Covax: Did the Minister of Finance mislead Parliament?

South Africa has missed the deadline for a deposit on the Covax Vaccine Facility…again! 

Securing a supply of the vaccine for South Africa as soon as possible should be governments number one priority right now. It is unacceptable that government’s tardiness is jeopardising our access to the vaccine. 

When the DA questioned Tito Mboweni in Parliament on 4 December about missing the first deadline (of October 9), the Minister responded angrily. He insisted that we didn’t have the facts, that no deadline had been missed, and that we were misleading the public. 

Less than two weeks later, and it turns out the opposite is true. 

South Africa has missed the second deadline for payment (15 December), and government is still unable to provide the necessary guarantees required for the remainder of the amount. 

Now it seems it was the Minister who may have misled Parliament and the country.

The public now needs a clear and full explanation from Mboweni on:

  • when government will make the Covax payment
  • when government will provide the guarantees for the remainder of the amount owing

Since the December 4th exchange in Parliament, we have submitted parliamentary questions to Mboweni himself. We await replies. 

From the available information, South Africa has signed a “non-binding” letter of participation in the “committed purchase arrangement” as one of the AMC Eligible Countries. This requires a 15% deposit ($1.60 per dose) and a financial guarantee for the remaining 85% ($8.95 per dose), to be provided within 21 days of the “payment due date obligation” of 9 October. Based on available evidence, we have not met these obligations. 

The opacity from the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health, and indeed from the President, must now end. South Africa needs a full explanation, with all information on the table, and a clear plan and timeline for the Covax rollout. Nothing less than full transparency will suffice.

DA files court papers to overturn decision to close Garden Route beaches

Please find attached a soundbite by John Steenhuisen MP. Court papers can be accessed here

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today filed court papers in the Western Cape High Court challenging a decision taken by national government to close the beaches in the Garden Route District for the entirety of the festive season.

We had provided President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma with an extended deadline of 10:00 this morning to provide reasons justifying the closure of beaches along the Western Cape’s Garden Route. Both the President and Minister Dlamini-Zuma have failed to respond by the extended hour. 

The fact that national government has requested additional time to prepare a response to our letter requesting reasons for the decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches, only demonstrates that there were none to begin with. It would seem that any reasons now provided would be ex post facto manufactured.

The DA and our governments across the Western Cape’s coastal municipalities have fought vehemently against any closure of beaches over the festive season, as such a regulation is not in line with the scientific advice available from medical experts and is impossible to enforce. This regulation is also proving be the final nail in the coffin for the Garden Route’s coastal economies which are nearing total collapse.

In the delicate fight to save both lives and livelihoods, any job-killing Covid-19 regulation which has no rational basis in medical and scientific practice cannot be imposed. Doing so will only create a far more dangerous pandemic of widespread poverty and job losses, which we are already witnessing.

Businesses in the hospitality industry along the Garden Route are already reporting devastating and life-threatening losses to the value of hundreds of millions of rands. This is precisely why we are urgently approaching the courts to expedite the overturning of this decision as the livelihoods of thousands currently hang in the balance.  

In the South African context, poverty can be far deadlier than the coronavirus, and in this instance, national government is risking the livelihoods of thousands of South Africans unnecessarily. We cannot and will not allow this to happen.

We expect that our case will be heard as early as Monday 21 December 2020 at 14:30 where we hope to be granted immediate relief of this draconian regulation.

DA calls on SAPS to provide update on progress made in terms of stock theft prevention strategies

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will ask the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mandla Mandela, to invite the South African Police Service (SAPS) to the Committee when Parliament reconvenes to give an update on the progress made in terms of farm and rural community crime prevention.

This follows a video circulating on social media alleging that a police officer in Matatiele in the Eastern Cape made use of a police van to steal sheep from the community and transport it over the Ramatshidiso Border Post. The officer has apparently been arrested over this incident.

The full circumstances of the alleged stock theft is still unknown at this stage. The DA does however welcomes the swift arrest of the implicated police officer. We urge the local SAPS to institute a thorough investigation. 

This is not the first time that police officers have been implicated in stock theft. And it is critical that those rogue officials are identified and held to account. 

The DA reiterates our call on the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to engage the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, to stop blowing hot air and urgently execute rural safety plans. It is high time that the government implement all practical preventative actional plans to combat stock theft and other crimes happening on farms and in rural areas.

We have for years been calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa, to acknowledge the severity of the issue of farm attacks, farm murders and stock theft in the country. These attacks and incidents of theft are often associated  with heinous acts of violence which places the farming community at great risk. 

If these crimes are not addressed, Minister Didiza’s bold plan of the R1 billion support towards the 75 000 small scale farmers may end up being jeopardised by crime syndicates who go unchecked and in some cases the police are part of the problem. Applications for assistance closes on the 22 December 2020 and we urge all small scale farmers to make use of this opportunity. 

DA to lay ethics complaint against Cele over Camps Bay film shoot fiasco

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will lay a complaint with Parliament’s Ethics Committee against the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, after he appeared to issue unlawful operational instructions to South African Police Service (SAPS) officials to shut down a film shoot at Camps Bay beach on Wednesday.

Minister Cele reportedly instructed 16 police officers to shut down the shoot, despite the filming crew being in possession of a legal permit from the City of Cape Town.

We believe that these instructions by Cele was an overreach of his powers as Police Minister and that he is not legally authorised to issue operational instructions to members of the SAPS.

In what seems to be a clear attempt by the Minister to grandstand in front of the cameras, he completely disregarded his Ministerial mandate and the extent of his authority.

Cele appears to be confused as to whether he is the Minister of Police or the National Police Commissioner. This is exactly what happens when politicians are unduly referred to as “General”.

The people of South Africa are tired of Cele’s cavalier cowboy antics and the DA will fight to ensure he is brought to book.

DA grants extension to Presidency to justify Garden Route beach closures

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

The Democratic Alliance has received formal correspondence from the Presidency requesting an extension to the proposed deadline of 17:00 today, to provide reasons justifying the closure of beaches along the Western Cape’s Garden Route.

We have written back to President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma granting them an extension to 10:00 on Thursday 17 December 2020.

The fact that national government has requested additional time to prepare a response to our letter requesting reasons for the decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches only demonstrates that there was none to begin with. It would seem that any reasons now provided would be ex post facto manufactured.

Should it be evident that the decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches be without rational reasons and therefore unlawful, as we believe it to be, we will file papers.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

Shun those who celebrate Reconciliation Day while driving wedges between us

Fellow South Africans

As we spend the 16th of December celebrating our national Day of Reconciliation, I want us to pause for a moment and think about what exactly it is we’re celebrating.

Few other countries in the world have culture, history or people as diverse as South Africa’s. We like to speak of this diversity as our strength – we don’t claim to want to blend everything and everyone together into an uniform mixture. Rather, we state that a sense of unity in our incredible diversity is far better and far stronger than bland sameness.

We claim to believe it so much that we’ve put it up there on our national Coat of Arms: Unity in Diversity. It’s in our Constitution too, right upfront in the preamble. “We, the people of South Africa… believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.” But are we truly living up to that claim 26 years into our democracy?

It would seem that many of those who are meant to be leading us towards a better future as one, united South Africa don’t actually believe that this is necessarily the way forward. In recent years it is division rather than unity that has become the staple of a number of political parties, including the ANC.

When you listen to much of the language coming from the ruling party and its leaders, the words on the Coat of Arms are little more than an empty slogan.

In a party like the EFF, this drive to divide rather than unite has become its entire identity. They are obsessed with fanning race wars and creating a permanent state of distrust.

No gathering, no action and no campaign can be considered worthwhile if it does not deepen the fractures in society and pit South Africans against each other.

And on the opposite side of the political spectrum you will find parties equally eager to capitalise on any growing distrust and resentment.

The tense standoffs in places like Senekal and Brackenfell show just how easy it is to whip these feelings up and turn citizens against each other.

Any party that seeks out these flashpoints in society and tries to use them as wedges between us has no business plotting our country’s future. And yet you will see them out here today celebrating our Day of Reconciliation alongside everyone else. Don’t let them speak for you, because they do not have a united, reconciled South Africa in mind.

Any party that speaks of “us” and “them” does not have a united South Africa in mind. Any party that refers to “our people” when they don’t mean the whole country does not have a united South Africa in mind. These parties are driving a narrow agenda – a nationalist agenda – and that can never be in the interest of our country.

Our only hope, if we’re to rebuild our shattered economy and our fractured society, is as one people pursuing a common vision.

Because once we’ve retreated into our little lagers of race, culture or language we are of no use to each other. We have to learn to resist the language of blame, scapegoating and resentment. We have to see that as someone else’s agenda and not ours.

On this Day of Reconciliation, spend a little time thinking about what this means in our bright and diverse nation. Listen to the language others are using and ask yourself: Are they truly speaking of one nation pursuing one common future built around shared values?

Because I can assure you that’s the only future the DA has in mind – a strong and prosperous South Africa, united in its glorious diversity.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

DA launches fight to open Garden Route beaches

The Democratic Alliance has sent a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa and National Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in which we request that they justify the grounds upon which National Government took the decision to close the beaches in the Garden Route District for the entirety of the festive season.

We have given the President until 17:00 on Wednesday, 16 December 2020 to respond, failing which we will approach the courts for urgent relief.

Premier Alan Winde has told National Government repeatedly that beach-going in the Western Cape does not present a significant threat of Covid-19 infection.

The provincial government has submitted various hotspot containment plans demonstrating that the Western Cape is adequately capacitated to manage the seasonal influx of tourists who visit our province for its beach tourism.

Furthermore, the DA and our governments across the Western Cape’s coastal municipalities have fought vehemently against any closure of beaches over the festive season. As such a regulation is not in line with the scientific advice available from medical experts, and is impossible to enforce.

Such a regulation will also be the final nail in the coffin for the Garden Route’s coastal economies which are nearing total collapse.

It was very clear from the start that the Western Cape did not want beach closures, nor did the province need them. National government has blatantly ignored these requests and overlooked the competency of the Western Cape government at the peril of the lives and livelihoods of the province’s coastal communities.

It is also our view that national government has not been fair and consistent in its imposition of this regulation across the country.

Infection rates between the Garden Route and KwaZulu-Natal, for example, are not dissimilar. Yet while beach closures in KwaZulu-Natal are limited to but a few days, the Garden Route has had a blanket restriction imposed unjustly for the entire festive season.

There is no justifiable reason for beach closures anywhere in the Western Cape, and National Government’s decision to close the Garden Route’s beaches over the festive season is thus dangerously irrational.

All Western Cape beaches should be open for the entirety of the festive season, as requested by the provincial government. If not, the Garden Route should, at the very least, be afforded the same nuanced approach as the province of KwaZulu-Natal.

The residents of the Western Cape place their trust in the DA to protect and uphold their rights, to live in a just and equal society, and to pursue a life of freedom and dignity.

We will take this fight to the courts to ensure that we uphold this commitment to our voters, and to guarantee that there are still thriving coastal economies in this province long beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

If the ANC is serious about corruption Magashule and others should step aside

The DA notes reports which indicate that the ANC Integrity Commission has recommended that Ace Magashule steps aside as Secretary General of the ANC pending the outcome his corruption charges. The DA has long held that the ANC is unable to act against their own corrupt leaders because the rot runs deep.

It’s not enough to simply leave leaders like Magashule in key and influential positions while they await for the court processes to run its course.

He, in particular yields significant power within the ANC and by extension across its governments. Left in this position, further looting of public money and resources could continue while we wait for the ANC as they drag their feet.

The reality is that if the governing party is serious about corruption then Magashule and every other implicated leader – in government and within their ranks – must be removed until a court has adjudicated on their issues.

The DA has no interest in the ANC’s internal processes which have yielded no results in fighting corruption and jailing those who have pillaged the national coffers over decades. However, the ANC and its leader, President Cyril Ramaphosa cannot keep paying lip service to fighting corruption when many of the people who sit on the organization’s decision making structures – government positions and parliamentary benches – are suspected or accused of corruption.

If the ANC is serious about cleaning house, they should start with Magashule and work their way through the organization even if they all end up in jail. This is what is expected from a governing party by the people of South Africa.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

After almost a year of lockdown, what does Ramaphosa have to show for it?

President Ramaphosa’s announcement this evening has made one thing crystal clear: that after almost a year of lockdown and devastating lockdown regulations, South Africa’s health capacity is still nowhere near as strong and developed as it should be to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, despite what was promised 9 months ago.

Furthermore, the crucial plan to obtain a vaccine for South Africa has yet to be rolled out. South Africa doesn’t need a vaccine acquisition task team, we need our President to give us a date when the roll-out of this now widely available medical advancement can be introduced to our population.

It is unconscionable that headway into this matter is still being stalled. President Ramaphosa cannot mire the acquisition of this life-saving vaccine in unnecessary government administration.

The DA does not support President Ramaphosa’s announcement that certain beaches and public parks across the country will be closed for the duration of the festive season.

This announcement goes against the scientific advice and recommendations made by medical experts such as Dr Angelique Coetzee and Professor Salim Abdool Karim, and will be impossible to enforce.

This restriction is irrational and will spell disaster for the hospitality and tourism industries. Ultimately, it will be the fatal blow to tourism for coastal economies bringing more economic turmoil to coastal communities.

We note President Ramaphosa’s announcement of the stricter enforcement of level 1 restrictions, and the reduction in the number of people permitted to attend indoor and outdoor events. We agree that this is a necessary step to curb the spread of Covid-19 over the festive period, and we agree that South Africans must take individual responsibility to curb the spread of the virus during this time.

We also note the compromise made with regards to the national curfew. While this curfew is later than anticipated, it is still unworkable for many in the restaurant business and will drastically shave off cash flow to establishments across the country.

But ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what South Africa has achieved after almost a year of lockdown. In May this year, President Ramaphosa said:

“We have used the time during lockdown to build up an extensive public health response and prepare our health system for the anticipated surge in infections.”

Almost a year later, having decimated our economy, killed nearly half of all small business in the country, and forced millions into poverty, South Africa is no better off at dealing with this pandemic than we were a year ago. There is no extensive public health response and our dilapidated health system continues to buckle under the pressure of Covid-19.

We cannot ignore the elephant in the room. South Africa’s public health system has collapsed under the weight of this pandemic due to the ANC’s relentless theft, for decades on end, of money meant to build hospitals, train nurses, and take care of our country in the event of a national health disaster.

Nine months after President Ramaphosa promised us “an extensive public health response”, South Africans are still being told when and where we can go, and what we may or may not do at a time when we should be able to come together safely and freely. This is the long-term price we have to pay for the ANC’s decimation of our public health system.

After severe and relentless corruption, a mere 9 months is nothing to repair something that has been broken over decades.

In March, South Africa made an agreement with President Ramaphosa and his government to fight this pandemic together. But the President has not upheld his part of the deal. We gave government a chance, but our trust has been breached. It will be difficult to contain this virus moving forward without it.

Get to know newly elected DA leader, John Steenhuisen, and invest in the 2021 Local Government Election campaign. Click here.

DA urges South Africans to sign petition rejecting license fees for Netflix, Showmax 

Please sign petition here 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a petition to oppose the government’s plans to extend license fees to streaming services such as Netflix, Showmax, and others.

In the Draft White Paper on Audio and Audio-visual Content Services Policy Framework: A New Vision for South Africa 2020, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies proposes broadening the definition of a “broadcasting service” to include online broadcasting services.

This means that South Africans will have to cough up more money for watching “broadcasting services”, regardless of whether it’s on a TV, a computer or a phone.

The law currently states that consumers must pay a TV licence fee for viewing “broadcasting services”, which includes subscription services like DSTV. When you buy a TV, regardless of whether you watch SABC content on it or not, you must pay a licence fee for any “broadcasting services.” In this sense, “broadcasting service” is limited to content viewed on a TV set.

The DA strongly opposes the license fee on streaming services. This is effectively an underhanded attempt by the ANC to force South Africans to use their hard-earned money to bail out the SABC.

It is ridiculous that the government wants to punish South Africans to use their hard-earned money to sustain an entity which the ANC, through their incessant political interference, destroyed.

The DA appreciates the importance of the SABC as a public broadcaster. But the broadcaster must find creative ways to self-sustain and break-even without making South Africans fork out any more money.