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.

Police Minister must account for 158 stolen firearms and chaos at firearms registry

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Okkie Terblanche MP.

The DA will write to the parliamentary portfolio committee on police to request an urgent summons of the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, as well as the National Police Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, regarding the 158 firearms that were stolen from the evidence store at the Norwood police station in Johannesburg. One of these stolen firearms was used to kill a police officer during a shoot-out with suspects.

While the DA welcomes the identification and charging of three senior South African Police Service (SAPS) officials regarding the case, the fact that these weapons were allowed to land in the hands of criminals shows the complete disarray of SAPS in general and the Central Firearm Register in particular.

The committee charged the Minister and Commissioner to develop an urgent turn-around strategy which is supposed to be at the implementation phase, and we now need to know the exact details and timeframe of the implementation. We also need to know the status of the investigation into the stolen firearms and the officers responsible for the theft.

The shocking state of the registry was revealed on an oversight visit last year. Stacks upon stacks of unprocessed administrative forms were piled high on every available surface and littered passageways. No wonder that only 4% (2 059 out of 50 962) of applications received during the 2019–2020 amnesty period had been finalized, or that a mere 0.92% (280 out of 30 356) of applications received during the 2020-2021 amnesty period had been processed.

This is not only an administrative headache, but puts the safety of the public in terrible danger. SAPS is supposed to protect the public and keep them from harm’s way. They are supposed to instil a sense of peace and security. But in this country, more often than not, SAPS instils fear and untrustworthiness. This can only be laid at the feet of Minister Cele, General Sitole, and officers like the those responsible for the theft at Norwood. Their incompetence, greed and disregard for the law put citizens and fellow police officers at risk and muddies the good name of officials trying to protect South Africans.

Like it did with Zuma, Zondo Commission must approach Constitutional Court over apparent perjury by Ramaphosa

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP.

The DA will today write to the chairperson of the State Capture Commission, acting Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, requesting that he urgently consider approaching the Constitutional Court seeking an order of perjury against President Cyril Ramaphosa over misleading testimony delivered before the Commission.

Using the precedent established when the Commission directly approached the Constitutional Court to obtain an order of contempt against former President Jacob Zuma when he refused to appear before the Commission, it is now time to hold Ramaphosa similarly accountable for the misleading testimony he gigglingly delivered before the Commission in an attempt to hide the truth about ANC cadre deployment from the people of South Africa.

During his testimony before the State Capture Commission on 28 April 2021, Ramaphosa denied that the ANC’s cadre deployment committee sought to influence appointments to the judiciary. After he initially denied that the appointment of judges was ever even discussed, Ramaphosa sought to backpedal by stating that:

“I do recall once where [judicial] vacancies were mentioned and it was just in passing… the deployment committee would look at where are vacancies, but it never resulted or descended into saying this [candidate] would be good [and] that one would not be good.”

However, thanks to the DA’s efforts to expose meeting minutes of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee, we now know that this was an untruthful statement.

During a meeting of the ANC deployment committee on 22 March 2019 – over a year into Ramaphosa’s presidency – the committee overtly “descended into saying” which judges “would be good.” In fact, the committee went even further by explicitly recommending the names of particular judges it wants “deployed” to the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, the Labour Court, and the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape divisions of the High Court. During the same meeting, the ANC also lamented “the judiciary having too much power.”

The revelation that the ANC interferes in the appointment of judges threatens to create a constitutional crisis by undermining faith in the independence of the judiciary. It is simply untenable that, instead of protecting our country’s constitutional order by telling the truth and undertaking to end cadre deployment, the sitting President of the Republic seemingly chose to mislead the Commission in order to protect the ANC.

When Zondo directly approached the Constitutional Court seeking an order of contempt against Zuma, he created an important precedent that any person who sought to undermine the work of the State Capture Commission would be held liable, with Zuma ultimately being sentenced to a 15 month prison sentence. It is critical that the Commission uphold this principle by applying the same standard and mechanism of directly approaching the Constitutional Court in this case of apparent perjury by Rampahosa.

The case of former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini provides further precedent for prosecution based on alleged perjured testimony delivered before a Judicial Commission of Inquiry. Dlamini is currently in court for the very same offence after she apparently delivered false testimony before the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into SASSA, which was chaired by Judge Bernard Ngoepe.

The DA believes that there is thus ample legal precedent for Judge Zondo to approach the Constitutional Court to hold Ramaphosa accountable and protect the integrity of not only the Commission’s work, but of the entire South African judicial system.

Health Department must employ student nurses to fill crucial need

Please find attached soundbite by Haseena Ismail MP.

The DA calls on the Department of Health (DoH) to ensure that student nurses are employed in areas where there are shortages. The Department must implement consistent nurse absorption strategies in order to bring stability and transparency to the sector.

The DA has received letters from nurses in the Eastern Cape whose contracts weren’t renewed by the DoH after their Covid-19 contracts were completed. The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) has also highlighted their grievances with the Department last week.

The DA agrees with DENOSA’s requests for a more suitable funding model for nursing education and infrastructure in nursing education institutions. We believe that community service nurses should be absorbed into the country’s healthcare facilities upon completion of their community service.

The Department, however, have a history of seemingly exploiting these nurses in order to save costs. It has been highlighted in various news reports that community service nurses have abruptly been released from employment after their community service duties are completed, leaving them no time to find new employment.

The DA suggests that the Department consider the following:

  • Re-evaluate its recruitment and selection processes by clearly and transparently communicating their intentions, rather than leaving nurses without jobs immediately after their community service is completed;
  • Communicate with National Treasury in order to find possible avenues for funding in order to retain nurse graduates in the system; and
  • Work with the private sector and build relationships in order to create alternate pathways for nurse employment after their community service is completed.

It is cruel and short-sighted to let nurses go without a fair warning. South Africa is in desperate need of skilled nurses, especially during the pandemic, and the Department must do everything in its power to retain them.

NDZ must explain to SA why she is extending her lockdown powers

Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Cilliers Brink MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to appear before Parliament to explain her decision of Friday, 14 January, to extend the Covid-19 national state of disaster for yet another month.

The Minister has now extended this declaration 21 consecutive times in the past two years without any account to Parliament or the South African people, and without any apparent concern for what this is doing to the constitution and the economic prospects of ordinary South Africans.

As if to underscore the careless manner in which government decisions are made, in default of clear direction and strategy, the wording of the latest extension notice has not changed.

In essence, the minister claims that the government cannot deal with the Covid-19 pandemic under ordinary laws. If this claim was true at the outbreak of Covid-19, when the pandemic posed a serious risk to the health system, it is no longer true today.

Here then are the questions that the DA would like the Minister to answer in person, in a Parliamentary debate of national importance:

  • 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?
  • It is also telling that while at least three provinces cry out for a state of disaster to be declared following floods, storms, droughts or devastating weather, they are left hanging as the Covid SoD approaches 700 uninterrupted days.

The DA does not believe that South Africa can prosper with the sword of another lockdown hanging over our heads. This was also DA leader John Steenhuisen’s message to President Cyril Ramaphosa last week.

Not only does a perpetual national state of disaster establish a dangerous constitutional precedent, it makes economic recovery near impossible (especially if the other constraints to growth are taken into account).

Both at home and internationally,  people simply do not trust the ANC government to make rational and effective decisions, whether in response to the Covid-19 pandemic or the public violence that spilled over from ANC’s ongoing factional fighting.

The last thing such a government should be entrusted with are extra-constitutional powers that allow ministers like Dlamini-Zuma to make their own laws with the stroke of the pen without Parliamentary concurrence and without public consultation.

South Africa does face a national disaster, but at present it is not the Omicron variant, or even the risk of further Covid-19 variants. The real disaster is the economic slump in which the country finds itself, and which locks millions of South Africans into poverty. This disaster has only been worsened by the ANC’s response to Covid-19.

Old-age home employees deserve fair wage increase

The DA will write to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to request that urgent research be undertaken to determine a fair minimum wage for employees in government-subsidised old age homes. Costs of quality care and the effects of continued funding cuts to these old-age homes must also be considered.

This after the Minster revealed, in answer to a written parliamentary question from the DA, that employees in government-subsidised old age homes in Mpumalanga receives a scant R2 700 per month, and that the last increase to subsidies were in April 2012.

Despite food and other necessary resources becoming ever more expensive, these crucial employees have had to desperately try and make ends meet with a shrinking wage. The government-subsidised old age homes have also suffered from this stunted grant making it increasingly difficult to provide quality care, nutrition and safe environments for the vulnerable elderly dependent on them. Many old-age facilities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had to close their doors due to devastation funding cuts had on their budgets.

The DA will submit further parliamentary questions to establish the standards to run such old-age homes, and the minimum requirements needed to receive financial support from the Department of Social Development (DSD).

The DA will also request that the terms of the service-level agreements (SLAs) be reviewed and that DSD impose a standard grant amount for all homes in all provinces. At the moment funding for these NGOs and homes are at the discretion of the MECs, while the SLAs seem to be signed quarterly which is neither feasible nor sustainable. This leave NGOs and those dependent on them struggling to survive while waiting for their payments.

The Minister must simply do better for the vulnerable people in her care.

Redesigned PES vouchers must benefit farmers

Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP.

The DA welcomes the temporary suspension of the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES) vouchers meant to benefit smallholder farmers.

While the DA has always advocated for governmental support for the farmers when necessary, the PES vouchers have been fraught with complaints and seeming corruption from middlemen. We therefore welcome the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s (DALRRD) announcement that it would be “reviewing, reengineering and redesigning PES implementation, to address all challenges experienced”.

The DA has long tried to highlight the challenges of the current system which only served to embolden those trying to scam farmers and were of minimal benefit to those who were desperate for the support.

The DA recommends the following steps to ensure that farmers benefit from the next iteration of support:

  • Cut the middlemen and allow farmers to purchase their inputs directly from agricultural retail stores.
  • The department advertised the need for 5000 agricultural interns. Where are they deployed? They should be used to roll out the programme.

DALLRD must apply science in solving farmers’ problems. Financial aid and stimulus can only play a small part in the solution. The Department must take care to understand the specific scientific agricultural needs, and support of subsistence farmers must become the focal point.

For instance, one of the many challenges facing subsistence farmers in rural areas are the many livestock roaming the streets often causing car accidents and spreading unchecked diseases. These farmers needs government’s assistance to address these issues.

Patricia de Lille’s cover up and inaction was indirectly responsible for Parliament burning down

Please find attached soundbite by Natasha Mazzone MP.

The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Patricia De Lille’s poor attempt at covering up her complicity in the burning down of Parliament, by strenuously trying to stop the release of the independent audit report by BDO and insisting that it was ‘irrelevant’, makes her continued stay as a Cabinet Minister completely untenable. President Cyril Ramaphosa must dismiss her immediately.

Findings from an October 2020 Audit Report by audit firm BDO, on the ‘Review of Parliament Prestige Construction Projects Performance’, has confirmed that the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, must be held directly responsible for the fire that burned down Parliament and tore through one of the key institutions of our constitutional democracy. This report was finally, after continuous pressure by the DA, released by Parliament late last night.

According to the report, which was handed to De Lille in September 2021, three months before the devastating fire, Parliament was left severely exposed to disaster due to:

  • Non-compliance with fire regulations;
  • Ventilation system design and fire protection in the Precinct needs to be reviewed by a fire consultant;
  • Lack of site safety management; and
  • Lack of quality management on refurbishment and upgrade projects.

The BDO report made a particularly damning finding on the inadequacy of fire control measures in Parliament buildings when it observed that:

“During the site visit to the NCOP building… on 21 September, it was noted that… the NCOP’s sprinkler system has not been operational for some time. As these buildings (Parliament), contains significant amount of wood, it is concerning that there seems to be no automated fire systems in place to protect these buildings from destruction in case of fire”.

The scandal here is that, after being presented with these findings, De Lille did not take any corrective steps to address the issues raised. Instead of doing her job to protect a national key point, she instead started to look for ways to stop the report from going public.

These findings point to gross negligence and a failure, at Ministerial level, to adequately maintain and protect a national key point. Instead of owning up to her costly dereliction of duty, de Lille lied that it was irrelevant. It was only after sustained DA pressure and the costly damage that her poor attempt at cover up, that the report has eventually been released.

The BDO report confirms, beyond any reasonable doubt, that de Lille should never have been made a Minister.

The DA gives credit to the City of Cape Town’s Fire Department, without whom the damage could have been far worse. Ramaphosa’s rightly praised the efficiency with which they conducted themselves in containing the fire from causing further damage.