Provincial governments must step up on their Covid-19 recovery plans to prevent a second wave of the pandemic and another hard lockdown, says Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.
Speaking to The Citizen after a briefing on the province’s plan to recover from the peak of the pandemic in the past few months, Winde said it was time for all provinces to start making tough choices to ensure services continue unabated and the pandemic remains under control.
As austerity plans rock the national conversation on state funding of wages and social spending, Winde introduced similar measures in his provincial budget.
The premier plans to announce budget cuts which could see some of the provincial government’s vacant posts, the public wage bill and social projects frozen in the foreseeable future so funds can be reprioritised to keep the most important projects and services running.
“I sincerely hope other provinces are doing exactly the same. I know that in our Covid-19 management we were first up so we really had to scramble in the beginning. We are sharing a lot of our best practices with other provinces because it is about making sure despite these tough times we continue providing services to our clients.”
Winde encouraged his provincial MECs to offer proposals on where cuts could be made in their departments or which projects should be put on hold, failing which he will initiate them himself.
“We have already said we are stopping any filling of posts. The only posts which will be filled are critical. For instance, yesterday we announced the filling of the post of the education head of department,” says Winde.
“Our wage bill is too high and, of course, when you cut budgets you can’t keep the same machine, you need to cut the machine as well. That’s the problem in South Africa, that the wage bill keeps growing, but our budgets keep shrinking. So that’s the thing we have already stopped.”
Meanwhile the province has announced several flare-ups of Covid-19 in areas such as Beaufort West, the southern parts of Cape Town and some remote areas such as George and parts of the Karoo.
Winde said the local administrations had implemented swift responses to the flare-ups and identified young people moving around, funerals and increased travel between towns as the main causes. These flare-ups, he said, were isolated and under control, so not yet indicative of a second wave.