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‘NC not prepared for coronavirus’

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“We all know there is a strong possibility that South Africa may be affected by the coronavirus. But, at the last known date, emergency outbreak response teams were not active in the Northern Cape”

CONCERN has been expressed regarding the Northern Cape’s ability to deal with the coronavirus, as emergency outbreak response teams are not active in the Province and environmental officers are assisting with communicable disease control activities.

This is according to provincial DA leader Andrew Louw, who was speaking during the Debate on the State of the Province Address (Sopa) at the Northern Cape Legislature yesterday.

“We all know there is a strong possibility that South Africa may be affected by the coronavirus. But, at the last known date, emergency outbreak response teams were not active in the Northern Cape,” Louw said.

He appealed to the premier to intervene. “We are already faced with HIV/Aids and TB epidemics, I shudder to think of the impact that the coronavirus may have here given the Health Department’s unpreparedness.”

Louw stated further that there were many challenges in the provincial Department of Health.

“The premier unveiled 63 new ambulances last year but, just to set the record straight, these ambulances were actually procured before the premier’s time, not by the premier himself, as some purported. Let me therefore use this opportunity to remind the premier that we are still waiting for the much-needed ambulances that you committed to buy with savings made by stopping the purchase of new cars for MECs.”

Louw pointed out that there was, however, another disease eating away at the government.

“Provincial government departments collectively incurred over R1.3 billion in irregular expenditure in the last financial year. Yet still we see no real consequence management.

“We saw officials and close family members entering into business contracts with departments. Supply chain management procedures and tender processes were also flouted by officials. These officials should be expelled from government service.

“Most importantly, outline to this Province the measures you will put to play to recover these monies, just as a measure of good faith or as a government that cares.”

Louw also questioned the management of the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre. “What is going on here? Someone is pocketing money and yet the government still pays for maintenance.

“Next year, I want the premier to present us with results from his War Room Against Corruption. Show us how many criminal cases have been opened, how many corrupt officials have been prosecuted and gone to jail, how much money has been saved from dishonest tenders, and how much money has actually been recovered.”

Louw proposed that all intentions of international travel, including the costs, the entourage, and the value for money aspect, must be clearly communicated with the legislature long in advance, for the sake of transparency.

Louw further raised the “worrisome state of safety in our schools” and suggested that project workers be trained as safety ambassadors. “Their presence should deter violence on school premises through visible patrolling and practical actions, like the searching of school bags.”

He called for the high rate of teenage pregnancy to be addressed through better integration between the departments of Health, Social Development and Safety. This will eventually bring much-needed relief to our embattled and debt-ridden municipalities that have in turn cut the power of hospitals and schools in the Northern Cape.

Turning to the state of municipalities in the Province, he stated that it was “no secret that local government was in a mess”.

“All municipalities must be equipped with skilled and qualified municipal managers, chief financial officers and fully qualified engineers. Work-sharing agreements, particularly between district and local municipalities should also be entered into, to further ensure that each municipality has access to a professional skills base.”

Louw called for the ring-fencing of funds to ensure payment of Eskom and water boards, as well as the implementation of accurate and effective billing systems. “This is key to the very survival of our municipalities.

“Kimberley is also in a mess. Even President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed his shock at the state of this city, which the premier promised would not deteriorate further under his watch. Premier, if you are not careful, you are going to fall into a giant pothole at your very own doorstep. Action is urgently needed. Please find a way to stop the chaos that reigns in Sol Plaatje and stop the double salaries paid due to prolonged suspensions.”