6/27/14 Gauteng premier David Makhura holds The United Nations Public Service Forum awarded to the Gauteng Department of Education’s Secondary School Improvement Programme that has turned around the performance of schools and learners in poor communities. during his State Of the Province Address (SOPA 2014) at the Sam Ntuli hall in Thokoza township. Picture:Paballo Thekiso

Johannesburg -

Gauteng premier David Makhura is “embarrassed” that the government has not been able to meet its own targets to eradicate bucket toilets and provide proper sanitation to people in townships and informal settlements.

Makhura said this on Friday after his State of the Province address in the legislature sitting in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni.

“I am irritated by us making commitments to the people and not meeting them,” he said. “It’s an embarrassment that we have not eradicated the bucket system, but the commitments we are making today are very serious.”

This comes after a recent protest by Diepkloof hostel dwellers, some who still use buckets, over the government’s failure to empty their toilets for months.

Makhura pledged to make extra efforts to invest in the renewal of townships and old informal settlements that have been neglected.

He said the government couldn’t revitalise the township economy if the social and economic infrastructure was decaying and the look and feel of the working class residential areas were neglected.

“In the 200 days, we will speed up the handing over of existing housing projects that are complete and make sure that all house are allocated to the legitimate owners,” he said. “As part of preventing the abuse of the housing waiting list, we will introduce the use of biometric technology.”

Focusing foremost on the economy, Makhura said his administration had adopted a 10-pillar programme of radical transformation, modernisation and re-industrialisation of Gauteng over the next five to 15 years.

He made bold promises on job creation, totalling 300 000 jobs through the rollout of public transport infrastructure and development of the aerotropolis and OR Tambo special economic zone.

He said Gauteng was trailing behind other city-regions in the world in terms of investing in skills, research, innovation and economic infrastructure that enable the building of a smart and green economy. Townships had to be self-sufficient and vibrant economic centres.

Over the next 100 days, his government would unveil a comprehensive extended public works programme and community work projects that will create more than 1 million job opportunities within a period of five years.

“This comprehensive programme will be linked to providing temporary relief for a longer duration and offer training to women, youth and people with disability. It will also be linked to the revitalisation of the township economy and renewal of township infrastructure.”

They plan to build a new social sector of the economy that is driven by small and medium enterprises and community co-operatives. Incubation centres and township hubs that offer technical support, funding and access to markets will also be launched.

The township hubs were also Makhura’s predecessor Nomvula Mokonyane’s flagship to create jobs, but were beset by problems of unexplained spending of more than R300 million in contracts and claims of fraudulent overtime payment of more than R100m.

“We are determined to revitalise and mainstream the township economy by supporting the development of township enterprises, cooperatives and SMMEs that will produce goods and services that meet the needs of township residents,” Makhura said.

The new Gauteng premier derided the municipal integrated development plan processes as nothing but “ just a ritual” that had to be reviewed.

“We shall work with local government to review current structures and process of community participation. People’s enthusiasm, initiative and creativity should be fully harnessed.”

The premier said a new Natalspruit regional hospital that would have 821 beds would be opened in the next 100 days.

He reiterated the province’s commitment to providing better health care.

Makhura said education would be the backbone of the radical socio-economic transformation the government hoped for.

He said his government and municipalities were working together with the private sector in the rollout of broadband and free wi-fi across the province.

“Gauteng should be able to realise 100 percent internet connectivity in the next five years,” he said.

- Pretoria News Weekend