Nelspruit - Expectations for the government to deliver better services in Mpumalanga were raised on Friday when premier David Mabuza announced the provincial government's plans for the 2010/11 financial year.
In his State of the Province address at the government complex in Nelspruit, Mabuza tackled key issues such as HIV/Aids, education, service delivery, economic upliftment, food security and crime.
"As the Mpumalanga government, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to the contract that we entered into with our people - a contract articulated very clearly in the 2009 ANC manifesto," said Mabuza.
The immediate priority for Mabuza's administration will be to convene a local government summit before the end of this month to craft practical programmes that will assist municipalities to be more people centered and service delivery driven.
"The province will also develop a comprehensive turnaround strategy for local government that will place local government on a sustainable developmental path," said Mabuza.
He said service delivery would be addressed in all municipalities through the creation of jobs and skills development programmes.
Mabuza said the minister of higher education, Blade Nzimande, had approved the establishment of a university in Mpumalanga, the campus of which will be based in the capital city.
In line with the university, the province will also establish a tertiary hospital to bolster medical research and skills.
"The university will adopt a multi-campus model focusing on key development and economic opportunities offered by the provincial economy. The main campus in Nelspruit will operate alongside the tertiary hospital to ensure that our healthcare taps into the wealth of research and skills from the university," he said.
Mpumalanga will also look at ways of overhauling the basic education system.
"We will eradicate all schools in mud and shack structures, including farm schools in the province. Children who depend on farm schools will be assisted through the construction of boarding schools," Mabuza said.
He said the department of education would introduce Saturday and winter classes for all schools that had obtained a pass rate of below 50% last year.
Provincial health programmes will also look at strengthening the capacity of healthcare institutions to deliver quality care through the retention of medical care professionals and by filling critical posts to address skills shortages.
The implementation of the comprehensive HIV/Aids plan will also be accelerated to help reduce the mortality rate significantly, especially in relation to tuberculosis and other opportunistic diseases.
Mabuza said more primary healthcare facilities would be accredited to provide antiretroviral treatment to expand access to the medicine.
"To unlock opportunities in the agriculture and mining sectors, the provincial government will convene two summits, one to focus on mining and the other on the use of land," said Mabuza.
Mpumalanga will also continue the implementation of the comprehensive rural development programme, which has already been piloted in the Mkhondo municipality in Piet Retief.
The programme includes the construction of housing units, assisting households to produce their own food, helping children to access early-childhood development facilities and providing mobile clinics, among other things.
Mabuza said the province would implement a programme of action to mitigate the impact of the economic recession, reduce job losses and ensure sustainable economic growth.
More funds will be dedicated towards the fight against crime, with attention given to crimes occurring around the Mozambican and Swaziland borders.
"We will also intensify crime awareness campaigns throughout Mpumalanga, with a special focus on crimes against women, children and tourists, particularly during the 2010 Fifa World Cup," Mabuza said.