Minister Mboweni and new IRBA Board should investigate questionable CEO appointment

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written a follow-up letter to the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, to request that the newly-appointed Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors (IRBA) board members launch an investigation into the appointment of Ms Jenitha John as its CEO.

The DA wrote to Minister Mboweni on 21 May 2020 to request details of the proposed appointment of Ms John as the CEO of the IRBA. Despite the passage of some five weeks since writing the letter and receiving an acknowledgement from the Minister, there has been no substantive reply to the issues raised by the DA.

The concerns around the appointment of Ms John, amongst other possible concerns, are mainly surrounding:

  • Her performance on the Board of Tongaat Hulett and as Chair of their Audit and Compliance Committee for 12 years – during which period massive accounting irregularities apparently took place;
  • During her past role as the Chair of the Nampak Audit Committee, there were apparently serious concerns of malfeasance;
  • Why Ms John left her position at Firstrand at the time of the emerging Tongaat Hulett accounting malfeasance; and
  • Why Ms John, who is not a qualified and registered auditor, was appointed to run an organisation that has the main purpose of regulating the conduct of registered auditors.

On 29 May 2020, Minister Mboweni publicly made a commitment to discuss, with the board, the concerns around Ms John’s controversial appointment. It is for this reason, and in the interest of accountability, that I have written a follow-up letter to the Minister to request:

  • That he confirms that he has had the discussions with the IRBA board as he committed himself to on 29 May 2020;
  • What the outcome of these discussions may have been; and
  • That he provides a comprehensive response to our letter to him dated, 21 May 2020.

There are significant questions about the process followed for the appointment of Ms John as the CEO of the IRBA and we simply will not accept silence from the Minister in this regard.  

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

South Africa cannot afford expropriation without compensation

The following declaration was delivered in Parliament today in response to the draft resolution on the re-establishment of the Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce legislation amending Section 25 of the Constitution. 

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

Speaker, it with is with a tremendous sense of irony and utter disbelief that I make this declaration today.

Last week Wednesday, the Minister of Finance told the nation of the dire financial situation the country was in. And warned of a sovereign debt crisis if we cannot improve the economy. He also referred to our enormous investment needs that cannot be delivered by government alone and that the private sector accounts for most of the investment spending in the economy. The country needs more than loans – it needs investment.

But here’s the disconnect. Less than a week after the Finance Minister painted this very sombre picture of our economy, the ANC government wants to re-establish the Ad Hoc Committee to initiate and introduce legislation amending Section 25 of the Constitution. The Committee that has to finalise legislation to allow the state to expropriate your property without compensation.

The truth is that nothing dissuades investors like a threat to the security of their assets, regardless of how innocuously it is couched. Local and foreign investors will think twice before investing in South Africa.

The last thing South Africa can afford now, amid a pandemic and an economic crisis that has been in the making for 26 years and exacerbated by the lockdown, is a focus on expropriation without compensation.

Jobs are being lost, businesses are closing down, farm attacks are escalating and the state’s supposed safety net such as SASSA and the UIF are letting desperate citizens down.

Speaker, en die ANC se groot beleidfokus in hierdie tye – Onteiening sonder Vergoeding!

Wat ʼn ongelooflike verwyderdheid van die werklikheid. Die land is in nood, ons het nou elke bietjie hulp nodig wat daar is. Elke besluit van die regering moet nou daarop gemik wees om vetroue en sekuriteit aan die landsburgers te bied. Die land so aantreklik as moontlik maak om beleggers te lok en aan te moedig.

In stede daarvan om te erken dat grondhervorming oor die afgelope 26 jaar aan die agterste speen gesuig het as gevolg van korrupsie, onvermoë en ʼn onbekwame staat, word ʼn komitee weer in die lewe geroep wat vernietigende gevolge op ekonomiese en sosiaal-maatskaplike vlak teweeg gaan bring.

Hierdie is duidelik nie ʼn regering wat die welsyn van al sy burgers op die hart dra nie. In hierdie tyd van ongekende nood was dit die boere, wit en swart, kommersieël en opkomend, wat hul harte vir die mense van die land oopgemaak het. En die ANC regering se reaksie?  Kom ons fokus weer op onteiening sonder vergoeding.

Speaker, die DA steun nie die wysging van art 25 van die Grondwet nie, ons steun nie die gebrekkige prosesse wat tot dusver gevolg is nie en ons stel voor dat hierdie komitee en die hele proses van die tafel verwyder word.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA calls for reopening of Sport, Arts and Culture Relief Fund applications and transparency on remaining funds

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, to reopen the application process for the R150 million Sport, Arts and Culture Relief Fund.

As on 30 May 2020, the Minister confirmed that around 2 000 athletes and artists had been successful in applying for relief funding and that funds had either already been disbursed or were in the process thereof. If only around 2 000 applicants had been successful, at a cap of R20 000 per recipient, only R40 million would have been allocated by now. It would also mean that the fund still had additional funds of up to R110 million available.

It is for this reason that the DA is of the belief that the application process should be reopened in order to provide those who were unsuccessful or missed the deadline in the previous round a new and fair opportunity to access this much-needed funding.

Should these funds be depleted, the Minister should make a public statement on how the funds had been disbursed supplemented by a comprehensive breakdown.

The DA also continues to receive complaints from troubled athletes and artists who still have not received a cent of the Covid-19 relief funds, as promised to them by the Minister. This fund was introduced by the Department to offer distressed artists and athletes whose livelihoods have been severely affected by Covid- 19 a safety net during this period.

The delays in payment to beneficiaries are concerning given the fact that the number of successful applicants were so low. It is incomprehensible that the Department is still struggling to get the basics right, months after their shambolic handling of the application period.

The Covid-19 relief fund was supposed to be a boost to athletes, artists, and people whose income is generated through the sports and arts sector, however, the process appears to be riddled by confusion and has become an endless nightmare for these men and women.

The Minister and his department toying with the livelihood of thousands of athletes and artists.

Minister Mthethwa still has an opportunity to fix this. But he must act now.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Cadre deployment memo confirms that state capture remains official ANC policy – DA lays complaints with Zondo Commission and PSC

Please find attached an English soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Public Service and Administration, Dr Leon Schreiber MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today submitted a second formal request to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry to urgently examine the ongoing role played by the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment in capturing, corrupting and collapsing the South African state. The DA has also laid a formal charge with the Public Service Commission (PSC), requesting the PSC to investigate a leaked cadre deployment memorandum apparently sent by the ANC to all government departments.

In the memorandum, which is in the DA’s possession, the governing party insists that it has the right to interfere in the appointments of all Directors-General, chairpersons, CEOs, and boards of all state-owned enterprises. The memo explicitly instructs ministers that “no appointment should be taken to cabinet without passing through the deployment committee first.”

The memo also stipulates that ANC deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, “should be informed of all posts prior to them being advertised and be sent the advert once they have been published.” The ANC further instructs members of the executive to submit to the party’s cadre deployment committee a list of abridged CVs of all applicants, a shortlist with complete CVs, and a list of recommended candidates.

The contents of the memorandum once again confirms that state capture has long been, and remains, the official policy of the ANC. Through cadre deployment, the ANC has completely undermined the separation between party and state, thereby ensuring that its cadres are appointed to powerful positions in the state in order to serve the financial and political interests of the party, rather than serving the people of South Africa. Cadre deployment not only fuels the ongoing massive looting of public resources by the ANC, but has also drained the state of skills by rewarding political loyalty to the ANC above skill and merit.

Despite an attempted denial by ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe, media reports over the weekend quoted at least five “highly placed” sources within the ANC who confirmed that the memo was authentic. One source even objected to the leaking of the memo “because government appointments should appear to be fair.”

Cadre deployment is at the root of the corruption and collapse of our state, and the DA will not rest until the practice is eradicated. In addition to the complaints filed with the Zondo Commission and the PSC over the latest cadre corruption memo, the DA is also fast-tracking the development of our Capable State Bill to outlaw cadre deployment and replace the ANC’s corrupt state with a DA-style capable state where appointments are based on skill and demonstrated merit, not on cronyism and political corruption.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Farm Murders: When will you speak up, Mister President?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to tell South Africa what his government will be doing to address the long-ignored and again increasing numbers of farm attacks and farm murders. Or is he going to continue to pretend that they are not happening, as he did in an infamous 2018 interview?

Since the DA requested a debate of national importance in the National Assembly last week, there has not been a peep from the side of government indicating that it is paying this problem any attention. Unfortunately, this is not out of character for a government that likes to praise farmers when they need them but is never forthcoming with assistance of any kind to the farming community when it is in crisis.

It is as if farmers and farm workers have been declared persona non grata. They are needed to ensure food security but is left to try and solve any and all problems they might encounter on their own.

According to the African Centre for Food Security the underlying issue of food insecurity is contributing to the spike in crimes on farms. Millions of poor South Africans are in despair due to the continued Covid-19 lockdown and ill-conceived regulations.

In South Africa, one of the things people across socio-economic circumstances have in common, is the fact that almost no-one feels safe in their own home. Violent crime is rampant, but few crimes seem to illicit such a poor response from government than farm attacks. The victims of these attacks are often tortured in the most brutal ways, and most are considered lucky if they escape with their lives. Yet the government remains quiet.

According to TLU SA there have been 59 farm attacks and 12 murders since 1 April 2020. There has been no outcry from government. No possible solutions tabled, no campaigns launched to ensure the safety of those living in rural areas, or engagement with them.

Last week the DA undertook to action some measures in the fight against these heinous crimes. This includes:

  1. We will report, when called for, farm attacks as Hate Crimes, as well as report those who glorify farm attacks on social media.
  2. Dedicated DA Councillors or activists will track investigations and court proceedings related to all farm attack cases and report back to farmers to ensure they never miss a court date, or that the case never stalls.
  3. We will work with the Agricultural Unions and do oversight on the farm patrols, assisting them to be organised and formalised.
  4. The party will continue to drive land ownership and the financial support of emerging farmers in order to foster increasing agricultural contribution to the economy.
  5. We will work for an improved SAPS/farmer relationship, in terms of firearm licences, firearm training, farm patrols, and perpetrator apprehension, in all areas to decrease the trust deficit currently experienced.
  6. The DA will continue to push for the establishment of fully outfitted Specialised Units dedicated to protecting rural communities and apprehending any perpetrators who enter farms with the intent to attack or steal.
  7. The DA will ask that the investigative capacity at rural SAPS stations be increased, to ensure that farm attackers are apprehended.
  8. We will request that SAPS re-categorise rural attacks as priority crimes and
  9. The DA will continue to fight the amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution that would allow Expropriation Without Compensation.

It is long past due for the government to pay serious attention to this other plague infecting South Africa. It will not simply disappear because government wishes to bury its head in the sand and ignore the plight of those living in fear in rural communities and on farms.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Patel buckles under DA pressure and agrees to release NLC Covid-19 Relief Fund Beneficiaries 

In response to an oral question asked by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, has agreed to release the list of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) Covid-19 Relief Fund Beneficiaries to the Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition.

This is the despite the best efforts of ANC portfolio committee members and the NLC, who have prevented this information from being made public.

According to his response, Minister Patel stated that: “The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) went out on a call for applications for Coronavirus (Covid-19) Relief Fund to the amount of R150 million and received over five thousand applications from non-profit organisations countrywide. At this stage, adjudications are underway and allocations are still being done on the R150 million to different applicants. Therefore, the process has not been completed as yet. The NLC estimates that the whole process will be completed by the second week of July 2020 (17 July 2020). Only after that date can the NLC be able to provide a list of projects funded as part of Covid-19 relief”.

This is a victory for transparency as it means that taxpayers will now be able to see how their money is being spent by the public institutions they entrust with this responsibility.

The DA will hold Minister Patel to his assurance that this information will be provided to the portfolio committee on the 17th of July 2020.

Failure to do so will result in the DA considering the appropriate legal action to ensure that this information is made public.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Mkhize must place Eastern Cape Health under administration or accept responsibility for preventable deaths

Over the past few weeks, we have seen a systemic collapse of the Eastern Cape health system which has placed thousands of lives in mortal danger. That is why the Democratic Alliance (DA) had written to the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, two weeks ago, making the case for the Eastern Cape Department of Health to be placed under administration according to Section 100 of the Constitution. The pace of intervention in this province is causing more senseless loss of lives.

In an effort to escalate this matter, the DA will now include the Leader of Government Business, Deputy President David Mabuza and make the case for urgent intervention in the province.

This morning, the DA conducted an oversight inspection at Cecelia Makiwane Hospital (CMH) to see first-hand the issues which the hospitals in the province are grappling with, over and above the surging numbers of the pandemic. Issues such as chronic staff shortages, dangerous lack of oxygen supply, insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) are only some of the key matters.

During our visit this morning we were also made aware that CMH is only operating with 2 ICU beds dedicated for Covid-19 patients. While there are plans to add 12 more ICU beds, this has yet to happen despite the rising numbers. Just this morning, it was reported that hundreds of Covid-19 test kits with patients’ details were found dumped on the N2 between East London and Mdantsane. It is unclear where these specimens came from, but this issue points to the utter chaos that is unfolding in the eastern Cape.

As I move across the Eastern Cape, it is clear that more people will lose their lives if urgent action is not taken. It is simply not enough for Minister Mkhize to send in a few people to support the province. An entire operational team is needed that will support facilities as a matter of urgency and close management is needed to prevent people from dying senselessly.

This government cannot simply ignore the plight of thousands of people in the Eastern Cape who are dying due to years of neglect of the health system. As the various parts of the country experience the crushing effects of this pandemic, every effort must be made to ensure that the system serves people as much as possible. Failure to do so is in direct contravention of the Constitution. The right to health is not being realized due to sheer state neglect.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA awaits report on Vrede Dairy investigation as Public Protector loses appeal.

The previous version of this statement was released without the following attachments: a soundbite by Dr Roy Jankielsohn and a copy of the Supreme Court ruling.

Last week the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed the Public Protector’s (PP) attempt to appeal the previous High Court judgements against her relating to the controversial R350 million Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Project investigation report. This ruling adds to the PP, Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s, poor track record in court and speaks to her inability to interpret the rule of law.

In the first case the DA took the initial investigation report under judicial review. In her judgement of 20 May 2020, Judge Tolmay found that the PP contravened the Public Protector Act and the Constitution, the very instruments that should have been used to investigate, expose and remediate the bureaucratic and political malfeasance in the Vrede Dairy Project. It is for this reason that Judge Tolmay declared that the PP report regarding the Vrede Dairy Project be “set aside and declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid”.

The PP attempted to obtain leave to appeal this judgement which was denied by the same court on 13 December 2019. The PP then attempted to appeal this judgement in the Supreme Court of Appeal. On 21 June 2020, Justices Wallis and Schippers of the Appeal Court dismissed this application indicating that there was “no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard”.

There is no longer any reason for the PP not to finalise the investigation report and release her findings on the Vrede Dairy Project that include issues relating to both the ongoing side-lining of the rightful beneficiaries and the role of politicians in the malfeasance that took place there. The PP’s continuous legal attempts to prevent further investigation and findings on this project raise serious questions about her motives and her ability to take objective decisions in this regard.

The DA will scrutinise the final report on this project to ensure that all the controversial aspects relating to the project were investigated and that the findings correspond to this. The side-lining of beneficiaries for the past seven years remains a serious concern since not only have they been robbed of the promise of a better life, but a project of this nature cannot legitimately exist without beneficiaries. The politicians who continued to fund this project after a National Treasury investigation found substantial irregularities there soon after its initiation, and then authorised a R106 million payment to the Gupta-linked Estina company after the contract was cancelled, must be held accountable for this.

This project remains a prime example of how the ANC-run government has abused land reform projects for corrupt purposes and to benefit cronies, while emerging and subsistence farmers are robbed of improved livelihoods and left in poverty. The DA in the Free State Legislature have been vigorously pursuing justice in this project since its inception and will not rest until justice has been served.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Department of Basic Education has no plans to employ additional teachers as more learners return to school

The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that Department of Basic Education (DBE) will not be bringing in additional teachers into schools to assist in teaching split classrooms or substituting for teachers with comorbidities. And teachers will not be paid overtime for the increased workload resulting from split classrooms and absent colleagues.

In a parliamentary question, the DA sought answers from the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, on the plans her department has in place to ensure that there are enough teachers to teach all the split classrooms of the different grades, in light of increased Covid-19 health protocols and the expected absence of teachers with comorbidities. The answer was – there are no such plans.

We heard last week how this Department’s budget has been severely cut and funds transferred to other Departments such as the Army and the Police. This is no doubt one of the results of this cut.

The Covid-19 pandemic has placed huge additional pressures on schools and teachers. With more learners expected to be phased in to schools in July and August, there is going to be an increased demand for social distancing that will result in more classrooms being split. This will no doubt require more time for teaching due to the alternate times, days, and/or weeks of attendance. In addition to this, there will be an increase in the absence of teachers with comorbidities.

The DA calls on Minister Motshekga to provide clear directives on plans to fill the gap that might be left by teachers with comorbidities, who are at a higher risk of complications if they contract Covid-19 and might be required to self-isolate.

The department therefore has a responsibility to ensure that more teachers are available in schools, to avoid causing any further burden on the teachers who are able to teach.

Last week, we heard how this department’s budget has been severely cut, and funds transferred to departments such as the Army and the Police instead of being reallocated for additional salaries of teachers or other educational needs.

The DBE is shortsighted in its planning, and Treasury should be making a budget allocation for such gaps.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Provisional liquidation may be imminent for SAA

Six months after South African Airways (SAA) was placed under business rescue the process has not been completed and if the plan is rejected as appears imminent – SAA will be placed in provisional liquidation.

The plan, supported by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) requires National Treasury to confirm that it will provide funding for the new SAA. However, the spoke in the wheel of DPE and the Minister’s plans are the absence of any money set aside in Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s supplementary budget.

Add to this a breakdown of Minister Parvin Gordhan’s much touted Leadership Compact, involving labour and the DPE, and the road to liquidation, delayed in the vain hope that a new airline would emerge – with additional support from the fiscus after decades of bailouts –  now appears to be firmly on the cards.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) call for the liquidation of the bankrupt entity which predates the many additional millions spent on Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs), consultants and subsequent bailouts appears now to be the only responsibly practicable way forward.

Years of delay and throwing good money after bad could well have been avoided if the DA’s advice was heeded – still, better late than never.

Hitherto profitable private sector players in the local aviation industry that have been severely impacted by Covid-19 would be better candidates for financial support, allowing them to fill the gap, absorb and provide skills and jobs as the sector cautiously embraces a return to some normality.

Of course, this would remove the dead hand of state control and ownership of an airline, which accounts for Minister Gordhan and the DPE’s reluctance to let go as they oppose a diversion of support to players that have more than a fighting chance to deliver sustainability and progressively expanding services as the market reopens.

The Minister has instead staked his credibility on an irrational commitment to flight a new airline out of the ashes of SAA, tarnishing his previous record at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and his sensible opposition to attempts to embark on a costly nuclear power programme.

In doing so he has become the weak link in Treasury’s programme of reform as as two major ratings agencies warn that South Africa could be on track for further downgrades if it does not deliver on its promises to rein in debt.

It is clear that South Africa Inc is living on borrowed time and that tough decisions need to be made. The liquidation of SAA is but one necessary step. The DA will continue to make the case for pragmatic prudence in the face of fanciful forays that further falter any steps towards sustainability.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court