Towards the end of last year, two reports were released which reflected on the performance of Gauteng Provincial Government. The first report was the Quality of Life Survey which was published and released by the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) on the 13th November 2018, while the second one was the Fifth Political Report to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature on the 30th November 2018.
While reading the above-mentioned reports, I vividly remembered some profound words uttered by the Leader of Opposition, Mmusi Maimaine, during the Debate of the State of the Nation Address on 18 June 2014: “The Twenty Year Review comprehensively identified the substantial progress that has been made since 1994 and the challenges that still need to be overcome. It showed unequivocally that South Africa is now a much better place to live in than it was in 1994”.
Maimane is right – much has been achieved in South Africa broadly and Gauteng in particular since the new democratic dispensation. The Quality of Life Survey asserted that the quality of life in Gauteng is improving. This assertion is supported by the following highlights of Gauteng achievements as presented by Premier Makhura in his political report:
· Gauteng has experienced dramatic demographic change and exponential growth in the size of the population, infrastructure and economy.
· Our province’s population has almost doubled - from 7.8 million in 1996 to 14.7 million in 2018. One in every four people who live in South Africa, lives in Gauteng.
· The provincial economy is more than four times what it was – from a GDP of R290 billion in 1996 to R1.5 trillion in 2018. Our provincial economy is the seventh largest economy in our continent.
· The number of people employed in the Gauteng economy has also doubled – from 2.6 million in 1996 to 5.1 million in 2018. Gauteng has created 420 000 net new jobs since 2014.
· The scale of investment in social and economic infrastructure is four times what it was in 1994. According to the 2017/18 Gauteng City Region Observatory Quality of Life Survey V, access to basic services is much higher and more inclusive than it was in 1994 – formal dwelling is at 81%; piped water is at 91%; electricity is at 92%; sanitation is at 91% and refuse removal is at 83%. These basic services were ranging between 50% and 65% in 1994.
· The size of the public education system has also doubled – from 1.2 million learners in 1994 to 2.4 million learners today. In the past four years, we increased access to Early Childhood Development more than four times from 83 000 children to 483 000 children. We have also invested significant resources in expanding access education by learners with special needs.
· Since 1994, we have built 335 new schools, refurbished more than 10 000 classrooms, converted 1800 classrooms into ICT-enabled classrooms, built 1500 computer labs and 83 new libraries in various communities across the province.
When the African National Congress (ANC) took over the administration of the Gauteng Provincial Government in 1994, they inherited a bankrupt city region with huge infrastructure backlog. The situation was even worse in townships and rural areas where the extent of under-development was overwhelming. Since then, the provincial, metros, and local governments in Gauteng have done much to turn the tide in underserviced areas – the bulk of roads are now tarred; electricity and water infrastructure have been largely deployed; and several clinics have been built.
The improvement of infrastructure has also attracted private sector investments in townships in the form of fast-moving-goods outlets, shopping malls, restaurants, lodges and hotels, car dealerships, and construction of private schools. Gauteng has also restored places of historical value and thus tourism industry is thriving in our townships. All the aforementioned measures have gone a long way to improve the quality of life of the black people (Africans, Coloureds & Indians).
The ANC and its governments in Gauteng have strived to have integrated communities and one nation. As part of dealing with inequality, they have created conducive environment wherein a huge class of black middle and upper-middle classes were created. This is very essential to close the gap between black and white citizens. It is in this premise that suburbs that were previously exclusive for whites now have many black residents. The same is applicable to the schools, hospitals, gyms, restaurants, and sporting facilities. Since June 2014, the Gauteng Provincial Government has procured goods and services from townships and black entrepreneurs to the tune of about R20-billion.
As part of closing our infrastructure gap, Gauteng has concluded a feasibility study of expanding Gautrain to Lanseria, Randburg, Soweto, and Johannesburg central business district. Makhura’s administration has been working with the private sector partners to maintain, repair, and deploy new infrastructure.
It is extremely pleasing to note that Gauteng will benefit immensely from some of the investment pledges that were made during the Investment Conference which took place in October 2018 in Sandton. This province was also honoured to co-host Africa Investment Forum with the African Development Bank in November 2018. This Forum focused on infrastructure finance and one was glad to note that $32-billion worth of transactions were signed for the whole continent, $6.8-billion is coming to the South African economy broadly, but largely to the Gauteng province.
Due to the better quality of life in this province, many people have been relocating to Gauteng to have access to better social and infrastructure services, and to get employment opportunities. Although the movement of people to Gauteng is welcome and justifiable, government’s efforts to effectively provide social and infrastructure services become a moving target. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that the National Treasury and Department of COGTA do not necessarily cater for the migration of people to Gauteng when they decide on allocation of Gauteng budget.
In the midst of improving the lives of black people and under-developed areas, Gauteng had ensured that areas that were previously properly serviced are not neglected. Due to our provision of infrastructure, Sandton has rapidly grown since the ushering of the new democratic dispensation.
I have got no doubt in mind that as Premier Makhura and his team continue to improve the lives of Gauteng residents, they will constantly remember the wise words of former ANC president, Thabo Mbeki, when he said: "We must ensure that today is better than yesterday and that tomorrow will be better than today."
Dr. Dagada is the Founder of GrandPoint Capital. He is on Twitter: @Rabelani_Dagada