SoPA 2018 • Northern Cape To Focus On Economic Growth
Kimberley – Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas committed her provincial government towards a sharp focus on economic growth.
Delivering her fifth State of the Province Address (SoPA) boycotted by the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Premier Lucas delved into a series of efforts to be undertaken in reviving the province’s dormant economy. She said the province is ready for “credible investment.”
Despite being mineral rich, a solar hub and a significant food production contributor through its commodity enriched agricultural sector; the province’s contribution towards the country’s gross domestic product comes in just over a paltry two percent.
Premier Lucas enthused that the picture is likely to change; “however, the Province expects its performance to improve over the long term, with an increasing capacity in terms of the renewable energy sector and mining.”
She flagged a wide range of government driven mega-agriculture projects. ”Progress is also underway in the implementation of the five mega-investment projects namely the Namakwa Irrigation Development, Rooibos Development with extract aroma as key value adding, Vanderkloof Fisheries and Cape trout farming, Vaalharts Revitalisation and Vineyards development. An additional project on the development of the Ostrich industry in Pixley ka Seme is being added to make these six.”
No much detail was given in relation to headways made in respect of Special Economic Zone, Boegoebaai Port, Square Kilometer Array (SKA) and Agri-Parks with the hope that champion departments would do so in their respective budget votes.
Albeit belatedly, Premier Lucas said they will be developing the Provincial Growth and Development Plan (PGDP) vision 2040 and a revised Provincial Spatial Development Framework (PSDF) in aligning them towards the National Development Plan.
In emphasizing the path towards economic growth, Premier Lucas said consultations shall be undertaken. “The Province is planning to host an economic colloquium as a pre-cursor to an investment conference.”
She also said that a Provincial Growth and Development Advisory Council will be established aimed at sourcing ideas for the collective growth of the province’s economy. “We need to consolidate our provincial position and refuse to participate in the continued narrative that perpetuates the re-industrialization of our province.”
With a little help from national government, she also announced that the Northern Cape’s allocation for water services infrastructure for the financial year ahead is R453 million and will be used to address water supply and sanitation challenges, including drought interventions. “A further R762 million through the regional bulk infrastructure grant is to be used for interventions to eradicate the water supply and sanitation backlogs, contribute to economic development and will further build our resilience to drought and the impacts of climate change.”
Although the SoPA attendees were receptive, opposition parties had the most cynical reaction. Speaking to SolomonStar, Northern Cape leader of the Congress of the People (COPE), Mr Pakes Dikgetsi called the speech “disappointing and uninspiring,” citing that this is the fifth year that Premier Lucas has continued to make “unfulfilled promises.”
“Each year the Premier makes promises all of her speeches are unconnected with each other and lack strategic focus. It’s really disappointing, it does not inspire hope to the many people who are unemployed and living in poverty,” said Mr Dikgetsi.
On the DA’s part, its leader Mr Andrew Louw commended the Premier for the strides made in the province but raised issues of leniency in the punishment of corrupt government officials. “We need to be holding one another accountable and the Premier has failed to keep the people in different department’s accountable, to say what has happened to the money meant for the poor and vulnerable people,” Mr Louw said.
Representing the ANC, its Chief Whip Mr Maruping Lekwene said the ANC bears an anti-corruption stance hence it keeps encouraging those with information to approach law enforcement agencies. He also said there too much expectation for the SoPA to be packed with detail when in fact the departments would give detail in their respective budget votes.
By Thabo Mothibi and Noluthando Ngcakani