Agriculture Department must include sector to address State land lease program challenges

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the honesty by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) regarding the challenges in the State land lease program.

The Department informed the portfolio committee members during a briefing last night, that they do not have the capacity to manage the leases of all the land currently registered in the name of the State. This after the department advertised 700 000 ha of State land that will be leased to interested farmers, for which 37 000 applications have been received.

The publication of the list of land that would be available for leases caused many farmers to panic, as they saw land that they were already farming on, on these lists.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, the list consists of farms with no valid current leases and DALRRD plans to use it to regularize land use on all the farms. Most of the farmers on State land’s lease agreements have not been renewed since 2016.

DALRRD further stated that they are looking at offering freehold to those farmers who have been on the land for a long period. The DA welcomes this proposal and would urge the Department to finalise the terms and conditions for such a proposal as soon as possible.

While the DA has been contacted by many farmers who have received letters to vacate the land, the Department reiterated again that no farmers will be “chased of the land” and that the validation process of farmers on State land is ongoing. The DA will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that this is indeed the case. We will not allow successful farmers to be stripped of their land without a fight.

Farming is already an incredibly stressful vocation and the State land release program must not be and extra burden to bear. As it stands, DALRRD is often the cause of worry and hindrance for farmers.

The agricultural sector must be included in these plans in order to ensure workable solutions are found. The release of State land is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be handled by the State alone.

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

DA Speeches: SABC and Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill

Note to Editors: The following speeches have been delivered in Parliament  during the Debate on the escalating crisis at the SABC and the consideration of the Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill

Debate on the SABC:

Phumzile Van Damme MPSABC retrenchments must be dealt with, with empathy and respect for staff
DA Shadow Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies
074 462 1279

Consideration of Upgrading of Land Tenure Rights Amendment Bill:

Annette Steyn MPUpgraded Land Bill does not correct injustices of the past
DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
082 323 0027

Thandeka Mbabama MP – 30 years on, the Land Tenure Rights Act has not done enough to meet expectations
DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
073 050 9467

DA deeply saddened by murder of 80-year-old KZN farmer

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) is deeply saddened by the news of the murder of 80-year-old farmer, Mr Mpozana Khumalo, in the Muden area on Friday last week.

According to reports Mr Khumalo was found tied to a tree after he went to check on the family’s cattle and sheep. He had been shot and had succumbed to his injuries.

The DA sends its deepest condolences and prayers to the family of Mr Khumalo and to the Muden community. He has been described as a humble and gentle person who had spent his life farming and tending to the family livestock.

Due to their isolation and vulnerability, as well as the incitement by high profile politicians, our farmers and farm workers are being disproportionality affected by crime. The reality is that they are being attacked and killed at much greater rates than any other group. It seems that every week brings another farm attack or murder.

Given this, the DA remains deeply concerned by the ongoing inaccuracy of rural crime statistics presented by police. We are aware of incidents that have taken place on farms, which SAPS have refused to classify as farm attacks or murders.

The DA has consistently been fighting for all farmers and farm workers, regardless of race, gender or geographic location. This week, we wrote to 10 high profile international human rights organisations in order to bring the plight of our farmers and farm workers to their attention.

The DA will continue to fight for more police resources, harsher sentences, and a criminal justice system that protects the innocent, rather than the brutal criminals that walk amongst us.

If you are in a position to help fund our Court Watching Briefs Unit which closely monitors every farm attack court case to ensure attackers end up behind bars, please make a donation here.

The Path to Building a New Majority

The following remarks were delivered by the DA Leader, John Steenhuisen, at the Press Club today. 

As we all grapple to come to terms with a post-Covid, post-lockdown world, it is crucial that we don’t let one crisis mask an even bigger one.

And we dare not let the extraordinary events of 2020 leave us confused as to which of them is the more serious problem, and which came first.

South Africa was in desperate trouble long before this strange year began. While most of the world, and indeed most of our African neighbours, bounced back to various degrees from the global financial crisis of 2008, we have been on a steady path of decline for well over a decade that had nothing to do with outside forces or acts of god.

And if anything, this pandemic has shifted the attention away from the massive, looming crisis in our economy and our society. It has given us all something else to worry about first before we get back to that other thing that had us so worried before we went into lockdown.

And, crucially, it has given those who have made no headway with our faltering economy a scapegoat to blame for all our woes, current and historic.

We are now led to believe by some that, had it not been for the arrival of the coronavirus in March, we wouldn’t be in this mess, and that our turnaround which was just about to happen has now been set back years.

Which is all nonsense, of course. By March of this year, before the first South African had tested positive and the first lockdown restriction had been announced, we were well into an economic recession and there was no sign of a turnaround on the horizon.

We’d been relegated to junk status by the ratings agencies, SARS was missing revenue collection targets by huge amounts and our State-Owned-Dinosaurs continued to gobble up multi-billion rand bailout after multi-billion rand bailout at the expense of just about every real government responsibility.

None of that had anything to do with the virus or the lockdown, although they have now been made infinitely worse by it.

Every part of our decline – our dwindling GDP growth, our ballooning unemployment, our rising national debt, our falling tax revenue, our parasitic state-owned companies and our apparent insistence on repelling all international investment – is entirely self-inflicted.

Despite our rich natural resources, our established infrastructure, our well-developed mining, agriculture and tourism sectors, and a massive untapped and eager workforce, we have been lagging well behind our African peers for over a decade. 

And we are doing so because of a stubborn refusal by our government to let go of an economic ideology that fizzled out and died in the rest of the world more than three decades ago.

The Berlin Wall might have fallen and the Soviet Union crumbled – and entire economies were reinvented and built from scratch – but our liberation movement government is still fighting this ideological war like that lone Japanese soldier isolated on a remote Philippines island for three decades after the Second World War had ended.

The belief that the state should be central to the economy and to the lives of citizens, that the state should own the land, industries and monopolies, and that the state knows best where and how economic activity should be directed is the single biggest impediment to our progress.

Yes, there are many other issues too, most notably the scourge of corruption that has paralysed virtually every single facet of government service delivery. But even this is rooted in a unique ANC worldview where many cadres of the liberation movement consider material rewards to be the justified spoils of war.

Smuts Ngonyama was dead serious back in 2004 when he said “I didn’t join the struggle to be poor”. And he was speaking for most of his comrades.

But government corruption is just a symptom of this state-obsessed ideology. And you cannot solve it without first removing the opportunity to loot a massively inflated, ineffective state through patronage and tender fraud.

In short, you need sweeping reforms.

You need to start reforming every single aspect of the state by taking power away from government and putting more and more of it in the hands of the people.

You need to make the switch and acknowledge that the private sector is the solution and not the problem. That smart entrepreneurs and investors know far better than government how to recognise and fill needs in the market, and they are far more efficient at delivering most goods and services.

You need to admit that running power companies, airlines and broadcasters is not the government’s strength, nor its primary duty to citizens. When these operate at a massive loss, the opportunity cost is devastating.

You need to realise that the market and international investors don’t care for our backstory. We’re not exceptional to anyone but ourselves. Their decisions are purely rational, and impediments like BEE, crime, corruption and a volatile, inflexible labour market are deal-breakers to most people.

All of these areas need to be reformed. The moment you do that, you will start to see results.

I’m not suggesting that it will be a simple task to halt our downward trajectory. It’s like trying to turn a massive oil tanker around – it doesn’t happen easily or quickly. But we haven’t even started to turn the wheel.

We have a government that does a lot of talking about the need to start doing so, but no one actually grabs the wheel and turns it. And so we continue to plough ahead in the wrong direction.

 We were told at the start of the Ramaphosa administration that we’d dodged a bullet in the NDZ faction, because Ramaphosa had a wonderful reform agenda. If anyone could crack the ANC’s century-old ideological mould, it was this “businessman” who understood the market.

And he certainly said all the right things. He promised us a New Dawn, and alongside him we saw his fellow reformers – people like Tito Mboweni and Pravin Gordhan – who would surely help steer us towards this new dawn.

But almost three years into this administration there can be no more illusions about these so-called reformers. They have all been yanked back into formation. None of the promised reforms have materialised, and instead of a new dawn we’ve been staring at the same old horizon crossing our fingers and hoping for a miracle.

Our recent further downgrade into double junk status has confirmed that the much-vaunted reform agenda of the Ramaphosa presidency failed at the very first hurdle.

Any talk of reform within his own party, any draft plan that puts some of the issues on the table, is immediately shut down and we are left with the same old ANC government with its Cold War-era National Democratic Revolution plan.

 So when the president stands on national TV and tells us about his economic recovery plan, the smart thing to do is to wait for his Finance Minister to deliver his budget before breaking out the champagne. Because that’s when you see the gaping hole between what is said and what is done.

That’s when you see the contradictions between the president’s soothing words, and the realities of the ruling party’s worldview as expressed in its budget decisions.

Our problem is that our government deals in the politics of optics. Saying the right thing creates the illusion of action and buys you enough time until the next instalment of the crisis wipes all those promises and commitments from memory.

So we see our president promising us economic recovery plans, talking tough on gender based violence and speaking about fixing our schools and education while that very same week his finance minister is making budget cuts to police, school infrastructure and housing. All to pay for bailouts to our state airline and other SOEs.

All that comforting talk is noting but pseudo-remedy. He’s offering us aromatherapy when we need chemotherapy.

But the good news amid all this gloom is that we don’t have to wait for the ruling Tripartite Alliance to disintegrate before we can set our economy free.

Just as the East Germans and the Soviets eventually put to bed the failed ideology that had kept them trapped in poverty for so long, we too can walk away from the ANC’s doomed project.

We too can choose to throw off the yoke of suffocating state control and step into the 21st Century, albeit a couple of decades late.

And by “we” I mean the people. Voters. Because that’s the only way to do this. The ANC cannot change its spots. It will never commit to the reforms we need. This so-called reformist presidency of Cyril Ramaphosa was the best shot they would ever have, and he didn’t even come close.

So if the ANC won’t let go of the ropes holding us back, it has to be the people of South Africa who let go of the ANC. Believe me, many are ready to do so.

I know the DA had a mixed bag of results during the recent by-elections, and we certainly didn’t have the 2019 election that we were hoping for, but when you look at overall votes shed during both the recent week of by-elections and in 2019, it is the ANC who was, by some distance, the biggest loser.

A shallow reading of the by-election results – which is all one got in the media coverage – shows that the DA had a net loss of seven seats. And while this was rightly described as a setback for the party, is doesn’t tell the full story.

 While we lost seats to, among others, Good, Patriotic Alliance, The Freedom Front Plus and Al Jama’ah under extremely difficult local conditions – and, it must be said, due to several faults of our own – our support grew among both black and white voters.

 In fact, our total loss of support in all the by-elections where the DA, ANC and EFF fielded candidates was less than one percentage point from our 2019 levels. The ANC lost almost 8 percentage points.

Significantly, one of the wards we won off the ANC was deep in rural Eastern Cape, in Walter Sisulu Municipality, which lies in the north of the province on the Free State border. The ward in question includes Burgersdorp, Mzamomhle and a rural district towards the Gariep dam.

It was in the two voting districts of Mzamomhle that the DA made its biggest inroads, enabling us to take the ward off the ANC. Not much was written about this particular swing, but to us it was very significant.

If black voters in a rural Eastern Cape ward could turn their backs on the ANC in favour of the DA, then it could happen anywhere.

It was always a matter of when – not if – the struggle credentials of the ANC would begin to fade and real life issues would start to overtake historical allegiance in the minds of voters.

That’s already happening, and it is a trend that won’t be reversed. Liberation movements across the continent have taught us this lesson. A lead role in the struggle only buys you a few decades. After that you either perform or you’re out.

The question now is: If the ANC is fading, what replaces it?

If the ANC is facing the possibility of losing its majority in the course of the next election cycle – which seems more and more likely with each passing week – where will the new majority come from?

And here the choice for voters comes down to two very clear and distinct options: Do I still see a future for a united, diverse South Africa, or is that dream no longer viable and should I rather retreat back into a lager of racial, language or religious uniformity?

There may be many options available to voters in terms of parties on the ballot, but the choice is really between these two outcomes. Because every major party in South Africa other than the DA unashamedly flies the flag for one group of South Africans only, whether this is black South Africans, Afrikaners, Zulus or Christians.

As our economic situation worsens and tensions in society rise, this movement away from the centre towards the radical edges of the political spectrum will try to gain momentum. In difficult times it’s not hard to appeal to people’s fears, and to then turn these fears into anger or hatred.

We’re seeing this across the world as the rise of identity politics and various types of nationalism end up turning citizens against each other, and against outsiders.

Here at home, the ugly scenes in Brackenfell are a stark reminder of just how destructive this brand of “us vs them” politics can be.

This is why the DA is committed to building a united, non-racial and rational centre in our politics, because this is where our new majority has to come from if we are to have any chance of success.

This is why our values and our policies are written for all South Africans – because we know that a majority brought together by a shared set of values and a shared vision for our country is the only foundation for building a future.

A majority built around a single identity like race or culture can never, ever do this.

And this is why we proudly adopted the value of non-racialism at our recent policy conference – because we cannot fix the injustice of the past by perpetuating the same divisions that caused this injustice in the first place.

In recent years we haven’t always honoured this commitment to our values. In our desperation to bring change to the metros of Gauteng, we compromised on our values by making concessions to the EFF. We can’t do that again. 

The DA’s plans – and indeed our country’s future – don’t lie with a party like the EFF. Our values and our commitment to democracy and the rule of law mean that there is a red line we cannot cross. The EFF is beyond that red line.

For the DA there is only one criteria of success that matters, and that is the lived experience of people where we govern. If we compromise on this to accommodate a party that doesn’t share our belief in democracy and freedom, we will have given up everything that sets us apart.

If we are given the opportunity to govern in a city or town, it has to be felt that there is a significant change under the DA.

That change was undeniable in Nelson Mandela Bay from 2016 to 2018, and it was almost entirely undone these past two years following the NMB council coup by the ANC, UDM and EFF.

But NMB will have a DA mayor and a DA-led coalition government again, most likely in a matter of days. And that DA-led government won’t sit around crying over everything that went wrong these past two years. It will get stuck into fixing these things and putting NMB back on track.

That’s all that matters. That’s all the DA is, and should be, known for.

We have a similar opportunity in Tshwane to bring stability, accountability and clean governance back to a city that has taken a beating since falling back into the hands of the ANC.

And what we do in these metros will become the blueprint for how to build a new majority in South Africa.

We will show that there is clear blue water between the DA and the ANC on every single aspect of governing these cities.

We will show that running clean governments and shutting the patronage taps makes a noticeable difference to the level of service delivery.

We will show that a meritocracy beats cadre deployment every day of the week.

We will show that the more power you take away from government and the state and place in the hands of the people, the more you free them up to live their lives the way they choose to.

And we will show that a party that speaks for all, cares for all and is a home to all is the only way forward for our country.

I’m not saying it will be easy, but it has to be done. Because that is our country’s only hope.

In the meantime we will continue to perform our responsibility as the official opposition in parliament the only way we know how: relentlessly.

We will continue to hold the ANC government to account on every single issue and we will continue to push for the reforms that everyone – including the ANC – knows must happen.

What we won’t do, however, is take part in the ANC’s faction fights.

You don’t have to be a political analyst to recognise that Thursday’s scheduled Motion of No Confidence in President Ramaphosa is part of counter strike by the Ace Magashule faction through its proxy project, The African Transformation Movement.

It is no coincidence that this motion was brought to the national assembly the moment the legal heat was turned up on Magashule.

 The DA will play no part in a war for control of the ANC, and we will not support this motion. Our 84 MPs weren’t elected to parliament to pick ANC sides. They were elected to parliament to hold the government to account, and to pass legislation that will improve the lives of South Africans. And that is what we intend to do.

So while the ANC and its proxies slug it out for power, we are officially giving President Ramaphosa this final warning and opportunity: Bring your reform agenda and table it in parliament so that we can help you pass it. 

We’ve made this offer before, and I want to repeat it again because President Ramaphosa is fast running out of time. The enemies of growth sit around him on the ANC benches. They will do all they can to prevent crucial reforms from reaching the house.

But if the President were to reach across the aisle, he’ll find he probably has the majority he needs.

Let him bring his reforms and let him bring the votes of those in the ANC who back a reform agenda, and the DA will help him pass them.

He knows he can’t trust half his party, but he doesn’t have to.

But that window of opportunity is closing by the day as the ANC factions jostle for position. He must know he has a target on his back. So let him use this window while it is there.

That could be the first step towards our country’s recovery from decades of poor policies and even worse leadership.

It certainly would be the first step towards building a new majority in the centre of our politics – a majority focused, for the first time ever, on the needs of the people rather than the greed of the leaders.

Now wouldn’t that be something?

Thank you.

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

Game over: Ramaphosa’s government commits fiscal treason by blowing up Mboweni’s pledge to cut the wage bill

The decision taken by the Department of Public Service and Administration, through the State Attorney, to halt court proceedings before the Labour Court on the freeze applied to the state wage bill by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and instead work towards a settlement with destructive unions, signals the beginning of the end of the government’s half-hearted effort to reduce the out-of-control wage bill. As a result of the ANC’s desire to hang onto political power at all costs, South Africa is now hurtling towards a budget blowout and a fiscal crisis from which we may not recover for at least a generation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has essentially surrendered the public purse to the threats of a few hundred thousand union members at the expense of 60 million South Africans, who now face an uncertain future due to an economy that is already in free-fall.

Minister Mboweni’s supposed plan to hold the fiscal line and freeze the state wage bill has been summarily torn up by political considerations to keep tripartite alliance cadres on side. We all know that the ANC has chosen to appease these cadres and unionists because COSATU had threatened to withdraw its support to the ANC during the 2021 local government election if the ANC implemented Mboweni’s plan.

South Africans will now pay a heavy price from the resultant collapse in service delivery, as the ANC government moves to slash budgets from essential services in order to fund the expected wage settlement.

If there was any doubt before, it has now been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the ANC exists to serve its cadres, not citizens of South Africa. The people of our country are set to face spiraling debt, unemployment and a full-blown balance of payments crisis – just to protect fat cat cadres and millionaire managers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed his most critical test to date. He has allowed his political allies to ram through a wage settlement that he knows the country cannot afford. Instead of leading the country on a path to fiscal sustainability, he has instead endorsed the path of fiscal treason as vested interests in his party push South Africa towards economic collapse.

Fortunately for all South Africans who want our country to avoid economic Armageddon, the DA will use every avenue at our disposal to fight the ANC and Ramaphosa’s fiscal treason. We will not allow this failing and corrupt state to sacrifice the future of 60 million South Africans at the altar of appeasing the same ANC political elite that has brought our country to its knees. Unlike the ANC, the DA unequivocally chooses the people over politicians, our country over party politics, and citizens over cadres.

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

A Children’s Commissioner in every province is a game changer in the protection of children’s rights

As the nation observes 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the Democratic Alliance (DA) renews our calls for the establishment of a Children’s Commissioner in every province.

The Children’s Commissioner (https://web.facebook.com/ChildrensCommissionerWC) in the Western Cape, Ms. Christina Nomdo, took office on 1 June 2020 in the pandemonium of the global Coronavirus pandemic and the hardest stages of the national lockdown. Ms Nomdo has hit the ground running and has made great strides.

In a short period of time Ms Nomdo set up a governance unit comprising of fifty Child Government Monitors who were nominated by their peers as well as by child rights organisations. This unit communicates on a daily basis using the WhatsApp messaging app on issues affecting children in real time reporting.

Ms Nomdo has submitted submissions on; 1) the Children’s Act, 2) the African Peer Review Mechanism with a focus on secondary education and 3) to the United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child with a focus on parenting support by government because all children are worthy of love and protection.

In two months during level 1 lockdown, October – November 2020, Ms Nomdo, held nine Community Children Rights Workshops in the rural areas of the West Coast District reaching Stofkraal and Molsvlei on the border of the Northern Cape. This is the same number of capacity building workshops on the National Plan of Action for Children which the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) had for the entire 2019/20 year.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) in September 2015 included children in the development of the National Development Plan – children were previously excluded from this process. The NPC identified children as an important stakeholder group, partly because they will be the adult population in the future. Children play an intrinsic part of society and it is important to elicit the children’s views on their future.

The DSD 2019 National Child Care and Protection Policy goal is that “[all] children in South Africa receive a continuum of the developmental care and protection services they need in an enabling and supportive environment to survive, development to their full potential, be protected from violence, abuse, neglect, exploitation and discrimination, and participate in decisions that affect them.”

The establishment of a Children’s Commissioner across the country will see national policy implemented as the state plays a secondary role in the protection of children’s rights with parents and caregivers as the primary protectors.

A Children’s Commissioner in every province has the potential of speeding up government response to violence and abuse against children. The DSD has a Child Protection System in that any caring South African, adult or child, can report abuse to any DSD office, Childline, SAPS or child protection NGO. The report is logged and a social worker is assigned to the case for investigation and action through psycho-social support services or via the judicial court system.

Government systems are often overloaded, slow, backlogged and all the while the child suffers. A Children’s Commissioner is an additional layer of support to children in the Child Protection System as the Commissioner will intervene where there are systemic or strategic challenges as well as monitor cases.

The Western Cape Government is determined to see the Office of Children’s Commissioner grow in its mandate to deliver with a financial budget of R8 million this financial year and with the further employment of three investigation and advice personnel to strengthen service delivery to children.

The incredible service of a Children’s Commissioner should be a government service all South African children and parents should have access to and not only those living in the Western Cape. We call on the Premiers in the various provinces to set up this service in their office.

Imagine the impactful difference a Children’s Commissioner would have in every province across South Africa. It would be government policy in action.

Report neglect or abuse of a child:

Childline: 08000 55 555

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

#Jetgate Bombshell: No minutes exists of meeting between Defence Minister and Zim counterpart

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has learned through a Promotion of Access to Information Act 2000 (PAIA) application that there is no evidence of the meeting that supposedly took place between the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and her Zimbabwean counterpart in September.

In an affidavit Ambassador Gladys Kudjoe, the Secretary for Defence, confirms that no minutes exist of the supposed meeting between Minister Mapisa-Nqakula and the Zimbabwean Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Opah Muchinguri-Kashiri, on 9 September 2020 in Zimbabwe.

According to the affidavit, a letter received from the Office of the Minister on 26 October 2020 stated that the meeting “was a verbal meeting and no minutes were recorded”.

How can there be no minutes to such an important, urgent meeting that warranted the breaking of Ministerial handbook rules to attend it? It is common best practice to record meetings of Ministers on international missions, and surely a meeting deemed important enough to organise in a matter of days would not be the exception.

The only conclusion can be that such a meeting between the two Ministers never took place, because the Minister and her ANC hitchhikers were never in Zimbabwe on State business. Their only business was only ever in service of the ANC and this meeting between Ministers Mapisa-Nqakula and Muchinguri-Kashiri were concocted in a poor attempt to fool the taxpayers who had to foot the bill for the abuse of State resources.

The DA will submit this affidavit to the investigating officer.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has shown once again that she cannot be trusted to head a department as important as the Department of Defence and Military Veterans, or any department for that matter. This affidavit proves that the Minister is trying to cover her tracks and it is time she faced the music.

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

Is Judge Desai really independent?

Images have been circulating on various social media platforms for around a week now, depicting someone who certainly appears to be Judge Siraj Desai, currently a member of the Western Cape High Court Bench, depicting (him) in what is alleged to be an ANC meeting. (See images here, here and here.)

Our Constitution, in section 165(2) sets out clearly the rights, responsibilities and confines of our Judiciary, and states: “The Courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law, which they must apply impartially and without fear, favour or prejudice.”

I have written to Judge Desai, via his registrar, requesting his confirmation or otherwise that it is indeed him depicted in the photographs. He has, to date, not replied.

If it is indeed the Honourable Judge, then a myriad of problems arise, not least of which is a huge question mark over his ability to adjudicate impartially, and without fear, favour or prejudice.

As matters stand, Judge Desai has presided over a great number of cases in the past involving political parties, and more particularly opposition parties. If he indeed has this close-up and cosy relationship with the ANC, and more particularly with ANC Ward 115 and Councillor Anwa Peters, participating in what is termed “a meeting between the Councillor and community leaders in Walmer Estate ahead of the 9 December 2020by-election” then this is very problematic, and naturally calls into question his independence and objectivity when dealing with matters involving opposition parties, and more particularly, those involving the Democratic Alliance.

If this is the Judge, then he should naturally have declared his cosy relationship up front each time such a matter was before him, and recused himself from the adjudication of such matters, or at the very least, offered to recuse himself, giving the parties the opportunity to apply their minds to his independence and objectivity.

Such a declaration would also have given the Judge President the opportunity to allocate a truly independent and impartial adjudicator. This would have avoided the obvious difficulties that now arise with regard to independence and impartiality pertaining to past matters already decided by Judge Desai.

It is so that Judge Desai will retire in the next two weeks, but if this indeed him depicted in these photographs, then the consequences do not cease due to his retirement. In the absence of a response from Judge Desai on the matter, I have today escalated the matter to the Office of the Chief Justice, requesting an enquiry into the circumstances surrounding these photographs. The result thereof will determine what, if any, further steps should be taken with regard to this matter.

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

DA opposes National Minimum Wage Commission’s proposed increases

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted its input to the National Minimum Wage Commission on the annual review of the National Minimum Wage (NMW).

We oppose the proposed above-inflation increases and support the minority recommendations in the report, which are premised on the need to avoid and minimise job losses.

Any adjustment to the NMW must take into consideration its probable impact on jobs. This is especially important at a time when Covid-19 and the associated national lockdowns have wreaked havoc on the economy. Retrenchments are on the rise and unemployment is at an all-time high: 43.1% in the 3rd quarter of 2020 on the expanded definition of unemployment, according to Statistics SA’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Growth forecasts, meanwhile, remain dire.

In these circumstances, it would not be wise to increase the NMW by 1.5% above inflation over the next two years or to increase the minimum wage by 16.1% for farmworkers and by 20.65% for domestic workers – all of which adjustments are recommended by the Commission.

No sector will be able to absorb such increases at a time of serious economic decline. As it is, the domestic service sector has been particularly hard hit by Covid-19 with many employers struggling to keep on their domestic workers. In the agricultural sector, research has shown that large legislated wage increases cause extensive job losses. A double-digit increase in the minimum wage will in all likelihood lead to increased mechanisation resulting in even greater job losses in the agricultural sector. Then too, many parts of the country are still trapped in a five to seven-year drought cycle, which has negatively affected the agricultural sector.

The DA supports sustainable wage increases in the agricultural- and domestic service sectors. We do not believe that increases should be forced by way of regulation. Increases should be determined by employers and trade unions entering into negotiations. With due regard to NMW legislation as it stands, however, the DA concurs with the minority recommendations in the report.

The DA urges the Commission to take the current economic climate into consideration and reassess its recommendations. The DA does not support legislated minimum wages but fully understands the reality of National Minimum Wage legislation. In order to work within the legislative framework, the DA hereby calls upon the Commission to put any further increases on hold during this unprecedented period of negative growth.  The government itself has had to renege on the three year wage agreement that it entered into with public servants. In the same way, many employers will not be able to sustain the increases currently proposed by the Commission.

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

De Lille’s border fence not even a washing line anymore: Defence Minister must urgently prioritise our borders

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to prioritise border security as a matter of urgency.

On an oversight inspection with the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans to the Zimbabwean and Mozambican border posts, we saw the precarious state of the border fences for ourselves. (See pictures here, here, here, here, here and here.)

The infamous ‘washing line’ that was constructed this year to serve as our border with Zimbabwe, has been damaged to such an extent that I stopped counting at 100 illegal passages as we drove to Beitbridge.

Everywhere illegal border crossings are rife because our border fences are simply not up to the task of keeping illegal immigrants from jumping it. From poorly constructed wire fences that are falling down to gaps in fences that should have been fixed ages ago.

The DA therefor urges the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), the Department of Defence and Military Veterans and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to convene an urgent meeting to implement viable long-term and short-term solutions to once again safeguard South Africa’s borders.

DPWI would do well to construct border fences similar to those at the Komatiepoort official transit point.

DIRCO must also urgently meet with its counterparts in Zimbabwe and Mozambique to broker bilateral agreements that will ensure the neighbouring countries also take responsibility for the maintenance of their side of the border fence. The porous nature of the borders should be a serious concern to all nations involved.

By curbing unnecessary spending and prioritising equipment and personnel to the borders, the Defence Minister will certainly address at least some of the issues at the borders. The members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) urgently require vehicles and equipment adapted for the various terrains around the borders. The vehicles need to be specialized and the off-the-shelf soft-shell vehicles that SANDF are forced to use currently, are not up to the task and put the soldiers’ lives in potential danger.

In order to maintain the borders’ integrity, the soldiers need to be equipped with the correct technology, including armoured personnel carriers (APCs), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), modern sensors and night vision equipment. They also need quality basic equipment, like high quality army boots and equipment that will give them ready access to clean water. SANDF also needs the ability to do regular maintenance without unnecessary red tape encumbering the process.

The number of SANDF units guarding the border needs to be increased to a minimum of 22, as the 15 units currently trying to enforce border security is woefully inadequate to perform such a monumental and essential task.

SANDF is also in desperate need for air support at the borders – something that should not be too difficult to finance as the Minister has shown with her own Uber-trip to Zimbabwe recently there is always money in the budget for the air force if you have the political will.

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