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We wish to express our appreciation to the members of the media who have joined us this morning. Equally, we acknowledge the participation of other media practitioners who are following these proceedings through social media platforms.
From the onset, we wish to start by paying tribute to all categories of staff in the department and those majority of our entities for attaining clean audit reports.
Last week, the Auditor General presented the department and our entities with trophies. This gesture still remains a source of inspiration to all categories of staff. I am encouraged by their undertaking to continue to serve the people of this province with a high level sense of integrity and honesty.
As we address this briefing, we reiterate our commitments towards sound financial management – reducing of unauthorized - irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure thereby sustaining clean audit outcomes.
To achieve this, we will continue to seek guidance from the African National Congress as the governing party.
As mandated by the ANC, all members of the provincial executive council, Heads of departments, CFOs and Mayors must provide leadership to ensure adherence to best financial management practices on a daily basis.
The ANC mandated all of us as elected public representatives to save every cent at our disposal and use it towards the rebuilding of our economy and creation of jobs throughout the corners of the province.
That is why yesterday we were in Madadeni Township to monitor the construction of a Clothing & Textile Hub with a budget of about R46 million. We interacted with 100 workers. As we move forward, there will be an intake of 1000 workers and ultimately 4500 workers upon completion of this strategic asset.
On the issue of prudent financial management, when we assumed office, we agreed that the department and our entities will work with the Provincial Treasury and Auditor General’s office on an on-going basis to detect early signs of administrative or financial distress.
Therefore, it shouldn’t be viewed with suspicion ongoing consultations with Provincial Treasury as they remain the custodians of procurement processes. Their duty is to guide and to monitor expenditure patterns. And departments and entities are expected to act accordingly.
We acknowledge that unfortunately we live in a world where resources are limited therefore, we have to emphasize the importance conserving resources.
As we do our work, we are always conscious of the fact that money must be allocated to strengthen service delivery.
Efforts must also go towards rebuilding this province following the destruction created by the outbreak of COVID-19 and devastating floods.
Critically, we acknowledge that as we intervene in one sector of the economy – players in another sector wait in anticipation for the department’s intervention.
Greater Focus on Helping the Poor – moving forward
Ladies and Gentlemen, based on our consultation with economists in our department and entities, negative economic conditions will continue to impose hardships on millions of people in this province in the next few months. This has heightened public fears and anxiety.
In particular, a growing number of forecasts are revealing continuing rise in food prices. KwaZulu-Natal continue to be severely this rise and our fear is that this will result in many people exposed to food insecurity.
The broad principles that is governing our response over the next few months is that of using resources of the department – the KZN Growth Fund, Ithala and other entities to cushion vulnerable members of society against negative economic conditions.
We wish to announce that more support will be extended to co-operatives, SMMEs and other emerging entrepreneurs throughout different sectors of our economy.
Over the next few months, we will have public presentations outlining interventions by key priority programmes within the department. We will also have public sessions with new board members of entities and CEOs.
We will be continuously gathering economic data and monitoring economic trend as we wage a battle against Poverty – the Public Enemy number 1..
Our plan of action will be driven by research, sound economic planning and extensive consultation. We will continuously explore the possibilities of putting together stimulus packages to intervene in sectors of the economy that are experiencing job losses. This is what we are here to announce.
Focus on Consumer Protection – Price Hikes – expired food and counterfeit goods
Over the next few months, we will focus on the ongoing violation of consumer rights in the province.
Our Business Regulations and Consumer Protection Unit is inundated with complaints received from communities. Here is the sample of complaints:-
1. Unreasonable Price hikes affecting millions of people;
2. Increasing number of shops including spaza shops selling expired food products;
3. Proliferation of counterfeit goods;
We will be making unannounced visits and raids as part of efforts aimed at protecting consumers against food price hikes. We will have no mercy against retailers or companies that sell much-needed food and other products at inflated prices.
As we approach the festive season, a team of experienced inspectors from our department will work with KwaZulu-Natal Consumer Protector - Prof Bonke Dumisa and other members to prosecute these complaints through our Consumer Court. We wish to warn retailers of the consequences of non-compliance with the Consumer Protection Act.
There are many successful cases that have already been resolved through the KZN Consumer Tribunal which is chaired by Prof Dumisa.
We have strengthened our partnership with the SAPS, Home Affairs Immigration, KZN Liquor Authority, the National Regulators such as the Consumer Commission, the National Competition Authority and the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa.
Fight Against Counterfeit Goods
In addition, the department is serious about clamping down against the selling of expired food and counterfeit products.
We wish to warn all unscrupulous criminal syndicates that as from today we will be dealing a permanent blow on any form of crime that is crippling our economy.
We have strengthened a multi-prolonged approach involving law enforcement agencies, justice system and government departments to protect our economy and our innocent communities as we approach the festive season.
We will never sit back and fold our arms when criminal syndicates are condemning the majority of the people of this province into abject poverty.
Selling of counterfeit products is crippling our economy as illegal sellers do not pay tax.
The ANC government has been directed to take action to send a strong message that nobody is above the law.
EDTEA Support for Spaza Shops
Members of the media, we also wish to assure the informal traders that we have heard their calls for intervention especially around the proliferation of spaza shops that are selling expired food in the townships and rural areas.
In addition, millions of informal traders and tuckshops owners in the township and rural areas are battling as a result of food inflation.
In line with the directive from the ANC, we will be deepening the support of hawkers, street traders, tuckshop and spaza shop owners, co-operatives and small businesses over the next few months.
Spaza shop owners have long complained about being forced out of the market because they lack the buying power. Their competitors, who are mostly foreigners, buy in bulk which makes them have a competitive edge.
We wish to announce that in view of price hikes, we will be supporting Spaza Shops across the province. This programme is managed through Ithala and Moses Kotane Institute.
· In the next few weeks we will invite Spaza Shop owners to apply for a grant facility of R100 000;
· R20 000 will also help them to acquire stock and to fund a shortfall of liquidity for social grants pay-outs;
· About 960 Spaza Shops will be given speed points to pay social grants;
· About 10 graduates will be employed and be attached to the this programme and will earn R10 000 for 24 months.
We have reconfigured the Bulk Buying Warehouse in KwaSithebe, Mandeni with a cost of more than R4 million. The first bulk purchase of food for spaza shops is valued at more than R4.1 million.
Despite teething problems during the initial stages of this programme, we are confident that we have turned over a new leaf.
We are identifying buildings that are owned by Ithala across the province to be used as warehouses. This is to create direct access to suppliers and reduce costs of goods and further make them accessible within local municipalities from where they operate.
Energy Matters – Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone
Over the next few months, we will focus on matters of energy provision in response to the poverty of energy.
We are encouraged as the department that all categories of staff at our very own Richards Bay Industrial Development Zone have consistently displayed a deep understanding of the role of RBIDZ in terms of meeting the future energy of this province.
Over the years, we have injected resources to the RBIDZ as part of long-term plans ensuring that this special economic zone becomes a site for energy infrastructure.
Next month, we are likely to see a groundbreaking decision paving the way for RBIDZ be the host of the 3,000 MW gas-to-power plant to be constructed by Eskom. This plant, which will be fuelled by gas via a pipeline to be installed from a terminal at the Richards Bay Port, will change the face of KwaZulu-Natal forever.
We have planned a Provincial Energy Summit which will help define the role of different spheres of government and key role-players. Moving forward, we want to act in line with the legal and defined roles for various actors so that our actions are aligned and effective.
South African Music Awards 29
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, as I draw towards conclusion I wish to reflect briefly on the Culture & Creative Industries, an important sector directly linked to the South African Music Awards.
As an executive authority, having consulted widely with the executive council and other stakeholders I have advised the department to stop the hosting of the South African Music Awards this year.
Senior Management has been mandated to engage with the Recording Industry of South Africa and report back to me as an executive authority. We will also report to the KZN Executive Council as the hosting of the SAMA Awards was a collective decision.
We reiterate the point that our hearts are with artists whose lives were destroyed by the outbreak of COVID-19. The SAMA Awards was their hope and the source of income ahead of the festive season.
Having said, for the record, we wish to reiterate the following points we have made consistently:-
1. The procurement process followed by the department to secure approval from Provincial Treasury for funding of the SAMA Awards was above board, transparent and free of any irregularities;
2. Unfortunately, in the process of ensuring transparency, official and public available documents have been weaponized against the department to scandalize this national event with global following;
3. The R28 million and other figures being thrown around, are part of a campaign of disinformation. This is aimed at sowing confusion.
4. The actual amount of money that has been confirmed by Treasury and EDTEA is around R20 million before VAT. This amount of money is based on our last consultation as we have repeatedly stated that we have ongoing consultation.
5. In the past, KZN has hosted national and international events successfully with millions of rands generated into the provincial economy. Such events positioned the province as a destination for tourism and haven for investment. To achieve all of this, the department invested resources to ensure the hosting of activities in line with national and international standards.
6. Hosting SAMA Awards followed a successful bid against other provinces.
Notwithstanding the postponement, we remain committed towards ensuring the recovery of the Culture & Creative Industry.
This sector is the catalyst for the stimulation of many other sectors of our economy such as tourism and hospitality.
Realignment and allocation of Resources
We wish to conclude Ladies and Gentlemen by stating our budget is always one of trade-offs and infinite opportunity costs.
In order to finance one priority, it often means that the other priority has to be put aside.
That is the sad reality.
Over the past few years, KwaZulu-Natal has lost more than R14 billion due to cost cutting measures introduced by the national government.
Finally, we wish to send our deepest condolences to the family of former Chair of the Board of Trade & Investment KZN Ina Cronje. She was a dedicated elected public representative. We will remember her as the MEC for Education and MEC for Finance.
With these words, I thank you.
Issued by The KZN MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs