SAA Business Rescue Practitioner, Les Matuson, should engage Parliament in his consultations

Now that the business rescue process for South African Airways (SAA) is underway and Les Matuson, the SAA Business Rescue Practitioner, has been appointed and is reported to be intending to meet with all stakeholders within the next 10 days – it is essential that Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) be part of the proposed meeting with stakeholders.

As such, the DA has written to Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the SCOPA Chairperson, to request that he immediately write to Les Matuson to insist that SCOPA be included in the proposed meeting with SAA stakeholders.

This consultation process with all SAA stakeholders is clearly vital if Matuson is going to stand any chance of succeeding in the rescue of the bankrupt SAA.

Not only is SAA the property of all South Africans but on top of this over the past 25 years the South African taxpayer has been extorted by successive ANC governments to bailout SAA to the tune of R57 billion.

The SAA board of directors has refused to publish and submit to Parliament the Annual Financial Statements for SAA, as required by law, for the past two financial years and this has made it impossible for Parliament to perform its constitutional duty of oversight over SAA which is insolvent and a massive financial drain on the South African taxpayer.

In a display of the disdain in which the SAA board appears to hold Parliament, the SAA board declined to attend a SCOPA meeting on 27 November 2019. In a last ditch attempt to ensure that SAA account to Parliament and immediately submit its annual financial statements as required by the Public Finance Management Act, SCOPA had determined that on 5 December 2019 the committee would travel to the SAA Head Office in its massive luxury premises at Jet Park to meet the SAA board. This meeting was postponed when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that airline would be put into voluntary business rescue.

A time for a renewed NCOP

The following farewell speech was delivered in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) today.

Honourable Chairperson,

Honourable Members,

Fellow South Africans,

It still feels like just yesterday we were all out on the campaign trail, speaking to thousands of South Africans on what issues mattered to them in this election.

Now, seven months later, we are wrapping up the first session of the 6th Parliament.  Reflecting on this year really makes one note and appreciate that time really does fly by.

I say that again, time flies by.

But not all time is lost. four and half years remain of this 6th Democratic Parliament.  At this moment in the term, we do not require farewell speeches. We need planning speeches – visions to outline our road map of how we as the Members of the Upper House of this bicameral Parliament, would like to be remembered come 2024.

The activities of the NCOP this year alone, reflects once again, the shortfall of recognizing the true purpose and nature of this House;  The rushing of Bills in committees and plenaries, galvanizing the false sentiment that we are a rubber stamp to the National Assembly, the failure of interrogating legislation with the most optimal inclusion of provincial interests, and the lack of political will in holding the Executive to account through the various mechanisms that allow for such engagement.

I want all of us to visualize an NCOP that acts and functions like a true Upper House. I want us to imagine an NCOP that operates as a First Chamber, provides expertise to legislation like a House of Lords and has the respect like a Senate.

And just like any Upper House, the interests and needs of the provinces we represent are what should drive us to deliver the best quality of work in the national legislature. We are not the National Council of Parties, we are the National Council of Provinces.  It is about time we started acting as such.

If you look at Parliaments and Congresses across the world, you would find that both the Lower and Upper Houses hold unique powers to each other.

Why then should the National Assembly have the only say when it comes to electing the President? Why can’t that power be balanced with the NCOP having the ability to confirm Cabinet members nominated by the President?  Does this not speak to a truer balance of powers – after all, the NCOP is effectively the checks and balances of the National Assembly, and indirectly, the National Executive.

What happened to the days of rigorous debate? What happened to the filibuster? We are the last point of departure of often life-changing or life-damaging pieces of legislation before they arrive to the President’s desk. We owe it to the democratic project that we make the most of our role as an Upper House and really ensure the maximum processing of legislation.

There is a problem when the media labels this House as the National Council of Pointlessness or, more commonly, Shady Pines – an allusion to being a dumping ground for expired cadres. Respect is earned.  Only once we as Members of this House take our role seriously and apply with a careful and correct interpretation of our functions as laid out in the Constitution, will the public follow suit.

Unlike the National Assembly – in fact, unlike any other Upper Houses across the world, we have the unique feature of combining all spheres of government – the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) is permitted to take part in House debates, Members of the nine Provincial Legislatures occupy special delegate seats with voting powers, and the national government is accountable to this House through our committees when dealing with legislation.

Time really flies by. But while we still have enough time, we can embark on a journey of truly altering this NCOP into a real, respectable, unique Upper House of Parliament.

I would like to lastly, give a word of thanks to all of those involved in this House. From the Members to the table staff, to the office staff – we are all responsible for the functioning of this Chamber.

Go forth and enjoy your festive holiday.  But come back with more motivation and energy than ever before. We will need it if we truly wish to change the NCOP for the better.

I thank you.

DA requests fresh Public Protector removal proceedings, following Parliament’s adoption of rules

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that removal proceedings against the incumbent Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane be instituted following Parliament’s adoption of a set of rules for the removal of a Head of a Chapter 9 Institution in terms of Section 194 of the Constitution. 

In August, the DA submitted draft rules to the Speaker in order to assist Parliament in setting up proper processes for the removal of a Head of a Chapter 9 Institution, such as the Public Protector. We are pleased by the rules which have been adopted by Parliament and have since requested that Parliament initiate fresh proceedings in accordance with Section 194(1) of the Constitution to remove Mkhwebane as soon as the Second Session of the Sixth Parliament commences.  

The DA from the onset opposed the appointment of Mkhwebane as Public Protector and we consider her removal a matter of great urgency.

She has time and again proven that she is unfit to hold office, has consistently demonstrated an inability to conduct her work independently and has illustrated a poor understanding both of the law as well as of her mandate as Public Protector. Worse, Mkhwebane’s actions have caused immeasurable damage to the once respected reputation of the Office of the Public Protector.

Despite her claims to the contrary, Section 194 of the Constitution is quite clear that Parliament is the correct body to consider and decide upon the removal of the Public Protector. Section 194(3) states that the President must remove a person from office upon the adoption by the Assembly of a resolution calling for that person’s removal.

With the adoption of the removal proceedings rules this week, we are one step closer in removing Busisiwe Mkhwebane from office and replacing her with a capable and independent Public Protector.

Stage 4 Rolling Blackouts: The writing is on the wall for Eskom and our economy

Eskom is implementing stage 4 loadshedding until 6am tomorrow. COO Jan Oberholzer says this is due to the fact that there has been no proper maintenance over the past ten years.

Despite the dire warnings, the writing on the wall, the increased tariffs, the failed interventions, all plans have failed.

South Africans in all walks of life are carrying this burden. Businesses are buckling because of this.

Our key public enterprises are clearly unable to deliver public goods. Despite 55 days of coal stock levels, the entity is unable to plan for adverse weather.

This follows hard on the national airline being placed in business rescue, and is clearly indicative of the government’s inability to manage the infrastructure it inherited.

This heralds a signal failure that will critically affect citizens, industry and the economy.

Oberholzer says he doesn’t want to “get into the reasons” why we haven’t addressed the causes and solutions available to deal with this failure.

The DA believes it’s high time the culture at Eskom of command and control ends. Open cards are required and the country needs to be taken into their confidence.

This a time when factories are working overtime to meet production deadlines and families are relying on certainty over the coming festive season.

Make no mistake stage 4 loadshedding will have catastrophic consequences.

Eskom and its shareholder needs to account to South Africa, and for once, stem the tide that may well drive us into recession again.

DA demands immediate action to resolve electricity crisis

Support the DA’s plan to save Eskom, before it takes the entire country down with it:

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today written to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, demanding that he take immediate steps to address the worsening electricity crisis in our country. With Eskom having announced stage 4 loadshedding, the Minister must prioritize procuring alternative sources of electricity and opening the grid to independent power producers (IPPs).

Among the primary causes of Eskom’s problems is the fact that not a single generation unit at Khusile, which has taken 8 years to build and cost approximately R200 billion, is operational.

The Minister missed an opportunity when the Integrated Resource Plan was finally adopted earlier this year to announce the easing of licensing requirements for entities generating less than 10MW, to give the required Section 34 determinations to the 17 applications (including the City of Cape Town and several large mines) that wanted to be permitted to purchase directly from IPPs, and to ease the regulation of residential small scale embedded generation.

This fresh round of rolling blackouts comes on the back of an already shrinking economy, and will further impact economic growth as we head into the festive season and the height of South Africa’s tourism influx.

Minister Mantashe must act now. The DA has indicated its willingness to work across party lines to resolve this crisis, by introducing the non-partisan Independent Electricity Management Operator (IEMO) bill to parliament. We call on Minister Mantashe to support this initiative and help us fix South Africa’s electricity supply.

DA calls on government to stick to its guns on SAA business rescue, even if it means going against the unions.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) applauds the press release by the DA Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, Alf Lees MP, which charts a potential strategy for South African Airways amidst the Business Rescue process.

In line with this, we welcome the belated move by President Ramaphosa to place SAA under Business Rescue – better late than never!

The DA believes this will, however, herald an upcoming battle with the unions which speaks to a central issue that bedevils all public enterprises. Under SAA’s Business Rescue, this nettle will have to be grasped and we hope that in doing so, the way will be paved for further interventions with other State Owned Enterprises (SOEs.)

The bankrupt state-owned diamond mining entity, Alexkor, needs to be next in line because it has for far too long been in a state of chaos, due to mismanagement and corruption which the ANC government has knowingly turned a blind eye. The labour issues in Eskom and Transnet also require concomitant action.

The drain on the fiscus by numerous SOE’s must be addressed and it cannot be over-emphasised that the decision to place SAA under business rescue needs to herald a desirable and overdue approach that must be extended to all SOE’s that add to the momentum driving South Africa Inc. over the fiscal cliff.

SAA’s financial woes, like many other SOE’s, has imperilled our economy. We are pleased that National Government has put its pride aside, to do the right thing, albeit that this course of action, championed by the DA, was only effected at the eleventh hour.

We hope that ANC government will take a stand against its alliance partner and stick to making tough decisions that are in the best interest of South Africa and the economy – without fear nor favour.

Minister Mbalula confirms that 39% of PRASA managers’ qualifications could not be verified

In response to a question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Parliament this week, the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula confirmed that the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) could not verify the qualifications of as many as 39% of all managers at the Passenger Railway Association of South Africa (PRASA).

This is a shocking statistic, especially given the dire straits the entity finds itself in. Furthermore, it only exposes PRASA to all manner of risks and the entity simply cannot afford any more blunders, especially not ones as costly as the 13 ill-fitting Afro-4000 locomotives.

The fact that SAQA cannot verify the qualifications of 39% of PRASA’s managers, is further evidence that corporate governance at the entity has been systematically eroded to such an extent that seemingly every Tom, Dick and Harry can be hired to perform very critical technical work that requires special artisan skills.

This also means that the Minister cannot guarantee the safety of our commuters who desperately rely on trains. We have seen constant delays in trains, constant breakdowns and passengers getting stuck on railways which in some cases have resulted in major accidents. This comes at the backdrop of thousands of graduates who are struggling to find work, yet their jobs and opportunities are essentially are occupied by unqualified personnel at PRASA.

The DA calls on Mbalula to expedite the skills audit process at PRASA and ensure that all posts are filled by qualified individuals who are fit for purpose.

Coalition of corruption unlawfully takes over Tshwane

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will challenge the Tshwane Special Council decisions in court, as the processes to remove Speaker Katlego Mathebe and Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa were unlawful.

The DA is horrified by the scene that unfolded in Council, which resembled nothing short of a coup.

African National Congress (ANC) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) councillors were joined in an illegal grab of power which descended the meeting into absolute chaos.

When the meeting started, Speaker Mathebe recused herself to make way for her elected deputy, Cllr Zweli Khumalo. This was necessary as the first item on the agenda was a Motion Of No Confidence (MONC) against herself.

The EFF physically blocked Cllr Khumalo from taking the Speakers seat which led to a series of adjournments.

In a concerted pre-arranged move, the ANC illegally brought in Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Deputy Director General, Willy Bhila, to preside over the meeting.

When the DA objected to the presence of Bhila as it was illegal, the ANC and EFF Councillors continued by electing EFF Councillor Obakeng Ramabudo to preside over a motion that led to the removal of Speaker Mathebe.

Moments later, the ANC and EFF proceeded with a motion to remove Mayor Stevens Mokgalapa.

Observers must have thought they were no longer in South Africa but in a banana republic.

To quote F D Roosevelt, “today is a day that will live in infamy.”

What has occurred is an outrage and an attack on our hard fought for democracy.

The DA will not allow this coalition of corruption to reverse the three years of good work done by the DA-led administration in the City of Tshwane.

Suid-Afrikaners weer eens ‘n behoorlike geleentheid ontneem om insette te lewer oor Artikel 25-wetsontwerp

Die ad hoc-komitee van die Parlement, getaak met die wysiging van artikel 25 van die Grondwet, het vandag vergader om die pad vorentoe te bespreek met betrekking tot openbare deelname aan hierdie proses.

Die Demokratiese Alliansie (DA) het ons siening oor hierdie proses duidelik gemaak – ons is gekant teen onteiening sonder vergoeding as ‘n algemene vertrekpunt. Ons glo die werklike belemmering vir betekenisvolle grondhervorming is nié artikel 25 nie, maar eerder ‘n gebrek aan politieke wil.

Die voorgestelde wysigings sal nasionale wetgewing in staat stel om spesifieke omstandighede uiteen te sit waar ‘n hof kan bepaal dat die vergoedingsbedrag nul is. Dit is baie problematies en vaag, aangesien wetgewing enige omstandighede kan bepaal wat slegs ‘n eenvoudige meerderheid van die parlement vereis om dit te aanvaar. Die omstandighede sal nie in die Grondwet ingesluit word nie. Die DA is radikaal gekant teen hierdie wysiging sonder ‘n duidelike aanduiding.

Ons glo verder die uitnodiging van openbare deelname aan wetgewing van hierdie omvang gedurende die feestyd, ontneem die publiek van ‘n behoorlike geleentheid om behoorlik met die voorgestelde wetgewing om te gaan.

Ondanks die beswaar van die DA teen hierdie tydsraamwerk, sal die wetsontwerp nou in Desember 2019 ingedien word. Dit is duidelik dat die tydsraamwerk, waarop arbitrêr besluit is, nié die belange van ons mense dien nie.

Die DA sal voortgaan om te veg vir die beskerming van die Handves van Regte in die Grondwet.

The public will once again be deprived of a proper opportunity to engage with the proposed Section 25 Amendment Bill

Parliament’s Ad Hoc Committee to Amend Section 25 of the Constitution met on Thursday to discuss the way forward with regards to the public participation in this process and any inputs with regard to the proposed Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has made clear our views on this process – we remain opposed to expropriation without compensation as a general point of departure. We remain firm in our view that Section 25 is not an impediment to meaningful land reform, but rather that the lack of political will has been the central problem.

The proposed amendments in the Bill will allow national legislation to set out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil. This is highly problematic and vague as legislation can determine any circumstances which will only need a simple majority of Parliament to pass it. The circumstances will not be included in the Constitution. The DA is diametrically opposed to this amendment without a clear indication.

We further hold the view that inviting public participation in legislation of this magnitude over the festive period amounts to depriving the public of a proper opportunity to engage with the proposed legislation.

Despite the DA’s objection to this timeframe the Bill will now be Gazetted in December 2019. It is clear that time, which was arbitrarily decided on, trumps the interest of the citizens of this country.

The DA will continue to fight for the protection of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution and will not accede to political expedience of the ANC.