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.

A fundamental choice: ‘State Ambition’ versus giving ‘Power to the People’

The following statement was delivered by DA Shadow Minister of Finance, Geordin Hill-Lewis MP, during a press conference on the DA’s expectations ahead of the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. Hill-Lewis was joined by DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Finance, Dion George MP.

  • Please find attached a full preview document here.

In an already extra-ordinary year, this week the Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, will deliver his third budget of 2020.

While economic conditions have changed dramatically since the first budget was delivered in February, the core responsibility of the National Treasury has not.

The Treasury, and the Finance Minister, must restore South Africa to a sustainable debt path and re-establish fiscal discipline.

Equally important is protecting essential public services from deep budget cuts. These two goals are related. If we spend more on interest on debt, we will have less to spend on essential services.

And if spending is focused on wasteful projects and failing state companies, there will be less for essential services.

The Minister and his excellent Treasury team know this full well. That is why the Minister committed the government to achieving primary balance and debt stability by financial year 2023/24.

In that budget, the Minister set out clearly the risks associated with failing to close the mouth of the hippo – the yawning gap between government revenue and government expenditure.

This was the so-called “active scenario” requiring meaningful progress on wide-ranging economic reform to reorient the economy for growth.

The active scenario would require some difficult and painful decisions in the short term – most notably, deep cuts to the public wage bill, and ending the cycle of perennial bailouts for failing state entities.

These then are our core expectations for the medium-term budget policy statement:

  1. The Minister must show a credible path to debt stabilisation, and in the longer term, to debt reduction
  2. The Minister should commit himself to a formal legislated debt ceiling, ideally by supporting the DA’s Fiscal Responsibility Bill
  3. The Minister must protect essential public services from deep budget cuts, by focusing cuts on the public wage bill and through a root-and-branch reassessment of government spending
  4. The Minister must hold the line on bailouts to failing state entities, and should refuse any further bailout of South African Airways (SAA)

Failure to Reform:

The consequences of not achieving the “active scenario” are a full-blown sovereign debt crisis that would see South Africa cede a portion of policy sovereignty to international lenders, be they based in Beijing or Washington. More than that – far deeper cuts across every public service, affecting the poor above all.

Cabinet has so far paid little heed of Treasury’s warnings.

Like the stubborn patient who refuses to deal with a gangrenous foot, and so eventually loses the entire leg, the ANC has refused to take the action now that would prevent far more painful consequences later.

There has been little meaningful progress on economic reform, national debt continues to mushroom, and South African Airways (SAA) is set to receive another R10.5 billion bailout.

We expect that the trend in Mboweni’s speeches will continue of ever more dire warnings about what is coming, followed by inadequate action to change course. This means that we do not expect the targets in the “active scenario” to be met, and that Minister Mboweni will try to find ways to retreat from these targets.

The More Fundamental Question:

Lying behind various debt scenarios and fiscal targets, there is a more fundamental underlying problem that will continue to hobble any latent recovery.

South Africa’s economic recovery depends on a simple yet crucial choice that the ANC must make: state ambition versus giving power to the people.

The ANC must abandon its ambition for a state-led economy, which is smothering the entrepreneurial talent of South Africans.

In what was to be his final public engagement before his untimely passing, Professor Daniel Plaatjies (to whom we pay tribute for his long and distinguished contribution) spoke just 3 weeks ago of the ANC’s failed ambition to build a developmental state. He concluded that the edifice constructed by the ANC is developmental in name only – all of the ambition, with none of the substance.

This ‘state ambition’ with low capabilities and corruption has been a lethal combination: it has nearly crippled South Africa.

In pursuit of this ‘state ambition’, the ANC has expanded public spending massively.

This gamble has not paid off. South Africa now has high debts and nothing to show for it.

In pursuit of this ‘state ambition’, the ANC has given endless public financial support to state-owned companies whose control they have also guaranteed through cadre deployment.

Now, nearly every state-owned enterprise without exception is a failing businesses, with unreliable or collapsing services.

A bloated public sector delivers increasing salaries and declining services.

Roughly half of all South Africans above the age of 18 live below the upper-bound poverty line (R1 227) and, by law, they are not permitted to escape it. South Africans are required to sit at home rather than accept a job for less than R2 491 a month in the private sector.

Finally, the services paid for by taxpayers are broken. In fact, they are so broken that after paying the government, taxpayers pay the private sector again to actually deliver them the services they need – private security, private healthcare, private education, private transport, etc.

This is the legacy of the ANC’s ‘developmental state’ ambition.

The South African economy requires a radical reorientation from state ambition towards giving power to the people.

South Africa already has the natural endowments, entrepreneurial talent, and ideas to drive an economic renewal, but it requires a government willing to unleash it.

A growing economy enables us to provide better and more meaningful welfare support to the poor and the unemployed – the kind of support that actually gives you an opportunity to escape poverty and become independent. Not support so paltry, important as it is, that it keeps recipients trapped in a cycle of government-induced poverty. A basic income becomes more and more feasible in the context of a growing economy where fewer people would be out of work.

If South Africa continues with state ambition over giving power to the people, we will forever be trying to do more, but with a declining base of taxpayers to provide the revenue needed to fund more.

Changing direction will not be easy. South Africa has built up significant momentum towards economic ruin. It can be done, but it requires tough choices to overcome inertia.

The document we release today highlights the tough choices South Africa needs to make in order to give power to the people.

SAA:

The SAA bailout is why this budget is ultimately bound to disappoint. It represents the failure of the ANC to make the choice to move away from state ambition to giving power to the people.

Besides insiders and vested interests, there is no one left in South Africa still trying to make a case for why SAA should be bailed out again. The ANC does not even try to make a case for it.

And yet, another bailout is coming. R10.5 billion, on top of R16.4 billion in February.

This is perfectly symbolic of the choice of ‘state ambition’ over empowering people.

It is a morally indefensible choice to make.

In the context of the scale of financial stress and personal suffering faced by so many South African families right now, spending should be prioritized for protecting essential services, or providing greater relief.

This is the choice being made:

  • R10.5 billion could fund, on average, a little more than one additional month of TERS support for families who are still not earning their full pre-lockdown salaries.
  • R10.5 billion represents 130 new schools
  • R10.5 billion represents over 1.5 times the entire annual budget of the National School Nutrition Program
  • R10.5 billion represents over 80 000 education degrees.
  • R10.5 billion represents 13 new 300-bed district hospitals.
  • R10.5 billion represents over 440 new green community clinics.
  • R10.5 billion represents over 27 000 medical degrees.
  • R10.5 billion represents over 66 500 RDP houses.

That is the choice the ANC is making: SAA above SA. State ambition above empowering people.

More than R65 billion in public money has been given to SAA since 1999, without anything to show for it. The latest request for R10.5 billion to “restructure” the company will push the assistance given to SAA over the R75 billion mark.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde summed it up perfectly this week when he said “…we don’t need state funded planes, but we do need working trains…we don’t need chicken or beef being delivered in the skies to those who already have an income. But what we do need is good nutritious food delivered to our children so we can eradicate extreme hunger”.

And that is why we are so committed to raising public awareness about how wrong this choice is. We will continue to escalate our campaign against this bailout – both in the hope of stopping it, but also so that the ANC is held accountable.

#Jetgate: Until proof has been produced, we cannot trust payment was made

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has taken note that the ANC cannot provide proof that they paid back the money incurred when they abused an Air Force jet to travel to Zimbabwe to meet with ZANU-PF.

Until proof of payment has been produced, we can only assume that the payment was never made.

In response to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, confirmed said that that “[any] revenue due to the state flows to the National Revenue Fund (NRF) through departments concerned before it is surrendered to the NRF. As it stands, the Department of Defence is still working on the matter and will inform the National Treasury accordingly once the matter is finalized.”

The DA wrote to Minister Mboweni earlier this month to ascertain whether he was consulted by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to determine a reasonable amount the ANC must pay back for abusing State resources.

Since Treasury has not yet received the payment and the ANC cannot produce any proof thereof, Minister Mboweni should use this as an opportunity to ensure that proper costing is done to ensure that the State is paid in full by his party.

The ANC says that they do not “owe” the DA proof of this payment.  What they do not seem to understand is that they “owe” every single South African taxpayer proof that they paid back the money.

The ANC’s response to our call for transparency is typical of their disregard for any accountability.

The facts are that an ANC delegation completely flouted Treasury and Defence regulations when they travelled to Zimbabwe on board a Falcon-900 jet. This was a flagrant abuse of State resources and their refusal to produce proof is a slap in the face of the taxpayers who had to foot the bill for this abuse.

New SAPS Amendment Bill an unconstitutional power-grab that must be opposed

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the publication, for comment, of the draft South African Police Service Amendment Bill. We believe that this draft Bill is, at best, flawed, and at worst represents an attempt to affect an unconstitutional power-grab by the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. We will oppose this Bill with all the means at our disposal.

Ironically, the Bill professes to align the existing South African Police Service Act (SAPS Act) with the Constitution, but in going about creating a “single police service” it erodes the constitutionally-mandated powers of provincial, municipal and community policing structures. The Bill in effect strips provincial and local governments of decision-making and planning powers, while requiring them to continue bearing the bulk of the responsibilities associated with policing in their areas, including assuming civil liability and taking care of funding and equipping. The Bill awards substantial powers to the Minister to interfere in provincial and municipal policing matters.

The DA is of the belief that policing should be increasingly devolved, not centralised. In order to effectively fight crime we need a police force that is nimble enough to adjust to the unique circumstances of each province or community, rather than a “one size fits all” bureaucracy in which crime fighting strategies, policies and priorities are determined nationally by politicians that are far removed from the daily realities of ordinary South Africans.

The DA urges members of the public to submit their comments on the Bill as a matter of urgency. Comments should be submitted by no later than 14 November 2020, and must be addressed in writing to comments.bill@csp.gov.za or by post for the attention Dr. PC Jacobs at Civilian Secretariat for Police, Private Bag X922, Pretoria.

The ANC government has consistently failed to combat crime effectively, and this Bill, by centralising powers at a national level, is a step in the wrong, rather than the right, direction.

Speech by Dr Ivan Meyer, DA Federal Chairperson, at Parliament on Sunday, 25 October 2020 at the Black Monday event

The following speech was delivered by Dr. Ivan Meyer, DA Federal Chairperson and Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, at a Black Monday event outside Parliament today. See photos here, here and here.

We are here today #ForTheLoveOfAgriculture.

We are here today #ForTheLoveOfFarmers.

We are here today in solidarity with our farmers, farmworkers – black and white, their children, and their families.

Farmers and farmworkers live in fear in South Africa.

We are here today at Parliament because the President and MPs deny that farmers and farmworkers are attacked and murdered.

Mr. President, wake up and smell the blood of farmers across South Africa.

Mr. President, our hearts are bleeding for our farmers across South Africa.

Mr. President, I have been to the scenes of farm attacks. Mr. President, it is not only attacks, it is the brutality of these crimes.

Mr. President these farmers are honest, hardworking men and women, and all they ask are STOP Farm murders now.

Mr. President, our farmers and farmworkers are the food basket of South Africa.

Mr. President, are you aware that South Africa’s agriculture is exporting 50% of our agri-products on the African continent.

A farm murder in South Africa directly impact the food security and political stability of the African continent.

As the Chairperson of the African Union, you should condemn farm murders in South Africa to protect food security on the African continent.

Mr. President, these farmers are your key to economic recovery in South Africa.

Without these farmers, there is no economic recovery.

Mnr die President, hierdie boere is die kosmandjie van Suid Afrika.

Ons vra dus

  • Stop plaasmoorde in Suid-Afrika;
  • Verklaar plaasmoorde as haatspraak in Suid-Afrika;
  • Verklaar plaasaanvalle en plaasmoorde as prioriteitsmisdade in Suid-Afrika;
  • Bemagtig SAPS in landelike gebiede met meer toerusting en hulpbronne om hul werk meer effektief te done;
  • Stel ‘n hofmoniteringseenheid (die sogenaamde Watching Briefs) in om plaasaanvalle effektief te monitor in kriminele regstelsel;
  • Ondersteun plaasbuurtwagte met hulpbronne, toerusting en elektroniese kameras om misdaad te voorkom;
  • Die boere vra vir belastingskorting op alle veiligheidsuitgawes wat hulle op hulle plase aanbring.

Mnr die President, boere, plaaswerkers, wit en swart, staan vandag hier voor die Parlement, en vra u as die hoof van die regering in die Republiek Suid-Afrika, kom ons stop plaasmoorde.

Dit kan nie langer so aangaan nie.

Een moord is een te veel.

Ons harte is seer vandag, want die mense wat kos op ons tafel plaas word wreedaardig in Suid-Afrika vermoor.

Suid-Afrika kom ons staan saam ons boere, plaaswerkers en hulle families.

Vir ons boere, alle boere regoor Suid-Afrika, aan die in die Vrystaat, Noordwes en Noord-Kaap wat brandstigting ervaar het, kom ons haal ons hoede af en handhaaf ‘n minuut van stilte.

Hier in die Wes-Kaap is ons boere ons landbouers en plaaswerkers ons strategiese vennoot.

In die Wes-Kaap dra landbou 11% by tot die ekonomie van die Wes-Kaap en daarom gaan ek nie plaasaanvalle en moorde duld in die Wes-Kaap nie.

‘n Aanval op ‘n boer en plaaswerker is ‘n aanval op die ekonomie van die Wes-Kaap en dit gaan ek nie toelaat nie.

Ek sluit af, Vandag, Ek salueer alle boere, landbouers en plaaswerkers regoor Suid-Afrika.

Ons boodskap is eenvoudig: Mnr die President, kry ‘n ruggraat en stop plaasmoorde in Suid-Afrika

Didiza’s published list of farms for land reform causes panic among emerging farmers

The plan by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, to release 700 000 hectares of “underutilised or vacant state land” for agricultural purposes could potentially prejudice emerging farmers after it emerged that some farms on the published list were already underactive agricultural production.

To prevent further panic and ensure that affected farmers get the requisite assurance to proceed with their preparations for the forthcoming agricultural season unhindered, the DA will write to Minister Didiza and ask that she:

  • provides clarity on why productive farms have been listed;
  • confirm whether existing farm occupants were consulted on the government’s intention to place the property on the list;
  • explain the reasons for listing a farm whose occupant already possesses a lease agreement; and
  • provide documented evidence of the reasons that informed the inclusion of each of the 896 farms on the list.

The DA is concerned that the criteria used by the DALRRD to identify ‘underutilised or vacant land’ may have been subjectively applied by Departmental officials resulting in the listing of productive farms.

One of the affected farmers is Mr. David Rakgase who, with the DA’s assistance, recently won the right to full ownership of his Nooitgedaccht farm in Limpopo after an 18 year battle with the government. Despite agreeing earlier this year to transfer full ownership of the farm to Mr. Rakgase, the sudden u-turn by the government to list his farm under the latest land reform programme is not only puzzling but now borders on vindictive victimisation of this elderly farmer.

Similarly, the Gwatyu community in the Eastern Cape recently discovered that their fight to have full ownership rights of their land has only resulted in its listing for possible land reform purposes on Didiza’s list. The Gwatyu case is particularly concerning because, despite being ignored for years by the government in repeated attempts to present their case, they now face the possibility of having their land parcelled out without consultation.

Deputy President, David Mabuza’s assurance in Parliament last week that no one will be forcibly evicted from the land is of little comfort to farmers who have spent years fighting for their right to land ownership. The urgent issue at hand is for Didiza to halt her ‘700 000 hectare’ programme until she has cleared the ongoing confusion on the targeting of occupied productive land.

Catastrophic oils spill endangers Durban’s fragile ecosystem

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is horrified by the catastrophic crude oil spill from a Transnet pipe into the Umbilo River. The crude oil has now meandered down to Durban Harbour and can be seen as far afield as Battery Beach in Durban Central.

DA councillors Melanie Brauteseth, Gavin Hecter and eThekwini Caucus Chief Whip, Thabani Mthetwa, conducted a brief oversight to the site of the oil spill and were greeted with the horrific site of thick black oil permeating the river and its banks. Spill-Tech were on-site to fix the pipe and contain the spill.

The already severely compromised Umbilo river ecosystem which has been the site of major sewage spills and industrial pollution now faces complete ecocide. The impact on the ecosystem, wildlife, and communities dependent upon the river is unknown at this point.

The DA will ensure that eThekwini Municipality and KwaZulu-Natal provincial authorities hold Transnet to account. An immediate investigation must be undertaken into the allegations of Transnet’s ailing pipeline infrastructure as the cause of the oil spill. An environmental assessment of the damage must be commissioned and a plan for the rivers’ rehabilitation drafted, in consultation with environmental experts, to save the Umbilo River.

The devastating impact of the oil spill could take years to remedy. A disaster of this scale should never have been allowed to occur and we must ensure there are no repeat incidents. The ongoing pollution of our waterways is a crisis that has been unfolding unabated in all of South Africa’s provinces for many years.

The DA has submitted a parliamentary question to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, requesting her department’s plan to address the ecocide of South Africa’s rivers. South Africa is a water-scarce country and we cannot afford the destruction of our precious fresh water sources that many communities depend on.

Minister Creecy’s department needs to urgently step in to assist provincial and municipal authorities to fulfil their mandate as there seems to be chronic incapacity to protect our rivers. Government must uphold the people’s constitutional right to an environment that is not harmful to their well-being, as well as the preservation of the environment for future generations.

The DA call on Minister Creecy to urgently convene a meeting with the Department of Water and Sanitation and the Department of Health to devise an emergency plan to save South Africa’s rivers. This is a necessity not only to protect our vulnerable communities and natural heritage, but is also an integral part of South Africa’s climate resilience strategy.