Khoza should retract Eskom write-off comments

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Chairman Dr. Reuel Khoza to retract completely or clarify his comments in an eNCA interview today, that the PIC has submitted a proposal to turn R90 billion of Eskom debt into equity.

Firstly, we do not believe there is any such “proposal”, at least in any formal sense that is anything more serious than idle chatter. Secondly, if there were such a proposal, it would be patently unacceptable and possibly illegal.

Dr. Khoza’s comments are irresponsible, and inject uncertainty into the markets and fear among pensioners. His comments should urgently be retracted in full or clarified.

The idea of converting R90 billion in PIC-held Eskom debt into an “equity” stake is just a euphemism for writing off this debt. The PIC would have no hope of recouping the money, since the government cannot afford to buy this equity from them, and Eskom is not making any money to pay the PIC a return on investment.

Such a decision would also likely be in contravention of the obligations placed on the PIC by the PIC Act of 2004 and the PIC’s investment mandate from the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF). Part of that mandate is to ensure that it “provides sustainable longer term financial returns to clients in line with set benchmarks”. There is nothing sustainable about any investment in Eskom.

It is not the job of the GEPF or the PIC to subsidise the government’s mismanagement of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Level 3 regulations are irrational and lack scientific basis

The release of government’s Level 3 regulations today by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirms our view that our government is no longer focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, their focus has shifted to undermining the hard-fought freedoms of all South Africans.

These regulations once again are illogical, irrational and lack any scientific basis. South Africans have long lost their confidence in our government’s ability to manage the lockdown in a manner that had originally attracted the full support of all political parties and South Africans:

The DA has particular concerns about the following regulations that were announced:

  • Whilst we have no objection to the re-opening of churches for the reasons advanced by government, they have failed to explain why other businesses and institutions (like restaurants) cannot operate with the same levels of safety;
  • We do not believe that the continued ban on the sale of cigarettes is justifiable after the reasons offered by Minister Dlamini-Zuma in her court papers. Cigarettes should be sold which will bring an end to the booming illicit trade which is costing us billions of rands and harming millions of consumers;
  • Although Government has removed the curfew from the Level 4 regulations, they continue to restrict the times at which people may exercise, from 6am to 6pm. There is simply no rational argument why anyone cannot exercise at any time, and how doing so, will contribute to the spread of the virus;
  • It also makes no sense whatsoever, why a single parent must endure lengthy court applications and apply for a permit to transport their child, when ordinary South Africans are allowed to visit a liquor store from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Thursday. This provision is a huge and costly inconvenience for single parents and it is our view that this should be removed entirely from the regulations;
  • The continued restriction on hair salons and personal care services is disappointing and will have a massive impact on the thousands of small businesses in this sector, many of whom are being forced to operate illegally “underground” or have already closed their small businesses permanently. There is no justifiable reason why government finds it acceptable to allow dozens of commuters to travel on planes and taxis, yet a salon cannot operate with five persons with the same levels of safety and sanitation protocols;
  • The sale of liquor for only four days in the week will not contribute in any way whatsoever towards the mitigation of the spread of the virus. In fact, it is likely to have the opposite effect as this provision will promote massive queues at liquor stores on Thursdays.

The DA rejects the heavy-handed authoritarian manner in which government is handling the lockdown regulations and we will continue to use every means necessary, including the courts, to fight for our hard-won freedoms that remain secured in our Constitution.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA rejects SANDF’s premature exoneration of soldiers involved in Collins Khosa death

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) decision to exonerate the soldiers who were allegedly involved in the death of an Alexandra resident, Collins Khosa.

We are extremely disappointed by this decision and how the SANDF has handled the matter. It would appear that they rushed through the process without following just and proper processes.

The North Gauteng High Court recently ordered that the implicated soldiers be suspended and that the Ministers of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, ensure that an investigation is conducted into the treatment of Mr Khosa by members of the SANDF.

It is questionable how the SANDF arrived at their decision, as it has emerged that the investigation relied solely on statements made by the soldiers, and did not take into account the testimonies of Mr Khosa’s relatives who were witnesses to his tragic death. Accounts stating that soldiers entered Mr Khosa’s property, forcefully dragged him out to the street and assaulted him was not factored into the outcome of this internal investigation.

It is therefore hard to reconcile how the SANDF arrived at their decision to exonerate the soldiers involved when they only relied on one side of the story.

SANDF’s actions illustrate a complete disregard, not only for the courts, but also for the Khosa family and the South African public who are seeking justice for Mr Khosa’ untimely death. SANDF has now sent a message that they are willing to protect their own at all costs, even at the expense of a civilian’s life.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula and the SANDF leadership have essentially justified the excessive use of force and emboldened the military to continue with their horrific treatment of the South African public. They should hang their heads in shame.

The DA has lodged a complaint with the Military Ombudsman, General (Ret) Vusi Masondo, to request an independent investigation into Mr Khosa’s death. We trust that the outcome of this investigation will be independent and transparent, unlike the sham that was the military’s internal investigation.

We would like to remind SANDF and Minister Mapisa-Nqakula that this is not a war and South Africans are not the enemy. We live in a constitutional democracy and the excessive use of force by the military on civilians are therefore unjustifiable.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA demands answers as IPID allegedly pulls investigators from task team probing top police officials

Lockdown regulations

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to acting Independent Police Investigate Directorate (IPID) executive director, Patrick Setshedi, demanding urgent clarity on allegations that the police watchdog has pulled two investigators from a special task team probing corruption allegations against high ranking police officials, including the former police commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane.

The investigators were reportedly also told to hand their dockets on these investigations over to the IPID head office. In March top IPID investigator, Mandla Mahlangu, who was investigating the same case was shot dead.

If these latest allegations are indeed true, it is a damning indictment on the credibility of IPID.

This development smacks of an attempt by IPID to cover up the very same corruption it is constitutionally mandated to investigate. It is exactly this kind of meddling and interference in the affairs of the IPID that has lead to the disintegration of this critical watchdog.

The main reason for IPID’s current state of chaos has been the political interference by the Minister and his powers over the watchdog body.

The DA believes that Minister Cele’s power over IPID compromises its independence and we will therefore table a Private Members Bill (PMB) to amend the IPID Act so as to provide Parliamentary oversight over the nomination process of the Executive Director of the watchdog.

Currently, the IPID Act gives the Police Minister the power to “nominate a suitably qualified person” which Parliament’s police committee must either “confirm or reject”. The DA is of the view that this process is insufficient because it gives too much power to the Minister and reduces the role of the police committee to a mere tick-box exercise while opening the directorate up to undue political influence.

We believe that our PMB will be critical in restoring stability at IPID and getting it back to the work of independently investigating and detecting systematic corruption and procurement irregularities in the SAPS.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA calls for Early Childhood Development Centres to open under Level 3 Lockdown

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling on the Department of Social Development (DSD) to reopen Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres under the risk-adjusted level 3 lockdown, if these centres can fulfill and abide by a minimum list of Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

We suggest the following base protocols for ECD centres to abide by in order to open their doors:

  • Work desks are distanced according to the 1m guideline;
  • Mandatory cloth masks or face shields for ECD practitioners;
  • Children: infants not to wear masks. Toddlers over 2 years to wear masks or Perspex full-face shields;
  • ECD centres to be professionally sanitized before receiving any children;
  • Surfaces and equipment to be sanitized regularly;
  • Dedicated area to wash hands;
  • Limit of children per class depend on floor area per square meter of the centre;
  • Hands sanitized and temperature monitored when entering school premises and classrooms;
  • Children to be dropped at the entrance where ECD practitioners will collect them, and collection will take place at the entrance;
  • The temperature of the child must be taken in the presence of the parent or guardian on arrival. Should the child present with high temperature, child cannot be allowed entry and it is the parent/guardian’s responsibility to find alternative care;
  • On arrival, all staff and children must be screened daily; and
  • Centres should make provision for a sick bay or a designated area away from the other children until collected by responsible adult.

A full breakdown of protocols can be accessed here.

These protocols are to be read in concurrence with provisions in the Disaster Management Act, Covid-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures, and ECD Standard Operating Procedure as outlined by DSD.

The DA is of the believe that with the move of the lockdown to level 3, the gradual reopening of the economy, and parents returning to their places of work, ECD centres will became increasingly essential.

For many young children, ECD centres are their only safe havens when their parents return to work. Without these centres some parents might find it difficult to find safe and suitable supervision for their young children, especially when schools reopen for older siblings.

In addition to this, many vulnerable children receive the majority of their nutrition from their ECD centre. While the Western Cape Government has issued a provincial directive to ensure that meals were still provided to vulnerable children while adhering to lockdown regulations, there are many more children country wide who do not have sufficient food during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The sector is also currently under immense pressure due to the ongoing lockdown. 80% of ECD centres face the risk of immanent closure if the sector is not reopened soon. The majority of ECD centre employees and owners are women, many of whom are the sole breadwinners of their families and are struggling desperately to make their own ends meet, as parents are finding it difficult to pay fees that the ECD centres rely on stay afloat and pay their staff. They have been left out in the cold with no intervention to get back on their feet.

The only way to keep the ECD sector afloat and to ensure that children have continued access to fundamental formative development – is to reopen the sector.

However, similar to the reopening of schools, careful preparation on the part of the DSD and the ECD sector is required to determine the state of readiness to reopen ECD centres. The reopening of the sector cannot come at the expense of human life and the safety and well-being of our children which will remain the top priority. Children, staff and practitioners with health concerns should remain at home and interactive programmes should be made available online where possible. The continued learning and development of the child is the primary responsibility of the parent or caregiver.

The final decision to send a child to an ECD centre will ultimately remain with parents or the court appointed guardian or caregiver.

The reopening of the sector is not without its complexities. The DA therefore calls consultations between the Department, the ECD sector, parents and communities in order to ensure that all the relevant stakeholders are heard.

DA to ask the CIPC to review the business rescue process at SAA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) requesting that it reviews the fiduciary validity of the business rescue process at South African Airways (SAA), in terms of Chapter 6 of the Companies Act 2008 (Act 71 of 2008).

The letter that SAA’s Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) sent to creditors yesterday all but confirms that the business rescue process at SAA has become politically contaminated and cannot be allowed to continue.

SAA’s BRPs have succumbed to political pressure from the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, and are now making decisions based on the Minister’s inane and vain desire for a new state funded airline.

In a 360 degree turn from their previous position that the airline should be liquidated, the BRPs are now of the view that:
“…there is still a reasonable prospect of rescuing SAA, subject to the receipt of unequivocal commitment thereto and the requisite funding, and that will be set out in the business rescue plan to be published in due course.”

This change in course follows a spirited political campaign by Gordhan to discredit the business rescue process and resurrect the folly of failure by calling for the establishment of a new state airline. That the BRPs are now singing from the same hymn book as Gordhan clearly shows that the minister has hijacked the process.

Even more alarming is the request by the BRPs for new funding to facilitate their salvage process, this despite postponing the publication of a business rescue plan for SAA twice.

Political interference in a business rescue process goes against the letter and spirit of the Companies Act. The CIPC has an obligation to ensure that a bad precedent on business rescue is not set with SAA, failure to which there could be far reaching long-term consequences for prudent corporate governance in South Africa.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA welcomes the appointment of Mr Abel Sithole as the new PIC CEO

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the appointment of Mr Abel Sithole as the new Public Investment Corporation CEO. Mr Sithole’s extensive experience, spanning insurance and retirement fund industries, will prove invaluable in efforts to stabilise the PIC and ensure a return of sound corporate governance.

Mr Sithole already has urgent issues to attend to on his first day at work. The first and most urgent task will be to implement the recommendations of the Mphati Commission into the affairs of the Commission. 

One of the Commission’s recommendations was that the report be forwarded to the NPA and all relevant authorities so that necessary steps can be taken against those who were found to have acted inappropiately.

Without delay, Mr Sithole needs to launch a full-scale review of all existing deals between the PIC and Sekunjalo Investment Holdings in order to recoup any money that was invested in Sekunjalo companies. The Commission Report painted a scathing picture of the unholy alliance between Survé’s Sekunjalo Holdings and the former PIC CEO, Dan Matjila. 

More importantly, Mr Sithole’s performance will be measured by how well he protects the PIC from the ANC government’s repeated attempts to raid the fund and subsidise its poor handling of the economy.

The DA stands ready to work with Mr Sithole in ensuring that the PIC sticks to its original mandate of  creating value for government employees, who are its major shareholders.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Minister Sisulu evades questions on political interference and conflict of interest at Amatola Water Board

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu and her Acting Director-General, both avoided answering questions posed to them by the Democratic Alliance (DA) about a potential conflict of interest in the appointment of Outsourced Risk and Compliance Assessment (ORCA) and Open Water Advanced Risk Solutions (OWARS) to perform an investigation into the financial affairs of the Amatola Water Board. The companies have also been tasked with conducting lifestyle audits into the previous and current executive management of the Amatola Board, including the CEO and Exco Team.

The DA referred these allegations to SCOPA last week Friday for discussion and for the Minister to account to Parliament for the apparent conflict of interest and possible political interference in tender processes at Amatole. Following Minister Sisulu’s inability to answer attempts to hold her to account on Tuesday, the DA has again requested a follow-up SCOPA meeting with the Minister in order to ensure that she doesn’t run around these questions again.

As revealed by DA last week, the alleged conflict of interest is that the director of OWARS, Reavell Rhodes N’Kondo, shares a company interest with Lungile Bomela, the director of Empowering Water Solutions (EWS). EWS is at the centre of allegations that Minister Sisulu apparently favoured them for certain tenders at Amatola, including sand water extraction technology. Both  N’Kondo and Bomela are directors of ELF Foundation,  a nonprofit company from the province of the Free State.

Instead of answering the DA’s questions on the seemingly clear conflict of interest and her apparent political interference – she referred to Section 45.2 of the Water Service Act which determines that the Minister may appoint a person to investigate the affairs or financial position of a water board.

What this means is that Minister Sisulu has personally appointed, as she admits in her reference to Section 45.2 of the Water Service Act, a firm whose director has a known shared interest with the company at the centre of allegations it is meant to investigate, and which further has links to a person who is seen by many as the key pin in the allegations leveled against the Minister.

Add this to allegations about Minister Sisulu’s ambitions to become President and the can is indeed full of worms.

Given her much vaulted comments about clean governance it would have been refreshing if she had answered the DA’s question directly about the potential conflict of interest, instead of avoiding the issue, thus leading to even more questions being asked. Such as, what is her real intention in trying to muddy the waters at Amatola, and whether there is indeed an attempt by persons in her office to direct state resources to some project aimed at her personal ambitions?

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Government admits that Tourism Plan is not based on facts and statistics

At the Tourism Portfolio Committee Meeting held virtually yesterday, the National Department of Tourism (NDT) presented their revised strategy and amended Annual Performance Plan.

The presentation (slide 22) confirmed that one of the risks for the NDT is “inadequate impact evaluation of Covid-19 on the tourism sector” and “inadequate understanding of the supply-side of tourism” (See Annexure A). Slide 5 of the presentation (Annexure B) graphically presented the NDT’s “Local First Recovery Plan”.

Although the presentation prioritises domestic tourism, slide 22 confirms that such a decision is not based on research and statistically-driven data pertaining to the impact of Covid-19 on tourism and understanding the “supply-side of tourism”.

It is highly irresponsible for any government to make important decisions not supported by data and statistics.

This explains the previous disappointing one-dimensional plan that does not take the realities on the ground into account and indicates that the re-start of tourism to take place only in December 2020, by which time the tourism sector would be decimated.

The presentation confirmed that the department lacks data and statistics to meet the unrealistic goal to ensure that South Africa grows to 21 million tourists by 2030.

For this to be achieved tourism would need to grow 6% year on year!

Again, this target is simply wishful thinking with no concrete supporting information ensuring that this goal will realistically be met.

As things stand presently, South Africa has no real tourism recovery plan, as admitted by Tourism Minister Nkhensani Kubayi-Ngubane at the meeting.

The DA will continue to interact with the NDT to ensure that a proper and realist tourism plan is put in place so that the closure of businesses and job losses are minimised.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Government sponsored chaos jeopardises level 3 opening

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is appalled at the shambolic handling of the Level 3 regulations which were supposed to have been given to the country on Tuesday.

We have now been subjected to two successive cancellations where South Africans would be told what life would be like under Level 3.

Should the government get itself together in time to have a press conference by Thursday, this would leave businesses and workers with one working day’s notice on how they should proceed when we move to Level 3 on the 1st of June.

This is simply not good enough as many question marks remain regarding health protocols for each sector and trading hours for the liquor industry.

These protocols may be complex and require time to implement in many industries. To give such short notice (if any) may render many sectors unable to open due to lack of compliance.

It is very clear that there is a low-grade civil war playing out in the NCCC and Cabinet over these regulations which has resulted in the consecutive cancellations.

That the Ministers and President can not agree on what the regulations should look like is now abundantly obvious while the country is left wondering what Monday may look like.

Without firm leadership by the President and a good session of ‘bashing heads’ together in the command council, South Africans will remain at the mercy of inept and incompetent Ministers who are charged with putting these regulations together.

As each day passes, the contempt that this government has for the country and those trying to protect their livelihoods becomes more apparent. It is critical that these regulations are released immediately and the needs of the country are put above the disagreements within government.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court