DA calls on Parliament to urgently debate heinous farm murders in light of ANC denialism

Please find attached an English soundbite by the Chairperson of the Democratic Alliance Rural Safety Workstream, Dianne Kohler Barnard MP and an Afrikaans soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Annette Steyn MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has requested a debate of national importance in the National Assembly on the scourge of farm attacks and murders across the nation. It is critical that Parliament uses its platform to highlight the plight of the rural community.

There has been a significant upsurge in the number of reported incidents of farm attacks since the start of the lockdown. These attacks have been particularly heinous in nature with brutal torture being commonplace in rural attacks.

Despite the ANC’s denialist stance, South Africa’s agriculture sector continues to be threatened by this volatile security situation, with the total costs related to agricultural crime in 2019 estimated at R10 billion and a further economic output loss to the South African economy of R20 billion.

Government can no longer deny rural safety. The DA is of the belief that these attacks are a national emergency and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

We must ask ourselves whether or not these attacks are simply lawlessness – or if they are driven by hatred or another motive. As such, the DA will also action the following measures, in addition to our request for a debate of national importance in Parliament:

1. Farm Murders as Hate Crimes:

The DA will, when it is called for, report these attacks as Hate Crimes, including the reporting and charging of those on social media, or any other platform, who glorify the torture and murder.

Hate crimes are defined based on two factors. The first is that the act is considered a crime under existing South African criminal law. The second is motivated in whole or in part by prejudice or hatred regarding an aspect of the victims’ identity.

Hate crimes are not simply crimes committed against vulnerable groups, hate crimes are in fact crimes committed against individuals because of prejudice that the perpetrator holds against an entire group of people, but directed at an available victim.

2. DA will allocate a Watching Brief for farm attacks:

Dedicated DA Councillors or activists will track investigations and court proceedings related to all farm attack cases and to report back thereafter to farmers, ensuring they never miss a court date, or that the case never stalls, in essence to ensure that the case is driven to completion. This may translate into support lent to Investigating Officers or prosecutors and identifying and correction of institutional blockages in criminal justice system that will allow the increase in convictions of the small group of offenders who perpetrate these farm attacks.

3. Massive increase in research and statistical information:

The DA will immediately request a new study on Rural Security to be undertaken, looking for long-term solutions based on global best practice.

There is presently only limited and outdated research on farm attacks, at both a government and academic level. As such, there is a need for additional research to be commissioned, funded and conducted, at both the aforementioned levels, on the increasing scourge of farm attacks in the country.

For farm attacks to be effectively addressed the issue needs to be correctly assessed, its contributing factors and underlying root causes identified and understood.

The unique levels of brutality and premeditation involved in these crimes and the role of farmers in providing food security, rural stability and job creation in rural communities should ensure that the SAPS these statistics in their annual crime release.

The DA will ask that this be done.

4. Improved Interaction with the agricultural unions:

We will work with the Agricultural Unions and do oversight on the farm patrols, assisting them to be organised and formalised.

5. Increase in support for emerging farmers:

The potential of agriculture as contributing to the economy has been vastly underestimated in South Africa, and as the only way to kill poverty is to create wealth, the DA will continue to drive land ownership, and the financial support of emerging farmers.

6. Improved relationship with the SAPS:

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.

The DA will ask the SAPS to run regular outreach Community Awareness and Education days in the at-risk areas, focusing on security and safety issues.

7. Reintroduction of Specialised Units:

We will again push for the establishment of fully outfitted Specialised Units dedicated to protecting our rural communities, and apprehending any attacker/s who get onto a farm or smallholding to attack and steal.

8. Increase in Investigative Capacity at SAPS:

The DA will ask that the investigative capacity at rural SAPS stations be increased, to ensure that farm attackers are apprehended. The DA will ask for increased police presence, and the utilization of every available technology when tracking perpetrators.  If K9 units are not available, drones should be.

9. Farm murders to be recategorised as Priority Crimes:

Equally the DA will ask that the SAPS recategorise rural attacks as priority crimes.

These attacks have many similarities to house robbery, business robbery and car hijacking which are treated as priority crimes and as a result, SAPS has set up specialist task teams that specialise in investigating and resolving the said crimes. Thus, farm attacks, (which share similarities with the crimes of house robbery, business robbery and carjacking,) should also be regarded as priority crimes.

Like the trio crimes, farm attacks and farm murders should be treated as a separate crime category; be regarded as a priority crime; and need a particular solution.

Certainly, the link between cross-border crime syndicates and farm attacks, must be investigated.

There should be a dedicated strategy for farm attacks and farm murders that target the criminal groups responsible – similar to the way in which the trio crimes are managed. This strategy should be used to protect farming communities (all people on farm and smallholdings) and track down the perpetrators.

10. Fight the amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution:

Expropriation Without Compensation is every property-owner’s worst nightmare, and this is on top of land claims stalling farm development year after year. We will continue to fight EWC at every turn. The DA has always and will always oppose any abrogation of existing private property rights. Economic growth and development are not possible without property rights, and expropriation without compensation will only serve to bring that to a grinding halt.

11. Review of land occupation regulations

We support legal evictions, but will ask for a review of regulations, as it is extremely difficult to remove threatening workers.  For example, 16 female workers left one farm because one man was harassing them, but it took two years to have him legally evicted. This process must be reviewed. Equally so, illegal land invasions and the regulations which only give 24 hours to evict the invaders, must be reviewed.

12. Tax Relief Measures for farmers:

We will ask for tax relief for those in rural areas for farmers who pay Private Security Companies, as well as subsidies for farm patrols, farm watches and companies providing security in farming and rural communities.

13. Increase in Crime Intelligence capacity in rural areas:

We will call for a greater Crime Intelligence capacity for rural areas, so that farm attacks are prevented, rather than have to call the police in after a murder has been committed. As such we will ask for additional Crime Intelligence capacity specifically in the hot spot areas.

14. Increased security of the South African border:

The DA will continue to stress the need for border control, certainly more than the current ‘washing line’, and increased Defence Force presence with a mandate to stop illegal border crossings. We will ask that SANDF reservists could be used to patrol the hotspot borders.

Home Affairs needs to be strengthened to ensure the fingerprints of every visitor are on record.

15. Joint Ministerial Summit on Rural Safety:

We will call for a joint Police, Army, Security and Agriculture Portfolio Summit to work through the myriad rural security threats, find short- and medium-term solutions and ensure their implementation. Obviously, farm workers must also be a part of these discussions, as they are at equal risk.

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Treasury’s Emergency Budget has no money for the national Covid-19 response

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request that time be set aside for Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize to make a ministerial statement in the National Assembly as per the rules of Parliament in light of the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s budget speech on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Minister Mboweni, tabled the grimmest adjusted budget which was meant to be a direct response to the economic crisis brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

More importantly, there was an expectation for Minister Mboweni to give detail on the R20 billion that was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa, that would be allocated to fund the health response across the provinces. However, it was revealed in the budget that there is no new money for this. Provinces would have to fund the additional expenses they have had to incur from the existing provincial budget and through slashing of conditional grants meant for service delivery.

It is now important that Minister Mkhize explains to Parliament how provinces went from expecting R20 billion that would be divided up across the country in an equitable fashion, to absolutely no new money except for the R500 million conditional grant that is meant for a basket of services, also funded from existing money in the provinces.

This ministerial statement needs to be prioritized as a matter of urgency. In it, Minister Mkhize must explain the crisis that we now preside over and what each provincial plan will entail in relation to infections; fatalities and the health system capacity.

Repeatedly, the President and the Minister have reiterated that provinces must do all they can to save lives and that money would not be an issue. This is now a massive blow to the fight against this pandemic. Not only is money an issue, there isn’t any at all.

Provincial health departments that are at the coalface of this health response have been the hardest hit by yesterday’s budget. It now means the country will need to make impossible decisions relating to how lives are saved in the provinces. This is why we need urgent clarity from Minister Mkhize to explain what the plan is to fund the health response in the country.

South Africa has reached two significant moments this week. We have breached the 100 000 infections mark and over 2000 fatalities. As per the projections that we have seen, this situation is bound to worsen and numbers will increase exponentially. Provinces will never be able to wage a significant fight against this pandemic with additional staff, extra bed capacity and field hospitals without money.

Where is the R20 billion that was to be allocated for the health response?

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Government’s failure to provide regulations for restaurants and cinemas will lead to further action

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Small Business Minister Khumbudzo Ntshavheni and Tourism Minister, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane demanding that the regulations for restaurants and cinemas to operate under “advanced level 3” are published by the close of business on Friday, 26 June 2020.

It has now been eight days since President Ramaphosa announced that these sectors, as well as the personal care industry would be allowed to open, subject to health protocols.

To date, the only protocols that have been published were that of the personal care industry so that government could save themselves from a humiliating court case which they would have lost.

It is simply inexplicable why the regulations for restaurants and cinemas have not been issued, leaving thousands of businesses in South Africa uncertain as to when they can open and what regulations they will need to comply with in order to do so.

What have these Ministers been doing for the last eight days exactly?

This cack-handed approach by government to these regulations is not acceptable and they should be released immediately to avoid any further legal action in forcing ministers to do the jobs they are paid to do.

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DA to submit PAIA application for the release of NLC beneficiaries

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit an application in terms of the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) for the release of 3 critical documents relating to alleged corruption at the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), namely:

  • The list of 2018-2019 NLC proactive-funding beneficiaries,
  • 2019-2020 proactive-funding beneficiaries and
  • the 2020 Covid-19 Relief Fund beneficiaries.

The DA has decided to take this course of action because the NLC and the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel have denied multiple requests for this information to be made public.

This is unthinkable considering the alleged pervasive corruption at the entity.

Their efforts in undermining democratic accountability and transparency have been supplemented by ANC members of the portfolio committee on Trade, Industry and Competition who at every turn have tried to prevent the release of this information.

Their latest attempt in this regard has been to hide behind a request for a legal opinion from the Parliamentary Legal Advisor in order to stall the appearance of the NLC before the portfolio committee and the release of NLC beneficiaries.

The truth is there is no need for a legal opinion as prior to the 2018-2019 financial year all beneficiaries of NLC proactive-funding were made public and Section 67 of the National Lotteries Act does not prevent them from making this information public.

The DA will continue to fight for the transparent and prudent use of public money – the NLC is no exception. We will continue to act as a bulwark against any form of state capture.

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DA calls for urgent national debate regarding diesel shortage

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will request an urgent debate of national importance in Parliament regarding South Africa’s current diesel shortage and the possible impending food crisis.

On Tuesday, the DA again requested an urgent briefing regarding the diesel crisis during the Portfolio Committee meeting on Mineral Resources and Energy, but was told that the committee was reassured by reports from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) that the shortage was due to short term logistical issues, and not a serious concern.

This is a direct contradiction to the experience on the ground. According to reports wholesalers in various provinces have been unable to obtain diesel for about four weeks. And farmers are concerned that they don’t have enough diesel to harvest their crops, transport said crops to silos or mills, or even transport goods to shops.

The committee decided that the Department need only address the issue at a meeting on 19 August.

The dragging of feet on the diesel crisis will have devastating consequences on the country’s food security. It is therefore critical that the matter is debated in Parliament to ensure that tangible solutions are brought to the table, as clearly the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, and his Department does not have any idea how to fix this crisis.

The Department and the Portfolio Committee are both in denial about the seriousness of the situation and seems completely out of touch with the realities that South Africans face. The committee seems to lack any will to address this issue and are too easily swayed by the platitudes of the Department.

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Emergency Budget lacked the detail to make it credible

Please find attached a soundbite and video by the Geordin Hill-Lewis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Finance.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) hoped that Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni would set out a “Resilience Budget” today that would help South Africa brace for the impact of the coming economic crisis.

South Africans watching today’s Emergency Budget speech will be left wondering: “Where is the plan?” 

The Minister painted an accurate picture of the horror story of our public finances, and he was right to describe how much worse things will get unless there is a very sharp turnaround soon. 

But beyond that, the speech sounded like more of a plea to his own party to support the stalled economic reform agenda, rather than a detailed plan for how to avoid a full-blown sovereign debt crisis. Without this detail, the speech lacked credibility. 

Minister Mboweni set out two scenarios: a passive (‘the wide gate”) and an active (“the narrow gate”). On the passive path, government debt-to-GDP will soar to 140% by 2028, all but guaranteeing a debt crisis. On the active path, debt will stabilise at 87% and begin a slow decline.

In short, if the government does not implement far ranging economic reform now, the economic crisis will be far worse than previously thought.

But this government has made no progress on fundamental reform to date. 

All available evidence suggests the “passive path” is the more likely path the ANC will follow. If the Minister wanted to convince otherwise, he needed to lay out much more detail on how fiscal discipline will be achieved, debt brought under control, and economic growth spurred. 

The Minister did commit to achieving debt stability over the medium term, through “zero based” budgeting. We welcome this commitment, which we called for ahead of the speech, and will hold him to it. But there should be no illusion that “zero-based” budgeting will achieve debt stabilisation. Government lacks the skills and capacity to undertake this enormous job, and it is does not have good quality data on the efficiency of existing spending programmes. 

National debt is now projected to reach R4 trillion, or 81.8 per cent of GDP by the end of this fiscal year. That means we will soon spend more on debt than on healthcare or education, and that it will be the biggest single line-item expenditure in the budget. 

The DA welcomes the redesign of the Covid-19 loan guarantee schemeas this will help more businesses access bridging finance and preserve jobs. 

Last week we raised our concerns that only 3,5% of the loan scheme had been disbursed so far, because many small businesses could not meet the steep thresholds. Today the Minister confirmed that only 5% has been distributed, underscoring the need for this urgent re-design. 

Of major concern is the lack of any detail on the proposed R100bn economic support package for job creation’. This increasingly looks like a gimmick, nothing more than a re-brand of the public employment programme.

This Emergency Budget speech was not the “Resilience Budget” that we had hoped for.

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Minister Kubayi-Ngubane once again confirms to Parliament that she doesn’t understand tourism

The comments by the Minister of Tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane made during a National Assembly plenary session held on 23 June 2020, confirms that she simply has no clue as to how the tourism industry functions. In a reply to oral questions posed to her, the Minister described how the Department of Tourism will be providing a platform for online promotion of products by small and medium tourism enterprises that sell products such as clothing, handcraft and art.

Tourists are not interested in online shopping because they already have other platforms available for this purpose. The tourism industry offers services and products that is primarily about an experience.

Tourists purchase arts, crafts and souvenirs as a memento of their experience. The Minister is delusional if she thinks that potential tourists would purchase these mementoes online when they have not travelled to and experienced the specific location.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is of the view that a more logical and budget-efficient effort would be to promote the websites from which these tourism enterprises operate so that tourists are encouraged to visit their websites; explore future holiday destinations; and book their next trip.

The online selling of souvenirs is not in the ambit of tourism. Moreover, there are numerous government-sponsored tourism websites which have been left to wreck and ruin due to the government’s lack of maintenance, upgrades and lack of political will. The DA urges the Department to rather upgrade these websites and making it attractive for tourists to visit.

Creating a brand-new online portal is yet another example of how the ANC government would rather waste taxpayer’s money illogically, instead of doing what it should do to attract visitors to visit tourist sites.

The Department of Tourism’s job is to get people away from their computers and to get them to tour and visit South Africa. The Minister simply doesn’t understand this. It is no wonder that tourism enterprises are crashing and burning while thousands continue to lose their jobs thanks to tourism not opening up because of government’s lockdown regulations.

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Auditor-General confirms DA good governance record across the country

In a presentation to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) during a virtual briefing session today, the office of the Auditor-General (AG) presented the outcomes of municipal audits for the 2018-19 financial year.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) led Western Cape was identified as the province leading the pack in terms of clean audit outcomes, with 27 out of 30 municipalities achieving clean or unqualified audits.

In Gauteng, the Midvaal Local Municipality also received a clean audit.

At a time when the DA was governing the two municipalities, Tshwane and Johannesburg received unqualified audits.

The AG pointed to the fact that where political will was present, clean audits and audit outcome improvements were possible as demonstrated by several municipalities.

The presentation is an attestation to the DA’s clean, good governance record across the country and the alternative we have to offer to municipalities and provinces not governed by the DA.

While the number of clean audits increased from 18 to 20, the overall picture showed a regression in audit outcomes, with a total of 111 municipalities achieving an unqualified audit compared to previous year’s 123.

The presentation opened with the quote “Not much to go around, yet not the right hands at the till”.  This could not be more true for municipalities with poor audit outcomes.

The AG bemoaned the increased use of external consultants to facilitate the financial management of municipalities, and the fact that the “over-reliance on consultants had not resulted in improved audit outcomes.”  Limpopo spent R102m on consultants, and yet received 20 out of 27 reports with either an adverse or disclaimed opinion on their outcomes.

In the North-West and the Free State there were no clean audits recorded, and the Free State was singled out for particularly poor record keeping with 8 municipalities failing to submit their financials.

Cadre deployment has also added to the erosion of audit committees for provincial and national departments. The Western Cape has reversed that erosion in provincial departments and Midvaal was also indicated as having a stable audit committee environment, which leads to consistently good results.

It is clear that DA-governed municipalities have the political will to ensure good governance.  This is not a theoretical issue, but a direct result of the focus on spending the people’s money on the people.

The DA welcomes the endorsement of our governments, and we urge the AG to use their newly legislated powers to bring to book the negligent leaders of delinquent municipalities and ensure consequence management.

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DA rejects Public Enterprises urging creditors to back obscene business rescue plan

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes with concern the statement issued by the Department of Public Enterprises that urges creditors, employees and other South African Airways (SAA) stakeholders to vote in favour of the business rescue plan drafted by the SAA Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs), Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana. This plan requires funding of R23 billion in the current 2020/21 financial year and a total of R33 billion over the next three years.

There can be only one conclusion drawn from the DPE statement and that is that an additional R6.7 billion taxpayer bailout for SAA has been agreed to and may be announced in the Covid-19 emergency budget to be tabled by the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, in Parliament this afternoon.

Given that the dividends payable to creditors and employees if SAA were to be liquidated are likely to be very low or nothing at all, there is indeed a danger that creditors who prove their claims in a liquidation process, might even find themselves having to make a contribution towards the costs of liquidation. 

There is very little chance that the SAA creditors and employees will not vote in favour of the proposed business rescue plan. 

They will likely have no compunction about voting for a plan that will in all likelihood cost poor and destitute South Africans who, because of the Covid-19 lockdown crisis, are battling to feed their families and may well result in the malnutrition deaths of many of these destitute South Africans.

South Africa does not need the ANC SAA vanity project and the DA will robustly oppose by every legal means possible any further bailouts to SAA.

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DA calls on Minister Lindiwe Zulu to stop the delays and reopen ECD sector

The Democratic Alliance (DA) implores the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to stop delaying and open up the Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector as a matter of urgency.

The Minister has used every delay tactic in the book to ensure that the biggest portion of the ECD sector remains closed, the latest being not publishing a vital document that ECDs need to complete in order to reopen.

On Sunday, a ten-page pre-opening self-assessment to determine centres’ readiness to reopen was circulated with a two-week submission deadline ending on 5 July 2020.

Thereafter, the Department of Social Development (DSD) or a third party “may visit any early childhood development programme and/or partial care faciality that intends to re-open for an onsite assessment to verify whether it complies with the minimum health, safety and social distancing measures”.

The DA is of the view that the Minister put the cart before the horse by circulating the pre-opening self-assessment, as the document itself states that it cannot be completed without the DSD’s Standard Operating Procedures and Guidelines for Early Childhood Development Programmes and Partial Care Facilities on Covid-19 which was meant to be released yesterday, 23 June 2020, but was not.

This is the latest mishap in what seems to be a string of tactics used by the Department to delay the reopening of ECDs.

First, Minister Zulu waited two months before convening the very first consultative meeting with the ECD sector and government on 26 May 2020 to plot a way forward. Then, she launched the Vangasali: Every Child Counts campaign as part of Child Protection Week on 2 June 2020.

The DA has received numerous reports that the consultation process to reopen the sector has not been inclusive. One of the points of contention is a declaration that unregistered ECDs have to sign to commit to register within 6 months after reopening.

Many ECDs simply do not have the financial means to get all the necessary ducks in a row needed to register in such a short period of time. With the added financial pressure of reopening centres in a compliant matter, and the fact that these centres have had no income for 3 months, and no assistance from DSD or the government, the Minister’s regulations only succeed in ensuring that many centres will have to close their doors permanently leaving thousands upon thousands of children out in the cold.

Many young children are currently being taken care of by older siblings. This will not be the case when schools open for all grades on 6 July 2020. With parents at work, and older children in schools, children younger than five are vulnerable. This is especially infuriating as ECDs linked to schools are reopening, and once again shows that the Minister is completely out of touch with the realities of ordinary South Africans.

It is time for the Minister to let go of her agenda and truly take care of South Africa’s children. She must stop blocking the reopening of ECDs.

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