Free State MEC for finance, Elzabe Rockman, says the provincial government has succeeded in expanding basic services such as water, electricity and sanitation to millions of residents in the province since 1994.
Addressing delegates at an African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) meeting on the implementation of the APRM objectives in the province last week at the University of the Free State (UFS), Rockman said the democratic government has succeeded in improving the lives of the poor since taking over in 1994.
The African Peer Review Mechanism is a mutually agreed programme, voluntarily adopted by the member states of the African Union, to promote and re-enforce high standards of governance. It is a self-monitoring mechanism.
The APRM’s mandate is to ensure that the policies and practices of participating countries conform to the agreed values in the following four focus areas: democracy and political governance, economic governance, corporate governance and socio-economic development.
The primary purpose of the APRM is to promote the adoption of laws, policies and practices which will lead to political stability, high rates of economic growth, sustainable development and continental economic integration.
Rockman said the provincial government has made strides in delivering basic services to the people of the Free State.
“Access to basic services has markedly improved since 1994. According to the 2011 Statistics South Africa Census data, 97.8 percent of the people of the province now have access to piped water. Households with access to electricity for lighting have increased from 74.4 percent in 2001 to 89.9 percent in 2011.
“Our continued investment in education is illustrated by the trajectory of the Grade 12 pass rate that has increased from 75.7 percent in 2011 to 81.1 percent in 2012 in the province. In addition, the Free State province has taken the lead in supporting students at various tertiary institutions throughout the country through our extensive bursary programme,” said Rockman.
She said South Africa was one of the first countries to sign the APRM accord in March 2003 in Abuja, Nigeria.
“The progress made by the APRM is significant. Between January 2006 and January 2011, 14 member countries were peer reviewed. As at 29 January 2011, the APRM counted 30 member states.
“However, South Africa’s early participation in the APRM process was hardly surprising given that the triumph of democracy also meant the pursuit of the noble intentions embedded in the APRM process. Envisioned in our quest for democracy was the need to transform the country, foster economic growth, accelerate development and improve the living conditions of our people.”
In support of the national effort, the Free State embarked on a process to strengthen the APRM in November 2005 with the inauguration of the Free State Provincial Governing Council to implement the provincial chapter of the APRM process.
During April 2010, the Free State hosted the APRM provincial consultative conference with specific focus on the land question. This engagement was intended to listen to the people of the Free State and solicit their inputs on the land question.
According to Rockman, there are still service delivery challenges, instances of xenophobia and violence against women and children plaguing the province. She said these challenges have persisted over the three APRM reporting periods.
“Government has developed robust mechanisms to root them out. Various measures are being instituted to clean and strengthen the police, mobilise communities against xenophobia and violence against women and children as well as to capacitate the judiciary and oversight institutions,” concluded Rockman.
Rockman expressed concern that many African countries still continue to be blemished by conflict, poverty and political instability.
“All these and other problems diminish the greater prospects for peace and development that we so much desire. I wish to express my appreciation to the organizers for taking this initiative of the APRM colloquium arranged by the Centre for Africa Studies today supports and contributes to this anniversary celebration. The initiative which was launched in 2003 by the African Union was a means to deal with these and many other challenges.”
“The Addis Ababa Colloquium scheduled for later this month will serve as a platform for high-level discussions on governance-related issues among prominent African scholars, thought leaders, government officials, governance academics and practitioners. The discussions are expected to highlight the importance of good governance in the social, political and economic transformation processes to the promotion of sustainable growth and development in Africa,” said Rockman.