Luthando Bara – Opinion
The Eastern Cape province has always been a bastion of rich heritage, home to extraordinary individuals who have made profound contributions to the tapestry of South Africa’s history. Renowned leaders, scholars, and artists have emerged from this region, leaving an indelible mark in mounding our democratic project. It is imperative that we acknowledge and celebrate these achievements while steadfastly tackling our obstacles to forge a prosperous future.
Despite being one of the country’s poorest provinces, the Eastern Cape stands tall with its wealthier counterparts, displaying remarkable resilience and untapped potential.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2019, pessimists painted a bleak picture of death and despair, yet the provincial leadership under Premier Oscar Mabuyane defied expectations. Their unwavering resolve, courage, and determination made the Eastern Cape a trailblazer in saving lives and managing the strain on the healthcare system. Today, it boasts exceptional public medical facilities that rival their private counterparts in terms of specialist expertise and cutting-edge equipment.
That being said, there are concerns that warrant attention. The attitude of civil servants especially in public health facilities remains subpar compared to the rest of the country, with corruption in government persistently high. Additionally, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) continue to face delays in payment and limited financial support, leading to business closures and further job losses.
Nevertheless, the Eastern Cape has attracted a significant influx of investments in the past few years, paving the way for sustained job creation. The development of road infrastructure since 2018 promises to transform our road network whilst igniting further investment and easy flow of goods and people. It is fair to argue that the Eastern Cape has resembled a bustling construction site in recent years.
As the election season approaches, many contend that the Eastern Cape remains relatively secure within the ruling African National Congress (ANC), with a diminished risk of falling into the wildly touted coalition structure of government come 2024. Perhaps the attempts to tarnish its leadership’s image stem from an acknowledgment of this reality.
However, amidst our discontent with certain aspects of provincial leadership, it is crucial to appreciate the gains and accomplishments in hand. Constructive criticism is necessary, but we must also remain vigilant to identify and counter hidden agendas aimed at undermining the progress we have painstakingly achieved as province.
One critical area that demands our attention is the preservation and protection of our institutions of higher learning. These esteemed establishments face relentless attacks on their credibility and reputation, which could potentially result in the exodus of academically gifted students to other provinces. For those unable to afford such a choice, the University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University remain their sole viable options. It is our responsibility to prevent the erosion of these institutions, safeguarding them from criminal elements, dictatorship, malfeasance and hijacking.
The province must enhance its capacity to effectively convey its story. Currently, its communication machinery operates in a reactive and stagnant manner, lacking the agility and proactivity required to articulate its triumphs, challenges, and aspirations. The people of the Eastern Cape must rise and protect the province’s legacy as a crucible of intellectual thought, one that has historically propelled and influenced national discourse.
As we forge ahead, let us foster an environment of open dialogue, constructive criticism, and proactive action. Together, we can shape the narrative of the Eastern Cape, safeguard its institutions, and continue paving the way for progress and development. This province possesses the potential to emerge as a beacon of hope, innovation, and prosperity, not only for itself but for the entire nation.
Luthando Bara is the President of the Black Business Forum and writes in his personal capacity.