Mr President, we’ll help you make sure this never happens again

The following remarks were delivered today by DA Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, during the Parliamentary Debate of National Importance on Covid-19 corruption. 

Madame Speaker

Honourable President

Honourable Members

On 23 March 2020, president Ramaphosa addressed the nation to announce government’s decision to enforce a nation-wide hard lockdown.

In that speech, the President made an explicit commitment to the nation, which bears repeating in this house today. He said, and I quote:

“I want to make it clear that we expect all South Africans to act in the interest of the South African nation and not in their own selfish interests.
We will therefore act very strongly against any attempts at corruption and profiteering from this crisis.
I have directed that special units of the NPA be put together to act immediately and arrest those against who we find evidence of corruption.
We will work with the judiciary to expedite cases against implicated persons and make sure the guilty go to jail.”
Close quote.

Fighting talk. But not a threat his party took very seriously. This stern warning clearly didn’t prove much of a deterrent.

On the contrary, we now know that in this moment of great national crisis, the ANC abused the state of disaster, under which normal oversight mechanisms and procurement regulations were suspended, to embark on a feeding frenzy of Covid-19 funds.

And this, at a time when the poorest of the poor were being forced – sometimes at gunpoint – to sacrifice their right to earn a meagre hand-to-mouth living.

When schoolchildren were being forced to sacrifice their right to education and school meals.

When Collins Khosa was brutally and needlessly murdered by the State.

We now know that billions of rands intended as relief for the poor were diverted from UIF, TERS and SASSA and instead found their way into the bank accounts of connected ANC cronies, and were squandered on purchasing luxury items such as fancy cars.

We now know that two thirds of PPE and other contracts signed between April and August were dodgy.

And that three quarters of provincial PPE contracts were dodgy, with Gauteng, KZN and the Eastern Cape the biggest offenders.

Covid funds were intended for life-giving food and life-saving medical equipment. This is not just theft. It’s murder. Corruption costs lives.

Which is why, while the DA were building field hospitals in the Western Cape, the ANC were digging graves in Gauteng.

We’ve heard that Covid looters include high-ranking ANC politicians such as Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku. And that Ace Magashule’s sons and Nomvula Mokonyane’s daughter scored Covid-related contracts.

And we know this scandal reaches right into the President’s own office, with the husband of spokesperson, Khusela Diko, awarded R125 million of tenders.

These were a pack of heartless hyenas feeding off a helpless, dying springbok. And this should outrage us all!

Mr President, you may have been “shocked” that your party could plumb such depths of depravity.

But we weren’t shocked. Because we’d seen this movie before, with the Arms Deal, Former President Mandela’s funeral, State Capture and other grand-scale theft by connected cronies. Every time there is a big government procurement, the political hyenas are never far from the door.

Which is why the DA, from the outset, pushed hard for Covid accountability mechanisms.

We called for parliament to remain open, arguing that oversight is an essential service.

We called for an ad hoc committee to ensure continuous oversight during lockdown.

We called for a special inspector-general, with sweeping powers in the National Treasury to take pre-emptive action to prevent covid fraud and corruption in real time.

We argued that the exclusion of oversight mechanisms from the Disaster Management Act was itself a grave oversight and should be rectified.

Had these suggestions been taken on board it would have prevented the corruption from taking place and instead we are now spending more money to recover monies that should never have gone missing in the first place!

But our calls were ignored.

Instead, all procurement regulations and oversight mechanisms were suspended. Treasury stepped aside, and Parliament remained mute, while the ANC and their handlangers used the State of Disaster as a pretext to ramp up looting to dizzying new heights.

Mr President, we cannot keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

We must work together to put in place the mechanisms that will ensure this can never, ever happen again.

The DA will support you in this house and I’m sure many other opposition parties will too.

We’ll support you to end this state of disaster that is giving ANC cronies free rein to steal.

We’ll support you if you reinstate the Scorpions, a corruption-busting body with real independence and a real sting in the tail.

We’ll support a 15-year prison sentence for all those convicted of Covid corruption. Each and every implicated individual must be investigated.

We’ll support you to amend the Disaster Management Act to ensure continuous oversight.

Because Mr President, we’ll only win the fight against corruption when there are real consequences for wrongdoing.

We’ll only win the fight against corruption when we see the big political fish in orange overalls.

Mr. President, you’ll need the DA’s help, because your party can’t help itself.

Major decline in Matric STEM subject enrollment

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to provide urgent plans on the work it is doing to reverse the alarming trend of decreases in Matric enrollment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

In a presentation before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, the Department revealed that enrollment for STEM subjects decreased as follows from 2016 to 2020:

  • Mathematics decreased by 40 385
  • Physical Sciences decreased by 18 461
  • Life Sciences decreased by 21 940

These figures are alarming as it indicates that South Africa is heading backwards as it relates to enrollment in critical STEM subjects.

Provincial Education Departments have also reported that among Grade 11s Mathematics and Physical Science recorded the lowest averages compared to all other subjects.

This also means that in 2021 we can expect even fewer students to take these demanding subjects.

If the government is truly committed to the 4th industrial revolution, then greater emphasis will have to be put on getting learners into STEM subjects and other subjects of relevance to the immediate future, to encourage technological and digital innovation within our economy.

Learners need to understand that while these Maths and Science are demanding subjects, they should not be feared and could open many doors.

The DBE must address this regression in STEM subject enrollment, or the 4th industrial revolution will remain a pipe.

Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa confirms that our skies must open up to grow tourism

At the Tourism Portfolio Committee meeting this week the Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa (BARSA) confirmed that government’s handling of Covid-19 and the lockdown has placed South Africa in grave risk as Africa’s airline hub.  The manner in which international tourism is being handled by the Ramaphosa administration has initiated a discussion amongst the international tourism industry that countries such as Namibia, Kenya and Ethiopia be considered as Africa’s travel hub, instead of South Africa.   Continue reading “Board of Airline Representatives of South Africa confirms that our skies must open up to grow tourism”

Mthethwa’s snubbing of Parliament proof that administrative problems in sport is the least of his concerns

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is appalled by the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa’s failure to appear before the portfolio committee today.

He was expected to brief the public and Parliament on his plans to bring about stability at Cricket South Africa (CSA) and the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). Minister Mthethwa’s failure to show up in Parliament is totally unacceptable, however it is not surprising. It is proof that the Minister’s priorities do not lie with addressing the issues that plague the administration of sports in this country.

There is no excuse for the Minister not to be available to account to Parliament, especially in light of the mess in which both CSA and SASCOC are in.

The ongoing issues affecting sports in South Africa including maladministration, allegations of corruption, needs to be addressed urgently. The sooner the internal battles and power struggle in South African sport are addressed the better. Failure to do so will jeopardise our country’s international participation in sport.

As a Minister, Mthethwa is duty bound to account to Parliament about his plan, and actions, and his failure to make an appearance and tell the public how the rot in sport will be fixed is a massive opportunity missed.

The DA will also continue to place pressure on the Minister to make an appearance before Parliament because it is important for the ongoing issues at CSA and SASCOC to be addressed

SCA Tshwane judgment a huge victory for the DA and democracy

The following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, during a media briefing.

The Democratic Alliance welcomes today’s long-awaited judgment from the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) dismissing, with costs, the Section 18(4) appeal lodged by the Gauteng Provincial Government in July this year.

This appeal sought to delay the enforcement of a High Court judgment which the DA obtained with its Section 18(3) Application handed down in favour of the party in June, which instructed the immediate reinstatement of the DA administration and councillors in Tshwane pending the outcome of an appeal to the Constitutional Court on the matter.

This is a fantastic win for the DA and I am delighted that the judgment has now given the DA the green light to immediately reinstate our government in Tshwane so that we can roll up our sleeves and do what we were elected to do – serve the residents of South Africa’s capital and bring the DA difference to South Africans.

I want to thank the dedicated, resilient, and hard-working DA councillors in Tshwane who have remained resolute in their commitment to their responsibilities as public servants, and who have continued to fulfill their duties, without pay, for the entire duration of this appeal process. They are the true unsung heroes and I am truly grateful for their sacrifice for the good of the metro and its residents.

This debacle exposes that the ANC was engaged in a power grab, and abused the constitution to do so. It first made the City of Tshwane ungovernable, by constant walk-outs from the Tshwane Council, breaking the quorum, and making it impossible to take decisions.

After having achieved this goal, the Provincial ANC government put the City back under ANC administration. The Supreme Court decision once more exposes this strategy for what it is: an abuse of the constitution and a blatant power grab that undermines the will of the voters.

This judgment is not only crucial for the residents of the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, but for democracy in South Africa, as it has laid bare the desperate and extreme lengths to which the ANC will try to circumvent democratic processes and the constitution, and use their own governments and the courts to cling to power where they have clearly lost the trust of voters at the ballot box.

The residents of the City of Tshwane made it very clear in 2016 that they no longer wanted to live in an ANC-governed metro, and the DA has fought tooth and nail to uphold their wishes and make their voices heard. We are now ready to get back to work serving the residents of Tshwane with a clean, efficient, and innovative government under the DA’s banner.

I want to urge all residents of Tshwane, and each and every South African across the country, to note that these sorts of power grabs will only continue should metros and municipalities remain governed by coalition governments in which the ANC holds a large share of the vote. It is absolutely imperative that the DA wins an outright majority in metros and municipalities across the country, so that we can be given a clear and unquestioned mandate to bring the DA difference to the people of our country.

Now, more than ever, we must rally behind the DA to push through a clear blue majority to bring the change South Africa so desperately needs. The events over the past few months have proven that the ANC cannot be trusted in coalition governments, nor with respecting the will of the people. The DA will never allow any ANC power grabs to be launched via the backdoor anywhere in South Africa. We will continue to ensure that democracy and the rule of law always prevail.

Minister Gordhan again trying to avoid accountability before SCOPA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s decision to not attend a Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) meeting that was due to happen today.

When the DA enquired to the reason for the cancelled meeting, we were informed that the Minister, as per his previous communication, requested he appear before SCOPA after the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS). This is completely inaccurate. In a letter to the SCOPA Chairperson, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, earlier this month, Minister Gordhan did not mention the MTBPS and simply requested that the meeting be moved to this week to give South African Airways (SAA) enough time to secure funding and implement the business rescue plan.

What has become patently clear, however, is that SAA has no private equity partner and that Minister Gordhan expects the South African public to fork out billions to save an entity whose wings should have been clipped eons ago.

The R10.4 billion needed to bail out an entity whose demise can only be laid at its own feet, should be used on education, health care, housing, or on any of the myriad problems South African society faces daily. While thousands of parents and children face another week on an empty stomach, Minister Gordhan wishes to waste vital funding on dead duck SAA that will be back, even in terms of the business rescue plan, for further billions of rands in bailouts.

The DA will continue to put pressure on commercial banks to refuse bridging finance to SAA whilst due parliamentary process regarding bailouts to the failed state entity is followed.

Let’s be clear, a bailout to SAA is an investment against ordinary South Africans and is morally reprehensible. It’s a clear indication that while the ANC claims to hold the best interests of citizens, it only cares about cadres and power.

Open letter to President Ramaphosa: Your silence on Africa is deafening 

Dear Mr President,

Over the past few months, under the cover of the global Covid-19 pandemic, our continent and her people have been suffering due to unrelenting violence and it is now time to let your voice as African Union (AU) Chairperson be heard.

I understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed South Africa, like so many other countries around the world, in turmoil, but your silence on what is happening in the rest of Africa can unfortunately be read as condonement of the violence unleashed upon our brothers and sisters.

I would like to highlight some of these events, all of which I’m sure you’ve been made aware:

  • The Zambian National Democratic leader, Dr Chishimba Kambwili, has been imprisoned on account of forgery. This questionable incident was followed with the arrest and humiliation of his wife and daughter. Your silence on the Zambian president jailing an opposition leader for the second time before an election does little to inspire confidence in internal investors and the rest of the continent.
  • While Guinean President, Alpha Condo’s running for a third term in office is problematic, of major concern it the violence that followed an opposition candidate’s announcement that the election was rigged and that he had in fact won.
  • Attacks by an unidentified task team on peaceful protestors against Nigeria’s controversial SARS unit that have targeted innocent have made international headlines. There have been many casualties and while this caused Nigerians in South Africa to march to the embassy in Pretoria and President Muhammadu Buhari to deny that this unit was part of his army, the AU chairperson has not been quoted once in any of the stories.
  • Violence have marred the pending Ivory Coast elections after presidential candidate Amadou Gon Coulibaly died of a heart attack in July and current president Alassane Ouattara decided to run for a third term. Opposition parties have called for a boycott to the election and civil disobedience and people have already died during clashes before the election this weekend. Given the state of affairs, will the AU be able to back its original assessment of a free and fair election process leading up to this date?

Mr President, as Chairperson of the AU you must speak out on these matters that deeply affect our fellow African states. These events pose a serious threat to democracies on the continent and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

Suspension of Home Affairs officials encouraging step to rooting out corruption within department 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the suspension of the two senior officials by the Department of Home Affairs who were allegedly involved in wrongdoing within the department.

These officials were allegedly also involved in serving religious leader Shepherd Bushiri with notices from the department related to his residency woes.

While the Minister has pointed out that their suspension is not related to the Bushiri matter, we do think that these kinds of suspensions and investigations into corruption and wrongdoing within the department is a positive step in rooting out the ills in the South African home affairs system.

It is in the best interest of all South Africans for corruption that has plagued the Department of Home Affairs to be eradicated. When bold and decisive action is taken against unscrupulous officials, actions must be applauded. This will send the right message that any official found to have participated in acts of fraud and corruption will be dealt with accordingly.

The DA hopes that more arrest and dismissals will happen in order to send a strong message that the department is committed to rooting out the corruption that has plagued it for too long. And that individuals implicated in defrauding the state in any way will no longer continue to enjoy positions of power and privilege at the expense of the country.

DA welcomes CSA board resignations and calls on Mthethwa to provide Parliament with plans to fix chaos

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by several Cricket South Africa (CSA) board members resigning with immediate effect. While this is a positive step, CSA still has a very long road ahead of it to fix the myriad of crises within South African cricket.

Minister Nathi Mthethwa is expected to appear before Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts, and Culture on Tuesday. We urge him to use this as an opportunity to brief the public and Parliament on his plans to bring about stability at CSA. It is important for Parliament to know which direction cricket will be taking so that we can have assurance that the chaos engulfing CSA is being put behind us.

The CSA board’s alleged maladministration and misconduct has caused untold damage to the sport. They oversaw South African cricket to its decline, and some of the damages will take many years to fix. If action against this board was taken sooner, perhaps some of this decline would have been lessened or avoided.

Nevertheless, the DA still welcomes the board’s removal as a correct decision, especially in light of their whitewashed forensic report tabled earlier this month. The report attempted to blame one person for the crisis within CSA and essentially absolved the board from any wrongdoing in the administration of cricket in this county.

We have always maintained that the financial, administrative and leadership challenges within CSA could not solely be laid at the feet of one man as the board’s forensic report suggested, and their removal proves that we were right.

Let us be clear, the board’s removal and resignations should not absolve them from further accountability. We, therefore, call for all CSA board members and executives, past and present, who were implicated in CSA’s maladministration to be investigated and held to account.

Old SANDF vehicles must be repurposed to combat fires

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will write to the Auditor-General (AG) of South Africa, Kimi Makwetu, to ask for his guidance regarding Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) regulations so that certain vehicles that have been decommissioned by the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) and would soon be up for auction, would be sold to fire protection associations to be retrofitted with firefighting capabilities.

Government has a responsibility to do everything in its power to fight fires that often start on land used by State resources, like roads, railways, municipalities or SANDF territories, but tends to adversely affect especially those in rural communities and farms surrounding these areas. Often the municipalities, SANDF bases and other State institutions bordering on rural communities and farms are not part of fire protection associations as law dictates. This leaves these communities and farmers to largely deal with the devastation of fires on their own, as we have again during the recent fires that have raged across three provinces in South Africa, with small exceptions as seen in Boshoff where Working on Fire assisted in fighting the fire. Had more vehicles been available, further outbreaks could have been prevented.

These fires have already claimed the lives of 1 800 livestock in the Free State alone. It has also caused injuries to volunteers fighting the fires. More than 200 000 ha of agricultural land have been destroyed. And to this moment, those fighting the fires have received little to no help from municipalities in the areas of these fires.

And still government has ignored the DA’s and others’ pleas for help. The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, have yet to declare a state of disaster in the Free State, North West or Northern Cape as the DA have called for. This would have at the very least put SANDF on standby to provide vital assistance and equipment to fighting any new fires in these disaster-stricken areas.

Government must end its tendency to leave rural communities and farmers to fend for themselves when disaster strikes. Unless it steps in and assist these communities South Africa might be facing a pandemic of food insecurity soon.