by miracle. You must work hard to get them, you must do your oversight on the administration and support the administration to do the right things.
Comrades the renewal of the ANC was the demand of ANC supporters which they communicated through their stay away from the polls and voting for opposition parties which saw us lose governing municipalities such as the strategic Nelson Mandela Metro. It was the foreign and self-serving behavior of ANC leaders and members that tarnished the name of the ANC in the eyes of the public.
Renewal therefore must start within leaders and members of the ANC to revive our political conscience to distinguish right from wrong. The step aside resolution was affirmed by the 55th National Conference because if we are to renew the ANC there must be a deterrent to wrong behavior. Now every member knows that if he or she falls out of line step aside will kick in.
The name of the ANC is not going to be associated with cadres who plunder state resources, who are perpetrators of Gender Based Violence and show total disrespect to members of our communities. Ukuba kwi ofisi yoluntu kuthetha ukuba yiba yimethi kuxhentswe phezu kwakho. If you can’t handle that, then public office is not for you, go home.
As we have said before renewal is not only about step aside. The ANC Road Map 2032 is meant to address other aspects of renewal such as responsiveness of our movement, ethical conduct of cadres and political education. Le mvuselelo ye ANC ifana nokubuyisela uLoliwe emzileni xa ebephumile. Ayingomsebenzi olula lowo, kodwa ekugqibeleni funeka ibuyele esiporweni ukuze ikwazi ukuqhubela phambili ngohambo lwayo.
As part of our commitment to renewal, we are going to ensure that our fraternal Leagues hold their due conferences this year. We commit never to allow a situation where the mandates of structures elapse for a long time before they are convened for conferences.
Comrades while we acknowledge the need to focus on renewal within the movement, the people of our province, and businesses are affected badly by loadshedding. We have let this thing go on for too long and sadly it has become worse despite the support that our government has given to the power utility over the years.
Eskom has been receiving multi-billion-rand bailouts from government and continues to do so even today because our government knows how critical energy security is for the economy and households. But with all that financial support, loadshedding is still with us
Our biggest worry is that it threatens jobs now as SMMEs do not have alternative energy solutions. The other day I got a message from an owner of a mortuary asking for government support to buy a generator.
Big business is also affected. I was in a meeting with VW the other day where they were showing me a concerning picture of how loadshedding is affecting them.
The task of this Lekgotla is to discuss this issue and come up with ideas to mitigate the impact of loadshedding particularly for industries, SMMEs and health sector. If we seat and hope for a miracle from national government, we will lose investors and will lose lives in our hospitals which is something we don’t want.
I hope there are energy experts in this Lekgotla to explain to us how the 15 wind farms in the province are helping us to mitigate loadshedding. The energy crisis in our country makes to call for Nuclear Power Plant at Tyspunt even more necessary.
When the ANC says 2023 is a year of decisive action to advance the interests of our people, we expect decisive action from the ANC government on projects such as Tyspunt Nuclear Power Plant. A country with so much potential that South Africa has can’t be ruined by an energy crisis when there are opportunities to implement a formidable energy mix that includes gas, coal, wind, solar and nuclear.
Economic recovery by increasing employment and investment:
Comrades the energy crisis is a risk to the positive strides we have made to reconstruct our economy from the effects of the covid-19 pandemic. We had such a great 2022 on the economic front where we closed off the year with a R46 billion-rand investment windfall from 11 new investors for our province.
The unemployment rate also went down for three consecutive quarters of 2022 which was a strong sign of our economic recovery. But with Eskom rolling out high stages of loadshedding we might see a reversal of the gains we made last year on the unemployment rate.
Therefore, this Lekgotla again must think about what government and social partners must do to enhance economic recovery so that our people can find jobs. Trying times like these call for state led interventions to get people working in projects that are labour intensive.
I hope this Lekgotla will think beyond EPWP because many of the people who are unemployed are young people with Higher Education qualifications. A good example of a state led intervention for job creation is the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative that has seen 40 000 young people employed in our schools as Educator Assistants, General Assistants and Reading Champions.
With the high levels of unemployment, that programme must be amplified. Part of the reason the youth does not participate in elections they feel there is no value in voting because they remain without jobs or opportunities. We must change that narrative with tangible programmes to make young people busy.
Better service delivery and maintenance of infrastructure.
Comrades, 2021 local government elections came and gone. But I can tell you the same issues that dominated public opinion for the 2021 local government elections will find their way to electioneering debates for the 2024 national and provincial elections. A platform such as this one is of such high standard that we must discuss decaying infrastructure under our watch. Why are we not spending monies meant for infrastructure on time and to derive value for that money in the quality of work delivered?
To me underspending infrastructure money with all the backlogs we have in this province is tantamount to de-campaigning the ANC out of power. It is this Lekgotla of the ANC as the centre of power that must draw the line for its deployees in government and spell out consequences.
One of the biggest challenges we have in the EC is roads infrastructure and by roads I’m referring mainly to gravel roads. I’m not concerned that much with tarred roads because SANRAL is attending decisively on many tarred roads in our province.
My concern are gravel roads that connect villages to the tar roads. Many times, I receive messages of busses and cars that are stark in dongas in what is supposed to be a road. We cannot go to SOPA as the ANC without a clear decisive action to fix and maintain gravel roads regularly.
With the effect of climate change we must also think seriously about the durability of gravel roads during rainy seasons. We once talked about paving certain roads and we were excited by the prospects of jobs that such initiatives could create. It is high time we explore such initiatives for gravel roads that lead to economic centres such as farms and tourism sites.
Also, on this subject of infrastructure we need agility in preparing the bankability of our projects in this province because we will be left behind by processes in national government. This therefore calls for cooperation within the DDM Framework on infrastructure projects so that our province can receive a fair share of allocations for infrastructure.
Strengthening the fight against crime and corruption:
Comrades, the NEC lifted crime as one of the major challenges facing our country. There is general lawlessness and a complete disregard for human life in our province. A week ago, family members and friends enjoying a 51st birthday party in their own home in Kwazakhele Township (Gqeberha) were attacked by two gunmen. The death toll in that incident is 8 people. The trauma that such an incident leaves behind to the families and the community is unimaginable. Its an act of terror because people are now living in fear in that community.
In Port St Johns residents of KwaMajola are living in fear after clashes within the community that are said to be related to stock theft and revenge attacks. Government deployed police in the area to calm the situation, but such outbreaks of violence also point to poor intelligence. As the ANC led government, we should prioritise crime intelligence because it will give us the pulse of our communities. Then this week another series of family killings happened in Qunu and Bityi where we lost 10 people. Crime is getting out of hand and it’s clear that there are guns in the wrong hands in our communities. We need strong law enforcement campaign to get those guns and destroy them.
As the governing party we must inculcate the importance of our branches participating in Community Police Forums. Things are getting worse in our communities and the most common petty crime with devastating consequences to the economy and service delivery is cable theft. Schools are another easy target for criminals because many of them have no security.
This Lekgotla must discuss this matter of crime because it is not enough for us as leaders to always offer condolences to families of victims of crime. We must restore law and order in our country and invest resources to prevent crime. If we are to reduce crime and send fear to criminals, we must decisively place specialised units such as the Tactical Response Team (Ono Bhereti) in hot spot areas.
Taking action to build a better Africa:
Lastly comrades the Lekgotla said we must take action to build a better Africa. Whatever our challenges as South Africans we must continue to embrace our fellow African brothers and sisters. We must advocate for their proper documentation so that they can live amongst our people legally.
With those few words I declare this PEC Lekgotla open.
I trust that you will enrich the discussions so that we come out of this Lekgotla with clear directives and marching orders to our deployees in government.