DA awaiting judgment on Garden Route beach closures

Note to editors: Please click here for a soundbite by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP.

Yesterday, the Western Cape High Court considered arguments made by the Democratic Alliance to open beaches along the Garden Route. The judgement was reserved, and we remain confident that it will be handed down in the coming days.

In the fight to save both lives and livelihoods in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we believe that beach closures do far more harm than good.

The closure of beaches goes against the available scientific advice from medical experts and is thus irrational. Furthermore, the closure of beaches along the Garden Route has had a devastating impact on the region’s tourism economy which is the lifeblood of many local municipalities.

As part of our case, the DA also argued to have the imposition of irrational beach operating hours of between 09:00 and 18:00 overruled. Again, this restriction goes against all medical and scientific advice, and is an irrational and unnecessary policing of the freedom of movement.

We cannot and will not allow irrational restrictions to be passed which impact the livelihoods of millions in our country at a time when the economy is on its knees. We hope that the courts will rule in our favour, and in favour of the millions of lives and livelihoods placed at risk by this irrational restriction.

PP Vrede Dairy report supports DA’s criminal charges

Please find the attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans, as well as a video by Dr Roy Jankielsohn MPL, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Legislature. 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the findings of the Public Protector’s Vrede Dairy Project investigation report that supports the initial view of serious maladministration, undue influence by persons linked to the Gupta family on politicians and that the beneficiaries were prejudiced.

Included in the remedial action is the important instruction that the Head of the Investigative Directorate of the National Prosecuting Authority must consider the report with their current investigation in relation to the possible criminal charges relating to offences under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.

The report substantiates the initial concerns of the DA regarding the roles of politicians in the project and their complicity in maladministration and improper conduct. In this regard the names of former Premier Ace Magashule, former MEC’s Zwane and Rockman and current MEC Qabathe are mentioned as the main perpetrators of the improper appropriation of funds to the Gupta-linked Estina company.

Regarding the former Free State Premier Ace Magashule, the PP indicates the following: “His continuous denial of having no direct responsibility and knowledge, as the political head of the Free State Province, of the Vrede Dairy Project is alarming.” Magashule also questions why the PP would attempt to impose a duty on him to report corruption within his government if he had no statutory duty to do so. If he did not have a statutory duty to report corruption, he at the very least had a moral duty to do so. This characterises the nine year Magashule administration in the Free State that was bereft of morality that contributed greatly to the poverty and destitution of the people in the province.

The current report differs substantially from the initial report that the DA took under judicial review. Much time has been lost for the beneficiaries of the project who remain side-lined while the PP was appealing the review judgement. The report supports the current legal action by the DA in the Free State to ensure that the beneficiaries of the project receive their rightful 51% share in the project. The beneficiaries have been abused as the pretext to allocate the R380 million rand to the project over a number of years.

The report supports the criminal charges brought against the above politicians by the DA. The report will be tabled in the Free State Legislature where further action will be taken against MEC for Social Development Mamiki Qabathe. The former Premier and MEC’s will be dealt with alongside Qabathe by law enforcement agencies.

The DA will continue to drive the Vrede Dairy Project as an issue until there is justice for the beneficiaries and all the implicated politicians are brought to book.

Minister Motsoaledi must urgently address severe Home Affairs delays

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on National Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to urgently address severe delays at Home Affairs offices across the country where citizens have been met with complete service paralysis due to staff shortages.

I have received a number of reports from South Africans using the festive period to obtain official documentation from Home Affairs, only to wait in queues for hours and days on end with no assistance.

This complete lack of services is not only unacceptable from a State Department, but places thousands at unnecessary risk of Covid-19 infection where small crowds begin to gather around Home Affairs offices and social distancing becomes impossible.

Minister Motsoaledi should have anticipated this unique set of circumstances surrounding Home Affairs offices in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and a contingency plan should have been formulated and put into place. Failure to do so has placed the lives of many South Africans at risk, and Minister Motsoaledi must account for this.

South Africa’s coronavirus pandemic affects each and every state department in some way. Minister Motsoaledi’s inability to accommodate the needs of South Africans at Home Affairs offices at this time is unacceptable. The Minister must intervene in this service collapse as a matter of urgency.

Minister Mapisa Nqakula must account for R4 billion lost to corruption in 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be requesting an urgent sitting of the Joint Standing Committee of Intelligence and the Joint Standing Committee of Defence at the National Assembly where National Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, must account for a string of egregious corruption allegations levelled against her Department in 2020.

On 17 December 2020, The Star Newspaper revealed a leaked investigative report into the Department of Defence which revealed alarming allegations of corruption within Defence Intelligence to the value of more than R4 billion.

The investigation also revealed that Defence Intelligence funds were looted in 2018, detailing a series of corrupt procurement deals including a suspicious cybersecurity training tender which was awarded to a company by the name of “Sabre Technologies”.

The company was paid R22 588 670 in advance without following due process and proper approval. It is believed that the Head of Defence Intelligence approved the tender on 26 October 2018, a month before the tender went through the budget and procurement processes.

The investigative report relating to the corruption in Defence Intelligence which was leaked to the Star Newspaper, and assumed to be classified, was never discussed in the Joint Standing Committee of Intelligence at Parliament. This Committee is solely responsible for the oversight of this Department and any procurement of services it may undertake.

Minister Mapisa Nqakula must also account for a series of Departmental blunders over the course of the year, including:

  • Her initial support of the South African National Defence Force’s findings into the death of Collins Khosa which seemingly exonerated the SANDF with an affidavit to the court, only to later claim that she was misled by SANDF leadership;
  • The complete flouting of legislation and regulations on 9 September 2020 when she and an ANC delegation travelled to Zimbabwe with a Falcon-900 Jet, later touted the infamous #Jetgate; and
  • The SANDF’s waste of at least R215 million on the seemingly illegal importation of an unregistered Covid-19 treatment drug known as ‘Interferon’ from Cuba without consultation with the Department of Health and other state departments. This came to light in November 2020.

In total, the R4 billion looted from the Department could have been used for more pressing needs such as the prevention of over expenditure on costs of employees which contributed to the qualified audit finding by the Auditor General, the essential midlife upgrades of the three Frigates to the value of R2,25 billion, and the essential midlife upgrades of the three submarines to the value of R1,35 billion.

This money could also have gone towards Projects Hotel and Biro. The first in-shore patrol vessel under Project Biro is near completion with expected delivery date in the first half of 2021.

Minister Mapisa Nqakula must urgently account for the corruption allegations levelled against her department over the course of the year and explain the billions wasted under her watch while South Africa’s defence and intelligence continue to suffer.

DA extends condolences to family of Ranger Checkers Mashego

The Democratic Alliance (DA) extends its heartfelt condolences to the family of well-known Kruger Park game ranger, Mr Checkers Mashego after remains were discovered believed to be his. Mr Mashego was a respected ranger with over 10 years’ experience. 

The DA welcomes the ongoing investigation into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Mr Mashego who went missing during a routine patrol. 

The welfare of rangers and their families remains of paramount importance and I will be writing to the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbary Creecy, to ascertain what measures are currently in place to ensure the safety and well-being of rangers in the Kruger National Park.

Our brave rangers do so much to protect and preserve our environment and our precious wildlife and it is important that we remember and honour the work of Mr Mashego and other rangers across the country.

Small town judgment has big constitutional implications for service delivery – will NDZ take note?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) takes note of yesterday’s judgment of the North West High Court that contemplates the transfer of government power from an inept municipality to an association of concerned residents.

In short, if the Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality in the North West fails to supply potable water to the towns of Koster and Swartruggens within 10 weekdays of the order, then the Kgetlengrivier Residents Association is authorised to take control of the municipal water works.

A similar order will apply if the Municipality fails to take steps to prevent raw sewage from flowing into and contaminating the Koster and Elands rivers.

The Residents Association will then be authorised to appoint or employ suitable qualified people to operate the water works at Koster and Swartruggens, while the costs will be paid by the municipality and the North West provincial government.

Whether or not the judgment is overturned by a higher court, it sounds a serious warning about the constitutional implication of years of corruption and mismanagement in local government.

The Kgentlenrivier Local Municipality is part of a larger group of rural, ANC-controlled local authorities that are nearing complete financial and institutional collapse.

As inept leaders and officials have been returned to office in one election after the other, High Court judges have now had to step into the breach to protect the rights of residents to water and electricity.

In the past two years unprecedented orders have been handed down to prevent Eskom from cutting bulk power to delinquent municipalities as well as ordering these municipalities to take specific steps to better manage their debt.

In these cases SA’s independent judiciary have offered local communities their last hope of influencing the actions of inept and indifferent mayors, municipal managers and provincial governments.

But the Kgentlerivier judgement ups the ante, because it contemplates an entity other than the state assuming responsibility for service delivery.

If an elected mayor and local municipal officials are no longer capable of taking responsibility for government, what is their legitimacy?

Residents are also bound to ask themselves why they should pay over rates and tariffs in return for services that are no longer provided.

Whatever the eventual outcome of the Kgentlerivier-judgment, the DA sees it as a serious warning signal for SA’s democratic constitutional order.

We hope that it will end the silence of the minister responsible for local government, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, about the failure of ANC-controlled municipalities.

NDZ overrules Ramaphosa on closing times for restaurants and bars

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has found out that once again, Minister Dlamini-Zuma has decided to overrule President Ramaphosa through the latest amended regulations published on the 17th of December 2020.

This time, Minster Dlamini-Zuma has unilaterally decided to change the closing time for restaurants, bars, gyms, cinemas, theatres and museums from 10pm to 9pm.

On the 14th of December 2020 in his “Address to the Nation”, President Ramaphosa said, “The hours of the curfew will be longer, starting at 11pm and ending at 4am. Non-essential establishments, including restaurants and bars, will have to close at 10pm so that staff and patrons can get home before the enforcement of the curfew”.

On the 17th of December 2020, Minister Dlamini-Zuma published the regulations that stated in fact this has been brought forward to 9pm.

This of course is not the first time that Minister Dlaimini-Zuma has contradicted the President, the u-turn on tobacco sales during the lockdown being the most famous.

When the President speaks, his word should be final. It should not be allowed that a Minister can advance their own agendas through regulations as we have seen time and again.

That is why I have written to Dlamini-Zuma and the President requesting an urgent answer as to why the closing time has been altered in this caviller manner and, hopefully have it amended back to 10pm.

Establishments like restaurants need every hour they possibly can get to make up for the hard and brutal lockdown that they have been subjected to this year.

However, the big question that remains unanswered is, why does President Ramaphosa continually allow for Minister Dlaimini-Zuma to get away with this delinquent behaviour at his expense?

Exam leak at Government Printing Works not a surprise

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is not surprised by the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, confirming that the Physical Sciences Paper 2 leak originated from Government Printing Works (GPW). The GPW provides important services to the South African government, including the printing of smart ID cards, passports and visas. And in this case, the printing of certain National Senior Certificate examination papers.

This is therefore a critical entity but unfortunately, the GPW has seen a decline under the leadership of Alinah Fosi, the acting CEO. Questions surrounding her leadership at GPW has now inevitably resulted in further deterioration of critical services.

Ms Fosi has been at the center of a series of allegations ranging from:

  • Allegedly assaulting a junior employee and intimidating GPW employees;
  • Using taxpayer money to pay for business class tickets to travel with friends to France for a “workshop”; and
  • Overseeing the appointment of suppliers for this workshop without following due procurement processes.

GPW, this year, also received a Qualified Audit for the first time in recent memory. The adverse findings were largely the result of the re-occurrence of irregular expenditure at the entity.

A report by the Public Service Commission into supply chain irregularities found Ms Fosi guilty of supply chain irregularity and recommended that the Executive Authority consider “corrective action” against Ms Fosi. However, instead of “corrective action” the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, seems determined to appoint Ms Fosi at GPW permanently. There have been numerous questions swirling around Ms Fosi’s fitness for office as it pertains to her qualifications, however, an advert for the position of GPW CEO was seemingly revised to suit Ms Fosi favourably.

So while the DA is dismayed that this leak emanated from GPW, we are not in the least surprised given the entity’s current trajectory and the apparent push to install someone wholly unsuitable in the CEO position.

The exam paper leak at GPW is yet another indication of the regression of the entity under the leadership of Ms Fosi and it would be remiss of Minister Motsoaledi to ignore this indictment.

There is an obligation on the Minister to ensure that no learner suffers because of corrupt and incompetent service providers.

DA to oppose Eskom’s desperate move to access pensions 

Government had been spending more money than it received for more than a decade and instead of approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for funding or pursuing sensible privatisation options that include strategic private sector equity partners it appears hell-bent on pressing ahead with a scheme which potentially opens our pension pot – larger than Germany’s– to risk.

Despite Eskom being  “in a utility death spiral as well as a debt spiral” according to Olga Constantatos, head of credit at Futuregrowth Asset Management – a holder of Eskom debt –  the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has been approached by the National Treasury to convert about R95 billion of Eskom debt held by the PIC into equity.

Additional plans involve converting government-guaranteed debt into sovereign bonds. The bulk of Eskom’s debt  (R350 billion) is already guaranteed by South Africa’s government and the swap could put Eskom into technical default.

The rating agency, Standard & Poor’s is on record as saying it would further lower Eskom’s rating should it undertake debt restructuring, which could be tantamount to a default.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will oppose this desperate move which will continue to prevent anyone having a say in how monies are spent – as an approach to the IMF would entail. The reality is that State Owned Enterprises have failed and should be sold, allowing government to reduce its wage bill and foster an environment conducive to investment and job creation.

The DA will engage global and local experts in the field of electricity utility and debt management to address this issue and expose the folly and dangers of government’s flawed approach – aimed at ongoing command and control that allows for a continuation of the profligacy that got us to this unenviable position in the first place.

The question is, will the government take responsibility upfront for an increase in debt servicing costs, occasioned by a further downgrade of Eskom’s rating in the event of this hare-brained scheme coming to fruition?

DA to push for government’s vaccine plans to be released publicly

Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China late 2019, the global medical fraternity has been working at record speed to develop a safe and reliable vaccine in laboratories across the world. The World Health Organisation’s CoVax Programme, of which South Africa is a participating member, has sought to ensure equitable access for all countries, regardless of their financial status.

Countless countries are scrambling to acquire the vaccine. Countless countries except one – South Africa. Securing the vaccine for South Africa as soon as possible should be the government’s number one priority right now. However, South Africa has missed the deadline for a deposit on the CoVax Vaccine Facility, not once, but twice.

It is unacceptable that government’s tardiness is jeopardising our access to the vaccine.

When questions have been asked in Parliament to the President and Minister of Finance details have been sketchy and we have simply been told that government is dealing with this matter. It is clear, given the news of another missed deadline, that the government has not been dealing with this matter and that both President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, have both seemingly misled the nation about this process:

  • Mere days ago the President stated, in an address to the nation, that South Africa will receive initial vaccines to cover approximately 10% of the population “in the early part of next year”. He further stated that government had “concluded all the necessary processes to ensure its participation in the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility”.
  • Minister Tito Mboweni has seemingly misled Parliament on this issue. When asked about government missing the first payment deadline, Minister Mboweni snapped at opposition parties claiming that we had gotten our facts wrong. Two days after the second deadline has been missed, it would seem our facts are spot on.

The fact that both payment deadlines for the vaccine’s deposit have now been missed, would throw cold water onto claims that South Africa is anywhere near acquiring this vaccine.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, John Steenhuisen, will be requesting that Parliament’s Ethics Committee urgently investigate these apparent mistruths by our President and his Cabinet which have life-threatening effects on our nation. It is unconscionable that our government can botch up the acquisition of a life-saving vaccine, that is safe and readily available, when thousands are at risk of dying from this pandemic. 

Given the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the vaccine, the public now needs a clear and full explanation from Minister Mboweni on:

  • When specifically will the R327 million Covax deposit payment be made?
  • When will government issue the guarantees for the remainder of the amount owing – R1.8 billion?
  • Why has the government not committed the full R9.5 billion required to vaccinate 50% of the population? (60 million doses at $10.55 per dose)
  • Has South Africa signed a) a Committed Purchase Arrangement or b) an Optional Purchase Arrangement, and whichever agreement it has signed should be publicly released.

Since the December 4th exchange in Parliament, the DA has written to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and immunisations (now known simply as GAVI), the organisation coordinating the Covax funding facility for poor and middle-income countries, with direct questions on South Africa’s participation in the vaccine programme. We have also submitted parliamentary questions to Mboweni himself. We await replies. 

Minister Mboweni should be completely transparent on the exact financing arrangements the government has committed itself to.

Government has been scanty with the details of where we are in this process. Instead, we have been almost singularly focused on short-term strategies premised entirely on restrictions and a lockdown model. While we need to put out bush-fires in hotspot areas and to ensure that we manage the second wave in a way that saves as many lives and livelihoods as possible, this cannot be the only singular focused.

In order to ensure full transparency, the DA will submit an application to the Minister of Health in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act to request all the relevant information around a detailed vaccine plan.

Very little detail has been shared on the timeline of the payment and actual procurement of the vaccine. Experts have warned that the transportation, storage and allocation of the vaccine is a complex process that should be developed and shared with the nation. We need not wait until we acquire the vaccine before we know and understand how government intends to navigate the complex terrain that South Africa is.

We also have no idea what the prioritization of the rollout of the vaccine will be. Who will access the vaccine first, particularly as the government has elected to cover only 10% of the population. The health system’s experience with mass vaccination is the measeals vaccination which reaches about 1 million children per year. Based on this system capacity, to even reach the 10% mark could take years unless we ramp up the capacity. This is no small task. We therefore need a comprehensive plan as soon as possible.

Furthermore, South African Health Products Regulatory Association has its own process. While it has stated that it will expedite the approval and processing of any vaccines in the country, we have no idea how long that will take and what kind of process they will follow.

This is why we require the detail on this plan as soon as possible. The continued vagueness and obfuscation, coupled with reports which suggest that we are missing the boat in this process are concerning and require strong leadership from the Ministers of Health and Finance as well as the President. Failure to do so would affirm our biggest fears: that we are nowhere near securing our initial payment for this vaccine; we will continue to languish in the crisis that we find ourselves in where many parts of the country are struggling with the resurgence and our vulnerable citizens and frontline workers are yet to be protected and prioritized.