Remarks by the Premier of Mpumalanga Province, Honourable R.M. Mtshweni-Tsipane on the occasion of the State Of the Nation Address debate15 February 2023
Madam Speaker & Chairperson of the NCOP;
His Excellency, the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa;
The Deputy President, Mr. David Mabuza;
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
- Madam Speaker, I want to join the millions of South Africans who have congratulated you, Mr President for delivering a comprehensive address, premised upon unity in purpose to steer this country back to a path of sustainable development in this year of decisive action to advance the people’s interests and the renewal of our nation.
- It is fitting that the President delivered the proverbial umkhombandlela for government at all levels, here in the City Hall of Cape Town, where the father of our nation, uTata Nelson Mandela gave his first public address as a free man 33 years ago.
- Mr President , your presence on that seminal day and the faith uTata Mandela had in you, primed you to lead this beautiful nation through the most challenging period since the advent of our democratic dispensation.
- Just like uTata Mandela, you are an emissary of hope for a better future of our people. Your address last week reminded all of us, of the South Africa we want to build for the benefit of our future generations.
- A South Africa with equal opportunities, a South Africa that actively protects the dignity of her people and a South Africa that brings to fruition the Freedom Charter's declaration that no government can claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.
- Our renowned constitution and the laws that stem from it, have shown that no political democracy can survive if the majority of our people remain in poverty and without prospects for a better life.
- As such, our work in Mpumalanga is premised upon accelerating socio-economic transformation that will materially change the quality of life for our people.
- We welcome the bold and ambitious initiatives that shall be embarked upon to address the electricity shortfall. We agree with you, that, in the short term, priority should be given to fixing Eskom’s coal fired power stations in order to improve existing supply.
- Secondly, and most importantly, from Mpumalanga’s perspective, is the acceleration of procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage.
- We have taken heed of what the President emphasised in the SONA address, when he stated that “We will continue our just transition to a low carbon economy at a pace our country can afford and in a manner that ensures energy security. Above all, our just transition will prioritise workers and communities in vulnerable industries to ensure that no one is left behind.”
- As we are all aware, Mpumalanga is home to 12 coal power stations that produce 80% of electricity for the country. Most of these power stations are now reaching the end of their lifespan. One of them has already been de-commissioned.
- We are also mindful that most of the economic activities that are polluting the environment leading to high carbon emissions are based in Mpumalanga.
- The impact of these carbon emissions is catastrophic, not only to the environment but also to the overall health of our people and therefore we need to double our effort to balance economic activities in our province with the urgency to transition to a low-carbon economy.
- In an effort to adequately balance the issue of high carbon emissions and the need to produce sustainable and green energy, we convened an energy summit last year. The summit brought together stakeholders from various sectors such as Government at all levels, the private sector, civil society formations and organised labour.
- Along with an incredible inheritance of mineral resources, our province also has extremely rich solar and wind resources. As technology has evolved, it is now becoming possible to convert these wind and solar resources into sources of clean energy and value for the Province.
- When we hosted the Energy summit, we were aware that globally, and in South Africa, there are increasingly urgent imperatives for low-carbon development.
- The summit gave more drive and a sense of urgency towards the implementation of the Mpumalanga Green Economy Development Plan. The plan propagates the proactive exploration of opportunities in the Green Economy for opportunity-led growth and to transition our economy to a labour-absorbing green-focused province.
- At this summit, a new vehicle for partnership was launched. This is the Mpumalanga Green Energy Cluster Agency which is comprised of representatives from academia, Industry and Government.
- 10 months into its existence, I am pleased to report that the agency is already working with private sector players to remove barriers to the development of over 3 Gigawatt of Renewable Energy projects in our province.
- Since the launch of this agency, I am happy to also announce the signing of over R78 billion worth of investment declarations, by developers interested in investing in Renewable Energy Projects in our Province. This makes it even more urgent to remove barriers to economic development embedded in our bureaucratic processes as spheres of government to enable these investments.
- To this end, the Green Cluster Agency, has produced market intelligence reports for the green economy, identifying and quantifying opportunities for green jobs and investment in Water, Agriculture and Energy value chains.
- For us in Mpumalanga, “Just Transition” is not only limited to energy but also to preserving our scarce water resources, pursuing agriculture in a climate-friendly manner, investing in skills and promoting circular economic activities. All these practices are crucial in saving our planet.
- We will position our Province to remain an ‘energy hub’ that plays a leading role in the production of renewable energy and associated activities. We shall apply for the classification of a second Special Economic Zone in Secunda in support of green energy and associated industries.
- In partnership with the Presidential Climate Commission, the Climate Investment Fund and the World Bank, we are exploring plans to;
- Diversify our local economies to reduce dependency on coal;
- Re-skilling and upskilling the most vulnerable in the labour force; and
- Supporting small businesses and co-operatives in local communities to access emerging opportunities in the green economy sector.
- Once again, we remain thankful to you Mr President, for raising the matter of climate change and the “just transition” in a manner that takes into account the importance of concrete actions for mitigation, adaptation and sustainable economic development pathways.
- Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, the hard lockdown has had an adverse impact on employment in our Province, especially amongst women, young people and people with disabilities.
- To contextualise and put this into perspective, our unemployment rate was at around 35,1% in quarter 3 of 2022.
- Worryingly, the unemployment rate amongst young people between the ages of 15 and 34 years is around 46,5%.
- In order to decisively address this problem, we have developed the Mpumalanga Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan.
- This plan is an important vehicle to accelerate the implementation of key catalytic projects, which will not only stimulate growth, but shall also be highly labour intensive with a key focus on young people, women and people with disabilities.
- Through this plan, we will be rolling out high impact green economy initiatives, industrialisation through localisation, employment stimulus initiatives, tourism and agriculture/agro-processing programmes.
- An important pillar of the MERRP is the strategic positioning of our Province as a tourism destination of choice.
- Our Province is endowed with tourist attractions that encompass scenic beauty, wildlife and diverse heritage. We are in the process of augmenting our natural attractions with artificial and adventurous sites.
- One of the key sites whose construction will commence in March this year is the God’s Window Skywalk which is a PPP project aimed at attracting between 45 000 to 60 000 tourists along the panorama tourism route. The project is planned to be complete and operational in March 2025.
- Another PPP project is the development of a cable car linking Drie-Rondavels view site and Swadini Dam.
- In the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountain World Heritage Site, we will be building an education centre, geo-sites and geo-trails in order to make the site appealing to academic tourists interested in anthropology.
- All these developments are aimed at increasing tourist arrivals both domestically and internationally.
- Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, in order to address the scourge of youth unemployment and the acceleration of youth participation in the mainstream economy, we came up with an initiative to support youth owned enterprises called the Premier’s Youth Development Fund which has to date, funded 97 entrepreneurs to the tune of R140 million in various sectors of the economy.
- The impact of the Premier’s Youth Development Fund has been enormous and has resulted in the creation of sustainable employment opportunities for young people, women and people with disabilities.
- Madam Speaker and Honourable Members, the ANC led government is driven by the moral duty to preserve the dignity of the people of our beautiful country.
- In our Province, a large majority of our people now have access to water, not negating the fact that some of our communities are still accessing water through water tankers and communal stand pipes.
- In order to address these challenges, we are in the process of rolling out the massive Loskop Dam Regional Bulk augmentation project, which will benefit the people of both Thembisile Hani and Dr JS Moroka local municipalities.
- Secondly, the construction of a Dam in the City of Mbombela will further enhance and guarantee reliable bulk provision for our communities. Feasibility studies are currently underway and indications are such that the Dam construction shall be completed by 2027.
- Our consistent implementation of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan as guided by the strategic interventions announced by you, Mr President is gradually paying off.
- The implementation of the District Development Model is also beginning to show positive results. Since its inception in 2021, all three spheres of Government have been working closely together, especially on high impact catalytic projects yielding better synergies, economies of scale and stronger intergovernmental relations.
- Our District municipalities are now central in the implementation of service delivery programmes within their respective districts. Projects such as the Nkomazi Special Economic Zone (SEZ), God’s Window Sky Walk, Nkosi City, Steve Tshwete Hotel and Convention Centre, Loskop Dam to name just a few, which are projects that have attracted Billions of Rands of investments.
- Madam Speaker, we also want to applaud the Security Cluster for having worked swiftly with other sectors of law enforcement in Government to bring stability in Mkhondo municipality.
- For a long period of time, the people of Mkhondo have been living in fear and terror of the rolling brazen shootings that have been going-on in the area.
- We also welcome the recent decision by the Minister of Police to establish a dedicated investigative unit, to investigate 19 politically related murders that have blighted our Province for the last 15 years. We want to urge both the Ministers of Police and Justice to ensure that justice is served.
- Madam Speaker and honourable Members, our Province, not only managed to arrest a decline that had commenced with the 0.3% reduction in the overall pass rate in the matric class of 2021.
- We managed to record a 3,2% increase in our overall pass rate to 76,4 % for the matric class of 2022. This was attributable to various interventions we have embarked upon to ensure that teaching and learning proceeds without hinderances.
- For the past 2 years, we have invested significantly in e-learning, by procuring 64 000 tablets pre-loaded with data, e-textbooks, study guides, literature and past question papers with a specific focus on matriculants.
- The tablets also allowed students and teachers to establish support chat groups and be able to work beyond the 4 walls of the classrooms. These tablets were distributed across 473 quintile 1 to 3 schools.
- As I conclude Madam Speaker, let me take this opportunity to once again congratulate President Cyril Ramaphosa on delivering an inspiring, comprehensive and accountable State of the Nation Address.
- I thank you.