Alan Winde on booming Western Cape emigration – up another 20% this year to over 120k

Many South Africans who are able to afford it, are re-locating to the Western Cape which the official opposition political party, the Democratic Alliance, has been using as something of a template. In this interview, the province’s Premier Alan Winde explains why the DA continues to encourage ‘semigration’, a direct consequence of clean governance – despite the numerous challenges which the flood of new arrivals presents. He spoke to Alec Hogg of BizNews.

Find Timestamps of the interview below:

  • Alan Winde’s on Eskom’s unusual decision to jump from stage two to stage six and why: 00:00:27
  • On whether Eskom has the opportunity to address the power issue or if it’s beyond their control: 00:02:05
  • On Western Cape municipalities’ competition and progress: 00:04:00
  • On emigration: 00:07:02
  • On densification and business relocation: 00:16:25

Alan Winde’s on Eskom’s unusual decision to jump from stage two to stage six and why

We can’t rule out sabotage for political reasons because it just seems that when there’s a big electricity conference, they seem to up the level of sabotage. I sincerely hope that’s not the case. We understand that the Eskom system is old, unserviced, creaking and they seem to just trip one after the other. And so when one goes it seems to knock a whole load off the system. This isn’t the first time that this has happened. It really is very worrying. The loadshedding in the first ten months of this year was double that of last year, and the predictions for next year’s going to be worse again. So it really is not a good time. I’m looking for some economic recovery, especially in our market. Tourism is massively impacted by loadshedding because tourists don’t understand what’s going on. The other risk is a big employer in our region is agriculture and especially during the seasonal time when we need energy, from irrigation to pack houses and processing, because we have 55% of South Africa’s agricultural exports. It knocks our economy tremendously. 

On whether Eskom has the opportunity to address the power issue or if it’s beyond their control

In the previous administration, when I was the MEC for the economy, we worked really hard. We had a premier’s initiative called the Energy Game Changer, which focused on the one megawatt environment, also on making sure that as a government we were as resilient as possible. More than 3,000 independent power producers came into the system just in the city of Cape Town in the one megawatt or lower environment. That’s just solar PV on households and small businesses just putting solar PV on their roofs but not making them fully energy self-sufficient. Where we are now, it’s obviously exacerbated. The problem is way worse. But definitely those first initiatives definitely made a difference in making Cape Town more resilient. And then you add the other work, like the Steenbras Dam, which is a great battery system with a hydro-electric opportunity and other load mitigation and balancing factors along with our big users. We can mitigate two levels of loadshedding in the city of Cape Town, which makes a huge difference. And you really hear it from Capetonians, who don’t feel it as much but when they go to other municipalities or other parts of the country and they come back, you can just feel that depression of how bad it actually is for citizens across this country. It’s appalling – the kind of negative effect it’s having on our general psyche. But obviously, the biggest impact is that it’s negatively affecting our economy. 

On Western Cape municipalities’ competition and progress

When I meet people from all the municipalities, I love trying to tease out the competitive nature of local authorities and who’s going to be the first that you can kind of hear among the banter between the mayors and the senior administrators. And we’ve got different levels – Cape Town’s definitely ahead. They’ve also the first out of the blocks with 100 megawatt capacity tendering that was open to municipalities. So three months ago, they already closed their tender for that 100 megawatt space, they actually called for 200 megawatts. And it sounds as though they’ve got up to nearly every 500 megawatts that’s come in tenders. They’ve evaluated the initial stage and now they’re going to get into the transactional space. The other municipality, Stellenbosch municipality, seems to be really doing well and they are about to go out on tender. Mossel Bay and George are also doing well. We are also seeing Saldanha Bay being very proactive. So across the board you’re seeing other municipalities and sometimes in different ways. 

If I take George, for example, they really have got some really innovative, wheeling programmes in place which are going to enable the movement of power from one business to another, or even from one municipality to another. So other municipalities can now learn from the work they’ve done. We create these platforms where we can learn from each other but also compete with each other. Because I believe in competition, and I think competition ends up giving us as citizens a good result. Whether it is about measuring how many days it takes to pass a plan in each municipality, and it doesn’t take long before the mayor goes back to the administration and says, how can that one be done in 14 days when we’re at 27? And that’s what the competition does. The same thing in energy. Although energy is not a quick fix, the new energy, especially when you’re talking about hundreds of megawatts, takes years to build. And so in Cape Town, I think we’ll see the next mayor coming in probably in 18 to 24 months, they’ll be a bit ahead. But I think that’s also a competitive nature. I think people are also trying to find even quicker fixes because it is the only way that we’re going to sustain any kind of economy and any kind of future investment in our region. 

On emigration

So it’s not families. Last year it was 108,000 people – the increase in our population. That has huge implications for us. 100,000 more people in our ecosystem. If we look at water, say that those 100,000 people need 200 litres of water per person, per day. We’re talking over 21 million litres of water needed in an ecosystem where we don’t really have control over the water. And just note that when we have day zero one day, they’re going to say, what have you done since the last day zero and today? And the answer is probably going to be nothing. So we cannot have that. We’ve got to work on it and find results. We’ve got teams working on water so that either we can request the government to give us permission to take over some of the building of some of the new dams that have got to be built, or the expansion of those dams, the lifting of the dam walls, or also influencing local authorities. Cape Town is quite far ahead on recycling of water and I think that’s going to be the biggest bulk change in water recycling. Everybody talks about desalination, but before you get to desalination, you need to look at recycling. Recycling is cheaper and quicker and easier. So that should be the biggest focus or our next layer of focus. We’ve got to be very quick to bring in restrictions, etc. to manage our reserves. It’s across the board, people adding pressure to the system. Although I welcome people who want to come and work here, people who want to come and add to our economy. Anybody who comes here from within South Africa, whether they come to look for opportunity, in other words, they’re coming for education, they’re coming for health care, they’re coming for jobs. They are risk takers. Economies need risk takers. And then, we absolutely welcome people who’ve come here with investment. They come and invest in businesses, they buy homes. You can see the growth in just looking at plans passed and actual facts, in building plans or buildings completed. And if you look at the records, even in this year, if you look at January to July, Gauteng, which has 35% of South Africa’s economy, we have 14 or 15% of South Africa’s economy – both regions add about 20 billion rands with plans passed. But in our region, 17 billion rands worth of plans passed are built, and in Gauteng only 11 billion rands of plans passed are built. It’s incredible to see those numbers which are coming out, which are real key indicators of the pressure on our system.

 Of course, that’s also an investment. I mean, any building plan passed is an investment – creating jobs in the construction industry and the supply value chains around that construction industry. You can see it also on the number of plane tickets and the volume of people travelling between the economic hub of our country, which is Gauteng, and the Western Cape. We are working very hard to become the next economic hub. You can see those indicators in our initial outline to 2030 is that our population should grow by 1.3, 1.4 million people. It’s a lot of people and that trajectory is growing. That puts a lot of pressure on us as a government. But you spoke earlier about what we focus on. Since we came into power in the province, we’ve spent a lot of time on getting our governance right, getting our systems right, because if we don’t have governance and systems or if your systems are driven or managed through corrupt activities, you can’t hope to go to the next level, which is about saying how do you get service delivery right? You’ve got to make sure that you know that your governance is in place, that you are running proper systems, because only then can you move to the next level. That’s really put us in good stead. You can still see in the audit outcomes, although what I say to our officials now is that good governance is a habit. It’s just what you do, it is in your value system. It’s how you go to work, because now our focus must be on the citizen and must be on service delivery. But you can only get that right when you’ve got the governance right

On densification and business relocation 

There is pressure on us because of the immense growth trajectory of our population. Emigration, especially when you’re talking about people with means or investment – I want to attract investors. An investor is an investor, whether they come from KZN or Mumbai, Hong Kong or London. I’m looking for investors into our economy, so much so that the mayor of Cape Town and myself, about a month and a half ago, went to Johannesburg to address a conference that was called “Move to Cape Town ”. We were alongside estate agents, schools and religious organisations, saying this is what we can offer you. So people are seeing it as a positive market. I was engaging with a company today based in KZN on wanting to move and I’ve got a number of businesses. They want me to go and visit things for this exact reason. If they are prepared to invest, I am prepared to engage. But there is the other side to this immense growth that we see.

 We also have to manage the citizens of our province – the citizens of our towns and cities. Citizens themselves love the idea of growth, but everyone says yes, sure, densification, but not in my backyard, go and do it somewhere else. So that is another management problem that we have because the economy is driving this. I spoke about how many hands are being passed, who is putting those planning proposals into our municipalities for approval. It’s developers and it’s the private sector saying, can I subdivide my property and build another two homes? And I can see there is economic opportunity for myself and we support that because we see densification, but we’ve also got to manage that densification. And that puts other pressures on us: the planning for public transport, for mobility within that growing sector. Are we having a long enough term planning objectives in place that we are making the right decisions today, not for next year and the next ten years, but the next 40 years? And what are the future development cities and the expansions? Our past history has always been expansion and growth in cities and towns. It’s always been geographical and moved outward. So if you look at the number of people living in the city of Cape Town from a densification point of view, and you overlay the map of Cape Town to, say, Lagos or or London or Sao Paulo, you’ll see that we’ve got very low ID numbers versus those cities that I’ve just named. But that transition from a densification coefficient that we’ve got right now, to what we actually need to be for a future city in 50 years time is a tough process to get your local citizens to buy into; to understand that this is going to be for the economic benefit of the region, but also understand that there are certain areas that are sacrosanct. We’ll protect the mountain, we’ll protect the environment, we’ll make sure we’ve got the ecological spaces identified. But we need to make sure that the other places are all going to densify and they’re going to densify quite rapidly.

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