Pretoria — President Jacob Zuma has assured the community of De Aar that government will continue to change their living conditions for the better.
"We will not shy away from our responsibility of reversing the painful experiences of the past, and to build communities that people can be proud to call home," said Zuma on Thursday, in his annual address to the National Council of Provinces "Taking Parliament to the People" session in De Aar, Northern Cape.
He said the NCOP session had been a fruitful interaction and a successful celebration of democracy and cooperation between Parliament, government and the people.
"This week has been about providing the people with an opportunity to speak to their leaders and government. We have heard loudly and clearly, some of the issues raised by the community of De Aar and surroundings this week," said Zuma.
Some of these issues included that the efficiency levels in the delivery of basic services must improve and officials must be more caring and empathetic; education must improve at both basic and tertiary levels; safety and security must improve and the fight against the abuse and attacks on women and children stepped up.
Zuma said government had been asked to improve the transportation of learners to school due to long distances. "If children walk long distances they are vulnerable to sexual assaults. It is tragic that we have such heartless and shameless people in our communities who attack children in this manner," he said.
The President said government was already responding to some of the issues raised.
"The provincial Education Department has noted the request for a special school in the district and in this regard, the department is currently upgrading Alpha Primary School. It will be converted into the first complete full service school in the province. The school will be able to accommodate learners with barriers to learning that need Level 1 to 3 support," he said.
Another five Schools of Skill will be established, one in each district. This will be done over the next five years.
"Learners who experience moderate to mild cognitive barriers will be accommodated in these schools. They will acquire not only academic knowledge but also practical skills. The people have also requested an improvement in health care delivery."
On the issue of the shortage of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals, the President said the provincial Department of Health had informed him that they were attending to the matter, especially with regards to doctors, pharmacists and professional nurses.
"[The department] provides bursaries to medical students and bind them with a contract to work back the period that they have studied. The department is also recruiting foreign doctors and to get more community service doctors for 2013.
"Currently, most of the private doctors in the district already do sessions at hospitals, community health clinics and hospitals, which alleviates the shortages," said Zuma.
He explained that the Department of Cooperative Governance was attending to the challenge facing most municipalities in the district - that of a lack of human resource capacity as a result of unfilled vacancies and lack of requisite skills in municipalities.
"I am informed that as a result of staff shortages impacting on service delivery, a number of municipalities such as Umsobomvu and Renosterberg have faced service delivery protests relating to the provision of water and housing. It is therefore imperative to fill the vacant posts with staff who will provide the much needed services to the people," he said.
The President said he was pleased that some infrastructure development projects were being implemented which would improve the lives of the people. This included the construction and paving of roads.
"The Phillipstown project has already started while the Petrusville project will start this month," he said.
In Thembelihle Municipality, the projects that are being implemented, according to local authorities, include an upgrade of the main sub-station electrification, bulk water supply and the upgrading water purification.
Other projects include the Expanded Public Works Programme project of cleaning cemeteries and roads.
"The project to install electricity has been rolled out and currently stands at 60 percent of implementation. In some municipalities there are also housing projects that are ongoing. Currently, a total of 4563 houses are being built in Emthanjeni, Siyathemba, Umsobomvu, Renosterberg, Ubuntu, Kareeberg, Siyancuma and Thembelihle," said Zuma.
Other projects include the installation of electricity in 130 households by Eskom at Griekwastad.
Zuma said for many people, government was the only institution that they could run to for help. "We cannot be found wanting or non-responsive."
It was for this reason that the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency was established - to keep track of delivery. Zuma said he had directed the department to monitor progress in all these projects and "keep me informed".
Regarding the situation in the province recently, where some communities prevented children from going to school for months because of service delivery complaints such as the need for a road, President Zuma said it was a serious cause for concern.
"There is no need to destroy the future in order to correct the present. I trust that we will ensure that two way communication prevents such occurrences in future. As part of promoting a response and caring society, we urge people to use the existing platforms of communication and engagement with government," said the President.
Community members could use platforms such as ward committees, community policing forums, community development forums, community development workers establishments, the Parliamentary constituency offices as well as the Parliamentary democracy offices.
This is an addition to contacting government departments provincially and nationally directly.