Zandile Gumede’s full-pay “jolly holiday” suspension is not good enough

If the suspension on full pay of disgraced former eThekwini Mayor and newly sworn-in member of the KZN Provincial Legislature, Zandile Gumede, is the ANC’s idea of strong, principled action against corruption, then it deserves every derogatory Twitter hashtag directed towards it.

Gumede, who stands accused along with 17 others on charges relating to fraud to the value of more than R200 million, and is currently out on R50,000 bail, retains the full R1.1 million salary she has just been promoted to, while taxpayers will not see a single cent’s benefit for their money. Life, it seems, is indeed one long jolly holiday for the corrupt cadres of the ANC.

Just this week the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) released a report detailing the eye-watering amounts spent paying the salaries of suspended public servants in provincial governments and national government departments. In provincial governments alone the tally to date is R158 million. Between 1 October and 31 December last year, government spent R84 million on precautionary suspension cases, while it spent a further R74 million in the first three months of 2020.

This is clearly unacceptable, and makes a complete mockery of President Ramaphosa’s solemn vows that corruption will no longer be tolerated in his party – a tune he has been singing for years now with no effect at all. If the ANC continues to either redeploy its corrupt politicians – and even promote them, as we’ve seen in Gumede’s case – or simply pay them a full salary to stay at home, then these vows mean nothing.

Furthermore, this suspension of Gumede only followed intense outside pressure, and particularly from the DA in yesterday’s parliamentary Questions to the President session. It had nothing to do with a newly discovered moral compass in the ANC. In fact, the desperate attempts to now row away from the decision to promote Gumede by both the KZN Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) and Luthuli House are almost comical. We now have sources in the PEC saying the deployment instruction came from Luthuli House, and we have ANC Deputy Secretary General Jesse Duarte demanding answers from the PEC.

The truth is that both the PEC and Luthuli House were perfectly happy with Gumede’s appointment, until the pressure came from outside and they had to start putting out fires. At the time of her swearing-in the ANC, through Nhlakanipho Ntombela, assured us that her deployment had the full blessing of Luthuli House and even went as far as claiming it as some sort of victory for the empowerment of women.

It is laughable statements like these that demonstrate just how much disdain the ANC has for the citizens of this country. No one truly believes that promoting an obvious crook up the ranks of the party has anything to do with women’s empowerment, but the ANC think they can get away with even the most outrageous spin and platitudes. The President’s refusal to answer my question to him in Parliament yesterday on where he stands on the Gumede matter is another demonstration of this disdain. It also shows just how sensitive this issue of dealing with the corrupt is to the ANC, because the rot has spread right throughout the party.

I am sure we are now expected to welcome this decision to suspend Zandile Gumede, as if it is some sort of turning point in the fight against corruption. But the DA will never welcome the blatant dodging of real accountability and the continued exploitation of taxpayers for the benefit of cadres who are already multi millionaires. If her mansion and the luxury cars confiscated from the homes of her co-accused by the Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the NPA are anything to go by, Gumede will be just fine without her salary.

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DA welcomes Constitutional Court’s decision to dismiss Public Protector’s appeal on Vrede Dairy Project

  • Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Dr Roy Jankielsohn MPL.
  • Please click here for a picture.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Constitutional Court’s order to dismiss the Public Protector (PP), Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s, Vrede Dairy Project appeal with costs. The order follows the PP’s application on 8 July 2020 to the Constitutional Court to overturn the Supreme Court of Appeal’s denial of her application to appeal the outcome of the High Court judgment.

The PP has now exhausted all avenues to delay holding senior politicians involved in the controversial Gupta-linked Vrede Dairy Project to account, and is now required to finalise the report.

The following timeline indicates how the PP is abusing the courts to deny justice to the 80 impoverished beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Project, and delay accountability for the politicians who were involved in the channelling of money to the Gupta family who are central to allegations of state capture:

  • After the release of a blatantly inadequate report regarding requests between 2013 and 2016 by the DA for investigations into the Vrede Dairy Project, the DA took this under judicial review in the High Court. On 20 May 2019, Judge Tolmay of the Gauteng High Court declared the PP’s initial Vrede Dairy Project investigation report be “set aside and declared unlawful, unconstitutional and invalid”.
  • The PP then attempted to obtain permission to appeal this judgment which was denied by the High Court on 15 December 2019.
  • An application to appeal the decision of the High Court was subsequently also dismissed by Justices Wallis and Schippers of the Supreme Court of Appeals on 21 June 2020 with the reasons that there was “no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard”.
  • In a deliberate attempt to delay the release of a report, she has now submitted an appeal application to the Constitutional Court on 3 July 2020.
  • On 26 August 2020, the Constitutional Court dismissed the PP’s application to appeal the High Court judgment with costs, on the grounds that “it bears no reasonable prospects of success”.

The tactics of constant denials by the political architects of the Vrede Dairy Project have until now been assisted by the PP’s tactics of legal delays. Meanwhile, the desperate and impoverished beneficiaries of this project have been side-lined for seven years without any justice.

In her judgment, Judge Tolmay, citing a previous ruling of the court, indicated further that “The Public Protector must not only discover the truth but must also inspire confidence that the truth has been discovered”. The truth regarding the Vrede Dairy Project cannot ignore the crucial role of various senior politicians in the Free State province who for questionable reasons sacrificed the hopes and aspirations for a better life of 80 impoverished beneficiaries.

The involvement of politicians that the PP is delaying adjudicating on is clear when the following are taken into account:

  • The agreement between Estina and the Free State Provincial Government was initiated, crafted and signed in the office of former Free State Premier Ace Magashule under false pretexts.
  • The Free State Provincial Government under former Premier Ace Magashule continued to appropriate funds to this project in spite of a National Treasury Report that exposed financial maladministration and the withdrawal of funding by the National Department of Agriculture for this same reason.
  • The Premier and various MEC’s ignored the National Treasury Report recommendation that indicated that disciplinary action should be taken against the former head of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
  • The former MEC for Agriculture Mosebenzi Zwane was an architect of this project and allegedly attempted to cover up the alleged allocation of R30 million from the project to the Gupta wedding at Sun City and the illegal landing of an aircraft at Waterkloof Air Force Base bringing guests to the same wedding.
  • After cancelling the contract between Estina and the Provincial Government on 12 August 2014, a further R106 million was paid to Estina in subsequent financial years.
  • The former Premier Ace Magashule admitted that a guest house was bought with government funds and transferred into the name of Estina’s manager on the project.
  • The former Premier and MECs were aware of malfeasance at the project and not only ignored this, but failed to report it to the necessary law enforcement agencies for investigation which is itself a criminal offence.
  • After extensive references to beneficiaries in the Free State legislature by various MECs, they were never included in this project which eliminated the very reason for its existence as a legitimate agricultural project.

During the review court case, the PP cited a lack of resources to carry out the necessary investigations as reasons why the initial investigation was not able to address all the issues. The DA now encourages the PP to finalise the Vrede Dairy Project report, with the same vigour and haste that was shown to seek legal recourse. It is time for the PP to demonstrate critical thinking and restore faith in the state institution.

The DA remains committed towards ensuring that justice prevails for the beneficiaries of the Vrede Dairy Project, and want to see the political architects involved held accountable for their involvement in the project.

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DA calls on Cricket SA board to share contents of forensic report which led to CEO’s dismissal

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Cricket South Africa (CSA) board to urgently release the forensic report it used to terminate its CEO, Thabang Moroe’s employment with immediate effect.

According to the board, the decision to fire Moroe is in line with an external legal opinion they received and is also supported by findings of an independent forensic investigation which revealed that Moroe had allegedly committed acts of serious misconduct warranting his dismissal.

The CSA board further states that Moroe did not to use the opportunity he was afforded by CSA to make representations to the independent forensic auditors and to the board concerning the allegations of misconduct against him.

While the DA believes that Moroe has a case to answer for and that he must be held accountable for the allegations of misconduct levelled against him, the public and Parliament still need to see and evaluate the contents of the report.

The DA questions why the board has not handed the report over to Parliament so that the contents thereof can be properly and justly scrutinised.

If Moroe is guilty of misconduct, he surely would not have acted alone and we urge the board of CSA to come clean and give answers to Parliament so that we can once and for all lay to rest the chaos engulfing South African cricket.

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Minister De Lille must honour today’s SCOPA deadline to release SIU Beitbridge report

Today is the deadline for the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille to honour the request by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) for her to hand over the investigation report by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into the Beitbridge Border Fence saga.

We hope that Minister De Lille will honour this SCOPA deadline. Besides, if the investigations clear her of wrongdoing as she has continuously claimed then she will have no problem handing the report over to Parliament for scrutiny.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will not take Minister De Lille’s word for it, because we believe that she knows more about the Beitbridge ‘washing line’ than she is letting on.

The fact that her advisors, Mcendisi Mtshali and Melissa Whitehead, were part of a meeting with various role players to discuss the procurement process, and National Treasury’s damning findings against her indicating that “it would seem the Minister had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind“,  lends more credence to the allegations levelled against her.

Frankly, the Minister’s handling of this matter smacks of dishonesty. Why has she been so reluctant to hand over the SIU report? Is it because she afraid that the information contained therein will reveal the true extent of her involvement and that it will not absolve her as she claimed?

Without the SIU report, the only inference that can be drawn is that Minister De Lille has something to hide. In the interest of transparency and accountability De Lille must release the report.

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Minister Zulu’s silence on ECDs is ripping families apart

The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, is set to be challenged in the North Gauteng Division of the High Court yet again for violating the South African Constitution and the rights of children as per the Children’s Act in denying them access to basic nutrition (food and water), social services and the right to appropriate public administration.

Founding affidavits by SA Childcare give damning accounts of nonpayment of subsidies by the Department of Social Development; intimidation by Departmental officials; and a Department completely out of touch with the reality on the ground.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes this legal challenge to compel the Minister into action.

Judge Hans Fabricus on 6 July 2020 expressed that Minister Zulu acted with the utmost bad faith to the detriment of approximately 2.7 million vulnerable children by actively keep Early Childhood Development (ECD) and partial care facilities closed. It was also said that the Minister acted unlawfully by prohibiting ECDs to operate and withholding subsidies.

One would imagine that after this damning judgement, Minister Zulu would ensure that she respected the judiciary arm of South Africa and put the best interest of children first. Unfortunately, this has not happened yet again, and South Africa should be outraged.

Why must taxpayers continue to pay legal fees of a Minister and Department who deliberately ignores the Constitution and court rulings?

ECDs and NGOs are struggling to feed hungry children, with many having to turn them away, since they have not received their contractual Government subsidies used to feed children and pay salaries of employees – many who earn below the minimum wage as subsidies are only R15 to R17 per child. This anti-poor ANC government is quite literary taking food out of the mouths of thousands of children and depriving them of their basic human rights by nonpayment, partial payment or late payment of subsidies.

Many children have since gone to live with relatives, many in different provinces, so that they do not starve. Families are being ripped apart. Siblings are being separated, parents are left behind all while Minister Zulu and her department remain silent. This matter was brought to the attention of the Minister in early July 2020. To date, the Minister and ANC MECs have not responded, and where response were received, it was grossly inadequate in correcting this injustice.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development is the only province who has continued to pay ECD and NGO subsidies throughout the Covid-19 lockdown.

To add insult to injury, Minister Zulu and the eight ANC MECs failed to meet the deadline to file an Answering Affidavit by 17 August 2020 after the Notice of Motion was filed on 11 August 2020. This urgent matter was further delayed as the presiding judge indicated that the case was ‘not ripe for hearing’ as the State Attorney’s office is still grossly unprepared. The matter will only be heard on 7 and 8 October 2020 which means ECDs and NGOs are left out in the cold for a further nine days.

We remember Minister Zulu’s previous delay tactics when she tried to prohibit NGOs from serving hot meals to vulnerable South Africans where she amended government directives in an attempt to have the matter dismissed or the plaintiff’s argument diluted.

The Department of Social Development level 2 lockdown directives remain outstanding as Minister Zulu indicated it would only be signed next week.

South Africa and the judiciary should take Minister Zulu and her ANC MEC’s silence and incompetence on this matter for what it is: an unashamed disdain for the ECD and NGO sector and the vulnerable children and communities they serve.

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How was the R2.5 billion drought relief fund spent? DA calls for further investigation

The Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa has turned down the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) request for an investigation into how the R2.5 billion allocated to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in 2016/17 for drought relief was spent.

While the AG wrote back to indicate that his office is currently inundated with investigating various cases of Covid-19 corruption and does not currently have capacity to investigate this matter, the DA will request that the matter be investigated as soon as there is capacity. And that the scope is broadened to include the additional R4.5 billion that was provided to other departments for drought relief during that same financial year.

As the AG is currently inundated with investigating the ANC’s Covid corruption, the DA will ask that Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) institutes an investigation into the drought relief funds.

We will also be submitting parliamentary questions to the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, regarding the amount National Treasury has spent on drought relief measures since the 2016/2017 financial year. As well as follow-up questions to the DALRRD, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) and the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation on how they spent their allocated funds.

South Africa has suffered an ongoing drought for the past few years, with many farmers struggling to remain standing. There is legion anecdotal evidence of farmers never receiving promised and essential drought relief funds. Nor have municipalities that relied on promised drought relief funds ensured that their residents have enough water to weather the disaster.

It is clear that the government does not really care about farmers. They claim to care about food security, but the people providing the food is of little consequence to them. It went so far that the Disaster Management Centre revoked the classification for drought as a national disaster on 16 July 2020, even though many parts of the country still have not received enough rain.

Yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa once again promised that corruption would be scrutinized and investigated and that the guilty parties would be prosecuted. We implore the President that such measures should not only be for those who looted Covid-19 funds. The same vigour in pursuing justice should be applied to those who looted drought relief funds, and all corruption rife in South Africa.

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Death of Nathaniel Julius: DA calls for urgent briefing by Gauteng Police Commissioner

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by John Moodey

The Democratic Alliance (DA) expresses our sincere condolences to the family and community of 16-year old Nathaniel Julius who was killed in the most gruesome manner in an alleged altercation with a member of the South African Police Services (SAPS).

The alleged murder of Nathaniel by a police officer in Eldorado Park shocked me to my core and the DA will do everything in its power to ensure that this incident is not swept under the rug and that those responsible for this teenage boy’s death are punished.

We will under no circumstances allow Government to underplay and try to sidestep accountability for this incident, as was the case with the murder of Collins Khosa in Alexandra earlier this year.

I, therefore, call on Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police and the Gauteng Portfolio Committee on Safety to urgently summon the Gauteng SAPS Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General, Elias Mawela, to appear before Parliament and the provincial Legislature to give account for this horrifying incident.

Nobody should have to suffer such gruesome brutality – especially at the hands of law enforcement agencies whose mandate is to serve and protect the public.

Our hearts are with the family and friends of Julius and the community of Eldorado Park.

The DA ward 17 Councillor Peter Rafferty, together with other leaders of the community of Eldorado Park, has been on the ground and are continuing to plead with the community to exercise restraint and allow the members of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to conduct the investigation and conclude it timeously so as to bring to book the alleged suspect.

Only justice can somewhat try and heal the hearts of those in the community.

We also call on the community of Eldorado Park to continue to stand together with the family during this difficult time and offer them comfort.

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Minister Didiza circumvents parliamentary procedure to avoid releasing Covid-19 Agriculture relief fund beneficiaries   

In an attempt to circumvent the working of Parliament, Minister Didiza withheld an answer to a written parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) submitted on 29 May 2020 which sought the breakdown of the successful beneficiaries of the R1.3 billion Covid-19 support fund for agriculture.

In an effort to hold the Minister accountable, I decided yesterday to ask the question orally at the Portfolio Committee meeting on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Half an hour before the meeting was set to start, Minister Didiza’s office sent me a copy of her reply, stating “Full relevant details of the beneficiaries of the R1.2 Billion Covid-19 Agricultural Disaster Fund of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development was forwarded to The Speaker of the National Assembly, The NCOP Chairperson, the Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committee and Select Committee on 13 August 2020.”

The Minister’s decision to send the reply to my question to all but me is at odds with the standard procedure of how parliamentary questions work. Replies to parliamentary questions are not usually sent to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the NCOP Chairperson, the Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committee.

When the Minister was questioned on whether there were rule changes that meant that I would not receive answers to questions which I had submitted, the Minister replied that she will send me the information if I “really want it”.

It is important to note that even though the Minister has been asked for the information on more than one occasion, even though she knows the DA wants access to this information, and even though she has promised to supply said information, we have yet to receive so much as an SMS on when the Minister plans to send it, never mind actually receiving it as promised.

What is the Minister trying to hide? The DA assumes that a Minister as long-serving as Minister Didiza would know the rules of Parliament and would happily comply in an effort to prove that her Department had nothing untoward to try and sweep under the mat.

The DA will write to the Committee Chairperson and ask that this matter is placed on the agenda as a matter of urgency.

The Minister needs to give account of:

  • Why she provided an answer to our oral question 30 minutes before the seating and why was it dated 27 August 2020; and
  • How is the Department, that is already struggling to meet its targets, able to afford shifting billions from Land Reform to cover Covid-19 needs? Since this money was already allocated, what will to happen to those potential beneficiaries?

Ministers cannot continue to rule the roost as though they have to give no account of their or their Departments’ misdeeds. And Minister Didiza’s disdain for the working of Parliament and the accountability process should not be left there.

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DA victorious in court application against NMB Speaker and Municipality

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the judgment handed down in the Port Elizabeth High Court today where the judge ruled in favour of our urgent application to compel the Speaker of the Nelson Mandela Bay Council, Cllr Buyelwa Mafaya, to call a council meeting to elect an Executive Mayor.

Judge Irma Schoeman ordered that the Speaker be directed to convene a council meeting within seven days of the court order and that the council agenda must include the election of a Mayor.

The judge also ordered that the Speaker and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality must pay the cost of the court application.

This is not only a victory for the DA, but also a victory for democracy and the long-suffering residents of Nelson Mandela Bay and we can now start to rebuild our City that has been brought to its knees by the governing ANC-led Coalition of Corruption.

The judgment follows exactly two years after the ANC-led Coalition of Corruption removed the DA and its coalition partners from government.

Under the DA and its coalition partners, the City was financially stable, and service delivery was a priority, but within only two short years the ANC-led Coalition of Corruption has brought financial ruin and total service delivery collapse to the City.

After Tuesday’s failed council meeting it was, yet again, made abundantly clear that the ANC-led Coalition of Corruption was willing to do everything in its power to prevent an Executive Mayor from being elected, as well as prevent the appointment of a competent and qualified acting City Manager.

They were so hell-bent on looting the City’s coffers that they ignored directives from the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Eastern Cape MEC for CoGTA, Xolile Nqatha, and National Treasury. All of these gave instructions that a Mayor be elected, and a competent, qualified and uncompromised acting City Manager be appointed.

We said that, together, we could take Nelson Mandela Bay forward again. The first step in this journey has been taken today. We commit ourselves to rebuilding the bedrock of good governance which was dismantled in 2018.

The DA will make sure that good governance and accountability return to Nelson Mandela Bay and will work tirelessly to turn this Metro around. We have done it before, and we will, together with our coalition partners and the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, do it again.

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When is the ANC going to fire its VBS mayors?

It has been two years since the Madibeng Local Municipality in the North West (Brits) lost R30 million of the R50 million the municipality had unlawfully deposited in VBS Mutual Bank.

In May 2019 Mayor Jostina Mothibe was supposedly “suspended” by the ANC, but yesterday it was clear that she was still in her job.

Without skipping a beat Mayor Mothibe appeared before Parliament’s CoGTA portfolio committee to account for the dismal state of Madibeng’s finances and services.

The municipality has now been placed under provincial administration five times, currently has an unfunded budget, and is fast running out of cash to pay its bills.

The mayor avoided a direct question from the DA about why she hasn’t yet resigned. It was also clear that no senior manager in the municipality has been fired for authorising the VBS deposits.

Morris Maluleke was the CFO of Madibeng when the municipality deposited funds in VBS. No disciplinary action was ever taken against him, and he has since landed a promotion to the job of municipal manager of the Waterberg District in Limpopo.

Mothibe seems to be part of a league of untouchable VBS politicians. Despite the vows of the ANC in Gauteng to fire the mayor of Merafong, Maphefo Mogale Letsie, she is also still in her job.

So is the Chairman of Parliament’s portfolio committee on Communication, Boyce Maneli – the former ANC mayor of the West Rand District Municipality.

The ANC must come clean about its VBS mayors – will they be fired, or is the party going to protect them until the 2021 local government election?

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