DA launches petition to object to Eskom’s request for a 20.5% electricity hike

Please find an attached video by DA Leader, John Steenhuisen MP 

The DA has launched a petition calling on all South African to oppose Eskom’s application to hike the price of electricity by 20, 5% for the 2022/2023 financial year. 

Eskom’s proposal is completely out of touch with the lived reality of many South Africans, which is why DA governments from across the country are already taking on the battle to get Eskom to withdraw this exorbitant request for electricity hike. 

The rising cost of living for the average South African consumer, and Eskom’s failure to provide a consistent supply of energy to South Africans over the years, makes the tariff increase request ill-conceived and outrageous. 

South Africans just cannot afford yet another hike in electricity prices. The DA encourages all South Africans to strengthen our efforts to oppose this outrageous increase by signing our petition using the following link: https://www.notoincreases.co.za/ 

We cannot allow poor South Africans to once again bear the brunt of the ANC’s government failings and mismanagement.

Don’t talk about ending the State of Disaster, Mr President. Do it.

Note to Editors: Please find attached voicenote from the DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the remarks by President Cyril Ramaphosa, reported yesterday, that alternative legislative measures will be considered by government to the National State of Disaster. We call on him to immediately lift the State of Disaster along with the remaining lockdown regulations.

Speaking at the launch of a new vaccine manufacturing facility in Cape Town, President Ramaphosa referred to falling Covid infections and the need to look to alternative health protocols instead of relying on the Disaster Management Act. In his words: “There is a good argument to be put forward that, now that we are where we are, should we not examine and look at other methods that we can use?”

This has been the DA’s position all along, which is why we challenged the constitutionality of Section 27 of the Disaster Management Act, the mechanism that allows government to make extra-parliamentary laws under the declaration of a National State of Disaster. That matter is currently before the Constitutional Court.

It is also critical that all schools be allowed to open fully, immediately, and that rotational schooling is called off nation-wide. There are very low expectations of this week’s matric results announcement, and this is a direct result of the hundreds of school days lost over the past two years. For some time now this rotational schooling has disproportionately affected poor learners, as the top quintile schools have mostly returned to full-time classes. There is no justification for this widening inequality.

There is now a global trend towards this position. Yesterday the British Prime Minister announced what he called “a return to Plan A” – essentially an abandonment of most emergency lockdown measures, including mandatory mask wearing in public and in classrooms. He spoke of trusting the judgement of the people. Our President needs to exhibit the same trust.

As I also said to President Ramaphosa last week, the repeated extension of the National State of Disaster creates a dangerous constitutional convention, and economic recovery will be impossible with the sword of lockdown dangling over the country. Businesses will remain hesitant to invest and take on staff as long as restrictions can be reintroduced with the stroke of a pen.

On Sunday we asked that the CoGTA Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, appear before Parliament to explain the rationale behind her latest extension of the proclamation – on our count the 21st time the minister has done so without public consultation and parliamentary concurrence. The questions that we want the Minister to answer include the following:

•Why should a National State of Disaster remain in place, even if evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is less harmful than previous strands of the virus?

•Why, after nearly two years under a National State of Disaster, has government not devised alternative laws and policies to deal with health-related disasters?

•And, if it is absolutely necessary to declare a National State of Disaster in future, when it actually exists, what prevents the government from doing so at such time?

And so, the President’s assurance that government is considering alternatives to the use of the Disaster Management Act are welcome, but this now needs to be followed up with immediate action.

DA strongly supports Covid-19 vaccination, but is opposed to mandatory vaccination

Please find attached soundbite by Gwen Ngwenya.

The DA, after lengthy consultation with public health experts, has taken a position on Covid-19 vaccine mandates based on the current evidence (thus it may be adjusted), which balances individual rights and responsibilities, and factors public policy considerations such as the availability of more effective interventions and the implementation thereof.

The position stresses that we strongly support, and have been advocates of Covid-19 vaccination, to protect against hospitalization and death due to Covid-19. However, we are opposed to mandatory vaccination. Evidence is emerging that vaccines are less effective at preventing transmission, as waves of infection are still occurring amongst highly vaccinated populations. Furthermore, the social risk that the policy of vaccine mandates would seek to address is relieving excessive pressure on hospitals due to Covid-19. Yet there is no significant pressure on hospitals due to Covid-19 at present.

A mandatory vaccine policy ignores evidence of some degree of natural protection through prior infection. The magnitude of excess deaths and various antibody studies suggest a large proportion of the South African population may have acquired some natural immunity through prior infection. According to Wits Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Mahdi, 73% of the SA population has some degree of immunity.

Lastly, even if a strategy of State-imposed vaccine mandates was justifiable, the State lacks the capacity to implement and enforce it.

There is a caveat, namely that in very specific instances, based on a risk-based assessment, institutions may need a way to ensure that the risk of Covid-19 transmission is reduced. In such instances, the State / public institution should accept forms of evidence including, but not limited to vaccination. As an alternative to vaccination an individual could provide either:

  • a negative Covid-19 test no older than 72 hours;
  • a recent antibody test; or
  • a positive Covid-19 test that is older than 14 days but no older than some specified period, as natural immunity does wane.

This position applies to public institutions, including universities. Private institutions should be left to decide what is best for their establishment, based on their own risk assessment. We would strongly recommend that private institutions that wish to impose a vaccine mandate, accommodate other options such as those listed above. South African establishments would not be alone globally in taking this approach. Individuals who choose not to vaccinate, should bear in mind that they will likely continue to be severely limited in their ability to travel abroad.

Covid-19 continues to have a stark age-related risk profile. Therefore, the rational strategy for South Africa is to target the high-risk groups for vaccination and boosters. This includes the 50+ age groups, those with co-morbidities, and healthcare workers. This strategy is more urgent and more practically achievable than universal coverage.

  • The full position can be read here.

DA to approach High Court to order schools to open fully

Please find attached voicenote from the DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen MP.

The DA is compiling papers to bring an urgent interdict to direct schools to open fully. Government’s 1m distance policy for schools means that most schools are forced to operate on a rotational basis whereby each schoolchild only attends school 50% of the time. This policy is irrational, unjustifiable, unfair and downright outrageous.

Irrational

There is no justification for continuing with rotational schooling. In the current South African context, this policy is devoid of any benefit in reducing infections.

The purpose of the policy was to enable 1m social distancing in classrooms, to thereby take pressure off the health system by slowing the spread of the virus. Yet, the health system has not been under pressure from the virus during the fourth wave.

Unlike many other countries, there is a very high level of natural immunity in the SA population, driven by a high rate of prior infection. This immunity is now considered by scientists to be in the region of 70-90% of the SA population. Therefore, Covid hospitalisations have been much lower than previous waves. And even so, 50% of them have been incidental, meaning people were admitted for non-Covid reasons and then happened to test positive, so did not require ventilation or Covid ICU bed space.

Covid deaths have “decoupled” from Covid cases, as per the attached graph (Click here to download graph).

The reason for the policy no longer exists, therefore it is irrational.

No justification

Unsurprisingly, the government has failed to justify its decision. The only communication has been from Basic Education Minister in her press statement of 11 January, in which she stated:

With regards to schooling, the situation will remain the same, especially rotational time-tabling, where it was applicable when we concluded schooling in 2021.  The fact of the matter, is that COVID-19 is very much still with us, and we need to continue to work together to fight it.  We are exploring possibilities to return schooling to normal, but we need to do so responsibly; and to this end, we rely entirely on the advice of public health experts, through the Ministerial Advisory Committee, the National Coronavirus Command Council, and indeed Cabinet.  At the right time, we will come back to report on progress being made.

As educational expert, Nic Spaull, tweeted on 28 October 2021:

In WC 86% of primary schools are STILL practicing rotational timetables in Oct 2021. I think it’s clear that @DBE_SA and COGTA need to clarify whether the 1m social distancing rule is a prerequisite before schools go back fully. It’s not. This is a generational catastrophe.

Government’s own Ministerial Advisory Council advised in July 2021 already that all schools should open at full capacity, even where children are not able to be one metre apart in classrooms.

Risk outweighs the benefit

The risk to schoolchildren that accrues from them missing school far outweighs the benefit to those in the high-risk group that accrues from having schoolchildren on a rotational schooling system.

There is evidence of schoolchildren losing 57-81% of their reading ability due to rotational schooling.

Most schoolchildren lost over 50% of their schooling in 2020 and 2021. Hundreds of thousands have dropped out of school altogether as a result of the indirect effects of Covid regulations. In 2021 alone, some 370 000 to 700 000 learners dropped out of school, adding to the already burgeoning ranks of youth not in education, employment or skills training.

UNICEF South Africa representative Christine Muhigana says: “The reality is that South Africa cannot afford to lose another learner or another hour of learning time. It is urgent that we get every child back into the classroom, safely, now.”

Rotational schooling is also causing mental distress, increased exposure to violence and abuse, and increased malnutrition from missed school meals. All of which have long-term consequences for the health and well-being of this and future generations.

There is a need to balance the rights of the high-risk group to health with the rights of children to education. However, those individuals who have a high-risk of severe disease or death from Covid have the option of getting vaccinated. There is no supply or access problem with vaccines. And there is evidence that vaccines are highly effective at providing protection from severe disease and death. (insert stats here). Unvaccinated individuals in the high-risk group have chosen this risk.

On the other side, schoolchildren have no choice to attend school fully.

The SA Paediatric Association has called for over a year for schools to open fully, stating: “In most settings schools have contributed minimally to community transmission. Conversely, not returning to school has profound negative consequences, including detrimental effects on education, nutrition, mental and physical health, and finances.”

Unfair

Teachers have had plenty of time to get vaccinated if they so choose. Schoolchildren cannot be made sacrificial lambs to cover for government’s inadequate vaccination campaign or for adults’ failure to get vaccinated.

As Wits Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Mahdi tweeted on 12 January: “Immediate full opening of schools in SA can no longer be delayed to protect selfish interest of adults who choose to remain unvaccinated or inefficiency to rollout boosters to high risk groups. Children remain at nominal risk of severe disease have suffered disproportionately.”

Unequal

Rotational schooling is deepening inequality, as it disproportionately impacts poor children, who can least afford to miss school and the myriad benefits that school attendance brings. Poor quality education is the second biggest factor driving poverty and inequality in South Africa.

Inconsistent application

The 1m policy is being applied inconsistently. Taxis have been able to operate at full capacity. ANC and EFF rallies have gone ahead without social distancing or masking.

Unconstitutional

Without a rational justification, denying schoolchildren their constitutional right to education is a gross miscarriage of justice. The DA has therefore approached the High Court to compel schools to open fully and immediately.

Exorbitant electricity tariff increase request a consequence of a moribund Eskom monopoly

Please find attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

Eskom’s exorbitant 20.5% tariff increase request confirms that the entity’s tariff determination model is heavily biased towards rewarding Eskom’s inefficiency and non-performance while punishing consumers via high energy costs.

It is for this reason that the DA calls for a household-centric tariff determination model that factors in consumer price inflation, household income and energy poverty.

The bottom line is that South Africa is unable to afford Eskom’s failed monopoly. Tinkering on the Titanic will not save the day, especially when you are plagued by loss of skilled employees, inefficiencies, corruption, cost adding procurement and cadre deployment. These factors combine to distort the energy market and fuel spiralling energy costs.

We simply cannot allow Eskom to use its state monopoly to recoup inefficiently incurred expenditure through increased tariff increases. The entity’s distortion of the energy market is not a licence to ride roughshod on the back of consumers and burden them with systemically driven tariff price increases. Year on year failures to meet budgets and targets has resulted in a vicious cycle – for both hard-pressed consumers and the suffocating utility – as the utility sets sales targets and recoups shortfalls from consumers.

While the DA welcomes the regular assurance by the Eskom CEO, Andre Ruyter, that the unbundling of Eskom is on track, clarity is needed on the pushback from those holding Eskom debt. Bondholders are said to be forming a common front to protect their interests even as Eskom is taking steps to split into three entities.

Even as Eskom’s R392 billion of debt will remain under the holding company for now, some bondholders are of the view that it may be distributed across financially weaker units. This climate of uncertainty will inevitably lead to an increase in the cost of doing business leading to unfortunate outcomes such as the latest attempt to push the cost to consumers.

The DA fully supports the stance taken by Cape Town Mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis, and other DA led metros across South Africa, to oppose the 20.5% cost of bulk electricity proposed by Eskom. If approved, the increase will worsen energy poverty in South Africa at a scale and magnitude previously unseen in the energy market.

DA congratulates IEB matrics on 98% pass rate

Please find attached soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.

The DA commends the Independent Examinations Board (IEB) matric class of 2021 for their outstanding results, having a pass rate of 98.39%.

These matrics faced exceptionally hard challenges to complete their studies and their outstanding results speak of their motivation, determination and perseverance. They had to complete both their senior years under a strenuous lockdown with constant changes to school regulations that lead to frequent interruptions to schooling.

Despite the challenges of the rotational timetable, school closures and the need to work from home, these IEB learners did extremely well, with 89.2% achieving entry to degree study at a tertiary level. A further 7.82% qualified for admission to diploma study, and 1.37% achieved admission for study at the higher certificate level.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) must learn from the IEB and implement necessary changes to the schooling system so that we can see similar results for the National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations. The DBE should:

  • Increase the number of teachers specialising in mathematics and science subjects;
  • Adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of the economy through introducing subjects such as nautical science, maritime economics, and sports and science studies; and
  • Ensure teachers continuously upskill through offering primary and high schools a range of workshops or by partnering with education training institutions designed to support the professional development of educators from the foundation phase to Grade 12.

South Africa’s learners deserve to have bright futures. Increasing the quality of teaching and improving curriculum relevance not only ensure that learners are well-prepared for their matric examinations, but also their futures. Without these crucial interventions, South Africa’s economic decline will continue its rapid deterioration to the detriment of us all.

EFF is engaging in workplace terrorism

Please find attached soundbite by Dr Michael Cardo MP.

Today’s planned visit by EFF leader Julius Malema to a number of restaurants in order to “check the employment ratio between South African citizens and foreign nationals” is more than just a desperate exercise in xenophobic, political grandstanding masquerading as legislative oversight. It amounts to a form of workplace terrorism and should be roundly condemned.

The idea that Julius Malema has the authority to impose himself on a private employer – armed, like an apartheid-era labour inspector, with a clipboard and a kit to conduct a kind of pencil-test – is both laughable and dangerous.

Unfortunately, this is just another staged event in the EFF’s ongoing campaign of throwing its weight about the workplace even though it has no legal standing or right to do so.

This populist party with little or no coherent policies will seemingly do anything to attract attention themselves with scant regard for the rule of law.

For a long period of time the EFF has been operating a self-styled ‘Labour Desk’ and fronting as a trade union. The party has resorted to issuing ultimatums, intimidating employers, and threatening workplace safety if their demands are not met. This serves to undermine and destabilise labour relations.

Frankly, the ANC is complicit in creating a culture conducive to xenophobia by continually targeting and scapegoating foreign nationals in the workplace. The ruling party should now distance itself from the EFF’s theatrics and lay down the law on political parties acting as labour inspectors and trade unions.

President Ramaphosa must overhaul the SSA

Please find attached soundbite by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.

The DA completely rejects the appointment of Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, as the political head of the State Security Agency (SSA) – carefully tucked under Ramaphosa’s wing.

While we believe that urgent intervention was needed in terms of the lack of Intelligence before the catastrophic unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last year – and indeed long before then – the DA does not believe that centralising the SSA under the President is the right move.

We believe this is nothing more than a political chess move in the ANC’s factional war. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s tenure as leader is, in fact, paralyzed by this battle between ANC factions, to the detriment of every soul living in South Africa.

Appointing his close ally as the political head off the SSA will only fan the flames of distrust. This move also makes oversight over the SSA extremely difficult. If the past 27 years taught us anything at all, it is that the ANC – no matter who is at the helm – cannot be allowed to govern without meticulous oversight. As DA Leader John Steenhuisen has rightly highlighted, even the CIA and the FBI in America are accountable to the Congress and the Senate.

When the President swept Intelligence under his wing in August, the DA stated that the nation should not be left hoping that we won’t have a repeat of Zuma’s misuse of the various intelligence agencies.

While the DA admits that Minister Gungubele by all accounts has an excellent reputation, it seems he has virtually no Intelligence background. He has previously been Deputy Minister of Finance and worked in various provincial capacities. While stellar character is sorely missed in the President’s Cabinet, expertise and experience must reign supreme when appointing the person meant to right the floundering SSA, and Crime and Defence Intelligence units. The alternative leaves an inexperienced Minister being guided by already deeply compromised SSA staff.

Dr Sydney Mufamadi, who penned the High-Level Review Panel Report on the SSA and chaired that investigation, would have been a much better Minister, and the DA strongly advises the President to promote him from advisor to Minister. If it means losing embarrassments like Lindiwe Sisulu, Lindiwe Zulu, Bheki Cele, or indeed 90% of the ANC Ministers, the country would be better off for it.

South Africa simply cannot afford a veil of secrecy over the SSA. Sadly that is all the President has achieved here. The fact that he has chosen to go against the High Level Review Panel report’s advice, speaks volumes. Especially in the light of the approaching ANC elective conference. The country is suffocating under the ANC government and finding new ways to hide the bodies in order to protect cadres and cronies cannot and should not be tolerated.

BDO investigation timeline brings into question Patricia de Lille’s claims of ignorance

Please find attached soundbite by Samantha Graham-Maré MP.

By admitting that she commissioned the BDO audit investigation on the ‘Review of Parliament Prestige Construction Projects Performance’, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, may have inadvertently exposed a serious case of dereliction of duty and costly negligence on her part.

In defending her claim that Departmental officials hid the report from her, de Lille said “this is a gross violation of their duties to report to me as the Executive authority who commissioned the independent audit in the first place”.

As the commissioning principal, de Lille should have been aware of the terms of reference and the timelines that underpinned the independent audit investigation. If BDO honoured the timelines as presented in the report, why is she claiming that Departmental officials hid the report from her? If BDO did not meet the agreed deadlines on the presentation of the report, why did she not follow up with them?

According to the report:

  • BDO was scheduled to present the draft report without management comments on 25 September 2020;
  • BDO was scheduled to make a presentation of the draft report to Minister Patricia de Lille on 23 October 2020;
  • BDO was scheduled to have a discussion of the final report with Minister Patricia de Lille between November 2 and November 6 2020.

The aforementioned timeline predates the devastating fire on Parliament which occurred on 2 January 2022. De Lille now needs to come clean and confirm whether BDO honoured the audit investigation timelines in reporting their findings to her directly as stated in the report, if not, whether she made any follow up.

If de Lille fails to provide clarity on these scheduled timelines by which BDO was supposed to brief her on the report, she will leave us with no option but to submit a PAIA application to access the meeting minutes between her and BDO on the report.

De Lille’s favourite default position of refusing to take responsibility for anything that goes on in her Department has finally caught up with her and she must now account for this gross dereliction of duty. We still maintain our position that de Lille has shown herself incapable of running the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, and should be dismissed immediately.

Even if we are to go by her claim that consequence management will be instituted against officials responsible for ‘hiding’ the report from her, this is hard to believe. Almost 2 years after the Beitbridge border fence fiasco, her much-avowed consequence management has not resulted in anything tangible.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure cannot continue to be lurching from one crisis to the other without any permanent solution. At what point does de Lille take responsibility for her Department? She needs to stop passing the buck and admit that she is not up to the job.

South Africans should not pay for electricity that they do not have

Eskom’s inability to provide a regular supply of electricity to consumers makes the entity’s demand for a 20.5% tariff increase not only outrageous but also out of touch with the rising, cost of living for the average South African consumer. It has enormous impacts, not just on consumer costs, but on every aspect of life and business, and will have knock-on effects on producer price inflation.

We therefore reiterate our call for the National Energy Regulatory Authority of South Africa (NERSA) to reject Eskom’s 20.5% tariff request.

Evidence from independent energy experts confirms that Eskom’s week-on-week Energy Availability Factor (EAF) for the 2021 calendar year dropped to 61.75% in 2021 from 64.79% in 2020. EAF is the average amount of Eskom’s power generation that is available, relative to its installed capacity.

In fact, data compiled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) concluded that 2021 was the worst year on record on loadshedding. 1 136 hours of outages were recorded, up 37% from the 859 hours recorded in 2020. This means that the amount of energy shed was 2 455 GWh, up from 1 798 GWh in 2020.

It is simply bad business practice for Eskom to demand that consumers pay 20% more for a product which they don’t have much of the time – primarily because of Eskom’s incompetence and dysfunctionality. South Africans should not be asked to continue subsidising Eskom’s failing energy monopoly, including the continued stonewalling by Gwede Mantashe to open up the sector to Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

Instead of owning up to its failure to provide a regular supply of electricity, Eskom is now dishonestly shifting the blame on rising costs to IPPs. Eskom needs to explain how IPPs are responsible for the 20.5% tariff increase that they are requesting from NERSA, when results from bid window 5 showed that IPPs are able to generate electricity at less than half of what it costs Eskom.

Shifting the blame to IPPs will not change the fact that Eskom is woefully unable to maintain and grow generation capacity. South Africans are now carrying the cost of this unending energy crisis, from lack of investment in the economy, job losses and rising inflation. The 20.5% tariff increase request is unconscionable and must be rejected.