Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI
Picture: SIMPHIWE NKWALI

Today’s state of the province address (Sopa) by Western Cape premier Alan Winde is the second he has delivered, and after 10 years of DA governance, he has chosen only in 2020 (a year before local government elections) to deliver it in Mitchells Plain.

While that is a noble gesture, the DA has refused a call by opposition parties to allow public participation, even by a few members of this community contributing to the Sopa debate. So this is the Winde-plus-R1.2m show (the cost of the Sopa, excluding all other operations to support the event), with everyone else there as his clapping team.

The socioeconomic conditions of the people of Mitchells Plain are a cause for concern, with many townships on the Cape Flats plagued by high unemployment, gangsterism and substance abuse. Many young people are recruited into gang life, which leads to a high school dropout rate. This is true of many black communities across the province, as evidenced in the Municipal Economic Review Outlook of the provincial treasury.

When Winde claimed in his 2019 Sopa that “we have improved the Western Cape matric pass rate to 81.5%”, clearly the majority of township public schools were not included, as this improvement is indicative of improvement of pass rates at affluent schools (former model C) and those in suburban areas. The Metro East education district matric pass rate of 78% exposes the disparities in the province’s education system. This is the state of the province that needs to be addressed by Sopa 2020 — the inclusion of disadvantaged communities such as Mitchells Plain.

The Western Cape High Court judgment in Philippi Horticultural Area vs the provincial government and City of Cape Town is another reality of the real Sopa, where a government prioritises the needs of big developers (Oaklands City) over environmental justice, including much-needed food security.

The preservation of the Philippi Horticultural Area has been the focus of civil society group PHA Campaign, supported by the ANC in the Western Cape legislature. During a visit by the finance, economic development and tourism standing committee to Mitchells Plain, the Plein Chamber of Commerce described how the Philippi Horticultural Area is a critical feature of its Vision 2076, to boost the local economy and tourism, and turn the area into the next city.

So who is the DA government listening to, and whose interests is it representing, as it is surely not those of Mitchells Plain or other similar communities in the province.

The Stats SA Inequality Trends in SA report of 2019 revealed the worrying state of exclusion in the Western Cape and the population’s apartheid-racialised economic status. The Palma ratio reveals that the top 10% of the population is responsible for nine times more of the total provincial expenditure than the bottom 40%. This demonstrates starkly skewed income distribution levels, with the rich being very rich and the poor experiencing acute poverty. How have the DA’s economic growth policies and programmes, including resource allocation, altered this reality?

While the premier proudly announced in his 2019 speech that 508,000 jobs had been created in the province in the past decade, the economy of the Western Cape continued to shed jobs if analysed using the year-on-year quarterly labour force survey results. The province’s narrow unemployment rate increased from 19.3% to 20.9% between Q4 2018 and Q4 2019, and the expanded unemployment rate rose from 23.1% to 24.1% during the period. The people of Mitchells Plain and surrounding areas are surely worst affected by these economic realities.

This should dispel the false notion that the Western Cape is the epicentre of employment creation in SA. Actually, it gives credence to the ANC assertion that the DA government is actively engaged in separate development; employment has a minimal effect on disadvantaged communities but is focused on affluent communities. There is no deliberate intervention in working-class and poor areas, further deepening inequality.

We expect the premier to provide updates on some of the promises he made in 2019, including his second priority of skills development as a means to ensure that each and every resident is able to live a dignified life, and that as we move from generation to generation our people become more self-empowered. People’s lived experiences in the Western Cape have not improved since that claim was made.

Winde should also give an update on his commitment to fix the basics in transport. Since this promise was made, the MyCiTi bus service in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha has stopped operating. Buses are parked in depots while citizens struggle to get to work in the city on congested main roads. His focus should be mainly on local issues and how he intends to tackle Western Cape challenges, rather than focusing on national issues to score cheap political points.

The ANC has always raised alarm over the elitist growth model of the Western Cape, which is skewed towards maintaining the old economic patterns, where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer. Winde should inform the province and its citizens whether he and his cabinet are really committed to creating a shared and inclusive economy, or are comfortable with perpetuating the old order and an exclusionary economy.

• Nkondlo is ANC shadow Western Cape finance & economic opportunities MEC.