The embattled Eastern Cape could lose a further R5.9 billion of its equitable share of national government revenue.
So says the Eastern Cape’s MEC for finance, economic development, environmental affairs and tourism, Oscar Mabuyane.
Mabuyane was addressing a gala dinner, organised by the Eastern Cape Business Chamber in Mthatha last week.
He spoke to business leaders about the state of the province.
“We are in a mini crisis as a province,” he said.
“We hold a record for almost all the wrong reasons in this country. Stats SA reports that between 2006 and 2018, more than 1.5 million people from our province migrated to the Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and all other provinces.”
Citing the last medium-term expenditure framework, he said the province had lost R13 billion because of this migration.
“As I was presenting the budget adjustment estimate a few weeks ago in the legislature, I also indicated that we are projecting to lose another R5.9 billion in this medium-term expenditure framework. I will talk about that in detail some time in February.”
Mabuyane added that the financial loss had occurred because the province could not hold on to its citizens and prevent them from leaving in their numbers.
Mabuyane said solutions needed to be found to prevent this situation from continuing because when people left the Eastern Cape for greener pastures, the province’s share of national government revenue fell – and it lost money that would have otherwise been spent to develop the province and create opportunities.
“There is only one way we can prevent our people from leaving and seeking jobs elsewhere. We must create jobs here,” he said.
The MEC cited as an example the controversial proposed mining project in Xolobeni, saying it had presented a great opportunity to create jobs.
He reiterated his call for a referendum to be held on the proposed mining project.
This, after members of the Xolobeni community who had opposed the project took legal action to protect their land rights.
On November 22, the Pretoria High Court ruled in the community’s favour, declaring that the state could not grant mining rights in the area before obtaining informed consent from the affected residents.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has since decided to appeal the judgment.
Residents who opposed the mining project have countered the MEC’s statement about the Xolobeni mine creating jobs, saying ecotourism is a more sustainable job creator than mining.
During his speech to members of the Business Chamber, Mabuyane also cited the example of Port Edward, where an opportunity had been presented to mine titanium, but the community had resisted this, opting for ecotourism as a financially viable alternative to mining.
Mabuyane then made mention of Richards Bay as “a model for keeping the environment intact”, adding that he believed mining in Xolobeni could coexist with tourism.
“This mining can be done within the acceptable norms and laws that govern our environment for its rehabilitation. We cannot be reckless about that.”
He said it was painful that people from Mbizana and other areas in the province had to go to seek jobs in Richards Bay, Marikana and other mining towns when there were opportunities in their hometowns, especially those with natural resources.
“People from this province, including in Mbizana, leave their homes and migrate to other places, including Port Edward, Margate and Port Shepstone. But we are not saying things must be imposed on our people. There must be a negotiated arrangement that must unite our people, so they don’t fight among themselves,” he said.
The MEC said he welcomed the high court ruling in favour of people’s right to have their say in how their land would be used.
But, he added, the court did not say mining should not take place in Xolobeni.
“There is only one way of consulting the Xolobeni people: via a referendum, going homestead to homestead and asking if they want mining or not.”
He said the R13 billion lost to the province, which was riddled with social infrastructure backlogs, was problematic.
Comparing the Eastern Cape with Gauteng, he said: “Gauteng still gets the bigger slice of the equitable share. If you look at the budget, Gauteng gets R50 billion more than us. That is why in Gauteng they don’t have a problem with maintaining roads. In the Eastern Cape we need more than R60 billion for our road infrastructure network.”