Daily Archives: February 17, 2016

Economising without compromising basic services

The Free State Provincial Government says it will tighten its purse strings this year to save money, while not compromising service delivery.

Premier Ace Magashule on Tuesday said this must be done alongside government supporting initiatives that will stimulate the provincial economy.

The South African Reserve Bank projects that the South African economy is expected to grow by only 0.9% in 2016. The Free State gross domestic product (GDP) is forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 1.77% from 2014 to 2019.

Delivering the State of the Province Address (SOPA) in Bloemfontein, Premier Magashule said the Free State government will continue to support programmes to stimulate the creation of decent work, more jobs and sustainable livelihoods.

"We have embarked on this complex journey by participating in an initiative led by National Treasury that aims to ensure that we do not compromise the priorities set out in the Freedom Charter, the National Development Plan and the 2014-2019 Medium Term Strategic Framework," said Premier Magashule.

The Premier said a focus would be on advancing and protecting the gains made in the provision of education and health services, as well as the improvements in roads infrastructure and the development of integrated human settlements.

He said these will also be accompanied by continued investment in infrastructure as well as agro-processing and tourism with the aim to improve inclusive economic growth in the province.

"The past year has been one of the most economically challenging periods in the history of our democracy, and the devastating drought experienced in our province has affected our socio-economic environment significantly.

"The impact of the drought was and still is felt on a number of terrains," said the Premier.

This, combined with the increased interest rate, increased imports and lower value of the rand, the Premier said a very challenging period lies ahead for the agricultural sector in the Free State.

"We will continue with awareness campaigns to support farmers with advice to curb the effects of the drought and initiate rehabilitation projects on water conservation, harvesting and veld management, including fodder banks.

"Most unfortunately in our rural spaces, we have had quite a number of reports relating to the killing of farmers and farm workers," said the Premier.

He said this goes against government's efforts of ensuring that rural areas are safe and peaceful.

"We will work tirelessly with organised agricultural and Free State communities to curb these criminal acts," said the Premier.

He expressed appreciation to various individuals, schools, voluntary groups and non-profit organisations who have been actively supporting the farming and other communities with making available water for human and animal consumption, as well as animal feed at their own cost.

Skills development, job creation

The Free State created and maintained over 5 000 jobs in the agricultural sector through the development of 40 black farmers occupying 18 000 hectares of land. Fourteen farms of agricultural land, totalling 8 000 hectares, have been successfully acquired.

"Our investment in targeting youth unemployment will continue to focus on training and development, and the implementation of youth led production and processing projects.

"We are focusing on reducing overall dependence on industrial and imported inputs by promoting farming practices which are less reliant on increasing input costs," said the Premier.

He said the success emanating from the hosting of the inaugural Free State Global Investor Trade Bridge is evident in the cooperation agreements which ensued with countries such as India, Russia, Angola, Turkey and China.

He said the Russian Federation has committed to partner with ths province on, amongst others, agro-processing and educational exchange programmes.

"We have also attracted investment to the Harrismith Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with the value of over R5 billion and a potential 5 000 jobs," said the Premier.

He also said the provincial government will retain its focus in supporting graduates by providing them with opportunities to give them practical experience in the workplace through both internship and experiential training opportunities.

This year, said the Premier, 517 graduates will participate in the provincial internship programme.

"We also continue to support students at Technical, Vocational Education & Training Colleges and 279 students are currently placed in provincial departments and municipalities.

"Our appreciation goes to the various Skills and Education Training Authorities (SETAs) who fund these programmes," said the Premier.

Health and social development

The Premier said two learnership programmes for 50 Social Auxiliary Workers and 50 Child and Youth Care Workers will be implemented with the intention of absorbing them upon completion of the programme.

"We will also employ 61 Social Work graduates at various centres in the province. These initiatives are aimed at alleviating the shortage of social workers," said Premier Magashule.

He said the provincial government will also establish a state-owned substance abuse treatment centre on the premises of the Botshabelo Hospital, which must be in operation before the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

Human settlements

Premier Magashule also spoke about a number of housing projects currently under construction in the province.

Among others, he said all 1 051 units of the Brandwag Social Housing project will be completed by June 2016, and the development of 400 of the 950 social housing units at Hillside View will also be completed at that time.

He said the development of Community Residential Units (CRUs) is underway at Dark and Silver City Hostels in Mangaung, Masimong and G Hostel n Welkom, Merriespruit in Virginia and Hostel 4 in Sasolburg.


Department of labour takes steps to reduce muscular skeletal disorder

The Department of Labour is to host a crucial workshop focussing on the reduction of muscular skeletal disorder in Sandringham, Johannesburg on Friday.The event, to be attended by several specialists in the field, will be opened by Aggy Moiloa, Deputy ...