Cape Town - The cost and effectiveness of the Western Cape’s nine Open Government First Thursday events since 2019, which have cost the taxpayer R221 885.41, have been questioned by the opposition and community activists.
The activists have asked why officials expected people to come to see them in the CBD instead of visiting communities to see problems for themselves.
The function, an initiative of Premier Alan Winde’s administration, is held in the concourse of 7 Wale Street, the provincial legislature building which also houses his office, and was relaunched last month after the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions.
The issue of cost and effectiveness was stirred by provincial leader of the opposition Cameron Dugmore (ANC), who asked Winde about the initiative’s objectives and targeted audience.
In a written query to Winde, Dugmore also wanted to know what costs the provincial government had incurred as a result of this initiative since its inception, how many events had been held and how many people had been reached.
Winde said the initiatives provided residents, businesses and visitors with the opportunity to engage with him, MECs, the Province’s director-general and most recently the City, in one-on-one and in-person meetings.
He said the Covid-19 regulations impacted on his administration’s ability to host in-person First Thursdays for almost two years but, following recent regulation changes, they had resumed.
“As of our last First Thursday, on April 7 this year, there have been 1172 citizens who have registered to engage with myself, an MEC or a City representative at our in-person First Thursdays.”
He said the events offered an opportunity for those who attended to share challenges faced or pitch their ideas. These include funding requests, skills development opportunities, job-seekers, service delivery matters or business proposals.
“A total of 1142 matters that were logged have been resolved through the various departments.” Dugmore said except for one First Thursday, which was held in Cloetesville, they had all been held in the CBD and were nothing but a public relations exercise.
He said holding First Thursdays in the CBD further amplified the distance and maintained the provincial government’s failures to engage communities in service delivery issues such as overflowing sewers, poor roads, staffing shortages in clinics and hospitals and schools in disrepair.
It was great to welcome our colleagues from the @CityofCapeTown_ to this evening’s #FirstThursday. This event is a fantastic opportunity for our citizens to engage with their government, raising new ideas as well as challenges that they face. pic.twitter.com/kypwgA18ht— Premier Alan Winde (@alanwinde) April 7, 2022
Khayelitsha CPF member Francina Lukas said while she applauded the Province’s wanting to address people’s issues, in reality people with real problems would not be able to make use of the opportunity due to unemployment and not having money to travel to town.
Lukas said: “The Province must restrategise if they are really serious about helping the poor and the desperately needy with housing, employment and other issues.”
Hanover Park CPF public relations officer Kashiefa Mohammed said the social issues that needed addressing did not happen in “lavish” government offices, but in the community .
“A good government is one that works hard and is prepared to get its hands dirty.”
She said government officials should be out in the communities and not expect the poor to spend money on transport to come to see them in the CBD.