There are calls for Premier David Makhura to resign following the Esidimeni tragedy. (SABC)

The deaths of 100 mentally ill-patients dominated the Gauteng State of the Province Address (SOPA) debate.

Political parties called for Premier David Makhura to resign and rejected his assertions that he would not have approved the ill-advised transfer of the patients from Esidimeni.

Members of the provincial legislature pointed to the number of times the Premier was warned about the looming disaster.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Jack Bloom refuted the Premier’s assertions that he had no knowledge of the process that led to the deaths of 100 mentally-ill patients. Bloom says it is impossible that the Premier did not know there was a problem.

Bloom says, “In the debate on the Health Annual Report on 30 November 2015, note the date, I warned that it was a looming disaster and my exact words were “please please reconsider”.”

Bloom was not the only one who hammered on this point. Other political parties including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) would not accept the Premier’s explanation.

The new Health MEC, Gwen Ramokgopa, charted the way forward, announcing a number of measures including the transfer of the patients from the unlicensed NGOs next week. She also says as a result of this, they will be checking private and public mental health institutions for their legitimacy.

She announced the setting up of a number of forums and a call centre. “The numbers are 011 564 2235/15 and the cell number for SMS and Whatsapp is 082 809 0131. An 0800 number will be announced.”

Other aspects of the Premier’s speech were also scrutinised. Opposition parties have poured cold water over claims of job creation, crime, e-tolls, taxi violence, and social cohesion.

In his speech, Makhura highlighted the Tshepo 500 000- a flagship programme focused on creating work opportunities and skills development for the youth. It managed to provide work for over 350 000 youth over the past two years.

Currently, there are 2.7 million young people of age who are neither in school nor working.

Makhura also said between 2010 and 2016, Gauteng’s economy created more than 700 000 new jobs. Gauteng government’s spending on the township economy went up from R600 million in 2014, to R6 billion in 2016.

Over the next three years, R42 billion will be spent on infrastructure projects relating to housing, transport, water and sanitation, new schools, libraries and renewable energy.

He also wants every police station, cluster and the Provincial Police Commissioner to report to him every eight weeks about crime reduction targets.

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