KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala has tabled an R800-million budget in the provincial legislature in Pietermaritzburg against the backdrop of difficult economic challenges posed by the Coronavirus pandemic in the country and a shrinking economy.
Delivering his Budget Vote virtually before members of the Provincial Executive and Members of the Provincial Legislature on Tuesday, 02 June 2020, Premier Zikalala said despite the Covid-19 crises, all sectors of society in South Africa had pulled together for the “wellbeing of our people and our economy.”
“When we delivered the State of the Province Address on the 4th of March 2020, we were already faced with a struggling economy which was shedding jobs and growing at a decreasing rage. But we are still encouraged as a province that some of our fundamentals and job creation efforts were bearing fruit,” said Zikalala.
“It cannot be business as usual. This is a historic moment that calls on all patriots to be seized with the question of reconstruction and development post Covid-19.”
According to Stats SA, in 2019 KZN saw a net injection of 39 000 jobs into the provincial economy. This was supported by the Wholesale and Trade Sector which created 46 000 jobs, followed by the Agricultural Sector which created 22 000 jobs. The Transport sector created 15 000 jobs.
However, with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, all these sectors have been severely undermined and estimates are that no less than a million jobs will be lost directly because of COVID-19, exacerbating the crisis of unemployment and raising the threat of social instability.
“There are no easy answers and shortcuts to our challenges, but in all that we do, we must be motivated by the interests of the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society,” said Zikalala.
Zikalala said as result of Covid-19, the Provincial Government had to embark on “unprecedented and unforeseen interventions” as the pandemic had disrupted budget structures
“The estimation of GDP contraction in KZN as a direct result of Covid-19 is R26-billion. The national government announced a R500-billion relief package. An amount of R130-billion of this will be funded from within existing government financial resources. The national departments will contribute R100-billion whilst all nine Provinces will contribute R3- billion,” said Zikalala.
“We have put all control measures in place to ensure that as we respond to the Covid-19 crisis. We guard against any acts of abuse. We have already acted timeously and are investigating in areas where allegations of wrongdoing have been reported. We will report on these once investigations are concluded.”
Other important highlights of the Premier’s Budget Vote included:
Strengthening the provincial administration through fighting corruption and improving the audit outcomes of departments. Paying people on time and fighting fruitless and wasteful expenditure will be among the key strategic programmes the Premier will focus on in this financial year.
Zikalala also announced a R70-million youth empowerment initiative dubbed Sukuma 100 000 which will coordinate and ensure that 100 000 young people are supported with opportunities for entrepreneurial activity in order to curb youth unemployment.
Premier Zikalala lambasted the DA during his response to the Budget Vote for projecting the Royal Household as extravagant, highlighting the fact that the allocation for the Royal Household was not meant for the King as a person for the upkeep of the entire Royal Household which constitutes an important heritage for the province and which also plays a critical role in the unity and cohesion.
“The allocation for the Royal Household Trust is not meant for His Majesty but is meant for the structures responsible for the royal household. The Trust was created to fundraise for the royal household. The allocation is also meant for the support of royal household events and functions such as Umkhosi Womhlanga, Umkhosi Woselwa and others. We would therefore want to warn our people against denigrating His Majesty by suggesting that the allocation for the royal household is meant for him as the King,”said Zikalala.