For years to come this budget will haunt the ANC

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today during the consideration of the 2020 Medium Term Budget Policy Statement

Speaker,

Every October we have a Medium Term Budget Policy Statement. Few are particularly memorable.

This one will be the exception.

For years to come this budget will haunt the government.

For it is in this budget that the Ramaphosa government showed that it is not credible, and that it does not care.

First, to the credibility of the government:

How can anyone trust what this government says anymore when it keeps flip flopping on its key reform pledges?

“No more bailouts”, said the Minister of Finance emphatically. Before he announced another massive R10,5 billion bailout of SAA.

“We are committed to debt stability by 2023”, said the Minister. Before he borrowed more than ever before, and abandoned that commitment, shifting the timeline out to 2026.

“We’re going to get the wage bill under control”, he said. Before the government offered a R27 billion bonanza to public sector workers just to make the problem go away.

On all of the most crucial reforms the Treasury has promised, they’ve backtracked, flip flopped or delayed.

Certainly, ratings agencies don’t believe them anymore.

Why should anyone believe what they say anymore?

Now, it has emerged that the government has already paid R1.5 billion to SAA, before this Budget is passed today and before it becomes law. This shows gross disrespect for Parliament and disregard for the law. It is illegal, and the DA is taking legal advice right now on whether it can be stopped.

Second, in this budget the ANC showed it does not care for, and can never again be trusted by the poor and unemployed of our country to represent their best interests.

The ANC has showed it is prepared to cut almost any basic service, to take healthcare and policing away from communities, to take water from people’s cups, in order to fund SAA.

We have said all through this budget process, and we repeat again today, that the decision to cut essential services to fund SAA is immoral. No government with a conscience for the poor would do this.

It is wrong to make provinces absorb these service cuts, and absorb wage bill cuts, simply because you do not have the courage to do what is right.

We are pleased that the DA governed Western Cape has petitioned President Ramaphosa in terms of S79 of Constitution to bring to his attention serious concerns about the constitutionality of the cuts imposed on provinces in this budget process.

The President should heed those concerns and return the Division of Revenue Bill to Parliament.

But we won’t hold our breath.

Speaker,

Nearly 1 in every 2 rand the government spends this year is borrowed.

We’ve got the highest deficit in the developing world.

We’ve just been downgraded deeper into junk.

Nearly 1 in every 2 working age South Africans are unemployed.

South Africans are poorer than they were a decade ago.

We need a clear and urgent change in direction spurred by wide ranging economic reform.

But this divided and dysfunctional cabinet cannot do it. They cannot bring themselves together behind the goal of reform, let alone the country.

This government has got South Africa on the one way track to national bankruptcy, and it cannot change direction.

Everywhere the ANC governs, bankruptcy is sure to follow. And that means the poor are left poorer, more people are unemployed, and public services collapse.

Look at local councils across South Africa. If the ANC cannot be trusted to run the economy of a small town, it sure can’t be trusted to turn around a national economy in decline.

That is the only future the ANC offers:

More debt. Higher Taxes. More people unemployed.

And a country that must go cap-in-hand to beg international lenders. Broken, bankrupt and embarrassed.

This is what they offer.

But the choice is not one government and one opposition. It’s between two governments!

Just look at the difference wherever the DA governs.

Ours are not the governments of borrowing and bankruptcy, but of saving and investment.

Ours are not the governments of growing poverty and unemployment, but of more jobs, a thriving local economy, and a real respect for entrepreneurs.

Ours are not the governments of collapsing basic services, but of the very best services to the poor of any towns and cities in the country.

Better healthcare. Better education. Cleaner government. A respect for public money belonging to the public.

This is the fundamental choice our country faces.

Where they govern, bankruptcy and unemployment follows. Where we govern, investment and more jobs follow.

That is why we are attracting investment from around the world wherever we govern. Global companies like Amdec, Capita, Lactalis and Teraco have committed R7.8 billion in new investments in DA governments.

And we’re thrilled that Google has announced a R2.2 billion investment in Cape Town’s economy.

So now if the ANC wants to know how to grow an economy, they should just Google the DA!

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

Matric leaks: DA welcomes rewrite, calls for urgent accountability

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted the announcement by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, that the Mathematics and Physical Science Matric Examination papers will be rewritten following leaks last month.

It is unfortunate that all Matriculants will now have to suffer the consequences of the poor decisions made by a few.

The lessons learned from the initial leaks should not be repeated again in the rewrite and we trust that these leaks will serve as a wake up call for the Department of Basic Education to strengthen security as it relates to Matric Exams in future.

The DA calls on law enforcement agencies to ensure that the investigations into these leaks are completed promptly to ensure that all those implicated and found guilty are held to account.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

Second wave: Ramaphosa’s decision not to implement another lockdown proves the DA was right about them all along

As a second wave of covid infections is hitting some parts of South Africa, we should be looking to learn the lessons of the first wave, to respond more effectively this time.

And indeed, the most important lesson to be learnt is that lockdowns are both catastrophically destructive and ineffective.

President Ramaphosa will probably never state this outright, as that would mean taking responsibility for the tragic consequences of his ill-fated decision to force South Africa into one of the world’s most severe and prolonged hard lockdowns that has so devastated millions of lives. But the fact that he did not implement one last night is a tacit admission of this rank failure.

To be clear, the DA is unequivocally against lockdowns because they have been conclusively shown to be net harmful to younger, poorer societies such as South Africa’s, with the poor suffering disproportionately. (Unsurprisingly, the only people in South Africa I’ve heard support lockdowns are those who are guaranteed an income at the end of each month. The poor have learnt the hard way that lockdowns are totally disastrous.)

Everyone agrees that the socio-economic impact of lockdown is negative. But many people are under the impression that the health impact could be net positive, and that lockdowns may therefore be an effective tool. Yet there is no evidence to support this claim.

To quote Wits professor of vaccinology Shabir Mahdi and The Scientists Collective: “What we can be certain of is that the type of hard lockdown imposed in March will only inflict further, perhaps fatal, damage to an economy which was on the ropes before the pandemic – and which the hard lockdown rendered moribund. It will also significantly undermine any chance of an economic recovery, without achieving any meaningful net health impact.

So how should we be responding to this second wave, in order to minimize human suffering from all causes? (I say from all causes, because deaths caused by lockdown are just as important and tragic as covid deaths although it is now in the president’s interests to afford covid special status, to somehow justify his prolonged hard lockdown.)

As the DA have been saying all along, individuals and groups need to be empowered with greater decision-making capacity, since each person, household, or group has a different risk profile, and must act accordingly.

At the same time, it needs to be made clear to people, as per President Ramaphosa’s message last night, that they need to play their part in slowing the spread of infections. Behavioural changes are the best tool we have to slow transmission.

However, government should be targeting far more of its communications and resources specifically at the group most vulnerable to Covid – the elderly and those with serious co-morbidities – as they are most likely to require hospital treatment.

Concurrently, government should be increasing hospital capacity at existing hospitals and at temporary field hospitals while improving traffic policing and law enforcement in high-crime areas to reduce pressure on our trauma facilities.

Government should also be doing all it can to ensure a spot at the front of the queue for Covid vaccines. Unfortunately, our government has missed the deadline for the first payment in the COVAX vaccine initiative. This means we now fall back in the queue, and South Africans might have to wait even longer before securing a vaccine. This is unacceptable. Government should rectify this immediately to book our spot in the queue.

There is much that citizens and government can do to minimise overall human suffering during the second wave. And there is room for disagreement on the exact strategy to follow. But I hope we can all now agree that lockdown is a terrible mistake never to be repeated.

DA reveals details about R5.5 million mystery lotto project

Yesterday, the Daily Maverick published an article entitled “Mystery of R5.5-million Lottery grant” where they highlighted an NGO by the name of Uprising Youth Development who claim to have never received the money disbursed to them by the National Lotteries Commission’s (NLC).

They also revealed the NLC’s strange decision to award a project in the Northern Cape to a relatively unknown NGO based in Louis Trichardt, Limpopo.

Most interesting is the fact that this money was granted through the proactive funding mechanism. Which implies “…that a worthy project is identified (following proper research) and an “operator” is found to manage the project”.

However, today the Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that this organisation is closely aligned with the African National Congress (ANC).

Despite their website not being functional and their Facebook account being sparsely populated, the organisation has left a trail of evidence linking them to the ANC.

Photographic evidence reveals that they work closely with the local ANC branch in Makhado Municipality and often embark on projects together such as the distribution of food parcels in party regalia and door to door political campaigns.

See pictures here, here, here, and here

How is it possible that the NLC failed to pick this up prior to granting this organisation the R5.5 million? Or did it intentionally fund the ANC’s political campaign?

Furthermore, an internal Department of Social Development (DSD) document we have seen has revealed that this organisation had not filed reports for two separate financial years.

It is clear that the NLC and DSD performed no due diligence before granting this funding and are complicit in any legal ramifications that may result out of this expose.

The DA submitted parliamentary questions to Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, back in September regarding this matter and she has still not responded in fear of exposing her own party.

In light of these serious allegations of corruption, we will be writing to the President’s Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to include this project in their investigation into the NLC.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

DA welcomes proposed new school subjects, calls for clarity on implementation

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the introduction of 13 new school subjects for learners as a step in the right direction.

We now call on Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, to provide clarity on the implementation of this policy as it should be done with caution, especially under the current budgetary constraints.

The policy is a progressive move forward within the Basic Education Department as the new proposed subjects are relevant to the current economic and skill shortage climate. If implemented successfully, the subject areas will provide learners with skills that are needed to succeed in the economy and lead to job opportunities.

The challenge lies within the successful implementation of the policy as the DA believe quality education is the key to an improved quality of life. There is a need for teachers that specialise in subjects such as hospitality, agriculture, ancillary health care, civil technology, digital studies and consumer studies – to name a few – but government needs to ensure it can source qualified teachers in these disciplines.

Government should also look towards creating mutually beneficial relationships with the private sector, which has the potential to play an important role in providing onsite training and learner absorption into the workplace.

The only way these 13 new subjects will lead to success is if it is approached with proper resources and qualified educators.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

Did Minister Gordhan authorise an “illegal” payment to SAA? 

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, has seemingly taken the law into his own hands and authorised the payment of R1.5 billion, of the proposed R10.5 billion taxpayer bailout to South African Airways (SAA), even before the bailout has been approved by Parliament.

It seems that commercial banks and other lenders have for once done the right thing and refused to provide bridge finance to SAA. Consequently, in desperation, Minister Gordhan has supposedly forced Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, to obtain legal advice that an amount of R3 billion of the R10.5 billion can “legally” be paid to SAA before the R10.5 billion is appropriated by Parliament.

It cannot be that the sovereignty of Parliament to determine the appropriation of funds can simply be ignored and money spent at the whim of an ANC Minister. Once paid to SAA there can be no doubt that it will be impossible to recover this money from the bankrupt airline even if Parliament does the right thing and fails to appropriate this immoral bailout.

The DA will refer this alleged premature payment to the Auditor-General of South Africa.

The DA’s position is that any portion of the R10.5 billion bailout paid to SAA before the parliamentary appropriation process has been completed is illegal. We will insist that Ministers Mboweni and Gordhan be held personally accountable for any unauthorised and illegal advance payments to SAA.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

Behavioural change remains our best weapon in the fight against Covid-19

Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.

The DA notes President Ramaphosa’s announcement this evening regarding measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

We welcome the fact that the President has resisted the temptation to return the country – or parts thereof – to a higher level of lockdown. It would appear that lessons about the ineffectiveness and destructiveness of lockdowns have finally been learnt, albeit nine months too late.

We would like to reiterate the President’s call for South Africans to play their part in preventing the spread of infections. Significant behavioural changes are still the best weapon to combat not only the spread of infections, but also to prevent other medical trauma from clogging up our hospitals and ICU beds. Citizens need to play a bigger role in this behaviour change effort, but where they don’t we need increased law enforcement to step in and see to it that the laws and regulations are not abused.

This behavioural change needs to also apply to social gatherings over this holiday season. We may remain on Level 1, which allows for substantial indoor gatherings of up to 250 people, but such a large gathering would be extremely irresponsible given everything we know now about the spread of this airborne virus. Numbers and close contact matter more than anything else, so this has to be a holiday season with a difference. People need to keep any social contact to a minimum, on a small scale, and outside where possible.

We urge the President to intervene in the unfolding crisis in Nelson Mandela Bay, and to ensure that the necessary healthcare capacity is made available to the people of the Metro. This must involve increasing capacity at existing hospitals for Covid-specific use as well as the provision and staffing of temporary field hospitals.

Government should also be doing all it can to ensure that South Africans have access to the same protection as the rest of the world. This should have started by securing a spot at the front of the queue for Covid vaccines. Unfortunately our government has bungled this badly by missing the deadline for the first payment in the COVAX vaccine initiative. This means we now fall back in the queue, and South Africans might have to wait even longer before securing a vaccine.

This is unacceptable, and government owes the country a detailed and honest explanation of exactly what went wrong. It is crucial that this payment is made this week still, and that we book our spot in the queue.

What government should also be doing is to target far more of its communications at the most vulnerable groups in society – the elderly and those with serious co-morbidities such as diabetes and heart disease. These are the people who need to be shielded from the virus more than anyone else, and will have to remain shielded until everyone has had access to the vaccine or we have achieved a level of herd immunity. This is where most of our precautionary concern should lie.

With regards to the rising numbers of infections in the Garden Route area, we have full confidence in the preparation and capacity of the Western Cape Government to identify and contain any further outbreaks or hotspots as we go into this crucial holiday season.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

DA calls on Treasury to take immediate steps to rectify missed Covid vaccine payment

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on National Treasury to seek immediate solutions to ensure that South Africa makes the necessary payment to participate in the COVAX vaccine initiative. The payment should be made this week.

It is a disgrace that the South African government has missed this deadline for a vaccine programme that could save lives and livelihoods. National Treasury should provide a full explanation of how this payment deadline was bungled.

This follows reports that South Africa missed the deadline for payment due to apparent convoluted procurement processes which meant that the Department of Health was unable to secure the vaccine for South Africans.

As the global race for access to a Covid -19 vaccine reached boiling point, countries including South Africa joined COVAX, a global vaccine access initiative designed to ensure equitable access to a vaccine, particularly for low-income countries. In light of the months of devastation and suffering that the virus and associated lockdown has caused, this was an opportunity to save further suffering which no country can afford to miss.

Countries have rightfully lined up for access to the vaccine. However, the South African government has inexplicably missed making the required first payment, making South Africa fall back in the queue of countries to access vaccines.

Government has no excuse. Availability of cash is not the issue, especially since government has seen fit to direct an additional R10.5 billion immoral bailout of SAA.

It must get its priorities right, and immediately make the COVAX payment so that our country can avoid needless loss of lives and livelihoods.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

Secret ballot now a matter for the ATM, Parliament, ANC factions and Courts to decide

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted the postponement of the motion of no confidence in President Cyril Ramaphosa, pending the outcome of a review process which will be heard in February.

The DA holds the view that this motion by the African Transformation Movement (ATM) is nothing more than a frivolous internal ANC factional battle playing itself out on the floor of Parliament.

The matter of the secret ballot is now between the ATM and the Zuma/Magashule faction; the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Western Cape Division of the High Court.

While we respect any party’s right to move a motion of no confidence, we fought hard for those processes to be flexible, accessible and practical.

The ATM’s motion, however, is a waste of Parliament’s programme which needs to urgently consider and deliberate on the various budgets of Departments and entities tabled before it.

The DA will abstain from this vote even when it comes to Parliament next year. Abstaining is by no means a vote in support of President Ramaphosa. It is instead our refusal to be drawn into a messy battle brewing in the ANC. We will continue to hold the President and his government to account using parliamentary and legal processes.

The DA has placed the President on terms and urge him to urgently table his Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan before Parliament for it to be passed and implemented without delay. If he fails to show backbone against those who seek to plunge South Africa’s economy deeper into the abyss, we will certainly, in future, reconsider our decision to abstain from such a motion.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

President Ramaphosa must explain who dropped the ball on Covid-19 vaccine

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to use the opportunity of his impending address to the nation to explain who dropped the ball on the procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Reports today indicate that South Africa has missed the payment deadline for participation in the Covid-19 initiative that would have given the country access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

It is unclear who has bundled the process between National Treasury and the Department of Health. It is unthinkable that the South African government would not be on top of a process this crucial for our country. Thousands have lost their lives to this pandemic and millions have joined the unemployment lines due to the prolonged national lockdown.

It is clear that we cannot afford yet another hard lockdown. Therefore, our energies must be directed to obtaining a vaccine for our frontline workers and rolling it out as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

The President must address this issue and answer the following critical questions:

  • How far are we with the procurement process;
  • When will National Treasury make the necessary payments;
  • How will the vaccine be stored, transported and distributed to the various provinces; and
  • What the medium and long-term plans are to address Covid-19 in South Africa which don’t include the blunt tool that is a lockdown.

What seems to be missing entirely from the South African government’s plan is a vaccine rollout strategy. Short-termism in dealing with this crisis will not assist the country recover as quickly as is desperately needed. We need a long-term strategy which lies in the procurement and distribution of a vaccine without any further delays.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.