SOPA 2015: What FS Premier Ace Magashule promised

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CATHY DLODLO

Free State Premier Ace Magashule delivered his State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Tuesday at the south campus of the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. Opposition parties in the Free State Legislature criticised his speech as old news that contained no real solutions for fighting some of the problems in the province such as unemployment, poverty, poor service delivery and corruption. Bloemfontein Courant looks at some of the promises he made and some of the issues he did not address.

Education:
A total of 626 students are studying abroad with the help of the provincial government and an additional 312 post graduate bursaries have been allocated to students studying locally.
All government bursaries have been centralised in the Free State Department of Education. This department has indicated that it is expecting a shortfall of more than R1.3 million.

Social Cohesion and Nation Building:
The Free State Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation is going to plan and design a Heroes Park at Regional Park in Thaba Nchu. The park will host statues of the likes of Nelson Mandela, OR Tambo, Bram Fischer and Joe Slovo.
The Free State provincial government still has to adopt a language policy and implement it. This follows after it was taken to court because it was dragging its feet.

Agriculture:
The first phase of the Vrede Integrated Dairy Project has been completed and phase 2 is 90% complete.
The eastern and north-eastern parts of the province were declared a disaster area after veldfires destroyed 93 000 hectares.
The Premier did not indicate the budget for this controversial project, whether it is on schedule and how it is funded – questions previously raised when the project made headlines.
The drought in the Free State might lead to a need to import maize.

Health:
The Senorita Nthlabathi Hospital in Ladybrand will be brought into operation in September 2015.
The accelerated implementation of a pro-active maintenance programme focusing on health infrastructure will be undertaken.
The Premier did not elaborate on how – with the financial constraints in the health department – this hospital will be stocked with the necessary medical equipment, medication and medical staff.

Human Settlements:
In Caleb Motshabi, in the Mangaung Metro area, 7554 mixed housing units will be built.
A major project – the construction of a water pipeline from the Xhariep Dam, that will secure and strengthen the water supply to towns in the Naledi Local municipality – is starting this year.

Social Development:
A state of the art Victim Empowerment and Rehabilitation Centre will be opened this year.
The Free State government is going to take 105 young people and 28 females off the street and enrol them in educational institutions.

Crime and Corruption:
The provincial government reviewed the provincial supplier database and assisted municipalities to help remove companies of government officials.
Premier Magashule did not indicate if any steps are going to be taken against officials who did receive tenders in the past.

Economy and jobs:
The construction of the R74 – the Harrismith/Oliviershoek Pass road is going to start this year.
The resealing of the Koppies/Sasolburg road will mitigate against the increase in road accidents that have been occurring on this road.
The Premier did not say how many job opportunities are going to be created by these projects

Local Government:
Provincial Treasury and the South African Revenue Services have developed a programme that will help municipalities to improve their tax compliance. This will help in phasing out the use of consultants by municipalities.
The provincial government is going to keep on engaging with the Eskom to find a sustainable and viable solution to the arrear debt of some municipalities.
Despite several municipalities being almost technically bankrupt, no announcement was made about putting some municipalities under administration.

International relations:
The Premier defended his controversial Cuba-trip, saying during the visit an agreement was reached that will see 40 Cuban engineers, 40 medical doctors and 100 nurses arrive in the Free State soon to come and work in government hospitals.
The recent trip made media headlines because of the size of the group and the cost – estimated at R21 million.

cathy@centralmediagroup.co.za