Brett Herron’s consistent smear campaign fails again

The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects Brett Herron’s baseless claims against the party. Mr Herron, a representative of ANC appointed Minister, Patricia De Lille’s GOOD Party, is once again desperately grasping at straws, in order to settle old political scores.

In statements released earlier this week, Mr Herron alleges that the City of Cape Town’s Covid Relief Fund is being laundered by the DA to create a political slush fund. His allegations deliberately seek to conflate two separate matters and should be dismissed with the contempt that they deserve.

As the Political Head for Atlantis, I can confirm that the suspect arrested in late 2020 in connection with alleged TERS fraud is no longer a member of the DA. The individual referred to by Mr Herron was previously an ordinary member of the party and did not hold any “senior” leadership positions as alleged.

This matter has absolutely nothing to do with the DA or its public representatives. Insofar as Mr Herron’s allegations relate to the City of Cape Town’s Humanitarian Relief Fund, Mayor Dan Plato’s office has provided an adequate response.

These are two entirely separate matters. Mr Herron would do well to cease his tiresome attacks on his ex-employer and instead focus his attentions on improving the lives of the handful of voters he represents in the Province.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Lotteries candidate for Chairperson attempts to silence DA MP

In March of this year, candidate for the hotly contested National Lotteries Commission (NLC) Chairpersonship, Dr Muthuhadini Madzivhandila, informed the DA and myself of his intention to seek urgent relief from the High Court if we failed to apologise for a statement, we released on 13 March entitled “DA rejects ANC’s recommendation for NLC chairperson”.

We released this statement in light of the concerns raised by the Organisation Against Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) in a public submission to the Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition.

The matter was subsequently removed from the roll by virtue of the Applicant’s realising his case lacks merits and most definitely has no urgency.

The DA persist in its objection to the nomination of Dr Muthuhadini Madzivhandila to be appointed as Chairperson of the NLC on the basis of what is common cause between the parties:

Dr Madzivhandila was a director of Enterprise SA from November 2003 until it was liquidated in 2006.

During the 2006 financial year, at the time that Dr Madzivhandila was a director of Enterprise SA, Enterprise SA was allocated a grant by the National Lotteries Commission.

This constitutes a potential conflict of interest that ought to have been fully investigated before he was appointed to the Board and/or nominated to serve as chair of the National Lotteries Commission.

The DA persists in contending that any applicant to become a member of the board of the NLC, and more especially any applicant to lead that board, who has been a director of a company that was awarded a grant by the NLC, whether that grant was ultimately paid out or not, ought to disclose those facts prior to their appointment to the board so that any perception of a conflict of interest can be fully investigated.

We shall continue to defend our case should the Applicant persist with the same.

Furthermore, we are most concerned that a senior member of a public entity is not au-fait with the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliaments and Provincial Legislatures Act 4 of 2004.

As a member of Parliament, I have every right to raise matters of public interest in any forum that I so choose. However, Dr Madzivhandila has actively sought to prevent me from doing so and thus impeded on my ability to perform my duties.

There are consequences for his actions and the DA will now ensure that he is held accountable for his vexatious attempt to interfere in the work of Parliament.

Therefore, we will be demanding that Minister Ebrahim Patel terminates his board membership as we hold the view that he has contravened the following provision in the Lotteries Act; “Chapter 1 Section (5) Subject to section 33 of the Constitution. the Minister— (~) may. as soon as he or she gains knowledge of any possible disqualification, terminate the membership of any member of the board on the grounds of serious misconduct or prolonged inability to perform the functions of a member of the board”.

We hold the view that his failure to include his directorship of Enterprise SA on the curriculum vitae that he submitted to Parliament during the application process is tantamount to misleading Parliament and therefore an act of serious misconduct and sufficient grounds for removal from the board.

It is vitally important that Minister Patel, the Portfolio Committee and Parliament condemns this sort of behaviour to silence Members of Parliament.

Dr Madzivhandila has picked a fight and now the DA will finish it.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

DA seeks full details of SA agreement with Cuba on engineers

The DA has submitted parliamentary questions to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu requesting the details of the agreement between South Africa and Cuba which saw 24 engineers being brought to the country to assist the Department of Human Settlements, Water & Sanitation to solve problems related to water infrastructure.

South Africa has numerous skilled and unemployed engineers who are able and willing to assist the government with its infrastructural challenges. It, therefore, boggles the mind why the government would employ Cuban engineers, no doubt at a massive price tag to the taxpayer.

Minister Sisulu’s lame excuse that “very few of our own engineers would possibly opt to go work in the rural areas” holds no water. Recently, the labour union, Solidarity, produced a list of 120 local engineers who are willing and ready to assist in the government’s efforts to address infrastructure challenges in rural communities.

This proves that the deployment of Cuban engineers has nothing to do with the reluctance of local engineers to assist nor has this anything to do with a lack of expertise. This smacks of another scheme by the ANC to appease its old Cuban allies.

It is for this reason that the full details of this agreement must be made available to the public. The nation needs to be assured that this latest cooperation between the South African and Cuban governments is above board.

The DA wants Sisulu to clearly state:

  • What is the exact agreement between South Africa and Cuba on cooperation in the field of water resource management?
  • Which steps her department has taken, prior to the signing of the agreement, to ensure South Africans could be employed instead?
  • How much taxpayer’s money will be spent to pay for the 24 Cuban engineers?
  • What skill sets do each of these Cuban nationals possess that South African engineers do not?

Should the Minister dither or refuse to provide the requested information, the DA will proceed with a Public Access to Information Application (PAIA).

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

DA welcomes audit of PESI vouchers meant for agricultural relief

The DA welcomes the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza’s announcement that her Department (DALLRD) will clamp down and blacklist individuals selling the Presidential Employment Stimulus Initiative (PESI) vouchers for cash, after the DA called for an audit of the recipients of these vouchers.

The DA has received numerous complaints from farmers that middlemen that the Department contracted to distribute the vouchers and help farmers source various necessities are selling these goods at inflated prices. One store in Limpopo confirmed the farmers’ allegations, but stated that the situation was created due to an arrangement between the Department and these middlemen. In one example, the feed that should cost farmers R100 is being sold by the middleman at a 300% mark-up for R400, even though it is sourced from the same store.

It has also come to light that these middlemen are asking farmers for a commission of 25%. The audit should also extend to include the investigation of these inflated prices and commissions that farmers are forced to pay.

It is unacceptable that this programme is being exploited, and the Minister must ensure that those fingered in these corruption allegations are disciplined as a matter of urgency. It is no surprise farmers development programmes fail, when malfeasance seems to infect the Department’s every initiative.

Minister Didiza must ensure a transparent audit and extend it to officials who might be colluding with these unscrupulous individuals as well as an investigation of inflated prices farmers are forced to pay.

The DA has submitted written parliamentary questions to the Minister regarding:

  • The details of contracted agents (middlemen) for the R1.2 billion intervention package;
  • Whether she is aware of inflated prices and that middlemen are charging 25% commission on the vouchers;
  • If she knows what she is doing about it, and if not;
  • When is she going to institute an audit into these middlemen?

The Department can only blame its own incompetence and corrupt relationships with middlemen for the failures in both land reform and its commercialization programme for black farmers.

The DA will never stop fighting for the appointment of fit for purpose and capable individuals in the Department to provide support to the development of farmers.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

DA three-step guide to solving the public sector wage impasse

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP

The DA has today presented the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Senzo Mchunu, with a three-step guide to break the ongoing public sector wage impasse that would save R163 billion over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF). The DA believes that the burden of cutting our bloated wage bill should not fall on frontline service delivery staff – mainly nurses, teachers, and police officers. They should instead be provided with inflation-linked increases.

The public sector wage bill cuts should be focused on the 29 000 millionaire managers employed in the state as well as on wasteful luxuries. To achieve this outcome, our model proposes that the government should:

  1. Freeze the wages of the 33.7% of public servants who are not covered by Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD). This category includes office managers, administrators and supervisors who spend most of their working hours in air-conditioned offices. In turn, this would enable the state to protect the wages of frontline workers by ensuring that the 66.3% of public servants who are covered by OSD receive CPI inflation-linked increases;
  2. Reduce the 29 000 millionaire managers in the public service by a third; and
  3. Eliminate funding for VIP blue-light security and the New Development Bank.

In total, our three-step plan would save R163 billion over the MTEF period, exceeding the target set by the finance minister by R2.9 billion and restoring South Africa to the path of fiscal sustainability:

Action  Savings 
1) Freeze non-OSD wages R116.7 billion
2) Reduce 29 000 millionaire managers by a third R29.4 billion
3) Cut wasteful spending on VIP Blue-Light Security and New Development Bank R3.4 billion

 

R13.5 billion

Total  R163 billion 

Our proposal protects frontline staff by utilising the OSD system as it was originally intended. The government in 2007 introduced OSD under the guise of attracting and rewarding skilled personnel – like doctors, engineers, and teachers – through higher salaries. However, OSD has thus far failed, because the government has not limited salary increases to these skilled workers. Instead, wage hikes have often favoured those in senior management positions at the expense of skilled public servants delivering frontline services to citizens.

The premium paid to public sector workers is a function of patronage-driven wage increases over the last decade, and there is little evidence that productivity has kept pace with wage growth. Exorbitant public sector wages is crowding out productive investment and South Africans are not getting value for money. It is time to choose country over cadres by reigning in spending on salaries for non-OSD personnel so that we can protect our frontline service delivery heroes while cutting the bloated wage bill.

The DA’s three-step plan will correct the immoral choices of the past, protect critically needed frontline services, and put our country on the path to fiscal sustainability.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Anarchy in Prieska threatens South Africa’s mining future

A mining project near the Northern Cape town of Prieska is facing armed intimidation and violence from a group demanding a share in the mine and control over contracts. The Orion mine is facing a similar situation to construction companies elsewhere in the country which have been targeted by what’s been called the “construction mafia”.

Elements of the local community have been mobilised to blockade all access to the town and roads have been cut off by burning barricades. Over several days, protestors have been accompanied by a number of armed men, up to half a dozen of whom carry assault rifles. The protestors have also targeted the municipality, demanding it supports their demands for an additional share in the mine. Access has been deliberately cut off also to nearby wind and solar power projects.

Police are failing to enforce the law on a continuous basis; allowing the demonstrators to carry arms, failing to ensure freedom of movement, forcing mine security to allow the demonstrators onto mine property and allowing armed protestors to occupy municipal offices. One report says a child was beaten by protestors which led to an armed standoff between protestors and local farmers. In at least one case, an attempt to lay charges against the protestors was blocked by the police.

Orion is one of the only new medium size mining projects in South Africa, which has gone ahead despite onerous BEE requirements stipulated by the Mining Charter. It has been at great pains to ensure its BEE requirements involve local people, rather than by empowering black players in the industry who have already been empowered previously. This project and all medium and major mining projects in South Africa are struggling to make the case to international investors. If the situation in Prieska is allowed to persist, it will send a signal that mining in South Africa is uninvestible.

The DA Shadow Minister of Police, Andrew Whitfield MP, has contacted the office of the National Police Commissioner to ask:

  • If they are aware of the situation;
  • For a task team from the national office to go to Prieska to investigate the failure to act by police in the area; and
  • For the deployment of additional police resources so that illegal acts may be curtailed.

With international mineral prices at a high, there should be investment flooding into new mining projects in South Africa. The fact that there is not, is testimony to the many legal and bureaucratic barriers erected by ANC misgovernance. Given South Africa’s mineral wealth, the industry could lead our economic recovery. If the ANC government is unwilling or unable to enforce even basic law and order, that is a vain hope.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

DA calls on SARS to act without fear or favour in reclaiming outstanding tax debt from the ANC

The ANC is possibly guilty of criminal offenses in failing to pay over millions in Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE) to the South African Revenue Service, while deducting these monies from its employees’ wages.

The DA welcomes the seizing of IEC funds by SARS from the ANC as partial payment of its debt, and is calling on SARS to continue to uphold the constitutionally enshrined principles of transparency and accountability. It is imperative that SARS act without any fear or favour in reclaiming any and all outstanding monies from the ANC.

In terms of the Tax Administration Act, it is a criminal offence punishable by prison time for anyone to wilfully and without justification withhold funds owed to SARS. As the withholding agent for its employees’ PAYE taxes, the ANC, just like any other employer in South Africa, is directly liable for any tax debts on its employees’ names that is incurred due to its own negligent or possibly fraudulent action.

Any suggestion of corruption on the part of the governing party must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Top-5 South African municipalities governed by the DA

The findings of the Ratings Afrika Municipal Financial Sustainability Index (MFSI) leave South Africans with bad news as well as good news.

The good news is that there are municipalities that are bucking the national trend of decline. The MFSI findings confirm that the best hope of good services and good value for ratepayers’ money is to live in a municipality that has been under DA control for an extended period of time.

The bad news is that most municipalities are in big trouble. According to Ratings Afrika dysfunctional municipalities need a national bailout of R51 billion to avert financial and institutional collapse – Day Zero for service delivery.

Service delivery, and the prospect of maintaining even the current poor level of service, is in freefall almost everywhere.

The DA does not support the recommendation of a R51 billion bailout for local government, as there is no guarantee that most ANC municipalities are able to put such money to good use.

In municipalities with bad mayors and municipal managers bailout money will only increase the extent of fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure. South Africa has already learnt this lesson with zombie state-owned entities whose CEOs and boards are deployed ANC cadres.

Cadre deployment has to be replaced by a merit system that allow municipalities to access the best possible skills in the market, and tenderpreneurship favouring well-connected individuals have to be arrested.

The only way to achieve this is for communities to vote DA on 27 October 2021. The top five municipalities on the MFSI are all governed by the DA. Even under extremely difficult conditions these municipalities have done the best they can for the communities they serve.

In municipalities where DA control was interrupted for a time, as in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, recovery will take longer. But there is no doubt that these municipalities have little chance of recovery under ANC control.

The hard truth is that service delivery and financial sustainability are now in the hands of voters. Only they can hold the local government to account at the ballot box.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

While others dither and delay, the DA is on track for October elections

The DA is on track to contest the 2021 Local Government Elections in October this year. We’ve been working hard to be in a position to wage our election campaign in these unusual circumstances we still find ourselves in and, come 27 October, every voter in South Africa will know what the DA stands for and what we offer them in local government.

This is the message I relayed to South Africans in a video broadcast today, and it is the message the DA will send out loud and clear on the 22nd of May when we hold an historic virtual rally to kick off our campaign.

While senior ANC members like Finance Minister Tito Mboweni are putting out messages on social media asking for the elections to be postponed, and the EFF are still dithering about their readiness to contest the elections, the DA has none of these issues. We are neither distracted nor confused. We know the only way to effect real change in South Africa is through the power of the vote, and that is why we are marching forward towards 27 October.

On 22 May we will hold the biggest virtual rally this country has ever experienced. As we demonstrated when we held our party’s last elective congress as well as our policy conference in September and October of last year, the DA is the only party to have stepped seamlessly into this virtual age necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In three weeks’ time we will showcase this innovation once more.

Everyone knows South Africa is desperate for change. Even before the Covid pandemic hit, our economy was in crisis. We had record unemployment numbers, our credit rating was junk status and our economy was in recession. Government’s heavy-handed and often senseless response to the pandemic slammed several further nails into the coffin of our shattered economy. To dig our way out of this hole will require the kind of sweeping change that the ANC government simply isn’t capable of.

As has been vividly demonstrated by the revelations at the Zondo Commission, the ruling party is rotten through. The President’s testimony at the Commission simply underlined not only the rot in his party, but also their inability to even start reining it in. More than three years into his administration, there is no sign of government corruption letting up, and no one has yet been held accountable for any of the decades-long looting, despite an almost comical litany of promises these past three years by the President himself to tackle corruption. This is why the change will have to come from outside the ANC.

South Africans who want to affirm their commitment to bringing change to our country are invited and encouraged to go to time4change.org.za and sign our pledge.

Here they will be able to signal their readiness to roll up their sleeves and help build our country into a South Africa that works for all and not just some, a South Africa that’s not divided up into small homogeneous communities and parties only looking out for only their own interests, a South Africa that is safe and economically prosperous, where every citizen can build a meaningful life and provide for their family.

Our only hope for a better future is a united country. Those who still try to divide us and turn us against each other don’t have South Africa’s best interest at heart. Those who campaign for a retreat back into little corners of racial and cultural solidarity are taking our democratic project backwards. When the DA speaks of change, we mean change that benefits every single South African and every single community.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Time’s up, Minister Mkhize: Are South Africa’s vaccination sites ready?

Please find attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The DA calls on the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, to provide the nation with an urgent update on the state of readiness of South Africa’s vaccination sites.

Following the DA’s oversight tour of vaccination sites across the country to assess its readiness, the DA is greatly concerned about the lack of vaccination sites directly linked to bigger hospitals. As things stand, many primary healthcare facilities will not be fully ready for 17 May when the 2nd phase of the rollout is meant to begin.

The DA has – thus far – visited facilities in KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Gauteng. These oversight inspections raised the following concerns:

  • Inadequate cold storage capacity;
  • Little to no communication on vaccine registration to the communities that will combat vaccine hesitancy;
  • Lack of security for vaccine storage; and
  • Inadequate infrastructure and human resources to be able to house a full vaccination programme and the extra capacity required to staff the operation.

These inadequacies expose the very real possibility that facilities could be overwhelmed once the 2nd phase of the vaccine rollout commences, especially if the country inches closer to a 3rd wave of infections. The other possibility is that we could have an incredibly poor uptake of the vaccine due to a lack of awareness among many communities. This is why a comprehensive public awareness campaign is absolutely critical while we are two weeks away from the rollout.

With the threat of a possible 3rd wave of Covid-19 infections, the government can ill-afford to continue bungling this vaccine rollout programme. We need to ensure that we get our collective ducks in a row before mid-May. That is why the DA will continue with the tour across the country in order to ring the alarm bells of problems before they occur. Lives and livelihoods remain at stake.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.