We are making history as we plot our country’s new beginning

My fellow Democrats,
The best gift South Africans can receive this festive season is an assurance that 2018 will be better than 2017. That our country is headed for a better future, and that those responsible for the looting of the state are brought to book.
We now have a reason for precisely such news. On Thursday the deadline came and went for Jacob Zuma to make representations to the NPA regarding his 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering.
Now there can be no more delaying. The NPA has to announce the date of his first court appearance.
Like any charged criminal, Jacob Zuma must appear in court to have his charges formally put to him. I am calling on Shaun Abrahams to schedule this initial appearance to take place before Christmas this year. There is no reason why this should not happen.
In fact, any ordinary criminal would have had their charges presented in court before making any representations to the NPA. Why Jacob Zuma should be regarded as an extraordinary criminal still needs to be explained.
What we do know is that, according to Abrahams, all the evidence is still available for trial, and the witnesses would have been contacted by this week. So we are good to go. Let’s have that court date then, and let’s have it within the next three weeks.
South Africans deserve to head into the new year with some straight answers and a promise of swift justice.
Yesterday was great day for democracy in our country, but it was a truly awful day for the ruling party. Two separate Motions of No Confidence and one municipal-wide by-election later, and it has become clear that the political tide in South Africa has shifted a great deal.
In Johannesburg, the members of the Metro council said an emphatic No to the ANC’s attempts to remove Mayor Mashaba from office.
In Nelson Mandela Bay, the members of the Metro council said an emphatic No to attempts to remove Mayor Athol Trollip from office.
And in Metsimaholo in the Free State, the people of Sasolburg, Kragbron and Deneysville said an emphatic No to the idea of going back to an ANC government.
We are seeing a new chapter unfolding for our country – a chapter in which the ANC will play no role. It will be written by those who want what’s best for South Africa and can work together to make it happen.
In this new chapter, there will be no place for the corrupt and the dishonest. There will be no place for Presidents who serve the Guptas or for ministers who push through nuclear deals. There will be no place for fat cats in blue light convoys, like the Premier of this province.
There will be no place for public servants who run their towns into the ground, but still live it up like Hollywood celebrities. People like the Mayor of Madibeng, who just blew R100,000 in six months renting a luxury BMW while her municipality can’t even pay for water.
What we saw yesterday in Joburg, in Nelson Mandela Bay and in Metsimaholo were signs of this new post-ANC South Africa. It’s taken a long time to get here, but the movement for change will quickly gather momentum.
Democrats, you have an important role to play in writing this new chapter for our country. What you do, over the next 18 months, to bring our message of change to the people of the North-West will be of critical importance to our campaign.
Your job begins with the proceedings here at this Provincial Congress today. You are tasked with electing leadership that will not serve individuals or factions, or even the party. Your job is to choose leaders who will serve ordinary South Africans, and particularly the poor.
Once we have accomplished this, then the real work begins – then we must take our message into every community and convince the people that we have a plan that can pull South Africa back from the brink.
I am often asked what this plan is. People want to know what we will do differently from the ANC. Apart from not stealing and not wasting public funds, what steps will we take to boost the economy and create jobs?
There are many parts of our plan that will require time to be implemented and to bear fruit, like overhauling education and reducing the size of our bloated state. But there are a number of key interventions we can make straight away that will have a profound effect on our economy. And I’d like to mention six of them:
Number one: we must sort out our State-Owned Enterprises. And by sort out, I mean make a decision on which ones are strategic to us and which ones are not. Then we must sell the non-strategic ones, and appoint qualified, uncaptured boards to the strategic ones.
Number two: We have to reform our labour legislation so that it does not get in the way of job creation. Small and medium enterprises must create the bulk of the new jobs we need. To do so, they must be able to compete with big businesses and cannot be held to the same restrictive regulations.
Number three: We must change our approach to redress and empowerment. To be of any value, BEE has to be truly broad-based – it has to serve the 99%, not the 1%. One way to achieve this is through a redress fund – what I call a Jobs and Justice Fund – which will incentivise companies to fund new entrants into key sectors of the economy.
Number four: We have to fling our doors open to the rest of the world when it comes to trade and investment. This means reducing corporate taxes, abolishing exchange controls, removing trade barriers and establishing export processing zones. It also means better regional integration into Africa.
Number five: While we’re opening our doors to trade and investment, we must also do so for tourists. Yes, our country already does well from tourism, but we can do so much more if we made it easier for people to travel here. And we can start by issuing travel visas upon arrival.
And number six: We must immediately appoint a real head to the NPA. Not a puppet of the Presidency whose only job it is to shield his boss from the law. Someone who stands independent and who treats every citizen as equal before the law. Going forward, the power to make this appointment must be taken away from the President and handed to Parliament.
There are many more things we could do in the medium to long term, but these six steps can give an immediate boost to our country’s economy and help provide a new beginning for millions of South Africans.
It is clear that none of these steps will be implemented by the ANC, and so it will fall to a new government in 2019 to do so.
If anyone still thought 2019 was too ambitious a goal for a DA-led government in the Union Buildings, then yesterday’s developments in Joburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Metsimaholo would have gone a long way towards erasing those doubts.
People are turning their backs on the ANC in great numbers. Whatever happens later this month at Nasrec – whoever they elect to replace Jacob Zuma – will make no difference at all. The ANC is already dead.
Our future lies in a post-ANC South Africa. A South Africa served by an honest, accountable and selfless DA-led government.
We are making history, and each of you in this room is part of this remarkable effort.
Thank you.

ANC does about turn on DA’s urgent debate on Fees crisis

I have again written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request a debate on the Fees Commission Report as soon as possible. The Report was not debated yesterday despite a debate having been agreed to.
On 14 November 2017, I wrote to the Speaker requesting a debate on the Report, which was released by the Presidency after over two months of dithering, on 13 November 2017.
The DA received a letter from the Deputy Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli, agreeing to our request that this important issue should be discussed by the Assembly. We prepared for a debate in which we intended to bring to the attention of the public the degree to which the vagueness and opaqueness of the government’s approach to the funding of higher education is likely to generate a major crisis in Universities in the New Year.
However, the ANC made a sudden about-turn yesterday on the debate, and failed to place it on the order paper. Instead it tabled a discussion on the unscheduled and non-urgent Refugees Amendment Bill.
The DA called for the debate in order to force the Minister to make clear what her approach would be to the funding of students and Universities in the upcoming 2018 academic year. She avoided public scrutiny on the matter.
Perhaps this is not surprising given the reported dispute between the populist President and the fiscally cautious Treasury on the matter and the plethora of other weird happenings around the issue.
The ANC’s fumbling and floundering is a clear indication that they are running scared of debating this matter  – because it would reveal the extent to which their plans and approach are in disarray, in the fact of a massive budget deficit and threatened student protests.
It has become more apparent that the dying ANC has so far dismally failed to come up with real solutions to put on the table.
Leaving the entire higher education sector in the dark will almost definitely lead to further tumultuous protests on university campuses, while Universities may well have to run on budget deficits themselves if no fee increase decisions are made before the end of the year.
The whole fees issue requires responsible oversight and political direction so that the fees crisis can be dealt with decisively. The current damaging uncertainty must be brought to an end. But the ANC is unable or unwilling to provide the leadership required.

Shaun Abrahams must hand over Zuma’s new representations by 16h00 today

The DA’s lawyers have today written to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Adv Shaun Abrahams, compelling him to provide written confirmation that he did in fact receive fresh representations from President Jacob Zuma in relation to the 783 counts of corruption, fraud, money-laundering and racketeering before yesterday’s deadline. This must be done by no later than 16h00 today.
It goes without saying that if Adv Abrahams did receive fresh representations, these must be shared with all interested parties – including the DA – by 16h00 today in order for those interested parties to be given an opportunity to comment on such representations.
Alternatively, if no fresh representations have been made by the President, Adv Abrahams must advise on what steps have been taken to call President Zuma to his first court appearance. President Zuma remains charged, and those charges must be faced in a court of law as soon as possible.
Our view is that if the President has raised any new representations of substance, a court of law must make a determination as to whether those justify stopping the prosecution or not. This will guarantee a fair and open consideration of any new representations, and will shield the matter from any undue political interference.
We cannot allow Shaun Abrahams to consider these representations in secret, as he cannot be trusted to oversee this matter in an independent and robust manner. For almost an entire year Abrahams has been in hiding, and has failed to take any action on a number of issues, most notably the “Gupta Leaks” and the rot of State Capture perpetrated by Jacob Zuma and his ANC. As such, this matter must be dealt with by a court of law to guarantee independence.
President Jacob Zuma can only hide for so long. Make no mistake, he will have his day in court, and he will face the criminal charges levelled against him. The DA has been the principal litigant in this matter for almost a decade, and we have not wavered in our relentless pursuit of justice on behalf of South Africa and its people.
Jacob Zuma will have his day in court, he will face the charges for the crimes he is accused of, and justice will prevail.

“Oilgate”: DA requests Mahlobo to halt R2.1 million gratuity to Joemat-Pettersson

The DA has today written to Energy Minister, David Mahlobo, requesting him to suspend his Department’s R2.1 million “once-off-gratuity” to former Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
[Details of the R2.1 million payout in the adjusted budget of the Department of Energy can be found here]
We believe that this R2.1 million payment should not proceed at least until such a time that Ms. Joemat-Pettersson is cleared of wrongdoing for the sale of South Africa’s strategic oil reserves in December 2015.
It would be wrong to give former Minister Joemat-Pettersson a R2.1 million golden handshake when she personally authorised the unlawful sale of our oil stocks at bargain basement prices.
The cost of this dodgy deal is estimated to have cost the public purse in the region of R2 billion.
Joemat-Pettersson authorised the sale of the oil reserves without the concurrence of then Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, as required by the Central Energy Fund Act.
What is more, Minister Joemat-Pettersson appeared to have lied to Parliament about the sale in 2016, claiming it was a mere “rotation of stock”.
Minister Mahlobo recently admitted that the sale of our oil stocks is going to cost the government a great deal of money, and appears committed to investigating the illegality of the sale by the end of December this year.
There is a chance that Joemat-Pettersson will be criminally and financially liable for this unlawful deal. It would therefore be prudent for Minister Mahlobo to place a moratorium on any gratuity to Joemat-Pettersson until the investigation is concluded.

Parliament must be the watchman on the walls of our democracy

The following end of year farewell speech was delivered today by the DA’s Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen MP, in Parliament.
Madam Speaker,
Another year has passed as quickly as the last. 2017 has been a tumultuous year, not only for this Parliament but for our South Africa as well:
In February Minister Dlamini brought SASSA to the brink of collapse imperilling the lives of the 17 million of our countrymen and women who rely on this important social safety net.
In March, The President, for the second time, dumped the country into crisis when he reshuffled his cabinet, removing finance minister Pravin Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas together with 20 other changes that sent the markets crashing. Many couldn’t work out what was behind these changes but as the State Capture dots began to be joined the motives became clear for all to see.
In May, the #Guptaleaks laid bare the sheer scope and scale of State Capture, revealing the rot at the heart of government and exposing the Billions of Rands of the people’s money looted from the public purse in the biggest smash and grab in our democratic history.
In August, the President survived his eighth motion of no confidence, and with the secret ballot having been granted the house witnessed the largest backbench rebellion with 177 members of this house voting in favour of removing the President from office.
In October, the Finance Minister tabled a budget full of doom and gloom but not a single solution, policy shift or bold initiative to get us out of the mess or create jobs for the 9.8 Million of our fellow South Africans who do not have the dignity of a job.
In November, the President was permitted to blatantly ignore out of a straightforward question on the order paper, which his office had for 16 days, and with not even as much as a concern or flurry from the Presiding officer that the effectiveness of this house and its primary function was being grossly undermined right under his very nose.
And as we head into December we do so as an economy that has been junked by the ratings agencies because the governing party that is so completely incoherent that South Africans and the international community have lost hope in the ANC’s ability to get their act together, even after their conference.
We find ourselves exiting 2017 with Mr Zuma still in the Union Buildings, the downgraded President of a downgraded economy.
But despite all this, there have been some highlights:

  • The stellar work done by the Ad-Hoc Committee on the SABC board enquiry.
  • The portfolio committee on social development and SCOPA’s handling of the social grants crisis.
  • The decision of the Speaker to allow a secret ballot in the motion of no confidence.
  • The portfolio committee on Public Enterprises ESKOM enquiry.
  • The consensus that has characterized our work in programming and the chief whips forum.
  • The terrific celebrations we held around our Constitution

Watchmen on the walls of democracy
And perhaps all these challenges of 2017 have underscored, more than ever before, the important and essential role this Parliament should be playing. We really are among the last watchmen left on the walls of our democracy.
And never in the democratic history of our nation, has this role been more essential or crucial.
American slavery abolitionist Wendell Phillips bequethed us the well know quote that:
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”
But he went further to say that:
“The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity”
The reality is that State Capture did not emerge overnight, it didn’t just spring up, it was a carefully planned process, a process that developed slowly, methodically and with maximum malice and it happened in the full view of those in the executive who should have been watching and who should have known better  and who should, when the opposition raised the alarm, acted sooner.
Our vigilance has never been more important or needed than it is now. This is a task that no member in this house, regardless of the party t-shirt they wear, should ever underestimate or undervalue.
We have seen first hand the deceitful forces that have captured key institutions of our state subverting these institutions original intention to serve, benefit and protect the people and transforming them into ATM’s and bodyguards for the connected few.
We have seen the elite corruption busting Scorpions, castrated at the hands of Mr. Yunis Carrim, and turned into the tame and caged Hawks. They are so captured, corrupted and compromised that we should rename them the Budgerigars.
We have seen our State Security agency turned into a political gossip factory that misses every single attack on our sovereignty and security as a nation, yet is never short of smears or crudely drawn intelligence reports to taint a political rival or a handy break-in at an opponents premises.
We’ve seen SARS go from an internationally respected an acclaimed revenue collection institution into a veritable rogues gallery of insiders and captured individuals who’s only aim is to ensure their rich buddies get away with even more public money than they have already stolen.
And of course the NPA who loudly proclaimed that their “days of being disrespected are over” and yet went on to behave in a shameful manner that has made them the laughing stock of the nation.
And that is why we, all of us, are called upon to break this cynical cycle of corruption and capture.
The High Level Panel
Since we have well passed the halfway mark of this 5th Parliaments life, it’s perhaps a good time to examine the role of the house and its place in our democracy. And there can be no better stimulus for this discussion than the recently released High Level Panel assessment of key legislation and the acceleration of fundamental change.
It is an incredible document and we must thank the panellists for the work that they have done crisscrossing the country, engaging with communities, examining legislation and establishing for themselves its impact and effect on the lives of our citizens. They have identified many of the challenges that block our path to prosperity, many of these acts of commission or omission by this very chamber.
Its a welcome body of work and I really do hope that members, after a certain event at Nasrec is over, will spend their Christmas recess studying it closely. But I do think that we should pause and ask ourselves as members of this house, why? Why was it a high level panel that had to find that:

  • Only 0.4% of our GDP is spent on land reform and that this last year saw the lowest amount of land transferred since 1994. And how so many of our citizens, particularly women, living in rural areas are subject to cruel serfdom where their constitutional rights are trampled.
  • 13974 tourists or investors were denied boarding on South Africa bound flights because of the disastrous unabridged birth certificate policy championed by former Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba- thanks to this policy we are likely to use 578 000 tourists per year a loss of over R7.51 billion (I bet you could do with that now) and who knows how many jobs.
  • Public trust in Parliament, national government and local government have declined rapidly in the last 5 years whilst the trust in our judiciary has increased.
  • We have a skills crisis that the current education and training regime is simply not meeting

It also found that Parliament remains “far too dependent on the executive, which operates in silos, to draft law. This manifests in a lack of integrated approach
The truth is that WE should have been doing this work, WE should have been doing the monitoring and WE should have been doing the engagement.
And we can only do this if we are empowered to do so and that’s why it is essential that we start 2018 with a very hard look at our systems, our processes and the resourcing of members.
We, the members of this house, must be better empowered to be able to access research and resources that will make us better lawmakers, legislators and more vigilant watchmen over the executive.
We have been set as the watchmen on the wall by the people of South Africa, it is their interest we must always safeguard. Our duties have been assigned by the Constitution of the Republic, and we must always meet them.
For it us that will be held accountable if the walls of our democracy are breached by the forces of evil and tyranny. As Ezekiel 6, verse 3 says:
“If the watchman sees the enemy coming and doesn’t sound the alarm to warn the people, he is responsible for their captivity and will be held accountable”
We have much work to do in 2018 to improve our vigilance and resolve to transform this house into a true arena of accountability and a people-centered institution that genuinely advances the interests, hopes dreams and aspirations of all the people of our nation.
Let me end by thanking all of those people who operate behind the scenes who keep our Parliament running, the ushers, the translators, the chamber support staff and those who maintain this house.
Allow me to also extend, once again, a very big thank you to the National Assembly table team for their hard work, long hours and dedication to this institution we are all proud to work in. I would also like to specifically thank Mr Mbulelo Xaso, Collen Mahlangu and Andrew Mbanjwa and their offices for their patience and unfailing willingness to always assist.
I also think we should extend a very special thank you to the acting Secretary Mrs. Penny Tyawa, who stepped in to the position under very difficult circumstances and has, in the short time she has been acting secretary, already transformed the draconian and oppressive management style that existed before.
To Chief Whip Hon. Jackson Mthembu, and his Deputy, Dorris Dlakude, thank you both for your leadership of the whippery of the house. You are both always able to disagree without being disagreeable.
I would also like to thank the Chief Whips of the other opposition parties, notably Mr. Shivambu, Mr Singh, Dr, Mulder, Mr. Nkwanka, Professor Khubisa, Mrs Dudley and Mr. Ntshayisa for their good spirit, hard work and the terrific co-operation the opposition has enjoyed this year.
I would also like to remember specifically, as we close this annual session, Hon. Tim Khoza and Hon. Tarnia Baker who both lost their lives in service of this house and their nation and we remember them both today with respect and affection.
May I, in this season of peace and goodwill, take this opportunity on behalf of our leader Mmusi Maimane and our party to wish all honourable members of this house, and their families a safe, peaceful and restful festive season and we look forward to seeing you all in the new year when we resume with the peoples business,
Who are, as I end with a quote from a poem by our very own Joan Fubbs from her latest collection of poems “ Humanity’s covenant with Life”:
“Waiting and waiting
For a new tomorrow
The clouded horizon
Is pierced by silent hope.
That seeks beyond today”