Program Director : MEC Nkomonye

Members of the Executive Council

Executive Mayor of Amathole DM

Mayor of Raymond Mhlaba

MPs, MPL and Cllrs

Our Veterans

Leadership of our political parties and civic formations

Our Religious and Traditional Leaders

Maxeke Familiy

The people of Raymond Mhlaba Municipality and the people of the Eastern Cape at large

Kindly accept warm greetings from the Provincial Government of the Eastern Cape. We are gathered here in our collective to celebrate our young democracy which is 27 years old today. On the 27th of April in 1994 millions of South Africans from across colour lines stood patiently in long queues to cast their ballot to mark an end to the tyranny of apartheid and its predecessor of colonialism. Ukufika kondlebe zikhanyi langa ngomnyaka ka 1652 kwabakuqala kwengxaki zomntu omnyama kweli Lizwe, kuba kumhla kwenziwa isenzo sokuxuthwa komhlaba nto leyo yaphuca isidima sethu.

That was the beginning of our struggle for the freedom we are celebrating today, and that struggle was first waged by our Kings who fought 9 Wars of Resistance against colonialists here in our province.

For their efforts many of them died in the hands of the colonizers, while others were imprisoned on Robben Island. Of those who were imprisoned on Robben Island I can mention Makhanda ka Nxele and Chief Maqoma and we will work closely the house of Traditional leaders to prepare for the inaugural launch of the frontier wars , of which will be celebrated and remembered annually. Kubalulekile ukuba yazeke into yokuba I Robben Island yangenwa ngalamagorha kuqala, ebanjelwa ukulwela le Nkululeko siyibhiyozelayo namhlanje. They may have been conquered by the colonizers, but they inspired other generations of heroes and heroines who led the struggle against colonialism and later apartheid. Among these generations was struggle stalwart Charlotte Maxeke. This year would have marked her 150th birthday if she were still alive and the governing party, the ANC has dedicated this year to celebrate her life. She was a woman of fortitude whose imprints also touched here in our province, particulalry in Fort Beaufort and nalapa e Xesi . She was a pathfinder who broke barriers for women emancipation including:

· being the first black South African woman to obtain a BSC degree in 1901.

· being the first woman to participate in the King’s Courts under King Dalindyebo of AbaThembu.

· establishing a school in Evaton with her husband in 1908 (Wilberforce Institute)

· being the only woman who attended and contributed to the first African National Congress (ANC) conference in 1912.

· being co-initiator, organizer and the first President of the Bantu Women’s League founded in 1918, that would later become the ANC Women’s League).

It is important to remind ourselves what Charlotte Maxeke and other struggle heroes and heroines fought for. They fought for human rights, they fought for a decent standard of living and they fought for economic inclusion. Since 1994, the ANC government has ensured that the people of our country and province enjoy human rights which were first espoused in the Freedom Charter at the height of our struggle for liberation. I know that today will be used by naysayers to downplay the progress the ANC led government has made in pursuit of a better life for all. There is a lot to celebrate than there is to lambast. It has not been an easy journey, it has not been perfect, but our province is better than it was during apartheid.

Among other things that we should celebrate is the fact that under the ANC led government here in our province 70.4 % of households live in formal houses. The government’s state subsidized housing programme known as the RDP continues to provide shelter to our people in both rural and urban settings.

Our people have proper cause to celebrate Freedom Day because the democratic government has accelerated the electrification programme and provided access to electricity for more than 82 % of households in our province. The remaining 12 % is the backlogs which are prevalent in the rural parts of our province and in new settlements. In the financial year that we just closed, we have made 777 connections in Buffalo City Metro, 3624 connections in Amathole District, 1492 connections in Chris Hani District, 1391 connections in Joe Gqabi District, 2832 connections in OR Tambo District, and 3692 connections in Alfred Nzo District. In the current 2021/22 financial year, we plan to effect 19 416 connections, at a planned cost of R653 million.

We are continuing to make significant progress in providing our people with clean drinking water and to date 75 % of households in our province have access to piped water. This is a significant improvement because in 2002, only 56,1% of households in Eastern Cape had access to piped water. We are working tirelessly to provide piped water to the remaining households who still fetch water from rivers, springs, and dams. They are mostly in the OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo Districts of our province; thus, it is important that the Mzimvubu Dam project gets off the ground to alleviate the challenges of drinking water in the Eastern side of our province, but also to unlock massive primary agricultural production to grow the economy and create jobs. We know that the people who are affected the most by the challenge of access to water are women hence it is crucial that we fastrack water connections to improve their living conditions.

Since the dawn of our democracy, we have also increased access to sanitation for our people, working with supporting agencies and reduced the backlog of the bucket system in many of our communities. In the period 2002 – 2015, our province recorded a 48.2 % improvement in the number of households that have access to sanitation.

The health profile of our people has also improved drastically over the years with life expectancy for men and women improving over the past 5 years. We have built state of the art clinics and hospitals closer to where our people reside, reducing drastically the amount of time people travel to access healthcare facilities. Last year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit our shores, we invested R590 million to revamp health facilities that were built by missionaries to increase the number of beds for Covid-19 patients. Those beds will be useful even after we have defeated the pandemic. Our focus is on improving the quality of service inside our healthcare facilities, particulalry putting an end to negligence which is draining our fiscus through medico-legal claims. In this regard we are resourcing our healthcare facilities with healthcare workers, we are providing EMS vehicles to our health facilities and modern ICT equipment to diagnose and cure illnesses of our people.

Covid-19 remains our present health challenge as it has claimed the lives of more than 11 500 people in our province in a shot space of 12 months. We were very worried that the Easter weekend would lead to a surge in new Covid-19 cases, but that has not been the case so far. Our hospitals were not under severe pressure due to alcohol related trauma cases and that was a great relief. We have less than 250 active cases, which is the lowest in the country and we have observed a consistent trend of low transmission across all our communities with daily infections at less than 2 cases per 10,000 population and our active case less than 5 per 100 thousand people and our daily deaths have reduced significantly.

We want to applaud our people for playing their part in the fight against Covid-19, by observing non-pharmaceutical health protocols of wearing masks and maintaining social distance. As we approach the winter season we encourage our people to go for flu vaccines, to steam regularly with their traditional herbs and to always wear their masks and maintain social distance when out in public.

Education is another apex priority that we have invested heavily in, to develop our people. After all, it was our first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela who said: “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine; that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

There is truth to Madiba’s words of wisdom and our government opened and widened access to education, from early childhood level to higher education level for many children from poor households. Recently we provided R30 million to the four Universities that are operating in our province to register first year students and to pay debts of students who have to graduate. We do this with the understanding that a graduate has more chances of finding a job than a person with no formal education. The crowd funding, we have seen in the fight against Covid-19 is what we need to address financing of students to access higher education. The hunger of our young people to get an education should motivate government and the private sector to collectively share the responsibility of funding free higher education because both government and the private sector are the biggest beneficiaries of the skills set that are produced in our Universities and TVET Colleges.

Where to from hear?

Programme Director, the 27 years of our democracy have not been without challenges, particulalry on economic transformation. The economy still has characteristics of apartheid South Africa. Unemployment has a colour and in the main it is black. It is also affecting many young people who are the future of this country. Inequalities between men and women still exist.

Our province is not shot of opportunities to address these challenges. That is why we are focusing on infrastructure development as a basis of growing and transforming our economy. We spoke in our SOPA about multi-billion-rand infrastructure projects that are currently being implemented in our province and those that are in the pipeline that are set to improve economic growth and create jobs for our people.

Key amongst these projects is the construction of new factories in our two SEZs to attract new investors who will among others create 1534 manufacturing and services jobs in the EL SEZ in the next 2 years. The Coega SEZ is has created 481 operational jobs and 3 951 construction jobs by the end of the financial year that we just closed. Our economic recovery and reconstruction are centred in these two SEZs. Work is starting in the construction of the Wild Coast SEZ in Mthatha which will yield jobs and economic prosperity in the Eastern side of the province.

Road infrastructure projects are set to unlock major investments in our province. SANRAL is busy with many projects in our road networks including on the N2 Wild Coast Toll Road project which heralds a breakthrough in the development of the Wild Coast Corridor.

They have also invested R4,6 billion to implement 14 roads Projects in province and the road between Fort Beaufort and Alice which is under construction is funded from that investment.

We are currently implementing tourism infrastructure projects in our province. The East London Beachfront Development and East London Water world are under construction. The Nelson Mandela Waterfront Development will be implemented with the support of Transnet. We are also upgrading of beaches at Ndlambe Local and developing a six-day hiking trail from Coffee Bay to Port St Johns. All these projects will attract tourists to our province. But we want to urge the people of the Eastern Cape to tour their own province and experience its beauty first-hand.

Agriculture remains a game changer and we appreciate the fact that our people, particulalry the youth are beginning to move into the agricultural space. Government is prioritising young people, women, and other designated groups in the land allocation programme to promote agricultural production. We are reviving schemes such as Ncorha to create new jobs in rural areas and there many willing private partners that are willing to work the land with our people hence we urge traditional leaders to be open to such partnerships. They are working in areas such as Centane, they will work in other areas too, because if there is a will there is a way.

The economic empowerment of women, youth and black owned firms is our unapologetic priority. It is the only way we can achieve the second, more radical phase of socio-economic transformation, particulalry changing ownership patterns.

It gives us great comfort that under the ANC led government the target of 50-50 representation has been reached and surpassed. The private sector is still lagging in this regard, but ultimately boardrooms will change their gender and race characteristics to resemble the demographics of our province. We are seeing more and more women leading in careers that were male dominated not so long ago such as pilots in our airlines and air force. Some are shaking up and claiming space in the maritime industry and railway industry.

At the start of this term, we set up the Isiqalo Youth Fund to support and encourage entrepreneurship in our youth. The programme is now managed at the Office of the Premier because we felt it was clouded at DEDEAT because that department deals with broader economic development issues. The issue of youth development deserves special attention hence it is now located under the watchful eye of the Director General.

Through the Isiqalo Youth Fund we have already started providing young people with the resources they need to start and grow their businesses. We are also heightening skills development by working with various SETAs in our province for the benefit of our young people. Internships will remain another programme that we will use to empower young people with skills. But the programme has been abused in some departments as we have interns that were in the system for more than 2 years and that deprives other graduates’ valuable exposure in the workplace experience.

As I said earlier the freedom we are celebrating today came with great sacrifices. Tata Nelson Mandela and his fellow comrades were in their early 40s when they were sentenced to life imprisonment in the Rivonia trial. After their sentencing, many young people left the country to join uMkhonto we Sizwe and APLA in preparation for a military armed struggle against the apartheid regime. They left behind parents and others left behind children. Many cadres came back alive to re-build their lives; others fell in the struggle and many more are still unaccounted for. The ones who are alive are struggling with many challenges such as unemployment. We have a duty to affirm our struggle military veterans not only with social assistance, but with tangible socio-economic programmes to thank them for their contribution in our liberation.

Government is working tirelessly to affirm our struggle veterans and that work is led by Deputy President David Mabuza. Here in our province, we have recently adopted a policy to mainstream military veterans in the work that departments are doing. Department will account to the Premier about the programmes they have implemented to affirm military veterans in a financial year.

All that I have shared with you are the fruits of freedom and today i thought let us highlight these pockets of excellence to communicate the unambiguous message that building the Eastern Cape we want is possible, We need to pull together in one direction as citizens of this beautiful province that blessed our nation with outstanding revolutionaries and freedom fighters who never betrayed the cause of our struggle.

The Eastern Cape will be a province of our dreams, it might not be achieved in 5 years or even 10 years, but as the sixth administration we will spare no effort to use the time we have been given by our people in public office to make our contribution towards building the Eastern Cape we want, a province we can all be proud off.

It is not an easy task, but it is not insurmountable. We are on a daily basis motivated by the words of the great men and women who walked this path before us such as former President Mbeki who once said: “Those who complete the course will do so only because they do not, as fatigue sets in, convince themselves that the road ahead is still too long, the inclines too steep, the loneliness impossible to bear and the prize itself of doubtful value.”

In honor of mama President Charlotte Maxeke , we will consider the request of building a library here at Middle Drift working together with Raymond Mhlaba municipality.

Forward to the pursuit of a better life for all, Forward!!!

Thank you.

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