Province’s opposition parties weigh in on Sopa

Before the State of the Province Address Premier Alan Winde and his wife Tracy visited a mobile emergency command centre on show in the Rocklands civic centre parking lot along with a fleet of newly branded provincial traffic vehicles. From left are EMS call centre operator Chantal Naidoo, disaster medicine and special events inspector Mark de Villiers and Dr Leo de Caires.

National Health Insurance (NHI) could threaten the Western Cape’s working healthcare system and mothball hospitals such as Melomed in Mitchell’s Plain, says Premier Alan Winde.

Province did not support the “unworkable” and “unfundable” NHI Bill, he said during his State of the Province Address (SOPA) at Rocklands civic centre last week.

“What we would like to see from the national government instead, is a commitment to strengthen and full fund our current systems, in not only health, but also education,” he said.

The hour-long speech touched on energy and resilience; the establishment of an economic war room; a special safety cabinet; the premier’s advancement of a youth internship programme; the establishment of a call centre in Mitchell’s Plain; and calling for the province to run the railways.

But the ANC’s Cameron Dugmore, the leader of the official opposition in the provincial legislature, was unimpressed.

Replying on Friday February 21, to the premier’s speech a day earlier, Mr Dugmore said it had cost more than R2 million to hold SOPA at Rocklands civic centre but the exercise had failed to give the community a voice.

Mr Dugmore said the ANC supported the principle of taking SOPA into the communities, but “would never again be part of such a process if the people themselves were not given the opportunity to engage the premier and members of this legislature directly”.

According to the Speaker, Masizole Mnqasela, this year’s SOPA cost R653 863, compared to R105 398 last year.

“The Rocklands civic centre was chosen as the venue for this year’s opening and SOPA because it is situated in one of the largest suburbs in the province, and in South Africa.

“Mitchells Plain also reflects many of the burning issues residents across the province grapple with on a daily basis. It is home to an economically diverse population ranging from the less fortunate to middle class, and it is seriously affected by social ills like crime and addiction.”

The premier’s speech was delivered to MPLs and invited guests, with a fan park set up outside the venue for the general public.

The next day anyone could attend the debate of Mr Winde’s speech, which included statements and questions by MPLs from the ANC, the EFF, the GOOD Party, the ACDP, the Freedom Front Plus and Al Jama-ah.

Each of the MECs also made statements and answered questions.

Mr Dugmore said the ANC would convene a People’s Assembly in Mitchell’s Plain to listen and “work out what we can do with the help of our national government in this community”.

Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa had started the process to declare Rocklands civic centre a national heritage site, he added.

“We believe that it would be appropriate to mark this declaration in a ceremony on August 20, in this very civic,” Mr Dugmore said.

In 1983 it was the meeting place of thousands of South Africans and the launch place of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in opposition to the apartheid government.

“Apartheid gave rise to white privilege. Privilege built on deeply embedded structures which empowered a minority,” Mr Dugmore said.

The struggle against apartheid had been based on non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and equality — principles which were the antithesis of apartheid, he said.

The DA’s stance on a national minimum wage – R1 800 a month instead of R3 500 – and its opposition to employment equity and broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) showed it still promoted racial inequality, Mr Dugmore said.

“These policies are intended to redress the legacy of apartheid. And we have the DA, in simple terms, fighting to maintain the benefits accrued to some by apartheid – a crime against humanity,” he said.

Touching on the country’s energy crisis during his speech, Mr Winde referred to Mitchells Moslem Butchery, which supplies halaal meat across the peninsula and beyond, saying the business had taken huge strides to work around load shedding.

“Load shedding makes me the most angry when I hear of its effect on our small businesses — businesses like the Mitchell’s Plain butchery of Nawaz Sablay,” he said.

The economic war room had brought the City of Cape Town, provincial officials and private sector players together weekly to address burning problems using a world-class methodology, he said.

Crime threatened the province’s ability to grow the economy and end a vicious cycle of poverty, he said.

“When the economy is down and jobs are scarce, it creates fertile ground for violence to flourish.”

GOOD secretary general Brett Herron called on all parties, all spheres of government and every person, to acknowledge that “we are in a climate emergency and act with the speed this global crisis needs”.

Farms were seeing lower crop yields and massive job losses, he said.

“Those impacts will make unemployment, poverty, inequality, hunger, disease and social instability worse. I was hoping to hear a plan to manage this.”

He also said the DA-led provincial government had not settled the Tafelberg School dispute – “despite this promise last year, the Province robustly defended its decision to sell the site during the court case in November”.

Mr Herron said the DA wanted to fix the public transport system but had yet to revive the MyCiTi service from Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain, stalled since May last year.

“The same communities no longer have access to a train service,” he said.

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