by Boitumelo Babuseng – DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of Economic Development & Tourism
Date: 28 June 2018
Note to Editors: The following is an extract from a speech presented by Boitumelo Babuseng MPL at the annual Budget Vote Debate for the Northern Cape Department of economic development and Tourism at the Frances Baard District Municipality chambers in Kimberley today.
What a relief to have heard the last budget debate from the current Member of the Executive Council for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism. I will repeat what I have said here on Tuesday – the next budget speeches will be tabled by myself and the rest of our DA-led provincial government.
Our confidence stems from the following simple fact – as members of this House, we are employed by the people of the province. And in the next elections, the people are going to fire the honourable members sitting to my right.
The ANC-led administration has forgotten that it is supposed to work for the people of the province; instead, the inefficient implementation of ineffective policies and a non-official stance of corruption, greed and criminality continues to rob our province of economic opportunities and growth. More than 40% of the people of our province cannot find jobs, with the youth, women and people with disabilities continuing to remain excluded from economic opportunities. The Northern Cape has the second highest rate of young people who are not in employment, not in education and not otherwise economically active.
Yet the only response when confronted with these facts are to resort to slurs and name-calling, which is the last resort of the truly desperate. The people of this province sees through these petty tactics and know that they will benefit from the change that only a DA-led government can bring. After all, it is the DA-led Western Cape which created 75% of all new jobs in South Africa over the past year!
Before the MEC for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism enters his retirement, we should set the record straight. It is unfortunate that he attempted to start an unsustainable fight during Tuesday’s debate. We did not start this fight, Honourable Speaker, but allow me to finish it here with the facts.
During my maiden speech in this House, I referred to the network of corruptive collusion established in the department of Economic Development & Tourism by the former MEC for Finance, Economic Development & Tourism. That convicted fraudster has since resigned, but the pungent stench of corruption and criminality still lingers in the department’s corridors. When the current MEC was appointed, I commended him for talking about rooting out corruption. Unfortunately, his talk remained just talk and he proved himself incapable of walking the walk. Not only does that network of corruptive collusion remain firmly in place, but it has grown and expanded.
The budget proposals from this department remain nothing but a smokescreen to allow criminality to flourish at the expense of honest, hard-working entrepreneurs.
Let’s look at the allocation of funding for the hosting of a renewable energy summit, for example. The summit, which was already announced in the 2017 State of the Province Address, was originally set to be hosted in October 2017 and at least R6 million was reportedly paid to an external communications company to issue press releases and write speeches for the event. After the event collapsed due to the non-attendance of national ministers, Eskom and independent power producers, a further R3 million was allocated in the November 2017 adjustment budget for the hosting of the summit. It is now set to be hosted in De Aar, for no other reason than to further the patronage network of the MEC. More than a year and R9 million later, the summit still has not taken place and the province has still not reaped any benefits from the money thrown away by the department.
It beggars belief, Honourable Speaker, that public funds had to be used to appoint an external service provider for the renewable energy summit. Officials in the department were perfectly capable of sourcing external donor funds and making arrangements for the mining indaba, so why is it deemed necessary to outsource the responsibilities for the renewable energy summit – and at such cost to the provincial purse?
This is just one example of how the department uses its’ budget to promote a network of patronage. There is a definite modus operandi in the department to use public funds as a conduit for criminal enterprises. The same pattern was followed with the allocation of public funding for BOSCO, whose sole director is a public servant employed at the Local Economic Development unit of the Sol Plaatje Local Municipality, for the hosting of an illegal event. I find it strange that the initial request for funding was denied by the department on the grounds that gambling is a so-called “sin industry” and yet an estimated R6 million was later forked over.
Problematic appointments at the entities’ boards is another example of how the department’s budget is used to promote patronage in the province. The newly appointed deputy chairperson of the Board of the Northern Cape Economic Development, Tradeand Investment Promotion Agency is a director in two of the companies set to invest massively in the development of the Boegoebay Harbour. Indeed, just two months after his appointment as deputy chair, a Strategic Partnership Agreement was signed between Honglin Investment and Promethean Investments during one of the department’s many outbound missions to China.
So here you have someone in a strategic leadership capacity who is going to preside over the implementation of a project from which his companies are going to benefit. It is a massive conflict of interest, prohibited by the entity’s establishing Act, and yet the MEC sees no potential harm. I have also asked the premier about this problem and she agreed, on record, that this is indeed a conflict of interest. But the network of corruptive collusion is so firmly established that the MEC finds himself either unwilling or unable to act.
The long-awaited establishment of the Special Economic Zone in Upington continues to face numerous delays. While the application for designation was already supposed to have been submitted in 2014, we are told that it has only been submitted in this month – missing its targeted deadline by four years and spending more than R17 million in the process. The establishment of the Special Economic Zone can bring much-needed change to the economic circumstances of the people of the province; it is exactly because of the fact that our people are so poor and so desperate for economic opportunities that we cannot afford to have further delays and unnecessary expenditure in this regard.
The MEC has bemoaned the fact that it is difficult to attract investors to the province, seemingly happy to sacrifice all laws and ethics for the sake of financial expediency. It is becoming more and more apparent that the reason why it is so difficult to attract investors is because the ANC-led government itself is not invested in the province!
Let’s use payments from the Economic Growth and Development Fund as an example. In 2017/18, R4 million was paid to a civil engineering firm called Etsho Civil. This payment constitutes about 15% of the funds set aside specifically to assist SMMEs in the Northern Cape – but it was channelled to the benefit of a company registered and operating in the Free State. Public funds specifically appropriated to uplift and promote entrepreneurs in the Northern Cape was spent on advancing the interests of a Free State company which has completed more than 150 projects, including upgrades to the Kaizer Sebothelo Stadium. A company of this size and strength does not need the assistance of the Northern Cape government, especially not when such assistance comes at the cost of our local entrepreneurs!
Honourable Speaker, I wish the MEC for Finance all the best in his upcoming retirement and I give him the assurance that change is coming in the Northern Cape. Change, implemented by a DA-government, which will truly be to the benefit of all the people of the province.
As the department’s budget continues to fail to address the economic aspirations of the people of the province, the Democratic Alliance rejects it. When I table my budget next year, you will see what a proper budget for economic development looks like.
DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of Economic Development & Tourism
079 874 6179
076 551 0312