SOPA debate speech by Minister Beverley Schäfer | Western Cape Government


SOPA debate speech by Minister Beverley Schäfer

19 February 2019

Mr President, we have what you need

Honourable Premier, Honourable Speaker,

Whilst listening to the Premier’s State of the Province address last Friday, on this administration’s governance over the past 10 years, I could only sit and marvel.

Well done to this government, for making the Western Cape truly a great Province to live in, no matter what!

Speaker, I have come to the realisation that the ANC-led national government urgently needs our intervention for South Africa to move forward. The success of this government is in stark contrast to the failures of our national government. Our poor President Ramaphosa, is scrambling to fix our broken country under the leadership of the ANC. Instinctively, I do feel sorry for him! I mean how can one man try to fix a broken system when it takes an entire team? So, in the same spirit of Thuma Mina, I want to say "we can help!"

This is our blueprint for success:

We focused on a handful major things. We had a sector focused strategy in Project Khulisa that set targets and held everyone to account. We focused on reducing red tape. We focused on infrastructure-led growth in projects like Saldanha IDZ and the Atlantis SEZ. And we are business friendly, which means that we are attractive to investors and we are able to build partnerships with the private sector.

We didn’t have major budgets, there were no stimulus packages. We don’t have the mandate on economic policy. We don’t have failing Cosatu driven, communist driven, national democratic policies.

It has been reported that projections in the recent MTBPS are that the ratio of South African government debt to GDP will rise from 55.8% in March 2019 and peak at 59.6% in March 2024. Add to that the debt of SEOs like Eskom, SAA and the SABC and we are looking at a debt projection of 70% of our total GDP in 2024.

How can we economically survive this fiscal cliff that the ANC government has placed us in?

But there is light at the end of this dark tunnel Speaker, unless of course if Eskom falls to keep the lights on! For that we shall pray, but in this instance, there is some small light! The Western Cape has developed a blueprint which has contributed to economic development and job creation.

According to StatsSA, 39% of unemployed South Africans had never ever worked in their lives before.

Among youth though, that figure is a staggering 60.3%.

There are now half a million more people with jobs in the Western Cape than there were in 2009.

The rate of growth in our jobs numbers between 2009 and 2018 remains the highest in the country and it’s not by accident. This province set economic growth and job creation as its number one strategic goal and it has worked.

President Ramaphosa needn’t waste any more of tax payers money by setting up a team to improve ease of doing business and to cut red tape. We already have a blueprint in place that we’d be happy to share with him.

If the plan is to move up at least 32 places on the World Bank ease of doing business rankings, you’re going to need our help.

Our Red Tape Reduction Unit has registered R1 billion in economic savings.

This weekend I met Nigerian model Jemima who is the star in a well-known soap brand’s commercial. The R2 million commercial and 75 jobs were on the line when she couldn’t get a Visa three weeks because the SA mission in Nigeria’s printer wasn’t working. Without a visa, it looked like we would lose the shoot to India. Through the interventions by Raybin Windvogel and his team and with the support of DEDAT, we were able to rescue the shoot and the 75 people who were working on it.

The President’s announcement of his economic stimulus package and his goal to reform policy to enhance economic growth sounded great. We all know how much policy uncertainty has affected South Africa’s ability to grow the economy. And the first thing he mentioned was a change to the onerous visa regulations that have hampered tourism and saw a decline in tourist numbers for the first time in South Africa’s history in 2015.

Carrying ‘additional documentation’ for foreign minors accompanied by both parents is no longer a requirement, Immigration Officials may still decide whether the child and accompanying adults require "additional documentation" to gain entry.

The change from ‘must’ to ‘may’ provides no certainty and so these onerous regulations continue to remain a barrier to ease of travel hampering SA as a family friendly destination.

The SONA speech was one of the most tech focused we’ve heard from a President in South Africa and we applaud this. However, in the Western Cape, we’ve been driving a focus on the development of tech skills and the uptake of young people in this sector for a number of years now. The greater Cape Town area was named as the most productive tech sector in Africa last year by Endeavour Insights.

We’ve also just heard that Cape Town has ranked at number 30 on global property firm Savills "Tech Cities in Motion report".

While we welcome his focus on 4IR, this is not just something the President can jump into when he doesn’t even have the basics right.

The fact that it took a year between first announcing a 4IR panel and actually appointing them is not ideal. This isn’t a steam train that will wait at the station while we run to catch up. It’s a digital highway with no speed limits

At the weekend, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan stated that national government owed South Africans an explanation on how multi-billion projects such as the Medupi and Kusile coal plants failed.

Analyst Peter Montalto estimated that South Africa's GDP has most likely lost around R1bn per load shedding stage per day since last Sunday.

Economist Mike Schüssler recently told Fin24 that he estimated that Eskom earned about R4bn a week in revenue. With at least 10% - and at one stage 15% - gone for much of the time during load shedding, the loss to Eskom to now is probably around R300m to R400m. "That is more than the turnover of 95% of SA companies in a year and probably as much as 30% of the JSE-listed companies, he said. And he continued saying that with Eskom having no policy white paper laying out the details of a turnaround strategy, this very fact creates a huge credibility problem for National Treasury to deal. Let’s see how the Minister of Finance is going to explain this one tomorrow.

In the oil, gas and ship repair sectors, our focus has been on the development of the Saldanha Bay IDZ, which has the ability to unlock new job opportunities and investment. Already, working with the DTI, investment of R3 billion has been secured with new investment in the pipeline.

The Western Cape has also been working towards readiness for the importation of LNG gas. While it’s still a way off, we want to be ready. Gas will reduce our reliance on Eskom and we don’t want to wait a moment longer than we need to for that.

In the Western Cape, a recent independent study found that 72% of the land reform projects we support are successful.

We don’t know the rate of success in the rest of the country because there have been no such studies elsewhere but

Mathews Phosa, a senior member of the ANC once said nine out of ten projects fail.

Many farmers here have been farming for decades without leases from the National Department of Rural Development of Land Refom, which makes it almost impossible to secure any kind of financial backing.

My predecessor Minister Alan Winde has written to former Minister Nkwinti and to Deputy Minister Skwatsha countless times only to be met with stony silence. This is not support. This is neglect in the extreme.

Speaker, the Western Cape has progressed despite the failings of the national government in the economy. But when their dysfunctionality impacts sectors of the economy the way that DAFF has affected our ocean’s economy, we cannot ignore it. Abalone poaching continues unabated, the department is rife with allegations, and communities are at the mercy of criminal elements. The fishing rights allocation process of 2020 is on its way while the 2015 application was fraught with corruption. The total allowable catch allocations must balance environmental sustainability with people’s rights to participate meaningfully in our economy. DAFF’s track record thus far, has shown that they are woefully inept at providing this balance.

The Western Cape has proven time and time again that it can succeed where national has failed and so, it is time that small scale fishing is decentralised to the provinces in order to benefit local communities and regional economies.

Mr President, if you’re looking for ways to solve your problems, I suggest you start by reading Premier Zille’s SOPA.

For a decade, the Western Cape has combined its targeted economic approaches with good governance and accountability to create our recipe for success. And the proof is in the pudding but there is only so much we can do without the help of national government.

You don’t get results like ours, in five years and you certainly don’t get them from throwing money at your problems, because if the Zondo commission has shown us anything, it’s that our money is not safe in the hands of the people we’re throwing it at.

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