29 October 2020
Over the last year, the Western Cape Government has committed itself to ensuring that all of the citizens of this province, no matter where they live, would have access to appropriate Covid-19 treatment, should they require it. It was important to me, from the outset, that every person has access to life-saving healthcare.
I am proud of what our government was able to deliver during this difficult time for our province.
We built testing and triage centres, creating temporary hospital facilities, such as our world-class, state-of-the-art, 800 bed Hospital of Hope, and ensured that we had sufficient healthcare staff and PPE even at our peak.
We introduced cutting edge medical treatments like high flow nasal oxygen, we provided quarantine and isolation facilities and we created a transport service for our healthcare workers and for people going to and from quarantine and isolation (Q&I) facilities.
Our Red Dot Service has completed over 110,000 trips taking healthcare workers to and from work, and over 11,400 trips to Q&I facilities. And we have delivered almost 800,000 medicine parcels to stable chronic patients in their homes, reducing numbers and risks in our healthcare facilities.
Aside from healthcare, we also ensured that school feeding continued, delivering over 8 million meals, throughout the lockdown, even when others threatened to stop us. We provided PPE and cleaning supplies so that children could go back to school and so that early childhood development centres could start to reopen. We advocated for the safe reopening of businesses so that people could go back to work, and we could start to save those jobs that have been lost.
We did this all because we understood from the very beginning that growing unemployment, hunger and poverty also robs people of dignity too.
Covid-19 will still be with us for many months to come, and we must continue to take safety precautions to slow the spread of the virus. But we must also find ways to move forward and start our recovery so that we can roll back this equally deadly “second pandemic”.
Last week I described exactly how we plan on doing this.
These plans are focused on three key elements: jobs, safety, and dignity and well-being. All three are closely linked and will help to ensure that every person in our province feels that their life has value – because every life must matter, no matter where you live. From the moment you are born, to the moment you die, and every moment in between.
Because we know that you cannot live with dignity and well-being if you do not have a job, growing the economy and creating jobs remains our number one priority.
We will help to create 20,000 jobs through rapid interventions. We will also support the private sector to create more jobs by cutting the red tape that stands in the way of investment and job creation. We will work to grow energy security in the province by supporting municipalities in leveraging the recent directives from the National Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy allowing them to develop their own power generation projects and also secure power from Independent Power Producers.
The Western Cape is well positioned to gain from this directive because of our ongoing focus on the new, green economy. We will be the first province to beat load shedding
We will also work hard on finalising the more than 26 private sector investments in the pipeline, which will create over 3,000 jobs, and we will use our own spending to support private sector led job creation, through investment in growth stimulating infrastructure.
To establish the right vehicle to do this, we will now begin the technical process to form a dedicated infrastructure agency which will be able to transact, hold assets and borrow money.
We also know that in order for people to get to work, to school and to access economic opportunities, we need a functional public transport system. We know that President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced interventions on the Central Railway line, but in the meantime, we know that the primary public transport option for residents is the minibus taxi system.
We will therefore be rolling out a Blue Dot Taxi System in partnership with the taxi industry, which will make the system safer, and more reliable and it will help to support the many men and women working in this industry.
The Blue Dot Service will provide monthly rewards to taxi operators and drivers to provide good service and to operate safely. We will use technology and a five-star rating system to track performance against set targets. I am grateful that we are able to join hands with this industry with a common goal.
Our second key priority is to ensure a safer Western Cape. That is why we remain committed to continue the roll out of the Western Cape Safety Plan, which uses boots on the ground and violence prevention to reduce violence.
We are ready to open six new shelters for victims of domestic and gender based violence as soon as the Public Works Minister signs the memorandum of understanding for the properties. We will also appoint 30 additional social workers in the province to ensure that we have resources available at night and over weekends.
We will focus on violence prevention and address the deadly relationship the Western Cape has with alcohol through a number of innovative initiatives. This will include amendments to the Western Cape Liquor Act.
In the short term, we will appoint 120 peace officers in six municipalities across the province and in the medium term, 1,000 young people will be appointed as safety ambassadors.
Having a job and living in a safe community is essential for dignity. But it is not enough. That is why during my speech I also set out how we will ensure that the dignity and wellbeing of every person is realised throughout someone’s life, from birth to death.
Among the announcements we made in this regard was the additional allocation of funding to food relief by community kitchens. Since the beginning of lockdown we have seen the need for food increase as thousands have lost their jobs, or struggled to feed themselves or their families. We will also continue to provide food gardens to households through our One Home One Garden campaign and we will be providing vouchers to community kitchens so that they can purchase what they need from local businesses and spaza shops to help stimulate these businesses.
We know that Covid-19 has had an impact on residents accessing healthcare services and we will be using the lessons and innovations we have taken from Covid-19, to provide healthcare services. This includes making use of community healthcare workers to help screen people for illnesses in their homes, while at the same time continuing to deliver medications to stable chronic patients.
TB remains a leading cause of death and we therefore announced a strategy to find, screen and treat those with TB through a 90/90/90 strategy. This means we aim to identify 90% of all TB cases and place them on treatment, find 90% of TB cases in vulnerable populations such as those living with HIV and to successfully treat 90% of all those diagnosed with drug sensitive TB.
We also know that the early childhood development sector plays an incredibly important role in our societies creating safe spaces for children, jobs (for mostly women) in communities, and it allows many parents, especially women, to go off to work each day in the knowledge that their child is cared for.
We announced increased assistance to the sector in order to allow those who have not yet re-opened to do so safely by providing PPE and hygiene materials.
Ultimately though, our vision is that every person can access early childhood development, if they so decide. We will therefore be convening a special consultative forum with key stakeholders doing amazing work in this space, to plot a common way forward to ensure that early childhood development centres are treated like a critical service, and their work can be expanded to reach many more children.
During my special address, I also announced that we will scale up shelter space and related services for the homeless in areas where it is needed most, and we will focus on the reintegration of homeless adults. In addition, we will take our commitment to inclusionary housing even further by finalising our inclusionary housing policy by the end of the financial year that will guide all municipalities in the Western Cape.
These three priorities are our ‘north stars’. Together they are the ingredients for real change, and to realise hope. We will now pursue them bravely, and single-mindedly and will not shy away from making the tough decisions needed during this resource constrained environment. The Western Cape Government will have the courage to get the job done, to help us recover and to keep us moving forward.
Views expressed are not necessarily GroundUp’s.