Nzimande needs to explain why only 44% of NSFAS applications have been approved to date

In response to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande, revealed that only 44% of students who have applied for NSFAS funding for this year have been successful in their efforts to date.
It is deeply concerning that it is nearly May and thousands of students still face uncertainty regarding how they will pay for their studies.
Parliament reopens next week and the Minister must urgently make a ministerial statement addressing the reasons for the unacceptable delay in processing NSFAS applications and what he plans to do to speed up the process.
In 2016 the number of students funded by NSFAS was 470 352. However, to date, only 317 865  students have been funded for 2017, out of an unprecedented 717 477 applications. The Minister needs to explain why fewer students have received funding this year, despite a R37 billion increase in the budget allocated to Higher Education from 2016 to 2017.
Yesterday, in a statement, Minister Nzimande boasted that “[more] than two million students studying at South Africa’s public Universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges have been funded by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) since 2013”.
Although this is a welcome achievement, the Minister simply cannot ignore the fact that so many applications are yet to be processed this year.  There also appear to be severe delays in actually delivering funds to those who have been supported. Exams are coming up in a few weeks while thousands of students across South African tertiary campuses are currently struggling to survive, as they have not received any funding for accommodation, books and food.
This is an appalling state of affairs and must be addressed immediately.
The DA will now submit further Parliamentary questions to ask the Minister to clarify the situation for 2017, and to find out whether his department has approached the universities and TVET colleges to provide assistance to these struggling students.
The majority of students who apply for NSFAS funding come from poor backgrounds, with the financial assistance from NSFAS often being their only source of income to buy food and other necessities. We are concerned about those students from poor backgrounds who did not receive any assistance, or who still wait in limbo to find out whether NSFAS has funded them.
The Department cannot boast about 2 million NSFAS students being funded since 2013, while only 44% of applications received this year have been successful to date.
The DA urges the Minister to immediately intervene, in what can only be described as a humanitarian emergency.

Nhleko U-Turn on Nkandla upgrade briefing highly suspicious

The DA finds it highly suspicious that the new Minister of Public Works, Nathi Nhleko, mysteriously cancelled a press briefing scheduled for today, to explain the new upgrades and improvements planned at Jacob Zuma’s palace of corruption, Nkandla.
This after both senior Public Works officials, and the Minister of Police, are reported to have confirmed these upgrades are going ahead.
The President’s public denial of requesting upgrades to the “residence” is simply not good enough. This smacks of the same obfuscation around Zuma’s mortgage bond, which was nothing more than a smokescreen to mislead Parliament. There is a difference between the entire Nkandla “homestead” compound, which includes chicken facilities, a swimming pool and visitor’s entrance, and the individual living quarters, or “residence”, within the compound.
The public needs to be taken into confidence and given guarantees that there will be no further upgrades at all, to any part of Nkandla, not just the “residence”. This is what we expected of Nhleko today.
This U-turn by Nhleko is very suspicious and strongly suggests that there is something to hide. If Nhleko had a defensible case to make, he would have come out and given today’s briefing.
We have not forgotten the role that Nhleko played in defending the Nkandla scandal from the start, most notably at the infamous “fire-pool” press conference, and the DA urges Nhleko to avoid any similar performances going forward. The passionate defence of Nkandla from such senior ANC Ministers only illustrates that many conspired to build Jacob Zuma the enormously expensive Nkandla, or defend it, using public money.
It is deeply concerning that ten officials from the Department of Public Works are being used as scapegoats for not following proper procedure in the procurement processes for the R246 million Nkandla upgrade, when it was clearly a politically collective project for the ANC government.
No additional upgrades to the President’s Nkandla homestead are justifiable. We expect Minister Nhleko to come out of hiding and tell the nation that Nkandla will no longer receive a single cent of public money, for any further upgrades.
The DA will challenge any corrupt leaders for flagrantly abusing the public purse at the expense of the poor and jobless.

DA files papers to force President Zuma to disclose Cabinet Reshuffle record of decision

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has filed an urgent application with the North Gauteng High Court seeking to force President Jacob Zuma to supply reasons for his executive decision to reshuffle Cabinet just after midnight on 31 March 2017, including the firing of Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas.
This latest urgent application is necessary to force the President to disclose the reasons for and the record of his decision to reshuffle his cabinet so that our earlier application to review the rationality of his decision can proceed.
In our founding papers for this urgent application to compel, the DA requests the court to order President Zuma to provide a written record of decision and reasons for the reshuffle, yet disingenuously the President’s reply to our papers claims that South Africa is not entitled to know why he acted as he did because he was exercising his executive power.
In a letter from the State Attorney, he stated that “the decision to reshuffle cabinet as he did was informed by his political judgement that the reshuffle will best deliver on the mandate of the African National Congress”. This does not in any way justify the President’s decision being beyond scrutiny.
Every exercise of public power must be subject to the principles of legality and rationality, especially the exercise of all of the President’s powers, which include decisions to appoint or dismiss Ministers and Deputy Ministers. It has also been established in law that all constitutional powers are subject to constitutional constraints. In particular, it is a requirement of our law that a decision must be rationally related to the purpose for which the power was conferred.
It follows that the President’s decisions to dismiss Ministers or Deputy Ministers must pass the standards of rationality. In the absence of a rational explanation, the President’s decision to reshuffle his cabinet would be unlawful.
The President has himself conceded this fact under oath in an affidavit submitted to the Constitutional Court in the matter of United Democratic Movement v Speaker of the National Assembly (CCT 89/2107) in which he states that “public office requires the exercise of public power to be within constitutional constraints, least of which is rationality”.
It seems that the President is glaringly contradicting himself in these two cases.
It is, therefore, critical that the President make known the reasons for and record of his decision so that its rationally can be tested.
In our papers we argue that the President’s assertion that the DA, and indeed South Africa, is not entitled to the record and reasons for his cabinet reshuffle is incorrect in law and because the President’s reshuffle amounts to the exercise of executive powers granted to the President in terms of Sections 91 and 93 of the Constitution, on the President’s own admission, it is subject to the principle of legality and the principle of rationality.
Moreover, the President’s decision to dismiss or appoint a Minister of Finance requires an additional bar of rationality, because of:

  1. The effect that a wrong choice can have on investor confidence, investment, job-creation and ultimately the levels of poverty in South Africa;
  2. The Minister of Finance (and his or her Deputy) is at the heart of decisions to allocate and manage the revenue that is designed to achieve constitutional objectives and obligations; and
  3. The Minister of Finance is the only Cabinet member who has defined Constitutional obligations and responsibilities, where the Constitution expressly contemplates that a Cabinet member will be responsible for national financial matters [Section 73(2) and Section 224(2)] and that only he or she can introduce money bills [Section 73(2)(a)].

While the DA does believe the President made the decision, especially the axing of Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas, based on political considerations to put himself above the people of South Africa, this makes it all the more important that he provides an explanation.
The effect of his decision on South Africa is plain for all to see and led directly to two international rating agencies downgrading our country to junk status. Our currency also went into free-fall and will, in all likelihood, lead to job losses which we can ill-afford given that a staggering 8.9 million South Africans cannot find work.
President Zuma ought to have known that this would likely be the result of his rash action in firing Gordhan and Jonas, since the decision to drop Nhlanhla Nene from the finance ministry in 2015 had similar consequences for the economy.
It is well-known that for some time President Zuma has been trying to have more direct control over the National Treasury, so as to advance his insiders, and the reshuffle needs to be seen in that light, and that is why it is of paramount importance that the public know the real reasons why Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas were replaced.
Given the DA assertion that the President’s cabinet reshuffle decision is reviewable under the principle of rationality, it follows that in order to determine whether the decision was rational or not, the President must make available the record and reasons for the decision.
We, therefore, argue that the President is required by law to furnish the DA, and the people of South Africa, with the record and the reasons.
The DA will continue to ensure that the recklessness of President Zuma is held to account in terms of the law.

8 of the companies contracted at Nkandla are still doing business with the State; none blacklisted

The Minister of Public Works, Nathi Nhleko, has revealed that 8 of the 14 companies contracted to carry out the infamous upgrades to Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead have since been rehired by the Department to perform other work, notwithstanding their involvement in the R250 million scandal.
The Minister also confirmed that not a single one of the 14 companies involved in these upgrades has been blacklisted, or “placed on the restricted supplier database”.
In his reply to a DA written parliamentary question, the Minister of Public Works confirms that according to the records at the Department’s disposal, from 1 August 2014 to date, the following companies who were involved in the Nkandla upgrades have been contracted by the Department:

Name of Company Company Registration Number
Otis – Reg. No. 1948/030021/07
Pro-Hydraulics – Reg. No. 1991/032516/23
Mustapha Cachalia Engineering – Reg. No 2000/011218/23
Ilangalethu Consult / R/G Consulting – Reg. No. 2003/086502/23
Bonelena Construction Enterprise and Projects – Reg. No. 2005/07916/23
E Magubane – Reg. No. 2006/056588/23
CA Du Toit – Reg. No. 1971/001759/07

This is a shocking revelation considering the Constitutional Court found these upgrades to be fraught with corruption and unlawful enrichment, and once again proves that the more connected and corruptible you are, the more valuable to the ANC government you become, and the more illegitimate money you can make.
The DA will be referring this matter to the Chief Procurement Officer at the National Treasury to immediately intervene in this matter, and to conduct an assessment as to whether any of the companies involved has breached the Supply Change Management (SCM) policy and/or the National Treasury Regulations. We are adamant that any company or individual who unduly benefitted from carrying out work at Nkandla must be blacklisted and held accountable for their actions.
We also note yesterday’s suspicious U-turn by Minister Nhleko, whereby he cancelled a press briefing scheduled for today in which he planned to “set the record straight” on further upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead. No reasons were given for the cancellation. I will therefore be submitting written questions to the Minister, seeking an explanation for the proposed new upgrades at Nkandla.
I wish to once again make it clear that the DA rejects any new or further upgrades to the President’s Nkandla home, regardless of how they are described or categorised by national government. We maintain that not another cent of taxpayers’ money must be spent at Nkandla for the benefit of one man.
Corruption is an evil that enriches the elite at the expense of the poor and the jobless. The DA will not stop until all those who are involved in corruption and any abuse of public funds are held to the highest account.

Communications Minister to buy new luxury cars despite Dept. running out of money

The Department of Communications intends to purchase two new vehicles for Minister Ayanda Dlodlo and Deputy Minister Thandi Mahambehlala, despite the department’s risk of running out of money by the second quarter of the current financial year.
In a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Communications today, the Acting Director General (D-G), Basani Baloyi, indicated that the department is under severe economic pressure, and will likely run out of money by mid-year.
However, despite these financial pressures, the department intends to buy two new luxury cars for the Ministers.
The purchase of two new vehicles will place severe financial pressure on the department’s ability to fill vacancies and deliver on its mandate. The department states that the two new cars will be purchased at a minimum of R750 000 per vehicle, but as history shows, members of the executive have a penchant for splurging R1 million and above on cars.
The DA challenges the Minister and her Deputy to reject these purchases, as their priorities as new Ministers should be fixing a department and its entities currently in severe crisis, and ensuring that there is money to do so – not buying fancy new cars.
The department should have the following cars in its garage, which are more than good enough:

  • Minister:
    • 2014 BMW X5 XDrive 3.0D R926 310.00
    • 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee R862 838.00
  • Deputy Minister
    • 2014 Audi A8 3.0TDI Quattro R852 041.00
    • 2014 Audi Q7 4.2TDI V8 R882 250.00

The excuse that the Ministerial Handbook allows Ministers to purchase new vehicles once mileage has been reached does not hold water.
The DA will not stand for ANC Ministers living in luxury, whilst people remain trapped in poverty and unemployment. For this reason, the DA has laid out the challenge to Minister Dlodlo that she must reject these new luxury vehicles, and the Minister should do the right thing.
Given the tough economic climate in South Africa, if ordinary South Africans have to tighten their belts, so should Ministers.

DA will now ask Parliament to act against Ntlemeza

The DA was present at the Hawks Head Office today and we were reliably informed that Berning Ntlemeza snuck into the building through the back-door, echoing his continuous efforts to evade accountability, and is back at work today. While the current court proceedings take their course, it is imperative that Parliament now take action and investigate Ntlemeza’s fitness to hold office.
The DA has thus written to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Francois Beukman, to call an urgent meeting of the committee, to enable Parliament to exercise its power in terms of section 17DA of the South African Police Services (SAPS) Act to institute proceedings to investigate Ntlemeza’s fitness to hold office.
Specifically, in terms of section 17DA(3) of the SAPS Act, Ntlemeza can be permanently removed by a finding of the committee on his misconduct, incapacity or incompetence, no matter the result of Ntlemeza’s Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) appeal.
As soon as the committee accedes to our request and initiates an inquiry, as we strongly believe it should, Police Minister, Fikile Mbalula, would then be empowered to immediately suspend Ntlemeza.
This committee inquiry would not be a parallel process to the SCA hearing on Ntlemeza’s appeal nor would it be sub judice, as the substance of the two matters are entirely different.
The Helen Suzman Foundation’s (HSF) case revolves around the irrationality of Ntlemeza’s appointment by the Minister of Police, while a DA-initiated Parliamentary enquiry would investigate Ntlemeza’s current fitness to hold office.
While Ntlemeza’s invalidation of appointment as a result of the HSF case is now on hold as a result of his SCA appeal, a Parliamentary enquiry would allow the Minister to immediately suspend Ntlemeza regardless of the SCA appeal.
Parliament must exercise its oversight function immediately. It is clear that Ntlemeza is unfit for the job of heading up the Hawks – he has made this blatantly obvious on several occasions:
• In a North Gauteng High court case the judge stated that “The third respondent [Ntlemeza] elected to withhold from the court the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) report and the docket that was in his possession, to enable the court to make a proper assessment of the strength or otherwise of the case against the applicant [Gauteng Hawks head Shadrack Sibiya],” and further that, “I am of the view that the conduct of the third respondent shows that he is biased and dishonest. To show that the third respondent is biased, lacks integrity and honour, he made false statements under oath.”
• The serious allegation by Vlok Symington that he was held “hostage” in the SARS boardroom by the Hawks under Ntlemeza’s watch.
• Ntlemeza wrote a letter to Shaun Abrahams which demonstrated his almost feverish determination to prosecute Pravin Gordhan even against all rationality – this letter shows irrationality and Ntlemeza acting in a biased manner. (See here)
The Hawks requires stability amongst its senior leadership which Ntlemeza continues to threaten. He cannot be allowed to continue to occupy the office of Head of the Hawks which allows his access to important investigations and information.
Parliament must now act swiftly to prevent any further damage to this vital crime fighting body.

“Malikanegate”: Now the minister’s economic advisor says he will never “shut up”

The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, needs to act decisively to stop the bleeding following his appointment of Professor Chris Malikane as his economic advisor.
Last week the minister claimed his economic advisor had been “reined in” and told to “keep quiet”.
But since being “reined in”, the minister’s economic advisor has done anything but “keep quiet”.
He was interviewed by:

  • SAFM (bashing ratings agencies);
  • Cape Talk (bashing the private sector);
  • Sowetan (bashing the National Development Plan); and
  • Rapport (warning of coming civil war).

And he appeared at the minister’s side during his international investor roadshow in the United States.
In fact, the minister’s economic advisor now denies being told to “keep quiet”, defiantly claiming there is no way the minister could tell him to “keep his mouth shut”.
This is what the minister’s economic advisor said in response to a question about the ministerial gagging order:
“No, no, no, no. People’s inference of what the minister said is wrong. There is no way the minister can tell a fellow South African to keep his mouth shut. I am an academic, I work with ideas. I have to challenge public opinions that mislead the nation. When the minister said he reined me in, he meant we should no longer focus on talking, but on doing – action that will transform the economy.”
We can only conclude that either the minister was lying when he claimed his economic advisor had been told to “keep quiet”, or he is too weak to ensure that his economic advisor does in fact “keep quiet”, and his economic advisor has gone rogue.
Whatever the case, the minister must now face up to the fact that his first few weeks on the job have been a disaster which has undermined investor confidence and fueled policy uncertainty.
The minister has tied himself into knots by:

  • somersaulting from “radical economic transformation” to “inclusive economic growth”;
  • attacking “orthodox” and “right wing” economists at National Treasury; and
  • appointing an economic advisor who wants to turn South Africa into Venezuela.

The fact is that the minister’s economic advisor has become a political liability and it is now time for him to act decisively and stop the bleeding by cutting him loose and sending him back to the seminar room where his mad ideas about the economy will do no harm to South Africa.

Molefe Payout: Eskom board's new proposal to Brown must be R0.00

The DA welcomes Public Enterprises Minister Lynn Brown’s rejection of an exorbitant and unjustified R30 million golden handshake “pension” payout to the disgraced Brian Molefe.
Indeed, after leaving Eskom under the most swirling clouds of state capture allegations, and close collusion with the Guptas, and then being rewarded with an ANC seat as a member of parliament, Mr. Molefe does not deserve one further Rand from the public purse.
The DA calls upon the Eskom board to revert to Minister Brown with a new proposal for Brian Molefe’s golden handshake to be R0.00
Saving over R30 million at Eskom would be a boost to the finances of the utility, at a much-needed time.
Eskom continues to be embroiled in a sequence of very alarming scandals, and a full clean up of the entity is needed. We hope that Minister Brown will use the new backbone she has found to reject Molefe’s massive payout, to take actions against other wrongdoing at Eskom too.
She must immediately release the full Denton Report, and sack those who are corrupting Eskom. Minister Brown would also do well to take a stand against the nepotism scandal between Eskom acting CEO Matshela Koko, his stepdaughter, and the shocking payment of R1,7 million directly to the ANC as a “donation.”
Brian Molefe does not deserve anything further from Eskom, and it is high time the Minister got management and leadership at the utility in order.

DA refers R1,7 million ANC donation from Impulse to Public Protector for investigation

The DA will ask the Public Protector to probe revelations in the unfolding nepotism scandal at Eskom involving the acting CEO Matshela Koko, and his stepdaughter Koketso Choma, that a R1,7 million donation was paid from Choma’s company to the ANC.
The DA will ask the Public Protector to include this new, shocking allegation of a massive donation to the ANC, into an already established investigation into Koko and Choma as requested by the DA in March 2017.
It now appears that Koko did not only allegedly improperly award tenders worth R1 billion to Impulse International, a company in which his stepdaughter is a Director, when he was head of Eskom’s Generation Unit, but the arrangement was used as a conduit to siphon money to the ANC.
The Public Protector must now investigate and expose what the relationship between Koko, Choma, Impulse and the ANC really is.
It cannot be accepted that so much public money was allegedly improperly directed toward family insiders of the acting CEO of Eskom, only to land in the hands of the ANC.
This latest revelation, including the intimidation of journalists who have exposed this scandal, shows the lengths to which those with much to hide are willing to go to cover up.
Eskom has been reluctant to release the Denton report that contains details of widespread corruption at the parastatal, and it seems that corruption scandals are only increasing under the current leadership. The state in which Eskom currently finds itself bears the scars of state capture to benefit, not only comrades and friends, but the ANC itself.
The DA expects a through investigation from the Public Protector, and where impropriety is found strict remedial action must be taken to end the haemorrhaging of public money from Eskom.

SABC offices break-in: DA refers matter to Inspector General of Intelligence

The break-in at the SABC’s Parliamentary offices, and removal of multiple laptops of senior journalists, is stunningly suspicious.
In light of ongoing intimidation of SABC journalists, particularly those who spoke out against SABC management during the SABC inquiry, we view this latest “break-in” as part of a much bigger, coordinated campaign to intimidate and threaten SABC journalists.
We encourage the SAPS to investigate this matter urgently. It is appalling that to-date not a single person has been arrested for the death threats and break-ins at homes of the SABC 8, including the shooting in the face with an air rifle of one of them.
Given a history in seizing laptops, and involvement in campaigns to intimidate journalists – as was revealed during the SABC inquiry – the DA will request that the Inspector-General of Intelligence, Dr Sethlomamaru Dintwe, investigate the State Security Agency (SSA) possible involvement in this latest break-in, and ongoing intimidation of journalists.
On 5 April 2017, Dr Dintwe, agreed to the DA’s request that he investigates the allegations by SABC journalists and staff that their mobile phones were intercepted and tapped by SSA. We will ask that he add the latest allegations to his ongoing investigation.
Journalists perform a fundamental role in our democracy to keep the public fully informed, and any attempt by the government to monitor their communications, or intimidate their work, should be viewed as an attack on press freedom.
DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen will also be taking up with the Speaker of Parliament how an office inside the parliament precinct, protected by 24 hour SAPS guard, could be breached and thieved from. The circumstances appear very suspicious and we will demand that the Speaker gives an explanation.
In a time of increasing state capture, and when the state’s intelligence is now seemingly being used to intimidate journalists, instead of protecting our people, we trust that the Inspector General will thoroughly investigate the alleged tapping of SABC journalists, and will deal with those responsible.
The DA will not stand for any attempt by captured individuals or families to control and propagate the messages in the media.