Gauteng premier minimises ICT crises

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Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane today delivered her state of the province address, with minimal focus on ICT.

Like president Jacob Zuma's state of the nation address earlier this month, Mokonyane highlighted job creation as the main focus for this year.

She also said local government will focus on improving the operations of the more than 40 Thusong Service Centres in Gauteng.

Mokonyane announced that as part of government's aim to take services closer to the people, it will launch the first Urban Mall Thusong Service Centre in Maponya Mall, Soweto.

Apart from this, and brief mention of the e-tolling controversy and the City of Johannesburg's billing crisis, the premier failed to mention any ICT strategies for the province.

Golden miss

Both e-tolling and the Johannesburg's billing crisis were mentioned briefly by Mokonyane but the Democratic Alliance (DA) thinks this is not enough.

“We share the concerns raised by the affected households on billing issues in the City of Johannesburg and, through joint efforts and monitoring, we will find a lasting solution that is in the best interests of the city and the residents,” said Mokonyane.

DA Gauteng spokesperson on local government Fred Nel says this statement shows Mokonyane is in denial about the state of the local government.

“In her speech today, the premier dedicated only a few lines to local government, fleetingly referring to the Joburg billing crisis with no decisive direction given.”

Nel adds that Mokonyane had a golden opportunity to address the financial woes of municipalities as well as the lack of critical skills that hamper service delivery, “probably the two biggest problems in local government today”, but failed to take advantage of it.

However, Mokonyane did mention that training was provided in scarce skills for 1 500 municipal officials.

The city's billing system has been a headache for residents for several months, as citizens are plagued with grossly-inflated bills and threatened with disconnection if they do not pay up.

It has previously been indicated that the reason for the system not working optimally is that the municipal staff lack the training to operate it.

E-toll alternatives

Mokonyane said that in line with the local government's Vision 2055 strategy, it will develop a 25-year transport master plan which integrates different modes of transport in Gauteng, including the Gautrain, which will be fully operational from 1 July.

She added that the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) has drastically transformed the state of the province's highways.

However, the premier also said the local government has “observed with serious concern the announcement on the implementation of the tolling strategy which has been made in isolation from a comprehensive, viable, public transport plan and with a lack of consultation, in particular with the Gauteng Provincial Government”.

She said government is not opposed to the idea of tolling as a cost recovery mechanism required to pay off loans developed during the GFIP.

“However, we are concerned at the manner it is to be implemented, including the pricing and its impact on the economy of our province.”

Mokonyane said the provincial government looks forward to a meeting that will be held between the transport minister and the Gauteng Provincial Government tomorrow, to explore alternative options in the best interests of commuters and the state.

“We support the need for public consultation and the need for an affordable, reliable and safe public transport system, including the use of tolling as a cost recovery mechanism.”

Fees for the controversial e-tolling system have caused uproar among citizens, opposition parties and trade unions for being too high and for being decided on without any public consultation.

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