Limpopo Provincial Government on its COVID-19 response plans

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

18 August 2020

Meeting Summary

This virtual meeting was convened for the Limpopo provincial government to brief the Committee on its COVID-19 response plans. The presentation included the Department’s healthcare surge plan, human settlements plan in responses to COVID-19, education recovery plan as well as the expenditure of the adjusted budget due to the pandemic.

During the discussion, Members enquired about the corruption allegations related to COVID-19 that had been in the public space; the sub-standard shack project in Tzaneen and its incompatible high building cost; the lack of clean water in Dennilton and schools in Limpopo; the deplorable state of the R25m road within Moutse; the progress of the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces on Philadelphia Hospital. Members also asked about the Limpopo government’s procurement of unqualified service providers, food parcel distribution programme, financial pressure of the provincial government to make provisions for teachers, adequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for health workers, post-COVID 19 economic recovery plan, COVID itemised expenditure, and municipalities’ unspent COVID-19 related expenditure.

Members requested the provincial government to bring those implicated in corruption to book and provide decent housing, water supply and other services to local communities in the province. Members expressed disbelief that according to news reports, the Premier knew very little about the Tzaneen low-cost housing project before the unveiling. They believed that there was a need to develop a sustainable approach to water supply in the province especially given this COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone needed to adhere to the health protocols. A Member also suggested that COVID-19 should be a lesson that governments needed to learn from and consider to develop a disaster management plan in the province, in line with section 36 of the Disaster Management Act.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, thanking the delegation from the Limpopo provincial government and introduced them to the Members.

The Chairperson noted the apology received from the Premier of Limpopo Province.

This meeting was convened to provide the Members with a detailed briefing of the Limpopo provincial government’s COVID-19 response plans.

Briefing by the Limpopo Provincial Government on its COVID-19 response plans

Mr Basikopo Makamu, Member of the Executive Council (MEC), Limpopo Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA), presented to the Limpopo provincial government’s COVID-19 response plan.

The presentation covers seven broad areas:

  • An overview of the COVID-19 response plan
  • Institutional arrangements

The function of the Provincial Disaster Management Advisory Forum was provided to the Committee.

Provincial Healthcare Surge Plan

MEC Makamu provided the provincial government’s strategy in containing COVID-19, and the hospital and ICU capacities in the province. A breakdown of municipalities’ capacity was also provided to the Committee. MEC Makamu also provided information on the quarantine facilities in the province. Among other issues, he reported the mass screening that had been taking place in the province, the recruitment of more health workers in preparation for COVID-19 surge, as well as the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Human Settlements plan to respond to COVID-19

This part included Limpopo government’s COVID-19 Disaster Response, prioritised informal settlement for decongestion, project procurement and stakeholder consultation process. Challenges encountered had been identified and government’s interventions had been provided to the Committee.

Local government response

The CoGHSTA was leading a process of addressing the backlog on electrification of boreholes by both ESKOM and municipalities in order to increase the water supply.

A total of 101 projects, to the value of R237 359 307, were prioritised by municipalities (MIG funded).

An overview of the Municipal Disaster Relief Grant was then provided:

Food parcel distribution, homeless shelters and social grants

The progress of food parcel distribution, the building of homeless shelters and the payment of social grants were summarised and briefed to the Committee. Challenges were discussed and corresponding interventions were also provided to the Committee.

Education recovery plan

The Provincial Education Plan was drafted in line with the Department of Labour and Employment Directions dated 03 June 2020; Disaster Management Regulations, Directions of the Department of Basic Education and the DPSA circular 07, 15, and 18 of 2020. In line with this, the plan focused on the following key points:

  • Reopening of schools and offices after lockdown.
  • Phased return to work of employees and educators.
  • Steps taken to get the workplace ready for employees and learners.
  • Dealing with vulnerable employees.
  • Arrangements for customers and members of the public.
  • Change management and communication.
  • Personal protective equipment.

A few issues were highlighted to the Committee. These included the reopening of offices, workplace readiness, COVID-19 awareness, vulnerable employees, the training of employees on COVID-19 information, the supply of PPE and the reopening of schools. What was highlighted was the lack of water at 523 schools in the province and the financial pressure.

COVID-19 Expenditure per Department

The provincial governmental department’s COVID-19 adjustment budget was provided to the Members.

See attached presentation slides for more details


Mr H Hoosen (DA) commented that he could see that a lot of work had been put into the presentation.

Mr Hoosen commented on the recent allegations circulated in the public domain about the corruption and unethical awarding of contracts to close friends and associates. He said that only R668 million of the R2.2 billion allocated budget for the purchase of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) had been spent. Reports in the media and public state that many business people who were closely related to provincial government officials had been awarded lucrative tender contracts. He mentioned a few allegations:

  • The 22-year-old daughter, Motlatso Elizabeth Moloi, of former Limpopo Sports MEC, Onicca Mokgobedi Moloi, who scored a R2.2m contract.
  • There was also a security company Pro Secure Pty Ltd which was based in Durban that scored a R185 million tender contract to supply PPEs despite that the company was not a recognised manufacturer for PPEs. Thereafter, the Provincial Government provided the explanation that it had to procure Pro Secure’s service because this company had the connection with PPE manufacturer.
  • There was also a report that the provincial government had incurred R930 million in irregular expenditure for COVID-19 related budget.
  • A report that said that the CEO of Polokwane Hospital was linked to Pro Secure Pty Ltd.

Thus, he asked to what extent was the MEC of Health aware of the situation and if she was personally implicated in these allegation charges. He remarked that it seemed like Limpopo province was the capital of COVID-19 corruption and expressed his grave concern. He said that his concern was also shared by Members of the Limpopo provincial legislature. He asked the Committee to write to SIU to ask for a full investigation into COVID-19 related allegations in the province. Those people who were implicated should be in jail. Mr Hoosen asked the Health MEC Dr Ramabathu to give an undertaking to the Committee that she, herself, was not involved in any of those scandals, nor was her friend or any of her family members involved. He further suggested subject the Health MEC to lifestyle audit.

Mr K Ceza (EFF) commented on the deplorable conditions of the 40 sub-standard shack project in Tzaneen that had cost the government R2.4 million. He said that the condition of those shacks was in direct contravention to the Constitution which stated that all persons had a right to adequate housing. The condition of those shacks was unacceptable. He commented that the effort put in by Limpopo Government to provide housing for South African people was insufficient and there was a huge backlog of RDP houses in the province. He requested the provincial government to build adequate housing for the people that lived there and honour the Constitution. Mr Ceza pointed out that there seemed to be an impression that when the Premier launched this project, he knew very little of the details of the project. He criticised the reckless behaviour and said that it was not a sign of responsible leadership.

Mr Ceza asked the provincial government to explain the lack of access to clean water in rural areas of the province. He described that some local inhabitants had to postpone washing their bodies in order to save more clean water for other more important purposes. He asked if the province had a strategy to address the issue.

Mr Ceza enquired about the infamous and inferior status quo of the R25 road within Moutse, in the province. He wanted to know when the road started construction work and when the province would resume its construction work. He informed the Committee that local communities were complaining about traffic congestion and the deplorable condition of the road.

Mr Ceza enquired about the progress of signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo. He said that Philadelphia Hospital was understaffed and people were complaining that 60% of patients that used it were from Mpumalanga, which exacerbated the incapacity issue of the hospital. He asked if the MoU was being signed and whether additional capacity would be provided following the MoU.

Mr Ceza raised the issue of the lack of water in Dennilton. He remarked that the provincial government had not shown seriousness in addressing the water supply issue in the area and non-governmental organisations eventually had to step in to help providing water. Although Limpopo government had continuously promised to solve the water issue, nothing had come to fruition so far. Given the pandemic and the importance of having water to adhere to health protocols, he urged the provincial government to solve the water issue.

Mr G Mpumza (ANC) commended the province’s response to combat COVID-19 as the province achieved 78% target for its screening of its population.

Mr Mpumza raised concern over some unqualified PPE service providers. He said that this issue blighted the integrity of the Department and state-owned entities. He asked the MECs to explain why service providers who were not qualified providers in the health industries were procured to provide PPE – why they were given tender contracts. He asked the Limpopo government to guarantee that such incidents would not happen again.

Mr Mpumza commented on the corruption in food parcel distribution programme which he described as breaching citizens’ trust in government. It was a cause for concern. He asked the MECs to confirm whether or not food parcels were being fairly distributed to the needy and destitute.

Mr Mpumza expressed his view that COVID-19 exposed the huge inequality in South African society. He urged the provincial government to bear in mind of the homeless people in their policy to drive transformative agenda. He said that building informal settlements and shelters for the needy should be prioritised.

Mr Mpumza raised his concern on the 523 schools that did not have water in the province. Given the severity of this pandemic, he asked the MECs “how do you ask learners to wash their hands if there is no water?” The presentation showed that only 484 water tanks had been provided to schools; he thus wanted to know if the provincial government had a plan for those schools that had not been provided with water tanks.

Mr Mpumza sought clarity on the provincial government’s financial pressure to make provision of substitute posts for teachers granted concession to work from home due to having co-morbidities. He asked the MECs to provide quantified details for this financial pressure. 

Ms D Direko (ANC) said that Limpopo had recently seen an increase of COVID-19 infection amongst health workers. She then asked if PPEs were provided to all health workers.

Ms Direko said that the low-cost housing project that was unveiled by the Premier in Tzaneen painted a bad image of the province. It now could be seen everywhere on social media platforms and received bad publicity. She asked if the province had any plan to address the negative publicity.

She further enquired about the roles and responsibilities for the staff in the Premier’s office. She was bewildered by newspaper’s revelation that the Premier had said that he knew very little about the project that he was going to unveil. She said it should be the Premier’s Office staff to inform the Premier of the details.

Ms Direko raised the concern over the allegations of corruption in PPE procurement in the province. She asked about the measures that the province had put in place to address the issue.

The Chairperson requested for more details on how municipalities were going to be supported by the province to expedite economic recovery. She commented that one of the huge consequences that this pandemic had brought was unemployment. She said that there was a lack of information that talked about the provincial government’s plan to collaboratively address unemployment issue with local municipalities in the presentation.

The Chairperson enquired about the content on Slide 64: the itemised COVID expenditure. She asked why there was a huge price difference between first and second batches of face masks. The first batch consisted of 570 000 face masks at a cost of R13 928 970 whereas the second batch consisted of 500 000 face masks at the cost of R8.05 million.

Referring to the provincial department of Education’s agreement on Slide 66, the Chairperson asked which organisation or governmental department was responsible for water supply to schools before the signing of the agreement with the Department of Water Sanitation.

The Chairperson asked for an indication of the places that the Department of Water and Sanitation and Rand Water had provided water tanks and water to. She also wanted to know of the places to which Mvula Trust had provided chemical toilets. What is the quantity of those items, prices agreed for these services and who was responsible for the provisional cost?

The Chairperson highlighted the huge disparity between the National CoGTA’s allocated budget of R14.5 million for purchasing PPE and hygiene packs and the actual spent budget of only R149 000. She asked if there was anything the provincial CoGTA was doing to monitor and remedy this. She requested a timeframe to indicate when those municipalities would spend their budgets.

Lastly, the Chairperson asked if the province could learn anything from its COVID-19 response plan and incorporate it into the District Development Model.


MEC Makamu (Cooperative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs) indicated that he would ask his colleague MECs to respond to questions in their relevant fields and then he would answer the rest of the questions.

Dr Phophi Ramathuba, MEC: Health, responded to Members’ questions.

She began with Mr Hoosen’s question on whether she was involved or implicated in any of those allegations. She denied being involved in any of the allegations. She pointed out that the R932 million for PPEs, as revealed by a Sunday Independent article, was arithmetically impossible as the provincial government had so far only spent R665 million on all COVID-related matters, including the purchase of PPE and other COVID matters.

MEC Ramathuba sought clarity on those allegations that she was linked to a R9 million tender contract as she was not aware of that. She asked Mr Hoosen and other Members to provide more details of the background of those allegations. She did not think it was fair that just because she appeared in a photo with someone that she was accused of being involved in corruption. She welcomed Members to subject her to a lifestyle audit. She had not been aware of any articles that had implicated any of her relatives or friends. She said that the way in which the Member presented the issue distorted the real story because Public Finance Management Act did not allow executives to enter into that space.

MEC Ramathuba responded to Members’ questions on health workers’ infections in the province. She assured the Committee that the province made sure that there would be PPE sufficient provision stock that could last for three months for all health workers. All the PPE procured was of good quality. She explained that all health workers had been instructed to wear PPE or otherwise they would not be allowed to attend to patients. This was also why the mass testing and screening in the province only began from 14 April because the provincial health department needed to make sure that all health workers were protected. She applauded Limpopo’s highest COVID-19 recovery rate, although three doctors in the private sector had passed away because of COVID-19. She again assured the Committee that the provincial health department valued every health worker. To protect health workers from infecting each other, the province also took a decision to close all the tea rooms in its hospitals to minimise any potential risks of cross infection when health workers were off guard.

MEC Ramathuba said that as Limpopo province started entering into level two of the national lockdown, the provincial government started to put in more proactive measures to ensure that the province contained the spread of the virus and remained to have a low level of infection. Detailed measures included rolling out communication strategies to inform the public that moving to level two did not mean the pandemic was over. Lifting more restrictions was to save the economy. The Provincial Health Department had also adopted the stance to protect its citizens by strengthening its community household approach to stop the spread of COVID-19. It shall continue empowering and protecting the vulnerable population as well as communicating and educating the population about COVID-19 health protocols. Overall, she believed that the Department had done a good job in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in the province.

Mr Hoosen interjected and remarked that the MEC did not answer his all the questions. He asked whether or not she herself had been implicated in those allegations. He commented on the disrespectful manner in which the MEC for Health responded to the Committee. He said that MECs should be ready to account to them when they came to Parliament. As Health MEC, Dr Ramathuba had a responsibility to address allegations charges in the public domain. He remarked that the MEC’s response was unacceptable and inadequate and asked her to respond to Members’ questions in a manner befitting the office which she occupied.  

MEC Ramathuba apologised. She explained that she was not being rude or disrespectful to any of the Members intentionally; she just naturally had a very strong voice. She assured the Committee that she had never benefitted from a single tender award and that included her immediate families, spouse and siblings. Concerning the allegation in which she was mentioned, she explained that the person who appeared in the photo with her was not a personal friend of hers but rather a former colleague. She said that she was willing to be subjected to lifestyle audit.

MEC Ramathuba explained that COVID-19 infections in Sekhukhune District and Capricorn District were still at levels where the Provincial Health Department could manage.

MEC Ramathuba explained that some unfilled posts as shown in the presentation could not be filled because there was no suitable candidate in the labour market, but the filling of posts in the province was an ongoing process.

Ms Polly Boshielo, MEC, Limpopo Education, explained the difference between the amounts for the first and second batches of face masks. Because Grade seven and Grade 12 were the first learners to return to schools, the Provincial Department had to provide face masks for 79 903 Grade 12 learners and 125 759 for Grade seven learners. Each learner and each teacher had been provided with two face masks. Also the Department had procured face masks for Grade 11 and Grade six learners.

MEC Boshielo commented on the remaining 39 schools that did not have water. She responded that as for now, all learners would have enough water for sanitation as Grade 11 and Grade six learners were only returning at a later stage. The provincial Basic Education Department would make sure that all 523 schools have water by Monday the following week.

MEC Boshielo responded that 1 914 teachers had been given concession to work from home as a result of teachers co-morbidities. An amount of R331 million was needed to substitute their posts.  

MEC Boshielo responded that there were 515 schools without proper toilets in Limpopo. It was planned that the sanitation system in 300 schools would be done through the Presidential Infrastructure. As a province, there were still 215 schools that needed sanitation systems to be installed. The National Department of Basic Education delivered 453 toilets and the remaining would be done by the provincial department at the budget cost of R1.4 million.

Mr Charles Sekoati, MEC, Provincial Treasury, assured the Members that allegations in the province were being taken very seriously. The provincial government was in a process of verifying all these allegations and also ensuring that everything had been done with transparency and fairness. Like all other provinces, Limpopo province had also compiled all its service providers’ information and was reviewing the administrative compliance in the procurement processes. The Auditor-General’s (AG) office and the SIU were both auditing and investigating some allegations in COVID-19 procurement process. He said that there were a lot of allegations and stated that only by turning these allegations over to the correct authorities such as the SIU and the AG could these allegations be properly investigated.

The MEC for Social Development, who is in charge of food parcel distribution programme, explained that the provincial department established a task team which was working with traditional leaders to figure out an efficient identification mechanism to distribute food parcels. Social workers were also assisting the Department in the distribution process. Because there was outcry about councillors involved in food parcels distribution programme, the Department decided to leave local councillors out of the distribution process. She confirmed that there were a lot of challenges in the distribution process but assured the Members that the Department was on par to solve those challenges. The ultimate purpose was to ensure that no one went hungry.

Mr Nape Nchabeleng, Director-General of the Limpopo Provincial Government, addressed three points in relation to Members’ questions.

Firstly, he responded to Members’ questions on whether the Premier was well briefed about the housing project prior to his unveiling. He assured Members that the Premier was well briefed by the project by relevant departments responsible for it – Limpopo Cooperative Governance and Human Settlement (CoGHSTA). However, the main issue which resulted in such negative publicity was caused by miscommunication. The provincial government did not clearly distinguish the temporary nature of those housing projects that related to COVID-19 and the broader objective which was the development of integrated human settlement.

Secondly, he addressed the issue of the capacity of support staff in the office of the Premier. He confirmed that the Premier’s Office was well capacitated. However, COVID-19 resulted in a reduced staff rate to 33% of its full capacity. The staff group that was in charge of the Premier’s diary was working from home.

At last, he asked about the provincial government’s plan to address the negative public publicity. He said that the media report was a distortion and that a formal complaint had been submitted to the media ombudsman. He believed that the publication company would be obliged to retract the statement because the Premier had never spoken to a journalist on the housing project.

MEC Makamu reaffirmed the provincial government’s stance in committing to delivering quality houses. He disagreed with Members’ suggestion that Limpopo government was continuing what the apartheid government had done for people by building shacks. He affirmed that since 1994, this government had been eradicating shacks and building low cost housing. The type of quality of houses that had been built had improved tremendously since 1994. The quality of the lost-cost houses built by the government was so good that they could even be advertised. Although he agreed with the view that the temporary building structures were not sustainable, he clarified that it was a temporary structure put in place in emergency to assist people in social distancing. Limpopo government had never made it its goal to build these temporary structures for people’s permanent use.

On water supplies for Limpopo residents, MEC Makamu explained that the area which the Member referred was a drought-stricken area. So there would be no clean water fit consumption even if water hose was installed. The Minister of Water Sanitation had been busy with a water scheme programme. However, the provincial government had also developed a short-term, medium-term and long-term strategies to address the challenge. The short term was to purchase water tanks; the medium term was to connect households with the existing water hoses; the long term was to connect households with the existing water schemes for better sustainability.

On the expenditure for the relief grant, the presentation showed that the R14 million being allocated to the provincial Department had been spent. However, the Department needed to work with National Treasury to account for how the allocated budget was spent.

On the lack of performance on the spending items that only achieved nine percent, he assured the Committee that those projects had been reprioritised and were getting all the support in order to perform better.

On the management of border towns, such as Musina in the Limpopo province, MEC Makamu responded that part of the strategy was continuing with the Department of Transport and Community Safety to ensure that all health protocols were adhered to. He assured the Committee that the provincial government was taking the cross-border spread of COVID-19 very seriously and was making every effort to reduce the spread.

On the remark in the media that described the Limpopo province as an epicentre of corruption, he explained that SIU had already been on board to carry out investigation of allegations. The Premier of the province also emphasised every time the importance of adhering to proper processes in procurement of services. He ensured that all the MECs in the provinces were committed to root out corruption.

On re-opening up the economy in the province, MEC Makamu added that the provincial department had already begun discussions with local municipalities and district to make plans on the reopening of the economy. The National Department of Tourism had already stepped in and assisted the provincial government in organising the work related to its domain. He assured the Committee that the plan for the reopening was well under way.

Further discussion

Mr Ceza remarked that none of his questions related to health and Philadelphia Hospital were answered. He clarified that his question was about the capacity issue and whether there was a MoU between the provinces of Mpumalanga and Limpopo for the transporting of patients, since Philadelphia Hospital was currently understaffed.

He commented on the two doctors that had lost their lives. He said it was a cause for concern considering the rural nature of the province. He asked what strategies were in place to attract doctors.

Mr Ceza enquired about the food parcel distribution project and asked whether councillors of opposition parties were involved. If not, what was the reason?

Mr Ceza enquired whether if the province had a plan in place to address the stigmatisation issue of COVID-19 patients.

Mr Ceza asked about the progress of the R250m water supply project that was launched in the province since 2011. The project was scheduled to be completed in August 2017; the Committee still had not seen any progress of the project.

Mr Ceza reiterated that although the MEC explained that the shelters built for people during this COVID pandemic were temporary housing structures, even RDP houses were in a more deplorable state. Providing those RDP houses to the local population had drastic consequences. He stressed that very little progress had been done since 1994 in the building of houses. Some inhabitants in Limpopo complained that even houses built during apartheid were of better quality.

Mr Hoosen appreciated the Housing MEC’s response. He further clarified that as Members did have the rights given by the Constitution, as an accounting body, to ask the executive any questions, it did not mean that Members were in any way implying that those allegations were true. He appreciated the responses from the MEC members.

Mr Hoosen asked the MEC for Housing whether she would ensure that the SIU investigated all the allegations around COVID-19 expenditure in the Department. He believed that if she could do that, it would restore people’s confidence in the Department. He sought clarity on what cases the SIU was investigating.

Ms H Mkhaliphi (EFF) was dissatisfied with the MEC’s response. She did not believe that the cost of building a temporary shelter of such bad condition could cost R64 000 per unit. She said that the MEC was aware of the fact that the unit cost could not be more than R15 000 per shelter. She wanted the MEC to explain why there was such a huge inflation in the cost of temporary shelters. Given the fact that Limpopo was the poorest province in the country, the MEC’s response which was merely playing with words and with tax payers’ money was unacceptable.

She also asked the MEC for Health to explain the R185m contract that was awarded to Pro Secure Pty Ltd, which was a Durban-based company that was not even on the Department’s Central Supplier Database.

Mr Mpumza commended the Limpopo government for its initiative to use electrification of boreholes as a way of water supply. However, as it was the only means to provide water and sanitation services, he wanted to know whether it would be reliable even during drought season. Is there an alternative to the borehole approach? He emphasised the need to have sustainable water resource in the province.

He noted the lack of fiscal economic outlook plan for post-COVID-19 time. He wanted the Department to provide a post-COVID economic plan that would absorb the 200 000 people within the age category group of 18 to 24, who were on the relief grant scheme.

The Chairperson sought clarity on slide 17 of the presentation. She was confused as to why the interviews were still taking place while the graph showed that all categories of health workers were sufficient.

The Chairperson was not satisfied with the Department’s explanation that attributed financial implication for the Department as an explanation to not provide water to schools. She needed the provincial government to provide a solution to that. She reiterated that schools needed water for sanitation in post-COVID time and requested that the provincial government to find a solution to that.

She also noted the absence of figures, indicating the infected cases after schools had recently been opened. She wanted to know those figures on learner infections and teacher infections.

She sought clarity on Mvula trust and to know the place, quantity and price as well as who was responsible for the provisional cost for the water sanitation project.

She asked, in terms of section 38 of the Disaster Management Act, what the provincial CoGHSTA considered as part of the team to develop a disaster management plan in line with section 38. Then she asked whether CoGHSTA was planning a provincial disaster management plan in order to proactively deal with disaster such as COVID-19 in future. She asked whether the provincial department had identified other departments in order to build disaster management capacity as well as if those messages had been communicated to the municipal level.

On the R149 000 that was missing, the provincial department explained that the money had been spent whereas the National Department informed the Committee that it was not spent. She requested the report outlining this expenditure.


MEC Ramathuba explained that the signing of MoU for Philadelphia Hospital had not been completed and it was delayed due to the Lockdown Level five restrictions. A range of issues were being looked at such as how the two provinces could be sharing the same hospital. The issue of EMS would also be reviewed in order to improve ambulance efficiency for emergency patients. She recognised the staff shortage at Philadelphia but assured the Committee that the Department had intervened and addressed the issue. A range of medical professionals such as aesthetician, medical specialists, surgeons, paediatricians had all been recruited at the hospital. She assured the Committee that the MoU would be signed very soon.

On stigmatisation, the Department had detected as early as 2 June that there was stigmatisation even among health workers. The Limpopo Provincial Health Department launched a campaign to address the issue so that patients would not be afraid of being tested for COVID-119. The Department also adopted a position that everyone was presumed COVID-positive before people were tested. She believed that this was also a good way to make sure that they wore masks.

She also emphasised the provincial Department’s position to protect health workers. She fully understood the lack of doctors in rural areas in the province and the loss of three doctors due to COVID-related causes was a huge blow to the human resource in the province. She reassured the Committee that public sector was actively assisting doctors in private sector to by providing them with PPE. The Department was also doing regular inspections at private practices to ensure that they adhered to all health protocols and that doctors were protected.

MEC Ramathuba informed the Committee that the province had been facing shortage of health workers prior to COVID-19. This pandemic exposed this shortage. She recognised that the provincial Health Department had not been doing well in recruiting specialty nurses and medical officers because it was very hard to recruit people with those skills. She indicated that the Department was recruiting as shown on slide 17, because although the province was coping at this stage, it needed more health workers to prepare for a rising of infected cases when more sectors of the economy were opened up.

MEC Ramathuba assured Mr Hoosen that the provincial health department worked diligently to ensure that every cent allocated to it by the National Department was accounted for and spent on what it should be spent on. She reminded the Committee that when she first became the MEC of the department, she was left with a department that had a staggering deficit amount to over R1.4bn. It had now been reduced to over R500 million towards the end of 2019/20 financial year. She thought that the amount was still unacceptable and anticipated that the amount would rise given the COVID-19 pandemic. She assured the Committee that the provincial Department was equally concerned about corruption just as much as the Members were. The Department took allegations of corruption very seriously. She explained that the best authority to investigate corruption allegations was external credible bodies such as the SIU and the AG’s office. What the Department could do was to cooperate with all the investigations.

The Chairperson reminded MEC Ramathuba of the question on the province’s health planning for future disastrous events in terms of Disaster Management Plan.

MEC Ramathuba responded that there was a health plan within the Health Department. This plan had been used to deal with cholera, malaria, typhoid and listeriosis in the past. The plan got activated and a response team would be formed subsequently. It was led and guided by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

The Chairperson requested the details of the plan to be shared with the Committee. She complained about the problematic way that in which the presentation was presented, saying that it was confusing. The Department must do better in future.  

MEC Boshielo responded that as of present day the number of infected teachers in the province was 183, the number of infected learners was 97 and 12 non-teaching staff members were also infected with COVID-19. A total of 299 learners were granted to learn from home due to co-morbidities and 166 learners were given approval by the provincial Department of basic education to do home schooling. A total of 796 learners were kept at home by parents. She explained that the Department would be able to collect more information as more Grade 12 and Grade seven learners were returning to schools.

On the water issue, MEC Boshielo agreed with Chairperson that water supply for schools could not be reversed to the stage where schools did not have water supply. The provincial command council resolved to take a decision that the water and sanitation issue would be led by MEC: COGTA, Mr Makamu, and water authorities to deal with the matter. A service plan was done last week and what was still to be determined was the rate for water so that the Department could work out how much the provincial Department needed to budget.

On the provision of water, she responded that the Limpopo province itself provided water for 250 schools with a cost of R1.4 million. The agreement between Mvula Trust and the National Department of Basic Education was between themselves, so she did not have the exact figures but she was sure that the national Minister of Basic Education could provide those requested details.

The Chairperson asked the MEC for the Provincial Treasury to explain why this Durban-based Pro Secure Pty Ltd, which was not on Central Supplier Database, was awarded R 185 million contract.

MEC Sekoati said that he thought that he had answered the question. He assured the Committee that any wrong doing committed by anyone would be investigated and accounted. At the moment, he could not provide more details until further information was discovered.

Ms Mkhaliphi rejected MEC Sekoati’s response and insisted on him giving a yes or no answer as to whether this company was in the database.

MEC Sekoati responded that all companies that were procured are from the database as far as he knew. The Provincial Treasury’s position was that only suppliers from its database would be procured.

The Chairperson reminded MEC Sekoati that the Department should never outsource its accounting responsibilities to law enforcement. Even in terms of the investigations, she believed that the provincial treasury still had a role to play.

On the R250 million water supply project in the Sekhukhune district which began in 2011, MEC Makamu said that he was made aware that the project was still not completed. When the Minister of Water Sanitation came to resolve the issue, it was revealed the local municipality appointed incompetent people who were incapable of resolving this water supply challenge. He assured the Committee that this issue would not continue and three contractors were appointed to complete the project. An investigation was also under way to look into this project.

He reiterated that those R64 000 amounts were for temporary residential units and he would not called them any other things as these units were in compliance with regulations pertaining to temporary residential units. He asked Members to understand that whether it was a low-cost housing or a temporary structure, the cost was fixed. The National Department was working with the provincial government to determine whether the amount was inflated.  The Department was concerned about the negative publicity. He reminded the Committee that Limpopo had the least informal settlements across all nine provinces so that people may not be used to such temporary structures. There was a process to verify what had been delivered. He rejected the Member’s statement that there was any way that the houses being built now could be compared to the houses that had been built under apartheid. He believed that the number of houses that had been built since 1994 was impressive and that no other government could surpass them. In terms of quality, he informed the Committee that there was a quality assurance led by the National House Builders Association that inspected and assessed the quality of houses. He assured the Committee that the quality of the house was good in general.

On using boreholes for water supply, he clarified that the provincial government’s position was to use this as a medium-term measure to provide immediate relief for those areas that had no water. The provincial government was aware that it was not the ultimate solution and thus had alternative strategy in place to gradually connect those areas to sustainable water sources in a longer term.

On post-COVID economic recovery plan, MEC Makamu explained that the province did have a plan and it was solid and could be presented to the Committee in due course. The work that the province was doing now was to communicate with the governments at the municipal and district levels in order to ensure the synchronised effort in economic recovery plan. He mentioned that the cohort age group 18 to 24, which was shown in the presentation, was something that the government’s economic recovery plan was planning to absorb.

On the suggestion made to incorporate a specific disaster section in the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), MEC Makamu confirmed that the provincial government was considering and was also learning from past experience in dealing with malaria and other types of disasters in order to create a framework that specifically would address disaster management.

An MEC overseeing the distribution of food parcels responded that the Premier at one stage had called all political organisations and parties to be involved. She said that there had not been a case in Limpopo where people were fighting over food because of the checks and balances system in place with the involvement of all political parties. There had also been consensus that politics should be left out of this distribution process. Furthermore, the MEC said MPs could easily report any issue encountered during the distribution process to MECs.

The Chairperson thanked all the MECs’ responses and contributions to the discussion.

The Chairperson recalled an incident which took place in Gauteng two weeks ago where there were similar allegations of corruption in the public domain. The Gauteng provincial department did not wait for law enforcement before it started its own internal investigations. She commended the Gauteng government’s proactive approach and suggested the Limpopo government to do the same. She commented that the proactive approach was absent in the handlings of corruption allegations in the presentation. She requested provincial government to do its own internal investigations first before SIU stepped in as SIU would also need internal investigations before SIU could investigate cases further.

The Chairperson thanked MEC Makamu and MEC Ramathuba for their responses on whether the province had developed its own disaster management plan. However, he pointed out that in terms of section 38 of the Disaster Management Act, disaster plan should also cover EMS, emergency, epidemic, as well as ensuring sufficient hospital capacity.

The Chairperson further suggested that the provincial government could also look at a document that was developed by the National COGTA in order to work out the best plan for Limpopo province.

The Chairperson made her closing remarks. She emphasised the Committee’s role in oversight and explained to the Department officials that it was in the interest of the people that the Committee represented the public and that Members would ask all different kinds of relevant questions. She further sought clarity on the Premier’s action to bring SIU in investigating corruption cases.    

Mr Nchabeleng responded that the Premier would meet with the SIU the following day to discuss specifics of the corruption allegations around COVID-19 budget. The Premier himself also made a request to prioritise all the corruption allegations in Limpopo. After the meeting, a public announcement would be made to the public.

MEC Makamu thanked the Committee for a fruitful discussion. He said that he understood the Members’ position and the Committee’s oversight role. He was used to the style of interrogation and he truly appreciated the inputs.

The meeting was adjourned.