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‘Informal Settlements will be a thing of the past in Gauteng’- says Premier Lesufi during SOPA. Is this a pipe dream?

THERE’S nothing wrong in dreaming but as for Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi, that he will eradicate 700 informal settlements in the province, is like shooting himself in the foot.

He lamented this during the 2024 SOPA (State of the Province Address) in Nasrec, Jozi, on Monday evening.

“Informal settlements must come to an end. We can’t have so many informal settlements in our province, there are 700 informal settlements,” he said.

Mincing no words, Lesufi said plans were underway to upgrade almost 68 informal settlements into habitable housing.

“We are accelerating our plans to decongest and relocate people from informal settlements to more habitable land.”

The Provincial Government has bought land to address the issue, he said during SOPA, marred by wayward behaviour from disgruntled members of EFF who threw water bottles and causing the delay, prompting security to deal with the matter.

They have provided more than 2,000 households from 20 informal settlements, with the security of tenure through relocation into completed mega projects, said the Premier.

In addition, 64 informal settlements were provided with rudimentary services, and 16 informal settlements were provided with bulk services.

Lesufi said formalising and upgrading of informal settlements into “township of the future” remained a key priority for the province to ensure that they were better places to live in.

But all this was a pipe dream, according to opposition parties.

“How can he speak about eradicating informal settlements when Alexandra, not far from here, is still the same 30-years in democracy?” asked DA’s Joburg leader Solly Msimango.

It’s all part of electioneering. He shot himself on the foot, said Msimanga.

“Where are those plans because this was his last address? It’s a dream,” lamented EFF.

On the controversial e-tolls, the Premier said the formal process to switch off and delink e-tolls on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (GFIP) will begin on 31 March 2024.

“E-tolls will then “be history in our province”, he said.

Lesufi also provided an update on the planned new vehicle number plate system for Gauteng.

He said stolen and hijacked cars are central to crimes that are committed in Gauteng, adding that the majority of these vehicles use fake and duplicate number plates.

“Fortunately, the current number plate system that we have is running out of numeric letters, and we need to introduce new number plates in our province so that we can strengthen our fight against crime.

“The National Department of Transport has developed a draft legislation to ensure that this introduction is common across all the nine provinces.

On issues of Amapanyaza- and Nasi Espani projects should be commended and Lesufi, said they will create more jobs for the youths in the province.

“They’re here tonight as my guest, and this will change their lives and be independent instead of relying on grants,” he pointed out at them.

Tourism in the Vaal will be prioritised as well, he said, also indicating automotive investments by large motoring manufacturers in the province, ICT hubs and aerotropolis in Ekurhuleni, will stand the Gauteng residents in good stead and create that much needed job opportunities and stability and development.

The Premier also commented on a wide variety of issues, including illegal mining, the introduction of the National Health Insurance (NHI) and load shedding.

He claimed they have “broken the backbone” of zama zamas (illegal miners) in Gauteng.

Lesufi said this followed a meeting he had with President Cyril Ramaphosa, which resulted in the deployment of almost 800 soldiers to assist in the task from November 2023 to January 2024.

He said these soldiers ensured that all the zama zamas have been displaced, with 840 zama zamas arrested and deported and almost 2 000 illegal miners removed from Boksburg, Dobsonville, Kagiso, Khutsong, and Krugersdorp.

He urged Ramaphosa to sign the NHI bill so that everyone can have access to quality health care in Gauteng.

“We are ready to improve our hospitals so that we can deal with this.

“With the assistance of Workers Investment Portfolio, we have just signed an agreement that will see the Gauteng government buying back 18 private hospitals in our province, and we will convert them to public hospitals so that we are ready for the National Health Insurance.

“We believe this investment will go a long way to ensure our health system is improved in our province,” he said.

Lesufi said Gauteng is also working on plans to eradicate load shedding in the province.

He said it is ready, from 1 April 2024, to release 100MW of electricity back to the grid through its partnership with City Power, and in the next financial year will increase this to 300MW.

He announced that the long-term plan with the Sibanye-Stillwater board has resulted in the approval of the land leases of the six independent power producers (IPPs) that will develop a photovoltaic power station in Merafong Local Municipality.

“This is designed to harvest at least 800 megawatts of solar power and supply it to the electricity grid, which will be a game changer for our province,” he said.

Image (GP Panyaza Lesufi during his 2024 SOPA at Nasrec on Monday evening).

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