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Durban - Senzo Mchunu used his maiden state of the province address - described as a “campaign speech” - to highlight the achievements of the ANC-led government in KwaZulu-Natal.
In a speech likely to be further criticised by opposition parties when it is debated tomorrow, the KZN premier focused mainly on the achievements that have been made to improve health, education, infrastructure and the quality of life in the province.
He said KZN was a much better place than it was some 20 years ago.
University of KwaZulu-Natal politics lecturer, Zakhele Ndlovu, said it had been expected that the speech would highlight the government’s achievements.
By doing this Mchunu had continued on the same theme adopted by President Zuma in his State of the Nation address, Ndlovu said.
“Remember that this is election year. Therefore, the focus of the ANC is to remind the people of the achievements of the ANC-led government. The ANC is clearly using these platforms to campaign, mainly because opposition parties like the EFF and the DA are saying that they (the ANC) had failed to deliver,” he said.
“So to counter this the ANC is telling the good story while also acknowledging there is still some improvement to be made in some areas.”
Some of the achievements Mchunu listed include:
* Increasing access to clean water from 47.7 percent of the population who had access in 1994 to 85.1 percent by last year.
* Reduction of mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 20.8 percent in 2002 to 1.5 percent last year.
* Investing R13 billion in 3 500 education infrastructure projects since 2009, which included replacing 54 mud schools with modern infrastructure.
* 509 896 houses built and 887 629 service sites developed in the past five years.
* The number of clinics increased from 240 in 1994 to 644 last year at a total cost of R990 million.
* HIV prevalence stabilised from 39.5 percent in 2004 to 37.4 percent currently and reduced HIV prevalence among 15-24-year-olds from 31 percent to 25.5 percent.
* The malnutrition rate of children under 5 years was reduced from 9.5 per 1 000 persons to 6.7 per 1 000 persons.
In his address, Mchunu admitted that much work still lay ahead for the new administration, which will take over after the May 7 elections.
“We now need to move with speed to deliver basic services to our people. Complacency is not an option because the consequences of that are too dire to contemplate,” he said.
Mchunu said the only way to continue with the “good” work was to ensure the economy of the province grew. The province is hoping to create 2.1 million jobs by 2030.
He said the dependence on the state and social grants was placing increased demands on state resources.
“This is obviously not a trend that must be sustained. However, in the face of tough global economic conditions, the weakest and the poorest must feel protected.”
He said 3.7 million people received some form of grant in KZN. This figure had grown from 613 756 in the year 2000.
While most of the speech was lacking in firm commitments, Mchunu said the bucket system of sanitation being used in 1 575 households in KwaMashu (Wards 39, 40 and 46) would be eradicated by the end of this month. He said 60 ablution facilities would be provided to service these houses at a cost of R25 million.
“We take the view that the bucket system of sanitation is degrading and indecent and therefore it must be eradicated as a matter of urgency”
Ndlovu said the premier might have decided not to make firm commitments mainly because he was yet to become premier in the province after the May 7 elections.
“Although I don’t see any reason why he can’t come back as the premier of the province, I still think it is why he decided to play it safe.”