Is the ANC pushing for a third alcohol ban?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been reliably informed that there is a strong lobby within the ANC by certain Ministers to reintroduce another ban on alcohol as soon as possible.

This group of Ministers include Police Minister Bheki Cele, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula and Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Over the last few days, Minister Mbalula has led the public charge in claiming that the laws need to be “reviewed” after a number of alleged alcohol-related car crashes. He has also said that “people are out of control in terms of alcohol”. These accidents and lives lost are tragic but should not be used to drive a political ideology as we suspect.

We are also seeing a push by the Gauteng Health department to claim that hospitals are “under pressure” due to alcohol-related trauma and taking up hospital beds, despite declining Covid infections and deaths. This however is a false narrative as even under the best circumstances, hospitals in ANC-run provinces are short of beds due to chronic under-investment and corruption.

South Africa is also well versed in Minister Cele’s threats of bans and punishment for “bad behaviour” as well as his deep-seated opposition to alcohol.

Any attempt by the ANC to use another alcohol ban as a battering ram to drive home political ideology will be met with strong resistance by the DA.

There are too many jobs that have been lost already due to ANC infighting over alcohol and the unwillingness of the President to stare down his detractors.

That is why it is critical that President Ramaphosa reassures South Africans that he will not consider any political pressure by the ANC or these Ministers in his cabinet with respect to reinstating another alcohol ban. Anything short of this will only allow speculation to grow unchallenged.

The ANC should rather put its efforts towards reviving the stalled Liquor Amendment Bill which has been stuck in cabinet for the last four years. While not perfect, the bill will allow MPs to work towards dealing with issues like access to liquor by minors and provinces being able to levy taxes on sales to fund cost recovery models.

It is time that South Africa is freed from the continual hostage-taking games being played out in the ANC as ordinary citizens are paying with their jobs and future.

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Covid accountability committee back on the table

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is pleased by Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise’s response during Parliament’s programming committee to our request to reconsider an accountability committee as originally requested by DA Leader John Steenhuisen MP at the start if the Covid-19 crisis.

We now find ourselves in a situation where corruption is so out of control that lives are being lost not only by Covid-19, but because of corruption of proportions so revolting, the most vulnerable of society are dying as a result.

The intention of such a committee was to stop corruption, which we all knew would be far too much of a temptation to a government that has proven time and time again, is their own form of disease.

Speaker Modise said that she sees no reason why the DA’s request could not be reconsidered.

The DA will, therefore, write the Speaker another letter, attaching our original request, as well using the amount of R5 billion, that we know of, that has been lost to Covid corruption as motivation for the establishment of this committee urgently.

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Stella backtracks and appoints 6th member of the ICASA Council 

Please find attached a soundbite by Phumzile Van Damme MP.

In a letter addressed to the Speaker of National Assembly, Thandi Modise, Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams backtracks and informs Parliament that she has now appointed the sixth member of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Council.

In the letter, the Minister backtracks on her decision to only fill five of the six vacancies on the ICASA Council, in contempt of two National Assembly decisions requiring her to fill all six.

Her backtracking follows the Democratic Alliance (DA) beginning the process to have her subjected to disciplinary action in Parliament for contravening the Constitution, ICASA Act, the Executive Members’ Act and the Powers and Privileges Act

Ndabeni-Abrahams’ bizarre and unlawful conduct during the appointment process to fill six vacancies on the ICASA Council has been nothing short of embarrassing.

That she remains a Minister is tragic. We therefore reiterate our call for the President, Cyril Ramaphosa to fire her.

Should she remain Minister, the DA fears that South Africa’s goal to grow and support the digital economy will be put at risk. With the potential help raise South Africa’s GDP by almost $12 billion, elevating current GDP by 3.1 percent, the sector requires a Minister with a head firmly set on shoulders.

Stella must go!

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Opinion | We must not deny racism, but we must also not exploit it to stop reconciliation

Behind the angry masks of movements like Black Lives Matter, there often lies a cold dismissal of the nobility of racial reconciliation and an agenda that seeks to milk a grievance for eternity for the benefit of an elite. Opposing this is not minimising racism. It involves maximising reconciliation and responsible redress.

Issues abound and of late, while race-based concerns have risen to global prominence, in South Africa, race has always – more than simmering below the surface – been centre stage of our social, economic and political interactions.

Many embrace this centrality, others lament the reduction of almost everything to race. Still, most current issues – be they racial, geopolitical, gender, discrete transgressions of human rights, public health, education, unemployment or inequality and more – are connected by a golden thread: Othering, the process of stigmatisation that defines another and sets them apart in a way that renders them an outsider.

To be clear, the opposite of Othering is not “saming”, it is belonging. And as John A Powell, director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley, says, “belonging does not insist that we are all the same. It means we recognise and celebrate our differences, in a society where ‘we the people’ includes all the people” and does not involve a presupposition that one’s own race or nationality is inherently superior to another. To treat those of other races and nationalities with unfairness or unequal justice, with dismissiveness or with active contempt, is pernicious.

The recent revelations of Makhaya Ntini, the first ethnically black South African to play for the national cricket team, about his experience of loneliness is a reflection of being Othered. A senior black woman in politics – who once confided in me her experience of being Othered and how many of her peers didn’t even know her name – provides another example.

Many will recount similar encounters, and these form a part of the basis of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. It is important, however, to acknowledge that class – regardless of race – also allows for the othering of people and that it is also not incumbent on others to embrace you – you must embrace yourself. As Steve Biko remarked, “as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.” The subtext is that inferiority needs to be countered by self-improvement and self-confidence.

In this vein, I ask myself then, why have I not felt othered? I’m old enough, after all, to remember encountering, first hand, the engravings on benches and signs on buses and buildings that read “Europeans Only”. My parents were imprisoned, banned and placed under house arrest by the apartheid regime. Friends and close family members were hounded, some tortured. I was arrested. My marriage to a white woman was in contravention of the “Immorality Act”. My children suffered the stigma of racial classification, being neither fish nor fowl in the eyes of government. Yet, I never shared Ntini’s loneliness, nor my colleague’s sense of non-recognition. Why?

Credit, in the first instance, must go to my parents who had the foresight to send me to a pioneering non-racial school in Swaziland when apartheid was at its zenith, and then to an international college in Wales that championed international understanding and whose stated mission is “to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”. These formative experiences stood me in good stead. But more than this, I subsequently embraced, challenged and immersed myself in the dominant cultures I encountered. I sought to understand and compete on my own terms. I never felt less than I am.

I rejected oppression. I rejected being rescued. I rejected victimhood. And yes, the paradox of my experience under apartheid and other dominant polities and the impact of my formative education – courtesy of the schools I attended and the example of my parent’s resistance of, and refusal to, accept apartheid – emboldened this rejection.

The tragedy is that a black government in our country has failed, over more than a quarter of a century, to provide a sound education to the majority of its (black) people. It has failed to dignify their lives in the provision of housing and services to allow them to compete on an inclusive basis. Instead, it panders to a failed narrative and engages in tit-for-tat racism to justify its failures, which it lays at the door of others.

I recount this to illustrate both the reality of feeling Othered and the importance of not allowing yourself to be Othered. While I acknowledge my experience in this regard and understand that this may not be shared by many, I believe that this understanding needs to be internalised universally if we are to have any hope of celebrating our differences, in a society where “we the people” includes all people. Of necessity, this requires standing up against transgressions of fundamental human rights and not manufactured rights that serve no edifying purpose – everywhere. More, it necessitates, in that defence, an engagement of both the victim and the oppressor.

Within this context, an interrogation of the BLM organisation that seeks to champion aspects of this cause is necessary. BLM calls for, as a cornerstone of their demands, the curtailing of property rights, the cutting of military budgets in half, the defunding of the police, the disbanding of private schools, the abolition of private hospitals, the creation of government-funded sacred sites for black worship and extra tax rebates depending on how black you are.

The kernel of truth embedded in the original focus and reaction – that has in its genesis a case and a concern that is pertinent and merits attention – has come to be hijacked, aggressively funded and sloganised beyond its original purpose and intent.

It is necessary therefore to guard against those who use ostensibly noble causes for their own material gain at the expense of the very people they seek to champion and who are perversely incentivised to do so. Behind their angry masks there often lies a cold dismissal of the nobility of racial reconciliation and an agenda that seeks to milk a grievance for eternity for the benefit of an elite as grievances are moulded, part of an echo chamber of the past. Once racist, always racist and the institutions bear witness, is the false mantra.

Opposing this is not minimising racism. It involves maximising reconciliation and responsible redress. It means refusing to bend the knee in the service of an agenda that is patently in the service of certain puppet masters. It involves a commitment to build a just society regardless of race, religion, circumstance of birth, sexual orientation and more. It is necessary to “beware that when fighting monsters, you do not become a monster,” as Nietzsche famously said, “for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss also gazes at you.”

DA welcomes Government clarity on prescribed assets for pension funds

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the undertaking given by Deputy Minister of Finance, David Masondo, during question time in Parliament today, that the government will not force pension fund trustees to invest in government prescribed assets.

In response to a question on whether funds will be obliged to invest in the government’s multi-trillion rand infrastructure project, the Deputy Minister responded that government would not interfere with the existing discretion of trustees to invest pension fund assets according to their investment strategies.

He added that trustees would not be obliged to invest in any other prescribed assets either and that the trustees of the Government Employees Pension Fund in particular would not be instructed to invest in the infrastructure project.

The Deputy Minister’s response appears to contradict previous statements by the ANC that pension fund assets would need to be mobilized towards government’s economic development objectives. This was widely interpreted as the intended re-introduction of apartheid-era prescribed assets that forced pension funds to invest in sub-optimal government issued bonds.

Despite the Deputy Minister’s assurance we remain concerned that amendments to regulation 28 will permit pension funds to invest in failed state-owned enterprises and inefficient government infrastructure projects, which current regulations do not accommodate.

Pension funds are often the only assets held by hard working South Africans hoping to build a nest-egg to provide for their eventual retirement, given that the government is unable to offer any meaningful support in old age. Any prescribed asset that returns less than available investment alternatives has a significant negative long term effect.

The DA will oppose any attempt by the government to do anything other than allow trustees to make the most optimal investment decisions on behalf of pension fund members.

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Eskom disrespects Parliament by flaking on SCOPA meeting at the last minute

Today, the Eskom board and officials were meant to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to brief the Committee on various matters including the 80 disciplinary cases handed over to law enforcement agencies, and to report on contracts that resulted in an overpayment of R4 billion to various companies.

However, at 8:25, 90 minutes before the meeting was meant to commence, the Eskom board Chairperson, Professor Malegapuru Makgoba sent a WhatsApp message to the Chairperson of SCOPA informing him that he was unavailable due to another meeting which clashed with the scheduled SCOPA meeting. This resulted in the SCOPA meeting being postponed to next week so that the briefing can take place with the presence of the Eskom Chairperson.

The meeting was supposed to be part of Eskom’s regular updates to SCOPA. However, Makgoba’s lax attitude is disconcerting in an environment that sees further loadshedding, which has the effect of slowing economic growth in the very time when the country most needs it, and questions being raised about the future of energy generation in the country.

Given that in January, shortly after Makgoba’s appointment, the Department of Public Enterprises stated that his appointment was consistent with the government’s commitment to good governance and  to the stability of the power utility – it is unfortunate that Makgoba did not see fit to report to the parliamentary committee dedicated to overseeing public accounts – particularly at a time when the blatant overspending, inflated contracts and inability of Eskom to maintain a proper power supply is so critical to the country and the fiscus.

If Eskom is to succeed in overcoming its challenges, it requires a board Chairperson who is committed to the job, is not acting on an interim basis, who understands the need for oversight and can manage his diary so that he does not send apologies to Parliamentary committees 90 minutes before they commence.

Eskom’s carefree behavior towards Parliament is unacceptable. We urge the board to get its house in order so that Parliament can continue with its oversight role

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DA supports City of Cape Town’s decision to appeal High Court judgment regarding land invasions

Please find attached English soundbite from Solly Malatsi MP, DA National Spokesperson.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) supports the City of Cape Town’s decision to appeal Tuesday’s judgment by the Western Cape Division of the High Court that essentially bars the City from protecting property from land invasions.
This decision by the court will not just have serious repercussions for the City of Cape Town. It sets a very dangerous precedent against all municipalities and property owners.

Currently, the City is allowed to remove empty structures illegally erected on private property to prevent occupation and thus land invasion. This court decision prevents the removal of these illegal unoccupied structures and makes it that much easier for illegal land occupation to occur and erodes the rights of the legal owners of the property and counter-spoliation efforts.

As part of the City’s bid to stem land invasions and protect property rights, it has removed 55 000 illegally constructed, unoccupied structures from various parts of the metro since 1 July 2020. There can be no doubt that land invasions will increase exponentially if this decision is upheld and will endanger the R1.3 billion housing projects underway in Cape Town alone.

The DA deems the City’s actions as necessary and vital for upholding the Rule of Law and for protecting public land intended for services, housing, community facilities, schools and transport services.

We call Minister of Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, to come to her senses and unequivocally condemn land invasions – not just in the Western Cape, but across the country. Her silence on this matter will compromise the ability of municipalities to safeguard land earmarked for housing opportunities against illegal invasions.

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SAHRC to investigate EFF Councillor behind race-baiting @TracyZille account

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to pursue our complaint against the man behind the race-baiting @TracyZille Twitter account, Anthony Matumba.

The Commission today confirmed to the DA that it would institute the matter at the Equality Court.

Matumba, who is an EFF Councillor in Limpopo, pretended to be a white woman, Tracy Zille, and posted several racial incendiary tweets aimed at spurring on racial discontent.

The utterances on the @TracyZille account sought to demean Black South Africans, whilst at the same time vilifying white South Africans.

The DA is of the view that this is tantamount to hate speech and we are pleased that this matter will now be tested before the Equality Court.

While the DA is committed to every South African’s right to freedom of speech, we cannot sit by and watch as someone willfully attempts to incite and deepen South Africa’s already fractured race relations.

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Minister De Lille must release SIU Beitbridge report by Friday if she has nothing to hide

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on 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 by Friday.

If she has nothing to hide, this request will be an easy one and she would have no problem handing the report over to Parliament for scrutiny.

Minister De Lille has repeatedly failed to take any responsibility for the procurement processes which were flouted to suit the bid of a specific company. She has instead continuously claimed that all investigations clear her of any wrongdoing.

Despite the Minister’s claims, the DA has information that her advisors, Mcendisi Mtshali and Melissa Whitehead, were part of a meeting with various role players to discuss the procurement process. And, on Tuesday, National Treasury revealed damning findings against the Minister indicating that “it would seem the Minister had a contract, supplier or contractor in mind.”

We believe that this points to the fact that De Lille knew more than she is letting on.

We question why the Minister is so reluctant to hand over the SIU report. Is she afraid that the information contained in the report will reveal the true extent to which she unduly interfered in the process of procuring the R37 million Beitbridge “Washing Line”?

The DA believes that this report will put an end to the whirlwind of contradictions and will ensure that we move from blame-shifting to accountability.

We will not allow a situation where the Covid-19 crisis is used to line pockets of the politically connected while millions of poor South Africans languish in poverty.

Should the investigation find that the Minister unduly interfered in the procurement process, then this makes her complicit in the corruption that took place and she must be fired by the President and submit herself to an investigation by law enforcement agencies.

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Minister must explain suspended Ters payments

The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, must explain exactly why Ters payments have been suspended and make an announcement as to when they will resume.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund’s (UIF) Covid-19 Ters benefit scheme has been plagued by delays and technical problems since its inception. Many workers still haven’t received payments for April, May and June, let alone July and August.

The fact that all disbursements were suspended, pending an investigation into financial irregularities uncovered by the Auditor-General, takes matters from bad to worse. Long-suffering workers are going to have to wait even longer for their elusive Ters benefits. This translates into unpaid bills, food that cannot be bought, and increasing desperation and despair at a time of social and economic hardship.

Earlier this week, the Auditor-General alerted the UIF to control ‘deficiencies’ in its payment system, including inconsistencies regarding past payments made to people who are deceased, imprisoned, or who are minors.

We know that the Ters scheme has been serially defrauded, including one well-known case in which a single individual received and laundered R5.7 million intended for 1 400 workers.

The latest developments suggest that this case was just the tip of the iceberg. Payments would only have been suspended, following the Auditor-General’s findings, if there was a justifiable belief that instances of fraud and corruption associated with the Ters scheme are deep-seated and widespread at the UIF.

Minister Nxesi must share with the public the real extent of the problem as uncovered by the Auditor-General and explain what is being done by specialist forensic auditors to get to the bottom of it. He also needs to indicate whether any officials from the UIF and/or the Department of Employment and Labour have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Above all, Minister Nxesi must communicate with anxious workers when they can expect Ters payments to recommence.

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