Government’s failures to blame for loss of lives and livelihoods during third wave

The restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa this evening are only necessary because of his administration’s failure to acquire and secure an adequate supply of vaccines, failure to design and implement an efficient vaccine rollout, and failure to build healthcare capacity.

Had they acquired and administered vaccines timeously, lives and livelihoods would have been protected during the third wave. Instead, South Africans will suffer needless loss. Some people will pay for government’s failure with their lives. Others will lose their loved ones. Many will lose their livelihoods. Everyone’s lives will be disrupted. Put on hold in myriad ways, from children losing out on schooling and school-feeding and sporting activities to everyone losing out on precious time with friends and family. All at the hands of an uncaring, incompetent, corrupt government.

The DA has called for a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry into government’s handling of the vaccine programme. There must be accountability for this failure. Just as there must be full and speedy accountability for Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s role in the Digital Vibes scandal. The people of this country resent paying his salary while he is on extended special leave.

Even in the absence of a successful rollout programme, many of these restrictions could have been avoided had other provincial governments ensured enough hospital beds, oxygen and human resource capacity to be able to provide life-saving treatment to all those in need.

The DA and Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, have consistently called for a differentiated approach depending on provincial readiness, and for provinces to have more power to determine their own response. The Western Cape has built enough hospital capacity to ensure that no-one is denied life-saving treatment, and so should not have to suffer the same restrictions of provinces which have made little to no effort to build capacity.

The Gauteng government’s failure to repair and re-open the 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital which was damaged by fire on 16 April is a case in point.

Resorting to alcohol bans, curfews and restrictions on restaurant capacity is a tacit admission that government has failed to do its actual job. Many of these restrictions are ineffectual and are being imposed to create the illusion of doing something. The illusion government needs to create because while the men and women and children of this country have done their bit and sacrificed much to mitigate the damage from the virus, government officials have done little and sacrificed nothing, being more focused on looting Covid funds.

If anything, the Ramaphosa administration has actively harmed society with ill-considered regulations and by standing in the way of people solving their own problems.

While the restrictions imposed this evening are mostly unnecessary, it should be noted that government’s response to the third wave is a far cry from their heavy-handed response to the first and second waves, when they responded with much harder and more damaging lockdowns. This is a tacit admission that the DA was right back in early April 2020 to call for an end to the hard lockdown that was costing the country an estimated R13 billion per day and condemning millions of people to hunger and poverty.

So many lives and livelihoods would have been saved had the DA been in national government during this pandemic. Because unlike the ANC, the DA gets things done.

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

DA to host SA’s largest virtual Guns Summit

Please find attached a soundbite by Andrew Whitfield MP

On Tuesday, 22 June 2021, the DA will host South Africa’s largest virtual Firearms Summit focussing on the recently published Firearms Control Amendment Bill. 

In a show of unity, we will bring together civil society organisations, academia, interest groups, and members of the public to deliberate on this draconian legislation and to bring forward solutions to oppose the Bill, informally known as the “Guns Bill”. Especially problematic, the Bill aims to scrap self-defence as a reason to apply for a firearm. 

With this Bill, we believe SAPS is actively seeking to disarm law-abiding firearm owners, effectively stripping them of the right to own a firearm for the purposes of self-defence. Meanwhile, SAPS is aiding criminals in obtaining confiscated firearms and ordinary citizens are left defenceless against murderers and rapists.

The Summit will offer an opportunity to like-minded organisations who are also in opposition to the Bill to fully unpack the problematic aspects of this legislation and why it should not be supported. We urge interested organisations to contact the DA at stopgunbill@da.org.za if they wish to follow the proceedings of the Summit. 

From the onset, the DA has been strongly opposed to this Bill as we believe that South Africans should have the right to lawfully choose how they want to defend themselves.

 The more than 73 000 signatures on the DA’s petition opposing the Firearms Control Amendment Bill shows South Africans are not willing to forfeit their last line of defence, and neither are we. We urge the public to continue to oppose this draconian Bill and to submit their objections to comments.fcabill@csp.gov.za and to the DA at stopgunbill@da.org.za.

The DA continues to use all available methods to oppose this draconian piece of legislation. We will not let the Minister and SAPS impose their will on South Africans, we will hold them to the highest standard of accountability.

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

DA requests parliamentary inquiry into government’s handling of Covid-19 vaccine programme

Please find attached soundbites by Siviwe Gwarube MP and Geordin Hill-Lewis MP.

The DA proposes the establishment of a parliamentary ad hoc committee to conduct a full inquiry into the government’s handling of its Covid-19 vaccine programme in its entirety.

We have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise, to request the establishment of this ad hoc committee in terms of Rule 253(1)(b) of the Rules of the National Assembly.

We propose that this multiparty ad hoc committee should have broad terms of reference to allow for as comprehensive an inquiry as possible. Specifically, this committee should:

Conduct an inquiry into all matters related to the government’s failure to timeously acquire and secure an adequate supply of Covid-19 vaccines for the South African public.

South Africans have good reason to feel real angry and let down, because of the government’s now-obvious failure to acquire and secure an adequate supply of vaccines early enough to protect lives.

As the third wave of infections gains fatal momentum, tens of millions of South Africans are waiting fearfully for their vaccine. But the government’s vaccine programme is still making dangerously slow progress, putting many lives at risk.

The consequences of this failure will be the needless loss of so many loved ones, and the stress and isolation of trying to avoid infection until vaccines arrive.

While we all celebrate seeing the pictures of vaccines being administered to some senior citizens, and hearing how one or two of our own elderly family members have received their first jabs, this does not make up for the failures of the vaccine programme thus far. The fact is, there are far too few vaccines available, those that we do have are late, and are being too slowly rolled out to stop this pandemic.

There must be full and frank accountability for this failure. South Africans want to know – and have a right to know – what happened, how we got here, and who is responsible. This is the essential work of Parliament, and it cannot shrink from that responsibility now.

There is clear precedent for Parliament to establish ad hoc committees of this nature. In 2018, Parliament conducted an inquiry into ‘allegations of governance failures and state capture at Eskom’. This report has formed critical work that was handed over to the Zondo Commission in its investigation into State Capture in South Africa.

Additionally, during the testimonies by the current and previous Speakers of the National Assembly, it became clear that Parliament neglected its constitutional obligation of holding the Executive to account and in effect aided and abetted State Capture through its inaction.

Government made two crucial mistakes right from the beginning. The first was the initial decision to exclusively pursue vaccine access through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax) facility and the second mistake was the failure to not timeously engage in direct bilateral agreements with manufacturers through an advanced market commitment mechanism. Many other middle-income countries did this as soon as vaccines went into phase two and three trials.

The writing was on the wall in late 2020 already when it emerged that the South African government missed the deadline (9 October 2020) for a first payment towards the Covax programme. When the DA questioned Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in Parliament on 4 December about missing the deadline, he denied this. Less than two weeks later, and it turned out that South Africa also missed the second deadline on 15 December. To date, we have not received a single Covax vaccine.

Following this, government communication on vaccines became increasingly opaque and dishonest. President Cyril Ramaphosa’s claim that his government had been negotiating with suppliers for six months had been exposed as misleading, not only by the vaccine manufacturers themselves but also by a letter dated 7 January in which the Department of Health applied to the National Treasury for deviation from the normal procurement processes for the acquisition of the vaccine. This also proved that the government was now scrambling to gain access to a vaccine.

Both the President and Minister Zweli Mkhize have attempted to spin this failure away, with the former blaming other countries for buying up all available vaccines. The truth is of course that South Africa never even joined the queue to access the vaccine in the first place.

Had it not been for the Sisonke Covid-19 Trial, not a single South African would have been vaccinated until the rollout kicked off on 17 May 2021.

Before this date, only 479 768 South Africans – mainly healthcare workers – had been vaccinated.

Given that 40 million South Africans need to be vaccinated, the first 6 months of the government’s vaccine programme cannot possibly described as a success.

There must be full accountability for what led to this failure, and who is responsible for it.

As phase 2 approached, the Electronic Vaccination Data System to register the elderly for vaccination became riddled with problems. Many citizens over 60 still have not registered because they do not have access to the system, or they have tried to register but are unsure of when and where they should go for vaccinations because they never received confirmation of registration. Not to mention teachers who have yet to see a concrete plan for their vaccinations.

South Africa is still one of the top 30 lowest vaccinating countries in Africa, with a mere 2.73 vaccinations per 100 people. Our neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Eswatini are vaccinating at a much faster rate.

The need for a full parliamentary probe into the government’s poorly planned and, thus far, poorly executed vaccine programme is therefore not only urgent but in the public interest. The failure by the ANC government to organise an efficient and effective rollout cannot be ignored. Those who have played a role in this gross failure of the South African people must be held to account and Parliament has a duty to investigate.

The Speaker is empowered to establish an inquiry of this nature and to ensure that Parliament doesn’t neglect its constitutional obligations in a moment of a national crisis once again.

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

New CSA board must ensure stability and transparency 

The DA has taken note of the appointment of the new Cricket South Africa (CSA) board members. The board must ensure that the organisation usher in a new era of stability, transparency and accountability. 

 

The widely publicised administrative failures at CSA which resulted in government intervention nearly came at a cost of our country’s participation on the international cricket stage. The DA, along with many cricket fans breathes a collective sigh of relief, in the hope that the majority independent board will usher back some semblance of normality to CSA. 

 

The DA has noted Sascoc’s rejection of the majority independent board and its refusal to accept CSA’s Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) stating that, among other reasons, CSA is in breach of the International Cricket Council’s articles of association. This is concerning, and we call for Sascoc and the Minister of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa to find common ground and iron out their differences so that cricket can be able to move forward. 

 

We do not want to see South African cricket being plunged into further turmoil, all parties must reach an agreement that puts the best interest of cricket first.

 

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

Five key priorities for the Acting Health Minister, Kubayi- Ngubane in light of SA’s 3rd wave

Please find soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP attached.

The DA has, for the past few weeks, called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize over his alleged involvement in the awarding of a dodgy multi-million-rand contract to Digital Vibes.

While the DA can accept that the removal of Minister Mkhize from office under the ‘special leave’ granted by the President, will aid the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) in conducting an investigation free from political influence, it is still a cop-out.

Now that an acting minister has been appointed, it is critical that South Africa is not punished for the transgressions of a Minister who has reportedly stuck their hands in the national cookie jar of public funds for personal benefit. Minister Kubayi-Ngubane needs to hit the ground running. These are the 5 key priorities that she would need to focus on:

  1. Accelerate the vaccine rollout programme: South Africa’s vaccine rollout plan has been criminally slow and marred with both avoidable and unavoidable delays. The acting Minister must ensure that the vaccines that in the country are dispersed as quickly as possible to the remaining frontline workers and older persons over 60 years of age. It is an absolute indictment that in the middle of June – exactly 15 months after this pandemic hit South Africa- thousands of healthcare workers remain vulnerable to the 3rd of COVID19 infections.
  2. Clarity from the national regulator on the use of the Johnson and Johnson vaccines in the country: The DA has noted reports by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the unsuitability of 60 million J&J vaccines. It is critical that the assessment by SAHPRA is conducted and concluded soon. This is important for the rollout of the vaccine and also the public trust in the vaccination process. Should these vaccines found to not be suitable for use, the President must immediately make a pronouncement on how the target of vaccinating 40 million South Africans by year end will be met.
  3. Resolution of the EVDS system glitches for smooth registration and rollout of the vaccine: the online appointment system has been fraught with challenges, many of which are simply basic. People are not receiving their texts confirming appointments and yet many vaccine sites are ready for the administering of the jab. It is absolutely crucial that this is resolved and as many people over the age of 60 and healthcare workers are prioritized. This is especially important considering that South Africa is now firmly in the 3rd wave and many more people vulnerable to this virus need to be prioritized.
  4. Ensuring the SIU investigation is inhibited: The Acting Minister is now in an unenviable position of inheriting a department that is the subject of an investigation involving hundreds of millions of rands. She will need to make sure that the work of the SIU in so far as it concerns the department is done without any undue influence so that the institution can make credible findings in this regard. The scapegoating of officials is a typical and tired strategy used to shield politicians from accountability which cannot be allowed.
  5. A united departmental senior management team: The acting minister is walking into a hornet’s nest. The senior management team in the department of health has been rocked by a huge scandal which could destabilize the important work that needs to be done. Her immediate priority should be to ensure continuity alongside with the deputy minister. Once again, South Africans cannot be made to suffer shoddy services in the middle of a global pandemic.

President Ramaphosa has once again proven that his stance of corruption is merely empty words and nothing more. He is only prepared to act decisively once the investigation of the SIU is completed. This means that the country is subjected to an acting minister in the middle of a global pandemic and in the midst of a 3rd wave. This means that both the President and Minister Kubayi- Ngubane must get their priorities straight and get the basics right. When the portfolio committee of health meets with the acting minister this coming week, the DA will ensure that this set of priorities is submitted to her in order to save lives and livelihoods.

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

DA asks CoGTA minister to intervene in Joburg power crisis

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

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on national government to monitor the state of electricity situation in the City of Johannesburg as Eskom load-shedding is causing serious damage to the city’s reticulation network.

While no reticulation network was built to completely withstand the effects of load-shedding, the fragile state of Johannesburg’s network marks the situation for special attention.

Joburg is still the economic heartland of the country and so prolonged outages and the possible collapse of the city’s reticulation network presents an outsized risk to the entire country.

In the past two weeks, thousands of Joburg households have suffered electricity outages above and beyond Eskom’s load-shedding schedule. The problem seems to be twofold.

First, Joburg’s reticulation network is under-maintained and fragile and so the accelerated wear and tear that comes with load-shedding leads to surges, trips and cable faults.

Second, as soon as Eskom load-shedding sets in, cable thieves strike. Attending to these repairs has led to the depletion of stores and budgets.

While many City Power officials have worked tirelessly to attend to the outages, it is not clear that the mayor of Johannesburg has a handle on the situation.

No clear plan of action has been communicated to Joburg ward councillors by the mayor or the responsible member of the mayoral committee. And yet it is these councillors who have to face irate and desperate residents.

On Friday, the DA wrote to the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to step in and make sure that all interested parties, including the municipality, Eskom, and the South African Police Service, get control of the situation.

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

Tourism Minister’s R150 000 date with Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung was a vanity show

Minister of Tourism Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has, in response to a parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance (DA), confirmed that her department spent R150 000 on the controversial cook-off with celebrity Somizi Mhlongo-Motaung ahead of her budget debate.

This expenditure was completely unnecessary, wasteful, and does nothing to help the tourism industry get back on its feet after the government-lead lockdown. Instead, what it does is promote the Minister and her public profile at the taxpayer’s cost.

The Minister’s response to our parliamentary question confirms that she does not understand the deep anger of society toward her vanity project.

Minister Kubayi-Ngubane should focus on helping tourism businesses get back to profitability. She could have used the R150 000 to help over 100 accommodation businesses benefit from free grading, or perhaps even helped clear the rates charges of various businesses struggling because they couldn’t operate for months. The truth is, there are various ways the Minister can help businesses reduce their costs and burdens so that they stay open and do not lay off workers.

Minister Kubayi-Ngubane has to focus on the things that build our tourism sector at this critical moment. With her latest appointment as the acting Health Minister, tourism cannot afford both a part-time minister as well as one with poor judgement regarding spending priorities.

If the Minister was serious about the tourism sector and its recovery, she would have declined the President’s request to step in as acting Health Minister and focused on actually getting the tourism industry going again.

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

The state currently has 9,8 million hectares of land under custodianship and yet it wants to expropriate more

In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD) revealed that it has 9,8 million hectares of land registered under its custodianship in the name if the state.

This shocking revelation comes on the back of the ANC/EFF coalition plans to include a state custodianship clause in the Section 25 Amendment Bill, which in effect is nothing more than a veiled attempt to “nationalise” all land and place it under the control of the State.

That the state has 9,8 million hectares of land under its control, yet we have countless communities across the country who have spent decades trying to have their land restitution claims settled, exposes the hypocrisy and insincerity of the ANC government in pursuing genuine land reform.

This latest revelation by the DALRRD shows that the ill-advised pursuit for an amendment to Section 25 of the Constitution by the ANC/EEF, to allow for expropriation of land without compensation, is just a populist yet dangerous ploy to weaponise the land issue for political power.

By admitting that it has been sitting on 9,8 million hectares of land, while land restitution claimants remain landless, the ANC government has all but confirmed that the major impediment to land reform has not been the Constitution but lack of political will.

On Tuesday, the DA will be visiting the head office of the DALRRD to get first-hand information about the database of its land holdings. The chaotic land administration system in the country has always been cited as one of the reasons why the government is unable to expedite land transfers to communities.

Instead of addressing self-evident shortcomings in land reform, such as the chaotic land administration system, the ANC is instead choosing to scapegoat the Constitution and open the door to a belligerent EFF that wants to tear down the foundations of our democracy through the Section 25 Bill.

The DA will do whatever it takes to prevent this, as it will push South Africa into the abyss, destroying what is left of our economy by deterring investment, destroying prospects for growth, and driving millions more people into extreme poverty.

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

SCOPA agrees to probe Housing Development Agency

The Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) has granted the DA’s request for an investigation into the failed Housing Development Agency (HDA) – whose work has been characterized by irregular tender awards, multi-million-rand contract extensions, and on-going political interference.

The DA requested this investigation in February after the Human Settlement’s Portfolio Committee declined to call HDA executives to account for their failures during the pandemic, opting rather to protect the ANC’s entity-linked cadres.

The HDA was appointed by the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, to oversee the de-densification programme during the Covid-19 lockdown period. Hundreds of millions of Rands were allocated to this.

Despite these extensive budgets, the HDA have delivered little more than expensive tin shacks and controversy.

While the Auditor General’s (AG) First Special Report on government’s Covid-19 initiatives highlighted many of these failures, the outcomes of the Entity’s most recent audit report are also cause for grave concern. This report revealed that the HDA’s financial control systems have almost entirely failed, with more than R 131 886 000 recorded in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure – up from R 109 430 000 in the previous year.

Despite the extent of financial mismanagement and non-performance detailed in this report, the HDA was unable to provide the DA with any evidence of Section 65(b) Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) consequence management for senior executives.

This probe will hopefully complement serious investigations already being undertaken by law enforcement agencies on the basis of DA referrals last month.

Despite on-going threats, the DA will leave no stone unturned in demanding accountability from Minister Sisulu and the HDA’s executive management.

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

SAA Consortium partner: More questions than answers

For years, the DA called for South African Airways (SAA) to be privatised. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has today, after long-awaited fanfare, announced Takatso Consortium as the new strategic equity partner for South African Airways. However, this may be too little too late for the bankrupt airline, and there are a plethora of concerns surrounding the deal.

The Consortium consists of Harith General partners, an African infrastructure and airports investor with strong links to the ANC and the PIC, and Global Airways, and will own 51% of SAA.

The first major concern is the fact that the board of Harith General Partners is chaired by Jabu Moloketi, who chaired the Public Investment Corporation and was also Deputy Finance Minister when Harith was granted R17 million in seed funding back in 2006. It is noteworthy that, whenever the ANC engages in public-private partnerships, it is almost always ANC bigwigs that benefit most.

The DA is also deeply concerned by government’s confirmation that the Consortium is still to undertake a normal due diligence exercise before the definitive sale and purchase agreement is completed. This is worrying in light of the fact that Minister Gordhan seems confident that the Consortium will provide R3 billion in capital for the “revitalised” SAA. Clarity is needed as to what will happen should the Consortium not go through with the purchase of the majority-shareholding in SAA.

Minister Gordhan has, after all, promised that the new SAA will be independent from the fiscus and thus taxpayers, so it is crucial that this promise be fulfilled lest even more taxpayer money is required for SAA in future. Government is still responsible for the historic liabilities of SAA and requires R14 billion in this regard, R10 billion of which will come from the Special Appropriations Bill currently in front of Parliament.

The Minister also stated that a long-term goal is to list SAA on the stock exchange through an initial public offering. Clarity is needed with respect to the shareholding that the Consortium will maintain if SAA is publicly listed, should that ever happen and should the strategic equity deal go through in the first place.

Last but not least is the concerns around the subsidiaries of SAA, most notably Mango. The Minister only stated that the future of the subsidiaries is still to be determined through a joint assessment with the Consortium, without giving any further detail.

It is disconcerting that the announcement of a strategic equity partner has been made in light of the fact that the Consortium still has to carry out its due diligence and that the issue surrounding SAA’s subsidiaries is still not even close to being resolved. Government also does not seem to be willing to finally let go of SAA any time soon, considering the fact that they’ve given themselves a “golden share” of 33% of voting rights and “certain areas of national interest”. It is also unclear whether the Public Finance Management Act was followed to the last letter with respect to the choosing of a strategic equity partner.

The DA fears that the Department of Public Enterprises has jumped the gun on the matter in a vain attempt to placate taxpayers whose monies are being wasted on an airline that should have been sold off in its entirety long ago.

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