Questions on airport, heritage budgets

2010-12-01 00:00

NOT everyone in the KZN Legislature is happy with the provincial Treasury’s decision to give R40 million to upgrade the Pietermaritzburg airport.

At yesterday’s final sitting of the provincial parliament, Dr Lionel Mtshali of the IFP felt the move was unconstitutional as airports are a municipal responsibility. He said this was the situation with the Ulundi Airport. “Why does this Pietermaritzburg airport not become the responsibility of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, if the Msunduzi Municipality can’t pay for its upkeep?” Mtshali asked.

The airport came up in discussion on the Adjustment Estimate Bill. The debate is an annual event in which the legislature formally requests funds from Treasury for expenditure that was unforeseen and unavoidable at the time provincial budgets were prepared.

Roman Liptak (IFP) said considering the financial crisis at the Msunduzi municipality, both Treasury and the legislature will need to see to it that the money reaches its target.

There was also criticism for the R10 million requested for the 1860 Heritage commemoration and funds for the Albert Luthuli monument. Chairperson of the Finance Committee Belinda Scott said the heritage section in the provincial government needs to plan early so that there is no need to put heritage functions on the adjustment budget.

Finance MEC Ina Cronjé noted that that a lot was said about money allocated to the airport.

She said she wanted to make it clear that this was for infrastructure development only and not for operational costs. She added that the funding was not unconstitutional since the Constitution also allows for both provincial and national government to support and strengthen local government. “This is also a regional airport and I can’t think of any capital in the world without an airport. Since the new King Shaka Airport opened, people from Kloof and Hillcrest have also indicated that given a choice they would rather fly from here [Pietermaritzburg], said Cronjé.

The MEC added that the province also assisted the Durban Municipality with funding for the Moses Mabhida Stadium, so it was not unusual to give money to the airport.

She said province also finances local economic development programmes in local government. This money is made available to stimulate economic growth in small towns.

Cronjé said a viable runway will stimulate economic growth.

“We did extensive research on the viability of the project and I will brief committees on it at some stage,” she added.

The Adjustment Estimate Bill was passed with opposition parties stating their reservations on some of the items. Their biggest concern was over R20 million set aside for the deployment of youth ambassadors across KZN (see box).

Political parties took the opportunity to compliment Cronjé and her department for, as Johann Krog of the DA said, “turning a runaway overdraft into a runaway credit balance”. However, he felt the provincial Finance Department could do more on the corruption front.

He said it is not enough to target civil servants alone. Anti-corruption projects should target the politicians and their “hangers-on” as well, “look at the ‘amigos’ case currently before the courts,” Krog added. The case relates to corruption in the Health Department.

The house heard that national government was so impressed with the cost-cutting measures in KZN that Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan is getting other provinces to follow suit.

Cronjé thanked her fellow MPLs for their support of the adjustment bill.

THERE was cynical reaction from opposition parties to the news that R20 million has been set aside in the adjustment budget for the deployment of youth ambassadors across KZN.

IFP leader in the legislature Dr Bonginkosi Buthelezi questioned the timing of this project so close to the local government elections. He said prior to the national election in 2009 there was a project involving community development workers. “We need to be briefed on how much of this R20 million will go to administration, how much to stipends, who will administer the funds and who will process the research findings brought in by these ambassadors,” said Buthelezi.

The DA’s John Steenhuisen said he hoped that the youth ambassadors do not turn out to be deployed cadres of the party following a political mandate, doing the work of the ANC and selected on party affiliation.

Finance MEC Ina Cronjé said it is a pity that there was cynicism around the youth ambassador project. She said it is absolutely not true that it is an election ploy. This was a project that the premier mentioned in his State of the Province address. It is about young people “getting involved in projects to promote behaviour change”. She said the reason why the R20 million was only being allocated now was because the full programme had only now come to fruition. Cronjé added that the proof of the pudding is in the eating and she felt certain that if this project is properly run as envisaged, it will “revolutionise our whole society. I truly think we need to talk about this programme, when time permits, so that there is far greater understanding of what government is trying to achieve,” she said.

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