KZN Premier Senzo Mchunu, at his recent State of the Province Address, said the dwindling economy with its tangible effects on the unemployment rate and poverty has to be dealt with head on. The address took place at the Royal Showgrounds under the theme “consolidating progress we have made, and stepping up the pace to achieve radical socioeconomic transformation to end poverty in our lifetime”. The State of the Province Address was attended by politicians, business people, celebrities and the public. Mchunu reiterated the need to address crime and land reform issues. “Poverty and inequality remains persistent. We are not pleased about the fact that the percentage of people in our province living below the food poverty line of R318 per month rose from 25% to 28 % between 2010 and 2014, despite the fact that we had set a 2015 target of reducing this figure to 18% by 2015. “Similarly, social inequality measured as the share of income earned by the poorest 60% of the population remained unmoved at 17.6% between 2010 and 2014, not materialising the target of 19.4% we had hoped to achieve by 2015. “It is clear therefore that a different and more coherent approach is required to address the challenges related to poverty and inequality,” said Mchunu. He added that crime negatively affects investor confidence on KZN’s shores. “Crime statistics for our province are both unfortunate and disturbing in that our province has seen an increase over the past year in crimes related to murder, attempted murder, assault, arson, stock theft, shoplifting, business robbery, truck hijacking, as well as drug-related crimes,” he said. He also expressed concern about farm murders. “We are equally concerned about the escalation of farm murders and tension between commercial farmers and farm tenants and labourers. This is an extremely destabilising factor. It places our people and the rural economy at risk. “Issues related to stock theft further exacerbates this situation. We therefore call for intensified action from policing and criminal justice structures to stem the tide of such crime.”Mchunu said the economy can be enhanced by focusing on the seven national priority economic interventions - resolving the energy crises, moderating workplace conflict, revitalising the agriculture value chain, introducing targeted support for the metals and engineering field, sustainable economic development and private sector investment, unlocking small, medium and micro-sized enterprises and co-operatives’ potential and consolidating ICT through the telecommunications sector. Mchunu reiterated that HIV/Aids, the drop in matric pass rate and the drought need special attention. “As we celebrate some of the great advancements we have made to improve the health of our communities, in particular in respect of the rate for HIV/Aids mother-to- child transfer mentioned earlier, there are still serious concerns about the spread of this dreaded disease and we cannot let our guard down for a moment.” Mchunu’s speech has received a backlash. Democratic Alliance’s Sizwe Mchunu said:, “Our province is facing a major challenge of drug addiction, particularly among young people. “Whoonga is now the favoured drug of choice and has resulted in many of these young lives being ruined. The premier failed to show leadership in this regard. You cannot talk about fighting crime when you do not address substance and drug abuse. “There was not a single mention of drug addiction and how his government plans to fight it.” He also added that the premier has been lenient in addressing land reform issues and the drought.