KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Finance, Belinda Scott, and head of department, Simiso Magagula, at the KZN legislature during the 2017/18 Medium Term Expenditure Framework budget speech.
Durban - Transporting food from Durban to feed people in government hospitals and schools in remote areas has to stop, Belinda Scott, the MEC for ­Finance said on Tuesday.

Scott, who was addressing the media after tabling her R115 billion provincial government budget in the legislature, said local farmers would be supported instead.

All provincial government departments had to set aside a percentage of their budget to support them, she said.

“We are all targeting agrarian reform: we have got to get serious about it.”

Scott said while the financial year was a difficult one for the government, there was hope South Africa would get out of the economic quagmire.

“I am confident the provincial treasury will keep the budget in the black. They have exercised excellent fiscal responsibility since 2008-09.”

The province’s cash reserves might have declined because of more pressure on the fiscus, but this was being managed and a close eye would be kept on the service delivery departments to ensure projects remained in place.

KZN’s provincial funding from the national government had been cut, and together with the province’s own reductions, there was a total of R439.632 million less.

A major impact was that Izinduna (headmen) were to be paid. This followed a presidential proclamation signed three years ago. However, it did not come with a budget and all efforts to get funding from the national fiscus had failed.

Now the provincial government had agreed to fund the headmen, with 50% of the money coming from the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the other half split between all the other departments, which would have to reprioritise their programmes.

Scott told the briefing that there had initially been 3 100 headmen, but an audit had revealed that some had died, and others worked in the public sector, which meant they could not get two salaries.

The exact figure was still ­being finalised. They would have to get back pay to February 2014, when the proclamation was signed.

She said the provincial government “could not wait any longer” for something to be done about the crime, murders and hijacking of vehicles in the Jozini area.

The proposed border development agency had not yet been set up, and the KZN government had allocated R48m for cross-border crime-fighting. Two-metre-high barriers would be installed on a 25km stretch of the open border. It was hoped to recoup funding from Home Affairs and the SANDF.

Fronting was a reality and the provincial government was not seeing real economic empowerment of Africans, and so was taking steps to address this through the radical economic transformation programmes, which involved setting up a centralised unit in the Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs department to co-ordinate the implementation of the programme in provincial departments and municipalities.

Scott told the Legislature that the provincial infrastructure master plan was well under way, with the key infrastructure areas to be focused on being harbours, airports, road, rail, water, sanitation, electricity, ICT, school and health facilities, human settlements, as well as specialist infrastructure to support lead economic sectors.

More than R12.041bn would be spent on various infrastructure projects in the financial year, Scott said.

Education and health got the lion’s share with education getting R47.477bn (41.2%) and health, R39.548bn (34.3%).

Some highlights are:

* The Department of Education will construct new schools for pupils with special needs. The focus will also be on schools with inadequate toilets, overcrowding and ­specialist classrooms.

The construction of 34 new schools started in previous years will be completed.

* Most of the health budget will go to primary health care services. There will also be new ambulances and medical equipment, including X-ray machines and CT scanners.

* There will be a continued focus on slums clearance projects. There are 116 projects at various stages of completion, which would provide permanent housing for 134601 families.

* Work will start on more than 24000 others and almost 4000 are expected to be finished by the end of the financial year.

Daily News