Zille zooms in on poverty

2012-02-17 18:51
Cape Town - How to help people out of poverty was the main focus of Western Cape premier Helen Zille's state of the province address in Cape Town on Friday.

She said, since her first speech in 2009, she had made it clear that government's first focus was to reduce poverty because it was an affront to human dignity.

A poor individual did not have equal opportunity to a decent lifestyle through economic wealth, education, health, and safety.

The Western Cape was working on a number of initiatives to remedy this.

"The only sustainable way to beat poverty is by creating opportunities for growth and jobs. This insight forms part of our strategy," Zille said.

She said the strategy was to shift resources and energy into the creation of growth and job opportunities without compromising service delivery in health, education, and social development.

"That is why we have chosen to establish an Economic Development Partnership (EDP), where all stakeholders in the economy will come together to develop and help implement a shared agenda for economic growth, development, and inclusion."

The EDP was registered at the beginning of the year and would be launched in April.

It would include a steering committee of prominent leaders from the business community and government.

Zille said the EDP was the only sustainable way to fight poverty.

Over time, it would result in an improved investment climate, a more competitive and resilient economy and, ultimately, higher levels of growth and employment.

The development partnership would be backed by a boost in infrastructure, starting with three city regeneration projects.

Broadband internet access was a key part of infrastructure, with Zille saying the aim was to penetrate all schools and 70% of government facilities by 2014.

"Within the next two years, as part of a pilot project, we aim to create the largest mesh network in the world that will have connected all households in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, and Saldanha Bay, including the Industrial Development Zone footprint."

Zille did not forget the contingent of poor farm workers across the Cape.

She said she wanted emerging farmers to succeed.

The agriculture and rural development department, together with different "commodity" groups, had invested R91.7m into 85 emerging farmer projects for 2011/12.

For workers without green fingers, the province would soon launch a significant skills development and work experience programme.

Zille said that the key to getting people into the workplace was to focus on education, making sure every child could read, write, and calculate.

Social dysfunction

The provincial education department would invest R466m in textbooks over the next four years to help achieve this goal.

The intention was that every pupil - from Grades 1 to 12 - would have a textbook in each subject.

She said more than two million textbooks were delivered to schools last year.

The poorest public schools were the focus, with the province spending six times more on pupils in poor public schools compared to well-off schools.

Zille said this was bearing fruit as the matric pass rate had improved in poor schools.

As for health, the province was shifting from a focus purely on treatment to that of prevention. A particular focus was on HIV/Aids, especially in poorer communities.

These communities were also plagued by substance abuse and crime.

"Drug and alcohol abuse are the key drivers of the social dysfunction and family break-down that ravage this province."

About 80% of murders were associated with alcohol abuse while drugs, especially Tik, were one of the main drivers of violent crime.

Zille announced that the budget to fight substance abuse had been increased to R67.4m.

To keep youth off the streets, the province had introduced 174 centres in poor communities offering after-school activities.

The premier concluded by addressing the some 500 000 housing unit backlog, saying the pipeline to get a house had broken down regularly in the past.

"It is absolutely pitiful that the regulatory environment makes it impossible to deliver low-cost housing on any site in less than six years."

She said she would make sure the housing pipeline was quicker and more effective.

Read more on:    da  |  helen zille  |  cape town  |  politics  |  local government
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