DA requests clear timeframe for water and sanitation interventions as lockdown looms

With less than 24 hours before the nationwide lockdown, many communities still do not have access to reliable water and sanitation resources. Considering that handwashing is one of the few ways to try and limit Covid-19 infections, these communities should have easy, reliable and continuous access to water as a basic human right.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, to urgently provide  clarity on how the various water and sanitation infrastructure will be provided to the 2 000 communities that were identified for water supply, as well as other communities that struggle with reliable access to clean water.

We request a clear timeframe for the implementation of the water supply interventions and urge the Minister to provide efficient communication of this information to communities to alleviate any panic or anxiety.

Reports today, that the community of the Nomakanjani informal settlement in Port Elizabeth only has access to one working tap that serves 2 000 households is inhumane given the rate in which the virus has spread in South Africa.

Every possible step should be taken to prevent an outbreak in vulnerable communities, especially those in informal settlements where people live in close proximity to one another and might find it difficult to practice social distancing. Ready access to clean water should be the least of their worries.

We commend the Minister’s commitment that water resources would be distributed from next week onwards, and remind her of her promises of:

  • infrastructure to be established at Rand Water to ensure supply of water to communities continues;
  • handwashing facilities at taxi ranks, bus stations and other areas that are densely populated or are water scarce areas;
  • buckets in rural areas so that people can wash their hands; and
  • buying of all tankers in the country.

We will be monitoring this throughout.

Where we govern in the City of Cape Town, residents of informal settlements will be provided with access to chemical toilets and water tankers for water accessibility. Existing water tankers are being deployed, and the City has already initiated the procurement of additional water tankers.

We will continue to keep a close eye on the delivery of the Minister’s promises. This is not a time for empty promises. In order to fight the spread of Covid-19, we need to ensure that our people have access to clean and reliable water and sanitation infrastructure.

DA calls for home food delivery to be classified essential service and restaurant kitchens to remain open

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, to request that she makes urgent representations to her colleagues on the Executive to amend the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) lockdown regulations in order to include food and grocery delivery services.

While Annexure B of the regulations lists “any food product” as an essential good and “the production and sale” of food products as an essential service – the regulations do not take into consideration people who are unable to physically go to places that supply food.

There are many who are confined to their homes, for whatever reason, and use food delivery services and online delivery services not as a luxury but as a necessity.

Furthermore, the DA is of the view that restaurants should be allowed to keep their kitchens open for food delivery and pick-up within the parameters set for hygiene – while keeping their sit-down areas closed. Linked to this, food and grocery delivery services such as UberEats, Mr. D or services run by restaurants themselves, should therefore also be allowed to operate.

It is logical that restaurants should close their sit-down areas as they have the potential of spreading the virus.  It is, however, illogical that the COGTA regulations Gazetted on Wednesday do not allow for food delivery when South Africans have been requested to remain at home.

Allowing food delivery, could decrease the movement of people to and from shops in accordance with social distancing and will go a long way in ensuring that the restaurant industry remains profitable drivers of employment.

The DA is also concerned by the mixed messaging on the part of Government as the relevant ministers do not seem to be speaking from the same script on the issue of food delivery. At the same time as Trade and Industry Minister, Ebrahim Patel said at the National Command Council press briefing on Tuesday that those who ‘assist in transporting food and other essentials to people’s homes…” should be on the Gazetted list of essential services, Minister Kubayi-Ngubane said that home food delivery would not be allowed.

This doublespeak by Government is only adding confusion to this lockdown process.

The DA calls on Minister Kubayi-Ngubane to seriously consider these important amendments related to food and grocery delivery at it will not only keep South African restaurants alive, but it will also assist those who are permanently confined to their homes.

DA wins battle against Nehawu’s deranged plan to expose South Africans to the Coronavirus

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes our victory over the deranged plan by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) to expose 20 000 public servants to the novel Coronavirus. Nehawu today announced that it had yielded to the DA, indefinitely postponing its “planned national day of action.”

This comes after the DA’s urgent intervention to protect public servants and the broader public from the Nehawu leadership, who planned to force 20 000 public servants to protest on 30 March despite the health threat posed by the Coronavirus.

Last week, we approached our lawyers to prepare a court application to urgently interdict Nehawu’s leadership from using the lives of workers as pawns in their desperate attempt to protect the incomes they extract from productive members of society. At the same time that we briefed our lawyers, we also wrote to the national commissioner of police, as well as to the minister of public service and administration, demanding to know what they plan to do to stop Nehawu from exposing 20 000 public servants to the Coronavirus.

The DA is happy that our rapid intervention to protect public servants and the South African public from Nehawu has paid off.

The government must now immediately proceed with the planned wage bill cut of R37.8 billion for the 2020/21 financial year. It must do so by adopting the DA’s proposal to freeze the wages of all managers and administrators, reducing the 29 000 millionaire managers in the public service by a third, and granting inflation-linked increases to all frontline service delivery heroes.

In the face of the fiscal destruction being wrought by the coronavirus crisis, these cuts are more urgent than ever to ensure that the state has enough money with which to support private businesses and workers.

In the wake of the DA’s victory over destructive unions, we will be writing to the minister of public service and administration, Senzo Mchunu, requiring him to undertake that he will implement the DA’s proposal by 1 April. We will not relent in our fight to protect South African citizens, and our economy, from dangerous unions like Nehawu.

Government agrees to DA’s proposal for adjusted Agriculture essential services permit

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is pleased that the Deputy Minister of Justice, John Jeffreys, has agreed to our proposal to amend the Annexure C permit to perform essential services – which was published as part of the national lockdown regulations – for the agricultural sector.

Agriculture is one of the sectors classified as providing essential services, however, unlike other industries, the nature of the agricultural sector makes it highly improbable for them to use the required Annexure C permit because this document is designed with public institutions in mind, and can provide an official stamp on the permit. See here

The DA has now written to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development, Toko Didiza, to urgently engage her Police, Defence and Justice counterparts on the new special format for the use of the agricultural value chain in order to avoid any problems at roadblocks. Other specific challenges would be movement across Provincial borders.

A further concern the DA has raised with Minister Didiza is the fact that in many cases, the agricultural sector requires more than 50 people at the workplace, many of them will be transported to and from the workplace. With the fruit and other industries currently in its peak harvesting season, clarification of the restrictions that might be imposed on agricultural workers’ movements is required urgently.

This will also go a long way in addressing the confusion regarding the harvesting and processing of primary agriculture commodities which have not been listed as essential food production, such as the wine and flower industries.

It is critically important for all of us to do our part to combat the spread of Covid-19 and to prioritise saving lives during this unprecedented time. Having said this, we also need to ensure that agriculture does not come to a halt, which is why it is important for Minister Didiza and her colleagues in the Executive to address any challenges that could potentially threaten the nation’s food security. 

The DA has, therefore, also requested that the Minister provide urgent guidelines in order to ensure correct procedures are followed.

DTI website for essential service registration of businesses still not operational on lockdown day

The website for essential service businesses to register is still not up and running with the lockdown deadline of midnight tonight fast approaching.

This comes after the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued a statement last night that the website would be up at the “start of business trading hours” which was 8 am, however throughout the morning it has ceased to function.

Information from sources within the CIPC which is responsible for managing the www.bizportal.gov.za site where registration is to take place, suggests that the entity was given 24 hours notice to have the website and database up and running to issue certificates for businesses deemed “essential services”.

This is nothing other than rank incompetence from the Department to properly plan for this function which has sent businesses scrambling to try and understand how they will gain these certificates.

It seems that everybody in South Africa knew that these certificates would be needed except for those employed in the DTI who simply failed to act on this earlier.

Throughout the morning, I have been met with silence from officials within the DTI, and I now call on Minister Patel to urgently get a grip of the situation, his department and to get people into line to fix the problem of this website and show leadership in this time of crisis. Anything short of this will be a dereliction of duty.

Businesses and workers can no longer afford the shambolic confusion that has played out over the last three days.

STRAIGHT TALK: Coronavirus: Stick to the plan.

At midnight tonight, we go into lockdown. This is a first in our nation’s history. We’re in uncharted territory.

Our situation is surreal. In a matter of weeks, the ordinary and predictable has given way to the extraordinary and unprecedented. Never in the history of our nation have we had to take such massive decisions in so short a time with so many unknowns against such invisible yet deadly a threat.

And yet we have a plan. And it is a good one if we all, or at least the vast majority of us, get on board.

There are still so many unanswered questions, but we know the most important thing about this virus: it cannot survive if it cannot spread.

And that is the essence of our plan: to act now, together in unison, to stay physically apart from other households to break the chains of infection.

In this moment of great need, President Ramaphosa has produced a bold, credible plan. This 21-day lockdown may appear to some to be “overkill”, but it is based on the premise that the sooner we act to suppress this virus the better, and that strong measures today for a limited, doable amount of time will save millions of lives and possibly even millions of rands down the line.

The strategy is to fight it hard now while it is still in its infancy, and get the better of it before it gets the better of us. Even if we don’t manage to stamp out this virus completely with this lockdown, we buy ourselves precious time. The world has never learned as fast about any other disease, ever. Humanity will know a lot more about this virus in three weeks’ time than it does now.

You may disagree with it, but the time for debate about our overall strategy is over. We have a plan and now it’s down to the implementation.

Make no mistake. This plan comes at a massive, immediate socioeconomic cost. Which is all the more reason that we cannot afford to fail on implementation.

Every single one of us has a role to play. While many of us may feel powerless in the face of this emerging threat, in fact every one of us has the power to break possible chains of infection. And not only the power but the civic duty and legal imperative to do so.

This virus will not survive if we deny it new hosts.

No one could have guessed we’d be called to go into battle barefoot and in dressing gowns, and yet that is what is being asked of most of us now. Stay at home. Our most powerful weapons in this fight are patience, cooperation, self-discipline – and soap. We all need to rise to the challenge of deploying these liberally.

This is a temporary break in our freedoms, not a permanent one.

For the millions of South Africans living in cramped conditions, giving up those freedoms will be an extraordinary challenge and sacrifice. Others are lucky to have more spacious homes. We should all try to find the opportunity in this. This can be a chance to read the books we’ve been meaning to read, watch the films we’ve been meaning to watch, clear out the unused stuff in our cupboards, get our affairs in order, sleep, start a programme of morning push-ups or stretching.

For parents, this is a chance to spend time with our children, to take the time to play games with them, read to them, really listen to them.

This is an extraordinary time calling for extraordinary kindness, compassion, forbearance, patience. For slowing down. For thinking of all those we know and helping them to the other side in any way we can.

Our economic activity does not have to come to a complete stop. Much work can be done and some services can be delivered remotely. This is an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things. Ways that may turn out to be much easier on ourselves and the living world on which our lives ultimately depend. Hopefully we will emerge from this crisis more resilient and more united than before. Never has it been more apparent that we need to cooperate and work together, even as we stay physically apart.

Now more than ever we need clear, unambiguous communication from government. I have written to President Ramaphosa suggesting he convenes a daily press conference where he addresses the nation and answers questions, as we have seen in other countries. This will go a long way to providing clarity and stability in a time of great distress and confusion.

Everyone will have their opinions. But our democratically elected head of state has delivered us a plan that can work if we stick to it. This is the most important message to take away as we go into lockdown: stick to the plan.

Several South Africans stranded in Morocco, DA calls on Minister Pandor for urgent intervention as lockdown looms

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of International relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), Naledi Pandor, to urgently intervene in bringing home South Africans who are currently stranded in Morocco.

Over the weekend we were alerted to the fact that there is a group of South African citizens stranded in Morocco who are unable to leave the country as the national lockdown looms.

These South Africans could soon be left homeless due to budgetary constraints and the Department’s poor response to their situation.

Upon learning of the stranded South Africans, the DA immediately escalated this issue to the Department. South African officials from the Morocco mission had already been in contact with some of the members of these groups but could do little to reassure the group that our government would assist them as this was not their mandate.

The group which consisted of around fourteen persons has now grown to around 30 due to media being generated.

By Monday morning, the DA had escalated from Director of Consular Services to Director General level as a glimmer of hope existed around a possibility of landing a chartered flight that could be negotiated through the South African embassy and the Moroccan embassy in South Africa, as per other arrangements with other governments such as the United Kingdom and Canada.

The window of opportunity is closing with every hour that is wasted not assisting our fellow South Africans stranded abroad and leaves fewer options available to ensure that they come home safely.

These citizens deserve government’s efforts in bringing them home. No political baggage should stand in the way of this.

We, therefore, call on Minister Pandor to avoid her department’s mistakes which we witnessed with our fellow South Africans in Wuhan and to immediately intervene in bringing our citizens back from Morocco.

The DA has attempted to reach out to the Minister through a letter pledging our support and offering proposals to assist the Department’s efforts to fight Covid-19. Our attempts have been met with radio silence. The DA will however not accept silence on the Morocco matter. Arrogance and aloofness cannot continue to whilst the rest of the cabinet is holding out olive branches with their counterparts.

While the government’s response to the fight against Covid-19 has been commendable, it would be remiss of the DA to ignore DIRCO’s indifference to the plight of our fellow South Africans stranded abroad.

DA-led Stellenbosch Municipality suspends rates collection for businesses and households impacted by Covid-19

Kindly find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Dr. Leon Schreiber MP, DA  Stellenbosch Municipality Constituency Head and also a soundbite by Gesie van Deventer, Stellenbosch Municipality Mayor

The Democratic Alliance (DA) led Stellenbosch Municipality, under the leadership of mayor Gesie van Deventer, is blazing a trail of good governance to put residents first in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. During an emergency meeting today, the DA-led council took the unprecedented decision to suspend the collection of property rates for businesses and households within the municipal boundaries that have been negatively impacted by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The payment holiday will last for three months. Once the crisis is over, the municipality will work with applicants to repay the principal outstanding debt on reasonable terms and without the accrual of any new interest. As a responsible custodian of public money, Stellenbosch Municipality will only grant the rates payment holiday to businesses, farms, and industrial enterprises that, upon formal application, can prove that their income has been negatively affected by the coronavirus crisis.

The same application process will apply to individuals. Rate payments for all households with individuals who lose their job as a result of the crisis will also be paused for three months, and no interest will be charged.

This means that vulnerable businesses and individuals will, for the next three months, have access to the money they would normally have spent on municipal rates.

Additionally, Stellenbosch Municipality has temporarily suspended all credit control measures until at least the end of April, or until the lockdown ends if it extends beyond the end of April. This is to ensure that residents are not cut off from critical services like electricity and that they have enough cash on hand to weather the lockdown and the economic storm. The municipality will continue to investigate other possibilities for debt relief measures as the situation develops. Normal debt collection measures will resume afterward.

The council further resolved to increase the amount of free water allocated to indigent households from 6 kiloliters to 10 kiloliters per month. This is to ensure that all households have enough water to ensure adequate sanitation. The way in which the residents of Stellenbosch and surrounding towns worked with the municipality to stave-off a water crisis in 2018, has helped the Municipality to now support the health and sanitation of our most vulnerable residents at this time of crisis.

The DA applauds the sterling work done by mayor Van Deventer and the DA caucus in Stellenbosch Municipality. It is only due to years of consistently excellent financial management and good governance that Stellenbosch is now in a position to implement these groundbreaking measures to support residents of the municipality.

Shockingly, however, both the ANC and EFF voted against the relief measures for residence.

The actions of Stellenbosch exemplify the DA difference: a caring and responsible government that delivers excellent services, saves money and keeps debt low during the good times, and then uses those savings to put power back in the pockets of the people during a time of crisis.

Stellenbosch is not alone. DA governments across the country are actively working on finding financially responsible and effective ways of combatting the impact of the coronavirus crisis on communities, businesses, and individuals.

DA urges speedy resolution of small business funding teething problems

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted with concern the teething problems that accompanied the initiation of the Small Business Development Department’s Covid-19 relief response yesterday, centred on problems with the SMME registration website and mixed messaging about implementation.

We will therefore urgently request the Minister of Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, to intervene to ensure that her department mitigate any further adverse impact of the current pandemic on small businesses.

We received several complaints from small business owners regarding the following:

  • Error messages from the website and the helpline call centre not being operational, with multiple call attempts not being picked up. While the Department had indicated that they have an IT team working on the website’s glitches, they must ensure that such glitches are not an ongoing problem.
  • Complaints about the limited range of sub-sector fields for SMME registration. Although the registration website was marketed as being for SMMEs seeking to apply for assistance from any of the funds/facilities on offer, the site in fact seems to be designed only for the purposes of the Business Growth and Resilience Facility, which is “targeted at SMMEs who locally manufacture or supply hygiene and medical products that are in demand in order to curb and manage the spread of the Covid-19 virus”. This has left many small business owners outside that scope wanting to register at a dead end.
  • The website is not secure and should be encrypted by activating an SSL certificate (which should be a basic feature for any website), in light of the sensitive information being requested.

In addition to the above, there was a flurry of confusion concerning the application of demographic criteria to the selection of beneficiaries. After her office confirmed that 51% black ownership would not be a requirement, Minister Ntshavheni said during the ministerial briefing that she wants to make sure there is “demographic spread that is representative”. If in practice, this means that the ANC seeks to achieve ‘demographic representivity’, i.e. through racial quotas, it will be hugely problematic as the issue at hand is to protect jobs, regardless of black or white ownership.

The DA believes that to provide clarity and peace of mind on this matter, the race of the business owner should be removed as a question on the online registration form and the website redesigned to resolve the aforementioned shortcomings.

Minister Ntshavheni also indicated that the Department would be aiming to achieve a 14-day turnaround timeframe for SMME assistance. While we appreciate the difficulties in setting up these systems and processes over a short period of time, unfortunately, that timeframe is far too long for the thousands of small businesses who have employees to pay and will need relief quickly, especially given the even slower payout processes of the UIF that are anticipated.

Finally, in acknowledgement of the “whole of society” approach required to weather the current storm, the DA will propose to the Minister that the Department undertake a “Buy Small Business, Buy Local” promotional campaign encouraging South Africans to support small businesses and help them keep afloat in the short term and to aid economic recovery once the worst is over.

As households stock up on groceries ahead of the nationwide 21-day lockdown, we especially encourage consumers to support street vendors when shopping for groceries as those traders will be hardest hit.

DA calls for strict implementation of Covid-19 lockdown

As the country readies itself to go into lockdown, as was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week, regulations pertaining to the lockdown are yet to be made public. The Disaster Management Act of 2002 gives the President and his Executive powers to institute measures that will contain the disaster that is being dealt with. However, regulations breath life to those measures by guiding individuals, companies, employers and employees about what is permissible and what is not.

While the regulations are yet to be published, the DA is calling for strict and clear implementation of these regulations. We cannot afford mixed-messaging from our government at such a critical time.

If we are to rely on South Africans to be partners during this time, then we need to ensure that the citizenry is well-informed and reminded throughout the 21-day period of what is allowed and what is not. This is where partnership with the public broadcaster and other broadcasters and telecommunications companies could really improve public awareness.

This morning the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has confirmed that there are now 709 cases of those who have been infected by the Coronavirus. This number is expected to rise exponentially over the coming days and weeks. This means that social distancing is now our best chance of breaking the transmission chain and reducing the number of people who will be infected. That is why clear communication to the public; increased testing capacity; availing of isolation facilities and encouraging those who can stay at home to do so, will be key.

The Minister has also indicated that Mangaung could potentially be an epicentre due to the number of infections that are being discovered in that area following a church conference.

This is concerning news as the Free State health system could struggle to cope with those who are infected and who require urgent medical attention. We need to avoid incidents like this from happening again across the country. This will only depend on whether strict implementation of the regulations is adhered to.

South Africa can ill-afford to shut down the economy for three weeks and not have this national lockdown yield any meaningful results in our fight against this pandemic. Countries who have managed to flatten the curve and recover from the effects of Covid-19 did so because of strict social distancing measures. We need to get this right. There is no room for errors. While we encourage all South Africans to adhere to the lockdown, they can only do so if clear guidelines are made public and enforced.

The DA will be engaging the Minister of Health in this regard to ensure that there is no confusion.