Recession: Economy needs freeing from the dead-weight of a failing state

South Africa’s slide into economic recession following a 2019 4th quarter 1.4% GDP contraction, is largely a consequence of the government’s failure to give South Africans their freedom from Eskom, continued bailouts to zombie SOEs and unsustainable levels of debt growth.

‘Economic tinkering’ is not a reform strategy. What South Africa urgently needs is bold structural reforms that will drive competition and investment in the energy sector, do away with the outdated model of monopolistic SOEs and reduce reliance on debt to fund consumption.

While the DA welcomed the President’s call to allow municipalities to buy electricity directly from IPPs, this crucial reform cannot wait a moment longer. The economy must be freed from the dead-weight of the failing state. This is especially the case in energy. It is important that specific and urgent timelines are provided for private energy generation and procurement. Government cannot afford to continue dragging its feet on energy sector reform when it is evidently clear that the Eskom crisis is slowly but surely killing the economy.

To free South Africans from Eskom, the DA proposed a 3-year Emergency Solar Rebate (ESR) that would offer tax rebates for solar systems installed at residential properties. This would remove 480 MW from the grid, offering a much needed energy lifeline to small businesses.

The R160 billion cut to the state wage bill, over three years, announced by Minister Mboweni, is a good starting point to slash government spending but more needs to be done to rein in government debt. The ANC should also help support the DA’s proposed Fiscal responsibility Bill, which holds the key to reducing national debt and debt service costs.

Freeing the economy from the dead-weight of a failing state will provide South Africa’s struggling economy with the antidote needed to arrest the terminal decline and put the country on a sustainable path of economic growth.

PIC Report: What are you scared about, President Ramaphosa?

Media reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa received the Mpati Commission Report into the PIC in December 2019 and handed the report to the PIC in February 2020 but has still failed to table the report in Parliament indicate that President Ramaphosa has acted in bad faith.

During his SONA address, Ramaphosa promised the nation that he would publish the Mpati Commission Report into the PIC within days. He said: “I have received a detailed and voluminous report on the Commission of Inquiry into the Public Investment Corporation. I will make it available to the public together with a plan on taking the findings and recommendations forward in a few days”.

Two and a half weeks have now passed and whilst the PIC appears to be acting on the contents of the report by dismissing its executive head of listed investments, Fidelis Madavo there has been no tabling of the report by President Ramaphosa.

What is in the report that Ramaphosa appears to be so scared about? Yet another scandal involving the ANC, more particularly members of his hugely compromised cabinet?

The PIC has been under a cloud since 2015 when the DA forced the then Minister of Finance to publish the full details of the PIC unlisted investments. This list exposed the nearly R2 billion “investment” in Independent Media which is far from independent, apparently on the brink of bankruptcy and owned by Iqbal Surve, a close ally of Jacob Zuma, the former and disastrous ANC president of SA.

The members of the Government Employees Pension Fund have suffered huge losses because of bad PIC investments such as the investment into Independent Media that is currently probably worth nothing at all and R 4.3 billion into AYO Technologies with a real value of approximately R 620 million. Now COSATU wants to put a further R 250 billion of hard-earned pensioner money at risk with yet another mad scheme and hugely risky investment in Eskom to compensate for ANC cadre corruption and complete maladministration that has brought Eskom to its knees.

I have written to Cyril Ramaphosa to urge him to meet his commitment made to the nation on the 13th of February 2020 to release the Mpati Report into the PIC. If Ramaphosa can’t even meet this simple commitment, how on earth is he ever to meet the R160 billion public service wage bill reduction commitment made in his 2020 Budget by Tito Mboweni, the Minister of Finance?

National Lotteries Commission fightback campaign in full swing

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the ridiculous attempt by a number of so called “NGOs” and “civil society organisations” to march to the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) on Thursday to demand that Trade and Industry Minister, Ebrahim Patel essentially allow the looting within the NLC to continue as is.

There is a long history of shady and dubious organisations coming out of the woodwork under the banner of “NGOs” and “civil society”  to support those implicated in corruption and that is exactly what is happening around the NLC.

The fact remains that since 2015, there have been substantiated allegations against the COO of the NLC involving money that has been channeled to friends and family members with little or nothing to show for it.

To date, the NLC has dodged, ducked and dived all accountability while the Minister has seemingly become paralysed to act against corruption within the organisation.

On the 22nd of January 2020, the DA in a letter to the Minister urged him to act with speed in firing the Board of the NLC, putting the entity under administration and suspending all those suspected of corruption.

To date, the Minister has refused to respond to my letter, let alone speak about the rampant looting within the NLC.

The DA calls on the Minister to not even bother entertaining these bandits with his presence and reject whatever memorandum they may present with the contempt it deserves.

The time for action against the NLC is now and should the Minister fudge the issue for any longer, he will be no better than the looters who are pulling the rug from under his feet.

Zweli Mkhize blocks DA from inspecting Coronavirus screening at OR Tambo Airport

The Health Minister, Dr. Zweli Mkhize, has demonstrated complete disdain for accountability and has abused his executive power to block an oversight visit by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to the international arrivals area at OR Tambo International airport where COVID-19 screening is done as travelers arrive in the country.

Blocking constitutionally mandated work of members of parliament and abusing your power to clamp down on oversight in the wake of an epidemic is suspect. It also shows that the Minister does not understand that he is accountable to Parliament, its members and by extension, the people of South Africa.

This is the problem with members of the executive who deem themselves above the checks and balances provided to us by our Constitution.

Last week, I personally wrote to the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) CEO and by extension the health team that they work with at OR Tambo. I communicated that the purpose of the visit is to get an understanding of the screening protocols in place, who is identified for screening, the equipment used and its effectiveness.

As a member of the portfolio committee on health, this is useful information to ensure that the people who go through our largest port of entry in the country are screened sufficiently.

Notifying the ACSA and Health teams was a courtesy. It was to ensure that they are aware that they will need to dedicate some time during their day for the briefing and for them to make the necessary arrangements. It was never to ask for permission.

I have since been notified that the visit was blocked and required “permission” from the Minister of Health. Despite the fact that I do not need permission from the Minister, I attempted to reach him to discuss this issue and he made himself unavailable but issued instructions to block me.

The Coronavirus has rocked even some of the strongest health systems across the globe. It is critical that all hands are on the proverbial deck in ensuring that our preventative measures are sound. This matter should never be politicised. South Africa needs all players to show leadership and work together.

In addition to this, Parliament is set to debate the state of readiness for COVID-19 outbreak and the expatriation of 150 South Africans from Wuhan, China this week. This information is critical for that debate too.

While much has been done across the various departments in the country to ready us for any eventuality, those plans and protocols are subject to oversight by the legislature.

We do not have much time. In the coming days, South Africans will be expatriated, quarantined and sent back into their various communities. This is no small undertaking. This is over and above the normal travelers who come in and out of South Africa as a global country.

Blocking members of the parliament from doing their work is simply bullying and arrogance that has no place in a constitutional democracy. As such, the DA will write to the Leader of Government Business, Deputy President David Mabuza to seek urgent intervention on this issue.

We will also not be deterred from doing conducting this oversight visit ahead of the debate on Thursday. This is important work on behalf of the people of South Africa.

The Minister needs to acquaint himself with the constitution and learn that transparency is key to the work that we both do.