World Press Day: DA asks Zondo Commission to test allegations that SSA bribed journalists

The DA will write to Judge Raymond Zondo to seek clarity as to when the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture will delve into allegations that the State Security Agency (SSA) bribed journalists and media houses to report positively about former President Jacob Zuma.

The Commission heard various testimonies which alluded to media houses being approached by SSA operatives. The DA is of the view that these allegations should be thoroughly tested by the Commission.

If it is true that some journalists had been paid off by the SSA, they must be named and held fully to account.

Today, as we observe World Press Freedom Day, we should recognise the fundamental role the media plays in strengthening our democracy by holding the government to account and keeping the public informed.

However, while the constitutional values of press freedom should be fiercely protected, the media must be held to account where they fail. It would, therefore, be a grave failing if these allegations are left untested.

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Mabuza must step aside following Eskom kickback scandal

The DA notes the report by News24 that a foundation registered to Deputy President David Mabuza received a “strategic donation” of R30 million from General Electric through Eskom in 2016 when he was still the Mpumalanga premier.

If the ANC is consistent in the application of its own resolutions, it must add Mabuza to its list of members who should step aside while they’re under investigation for corruption.

Reports reveal that a senior Eskom executive offered the donation to Mabuza’s Foundation in 2016 after General Electric had financed part of Eskom’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme.

Tenders worth R178 160 990.84 awarded by Eskom over the past decade are reportedly tainted by corruption. In fact, the corruption at Eskom is so widespread that Eskom sources, forensic experts and investigators have told News24 that “neither Eskom nor law enforcement agencies have sufficient resources to deal with the vast network of corruption at the company”.

While the South African economy suffers blow after blow from sustained power cuts and is still under threat from loadshedding to this day, fat cats in the ANC and at the parastatal, like Mabuza, felt no shame in bringing the power utility to its knees by looting billions.

Kusile has still not been fully completed and poor performance at the station again led to a recent bout of loadshedding, moreover Kusile is far from the only power plant that has suffered from this large-scale corruption at Eskom.

Deputy President Mabuza has done nothing but eat taxpayers’ money, while many struggles for daily survival. It seems he is as rotten and corrupt as they come.

The DA will request confirmation from Mabuza in Parliament of his complicity in this payoff.

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DA welcomes High Level Report on animal management, but concerns remain

The DA welcomes the release of the High Level Panel Report on the Management, Breeding and Hunting of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries on Sunday.

There were some encouraging aspects of the report, especially the recognition of the diversity in opinions and the acknowledgment that further public consultation will take place. Ethical hunting remains a recognised aspect of the South African economy and is an accepted component of our shared culture. It was highly important to note that the universally abhorrent export of lion bones will be stopped.

The DA does, however, have concerns regarding certain aspects of the report, including:

  • Whether the laudable ending of captive lion breeding will merely be replaced by the breeding of ranched lions for hunting.
  • How it is envisaged to use environmentally protected areas to “promote rural development” and how this will be carried out.
  • Who will be drafting the agreed transformation charter for the sector and how will this process proceed.
  • How Minister Barbara Creecy envisages the goal to promote hunting of the big five. The specific goal to “leverage the added-value benefit of hunting leopard” should potentially be reevaluated in view of the paucity of knowledge of the leopard population.
  • Aspects of the presentation appeared to be a bit rushed with one recommendation referring to ivory as being a by-product of lion hunting. We assume this was merely a cut-and-paste mistake.

The DA will take time to study the report in full and will make further considered inputs.

The brutal reality is that under the ANC administration, poaching of endangered species in South Africa is out of control. SANParks recently admitted that 70% of all the rhinos in Kruger National Park have been killed by poachers over the last ten years alone. If this is not stopped soon, the entire rhino population of Kruger Park could be gone within the next 10 years. There must be a continued and urgent focus on preventing all forms of poaching. We must smash the syndicates that continue to trade illegally in rhino horn and encourage people to enter into a life of crime. Most of all, we must continue to do all we can to protect these magnificent animals for future generations.

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DA to PAIA DALRRD regarding R3.1bn Agri-Parks Programme

The DA will submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) regarding the R3.1 billion Agri-Parks Programme, in which government committed to building 44 Agri-Parks in districts across South Africa. We need to know the state and progress of all 44 parks, how much money has already been spent, and how it was spent. A list of all farmers that benefitted from these farmer support units or Agri-Parks must also be provided as a matter of urgency, so that the necessary oversight can be undertaken.

The DA has submitted numerous parliamentary questions regarding the state of these Agri-Parks, with an answer from DALRRD revealing in 2019 that none of the Parks had been completed and that only four were partially operational.

Today, news reports revealed that over the past four years, DALRDD has spent R33 million on an Agri-Park in Westonaria in Gauteng that has been neglected and is broken-down.

This project was a golden opportunity to uplift the local community through food production and job creation, but once again people have been let down by government.

When the DA conducted an oversight visit to a similar project in Dutywa in the Eastern Cape, the local community had not even been informed as to the purpose of the structures, so it came as no surprise that they had not benefited from the project. (See pictures of our oversight visit here, here, here, here, and here.)

South Africa is littered with projects like these which are wonderful on paper and makes for great photo opportunities when they are launched, but are then left to fall apart without any beneficial development for local communities. A complete lack of political will, questionable spending, and projects for which the Department has nothing to show point to a serious problem in the DALRRD. The DA will get to the bottom of this.

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Protesting artists vow to vacate NAC offices today

The DA notes that the impasse between the National Arts Council (NAC) and protesting South African artists has come to an end after 60 days, with the artists having announced on Friday that they will vacate the NAC offices today.

Opera singer and president of Im4theArts and the South African United Cultural and Creative Industries Federation (SAUCCIF), Sibongile Mngoma, who started the sit-in on 1 March 2021 after the NAC refused her request for information regarding contracts signed with artists for funding from the R300 million Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PESP), told the Sowetan that the artists’ next stop would be the offices of the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane acted as mediator between the NAC and the artists.

The DA commends the artists for their peaceful protests which demanded transparency from the NAC as to how contracts and the disbursement of relief funding were awarded. We believe that this list should still be made public and once again call for an independent forensic, and a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation. The Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, and the NAC council must also appear before the parliamentary portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture to account for their part in the tragedy unfolding in the South African arts and culture sector.

While this peaceful demonstration has come to an end, those who make their living from the arts and culture industries are still suffering from the country’s economic freefall brought about by the continued Covid-19 lockdown. Minister Mthethwa must explain why the very industry he is meant to support and bolster during this time of crisis has been left to languish and decay, threatening the livelihoods of thousands, and destroying our nation’s unique talent and cultural heritage in the process.

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Military Command Council refusing to cooperate with office of PP on Interferon-investigation

The DA can reveal that the Military Command Council (MCC) is refusing to cooperate with the office of the Public Protector of South Africa on its investigation into the irregularities around the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) procurement of Interferon from Cuba.

We have been reliably informed that despite enquiries letters submitted by the office of the public protector, and a final reminder sent on Friday, the MCC has yet to deliver any and all information regarding the irregular procurement of the Interferon, also known as Heberon Alpha-2B, which SANDF intended to use as Covid-19 treatment for their troops despite the medication not being registered for use in that capacity by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

It should be noted that SAHPRA has supplied all the necessary documentation to further the investigation.

The MCC is bound by the same Constitution and rule of law as all South Africans. Yet, it seems that Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s poor leadership within her Department has trickled down and led the SANDF top tier, SANDF Chief Gen Solly Shoke, SANDF Chief of Logistics Lt Gen Morris Moadira, SANDF Chief of Staff Lt Gen Lindile Yam, and the Surgeon General of the South African Military Health Service (SAMHS) Lt Gen Zola Dabula, to believe that their foolish actions would be without consequence.

The DA encourages the office of the public protector to make full use of the law and issue SANDF with a subpoena if the MCC fails to respond in a timeous manner.

The continued State of Disaster does not give SANDF the right to treat South Africa as its own personal playground. It certainly does not give the MCC the right to abuse its budget and endeavour to experiment on our soldiers. It’s time those in power realised the responsibility those positions come with.

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DA calls on Ramaphosa to sanction SIU probe into Powerships allegations 

The allegations by unsuccessful Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) bidder, DNG Power Holdings CEO Aldworth Mbalati, in court papers filed before the Pretoria High Court about the involvement of family members of Minister Gwede Mantashe and senior Department of Mineral Resources and Energy officials in the bid process, must now trigger an urgent and comprehensive investigation into the bid adjudication and the scoring of the bidders. Further muddying the waters are reports that one of the successful bidders, Karpowerships SA, has entered into a BBBEE agreement in which one of the major beneficiaries is a former special advisor to the ex-Ministers of State Security David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo.

When the DA called for such an investigation in the Mineral Resources and Energy parliamentary portfolio committee meeting on Wednesday, it was dismissed by the ANC as being outside the scope of the committee’s responsibilities – despite it clearly being a project of the department, and well within the committee’s mandate. The DA has now written to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to request this investigation.

The involvement of politically connected individuals is strongly reminiscent of other large financial transactions (e.g. Khusile, Medupi, the arms deal and Nkandla) and suggests that, for all the platitudes and promises of President Ramaphosa at the Zondo Commission, state capture is alive and well, and being facilitated and covered up by the ANC.

DA Leader John Steenhuuisen will now write to President Ramaphosa, requesting that he makes good on his word. We will call on him to refer this matter to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), and that while it is under investigation, he suspend Minister Mantashe, whose fingers appear all over this debacle.

South Africa needs electricity, not crooked tenders and corrupt politicians.

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Gordhan must answer to Parliament over Denel’s involvement in Yemeni war

The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises to request that Minister Pravin Gordhan appear before Parliament to answer for the role of Rheinmetall Denel Munition (RDM) in the humanitarian civil war in Yemen.

In addition, we want the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NACC) and the Directorate of the Conventional Arms Control (DCAC) to appear alongside Gordhan.

In a recent report by Open Secrets, titled “Profiting from Misery – South Africa’s war crimes in Yemen”, it was revealed that RDM might have profited off the Yemeni humanitarian crisis by the sale of weapons to parties central in the conflict.

Some of the shocking findings include:

  • An export of war weapons to the tune of R2.81 billion to Saudi Arabia.
  • An export of war weapons worth R4.74 billion to the United Arabian Emirates.

Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are involved in the humanitarian conflict. The report suggests anything from mortars, artillery guns and ammunition to armoured combat vehicles was part of the exports.

Unicef regards the Yemeni crisis as the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with roughly 80% of the Yemeni population – including 12 million children – requiring humanitarian aid.

It is therefore crucial that Gordhan and all parties called before the PEC must account for the allegations contained in the report.

If the allegations are true, RDM – a state-owned commercially-driven company of South Africa – will have contributed to gross human rights violations in Yemen.

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Until we’re honest about the cause of unemployment there will be nothing to celebrate on Workers’ Day

Today we pause to celebrate workers the world over. One particular set of workers we should be honouring are our frontline healthcare workers, who have stepped up with great bravery and commitment over the past year. They have been true heroes, and yet our government has let them down by failing to secure vaccines to cover even this small critical group, let alone the rest of the population.

As other countries announce major milestones in their vaccination efforts – some even wrapping theirs up already – our is yet to begin. The bulk of our healthcare workers, who did not form part of the Sisonke vaccine trial, are yet to receive their shots and have no protection against a third or fourth wave of transmissions. It is now May and government is yet to administer a single Covid-19 vaccine shot. This is a shameful dereliction of its duty.

In a broader context, South Africa also has very little to celebrate this Workers’ Day. Never before has the plight of the South African worker been more precarious, and never before have the prospects of those looking for work been more hopeless. Our expanded unemployment rate now sits at over 42%. We are world leaders in this regard, and we were world leaders long before Covid-19 struck.

Instead of devoting today to empty platitudes in honour of our labour force or the history of our labour movement, we should use the opportunity to examine, honestly, the cause of this unemployment catastrophe. Because until we are willing to confront the real reasons, and not simply go along with government’s scapegoated reasons, we will make no inroads.

The truth is we have a government stuck in the past. They are deliberately stuck in their own past, because their handling of the present and their prospects for the future are so dismal. But they are also stuck in an ideological past, clinging to policies and an economic system that have long since failed the world over. Their insistence on broadening state control and ownership of the economy and rolling out socialist programmes under the guise of transformation and empowerment are precisely why our economy is in the doldrums and our unemployment numbers at the very top of the graph.

If we want to solve this crisis, we have to start judging every intervention, every policy and every government programme by its actual outcome, and not simply its stated intention. Because every destructive government policy – from BEE to EWC to the minimum wage – has a noble-sounding rationale, just as socialism itself does. But in the real world, where you have to compete on an open marketplace and harness the ingenuity and the drive of entrepreneurship to absorb labour, the outcome of these policies are, without fail, negative.

In the rose-tinted, pre-Berlin Wall version of the 20th Century in which ANC exists, they are still a revolutionary struggle movement and socialism is still a noble goal. But the reality today is that we live in a super-connected global world, and that we are one big borderless marketplace – not only for products and services, but also for critical skills. In stubbornly pursuing these outdated policies while the rest of the world has long-since moved on, we are deliberately shooting ourselves in both feet.

Investors don’t owe us anything. They don’t care for our backstory or our idea of our own exceptionalism. They don’t have to buy into our tag-lines, that we’re alive with possibilities. They have no obligation to go along with bad spin about how elite enrichment is actually empowerment and redress. Investors make rational decisions based purely on risks and the potential for returns, and we’re in competition with 200 other countries for their business.

If we can’t protect their investment through secure property rights, they’ll simply go elsewhere. If we can’t guarantee them uninterrupted electricity, they’ll simply go elsewhere. If we can’t let them do business here without inserting an ANC-connected crony – who adds no value but demands a cut – into their business, they’ll simply go elsewhere. If we make the administrative red tape of running the business more cumbersome and time-consuming than the business itself, they’ll simply go elsewhere. If we force them to adhere to unaffordable wage bargaining agreements that they weren’t even party to, they’ll simply go elsewhere. If we can’t protect their interest as well as the interests of the unions, they’ll simply go elsewhere.

If we truly want to honour workers today we need to forget about the cliched platitudes and the sentimental love affair with all things Cuban, and step boldly into the 21st Century. We need to reinvent our economy and our labour market for this new super-connected world. We need to roll away every possible obstacle that is preventing investors from considering South Africa. And, crucially, we must cast off the blinkers and start judging every single intervention by its outcome and not its intention.

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