Here’s what President Ramaphosa should be announcing today

The third wave is gathering fatal momentum in Gauteng, where a complete lack of coordination has left the health system in a shambles.

The government ignored DA and scientist warnings back in February that a third wave would arrive with winter.

They ignored our pleas to pull out all the stops for a speedy, efficient vaccine rollout. They ignored scientific and WHO advice and DA pleas to administer the one million AstraZeneca vaccines that South Africa took delivery of in February, which could have given 500 000 high-risk individuals protection against severe illness and death.
They refused to let provinces and private entities procure vaccines directly from suppliers. They failed to use the time to prepare the health system or build track & trace capacity.

Having been asleep at the wheel for months, the National Coronavirus Command Council is now looking to use the only tool it seems able to wield: lockdowns.

And so the country is on tenterhooks, all plans suspended, all decisions pending as it waits for President Ramaphosa to address the nation.

Here are the actions steps / decisions he should announce:

Vaccines

• Treasury has released budgeted funds so that the vaccine programme can run at full speed seven days a week.

• We call on all retired or unemployed doctors and nurses to step forward so that we can temporarily enlist your services administering vaccines.

• We call on volunteers to assist with non-medical tasks so that this process can operate at top speed 7 days a week.

• We will no longer stand in the way of provinces and private entities procuring vaccines directly.

• We apologise sincerely for dropping the ball on vaccines. We acknowledge this has cost people dearly in terms of avoidable loss of lives and livelihoods. We take full responsibility for our failures.

Restrictions

• We have devolved decision-making responsibility to competent provincial health departments, because we are committed to taking a differentiated approach, since provincial circumstances differ markedly, so blanket restrictions are irrational and counter-productive. For example, the Northern Cape has already passed the peak of its third wave, so we cannot expect them to make sacrifices because the virus is raging in Gauteng. Also, the Western Cape has built sufficient healthcare capacity, so we cannot treat this province the same as Gauteng, which has failed its residents.

• It is far cheaper and easier to prevent infection than to treat it. But past restrictions on economic activity have shown to do more harm than good. So we support limiting activity where this will not harm the economy. We support firm limits on large gatherings, strict protocols for taxis including driving with all windows open to ensure maximum ventilation, and open windows at schools.

• We commit to providing the necessary law enforcement, recognizing that all are equal before the law. We apologise for the terrible example set yesterday when the ANC held a large superspreader event in support of our Secretary General Ace Magashule who has been suspended for alleged corruption.

• We apologise that fifteen months into a pandemic, citizens are still being called to make great sacrifices, because we dropped the ball on vaccines and because we failed to build the necessary healthcare capacity to accommodate all in need and the necessary track and trace capacity to block transmission.

• We apologise for looting funds meant for PPE procurement, which resulted in over R14 billion of dodgy contracts out of R31 billion budget.

• We apologise for delivering sub-standard PPE in 7 out of 9 provinces, which has led to avoidable infections and deaths.

Gauteng

• The 1 000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Hospital will be opening immediately. We apologise that it took over two months to get it operational again after the fire in mid-April. It is completely unacceptable that it took a full 5 weeks to appoint a contractor and source fire doors. Those responsible for these failures will be held accountable.

• We are working round the clock and pulling out all the stops to get all Covid-19 facilities fully operational. This includes the 500-bed Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, the 183-bed facility in Carletonville, the 300-bed facility in George Mukhari Hospital, the 300-bed facility at Jubilee Mall, and the 150-bed facility at Bronkhorstspruit.

• We have instructed the Gauteng Department of Health to ensure that currently employed healthcare workers are being used efficiently, and to enlist private sector doctors and nurses including agency nurses and unemployed nurses and doctors to assist. Treasury has released the budget to pay overtime where necessary. We acknowledge that it is absolutely unacceptable that residents should suffer and die because “there is no budget for overtime” or for bolstering staff resources.

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

DA welcomes the positive inputs on our Ease of Doing Business Private Member’s Bill

Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Henro Kruger MP

This week, the Portfolio Committee on Public Services and Administration met to hear the submissions of organised business and civil society on the Ease of Doing Business Private Member’s Bill (PMB) tabled by the Democratic Alliance (DA).

Representing the Small, Medium, and Micro Enterprises (SMME) sector was the Small Business Institute (SBI), Sakeliga, and South Africa Small Medium and Enterprises Association (SASMEA). The presentations were done by John Dludlu, Piet le Roux, and Howard Johnson, respectively. The Free Market Foundation’s (FMF) Chris Hattingh also presented their opinion on the bill.

All the presenters agreed that the bill’s execution is crucial to rectify the disabling environment in which SMMEs must operate.

The bill seeks to create a unit in the Presidency that will:

  • Review regulatory impact assessment practices and methods;
  • Assess the effective and efficient implementation of regulatory measures;
  • Consider the impact of regulatory measures on the business community; and
  • Measure and reduce regulatory burdens.

The Ease of Doing Business PMB aims to save our small businesses so that they can create jobs that will lessen poverty. The DA wants to put it on record that this bill has no political intentions. SMMEs and the unemployed will be the winners if the bill is passed.

ANC MP Makhoni Nthuli, a member of the committee, pointed out that the committee hopes that the business fraternity’s contributions in supporting this bill will help small and developing businesses to sail “as smoothly as we are all expecting.”

In light of the severity of the government-induced unemployment crisis, the DA urges the President and the ANC to come out in full support of the Bill, so that Parliament can show South Africans what it truly means to represent and work for the people, instead of against them.

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

DA welcomes Home Affairs reopening applications for retention and renunciation of citizenship

Please find an attached soundbite by Angel Khanyile MP

The DA welcomes the long overdue reopening of applications for retention and renunciation of South African citizenship by the Department of Home Affairs. These applications have been closed since March 2020 when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced provisions of the Disaster Management Act.

Record unemployment and economic challenges in South Africa, some of which precede the Covid-19 pandemic, have  left many South Africans with no option but to look for opportunities further afield. Many have had their hopes of retaining or renouncing their citizenship dashed due to the prolonged closure of these applications. This has also disrupted already slow Home Affairs processes and has left thousands of people in limbo.

The DA had on several occasions made repeated calls to the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, for a speedy reopening of this important service. We argued that it is not right to deny citizens their constitutional rights and that every possible avenue to keep these services available, even in a reduced capacity must be thoroughly explored. Needless to say, our calls at the time, did not yield the desired outcome that we had hoped for.

Even when South Africa moved to lower adjusted lockdown levels which permitted all essential services to be available under strict Covid-19 safety guidelines, the retention and renunciation services were not made available.

While we welcome the reopening, we remain concerned that its lateness may have resulted in needless backlogs that could take months or even years to clear.

The DA will monitor the situation and will continue to fight against any irrational limitations placed on the rights of South Africans citizens.

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

DA calls for review of Risk Mitigation IPP programme after DEAFF decision on Karpowership deal

Please find attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP.

The announcement that the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries has decided not to grant Karpowerships a permit to operate in the Ports of Saldanha, Richards Bay and Coega is indicative of the lack of due diligence in the adjudication process of the initial Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP) award.

Despite repeated requests for information, it is unclear how the successful bidders were identified, what the scoring mechanism was, and who took the ultimate decision in the process. The DA submitted a motion to the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy calling for a comprehensive investigation into the bid adjudication process, but this was rejected by the ANC and EFF members of the committee on the misguided belief that “the committee has no mandate to conduct oversight over financial matters” (in contrast to the many times the committee has done exactly that). The committee instead suggested that the matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) – even though no financial transactions had taken place. Accordingly, the DA wrote to the chairperson of SCOPA, but has not received a reply to our request.

Among the issues raised with regard to the RMIPPPP were compliance with local content requirements, environmental permits, Transnet/National Ports Authority permits, and the affordability of certain solutions, given their reliance on foreign fuel suppliers and the rand/dollar exchange rate.

This latest development clearly shows that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy were grossly negligent in the formulation, management and adjudication of the bid process. Minister Mantashe and his department have been obstructionist in providing information and had clear predetermined outcomes in mind when they issued the Request for Proposals.

It is past time that a thorough investigation into the bid process, and the role of the Minister and his senior officials be conducted. South Africa cannot afford another Medupi or Khusile scandal, and this has all the hallmarks of becoming one.

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

DA calls on Government to reverse disastrous decision to block Delta Air Lines flights to Cape Town 

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Chris Hunsinger MP.

The DA rejects the disastrous decision by the Department of Transport to block the American airline, Delta Air Lines, from operating routes to and from Cape Town. It has come to light that after repeated requests from the airline for a co-terminalisation authority “to allow a stop in Cape Town on the return segment of its Atlanta-Johannesburg service”, the government rejected this request.

We call on Minister Fikile Mbalula to explain the rationale behind this nonsensical decision by the ANC government. Not only will this decision have far-reaching implications on tourism in the Western Cape, but could also result in potential job losses. It makes no sense why any give tokens would block such a lucrative venture that would ensure influx of tourists to our shores, especially given the economic devastation brought on by its extended Covid-19 lockdown.

The DA will be engaging with experts within the aviation industry as well as the US Embassy and the City of Cape Town regarding the situation.

We welcome the initiative by City of Cape Town MayCo Member, James Vos, and Wesgro reaching out to national government and other aviation stakeholders in order to find a remedy to this calamity that would allow Delta Air Lines to operate a route to Cape Town.

The DA urges the government to reverse its decision to block Delta Airlines from operating this flight path, which has already resulted in the USA placing restrictions on South African Airlines (SAA). SAA is hardly able to survive its own mismanagement and can ill afford restriction from America against it.

If South Africa’s people and its economy is to survive the Covid-19 pandemic, we need access to as many opportunities to reinvigorate the economy as possible. Tourism provides ample opportunity for entrepreneurs to create small businesses that will in turn create jobs for more people. Government should not stand in the way of the livelihoods of its people.

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

DA welcomes release of summary report into Table Mountain fire 

Please find an attached soundbite by Dave Bryant MP 

The DA welcomes the summary of the report on the Table Mountain fire which was released yesterday. At this stage only an executive summary has been released to the public and it is essential that the full report be made public as soon as it is possible to do so.

The DA was first to request a comprehensive and independent investigation into the fire and we are glad that the results of this investigation are now available. The summary of the report appears to vindicate initial suspicions regarding how the fire was able to spread so quickly.  An excerpt from the report clearly states that: “dry fuels near buildings and infrastructure such as thatch roofs, pine and palm trees, ivy, leaves in gutters, are very likely to burn from windblown embers, resulting in buildings catching on fire” and goes on to state that this is what occurred during the April fires.

It is now essential to establish whether SAN Parks and UCT leadership were aware of these impending dangers and if so, why they had not acted sooner to remove and/or manage the fuel loads. It has been reported that the bank of pine trees and debris behind the university had been identified and discussed by both UCT and SAN Parks as a potential fire risk many years prior to the fire and that this was included in an official heritage report commissioned by the university.

The destruction of public and private buildings as well as many priceless historical documents was devastating and cannot be allowed to happen again. Any suspected negligence arising out of the report must be investigated thoroughly and requisite steps taken.

We welcome the ongoing criminal investigations into the original cause of the fire and the growing suspicion that the fires may have been started on purpose. If this is the case, we hope that those responsible are apprehended soon and that they face the full might of the law.

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

Government must be held accountable for all lives lost due to vaccine delays.

The DA has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 vaccine programme. And we’ve called for budgeted funds to be released to allow for vaccinations to proceed at full pace seven days a week.

A full 15 months into the pandemic less than 1% of South Africans have been fully vaccinated. That’s fewer than 500 000 people out of a population of 60 million who are fully protected. A further 2.7% have received a first dose and await a second.

We are lagging far behind not just our upper-middle-income peer countries but also lower-middle-income and many poor countries including Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Thousands of South Africans are dying avoidable deaths and yet our vaccination programme is only running five days a week because we “can’t afford to pay overtime”.

Vaccine delays cost lives. Every South African should be outraged at government’s approach to vaccines, which has been secretive, slow, disorganized and deadly.

Thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grannies and grandpas are gone today who should still be alive. Thousands of high-risk patients who should have been vaccinated in March with the AstraZeneca vaccines we had are instead fighting for their lives, some of them in chairs while they wait for hospital beds to come available. Thousands more will die avoidable deaths in the coming weeks as the third wave crisis gathers fatal momentum.

This unfolding human tragedy is self-inflicted. The Ramaphosa administration is entirely to blame. Yes, we’ve had setbacks. But setbacks happen. They should be planned for and buffered against.

South Africa should have placed early bulk vaccine orders with a wide variety of suppliers, to ensure sufficient supply. We should have chosen to use the one million AstraZeneca vaccines we received in February to protect the high-risk group as per scientific and WHO advice, rather than sell them. We should have planned our vaccine rollout programme months in advance of delivery. We should be vaccinating at full speed seven days a week. The private sector and competent provinces should have been allowed to procure their own vaccines.

Instead, the Ramaphosa administration has botched the vaccine programme from beginning to end. They twice failed to pay the Covax deposits timeously. They failed to contact vaccine suppliers last year when peer countries were getting in the queue. They failed to respond to suppliers when suppliers contacted them. They failed to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccines that were the only ones available to us back in March. They failed to plan an efficient rollout. They’ve failed to release budget for a seven-day per week programme. They’ve failed to communicate clearly. And they’ve failed to admit to any of their failures.

The only logical explanation is that they just don’t value South African lives. The only things they have consistently delivered on are excuses, corruption, and a resolute determination to keep full centralized control over the process even as they sleep at the wheel.

Notwithstanding these vaccine failures, had government built healthcare capacity and released sufficient budget, we would have been able to accommodate all those in need of medical assistance.

But they didn’t. The current shambolic situation in Gauteng has prompted one scientist to ask if there is anyone in the Gauteng department of health. Covid facilities that cost South Africans millions are non-operational because of staff shortages.

The 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg is still inexplicably closed over two months after a fire broke out there. Politicians can wheel out excuses, but where there’s a will there’s a way. The 850-bed CTICC Hospital of Hope in Cape Town started admitting patients just one month after work on the site began.

The DA-run Western Cape is the only province which has successfully built healthcare capacity to be able to accommodate all in need.

And so now South Africa faces the prospect of economic restrictions, which have already been shown to do more harm than good. But they’ll be implemented anyway because they give the illusion that government is doing something.

And so thousands of families will go hungry as thousands of businesses and jobs disappear. All of this avoidable suffering.

Of course, none of the individuals tasked with rolling out an efficient vaccine programme and none of those deciding which parts of the economy to shut down face losing their own lives or livelihoods.

They remain on full salary no matter what, and most of them have probably been vaccinated. None of them will need to face their hungry families and explain why they can’t put food on the table. Even Zweli Mkhize who benefitted from the Digital Vibes scam is assured a full salary at the end of the month.

There must be consequences.

The government must be held accountable for all lives lost avoidably due to vaccine delays. The local government election on 27 October 2021 is your chance to punish the ANC and to vote for the DA, the only party with a proven track record of getting things done in government to save lives.

Mabuza colludes with Didiza to ignore the harassment of farmers facing eviction

Please find attached a soundbite by Annette Steyn MP

Deputy President, David Mabuza, and the Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, have chosen to rely on misleading accounts by state officials and ignore the plight of 6 farmers who are being put under pressure to vacate their farms.

I challenge Mabuza and Didiza to meet the affected farmers in person and get a first-hand account of the nightmarish experience that they have endured at the hands of DALRRD officials who are working tirelessly to see them gone.

While Mabuza and Didiza remain adamant that the farmers in question never received eviction letters from the Department, they have each confirmed separately to me that they are under sustained pressure from DALRRD officials to leave their farms and make way for new occupants. The affected farmers include:

  • Mr Katleho Phahla
  • Mr Norman Mhlandu
  • Mr Mphumzi Sislumba
  • Ms Cecilia Qokela
  • Mr Dumisani Mhlana
  • Mr Vuyani Zikana

During an oral question session to the Deputy President in Parliament on 12 May 2021, I raised the issue of farm evictions and Mabuza promised to “take the concerns raised by the hon member of black farmers that are being evicted, that are currently occupying state land; so that we can understand exactly the reason why are they evicted and if there is a way we can assist them.” Not only this, Mabuza also asked me to send him details of the specific farmers who were affected by these unlawful eviction orders. I promptly did so.

Sadly for the farmers, the Deputy President did not bother to contact them directly to obtain an honest account of how they have been treated by rogue officials. Instead, he chose to rubberstamp and stand by Didiza’s account that the farmers were not facing eviction despite evidence to the contrary.

It is unacceptable that the Deputy President, as chair of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on Land Reform and Agriculture, which is tasked with the responsibility to resolve blockages in the acceleration of land reform, is taking a dismissive stance to problems facing farmers.

If a Deputy President and a Minister can be unbothered by the plight of farmers, one can only imagine the disastrous consequences that will emerge in our agricultural sector should the ANC/EFF get their way on the placement of all land under the custodianship of the state. It is a prospect that must be resisted by all South Africans and the DA will make sure that it does not see the light of day.

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

DA Bill on referendums now open for public comment 

Note to Editors: Please find an attached soundbite by Natasha Mazzone MP

The DA’s notice to introduce a Private Members’ Bill (PMB) to amend the Electoral Commission Act, and repeal the Referendums Act has officially been published in the Government Gazette for public comment. 

 

The notice can be accessed here and copy of the draft Bill can be accessed here.

 

The PMB seeks to give effect to the constitutional powers of Premiers to call a provincial referendum. 

 

We invite South Africans to submit written representations to the Speaker of the National Assembly at speaker@parliament.gov.za within the next 30 days. 

 

This Bill highlights the DA’s commitment to achieving greater devolution of powers to Provinces, in line with the Constitution. As things stand, Electoral Commission Act and Referendums Act allows for only the President to call a referendum and does not provide for a Premier to call for a referendum in a province.

 

The DA’s draft Bill seeks to address this gap in legislation by repealing the Referendums Act and amending the Electoral Commission Act. This will enable Premiers to exercise their constitutional powers to call a provincial referendum, to ensure that provincial residents can make their voices heard on important service delivery issues

 

As the DA we will continue to strive towards achieving our principle of federalism by strengthening the devolution of power to provinces, and we trust that all citizens and interested parties will take the opportunity to read and comment on the Bill so that power can be brought closer to the people.

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

Treasury needs to urgently fund weekend vaccination drives

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Geordin Hill-Lewis MP.

The DA calls on the National Treasury to release the funds needed to pay for staff overtime so that vaccinations can be done over weekends. It is simply not true that there are no funds to pay staff over weekends, as Department of Health officials has argued.

South Africans are waiting to be vaccinated and need to be vaccinated as soon as possible. Every delay is measured in lives lost.

A DA government would make sure every provincial department had all the funds they need to run a non-stop vaccination rollout.

Government should be pulling out all of the stops to roll out vaccines. It is totally unacceptable to stop (or drastically slow down) vaccinations over weekends, when the funds are available to prevent these delays.

In February, the National Treasury included an allocation of R6 billion in the Budget this year to fund the vaccine rollout. This includes R1.5 billion for provincial departments, and R4.35 billion for the national department. In addition to this, R9 billion was budgeted in the contingency reserve with the explicit commitment that this could be used for vaccine rollout if necessary.

Now is the time to ensure this budgeted money is made available to provincial departments to speed up the rollout.

The Department of Health’s Deputy Director-General, Nicholas Crisp, has said that the reason vaccinations are suspended over weekends is because there is “no overtime budget”. The Department’s spokesperson, Dr Lwazi Manzi, has said that provinces don’t have the budget to pay weekend overtime.

This is an excuse without truth. The funds are available and have been budgeted for. Now is the time to use them.

South Africans cannot afford to wait any longer to be vaccinated.

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