UIF claimants must report data breaches to Information Regulator

The Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF) online portal for June Covid-19 Ters applications has once again been shut down following data breaches this morning.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is urging all Ters applicants whose personal data have been compromised to report this at once to the Information Regulator.

This is the third time in less than a week that June applications have been suspended because of a glitch in the system. This means that applicants’ personal information, including their full names, ID numbers, UIF reference numbers, contact details, remuneration details and banking details could have been made available to third parties.

Many employers reported being able to see – and take screen shots of – their competitors’ personal information when they logged onto the site this morning. In that sense, it does not matter that the system has been temporarily taken down, because the information could already have been captured and been put to nefarious ends.

This constitutes a serious and perilous data breach, and both the UIF and the Minister of Employment and Labour must be held to account.The breach violates the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013, which promotes the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies.

In terms of the Act, the Information Regulator is empowered to monitor and enforce compliance. Chapter 10 of the Act provides for complaints to be lodged with the Information Regulator by persons regarding any interference with the protection of their personal information.

The DA calls upon all affected parties to lodge their complaints with the Information Regulator at once.

The UIF must also get its act together so that June applications – which are already significantly overdue – can open in such a way that employers and employees have peace of mind that their personal information will not be compromised.

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DA calls on President Ramaphosa to act against Minister Zulu’s incompetence forcing Minister Motshekga’s sudden U-turn on reopening of ECDs

Please find attached English soundbite by Alexandra Abrahams MP, DA Member of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently intervene as the early childhood development (ECD) sector has once again been plunged into a state of confusion and limbo.

On Monday, the Minister of Basic Education (DBE), Angie Motshekga, released updated regulations which indicate that ECDs and pre-Grade R centres linked to schools would no longer open on 6 July 2020, as previously gazetted on 29 May 2020.

This about-turn is purportedly due to the fact that the Minister of Basic Education has no legal or legislative authority to make pronouncements on the reopening of the sector. Therefore, despite some ECDs and pre-Grade R centres being linked to schools, only the Minister of Social Development can make the final decision on the reopening of the sector as a whole.

This means that once again, the Social Development Minister, Lindiwe Zulu, is holding up the re-opening of this critical sector. She has already caused much frustration as she continues to dither on releasing a date for private ECDs to reopen.

It is unacceptable that Minister Zulu continues to get away with toying with the education, development and safety of the young children who depend on ECD centres. She has proven time and again that she is in over her head and unable to act in the best interest of those who she is mandated to serve.

Minister Zulu’s disdain and arrogance related to ECDs, has plunged the sector into a crisis as many centres have been forced to make the difficult decision of closing their doors.

The longer Minister Zulu stays at the helm of the Department of Social Development, the more damage she will inflict. Not only on the livelihoods of the workers in the ECD sector, or on the development of young children, but also on the entire social system.

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DA welcomes the Supreme Court of Appeal’s rejection of Unisa’s Afrikaans ban

Please find an attached video and soundbite  by Belinda Bozzoli MP, DA Shadow Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology

The Democratic alliance (DA) welcomes the Supreme Court of Appeal’s ruling that the removal of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction at the University of South Africa (Unisa) was unlawful and unconstitutional.

This ruling is a victory for mother-tongue education and language diversity at tertiary institutions across the country.

The DA has always been a strong proponent of mother-tongue education and we will never waiver from the constitutional principle that every South African has the right to be taught in the official language of their choice, where reasonably practicable.

Just like all of our indigenous languages, Afrikaans deserves equal protection and academic development.

After 26 years of democracy, the government and public institutions should not be engaging in the vilification and removal of one language in preference of another, but rather engage society in order to actively develop all South African languages into languages of business, commerce, academia, and literature.

The DA will do an in-depth study of the SCA ruling, as we believe that its sets an important precedent for the protection of language rights, mother-tongue education and the development of indigenous languages in South Africa.

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DA calls for clear timelines on SASSA’s new database for rejected Special Covid-19 R350 grant

The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, must give clear timelines on when and how the new review process for the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant of R350 will come into fruition to avoid the confusion that has muddied the payment of these grants thus far. On Tuesday, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) indicated that another database for rejected applications will be brought on board to review those applications that didn’t meet the relevant criteria.

While the Democratic Alliance (DA) is pleased that this database will give those, who have fallen through the gaps that have not received aid from UIF or SASSA, another opportunity to receive relief funding – we hope that SASSA will get its act together and that this is not more hot air.

Since its inception the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant has been fraught with problems. Almost three months after the announcement of the grant on 21 April 2020, only one batch of payments have been made.

Questions about the status of applications often go unanswered, and many people that should have qualified for the grant have received no indication whether they will eventually receive payment, or if they have failed in their application and should appeal.

Given the confusion and mishaps around this grant, the DA will write to the Auditor General of South Africa to request an audit of all the applications which SASSA had received, as well as the payments that have been made in relation to the special grant. We need to be certain that every cent that has been paid, went to a South African that truly needed the financial assistance.

While SASSA overhauls their system and fine tunes their application and appeals processes, people are starving. This special grant was meant to save lives. It has failed to do so for many desperate South Africans.

And though many sectors of the economy have opened up, unemployment is soaring, and the avenues of possible employment are shrinking rapidly.

It seems as though SASSA and DSD have fallen into the trap of forgetting that they are working with people. And these people are the most vulnerable in society. They have no safety net and no other option but to pray that they will be lucky enough to receive the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress grant. Every moment that they do not receive payment their despair grows. They have families to feed. They need the grant now. They needed it yesterday. They cannot wait a moment longer.

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Mapisa-Nqakula does not regard sexual abuse by SANDF soldiers as brutality

In a reply to an oral question in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) yesterday, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said that she does not regard sexual abuse perpetrated by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers as brutality.

I had asked the Minister to elaborate on whether reported cases of brutality during the national lockdown were isolated, or were other brutality incidents during peacekeeping not being reported or investigated.

In her response, Mapisa-Nqakula stated that her Department hardly ever receives reports of brutality, but only a few cases of sexual exploitation and abuse outside the borders of South Africa, which she would not categorise as brutality.

The Minister’s comment of sexual abuse by SANDF soldiers in this regard is alarming and disappointing. It is unacceptable for a national Cabinet Minister of a country where gender-based violence against women is at an all-time high, especially in light of increased cases during the national lockdown, would take such a position on this issue.

In a response to another question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) regarding the 33 reported cases of brutality by soldiers on South Africans during lockdown, the Minister claimed that in some of these instances, civilians provoked soldiers when they saw them on the street.

Whether a civilian provokes a law enforcement officer or not, is irrelevant. SANDF soldiers are supposed to have adequate training to deal with any sort of interaction with the public, and the failure of soldiers to avoid inflicting brutality on civilians during the national lockdown, is an indictment of this Minister and her department.

The women of South Africa deserve better. If this is the stance of a Minister, how does President Ramaphosa expect South Africans to take him seriously when has already committed to tackling gender-based violence and sexual crimes head-on through various sectors of government?

The DA condemns the comments made by Mapisa-Nqakula, and calls on the Minister to retract her statements, and make it categorically clear that she, and her department considers sexual abuse by SANDF soldiers as brutality.

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