His government will not rest until it grows and transforms the economy of the Eastern Cape to benefit all the people of the province, Premier Oscar Mabuyane promised as he delivered his State of the Province address (Sopa) on Tuesday.
And growing the economy includes growing cannabis.
But Mabuyane’s Sopa did not get off on a high note as four EFF MPs were forcibly ejected after the speaker deemed their trademark red overalls out of order.
Mabuyane said that 26 years into democracy “we clearly have a big challenge of an economy that remains characterised by a number of key constraint factors”.
“That said, we are going to offset the slow economic growth and unemployment through a range of initiatives and decisive interventions.
“First, we will fully utilise the R1.1bn we approved over the MTEF for the provincial economic stimulus fund to ignite economic activities and to create new jobs.
“We are currently disbursing the stimulus fund to key sectors of the provincial economy such as agriculture and agro-processing, film, ICT, industrialisation, manufacturing, oceans economy and tourism as well as the rural and township economies.
“Second, there will be an investment of R41bn for infrastructure development over the medium-term from all three spheres of government.
“I am happy to inform the house that the seven catalytic projects that were submitted by the Coega SEZ [Special Economic Zone] for funding have been approved by the budget facility for infrastructure. These projects will inject R1.4bn into our provincial economy,” Mabuyane said.
“We will ramp up our agricultural activities in order to fight poverty by expanding our hectarage under production. With respect to the provision of agricultural infrastructure, we are going to make available 27 livestock handling facilities, 60 auction facilities, five agri-hubs and 25 agro-processing facilities.
“Our trade promotion projects secured R516m worth of trade agreement with Almawashi and this has created a market for farmers to sell their sheep.”
Mabuyane said the emerging cannabis economy “offers boundless opportunities for the revival of our economy through the development of cannabis for industrial and medicinal use”.
“Our position as the Eastern Cape government is for an inclusive legislative process which must protect the indigenous growers of cannabis.”
He added his government was engaging national departments and authorities for the issuing of hemp permits and cannabis licences to farmers and investors in the Eastern Cape.
“We have directed our SEZs to be aggressive in attracting investors under the current legislative regime, which permits cannabis production in a controlled climate.”
Mabuyane said to deepen social protection and to build viable communities they were going to expand access to social policy-related services, which included community development, psychosocial interventions and initiatives, special programmes and direct improvement of anti-poverty programmes.
“We will also create 478,000 jobs over the MTEF, through the expanded works programme to fight poverty among vulnerable groups.
“Honourable members, we have stated publicly that corruption is the antithesis to growth because people who steal public funds deny our people access to development opportunities,” Mabuyane said.