New PRASA CEO should immediately address lack of commuter train services under Level 3 lockdown

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted the appointment of the new Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) CEO, Nosipho Damasane. Ms. Damasane has a wealth of experience and we trust that she will use this to hit the ground running in order to address the lack of rail services during the current risk-adjusted Level 3 lockdown.

Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, on Saturday indicated that PRASA was not ready to resume with Metrorail commuter services by the 1 June 2020 deadline and has instead postponed rail services to resume on 1 July 2020. As more South Africans are returning to work this week many are in need of trains to get to and from work. Rail services are the lifeline of the economy as it is a convenient and affordable mode of transport for the South African workforce, as well as scholars.

Under Minister Mbalula’s watch, PRASA has gone from bad to worse. The entity has reportedly been unable to pay security companies, thus making Metrorail vulnerable to vandalism and compromising commuter safety as well as train infrastructure. This has largely contributed to the delay in commuter train services resuming this week.

The lack of commuter train services has also placed immense pressure on the taxi industry, as commuters have to queue for hours because taxis are only able to carry 70% of capacity. Workers have complained about the long wait as well as arriving to work late. This is unsustainable and train services need to be resumed as soon as possible under strict Covid-19 health and safety protocols.

In addition to the issue of train services under the level 3 lockdown, the new CEO and her fellow executives should prioritize the following areas of concern:

  1. A comprehensive financial recovery plan for the agency which will pave a way towards making PRASA profitable.
  2. Prioritize measures to ensure staff and commuters safety from criminal elements when using PRASA services.
  3. Proactive measures to protect the agency’s assets from theft, damage and vandalism – PRASA currently has little to no security due to its failure to honour payments.
  4. Fixing and upgrading infrastructure while also securing investments for the agency.
  5. When services resume during the lockdown, not only should strict hygiene guidelines be adhered to, but the timeous running of trains should also be prioritized.

The DA will request that the new CEO and the PRASA executive appear before Parliament’s portfolio committee on transport on a regular basis in order to report on their work. We believe that the executive teams of SOEs should be accountable to Parliament.

For years, PRASA has been hamstrung by graft, mismanagement, and instability brought on by the appointment of numerous Ministers of Transport, who, in turn, appointed a multitude of inept boards and executives.

We hope that the new CEO will withstand political meddling from Luthuli House and remain fiercely independent, acting in the sole interest of the millions of commuters who depend on PRASA’s services on a daily basis and not in the interest of the Minister.

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Youth Month: Young people at risk of never working their entire lives

Please find attached soundbite in English from Luyolo Mphithi, DA Federal Youth Leader.

This week, South Africa marks the beginning of Youth Month. This year, under the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Democratic Alliance (DA) Youth would like to acknowledge and thank the young men and women who have fought on the frontlines of South Africa’s Covid-19 efforts every day.

Whether they are health professionals, security officials or other critical essential services, the DA Youth commend them for their sacrifices and service to the country.

As we commemorate the beginning of Youth Month, we have to remember the millions of South Africans who have suffered immensely due to the continued Covid-19 economic lockdown.

Job losses and the restriction on movement, coupled with the unfolding humanitarian crisis, have been a particular test for the millions of South African young people who do not know the dignity of having a job.

South Africa’s official unemployment rate currently stands at 29.1%, however, recent projections predict that this number could rise to a staggering 50% as a consequence of the pandemic.

Over 50% of young people cannot currently find jobs and this number is unfortunately expected to rise.

This is not the South Africa the youth of 1976 so bravely fought for.

South Africa’s youth is facing the most volatile economic and political period in our democratic dispensation. Young people between the ages of 16 and 35 are at risk of either never working their entire lives or, if they are working, they run the risk of working their whole lives without any possibility of improving their socio-economic status.

This Youth Month, the DA Youth calls on all role-players to engage in a national discourse which highlights the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown regulations as yet another barrier to the youth’s economic inclusion. Particularly in light of national government’s failure to adequately create safety nets focused at young entrepreneurs who are critical to growing the job market.

To address the scourge of joblessness among our young people, the DA Youth today launches its national campaign #TheYouthHustleContinues which will sound the call to President Cyril Ramaphosa to act in creating an economic environment for job creation.

The DA Youth will in the coming days: 

  • Petition the President to ensure #Data4ALL 
  • Stimulate demand for youth labour through the Employment Tax Incentive (ETI)

The ETI is a direct intervention in the labour market aimed at stimulating demand for youth labour. The policy gives firms a tax credit for hiring individuals between the ages of 18 and 29 years. One of the imperfections in the South African labour market is the effect of collective bargaining or negotiated union wages on wages for both union and non-union workers, which results in wages that are too high to clear the market. The higher wages allow firms to choose more experienced workers from the surplus of willing workers, creating a bias against younger, less experienced workers. The wage subsidy implicit in the ETI lowers the cost of the young, inexperienced worker to employers without lowering the wages of the workers themselves. This mechanism reduces the risk to firms when hiring.

  • Provide targeted support for micro-entrepreneurs in the informal economy

South Africa has a significant informal economy. The DA’s approach is to recognise that it is happening organically in a country where economic activity is relatively scarce. As such, we must ensure that we foster this sector and support the job creation potential that it offers.

  • Focus on instilling an entrepreneurial mindset and expanding support and incentives for youth-owned businesses and co-operatives

South Africans should be encouraged and incentivised to start new businesses. It is a practical expression of an individual’s ambition to convert their talents into an income-producing activity and should be encouraged and supported with mentorship and access to resources

The country needs a plan to rescue our economy and create jobs.

The DA Youth call upon the youth across South Africa to join us in standing up against unemployment and demand a better today and tomorrow.

The youth deserve better, they deserve jobs. If we do not break this cycle of joblessness, we would have failed the brave ’76 Generation who fought gallantly for freedom, democracy and opportunity.

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

Level 3 decision hurts SA but suits ANC

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 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 school children and thousands of businesses are being forced to remain in it against the advice of local experts.

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.

Clearly, this cannot possibly pertain to South Africa, since infections here have risen even with a lockdown. If government is to follow this advice, we could be in hard lockdown for many more months, since the peak of infections is only expected to be between August and September for most of SA.

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.

Level 3 is a result of political compromise between the warring factions of the ANC alliance. Rather than do the right thing for the country, President Ramaphosa has once again chosen ANC unity over national wellbeing.

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.

Comments dropped by many ANC politicians over the past weeks suggest a more sanitized version of the EFF’s vision of collapsing the “white economy”. This reflects a poor understanding of how an economy functions and a total disregard for the desperate situation of hunger and hopelessness that millions of households are in.

This disregard is 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 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 0-70-year-olds.

The appropriate response is to protect the high-risk group and let the vast majority of South Africans get back to work with an appropriate 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.

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

Ban on hairdressers irrational: DA will go to court

Please click here for a soundbite by Dean Macpherson MP, DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) lawyers has written to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, over the continuous ban on personal care services, like hairdressers. See the letter here.

The continued criminalisation of the personal care services industry under Level 3 is irrational, arbitrary and unlawful, and should the Minister not answer the letter from our lawyers by 14:00 on Wednesday, 3 June, she will leave the DA no option but to litigate.

The fact is that Minister Dlamini-Zuma has not provided a shred of evidence as to why this industry can not return to work. It is completely unacceptable.

Thousands of people in this country earn a monthly income in this industry. Our litigation will especially be for the sake of the single mothers and the young entrepreneurs who have no other source of income than the personal care services they provide, often from their homes and other low-rent venues.

The continued ban of the personal care services industry bars hundreds of thousands of people from earning an income during an incredibly stressful and financially devastating period in South Africa, The Covid-19 pandemic is ripping lives and livelihoods apart and adding more dependents to the roll of grant recipients every day.

The National Treasury projected that 50% of South Africans could lose their jobs during the pandemic, and instead of trying to stem the tide, these nonsensical regulations from the Minister will simply ensure that those projections become set in stone.

It is very clear that these businesses are able to comply with sanitation protocols; have the ability to track and trace any client or employee who may have come into contact with anyone infected by Covid-19; and are able to adopt social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the disease amongst clients and employees.

It simply makes no sense that the personal care industry is excluded from taking part in the economy in a safe manner with proper Covid-19 hygiene protocols in place, when so many other industries are allowed to open during level 3 of the lockdown.

The DA will not stand for this and we will do what it takes to open up this industry as soon as possible and to get rid of this irrational and devastating regulation.

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

Let’s get on with opening our schools following Motshekga’s indecisiveness

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is dismayed by the confusion sown by the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga’s last-minute U-turn on the reopening of schools. Her poor communication and utter failure to address the nation on Sunday, as rumors were swirling on whether learners would be able to return, was a slap in the face of parents across the country.

Minister Motshekga has today come out to say that schools will not be fully reopening this week and that Grade 7s and Grade 12s will now only fully return on 8 June 2020. She also said that schools may use this week to receive and orientate learners if ready and able to do so. We welcome this clarification.

But we must point out that the overall message is in stark contrast to what she said as recently as last week Thursday when, during her assessment on the readiness of Gauteng schools, the Minister confidently told South Africans most schools have received sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) and were all set to reopen today.

She confirmed today that 80% of schools were in fact ready. It is a pity that those which are fully prepared need to wait while the remaining 20% catch up before they are allowed to open fully.

The last-minute reversal has been a source of confusion and uncertainty among parents, who have had to make the difficult decision of whether or not they were going to send their children to school.

The DA has noted that Minister Motshekga has subsequently apologised and we trust that she will now take control of this situation, and not be dictated to by the unions. Her communication vacuum has not only fueled uncertainty, but has given unions like SADTU the motivation to make rash announcements on the reopening of schools, despite it not being their mandate to do so. This was completely unacceptable.

Now more than ever we need strong decisive leadership and stability so that parents and teachers are comfortable and are assured as to when schools will open so that proper measures are in place. Having lost a full term of studies, the whole country is looking at the Minister to provide the necessary leadership.

The DA takes pride in the fact that the Western Cape was at almost complete readiness by yesterday. We welcome the fact that the Western Cape Education Department has stuck to its guns and reopened schools in the province and has been orientating learners from today. We have also noted that individual schools across the country have opened their doors.

We are confident that the WCED and those individual schools across the country are prepared and ready to welcome the returning learners. The reopening of schools this week, was done in accordance with the regulations which were Gazetted by the Minister, stating that Grade 7 and 12 learners can go back on the 1st of June.

The DA has today conducted oversight inspections across the country to assess the true state of readiness. We trust that schools across South Africa will be ready to open next week, and we urge the Minister to ensure clear communication and decisiveness are employed at all times so that we can avoid confusion and the feuling of certainty.

The DA will be closely monitoring developments in the DBE.

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

Level 3 regulations lack understanding of tourism supply chain

While the Democratic Alliance (DA) is pleased to learn that travel agents, tour operators and tour guides may now operate under the level 3 lockdown regulations, the continued ban of leisure travel defeats the purpose of their return.

The tourism and travel sector caters mostly for the leisure market, and they essentially have no product to sell as the rest of the tourism supply chain is currently inoperable due to ongoing restrictions.

How does Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, expect tour operators and guides to make any sort of income when the government continues to ban tourists? This demonstrates that the Minister has no understanding of business and the tourism supply chain.

The DA will write to the Minister and will urge her to amend the regulations that will allow the tourism supply chain to operate. In doing so, this will immediately place thousands of businesses and jobs previously currently under threat on a path to recovery.

The tourism sector is currently hemorrhaging, and while business travel has been permitted, the sector will continue to suffer as long as leisure travel is restricted. The DA acknowledges that international travelers will be apprehensive about travelling abroad at this time, however, the sector should at least be open to domestic leisure travel before the sector completely collapses.

The inconsistency of government and its lack of forward planning is astonishing. The level 3 regulations must allow for domestic travel of all descriptions and the reopening of accommodation establishments within the parameters of social distancing practice and the use of hygiene and safety protection protocols. The tourism and travel sector cannot  remain in limbo while the tourism minister will “see how things go”.

In the case of business travel which is permitted, although this is the case, such persons may not have accommodation available to them to stay in due to the same regulations which disallow the operating of accommodation establishments. Although the DA welcomes the reopening of business travel, government has provided no reasons why leisure travel can’t reopen as well.

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

DA to lodge Ethics complaint against Minister Dlamini-Zuma over misleading cigarette-ban claims

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will lodge a complaint with the Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests against Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, regarding the fact that she misled the public to justify the ban on tobacco product sales during certain levels of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Last week it came to light that the Minister misled South Africans about the amount of public participation her Department received supporting the ban on the sale of cigarettes during the lockdown. On 29 April she said during a televised briefing that the Department received more than 2 000 public submissions supporting such a ban.
Now it has been revealed that the Minister had not even received 2 000 submissions in total, let alone that many supporting her ban.

Court documents filed be the Minister herself in response to a court challenge by the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (FITA), revealed that she received only 1 535 submissions and of these, 47.2% had nothing to do with cigarettes or smoking, 23.3% were in favour of smoking and only 29.6% supported the ban. This amounts to a mere 454 submissions.

The DA will therefor lodge a complaint in terms of Clause 4.1.5 of the Code of Ethical Conduct against Minister Dlamini-Zuma.

The Minister has a duty of care to ensure that she provides Parliament with correct information, just like former Minister Lynn Brown had a duty of care to provide the correct information to Parliament. It is even more important when the information used during a State of Emergency has repercussions on decisions being made that affects millions of South Africans on many levels.

It should never be this easy for any Minister to mislead their colleagues and the public to further their own agendas.

Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s actions have contravened and failed to maintain public confidence and trust in the integrity of Parliament in terms of clause 4.1.5 of the Code of Conduct, and she must therefore be held accountable by the Committee and penalized according to its rules.

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

President should not use Covid-19 for backdoor approval of NHI Bill

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has noted the comments by President Cyril Ramaphosa during a meeting with the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) where he said that the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic laid the groundwork for the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

What is clear is that the President and his government are making the argument for the flawed NHI Bill using the global health crisis we find ourselves in. This is an attempt to shove this Bill through the backdoor despite it not being the answer to the problems we face within our healthcare system.

If anything, Covid-19 has exposed the gaping holes in South Africa’s health system which has not been reformed in over two decades. Ours is a health system which has been shoddily stitched together in a piecemeal fashion since 1994 and is now buckling under the immense pressure brought on by Covid-19.

What this should signal to our government is that South Africa needs universal health coverage which will ensure a strong health system from the ground up. We need a functioning primary and district health system across the country which is kitted with adequate infrastructure; enough nurses and doctors and free from corruption which takes services away from the people it is meant to serve. The NHI Bill will not achieve this. We do not need a centralised approach to healthcare which seeks to create yet another state-owned-enterprise that will be open to mass corruption.

The cracks in the health care system can be seen in provinces like the Eastern Cape which has shown that years of neglect and mismanagement will render a country completely ill-prepared for a global health crisis like this one. Had our health system not been on its knees already, we would have been in a much better position to produce more ICU beds and functioning health facilities which have filled critical posts. There is no doubt that we would have been better prepared to deal with Covid-19 and not have to undergo emergency procurement processes just to get the basics right.

What South Africa needs is legislation that will bring true universal health coverage for all. This should be underscored by a structured public/ private partnership to ensure that all South Africans -regardless of their socio-economic status – have access to quality healthcare. Government needs to hone the working relationship which has been established during this time to ensure that we have a single functioning system that compliments each other. Forcing NHI through with all its problems will achieve the total opposite.

The DA will fight against the NHI Bill in Parliament and make the case for a totally new piece of legislation that will bring universal health coverage based on a strong health system in every corner of the country. There are no easy answers or corners to be cut when it comes to reforming our health system. The President should not be using this crisis as the benchmark of how government should deliver health services to people. We need to focus on building the system from the ground up, instead of trying to once again patch up what has been broken for decades.

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

Exclusive: Government agrees to a R21 billion new bailout for SAA

A draft new South African Airways (SAA) Business Rescue Plan, prepared by Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson; and seen by the Democratic Alliance (DA), reveals that the government has agreed to a new R21 billion bailout for SAA.

The draft business rescue plan can be accessed here.

This proposal is part of a plan for a re-imagined ‘new airline’ that is to be established as a state-owned company by the government in terms of the proposed restructure.

According to the draft business rescue plan, “government has agreed to” provide funding for the following:

ITEM COST ‘billion
Working capital injection to restart the airline post Covid-19 2
Retrenchment of Employees 2
Payment of Lenders 16, 4
Payment of the General Concurrent Creditors 0,6
Total 21

The draft business rescue plan envisages the “new SAA” to fall under a new holding company called “New HoldCo” which shall also oversee SAA City Centre (SACC), SAA Technical, Air Chefs, and Mango airlines.

Renewed plans by the BRPs calling for the establishment of a new airline are hardly surprising. It follows a spirited political campaign by Gordhan to discredit the business rescue process and resurrect the folly of failure by calling for the establishment of a new state airline.

That the BRPs are now singing from the same hymn book as Gordhan clearly shows that the minister has hijacked the process.

If this draft business rescue plan is approved in its current form, SAA will continue to be a fiscal blackhole for years to come. The BRPs are projecting that the “new SAA” will trade at massive losses totalling R 19,9 billion for the first three years:

  • Year 1 – R8,1 billion loss
  • Year 2 – R7,5 billion loss
  • Year 3 – R4,3 billion loss

These losses exclude trading losses by Mango, SAA Technical, Air Chefs, and SACC subsidiaries which are also likely to rake up tens of thousands or even billions of rands in losses.

The insanity that is the “rescue” of SAA, on the basis laid out by the BRPs, should not be given any serious consideration. The only credible course of action for the BRPs is to apply to court for the liquidation of SAA as is required by Section 81 of the Companies Act.

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

Plot thickens as Government Printing Works fails to serve investigative report into Acting CEO before Parliament

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on the chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs to ensure that there are no further delays in the tabling of the Government Printing Works (GPW) annual report and the investigative report into allegations against Acting CEO of the GPW, Alinah Fosi.

These allegations range from business class trips to France with an HR Manager who allegedly assisted to bury assault charges against the Acting CEO to bypassing procurement processes to force through the awarding of a R500 000 ‘strategic workshop’ to a preferred supplier.

The committee had previously resolved that the allegations are being investigated by the Minister and would be reported back before the end of May – this hasn’t happened.

During a meeting of the home affairs committee on Friday, the DA raised this matter as well as the concern that the GPW annual report has still not been dealt with by the committee, despite GPW receiving a Qualified Audit for the first time in recent memory. The re-occurrence of irregular expenditure has been highlighted as a key reason for the adverse finding.

The failure to table an annual report coupled with the allegations against Ms Fosi is particularly problematic in light of the growing concerns that Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is seemingly considering her for permanent appointment as CEO.

The GPW is also seeking to push through a Security Printers Bill, which would see the GPW provide all security printing for the government. As significant portions of this work are outsourced this would essentially place the power to select sub-contractors that will be able to perform security printing services in South Africa in the hands of the GPW CEO.

The DA has strongly opposed this as it would have a devastating impact on the security printing industry, especially small and medium enterprises, and considering the economic devastation brought face by businesses in the wake of the world’s longest lockdown. Repeated calls by the DA for an economic impact assessment in this regard have failed to produce a response.

It would seem as though the GPW is determined to hide the true extent of the governance collapse at the entity under the leadership of Ms Fosi. The DA will not stand for this and it is for this reason that we demand that the annual report serves before the committee without delay but also for the investigative report into the Acting CEO to be considered before she is appointed as the full-time CEO of GPW.

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