This morning, I delivered my State of the Province Address in the historic town of Genadendal, outlining how the Western Cape is leading from the front to deliver jobs, safety and dignity to the people of this province.
Since I delivered my last SOPA in Mitchell’s Plain, the province, the country and the whole world have changed significantly, impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. During my speech, I outlined the Western Cape’s plans to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic in a third wave, our vaccination programme, as well as our recovery response and plans in the key areas of jobs, safety and dignity and well-being.
Key announcements include:
The Western Cape Government has developed a four pronged response to Covid-19 which includes:
1) Preparing for a successful rollout of vaccines
• We have established the Western Cape Covid-19 Vaccine Co-ordinating Committee, that will oversee three core work streams.
• The first workstream will oversee the operational roll-out of vaccines by developing a service delivery and distribution model, ensuring cold chain management, and providing adequate human resources.
• We will also develop the required information systems that will allow us to do targeted vaccination and to monitor the vaccine roll-out.
• We will leverage our existing technology to reach those who fall into high-risk groups, such as the elderly and those with comorbidities to achieve the greatest impact through the vaccine roll-out.
• We will launch a major information campaign to inform and reassure residents about the vaccine rollout.
2) Putting in place the necessary systems for the province to procure its own vaccines
• Centralised procurement, as it stands, has not secured enough vaccines to achieve herd immunity in South Africa. It is therefore the moral and ethical responsibility of our government to ensure it has done everything possible to secure an adequate supply of safe, approved and effective vaccines for the people of this province.
• Our Department of Health has therefore started the process of approaching vaccine manufacturers, taking the first steps towards procurement.
• Our Provincial Treasury has taken the necessary steps to budget for this contingency, and further announcements will be made in the budget speech next month.
3) Preparing our systems for a third wave:
• We must continue to save lives in the Western Cape, especially in an inevitable third wave.
• Our comprehensive response plan will focus on prevention behaviour, working with communities using our hotspot strategy, to ensure they continue preventative behaviours such as mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and avoiding the 3Cs of crowds, close contact and confined spaces. We will also continue to focus on higher risk residents, as we have done, throughout the pandemic.
• We will rapidly upscale testing to ensure that we identify those with Covid-19. We will be shifting to rapid antigen testing to ensure that this happens, and the NHLS is currently procuring the supplies needed.
• We will retain our core field hospital capacity in the Western Cape- the Brackengate Hospital of Hope will remain open into the foreseeable future. We will make use of all our infrastructure enhancements added during the first and second wave, including the Mitchells Plain Hospital of Hope, Ward 99, the Freesia Ward, as well as beds added across the province in places like Hermanus, George and Vredendal.
• We will make available additional acute care capacity at our hospitals, through repurposing beds for Covid-19 patients as the demand is required. We have done extensive planning during the first and second wave, and these plans will be refined even further.
• Finally, we will ensure that we have enough PPE, staff and oxygen. The work we have done during the second wave has put us in a strong position as we currently have sufficient PPE and materials in storage, and we continue to add stock as required. We have employed an additional 1044 healthcare workers, who will continue to assist us during this time. We have also have bulk stored oxygen at our facilities, and maintained our contract with Afrox so that we can upscale supply if demand increases.
4) Supporting the Western Cape’s world-class scientists conducting studies on therapeutics:
• We will leverage the Western Cape’s world-class capacity for research by making available safe and approved therapeutic treatments at our hospitals.
• We have done so to date with Dexamethasone, as soon as the clinical data showed it was safe, effective and approved for use.
• We also pioneered the use of high-flow oxygen in South Africa during the first wave, which assisted greatly in treating those who were critically ill.
• The Western Cape will continue to support new treatments such as these, by conducting trials at our health facilities in line with our stringent regulatory and ethics approval processes.
• There are already hundreds of Covid-19 research studies underway at the University of Cape Town, the University of Stellenbosch, and the University of the Western Cape. One of these includes the planned Covid-19 clinical treatment trial on the effectiveness of Ivermectin in the treatment of Covid-19.
Johnson and Johnson trials:
This afternoon Minister Nomafrench Mbombo will join President Ramaphosa at Khayelitsha District Hospital, as we administer the first Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the first four healthcare workers in the Western Cape as part of an approved trial.
I have no doubt that the reason the Western Cape was selected as the site for this launch today is because of our advanced planning for the roll-out of vaccines to date.
I want to thank every single healthcare worker involved in this approved trial.
Like the rest of South Africa, we are hopeful that it will provide us with the evidence we need to then roll-out vaccines effectively and in much larger numbers in the coming months.
Jobs and the economy:
• The Western Cape remains the province with the lowest expanded unemployment rate, but the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown have had a significant impact- creating a second pandemic of unemployment.
• The role of the Western Cape Government is to stimulate growth in the economy, that will allow the private sector to create more jobs.
• Our economic recovery interventions have helped create 7493 job opportunities in the private sector as of December 2020, with R4 billion in investment secured over the last financial year.
• These interventions have also assisted people in vulnerable communities by creating 27 148 earning opportunities through our EPWP programme.
• Investment in infrastructure will stimulate economic growth in the Western Cape. To reduce the impact of budget cuts, we will build up a portfolio of investment projects that can attract private finance where appropriate. Borrowing for infrastructure investment will require high quality project preparation and once a project is identified, will undergo technical work including bankability and feasibility studies.
• This process will complement our work to launch a dedicated infrastructure agency that can contract and borrow money as a 3D entity, as defined in the PFMA. We will shortly be appointing a panel of infrastructure finance experts who will take forward the technical work to establish this entity. This is a long term project that we aim to compete within the current term of office.
• The Department of Transport and Public Works has completed the first feasibility study that will inform the business case proposal for a single transport authority in the Greater Cape Town region. Creating a strong public transport system is key to growth, and investment, allowing people to get to work safely and efficiently every day.
• While this long-term process is underway, we continue to work closely with PRASA on the issue of rail in the Western Cape.
• Next month, we will launch the pilot project for the Blue Dot taxi system. Thousands of commuters use taxis daily in the Western Cape, and the Blue Dot System builds on the success of our Covid-19, Red Dot partnership with the taxi industry. The system uses technology and innovation to track safety and service and incentivizes safe driving.
• The Western Cape continues its work to be the first province to beat loadshedding. We have committed R20 million per year for the next two years to roll out the Western Cape Government’s Municipal Energy Resilience Programme. As part of the first phase, DEDAT and the Departments of Local Government and Treasury, have undertaken an assessment process of all municipalities to determine their readiness. We have also procured the technical expertise that will help our municipalities to become energy resilient.
Agriculture and the green economy:
• Despite the tough economic times we have faced, agriculture has been a shining light- recording record breaking harvests and excellent exports thanks to good rain and pioneering work on agricultural technology.
• We will leverage our agricultural economy for growth and recovery as a key priority in the year ahead.
• To do so, we will continue to be the leaders of agricultural technology on the African continent.Drone technology in particular is assisting the Western Cape increase both animal and crop production, as well as expertly monitoring crop and soil health across the province. For this reason, the Department of Agriculture is embracing this technology, supporting 13 drone pilots to get their licenses with a second group getting their “wings” by the end of March.
• Researchers in the Department of Agriculture’s Fourth Industrial Revolution programme will also fast track new technology development within their respective portfolios and pursue new technology available outside of the department which will then be made available to the sector.
• We will continue to build resilience and prepare for the consequences of climate change in the province.
• In the year ahead, we will create 1000 green jobs through the rehabilitation of 15 000 hectares of agricultural land by clearing alien vegetation.
• The Western Cape has now appointed a Climate Change and Risk Assessment Scientist, Professor Stephanie Midgley, who joined our government last month.
• We will work to grow international and domestic tourism at a time when it is severely constrained in order to save the thousands of jobs this sector creates. We need to prepare for what will be another difficult year for the tourism sector in our province.
• The first critical step will be ensuring that our air network recovers after a number of routes were suspended or cancelled last year. Without connectivity, long-haul travel to our province will be even more difficult to promote.
• The Air Access team, housed at Wesgro, continues to engage with the aviation industry and there are some promising signs emerging. Wehave been able to secure a direct route from Cape Town to Atlanta on Delta Airlines, which plans to commence this year.
• We have also secured TAP Portugal, with a direct flight to Lisbon, starting November 2021.
• It it is good news that Airlink has added a connection between Cape Town and Harare, as well as Cape Town to Walvis Bay, commencing next month-further connecting Cape Town to the rest of the continent.
• Cape Town has made the 2021 list for the 50 “Best Cities for Remote Working”. These ‘digital nomads’ are a new kind of tourist, who will stay in our province for 3 months instead of 3 weeks, enjoying our tourism offer while working on their laptops. To do so, South Africa urgently needs to introduce a ‘Remote Working Visa’ and we will lobby both the President and the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to introduce this visa as soon as possible.
• To promote domestic tourism,Wesgro will be continuing with its highly successful domestic tourism campaign – which has already secured 21 000 seat bookings through its microsite.
• Export growth, as we have seen in agriculture, has continued to buck the trend in our province, growing by 49% quarter-on-quarter.
• To leverage this growth, we will continue with our virtual trade missions to the rest of Africa and key export markets around the world, and seek to sign up to R4,25 billion in trade deals for our province.
• We will continue our strategic cooperation with the Port of Cape Town, as we seek to improve efficiency and turnaround times at terminals.
• We will leverage the Air Access programme, and the network it has created, to increase exports transported through the belly of aircraft currently flying from Cape Town International.
• The Air Access project has now signed another private sector partner, DHL, who shares our confidence in the potential of moving more cargo in our province.
• The Western Cape remains a clear example of what is possible when you cut the red tape, have strong, well-managed institutions and realise that it is the private sector’s job to grow the economy.
• Through our economic growth agencies, Wesgro, the Saldanha Bay IDZ and the Atlantis SEZ for Green Technology, we have the right vehicles and expertise to make this happen.
• Wesgro, through its investment facilitation services, collaborative partnerships, and the Invest SA One Stop Shop, will continue to attract investors, with the objective of securing up to R2,85 billion of investment over the next year.
• The Atlantis SEZ company, has now been established and has secured investments totaling R680 million, covering 25 hectares of the 120-hectare economic zone.
• We will work to cement our position as the leading green economy in Africa by building on the billions of Rands worth of investments secured for the Western Cape last year as a result of Wesgro and GreenCape’s collaboration.
• Creating safe communities is an important factor in growing our economy and advancing the dignity and wellbeing of the people of the Western Cape. To make communities safer, we have put in place a number of interventions including:
• The next 250 officers will start training on 1 April, with the following 250 starting training on 1 July. By October, we will have trained and deployed a total of 1000 LEAP officers in the province.
• We have committed to train and deploy 120 peace officers in six vulnerable municipalities in the province. So far, we have trained 56 officers, stationed in Laingsburg, Prince Albert and Beaufort West.
• We have repurposed 69 vehicles in the existing fleet for specialized interception and highway patrol, which are already patrolling our highways.
• To provide opportunities for young people in our communities, 1000 young people will be recruited and deployed as violence prevention facilitators in selected communities across the province. The programme will be launched by Minister Fritz in April. They will play an important role in our area based teams and will receive a monthly stipend and training opportunities to improve their job prospects.
• As part of our focus to use data to drive our interventions, the Western Cape Department of Health, will expand our alcohol-related harms data tracking from monitoring 5 hospitals in the province, to 20. This forms part of our plans to develop a Safety Data Surveillance System that will integrate data across our facilities so that we have the intelligence to fight crime more effectively.
• We intend to publish amendments to alcohol legislation for public comment within the next few months. The first of these amendments will be presented to the Regulatory Impact Assessment committee next week, and a formal submission to cabinet will be made by the end of March. Targeted interventions will help us to reduce alcohol harms in the province without having to make use blunt instruments like bans.
• After an initial delay in the signing of the MOU with the National Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, the Western Cape Government is now on course for the final handover of 6 brand new shelters this month, providing safe spaces for women and children impacted by gender based violence. The necessary allocations to the NGOs that will manage the facilities have already taken place, and the buildings have been repurposed by the Western Cape Department of Social Development.
• To strengthen our after-hours response to GBV, we have appointed an additional 30 social workers who will assist women in hotspot areas in the evening and on weekends.
• The Western Cape Government’s implementation plan is also on track to be finalised next month, providing valuable indicators that will guide our government in responding to the crisis.
• The Western Cape Government is also working on legislative amendments which will expand the powers of the Police Ombudsman, to include law enforcement officers, and not just SAPS and municipal police as was previously the case. All policing efficiencies should be investigated, and as we continue to roll out our LEAP programme, it is important that they are efficient and held accountable.
Dignity and wellbeing:
• When we lead from the front to create jobs and safety in our communities, we contribute in a fundamental way towards achieving the dignity that each person in the Western Cape is entitled to. These two ‘North Stars’ are both interlinked in this way, contributing to a society of opportunity and hope. But this will not be enough to secure the Western Cape of our dreams, if we don’t consistently realise the well-being that every person deserves – and at every step of their life journey.
• In the year ahead, our government will continue with its First 1000 days programme that provides coordinated maternal, neonatal and child services. International research has shown that children who are provided with love, care, nutrition and healthcare during their first 1000 days are more successful and will contribute more to society as adults.
• The inevitable consequences of limiting mobility during the Hard Lockdown has meant that some critical health services did not reach as many people as they should have last year.
• In 2020, the number of children immunised under the age of 1 in the Western Cape dropped marginally, when it should have in fact grown. This was largely due to a major drop in immunisations in two particular months – both of which were during the Hard Lockdown in early 2020. It is however promising that a notable recovery in numbers was recorded since May last year, and that more children under 1 were immunised this December – during the surge of our second wave – than in the previous two Decembers.
Stunting in children and the humanitarian crisis
• Stunting, due a lack of nutrition, is a major risk to the dignity and well-being of our people, made worse by the humanitarian crisis that the Covid-19 pandemic has created. To intervene, we need the data and evidence to design programmes that can work and make a difference.
• The Department of Health will commission a stunting survey -to determine the prevalence as well as the drivers of stunting in our province. Since my address in October, the Department has drafted, shared and approved this baseline survey and we are now in the process of financing it.
• In the Western Cape, we know that feeding children who are hungry is always the right thing to do and that is why we also took the lead to ensure that our children got nutritious food during the lockdown last year, through the introduction of an Emergency School Nutrition Programme. As a result of this emergency programme, funded by our government, we delivered 1,6 million meals to learners across the Western Cape.
• As part of this commitment to fight hunger in our communities, the Department of Agriculture will also be continuing with its successful ‘One Home, One Garden’ Campaign, with a target of creating 1800 additional food gardens in hotspots across the Western Cape. This is in addition to the over 5000 rolled out in the last year.
Early Childhood Development
• Early Childhood Development centres provide an essential service that makes a very meaningful contribution to dignity and well-being in our province. That is precisely why I announced last year that in the eyes of the Western Cape Government, ECDs are now a critical service that we must passionately pursue for our people.
• I have already announced that we will convene a special consultative forum with key stakeholders that are already doing excellent work in this space. The budget to convene and host this forum – which will plot a way forward for the ECD sector in the Western Cape – has now been made available in the Department of the Premier, and we aim to host this exciting engagement in the new financial year.
• The Western Cape has working to help registered ECDs reopen as soon as possible, after what was a very difficult year providing PPE and cleaning materials to ensure the safety of both the children and the staff. We have now assisted over 95% or 3 801 registered ECDs to reopen in the province.
Primary and secondary school education
• Education in the Western Cape has been dealt a double blow with interruptions to learning and extreme budget cuts to both the provincial equitable share and the Education Infrastructure Grant, resulting in the Western Cape having less money for education despite the growing demand in our province.
• We have done whatever we can to protect our critical education budgets, but the bottom line is that we have less money to educate our children at a time when we need to do more.
• We have continued to lobby for schools to reopen based on the sound scientific evidence that children are at low risk for severe Covid-19 infection and low risk spreaders to adults and are in fact safer at school because of our protocols.
• We have procured millions of masks and hundreds of thousands of litres of sanitiser for every school in the province, to ensure that every child, teacher, and admin official is safe.
• We have employed 1 953 teacher assistants between July and the end of September, to ensure that learning could continue during this pandemic.
• We have introduced weekly interactive lessons in all grades based on self-directed learning, so that our learners could stay up to date with the syllabus.
• We have commenced design or construction work on 6 new or replacement schools in the Western Cape.
• We have also put in place the necessary plans to ensure that we can cope with the growing demand for public education, through expanding capacity at existing schools – and especially those that are performing well.
• To ensure the safety of our learners, as part of the Western Cape Safety Plan, we have fenced 27 schools in high-risk areas in the last financial year alone.
• We have embraced innovation and technology and have already launched a pilot project with 16 schools, testing classroom-to-classroom virtual streaming to enable teachers from one school to teach at a school in another area too. To date, this has been expanded to 58 schools across all 8 school districts.
• We have connected 1 297 of the 1 523 public schools in our province to broadband as part of the Western Cape’s broadband network connectivity initiative.
• Two additional collaboration schools- which will allow for the partnering between schools serving disadvantaged communities with a non-profit partner – will also be added to the 13 that already exist in the Western Cape.
• The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa to have created a Schools Evaluation Authority under the Western Cape Provincial Schools Education Act. Ms Karen Bydell, the Chief Evaluator of this authority, and and her team of 4 evaluators completed reviews at 8 schools before the lockdown.
• During the Covid-19 pandemic, when schooling was interrupted, the SEA continued its work, assessing the responsiveness of schools to Covid-19 challenges. In total, 54 of these evaluations were completed by the end of last year.
Housing opportunities in the Western Cape
• It remains a priority that residents have access to the basic services they need for their well-being, including access to sanitation, clean running water, and proper shelter – which is safe, and close to economic opportunities.
• To achieve this goal, we have embarked on a province wide drive to update our housing demand database, with the objective of ultimately ensuring that we have an accurate, transparent and comprehensive database of all citizens who still require housing assistance. We have developed developing a mobile Housing App that allows citizens to register and update their housing demand themselves.
• We have also acquired 130 hectares of land already – despite serious financial constraints – that in the end will have the potential to create over 13 000 housing opportunities in our province.
• We will incorporate sustainable building technology as an alternative to brick and mortar, which is more affordable with a lower impact on the environment.
• As the budget cuts start to pinch, we will have to continuously find new ways to deliver as many housing opportunities as possible.
• We will enable home ownership by assisting municipalities in the Western Cape to unlock title deeds, even after the national government funding for this project was cut.
• We will establish a revolving fund that will allow the Department of Human Settlements to augment its financing, given the latest cuts. This funding will assist in providing the financing needed to facilitate bulk infrastructure development over the medium term.
• We will continue our focus on providing housing subsidies to first time home buyers, through our Finance Linked Individual Subsidy Programme, and the linked Housing Voucher Programme.
• A deferred ownership programme has also been launched in Cape Agulhas. This will enable a prospective homeowner who is unable to get a bond through a bank to enter into a rent to buy contract with a willing seller, with the department’s support.
• It remains my commitment to also ensure that these opportunities are close to areas of economic activity. Our Department of Transport and Public Works has undertaken an initial assessment of the property portfolio for well-located pockets of land across our province that can be used for this purpose. We are now carefully considering the potential and prioritising which may be focused on so that it is a sustainable programme. As a result, this Department has also granted Power of Attorney to the Department of Human Settlements, making available a number of properties close to or in the CBD of Cape Town. All these potential sites have now been scoped in detail, and the potential for each project – including financing – is now being considered.
• A new Western Cape Inclusionary Housing Policy Framework will soon serve before our cabinet for consideration which will enable us to pursue our objectives of achieving integrated housing through land use planning permissions given by municipalities in the Western Cape.
Return of comprehensive health services and responding to TB
• We are committed to using our over 400 primary healthcare facilities, 50 hospitals, 250 ambulances, 13 000 nurses, and 3 800 community healthcare workers to deliver dignity in the Western Cape.
• We must ensure that we reintroduce comprehensive health services so that our people get treated for the many other serious ailments too.
• In my special address in October, I committed our government to the 90-90-90 strategy. This in effect means we will look to ensure that 90% of all TB positive residents are identified, and 90% are then put on the correct medication. In the Western Cape, 89% of people confirmed to have TB in the Western Cape are now on medication, resulting in a successful treatment outcome in 77% of cases.
• While there are some promising developments in treatment, I am very concerned by the growing TB test positivity rate in the Western Cape, which indicates that we are not testing enough people to pick up new TB cases.
• It has increased notably from 13% in March 2020 to 18% in May 2020, leading to a peak of 21% in September last year.
• Our Department of Health will be pursuing every single person who might have TB and ensuring that they get tested and put on treatment – as a matter of priority. We will also ensure that our HIV testing and treatment increases to pre-Covid-19 levels.
• We will also complete 5 major health infrastructure projects in the 2021/2022 financial year including the Helderberg Hospital Emergency Centre, Gansbaai Clinic, Laingsburg Clinic, Victoria Hospital Emergency Centre and the Observatory Forensic pathology institute.
A leaner, more agile government
• As a government, we must also reflect on how we should be doing things differently ourselves. We will have less budget in the years ahead, and so we will have to be leaner, smarter more innovative, and more citizen focused.
• Our cabinet and top management has resolved to begin work on the ‘case for change’ that will fashion a Western Cape Government designed to deliver what our citizens need in the years to come.
• In a comprehensive and consultative fashion, we will investigate new service delivery models that are best suited to achieve this objective.
• We have have already established a Fiscal Transition Support Facility in the Provincial Treasury. Our departments can apply for funding with projects that deliver services in new and more innovative ways – thereby incentivizing change.
• To break down silos in government and to solve societal problems more effectively, we will continue to land the ‘War Room’ approach in our government, using the Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation model to problem solve.
• We will make sure that it becomes easier to work with us as a government. This means not only cutting red tape through our dedicated Ease of Doing Business Unit, but in getting every department to find ways -on an ongoing basis – to remove hurdles that stand in the way of doing business in the Western Cape.
• A leaner, smarter and more agile government that is easier to work with will be a better and more successful vehicle to deliver the change we need.
As a province, we have worked hard to lead from the front, to deliver services, and to use new and innovative ways to do it. My promise to the people of the Western Cape is that this government will continue to lead, to promote dignity, to create jobs and to make this province a safer place for everyone who lives in it.