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Thembelani Maphanga
 
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Letter to my government

14 May 2014, 09:55

Dear Minister of DPE

My name is Thembelani Maphanga, an IT Manager in local government. I have extensive experience and qualifications in IT and feel that the manner in which some of the infrastructure projects are done in a manner that does not address the dire needs of our people. First of all please accept my apology for addressing you on this matter as it may not be an area of jurisdiction I am doing this because you are a minister in my government and may have access to offices that are not made available to us the public.

I have written many letters and proposal to departments and these have fallen on deaf ears for reasons best known to the institutional heads. Minister the issue of alignment and public participation as a principle is very critical and central to human development. We must continue to engage our people earnestly so that we share our experiences and expertise, so that we learn from others instead of assuming that we public officials know it all. I am saying this because we have been trying hard to engage officials tasked with investment decisions and the public views are never taken into account. A case in point is the manner in which Universal Service Agency of South Africa and the Universal Access Fund. We have been trying to engage this agency by interacting with their teams with no luck. Funds from USASA have been used for many years to develop rural communities with minimal impact to our people. The fund has accumulated so much money  that is not being used to change the lives of our people. We have seen a number of computer centres being developed with minimum impact to the rural people of the south. Alfred Nzo District Municipality has around 76,000 households that have electricity. Using an estimated R130m of these funds we could deliver internet access to all our communities that currently have electricity. This will allow us to start talking about the development of content to be delivered and mode of delivery when we have started implementing the infrastructure upgrades. The use of “Web-box” (Vodacom) and “Internet in a box” (MTN) and many other products that are currently available may start the revolution we need to deliver to the expectations of our rural poor people. The more we talk about these projects the more time we loose and never deliver the services that these communities needs desperately. We have the statistics that more than 80% of our people are still living in rural communities and yet we are doing very little to impact on delivery of services to them. We still have almost 99% our rural schools without libraries (national study says that only 10% of public schools have libraries). We must do something about this issue because we continue to produce children that will not impact positively the economic and human development of our country. We continue to have less than 6% of our people without matric (Alfred Nzo District Municipality has only 5.8% people with matric). Whatever we have as a development initiative, minimum effect will be achieved as long as our people are not ready to respond to the initiatives. We continue to have high levels of literacy and unemployment but we do not see developments that will see a change in these communities. Minister I know that you have access to these statistics in your offices and you may have even more detail than I do. I would like to come up with proposals that will see our people begin to benefit from government investment :

  1. Schools Infrastructure Investment – Building a bigger middle class

It is common knowledge that when building a school between 25% and 35% of government investment will go to profits. If we are going to invest R10bn in the next 10yrs we know that at least 25% of this amount will go to profits. This approach will create the millionaires that are found in the region. The sad fact is that the companies that venture into these projects are not sustainable in the medium to long term. These companies live from one tender to the next. The majority exist on paper and they are staffed only when they have been awarded contracts.

It is my view that creating a 10yr plan that is focused of creating sustainable living for our people can be achieved if we were to change approach in this area:

    1. Identify the needs in the next 20yrs taking into account the population growth and the backlogs that still exist in the country

    2. Develop a programme made up of different projects

    3. Identify the skills requirements for the building of schools

    4. Partner with institutions of higher learning and develop training programmes that will deliver the skills required for the building projects

    5. Identify unemployed youths and train them as resources of the programme

    6. Employ the youths under the department of public works (to build schools in the next 10yrs) – giving them salaries between R8,000 and R15,000

    7. Pull out the schools building projects from Tenders and allocate this task to the department of public works

    8. Start with the schools building project using the R10bn

This approach will most definitely not create millionaires but will create a big middle class. This approach will see economic activity in rural areas of the south. More people will be able to afford decent living and be able to take their children to school. Skills and literacy levels will improve and we will see better living conditions. Some of excess skills will be able to venture into other projects and programmes run by public sector and private sector

Is it my view that this will be a pilot project on how we can best utilise infrastructure investment to uplift the rural communities. It is not the priority of government to create more millionaires as opposed to creating a better life for all. Restructuring the R4 Trillion Strategic Infrastructure budget can be used to impact positively in the lives of our people.  

  1. Universal Access to information – Technology Project

The next 20 years will see economic growth in the Information Economy. It is therefore critical that we position our strategic planning to accommodate this growth and therefore get the benefit in this growth. We must develop programmes that will utilise the existing resources. Given that our skills and literacy levels are very low there is a need for us to rapidly develop skills in the technology space and introduce more young people into the field. We also must utilise the IT investment to introduce more organisations and entrepreneurs into the filed. It is from this basis that we need to utilise the Universal Access Fund to bring about long term change that will see young people involved in IT from an early age. We must deliver solutions that will make sure that our people have got access to information in rural areas. This project will then look at three areas:

    1. The tools and facilities that we can use to receive and process information e.g. Tablets, Smartphones, Web-box, Internet in a box etc.

    2. The second project will be a massive skills development and training across rural villages of youths in different areas of IT

    3. The development of content/products and services

All three areas require significant investment yet the benefits could lead South Africa into a direction that will change how business is done, whilst making sure that our communities can benefits from the information growth economy.

  1. Green Economy – ANDM The Food Basket of South Africa

The last programme is to present ANDM as the food basket of South Africa. The area covered by ANDM stretches from the mountains bordering Lesotho, the hills and valleys bordering KZN, the coastline and the borders with OR Tambo. This area has access to vast areas or arable land, and have access to human resource that can be re-trained to participate in this economy. This project possesses all the areas of expertise that our young people would be interested in, including:

    1. Research and develop

    2. Engineering

    3. Transportation and logistics

    4. Economic and Accounting

    5. Agriculture

    6. Zoology and botany

    7. Horticulture

    8. Livestock farming

If managed well, all these areas of specialisation could be developed to support achieve the main objective to make this region “the food Basket of South Africa”. This focused vision can and will allow all future planning to be more focused in making sure that this vision is a reality.

Minister Gigaba, we have been dictated to for a very long time by big business and farming communities. There is a need that we break the cycle of poverty, underdevelopment, poverty and unemployment in our country. For this to happen we need focused programmes that we change the lives of our people in the rural areas using the resources that are at their disposal. We must begin to invest heavily in programmes that may not benefit big multi-national organisations but benefit our people.

I do hope that this email will reach your desk and will benefit my people in the medium to long term

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