Premier Phumulo Masualle on Friday delivered his last state of the province address as the first citizen of the Eastern Cape.
A relaxed Masualle told City Press he was elated with what he has achieved as he leaves office, for starters the matric pass rate had improved and the provincial economy was stable.
For the first time since 1994, the province broke into the 70% threshold and became the most improved province last year after achieving a 70.6% pass rate.
It has seen steady progress in its matric results since introducing a three-year-turnaround plan in 2016 – which was in its final year last year.
The province achieved a 59.3% in 2016 and 65% in 2017.
Last year’s remarkable performance lifted it out of the bottom of the class in terms of provinces, a place which now belongs to Limpopo.
“We were beginning to lose pride as a province. I think the turn of events, particularly in 2018, have brought back the confidence that we also can do better. I think we are turning the fortunes in terms of performance in the education sector which also becomes the measure of progress and the measure to succeed,” Masualle said.
He also lauded improved labour relations in the education sector which has seen little or no teacher protests in the past few years.
On the economic side during his speech in Bhisho, Masualle said despite the challenges of constrained global and domestic economies, a tight fiscal environment and long drought season, the provincial economy has made a positive contribution towards the betterment of the lives of the people.
He said the two industrial development zones in the province, together with the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, have attracted investments well above R30 billion and created more than 29 000 jobs.
“There was a time in this province when we were really unsound financially. It took two terms to really get the administration, from a financial point of view, being solidified, reliable, and where we are not clutching at straws. I would say I think this term we are ending on a very stable footing.”
He said in the past five years his administration had spent more than R850 million on roads and bridges for increased access to schools, health institutions, tourism entities and agricultural facilities.
The premier also boasted of the achievements in delivering basic services.
“To date, more than 1.3 million households have been provided with basic sanitation. This translates to 80% access from the 69.1% at the beginning of the fifth term of administration.
“Over 1.4 million households have access to basic electricity, which translates to 85.4% access from the 77.8% at the beginning of the fifth term of administration.”
He said his administration had also improved audit outcomes of departments, from eight unqualified opinions at the beginning of the term to thirteen departments with unqualified audit opinions.
In improving the health sector, the premier said his administration had committed themselves to the implementation of a service transformation plan to improve the quality of service in the public health institutions in the province.
“With respect to the development of health care professionals, up to 300 nurses have been developed yearly through the links with the All Saints University of Fort Hare programme, as well as the doctor’s development programme.”
He said from 2015 to date, 1.5 million people have been tested for HIV/AIDS.
There has also been a marked decrease of TB prevalence, he said, from 967 incidences per 1000 in 2014 to 506 incidences per 1000 in 2018.
Masualle also told City Press that he was leaving the province in a stable condition, although there might well have been some challenges along the way.
“We are not fighting off crisis after crisis here. Yes, there are challenges that are abound, with crime which is particularly annoying at times, with drugs and gangs. But these are matters found in some pockets for which we have responses. They are not so pervasive that you would say we are overwhelmed by them.”
Masualle admitted problems of corruption in public institutions, including in local municipalities, needed special attention and that they should have done more to support municipalities to perform better.
“A very thorough drive against corruption will help clean most of our administration including local government.”
Masualle also thanked the people of the province and his organisation the ANC for having afforded him the opportunity to be the first citizen of the home of legends.
“I am absolutely grateful. I have been met with nothing but kindness. I cannot recall anywhere where I would say I have been met with rejection. The people of the Eastern Cape are very sweet. They are very kind. Of course they are very tenacious, they make their views known.
“It’s an opportunity I would appreciate for the rest of my life. And of course thanks go to the ANC. If it was not for the ANC and its allies, certainly I would never have had this opportunity, so I am very grateful. It’s an experience I will cherish all my life.”
Asked what his future plans were after he passes the “premiership baton”, Masualle said he would love to do something different and take a break but that was not up to him to decide but the ANC.
Opposition parties, however, were not entirely happy with his term of office nor his speech on Friday.
Nqaba Bhanga, the DA’s premier candidate for the Eastern Cape, said that the state of the province was given by a broken man and that “he must just leave”.
“This is a broken man who has broken our province for the past year. He was giving a eulogy of the ANC. There is no hope and no vision for our people. This government has failed our people. The latest statistics show that 1.2 million people in the Eastern Cape are unemployed. The unemployment rate has increased to 36.1%,” he said.
Thando Mpulu, United Democratic Movement MPL, said Masualle’s government had not been properly coordinated, including the fact that half of his cabinet had been changed.
“That says that he had a government that was dysfunctional. He must just accept that he has failed in his term,” said Mpulu.
Yazini Tetyana, EFF MPL and provincial leader, said they were disappointed as well.
“We came here with our confidence very low. We don’t have confidence in the administration that has been running the province since 2014. We can’t show any tangible things that they have done as an intervention in the province. The premier has only three months left in office so he can’t commit beyond that. We are just wasting resources coming here. We must just wait for May 8 for the new administration to take over,” Tetyana said.