Tech-obsessed Lesufi shares scant progress on lofty plans

  • Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi gave a lengthy speech at the Nasrec Convention Centre on Monday evening, reporting on the state of Gauteng as a province.
  • Among a laundry list of points, Lesufi generally shared that little progress has been made on initiatives his government announced two years ago.
  • The premier said that the Gauteng government had dropped the ball in some ways.

Monday evening saw the final State of the Province Address (SOPA) for Gauteng’s ruling ANC government before the upcoming general elections this year, where Premier Panyaza Lesufi made a series of lofty promises to fellow politicians and onlookers at the Nasrec Convention Centre in Johannesburg.

The premier covered a wide-ranging series of points and issues plaguing the province, from broadband connectivity to the problem of gender-based violence in Gauteng. Before the address took place, a scuffle broke out between the premier’s supporters and dissidents of the EFF opposition, who took issue with Lesufi’s insistence that his “amaPanyaza” crime prevention wardens – community watch members with minimal training – were seated in their hundreds at the convention centre.

“The Gauteng of 30 years ago and the Gauteng of today are completely different,” said the premier at the top of his address.”

“In some ways, we have dropped the ball.”

Among the many different things the premier exclaimed during his address was the claim that the Gauteng Provincial Government had invested R2.7 billion in “Gauteng Infrastructure Development” to bring province-wide broadband internet and 5G. This was done in partnership with MTN, which the premier thanked.

“Small businesses will no longer struggle to get connectivity,” he shouted over the silence at Nasrec. “Public institutions will no longer struggle to get connectivity.”

More than 50 townships now are “covered” by broadband internet access thanks to partnerships with Telkom, Herotel and Broadband Infraco. This includes 1 249 WAN sites and 719 LAN sites.

“Beyond 2024, we will roll out connectivity across all townships. All public institutions, schools, healthcare facilities and state offices will have dependable WiFi,” he declared.

The premier also outlined the province’s energy action plan to stave off the harsher effects of prolonged loadshedding. He promised that his government would add 100MW of electricity to the Gauteng grid via open cycle gas turbines at a facility at Johnware and Durban Street. This will begin from 1st April 2024.

These sorts of turbines are extremely expensive to operate, as they run on enormous amounts of diesel to generate electricity. For example, depending on the size of the turbines, they can cost almost ten times more than generating electricity with coal-fired stations.

Lesufi said that Gauteng was building the foundation to end loadshedding in February 2023, and was seeking solutions from public and private entities at that time.

He added that 21 government healthcare facilities would receive solar PV batteries. Gauteng announced that it would add solar panelling at 11 public hospitals in November 2022.

“We are removing health facilities and schools from being impacted by loadshedding,” he claimed. This initiative is not led by the Gauteng government under Lesufi, but rather a nationwide initiative from the Department of Health. An initiative also started two years ago.

The premier once again detailed the plan to launch an 800MW solar farm at Merafong, in the West Rand. Six independent power producers have now been appointed to develop the facility. This plan was first revealed in February 2023, so little has been made of it in just about a year’s worth of time.

Additionally, the provincial government through City Power will now deliver 429 transformers across the province. So far, the premier claims, 333 have been installed and switched on mostly across the more informal areas of the province.

The premier said that his long-awaited epanic button, a system where Gauteng residents could use an app to contact law enforcement or emergency medical services will be available to the people of Gauteng from 1st April.

This is misleading, as anyone can download the free app right now, and have been able since early 2023. The app itself is a shell of an existing Response24 mobile application.

Provincial government is now acquiring 30 more drones to police the streets of Diepsloot, Carltonville, Kliptown, Evaton, Fochville, Randfontein, Kagiso, Khutsong, Honeydew, Eldorado Park, Kagiso, and DeDeur. This is part of an initiative announced in 2022 that coincides with the recent partnership of Lesufi’s government with Vumacam to give police services access to over 7 000 CCTV cameras across the province.

“If we can’t fight crime that’s the end of everything that we have in our province,” remarked Lesufi.

Gauteng has acquired two new helicopters and donated 245 new vehicles to the South African Police Services (SAPS) in the province. Additionally, the province is now paying the wages of 7 000 community watch members through Lesufi’s crime prevention warden initiative. These were the same wardens seen cowering in the video above as the EFF threw water bottles at them.

Finally, Lesufi also stated an apparent final date for the controversial etoll systems to be switched off, marking 31st March 2024. This is one of many different occasions that the etoll systems were planned to be switched off, but eventually remained.

The premier’s address continued, touching on upskilling plans, plans to formalize more informal settlements, plans to launch more employment opportunities in the province and much more. Some publications have called Lesufi a “dreamer” after the speech. Videos circulating on social media shows onlookers exiting Nasrec in droves as Lesufi performed his address.

“It is evident that this year’s SOPA resembles last year’s,” the EFF Gauteng branch shared in an official statement. “Characterised by a plethora of empty promses and a lack of tangible and systemic plan.”

“We’ve had all the things that have been said year in and year out,” said DA Gauteng leader Solly Msimanga at Nasrec after the address. “Very little report in terms of what has been achieved. What we should be asking is ‘what has he done?’ All we hear is ‘we are starting this process, we are starting that.'”

[Image – Gauteng Provincial Government on X]


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