DA calls for clear details on Beitbridge Border plan, following DPWI’s poor showing before SCOPA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be submitting parliamentary questions to the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille, for clear and detailed plans on the Beitbridge Border reconstruction project, following the poor showing by her department in the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) today.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) briefed the Committee on plans to repair and reconstruct the Beitbridge Border fence. In light of the millions wasted by the Department the last time it embarked on a similar project, the sitting by members of SCOPA was an opportunity for DPWI to give us details on how they plan to repair the Beitbridge Border fence will differ from the previous ‘washing line’ which turned out to be waste of taxpayers’ money.

Unfortunately, the details from the DPWI regarding the repair and reconstruction of the Beitbridge Border fence turned out to be vague and unclear. It appears that the department has not been able to reach consensus over its desire to repair the fence and this has resulted in serious delays with the construction of other border fences.

The Beitbridge fence is extensively damaged, and by the Minister of Public Works’s own admission, it is substandard and not fit for purpose. However, Minister De Lille brought no viable suggestions as to how to deal with the border and the high levels of illegal migration across it, other than “going to the marketplace for ideas.”

The Acting Director-General of the department indicated to SCOPA that the department has no desire to repair the fence and that the assessment into the repairs as well as the need to find funds to perform this work is only as a result of the recommendations by SCOPA. This was supported by Minister De Lille who stated that any interim solution to the porous border with Zimbabwe will not include the fence that is not fit for purpose – it would be irregular expenditure.

There also seems to be a distinct lack of urgency within the department to hold the two companies, Magwa and Profteam, involved in the border fence scandal to account – in fact, the department continues to have a number of contracts (19) to the value of 400 million, and are defensive as to the ongoing work that these companies are doing – despite the wasted and irregular expenditure resulting from their work at Beitbridge, as well as an action from the Department to reclaim monies from these companies.

It is also apparent that there is disagreement within the department regarding the handling of this matter, the securing of deadlines for developments and reports and a Minister who seems intent on avoiding responsibility for any irregularities, preferring to instead blame her officials.

The question is, is the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure run by the Minister or her officials, and what plans if any, do they have to remedy the poor performance exhibited by the handling of this matter?

DA to nominate SA Healthcare workers for 2022 Nobel Peace Prize

Please find the attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

In what is a slight to the over a million South African healthcare workers who have battled valiantly against the Covid-19 pandemic under difficult circumstances, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced last night that his Cabinet approved the nomination of the Cuban Medical Brigade for a Nobel Peace Prize for 2021.

This is truly bizarre at best and a great insult to South African healthcare workers at worst. No one will ever argue that we cannot express gratitude to international partners who have assisted the country in this journey, but that surely cannot be done by overlooking the monumental sacrifice done by our healthcare workers under impossible conditions.

It is for this reason that the Democratic Alliance (DA) will submit its own application to the Nobel Foundation for consideration for 2022 since this year’s nominations have closed. The motivation for this nomination will be clear:

  • South African healthcare workers have been fighting valiantly against this pandemic in the front lines for almost a year next month;
  • This has been done under difficult circumstances of a broken health system that is characterized by staff shortages, inadequate infrastructure and poor governance systems in many provinces;
  • Many healthcare workers have not received a salary increase due to the fiscal cliff South Africa finds itself in as a direct result of poor management of the economy;
  • Many were scrambling for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic while government struggled to secure supplies to protect them;
  • Hundreds of healthcare workers have lost their lives to this virus while selflessly serving their country and thousands have been infected and still went back to serve on the frontlines;
  • Healthcare workers are still working tirelessly through the various peaks of infections at a great personal cost to them even in the face of a sluggish vaccine rollout programme from their government.

It is unthinkable that this great sacrifice would be ignored and there would be disproportionate recognition given to the Cuban Medical Brigade which was contracted to South Africa at the tune of almost R240 million for a year. The efficacy of this deployment is yet to be proven in the greater scheme of the country’s fight against Covid-19. Yet, the very people who have stitched together our broken healthcare system have simply been given platitudes to show our gratitude as a country.

According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation members of national assemblies may nominate those deserving of this great recognition. We are of the view that all healthcare workers can be grouped together as has been done in the past to have this prestigious award given to them from a country that could never mount a decent response to this pandemic were it not for them.

The last South Africans to be awarded this prize were former Presidents Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk. Since then, many groups have been awarded the prize. There can be no more deserving recipients that our very own healthcare workers without whom thousands more could have lost their lives.

DA submits cadre deployment questions to Zondo Commission, to be put to President Ramaphosa

As ANC president, Cyril Ramaphosa needs to explain why his party is still pursuing its explicit project of state capture, through their formal policy of cadre deployment, which directs that state institutions are staffed by ANC loyalists, so as to gain party control of all levers of the state, including those meant to check and balance power. He needs to explain his role in state capture, and why as ANC president he has made no move to end the practice of cadre deployment.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the Democratic Alliance have this weekend submitted to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture an extensive list of questions to be posed to President Ramaphosa.

These include:

  • When did you become chairperson of the ANC’s deployment committee?
  • Why does the ANC have a cadre deployment committee?
  • Are you aware of any instance where a political party aside from the ANC has ever enjoyed the privilege of informing a selection process that they wanted one of their members appointed to a particular position in the public sector?
  • Would it be accurate to say that as the former chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee, you believe that senior positions in the public service, the public administration, state-owned entities, municipalities and other government agencies should be staffed primarily by people who have proven themselves to be “loyal” to the ANC?
  • Section 197 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that “No employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause”. Given that cadre deployment is expressly designed to favour members of the ANC deemed “loyal” by the deployment committee while being prejudiced against applicants who are not members of the ANC when it comes to appointment decisions, do you agree that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment violates section 197 (3) of the Constitution?

Make no mistake, the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment is the root cause of state capture, the terrible effects of which were further revealed last week when South Africans learned that over R9 billion of taxpayer money was siphoned from the State Security Agency (SSA) to fund nefarious ANC activities, including “ANC projects” (most likely a destabilization campaign) in the Western Cape. Unless the Zondo Commission addresses this root cause, South Africa’s problems will persist.

The list of state capture scandals revealed by the Zondo Commission extends far beyond the Guptas. But never beyond the ANC. The ANC is the common denominator in all state capture scandals, because it is the ANC that has captured the state, not the Guptas. The Guptas were merely a side show, who saw the private opportunities that the ANC’s state capture project offered. Which is why even when the Guptas exited the stage, the state capture show went on.

The ANC’s policy of cadre deployment was formally adopted by the party at their Mafikeng Conference in 1997. It was explicitly designed to undermine the constitutional principle of separation of party and state, and thereby to capture the state. Hence state capture is explicit ANC policy, and Ramaphosa, as head of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee from 2013 to 2017, has played a central role bringing it about.

Once cadre deployment became formal ANC policy, three outcomes became inevitable: the evolution of the ANC from political party to a conglomerate of competing criminal syndicates giving rise to endemic corruption in South Africa; the failure of political accountability mechanisms in South Africa; and an incapable South African state unable to deliver on its most basic responsibilities to its citizens. The ANC’s cadre deployment policy is the root cause of the incompetence and corruption that is destroying South Africa.

There are only two ways out of this predicament. Either the ANC jettisons its policy of cadre deployment, or citizens jettison the ANC. Forcing Ramaphosa to answer these questions at the Zondo Commission will expedite the solution, one way or another.

Government’s vaccine failure means a third wave is inevitable

No matter how the president spins it, South Africans have been badly let down by an incapable state that has neither the ability nor the will to protect lives and livelihoods. That the first vaccines only arrived on our shores today is a failure, not an achievement.

With no significant vaccine arrivals until May and the bulk of what we can expect this year only arriving towards the end of the year, we find ourselves staring at a third wave come winter and with it another lockdown. But we have come to expect so little from the ANC that the arrival midst much fanfare, two months late, of vaccines for just 0.8% of the population is seen as a good news story.

While other countries with comparable economies are already administering hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccines per day, South Africa is yet to administer a single dose. The fact is government has spent more effort and taxpayer money keeping people off the beach than procuring lifesaving vaccines for them.

Government’s repeated promises of reaching herd immunity this year are therefore a pipedream born of lazy analysis, wishful thinking and political spin. Nothing could show more clearly how out of touch with reality our government is.

With only enough vaccines arriving this year for 15 to 18 million people – and the bulk of these in the second half of the year, it is unlikely we’ll vaccinate even a third of the number required for herd immunity.

For all its talk, government is yet to deliver an explicit, comprehensive procurement and rollout plan. Which is why the DA has taken legal action to force government to communicate and commit to a detailed plan, based on people’s constitutional right to access healthcare services. This will enable civil society to contribute in a meaningful way, to monitor government’s performance, and hold them accountable.

We cannot afford to give government the benefit of the doubt. And we cannot afford the vaccine programme to be sabotaged by politically connected elites, under the guise of “transformation”, as we saw with PPE procurement. We need to know that experienced, reputable companies are handling distribution.

Nor can we afford for the vaccine rollout to be used as a bargaining chip in ANC factional battles. That can surely be the only explanation for the president’s appointment of the useless, corrupt DD Mabuza to lead it.

Let’s be clear here. Humanity is in a race against this virus. We need vaccines delivered at a pace that will outrun mutations. Already, the 501Y.V2 variant is proving more resistant to the current vaccines.

More than ever, this underscores the need for government to prioritise vaccines as a high-impact intervention and place far more trust in the private sector to assist in rolling them out, since this is where the capability resides.

It also underscores the fact that no price is too high to get vaccines rolled out, since a swift rollout will save lives, enable us to open our economy, and reduce the chances of mutations.

Nonetheless, we need to be realistic and accept that we will be running this race against the virus for a very long time to come. So it is crucial that we vaccinate our front line healthcare workers and those most vulnerable to Covid as a matter of urgency.

It is also crucial that we do everything possible now to protect our economy from further damage. It would be economic suicide to delay reforms any longer, and we certainly cannot afford to waste any more precious resources on trivial, petty bans that have a minor effect on the pandemic but do major long-term damage to the economy.

Therefore, the DA welcomes the lifting of the nonsensical beach ban and the easing of alcohol restrictions and curfew. However, these come too late to save hundreds of thousands of jobs and businesses in the tourism, restaurant and alcohol industries, which have been needlessly destroyed by our indiscriminate state. ANC politicians should pay with their jobs.

We call for the curfew to be lifted completely. Freedom of movement is a basic civil liberty and there is absolutely no justification for denying it. Those restaurants that haven’t yet shut shop need all the trading hours they can get.

Government is the weakest link in SA. It needs to get its own house in order and free the private sector to contribute to its fullest potential in saving both lives and livelihoods.

DA calls for urgent, comprehensive briefing on SA’s dwindling rhino population 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the South African National Parks (SANParks) to present a comprehensive briefing to Parliament on the state of South Africa’s dwindling rhino population.

Last week, in a surprising move SANParks published the latest shocking rhino population numbers in their annual report. This follows officials declining a request by myself and colleague, Annerie Weber MP, during the Portfolio Committee on Environment, Forestry and Fisheries earlier that week that these numbers be released. This was in line with an answer to a written Parliamentary question in November 2020 where Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, stated that “The Department does not publish this information because it poses a risk in terms of our conservation efforts”.

Well, SANParks have now released these numbers and they paint a grim picture on the future survival of rhinos in South Africa. SANParks has revealed that it only has 3 529 white rhinos and 268 black rhinos left in the Park. These figures are alarming and confirm that South Africa’s white and black rhino populations are nearing extinction.

SANParks have repeatedly stated that rhino poaching is declining but this is clearly not the case and in complete contradiction with what we have been hearing from people on the ground. Tourists and locals have consistently been reporting very low rhino numbers. These sentiments have been confirmed in chilling detail by the official numbers. It is now patently clear that the only reason that SANParks claims that poaching of rhino has decreased is because poachers are simply struggling to actually find more rhinos to poach.

The sad reality is that even with the low numbers of rhino, poaching still continues. This is borne out by the arrest two weeks ago of a suspected rhino horn dealer, in possession of over 70 kilograms of rhino horn and R500 000 in cash. The stratospheric value of rhino horn, which sells for more than gold or cocaine, will continue to attract poachers unless the department takes serious and urgent steps to intervene. More must be done to increase anti-poaching efforts and to tackle any potential corruption within the reserves.

I would urge the Minister to intervene and present a comprehensive and open briefing on the rhino situation. Poaching will be on the agenda of the Portfolio Committee on the 16th of February where we hope to get more answers. Government cannot continue to look the other way while almost 70% of our rhino population has been decimated. If urgent action isn’t taken soon, our rhinos could be extinct within a generation and our grandchildren will only be able to see them in photos and documentaries.

Ramaphosa is complicit in the SSA cover-up and must fire David Mahlobo

The Democratic Alliance (DA) holds President Cyril Ramaphosa responsible for the failed attempt to cover up the brazen looting that took place at the State Security Agency (SSA) after he ignored the findings of a High Level panel report into the Agency and proceeded to appoint implicated individuals to his Executive.

Now that the failed cover-up has been exposed, Ramaphosa must rescind his shameful decision to appoint David Mahlobo as the Deputy Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitisation, and fire him with immediate effect.

In May 2019, six months after receiving the High-Level panel report on how the SSA became a vehicle for mass  looting and was refocused on a single goal of advancing Jacob Zuma’s political interests, Ramaphosa went ahead and appointed Mahlobo as Deputy Minister. This despite clear evidence that Mahlobo was the ringleader of the looting that took place at the agency.

Ramaphosa ignored the oath he took to uphold and defend the Constitution, and instead chose to excuse Mahlobo’s criminal behaviour by appointing him to his Cabinet. Mahlobo’s actions not only compromised the country’s security but have brought irreparable damage to SSA requiring that it be shut down immediately.

Ramaphosa’s decision to appoint Mahlobo was not in the best interest of the country but instead a self-serving political decision taken to appease the ANC’s warring factions. This decision proves that Ramaphosa is prepared to go to any lengths to sweep corruption under the carpet when it threatens to destroy his factional ANC party.

Despite clear evidence from the High-Level panel report that the SSA in its current form has been severely compromised, Ramaphosa’s government has not taken a single step to reform the country’s intelligence service. Instead, it is business as usual and no one has yet been held accountable for the over R9-billion that disappeared into the pockets of Zuma and his state capture accomplices.

The DA has already written to the Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo, asking that she initiates the process to shut down the SSA and create a new and independent entity in its place. We cannot continue to entrust the country’s national security to a body that has been politically compromised and has abandoned the requirements of its original mandate.