During the last week of May, the Premier of the Northern Cape, Ms. Sylvia Lucas, visited the ZF Mgcawu District along with her Executive Council colleagues on a cabinet outreach programme. The purpose of the visit was to hear the views of the residents of the area regarding their development needs and assess first-hand the state of delivery of social goods and services in the District.
She also interacted with local business groupings and individual business persons and entrepreneurs to whom she pledged support through the various departments of provincial government. Home to almost a quarter of the population of the Northern Cape province, the ZF Mgacawu district is home to a thriving irrigated agricultural economy.
The area is especially renowned for its table grape exports, its raisin production and wine industry, not to mention the developing citrus, and pecan nut agricultural subsectors. More recently, the district has become famous as the centre of the province’s solar industry with the Khi Solar One Concentrating Solar Power plant located just outside Upington and the Bokpoort CSP solar plant near
Groblershoop now operational for some time, delivering power to South Africa’s national grid. The area is of course also known as the gateway to a number of the Northern Cape’s prime tourism attractions and local manufacturing is set to be boosted by the development of the Upington Special Economic Zone (SEZ) through which government seeks to boost investment in manufacturing in the renewable and solar energy, mining, agricultural, aeronautical and other sectors.
It is safe to say that the ZF Mgcawu District is home to the some of the province’s key economic drivers. But there is still considerable scope for further growth. That the Premier has recognized this as well as the need to work to improve the local business climate and make the area more attractive to investors should be commended. However, this alone will not bring about the economic growth that is required to uplift communities still blighted by poverty and social disruption. It will be necessary to target ways in which the district economy can be bolstered and we all await further news in this regard. During the Premier’s visit to the District, she and the MECs interacted with people at a grassroots level, listening to and hearing their requests for assistance at meetings held at Soverby near Keimoes and the community hall in Louisvale just outside Upington.
With representatives of all provincial departments, and some state-owned enterprises and Chapter 9 institutions present in these meetings, people were able to direct their issues to the right agency responsible for addressing their concerns. As could be expected people raised a wide range of issues ranging from youth unemployment, poverty and inequality, violent crime, alcoholism and drug addiction, the lack of proper housing, vandalism of community infrastructure and even the apparent poor response time of emergency medical services. Premier Lucas acknowledged the slow pace of delivery but pledged to find ways to improve the quality and pace of delivery of social goods and services. Many of the issues raised by district residents during the outreach programme were also directed to various MECs in attendance, most of whom has also spent the week visiting the four corners of the district visiting communities and projects that their departments were supporting.
MEC for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mr. Norman Shushu visiting the Blocuso irrigated agricultural development to check on progress achieved there through support provided by his Department which has appointed consultants to turnaround underperforming community and worker owned irrigated agricultural projects in the district. Encouragingly, a number of speakers graciously acknowledged that their lives have changed for the better over the years. An elderly woman who spoke to Solomon
Star could not hide her excitement when speaking about “onse huiskind wat so baie vir ons doen en nooit verander nie” (one of our own that has done so much, yet remains completely humble). Maintaining this goodwill will be critical if Lucas’ administration is to be seen historically as one that made a difference by uplifting people from poverty.