An open letter to Jacob Zuma

2013-02-14 00:00

Dear Msholozi

TONIGHT you will deliver the fifth important speech in your capacity as the head of state since your election in 2009.

As you deliver the annual state of the nation address, there is so much that is expected and I am among those who look forward to it.

So much has been said about what you should be telling the millions of South Africans who will be viewing your speech from their homes.

Some have said you may use the speech to seek a buy-in for the National Development Plan and announce plans to address unemployment and boost economic growth.

However, I concur with those who believe your speech should go beyond everything you have said before and unveil a new chapter for our country that will take it to greater heights.

It is in this context that I cannot help but think that whatever mega-projects you announce, if any, will be for your home province, KwaZulu-Natal, where I live.

In your last address, you announced a huge campaign to build infrastructure to boost the economy and create jobs.

Of the R200 billion for the projects you announced, our province was set to benefit from the improved movement of goods and economic integration through a logistics and industrial corridor linking Durban, Free State and Gauteng .

It follows, therefore, that you must at least indicate the progress made in this important project in the fight against the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and equality.

As you outline your catalogue of projects, I wish you could take note of some issues that are of concern to KwaZulu-Natal.

One of these relate to the study conducted by the African Food Security Urban Network, which found astonishingly high poverty levels in cities in southern Africa, including Pietermaritzburg.

Pietermaritzburg was found to have 87% food insecurity levels, which is of huge concern.

The study also found that about four in five households do not have enough to eat at any given time.

This is very worrisome and I believe similar poverty levels are also felt in other towns of our province.

This study should spur you, Msholozi, into announcing a project that will reduce poverty — which the ruling party identifies as a challenge along with unemployment and inequality.

I assume corruption will take centre stage in your speech, although what you will be saying will be received with scepticism.

In this province, there are some municipalities that are sitting on reports that uncovered corruption. I appeal to you to ask the eThekwini and other councils to make such reports public and act against those who are found to be on the wrong side of the law.

Education was named by the ANC as one of its priorities. It is my humble appeal to you to take note of the high vacancy rate in our provincial schools, where a reply from the MEC showed that 10% of schools were without principals. The percentage translates to 576 schools.

Rhino poaching continues to be a problem across the country, KZN included. Please use your influence to ensure that the province’s conservation agency gets an extra cash boost in addition to the R19 million to be allocated for the next financial year.

It can’t be that there is a reduction from the R28 million allocated last December, when no significant strides have been made in the fight against rhino poaching.

Msholozi, your speech should seek to take cognisance of our province.

The health of our people should be a priority and reports about the drying up of funds for some state-aided hospitals cannot continue.

More funds should be made available to the Health Department to assist hospitals that find themselves in that plight, like Durban’s McCord and St Aidan’s hospitals.

Yours sincerely …

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