SoPA 2023: The Eastern Cape’s Potential is Stifled by an Uncaring and Inept Government

At the beginning of the year, ActionSA embarked on a 5-week campaign across the province, informed by the following focus areas: education, crime, corruption, energy and the economy. The campaign also served as an assessment mechanism, through which we were able to discern the state of the Eastern Cape Province.

It was self evident that the ANC’s poor policy decisions, mismanagement and corruption have adversely affected the lives of the people of the Eastern Cape.

Unemployment remains the greatest challenge in the province, with more than 47% of adults out of work. Of those with employment, over 25% are in the informal sector. Consequently, crime has worsened in most parts of the province. New Brighton (Nelson Mandela Bay) and Mthatha (OR Tambo District Municipality) are in the top ten of highest murders reported. To compound this situation, police stations are under-resourced, understaffed and demoralised. Most police stations are not equipped with victim empowerment facilities for GBV cases despite the ANC’s platitudes.

Education in the province is in a dire state, which makes the 77.3% pass rate achieved by the Eastern Cape class 2022 commendable notwithstanding the fact that the attrition rate is not taken into account in this inflated figure. The shortage of teaching personnel remains a matter of deep concern. There seems to be an under-appreciation (on the part of department officials) of the effects of understaffing on the quality of education received by learners. From the budget of the current fiscal year (2022/23) education received the lion’s share of R38bn. Despite this substantial allocation, the education department cannot sort out the urgent matter of the shortage of teachers in the province. In his 2022 State of the Province address, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane admitted that the education department’s financial woes contribute to poor quality education in the province. Despite all of this, at the end of the 2021/22 fiscal year, the Eastern Cape education department forfeited R205 million meant for construction & maintenance of schools because they could not spend it. The money formed part of the R1.64 billion education infrastructure grant for the province for the 21/22 fiscal year.

There is administrative and management chaos at local government level. Public infrastructure, especially ‘unseen’ underground infrastructure, is gravely neglected. The floods that have engulfed various of the parts of the province, especially Komani, have exposed this state of infrastructure neglect and maintenance of storm water systems are not only inadequate they are mostly choked up with refuse and this compounds the devastation of natural disasters. The recent flooding has also exacerbated the atrocious state of our roads. Our recent visit to Komani also exposed a serious water and electricity supply challenges over and above scheduled  load shedding

From of the six ‘high potential sectors’ that the ANC government has identified as key focus areas, ActionSA’s evaluation led to the following conclusions:

  • Agri-industry: The Eastern Cape is the largest producer of red meat, wool, mohair, milk and, arguably, citrus as well. These are our primary products, as we have little or no mining. However, agriculture has the least impact on the provincial economy despite significant investment in the sector. By his own admission, Premier Oscar Mabuyane recently stated that ‘the ANC has failed the rural people of the province”, whose lives could be changed for the better by a revitalised agriculture sector. Other manifestations of the provincial government’s failure to harness this primary resource are the failed former agri-parastatals: Magwa, Majola, Konxa, Ncora, and others. Loadshedding exacerbates this situation as it devastates agricultural productivity. Food production and food security is being severely compromised by this ANC made disaster.
  • Automotive industry and downstream service industry are shrinking in the Eastern Cape. There is scant evidence of government’s intervention to reverse this unfortunate situation and to take advantage of the global shift from combustion engine powered vehicles to battery powered ones.
  • Sustainable energy: our beautiful province is blessed with an abundance of wind, sun and land. We have witnessed some economic spinoffs of wind energy investment in the following Energy Development Zones: Cookhouse, Bedford, Humansdorp/Oyster Bay and Stomberg. Despite the R20 billion investment in 2020 and the R4 billion committed to improving the living and working conditions of communities in these Energy Development Zones, the people of these communities remain some of  the poorest in the province. Once again, the outcomes have betrayed the proclaimed intentions.
  • Oceans economy: this is an untapped resource whose potential is enormous. Eco-sensitive economic development connot coexist with dirty development. Our oceans are being polluted and marine life is being decimated at an alarming rate. where enormous progress can be made in areas such as maritime repair and maintenance. 73 co-operatives have been awarded 15year licences by the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment. However efficient Ports are vital to the optimal functioning of the oceans economy and our ports are the least productive in the world.
  • Tourism in the province is grossly underperforming. There is lack of a coherent and focused tourism promotion strategy. High barriers to entry, crime and unreliable telecommunication network further detract from the provincial government’s already lacklustre efforts to attract tourists to the Eastern Cape.
  • Light manufacturing: The manufacturing hubs of the province are littered with empty factory buildings because of the unreliable provision of water and electricity, inability to attract investment and crime amongst other factors. Most of these properties have become targets for vandalism and asset stripping.

ActionSA would like to hear the Premier address the challenges that mitigate against the successful transformation  and development of our agricultural industry, especially the issues of infrastructure and the environment. Food security is a major concern for our citizens. The war in Ukraine has already driven food prices up. When our primary producers/farmers can’t produce effectively, food shortage and rising food prices will worsen.

The investments made in sustainable energy must yield the desired energy output as well as improve the economic wellbeing of the communities in the Energy Development Zones.

ActionSA implores the Premier to prioritise job creation, education and policing in the province. The quality of lives of our citizens depends on these the most.

Our Province needs a credible and coherent strategy to diversify the economy, while augmenting the existing pillars of the economy. We believe that the greatest economic potential of our coastline and oceans lies in sustainable fishing and marine tourism, which is inextricably linked to land-based tourism.

No more empty promises.