DA Innovation Summit a resounding success

The first virtual DA Innovation Summit that took place today was a resounding success.

The Western Cape Premier, a number of DA Mayors, senior government leaders as well as experts participated in the summit and discussed and unpacked issues around innovation in the time of Covid, technology and economic development and energy and water resilience.

Around 200 DA public representatives attended the Summit and had the opportunity to pose questions to the four panels that convened in the course of the day. They will now take the innovations and ideas that were shared today back to their own local governments to run with the baton and take the innovations even further.

A theme throughout the day, that underpinned all the discussions, was the crucial importance of innovation in all spheres of government and the way that DA governments constantly push the boundaries and change the game to improve people’s lives.

This was especially evident the past eleven months where the Western Cape was head and shoulders above the rest of the country when it came to balancing a healthcare response to Covid-19 while also protecting livelihoods.

As DA Leader John Steenhuisen said in his opening address: “(With this summit) we get to recognise the incredible value of innovating in government. We get to speak about and showcase some of the successes the DA has achieved, and we hopefully get to spark some ideas among each other for more such successes in future”.

The last words of the day belonged to the DA’s Federal Chairperson Helen Zille who concluded the summit. She said that “people don’t realise how much innovation changes things. We must encourage innovation and not stop it with regulations. This summit was very important because it does not help winking in the dark. People choose to be governed better. If they choose bad government, that is where te downward spiral starts”.

The DA Innovation Summit that was live broadcast today can be viewed on our Youtube channel.

DA calls on Home Affairs to reopen services

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to reopen identity document, retention of citizenship, passport and marriage services.

It is simply not fair that services to which citizens have a constitutional right are denied because Home Affairs has failed to explore all available options.

The opening and closing of selected Home Affairs services at different stages of lockdown is the lazy option and has to be replaced with resilient solutions.

The DA’s Angel Khanyile MP recently called for the opening of eHomeAffairs to allow applications through this channel that drives no additional traffic to Home Affairs offices. No rational reason was provided by the Minister as to why this service remains closed and it should be reopened to allow for ID and Passport applications without delay.

The DA has furthermore made repeated calls for the reopening of Home Affairs offices on Saturdays which could be reserved for specific types of applications. There has been no sign of progress on discussions with the unions and a complete lack of urgency.

Instead, Home Affairs staff are sitting at home on full pay while citizens are unable to apply for documents they need to access services or find a job.

That some of these staff cannot work on a Saturday beggars belief. That discussions with unions have dragged on for over two years indicates either brazen incompetence or a complete lack of political will on the part of the ANC government.

Before denying citizens any service which is a constitutional right every possible avenue must be vigorously explored to keep these services available, even in a reduced capacity.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to fight irrational limitations to the rights of South Africans.

Bigger municipalities mean higher costs not better services

Please find attached a soundbite in English and Afrikaans by Cilliers Brink MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) does not believe that the ANC’s proposal to reduce the number of municipalities in the country has anything to do with improving service delivery.

Centralising power is the ANC’s standard response to every problem, including its own legacy of cadre deployment and mismanagement in local government.

But beyond the consolidation of municipalities that happened in the 2000s, there is no evidence that bigger municipalities will lead to better service delivery or improved financial management.

Bigger municipalities are more likely to lead to bigger overheads, which means higher rates and tariffs for already overburdened communities.

Legislation requires a proposal to merge one or more municipalities to be carefully considered on case-by-case basis, and for good reason.

Experience has shown that if a dysfunctional municipality is collapsed into a less dysfunctional one, the outcome is usually a bigger, highly dysfunctional municipality.

An example of this is the basket-case JB Marks municipality in the North West, the outcome of a politically expedient merger between Tlokwe and Ventersdorp in 2016.

Prior to the merger the ANC lost majority in in the municipal council of Tlokwe, a municipality that centred around the university town of Potchefstroom. The merger with Venterdorp, an ANC stronghold, shored up the party’s control.

The result was the redistribution of misery, with service delivery in the towns and townships of Potchefstroom now as bad as had become the norm in Venterdorp.

Mergers seldom lead to cost savings, because employees are simply transferred.

And if one of the municipalities has a higher compensation categorisation, salaries and benefits are levelled up. This is how ratepayers end up paying more for the same shoddy services.

It would make far more sense to do away with district municipalities, an unnecessary fourth layer of government.

The sole function of many of these district municipalities is to pay salaries to officials and councillors.

In cases where district municipality do perform water services, their functions can be split between municipalities and the national department of water and sanitation.

ANC using Parliament to shield State-Owned Enterprises from accountability, amidst failure to publish annual reports

A presentation before the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises by the Department this week on the ‘Progress Made in Addressing Challenges Facing State-Owned Companies’, revealed that several State-Owned Enterprises are still struggling to produce their annual reports as required by law under the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).

SOEs that have been unable to table their annual reports include SAA, Alexkor, Safcol, Denel and SA Express. The failure to adhere to compliance requirements as required by law severely hinders proper parliamentary oversight of the public entities in which government is the shareholder.

My request in committee for all committee members to support the DA sponsored Private Members Bill which seeks to amend the PFMA to provide additional measures to hold accountable state entities that fail to submit their annual reports on time was met by an evasive and non-committal stance from ANC members, choosing instead to kick the can down the road by claiming that the Speaker needs provide legal guidance on the way forward.

Holding SOEs accountable is not a partisan issue and it is simply astounding that the ANC continues to take a political position on an issue that affects all South Africans. SOEs continue to be a drag on the fiscus with of billions of rands in endless bailouts and it is lamentable that the ANC appears to keen to protect them from accountability – saving face for deployed cadres, a department and minister that has been remiss.

This is a serious dereliction of duty by the ANC, particularly after having recently been exposed at the Zondo commission for using Parliament as a rubber stamp to aid and abet state capture. The lessons of state capture appear to have been lost on the ANC, as it now barrels full steam ahead in continued non-disclosure and the enabling of capture of taxpayer money by unaccountable SOEs.

This makes a mockery of promises of SOE reform by President Ramaphosa and Minister Gordhan. The ANC government clearly appears not to be interested in the prudential management of the economy but will instead go extreme lengths to protect dysfunctional SOEs despite warnings from the IMF and rating agencies that they pose a grave risk to the country’s fiscal health.

DA calls on Mbalula to engage Greyhound on shutdown

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, to engage Greyhound on the possible avenues in which the government can intervene in preventing the shutdown of the company’s operations.

The company announced today that it would be closing Greyhound and Citiliner operations on 14 February. This decision will have devastating consequences with thousands more South Africans now facing joblessness and unemployment.

Furthermore, the closure of Greyhound and Citiliner, will leave a massive gap in the affordable long-distance travel sector as thousands of South Africans and those living in our neighbouring countries have for decades relied on these services.

While there may be a variety of reasons for this decision by the Greyhound bus company, we must consider the impact of the government’s haphazard lockdown regulations – such as the closure of land borders, banning of interprovincial travel, failure to extend UIF TERS support during the extended lockdown, and the curfew – must have had on the company. The DA has consistently requested relief for especially bus and tourist bus companies who have had little to no income during the extended lockdown. This, along with the heartless and persistent decision by government not to extend the validity of vehicles, has added to the financial woes of vehicle fleet owners.

The government therefore has a hand in this situation and should seek meaningful ways, that does not include a bailout, to assist as the company has for the past 37 years been providing an essential service to thousands of people in South Africa and the region.

DA succeeds in securing probe into SANDF’s irregular Interferon procurement

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by the Portfolio Committee on Defense and Military Veterans (DMV) for a thorough investigation into the irregularities around the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) procurement of dodgy Cuban medicine, Interferon.

This follows pressure by the DA, supported by the ANC, on Wednesday for an investigation to be initiated into this matter.

The SANDF’s Military Command Council (MCC) procured the Cuban drug Hebron Interferon Alpha-2B without prior approval by and registration with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA). The MCC did not comply with the statutory import regulations and protocols that face the import of any medicine into South Africa. The medicine is not approved in South Africa for human application and use.

Not only is Interferon, which was intended for use during the Covid-19 pandemic by the military, not been peer-reviewed in a respected medical journal, the SANDF has also failed to maintain the cold-chain supply and ruined 40% of the procurement. This incompetence alone should have seen Minister of Defense, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke fired.

The DA has written a formal letter to the committee chairperson, Mr Cyril Xaba, for this investigation to commence. The chairperson has acknowledged receipt. (View the letter here).

The investigation will ascertain who made the decision to procure the Cuban medicines, who has to be held accountable and who will eventually have to lay a charge about the allegedly illegal medicine with the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Special meetings of the Committee will be held where parties involved will be asked to present findings. The Chairperson of the Committee also confirmed that no party that the DA wants to probe will be excluded from these proceedings.

This includes the MCC as well as the Minister Mapisa-Nqakula, who will have to answer to the Portfolio Committee about the millions wasted on this procurement.

There is no more running from accountability after this decision and the DA will make sure the relevant parties are brought to book.

Expropriation Bill poses serious threat to property ownership rights 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has serious concerns about the Expropriation Bill that is currently before Parliament. This Bill, for which public participation has been extended to 28 February 2021, contains sections that could disenfranchise owners of all types of property in South Africa, not just landowners or farmers.

The Expropriation Bill has been a source of contention since its inception and has remained so through the many reviews and amendments through the years.

Here are some of the DA’s concerns with the Expropriation Bill:

  • The Bill has a list of five circumstances under which nil compensation could be paid with clear indications that the list could be extended ad infinitum at government’s will.
  • In its current form it offers government near unlimited powers to simply expropriate personal property – the Bill even going so far as to allude to intangible property which could include copyrighted and patented property.
  • The Bill lacks clear definition in a number of areas and provides very little in terms of oversight opportunity by experts to ensure fairness to ordinary South Africans. Instead, it’s weighted in favour of the ANC government which has shown time and again that given the smallest opportunity, their own greed will far outweigh the rights of citizens, while circumventing the laws meant to protect those rights.
  • This Expropriation Bill will clearly and severely impact property rights and cannot be entrusted in its present form to a corrupt government. The only way to protect these rights is for South Africans to voice their reservations en masse.

Worryingly, it appears as if the government is not as committed to the principle of participative democracy as it should be, despite the huge impact this Bill will have on our Constitutional right to own property if it is enacted. While the print advertisements requesting submissions on the Bill were published on 10 December 2020, social media posts only went out on 29 January 2021. And, almost two months into the public participation process, a media plan has still not been finalised.

The DA urges all South Africans to make submissions to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure before 28 February.

Submissions can be emailed to Ms Nola Matinise at expropriationbill@parliament.gov.za, it can be sent on WhatsApp to 060 550 9848 and submitted via this Submission Page. A request to make oral submissions to the Portfolio Committee can also be made.

DA is fighting the root of the rot: cadre deployment.

This week, lawyers representing the DA submitted detailed questions to the Zondo Commission on Ramaphosa’s central and ongoing role in state capture, including as head of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee between 2014 and 2018 and as ANC president and SA president now. To end state capture, Ramaphosa must answer for his role in cadre deployment.

If the Zondo Commission fails to tackle and end the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, then all the problems it has identified will persist.

Until cadre deployment ceases to be a policy of South Africa’s governing party, the country will never have a functional democracy, a healthy economy, or a capable state. No other policy has done more to undermine these.

Consider just the past week’s news cycle: R9 billion of tax payer money syphoned off to the ANC via the State Security Agency; R431 million spent by Gauteng Health Department on “deep cleaning” of schools that was not required or recommended by the Departments of Health or Education; not a single vaccine administered yet when other countries are well into their vaccination programmes; Zuma still living large after two decades of evading accountability for corruption related to the Arms Deal, Nkandla and State Capture; electricity tariff increases from Eskom, which is in a death spiral.

All these have the same root cause: cadre deployment.

Emperor of empty promises and high king of hypocrisy, Ramaphosa wrote in this newsletter last month: “We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage.”

Yet he has appointed corrupt, incapable DD Mabuza to head up SA’s vaccine programme. And “redeployed” Arthur Fraser and David Mahlobo, under whose watch R9 billion was stolen from the State Security Agency, to head Correctional Services and Human Settlements, respectively.

Cadre deployment is as much Ramaphosa’s game as it was Zuma’s, hence state capture lives on long after the Gupta’s departure.

The policy of cadre deployment was formally adopted by the ANC at their 1997 Mafikeng Conference. It aims to “control every lever of power in the state” by loading public institutions with cadres loyal to the ANC, in line with its Marxist ideology of central command and control.

By valuing loyalty to the ANC over competence and loyalty to SA, cadre deployment has caused all the wrong characteristics to become dominant in our state: nepotism, corruption, patronage, impunity, arrogance, chaos and incompetence.

Cadre deployment directly destroys the separation of party and state, an essential component of democracy.

It is that gene in the ANC’s genetic material which has caused corruption and incompetence to spread like a cancer into every single organ of our body politic – even those intended by the Constitution to check and balance executive power such as the NPA, Public Protector and SAHRC. It is the code that long ago set South Africa up for failure.

Cadre deployment is the root cause of all South Africa’s rot: the Arms Deal, State Capture, the destruction of Eskom, SAA, the SABC, Transnet and our other SOEs, our unsustainable national debt, endemic corruption, the complete breakdown of political accountability due to the failure of the NPA, our hopeless Public Protector, our poor handling of the pandemic, our broken policing, health and education systems, and our sky-high levels of unemployment and inequality.

Hundreds of thousands of articles have been written over the years on these and other ANC failures, and yet the DA stands pretty much alone as identifying cadre deployment as the root cause.

Consider this Maverick Citizen editorial this week by Mark Heywood, titled: “Land of glorious impunity – and how to ensure constitutional accountability for public resources”. Heywood lists several ways that accountability could be achieved.

And yet Heywood fails to identify cadre deployment as the root cause of the problem. Even if every single one of his “solutions” is implemented, the problem of impunity will persist until cadre deployment ends. Because cadre deployment is why maladministration and corruption go unpunished.

Cadre deployment has cost South Africans not just our hard-won democracy and trillions in tax revenue lost to corruption, but also lives. Directly, through looting of funds intended for life-saving PPE procurement. And indirectly, because poverty kills.

The great irony is that cadre deployment has happened under the guise of “transformation”. BEE is the mechanism whereby cadres are deployed even in the private sector, to syphon off taxpayer money (by charging a premium on tenders) part of which is redirected to the ANC, or an ANC faction, to entrench its power and access to state resources.

That decision back in 1997 had profound implications for South Africa. It is why we find ourselves here today, almost a quarter century later, with a failed, bankrupt state unable to deliver on even its most basic responsibilities to its citizens yet hellbent on controlling every aspect of our lives.

Either the ANC dumps cadre deployment or South Africa dumps the ANC. Nothing else will tackle the root of the rot. Getting Ramaphosa to explain his role by answering the DA’s questions before the Zondo Commission will expedite the solution, one way or another.

The DA is committed to the liberal democratic principles of separation of party and state, the rule of law, and a social market economy where power resides with the people. The 2021 local government election is your opportunity to promote these principles by supporting the DA.

DA welcomes Zondo Commission’s criminal charges against Zuma

The Democratic Alliance (DA) applauds the decision by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to lay a criminal complaint against former President Jacob Zuma for failing to appear and testify before the Commission in January this year. The Commission has also indicated its intention to consider further action against Zuma should he fail to obey a summons issued for his appearance next week.

Urgent steps also need to be taken by law enforcement agencies now to ensure this complaint is registered and, moreover, that Zuma is compelled to testify during his scheduled appearance for the week of 15 – 19 February. If Zuma is allowed to continue this contemptuous behaviour, it will entrench a perception that he is above the law.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) in particular needs to be prepared to arrest Zuma should he fail to show up. If he carries through with his planned defiance, Zuma must be arrested and face the full consequences of his appalling behaviour, just like any other citizen would have to do.

Zuma has always been deeply uncomfortable with the concept of a Constitutional democracy, with the supremacy of the Constitution. He has always lived outside these boundaries, setting up a parallel state to protect and entrench himself as leader. Now he is running out of tarmac, and his desperation is showing.

The fact that Zuma casts doubt on the work of the Commission, through a Judge appointed by himself, is indicative of a man that has exhausted all avenues to run from accountability and is now trapped. The South African public collectively decided on a Constitutional democracy as the only way to protect all of us from arbitrary tin pot dictators like Zuma. The law must now take its course, and now, finally, there must be consequences for Zuma.

Chaotic ‘State land redistribution’ resulting in intimidation of productive farmers 

Following the announcement by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, that 700 000 hectares of State land will be released for agricultural purposes, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has received distress calls from productive farmers complaining that this announcement was now being used by departmental officials to intimidate them into vacating their farms.

On reviewing some of the reported cases, the DA was surprised to see that farms of some of the farmers being victimized by DALRRD officials are not even listed for redistribution under the 700 000 hectare scheme.

To stop this intimidation, the DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mandla Mandela, and request that the agenda item on ‘the release of State land’, that is to deliberated on next week, be expanded to include all land that is currently listed for land reform purposes. The DA has enough evidence that intimidation and corruption is taking place on currently occupied land that falls outside the 700 000 hectares announced by the Minister.

In addition, the DA letter to Chairperson Mandela will call on him to issue a directive that all Provinces furnish the Committee with the status of all land that falls under the ambit of the Department’s land reform programme. We need to know:

  • Which occupants or farmers have received letters or verbal instructions to vacate their land?
  • What were the reasons given for these eviction orders and who authorised these instructions?

A recent victim of this intimidation campaign is Mr Ivan Cloete, a productive pig farmer who conducts his farming activities at Colenso farm. This week, a rapid intervention from the DA stopped the eviction of Mr Cloete from his farm after DALRRD officials visited him to ask that he hands over the keys and leaves immediately. It is not clear who gave the order for this eviction and why, especially considering the fact that Colenso farm is not listed under the 700 000 hectares land redistribution programme.

There are many farmers out there who are in Mr Cloete’s predicament. Their harassment is a potential indicator of what is to happen to farmers should the disastrous Section 25 Amendment Bill get passed. South Africa could be headed towards a dangerous era where farmers are targeted for eviction with due legal recourse. The DA remains committed to fighting all land expropriation legislation and protect our farmers from undue State interference.