DA to take immediate action against Melvin Naik following George forensic report

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape has studied the findings of a forensic investigation into allegations of fraud, corruption, maladministration and serious malpractice within the George Municipality.

This investigation was conducted at the instruction of the Minister for Local Government in the Western Cape, Anton Bredell.

The report makes two very serious findings relating to the Mayor, Mr Melvin Naik, relating to alleged corruption, and interference in administrative processes. These findings are substantiated by a number of admissions by individuals involved as well as compelling circumstantial evidence. There is also evidence that certain relevant documents were withheld from the investigators.

The DA is committed to delivering governance that is demonstrably cleaner and more accountable than any other party in South Africa. Every voter and ratepayer should feel confident that where the DA governs, public money will be spent wisely and that it will not be misappropriated. Where a DA government falls short of this expectation, we will always act to uphold our standard and restore public confidence. Any person involved in corruption will have no place in a DA government. That is the “DA difference” and that is what the public can expect from us.

The Provincial Executive Committee of the DA in the Western Cape has therefore resolved to take the following action immediately:

  • That the DA will write to Mayor Naik today giving him notice of our intention to place him on suspension, and giving him opportunity to provide reasons why this should not happen;
  • That the DA will charge Mayor Naik in terms of the DA’s Constitution;
  • The report will be tabled in the next full Council meeting taking place next Thursday, 30 January; and
  • I will be meeting with Mayor Naik and the George DA Caucus today to discuss further appropriate actions

The alleged offences detailed in the report carry very serious criminal sanctions. It must be noted that Mayor Naik denies all the allegations against him, and they have not been proven in court. However, these findings go beyond mere empty allegation or rumour – they are detailed and substantiated, and in some cases the available evidence contradicts the Mayor’s denials. That is why the DA could not wait for the Hawks, who have been investigating other allegations regarding George for nearly two years, to take action.

We also cannot await the outcome of any eventual criminal proceedings, although those must of course go ahead. We have to take decisive action now to restore the integrity of the DA administration in George.

It is thanks only to MEC Bredell and the DA in the Western Cape that these allegations have been thoroughly investigated and this evidence has been brought to light. This demonstrates the DA’s commitment to clean government, even when this means taking action against colleagues.

We call on all parties in the George Council to support our efforts to root out corruption in George.

It is time for government to admit that SAA can not be rescued and must be liquidated

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is not at all shocked to note reports that South African Airways (SAA) has run out of cash and as a dire, but foreseeable consequence, had to cancel as many as 19 domestic and international flights. We will now write to the business rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, urging them to play open cards with South Africans and admit that SAA can not be turned around. They must urgently apply to the courts for SAA to be liquidated.

SAA is bankrupt and has been for a very long time. It is in debt to the extent of some R20 billion. It has no cash reserves, it is unable to meet its current liabilities (including salaries) and still requires more bailouts funded by taxpayers. National Treasury is simply not able to keep the failed public enterprise afloat and the current cash crisis was always inevitable.

This is not simply a result of unfortunate circumstances or bad luck. It is as a result of a frankly incompetent and corrupt ANC government that has grossly and irresponsibly mismanaged billions in taxpayer money, and it is inconceivable that to date nobody has been held accountable for this.

It is now up to Matuson and Dongwana to do the right thing by being honest with South Africans: without further massive taxpayer-funded cash bailouts, SAA cannot continue to trade. The R5.5 billion appropriated in the Adjustments Appropriation Bill that was signed into law on the 13th of January 2020 by President Cyril Ramaphosa is specifically set aside for “South African Airways SOC Ltd: Debt Obligations” and may not be used for continued working capital for SAA. Any attempt by SAA business rescue practitioners to use these funds to keep SAA in business will undoubtedly be illegal.

Matuson and Dongwana must ensure that SAA is put into liquidation without further delay, by applying to Court in terms of section 141 (2)(a)(ii) of the Companies Act No. 71 of 2008, for an order to discontinue the business rescue proceedings and to place the company into liquidation.

DA reveals salaries of Simelane and Shaik following leaks in Water Department

Please find attached the DPSA salary scales for 2019 here.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that Menzi Simelane and Mo Shaik are currently earning an estimated R1 978 533 per annum as “Special Advisors” to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu.

This amount is at Notch A of a Level 16 DPSA Grading – the Grading given only to Director Generals of National Government Departments.

If, however, Shaik and Simelane’s positions have been benchmarked at a higher notch on the same scale, they could be earning in excess of R2.2 million per annum – which is double the remuneration received by Members of Parliament.

The DA can also reveal that Minister Sisulu’s “Special Advisors”, are – according to the Grading’s leaked – earning roughly R700 000 more than the Ministry’s Chief Director, who holds both an Honours Degree in Public Administration and a Masters Degree in Economic Policy.

The total annual cost of Sisulu’s Ministerial Office staff remuneration stands in excess of R13.9 million per year. This is excluding the costs of the additional 19 employees recently staffing her “National Rapid Response Task Team”.

By having yesterday attempted to re-issue her Office’s response to a Parliamentary Question originally replied to with full staff details on Friday, the Minister has done an excellent job revealing the cracks in her office, as well as the fact that she does not want taxpayers to know who she spends their money on – and just how much she is spending.

The DA is yet to understand how an optometrist and an ex-prosecutor are qualified to provide advice to a department whose focus is on water, sanitation and housing delivery. There is no doubt that gross mis-hiring has taken place – and the deck has been stacked with well-paid political cadres.

Sisulu’s staffing of a political war room in lieu of a capably staffed Ministry will not be allowed to continue unabated, while taps are running dry across our nation.

The DA will, in the coming days, reveal further information and action taken in regards to the Minister’s Office, and her National Rapid Response Task Team.

DA challenges ANC to put narrow politics aside and adopt our Cheaper Electricity Bill

In the light of the ANC’s lekgotla where it was decided that “evidence-based decision making” will henceforth govern its approach to SOEs, the Democratic Alliance (DA) challenges the ANC to put their money where their mouth is and adopt our Cheaper Electricity Bill in Parliament.

Our Cheaper Energy Bill provides a legislative framework to lower the cost of electricity and boost the reliability of supply. It seeks to split Eskom into two entities – a generation entity and a transmission/distribution entity.

At the core of the DA’s plan is the creation of a privatised generation entity that would break Eskom’s monopoly on the production of energy enabling and ensuring that it competes on an equal footing with Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

In the last ten years, Eskom is reported to have paid R47.4bn for diesel just to keep the lights on. It is said that, in a desperate attempt to keep the lights on, the embattled power utility rapidly increased its usage of its pumped storage and diesel generators, which resulted in it exceeding its budget for diesel by almost 50%.

The DA is of the view that the sustainability of the country and economy cannot continue to be held to ransom by Eskom.

The power utility has suffered through years of ANC’s corruption and maladministration, threatening to take the entire country down with it.

The DA took a considered decision to put aside political differences when we tabled our “Cheaper Electricity Bill” before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee of Public Enterprises.

For far too long, the sustainability of our country and has been held to ransom by the narrow beliefs of cohorts within the ruling party, who are intent on thwarting any attempt to create a profitable, efficient Eskom.

We reiterate our call to put our political ideology and political differences aside and do what is in the best interest of South Africa.

We need to ensure that Eskom gets back to working for all South Africans. Failure to this will result in, not only the collapse of Eskom but the collapse of South Africa.

ANC finally takes first step towards adopting DA solutions to solving Eskom crisis

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is pleased to note that the ANC is taking the first step in adopting our solutions to solving the energy crisis. For years, we have been calling for independent power producers (IPPs) to sell power directly to municipalities and reports from the ANC lekgotla indicate that the ruling party is considering such a move.

An element in the drive for energy security has been the diversification of energy sources. The DA-led City of Cape Town has gone to court to secure the right to buy power directly IPPs. Just this past week the City announced that it is seeking permission for an expedited hearing in their case against the energy minister and the national energy regulator.

The ANC’s endorsement of municipalities’ right to procure their own energy, expand the independent power producer programme and free up regulations around self-generation by business is welcome as is the president’s statement that “we should avoid political interference in operational matters of our SOEs”.

The DA has been calling for these measures for many years. Since 2015 we have done the following:

  • 2015: The DA-led City of Cape Town asks then-Minister Tina Joematt-Peterson for the right to procure 150MW of solar energy and 280 MW of wind energy from independent power producers (IPPs)
  • August 2017: the DA-led City of Cape Town serves the Department of Energy and NERSA with court papers to demand the right to purchase power from independent power producers
  • October 2019: DA’s Cheaper Electricity Bill is tabled in Parliament
  • December 2019: DA presents its Cheaper Electricity Bill to the portfolio committee of Public Enterprises in Parliament
  • December 2019: the DA-led City of Cape Town asks for an expedited court date in its legal battle to win the right to procure power from IPPs

In addition to the ANC’s decision, the following still needs to be done:

  • Full transparency and accountability is required.
  • Cadre deployment must end.
  • Contractual arrangements require scrutiny.
  • Maintenance needs improvement and turnkey construction arrangements need to be implemented.
  • Bloated labour force must be addressed.
  • The baseload needs to be managed effectively and the role of coal quantified and clarified.
  • A diversified mix of energy needs to be explored and brought online over time.

Let’s hope this DA-inspired exhibition of common sense continues to prevail. We repeat our readiness to sit around a table and assist in addressing these pressing issues in a party-agnostic manner – the scale of the crisis in Eskom demands it.

 

Parliament must hold Minister Mantashe to account

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, must be held accountable for his failure to address the grave financial crises at the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA), and we will therefore write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee, Mr. Sahlulele Luzipo, to request that he call Mantashe to appear before the committee urgently.

Reports note that acting NECSA CEO, Ayanda Myoli, announced at a staff meeting yesterday that NECSA will not be able to pay salaries in full for January 2020 and/or would be unable to pay deductions such as pensions and medical aid contributions. These reports are indicative of the extreme financial problems faced by this state-owned entity and reveals that NECSA is in deep distress.

The NECSA board had warned Minister Mantashe of this looming crisis. They had also made the Portfolio Committee of Mineral Resources and Energy aware of the defunct state of the entity during the BRRR process in Parliament.

Sadly, their input was characteristically ignored by Minister Mantashe, and as a result, the board resigned and the entity now finds itself in a dire situation.

Minister Mantashe must be held accountable for his failure to address the financial crisis at NECSA in a timeous manner, and he must be held responsible for his unwillingness to appoint new board members to fill the vacant positions.

Nearly a week after the remaining board members resigned, there is still no substantive leadership at NECSA, which remains without a Chairperson in sight. Without stable, permanent and reliable leadership, NECSA will continue to sail into further difficulties.

Furthermore, the Minister must accept responsibility for his lack of action in restoring the entity to financial stability. This is why the DA will immediately write to the Chairperson Luzipo to request that the committee summon Minister Mantashe to appear before it, to provide a comprehensive report on actions to be taken in the immediate short term to address the severely debilitating problems at NECSA.

South Africa relies on NECSA to provide a safe, reliable and competent nuclear industry. Unless there is capable management and leadership, and a willingness to act decisively (and if necessary, take the hard decisions), NECSA is doomed to become another failed SOE, circling the drain while Minister Mantashe ignores all calls for intervention and help.

Minister Sisulu tries to cover up appointment of Simelane and Shaik

The Democratic Alliance (DA) revealed last week Friday, 17 January 2020, that Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, appointed Menzi Simelane and Mo Shaik as Special Advisors – amongst others – to her Ministerial Office. This information was revealed in a response to a DA Parliamentary Question.

Subsequent to the DA having revealed the names of Sisulu’s Ministerial Office and National Rapid Response Task Team (NRRTT) staffers, the Minister today re-issued an amended response to the Parliamentary Question.

Minister Sisulu’s revised response omits all names, gradings and positions of those working in both her office and those appointed to the NRRTT. As such, Simelane and Shaik’s names have been removed from information available to the public.

Minister Sisulu has gone to great lengths to try and cover up the information her office – seemingly erroneously – released.

Minister Sisulu sited in her revised response that “Posts in the Ministry have been filled as outlined in the Guide for Members of the Executive, otherwise commonly referred to as the Ministerial Hand Book”.

It is clear that Minister Sisulu takes the South African public for fools. Not only did the release of staff information on Friday indicate a potentially deliberate attempt to expose her – from within her own Ministry – but her attempts to today retract this information from the public space, exposes her predicament.

She was caught red-handed, employing and appointing individuals with numerous shadows hanging over their names, and now that the public has been made aware of it, she has rapidly attempted to remove access to this information from the public.

It is abundantly clear that Sisulu has staffed herself a political war room at the taxpayer’s expense – with a revolutionary in Chumane Maxwele, a lawyer in Simelane, an intelligence operative in Shaik, and an ex opposition party leader in Ka Plaatjie.

There is little left to be said about Minister Sisulu, her office and the NRRTT.

The Minister has now not only exposed herself, but also the evident cracks within her own office.

It is thus difficult to imagine Minister Sisulu being even remotely capable of handling the drought crisis, when she is clearly preoccupied with covering up the grossly inept appointments to both her office and the NRRTT.

To view the amended version released today, click here.

Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams’s attempt to pull Dina Pule 2.0 on South Africa will be stopped

Find attached soundbite by DA Shadow Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Phumzile Van Damme MP

Reports that the Minister of Communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams went on baecation with her husband using public funds and that she allowed him to do her job are deeply concerning.

Her actions are akin to the former Minister of Communications Dina Pule, who also spent thousands of taxpayers’ money on an overseas trip with her boyfriend.

According to reports this weekend, Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams allegedly used thousands in taxpayers’ money to fund her wedding anniversary celebrations in the US and Switzerland by taking her husband, Thato Abrahams, along without permission of President Cyril Ramaphosa. She is also alleged to have allowed her husband to attend some department meetings including interviewing candidates for positions on the various boards for which she has political oversight.

The DA is of the view, that this is nothing more than a luxury vacation and a massive waste of public money and is an indictment on the communications Minister.

Although there is no set requirement in the Ministerial Handbook for the president to approve the inclusion of a spouse for official trips, the Democratic Alliance (DA) still wants her to come clean about her husband allegedly interviewing candidates and attending official meetings on her behalf.

Quite clearly, the frailties of the ministerial handbook are yet again being used to justify luxury expenses, at the expense of poor South Africans who are expected to continuously foot the bill.

The DA will, therefore, submit parliamentary questions to request the full details of Mr. Abrahams’ participation on this official overseas jaunt. The DA will remain resolute and vigilant in exposing ANC’s insatiable greed and will ensure the truth is uncovered in this regard.

The ANC government needs to reduce wasteful expenditure on ministers and follow the example of the DA-led Western Cape. Where we govern, business class flights are restricted to extended international trips, which exceed 8 hours of travel and no 5-star hotels are allowed.

The DA will not allow brazen attempts to fool the people of this country to go unchecked. In the current economic climate, austerity measures are a necessity.

DA pressure leads to probe into possible tender rigging in Ba-Phalaborwa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision of the Limpopo MEC for local government, Mr. RB Makamu, to order a preliminary investigation into possible tender rigging in the Ba-Phalaborwa Local Municipality.

This follows the DA’s discovery that Ba-Phalaborwa had apparently circumvented competitive bidding processes in awarding two capital projects in June and July 2019. We wrote to the MEC on 3 January this year, and his decision was communicated to us on Friday. The original statement and letter can be accessed here.

Although tender rigging is not unusual in municipalities with big ANC majorities, what makes the Ba-Phalaborwa case exceptional is the availability of clear documentation pointing to wrongdoing. And so there should be no quick escape for the responsible officials and politicians.

In one instance a company was appointed to refurbish the Namakgale Stadium in June 2019, but no evidence exists that a tender for such a project was ever advertised or awarded. Two days after receiving its letter of appointment, the company invoiced Ba-Phalaborwa for nearly R500 000 of work. A day later, and despite its woeful cash position, the municipality paid the invoice in full.

We believe that the Mayor of Ba-Phalaborwa, Cllr Merriam Malatji, had prior knowledge of the information in the DA’s possession. Our information points to serious financial misconduct by the municipal manager, and prompts a further probe into possible corruption.

The mayor is required by the Municipal Systems Act to report such a matter to the municipal council within seven days of becoming aware of it. The council then has to decide whether the implicit allegations warrant the appointment of an independent investigator. But in this case, the material facts were not disclosed to councillors.

Instead, the matter was fobbed off to a committee of councillors that has no mandate to deal with allegations of serious misconduct or corruption. Ba-Phalaborwa being an ANC controlled council, the committee is also dominated by the ANC.

While we welcome the MEC’s response, we urge him not to succumb to internal ANC politics, and to ensure that the preliminary investigation is not manipulated to protect ANC cadres in Ba-Phalaborwa’s council or administration.

DA urges South Africans to make submissions en masse on Eskom tariff hikes

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes that today is the deadline for South Africans to make submissions on Eskom’s proposed tariff hikes for the period of 2019-2022. The DA would like to urge that South Africans exercise their right to make their voices heard by submitting their objections to the tariff hike to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) as a matter of urgency.

Eskom is currently in the process of challenging the electricity tariff increases previously approved by the NERSA for the period of 2019 to 2022. Eskom wants consumers to initially pay 10-12% more for electricity, and thereafter the door will be open to a further four applications by Eskom, which will result in tariff increases by a whopping 50% over the next few years.

NERSA requested public comment and will then assess Eskom’s application following due regulatory processes. Mass public participation is essential to influence NERSA’s decision, with public comment opportunities closing on the 20th of January 2020.

In its court application, Eskom says the increase provided by NERSA is inadequate and presents a “material risk of potential catastrophic consequences”, not only for the power utility but for the country. But the real issue here is that Eskom has run out of money.

A 120-page report presented to Eskom by an independent specialist concludes that our National Treasury does not have the credit capacity or ability to borrow the required capital to fund Eskom’s significant day to day operational expenditures. Treasury can no longer assume financial responsibility for the rebuilding and maintenance of Eskom’s generation, transmission and distribution assets, nor can it pay for the significant off-balance sheet liabilities, especially not on a long term basis.

The DA has long maintained that government can not continue to fund Eskom and other state-owned entities that are no longer viable and are collapsing from within due to what reports indicate are rampant corruption and serious maladministration.

For any change to occur, sales volumes have to rise, not shrink. Eskom must be “ringfenced”, triaged, the books made transparent, top management given the degrees of freedom shielded from political interference and a chief restructuring officer with deep experience and credibility needs to be brought on-board to save this sinking ship.

Government must also give serious consideration to proposals that have long been DA policy, which inter alia means allowing independent power producers to supply electricity to local governments directly.

We cannot countenance this continued pouring of money into what has been and continues to be a sieve of unimaginable proportions.

South Africa has repeatedly bailed out Eskom and now, while on the brink of collapse, the utility is seeking to make consumers pay more. These blank cheques that follow failure and graft must stop – accountability and oversight is sorely required and as stated above, what is needed is for the entity to be “ring-fenced”, triaged and the books made public.

The public has until today’s deadline to make submissions on Eskom’s proposed increase, which could further hike up prices if approved – if you haven’t as yet, the time is now.