Doubts over premier’s plans

2016-02-26 09:35
Doubt have emerged over KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu's plans for the province.

Doubt have emerged over KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu's plans for the province. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - Not even an announcement that nearly R900 million is being spent on drought alleviation efforts was enough to rescue Premier Senzo Mchunu’s State of the Province Address (Sopa) as uncertainty over his future overshadowed proceedings on Thursday.

With two centres of power existing in the provincial ANC, Mchunu’s speech received a lukewarm response as opposition MPLs doubted whether he would remain in power long enough to implement the promises he made to the people of the province.

Jaded MPLs did not follow protocol by giving the premier a standing ovation after he had delivered his speech.

Instead, the only applause came from ANC MPLs.

Later, at a press briefing after his address, Mchunu could not give clarity over his future.

He said the national and provincial ANC leadership had powers to elect and recall premiers.

“All I can do is to focus on my job while I am here,” he said.

Opposition parties said they doubted that Mchunu would be in power long enough to implement his Sopa promises, while ANC sources have said that a provincial Cabinet reshuffle is imminent, with Mchunu being said to have fallen out of favour with both the provincial and national ANC leadership.

The DA leader in the legislature, Sizwe Mchunu, went so far as to question whether the speech presented by the premier on Thursday was the real Sopa.

“There is confusion as to which one is really the Sopa. Is it the one that he delivered today, or the one that was delivered by Sihle Zikalala when he responded to the State of the Nation Address (Sona)?” he asked.

Zikalala, the ANC provincial chairperson, participated last week in Parliament during the debate of the Sona that had been delivered by President Jacob Zuma.

The inauguration of Zikalala into the provincial legislature late last year led to chaos.

Opposition parties stormed out of the sitting in protest against the allocation of the first seat, which is traditionally reserved for the premier, to Zikalala.

The IFP leader in the legislature Blessed Gwala said the uncertainty had left them playing a wait-and-see game.

“How can we believe that he is going to implement what he is saying, because maybe tomorrow someone new will take over and run the province? So we will wait and see,” he said.

NFP leader Vikizitha Mlotshwa said “even tomorrow we could hear anything”, referring to the expected Cabinet reshuffle.

EFF member Vukani Ndlovu said a change of leadership would mean the projects proposed by the premier would not come into effect.

“This is an issue of concern to us,” he said.

However, political analyst Protas Madlala said there was nothing unusual in the way the opposition parties had responded to Mchunu.

“They always find issues. Look at the EFF: they used the Nkandla scandal as their main political strategy. Now they have moved to the Gutpas,” he said.

“Now we are hearing about the name Zupta,” he said.

Madlala said it was normal for opposition parties to always use the weakness of the ruling party to advance their political agenda. “Especially with local government elections coming, they are going to use every opportunity they get to push their agendas,” he said.

THE provincial government is spending close to R872 million to fight the current drought that the province is facing.

By the end of the current financial year, the provincial government will have spent the money via the municipal Infrastructure Grant on water projects, Premier Senzo Mchunu said.

“Progress had been made with larger water schemes such as the Greater Mthonjaneni Phase 2, the Lower Tugela Scheme as well as the Western and Northern aqueducts in eThekwini,” he said during his State of the Province Address yesterday.

Mchunu said the Zululand District was the latest to be hit by drought.

The drought would affect food prices, and the poor would be the worst affected, Mchunu said.

The premier said the provincial government is expected to cut over R1bn in spending in the first year of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework.

The government would also focus on tracking and reducing carbon emissions.

A study had been initiated to investigate the harvesting of rain water to improve water provision and reduce utility costs.

The Office of the Premier would lead efforts to mobilise civil servants who owe the National Student Financial Aid Scheme R400 million to pay back the money.

Mchunu said acting director general Frikkie Brooks had been tasked with finding ways of collecting the money owed to NSFAS.

Departments had also been directed to set their targets in line with their Employment Equity gaps.

The premier had expressed concerns that women and people with disabilities were still under-represented, particularly at senior management level.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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