Gauteng premier David Makhura went into detail on his plans to root out corruption in his state of the province address (Sopa), whereas Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane barely made any mention of it.
The two leaders delivered their versions of the Sopa almost at the same time on Tuesday in speeches many had anticipated would shed some light on how their respective provinces planned to improve their ailing economies.
Both Makhura’s and Mabuyane’s provincial departments have been ravaged by scandal since the state of national disaster was enacted by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year. Both scandals involving the political heads of health departments.
Recently, Mabuyane was forced to fire his health MEC Sindiswa Gomba after she was arrested on charges of corruption and money-laundering related to millions that were siphoned away from the Buffalo City municipal budget intended for the funeral of former president Nelson Mandela.
The scandal broke while Gomba was facing another investigation by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) over the acquisition of scooters intended to be used as ambulances.
Last year, Makhura faced his own embarrassment when his health MEC, Dr Bandile Masuku, was implicated in a tender scandal involving his friend and comrade the late chief Thandisizwe Diko, who was also the husband of now suspended presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko.
Much like Mabuyane, Makhura was forced to fire his political ally Masuku when an SIU investigation found that the MEC had failed to provide oversight in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Strengthening anti-corruption measures
During his Sopa address, Makhura said corruption allegations and irregularities pertaining to Covid-19 procurement and delays in the delivery of some of the health infrastructure revealed substantial governance weaknesses.
He added that irregular and corrupt practices exposed by the auditor general and the SIU constitute a serious dent in the progress made in the past five years on clean governance and integrity in the province.
“We must and we will set an example with all those involved in malfeasance, both in the public and private sector. They must be brought to book and all monies must be recovered by the state,” he added.
The Gauteng premier went on to say that the procurement irregularities and corruption allegations during the pandemic forced the provincial government to go back and review the efficacy of all anti-corruption measures.
“We will strengthen our prevention, detection, investigation and resolution procedures and push ahead with the institutionalisation of clean governance. The implementation of the open tender system, the introduction of integrity management measures, the significant advances on clean audits and the four-year-old partnership with the SIU stand as testimony to our commitment to fighting corruption as well as promoting clean governance,” Makhura said.
He said members of his executive council had submitted their details for the lifestyle audit which is being conducted by the State Security Agency.
“The outcome of the lifestyle audit will be made public. We have expanded our vetting of senior officials to the level of supply-chain-management officials. To this end, 65% of senior managers and 70% of supply-chain-management officials have been vetted by the State Security Agency and the rest shall be completed this year,” Makhura added.
Mabuyane, who mentioned corruption only four times in his 36-page speech, said his government responded swiftly to the allegations of corruption on PPE procurement by referring them to the SIU for investigation.
“We have consolidated the anti-corruption forum and council into one body that will be chaired by the premier. Since the passing of the act prohibiting government officials from doing business with the government, our province has progressed from 1 272 conflicted officials in 2018-2019 to 421 in 2020-2021. The majority of these remaining 421 officials are in health and education. We are expecting the relevant accounting officers to take action against the remaining officials that are still doing business with the state,” Mabuyane said.
Preparing for the vaccine roll-out
The two provinces, together with the Western Cape, are those that have been hardest hit by the pandemic. The Eastern Cape became the epicentre of the second wave; currently the death toll in the province sits at 11 213 with 193 706 infections. Gauteng follows closely behind, with 402 249 infections and 9 496 deaths.
Makhura said Gauteng had received 16 800 doses of the Covid-19 vacce, which will be given to healthcare workers in the next two weeks. He added that Steve Biko academic hospital received 5 720 doses and Chris Hani Baragwanath academic hospital received 11 080 doses.
More than 150 vaccination sites have been identified at primary healthcare centres and vaccinators have been trained across the province, Makhura said.
“To date, 5 214 healthcare workers in Gauteng have been vaccinated. As more vaccine doses arrive, we will vaccinate 215 101 healthcare workers in phase one of the vaccine roll-out plan of our province. This will be followed by 7 372 924 vaccinations in phase two, focusing on essential workers and vulnerable sections of the population, such as the elderly and people with comorbidities. We will conclude with phase three of the vaccination programme which will focus on 2 789 427 vaccinations for the rest of the population over 18 years [old],” the premier said.
In the Eastern Cape, Mabuyane said he was confident that the province would inoculate a minimum of 3.7-million people, which is required for the province to reach herd immunity. “To achieve this target, we must work together to ensure that our people get vaccinated to prevent severe disease, hospitalisation and deaths,” he said.
A mixed bag for job creation
The two premiers have also highlighted gains made by each province in job creation. Gauteng lost 660 000 jobs during Covid-19, but Makhura said the province had undertaken substantial activities, through social development, youth development and infrastructure initiatives, to create both short term and permanent jobs.
He said government departments created 22 000 jobs in the social and infrastructural sectors during the hard lockdown.
“To summarise, government social-development and environmental programmes, infrastructure projects, youth-development initiatives and women-empowerment interventions have created more than 130 000 short-term and long-term employment and business opportunities. This has mitigated the negative impact of 660 000 jobs lost in our provincial economy during the first half of 2020,” Makhura said while delivering his Sopa.
Meanwhile, Mabuyane said the Eastern Cape responded to this pandemic with a range of short-term business-relief packages, which included amending the jobs-stimulus fund to enable additional support to businesses in distress.
“In this regard, an amount of R75-million was approved to augment the budget for this fund. To date, 38 businesses have benefited to the value of R26.6-million, thus ensuring the retention of 1 538 jobs in the province. As at 5 February 2021, the temporary employer- employee relief scheme benefited 76 692 employers and 763 470 employees at a value of R3.164-billion. Through the Covid-19 Agriculture Support Disaster Fund, R80.4-million was also disbursed to support 1 915 smallholder and communal farmers. The job stimulus fund will remain one of the key instruments for support to distressed businesses in the new financial year,” he said.