Key National Departments absent from Parliament’s GBV joint meeting while SA women continue to suffer

On Tuesday, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee On Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities hosted a joint meeting of the Committees on Social Development, Health and Police, among others, to discuss Government’s interventions to tackle the scourge of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF). This meeting turned out to be nothing more than a sham and seemingly a tick box exercise for some of the Departments involved in addressing this serious issue within our society.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is disappointed and angered at the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities as they were wholly unprepared for the meeting and did not supply members of other committees with the correct documentation in order for everyone to be well equipped with the relevant information needed to address the many issues relating to GBV. Furthermore, we were left disappointed by the absence of the Department of Social Development (DSD), including the Minister herself, Lindiwe Zulu, who did not even bother to attend the meeting. DSD is a critical implementing agent of Government’s GBV policies, and their absence is a smack in the face of women and children across the country.

The shenanigans of the relevant Departments today resulted in the joint meeting being postponed for the second time and is indicative of National Government’s lack of urgency and preparedness to ensure the safety of our women and children. This is, unfortunately, a recurring practice by the Departments involved who continuously come to Parliament unprepared or with incorrect information which makes oversight incredibly difficult and frustrating.

As such, the DA will write to Deputy President David Mabuza, in his capacity as Leader of Government Business, to request he reprimand Minister Zulu and Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

Several other Departments responsible for implementing changes to help keep our women and children safe were also not present at the joint meeting. This resulted in several Portfolio Committees being unable to receive any information on the budget allocations, timeframes and progress that has been made in the fight against GBV. The fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred on this failure of a meeting could have been spent in a place that mattered – be it a safe house or Thuthuzela Center.

The DA therefore calls on Minister Nkoana-Mashabane as well as Minister Lindiwe Zulu to immediately get their houses in order. It is clear by the many no-shows that the officials working in their departments need to start taking their jobs seriously. It is an indictment that countless women and children continue to suffer while Government officials ignore the severity of the GBV crisis, by being absent to critical meetings at Parliament.

There is no doubt of the reality of the crisis we face. Women and children are being raped and murdered on a daily basis. The complacency displayed by Minister Mashabane and Minister Zulu and their departments is indicative of a complete disregard for the pain, grief and violence faced by South African women. The next meeting will hopefully proceed next Tuesday on 26 November 2019.

The DA would like to remind Ministers of all relevant departments that we will not shy away in exposing their lack of apathy if they choose to continue ignoring the cries of the women of our country.

DA calls on Minister Mantashe to set the record straight on the future of Independent Power Producers

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources giving provinces an opportunity to make presentations on the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). We further commend the Department on extending an opportunity to provinces to raise their challenges as it pertains to energy security.

We can only hope that the Department will take these presentations and concerns to heart in order to facilitate a move towards diversifying and stabilizing the nation’s energy sector.

The DA therefore calls on Minister Gwede Mantashe to set the record straight and clarify his position on municipalities purchasing from Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The Minister must also confirm whether he will make a Section 34 determination ahead of the City of Cape Town’s court case against himself and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa). The DA-led City of Cape Town is seeking a Section 34 determination, in accordance with the New Generation Capacity Regulations in the Electricity Generation Act, to allow the metro to procure renewable energy from IPPs.

The DA is of the firm view that energy security can only be realized if capable municipalities are able to procure electricity produced by IPPs and feed it directly into the municipal distribution system. This will open a new window of opportunity towards a more diverse, clean, competitive and efficient energy sector.

Eskom’s monopoly over the energy sector and its exclusive rights to resell energy procured from IPPs needs to be broken. The DA’s Cheaper Electricity Bill proposes that Eskom is split into two entities: generation and transmission/distribution. The generation entity will be privatised in an effort to break Eskom’s monopoly on the production of energy, allowing IPPs to compete on an equal footing in the generation sector.

The indicators have been there for all to see, Eskom in its current form, has failed. It is clearer than ever that the utility’s monopolistic hold on South Africa’s electricity sector is hampering the country’s progress and that persistent rolling blackouts will continue to have severe repercussions on the lives of all South Africans.

The DA believes South Africa’s over reliance on coal as a primary source of energy needs to be reduced drastically because the effective functioning of our economy is only possible with the availability of reliable and stable power supply. Should provinces be given a opportunity to explore a diverse energy mix it could potentially give our ailing economy some chance to recovery.

The DA will keep a keen eye on the developments in this regard, as we are of the view that municipal access to IPPs and the restructuring of Eskom is the only way towards energy security in South Africa.

Government in contempt of Court as it drags its feet in selling land to Limpopo farmer

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) is dragging its feet in selling Nooitgedacht farm in Limpopo, to Mr. David Rakgase. This, despite a landmark North Gauteng High Court judgment in September compelling the State to sell the farm to Mr. Rakgase, who has been farming Nooitgedacht for almost 30 years.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been informed that the Department has failed to make any contact with Mr. Rakgase regarding his purchasing of the farm and that his lawyers have now written to the Department as their inaction is in contempt of the Court.

We are of the view that the Department never had any intention of selling the farm to Mr. Rakgase and is now seemingly attempting to further frustrate the process despite the High Court judgment. The DA has no doubt that the Department will attempt to blame the delay on bureaucratic processes in order to thwart Mr. Rakgase’s attempts to seek justice.

Mr. Rakgase has been struggling to buy his farm for more than 16 years. In 2002, he was offered the option of buying the farm as a beneficiary of the now discontinued Land Redistribution for Agricultural Development (LRAD) programme, however, he was left with no choice but to take the Department to court after it emerged that it would not honour its promise to sell the farm.

The Court vindicated Mr. Rakgase and other emerging black farmers, last month, when it found that the State breached its constitutional duties in its handling of Mr. Rakgase’s attempts to buy the farm he had successfully worked for nearly 30 years.

By dragging its feet in the Rakgase-matter, the ANC Government again proves that it does not support emerging black farmers’ right to own the land but that their intention is to be the sole custodians of the land by keeping these farmers in their control as lifelong tenant farmers.

This was evident in the Department’s initial attempts to appeal the High Court judgment but later withdrew the challenge due to pressure from the public and the DA. Instead of playing with the emotions of Mr. Rakgase, the DA implores upon the DALRRD to do the right thing and immediately expedite the process of this deserving farmer building his legacy for future generations.

Land reform is a moral imperative and the DA will not waiver in holding the Department to account for failing Mr. Rakgase.

No shortcuts to success for the DA or SA

The following remarks were made today by DA Interim Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, to the Foreign Correspondents Association of Southern Africa. 

Respected members of the foreign press

It is an honour to be addressing you today as the DA’s new interim leader.

As you know, our party took a blow in the 2019 national election. Our loss of 1.5 percentage points marked the first regression for the party in what had been uninterrupted and somewhat meteoric growth since the inception of SA’s democracy in 1994 where we won just 1.7% of the national vote.

This loss in support is a setback, but it has taught us an invaluable lesson – and one that our whole country needs to learn. It is this: there are no shortcuts to success.

In its pursuit of further growth, and mindful of the gathering crisis in South Africa that is sinking more and more people into desperate circumstances, the DA turned to quick-fixes, yielding to the temptation to tell people what they wanted to hear and show them what they wanted to see.

But there are no shortcuts in life, really. Political parties everywhere need the same things: philosophical coherence; values-based, decisive leadership; and public representatives who are committed to the cause. And the DA is no exception.

And so, our party is going back to the basics, to do the hard yards of building trust and support through grassroots activism, good governance and an authentic message based on our liberal values.

My mission as interim leader is to unite the party around our founding purpose, which is to promote individual freedom by ensuring every person has not only the right but also the means to live a life they value. Quite simply: poverty is our enemy, prosperity our objective.

In South Africa, 99.9% of those living in poverty are black. And the harsh reality is that both poverty and racial inequality are growing. However, this does not require the DA to forsake its liberal principle of nonracialism, which is what it had begun to do in recent years.

On the contrary, the continued pursuit of race-based policies in SA has contributed to the gathering crisis the country faces today. BEE and affirmative action have acted as a brake on economic growth, a fig-leaf for corruption, and a deterrent to investors. They are exactly the kind of short cut that has failed South Africa, serving only to enrich a relatively small elite at the expense of the masses.

To put it bluntly, the “progressive, transformation” agenda has been downright regressive. It is elitist and anti-poor.

The DA I lead will unashamedly advocate for true nonracialism. By non-racialism, I mean an unequivocal rejection of racial classification and racial preferencing. And importantly, I also mean an unequivocal imperative to right the wrongs of South Africa’s unjust past in which the black majority were excluded and dispossessed on the basis of race.

And so the DA’s redress policies will prioritise those who remain excluded to this day: the over 30 million South Africans trapped in poverty.

But the stark reality is that there are no short cuts in the fight to reduce poverty rather than merely alleviate it. No country is special. As a nation, we have to do the hard yards of fixing SA’s broken education system, delivering better healthcare, ensuring safer neighbourhoods and enabling a successful economy.

Right now, our economy is crippled by short cuts that are trapping us in a high-debt, low-growth situation. Borrowing a billion rand a day to pay for thousands of unproductive public servants and to bail out failing state-owned companies is a crippling short cut. Look no further than crashing SAA to see it’s really a short cut to a dead end.

We need to cut these expenses so that we can free up resources to develop the transport, energy and communications infrastructure that will enable a successful, growing economy. These are the hard yards that the DA is committed to.

We need to train and incentivise our teachers rather than lowering the pass mark. We need to fix our hospitals and clinics and health departments rather than making lofty promises about NHI that cannot be kept. We need to undertake an effective land reform process rather than derail our entire economy with populist talk of expropriation without compensation.

Voters may temporarily be seduced by the appeal of short cuts. But investors are swayed only by the prospect of profit and nor will ratings agencies be fooled. As living standards slowly, inexorably deteriorate, voters too will come to learn the folly of short cuts.

South Africa will only turn the corner with real structural reform that gets us back to doing the hard yards. The good news is that now we have one party emboldened to speak up for the rational, evidence-based answer to South Africa’s problems. And not a minute too soon. The 2021 elections are almost upon our party, while a ratings downgrade is almost upon South Africa. It’s time for action.

DA requests NSFAS to provide quarterly financial reports following dismal financials at the expense of poor students

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande, to request he commits the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to submit quarterly financial reports to the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education following the tabling of its dismal 2018/2019 Annual Report. The Annual Report revealed that NSFAS raked up an accumulated R7.5 billion in irregular expenditure.

This irregular expenditure includes R1 billion in irregular payments to students, with a R3 billion carry-over from the previous financial year. This means that NSFAS is effectively unable to account for over R4 billion over the past 12 months, money which could and should have been used to fund the education of deserving students from poor and underprivileged backgrounds.

To make matters worse, NSFAS has spent R5.3 million on asset managers who wrongfully invested in the VBS scandal. Furthermore, they overspent by R5 billion in the past financial year, an amount which includes losses estimated at R2.1 billion. NSFAS has since received a qualified audit opinion due to limitations and shortcomings in the areas of cash flow statements, amounts due to institutions, bursary expenditures and contingent liabilities.

It is clear that NSFAS invests in inept administrations, that are unable to disburse allowances leaving students to pay the price for ‘systemic and deep-rooted…irregular and wasteful expenditure (which) continues to emerge as (NSFAS) accounts are reconciled’. These are statements taken directly from the 2018/2019 Annual Report tabled by NSFAS before Parliament.

The status quo at NSFAS is unsustainable as clearly the entity cannot contain the financial mismanagement, and in some cases, blatant thievery within its ranks. It is therefore pertinent that Parliament provides effective oversight and monitor any further financial losses, transgressions and irregular expenditure amounts through quarterly reports. The Portfolio Committee must also agree on a complete overhaul of the broken entity that is NSFAS by January 2020.

NSFAS is indicatively an entity that has dismally failed to cater for students trying desperately to escape the cycle of poverty that encapsulates their lives with higher education. NSFAS especially fails students in TVET colleges, with a cellphone activated wallet system that has disbursed funds late, or not at all, impacting thousands of students. This poor disbursement system has seen some learners go hungry and some have even lost their accommodation, being unable to meet their living arrangement payments on time because NSFAS is entirely unable to deliver on its mandate.

It is therefore pertinent that the Department set up an ICT team immediately to establish a system that will deal with the data architecture issues and data controls for the effective and correct disbursement of funds to students in need. NSFAS should also provide Parliament with specific timelines on the pending forensic and disciplinary cases taken with regards to the appointment of a new management team which will work under an overhauled environment to rebuild and reimagine the institution.  And lastly, NSFAS needs to establish regional offices and representatives on all university and TVET campuses, during the walk-in and registration process in January, February and March of 2020.

The DA will be visiting all provinces during the 2020 registration period to monitor and ensure that students receive their allocated and rightful allowances, on time. No student deserves to be left behind or without an education due to the dysfunctionality and wasteful expenditure by NSFAS.

Aviation industry services should be declared “essential”

I have written to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)’s Essential Services Committee, asking for certain aviation industry services to be declared “essential”. Employees engaged in essential services are prohibited from exercising their constitutional right to strike.

Section 213 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995,  defines an “essential service” as one which, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population.

The DA’s call follows reckless statements at the weekend by the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), whose members have embarked on strike action against South African Airways (SAA).

The trade union’s spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, warned passengers not to fly on SAA, threatening them that their safety could not be guaranteed and that they were “putting their lives at risk”. She commented that “learners in the technical environment and other staff are being used to fly aircraft without having the requisite experience”.

This bullying brinkmanship is typical of NUMSA. The union is a destructive, intransigent menace to society and the economy. However, given NUMSA’shistory of violence and intimidation during industrial action, its threats should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Both NUMSA and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) have indicated that they plan to bring the whole aviation sector to its knees by initiating a secondary strike that would involve the Civil Aviation Authority, the Airports Company South Africa, Mango Airlines, Safair, SA Express and Comair.

The regulation and control of air traffic in South Africa has already been declared an essential service (in 1997). It could be argued that since airports in South Africa have been designated as national key points under the National Key Points Act of 1980  (which means that any damage to, or disruption and immobilization of these facilities may harm the country) it would be in the public interest to ban all strike action at airports and indeed any national key points.

At the very least, pilots and all technical ground- and air staff who are in any way responsible for passengers’ health and safety should be regarded as performing an essential service.  Given the strict security provisions at airports, and the fact that many of the functions rendered by aviation logistics companies require specialised employees, it is difficult to find replacement labour in the event of a strike. This underscores the case for designating these services as essential in the aviation sector.

NUMSA has held SAA and the country’s air travellers to ransom for too long. It is time for decisive action against this economic wrecking ball. A designation of certain aviation industry services as essential would be a good first step in the right direction.

New Eskom CEO has a mammoth task ahead of him

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken note of the appointment of Andre de Ruyter as the new Eskom CEO. We congratulate Mr. de Ruyter on his appointment.

It is no secret that Eskom has been brought to its knees by almost a decade of weak leadership and mismanagement. With experience in both the private and public sectors, Mr. de Ruyter has a wealth of experience and we implore upon him to use this experience to set Eskom on the right course to recovery.

Mr. de Ruyter has an unenviable task ahead of him and his priorities should include stabilising Eskom’s mammoth mountain of debt as well as ensuring a secure electricity grid for the nation.

Of course the only way we can truly achieve an efficient Eskom and an energy secure South Africa is when we break the utility’s monopoly over the energy sector – as set out in the DA’s Cheaper Electricity Bill.

The DA implores upon Mr. de Ruyter to remain independent and beyond reproach as he takes on his new role. We will keep a close eye on the developments at Eskom under his leadership and hope that he will always act in the best interest of Eskom and the public.

It’s time for National Government to consider partial or full privatisation of SAA

The time has come for National Government to seriously consider South African Airways’ (SAA) future as unions have now threatened to extend their industrial action to include the entire aviation industry. If these intentions materialize, Government will sit with an even bigger problem on its hands than SAA losing an estimated R52 million per day, as it can potentially put our entire already ailing economy under further distress.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is of the strong and considered view that the airline be placed under business rescue, in order to mitigate any further loss of revenue and to ensure that the entity is a going concern. If not business rescue, the only viable option would be the partial or full privatisation of this entity.

NUMSA and its affiliates are out of touch with the genuine concerns of the workers they represent and do not care about the sorry state of our economy.

Bringing the entire aviation industry to a standstill will have devastating consequences on the tourism sector in particular. This time of the year, tourists flock to the country bringing much-needed capital and economic activity. Furthermore, reports indicate that unions are demanding an 8% wage increase from the cash-strapped SAA. If the airline cannot even afford to fund its daily operations, how can NUMSA ever expect SAA to afford an 8% wage increase?

Unions enjoy far too much power; their proximity to the governing party has allowed them to hold the country to ransom while inflicting an insurmountable amount of damage on the economy. South Africa will have difficulty  recovering from this kind of damage to the economy.”

SAA has become an albatross on our economy and South Africans derive very little benefit from this entity. The time has come for National Government to put its pride aside, do the right thing and begin the process of privatising the entity without delay.

SAA is in desperate need for reform and the only way to ensure positive reform is for National Government to take a stand against unions and making the tough decisions without fear or favour.

DA demands action during foot and mouth disease crisis

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken note of Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza’s decision to place a moratorium on livestock auctions in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the North West and Limpopo, following a confirmed case of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in the latter. While the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) may be of the view that temporarily stop livestock auctions will in some way prevent the spread of this disease, the reality is that it is a poor attempt at treating a symptom of the crisis, rather than the disease itself.

The Department as well as its entities, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and its affiliate Onderstepoort Biological Product (OBP), which are mandated to aid farmers and the livestock industry in times of crisis – have failed to come to the party.

The Minister has remained mum on the DA’s request for a full investigation into the continued FMD outbreaks in the same provinces, written on 11 November 2019, as well as our request for an update on the ARC’s progress in finalizing the building of an FMD facility. These updates are particularly important following the ARC’s admission to the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture that the R188 million grant it received to build the facility has now essentially gone missing meaning that South Africa will have to continue importing vaccines from Botswana.

The OBP, on the other hand, is an organization which is tasked, through legislation, to ensure the prevention and control of animal diseases that impact food security, human health and livelihoods in South Africa. The OBP’s responsibilities are meant to be met through the development and manufacturing of innovative and efficient products to ensure the affordability and accessibility of vaccines for livestock, through numerous distribution channels. Presently, the organization is not meeting this mandate with regard to the FMD outbreak.

The fact that the same serotype that was discovered during the Vhembe FMD outbreak has emerged in the Molemole cattle confirms the inability of these entities to effectively to work together to serve our livestock industry. Even more worrying is the fact that neither of these entities have ensured any form of post-outbreak management protocols, which include testing, vaccination and general management of red zone areas.

The DA will therefore write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture to immediately summon the Department, ARC and OBP to Parliament to come and present a comprehensive plan on how they will work to contain the new outbreak of FMD in Limpopo and how they will work to prevent any future outbreaks from happening. The Department and its entities need to do more in protecting farmers from these disease outbreaks, by ensuring they fulfill their mandates and use their grants in a manner that will protect our livestock industries, farmers and jobs – while growing our economy.

The DA will also call for a Parliamentary Debate to discuss the status of agricultural SOE support to farmers. If the ARC and OBP continue with their current trajectory, our food security and our economy are bound to suffer. The outbreak of FMD in January 2019, alone, resulted in a brief ban on South African wool and meat exports which cost the economy in excess of R10 billion.

It is for this reason that the DA’s Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Annette Steyn MP, will be visiting Limpopo on Wednesday 20th November 2019, to ascertain the severity of the situation we face.

Clearly, our agricultural sector deserves efficient and supportive mechanisms to ensure the continued growth and prosperity of all who work within our agricultural industries.

We have an opportunity to rebuild the DA. Let’s use it.

If you stand alongside John Steenhuisen, as he takes the helm of the Official Opposition, then please consider contributing R21 to our campaign to win more municipalities in 2021! Click here to donate online now. 

My fellow Democrats,

The DA is not in a fight over ideology or a fight for power. Our fight is to push back against the tide of poverty that has engulfed the lives of so many men, women and children in our country.

Our fight is for the prosperity and the dignity of millions of South Africans who are still waiting for their freedom.

I know that the DA has both the people and the ideas to win this fight. That’s why it is critical that we waste no time in turning our setback into a comeback.

As we set off on this path, I want you to know exactly what you can expect from me.

I will shoot straight. I will not have different conversations with different people. My views will be consistent, and you will always know where you stand.

My door will be open to you at all times. And you should always call me by my first name, John. We are colleagues and we are public servants. We are not a party of leader worship and deferential titles.

The DA is about big principles, not big personalities.

We must also be a party built on organic authenticity. There are no shortcuts in this and we cannot fake it. We need to put down genuine roots in every community, or else we will have no hope of winning hearts there.

Members and activists, and the branches they form, must lie at the very core of the Democratic Alliance. These structures are the umbilical cord that connects our party to communities.

Then the DA must be a party that defines itself in government.

First and foremost DA governments must be compassionate. They must care deeply for the communities they serve, and this compassion must always reflect in how we deliver.

The “DA difference” can’t just be a slogan – there has to be a clear difference in the lived experience where we govern.

This has to be so obvious and so consistent that people cannot help but talk about it.

But importantly, the DA also has to be a party grounded in values, and not one led by whatever happens to be the populist cause of the day. Just because we’re at the centre of our political landscape, doesn’t mean we must try to be everything to everyone.

The DA must be a fixed and steadfast signpost that South Africans can depend on, and not a weathervane spinning in the ever-changing wind.

Of all the major parties, we’re the only one fighting for a truly non-racial South Africa, where real equality of opportunity will mean we won’t have to try and engineer equality of outcome.

The DA also believes that the legacy of the apartheid must be corrected through targeted redress.

Apartheid was a brutal and unjust system that continues to haunt the lives of millions of South Africans two and a half decades after it came to an end. Those who still suffer the effects of past discrimination need to benefit from redress.

But we don’t need to resort to crude race classification to do so. We can target redress policies directly at the poorest in our society, almost all of whom are black.

The fact is, 25 years of race-based redress policies have made things far worse for the poor and the unemployed. Redress must actually improve the lives of poor South Africans, rather than just enrich the elite.

It is spurious to argue that only race-based policies can lift people out of poverty. That is a false choice.

We will be a party marked by generosity, empathy, and deep commitment to fighting poverty. And we will be a party that sees every person for their true worth and limitless potential, not just as a demographic statistic.

If liberalism is about individual freedoms, then our number one priority is to fight for the substantive freedom of all South Africans. Because you cannot live a life you value if you are hungry, poorly educated, live in unhealthy conditions, and fear for your safety. 

This is why the fight against poverty has to lie at the very heart of everything we do.

The DA I lead will not waver in this. We will pursue this goal of fighting poverty wherever we are.

We will do so in opposition.

We will do so in government.

We will do so wherever we have an activist or a ward councillor.

We will carry on fighting to improve people’s lives until the results are undeniable and they have no choice but to talk about us.

This will take time, because there are no shortcuts when it comes to building trust.

When we do, ours will be a story that cannot be ignored.

That is my vision for the DA – a party built through organic authenticity.

A party whose actions speak far louder than its words.

A party whose achievements in government say it all.

A party with values as strong and immovable as bedrock.

I am asking every one of you to commit to this vision too. If we all agree on what we’re fighting for, then whatever other differences we might have becomes irrelevant.

Thank you.