#Jetgate: DA rejects Mapisa-Nqakula’s nonsense calculations of ANC’s required payment

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s gross under-calculations in determining the amount the ANC has to repay for abusing an air force Falcon-900 aircraft to travel to Zimbabwe on party political business.

R105 545,46 is not nearly enough for this brazen abuse of power and rare State resources. 

The DA last week reached out to two independent companies that are experts in the field of private international travel to request the cost of chartering an 18-seater private jet from Pretoria or Johannesburg to Harare, Zimbabwe. 

The amount, only for the flight itself, came to approximately R260 000. It did not even include payments for landing rights, parking fees or on-board catering. Meaning that the figure is much higher. 

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has grossly under-calculated the total cost, based on irrelevant formulas. She also apportioned cost to the ANC based on the number of occupants. This does not make sense given the fact that without the ANC on board there would not have been a need for a massive air force jet in the first place. 

The DA has previously pointed out that the Minister usually uses the much smaller 9-seater jet for state visits to Zimbabwe and that this much bigger 18-seater jet was used for the specific purpose of accommodating the ANC delegation

The DA maintains that the ANC should at least repay R260 000. 

The Minister’s audacity to think that South Africans will accept this R100 000 price tag is embarrassing. And President Cyril Ramaphosa should equally hang his bead in shame for accepting Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s pathetic report. 

SAA: BRPs suspension of operations just another delaying tactic to secure funding

The Democratic Alliance (DA) objects to the South African Airways (SAA) Business Rescue Practitioners’ (BRP) using delaying tactics to give the ANC government more time to secure Taxpayer money to bail out the defunct airline.

The decision by the BRPs to suspend all the airline’s operations whilst they are pursuing a process to put the airline under care and maintenance until funding discussions are completed, once again demonstrates that the entire rescue process was a politically driven sham.

With no private investors in sight there should be only one option for SAA at this point – liquidation.

It is unconscionable that the ANC government, during this time of economic upheaval and joblessness, would even consider allocating desperately needed tax revenue funding for a vanity project.

The DA urges Banks and creditors to reject any appeal from the Ministers of Public Enterprises and Finance, Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni, for additional government guaranteed loans.

It would be morally indefensible for banks to grant billions of Rands in additional loans to SAA. We understand that the banks have offered some funding in order to meet the voluntary severance packages for employees on condition that SAA is shut down. We hope that the banks will do the right and ethical thing and will not capitulate to pressure from Minister Gordhan and make the full R10.4 billion available to SAA.

The banks now clearly hold the future of SAA in their hands and must not let ordinary South Africans down by providing a financial lifeline to SAA.

The DA will explore every avenue to oppose such loans. We will also fight tooth and nail to oppose the possible R10.4 billion bailout for SAA in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) in October.

SABC wastes R6 million on catering, despite its financial difficulties

Please find attached soundbite from Phumzile Van Damme MP.

A reply to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question has revealed that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has spent a staggering R6 million on catering since 2018. See reply here.

As it stands the SABC has projected a budget shortfall of R1.5 billion due to a significant drop in advertising revenue as a result of the devastating economic impact of Covid-19.

It is also faced with a R700 million shortfall, separate from the R1.5 billion. The SABC was required to make a R700 million cut in staff costs as part of its turnaround strategy approved by National Treasury. The retrenchments process has thus far been rather chaotic. Should retrenchments be halted, the R700 million will have to come from National Treasury.

While R6 million may seem like a small amount in the greater scheme of financial trouble the SABC faces, this type of frivolous spending is indicative of a lack of firm austerity measures at the public broadcaster, needed to keep it afloat.

It is bizarre that the SABC is spending millions on what is possibly snacks for meetings while faced with grave financial anxiety not only from its top executives but staff afraid of being retrenched.

We would caution Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams not to see this as an opportunity to interfere in the affairs of the SABC. The law is clear, the board has the final authority on matters related to the public broadcaster.

The DA will also be requesting that at the next meeting in Parliament with the SABC’s board that it present a very clear and detailed map of its austerity measures. Any spending on catering must cease immediately.

Now more than ever, we need cool heads to prevail and for the SABC to adopt measures which are necessary to its financial recovery.

We cannot allow thousands to lose their jobs, while costs that could be put to better use elsewhere are misdirected.

DA to refer Edwin Sodi’s ministerial beneficiaries to Ethics Committee for failure to disclose multi-million payments

Following the revelation from tenderpreneur Edwin Sodi at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry yesterday that he paid millions of Rands to ANC members, ministers and deputy ministers, the Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit a complaint to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests.

Sodi testified that the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, the Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, the Deputy Minister of State Security, Zizi Kodwa, and the Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Pinky Kekana, among others, received payments from him in the period between 2013 and 2019.

The DA ran an extensive check of Parliament’s register of members’ interests for the period these payments were made. None of the individuals mentioned during Sodi’s session with the Commission declared such payments.

This is a direct contravention of Section 5 of Parliament’s Code of Ethical Conduct and Disclosure of Members’ Interests regarding Conflict of Financial or Business Interests. Section 5.1.1 clearly states that a member must “resolve any financial or business conflict of interest in which he or she is involved in his or her capacity as a public representative, in favour of the public interest; and 5.1.2 always declare such interest, and where appropriate, the Member should recuse himself or herself from any forum considering or deciding on the matter.”

While there is little doubt that these Members of Parliament will offer all manner of excuses to explain away their dirty hands, the fact is that if their dealings with Sodi were irreproachable, they would have had no qualms declaring these payments.

As it stands, none of the excuses they can come up with will suffice. The Ethics Committee is duty-bound to investigate this matter and should do so urgently. And the DA expects more than a mere slap on the wrist – as is the current trend – for these perpetrators of dark deeds if South Africa is ever to wipe corruption completely from its slate.

Senior Trade and Industry official incurs R2 million expenditure on overseas junkets

In response to Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary questions, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC), Ebrahim Patel, revealed that the Group Chief Operations Officer (GCOO) for his department had incurred over R2 million in travel expenses since 2011.  See the response here.

This included 26 trips to various locations ranging from the United States of America to several countries in Europe.

Furthermore, there is no doubt that all of these trips were in business class considering the individual price of each ticket.

The DA decided to pose these questions to the Minister after a whistle-blower informed us of the possibility that this individual was abusing overseas travel benefits within the department.

They cited the fact that “[her] primary focus is to travel abroad by hook or crook and at every opportunity that presents itself at the cost of the tax payers money.”

While the Minister argues that “…all trips undertaken were aligned to the functions for which the official is responsible and were duly authorised by the delegated authority” – the DA believes otherwise.

For too long civil servants under the ANC government have lived a life of largesse off the backs of the South African taxpayer – this needs to come to an end.

In lieu of these revelations, the DA will be submitting further questions to the Minister to ascertain how much was paid to this individual as per diems for each of these trips undertaken and whether or not this was included in the amounts supplied in his initial response.

Lamola says ‘there is no compelling reason for the establishment of a Special Covid-19 Anti-Corruption Unit ‘

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, has admitted in a reply to a parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) that no dedicated Covid-19 anti-corruption unit has yet been established at the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), and that there is no intention to establish one in the future.

This directly contradicts President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement on 23 March 2020 that the NPA would establish these units to expedite the prosecution and sentencing of those who are involved in corrupt activities related to the Covid-19 crisis.

In his reply Minister Lamola shifts the bulk of this responsibility onto the Anti-Corruption Task Team (ACTT). While the NPA forms a part of the ACTT, with the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and the Financial Intelligence Centre, its membership does not absolve (them) of the responsibility of establishing a unit in the NPA whose focus would be the prosecution of Covid-19 corruption – especially given the serious abuses we’ve seen in terms of Covid-19 resources. The ACTT has had no successes to boast of in the recent past, and has no capacity to prosecute at all. That is the sole domain of the NPA, and the NPA is already sinking under the weight of the grand scale corruption perpetrated in every imaginable sphere.

This is not the first time that South Africa has seen Ministers make a complete U-turn on announcements made by the President over these past six months. While the majority of South Africans have faced a daily struggle for survival during the extended Covid-19 lockdown, these Ministers have sought to increase their own power with little regard for citizens or the Rule of Law. Minister Lamola now appears to be no exception.

He writes, “It can therefore be deduced from the work under way that the existing law enforcement agencies have the ability and the competence to deal with Covid-19 related corruption. Therefore, there is no compelling reason for the establishment of a Special Covid-19 Anti-Corruption Unit at this stage.”

If the existing law enforcement agencies had the Covid corruption situation in hand, why did the President feel the need to promise South Africans at the very start of the lockdown that an anti-corruption unit would be established? Did Minister Lamola know then that the President’s promise was empty, or did he decide to make it so by defying President Ramaphosa?

South Africa’s pandemic of corruption has infected every aspect and sphere of government long before Covid-19 wreaked havoc on the world. And for nearly as long, the country’s law enforcement agencies have failed to get a grip on it. Why the Minister thinks that dodgy dealing with Covid-19 resources would be different is anybody’s guess.

Dodgy data from StatsSA on unemployment masks real jobs crisis

The assertion by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) that the official unemployment rate declined from 30.1% (in quarter 1) to 23.3% (in quarter 2) is deceptive and masks the real extent of the unemployment crisis in South Africa.

The key takeaway from yesterday’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) is that 2.2 million people lost their jobs in the 2nd quarter of 2020 and that the real unemployment rate increased by 2.3% to an unprecedented 42% in the same quarter.

This is nothing short of a catastrophe, the social and economic consequences of which are going to plague South Africa for some time to come.

There were various delays in the release of the 2nd quarter QLFS. This was partly due to the fact that constraints imposed by the Covid-19 national lockdown forced the statistics agency to adopt a new collection methodology. StatsSA suspended its fieldwork and face-to-face methods of administering questionnaires during the lockdown. Instead, the data was collected using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI), not the usual face-to-face interviews. This meant that data could not be collected from a full sample but only from households for which contact numbers were available.

On top of this, budget cuts, underfunding and depleted expertise at StatsSA have also called into question the credibility of its statistics. What has emerged from the 2nd quarter QLFS, therefore, should be viewed with a jaundiced eye.

South Africa can ill-afford to rely on dodgy data when it comes to making the kind of economic policy decisions that are needed to grow the economy, reform the labour market and create jobs. We need methodological consistency and accuracy from the QLFS.

Better information makes for better decisions, and we need both as we go about tackling pandemic of joblessness

DA to support Free State farmer Alison Oates in court following 5-year struggle for justice

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will tomorrow be in the Harrismith Magistrate Court to support Free State farmer and DA councillor, Alison Oates, where she will hopefully finally get the justice she rightly deserves after a five-year struggle to see her attackers investigated, prosecuted and sentenced.

In 2015, Ms Oates survived a three-hour attack by two men who demanded money and guns from her one late afternoon. When she was unable to provide either, they tortured, raped and tried to kill her.

The DA hopes that her attackers received the harshest possible sentence.

Had it not been for the intervention of the DA’s Court Watching Briefs Unit in ensuring that her case see the inside of a courtroom, Ms Oates would still be living in close proximity to one of her alleged attackers.

Following almost five years of constant delays, lack of development and information from prosecutors and the police regarding the investigation and progress of her case, Ms Oates was nearly hopeless. DA Shadow Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Adv Glynnis Breytenbach, wrote to the National Prosecuting Authority as well as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Adv Shamila Batohi, demanding intervention.

The DA welcomes the conclusion to this traumatic chapter in Ms Oates’ life and hopes that justice will indeed be served tomorrow. We also endeavor for justice to be served for all victims of farm murders and attacks. It is for this reason that we established the nation-wide Court Watching Briefs Unit. No farmer of farmworker should have to face the indifference of the justice system after surviving a brutal attack.

The DA will continue to fight for justice, safety and security for all farmers and farmworkers.

If you are in a position to help fund our Court Watching Briefs Unit which closely monitors every farm attack court case to ensure attackers end up behind bars, please make a donation here.

Finally Richard Mdlulu gets his just desserts

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the sentencing of former Crime Intelligence Head, Richard Mdluli, and his accomplice, Mthembeni Mthunzi, on kidnapping, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and intimidation charges.

Mdluli was finally dismissed from the South African Police Services (SAPS) on 17 January 2018, after living a charmed existence, escaping accountability for his criminal actions for years, thanks to his strong political connections and resultant protection.  While it is now clear that a strong criminal case existed against him and his accomplice, the matter was withdrawn by the prosecution (Nomgcobo Jiba and Andrew Chauke) under very dubious circumstances, and was later referred for an Inquest after Freedom Under Law applied significant pressure. What remains unclear is why he was not charged with murder.

In a well-considered and scathing judgment, Judge Ratha Mokgoathlheng described the crass and criminal abuse of power by Mdluli and Mthunzi, both senior policemen, and sentenced them each to five years effective imprisonment.

The matter has taken far too long to be finalised, almost two decades, and needed an enormous amount of pressure from civil society and the unwavering dedication of the investigation officer to move the authorities sufficiently to do their job and prosecute the case.  It is an indictment on the criminal justice system that he was allowed to escape liability for so long.  That being said, the prosecution in this matter have done a sterling job in presenting a case that relied on evidence that was so old.

The NPA must be given their due for a successful prosecution, albeit very belated.  Mdluli very nearly got away with his criminal abuse of power, and it is very satisfying to see justice finally being done.  He still faces charges in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court for fraud and theft.  Finally the chickens are coming home to roost for Richard Mdluli, who rather pathetically claims to be too old and vulnerable to serve a term of imprisonment.  This is not a courtesy he extended to his victims, and it is time for him to get his just desserts.

The successful prosecution demonstrates the important role civil society can play in demanding accountability, and Freedom Under Law, the main driver of the pressure applied in a series of legal challenges, must be acknowledged for the enormous role they played in forcing the NPA to do its job, albeit reluctantly.  Without this pressure, Mdluli would have continued to act with impunity.

The direct custodial sentence confirms that our courts will not tolerate the lawlessness that pervades our society, and that if the SAPS investigate matters efficiently, and the NPA prosecutes matters effectively, then crime does not pay, and there are indeed consequences for criminal behaviour.

National government must take urgent action against cross-border crime

In a reply to parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) earlier this month, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula disclosed that The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) spends more than R88 million per year to deploy 370 members to the Lesotho border, yet fails to curb cross-border crime in the Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Eastern Cape.

Recently, agricultural unions again spoke out about the devastating effect of cross-border crimes, in particular stock theft, along the 900km long Lesotho border, which in many places remain unmanned. This has a devastating effect on established and emerging farmers alike, as well as on the economy of the eastern Free State and relevant parts of the other two provinces. 11 of the 17 hotspots for stock theft along the border are in the Free State.

On a recent oversight visit to the border, my colleague and DA Leader in the Free State Provincial Legislature, Roy Jankielsohn MPL, found the border completely open, with only two soldiers sitting next to a crossing some distance from the border. The DA has also on occasion, received complaints about disorderly conduct of SANDF members who are stationed along the border.

In her reply, Mapisa-Nqakula indicated that a total of 431 arrests were made for criminal activities between 2017 and 2020 to date. These statistics don’t seem to tally with either the South African Police Service (SAPS) statistics at the 13 SAPS stations along the Free State border or the vast number of stock theft cases experienced by farmers.

The DA also has reason to believe that despite the fact that the SANDF exercises its powers to arrest individuals, many cases dockets are not even opened when handed over to the SAPS.

Further to the devastating economic impact, the South African national government’s failure to address cross-border crime has a negative impact on the good relationship between law abiding citizens from both countries which we cannot afford.

My colleague in the Free State Provincial Legislature, Leona Kleynhans MPL, has requested the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee tasked with overseeing police for a full briefing by the Provincial Police Commissioner on this matter.

In addition, the DA will:

  • Request a response from the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor about the possibility for bilateral agreements between South Africa and Lesotho for the purpose of using drone and other technology for border patrols; and
  • Request a full list of cases pertaining to cross-border crimes from the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele with their current status.

The government has shown that resources are available. It now needs to ensure that these resources are not wasted, but put to effective use to protect South Africans and their property from cross-border crimes.