DA welcomes police committee investigation into new IPID Amendment Bill further limiting the Minister of Police’s powers

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes Parliament’s police portfolio committee’s decision to investigate our proposal to limit the Minister of Police’s powers to appoint the Executive Director of Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID).

In a letter to committee chairperson, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, I argued that IPID’s independence needs to immunised against political interference and that allowing the Minister of Police to nominate the Executive Director of IPID was counterintuitive and against the spirit of the judgment in McBride v Minister of Police and Another [2016]

While the McBride judgment ultimately limited itself to instructing Parliament to amend the IPD Act insofar as the Minister’s powers to remove the Executive Director of IPID, it did make reference to the Minister’s powers to appoint and highlighted the importance of IPID’s independence.

 “To my mind, this state of affairs creates room for the Minister to invoke partisan political influence to appoint someone who is likely to pander to his whims or who is sympathetic to the Minister’s political orientation. This might lead to IPID becoming politicised and being manipulated. Is this compatible with IPID’s independence as demanded by the Constitution and the IPID Act? Certainly not.”

In the 5th Parliament, the police portfolio committee had the opportunity to go beyond just the Ministers powers to remove an Executive Director of IPID and also limit the Minister’s powers to nominate an Executive Director. The committee elected to limit itself to the instruction in the McBride judgment.

Parliament approved this IPID Amendment Bill in 2019 and last night the President assented to the bill. While this is a victory in the fight for IPID’s independence, it is just the first step. As long as a Minister can nominate an Executive Director of IPID behind closed doors a dark cloud of suspicion will hang over IPID and it will remain exposed to possible political interference by the Executive.

The DA is of the view that the IPID Act, in its current form, remains inadequate insofar as the protection of IPID’s independence is concerned and is vulnerable to legal challenge.

The portfolio committee on police has taken the right decision to investigate the DA’s proposal as well the procedural and legal questions I set out in my letter to the committee regarding the process which is currently being followed by the Minister.

If we are going to see an end to police abuse we need to create a culture of accountability and consequence in the South African Police Service. The independence of IPID is key to creating this culture and bringing those who commit these abuses to justice.

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

Opinion | Level 3 decision hurts SA but suits ANC

The president has to stop smashing the economy to death with the “blunt instrument” of lockdown and start putting his country ahead of his party, – DA leader John Steenhuisen.

It is unconscionable that the ANC government opted to move South Africa to Level 3, even as scientists advised a move to Level 1 and called lockdown a “blunt instrument”, as President Cyril Ramaphosa has now revealed.

The ANC’s hard lockdown is world-record-breaking in both duration and scale of economic devastation, yet millions of workers and schoolchildren and thousands of businesses are being forced to remain in it against the advice of local experts. And the threat of returning to Level 4 or 5 still hangs over the country, making it hard for businesses to plan or invest for the future.

Either deep naivety or outright dishonesty is behind Ramaphosa’s claim that Level 3 is a middle road between the advice of South African scientists and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO’s advice is that lockdowns should only be eased as infections rates go down.

This cannot possibly pertain to South Africa, since infections here have risen steeply during the lockdown. If the government is to follow the WHO’s advice, we could be in lockdown for many more months, since the peak of infections is only expected to be between August and October for most of South Africa.

The sooner we admit that our lockdown was a tragic mistake, the sooner we can start to make better decisions. South Africa’s lockdown failed to stop the exponential growth of the virus. And the government failed to mitigate the economic fallout from lockdown. So the ANC’s lockdown failed on both health and economic terms.

All we gained was to delay the peak by a few weeks. For that, millions of people have lost their livelihoods, thousands of businesses have been bankrupted, 12 million schoolchildren have lost out on an entire term of schooling, and billions of rand have been lost to the fiscus.

This outcome is an intergenerational injustice of epic proportions. The costs will be borne by young people, who bore the brunt of ANC policies even before the party wielded its “blunt instrument”.

President Ramaphosa seems unlikely to acknowledge, let alone apologise, as Norway’s prime minister has done, for the needless devastation wrought. Were he to do so, it would mark a distinct turning point for a party which is yet to express remorse for 300 000 Aids deaths the last time the government opted to disregard scientific advice.

Clearly, the Level 3 decision has nothing to do with saving lives, or with WHO opinions, and everything to do with ANC internal politics and outdated ideology. President Ramaphosa has again chosen ANC unity over national well-being.

Level 3 is a political compromise between the warring factions of the ANC alliance. Key ANC clients, the public sector unions, have little incentive to get back to work, since they are on full pay anyway, while the communists in the ANC are revelling in the opportunities for “class suicide” and national democratic revolution.

Indeed, an ANC document leaked over the weekend specifically proposes for the first time the amendment of regulations to prescribe pension fund assets. This suggests the ANC has gained no insights from the lockdown as to the limits of its own capabilities, and is going to double down on its vision of a state-controlled economy.

Another leaked document reveals the ANC has approved a R21 billion loan to SAA, even as Comair, which was a profitable business before lockdown, is in business rescue.

Comments of several ANC politicians over the past weeks suggest a more sanitised version of the EFF’s vision of collapsing the “white economy”. This reflects a poor understanding of how an economy functions – as a web of interconnectedness – and a disregard for the hunger and hopelessness plaguing millions of households.

The appropriate response now is to protect the high-risk group and let the vast majority of South Africans get back to work with a reasonable set of safety protocols in place, to produce the tax revenue necessary to fund health, education and social grants.

This disregard was already on full display, with every aspect of the promised economic relief programme in a shambles, including a failure to make good on UIF, TERS and Covid grant payments. And with the DA having to go to court to enable NGOs to continue feeding the hungry.

The past six weeks of hard lockdown have already been irrational. The ANC government failed to adjust its response to new information that has come available over this time, in particular (1) falling fatality projections and (2) mounting evidence that Covid is not a major threat to healthy 0- to 70-year-olds.

The appropriate response now is to protect the high-risk group and let the vast majority of South Africans get back to work with a reasonable set of safety protocols in place, to produce the tax revenue necessary to fund health, education and social grants.

As if the last six weeks haven’t already wrought enough unnecessary destruction, the ANC is using people’s lives and livelihoods as pawns in their internal chess games.

There is only one economy. It is the precious lifeblood of our society. I urge President Ramaphosa to stop smashing it to death with the “blunt instrument” lockdown and start putting his country ahead of his party.

Sisulu’s close aide embroiled in fake Hawks clearance docket

Earlier this month, the Democratic Alliance (DA) issued a number of media statements relating to Minister Sisulu’s close advisor, Mphumzi Mdekazi.

The DA’s statements shed light on Mdekazi’s alleged attempts to influence tender awards using emergency drought relief funding in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

In order to divert public scrutiny from these abounding allegations, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu immediately launched a tax-payer funded public relations campaign, titled #SisuluAntiCorruption.

The intention of this campaign was to publicize the Minster’s personal appointment of a team of lawyers to lead the finalization of outstanding corruption cases in the Water Department – the vast majority of which relate to her predecessors terms.

As part of this campaign, the Minster attempted to place a half page advert in a number of Sunday Papers.

The advert outlined the steps her Department was taking to “tackle corruption” but went further in attempting to exonerate her close advisor, Mdekazi, by stating:

“The case lodged by the CEO of Amatola Water against one of the members of the panel advising the Minister, Mr Mphumzi Mdekazi, has been found to be without merit by the Hawks”.

This statement was based on an alleged clearance letter (see here and here), signed by a Colonel Ledwaba, purporting to be Head of the Priority Crime Investigation Unit of the Hawks.

The clearance letter, which is addressed to the DG of the Department, Mbulelo Tshangana, states that “criminal charges of fraud, corruption and tender irregularities instituted against Mdekazi were withdrawn” as “evidence against Mdekazi is circumstantial and insufficient to proceed with prosecution”.

The clearance letter and Minister’s advertorial were then widely circulated to structures of the Department, the Press, and Members of the Water Portfolio Committee as evidence of Mdekazi’s innocence.

Independent Media subsequently published a headline story regarding the letter, titled: “Hawks report clears Lindiwe Sisulu’s Advisor”. This story – now removed from IOL – followed hot in the tracks of an additional 3 stories regarding Sisulu’s efforts to stamp out corruption and transform the department by the same journalist over the past week.

Today, the Hawk’s issued a nation-wide media statement noting that the letter circulated by Mdekazi and referred to in Sisulu’s departmentally funded advertorial is a fake.

Denying the issuing of such a letter, the Hawks went on to note that:

“The DPCI wishes to distance itself from the so-called leaked report and state unequivocally that it does not have a Lieutenant Colonel/Colonel Ledwaba within its ranks.

The DPCI also wish to condemn the bogus letter with the strongest contempt.”

It is now clear that Minister Sisulu has not only failed to charge and place Mdekazi on suspension; but her Ministry has deliberately attempted to spend bankrupt Department of Water and Sanitation funds on the publicity of a fake Hawks exoneration letter in order to protect this advisor.

The DA has today made arrangements with the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations to lay charges against Minister Sisulu and her advisor in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act.

We further call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to call this Minister to account in providing a full and proper explanation to the nation.

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

Key questions remain unanswered on report exonerating Acting CEO of Government Printing Works, further investigations loom

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is not satisfied with the incomplete report tabled before Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs on Tuesday into allegations against the acting CEO of Government Printing Works (GPW), Alinah Fosi. This report raises more questions than answers and several allegations remain to be investigated.

While the Public Service Commission (PSC) report seemingly seeks to exonerate Ms Fosi, the DA is of the view that she is a long way from being cleared.

The PSC investigated allegations that Ms Fosi bypassed procurement processes to force through the awarding of a ‘strategic workshop’ to a preferred supplier.

The report’s terms of reference rested on two aspects related to the ‘strategic workshop’. Did Ms Fosi issue an unlawful instruction and did this lead to an irregular appointment?

  • The report found that there was an irregular appointment, but evidence contesting the unlawful instruction has not been included in this report.
  • A submission made to the investigator by the former Director Supply Chain at GPW that challenges the series of events articulated in the report has been sent to the DA and its authenticity and the reason it is not addressed in the report has to to be considered.
  • Another concern is the allegations the PSC lead investigator on the matter and Ms Fosi worked together at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). Clarity is required on whether this is true and if so why the investigator did not recuse himself from the investigation.

These allegations have not be adequately addressed, which is why the has DA insisted that the full report serves before the committee, along with additional documents mentioned by the Minister in relation to a Hawks investigation into further allegations against Ms Fosi, as well as for the PSC to answer the questions of concern around the investigation. This request was rejected by the committee chairperson with the support of ANC members.

A recommendation by the Parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Services Office Memo that the committee refer the remainder of the allegations together with the supporting documentation against Ms Fosi to the PSC was also rejected.

This wreaks of a cover up on the part of the ANC, and the DA will not leave this matter lying down. Especially in light of the allegations that certain members of the public and the private sector are campaigning for the favourable consideration of Ms Fosi’s application as permanent GPW CEO, and that this campaign is related to future strategic projects Government Printing Works must undertake in the next five years.

Parliamentary portfolio committees’ oversight role requires of us to ensure that the terms of reference of any investigation cover all the allegations and to be able to adequately interrogate such reports and make recommendations.

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

NSFAS writes off R1.96 billion in historic debt

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is currently in the process of writing off R1.963 billion in historic debt.

This was revealed in a response by the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Blade Nzimande, to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question.

The DA calls on Minister Nzimande to give clarity on two things:

  • What criteria have been used to write off this debt? and
  • Who pays for the costs associated with the written-off debt, which is at present most likely carried by universities themselves?

As far as the criteria are concerned: If the process of clearing historic debt is based solely on non-payment by past beneficiaries, it is an indictment on NSFAS – for not collecting monies owed to it – and those individual beneficiaries for failing to pay back.

But if the process is based on previous beneficiaries not being able to pay due to long-term and persistent unemployment, it’s an indictment on the government, who have overseen the growth and consolidation of an unprecedented and horrifying unemployment crisis in our country.

While the DA supports NSFAS writing off the historic debt of qualifying poor students who are currently studying, we cannot condone NSFAS writing off the historic debt of those who are able but unwilling to pay, and who may never have been forcefully required, by NSFAS, to pay.

NSFAS has never been any good at recovering monies owed to them, and this has led to a grave injustice. Individuals who obtained a good job after their graduation have simply been let off the hook, robbing current and future students of an opportunity to access higher education opportunities. They should have been compelled to honour their responsibilities.

On the second issue, if universities are currently carrying the debt (in the form of fees or accommodation not paid) will the writing off of the debt mean that the universities will have to write it off too? If so, this might prove unaffordable for many universities, most of which are struggling financially themselves at present.

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

The Role of Opposition and Alternative Policy for South Africa’s Economic Recovery

Find a full transcript of the Chatham House webinar hosted by John Steenhuisen on 3 June, below.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for inviting me to participate in this forum.

I’m not the first leader of the Democratic Alliance to speak at a Chatham House event, but I’m sure I’m the first to do so from a computer here in Cape Town rather than a podium in London.

The events of the past few months have reshaped our world in ways we could barely have imagined at the start of 2020. If someone had told us then what the world would look like in a few short months, we wouldn’t have believed them.

Yet here we are – adapting, evolving and coping.

Humans are resilient and resourceful. Three months ago, few of us even knew what a Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting was, and today we go about our lives as if it were always this way.

Businesses have been forced to reinvent and evolve at an incredible speed, and so have schools and universities. Even the way in which we fulfil our most basic need – human contact – has undergone this dramatic change.

This coronavirus, devastating as it is, will not defeat us. It will test us, but it won’t win.

But that’s not to say the coming months, and even years, will be easy.

Across the world, the long journey towards a post-Covid recovery has already begun. And this journey will look very different for different countries.

In the developed world of Europe, Asia and North America, governments will have far more chess pieces to move around the board than in developing economies.

The ability of the United Kingdom to extend income support to citizens, or to assist stricken businesses so that they may save the jobs of their employees, bears almost no resemblance to the challenges and limitations faced by developing nations.

It is this ability to bounce back that should determine the extent of the measures taken to slow the spread of the virus.

Shutting down the economy for an extended period can be justified if a government has the resources to protect its citizens from extreme poverty and hunger in the wake of the lockdown.

But in South Africa we have just come out of a nine-week hard lockdown – the longest in the world – and our government cannot even begin to shield its citizens from the brutal effects of this lockdown.

Our government has tried to copy the lockdown playbook of nations that find themselves in an entirely different situation to us.

Whatever number you might have in your head as a bad outcome for job losses post-Covid, double it. And then double it again. A 50% unemployment rate is being touted as a realistic expectation in South Africa.

This, in a country where more than 10 million people already don’t have work, and where 17 million social grants are paid out each month from tax revenue that continues to miss its targets by increasing margins every year.

Bear in mind, when processing these massive unemployment numbers, that South Africa has a population roughly the same size as the UK.

Post-Covid job losses are projected to be between 3 and 7 million. Add those numbers to the long queue for state assistance, and you begin to see the scale of the problem.

Our government has used the bluntest possible instrument to respond to this pandemic. And in doing so it has created a lockdown crisis that will dwarf the Covid crisis tenfold.

It has also revealed a disturbing authoritarian streak among many of our cabinet ministers who suddenly found themselves with seemingly unfettered power under the Disaster Management Act, which was enacted just before our lockdown started.

They started churning out a raft of petty regulations that had absolutely nothing to do with slowing infections, and everything to do with their own personal crusades.

Yesterday, in a damning court judgment, many of these regulations were ruled irrational and not justifiable in an open, democratic society.

The DA has also challenged the constitutionality of the Act – which has no provision for parliamentary oversight – along with several of these regulations individually.

Through its own actions, our government has squandered whatever goodwill and buy-in they might have had at the start of the crisis.

Our lockdown was originally going to be three weeks. But three became five, and then those five were followed another four weeks of restrictions that were barely different from the first phase.

And the truth is those nine weeks were largely wasted.

The sole reason for the lockdown was to slow the rate of infection to buy our healthcare response some time to prepare, and to dramatically ramp up our testing and tracing capabilities.

This didn’t happen. The reason our government has been so opaque with this data is because it is so damning.

Outside of the DA-run Western Cape province, there is little indication that we are anywhere near ready for the imminent wave of infections. And the testing programme has only managed a fraction of its targets, with massive laboratory backlogs.

We have almost nothing to show for nine weeks of hard lockdown that will cause far greater suffering and more premature deaths than the virus ever will.

We’re not Italy or Germany or Spain. We don’t have anywhere near those kinds of resources and reserves.

In fact, we couldn’t have entered this Covid crisis any lower in the water.

The South African economy had already entered into a recession long before the pandemic hit. Our two consecutive quarters of negative growth – which defines an economic recession – were quarters three and four of 2019. Covid-19 came months later.

And this recession was not a once-off either. The economy had also contracted for two consecutive quarters in the first half of 2018.

Last year our economic growth for the year was just 0.2% – the lowest it’s been in a decade.

Our state-owned power company, Eskom, has all but collapsed and can no longer keep the lights on. The euphemistic term for these planned rolling blackouts – “load-shedding” – has become part of our daily lives.

And when steady, affordable electricity cannot be guaranteed, investors turn their backs and look elsewhere.

Every international ratings agency has consigned the South African economy to junk status.

Our economy is in a dire position, and it was in this position long before Covid-19 hit our shores.

But what this pandemic has done, though, is expose just how fraught our situation really is. It has exposed how little wiggle room there is in our national budget to deal with an emergency like this.

It has exposed how thin this budget was already stretched, before there was a need for increasing healthcare resources and scraping together some kind of economic stimulus package.

And it has exposed the massive shortcomings of a truly incapable state. A state that has been hollowed out by decades of corruption, looting and weak, politically connected appointments.

And now, like a tsunami that causes most of its damage as the wave pulls back, it is government’s response to this pandemic, rather than the virus itself, that is set to cause the real devastation.

Still, it is never too late to change tack.

South Africa needs to move forward as best possible. We can’t change the past but we can still influence the future by acknowledging and learning from our lockdown mistakes.

These are the five most important lessons to be drawn:

  1. South Africa should immediately end what remains of the lockdown. And we should not return to hard lockdown, whether during the upcoming peak, or during any future waves of Covid-19, as the costs far outweigh the benefits.
  2. South Africa would have fared better if decision-making power had been less concentrated in a small group of unaccountable cabinet ministers, and instead decentralised to individuals, households, districts and provinces.
  3. South Africa needs to start prioritising results over intentions. The lockdown may have been well intended, but the actual net result has been overwhelmingly harmful to society, with millions of lives and livelihoods destroyed, thousands of businesses lost and billions of rands of tax revenue foregone.
  4. South Africa needs to realise that every policy decision is a trade-off, rather than a simple solution. It is always tempting to devise policy responses in a vacuum, focusing on a single problem, but society is a complex system of interactions. Any risk being addressed must be balanced against all the other risks faced by society.
  5. And finally, we have to realise that while policy A may be better than policy B in theory, if it is not feasible in practice, then policy B may be the one that produces better results.

The reality in South Africa is that we have an incapable state that is simply not able to implement many of the policies devised by government.

In the case of the lockdown, President Ramaphosa made sweeping promises of economic relief to mitigate the fallout from lockdown. But every well-intentioned plan has run into the brick wall of this incapable state.

Whether it is claims from the Unemployment Insurance Fund, applications for government’s Temporary Employer/Employee Relief or simply the payment of extended social grants, millions of desperate South Africans have been left empty-handed and frustrated.

This incapable state has always been there, but it has now been brought into sharp focus by this crisis.

What South Africa desperately needs now is for political ego and ideology to step aside and make way for real-world solutions and evidence-based decision-making.

If the DA were to be given the task of resuscitating our failing economy in the wake of this crisis, that is where we would start.

For all the talk of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and leapfrogging technologies, the best way to build a better life for all South Africans is to get the basics right.

Everything else is noise, until we have laid the obvious foundations for success: clean water, reliable electricity, safe communities, the rule of law, and a growing, inclusive market-driven economy.

Globally, many commentators believe that this pandemic opens up the opportunity for a “new normal” in which we live more sustainably and equitably than before. And indeed, this is a noble and worthwhile pursuit.

In many developed countries, this could mean foregoing the pursuit of some economic growth in favour of pursuing wellbeing, equality and sustainability.

In other words, the growth objective competes with the noble objectives of equality, wellbeing and sustainability.

But this is not the case in South Africa, with our situation of extreme unemployment, poverty and inequality coupled with deep fiscal recession and national debt.

In South Africa, the pursuit of growth is aligned with the pursuit of the noble objectives, meaning that the best way to grow wellbeing, equality and sustainability is through growth-focused policies.

This is best illustrated by way of example. And so I would like to outline the six policies that the DA considers to be the most powerful, in terms of picking the low-hanging fruit, to build a better future for South Africans.

  1. Open the energy market to competition.

Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned national power utility, is a monopoly buyer and seller of electricity. It is hopelessly insolvent, unable to service its interest payments, let alone cover any operating costs, and unable to provide a reliable power supply at rates that enable South Africa to compete with other countries.

If our energy market is opened to competition, supply will go up and prices will come down. Importantly, supply will be more reliable, as more power will come from a greater diversity of sources, particularly from renewables.

This is an intensely growth-focused policy, since it will dramatically cut costs to businesses and households, and particularly poor households, where electricity accounts for a greater share of household spending.

  1. Reform our labour legislation.

South Africa has one of the most inflexible labour regimes in the world, which is particularly tough on small businesses. This places new entrants to the market at a great disadvantage.

Relaxing our labour legislation will enhance growth, equality and wellbeing. Our rigid labour legislation may have been well intended, but it has resulted in unemployment on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world.

  1. Walk away from investment-killing policies.

South Africa will not see any meaningful investment in its economy until the government decisively rejects a raft of investment-killing policies. These are Property Expropriation Without Compensation, the National Health Insurance, asset prescription and nationalising the Reserve Bank.

Regardless of the intentions of these policies, each one will result in lower growth and higher poverty and inequality, since they will all hurt the poor most of all.

As with opening the energy market, walking away from these policies requires little more from government than a decision.

  1. Reform or sell off State-Owned-Enterprises.

The intention behind state-owned companies may be honorable, but thanks to the reality of our incapable state the results are disastrous.

SOE’s like Eskom, the national airline and the national broadcaster continue to cost the state billions that could be spent elsewhere.

It’s far better for the state to focus on its core role of education, healthcare and social welfare, rather than propping up these overstaffed, overpaid parastatals that add very little value to society.

  1. Auction off spectrum to bring down data costs.

This will dramatically reduce the cost of data, which will help drive economic growth. It will also enable more work to be done remotely, which drives ecological sustainability.

And this too will have the greatest impact on the poorest in society, since a much higher percentage of their income is spent on data.

  1. Abandon Black Economic Empowerment and Affirmative Action.

These policies best illustrate the difference between intentions and results. They may have intentions of redressing past wrongs, but their result is to perpetuate past wrongs by killing investment and by rendering South African businesses uncompetitive.

No competitive business can afford to consider race over performance when choosing its suppliers, its employees or its board members.

The net results of BEE and Affirmative Action have been bankrupt municipalities, large-scale tender corruption, and a hollowed-out state incapable of implementing policy.

That’s where the DA would start, if we were voted into government tomorrow.

But as we have seen over the past 26 years, getting into government and challenging the dominance of the liberation movement is no small task.

The DA has made great strides to grow from a tiny 1.7% minority party in 1994 to become the official opposition, as well as a party of government in a province and various metros and municipalities.

The next step up – positioning the DA as a credible party of national government – will require of us to shift political perceptions in a way that has never been done before in South Africa.

It will require of us to make a case for liberalism, individual freedom and an open economy in a country still largely dominated by nationalism, a patriarchal state and an economy with high levels of state control.

Where opposition parties in democracies elsewhere must compete against the policies and the track record of the incumbent, we find ourselves pitted largely against the history and mythology of the liberation movement.

It is this emotive connection to the party of the struggle that sees voters remain loyal, even when election promises are repeatedly broken and service delivery breaks down.

Our country’s brutal history of injustice and oppression has also created fertile ground for competing racial nationalisms – something the ANC eagerly pursues. And particularly since the hard socialist Economic Freedom Fighters have started leading them down that populist rabbit hole.

The result is a political playing field where policy and track record hold far less sway than they should, and where voting still largely happens along decades-old allegiances.

The temptation in such an environment is to spot a space in the political landscape and then try to fill it. But that space might not necessarily lend itself to our liberal values and principles.

It is not our role at the DA to fill the void, but rather to carve out our own space.

The truth is that not all voters will be available to us right now. But we have to work hard to attract the majority of those who are, and then we must actively grow our space so that we can include more in future.

It is also possible that this future will look different to our current political landscape.

There are undeniable tensions and competing factions within the governing ANC, and we have long held the view that a realignment of politics around shared values rather than racial nationalism is our future.

It is the only future that we believe is worth pursuing. A future where those who stand for freedom, growth and accountability ultimately prevail over those who still cling to out-dated 20th Century ideology and its destructive policies.

That is our project in the DA, and there are no short cuts in this game. We have to do the hard yards, one election at a time.

Where we already govern, we have been given an opportunity to show that honest, accountable government does make a real difference in people’s lives.

Sooner or later, that message will reach a critical mass of voters, and we will have our opportunity to rebuild South Africa to its full potential.

Thank you.

DA’s tourism plan will save 1.2 million livelihoods

Please find attached soundbite by Manny De Freitas MP, DA Shadow Minister of Tourism. Please also find the DA’s Tourism Recovery Plan, the executive summary, and today’s presentation

The Democratic Alliance (DA) today unpacked our plan to save the tourism industry and ensure the livelihoods of some 1.2 million people are not destroyed in the economic fallout of the Covid-19 lockdown.

This follows a revelation by the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, that the sector will only reignite by December this year. By that time most of the tourism, travel and hospitality industries will be decimated.

Unfortunately, the Department of Tourism’s answer to revitalise the sector leaves much to be desired. The Government’s plan for the industry is lacking on many levels:

  • It uses unfair criteria for the Tourism Relief Fund that cuts off many businesses;
  • It does not take realities on the ground into account;
  • It was not informed by proper data and research; and
  • Does not consider a phased approach to opening up the sector.

The DA therefore proposes a short term and immediate plan to recover the sector, while still following Covid-19 hygiene protocols and practising social distancing. This includes:

  • Managing the crises and mitigate the impact;
  • Providing stimulus and accelerating recovery; and
  • Preparing for the future.

Our plan is based on comprehensive research. We consulted with over 30 organisations and individuals within the tourism sector.  This plan is further informed by 4 main surveys undertaken within the sector.

The DA is of the view that level 3 regulations must allow for the opening of all sectors in the tourism, travel and hospitality industries that can show that they can meet hygiene and social distancing protocols, as well as the opening of provincial borders to boost domestic tourism. The sector simply cannot  remain in limbo while the Tourism Minister will “see how things go”.

Hundreds of thousands of livelihoods are directly dependent on the tourism, hospitality and travel sector.

Supporting businesses by softening the lockdown, focusing on specific sub-sectors, will restore confidence and will ensure that more jobs are not lost.

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

Keeping registered ECDs closed is counterproductive in the face of Minister Zulu’s new campaign

Privately owned registered Early Childhood Development centers (ECDs) remain closed under level 3 lockdown, while Minister for Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation launched a campaign: Vangasali-Every Child Counts Campaign, on 2 June 2020.

The campaign is expected to target unregistered ECD centres in three phases namely: find and count (phase 1), categorise (phase 2) and intervention (phase 3), with the view of assisting them to meet the minimum norms and standards for registration, as stipulated in the Children’s Act.

Unregistered ECDs is an ongoing historical challenge in South Africa, therefore, bringing into question the timing of the campaign launch. Is it not an ill-timed public relations tactic to save face, all while condemning the ECD sector to permanent closure and more hardworking South Africans to the misery of the ever growing UIF queue?

At a Social Development Portfolio Committee meeting held on 29 May 2020, the Democratic Alliance (DA) raised the scary reality that by the time ECDs are allowed to open their doors, there will be no ECD sector left to go back to.

The DA highlighted that while registered ECDs remain closed, unregistered ECDs are popping up across the country out of sheer desperation and need for a safe place to send one’s child while many parents go back to work or are actively seeking employment.

It is naïve to think that unregistered ECDs in various communities are not currently operating.

Keeping registered ECDs closed is the most counterproductive step DSD can make in the face of their new Vangasali Campaign.

Keeping registered ECDs closed is unravelling the extensive registration work previously undertaken by government and civil society.

In the amended education regulations  (see here) dated 1 June 2020, which indicates that ECDs registered to a school can open on 6 July 2020, while the Department of Social Development continues to keep privately own registered ECDs closed at level 3.

The DA maintains it position that that ECDs are to reopen under the risk adjusted approach level 3 of lockdown if they can fulfill and abide by the minimum list of Covid-19 safety protocols. Services to children are considered to be essential services as contained in the Government Gazette on 25 March 2020 and ECDs are an essential service.

Children together with staff and practitioners with health concerns should remain at home and the continued learning and development of the child is the primary responsibility of the parent and/caregiver.

The final decision to send a child to an ECD will remain with the primary parent or the court appointed guardian/caregiver.

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

Opinion | ‘South Africans, especially the privileged, have become spoilt brats with a sense of entitlement’

This letter was published in response to the letter by Sanjay Singh. Singh’s letter was published on iol website on 19 May 2020 with the title ‘South Africans, especially the privileged, have become spoilt brats with a sense of entitlement’.

It seems that post-1994, many South Africans, especially the privileged, have become spoilt brats with a sense of entitlement.

As the world continues to deal with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, South Africa’s infection count is growing at an alarming pace and the figure will grow as more get tested. There are also concerns over the rapid increase in infection numbers, particularly in the Western Cape, with 50% of SA’s cases.

Amid this crisis President Cyril Ramaphosa and other spheres of government have demonstrated leadership that should be supported and applauded.

It is therefore of great concern to note that many South Africans, instead of observing the lockdown protocols, are demanding the government allow the sale of cigarettes and alcohol, not essentials but luxuries by any standard.

It is also disturbing and worrying that DA interim leader John Steenhuisen, instead of putting aside his political differences and working with the government for the sake of the country, is grandstanding and playing politics. He has called on the government to abandon the lockdown and focus on the economy – meaning that the DA considers protecting the economy to be more important than saving peoples’ lives.

We are not out of the woods yet; the pandemic is still to peak. Medical experts are putting the expected rise to be around September.

Opening the economy now will be an own-goal of disastrous proportions. The whole country cannot suffer because the DA is intent on chasing money.

The coronavirus is a deadly disease that needs all of us to pull together. Let’s adhere to all the instructions the government asks of us in our quest to defeat this demon.

I am a smoker and love and enjoy my daily drink, but I have learnt to do without them for my own safety and that of my family. Their well-being is more important to me than a cigarette and a daily sundowner.

DA welcomes recreational fishing regulations and calls for clarity on alleged exclusion of KZN subsistence fishers

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Barbara Creecy, to permit recreational fishing under level 3 of the lockdown pending the gazetting of fishing regulations. We call on the minister to ensure the swift gazetting of these regulations to allow for fishing communities to feed themselves and their families.

The DA has placed consistent pressure on DEFF and Minister Creecy, alongside mounting public pressure, to lift the restriction on recreational fishing. We are extremely relieved that the call has been heeded and that fishing communities are now able to secure food under these very difficult economic circumstances.

We further call on Minister Creecy to address allegations of exclusion and lack of transparency around the allocation of small-scale fishing rights in Kwa-Zulu Natal that had led to desperate circumstances for subsistence fishers holding only recreational permits under the lockdown. Subsistence fishers allege that they have had to rely on recreational fishing permits to eke out a living as they did not qualify for small-scale fishing permits, were unaware of the deadline for applications, or did not have the means to apply – this is despite arguing that they are generational subsistence fishers.

Noting these concerns, the DA has released a petition which will be handed over to Minister Creecy calling for:

  1. Increased transparency in the allocation of small-scale fishing rights across provinces; and
  2. A review of existing fishing categories as per the Marine Living Resources Act for inclusion of a subsistence fishing category that addresses the issue of subsistence fishers who have only been able to qualify for recreational fishing permits.

The DA will continue to fight for the rights of subsistence fishers across South Africa. We recognise that fishing communities constitute some of the most marginalised and impoverished communities in our country and deserve a fair and transparent opportunity to secure their livelihoods.

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