Government sends mixed messages on reopening of Early Childhood Development sector

The Departments of Social Development and Basic Education have sent mixed messages on the reopening of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector.

The Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, on Friday, gazetted directions on the reopening of the ECD sector. The directions indicate that the sector would reopen on 6 July 2020.

This stands in contrast to a circular sent out on the same day by the Acting Director-General of the Department of Social Development, Linton Mchunu, indicating that the sector shall remain closed and that consultations are currently ongoing.

The DA calls for clarity from both Ministers Angie Motshekga and Lindiwe Zulu on what Government’s plans are regarding the reopening of the ECD sector.

Parents across the country are anxious to know whether ECD centers will open, as more and more people are returning to work as a result of the risk-adjusted level 3 lockdown.

In classic ANC fashion, it seems as though the one hand does not know what the other hand is doing. We need clarity on when ECD centers can reopen so that the necessary planning and Covid-19 protocols can be implemented.

The DA has called for ECD centres to reopen under the risk-adjusted level 3 lockdown if these centres can fulfill and abide by a minimum list of Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

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PIC statement raises more questions

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned that the statement issued this morning by the Board of the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) is not entirely honest and transparent.

Firstly, if the PIC has indeed prepared an internal document which proposes a R90 billion Eskom debt-for-equity swap plan, then this document should be publicly released immediately. This “proposal” is nothing more than a euphemism for writing off this Eskom debt.

There is no hope of the PIC recouping this money.

Even the rumour of this proposal has already caused distress among other Eskom debt holders, the debt market, and of course among pensioners.

The PIC has a duty to play open cards with the public and the millions of pensioners it serves, and should release this document.

Secondly, PIC Chairman Dr Reuel Khoza needs to explain the inconsistencies between Thursday’s interview and today’s statement. In his interview on Thursday, PIC Chairman Dr Reuel Khoza said that the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) was “in principle in agreement” with this proposal.

The statement today suggests no such discussion has even taken place, and the proposal is still internal to the PIC. This inconsistency must be explained. Has the PIC discussed this proposal with the GEPF or not? Has the GEPF given its in principle agreement or not? If Dr Khoza has been less than frank, this would be cause for serious concern.

Third, the response has been issued 2 days after Dr Khoza’s comments about this “proposal” on Thursday. A clarifying response should have been issued immediately.

We believe the PIC is trying to make a genuine effort to improve its governance after the findings of the Mpati Commission. This is a golden opportunity to show their commitment to grater transparency and to delivering on their core investment mandate.

This proposed debt write-off has enormous implications for South Africa, and PIC must not hide it from the country. It should play completely open cards with the public.

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DA holds successful virtual policy conference on Local Government

The Democratic Alliance (DA) today successfully hosted a fully online policy preparation conference to prepare its Local Government Manifesto for the 2021 Local Government elections.

The conference was attended by a broad spectrum of party members, including DA mayors, MPs, MPLs, councillors and members, both rural and urban, from all nine provinces.

Matters discussed included focusing on building a capable state underpinned by the rule of law where the DA may replace the ANC in government, de-politicising the civil service and orientating government to deliver.

Specific focus was given to basic services, economic development, social development, safety and good governance.

It was further discussed that DA local governments are having to innovate as a result of failures by national and provincial governments on policy areas such as energy – where Eskom’s failures to provide energy has brought local economies to a halt and where the DA has previously supported direct procurement from independent power producers.

Other areas identified where national government is failing municipalities include finance, resilience, safety and transport.

We would like to thank all delegates for their attendance, their positive contributions and for pioneering this digital effort.

We particularly would like to note that sustained attendance was in excess of 90% of delegates.

The DA is on track to develop a set of policies that will result in a credible manifesto for Local Government Elections 2021.

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ConCourt responds to the DA’s challenge of the Disaster Management Act

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Constitutional Court’s directive, handed down today, that it will consider arguments in the DA’s application for direct access to challenge the Disaster Management Act in the highest court of the land.

President Ramaphosa and COGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are arguing that the DA should not be granted direct access. They are effectively seeking to delay an answer to the central question of whether the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCC) is legitimate.

If the DA is refused direct access, we will need to first challenge the DMA in the High Court, which opens up scope for an appeal to the High Court’s findings. This would mean it could take some months before the Concourt is able to make a final decision on the matter.

The DA has until 5 June to motivate for direct access to the Concourt, and the President and COGTA Minister have until 12 June to argue why such access should not be granted.

In the meantime, South Africa’s fate is being determined by the NCC, a secretive council of questionable legitimacy that is making irrational decisions without executive oversight. Government is effectively usurping the legislative role, thereby disregarding the separation of powers which is the foundation of a constitutional democracy. This is simply not in the country’s best interest.

If the Disaster Management Act does not meet constitutional muster, it means the decisions taken by the NCC under this Act are not valid. This opens the way for more rationality and accountability in the management of this pandemic and of our economy going forwards.

NCC decision-making to date has resulted in one of the world’s longest and most irrational hard lockdowns. This has destroyed millions of jobs and lives, thousands of businesses, and wasted billions in tax revenue, without managing to keep control over the spread of the virus. It has brought on the worst of both worlds – both health and economic disaster – and turned decent people into criminals.

This situation needs to end, and soon. South Africa is in deep trouble. Let us hope that the Constitutional Court finds in the DA’s favour, and grants us access to challenge the DMA.

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The DA seeks transparency over shambolic Sports and Arts Covid-19 relief funding

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is demanding transparency from the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, on his department’s shambolic handling of the R150 million Arts and Sports Sector Relief Fund.

We have received several complaints from athletes and artists who have successfully applied for relief funding but are yet to receive any payments from the department. They have sent numerous emails to follow up but never received any response, the DA’s emails and messages to the department have also gone unanswered.

This frustration coupled with questions on discrepancies in the payment of those who have already received funding and whether some beneficiaries are receiving their rightful share of the funds raises serious alarm bells on the management of the relief funds.

The Minister must play open cards and come clean on his department’s mishandling of these relief funds. The DA demands answers on the following concerns:

  • How much money has been paid out to athletes and artists;
  • How many beneficiaries have not received any funding;
  • What are the reasons for the delay in the distribution of funding;
  • Transparency on the criteria that the department used to determine who qualifies for funding;
  • Who are the members of the Appeals Panel; and
  • What criteria is being used to adjudicate appeals?

The department needs to be transparent and about how it is rolling out the share of the funds to assist struggling artists and athletes. The Covid-19 relief fund was supposed to be a boost to athletes, artist and people whose income is generated through the sports and arts sector, however, now it seems as though the process has become an endless nightmare of red tape and confusion.

The DA has noted that Minister Mthethwa has taken to Twitter to ask those who have not received their payments to contact him via the platform. We find this deeply problematic because surely the department and the Minister cannot adequately solve these problems on social media.

Furthermore, not all artist and athletes whose livelihood has been impacted during this period will be able to reach out to the Minister via Twitter. If the Minister genuinely wants to assist, he should fix the inefficiencies in his department, and ensure that it provides the necessary support that will ensure no deserving person is left behind without receiving the much needed financial boost.

The DA is extremely disappointed with the Minister’s handling of the entire relief funding process and we wish to reiterate the importance of oversight when it comes to the allocation of these relief funds.

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DA welcomes decision to lapse ad hoc committee to review Section 25 of the Constitution

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Dr Annelie Lotriet, Chairperson of the DA Parliamentary Caucus.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by Parliament to lapse the ad hoc committee to review Section 25 of the Constitution. We have never supported land expropriation without compensation (EWC) and hope that the ANC will also come to its senses and realise that this has never been a feasible idea.

This whole process was based on an unconstitutional motion in the first place. The DA submitted a report objecting to the findings of the first Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee on Land Expropriation. The process was not finished and potentially compromised due to insufficient public participation and the findings of the committee being clearly predetermined.  The second committee’s work was built upon the fraudulent and erroneous work done by the first committee.

The truth is that EWC was nothing more than an electioneering tool from an ANC pushed into a corner by EFF rhetoric. With the question marks hanging over the possible postponement of the next election, it should not be any wonder that the ANC has lost its urgency regarding this matter. The DA can only assume that the ANC will regain its vigour when they once again need to court voters.

The DA will submit parliamentary questions to ascertain exactly how much money Parliament has spent on what was essentially a mass ANC canvassing.

As we’ve said before, the DA has always and will always oppose any abrogation of existing private property rights. Economic growth and development are not possible without property rights, and expropriation without compensation will only serve to bring that to a grinding halt.

The Constitution is not a barrier to land reform, the lack of political will, rampant corruption and budgetary constraints are.

Just earlier this week the ANC government proved again that they do not have the best interest of South Africans at heart with its proposed expropriation without compensation plan. Mr David Rakgase had to fight for 18 years to own the piece of land that he’s been working for almost 30 years.

The ANC’s land policies are built on a crumbling foundation. There is no consistency between their words and actions.

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Minister Dlamini-Zuma lied to the nation and must be fired.

It appears that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma lied to South Africans in her justification for the continued ban on the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco products. If this is indeed the case, then President Ramaphosa surely has no choice but to fire her from his cabinet.

On 29 April, in a televised briefing of the regulations for Level 4 of the lockdown, Minister Dlamini Zuma claimed that government’s decision to prohibit the sale of tobacco products was partly based on “more than 2,000” public submissions supporting such a ban. These alleged submissions formed part of 70,000 public submissions made to government at the time.

In this briefing the minister said: “Even in the public comments, there was quite a lot of opposition. More than 2,000 people opposed it.” She went on to say that government “took that into consideration, debated the matter, looked at it, and decided that we must continue as we are when it comes to cigarettes, tobacco and related products, and that we should not open up the sale of these products.”

But her responding papers to a court challenge by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA) paints an entirely different picture. This 4,000 page response – clearly meant to “spam” the court – included all the public submissions she could find to support her actions. Plus, it seems, many that had nothing to do with cigarettes or tobacco at all. And the actual opposition to cigarette sales turns out to be a mere fraction of what she had claimed.

According to FITA, the applicants in the case, there weren’t more than 2,000 submissions attached as evidence. Instead there were only 1,535 submissions and of these, 47.2% had nothing to do with cigarettes or smoking, 23.3% were in favour of smoking and only 29.6% supported the ban. This amounts to just 454 submissions. Clearly the minister was lying to South Africans in order to further her own pre-determined agenda.

The question is, when the minister said on live television that government “took that into consideration, debated the matter, looked at it”, was she implicating the rest of the National Command Council in this lie, or did she herself deceive her cabinet colleagues? Either way, this conduct renders her wholly unfit to occupy the position of a cabinet minister, and particularly one with such sweeping powers under the Disaster Management Act.

Of course it should be immaterial whether 2,000 or 454 people wrote in to support the ban. This has never been the basis for the formulation of any other lockdown regulations. And, had the president himself not assured South Africans mere days earlier that cigarettes would go back on sale under Level 4, the submissions opposing the ban would most likely have dwarfed any support.

But the fact that Minister Dlamini Zuma took the decision to make up a number of alleged supporting submissions and then lie to the people of South Africa in her briefing should be grounds for immediate suspension from her position. If the president wants to salvage some credibility for government’s response to this crisis, he cannot allow her to evade accountability on this.

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Khoza should retract Eskom write-off comments

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Public Investment Corporation (PIC) Chairman Dr. Reuel Khoza to retract completely or clarify his comments in an eNCA interview today, that the PIC has submitted a proposal to turn R90 billion of Eskom debt into equity.

Firstly, we do not believe there is any such “proposal”, at least in any formal sense that is anything more serious than idle chatter. Secondly, if there were such a proposal, it would be patently unacceptable and possibly illegal.

Dr. Khoza’s comments are irresponsible, and inject uncertainty into the markets and fear among pensioners. His comments should urgently be retracted in full or clarified.

The idea of converting R90 billion in PIC-held Eskom debt into an “equity” stake is just a euphemism for writing off this debt. The PIC would have no hope of recouping the money, since the government cannot afford to buy this equity from them, and Eskom is not making any money to pay the PIC a return on investment.

Such a decision would also likely be in contravention of the obligations placed on the PIC by the PIC Act of 2004 and the PIC’s investment mandate from the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF). Part of that mandate is to ensure that it “provides sustainable longer term financial returns to clients in line with set benchmarks”. There is nothing sustainable about any investment in Eskom.

It is not the job of the GEPF or the PIC to subsidise the government’s mismanagement of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

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Level 3 regulations are irrational and lack scientific basis

The release of government’s Level 3 regulations today by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma confirms our view that our government is no longer focused on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, their focus has shifted to undermining the hard-fought freedoms of all South Africans.

These regulations once again are illogical, irrational and lack any scientific basis. South Africans have long lost their confidence in our government’s ability to manage the lockdown in a manner that had originally attracted the full support of all political parties and South Africans:

The DA has particular concerns about the following regulations that were announced:

  • Whilst we have no objection to the re-opening of churches for the reasons advanced by government, they have failed to explain why other businesses and institutions (like restaurants) cannot operate with the same levels of safety;
  • We do not believe that the continued ban on the sale of cigarettes is justifiable after the reasons offered by Minister Dlamini-Zuma in her court papers. Cigarettes should be sold which will bring an end to the booming illicit trade which is costing us billions of rands and harming millions of consumers;
  • Although Government has removed the curfew from the Level 4 regulations, they continue to restrict the times at which people may exercise, from 6am to 6pm. There is simply no rational argument why anyone cannot exercise at any time, and how doing so, will contribute to the spread of the virus;
  • It also makes no sense whatsoever, why a single parent must endure lengthy court applications and apply for a permit to transport their child, when ordinary South Africans are allowed to visit a liquor store from 9am to 5pm, from Monday to Thursday. This provision is a huge and costly inconvenience for single parents and it is our view that this should be removed entirely from the regulations;
  • The continued restriction on hair salons and personal care services is disappointing and will have a massive impact on the thousands of small businesses in this sector, many of whom are being forced to operate illegally “underground” or have already closed their small businesses permanently. There is no justifiable reason why government finds it acceptable to allow dozens of commuters to travel on planes and taxis, yet a salon cannot operate with five persons with the same levels of safety and sanitation protocols;
  • The sale of liquor for only four days in the week will not contribute in any way whatsoever towards the mitigation of the spread of the virus. In fact, it is likely to have the opposite effect as this provision will promote massive queues at liquor stores on Thursdays.

The DA rejects the heavy-handed authoritarian manner in which government is handling the lockdown regulations and we will continue to use every means necessary, including the courts, to fight for our hard-won freedoms that remain secured in our Constitution.

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DA rejects SANDF’s premature exoneration of soldiers involved in Collins Khosa death

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) decision to exonerate the soldiers who were allegedly involved in the death of an Alexandra resident, Collins Khosa.

We are extremely disappointed by this decision and how the SANDF has handled the matter. It would appear that they rushed through the process without following just and proper processes.

The North Gauteng High Court recently ordered that the implicated soldiers be suspended and that the Ministers of Defence, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, ensure that an investigation is conducted into the treatment of Mr Khosa by members of the SANDF.

It is questionable how the SANDF arrived at their decision, as it has emerged that the investigation relied solely on statements made by the soldiers, and did not take into account the testimonies of Mr Khosa’s relatives who were witnesses to his tragic death. Accounts stating that soldiers entered Mr Khosa’s property, forcefully dragged him out to the street and assaulted him was not factored into the outcome of this internal investigation.

It is therefore hard to reconcile how the SANDF arrived at their decision to exonerate the soldiers involved when they only relied on one side of the story.

SANDF’s actions illustrate a complete disregard, not only for the courts, but also for the Khosa family and the South African public who are seeking justice for Mr Khosa’ untimely death. SANDF has now sent a message that they are willing to protect their own at all costs, even at the expense of a civilian’s life.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula and the SANDF leadership have essentially justified the excessive use of force and emboldened the military to continue with their horrific treatment of the South African public. They should hang their heads in shame.

The DA has lodged a complaint with the Military Ombudsman, General (Ret) Vusi Masondo, to request an independent investigation into Mr Khosa’s death. We trust that the outcome of this investigation will be independent and transparent, unlike the sham that was the military’s internal investigation.

We would like to remind SANDF and Minister Mapisa-Nqakula that this is not a war and South Africans are not the enemy. We live in a constitutional democracy and the excessive use of force by the military on civilians are therefore unjustifiable.

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