R1.3bn needed to fix Mpumalanga storm damage, says premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane

Mandla Khoza Freelance journalist
Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane.
Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane.
Image: Mandla Khoza

The Mpumalanga government will need R1.3bn to rebuild and refurbish roads and other infrastructure ravaged by the recent storms which wreaked havoc in the province. 

Speaking during the state of the province address on Friday, Mpumalanga premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane said the province had to redirect funds meant for other service delivery projects during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and to deal with damage from recent storms. 

She said during the Covid-19 lockdown period, the province lost a net total of 85,000 jobs. 

“During the state of the province address last year we made a number of commitments and promises to the people of this beautiful province. These commitments were clearly defined, adequately budgeted for and implementation plans had been well prepared.

"The sudden emergence and rapid spread of the Covid-19 pandemic forced us to change our plans. Resources were redirected to urgent and pressing issues aimed at curbing the spread of the pandemic. Every national department, provincial department and our municipalities were asked to reprioritise and focus on Covid-19 response measures,” said Mtshweni-Tsipane.

“The situation in our province has been exacerbated by the recent floods which destroyed roads and bridges, schools and clinics and blew away homes of the most vulnerable members of our society. Once more, we have been compelled by forces beyond our control to divert budgeted resources and deal with this additional state of disaster.   

"I have directed the department of public works, roads and transport to evaluate the extent of flood damage to the infrastructure. Preliminary assessments indicate an estimated amount of R1.3-billion will be required to commence with the reconstruction and repairs to the damaged infrastructure.” said Mtshweni-Tsipane. 

She said the province will be working with the department of correctional services to tap into the skills of inmates as part of the societal re-integration programme.

“With regards to job losses, we projected a loss of 100,000 jobs in 2020.

"These job losses were expected to be experienced in industries such as construction, trade, including tourism and manufacturing.

"To this end, the 2020 quarter 2 figures from Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey indicated the worst job losses at 134,000.

"However, when the economy re-opened in the third quarter, Mpumalanga recorded 49,000 job gains which eventually led to net job losses of around 85,000 during the period under review. What this means is that job losses impact negatively on consumer spending, and eventually increase poverty and inequality.” said Mtshweni-Tsipane. 

She said what was most concerning on the unemployment figures is that youth and women are the most affected. 

“The latest unemployment figures which were released by Stats SA recently show that unemployment in this province, if you use the strict definition, jumped to 33% in the fourth quarter, the highest since 2008.

"If one uses the expanded definition of unemployment which includes those who are discouraged from seeking employment, the figure jumps even further to 42.4%, slightly better than the national figure of 42.6%.” said Mtshweni-Tsipane. 

She said to boost employment the province has started a youth development fund with a budget of R50m where young people who have SMMEs can apply for funding so that their businesses can employ more young people. 

Mtshweni-Tsipane said the province has availed R20m to boost the economy in the tourism sector where tourist attractions  can be revitalised for the benefit of job creation after they were hit by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown which led to closure of the sector. 

“As a province, we have created 19,649 jobs through the expanded public works programme. The main beneficiaries of these opportunities are 12,255 women, 9,239 young people and 159 people with disabilities.”

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