Ace Magashule Primier of Free State Province during an interview with The New Age at his Official residence on the 16th April 2012. PICTURE: ELVIS NTOMBELA
Q: You have been premier of the Free State since 2009. Could you list some the things that you have achieved over the last three years?
A: When we took over in 2009 we decided that bursaries must be centralised and agreed that in the first year we were going to spend R184m. This year we are spending R300m. We have sent more than 6000 children to universities and FET colleges. We have worked together with the Setas. In small towns we have scholarships and internship programmes. We are investing in education.
Q: What is your government doing to provide infrastructure?
A: When we started we had to finish 13 state-of-the-art schools. We came with different types of RDP houses. The country is building 40m² houses, we are building 50m² houses. We pulled down dilapidated houses in the old townships. We hired Cuban engineers to design 10 different types of house.
Q: How does the national infrastructure plan, announced by President Jacob Zuma in his state of the nation address in February, feed into the provincial plan?
A: The Durban-Free State-Gauteng corridor will be most important. Harrismith will be our main centre in terms of development. The corridor is going to revive the economy of the town. It will have spin-offs for the entire province.
From there we are going to build roads. We are completing 11 roads. They are provincial roads, but they are strategically linked to national roads.
Q: What is at the top of the shopping list in terms of delivering on the five key priorities?
A: When we started we prioritised education. We soon realised that wherever we went we found unemployed teachers in meetings. We said we needed teachers. We found out that we had 1069 temporary teachers and in three months we employed them full-time. We are continuing to build schools. We started building accommodation for farm schools. We brought all the farm children to one centre and accommodated them there. We have pupil transport, but now we want our own transport.
Q: Where do you think you still need to make improvement as far as service delivery is concerned?
A: From 1994 there are still a lot of incomplete RDP houses. People were given money to build houses, and they didn’t finish them. Money was just flushed out.We want to spend R1bn this financial year (to finish incomplete houses). Promises have been made that we will complete the houses. We are startingfrom next month to finish incomplete houses.
Q: What action will you take against contractors who built shoddy houses?
A: We are going to blacklist them, but will try to recoup the money.
Q: What challenges has your administration faced?
A: In the beginning, the province was in the media every day with issues of health, and a lack of medicine in clinics and hospitals. We have dealt with it.
We have built a lot of new clinics and continue to do so. We are building new community halls and will pilot the National Health Insurance programme. Primary healthcare is our focus, so that people don’t need to go to hospitals.
Q: What is the provincial government doing to create jobs that will be sustainable?
A: We have put the township revitalisation programme in place. We have built stretches of roads in our townships. We are using the Expanded Public Works Programme to train people in maintaining the roads.The private sector has absorbed a lot of young people who have completed their studies.
We are training some of the reservists to take over from private security firms at our provincial buildings. If you are older than 35, security firms won’t hire you. But now they have some training and experience. By the end of May we shall have employed 700. They will be stable in terms of being paid on time. We are training 2600 presently.The biggest challenge is unemployment. A lot of our people are unemployed. The Free State is youthful – more than 70% of the population is young and that is why we thought that we should get them into school.One of the things we are talking about is cooperatives. We are spending R300m on the school feeding programme. Cooperatives can work, they are employing a lot of people. Why can’t we use our own mothers, sisters andbrothers to cook for schools? Why can’t hospital linen be cleaned by cooperatives? Why should we outsource?
Q: The ANC has been in existence for 100 years. Where do you think the party still needs to improve to attract more members?
A: In the last three years we succeeded in uniting everybody. We go to towns to meet people, and have met many unemployed undergraduates. Every municipality is going to take four undergraduates. If they need civil engineers and there are civil engineers in their district they are going to employ them. Every department is going to employ those engineers. We are giving Eskom 200 graduates. Working with the Jobs Fund we are sending 250 tourism students to the US.
Politically, the Free State is stable. We realise we see people during elections and we do have regular door to door visits. After the conference in December we will intensify such campaigns. We must start campaigning now in 2012, not in 2014.
Q: How long do you think you can still lead the province?
A: During the last conference I said I wouldn’t stand, but the branches said you can’t decide for yourself, we will decide for you. I am at the service of the organisation, whenever there is a call for me to serve I will serve. This is the time to nurture new leadership to take over. We wanted to make it this year, but, because of the political instability, comrades have said “no, let’s wait for the coming term”.
Q: How do the disruptions of branch annual general meetings in the province impact on the image of the ANC?
A: It is narrowing the base of the ANC. It makes people disrespect the ANC. It tells us about the type of members we have. As we are growing the movement it shows that we have a lot of people who don’t understand the ANC. On our side we need to do a lot of political work, but we can’t teach people respect. It’s not about ourselves, it’s about the ANC. All of us are supposed to be in the ANC voluntarily. I don’t understand why, if you don’t respect the ANC, you don’t just walk away.
Q: Do you agree with calls for new members to be screened?
A: We have an eight-week probation period. When we recruit someone we don’t concentrate on screening them. Because of politics people just recruit. Other people just want numbers. If we are going to give genuine leadership, it depends on the honesty of our leadership. We could make it six months, as our document suggests. Everyone is joining. It’s difficult, I don’t know how we can deal with it.