Ramaphosa’s Zimbabwe envoys are compromised, they should be withdrawn

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to withdraw his appointment of Baleka Mbete and Sydney Mufamadi as Special envoys to Zimbabwe because of their political bias towards the ZANU-PF-led regime in Zimbabwe.

Failure to withdraw these two individuals will render the mission a farce and an attempt by President Ramaphosa to cover up the human rights abuses that Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been committing against defenseless Zimbabweans.

If the President refuses to withdraw these ‘envoys’, we call on the Zimbabwean people to reject this poor attempt to whitewash their abuse and suffering at the hands of Mnangagwa’s military government.

While attending ZANU-PF’s extraordinary congress in December 2017, Mbete, who was representing the ANC, heaped praise on ZANU-PF for the military coup that removed Mugabe, adding that: “You achieved a good transition peacefully. I find no bitterness or hatred about your predecessor Mugabe. That is political maturity. As ANC we are here to say we are proud to be associated with ZANU-PF and we wish you good luck comrades”.

Her counterpart, Sydney Mufamadi, refused to meet with opposition leaders in Zimbabwe in 2007 when he was sent by then-president Thabo Mbeki in response to the country’s escalating political crisis, choosing instead to focus his attention on the then-president Robert Mugabe.

In fact, both Mbeki and Mufamadi insisted that the opposition leaders recognise Mugabe as the legitimate leader of Zimbabwe before political talks could begin.

Under this cloud of political bias, Ramaphosa’s ‘envoys’ cannot claim to be acting on behalf of the South African government. They are ANC functionaries who have been sent by Ramaphosa to express solidarity with Mnangagwa’s murderous government.

Mnangagwa’s government has used the cover of Covid-19 to unleash an unprecedented attack on individual freedoms by arresting journalists like Hopewell Chinono, whose only crime was exposing corruption, and using force to stop citizens from exercising their right to protest.

What Zimbabweans do not need at the moment is Ramaphosa using the ANC’s solidarity with ZANU-PF to engineer an international cover-up of Zimbabwe’s escalating political and economic crisis. ‘Quiet diplomacy’ should never be allowed to turn into ‘Cover-up Diplomacy’.

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The ANC’s Covid looting has to be the final straw

What do Bilal Erdoğan, Isabel dos Santos and María Gabriela Chávez have in common? Well, two things. One is that they are all incredibly wealthy, and the other is that they are all children of current or former presidents (of Turkey, Angola and Venezuela). And these two things are very much connected.

It’s a pretty accurate rule of thumb: where the children, wives and husbands of world leaders do exceptionally well in business it generally doesn’t take much scratching to unearth a rot of corruption. Our very own Duduzane Zuma did not amass his fortune at that tender age thanks to his extraordinary business acumen.

In countries where government corruption is endemic, the ruling elites loot because they can. Years of deliberate dismantling of investigation and prosecution bodies – and in some cases the judiciary – make it possible for them to get away with it.

But they also loot because many of them don’t actually believe it’s all that wrong. Among these ruling elite there is often a genuinely-held view that access to wealth through the state is one of the spoils of war. If you’ve clawed your way onto an upper rung of the ruling ladder, you’re somehow entitled to the perks of the position.

These are predator governments. They prey directly on the people they’re meant to serve, because the money they hoard carries a substantial opportunity cost for communities who depend on government services and social assistance for their survival. Very often this cost is the lives of the nation’s poorest citizens. Corruption is not, as former President Zuma once tried to argue, a “victimless crime”.

It’s easy to spot such predator governments, because after a short while in power all shame evaporates and all pretence is abandoned. The idea of being caught out and exposed is no longer a deterrent, and the only handbrake on the looting is whatever remains of the country’s rule of law.

This is when we see politicians unashamedly living it up far beyond the means of their supposed income. It’s when we see factional battles waged for access to these riches, which often include political assassinations. And it’s when we see a relentless feeding frenzy for the Holy Grail: government tenders and contracts.

Sound familiar? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a couple of decades, you will clearly recognise the ANC government in all of this. Across all three spheres of government it has become synonymous with corruption, tender fraud and BEE-enabled price-gouging on a massive scale.

The big stories easily spring to mind: the Arms Deal, State Capture, Nkandla, Bosasa. But it’s the thousands of little stories of procurement looting – euphemistically called “tenderpreneurship” – across every ANC-run province and municipality that has really bled our country dry. If there’s a scam out there, the ANC has either invented it or perfected it.

And now, in a new low, the ANC has added pandemic looting to its corruption resume. In recent weeks we learnt how emergency PPE procurement became a free-for-all for the families of high-ranking ANC members. Because that’s how it’s done, with one degree of separation. It’s always a husband, wife, son or daughter who scores the windfall. And thanks to the “emergency” nature of this government spending there was no requirement for competitive pricing, which cadres duly exploited with massively inflated prices.

The cost of this looting couldn’t be higher. Inflated prices means less PPE and other equipment, and so hospitals are constantly running out, forcing healthcare workers to wash and re-use disposable equipment and even fashion their own protective gear from everyday items like rubbish bags. Sub-standard equipment supplied by get-rich-quick cadres with no history in this kind of work also poses a life-threatening danger to healthcare workers.

This looting involves hundreds of people and scores of brand new companies established only months ago to get in on the action. But predictably it is the names of close family members of top ANC politicians that always float to the top of the cesspool, many of whom are already embroiled in earlier corruption sagas.

The two sons of Ace Magashule, who were also central characters in the Gupta looting of the Free State, have suddenly become PPE suppliers. The daughter of Nomvula Mokonyane, who also benefitted from her mother’s many Bosasa bribes, is now also a PPE supplier. Even the son of President Ramaphosa, who famously ended up on the Bosasa payroll the moment his father became president, has landed himself some business modifying Gauteng taxis to make them Covid compliant.

It is brazen and shameless, and evidently a large portion of the ANC think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Ramaphosa faced massive pushback in the NEC when he suggested they relook the rules around families of politicians doing business with the state, and there was no shortage of ANC defenders for Magashule’s sons and Mokonyane’s daughter.

When then ANC spokesperson, Smuts Ngonyama, said back in 2004, “I did not join the struggle to be poor,” he was speaking for the party.

The latest attempt by the president to placate an increasingly outraged public – yet another toothless “inter-ministerial committee” to investigate its own Covid corruption – must be seen for what it is: window dressing.

No previous inter-ministerial committee has ever found its own ANC cadres guilty of anything. Not when it was investigating Nkandla. Not when it was investigating the Gupta landing at Waterkloof. And this will be no different. It simply creates the illusion of action. History has taught us that the looting of the state will continue, and it will go unpunished.

But while this endless corruption by the ANC and their network of cronies feels like it has infected our entire country, there is in fact a part of South Africa that has been bucking this trend with remarkable results. The DA government in the Western Cape has long prided itself on achieving clean audits from the Auditor General, but it’s not always that easy to show the direct link between clean governance and better service delivery.

The Covid crisis, however, has shone a spotlight on this. While other provinces turned emergency procurement into a feeding frenzy for connected cadres, the Western Cape government published all the recipients of its Covid procurement tenders on a public portal, because it has nothing to hide.

While other provinces now have to scramble to explain the actions of wealthy tenderpreneurs who occasionally moonlight as government officials, the Western Cape government conducted lifestyle audits of its cabinet members, all of whom passed the test.

And while all other provinces now have a dire shortage of hospital beds, a critical lack of PPE, and hospital patients fighting each other over precious oxygen supply, the Western Cape reached its peak with room to spare in its hospitals, which included four fully equipped field hospitals.

The difference between the Western Cape’s Covid response and the rest of the country is the cost of corruption. It is costing the lives of South African citizens, and we have to end it. There is no working around corruption if we want to save our country. It has to be cut out entirely.

We need to stop justifying it. There is never a legitimate level of tenderpreneurship. There is no such thing as “earned reward for the struggle”. Public service should be its own reward, and if the salary is not enough then it probably isn’t the right line of work.

We need to stop ignoring it. Just because it is relentless and exhausting doesn’t mean we can ever stop fighting it. If our country is worth fighting for, then we have to draw the line in the sand – even if it means drawing the same line every day.

And we need to stop accepting that corruption is part and parcel of our country’s future. It may be baked into the DNA of the ANC, but it doesn’t have to become baked into the DNA of South Africa. If the Western Cape’s Covid response has taught us one thing, it is that clean, transparent government is entirely possible. You just need to vote for it.

Tackling Covid corruption requires action, not inter-ministerial window dressing

The inter-ministerial committee set up by President Ramaphosa to probe his own party’s Covid procurement corruption is, like every other inter-ministerial committee trotted out in the past, just window dressing to create the illusion of action. This toothless gathering of ANC cadres has no real capacity to investigate and prosecute those involved. But more importantly, it has no motivation to do so either.

Never, in 26 years of ANC government, has the ruling party ever found itself or its own members guilty of anything. It’s not going to start doing so now. This Covid corruption committee will go the same dead-end route as the inter-ministerial bodies that investigated Nkandla and the Gupta landing at Waterkloof, and ended up exonerating every high-ranking ANC cadre. It’s nothing but a whitewashing exercise.

South Africans are tired of these empty gestures and feeble attempts at placating them. They want to see action from the president. They want to see dirty cadres swap their luxury clothing brands and German SUVs for orange overalls and prison beds. But instead we have a spectator president whose best offer to the nation is more talk shops, platitude-filled newsletters and meaningless inter-ministerial committees.

Why is this committee centralised in the Presidency? How independent is it? Who will provide oversight over it? What real powers does it have? Could the President not ask Parliament to set up a committee empowered to deal with this corruption scourge?

The feeding frenzy over PPE procurement by ANC cadres and their families was entirely predictable to anyone who has ever seen the ANC government in action. Many, including the DA, warned of this at the start of the Covid crisis. For this reason the DA urged government over two months ago to put in place a meaningful deterrent. On the 25th of May the DA proposed to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni a Special Inspector-General to prevent the looting of Covid-19 relief funding.

The DA specifically proposed that the Special Inspector-General should have the power to:

  1. Summon information or assistance from any government department, agency, or other entity at National, Provincial or Local government level. Failure to disclose information within seven days will be regarded as a criminal offence;
  2. Direct departments to take immediate action to address deficiencies identified by a report or investigation of the Special Inspector General;
  3. Prevent the payment of any monies to, or recall moneys from any individual or entity where the Special Inspector-General finds deficiencies, non-adherence to processes, or potential abuse of power or corruption;
  4. Nullify the awarding of tenders and contracts where the Special Inspector-General finds deficiencies, non-adherence to processes, or potential abuse of power or corruption;
  5. Investigate the legitimacy of any eligible businesses receiving any state-backed Covid funding;
  6. Require an explanation of the reasons the State determined it to be appropriate to procure any goods or services for Covid relief, including a justification of the price paid for, and other financial terms associated with, the applicable transaction; and
  7. Prevent and/or terminate procurement where exorbitant pricing is detected.

To date, the president and his cabinet have refused to consider this proposal. The scale of the looting we have seen makes a mockery of his solemn vows back in March that Covid procurement corruption will not be tolerated, and that anyone implicated will face serious consequences.

Only the Western Cape government proactively published the details of all Covid-19 related expenditure. And only the Western Cape government conducted lifestyle audits of all its cabinet members. It is hardly surprising then that only the Western Cape has managed to put together an adequate healthcare response to safeguard its citizens.

That’s the kind of transparent and capable government our country needs to get through this crisis. But this will require a president who is prepared to act – even if this means acting against his own party.

We call on President Ramaphosa to abandon the empty window dressing of this inter-ministerial committee and focus instead on steps that have real power to stop corruption in its tracks and hold the guilty to account.

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DA seeks detailed breakdown on beneficiaries of R150m Sports and Arts Relief Funds, as numbers don’t add up

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthetwa, to gain clarity regarding how his Department has spent the R150 million Sports and Arts Relief Funds.

While the DA does support and appreciate that more relief funding will be made available and that the process will be reopened for our artists and athletes that are desperate for support –  there is still much confusion regarding the amount of money that has been spent on relief and how the remainder of these funds will be allocated.

In a statement by the Minister on Monday, the numbers he shared simply did not add up. For example, the Minister indicated that the Department received a total of 5 322 applications in the categories Sport, Digital, as well as Arts, Culture and Heritage. 4 602 were recommended, 1570 not. However, 4602 +1570 = 6 892 in total applicants.

The statement further reflects that 117 outstanding applications are still being finalized. It was also revealed that the Department has taken into consideration the commitments for unpaid beneficiaries in the first phase, at an estimate of R34 million. Is the Department saying that these 117 outstanding applications will be receiving R34 million? This comes to roughly R290 500 per applicant.

The Minister also indicated that R61 million had already been paid to beneficiaries. The R61 million disbursed and the R34 million still unpaid, add up to R95 million. This raises questions on how the remainder of the initial R150 million relief funding was allocated. If indeed it has been allocated. We also need to know whether the R77 million allocated for the second phase of funding, is an additional amount to the initial R150 million. Or whether the R77 million is made up of the remainder of the R150 million plus additional funding?

There clearly is a lack of transparency when it comes to the disbursement of these funds and the DA will therefore also submit Parliamentary questions to the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to request a full breakdown on how the R150 million relief funds were disbursed. We will ask for a detailed breakdown of all the beneficiaries and the amounts paid.

Parliament and the public need to be certain that this is not yet another example of Covid-19 corruption, and that the funds that have been allocated for sports and arts relief will actually reach the athletes and artists it was intended for.

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Education HOD perjured himself to avoid accountability

Download a sound clip from DA Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Education, Yusuf Cassim, in English.

Education Head of Department, Superintendent General Themba Kojana, has broken the law by providing false testimony and information to the Eastern Cape Portfolio Committee of Education, under oath.

This is concerning the awarding of the controversial R530 million contract to Sizwe Africa IT Group, which is a subsidiary of well-known ANC ally Iqbal Survé’s Ayo Technology Solutions

This once against illustrates that the Eastern Cape is not only the epicientre of the Coronavirus, but the epicentre of Covid Corruption.

Today we have laid criminal charges against Kojana for breaching the Evidence and Information Before the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Act (Act 4 of 2007 (EC), at the Humewood Police Station.

SEE: Affidavit, Annexure 1, Annexure 2 and Annexure 3.

Kojana is in breach of the Act in terms of section 5(2)(d) – with the intent to deceive a House or Committee, produces to the House or Committee any false, untrue, fabricated or falsified document; and section 5(2)(e) – whether or not during examination under section 3, wilfully furnishes the House or Committee with information or makes a statement before it, which is false or misleading,

In terms of the Act, in breaching section 5(2)(e), the person is committing an offence and is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both.

During an Education Portfolio Committee meeting held on 13 May 2020, Kojana, produced to the portfolio committee, under oath, a report stating that the costs for procuring 72 000 sim cards and the 13 broadcasting studios would be R49,022,181.00; and that acquiring 55 000 Samsung tablets would cost R123,704,778.00

During another Portfolio Committee meeting, held on 16 July 2020, Kojana, again under oath, stated that the cost of the virtual classrooms was now R133,436,229.34. This is R84,414,048.00 more than the amount reported in a meeting the previous month!

He also said the cost for the tablets was now R404,852,000.15. This is R280,709,270.00 more than the amount reported in the meeting on 13 May 2020!

Kojana was adamant that the contract with Sizwe Africa is the best value for money, but the retail price for the same tablet is approximately R3 279. Added extras like a sim card, software, protective accessories and related equipment can take this amount up to R4 000, at least R3,000 cheaper than what has been put before the committee.

Kojana initially understated the contract costs on 13 May and then overstated the market value of the tablets on 16 July, to falsely demonstrate savings made by the Department.

Why have the amounts changed so drastically? It is clear that Kojana lied to the portfolio committee, under oath, on at least one occasion. These lies were made after the final award letter was given to Sizwe Africa on 2 April 2020, which means the final value of the contract should not have ch

Subsequently, it had come to light that Kojana is now attempting to use the former Chief Financial Officer, Mr Jason O’Hara, as a scapegoat, even though Mr O’Hara was suspended in December 2019, long before the contract was awarded.

Kojana has lied, under oath, to the Legislative arm of government, and should be dealt with by the law.

Kojana and the Department have entered into this overpriced contract illegally and have now lied to the Legislature to try and get away with it. His actions are criminal and are a danger to our representative democracy, which relies on accountability to the people. He must be brought to book.

DA calls on Minister Mthethwa to account to Parliament over wellness tender awarded to an advertising company

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will request that the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, and his Department appear before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts, and Culture to account for allegedly awarding a wellness intervention programme tender valued at an estimated R15 million to an advertising company.

It is hard to reconcile how a wellness tender could be awarded to a company specialising in advertising and marketing communication, with no experience in executing wellness programmes.

Our view is that the awarding of this tender is unjustifiable and is yet another example in a long list of the ANC the government’s complete disregard for procurement processes. Tenders seem to be more about finding an excuse to loot and squander money, and never about rendering actual service for which the tender had been advertised.

Furthermore, the awarding of this tender goes against the recommendations made by the Committee to the Department not to outsource services which can be performed in-house as a much cheaper price tag. Not only has the Department outsourced, but it would appear that they have also completely disregarded due processes by appointing a company that does not possess the necessary expertise.

The Minister must, therefore, account to Parliament so that we can establish the facts around the awarding of this tender. If any wrongdoing or flouting of regulations is found, the relevant authorities must take immediate action against those who have been implicated.

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Banks must not extend any loans to the insolvent SAA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is urging Banks and creditors to reject the recent appeal for another R5.3 billion loan, submitted by the Departments of Public Enterprises and Treasury, to recapitalise the insolvent South African Airways (SAA).

It is simply ludicrous for Government to go hat in hand begging for a new loan from the same banks whom it is yet to pay back existing loans. The desperation to save SAA, when all evidence points to the undeniable fact that it is irredeemable, confirms that this business recue process has become a political project to appease factional politics in the ANC.

Banks now have an opportunity to redeem themselves from their previous reckless practices of repeated loan extension to SAA when it was clear that the entity had become insolvent. Ethical business practice demands that Banks stand their ground and refuse to refinance a business operation that has failed turn a profit in 9 years, only managing to rake up R32 billion in losses.

Previously, SAA creditors/lenders have shrewdly obtained security from Government on the back of South African taxpayers without appearing to have any due regard on how this will impact the fiscus and the delivery of basic services. This hostile lending practice has damaged the creditors/lenders standing as good corporate citizens.

Refusing any further funding to SAA will suffice as an apology to South Africans whom Banks have made to carry the cost of their clearly reckless lending.

I urge all interested parties, in particular creditors and banks, to refuse the latest appeal for a new loan for SAA and ensure that no taxpayer’s money is wasted further on the SAA/ANC vanity project.

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Minister Motshekga must urgently explain to Parliament delays in implementing school feeding scheme

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education to request an emergency meeting with the Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga in order for her to explain the ongoing delays regarding the reopening the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

According to papers filed by the Minister, the delays are due to her ongoing consultation with National Treasury to attempt to negotiate an increase in budget for the implementation of the programme. With the exception of the Western Cape, most of the school feeding programmes have not been in operation since the Covid-19 lockdown was announced on 26 March 2020. This means that for the past 134 days, millions of children dependent on the NSNP for regular nutritious meals have had to suffer in the knowledge that they might not eat that day.

What happened to the money allocated to the NSNP in the budget, Minister? It was certainly not used in this time to feed hungry children.

Judge Sulet Potterill made it clear in her judgment on 16 July 2020 that the NSNP should be implemented as soon as possible. She said, “The affidavits from teachers, learners and parents capture the reality on the ground. They make it clear that hunger is not a problem, hunger is an obscenity.”

These children cannot wait until the end of August for the programme to be reopened, as the Minister indicated in her court documents. It must be done immediately. What children dependent on the NSNP is facing will not just impact their daily lives for this moment in time; it may cause severe developmental disorders that will have far reaching consequences for them, and the whole of South Africa.

The Minister and the eight rogue Education MECs cannot begin to understand the prospect of facing daily hunger for another 3 weeks or more. Nor can they understand how these children are on the brink of starvation because of them callously dragging their feet. It truly is an obscenity and cannot be allowed to continue a minute more.

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DA seeks firm commitment from Treasury on publication of all PPE contracts

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Treasury to make a firm commitment on when it will publish all the details of PPE contracts, including the names of contractor companies and the directors of those companies.

The Treasury’s presentation to Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finances today included some welcome commitments, like the decision to stop ’emergency’ procurement of PPEs.

The Treasury also agreed “in principle” to require all government entities to prove lists of PPE suppliers, and to publish these details on Treasury’s website, but did not commit to a specific date when this would be done. We call on Minister Mboweni to do so urgently.

This transparency is urgently needed, and would be a blow to “Covidpreneurs’ who had hijacked the emergency procurement process to enrich themselves during a national health emergency. The DA-governed Western Cape has already published these details.

In addition to the ban on public procurement of PPEs, Treasury also promised that accounting officers will be held accountable if there is any evidence of malfeasance in the procurement of PPEs. We will monitor this commitment.

In addition, it is vital that Treasury also names those government entities and departments where there was flagrant abuse of emergency procurement process to award tenders to companies that did not meet Treasury Instruction specifications.

Treasury’s willingness to be transparent is a critical first step in getting to the bottom of the disgraceful plunder of Covid-19 relief funds.

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DA calls on Parliament to summons Minister De Lille to account for her advisor, Melissa Whitehead’s alleged involvement in Beitbridge ‘washing line’ debacle

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will request that the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure summons the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille, to appear before Parliament and provide answers regarding the allegations that her staff members including her advisor, Melissa Whitehead, were closely involved in several discussions around the R37 million Beitbridge Border fence upgrade project.

Minister De Lille has on several occasions absolved herself from any responsibility regarding the millions in public funds which was squandered on what can only be described as a “washing line”. Instead, she pointed blame at officials in her department.

However, the alleged involvement of staff in Minister De Lille’s private office, particularly her advisor, Ms Whitehead, in discussions around the upgrade of the fence, including site visits, instructions for variation orders and decisions regarding the scope, costing and specifications of the R1 million/km fence, shows that Minister De Lille may have been economical with the truth in her vehement denial of being closely involved in the project.

Surely if staff in her private office were so closely involved in the multi-million rand project, the Minister must have been aware of the details surrounding the project?

This information regarding her advisor’s involvement demonstrates the Minister’s seeming duplicity and confirms that she will do anything to escape accountability, even when those matters are happening under her very nose.

Parliament has a responsibility to hold the Executive accountable. The Minister must therefore appear before the committee to give an honest account and provide clarity on the matter of the R37 million “washing line”.

The DA will also push for the Committee Chairperson to request that the Auditor-General (A-G), Special Investigative Unit (SIU), and National Treasury reports into the matter be tabled before Parliament for scrutiny.

We will certainly not allow for the questions surrounding this Beitbridge Border fence debacle to go unanswered and for Minister De Lille to continue hoodwinking the people of South Africa any further.

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