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By Stephen Tau

Journalist


Gauteng Sopa: Lesufi touched on crime but had little to say on corruption

The issues Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi spoke about have been around for years but not dealt with by the provincial government.


Considering the dire state many municipalities finds themselves in, Gauteng’s State of the Province Address (Sopa) delivered by Premier Panyaza Lesufi on Monday touched on the many challenges facing residents.

At the top of his maiden Sopa address, Lesufi said if he had a choice, he would have would not delivered the Sopa as many residents have lost confidence in what government leaders say.

“My preference would have been to take you to different sites of Gauteng to showcase the work we have done.

“Let me assure you, we will talk less and do more,” a confident-looking Lesufi said.

WATCH: Lesufi delivers Sopa speech

Pranish Desai, from Good Governance Africa (GGA), said Lesufi’s speech focused on the most pertinent issues affecting residents such as crime, service delivery, education and economic development.

Big focus on crime

“Regarding crime, it was good to see the premier acknowledge that improving technologies, including introducing drone tracking, enhancing closed-circuit television (CCTV) coverage is supplemented by adequate recruitment of law enforcement officers and follow through is key.

“It was also good to see him update the province about the rehabilitation of drug users (especially younger users) – the issue of substance abuse is one that his predecessor David Makhura never addressed in this way,” said Desai.

ALSO READ: Sopa 2023: Lesufi admits Gauteng is home to ‘heartless and merciless’ criminals

Not much said about corruption

Desai said while it was also good to hear about the expansion of six operational clinics to areas outside of the large metros, it was disappointing that corruption wasn’t as much of a focus as it eats into the budgets allocated to provide basic services.

“At the same time it is important to recognise that delivery on these policies is key and there is also the question of the provincial political context and accountability.

“Many of the issues he spoke about have been known for years by both officials and residents and in that time the ANC has been in power … but the provincial government has not been fast enough in finding solutions?”

Lesufi said as of April this year, they we will start to connect suburb, townships, business districts, schools and other public places with high tech, face and car recognition CCTVs.

“We will arm our residents with e-panic buttons that will be linked to our law enforcement agencies, CCTVs and our new state-of-the-art integrated command centre.

“We will unveil two new helicopters at the beginning of the next financial year and add four additional helicopters within the 2023/2024 budget cycle,” said Lesufi.

He said the private security industry has also pledged to add their helicopters to help patrol the province’s skies.

“To ensure that our police are not sacrificial lambs in the battles with criminals, we are at an advanced stage to procure 180 state of the art drones that will infiltrate areas that are difficult to patrol and police,” said Lesufi.

Other plans announced by Lesufi to curb crime

Four hundred new police cars have been procured to ensure 24-hour patrols in communities.

Six thousand young recruits have also been enlisted to monitor and police Gauteng and will start patrolling streets from May 1.

Almost 10 000 private security companies have agreed to combine their resources with that of government under a joint command structure to fight crime in the province.

Is Lesufi pre-empting 2024 general election outcomes?

Desai said another thing to keep in mind is that Gauteng might not have a majority party after the 2024 general election.

“Will we see Premier Lesufi pre-empt that by taking a more cooperative approach to dealing with other parties?” he asked.

Several ANC leaders including party leader Cyril Ramaphosa have on numerous occasions warned party members about the possibility of losing power in 2024, unless service delivery issues are addressed.

ALSO READ: 2024 elections will be ‘toughest ANC has ever faced’ – Ramaphosa

Political analyst Prof. Andre Duvenhage said increasing the budget to fight crime is a positive step.

“Another thing that stood out for me from the Sopa was the announcement of the total scrapping of the e-tolls and I think even opposition parties supported Lesufi in this regard,” said Duvenhage.

Gauteng’s increasing population

However, he said the big challenge facing Lesufi’s provincial government is whether or not the province can deal with the continuous influx of people.

“We also know that there are a number of disasters in Gauteng such as the floods that have been experienced in recent days but generally speaking the influx of people towards the city area and the pressure it puts on existing resources.

“In that sense there are questions asked about the provincial government’s ability to implement its plans successfully and I think there are also concerns about the ability of the province to maintain stable local government after what happened in places like Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane,” Duvenhage said.

Meanwhile Lesufi also spoke about the gap between townships and suburbs which is growing unabated. He said they will endeavour to improve service delivery in townships, informal settlements and hostels.

“The freedom we fought for, will remain meaningless if our townships, informal settlements and hostels remain in squalor with sewerage flowing freely together with uncollected garbage,” Lesufi said.