DA calls for virtual SASCOC leadership election following failure to produce financials to Parliament

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) to urgently convene a virtual annual general meeting (AGM) to elect a new president and board.

This comes after SASCOC, for the umpteenth time, failed to present their financial statements to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture that met today for the sole purpose of reviewing this information.

The years of unstable, chaotic and dysfunctional leadership has finally caught up to the Committee, to the point where they have completely disregarded Parliament’s oversight authority.

The situation is untenable. The elections for new leadership which were scheduled for 28 March 2020, had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, South Africa has had a few weeks to adapt to this new way of life in lockdown, and SASCOC can no longer hide behind the pandemic to stall the elections.

Given the available technological resources, SASCOC does not have an excuse and can proceed with calling a virtual AGM and conduct a virtual election immediately.

As is clear from today’s ineptitude, SASCOC urgently needs to organise free, fair and independent elections on a virtual platform to ensure a clean slate and competent leadership for the embattled entity.

SASCOC cannot continue down the road it has been allowed to walk for far too long where its ability to deliver the country’s best athletes to international sports arenas was severely restricted.

DA welcomes draft regulations on municipal electricity generation

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe’s draft amendments to electricity regulations to allow for municipalities to establish their own electricity generation capacity. For years, we have been calling on the Government to empower municipalities to procure energy independently.

These draft regulations are indeed a step in the right direction and could pave the way towards an energy secure South Africa.

In light of him publishing the draft regulations, the DA urges Minister Mantashe to stop his opposition to the City of Cape Town’s (CoCT) court case seeking immediate permission to procure electricity from independent power producers. The DA-led City has been seeking a Section 34 determination, in accordance with the Electricity Regulation Act.

It is no secret that South Africa’s electricity problems over the years have largely been compounded by the fact that Eskom has had a monopolistic grip on the country’s energy supply. These draft regulations are therefore critical in ensuring that South Africa moves beyond Eskom towards more reliable, cleaner and cheaper alternatives.

The DA is however concerned by the fact that the draft amendments require municipalities to apply to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to establish new generation capacity. This means that the Minister will be the final arbiter of all applications. The DA does not agree with this approach and believes this responsibility should be given to a more independent body, such as the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). As the national energy regulator, NERSA plays a critical oversight in the sector. The DA therefore also calls on NERSA to get back to work as they have been completely shut down since 27 March 2020. In light of these new draft regulations, NERSA has a lot of work to do, and should not be sitting at home, drawing their salaries with nothing to show for it.

To encourage investment in South Africa’s energy future, there is a need to make energy procurement and generation less restrictive and authoritarian than it currently is, by easing licensing and registration requirements.

The DA looks forward to engaging Minister Mantashe on our concerns and finding adequate resolutions so that capable municipalities like the CoCT can start to independently procure electricity and keep the lights on and help restore our economy.

DA seeks update from Speaker on independent panel to review removal of Public Protector

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request an update on the removal proceedings against the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane.

The DA’s proposal for the removal of the Public Protector was accepted by the Speaker on 26 February 2020 and we submitted our nominees to serve on the independent panel – which will determine whether there is a prima facie case for Parliament to continue with the removal process – well before the 6 March deadline.

A clear timeline of the process needs to be outlined. It is for this reason that the DA has asked the Speaker for an update on the progress on the appointment process of the independent panel and when this will be finalized. We are of the view that the chosen panelists need to urgently start evaluating the merits of the case via virtual meetings.

While the Covid-19 crisis inevitably postponed the process, Parliament has been open for two weeks now, and numerous committee meetings are in full swing on important issues other than the Covid-19 pandemic.

The DA submits that the Coronavirus cannot be held up as an excuse and the removal proceedings against the Public Protector should, therefore, continue without any further delays.

As the Covid-19 lockdown has continued, we have seen several reports and allegations of public office bearers abusing their positions at the expense of the South African public. As such, we will require an independent, competent Public Protector to investigate these abuses without fear or favour. And Busisiwe Mkhwebane is clearly not the right person for the job.

DA welcomes Minister Mboweni’s rejection of race-based criteria for relief aid

Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, today shared an anecdote with Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance illustrating the strangling hold of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) on the economy during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

He told of a conversation with the owner of the Magoebaskloof Hotel where 95% of the staff are black South Africans. The hotel’s white owner told the him that he is excluded from the Government’s relief aid, thereby excluding his staff from aid as well.

In contrast to his colleagues’ discriminatory regulations about who should benefit from vital Covid-19 aid, Minister Mboweni stated that he cannot support a policy position that excludes some people based on the colour of their skin. He promised that he would have a conversation with Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, in this regard.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Finance Minister’s rational and sober comments on this important issue and we hope that he will also include other Ministers who have expressed support of demographic criteria for relief.

Minister Mboweni’s comments underscore the importance of the DA’s court action against Government’s blanket discrimination during the National State of Disaster. We are seeking the Court to declare it unlawful for Government to use BBBEE status and other demographic indicators as a criteria to determine who will receive economic or other forms of relief. Our application will seek to establish a precedent across all sectors under the Disaster Management Act.

On Monday, Minister Kubayi-Ngubane made outrageous comments during Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Tourism stating that the use of BBBEE criteria was “non-negotiable” and that the tourism industry must not be allowed to regress during the Covid-19 pandemic to the point that it looks like “pre-1994”.

While staring herself blind against white-owned businesses, she completely disregards the impact discriminatory criteria will have on the industry as a whole – particularly those who she claims to be so adamant about uplifting.

She is not the only one who only pays lip service to the poor and struggling. The Minister of Small Business, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, is using the same template for relief aid as Minister Kubayi-Ngubane. First the Minister cried wolf when it came to light that BBBEE criteria were to be used to judge applications for relief aid. When the truth came to light that it was in fact the case, the Minister did not even offer an apology for the earlier deceit.
Certain Ministers seem adamant that saving lives will play second fiddle to ideology.

Minister Mboweni’s opposition to their idiotic regulations is therefore welcomed and we call upon him to join the DA in our fight for all South African businesses to have access to financial relief.

We maintain that it is utterly unconscionable and unconstitutional for the Government of a free and democratic country to employ BBBEE, race, gender, age or disability criteria when offering assistance.

The ship is taking on water and instead of doing everything possible to stop it from sinking, the Government is pitching passengers overboard while floating rescue devices deliberately just out of reach.

Tourism Recovery Plan one dimensional and devoid of any research and fact

On Monday, the Department of Tourism presented its Tourism Recovery Plan to Parliament. The Democratic Alliance (DA) was left with more questions than answers as the recovery plan, which the Department claims would use a “risk-adjusted approach”, can only be described as one dimensional and devoid of any proper research.

The only immediate proposal is its discriminatory race-based Tourism Relief Fund which will only do the sector more harm than good. Of particular concern to the DA were the following three points:

  • The “risk-adjusted” plan was drawn up in isolation, seemingly without any inputs from experts and taking into account the various lockdown levels. This is evident by the fact Department officials were unable to define the levels of recovery and how they arrived at these levels in their plan.
  • The plan arbitrarily foresees the revival of tourism in only 12 months, while also arbitrarily labelling the next 6 months as a “readiness” period, Completely ignoring the realities on the ground where businesses are currently forced to close their doors and as a result jobs have already been lost. The tourism sector simply cannot wait to fit in with an illogical and ill-conceived government plan.
  • The “re-emergence” phase, in which the plan again arbitrarily decides will occur in 6 to 12 months, the recovery of the market will “begin” to be executed. This phase presumes that Government will exclusively manage and control the tourism sector, without any contribution from the private sector as if it is a bystander looking in.

With all these enormous gaps in the plan, it is clear that no proper scientific and statistical driven data has been defined and thus will not be collected and collated to inform a proper tourism recovery plan. This, therefore, explains the one-dimensional recovery plan which does not understand, nor take into account the reality of the tourism value chain.

The Department did not present Parliament with a real tourism recovery plan – it was a hollow and unrealistic strategy and will not save the tourism industry. The DA will engage with the Department of Tourism to ensure that a proper and realistic tourism plan is put in place so that the closure of businesses and job losses are minimised.

DA to closely monitor SASSA’s limited re-opening of offices

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Monday evening received correspondence from SASSA CEO, Busisiwe Memela, regarding our request that SASSA offices countrywide be re-opened to assist with the influx of applications for social grants and relief during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

Memela confirmed that the agency is currently in the process of preparing offices and implementing safety measures which will be finalised by 8 May 2020, including sanitation and provision of Personal Protective Equipment to employees. She went on to state that 30% of SASSA employees will return to work and occupy each of its offices. They will be responsible for processing electronic and telephonic applications.

We are pleased that following pressure from the DA, SASSA has made some effort to capacitate its offices to assist with the increased pressure on its limited resources during this time, however, it is disappointing that these offices will remain closed to the public.

The re-opening of SASSA offices to the public, under strict Covid-19 protocols, would have been an ideal solution to assist vulnerable South Africans in accessing much-needed social relief – especially those who do not have access to technological resources.

The DA will closely monitor and assess the implementation and success of SASSA’s proposed measures and the limited re-opening of their offices. Should SASSA fail in this regard, the DA will not hesitate to go to court.

Food relief: Government must assist NGOs, not prosecute them

According to reports NGOs across the country are frustrated by red tape in applying for permits to distribute food while Government is attempting to centralise this function under an incapable state.

There have been reports of individuals being arrested and NGOs being harassed by law enforcement officials for handing out food in communities – all because they did not have proper documentation.

We are calling on Government to make it as easy as possible for NGOs who are providing food relief and who have been recognised as essential services to obtain the necessary permits swiftly and efficiently and for them to be able to distribute food to as many people in need as possible.

Red tape must be replaced by a red carpet for these organisations. NGOs should be able to operate optimally and without being harassed in their life-saving role.

We are calling on the Minister of Cooperative Governance, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and the rest of the National Command Council (NCC) to be less concerned about the policing of permits and more concerned about the hunger crisis that is engulfing the country.

It is baffling that the Government has made it near impossible for organisations and individuals to assist them in this vital task. The Government is increasingly speaking from two mouths, with Ministers stomping over the goodwill of the public with their obsession with permits and seeming callous attitude to the desperation ordinary South Africans face.

Government, especially the NCC, has been hellbent on centralising every single aspect of our lives during this Covid- 19 crisis and now they want to centralise food relief. NGOs and private citizens want to help their fellow South Africans and communities and should be allowed to do so, especially in light of the Department of Social Development’s failures.

Government must clarify exactly what travel permission is necessary for organizations that are feeding people and it must ensure that such permits are easy to obtain.

It must also make clear that centralising food relief through provinces or municipalities is inefficient and a gateway to corruption. The ANC should rescind any such instructions that have been issued. Hungry South Africans should get food, not be kept hungry for political gain.

DA calls for Arts and Culture relief funding applications to re-open

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture (DSAC) to re-open the application period for artists and athletes to access support funding from the Arts and Sports Sector Relief Fund. We have also submitted Parliamentary questions to Minister Nathi Mthetwa in this regard.

Our request follows a questionable application period, which came to an end on 6 April 2020. The DA has received several complaints from artists who have raised concerns with regards to the discrepancies of the application process and that they did not have enough time to complete their applications.

Some of the complaints include:

  • The application forms could not be completed online. Artists needed access to the internet, a computer and a printer to complete the form – which was difficult, and in some cases impossible, for those without these facilities due to the lockdown restrictions. Many artists also indicated that drop-down menus on the form would have been optimal instead of having to print the form.
  • Of particular concern was the fairness of the application process, especially with regards to the lack of information about the criteria for who qualifies for funding. The form omitted vital questions which could have assisted an independent adjudication panel in comparing applications fairly, such as what percentage of artists’ incomes come from touring, streaming and sales; their historical earnings and bank statements. These discrepancies raise concerns on how the applications received were approved and verified when there was no real indication of on what basis adjudicators approved or rejected applications.
  • Many artists also missed out on the deadline because they were simply not aware that funding was available. The Department failed to utilise official channels of communication, such as Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO) and South African Music Performance Rights Association (SAMPRA) to inform artists that funding was available and to provide a detailed explanation of the application process.
  • A further concern has been the fact that relief seems to have only been aimed at DSAC-funded projects and institutions, and that the non-DSAC funded projects which could access relief were exclusively the ones from a specific list of national industry organisations – this too is problematic and the DA has written to the Minister to request clarity in this regard.

It is alarming that the Department would exclude any artist from accessing funding, especially as many of their livelihoods have been impacted with festivals, concerts and many other entertainment facilities having to shut their doors. All artists should have an equal opportunity to access funding with clear communication from the Department on the application process and criteria.

In light of the challenges with the application process, the DA also calls on the Department to relook the application process to ensure that it is fair to every artist who applies. If our artists, engineers, recording studios and producers cannot access funding – there might not be an industry left after we overcome the pandemic.

The Arts and Culture sector will be one of the very last to get back on its feet and Government has to ensure that it does everything in its power to save it.

DA calls for urgent directives on essential services permits for self-employed and informal traders

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to Minister of Small Business Development, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, to request that she immediately publish a directive in the Government Gazette on how businesses which are not registered with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC) can apply for an official essential services permit during stage 4 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Since the start of the lockdown, self-employed individuals (sole proprietors) and informal traders, predominantly micro-enterprises, have been left in the dark with little to no information and assistance from the Minister or her Department on the procedure on how to acquire an official permit to trade during this lockdown period.

The DA has received numerous complaints from these business owners who have faced harassment at the hands of law enforcement officials who demand that they produce official permits and have threatened to close them down. The intimidation of sole proprietors and informal traders by the hands of law enforcement is disturbing and the Minister needs to intervene immediately to protect this vulnerable sector.

We have also received complaints that the bizportal.gov.za platform only allows for those businesses that have a registered enterprise number to register on the system, which only fuels the desperation and frustrations in this sector as they struggle to get clear answers from Government as to how they can get assistance.

The DA will therefore also propose to Minister Ntshavheni, that those who are self-employed, informal traders and micro enterprises are allowed to use the identity numbers of their owners to register on the bizportal.gov.za platform.

With an estimate of 3 million informal traders in South Africa, Government has to go the extra mile to ensure that these individuals are protected as their businesses are essential to their livelihoods.

Many of these business owners live from hand to mouth and need to start trading; however, with no guidelines from the Department, it makes it difficult for law-abiding citizens, to comply.

The DA will not allow for this sector to be oppressed by unnecessary bureaucratic burdens when a solution is apparent. We will fight for every small business to survive through these uncertain times of Covid-19

DA lawyers give Social Development Minister until 17:00 to respond to request on opening SASSA offices, or we’ll see her in Court

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) lawyers have written to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, and SASSA CEO, Busisiwe Memela, to request that SASSA offices countrywide are opened to assist with the influx of applications for social grants and relief during the Covid-19 lockdown period.

We have given Minister Zulu until 17:00 today to respond to our very reasonable request. The DA’s lawyers are instructed to launch a Court application to compel Government to open SASSA offices if the Minister fails to see reason and do the right thing.

The DA has continuously requested the opening of SASSA offices to assist vulnerable people during the Covid-19 crisis. And time and again the Minister has ignored not only the pleas of the Party, but she also seems deaf to the cries of desperation sounding in the streets.

With the announcement of the special R350 Social Relief of Distress Grant, SASSA would have no doubt experienced increased pressure on its limited resources during this time. While applications for grants can be done via dedicated hotlines, email, texts and WhatsApp, the reality is that many of those who are in desperate need of relief assistance do not have access to these platforms.

It is, therefore, utterly nonsensical that in an attempt to address these potential technological challenges, the Department plans to rather spend money to train volunteers and buy them equipment to assist those in need. This, while SASSA offices remain closed and trained and paid employees sit at home. This money can surely be better spent on food parcels for vulnerable families.

The Department seems hellbent on ignoring sound advice and doing what is right. This is hardly the time to be spiteful when thousands upon thousands of our people are facing increasingly dire situations every day.

It is the Department of Social Development’s responsibility to ensure that the people in their care can access immediate relief during this crisis period and one way of doing this is to re-open all SASSA offices, in accordance to strict social distancing and hygienic measures.