Western Cape Premier Alan Winde has used his 2021 State of the Province Address (SOPA) to outline the province’s COVID-19 vaccination programme while preserving and restoring affecting livelihoods.
Delivering the address in Genadendal, Winde said the province was embarking on a four point strategic plan aimed at turning the tide against the pandemic.
“This (pandemic) is not over. The big thing that is facing us is the way forward on vaccinations until we have immunity,” said the Premier.
The provincial government’s first target, he said, is to embark on a successful vaccination rollout programme.
“This province will lead from the front. We will make sure that we are leading from the front with a world class response to making sure that we get as many vaccines into as many arms as possible as quickly as possible,” he said.
He said this was about making sure that the province has an oversight committee in place. The committee, said Winde, will be guided in ensuring a proper plan on who gets the vaccine first.
“There’s a proper plan on how we get people through the system so that every person in this province gets the vaccine efficiently and quickly. We will also make sure that you are registered and understand how it’s going to work,” he said.
The Western Cape has trained 4 000 vaccinators who will administer inoculations in 400 public sites.
Around procurement, the Premier said the Western Cape would be embarking on a vaccine procurement programme, beyond the single government procurement process.
“For me, as the person who swore allegiance to the constitution who has a duty to care for the people of this province, I’ve got to go beyond accepting that and therefore our Cabinet has agreed to procure vaccines that cannot be supplied by the general supplier coming from national government level. We will fill that gap,” said Winde.
The provincial government already has manufacturing companies to avail approved vaccines for purchase.
“We can get (vaccines) as many as possible into the system so that every single person in this province gets vaccinated,” he said.
Around this, he said the Western Cape would continue with its procurement record of ensuring that every process is made public.
“We will produce a document that shows every company that supplies us with everything to do vaccines for scrutiny- how much we paid? Where it came from etc. We will make sure that we publish that expenditure plan for COVID-19. This is to avoid corruption,” he said.
With talk of South Africa expecting to experience its third COVID-19 wave in winter, Winde said it was critical for the province to put in place mitigation strategies.
“We have to continue to make sure that we mitigate risk, we continue with our behaviour change, continue to make sure that we are predicting sufficient beds in place so that no one is without a hospital bed. We’ve signed and extended leases for our last remaining field hospital on the R300,” he said.
Turning attention to the province’s economy, Winde said: “As we plan for what will no doubt be another challenging year for our province, we need to acknowledge upfront that we are not just facing a health crisis. This pandemic is also a jobs crisis – with millions of South Africans losing their jobs in the last year alone”.
He described the situation as a humanitarian crisis, with more unemployed people left unable to put food on the table and feed families.
“And it is a dignity crisis – as the poor and most vulnerable in our society now face even greater obstacles to achieving their dreams,” he said.
In its response, the province has launched a Community Economic Recovery project that has among other things issued 1 357 vouchers for nutritious food products that could be redeemed at spaza shops.
“To create the jobs that we need to recover from the pandemic over the long term, however, we need to invest more in infrastructure that stimulates economic growth in our province,” said the Premier.
He said the province has contributed towards R10 million vegetation control in rail reserves, yards and infrastructure assets within the Metrorail WC region. Through this, 80 people have been employed.
“Like with the successful Rail Enforcement Unit – which we are working on resurrecting when PRASA can confirm their financial contribution – this is essential for the functioning of the system,” he said.