Minister Patel and Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry & Competition won’t come to KZN after week of looting

Please find attached soundbite by Dean Macpherson MP.

The DA has spent the better part of the last 10 days trying to get Trade, Industry & Competition (DTIC) Minister, Ebrahim Patel, and Parliament’s Portfolio Committee for DTIC to come to KwaZulu-Natal to assess for themselves the sheer extent of the devastation and destruction during the week of looting that took place 17 days ago.

Minster Patel, who is charged with advancing industrialisation and investments into job creating industries, has buried his head so far in the sand, it has become covered with the rubble left behind by the looters and arsonists. On 20 July 2021, the DA formally wrote to him to request his presence in KZN and more especially in Durban, where billions of Rands in investment have gone up in smoke. To date, he has simply refused to respond or come to the province.

Also on 20 July 2021, the DA wrote to the Chairperson of the DTIC Portfolio Committee, Duma Nkosi, recommending that an oversight be done in KZN and Gauteng to assess the damage and provide recommendations on how Parliament can provide solutions to ensure this disaster never takes place again which has cost South Africa dearly.

In a reply by Mr. Nkosi, he cited that no physical visits to KZN by the committee would be permitted by the House Chairperson, Cedric Frolick, despite the Police and Defence Committee already having done so.

He further goes on to offer that he will engage with the Minister to ascertain how bad the situation is.

These are nothing other than lame excuses and an abrogation of Parliament’s responsibilities and speaks to the very real fear that ANC politicians have of seeing how bad their internal fight has been for the country and the economy.

Ministers and MPs need to be on the ground and show leadership. Hiding in air-conditioned offices and behind security walls simply won’t cut it when so many people stand to lose their jobs.

By their inactions, the Minister and Portfolio Chairperson have rendered themselves entirely impotent in the face of a crisis that will haunt South Africa for years to come, which is entirely consistent with Parliament’s behaviour during this recent time.

The DA will continue to be on the ground with businesses, big and small, who have lost everything, and we will continue to show the leadership that Minister Patel and Mr. Nkosi are simply incapable of.

Post Office closures will severely impact distribution of social grants

Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

While the DA welcomes President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on Sunday that the special Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant of R350 has been reinstated until March 2022 and extended to include unemployed caregivers already receiving child support grants, the closure of 130 post offices across South Africa will have an immense impact on the distribution of these grants.

We once again call on the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) to provide plans on how it will ensure the uninterrupted payment of grants due to possible adverse effects of the closure of post offices as well as the damage to infrastructure during the riots.

While the timing of the extension of the R350 grant has raised eye brows – just before an election while the DA and civil society has been calling in vain for such action – we are pleased that there will be relief for the poor and vulnerable.

The DA will make sure to keep a close eye on the disbursement of the R350 and other social grants by SASSA as situations where poor South Africans are stripped of their dignity in hours-long queues and vilified with water-cannons cannot be allowed again.

The economic implosion caused by years of governmental mismanagement and policies that choked economic growth exacerbated by the continuing Covid-19 lockdown, has left millions of South Africans without jobs and without a hope of finding employment in the near future. The recently released Household Affordability Index also indicated that South Africans dependent on grants are often unable to afford an average household food basket that provides nutritious meals for their families.

Many South Africans will, therefore, have no hope for survival without a social grants, but had the ANC government spent the last 27 years creating policies to foster and grow the economy instead of looting the coffers, millions of vulnerable people would not have had to face the indignity of long social grant queues.

South Africa’s Information Technology infrastructure could be at risk after Transnet attack 

Please find attached a soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

While we grapple with minimal disclosure from the Department of Public Enterprises or the SOE surrounding the crippling cyber-attack on Transnet, South Africa could potentially be facing a national shutdown on its Information Technology (IT) infrastructure.

A failure to isolate the origin of the attack creates a host of imponderables, most notably, the extent to which the perpetrators are prepared to go. Now that they have successfully crippled our ports, there is no telling which vital national function they will attack next.

Nor does it help that we have a dysfunctional security cluster that has essentially abdicated on its responsibility to protect national security.

The responsibility to address this national cyber threat now falls squarely in the President’s Office. As head of the National Security Council, President Cyril Ramaphosa should immediately issue a directive to map out the scope of the cybersecurity threat and draw up measures to stop it from spreading beyond Transnet.

Since the attack on Transnet’s IT infrastructure was first reported last week, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, has been unacceptably quiet. The depth of Cabinet’s dysfunctionality is evidenced by the responsible ministers’ inability to comment or act in the face of an attack on the country’s economic and logistical spine.

Transnet’s declaration of force majeure across all its container terminals, a week after the attack is indicative of a major event, confirming that this was not an isolated incident, but an industrial scale breach meant to cause maximum damage – damage which has the potential to spill over into other key areas: Transnet’s IT systems are interconnected with SARS and Customs and the cumulative effect has the potential to paralyse economic activity.

The DA has previously requested information from Transnet with regard to: what the extent and effect of the attack was; what is being done to mitigate effects and ensure non repeat thereof; how this came about; who was responsible; when a return to normalcy can be expected; and how customers are being accommodated. We await with urgency, sight of the President’s announcement – in view of his minister’s silence –  to detail the steps being taken to protect the country’s IT infrastructure. The nation needs this assurance.

Parliamentary Inquiry into KZN violence must deal decisively with reckless Phoenix race baiting 

Please find attached soundbite by Andrew Whitfield MP.

The DA calls on Parliament to urgently convene its parliamentary inquiry into the violent unrest which occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng and resulted in the deaths of more than 200 South Africans.

The DA is particularly concerned by the highly charged and racially fuelled fallout from some of these deaths, especially some social media accounts which have engaged in race baiting and fanning racial tension under the hashtag #PhoenixMassacre.

Minister Bheki Cele must be called to account for the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) failure to keep communities like Phoenix safe which led to a vacuum filled by community policing structures, private security firms and in some cases allegedly by opportunistic vigilantes. Minister Cele has regrettably hopped on the race baiting band wagon and spent a disproportionate amount of time focusing on alleged racial tension rather than examining the root causes of SAPS’ failure.

The hashtag, #PhoenixMassacre, surfaced on Twitter following the violent unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng. In the wake of this violence, some have now used this as an opportunity to further exploit racial tensions among South Africans, and to stoke racial tensions between Indian and black communities, in particular.

The violence in Phoenix, KwaZulu-Natal, like elsewhere, was a failure of the State to respond to criminal action both on the part of those looting and those taking the law into their own hands.

SAPS failed completely in its duty to protect South African communities against the orchestrated violence and unrest, leaving communities to unite to defend their homes and businesses. While we strongly condemn the senseless deaths during the unrest, it is unfortunate and reckless, that the matter has now been racialised.

The DA has noted the police investigations which are currently taking place in relation to these deaths. We are of the belief, however, that the parliamentary inquiry promised by Chair of Chairs, Cedrick Frolick, will be critical in assessing the facts and evidence while moving communities towards reconciliation.

DA to PAIA R1.4b employment agreements between SA and Cuba  

Please find attached soundbite by Natasha Mazzone MP.

The DA will submit Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) applications to various government departments to obtain the full details of employment agreements between the South African and Cuban governments.

For the better part of a decade, the ANC government has spent more than R1.4 billion on agreements to employ Cuban workers and service providers in South Africa under the Departments of Basic Education; Public Works; Health; Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation; and Defence.

R1.4 billion is a large amount of money and there is very little detail on these employment agreements. The DA therefore seeks access to the following information:

  • A full breakdown of the payments to the Cuban workers, including salaries, accommodation and travelling fees;
  • Whether payments are made directly to the workers or if payments are made to the Cuban government directly;
  • If the Cuban government receives financial incentives from these agreements;
  • Confirmation if a skills audit is done in South Africa to find out what critical skills were needed that the local professionals did not have; and
  • Whether an impact assessment is done after these deployments, to ascertain the necessity of the continuation of these agreements.

The DA does not believe that these agreements are completely as straight forward as the government would like the public to believe. It simply makes no sense why the South African government would fork out billions of rands to pay for the skills and services from Cuba when there are unemployed and qualified workers across South Africa in all the identified fields desperate for employment.

DA to submit PAIA application for Minister Dlodlo’s intelligence report

The DA will today submit an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) for the intelligence report(s) which State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo claimed she handed over to Law Enforcement prior to the recent looting and unrest, but which Police Minister Bheki Cele says he never received.

It is critical that South Africans know the Who, When and What of this catastrophic failure of our security cluster to protect citizens and property: Who knew upfront about the looting and unrest, when did they know it, and what did they then do about it? These questions apply to all in the security cluster, but specifically to President Cyril Ramaphosa, State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, Police Minister Bheki Cele and Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Section 46 of PAIA deals with the disclosure of a record of a public body that would reveal “a substantial contravention of, or failure to comply with, the law”, as well as instances where public interest in such a disclosure would outweigh any potential harm.

The National Strategic Intelligence Act (NSIA) states that the National Intelligence Agency “must supply (where necessary) intelligence relating to any such threat to the South African Police Service for the purposes of investigating any offence or alleged offence.” (Section 2 (1) (b) iii). The Act also states that it shall be the function of SAPS “to gather, correlate, evaluate and use crime intelligence in support of the functions of the South African Police Service as contemplated in section 215 of the Constitution.”

If Minister Cele received intelligence on the planned looting and failed to act on it, he could be in contravention of the NSIA.

Minister Dlodlo should therefore publicly release the intelligence report(s) which she claims were made available to law enforcement, because such reports would likely reveal “evidence of a failure to comply with the law” by the SAPS. And this would most certainly be in the public interest.

Furthermore, it is private citizens and business owners who bore the brunt of these attacks. If the intelligence reports reveal that they suffered these extensive losses due to a failure by SAPS to comply with the law, then they should have recourse to legal action against Bheki Cele and other SAPS officials.

The statement by the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshaveni, that it is not in the country’s interest to reveal what intelligence, if any, the police had prior to the unrest is simply outrageous. Ours is a Constitutional democracy premised on the principles of openness and transparency, where citizens have the right to access the information they need to hold elected officials accountable for catastrophic failures like the ones our country recently witnessed.

The DA has long called for a complete overhaul of the oversight mechanisms over our country’s security and intelligence bodies, as we have one of the most clandestine systems in the world. In the USA, for example, the CIA reports regularly and openly in Congressional hearings. Most opposition parties elsewhere have full access to security briefings. But here we don’t see financial statements, we have very little insight into budgets and these bodies don’t report to the Auditor-General.

Everyone knows our Security Cluster is compromised, and that the primary mandate seems to be the security of the ruling party and not the state. Long before the burning and looting started in KZN this was already on full display. When schools, trains and trucks were set alight in an ongoing campaign there was little to no response from the state. But when ANC factional battles need to be waged, the full might of the state’s intelligence is made available.

If the ANC government had any intention of changing this, they would have implemented the recommendations of the Mufamadi Report into the State Security Agency by now, but neither President Ramaphosa nor Minister Dlodlo have acted on any of these recommendations.

South Africa cannot afford these cloak and dagger operations by its intelligence bodies. The looting and destruction in KZN and Gauteng have shown just how important accountability and transparency are.

Mango being jettisoned by Gordhan

Please find attached soundbite by Alf Lees MP.

The DA notes the announcement by the interim CEO of Mango, Thomas Kgokolo, today that Mango is to go into business rescue. This despite the appropriation of R819 million for Mango being signed off by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 6 July 2021, three weeks ago.

Mango apparently has liabilities that exceed R2.5 billion and thus the taxpayer bailout of R819 million would leave at least a further R1.5 billion in liabilities. As Mango is a wholly owned subsidiary of South African Airways (SAA) these liabilities could become the problem of the new 51% Takatso shareholders in the national carrier. Takatso have indicated that they would take over the shares in SAA, for free, provided that there were no historical liabilities left in SAA and this presumably includes the Mango, SAA Technical (SAAT) and Air Chefs wholly owned subsidiaries. Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Public Enterprises has repeatedly reinforced the Takatso position by publicly stating that the State/taxpayer would meet all historical liabilities in SAA.

The only way, other than yet another taxpayer bailout for Minister Gordhan to eliminate the Mango liabilities, will be to push Mango down the same route chosen for SA Express. That would be to abandon Mango, go into business rescue and ultimately into liquidation. This would leave SAA, as the holding company, free of any possible responsibility for the liabilities of Mango in order to keep the airline trading and flying. This would also allow for the Department of Public Enterprises to delay the payment, or not to pay out at all, the R819 million taxpayer bailout.

A similar situation may well be on the way for SAA Technical given that the R1.66 billion taxpayer bailout for the entity, signed off by the President on 6 July 2021, has not yet been paid. This could be coupled with the lack of progress being made with the retrenchments of 816 (40.4%) of the 2019 SAAT employees.

Minister Creecy must clarify SA’s position on UN plastic pollution treaty following alleged leak

Please find attached a soundbite by Dave Bryant MP.

The DA has taken note of a reported leak suggesting that the South African government’s is set to oppose a potentially groundbreaking United Nations (UN) multinational treaty on plastics pollution.

These allegations are concerning considering that South Africa is currently the African continent’s third worst offender when it comes to plastic pollution and generates an estimated four and a half million tons of plastic waste every year.

The high amount of plastic waste that finds its way into our oceans has had a devastating impact on marine life with an estimated 90% of sea birds ingesting plastic in some form over their lifetime. Certain toxic chemicals added to plastic products have been suspected to cause diseases and other health conditions which in turn can impact the people consuming fish and other marine products. Of particular concern is the negative impact of the chemical compound UV-328 which is used in the production of many plastics.

It is therefore bewildering to note recent media reports on a leaked document that appears to indicate the South African government’s opposition the UN treaty. The leaked document in question allegedly outlines the view of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment to be that multilateral environmental agreements such as this one should be avoided.

Activists have alleged that this document indicates that rather than actively working to minimize the amount of plastic waste being generated, the department instead wishes to pursue a plan to import more plastic waste from other countries to generate additional revenue. Incentivizing the creation and importation of high amounts of plastic waste required to fuel such an industry at this stage seems counterintuitive and could work against global efforts to reduce plastic pollution. These global efforts could also seek to further regulate or possibly ban the use of UV-328 going forward.  

It is essential that the Department comes clean on its position on this global treaty. The negative impact of ongoing plastic pollution on our oceans has been unfathomable and we now have an opportunity to help turn things around. It is therefore of utmost importance that the Minister clarifies whether her department is in support of a global treaty on plastics pollution or not. 

Neighborhood watches are successful precisely because government doesn’t control them

Please find attached soundbite by Cilliers Brink MP.

The DA rejects calls by the premier of KwaZulu-Natal Sihle Zikalala this weekend calling for stricter regulation of neighbourhood watches.

The Premier’s remarks show how out of touch he is with the situation in his own province.

It also appears as if he wants to express sympathy with those with participated in the looting and violence that claimed hundreds of lives and devastated large parts of the KZN economy.

Neighbourhood watches are not the problem in KZN or any other province.

Neighbourhood watches protected communities when the South African Police Service (SAPS) was missing in action.

The inability of SAPS and other law enforcement agencies to protect lives and businesses was clear as day.

But here’s the most important point ignored by Premier Zikalala: neighbourhood watches are successful precisely because they are not controlled by the ANC government.

The Premier should withdraw his statement and focus on rebuilding his province – something he cannot do without the help and cooperation of communities

Buurtwagte juis suksesvol omdat regering hulle nie beheer nie

Vind asseblief aangeheg ’n klankgreep van Cilliers Brink LP.

Die DA verwerp die premier van KwaZulu-Natal, Sihle Zikalala, se kommentaar oor die naweek dat buurtwagte strenger gereguleer moet word.

Hierdie uitspraak wys hoe ver die premier verwyderd is van die situasie in sy provinsie.

Dit blyk ook asof die premier simpatie probeer toon met diegene wat meegedoen het aan die geweld en plundery wat honderde lewens geeis het en groot dele van die KZN-ekonomie verwoes het.

Buurtwagte is nie die probleem in KZN of enige ander provinsie nie. Buurtwagte het gemeenskappe beveilig toe die Suid-Afrikaanse polisie totaal afgewig was.

Die polisie en ander wetstoepassingsagentskappe se onvermoë om lewens en besighede te beskerm was so duidelik soos daglig.

En hier is die punt wat Premier Zikalala blykbaar misgekyk het: buurtwagte is juis suksesvol omdat hulle nie deur die ANC-regering beheer word nie.

Hy moet eerder sy verklaring terugtrek en fokus op die herbou van sy provinsie – iets wat hy nie kan doen sonder die hulp en samewerking van gemeenskappe nie.