Red flags as Minister Zulu appoints financially unstable NDA to oversee R100 million GBV grant

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to ascertain the reasoning behind her decision to appoint the National Development Agency (NDA) to oversee the R100 million the Department of Social Development (DSD) received from the Criminal Assets Recovery Account (CARA) for the purpose of victim empowerment programmes in response to Gender Based Violence (GBV).

The NDA has no expertise nor experience in victim empowerment programmes and this arrangement will see the entity benefit financially to the tune of R6 million as their administration fee stands at a whopping 6%. This is R6 million that is not being utilised for its intended purpose which is victim empowerment programmes in response to GBV.

Of main concern to the DA, however, is the fact that the NDA has a terrible financial track record and a history of under-performance. The Auditor-General (AG) during its budgetary review and recommendation report of 2018/2019 found millions in fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure at the NDA.

Clearly the AG’s findings have fallen on deaf ears and brings into question the motives of this arrangement. It has also come to light that the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the DSD and NDA has not yet been signed. If this is true then the NDA, as the “service provider” has been operating since 9 January 2020, when its first call for proposals was published, without a signed MOU. The DA has therefore also asked Minister Zulu to reveal the MOU agreement between the DSD and the NDA.

It is still unclear why the DSD is not administrating CARA funds itself by utilising provincial departments to facilitate this process. Surely this would be a cost-saving measure on the part of the department and will retain the millions of Rands lost in administration fees and the full CARA funds being used for its intended purpose of support to victims of violence and abuse.

The involvement of the provincial department is crucial in funding processes. It will ensure that NGOs are not double-dipping and that they are in fact providing services in their communities for which they are funded.

The DSD is seemly continuing on its fruitless and wasteful expenditure trajectory while we live in a country where shelters for abused women and children receive a government subsidy of R49 per day per bed.

The DA calls on Minister Zulu to be transparent in the reasoning behind the appointment of the NDA as the facilitating agent of the CARA fund when the provincial departments are more than capable of performing this function with no hefty administration fee.

DA welcomes Zuma arrest warrant

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Pietermaritzburg Division of the KwaZulu-Natal High Court to issue a warrant of arrest for former President Jacob Zuma following his absence from Court this morning.

The DA is pleased that the Court has put its foot down and shown Mr. Zuma that he can no longer continue wasting the Court’s time and public resources because he is too afraid to face the music.

We trust that this warrant sends a strong message to Mr. Zuma – that his tricks to evade accountability and justice will not be tolerated.

The reality is that he has gone above and beyond and tried every trick in the book to avoid being held accountable for his alleged hand in the Arms Deal.

The Court’s decision today is encouraging as it sends a message to Jacob Zuma and his buddies that no one is above the law and that all those who have had a hand in defrauding the State should have their day in Court.

Government’s proposed new electricity generation SOE a mad idea

The Democratic Alliance (DA) unequivocally rejects statements attributed to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, that the ANC Government is looking to set up an alternative electricity generation entity. This is utter madness. Instead of making the South African electricity supply sector more competitive, Government is seeking to extend its monopoly over electricity generation.

South Africa doesn’t need another state-controlled entity for electricity generation when there is a myriad of Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who are ready and willing to generate electricity in order to diversify South Africa’s energy mix, making it more reliable and cheaper.

Furthermore, the Minister’s comments that Government is planning on revising Schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act to enable mines to generate electricity for own use is an admission by the ANC that Eskom’s monopolistic stranglehold on the energy sector is simply not feasible.

The DA has long held the view that Schedule 2 be amended to allow for self-generation and municipal generation. While Minister Mantashe’s comments indicate a step in the right direction it will by no means address the utility’s debt spiral, massive skills deficit, and deteriorated infrastructure.

Minister Manatshe’s comments and commitments are all good and well but mean nothing if it fails to amount to any tangible change.

What South Africa needs is a competitive electricity generation sector to ensure energy security. As a starting point, Parliament should pass the DA’s Independent Electricity Management Operator private members Bill, which will allow all power producers to compete on a level playing field. The Minister should also take the necessary steps to open the next bid window for Independent Power Producers as a matter of urgency.

The Minister must not make empty commitments just to reassure the people in this time of rolling blackouts that are crippling our economy. He must put his money where his mouth is and take action.

DA cautiously welcomes partial resolution of the nurse training crisis

The Democratic Alliance (DA) cautiously welcomes steps taken by the Departments of Health and Higher and Tertiary Education to avert a nurse training crisis by agreeing to a transitional arrangement that would provisionally enable 10 public nursing colleges to offer Certificates, Diplomas and Bachelor’s degrees in nursing. The transitional arrangement was gazetted after the DA raised the alarm of the impending crisis when it emerged that the process of accrediting new and current nursing institutions countrywide had been stalled.

Had this undertaking not been made, public nursing colleges and institutions of higher learning would have stopped offering nurse training as the old legacy programmes were due to come to an end on 31 December 2019. The arrangement will continue until such time as the colleges are declared as one of the institutional types contemplated in the Higher Education Act, 1997.

While the DA acknowledges the intervention by Ministers Zweli Mkhize and Blade Nzimande, we caution that the number of universities, public and private colleges able to offer nursing training remains hopelessly inadequate to address the growing healthcare needs of ordinary South Africans:

  1. In the Eastern Cape, for example, the number of accredited Universities has dropped from three in 2019 to one in 2020. There were six private colleges and 16 nursing schools operational in 2019. In 2020,  there are only three private colleges and no public colleges or nursing schools operational.
  2. In Gauteng, there were seven Universities (including satellite campuses)  and five public nursing colleges operational in 2019. This has dropped to two Universities, five nursing colleges and seven private colleges operational in 2020.
  3. In 2019, there were three Universities offering training in KwaZulu-Natal, 11 nursing colleges and nine nursing schools. In 2020, this figure has dropped to zero Universities and 11 public nursing colleges
  4. While Mpumalanga boasted one nursing college and 13 nursing schools in 2019, there are no nursing training facilities available in 2020 in Mpumalanga at all.
  5. Even the Western Cape has seen a dramatic change in the numbers of accredited facilities in 2020 with only three Universities (and satellite campuses); four public colleges; and two private colleges – down from four Universities; four colleges and five nursing schools.

The DA will continue to use every avenue available to ensure that the ANC does not collapse our primary healthcare system as a result of its lack of commitment to nurse education. Instead of forcing the implementation of the unsustainable National Health Insurance (NHI), the ANC government should address the potential 400 000 nurse shortfall that is expected in 2025.

PRASA replacing worn brake pads with used ones – placing millions of commuters at risk

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to both PRASA and the Railway Safety Regulator (RSR) to request that they make public plans on how the regulator intends to address the lack of replacement brake blocks at its maintenance facilities. The DA has seen a letter that was sent to PRASA on 22 January 2020, in which PRASA is ordered to urgently address this crisis after an unannounced RSR inspection found that the regulator had “no new brake blocks available or in stock for the replacement of worn brake blocks on their [trains]”.

In the letter, PRASA is directed to provide RSR with proof that a “permanent solution [is developed] to provide an adequate amount of new replacement brake blocks at each rolling stock maintenance facilities” by no later than Tuesday, 4 February 2020.

The RSR inspection comes after the DA raised concerns that train maintenance technicians and mechanics have to scratch amongst bins of used brake pads to find barely usable spares to replace severely warn ones. Pictures were sent to the DA showing the badly worn brake spares and the bins which technicians desperately had to salvage parts from in order to keep trains running.

The practice of salvaging used spare parts to replace worn parts places the lives of the millions of South African rail commuters in unimaginable amounts danger and will inevitably result in accidents, and worse fatalities, if not addressed immediately.

We are therefore of the view that it is in the public’s interest to know exactly how and when PRASA will restock its maintenance facilities with new replacement brake blocks. The DA will closely monitor and follow up on PRASA’s progress given the instruction by RSR and welcome this step in an effort to keep our commuters safe.

Limpopo Education MEC chooses ANC lekgotla over Parliament’s Education oversight

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is appalled by the behavior of the Limpopo Provincial MEC of Education, Polly Boshielo, her Head of Department and Chief Financial Officer who were all absent from Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education’s oversight inspection and monitoring visit today because they chose to attend an ANC Lekgotla instead.

The DA views this is a slap in the faces of Limpopo’s scholars as clearly their education is less important than the political interests of their Education MEC.

This outrageous behavior was, not only an insult to Limpopo scholars but also an insult to the constitutional mandate of Members of Parliament to hold public office bearers to account. Members of the committee and department officials traveled from all over the country to attend this important oversight inspection only for the MEC to state that “all can come back on Wednesday”.

We are horrified by the MEC’s blatant display of disdain and undermining of Parliamentary processes. Not to mention the time and public money which has inevitably been wasted by the MEC and her officials’ absence.

The purpose of this oversight visit to Sekhukhune and Capricorn Districts was to assess the state of school-readiness for 2020. However, these officials chose their personal political interests instead of the interests of the pupils whose education and futures they are entrusted with.

Their behavior explains why Sekhukhune is the worst performing district, situated in the worst-performing province in the country in terms of matric results. In fact, nine Limpopo schools scored a 0% pass rate in 2019, which further shows the dire state of education in the province.

The Limpopo Department of Education is accountable to the public and Parliament plays a central role in this process. The DA takes its oversight responsibilities seriously and we will not tolerate this blatant disregard of Parliament’s authority.

DA calls on NERSA to reject Eskom’s proposed R27.3 billion tariff increases 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today presented arguments against Eskom’s application for tariff hikes at the Cape Town leg of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) hearings. Eskom is currently in the process of challenging the electricity tariff increases previously approved by NERSA for 2019 to 2022, and now wants consumers to pay 10-15% more for electricity, followed by tariff increases of 50% over the next few years.

This, despite the fact that South Africans experienced over 418 hours of load-shedding in 2019 alone.

The DA’s main points of objection are:

  • Consumers simply cannot afford Eskom’s proposed tariff increases;
  • The utility has been entirely unable to demonstrate that they can operate prudently and efficiently, with gross financial mismanagement and procurement processes that have not been competitive enough; and,
  • Eskom has demonstrated that it is wholly incapable of managing South Africa’s electricity supply. To allow an increase in the rate of their tariffs would only reward them for their failures.

The DA has therefore called on NERSA to reject this application, and to protect consumers from Eskom’s incompetence.

The DA has long maintained that the ANC Government cannot continue to allow any form of bail-outs for a state-owned entity (SOE) that is no longer viable.

With over R400 billion of debt, the ANC must accept that Eskom can no longer be saved and that the lunacy surrounding Eskom bailouts, in any form, needs to end now.

South African consumers cannot afford further tariff increases on electricity. It is unconscionable that this Eskom would ask citizens to pour more money into the blackhole of an entirely defunct SOE.

When you neglect the main arteries into communities, you kill the local economy

Fellow South Africans

While much of our conversation these days centres around the terrible state of our national economy, and what this means for the future of millions of South Africans, we dare not lose sight of the impact of local economies on the communities that make their living there. And when local economies suffer, the effects are felt in real time

This road here, Moshoeshoe Street, is the lifeline that runs through these communities. Thousands of people earn a living off this main thoroughfare, and they in turn support thousands more at home. Each small business located along this road is absolutely critical to the economic survival of several families. And as you can see from the terrible state of the road, they have been badly let down by their government.

Contrary to what so many in the ruling ANC believe, South Africans don’t want to live at the mercy of the state. They don’t want handouts. They want to be able to stand on their own two feet and live a life of value, independent of government. And so the best thing any government can do is to allow people to live their best lives – to provide opportunities and to remove obstacles. This is particularly true at local government level.

But what we see here in Moshoeshoe Street is a government that has no intention of providing opportunities and removing those obstacles that may hamper the enterprise of its citizens. The chronic state of disrepair of this, the most important artery running into this community, speaks of a government that has long ago given up on the people. And the impact of this has been devastating.

Many businesses along this road have had to shut their doors in recent years because it is simply too difficult to make it work. The traffic and parking issues during business hours as a result of the poor state of the road are killing businesses here. A bottle store owner called Mr Ndi told us of the nightmare that plays out in front of his store every day as cars plough through what used to be his parking to avoid the chaos of the street. He says the pavement is non-existent. As a result, people have simply stopped coming to his store.

And his story is no exception. We spoke to a Mr Lebitsa who used to run a food business on Moshoeshoe Street, but had to close it down when it became too hard to do business. And Miss Grace, the owner of a local salon here, told us her business has struggled to attract and retain customers because of the state of the street.

This is the reality of trying to stand on your own two feet and make a living under a government that is not on your side. And there is no hope of it improving under the ANC government here. After years and years of mismanagement, Mangaung has finally been placed under administration – a trend we’re seeing in ANC-run councils across the country. When the local looters have brought the municipality to its knees, the provincial government has to step in and manage it by remote control.

Amid all this turmoil, nothing gets done. Road improvements and investment infrastructure in the Metro are non-existent. A tender for the widening of a section of Moshoeshoe Street in the area of the Home Affairs building was approved, but as with so many other things in this Metro, the contractor was not paid and the project was abandoned part-way in, causing even greater disruption.

It is little wonder then that communities such as these, which depend on a vibrant and functioning main road in order to survive, are struggling to make ends meet. Their wellbeing is way, way down the list of things this Metro should but simply won’t get round to.

This is not good enough. If we want South Africans to build an economy that will put our country back on its feet, then we must start by building local economies that can flourish and sustain the people of those communities. And this requires local governments that know where to intervene and where to get out of the way. It also requires local governments with the skills and expertise to manage all the complexities of running well-functioning towns or cities.

Every single metric and stat have shown that it is only DA-run local governments that understand the crucial role a government must play in freeing up local economies to thrive. And it is only DA-run local governments that appoint people on merit rather than on their loyalty to a party, to create a state capable of delivering services and proving people with opportunities to get ahead in life.

The more South Africans that live under such a caring and capable government, the stronger our local economies will become. That is how we can start to turn the tide in this country.

Public Service Commission probe into nepotism scandal has collapsed before it started

Last week we welcomed the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission (PSC), advocate Richard Sizani’s announcement that the state attorney has appointed advocate Smanga Sethene from the Johannesburg Bar to investigate allegations that the Director-General (DG) Dovhani Mamphiswana chaired a panel that appointed the mother of his child to the position of Chief Director for Ethics.

However, we have now obtained correspondence dated 29 January from George Mashamba, who is the PSC Commissioner for Limpopo and also chairperson of the ANC’s so-called “integrity commission,” in which he criticizes Sizani for choosing a path “that will create serious problems for the Public Service Commission.” In his letter to Sizani, Mashamba also states that a “majority of [the PSC’s 14] commissioners have already called for a special plenary meeting…[which is] the highest decision making body of the Commission”.

A day later, on 30 January, Sizani informed all commissioners that a special plenary will indeed take place on 6 February to discuss “the handling of allegations of nepotism in the filling of the post Chief Director: Professional Ethics”.

It thus appears that the supposed investigation into Mamphiswana has collapsed even before it started.

The DG’s alleged nepotism has now plunged the PSC into a deep crisis, with commissioners apparently unable to even agree on how to react to the scandal. It is unclear at this stage what exactly motivated Mashamba’s call for Sizani to halt the investigation. However, the DA will continue to monitor the disarray at our most esteemed public service institution until we get to the bottom of the crisis.

We also reiterate our stance that the PSC’s integrity must be protected at all costs. The allegations against Mamphiswana must be immediately investigated in an absolutely impartial manner. If he is found guilty, President Cyril Ramaphosa must make an example out of him by firing him at once.

What this entire saga also proves is that it is high time to fundamentally reform the PSC. It is outrageous that the President has the power to appoint the PSC DG, which led to Jacob Zuma appointing Mamphiswana in the first place. Instead, that power must be vested in the PSC itself. Additionally, the saga also shows that, under the current appointment process for commissioners, it is far too easy for the ANC to “deploy” its cadres to the PSC, which is supposed to be a wholly independent institution.

The DA’s pending Professional Public Service Bill will fix the PSC by making it entirely independent and giving it greater powers over public servants. The current crisis at the PSC is a warning that we dare not ignore. As Mashamba notes in his letter to Sizani: the meltdown at the Commission could cause it to “lose credibility not only in the eyes of the public service, but of the people of South Africa as a whole.” The DA calls on all other parties in Parliament to heed this warning of disarray at the PSC by supporting the DA’s upcoming legislation.

Values and Principles: Our social contract with the people of South Africa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will hold a policy conference on the 4th and 5th of April 2020. At the conference three draft documents will be discussed, potentially amended, and adopted by delegates:

  • Values and Principles
  • Economic Justice Policy
  • Local Government priorities

Today we release the first of these draft documents: The DA’s Values and Principles.  

Click here to download the document.

Trust between people and their elected leaders is at its lowest point since 1994. The Values and Principles document is intended to be the social contract the DA would like to co-sign with the people of South Africa.

It is the point of departure for the rest of our policy positions, and represents the basis which South Africans should expect all of our conduct to conform to, and which we measure ourselves against.

We have always said that we stand for freedom, fairness, opportunity, and diversity. This is not something we say and then forget about. This a chance to reaffirm these commitments, and others such as to a social market economy, evidence-based decision making, redress, and non-racialism, not only to ourselves but to the public.

Without a clear and commonly agreed to foundation, it is impossible for all of us to work together towards a common purpose.

This approach differentiates us within a political landscape where politicians are not known to hold themselves to a clearly stated set of values which can be scrutinised by the public.

From today we invite party structures to discuss, debate, and apply their minds together with their constituencies to the draft values and principles document.

The final document will emerge from the policy conference in April, after it has been adopted by delegates.