DA-run Stellenbosch Municipality moves one step closer to electricity independence

Yesterday’s decision by the Stellenbosch Municipal Council to explore options to obtain electricity independence from the dysfunctional and failing Eskom monopoly must be lauded and become best practice for well-run municipalities across South Africa.

The amendment of schedule 2 of the Electricity Regulation Act in October last year allows municipalities in good financial standing to build their own capacity to generate electricity or procure from independent power producers (IPPs) – subject to ministerial approval. And therein lies the rub: Minister Mantashe has been slow to act and has demonstrated an extreme unwillingness to facilitate such decisions.

Stellenbosch has taken the decision to obtain expert advice and build a comprehensive feasibility study for such energy security. It will permit the municipality, in the very short term, to either enter into negotiations with IPPs to purchase power directly or to build their own generation facilities. This is vital in order to alleviate the economic impacts of loadshedding, and will make the municipality an even more attractive investment destination.

A decision of this nature requires visionary leadership, technical excellence and strong financial and corporate management. Sadly, most of South Africa’s municipalities do not have such capabilities, and it is by and large only DA-led local governments that will be able to utilize this opportunity.

The DA will continue to push for our electricity infrastructure (and in particular the national grid) to be opened to allow competition in the electricity generation sector. It is only through multiple sources of supply that we will be able to #KeepTheLightsOn.

Click here to read more about the DA’s plan to drive the cost of electricity down, introduce competition into the energy sector, and diversify the country’s energy sources to introduce more renewables, as well as our record of action on the electricity crisis over the last 8 years.

DA welcomes Zak Yacoob’s recusal from CSA Board 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by Zak Yacoob to recuse himself from the position of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) acting Board Chairperson. Yacoob has been replaced by Stavros Nicolaou to head up the interim Board.

His recusal follows the release of a recording in which he can be heard verbally attacking a TimesLive journalist.

The DA yesterday called for Yacoob to be removed as his behaviour was completely disgraceful and unbecoming of anyone holding such a high office.

We hope that Yacoob will take this time to reflect on his behaviour and that he will reach out to the journalist involved to apologise.

While the media has a responsibility to be fair and accurate in their reporting, public institutions such as CSA and those who are at the helm of them, have a duty to be open and transparent as well as to be respectful of media freedom as a cornerstone of any democratic society.

CSA’s recent history of antagonism towards the press must come to an end. And we hope that the removal of Yacoob will send a strong message to CSA’s bigwigs that intimidation and secrecy at the institution will not be tolerated.

DA to urgently investigate allegations of state-funded ANC political projects in Western Cape

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will urgently launch an investigation into allegations made under oath yesterday by State Security Agency (SSA) Acting Director-General, Loyiso Jafta, that the Agency funded projects that were specifically aimed at bolstering the ANC’s political prospects in the Western Cape.

According to Jafta’s testimony in front of the Zondo Commission yesterday, SSA resources were specifically marked at advancing the ANC’s political campaigns in previous elections – specifically in the Western Cape – and to strengthen the ANC faction within the party.

The DA is appalled that the ANC was given a blank cheque with public money to campaign in this province.

This is a gross and extremely serious transgression of the Agency’s constitutional mandate. It is clear that state entities were being politicized and used, not only to protect and legitimize the lawless ANC regime, but also to undermine the DA that was legitimately elected as the leading Party in the Western Cape.

During the period under review, especially around the 2014 national government election, the Western Cape ANC inexplicably had resources at the time for a destabilisation campaign in the Western Cape.

Jafta’s testimony yesterday confirmed what we had always suspected, namely that the ANC does not raise money for elections campaigns, they steal it from the State. Money that is supposed to go towards much-needed service delivery, is given to the ANC for their party-political purposes.

The DA will urgently investigate these allegations. A government slush fund used to fund the ANC is illegal and unconstitutional and we expect those implicated to be prosecuted.

We will share the details of the investigation in due course.

Gwede Mantasha Foundation fires COO: Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes reports that the Gwede Mantashe Foundation has fired its Chief Operations Officer, Caswell Mokoena, in the wake of a funding scandal, despite Minister Gwede Mantashe’s denial of any wrongdoing on either his own part or that of the foundation. It is alleged by the former internal auditor of electrical supply company Voltex that R935 000 was paid to a company called Ntlokholo Investments (of which Mokoena was a director at the time), but was disguised as a donation to the Foundation.

Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Mokoena’s dismissal raises more questions that must be answered:

  • Why was Mokoena fired if there was no wrongdoing?
  • Why did the Foundation receipt R935 000 from Voltex (a Bidvest subsidiary), if the money was intended for another company?
  • Why did Mokoena write to Voltex on a Foundation letterhead acknowledging the donation?
  • What is Minister Mantashe’s involvement with Ntlokholo Investments and/or Voltex?
  • Why was Ntlokholo receiving payments, allegedly in relation to the National Solar Water Heating Programme (NSWHP) – administered by Mantashe’s Department of Energy, when it was not involved in the NSWHP?

Minister Mantashe is willing to put his name on the Foundation, and therefore must take responsibility for its actions. We have previously called for a comprehensive investigation into this matter – looking into the affairs of all parties concerned – and reiterate our call on President Ramaphosa to remove Mantashe from office until all allegations against him are resolved. South Africa cannot afford more corruption in high office. Mantashe must go!

The Tourism Equity Fund will do little to grow the sector and jobs

The Democratic Alliance (DA) does not believe that the Tourism Equity Fund will meet its intended targets of boosting South Africa’s tattered tourism industry through improving the participation of black entrepreneurs in the sector. While it is important that there are continued efforts to strengthen the participation of emerging entrepreneurs, it cannot happen at the expense of the tourism industry as a whole. Especially not at a time when the industry is on its knees.

The Tourism Equity Fund that is R1.2 billion strong was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday. According to government, the aim of the fund is to improve participation of black South Africans in the tourism sector. As always, government’s solutions for tourism remains one-dimensional – as if funding is the be-all and end-all to making tourism enterprises successful.

The irony seems to be missed by government in that it was their illogical lockdown regulations that decimated the sector and killed a million jobs. Another irony missed by Ramaphosa, who described the tourism sector as “resilient” by nature, was that the resilience that he describes within tourism is despite government not because of it. In fact, government has caused huge destruction within the tourism sector.

If government ensured that the basics were done, it would go much further than the limited amount available from this fund to a limited number of people. Our tourism sector would grow faster and would ensure a more inclusive and growing sector if the various spheres of government improved and maintained tourism infrastructure, tourism sites and related infrastructure, such as the construction of roads to inaccessible or hard-to-reach tourism sites and access to water and electricity to tourism attractions.

By doing this, more people would be able to participate in the tourism sector without reliance of government funding which, based on this government’s performance, will be pilfered, lost by corruption and mal-management or distributed to those within the inner circle of the ANC.

Incentives, such as training incentives to entrants in the sector and tax incentives as a relief to those hit hard during lockdown, would go much further.

We will therefore be submitting official questions asking about this fund, how it will disburse and monitor funds and how tourism will benefit from it in real terms.

Why a DA government would have been rolling out a vaccine by now.

Were the DA in national government, South Africans would be looking forward to a return to normal life this year, because a vaccine rollout would be well underway already. Nothing could more clearly highlight the importance of voting for a party with sound fundamentals, such as a commitment to merit-based appointments and tenders, an essential precondition for building a capable state.

The ANC government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic (ranked second to last in Bloomberg’s ranking of 53 countries) is arguably their greatest failing yet, despite intense competition from disasters such as state capture (the full effects of which are now being revealed by the Zondo commission), endemic corruption, and one of the world’s highest unemployment rates.

The crucial difference between the DA and the ANC is in their core values. These are the seeds from which all outcomes ultimately sprout.

The ANC’s many governing failures are all due to the same fatal flaws in the party: its ideology of centralised state control, its policy of cadre deployment (where appointments are based on political loyalty rather than merit), and its policy of BEE (where tender allocations are based on identity rather than merit, providing a fig leaf for the enrichment of a politically connected elite).

These have combined to create a failed state incapable of performing even its most basic public sector duties such as providing healthcare and policing, but nonetheless hellbent on controlling every aspect of the private sector, to the detriment of both sectors.

Hence, we went into this pandemic with a weak healthcare system, unsustainable debt levels and an economy in recession. Our flailing, failing state has responded with heavy-handed restrictions which have wreaked enormous social and economic disruption, shutting down whole industries with neither rationale nor compensation. And yet they have failed to suppress the virus, which has run rampant through communities.

Under such conditions a swift, efficient vaccine rollout becomes all the more urgent but all the less likely.

Under a DA government, SA would have entered the pandemic in a much better state with a stronger healthcare system, because public appointments and tenders would be based on ability to deliver, which gives rise to a capable state.

Additional healthcare capacity would have been added as a matter of priority, as was showcased in the DA-run Western Cape province where the supply of available beds was quickly increased by building several fully equipped and staffed field hospitals so that the provincial government was able to deliver healthcare to all in need. There would have been no BEE to provide mechanism and cover for the looting of PPE funds.

SA would have entered the pandemic with a much stronger economy and better resourced Treasury, simply because the DA believes decision-making should be decentralised, giving rise to a market-driven economy. So, no state-owned companies syphoning off public money for decades, and far fewer restrictions on the real builders of our economy, entrepreneurs.

We would have responded to the pandemic by focusing on the high-impact interventions: adding healthcare capacity and rolling out an effective testing and tracing system to isolate the virus.

We would have allowed for more decentralised decision-making within a sensible set of safety protocols, so that households and businesses, municipalities and provinces could balance their need to save lives and livelihoods based on their specific risk profiles.

We would have been able to provide a much stronger safety net to households and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

And we would have begun negotiating with manufacturers for a supply of vaccines back in mid-2020 when most other middle-income countries were doing so. And planning and budgeting for a rollout. Not because we’re a special political party. But because we share the same core principles as the world’s most successful countries: appointments and tenders based on merit, which produces a capable state that knows to focus on its own role of providing public goods and give citizens the freedom to focus on theirs: building their lives and livelihoods.

But the DA is sadly not in government, and our ANC government only woke up to the need for vaccines this year. This failure may cost thousands of lives, millions of livelihoods and billions in tax revenue in the coming years. It is a major, major setback for South Africa, and it should spell the end of the ANC in government.

Let’s be clear here. This is entirely the fault of the South African government; it was entirely their responsibility. Especially as they insisted on full, centralized control without parliamentary oversight, under the cover of the flawed Disaster Management Act, which makes no provision for executive oversight. (The DA is challenging this in court but was denied direct access to the Constitutional Court.)

And so, no-one should be fooled by the victim narrative that President Ramaphosa is now pushing, to shift blame elsewhere.

Yesterday, in a World Economic Forum speech, he blamed other countries for buying up all the available vaccines. He blamed them for doing their job and getting in the queue, saying: “We are deeply concerned about the problem of vaccine nationalism, which, unless addressed, will endanger the recovery of all countries.”

Which is code for: “Other countries are to blame for South Africa not having vaccines because we didn’t pay our deposits to get in the queue and other countries must now give us some of their vaccines otherwise it will be their fault if South African lives are lost.”

Israel has already vaccinated 40% of their population, after their prime minister personally made 17 phone calls to the CEO of Pfizer last year to secure a sufficient supply of vaccines. Is Israel now to blame because Ramaphosa didn’t pick up the ball or the phone till this year?

Ramaphosa has also tried pleading poverty, saying South Africa couldn’t afford to risk paying deposits for vaccines that had not yet passed their trials. This is deeply disingenuous on two counts. Firstly, the deposits (known as advance market commitments) involved a refund for unsuccessful trials. And secondly, a fully costed vaccine rollout to herd immunity is estimated to cost R8.6 to 16.4 billion – roughly the same cost as a single day of hard lockdown, which was estimated to cost R13 billion. In other words, we couldn’t afford not to pay those deposits.

The DA gave the government seven days to disclose details of their vaccine acquisition and rollout plans. This deadline has now expired, so we will be filing court papers tomorrow to obtain a court declaration forcing government to do so. This will enable us to track and monitor government’s performance and hold them to account for non-performance, rather like the declaratory order that finally got the government to take the anti-retroviral rollout seriously to fight HIV.

If we need to defy the SA government’s decision to be the sole procurer of vaccines to get them to the people of the Western Cape sooner, we will. Just like we defied national policy to keep school-feeding programmes open and ECD subsidies flowing during the hard lockdown last year.

It is our core values that define the difference between the DA and the ANC. It is our core values around which we seek to unite South Africans. It is our core values that enable us to deliver superior outcomes where we govern. And it is our core values that we will be looking to apply in more and more municipalities when we contest the local government elections later in 2021, the year that South African feel mostly keenly the results of their political choices.

DA calls for removal of CSA Board Chairperson following verbal attack on journalist

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the removal of Zak Yacoob as Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) acting Board Chairperson following the release of a recording in which he can be heard verbally attacking a TimesLive journalist.

We condemn the former Judge’s disgraceful and aggressive attitude towards the journalist as it is unbecoming for someone in his position.

In a telephone call with the reporter regarding the suspension of CSA acting CEO, Kugandrie Govender, Yacoob can be heard hurling all manner of insults towards the journalist who was merely trying to do their job. He referred to the journalist as “dishonest”, “idiot” and accused the journalist of being “a rogue and dirty journalist.”

It is not the first time that CSA has been embroiled in controversy related to the treatment of the media. Last year, CSA came under fire after it revoked media accreditation of journalists because they wrote about the dire state of cricket in the country.

In a democratic state such as South Africa, freedom of the press must be protected and any attempt to silence or berate journalists must be condemned.

CSA will never operate in a transparent and independent manner if people like Yakoob show complete disregard towards the press – their modus operandi of attempting to silence any kind of dissent will run cricket in this country to the ground.

The DA believes that a vibrant media is the cornerstone of any thriving democracy. And while the media has a responsibility to be fair in their reporting, they also play a central role in holding institutions like CSA to account.

CSA must eradicate the waves of intimidation that have been perpetuated by some of its senior officials over the years. The DA will continue to fight for the protection of the free media and independent reporting, and we will oppose anyone who attempts to stifle media voices.

DA calls for disbandment of SSA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the total disbandment of the entire State Security Agency (SSA) and for the establishment of an independent, efficient and transparent state security agency.

Just when we thought nothing could shock us further, the revelations at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry have done just that. We knew it was bad, and indeed the openly available High-Level Review Panel Report revealed in broad strokes how the SSA had been refocused with only one aim: Protect Jacob Zuma.

We also knew from this report that millions had gone missing. However, to have these facts expanded upon in such technicolour detail – to hear how this country has lost hundreds upon hundreds of millions to Zuma and his cohorts, has been the final straw.

There is no possibility of saving the SSA in its current format. Those nameless, faceless officials who were put in place, are still there, and may well still be looting at levels never before seen in South Africa.

The High-Level Report was released in March 2019 and after the fanfare, and a flurry of media interest, nothing. No arrests followed. Here we are two years later, and still no arrests and not a cent recovered.

How many more years must the South African public wait for accountability? The looted money could have paid for vaccines for every single one of us. Instead it was swindled, and as far as anyone knows, millions are still streaming out to people who have no right to it, and who certainly have no interest in protecting us from either domestic or international threats.

The High-Level Report gave a detailed account of how to rearrange the deck chairs. However, not a cent has been recovered, not a single arrest made, and not a single soul jailed. Indeed, it has been business as usual, year after year, with the odd bout of musical chairs played by various new Ministers.

Urgent investigations need to be launched into the various allegations of Dr Sydney Mufamadi, including:

  • The alleged recruitment of members of the judiciary to secure Zuma favourable outcomes in cases against him, dubbed Project Justice;
  • The infiltration and manipulation of the media through Iqbal Survey’s African News Agency which is claimed to have received R20 million for services rendered for 8 months;
  • The R1.5 million per month spent on toxicologists to test Zuma’s bedding but only found expired cool drinks;
  • The false allegations against the heads of the Hawks and IPID;
  • Project Commitment which allegedly saw an estimated R80 million allegedly funneled to Zuma from the SSA for about two years;
  • Project Tin Roof reportedly cost around R5 million to provide housing for Zuma’s wife excommunicated wife, MaNtuli, and their children, with a further R800 000 spent on the project monthly; and
  • Project Wave sought to protect Zuma’s reputation locally and internationally.

Those that initiated, drove and participated in these various abominable projects should be investigated and pursued to the full extent of the law. They must no longer remain nameless and faceless, but their iniquities should face the full light of day.

The DA has put through rafts of questions asking about the implementation of the High-Level Review Panel Report recommendations – with zero response. What vague assurances are given, are done so in the lockdown of the JSCI committee meetings.

We are not satisfied that this report has been taken seriously by the latest powers that be, and that the undermining – or the looting – has been stopped in its tracks.

The only possible way to ensure this is carbuncle is finally lanced, is to shut down the entire SSA, and start again, from scratch.

South Africa’s Crime Intelligence is in chaos – and this must be music to the ears of enemies of our State. The SSA must be disbanded and replaced by an independent entity.

DA calls for R350 unemployment grant to be extended by reprioritising spending away from vanity projects

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the extension of the payment of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant of R350 under the adjusted level 3 lockdown. The grant is set to expire at the end of this month.

Millions of South Africans are reliant on the grant to meet their most basic of needs and face starvation without this monthly stipend.

With a stricter Covid-19 lockdown and the economy deteriorating at an alarming rate, these vulnerable people are often unable to find other means of putting food on the table.

With the haphazard payment of these grants already causing disruption to their lives, the recipients will now also have to worry about how they will provide for their families if the grant payment were to be stopped entirely.

Due to years of ineptitude, greed and mismanagement on the side of the ANC government, South Africa’s poor has become increasingly reliant on grant payments to survive. Despite its many promises – all broken – economic stimulation has not been the government’s priority. As a result, jobs are hard to come by. This desperate situation is exacerbated by the continued irrational lockdown of sectors of the economy causing the shedding of even more jobs.

The prioritization of ANC pet projects like the funding of SAA, and the fact that government dropped the ball on vaccine procurement perpetuates an endless lockdown that is claiming the lives of thousands due to Covid-19 and hunger.

Minister Zulu must urgently liaise with National Treasury to find solutions to ensure quality of life for the millions of vulnerable people in her care.

The DA cannot help but wonder how many grants could have been paid or vaccines bought with the billions wasted on SAA through the years. Last year, over R20 billion was allocated to this vanity project alone. A fortune that could surely have benefited a myriad of more worthy projects. R20 billion would have been better spent funding enough vaccinations to inoculate 67% of South Africans. R20 billion could also have covered the payment of an SRD grant to an average of 4.6 million beneficiaries per month at a cost of R1.6 billion until herd immunity is achieved – hopefully later this year. Now the money has been wasted and another solution needs to be found to stimulate both the economy in these dire times and take care of the poor.

SAA is hardly government’s only wasteful expenditure. There are many areas of waste and corruption and National Treasury must divert further spending on vanity projects and rather ensure the continued payment of grants and maintain UIF Ters commitments.

Government has walked a crooked path and it is South Africans reaping the consequences. Had it stimulated the economy as promised, job losses would not be at an all-time high and South Africans could have better weathered the financial storm of an extended lockdown. Had it more recently prioritised people over cadre enrichment, South Africa’s most vulnerable would not be facing hunger.

Minister Zulu should update South Africa on the outcome of her meeting with National Treasury when she reveals her action plans regarding the disability grant payment to the parliamentary portfolio committee on social development next week. A plan without Treasury’s backing is doomed to fail.

The ANC government has long shown that it only cares about South Africans for a few months during election years. Their own stomachs should no longer be prioritised over the lives of the people. The health and livelihoods and mental health of all South Africans, especially the most vulnerable, should be the main regard. A global pandemic forced the world to change and it’s time the government adapted.

BBBEE has no place in vaccine rollout 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is appalled at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent remarks that there would be “opportunities for BEE” in the distribution and rollout of life saving Covid-19 vaccines.

What the President has shown, is that he would rather pander to the hardliners, rent-seekers and the politically connected in his party than put the wellbeing of South Africans, at the centre of life and death decisions regarding vaccine rollouts.

That someone like Ramaphosa could even begin to believe that he should create business “opportunities” for his fellow cadres while his countrymen and women are dying of Covid-19 is quite frankly grotesque and sickening.

Why the President even thought to find a money-making angle out of the pandemic beggars belief and calls into question his morals and ethics.

If there is one thing that South Africa has learnt over the last 27 years, it is that BBBEE is nothing more than a front to empower those who hold ANC membership cards at the expense of millions of black South Africans who have been excluded from real, true and meaningful empowerment.

What we urgently need is a speedy and effective rollout of vaccines at the cheapest possible price to save lives and livelihoods. We simply cannot allow Ramaphosa and the ANC to build in a “BEE profit margin”, which South Africa can ill afford.

The President should rather spend every waking minute in the pursuit of procuring vaccines, which he has failed spectacularly at doing so far, not looking to grease the pockets of the political elite.

The truth is, President Ramaphosa must get his priorities straight. He can either enrich his friends and comrades or deliver vaccines in the fastest and most cost-effective method to save our citizens and economy. But he can’t choose both. Which one will it be?