Since taking over in May as premier of the Northern Cape – a province beset by severe problems of poverty, joblessness and poor healthcare – Dr Zamani Saul has been getting a lot of attention. And not just because he resembles – and has been asked more than 1,000 times, he says, whether he is – the musician Seal.
In the less than two months before delivering his State of the Province Address last Friday, Saul has been nailing his colours to the wall – and it’s all about cost-cutting, reducing privileges to himself and his colleagues in government, and putting more money into important public services.
Even at his SOPA address in Kimberley, he cut the budget by more than R1 million. He arrived in two state cars with a small security detail. Gone are the blue-light brigades. The 3,000 guests were given prepacked takeaway meals. He has also questioned why he is put in a R5,000-a-night hotel room when he visits Johannesburg and why fresh fruit is put in his room.
“If I want fresh fruit, I can go out and buy it myself,” he said. “We should stop those things.”
He has also had his picture and those of other MECs removed from public buildings. It is a stark contrast to his predecessor, Sylvia Lucas, infamous for spending R50,000 on Kentucky Fried Chicken her first ten weeks in office.
Dr Saul, one of the first ANC members to support Cyril Ramaphosa as a successor to Jacob Zuma, has also taken exception to the ministerial handbook that says ministers and senior government officials should have their cars changed at 120,000 kilometres because they were considered unsafe.
How was that possible, he asked last month, when an ambulance running between Stydenburg and Kimberley had 952,000 kilometres on the clock? Why did ministers get to ride in luxury when the sick and infirm, the very people who had voted for them, had to ride in old, unsafe ambulances?
One of his first actions was to redirect money to 27 new ambulances, with another 36 to be added. He has focused strongly on the dire state of the province’s healthcare system and wants to go paperless and to have a proper system to monitor medications so that patients don’t land up at a facility that has no stock.
Saul, who has been blunt about the ANC’s chances of winning the next election in the province (it won’t happen, he has said) since it lost ground to the DA in the last one, has pointed out that half the Northern Cape’s households live in poverty and half of the youth workforce are unemployed.
In a video on Facebook (see beow) that has already had 230,000 views, people are asking why South African can’t have more politicians like him.
Wow guys listen to this Premier of Northern Cape. I wish we can have more leaders like him.🙏🏿
Posted by Musa Mathebula on Thursday, June 27, 2019