SA needs a Marshall Plan for building treatment and prevention capacity, not ineffective gimmicks and outright lies

Tonight we saw a president so determined to avoid taking responsibility, that he now seeks to blame the very citizens he has failed to protect.

Government’s reintroduction of an alcohol ban and a night-time curfew is simply to distract from the real issue: the utter failure to build treatment and testing capacity. These ineffective gimmicks are an attempt to obscure the truth of our situation: that national government has completely and utterly wasted South Africa’s long and crippling lockdown.

President Ramaphosa has broken his contract with the people of South Africa, putting both their lives and livelihoods at risk. He called on the nation to make huge sacrifices – their livelihoods, their freedoms, and sometimes their lives – to buy time for government to build treatment and testing capacity. The nation answered that call, yet government has nothing to show for it.

Only one province – the DA-run Western Cape – used the lockdown effectively to build field hospitals. And I mean properly equipped and staffed field hospitals, not rows of beds bought from furniture stores with no staff or oxygen infrastructure. Apart from the one field hospital in the Eastern Cape, built by the private sector, there are no up-and-running field hospitals in the other eight provinces.

The DA-led Western Cape government has managed to both successfully augment healthcare capacity and manage infection rates with an aggressive and focused testing strategy. As a result, they have managed to flatten the infection curve and raise the line of public healthcare capacity.

So while there is spare capacity in Western Cape field hospitals even as infections peak there, the people of ANC-run provinces are left fighting over oxygen, and for their lives while money allocated for boosting public healthcare haemorrhages under corruption and scooter scandals. Instead of effective testing regimes, quarantine facilities, hospital beds, oxygen and caregivers as infections spike, there is the usual corruption and scapegoating.

The argument that alcohol trauma is putting the system under pressure is simply an excuse and coverup for this failure. Alcohol is the scapegoat, not the reason. A curfew gives an illusion of control, when quite clearly the government has no control over the real issue, which is treatment and testing capacity. These are false narratives that should not divert us from what we need to do.

The DA rejects the ban on family visits. It fundamentally undermines the right to dignity and goes to the heart of what makes us human. How can it be legal to visit a casino or a church service with 49 other people, but illegal to see one’s own family?

We need a Marshall Plan to build treatment and prevention capacity. Government must have the humility to ask the private sector for help and must learn from what is working in the Western Cape. Every available resource must be rallied to the cause.

  • Scrap plans for funding SAA, gravedigging, scooters and e-tolls and immediately divert the funds to building field hospitals and testing capacity.
  • Partner with the private sector to massively ramp up testing, tracking and tracing, and drive a national, coordinated testing strategy to get control of the virus. We cannot give up on prevention.
  • Partner with oxygen suppliers and manufacturers to get oxygen to all hospitals in need.
  • Repurpose factories to make the necessary oxygen equipment.
  • Roll out the procurement of high flow nasal oxygen devices to circumvent the delay in ventilators.
  • Ban large indoor gatherings and end the ban on outdoor public spaces, to encourage people to meet outdoors.
  • Build awareness of the risk of airborne transmission through aerosolized spray. Educate people that transmission risk is reduced by managing the 3D’s of distance, dose and dispersal and drive behavioural change accordingly.
  • Take up the Western Cape’s repeated offer to share expertise on this matter with other governments. This offer still stands.
  • Provide three free cloth masks to all those who cannot afford them. The DA urged this three months ago, arguing that this spend would pay for itself many, many times over.
  • Implement the DA’s call for a Special Inspector General for Covid expenditure, with powers to intercept corruption in real time.
  • Deal swiftly and decisively with any official involved in corruption around Covid funding and procurement, including stiff minimum sentences.

President Ramaphosa’s presidency has been marked by one thing above all: evading responsibility for fixing South Africa. His resort to these gimmicks and his shifting of the blame to citizens is nothing short of a betrayal of national trust. Mr President, it is time you took decisive and firm measures to govern for the benefit of South Africa and not the ANC.

ECD directive conflates issues of reopening and a mass registration campaign

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister for Social Development (DSD) Lindiwe Zulu regarding the directive she signed on the safe reopening of Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes and partial care facilities after being hauled to court in June 2020.

The directive conflates the issues of the safe reopening of registered and conditionally registered ECDs with the Minister’s mass ECD registration campaign, Vangasali, and does not honour the court’s ruling handed down 6 July 2020.

The ruling stipulated that registered and conditionally registered ECDs as well as partial care facilities which were operating at the beginning of the nationwide lockdown may open immediately with the necessary Covid-19 health and safety protocols in place.  Furthermore, that the best interest of the child must be upheld first and foremost as stated in the Children’s Act, 38 of 2005 and section 28 of the South African Constitution.

These issues must be dealt with separately as the needs and requirements of registered and conditional registered ECDs are very different to that of an unregistered ECD.

Unregistered ECDs are not a new phenomenon to the DSD. The fundamentals of the ECD registration process is flawed and a ‘one size fits all’ approach has shown no evidence of success.

The declaration included in this directive requiring unregistered ECDs to apply to register within 6 months of signing the document, is both financially and logistically impractical at this stage. More so, when the R64.5m conditional grant meant for ECD infrastructure was just repurposed for personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution.

In her directive, Minister Zulu once again instructs ECDs to comply with the DSD’s extensive and impractical Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures which at very best alienates ECDs servicing lower income communities.

The Minister seems to only complicate an important directive that should be easily comprehendible to the thousands of ECD operators in order for them to continue the important work of educating, feeding and safeguarding our country’s most precious resource, the children.

An Open Letter To all SAA Creditors and Lenders: Reject the SAA Business Rescue Plan

The business plan as proposed by Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, the Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) appointed to deal with the South African Airways (SAA) business rescue raises a number of moral, ethical and financial issues in general, but particularly with regard the situation faced by SAA in view of the challenges faced by the country as a result of the demands made by Covid-19.

It is with this in mind the we present this open letter to you to urge you to reject the Business Rescue Plan that has been proposed by the BRPs appointed to deal with the SAA business rescue.

It is common cause that SAA has been mismanaged for a decade or more. The entity has been insolvent and bankrupt for all practical purposes for at least the past five years and has only achieved a “Going Concern” status year after year, on the back of R36.9 billion in taxpayer cash bailouts together with government guarantees of R19.1 billion.

Despite this unsupportable state of affairs, which all creditors and lenders have been acutely aware, many have continued to extend credit facilities to SAA without any security. This was presumably done on the basis of an assurance of receipt of payment, courtesy of unending taxpayer bailouts and government guarantees.

Creditors and lenders assumed the risk of not being paid by SAA for goods and services provided in the full knowledge that SAA was trading at massive losses year after year for the past nine years.

These losses have totalled some R32.0 billion. Certain creditors and lenders are reported to have been accorded special status and paid hugely inflated prices for products provided to SAA, enabling them to profiteer off the largesse of the SA taxpayer.

In the full knowledge that SAA was bankrupt, parties have knowingly elected to continue trading with SAA on an unsecured basis. In terms of the latest proposed SAA Business Rescue plan, these parties face a prospect of being paid a dividend of 7.5 cents in the Rand thanks to yet another taxpayer bailout.

The question creditors and lenders should be addressing is whether it is proper – morally, ethically and in terms understood risk – to divert funds desperately needed to fight the Corona virus, rampant hunger and associated job losses to compensate for the folly of recklessly doing business a patently bankrupt company.

Our view is, irrespective of the quantum, any such dividend or repayment is unsupportable. Accordingly, we urge you to vote against the proposed business rescue plan on the 14th of July 2020.

Many creditors/lenders have shrewdly, without regard to the effect on the fiscus and taxpayers, ensured the provision of security from government prior to advancing any such loans/credit. It is clear that this was done this in the full knowledge that SAA was bankrupt and that there was little or no chance that SAA would be able to service the credit/loans.

To compound matters it is abundantly evident that that many creditors/lenders relied on being repaid (capital and significant interest), notwithstanding the reckless and ill-advised nature of the advances by way of calling in government guarantees at the expense of taxpayers.

The representatives of banks which have repeatedly bankrolled SAA’s massive year after year losses have, in our opinion, acted with disregard to any semblance of financial morality. If SAA had been a private company, guaranteed by the ill-advised security of a proverbial ‘mad uncle,’ responsible lenders would not have continued with such patent folly year after year for almost a decade.

It is clear that these not-insignificant loans would never have been advanced without the comfort of taxpayer-backed government guarantees. In view of the absence of any recognition of the moral delinquency evinced in seeking to profit from hard earned taxpayer funds, we believe and assert that the South African taxpayer should not be liable for the loans assumed.

It is a matter of considerable regret that those who obtained taxpayer-backed security for the credit/loans extended to SAA will be paid the R 16.4 billion owed by SAA irrespective of a vote for or against the business rescue plan – very little ventured and much to be gained at taxpayer expense.

As a small apology to South Africans who have suffered and who continue to suffer unduly as a result of these ill-advised credit/loans extended to SAA, we urge you to vote against the proposed SAA Business Rescue Plan. By doing so you will prevent at least another R16.6 billion being used to fund SAA over the next three years.

These funds are desperately needed to cope with the Corona virus as well to stimulate the economy that has been so decimated by the irrational aspects of the Covid-19 lockdown.

We urge all interested parties, particularly all creditors including banks, to vote against the proposed SAA Business Rescue Plan and to ensure that not a cent more of taxpayer money is wasted on the SAA ANC vanity project.

All south Africans are watching very closely. The responsibility of the decision lies in your hands.

Please do the right thing.

Alf Lees MP

DA Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Ghaleb Cachalia MP

DA Shadow Minister, Public Enterprise

President Ramaphosa reneges on performance agreements with Cabinet

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has established that President Cyril Ramaphosa has reneged on his promise to enhance political accountability of Ministers and their Deputies by failing to finalize the signing of their performance agreements.

This development, which marks a spectacular reversal of the President’s commitment to herald a new era of transparency and accountability within the Executive, was contained in documents presented before the portfolio committee of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation stating that the “signing of performance agreements was suspended depend(ing) on the decision of the President.”

During his State of the Nation Address in February 2020, the President announced with boundless vigor that he would be signing these performance agreements.

At the time, the President declared that: “I will be signing performance agreement with all Ministers before the end of this month. These targets which are based on the targets contained in the Medium-Term Strategic Framework,  will be made public so that that the people of South Africa can hold those who they elected into the office in account.” (SONA 13 Feb 2020)

More than a year later, these agreements have been aborted without any indication of their possible resurrection in the foreseeable future, joining the ever-growing list of President Ramaphosa’s broken promises.

It is now clear that the President’s sole motivation was to abort holding his comrades accountable by opting for political expediency to shield his Ministers’ performances from public scrutiny.

The DA will be writing to the President demanding detailed reasons for his reluctance to proceed with the finalization of these performance agreements. If the President is a man of his word, he must immediately release these performance agreements.

DA to pose more questions on insurgent activities taking place in Mozambique

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted a slew of parliamentary questions to the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and the Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, on the insurgent activities currently taking place in the Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado and what interventions the South African government has put in place to prevent the spread of the activities deeper into the region.

The brazen and indiscriminate attacks purportedly from the ISIS-affiliated Al Sunnah wa Jama’ah (ASJW) group began to reach crisis levels in March 2020. According to various media reports, to date the insurgency has claimed more than 1 000 lives, displaced more than 200 000 people and destroyed an unidentified number of buildings and homes since first reported at the beginning in October 2017.

Less than a month ago, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula confirmed in written responses to parliamentary questions from the DA that the insurgency in Cabo Delgado was increasing. The Minister further confirmed that the insurgency has the potential to spread to other provinces within Mozambique and neighbouring states in the South African Development Community (SADC).

The Minister also revealed that there is a danger of the insurgency spreading to neighbouring states, and a regionally coordinated political and military approach has been recommended and plans are afoot to discuss and implement this approach.

The Minister’s responses are the first confirmations from Government regarding the nature of the challenges in Cabo Delgado and its concerns about the insurgency’s possible spill over into neighbouring SADC states.

The DA has submitted more parliamentary questions to the Ministers of Defence and State Security regarding the extent and nature of the insurgency in Mozambique, as well as the envisaged regionally coordinated political and military approach to the insurgency:

  1. Is the insurgency becoming increasingly sophisticated, coordinated and militant in nature?
  2. Which Islamist extremist group (group) is behind the insurgency? Who is supporting this group at both a local and international level? What is the group’s motive in this regard?
  3. What factors are contributing towards or fueling the insurgency?
  4. Are there any links between the insurgency and organised criminal activities such as drug trafficking?
  5. Are there any links between the insurgency and the offshore Total SA led billion-dollar gas project site situated 60 km south of Mocimboa Praia?
  6. What has been the response of the government of Mozambique to the insurgency and more specifically, the response of the military in Mozambique?
  7. Are private military contractors being used to counter the insurgency? If yes, who is making use of these private military contractors and will they continue to operate once the recommended regionally coordinated regional and military approach is concretised?
  8. What is the nature of the regionally coordinated political and military approach that has been recommended as a response to the insurgency? Which countries were involved in the formulation and articulation of this approach?
  9. When are the plans for the approach likely to be finalised and will these plans be made public?

The South Africa public needs the assurance that its government is taking all the necessary steps to mitigate the impact of the mounting insurgency in Mozambique and ensuring a well-coordinated approach is taken by all the potentially involved role players including our intelligence agencies and the Defence Force.

The DA reiterates its call on the Minister of Defense to urgently engage her counterparts in the SADC region regarding the insurgency in Mozambique.

DA takes legal action against Stellenbosch University over secrecy surrounding alleged impropriety during Afrikaans abolition court case

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Friday launched legal action against the decision by Stellenbosch University (SU) to hide information of critical public importance from public scrutiny. This follows after the SU earlier refused to comply with a request filed under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

The PAIA application was submitted in March by the DA’s constituency head in Stellenbosch and SU alumnus, Dr Leon Schreiber.

The aim of the application was to obtain the evidence considered by an investigation into allegations that the SU rector, Professor Wim de Villiers, had improper personal contact with retired judge Edwin Cameron during the Constitutional Court case about the abolition of Afrikaans as a primary and equal language of instruction at the university.

According to allegations made in the public domain, De Villiers is alleged to have had secret discussions with Cameron during the court proceedings – including at least one secret in-person meeting at OR Tambo international airport.

The goal of the conversations was apparently to convince Cameron to accept a nomination for the chancellorship at SU, after Cameron initially indicated that his “position in the judgement of the case” about abolishing Afrikaans tuition would be “hopelessly compromised” if he accepted the nomination. Despite this warning, Cameron later changed his mind and accepted the nomination, where after he wrote the judgement that effectively slit the throat of Afrikaans tuition at Stellenbosch.

A subsequent investigation by retired judge Burton Fourie absolved De Villiers of any wrongdoing, and the university accepted the investigation’s findings. But now the university is refusing to publicly release the evidence that was used to exonerate De Villiers. If the university has confidence in the finding that De Villiers did nothing wrong during the court case about the abolition of Afrikaans, why are they hiding the evidence from public scrutiny?

The DA believes that the university’s refusal to comply with the PAIA request amounts to a violation of the SU’s constitutional duty to promote the values of openness and transparency. The public clearly has a right to know whether there is any evidence that the rector of the SU held inappropriate discussions with a judge who was hearing the case about the abolition of Afrikaans, and whether the rector tried to influence a judge of the country’s apex court with the prestigious post of chancellor.

A university keeping information secret is fundamentally at odds with the principles of academic freedom. The DA will fight this effort by the SU to keep the public in the dark about the serious allegations against De Villiers, and we will not allow the constitutional right to mother tongue education to be further trampled in the process.

President Ramaphosa’s flip-flop on tourism regulations shows he continues to be a mere spectator

In the early hours of Saturday, 11 July 2020 the Presidency’s social media announced that hotels, guest houses, lodges and the like could be utilized for leisure purposes. However, shortly after that it was deleted.

This embarrassing flip-flop by the President once again seems to prove that he continues to be only a spectator to his own Cabinet which has hijacked this Covid lockdown crisis.

The latest additional confusion by government has demonstrated that it literally has no clue as to what it is doing but it is also showing total disregard and disrespect for the tourism and hospitality sector.

This is yet another example of effects of the various rifts within the ANC. When President Ramaphosa addressed the country last month he announced that accommodation establishments would be able to open up for leisure travel.

The Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, when announcing the latest regulations for tourism two weeks ago directly contradicted what the President had said as she had announced that accommodation establishments would be able to accept only business travelers.

There is no scientific reason for these establishments and other related businesses to remain closed as this does nothing to flatten the curve. All that this has done is the destruction of the tourism sector and the loss of thousands of jobs.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Presidency as well as to the Minister of Tourism to explain the information confusion on social media as well as to request an explanation on what scientific basis accommodation establishments may not open for leisure travelers

Minister Mkhize’s attacks an attempt to evade accountability on Eastern Cape ‘scooter scandal’

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s attack on the Democratic Alliance (DA) for drawing attention to the suitability around the Eastern Cape Health Department’s scooter ambulances is an outright attempt by the Minister and his department to evade accountability.

As the official opposition, the DA has a responsibility to hold government to account and to draw attention to areas where they are failing. This is exactly what the DA has done and we will not be relegated to a passive opposition because of the ANC’s inherent disdain for accountability.

However Minister Mkhize tries to spin this, the facts are that these inadequate scooters were intended to transport patients and was launched with much fanfare by Eastern Cape health authorities including the Minister himself.

According to Minister Mkhize’s parliamentary response, “the purpose of the project was to widen access to primary health care and deliver chronic medicine in remote areas of the Eastern Cape“. This, however, is in direct contradiction to his own comments on Twitter that the purpose of these scooters was also to “transport patients in rural communities” on 12 June 2020.

Now that the Minister and his department have been caught in a contradiction,  he is attempting to divert the public’s attention away by launching a personal attack.

The DA maintains that these R10 million glorified wheelbarrows represent the inept leadership in charge of health care in the Eastern Cape. The province’s entire system has collapsed, even before the pandemic wreaked havoc. And, while desperate and dying patients now have to sleep on floors without any hope of proper health care, the Minister would rather engage in a fight instead of taking up the dire health situation in the province.

The Eastern Cape’s Covid efforts have been a disgrace and a testimony to how people’s lives have become worthless amidst ANC-mismanagement.

The DA will not be silenced by Minister Mkhize. He might be comfortable with watching the Eastern Cape health system collapse, but the DA will not be silent when the lives and dignity of our people are stake.

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

Rolling blackouts: A miracle that any business survives the ANC

Eskom implementing stage 2 rolling blackouts from 12:00 today is another death blow to our haemorrhaging economy.

Not only will the economy, especially small businesses, have to contend with the debilitating consequences of the ANC’s economic lockdown, they will now also have to weather the storm of the rolling blackouts: it is miraculous that any business survives this ANC government.

Just as businesses begin to pick up the pieces after the disastrous economic lockdown, they have been dealt yet another blow.

South African businesses are no longer operating in a conducive economic environment where jobs and opportunities are being created. Instead, businesses are desperately trying to survive as they shed jobs in an increasingly hostile economic environment.

There’s only one way for South Africa to move away from the devastation caused by Eskom, and that is the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) plan for Eskom to be split into two entities, with a view to partial or full privatisation, and for independent power producers to be brought on board in preparation for a move in this desired direction.

Electricity is central to ensuring people’s livelihoods are secured. It is clear that while South Africans can afford electricity, they cannot afford Eskom.

Tourism Minister seemingly resorting to making up facts about delays in reopening tourism sector

During a meeting of Parliament’s portfolio committee on tourism this week, when asked by the Democratic Alliance (DA) questions about the research, empirical evidence and data that was used to ascertain the timeline for the reopening of the tourism sector – officials admitted that this was not based on data and even confirmed that they did “not know how much longer” the tourism sector would remain closed.

The Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, and her delegation presented the revised budget of her department. The presentation essentially indicated that the sector would open up any time between 12 to 24 months’ time.

To make matters worse, it appears as if the Department of Tourism has now seemingly resorted to making up facts in response to DA questions on the reopening of the tourism.

In her response, the Minister referred to Switzerland that had to go back to lockdown after initially lifting their lockdown.  Research by the DA confirms that this is not the case.  Switzerland has in fact completely lifted their lockdown in June, and opened up their schools and restaurants in May.  Switzerland has been one of the world’s success stories when saving lives and livelihoods.

Officials at the meeting also referenced statements made by the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) made about lockdowns.  Our research shows only the fact that the NYSE had themselves closed operations but have not pronounced on any lockdown itself.

Although the Minister indicated that she was aware of the job losses en masse within the sector, her mind-boggling reply to another DA question was that employees, upon becoming employed, must enquire from their employees “if the employer is sustainable.”

Again, the Minister demonstrates that she is herself a tourist of her portfolio. She simply does not understand the sector or even business in general and is now resorting to making up “facts” to justify her incompetence as hundreds of thousands of South Africans continue to lose their jobs.

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