A Heartless Free State Budget

Issued by David van Vuuren – DA Spokesperson on Finance in the Free State Provincial Legislature
16 Mar 2023 in Press Statements

Note to editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by David van Vuuren MPL.

Today the MEC for Finance, Gadija Brown, echoed Premier Dukwana’s mantra describing the Free State as “the heart of South Africa”. If this province is indeed the heart of South Africa, it is in urgent need of an expert cardiologist. The Free State is haemorrhaging money, jobs, food security and economic growth. Even though the 2023/24 budget espoused “business unusual” and advocated for “bold, decisive decisions”, it was business as usual. These uncertain times of service delivery failures and economic crises require innovation, which was sorely lacking. The MEC was unable to present concrete developmental plans to drive economic growth, attract outside investment and create jobs.

The DA strongly urges the government to cut down on administrative spending and focus money on where it is needed most; delivering basic services to residents. Roads, electricity and water are the most essential services that are being neglected. The Premier’s Office will receive an even more bloated budget, even though it does not deliver fundamental services. The Premier’s appointment of factional cadres indicates that he does not prioritise an urgently needed shift towards service delivery.

Load shedding is the greatest economic obstacle currently facing the Free State and severely impacts every sector. Businesses and essential services cannot operate and serious food insecurity looms larger every day. It is essential for the government to urgently explore alternative energy sources to limit the province’s reliance on Eskom and the national grid. Unfortunately, the MEC indicated that this government believes that coal is the way forward. Sustainable options such as solar, wind and hydropower should be this and any government’s top priority.

Roads are the lifeblood of our provincial economy and without a functional road network, the Free State will continue to rapidly decline. This province cannot properly promote tourism, attract investment and export goods when our roads are impassable. Shockingly, the MEC bragged about the minuscule 25 km of roads constructed; this province has one of South Africa’s longest road networks at more than 40 000 km. The R3.339 billion allocated to road infrastructure is welcome but ultimately meaningless without rigorous standards and processes to account for every cent spent and ensure value for money. This Department has proven itself incapable of effectively managing funds over and over again.

Human settlements forfeited R150 million back to National Treasury due to underspending. This could have built more than 1000 houses for Free State residents, providing them with the dignified shelter they deserve. R20 million was allocated to MACUFE, despite its controversies and court judgements. This festival should be self-sustainable and has to date never reflected good value for money.

The Free State deserves the capable and ethical government the MEC promised. Unfortunately, it has been proven time and again that it cannot be an ANC government.