The Democratic Alliance (DA) has voted in support of KwaZulu-Natal’s (KZN) 2022/23 Budget but has opposed two programmes, one within Education and another within Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA), on the basis that the funding allocated does not adequately address the challenges they face.
The two programmes, namely Programme 6 of Vote 5 relating in the main to school infrastructure and Programme 7 of Vote 4, relating to beleaguered EDTEA entity, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (EKZNW) are of considerable concern to the DA.
In terms of the Education programme, there is a current backlog of 158 damaged schools as a result of the failed July 2021 insurrection. This, on top of the large number of schools damaged as a result of storms and flooding from as far back as 2016.
Then there are the 982 KZN schools that still have pit latrines, the province’s five mud schools and the many schools that still have asbestos roofs, posing a severe health risk to both educators and learners. Compounding this is the complete collapse of scheduled maintenance as a result of Norms and Standards being underpaid by a significant margin.
Simply put, there is not enough money allocated to do even the most basic of things. This while other new projects are scheduled to continue.
One of these is Covid-19 screeners at schools. Terminating their services and allowing those employed through the President’s Youth Employment Initiative (EEI’s) will save a massive R245 million. Similarly, through working with the private sector, collaboration schools could also save revenue.
Meanwhile, the simple project of swapping out ordinary lightbulbs with LEDs, placing water restrictors on school taps and repairing leaks on school premises could bring a saving of R300 million.
In terms of EDTEA’s programme 7 of Vote 4, the budget allocated is wholly inadequate to fill the critical EKZNW vacancies directly linked to anti-poaching operations. The budget is also drastically underfunded when it comes to repairs and maintenance within parks and is inherently flawed while basics such as fuel and vehicles are hardly provided for either.
The budget merely deepens the spiral of disrepair Ezemvelo finds itself in and substantially undermines its ability to function.
As KZN’s fiscal noose tightens, it is increasingly important that budgets are prioritised so that they address areas of failure. The time has also come for Treasury and provincial government Departments to implement zero-based budgets, rather than budgets based on historical expenditure which are ineffective.
What may have been a priority 15 years ago may well no longer be a priority. Times changes – as do budget priorities – and KZN’s provincial government needs to adapt to this.