In an attempt to address infrastructure delivery delays, the Eastern Cape government has appointed the Coega Development Corporation to assist provincial departments, public entities and municipalities to package projects in order to access funding for socio-economic development.
The intervention was on Tuesday announced by Premier Oscar Mabuyane while delivering his 2021 State of the Province Address.
Two of the established Special Economic Zones (SEZ), the East London SEZ and Coega SEZ, continue to shine.
“Through these SEZs we have been able to attract over R19 billion worth of investment into our province,” he said.
In the last year, the East London SEZ completed the construction of nine investor facilities and the expansion of three existing facilities.
These facilities will create an additional 1 534 manufacturing and services jobs and these will be operationalised within the next two years. The construction phase created an additional 4039 construction job opportunities between 2019 and 2020.
“The current year will see an additional six new investor facilities being constructed on the EL SEZ Platform, while an additional two investors will be expanding their facilities in the zone. One of these will be Sundale Dairy which will be building a new cheese facility in the zone,” said the Premier.
These investors are expected to create 409 additional manufacturing and services jobs which will be operationalised from 2021/22.
The construction phase will lead to the creation of 1 800 construction job opportunities.
Turning his attention to the province’s informal economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mabuyane said the province had introduced intervention in an effort to cushion the hardship.
This saw 713 spaza shop applications approved from the Spaza Shop Scheme, saving 850 jobs.
The Premier said the revitalisation of small towns is critical to attract investment.
To address this, the province will give assistance to a new cohort of small towns such as Whittlesea, Komga, Ngqamakwe, Engcobo, Mqanduli, and Koukamma.
“These towns will be assisted to improve access to basic services with specific focus on transport hubs, roads, electricity, water and sanitation underpinned by local economic development. I am also happy to announce that the program that was being implemented but was not completed in Ntabankulu Local Municipality will be included in our small-town revitalization work in the 2021/22 financial year,” he said.
“Our challenges of youth development include high levels of unemployment and young people who are not in education or in training which impacts on youth employability,” he said.
Resolving these, he said, requires multifaceted and multi-stakeholder interventions with scale and impact.
“We are responding to this challenge in several ways, informed by our Provincial Youth Development Strategy. Our focus in this regard will be on placement of youth in vocational programmes, skills development, township and rural youth development hub, entrepreneurship and development.”
This, he said, will require the province to strengthen and centralize the coordination of youth development in the Office of the Premier (OTP), including the Isiqalo Youth Fund which will be located in the OTP with effect from 1 April 2021.
In its inaugural year on planning, the Isiqalo Youth Fund disbursed R16.3 million in support to 21 businesses.
In the last year, Mabuyane said the Eastern Cape government completed the construction of 39 schools.
“As part of advancing Science, Technology and Mathematics, the Science Centre in Cofimvaba is ready for commissioning. There are already various exhibiters from all over the country planning to use the Science promotion space for permanent living exhibitions and will occupy space in March 2021,” he said.
Even during the lockdown periods, the province delivered the School Nutrition Programme to 1.6 million learners.
Above this, the province is implementing a three-year curriculum recovery strategy which has been developed to mitigate against the learning losses experienced due to COVID-19.
“We are also increasing access to early childhood development, and we are consolidating the function in the Department of Education. Last year, due to COVID-19, the number of learners who benefitted from the scholar transport program was slightly higher at 124 000, and this year the department plans to transport 103 000 learners,” he said.
In the past year, the province spent R590.4 million refurbishing 67 health facilities.
“Through this investment, we now have new high care units in health facilities and areas that did not have them before.
“We installed oxygen infrastructure in health facilities that never had such capacity before. We also increased our human resource capacity to meet the added demands that COVID-19 placed on our health system. These, and other interventions have led to the reduction of the burden of COVID-19 in our province,” said Mabuyane.
He emphasised that the country was not out of the woods yet, and that a third wave may still hit.
The province currently has 544 active cases, the lowest in the country.
He confirmed that the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine had arrived in the province, with the vaccine rollout programme targeting health workers underway in the Nelson Mandela Academic and Livingstone Hospitals.
“We are confident that we will vaccinate a minimum of 3.7 million people which is required for us to achieve population herd immunity. To achieve this target, we must work together to ensure that our people get vaccinated in order to prevent severe disease, hospitalisation and deaths,” he said.
Mabuyane said COVID-19 had demonstrated the importance of implementing the National Health Insurance.
“At the moment NHI readiness interventions are implemented in all districts. Our focus is on strengthening health systems and improving the quality-of-service offerings in accordance with the norms and standards of health facilities. To this extent, 145 clinics and four health centres qualified as ideal facilities,” he said.
The Premier said the Eastern Cape had made progress in dealing with backlogs in its electrification programme.
“We have made 777 connections in Buffalo City Metro, 3 624 connections in Amathole District, 1 492 connections in Chris Hani District, 1 391 connections in Joe Gqabi District, 2 832 connections in OR Tambo District, and 3 692 connections in Alfred Nzo District. In the 2021/22 financial year, we plan to effect 19 416 connections, at a planned cost of R653 million,” he said.
The province, said Mabuyane, has also made significant progress in the eradication of informal settlements starting in Duncan Village and Greater Buffalo City Metro.
Another development receiving urgent attention, is the R22.6 billion Sinati Housing development located near Kwelera. This development is expected to yield 24 000 affordable units, and 3 600 social units.
He said the provincial government was working with the Buffalo City Metro and Infrastructure South Africa (ISA) to get the appropriate zoning rights and unlock the bulk infrastructure.
“I am happy to announce that Baywest Housing project is at an advanced stage of unlocking the R18 billion development. This is delivery of an effective partnership of ISA, the Nelson Mandela Metro and a prominent black-owned developer which is projected to yield 20 400 affordable units and 5 040 social units.
“All the rights are in place for this development and Government is finalizing the bulk infrastructure funding which should be completed by August 2021,” he said.
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