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Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi provides an update on the current state of the province after twelve months at the helm

It has been twelve months since this Gauteng administration was ushered in and nine months since the delivery of the 2023 State of the Province Address, in which we pledged to realign Gauteng and identified five priorities for elevation in support of Growing Gauteng Together (GGT 2030), our province’s growth and development strategy.

We promised to speed up the province’s economic recovery and reconstruction, alleviate crime, corruption, lawlessness, and vandalism, and improve the living conditions for those residing in townships, informal settlements, and hostels. We committed ourselves to putting Gauteng back to work while bolstering the state’s ability to provide our residents with high-quality services.

Our deep concern over an open coexistence of poverty, unemployment, inequality, and opulence in our province inspired our State of the Province Address. We were also responding to statistics that showed that we have the highest crime rates and that there are five million young people in Gauteng or 39% of the total population, and of these, over 2.3 million fall into the category of not being in school, working, or receiving training.

Since then, we have hit the ground running to undo the effects of deindustrialisation by supporting our industrial parks, tackling unemployment by adopting a mass recruitment programme, and fixing our collapsing physical infrastructure. We are building Gauteng as a significant exporting force on the continent that fosters the expansion of industries that boost domestic output. This involves skillfully balancing government engagement and economic intervention, and fostering an atmosphere encouraging investment from the private sector and economic expansion.

Our province continues to be the strategically significant socio-economic hub of the country that attracts bright and creative people who strive to make Gauteng a better place. As captured in the SOPA, our goal is to capitalise on the positive aspects of our people and province while simultaneously eradicating the undesirable and illegal actions plaguing Gauteng’s residents.

During the State of the Province Address, we pledged to employ 152 000 youth as the provincial government. Of those, 100 000 would be expanded public works programme assistants, 40 000 through the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative, and 6 000 would be crime prevention wardens.

Since then, the province adopted the Nasi iSpani mass recruitment initiative, which has seen over 60 000 jobless persons absorbed and given employment opportunities available within the Gauteng Provincial Government, and job creation in the province has increased significantly.

Some job opportunities given to young people and the unemployed since February 2023 include extending contracts to 40 000 young people (between 18 and 35) as part of the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative (PYEI), a multi-sector action programme to reduce youth unemployment. Additionally, the government has recruited and trained 6 000 crime prevention wardens and 6 000 members of the Green Army to keep Gauteng clean and green, 250 Civic Education Ambassadors, 2 248 ECD Practitioners, 517 Building Inspectors, and 2 166 Crime Prevention Wardens.

In addition, the provincial government has partnered with Uber Eats South Africa in a ground-breaking partnership to unlock 10 000 employment opportunities for the youth in the province.

The provincial government also entered a partnership with Diageo South Africa, a renowned spirit company, to assist underprivileged youth in Gauteng with administrative fees for learner’s and driver’s licences to enhance employability and promote responsible driving.

Our initiatives to ensure that Gauteng remains the preferred investment destination signalled the beginning of the efforts to rejuvenate the province’s economy. This included adopting agile governance to maintain a competitive edge, combating criminality, repairing infrastructure, and enhancing our ability to handle and adjust to disruptive change.

We have carefully prioritised the townships in line with our mission of developing townships that are receptive to business and assisting them in fulfilling their full economic potential.

Through the Township’s Economic Development Act, a provincial blueprint for supporting and funding township businesses, we are supporting the survivalist informal economy of the townships and bringing them into the mainstream economy.

The prolonged power outages have presented the province and the nation with enormous challenges, putting the province’s economy to the test. The Gauteng Provincial Government has held consultation sessions with all pertinent parties since February of this year to solve the issue of electricity shortages and ensure a consistent supply.

The creation of an energy crisis response team, which has been working with the National Energy Committee, local governments, and energy experts, as well as the announcement of R1.2 billion in funding during the State of the Province Address (SOPA), marked the beginning of these coordinated initiatives to address the crisis.

Consequently, a plan was devised to address this crisis: eliminating all unauthorised power connections; equipping every residence and place of business with intelligent meters; enhancing revenue collection by cleaning the billing system and the indigent register; and replacing damaged transformers.

In October, the provincial government launched a ground-breaking energy transformer replacement programme in partnership with Eskom and City Power in Kagiso, where 41 transformers will be replaced, and already six transformers have been replaced in Kagiso, Zola, and Dobsonville in Soweto. The Transformer Replacement Programme demonstrates the provincial government’s commitment to providing essential services for its residents.

Our efforts to establish a prosperous and safe province are threatened by more than just electricity outages; an extremely high level of crime has also hampered our efforts to succeed.

To overcome this obstacle, the GPG established Crime Prevention Wardens as an additional force to assist the province’s present law enforcement personnel. The first intake focused on 361 wards in the Township Informal Settlements (TISH) districts; it will then disperse throughout the province.

They collaborate with other law enforcement organisations to combat crime in different parts of the province. They guarantee a prompt response to reported offences and police presence within the ward.

They have assisted the police in narcotics sweeps in townships, secured critical state facilities to prevent damage to state property, and led the charge in combating cable theft and zama-zama operations.

To address the issue of illegal mining, we persuaded the national government to form a special task force comprising the SAPS, army, intelligence services, and other law enforcement agencies. President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the deployment of 3 300 South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members across the country as part of Operation Prosper.

In addition, we are working toward the long-term goal of ending illegal mining. The first step is to take these abandoned mines out of the hands of criminal gangs. After that, we intend to work with relevant government institutions and industry stakeholders to rehabilitate and close the mines.

Legalising and regulating a few safe and viable mines is possible to promote small-scale mining and provide employment to the communities surrounding these mines.

We have increased the use of technical solutions, such as automation and mechanisation, for business and law enforcement in the province of Gauteng to strengthen the battle against crime.

We are collaborating with the business community and private security industry to ensure visible and effective policing in our province.

During SOPA, we declared that Gauteng would use less cash for commercial transactions. To this effect, in October, we hosted the Cashless Indaba to promote the adoption of digital payments and the transition towards a cashless society in Gauteng. This initiative aims to address the risks associated with cash transactions, such as robberies and theft, while highlighting the benefits of digital transactions, including enhanced security and financial inclusion.

The GPG is installing face-recognition CCTV cameras to reduce crime further since suspects can be profiled and identified through CCTV, digital interrogation, recordings, and video analytics.

The province is also working to improve car registration because cars are used in violent crimes, and the present number plate system needs to be revised. We aim to roll out new licence plates that are difficult to copy or tamper with.

To increase compliance, fight alcoholism, and eliminate some liquor traders’ reckless behaviour, the Gauteng Provincial Government is forging ahead with its efforts to digitise the liquor licence application procedure. This project intends to help the government handle the sector’s licence applications. We shared our idea for the province’s future licensing procedure with partners in the liquor industry during a consultative session in August. As a result, GPG and the industry signed a pledge highlighting everyone’s dedication to prioritising safety and ethical business practices and lowering crime.

In developing an integrated, accessible, and efficient transport system, the provincial administration has authorised the Gauteng Management Agency to acquire a new Gautrain system delivery partner to enhance our transportation network. This means that the Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) has received permission from GPG to release an invitation to bid (RFP) for a new delivery partner for the Gautrain system after 2026, because March 2026 marks the end of the current Gautrain concession arrangement.

Although Gautrain was initially a transportation project, it has since evolved into an economic development initiative to achieve targets related to investment, new development, stimulating economic growth, and job creation. The Post-2026 Gautrain Project will further unlock economic possibilities and opportunities.

Regarding the phasing-out of eTolls, there has also been work by the intergovernmental technical team comprising GPG, National Treasury, National Department of Transport, and Sanral. For this decision to be effected and the eToll chapter closed, every effort is made to ensure that the intergovernmental technical team works quickly to resolve the lingering concerns.

We have also made progress toward our commitment to establish a provincial state bank and pharmaceutical company. GPG accepted the Provincial Treasury’s completed due diligence reports on establishing a state-owned bank and pharmaceutical company and further directed the Provincial Treasury to conduct case studies on the finer points and particulars of the nature and calibre of the bank and pharmaceutical company.

Since SOPA 2023, we have brought hope to young people who have been watching their dreams pass by because of unemployment. We have modelled the kind of province we wish to see, one in which our kids are free from drugs and violence and are hopeful of a better future.

We have laid a foundation to ensure that children can play outside, parents can take in the sights and sounds of the province in safety, and citizens of Gauteng do not wash with cold water while travelling to work or school. We have shown our commitment to being a reforming administration that creates a prosperous and safe Gauteng, a government with solid targets, decisive action, and readiness to make difficult decisions.

Panyaza Lesufi is the Premier of Gauteng.

By Editor