Free State Premier Ace Magashule reshuffled his cabinet this week. This followed after a vacancy in the provincial executive council was created when his Agriculture MEC Mamiki Qabathe was elected as the speaker for the provincial legislature two months ago. Magashule appointed a new comer – Dorah Coetzee as the MEC for public works and infrastructure in the place of Sam Mashinini. He was moved to the department of small business development, tourism and economic and environmental affairs. The former MEC at this department, Mosebenzi Zwane, was then reappointed as the MEC of agriculture.
MEC Mosebensi Zwane
He was MEC for small business development, tourism, economic and environmental affairs.
Now: MEC for agriculture.
What he achieved in his previous capacity
· His department made R15m to boost the income of the provincial government with its annual game auction last month. This is R2m more than last year and he announced that the department is going to have a second auction – for the first time – later this year.
· The Free State government hosted a successful China Week last month. Zwane said he hopes it will boost international arrivals in Free State. During his term the province moved three places up on the list of where provinces rank in terms of its popularity as tourism destination.
· A total of nine provincial resorts have been upgraded during his term.
Challenges he is facing in his new capacity:
· He will have to answer on investigations by the accountant general and the public protector into the Vrede Dairy Project. The controversial R570-million project was started at the department during Zwane’s previous term as the MEC of Agriculture.
· The department will have to urgently attend to assessment about the damaged cause by wide spread drought in the province.
· The department was without a political head for two months and Zwane will have some catching up to do.
· Zwane will have to answer to questions about the sustainability of several agricultural projects undertaken by the department.
MEC Sam Mashinini
He was the MEC for public works and infrastructure.
Now: MEC for small business development, tourism, economic and environmental affairs.
What he achieved so far in his former capacity
· The Free State department of public works and Infrastructure started with a huge project to update the asset register of the provincial government. Mashinini said his department started with immovable assets such as buildings and pieces of land that belong to the government. He said officials in his department are tasked to make sure that land belonging to the government all over the province is captured in the asset register.
· The department started to look into new ways to help fill the government coffers. Mashinini announced in his budget speech that his department is going to start charging for billboards and posters to be placed on government buildings. He said this is expected to boost the R25.7m rand of rental income from government buildings that was collected during the previous financial year.
· Infrastructure projects completed as listed in his budget speech: Sand du Plessis lifts, carports at OR Tambo House (formerly known as Lebohang building), Bloemfontein Maphikela House, Second Phase of Wesleyan Church project and the Revolving Restaurant at the Fidel Castro building (formerly known as CR Swart building).
His challenges in his new capacity
· Mashinini will have to address the challenges faced by the department with the vandalism and pollution of heritage sites as at the Vredefort Dome – a World Heritage site – where vandalism of the unique rock formations, pollution of the Vaal River, land fragmentation and increased habitation are threatening the site.
· The MEC will now be responsible for the planning and hosting of the Global Investors Trade Bridge in September. The objective of the event is to showcase the trade and investment portfolio of the province.
· Overseeing the construction of the environmental education centre that is expected to be finalized in 2016/2017.
· The Free State Development Corporation is going relaunch its residential home loan book to provide a finance linked individual subsidy programme – through the department of human settlements – for those whose income is above the limit for RDP houses.
MEC Dorah Coetzee
Newly appointed MEC for public works and infrastructure
Dora Coetzee is the deputy Chief Whip of the ANC in the Free State provincial legislature. Before she became a MPL in 2014, she was a councillor in the Lejweleputswa District Municipality and the Matjhabeng Local Municipality.
Challenges facing the new MEC:
· The Free State department of public works and infrastructure is not going to have enough money to pay for municipal services at government buildings across the province. The department has R580m to pay for services and rates and taxes, but at least another R265m is needed to afford the services.
· The maintenance of government buildings came in the spotlight after the department of labour had found several contraventions of the occupational safety regulations at least 80 clinics and mortuaries in the province. Free State MEC of public works and infrastructure, Sam Mashinini, said this is one of the core responsibilities of his department and is of great concern.
· The date when construction of the new Free State legislature building starts is still not known. The provincial department of public works and infrastructure is the implementing agent for government buildings in the province, but so far it seems that the budget for this project might be the problem.