Gordhan and SAA BRPs are misleading South Africa about a SAA bailout 

It is all a fudge and bumbling at SAA as the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, and the SAA business rescue practitioners (BRPs) clearly misled South Africa about funding for a SAA bailout. That is surely why Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, the BRPs, have refused to make the letter from National Treasury public.

The sorry SAA saga is unfolding much as the Democratic Alliance (DA) predicted yesterday. We believe that the Minister and the SAA BRPs are being obtuse and are misleading South Africans that government has agreed to a R10.4 billion State funded bailout for SAA.

Our information is that the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, and National Treasury have not agreed to provide a State funded bailout for SAA and that there will be no funding provided to SAA in the near future, and seemingly certainly not by next week. Minister Gordhan is seemingly putting pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Cabinet to instruct Minister Mboweni to make a taxpayer bailout to SAA – if not immediately then in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) adjustments budget in October 2020. It is our understanding that National Treasury is refusing to budge and that the BRPs were disingenuous in implying to creditors that the letter from National Treasury had made a “commitment” to provide the funding imminently.

If the BRPs and Gordhan dispute this view, I dare them to produce the letter that was sent by National Treasury this morning so that all South Africans, and SAA employees in particular, can assess what the real picture of bailout funding for the airline really is.

It now seems clear that the BRPs have agreed to partner with Gordhan in holding the country to ransom to force yet another taxpayer bailout in order to save the dead duck that is SAA.

Consultations for the MTBPS are already underway and Gordhan and the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) are no doubt trying to pressure National Treasury to ensure that the R10.4 billion bailout is included in the MTBPS adjustments budget. The DA will oppose any further bailouts for SAA and remain vigilant in protecting taxpayer’s money from being used to fund SAA.

Only 3% of GBV perpetrators convicted during lockdown

In a reply to a DA Parliamentary question, the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, revealed that of the 4 058 individuals that were charged for Gender Based Violence (GBV) since the announcement of lockdown in March, only 130 have been convicted. This translates to a conviction rate of only 3%.

It is beyond question that, as a result of the low conviction rate, the justice system is letting down the victims of GBV by exposing them to potential re-victimisation.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be submitting follow up questions to Minister Bheki Cele asking him to provide clarity on:

  • The status of the cases for the 3 928 perpetrators of GBV who were charged but have never convicted; and
  • What is being done to provide protection for the victims whose abusers are yet to convicted?

While the DA welcomes the recent introduction of the three bills to tackle Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF), namely, the Criminal and Related Matters Bill, the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, and the Criminal law (sexual offences related matters) Amendment Bill – all of which are still open for public comment – immediate steps must be taken to send a clear message to perpetrators of GBV that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

We can no longer afford to pay lip service to what is evidently a ‘war’ against defenceless women and children. A low conviction rate for perpetrators of GBV sends out a wrong message which emboldens them to continue with their abusive behaviour. Our justice system needs urgent reforms to change this trend and ensure adequate protections for victims.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government has to match its words with actions on GBV by ensuring that adequate funding is made available to eliminate the scourge.

The Department of Social Development recently introduced the Victim Services Support Bill which aims to bring victims to the centre of the justice system in order to ensure that the rights applicable to a perpetrator are also extended to a victim. As members of the Social Development committee we were nonetheless shocked to learn that budget cuts for the Department were imminent and that this would impact implementation of legislation.

This is completely opposite of what the government has committed itself to in fighting GBV. Unless a serious commitment is made by the national government to address the underlying causes of this national crisis, South Africa will always hold the dubious honour of being a dangerous place for women and children.

Parliamentary Committee must investigate Defence Minister’s lack of action on SANDF abuses

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Chair of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans to request that Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula be summoned to account for alarming abuses at the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

This follows reports in the Mail & Guardian that the Minister and top SANDF officials have allegedly known about a possible serial rapist attacking women at the South African Military Academy at the SANDF base in Saldanha, and has done nothing about it.

According to reports, incidents involving a serial rapist dates back as far as 2017 and have yet to be properly investigated. An inquiry has, instead been launched into the breakdown of the relationship between the chaplain at the base, Nicolene Herbst, and the commandant at the base, Brigadier General Gerald Pharo, over the investigation of the cases.

One of the alleged rapist’s victims has since reportedly committed suicide. It is simply shocking that the inaction of high-ranking officers at SANDF would give free reign to such a monster and allow him to continue his attempts to destroy women’s lives.

There have been 41 reports of rape at various SANDF bases since 2018. While the Minister has appointed a task team to investigate the 41 reports, it is unclear whether the cases of the serial rapist falls under this investigation. Female troops serving to protect our nation should not be put in positions where they are unsafe on their own bases.

In a separate incident, a member of the public was shot by a SANDF officer in Mogwadi in Limpopo for allegedly not wearing a mask. Whilst a case of attempted murder has been opened, the Minister must account to Parliament regarding this incident.

SANDF and the Minister’s failure to decisively act in many SANDF abuses is shameful. Their inaction is protecting a possible rapist and SANDF officers who abuse their powers.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has proven time and again that she is unable to rise to challenges of her post. Parliament must urgently summon the Minister and the SANDF and hold them to account. The military is supposed to protect citizens of South Africa, and not put them in harm’s way.

DA calls on Ramaphosa to establish tourism and infrastructure recovery inter-ministerial task team

During a National Council of Provinces (NCOP) Select Committee meeting with the Department of Tourism and other stakeholders on Tuesday, 15th September, I called on the Minister of “No” Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi Ngubane, to engage with the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to expedite inter-governmental co-operation between their departments and urgently fix basic infrastructure in tourism hotspots across South Africa.

The proposal was instantly rejected by the Deputy Minister of Tourism who advised that all such problems such as tourism in municipalities would be solved by the ANC’s ‘pie in the sky’ District Development Model, even though this model will take years to implement.

The dilemma before the committee was exacerbated by the Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN) MEC for Tourism, Nomusa Dube, who lyrically waxed about fixing infrastructure with a call for patience while the provincial government flounders.

Under Dube’s watch as previous MEC for CoGTA, the tourism mecca of the Lower South Coast of KZN has become completely dysfunctional, with continuous water and electricity woes.

The simple truth is that tourists, whether domestic or international, will simply not spend their cash in areas that have a record of unstable water and electricity supply. Hundreds of tourism establishments are closing and thousands are losing their jobs due to the massive failure of local governments to create an environment that they need to operate.

Tourism is South Africa’s gold and yet, is an underperforming sector that has the potential to employ many of those who have lost their jobs during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The national lockdown itself has left a profoundly damaging effect on the industry, with more expected job losses in the future.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on President Ramaphosa to institute an inter-ministerial task team between the concerned Ministers to urgently formulate and implement interventions that will fix basic infrastructure in local government and allow tourism to play a vital role in South Africa’s economic recovery.

The DA will always fight for a  government that creates an environment in which individuals and their businesses can prosper.

SAA only has one option – liquidation

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the latest ‘notice to affected persons’ by SAA’s Business Rescue Practitioners stating that the provision of timeous short term funding from government has not materialised and that the creditors will be asked to consider the future of the airline.

Tomorrow’s meeting with SAA affected persons, called by SAA’s Business Rescue Practitioners, should have one item on the agenda: the groundwork to begin the liquidation of SAA. It has become clear by now that no one is coming to rescue the bankrupt SAA.

Quite clearly the promises made to SAA creditors on 14 July 2020 by the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, and the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, that the additional funding of R10.4 billion over and above the R16.2 billion taxpayer bailout already budgeted for was wishful thinking and they have not been able to find any suckers willing to provide the R10.4 billion funding required to attempt the resuscitation of the “dead duck” SAA.

Ministers Gordhan and Mboweni would seem to have only one option left to them and that is to include a further taxpayer bailout in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October 2020. Our information is that:

  • The Department of Public Enterprises has made a formal application to the National Treasury for the R10.4 billion required to bail out SAA as required by the Business Rescue Plan;
  • Before the creditors make any decisions on Friday, 18 September 2020, Minister Gordhan will make a plea to the creditors to extend the life of the Business Rescue Plan to about 21 October 2020, the date of the MTBPS. This request will probably be motivated on the basis that negotiations with funders are at an advanced stage without divulging that the funders will yet again be taxpayers;
  • The creditors who have nothing to lose and some, such as the employees have everything to gain, will agree to such a further extension;
  • Minister Mboweni and National Treasury have not agreed to this taxpayer bailout being included in the Medium-Term Budget Adjustments;
  • The ANC will instruct Minister Mboweni to include the R10.4 billion bailout in the MTBPS and Mboweni will have no option but to capitulate; and
  • The ANC will ensure that taxpayers are burdened with increased sovereign borrowings and associated interest costs to pay back.

If President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government is serious about structural economic reform, the liquidation and closure of bankrupt entities such as SAA is a good place to start.

DA rejects President Ramaphosa’s attempt to censor SIU Covid corruption report

Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects the attempt by President Cyril Ramaphosa to censor the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) report into Covid corruption.

The SIU has reportedly confirmed that the President will himself decide which part of this report will be made public.

We see this move by the President for what it is – a blatant attempt to hide the true extent of how the ANC looted Covid relief funding meant to keep South Africans safe and healthy during this global pandemic.

The DA calls for full transparency and that this report be made public in its entirety.

South Africans made massive sacrifices during this pandemic and to this day many have experienced immeasurable suffering. Not only due to the Coronavirus, but also due to the corruption in Covid procurement which resulted in poor quality personal protective equipment, a lack of adequate medical resources, stolen and delayed food parcels and long-overdue UIF Ters payments.

President Ramaphosa, therefore, has no right to try and hide the corruption which happened under his watch, and in some cases even under his very nose.

The President is again proving how weak he is in tackling ANC corruption, as he is already making excuses to not expose his party fully.

The DA will not stand for the President’s two sets of standards. South Africans deserve to know the truth. The whole truth.

DA calls on CoGTA Minister to provide reasons for continuing alcohol restrictions and curfew

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to seek clarity as to why the restrictions on liquor sales and the curfew are still in place.

This follows Wednesday’s announcement by the President that the country is moving to level 1 of lockdown regulations due to the nation having, to an extent, succeeded in overcoming the worst phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite the President’s account, the government has still imposed a limitation on liquor sales and continues with a curfew between midnight and 4 am. No reasons or explanation was given on why these restrictions are still in place.

While the DA recognises the importance of supporting national efforts to fight the virus, we are increasingly concerned about the devastation that these draconian restrictions continue to cause on businesses, particularly small business across the country.

Furthermore, we are tired of hearing government admitting, after the fact that many regulations had been irrational, but still do little or nothing to end them. South Africa has taken some of the most drastic measures in the world to curtail the spread of Covid-19, but continued restrictions on alcohol and the midnight curfew are irrational. Especially in light of the President’s admission that“we have succeeded in overcoming the worst phase of this epidemic while protecting the capacity of our health system.”

The DA wants Minister Dlamini-Zuma to tell South Africans what evidence or research the government basing these decisions on.

Government’s unleashing of a “one-size-fits-all” approach, backed by no researched evidence has cost livelihoods. It has resulted in unintended consequences and has placed millions of jobs and businesses on the line.

Instead of focusing all efforts on fixing the economy, people are losing everything they have worked hard for because of this government’s illogical decisions.

R2.5 billion irregular expenditure on Gauteng Health security contracts

The Gauteng Health Department has spent R2.56 billion on irregularly awarded hospital security contracts that were then irregularly extended on a month-to-month basis for four years.

This is revealed by Acting Health MEC Jacob Mamabolo in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mamabolo, the contracts of 73 security companies that were appointed in October 2014 for a two-year period were extended month by month to the present day at a total cost of R2.56 billion for the four year extension.

This is all irregular expenditure which happened even though criminal charges were laid against the chairperson of the bid evaluation committee that first awarded the security contracts.

The Auditor-General warned the Department two years ago about the irregular extension of contracts, but nothing was done to fix this.

Hospital security contracts are notorious for corruption and gross overcharging. New contracts should have been awarded long ago, but it probably suited certain interests to keep extending them.

Suspended Health MEC Bandile Masuku cannot escape accountability for allowing these contracts to continue at great cost.

We need better security at a more reasonable cost in view of recent disturbing security incidents at hospitals in Gauteng.

#Jetgate: DA requests Speaker Modise to call for an urgent extraordinary meeting of the Portfolio Committee of Defense and Military Veterans

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will request that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, calls for an urgent, extraordinary meeting of the Portfolio Committee of Defense and Military Veterans, with representatives from the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Department of Defence accounting officers and its Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and representatives of National Treasury, to determine the amount the ANC has to pay back for their brazen abuse of an air force jet.

The Committee should ideally also invite members of Parliament’s Portfolio Committees on Public Accounts and Transport, who should work in close consultation with a panel of independent aviation experts to calculate the full cost of the ANC’s trip to Zimbabwe, including the wear and tear on the aircraft, and other associated costs.

A report on the costs should then be handed over to the Office of the Auditor-General in order to compare that to expenses submitted by the Department of Defence and Military Veterans and, should be presented to Parliament as a special parliamentary report.

The repayment of the money must be an open and transparent process as we simply cannot trust the ANC or the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to ensure that this process is above board. Parliament must have full oversight of this payment.

Furthermore, the ANC repaying this money does not in any way absolve the party of the criminality of their actions. The reality is that Minister Mapisa-Nqakula, Ace Magashule and the rest of the ANC delegation shamelessly abused State resources and possibly put South African national security at risk. They must be held to account.

The DA on Wednesday laid criminal charges against the ANC delegation for their abuse of a State aircraft as well as for flouting Covid-19 lockdown regulations. A copy of the affidavit can be found here.

Unlike President Ramaphosa, the DA will not sit by silently as the ANC continues to abuse their power and loot our State resources.

Department of Agriculture refuses to pay young farmers their prize money

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to ask that her department urgently pay the winners of the 2019 Youth in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (YAFF) Small Scale Producer Competition their prize money of between R100 000 and R200 000.

They have been struggling to get their prize money from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) for almost a year. Time and again the department has come up with excuses and promises without these winners seeing a cent of their winnings.

One of the department’s excuses for non-payment was a change of rules from National Treasury. The department requested that the winners source items to the value of their prizes and provide DALRRD with the invoices. The department would then settle directly with the supplier. Whilst the young farmers have kept up their end of the deal, the department has not paid any of the suppliers. The department has offered no reasons or further assistance in this regard.

Farming is seasonal – DALRRD officials do not seem to know or understand this. A delay in procuring the necessary items for this season means that the farmers have to seek short term finance to purchase the items promised by the department. The farmers might not require the same items for the next season. Once purchased from own coffers it becomes an administrative burden to inform the department that their needs have changed. This is creating a big problem for the farmers. Any funding sourced on short notice becomes very expensive.

The DA has previously submitted written parliamentary questions to the Minister to ascertain the reasons for the delay but has yet to receive an answer from her.

Minister Didiza and her department have made great promises to farmers which include providing stimulus support to land reform farms, increasing commercialization of black farmers, providing opportunities to youth and to support women in farming, yet the department fails to deliver on these promises.

Farmers in South Africa need a coordinated support plan. It is important that all departments work together to ensure that farmers receive support speedily. If support is not coordinated, farmers will miss their planting seasons which places a strain on the country’s food security.

If the department is unable to fulfill its mandate, it is Minister Didiza’s job to seek better support from National Treasury in order to serve the agriculture community and stimulate the rural economy. As it stands, DALRRD is built on nothing but years of broken promises for farmers and there seems to be no interest from the current Minister to change that status quo.