11 Officials charged but what about De Lille on whose unlawful instructions they acted?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to refer 11 senior officials to the Office of the State Attorney to be charged for their alleged involvement in irregularities related to the Beitbridge Border fence debacle.

While this is a positive step in ensuring accountability for what was effectively a washing line, the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille – the most senior person involved in the saga – should also carry the can for issuing an unlawful emergency directive on the fence.

A Special Investigative Unit (SIU) report found that the Minister’s instructions “placed an enormous project and compliance risk on the Department”. The DA therefore questions when Minister De Lille will be held responsible as she is the initiator of the project.

Every single official that was involved in the process of erecting the R1 million per kilometer fence, rightly or wrongly, acted in accordance to the instruction which came down from De Lille’s office. It is, therefore, inconceivable for officials to be charged alone, while De Lille and her advisor Melissa Whitehead get away scot-free.

Corruption and gross misconduct have become endemic and continues unabated under President Cyril Ramaphosa’s watch. And instead of holding his Cabinet Ministers to account, they are shielded from blame and allowed to scapegoat their officials.

Not only must De Lille be charged, she should also be fired.

Record unemployment rate: South Africans pay a high price for ANC’s bad choices

The DA notes with despair the announcement today by Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) that 2.2 million people lost their jobs in the 2nd quarter and that the expanded unemployment rate increased by 2.3% to an unprecedented 42% in the same quarter.

By its own admission, StatsSA points out that the decline in the official unemployment rate from 30.1% to 23.3% in the 2nd quarter is not a reflection of an improvement in the labour market but rather an effect of the lockdown, since the official definition of unemployment requires that people look for work and are available for work.

In real terms, unemployment did rise exponentially in South Africa as ‘the national lockdown hindered people from looking for work’.  This rise in unemployment is a classic case of the ANC government’s chickens coming home to roost. A decade of economic policy incoherence and uncertainty, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the draconian lockdown that accompanied it, has exacted a heavy toll on already struggling South Africans.

The catastrophic impact of the strict lockdown on economic activity has already been reflected in the 2nd quarter GDP figures, which contracted by 51% on a quarter-on-quarter annualised basis.

The bad news for unemployed South Africans is that there isn’t going to be a quick recovery in the job market as long as the government fails to move beyond rhetoric and start pursuing a genuine economic structural reform programme. The rapid absorption of unskilled workers into employment should be SA’s number one policy priority, and for that we need to remove state-imposed constraints to economic growth.

President Ramaphosa’s draft NEDLAC economic recovery plan, while containing welcome concessions on energy sector reform and digital migration, still contains anti-growth proposals that could kibosh the plan.

The draft plan’s call for the strengthening of employment equity and empowerment related legislation clearly shows that racial bean counting still remains at the heart of government economic policy thinking. This is despite widely available evidence showing that BEE policies have done nothing to expand opportunities and promote inclusion for the majority of South Africans.

In addition to a cocktail of bad policy choices, the ANC has been working tirelessly to throttle public works programmes that have the potential to offer short-term employment relief. Recently, it was reported that the R19.5 billion that was set aside in the supplementary budget to create mass public employment jobs could now be at risk of being diverted towards bailing out SAA.

That 3 million South Africans have lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19 does not bother the ANC; instead the ruling party is intent on driving them further into poverty and deprivation to fund a defunct airline which has already gobbled R57 billion in bailouts since 1994.

When President Ramaphosa presents his final NEDLAC economic plan, he has an obligation to announce pro-growth policies that would attract investment and create jobs. Similarly, when Minister Mboweni presents his Medium Term Budget Policy Statement in late October he must resist the temptation to divert funds meant for employment relief towards funding failing State Owned Enterprises.

DA submits parliamentary questions to ascertain full backgrounds and criminal records of cops involved in Nathaniel Julies murder

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit parliamentary questions to the South African Police Services (SAPS) to ascertain the criminal records and full backgrounds of all three police officers involved in the tragic murder of Nathaniel Julies.

This follows reports that one of the officers involved in the case has three previous criminal convictions, including assault, assault to cause grievous bodily harm, and malicious damage to property.

This is highly problematic because the law dictates that someone with a criminal record is not eligible to become a police officer. This once again demonstrates the failure in SAPS to properly vet and detect criminal records of new recruits.

It casts a dark cloud over the integrity of the SAPS when they have convicted violent offenders within their ranks. It not only compromises the fight against violent crime in South Africa, but it creates the unfortunate conditions for police brutality flourish.

We have seen over this lockdown period how the police and other law enforcement officials violently cracked down on South Africans for simply surfing or sitting in their own front yards. And in the case of Nathaniel, for simply eating a biscuit.

To avoid incidents like Nathaniel’s untimely murder from ever happening again at the hands of police, the DA is of the view that SAPS members must be properly vetted during their recruitment process. This will also ensure that the police’s ability to effectively fight crime is not hindered.

The DA reiterates our call for an overhaul and professionalisation of SAPS and for the removal of criminal cops to ensure the safety of all South Africans in their homes and on the streets.

#Jetgate: Defence Committee agrees to DA’s request for Mapisa-Nqakula to account before Parliament 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans, Cyril Xaba, to grant our request for the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to account to Parliament.

The DA requested that the Minister be summoned to appear before the Committee after she wilfully oversaw the ANC’s abuse of an air force jet to visit Zimbabwe. The DA is of the view that Parliament should play its oversight role on this matter in order to ensure accountability and transparency.

We will, however, not allow for the Minister’s appearance before the Defence Committee to turn into an exercise to exonerate her. Unlike President Cyril Ramaphosa’s slap on the wrist, the Minister should expect a grilling from the DA.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula must, among other pertinent issues, explain:

  • Why she allowed the ANC delegation to abuse an air force jet to travel to Zimbabwe for party political discussions and by virtue ignoring the principle of separation of powers;
  • Whether the delegation received permission from the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to travel to abroad in light of the level 2 lockdown regulations. Supporting documents should be supplied;
  • Her report into Jetgate should also be made available; and
  • Progress in terms of the ANC’s repayment, including calculations from independent aviation experts.

This brazen abuse of State resources by the Minister and her party cannot be downplayed. Especially since this was not the Minister’s first time abusing military resources for personal and political ends. She also stands accused of smuggling her late son’s Burudian girlfriend onboard an air force VVIP Jet.

While Minister Mapisa-Nqakula’s appearance before Parliament is a step in the right direction, she should ultimately be fired by the President. Because, in his own words, she “failed to adhere to legal prescripts warranting care in use of [State] resources” and “acted in a way that is inconsistent with [her] position”.

DA calls for drought to be reclassified as a State of Disaster

During a recent oversight visit to the Central Karoo District, the Democratic Alliance (DA) was alarmed to find that recent rainfall has not alleviated the drought that has plagued the region for the past seven years, and that farmers there are on the brink of despair. We therefor call on the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to reinstate the classification of the drought as a State of Disaster that the Head of the National Disaster Management Centre, Dr Mmaphaka Tau, revoked on 16 July 2020, and to gazette all areas still affected by drought in all parts of the country.

Once the areas are gazetted, the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, should ensure that debt relief packages are made available through the Land Bank and commercial banks to ease the financial strain of farmers still suffering as a result of the drought.

The DA also urges Minister Didiza to call for an urgent agricultural climate summit to find long term solutions for those areas of South Africa that are vulnerable to drought.

My colleague, Daylin Mitchell, and I visited farmers whose livestock were dying from thirst and hunger. Farms in the Northern Cape and Central Karoo have been especially hard hit and suffers the added burden of big predators slaughtering weakened stock.

Farmers need coordinated support. Their debts are rising and becoming unbearable. National Treasury has been largely absent from providing support when required in agriculture. In the past, the Land Bank would host drought relief funds that would be channeled through the Bank in the form of cheaper loans. But for Land Bank to provide these drought relief funds, the areas must first be declared disaster areas.

And while every farmer in the country can agree that the Covid-19 pandemic had a massive impact on them, some farmers had to see their aid evaporate as R466 million in drought relief were redirected for Covid-19 relief for the agriculture sector – which some of them were not eligible to claim. These farmers have been served a double whammy: their drought relief aid was swallowed by another disaster and they are not allowed to claim aid for this second disaster they had to face.

Many farm workers lost their jobs due to the financial strain farmers faces from both the Covid-19 pandemic and the drought. And unless government starts taking the crisis seriously, many more livelihoods will be lost.

Farmers do not have infinite resources or plans. They cannot continue to weather the storm alone in perpetuity. They cannot face drought, livestock theft and farm attacks alone. They cannot be expected to carry the burden of feeding millions and then be left to fend for themselves.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) should have established a solidarity fund for drought relief eons ago. South African farmers would not be suffering the indignity of pleading for help while trying to ensure food security had the department shown any type of foresight or competency in the past.

Political will urgently needed to address GBVF in South Africa

While the Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the initiative by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to introduce special desks at every police station in the country to deal with cases of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), more needs to be done to rub this stain from our society.

That is why the DA is calling for an urgent joint meeting of the Portfolio Committees on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities; Social Development; Health; Justice and Correctional Services; Basic Education; Higher Education, Science and Technology; and Police; and the Select Committees on Health; Social Service; Security and Justice; and the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus to discuss and review the various forms of intervention that have been suggested.

A joint meeting has not been held since the previous meeting was cancelled in November last year due to a problem with documentation.

To curb GBV there needs to be a concerted, holistic effort from all the role players in government. The solution cannot only be to act against perpetrators once the despicable deed has been done. The problem needs to be attacked from all angles if South African womxn are ever to feel safe in this society and at home.

The sensitization training that SAPS has promised for all its officers is a step in the right direction, and similar training should be implemented for all role players from social workers to prosecutors. There is still a tendency to blame the victims of GBV, or not take their accounts seriously. We need to realise that only acting once they are dead, is a severe failure of a dysfunctional system.

The fact that only 3% of GBV cases resulted in conviction during the Covid-19 lockdown period serves as an indictment against the judicial system.

If government is truly serious in its endeavours, substantial budget provisions would have to made to all relevant Departments to fight GBV.

While there is much work that needs to done on provincial levels, the political will to truly address and eradicate the problem must come from the President and his Ministers.

DA proposes special public hearings on SAA bailout

Please find an attached soundbite by Geordin Hill-Lewis MP

It is morally indefensible to bail out South African Airways (SAA) again by cutting funding from pro-poor Covid relief spending programmes. Parliament should reject any such proposal from Minister Tito Mboweni. The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, Joe Maswanganyi, calling for dedicated public hearings on the SAA bailout. Every Member of Parliament, particularly every ANC MP, should understand clearly that support for this bailout will mean actively choosing to cut funding from services to the poor, and from Covid relief programmes. 

At these hearings the Committee can interrogate the reported proposal to fund the bailout by cutting public employment programmes planned as part of the Covid relief package. Also, public servants like teachers and nurses can detail the extreme resource shortages that they work under every day. This will make the choices clearer. 

The Standing Committee holds public hearings on the whole budget, but these do not allow time for detailed examination of specific spending proposals. That is why we need dedicated public hearings on the SAA bailout. 

Government is ignoring the impact that deep budget cuts announced in the supplementary budget have had on service delivery and will now raid R19,5 billion set aside to create public works jobs for millions of unemployed South Africans.

This is morally indefensible and the DA calls on all parties represented in SCOF to speak in one voice and reject this plan. More than 3 million South Africans have lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19 and Parliament cannot stand by while the government pushes them further into poverty.

R57 billion has been spent bailing out SAA since 1994 and for the government to ask taxpayers to shoulder the burden of another bailout is unacceptable.

Parliament should ensure that the government’s Covid relief package is spent on helping families whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the lockdown. Parliament should not allow these funds to be diverted to SAA.

Government admits Denel cannot continue to exist without bailouts

In response to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question, Defence and Military Veterans Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, said Denel cannot continue to exist in its current form: “[it] is clear, without a significant bailout by government, Denel will not be able to exist in its current form and will not be in a position to meet its contractual obligations to Armscor.” 

Interim Denel Chief Executive,Talib Sadik, is on record as saying that Denel would not seek any government equity injections to stay afloat: “[at] this stage it is not in our plan.”  Sadik is reported as saying in an interview, when asked if Denel would approach government for further bailouts; “[our] view is we need to fix our own house, because what we have is a bit of moral hazard”.

That said, Denel received R1.8 billion from government in 2019 and expects R576 million from this year’s budget, which is coming in tranches. With R3.4 billion of government guaranteed listed debt is payable this month and little likelihood of any prospect of honouring it, Denel will have to go into business rescue.

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula says both Armscor and the Department of Defence “developed alternative options” as regards the future of Denel which still have to considered by “decision makers in government.” However, almost every request by the DA to have a discussion of turnaround plans or alternative options with the interim CEO in Parliament has seemingly been blocked by the Minister of Public Enterprises , Pravin Gordhan. Leaving South Africans in the dark about this failing State Owned Enterprise (SOE).

The bald facts are that Denel has no missile capacity:

  • It has lost irreplaceable engineering staff in droves to competitors.
  • Key contracts are on hold and others cancelled.
  • The company Chairperson announced the closure of Denel Aviation Systems.
  • Twenty G6 155mm long-range guns developed and produced by the LIW division of Denel are on the floor awaiting parts.

The list of company failures is a long one and the writing is clearly on the wall: yet another SOE in a death spiral, the result of state interference, mismanagement, state capture looting and historically indefensible cadre deployment at Executive level.

The impact on national defence capabilities and the fiscus of the destruction of a company that was once a global technology leader and one of the top defence companies in the southern hemisphere must be laid at government’s door.

The DA will continue to request sight of ‘alternative options’ and clarity around monies earmarked for paying down government guaranteed debt to cover due principal and interest bond payments. It has become increasingly clear that this government is incapable of enabling sustainability of our key SOEs.

DA calls on IPID to investigate possible police involvement in Charl Kinnear murder

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to probe possible police involvement in the murder of Charl Kinnear. This is in light of reports that Kinnear was on the brink of cracking a “guns-to-gangs” syndicate at the police Central Firearms Registry (CFR).

If these reports are to be believed, Kinnear would have possibly exposed large scale corruption within the CFR ranks. The DA believes that IPID has an important role to play in exposing the rot in the South African Police Services (SAPS) which may have led to Kinnear’s horrendous murder. IPID simply cannot cross its arms and allow the people who potentially plotted this vile act to continue to work within the SAPS.

If we fail to protect policemen and women who are exposing corruption within SAPS, the fight against crime in this country will never succeed. The rot within the police is one of the biggest threats to our national security and rogue police officials should be exposed and put behind bars.

Honest police officials, such as Kinnear, who seek to expose corruption must be protected so that those with nefarious aims and with ties to the criminal underworld can be flushed out of the system.

For many years SAPS has been engulfed by various scandals involving misconduct, human rights violations, sexual violence and corruption. All of which has resulted in public outcries and general lack of trust towards the police.

IPID has a duty to exercise its oversight of SAPS to ensure that it restores its integrity and regains public confidence. This cannot happen while SAPS remains infested with people who are allegedly working in aid of criminals.

Reprimand not good enough, Mapisa-Nqakula must be fired

Please find attached soundbite from Kobus Marais MP, DA Shadow Minister of Defence

The Democratic Alliance (DA) demands that President Cyril Ramaphosa fires the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula before the end of this week.

The President’s decision to merely reprimand the Minister for willfully overseeing the ANC’s abuse of an air force jet is simply not good enough.

This reprimand does not illustrate how serious President Ramaphosa is about the Minister’s dereliction of duty, it illustrates how weak he is in holding members of his party and his Executive to account.

The President has effectively downplayed this abuse of State resources by stating it was an “error of judgment” on the part of Minister Mapisa-Nqakula.

President Ramaphosa himself admitted that the Minister “did not act … in the best interest of good governance”; that she “failed to adhere to legal prescripts warranting care in use of [State] resources”; and that she “acted in a way that is inconsistent with [her] position”. These are damning findings against Minister Mapisa-Nqakula, and yet she only gets a slap on the wrist.

This smacks of how former President Jacob Zuma evaded accountability after the Nkandla scandal which was another blatant incident of the abuse of State resources.

We simply cannot allow that the Minister gets off scot free. The fact is that she willfully allowed the ANC to abuse public funds to illegally travel to Zimbabwe and back aboard the air force’s Falcon-900 aircraft.

This is also not the Minister’s first offence. She also stands accused of smuggling her late son, Chumani Nqakula’s Burudian girlfriend onboard an air force VVIP Jet.

The DA views these transgressions as a gross violation of her oath of office, a dereliction of duty and a complete disregard for ethical standards. Minister Mapisa-Nqakula must therefore be fired immediately.