Western Cape prioritises opportunities for the poor

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pretoria - The Western Cape Provincial Government has directed 76% of its annual budget towards opening opportunities for people in poor communities through education, health services, housing and social development programmes.

“The result of our commitment was reflected in the 2011 Census, which showed the Western Cape leading the way in basic service delivery. [A total of] 99.1% of households have access to piped water, 93.4% to electricity and 96.9% have toilet facilities,” said Western Cape Premier Helen Zille while delivering her State of the Province Address on Friday.

She said while the provincial government was aiming for 100%, it would take time to achieve, given the in-migration to the Western Cape. The census revealed that the province’s population grew by almost 30% between 2001 and 2011. 

“Our plan prioritises improving the quality of education available to all learners. Around 80% of our budget allocation to items including textbooks, stationery, learner transport and feeding schemes, go to the poorest 60% of our learners.

“We have increased the amount allocated to the Education Department’s feeding scheme by more than 100% since 2009 and feed approximately 365 300 learners in our poorest schools (National Quintile 1 to 3) and 63 175 of the poorest learners in our Quintile 4 and 5 schools every day,” said Zille.

The provincial government had expanded the number of “no fee” schools, which benefit just under 370 000 learners. Last year, over R30 million was paid to 650 schools that applied for fee compensation, which is the highest in the country.

A new infrastructure plan was launched for the 2013/2014 to 2015/2016 period, which will result in 26 new schools and 46 replacement schools being built as well as 124 Grade R classrooms.

Under the new plan, 420 schools will also receive maintenance and refurbishment over the next three years. This is over and above the 26 new schools and 21 replacement schools and additional classrooms and mobile units delivered between 2010 and April 2013, which has benefitted over 57 000 learners.

“The burglary and vandalism of our schools remain a serious problem, and an indication that too many people still do not adequately appreciate that a functional school is a precious resource,” said Zille.

Zille said that the state-of-the-art Khayelitsha hospital, which celebrated its first birthday last month, was among the new health facilities in the province. Others included the R33-million Malmesbury Community Day Centre clinic, the Grassy Park and TC Newman Day Care Centres and the Oudtshoorn Clinic.

The R500-million Mitchell’s Plain district hospital will be fully operational soon and will serve over 400 000 people.

“While our TB rate is still unacceptably high, at 768 cases per 100 000 people, I am pleased to report that we have the highest cure rate in the country at 82%. But despite all of this, our HIV prevalence rate is a cause for grave concern. 

“In 2009, we set a target of reducing HIV prevalence from 16% to 8% by 2014.  We have failed to meet this target.  In fact, the prevalence rate has increased to 18.4% in 2011.  The biggest increase was among woman between the ages of 30 and 39 years.”

The premier attributed this partly to the in-migration, but said people continued to have unprotected, inter-generational sex with multiple concurrent partners. 

Zille said the provincial government agreed with the national government that a human settlements plan, which only focused on building top-structures for indigent people, excluded millions who could not afford to access the housing process without some state support.

“That is why we have focused on delivering a range of housing opportunities in a way that is most fair, considering our limited resources and the rapidly growing demand.

“From April 2009 until 31 January 2013, the Western Cape government has delivered 48 236 top structures and serviced 37 780 sites across the province. It has also run a number of other programmes, which have delivered 7 037 additional housing opportunities,” she said.

The provincial government has provided start-up funding to rural and urban SMMEs through the newly established Enterprise Development Fund. During the pilot phase, R1.7 million was disbursed to help finance new businesses. 

“We have invested R442.5 million in skills development programmes; and provided more than 5 500 bursaries during the 2012/2013 financial year. The highly successful Masakh’iSizwe programme has provided 220 bursaries in the engineering and built environment sector, in partnership with 14 companies who have supported the programme with funding and placement opportunities.

“We intend to extend this bursary scheme to the water sector, where the need for engineering, chemistry and technical skills is enormous, particularly in our municipalities,” said Zille. 

Another catalytic project was the Saldahna Industrial Development Zone (IDZ), which will be designated by the national Department of Trade and Industry in the next few months, enabling work on the establishment of the facility to begin. 

The IDZ will significantly increase the capacity of the port to receive many more rigs that create thousands of new jobs.

The Western Cape government has also introduced a number of initiatives to support the training of artisans who will be needed once the establishment of the Saldahna IDZ has been completed.

“A great example of our ‘whole-of-society’ approach is the Economic Development Partnership (EDP). The board of the EDP was appointed last year and consists of a diverse group of individuals from a range of different fields. 

“The partnership spearheaded a new economic vision for the whole province called One Cape 2040, which the provincial cabinet has supported. The EDP is now designing a Western Cape Performance Index to benchmark us internationally and track our performance against this vision,” said Zille. – SAnews.gov.za