Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s final State of the Province Address ended in a standing ovation from DA MPLs and empty ANC benches on Friday.
In her speech, Zille – who in May will become the only Western Cape premier to have completed two terms – focused on the legacy of her two administrations and contrasted it with the national government.
“Hello, citizens of the Western Cape,” Zille said.
“Ten years ago, voters stood before two roads, that diverged, in a yellow wood. Those in the Western Cape chose the road less travelled by. And it made all the difference. My speech today will explain why,” Zille said, with apologies to poet Robert Frost, early on in her speech.
She said her first term was dedicated to establishing “sound systems to secure good governance”, and the second had focused on “game-changing interventions that, over time, will make a significant positive impact on people’s lives”.
“We also pioneered a delivery methodology to turn strategy into reality in a focused and effective way, using data as never before to measure impact. I hope it has become sufficiently embedded to leave a lasting legacy,” she said.
Zille said she welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to “try and repair some of the damage of the Zuma years”.
“I have to state plainly that, as a province, we have often made progress despite the national government. While there are examples of constructive partnerships, many of the key areas under national responsibility, on which we all depend, have all but collapsed,” Zille said.
“You chose to fight national government. That’s your legacy!” ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore interjected.
Zille ignored him and continued.
“To the extent that our constitutional mandate allows, the Western Cape has a different narrative. We have been building the capable state for 10 years now, and the results have begun to show.”
ANC MPLs made several interjections. While it was not as vociferous as the DA’s interjections in the National Assembly often get, legislature Speaker Sharna Fernandez asked them a number of times not to deliver “running commentary”, much to their annoyance.
A few times MECs responded, and Fernandez asked them not to engage. Zille at first did not respond, sometimes talking louder, and sometimes visibly irritated.
Zille said, despite the country’s sluggish economic growth, the province’s apprenticeship programme was on track to meet its 2019 target of 11 000 learners entering training opportunities, and of 13 000 qualified apprentices entering the labour market, showing significant growth from 1 170 and 540 respectively.
“If the honourable opposition weren’t so busy to interject, they would understand how important these statistics are,” Zille said, caustically.
‘A few minutes later Zille said: “Madame speaker, our biggest budget item for youth is, of course, basic education, perhaps the most intractable challenge in democratic South Africa.
ANC MPL and leader of the opposition Khaya Magaxa interjected about 6 000 children in the province who weren’t placed in schools at the start of the academic year.
“Those are outdated figures, so get your figures and facts correct before you come and interject here,” Zille shot back.
“Premier, kindly address the chair,” Fernandez said to Zille, and then to the honourable members: “We cannot, via interjections, pose questions to the premier.”
“Madame Speaker, I have resolved not to respond to interjections from the honourable the opposition,” Zille said.
“They. Are. So. Uninformed. And ignorant, and I’m afraid unfounded in fact, that to let these facts that are allegedly given by the honourable opposition hang in the air, are totally intolerable. But from now on, honourable speaker, I will ignore them, on condition that this house realises how without foundation they are and I will continue and take them head-on in the debate next week,” Zille said.
The premier then continued.
‘Real state of the province’
A few minutes later, Magaxa shot up and announced that they had “tolerated” enough of Zille’s speech and would now leave the chamber to listen to the “real state of the province” outside, where the ANC had organised a rally.
As they left the chamber, two female ANC MPLs – Trudy Dijana and Nobulumko Nkondlo – accosted Zille’s husband Professor Johann Maree, who was sitting scribbling in a small notebook in the box for the premier’s guests.
DA chief whip Mark Wiley jumped up to voice his disapproval. Zille said the ANC walkout was staged and Fernandez later, after Zille finished her speech, said she would investigate “the unsavoury incident” and that there would be repercussions if warranted.
And so, Zille completed her last SOPA with only two opposition MPLs, the EFF’s Bernard Josephs and ACDP’s Ferlon Christians, in the house.
Zille spoke extensively on policing in the Western Cape – a campaign issue for the DA in the province, with the party, saying they would agitate for a provincial police force.
She said the average police-to-police ratio in the province was one police officer for every 509 residents, while the national average was 369 to one.
“In total, we have made over a dozen formal demands for more policing resources in the Western Cape. In this regard, we welcome the recent high court ruling ordering the national government to provide more policing resources in poorer, unsafe communities, and we are grateful to the NGOs that help drive this initiative.”
Zille also criticised the national government about Eskom, in light of the recent blackouts due to load shedding.