Mpumalanga Premier reflects on 30 years of freedom


Despite the challenges faced by the country, government has made an undeniable mark in changing the lives of people for the better in the 30 years of freedom, says Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane.

Delivering the State of the Province Address (SOPA) on Friday, Mtshweni-Tsipane reflected on the gains that government has made since the dawn of democracy.

‘When we were elected to office in 1994, our population was a mere 3.3million people. Today, Mpumalanga is home to 5.1 million people.

‘The gross domestic product (GDP), that is the value of goods and services produced in Mpumalanga, was R46 billion. Today, our economy has grown in leaps and bounds to more than R530 billion, 12 times bigger than what it was, becoming the fourth largest economy in the country,’ the Premier said.

In 1996, there were around 627 000 people employed in the province. The economy now employs more than 1.25 million people.

The percentage of people living below the lower bound poverty line has improved drastically from
64% in 1996 to 49.5% in 2022.

‘This is supplemented by the provision of a wider safety security net that includes the special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress grant, the Old Age Pension Grant, the Child Support Grant and the Care Dependency Grants, to name but a few examples,” the Premier said.

Education, basic services

Mtshweni-Tsipane said there has been a “phenomenal” growth in access to education in the province, with the Statistics South Africa General Household Survey findings indicating that the percentage of seven to 17-year-olds attending school in Mpumalanga province stands at 98%.

‘The throughput rate has improved from 46% in 2019 to 72% in 2023.

‘Before 1994, thousands of children from poor families attended classes on an empty stomach. They had to endure traveling long distances to attend school. Today one million children in this province from poor backgrounds enjoy free hot meals served at their respective schools,’ the Premier said.

Approximately 75 000 students are transported to scho
ol daily through the scholar transport programme.

Government has built six state-of-the-art boarding schools to restore the dignity and the plight of farm dweller children and improve the quality of education.

‘Prior to 1994, teenage girls from poor background would miss school due to unaffordable sanitary towels. Today, government has restored the dignity of the girl child. A total of 96 077 girl children in quintile one schools are provided with sanitary towels,” the Premier said.

In 1994, the province had no universities. There were only a few technical colleges.

‘Today, Mpumalanga is home to four universities, which are the University of Mpumalanga, the Tshwane University of Technology, the Vaal University of Technology, and the University of South Africa. We are also home to two private universities, which are Eduvos and Regenesys.

‘In 1994, there were 89 public libraries. Today, we have 123 fully equipped public libraries, translating to 34 newly built libraries in townships and rural villages,’ th
e Premier said.

In 1994, only a few households had access to piped clean water and proper sanitation.

“Today, 87% of households in Mpumalanga have access to clean water and more than 93% have access to adequate sanitation. More than 94% of all residents in Mpumalanga have access to electricity,” Mtshweni-Tsipane said.

Health

In 1994, the infant mortality rate in Mpumalanga was 80 per 1 000 live births. That figure stands at 11.2 per 1000 live births.

‘Before the advent of our democracy, the life expectancy of our people in this province was hovering around 50 years and lower. Today, our people are living longer, with women averaging 65.8 years and men 60.7 years. We would like to see these figures rising to an average of 75 and 70 years respectively.

‘One of the reasons our people are living longer and healthier is because our government has an extensive TB and HIV/AIDS treatment programmes, which have assisted in prolonging the lives of those affected,’ the Premier said.

Land

In 1994, more than 85% o
f land in Mpumalanga was in the hands of the minority. Currently, about 1 767 370 hectares of land have been acquired and transferred to the hands of the previously disadvantaged through the land reform programmes of restitution and redistribution.

‘Of this land, over 555 000 hectares of land has been restituted back to our people through communal property associations, benefitting in excess of 110 000 beneficiaries, which include women, youth and persons with disabilities.

‘From our agricultural support programmes, like Masibuyele Esibayeni and Masibuyele eMasimini for emerging farmers, we are supporting farmers with livestock such as cattle, sheep, goats, pig and chickens,’ Mtshweni-Tsipane said.

Housing

The provincial government has built 236 395 low-cost houses for the most vulnerable.

‘We have serviced 65 538 sites for the missing middle category, those who do not qualify for subsidised houses but also not qualifying for bank funded bonds. In total, this translates to 301 833 housing opportunities c
reated.

‘We have also issued 88 551 title deeds to the homeowners, guaranteeing their rights and the rights of their descendants to the ownership of such properties for life,’ the Premier said. – SAnews.gov.za

Source: South African Government News Agency

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