President Ramaphosa, as AU Chair you must fight for LGBTQI rights throughout Africa

The following remarks were delivered today by the DA Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, at the Cape Town Pride Festival. 

Good afternoon, my fellow South Africans. What a beautiful day in a beautiful city! And what a great sight to see so many Capetonians out their numbers in support of the LGBTQI community.

Less than a quarter of a century ago, this gathering would have been illegal, but here we are today proudly celebrating the right to be whomever we want to be, and to love whomever we want to love. It is fitting to call this movement “Pride”. There is every reason to be proud, because what we see here today is the culmination of a generation’s selfless struggle for equality and dignity. We have come so far over the past two decades.

And Cape Town, in particular, can feel proud. There is not another place in South Africa that embraces and cherishes the LGBTQI community like this Mother City does. Cape Town has long been a friend and ally to the LGBTQI community, and many of the advances in the fight against discrimination were pioneered here first.

We have come a long way, but we are not done yet. This fight is not truly won as long as people elsewhere are still persecuted and prosecuted for simply being who they are. Yes, we can celebrate the strides we have made here, but we cannot be content with this freedom while so many of our brothers and sisters on this continent still suffer every day at the hands of prejudice, bigotry and cruel legislation. In many African countries, being gay is enough to get you thrown in jail, or worse.

Countries like Nigeria, Tanzania, Sudan, Malawi and Kenya have extremely repressive laws when it comes to same-sex relationships. In places like Uganda, Mauritania and Somalia this is even punishable by death. We cannot simply be satisfied with our own society’s liberation. We owe it to the people of these countries to help fight for the same freedoms we now take for granted.

We certainly cannot do as Deputy President Mabuza suggests and “be decent enough to keep our mouth shut” when it comes to the inhumane treatment of the LGBTQI communities elsewhere in Africa. That might reflect his own views and his own idea of morality, but he most certainly does not speak for the rest of us. We don’t mind our business. We speak up when we see an injustice.

But Deputy President Mabuza did also remind us that there are platforms like the African Union and the Southern African Development Community where these issues can be discussed. And it just so happens that our very own President, Cyril Ramaphosa, has recently assumed the Chairmanship of the African Union – a position he will hold for the year.

Never before has there been a better opportunity to put the plight of the LGBTQI community in Africa on the agenda. Just as President Ramaphosa owes it to South Africans this year to show courage and backbone in defending our economy from the enemies of growth, he owes it to our fellow Africans to stand up for them and defend their freedom on the continent’s biggest stage.

So the challenge is clear, Mr President: Show the world that you do not share your Deputy President’s backwards views on looking the other way when it comes to human rights abuses. Make it clear that an attack on a member of the LGBTQI community in Kampala or Dar es Salaam or Mogadishu is as unacceptable as an attack here at home. Make your term as Chair of the AU count, and push hard for the rights of all Africans to be whomever they want to be, and to love whomever they want.

No one will remember the guy who didn’t rock the boat, but history does not forget those who stand up and speak out – those who start the tough conversations and those who fight for the oppressed. If you want to make your mark as the head of the AU this year, President Ramaphosa, fighting for the equality and dignity of all Africans would be a source of great pride.

STRAIGHT TALK: Facing up to our challenge

The American writer and civil rights activist James Baldwin once said: “You cannot fix what you cannot face.” We would do well to remember these words as we set about restoring people’s trust in the Democratic Alliance.

It is no secret that we have had our challenges. Last year, we learned that the voters of South Africa are more discerning than they are sometimes given credit for, and – for the first time in our history – the DA went backwards in an election.

The reasons are numerous and were covered extensively in a report commissioned by the party leadership. I am not going to rehash that here suffice to say that we have learned many lessons from the last three or four years. What’s important is that I am ready to face up to the challenge of fixing the DA.

This work has begun in earnest since I was elected interim leader in November 2019. The DA of 2020 already feels worlds away from the DA of 2019. We are beginning to develop a clear sense of political direction for the party. We are finalising a range of big, bold policy ideas for discussion at our policy conference in April. And we are gearing up for an historic federal congress in May where we will elect a new leadership team.

We are also winning the battle of ideas in Parliament. While other parties disgracefully used gender-based violence as a political football in the National Assembly last week, we were offering reasoned critique and workable policy alternatives. Every single DA speaker in the State of the Nation debate distinguished themselves and our party.

The proof of our growing credibility lies in the number of DA policies that have now been taken up by the government. For example, in President Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address, he finally relented to DA pressure on the electricity crisis. We have said for years that we need to add grid capacity from renewable energy, gas and hydro, that we urgently need to open bid window 5 for renewable energy, that we need to allow commercial and industrial users to produce their own electricity and that we need to let municipalities procure their power directly from producers. And, in his speech, the President announced all of these things.

Just look at Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s budget tabled this week. Of course, we don’t agree with everything he said – he needed to be much bolder on underperforming State-Owned Enterprises such as Eskom and SAA and he needs to do more to rein in spiraling debt.

However, Minister Mboweni did exactly what the DA has been pushing for. He offered some relief to overburdened consumers with a number of tax cuts, and he has pledged to cut government expenditure – particularly on the bloated public service wage bill. This has put himself firmly in the cross-hairs of the ANC’s alliance partners and he should roundly be applauded for this. We will be watching with interest to see whether he and the President have the courage to follow through.

Importantly, for the DA, we are starting to get real results where it counts – at the ballot box. In this regard, I could not be prouder of the Democratic Alliance Students Organisation (DASO) and its recent string of victories in Limpopo. On Monday, DASO won nine seats during SRC elections held at the Vhembe TVET College. This follows DASO winning the majority of seats during an SRC election held at Mopani South East TVET Campus earlier this year. At this campus, DASO contested four positions, winning all four.

The significance of these victories (which, naturally, went unnoticed by the media) is that these voters are young, black South Africans freely choosing the Democratic Alliance. This is a far cry from the fevered imagination of those commentators who write us off as a “white party”. If these so-called analysts could spend one day outside of their elitist bubble, they would see just how hollow this hackneyed descriptor is.

It seems that there is no shortage of commentators out there who feign concern for the DA, only to drag us down at the first opportunity. The most spectacular example came this week with the publication of three-month old polling data to “prove” that the DA was in terminal decline. What those who publish this nonsense don’t seem to realise is that every time they do it, they damage their own credibility and not the DA’s.

Make no mistake, when it comes to rebuilding a politically party, the road is arduous and littered with potholes. But there can be no short cut for the hard work and long hours that are required. History is our best lesson when we look back at what it took to rebuild the then-DP after it’s nightmare election in 1994 where it achieved only 1,7% of the vote.

A man by the name of Tony Leon stepped up to the plate. Within five years he increased the DA’s support five-fold to overtake the National Party as South Africa’s official opposition party. There was no particular secret to his success – he made sure that the party knew what it stood for, and he got everybody pulling in the same direction.

These are the same crossroads we find ourselves at today, nearly 20 years later. We need to keep broadening our appeal to more and more voters, and we need to stand up for those voters that loyally have stood by us for so many years. I can promise you; we will never again take these voters for granted.

We are prepared to face our challenges in order to fix them. And I am buoyed by the brilliant team I get to work with every single day — the activists, the councillors, the MPLs and the MPs. I know that, together, we will once again emerge victorious.

SAA business rescue practitioners get licence to continue taxpayer bailouts

Yesterday, the SAA creditors and lenders gave Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, the SAA Business Rescue Practitioners, yet another extension to the 31st of March 2020 to submit their proposed SAA business rescue plan. That means they will have had three months, which is considerably more than the period stipulated in the Companies Act.

The complete lack of any urgency on the part of creditors and lenders to get the business rescue plan underway is a clear indication that they feel assured that they will get their money and that the entire business rescue process is a farce.

They know that the ANC will simply be draining billions of rand from other desperate needs for millions of poor South Africans who get no benefit from the SAA vanity project. The bailouts will undoubtedly be more than the R16.4 billion announced by Tito Mboweni in his budget speech.

Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana are under no pressure to do the correct thing to stop the wasteful expenditure of billions of hard-earned taxpayer money on SAA bailouts by applying to court for SAA to be liquidated. Instead, they have become complicit in ensuring that SAA continues to trade at the expense of the poor and the hungry.

DA submits more than 94 000 public inputs on Section 25 amendment

Friday, 28 February the Democratic Alliance (DA) submitted more than 94 000 submissions from the public on the draft Bill amending section 25 of the Constitution.

We will also be submitting our own submission to object to amending the Constitution. We have always maintained that we are against land expropriation without compensation and amending the Constitution. Our submission can be found here.

Over the past few weeks, South Africans from all walks of life have made their voices heard and commented on the proposed Bill on our online platform ( Whilst we will submit all 94 000 comments together, each one will count as an individual comment – and will thus be regarded as an individual submission.

From this overwhelming reaction, it is patently clear that South Africans are anxious about the impact that this amendment will have on their future. As the integrity of our Constitution is at stake, the DA will continue s presence in Parliament to ensure that the voice of every South African is heard and taken into account to stop this amendment from seeing the light of day.

South Africans have watched in dismay as the ANC/EFF alliance in the portfolio committee has sought to discard the Bill of Rights, which protects the property rights of every citizen, in order to impose their populist fervour on land reform. The DA, as the official opposition, has an obligation to ensure that we fight to defend the integrity of our constitution and the sustainability of our agricultural sector.

The failure of land reform over the past 24 years has been the lack of action by government to ensure justice is served and land ownership patterns are addressed. This explains why the government has enthusiastically embraced the ill-thought-out amendment to section 25 – it provides perfect cover to avoid having to explain its rank failure over two decades to take land reform seriously.

The DA has chosen to take a considered rational approach that will not only ensure that land redistribution occurs more expeditiously than before, but that it is implemented in a manner that will protect the sustainability of our economy and agricultural sector.

We also encourage all South Africans who have not yet done so, to use the last chance to comment on amending the Constitution. The deadline for public submissions close tomorrow.

Parole review: Now is not the time for empty promises. Now is the time for action.

Since the devastating news of Tazne van Wyk’s murder broke, President Cyril Ramaphosa has, on more than one occasion, stated that he believes the South African parole system should be reviewed.

And in an interview on Monday, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, said his department is already instituting a “full review” of the parole system.

The problem is that we have heard President Ramaphosa commit to this before and nothing came of it.

In September last year, following the tragic death of Uyinene Mrwetyana, President Ramaphosa addressed protesters outside Parliament and even went as far as saying that “those who rape and kill women should not get bail”.

The truth is that the ANC government has committed to a review of the parole system years ago already, and absolutely nothing came of it. In May 2018, then Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Michael Masutha, announced that he was meeting with stakeholders “on the review of the parole system” that had already started years ago. We did not hear about this again until the president’s most recent utterances.

Why should we believe that anything will come of it now?

The Democratic Alliance believes that now is not the time for empty promises to score political points. Now is the time for action.

Too much times has passed and too many lives have been lost.

We call on President Ramaphosa to urgently address the House on the status of the announced review process. We call on the President to provide an exact date of when this review will be finalised and a report given to Parliament.

We furthermore call on President Ramaphosa, as Head of the Executive, to hold Minister Lamola to account.

The DA will not allow government to roll out empty promises of reform every time there is public outcry, only for nothing to come of it.

Trickle down redress has not worked: DA proposes a bottom-up approach

Today the Democratic Alliance (DA) released the draft Economic Justice Policy, the second document to be released for discussion ahead of the policy conference to be held on the 4th and 5th of April.

The draft Economic Justice policy is a response to the increasing economic exclusion experienced by the majority of South Africans. Economic exclusion in South Africa is rooted in a past of colonial and apartheid oppression, but years of poor governance and corruption have stifled our ability to overcome that past.

Specifically, 55% of the country survives on less than R992 a month; 29% of working age South Africans are unemployed, 38.5% if you include those who are discouraged and no longer looking for work.

In addition the effects of the migrant labour system and spatial dislocation disrupted the structure of many families and can still be felt today – according to the 2019 General Household Survey 2 out of 3 children do not live with both parents, an important contributing factor is the location of work opportunities in economic centres where many cannot afford to live with their family.

The prospects of the near future do not look promising judging by the outcomes of the education system. In 2017, a total of 1 052 080 learners were enrolled in grade 10, yet only 409 906 learners eventually passed matric last year. This means only 38.9% of the grade 10 learner cohort actually wrote and passed matric two years later.

These are the people and circumstances which redress policy should speak to. However, BEE focuses on the wealthy, politically connected, or tenderpreneurs.

BEE embodies trickle down redress. The idea that transferring assets, positions, and contracts from one elite to another would result in broad-based prosperity. Trickle down redress does not work. And we propose a bottom-up approach.

We need to focus on the drivers of inequality of opportunity which affect the majority of South Africans, and the private sector can play an important role in helping to move towards a more economically just society.

We propose to use the UN Sustainable Development Goals as the objectives we wish the corporate sector to help us to achieve. The SDGs have a number of advantages to the BEE scorecard. These advantages include:

  • Targeting the vulnerable and excluded as opposed to elites;
  • Companies are able to identify the goals which they are best fit to contribute towards;
  • The SDGs are a global framework enjoying wide stakeholder support. Whereas BEE has been criticized by the EU Chamber of Commerce in SA as the top legislative challenge to doing business in SA;
  • This approach has the potential to drive company profitability. There are growing number of investors looking for SDG commitments.

This policy follows an approach which is based on need and disadvantage as opposed to race. Ones race does not change regardless of how empowered you become. BEE has enabled people to benefit on the basis of their race who do not need assistance at the expense of those who do.

This policy will ensure that the disadvantaged benefit from redress.

President Ramaphosa should table ‘evacuation plan’ during debate of national importance

The Presidency has confirmed that President Cyril Ramaphosa has directed that South African citizens in Wuhan City, China should be evacuated and brought back into the country. It is reported that this comes after an inter-ministerial task team, convened by the President, has decided to repatriate 132 citizens.

While none of these citizens have tested positive for COVID-19, it is absolutely crucial that we are adequately prepared for this undertaking as these citizens will be quarantined for three weeks upon arrival.

This is why, the DA calls on the President to use the Debate of National Importance which has been granted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to table this inter-ministerial plan. The executive must use this opportunity afforded to them by the DA, to take the nation into its confidence about our readiness to deal with an outbreak, more so now that we have receiving 132 people who come from the epicenter of the Coronavirus storm.

The rights of each and every South African citizen in China must be respected and the repatriation is being done on humanitarian grounds. However, we need to ready the country for various eventualities as this is no small feat.

The South African government needs to table the following details to Parliament next week:

  • Arrangements concerning who will be quarantined, where and for how long;
  • The cost implications of this endeavor;
  • The clear and strict protocols that will be used in order to ensure that the quarantine period is adhered to;
  • Protection plan for the staff who will be involved in this including the SANDF;
  • A commitment to update the nation on the process periodically by the President’s proxy on the matter;

Globally, more than 82 000 people have been infected with the virus, with more than 2 800 confirmed deaths. Although the virus has mainly spread through China, cases have been confirmed in Algeria and Egypt. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the window of opportunity that Africa has had to prepare for the novel coronavirus is fast closing.

The debate that we have requested from Parliament is no longer just about the readiness of the Department of Health. It is now about the South African government’s plan to curb an outbreak considering the evacuation plan and the fact that we now have the first confirmed case in Sub-Saharan Africa, in Nigeria.

Our government must be responsive to such issues and Parliament is the appropriate platform for the President and his executive to table the plan and the contingency strategies.

President Ramaphosa should urgently release PIC report 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently release the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) report submitted by the Commission of Inquiry appointed to investigate allegations of impropriety at the asset manager.

Allegations of a governance crisis at the PIC as a result of ill-thought investment decisions raised concerns about the security of pensioner funds under its management.

The much awaited report would help shed light on whether the PIC is still prudentially capable of exercising sound investment decisions to generate optimal returns for its public sector investors.

President Ramaphosa has an obligation to release the report as a matter of urgency to avoid further speculation that could further damage the little credibility that the PIC has left.

Eskom: Minister Mboweni also ‘blew it’

In an unsurprising move yesterday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced that R230 billion has been allocated over ten years to stabilise electricity supply, which effectively means more money wasted on a bankrupt Eskom.

Yet again, the Finance Minister showed his unwillingness to free South Africa from the monopoly of Eskom as we see large amounts of money earmarked to an SOE that is without any transparency of spend.

This sum that represents a fraction of the full restructuring costs, is destined to be swallowed up without any tangible results to show.

All we are told about this SOE, which is almost single-handedly responsible for the noose around the neck of the fiscus, is that critical maintenance is to be relied upon to ease electricity shortfalls.

The full cost and detailed plans of maintenance and restructuring in an entity that has been run into the ground has not been tabled for scrutiny and yet again this smacks of being told, ‘trust me I’m a doctor’.

The patient, unfortunately, is on the deathbed.

Levers like Bid Window 4 are being accelerated and it is envisaged that the rapid decline in renewable energy prices will give new momentum to Bid Window 5. The problem remains that these will not dent the cumulative loss of power due to breakdowns and nor will it really assist in the management of peak and mid-merit demand in the short term.

The minister has repeated the president’s SONA statement that it will shortly be possible for municipalities in financially good standing to purchase electricity from independent power producers. The problem here is the paucity, across the board, of municipalities in good standing. Additionally, the debt owed to municipalities far outweighs the debt municipalities owe to Eskom.

The nation was waiting with bated breath for visibility of tangible and costed measures to deal with the problem of Eskom. Sadly, very little was forthcoming.

The DA will not allow the nation to be kept in the dark in this fashion. Not only did the President ‘blow it’ as DA leader, John Steenhuisen remarked about the SONA address but Minister Mboweni appears to now be complicit in snuffing out the lights.

DA welcomes increased bio-security budget after unrelenting pressure

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes yesterday’s announcement by the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, that R495.1 million will be allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) dedicated to improving compliance with bio-security and support exports.

The DA has been calling for the provision of the required funding support to improve the management of the foot and mouth disease (FMD). We have maintained that bio-security is a threat to the agricultural sector that cannot be ignored, which is why we kept sustained pressure on the Department of Agriculture.

The DA is of the view that this allocation of increased funds and resources to the FMD outbreak, will empower officials, police and other the relevant agricultural personnel to better monitor procedures relating to the transport of animals in the affected zones without spreading the disease to the unaffected areas.

The DA calls on Minister Thoko Didiza to push for action, especially given the fact that her department failed to spend its budget allocation for fencing in the previous financial year.

The time of talking is over. The following is urgent:

  • Ensure that the department settles the long outstanding R70 million owed to ARC – Onderstepoort by the department and provinces. This would ensure that ARC – Onderstepoort Veterinary Research provides quick and efficient services to the farmers;
  • Ensure that the government spends the fencing budget. This is critical to ensure that the livestock are kept in fenced camps and border fence is maintained and repaired to ensure no livestock movements without following the necessary protocols;
  • Review the province’s budgets of fighting and containing the FMD to ensure that provinces are empowered to fight the disease with veterinary services, vaccines, and additional workforce to police the movement of livestock from red zones into free zones;
  • The department must implement the livestock traceability system which is not only going to help fight the spread of the disease but also ensure that the regional outbreak does not affect the export and trade in other parts of the country; and
  • Compartmentalize the areas with properly marked visible signs to ensure that there is no excuse for farmers and traders not to abide by rules pertaining to each area or zone.

The banning of trade in livestock has proven to not be the solution to the problem.

The DA reiterates that the government must use the resources to manage and contain the current outbreak until the area is totally clear of the disease.

However, it is important that the red zones, once the area is clear of the disease, continue to comply with the FMD management protocols.

The last outbreak of the FMD in January 2019 resulted in a brief ban on SA wool and meat exports which costs the economy in excess of R10 billion. The costs of the current outbreak is unknown but it is expected to run into billions that the economy cannot afford.