Competition Comission’s intervention in Burger King sale damages foreign investment drive

The DA is deeply concerned by the actions of the Competition Commission to block the sale of Burger King in South Africa on “public interest” grounds.

We are of the belief that these actions, which had nothing to do with competition issues and everything to do with racial bean counting, sets an incredibly dangerous precedent about how future sales of business will be conducted.

Because of this intervention by the Competition Commission, it has effectively devalued every business in South Africa and sent a warning signal to foreign investors that they have no business in South Africa if they do not confirm to Broad Based Economic Empowerment.

This was proven by the 17% crash in the value of Grand Parade Investments (GPI), which owns Burger King in South Africa on the JSE.

It is staggering that the Commission would see fit to block R600 million worth of investment in our country when it is so desperately needed.

This move by the Commission is perverse and will only damage the workers of Burger King and investors in GPI, of which up to 28 000 are black.

In a time when 74% of young people are unemployed and South Africa hitting record unemployment of 42%, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by blocking much needed foreign investment like this.

The DA would urge GPI to fight this in the Competition Tribunal and if needs be, approach the courts for relief.

It is our firm belief that the actions and motive of the Commission are not in the public interest of South Africans and the unemployed.

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SIU probe into the Lotteries Commission has led to no arrests, charges or assets seized as of yet

Please find attached a soundbite by Mat Cuthbert MP.

In response to parliamentary questions posed by the DA, President Cyril Ramaphosa, has informed us that the first phase of the Special Investigating Unit’s (SIU) probe into the corruption and maladministration at the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) will be completed by the 30th of June 2021.

In addition, he has stated that the 2nd phase of the probe will be completed by 31 December 2021.

The DA acknowledges that the scope of the investigation is wide and that the necessary due diligence is required to ensure successful prosecution against guilty parties.

However, we can’t quite understand why the contents of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition’s (DTIC) own investigation into corruption at the NLC, handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS) in September 2020, has not been successfully prosecuted by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as of yet.

Therefore, it is regrettable that President Ramaphosa has informed us that “…there have as yet been no arrests, no charges have been brought against any persons, and no assets have been seized”.

The DA will continue fighting to ensure that those guilty of looting money, meant for the most vulnerable in society, are dressed in orange overalls and placed behind bars.

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The ANC/EFF bid to ‘nationalise’ land and side-line the Courts must be rejected by all South Africans 

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Dr Annelie Lotriet MP.

The ANC/EFF “coalition of the irrational” has taken a drastic next step in their quest for Expropriation Without Compensation by proposing to place land in the custodianship of the State.

This amendment was pushed onto the agenda of what should have been the final meeting on Monday 31st May, of the multi-party ad hoc Parliamentary Committee on amending the “Property Clause” – Section 25 of the Constitution.

The bid to place land under the custodianship of the State will effectively “nationalise” the land under the control of the State – a disastrous move that will lead to economic devastation and escalating poverty, as it has already done in countries as diverse as Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

What makes matters worse, is the ongoing attempt by the ANC/EFF to exclude, or minimise the role of the courts, in adjudicating land expropriation cases.

Because of the opposition to this proposal in the Ad-Hoc committee, the ANC/EFF will now extend the life of the Committee and produce a final report by August 31st, in which it will seek to include the proposal for State custodianship of land.

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.

As the ANC/EFF are determined to press on with this issue before LGE 2021, the DA stands ready and determined to stop them and defend our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

We believe that this blatant abuse of power by the ANC/EFF is in line with its determination for the Party to control the State and for the State to control the whole of society. By attempting to seize custodianship of the land, and by-passing the courts, the ANC is planning another major step in the direction of a Totalitarian order – which was its objective from the start in terms of its Leninist goal of the “National Democratic Revolution”.

The DA will not sit by and watch our country become yet another failed state. Every South African deserves a decent education, the opportunity to get a job, and to succeed in life.

By this move, the ANC/EFF will eradicate all these prospects. We call on all South Africans to reject this fatal move.

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DA urges public to make submissions into Children’s Amendment Bill

Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

As the country once again commemorates National Child Protection Week, the DA urges South Africans to make their voices heard during the public hearings into the Children’s Amendment Bill that are currently taking place.

Participation in the hearings will allow the public and children to make meaningful contributions to the protection of the rights and lives of children.

The Children’s Amendment Bill was introduced to implement the “comprehensive legal solution” ordered by the North Gauteng High Court in 2011 to address the challenges within the foster care system. The Bill seeks to strengthen the protective measures for children and to address other concerns, like early childhood development (ECD) and adoption.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that the public fully engages with the Bill and participate in the public hearings en masse. In this crucial way, Parliament and the Department of Social Development are held to account and our children’s best interests are kept at the forefront.

The DA is of the view that the amendments regarding unmarried fathers, foster care, adoption, and reform to the ECD sector should be fully scrutinized as these could have unintended consequences.

The DA is looking forward to engaging the Department during the formal processing at the end of the hearings.

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DA pressure forced Parliament to review R10 million wasted every year on luxury flights for retired cadres

Please find attached soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP.

In November last year, the DA revealed through a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request that Parliament spent R45.3 million on luxury flights for retired ministers, deputy ministers and their spouses between 2014 and 2020. Our exposé revealed the shocking reality that the jet-setting lifestyles of venal and corrupt politicians continue to cost hard-working taxpayers long after they have retired.

Prior to the DA exposing this issue, Parliament was happy to fork out an average of R10 million every year on gravy plane flights for retired ministers. It was only after relentless DA pressure, which included exposing this matter on newspaper front pages and bringing it to the attention of the Auditor-General, that National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise yesterday admitted that this was an obscene and immoral practice.

While we welcome Modise’s DA-inspired Damascus moment, we remain deeply concerned by Modise’s apparent plan to simply outsource this wastage of money to the executive and to provincial legislatures. It is unacceptable for her to simply shift the responsibility for this wastage to other parts of government, because at the end of the day it will still be taxpayer money that is wasted on the gravy plane.

Instead, the DA insists that this immoral and corrupt practice must be abolished entirely and immediately. Members of Cabinet earn multi-million Rand annual salaries which includes lavish pension benefits in a country where over 30 million people live in poverty and unemployment stands at over 43%. They have no right to be ferried around in luxury at taxpayer expense even after they retire.

They should pay for their own flight tickets.

The DA’s exposé in November last year revealed that over the past two financial years:

  • Derek Hanekom had no qualms about wasting R114 432 of taxpayer money on luxury flight tickets last year;
  • Enoch Godwangana got R240 442 from the people of South Africa over the last two years;
  • Ace Magashule’s right-hand man, Malusi Gigaba and his spouse, got R200 413 from hard-working taxpayers;
  • Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who is implicated in the illegal sale of South Africa’s strategic fuel reserves, got R443 850 to finance her jet-setting lifestyle;
  • Des van Rooyen, who was finance minister for only one weekend, got a R242 015 gift from taxpayers to fly in style;
  • Fikile Mbalula and his spouse pocketed R183 920 in flight tickets;
  • Taxpayers’ money was used to finance the flights of Nathi Nhleko, the former police minister who disgraced himself in defence of the corruption at Nkandla, to the tune of R363 133;
  • Faith Muthambi, one of Jacob Zuma’s most senior lieutenants, merrily spent R267 668 in taxpayer money to jet set;
  • Dina Pule, who was fired by Zuma after even he could no longer defend the corruption allegations stemming from her time as communications minister, was gifted R240 997;
  • Dipuo Peters, who most recently oversaw the collapse of PRASA, pocketed R150 670 in business class tickets;
  • Ben Martins, who defended Gupta-linked looting at Eskom, and his spouse wasted a staggering R685 657 on business class flights;
  • David Mahlobo, another Gupta acolyte, spent R349 289;
  • Yunus Carrim, who enthusiastically paved the way for industrial-scale looting when he helped kill the Scorpions, happily accepted R184 063;
  • Hard-working South Africans paid R97 838 for luxury flights for the alleged perpetrator of gender-based violence, Mduduzi Manana;
  • Disgraced former ANC Western Cape leader Marius Fransman pocketed flights worth R94 261;
  • Last year, former deputy minister of trade and current Ekurhuleni mayor Mzwandile Masina and his wife milked R299 818 from the state;
  • Criminal suspect Bongani Bongo got R78 000 from taxpayers last year to fly in style;
  • Roelf Meyer used R224 966 in taxpayer money for flights over the last two years;
  • Trevor Manuel milked taxpayers to the tune of R312 135 over the last two years; and
  • Mcebisi Jonas and his spouse spent R378 290 on luxury flights in two years.

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As stage 4 loadshedding looms, the DA is fighting for energy independence 

Please find an attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP

Top Eskom expert, Ted Blom, this week warned that the power utility may possibly plunge South Africa to stage 4 rolling blackouts. This could be a potentially devastating blow for South Africans who are still reeling from the impacts of the country’s economic decline and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest spate of rolling blackouts come as South Africa inches closer towards a Covid third wave which might compromise the storage and rollout of vaccines.

The impact on businesses and jobs will also be devastating especially in lights of the Q1 Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) released by Statistic SA yesterday which confirms that unemployment in South Africa has reached a new high of 32.6%. All economic recovery efforts will be weakened if we continue to rely on Eskom to keep the lights on. Ekurhuleni, the industrial workshop of Africa is currently reeling under blanket blackouts which impacts economic recovery and job security – let alone job creation – in no small measure.

While the ANC government is dithering on Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to add additional capacity to the grid and stumbling on renewable energy projects, the DA-run Western Cape government is proving that we are the only party that can free South Africa from loadshedding.

The Western Cape has allocated almost R70 million to free the province’s municipalities from Eskom’s grip and to defeat loadshedding through the Municipal Energy Resilience (MER) project. The MER project will assist six municipalities in generating and selling their own electricity and empower them to purchase energy directly from IPPs. These municipalities include:

  1. Drakenstein Municipality;
  2. Mossel Bay Municipality;
  3. Overstrand Municipality;
  4. Saldanha Bay Municipality;
  5. Stellenbosch Municipality; and
  6. Swartland Municipality.

South Africa cannot continue to be dragged down by Eskom. The DA will continue to challenge Eskom’s monopolistic grip on our energy supply.

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DA to lay criminal charges against Minister Mkhize over Digital Vibes dodgy contract

Please find attached a soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP

Damning revelations against Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, keep surfacing about his involvement in the awarding of an irregular contract to a communications company, Digital Vibes. The runners and owners of this company are close associates of his who bagged a R150 million contract from the Department of Health and have reportedly channeled money and services to him and his family.

Considering the clear violation of the law, the DA will be laying criminal charges against Minister Mkhize and Health Director General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi with the South African Police Service (SAPS) tomorrow. Over and above the SIU probe, a criminal investigation needs to ensue.

Following a Daily Maverick investigation, it has since been reported that Minister Mkhize personally signed off on the submission that contained the contract. This is in direct contravention of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (POCCA) section 3 and specifically section 12 and 13 which relate to acts of service offered or accepted in exchange for government contracts and tenders.

In addition, the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) explicitly states that the signing off of any contracts is the function of the accounting officer and not the executive authority – as was allegedly the case with Minister Mkhize. Therefore, the Health DG, Dr Buthelezi must also be investigated for his involvement and possible contravention of the PFMA with gross negligence.

This highly irregular abuse of political power by Minister Mkhize is underscored by emerging evidence that the company in question, Digital Vibes, carried out maintenance projects at the Minister’s home and money was directly channeled to Minister Mkhize’s son.

The DA has long called for President Cyril Ramaphosa to break his silence on this matter and take action against Minister Mkhize. He cannot be entrusted with leading the national response on Covid-19 while there are damning allegations levelled against him. The President needs to instruct the Minister to step down pending the full investigation by the Special Investigative Unit (SIU). The Minister cannot continue being both the player and the referee in an investigation that he is the center of.

The DA will be laying charges against Minister Mkhize and Dr Buthelezi tomorrow at the Cape Town Station. Details are as follows:

Date: 3 June 2021

Time: 11.00

Place: Cape Town Police Station (28 Buitenkant Street)

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South Africans are becoming unemployable

Long-term unemployment, which measures those unemployed for one year or longer, is not a standard headline grabbing figure when quarterly labour force survey results are released. It should be.

The full picture of the crisis of unemployment in South Africa lies in the number of unemployable, not just unemployed, people whose proportion can be partially gauged by the long-term unemployment figures.

This is what we know about the features of those who experience long term unemployment:

– The likelihood of remaining unemployed is greater for the long term unemployed.

– People who have been unemployed for longer than a year become discouraged and stop looking for work. On average the long term unemployed give up looking for work and join the ranks of the economically inactive in greater numbers than they reintegrate back into the job market.

– Long term unemployment strongly and negatively effects psychological well-being, increases social exclusion and propensity to crime. Furthermore, when reemployed those returning after a long period of unemployment tend to earn less than in their previous jobs and are demoted from their past career paths.

Unfortunately, the long term unemployed are not a tiny subset of the unemployed in South Africa, they are a significant majority.

People who have been unemployed for longer than a year make up 75.3% of the unemployed population according to the latest results released by Stats SA for the first quarter of 2021. Many of them have been unemployed for a great deal longer than a year- 60% of unemployed South Africans have been out of work for longer than 5 years, and at least 1 in 3 have never worked before. 

The situation has grown more critical over the years. The proportion of the South African labour force which has been in long term unemployment has increased from 16% of the labour force to 24.5% of the labour force, between q1 2010 and q1 2021, a 53% jump. Frighteningly, according to 2018 data about two-thirds of those in long-term unemployment were youth (15–34 years). Young people often struggle to find work due to lack of experience, long term unemployment further exacerbates this handicap. 

There are several reasons the long term unemployed find it increasingly difficult to secure work: employers are more likely to filter out candidates who have gaps in their work history, especially long recent gaps; long periods of detachment from one’s profession erodes skills and professional networks; money to finance job search costs runs out; and after a long time out of work many spend less and less time looking for work. South Africa with one of the world’s highest proportion of unemployed workers, the majority of whom have been unemployed for a long time, is at risk of becoming one of the most unemployable populations in the world.

A large cohort of the labour force being inexperienced, young, and never employed imposes severe consequences not purely for the individual but for the future of national and regional economies. We are witnessing the erosion of human capital at an alarming scale, which is going to be felt for a very long time to come.

It is not just the young who are at risk. There are also significant consequences for older workers, for whom long term unemployment means they enter retirement inadequately prepared. The long term unemployed are an indicator of the future strain on welfare support for the elderly who were unemployed for most or all of their working lives.

Long term unemployment further exacerbates the risk of jobless growth, should South Africa be able to reverse its economic downturn. Unemployment becomes particularly difficult to address when we are talking about the reintegration of people who have been out of work for many years instead of many months.

These are people who are most likely to be left behind even in the event of an economic upturn. The concern is that a significant proportion of the unemployed are not poised to be able to take advantage of a change in South Africa’s economic fortunes.

In the opposite direction these features of the South African unemployed have an impact on growth; as the combination of low qualifications, low experience and low productivity work together to kill off prospects of growth.

As a result of its impact, there needs to be greater attention and analysis focused on long term unemployment. One could argue it is the most important labour indicator for South Africa right now because it is a measure of the population most vulnerable to never finding employment.

For comparison, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the unemployment rate reached almost 25% of the labor force in the United States. We have proportionately more people in long term unemployment than the US had unemployed in the Great Depression. Remember these are just the people for whom finding a job is unlikely, the total unemployment rate is much higher at 32.6%.

The results of the quarterly labour force survey are one of the most, if not the most, highly anticipated statistical releases in the country. Considering that the long term unemployed constitute the majority of the unemployed we should amass more detail about this demographic. Yet it is typically not mentioned in reporting of the survey results.

We need to regularly track and scrutinise long term unemployment including by province, duration, age, previous sector, education level etc. Another approach developed by the Boston Consulting Group for a pilot in Frankfurt involved more detailed segmentation of the unemployed. In that study segmenting by ability and motivation.

The point is we need to understand more about this cohort, if we are to develop policies which will help absorb the long term unemployed into the labour market. We cannot take it as a given that their reintegration will come about organically if economic output improves. It won’t.

Part of the solutions will likely need to include reducing obstacles in the way of the long-term unemployed finding work. Germany is the only country in the world which excluded the long term unemployed from minimum wage prescriptions it introduced in 2015. The results of that are now slowly coming in.

A recent paper by Matthias Umkehrer and Philipp vom Berge found that there has been low take up of the exemption in Germany. The authors note that “long-term unemployment remained disturbingly persistent” in Germany at around 2,4%.

This makes it difficult to know what the effect of minimum wage exemptions for the long term unemployed would be in South Africa, in part because the take up rate by businesses could be higher.

We know South Africa has a large and rising unemployment rate. The release of jobs numbers needs to be accompanied now by analysis and conversation on the nature of the unemployed.

The danger of South African unemployment is not just that it’s rising but that the unemployed are not a fluid cohort- they are trapped. And that view is a shift of perspective in how we think about unemployment, i.e. it’s not just new people entering unemployment.

Unemployment numbers have a false newness about them in the way they are communicated, “there are now 25% unemployed”, “there are now 32% unemployed” etc. Instead of also including that 60% of the people unemployed 5 years ago are still unemployed, are still trapped.

This better conveys that we are running out of time and that dislodging unemployment becomes more difficult the longer people remain unemployed. Placing a spotlight on the long term unemployed introduces a temporal aspect to the unemployment data, and with it hopefully a sense of urgency.

DA to attend next ANC NEC meeting to discuss economic policy?

I have written today to the Acting Secretary General of the ANC, Ms Jessie Duarte, to ask for the ANC’s protocol on private citizens attending the party’s NEC meetings. If senior state officials, like National Treasury DG Dondo Mogajane, can attend these meetings in their “private capacity”, then presumably the meetings are open to others in their “private capacities” too.

In that regard, I would be delighted to attend the next NEC meeting in my private capacity, to make some remarks on the topic of “economic policy”.

In a reply to a DA parliamentary question, the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, confirmed that Director General Mogajane attended the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the ANC on 23 and 24 January 2021.

My letter, and the parliamentary reply, are available here and here.

I note the Minister’s claim that the DG attended in his “private capacity”. The Minister has resorted to this formulation because, I believe, he knows that it is not appropriate for senior civil servants, who are subject to the Public Service Act, to attend the NEC meeting of the ANC.

I do not for one minute believe that the DG attended as a private citizen. He would not be invited or allowed to attend did he not hold the position in government that he does.

I will be submitting a separate application under the Promotion of Access to Information Act, to obtain minutes, notes or recordings of anything Mr Mogajane said at the meeting. As he is a public official, this is a matter of public interest.

I look forward to hearing back from the ANC about this. Since I too would be attending in my “private capacity”, I presume they will have no objection to me attending the next meeting.

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Vaccinate our teachers; save our kids’ education

Please find attached soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.

The DA welcomes the announcement by the Department of Basic Education that learners from Grades R to 7 will return to normal schooling and calls on the Departments of Basic Education and Health to now ensure that all teachers are vaccinated as a matter of urgency.

On Friday, the Minster of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, gazetted regulations that primary school learners “must return to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model from 26 July 2021, provided that the risk adjusted differentiated strategy is implemented”.

We believe that it is entirely feasible for schools, particularly primary schools, to become fully functional from the beginning of July, a full month from now, given the crisis of children losing months of schooling they will in all likelihood never be able to regain. Why wait till the end of July?

Since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March last year, learners have lost months of schooling, with the impact being especially felt by children from rural and poorer communities. Already there are serious concerns regarding the completion of the curriculum, which is a problem in many schools, even without disruptions. Given the time lost to Covid closures, the problem will be that much greater, and many schools have no hope at all of completing the curriculum.

It is therefore high time that our children’s education return to normal urgently, and this will be significantly accelerated by the rapid vaccination of our teachers. As experience has shown, the risk to primary school children returning to school is minimal, unless they have serious co-morbidities, in which case medical advice should be followed.

The Department of Basic Education also need to ensure that all Covid-19 safety protocols are strictly adhered to regarding water and sanitation at schools and hostels, where relevant, and that the crucial National School Nutrition Programme is implemented once more.

This disruption of basic education’s consequences will have far-reaching consequences for millions of children, long after the pandemic has ended, and the Department must do everything necessary to ensure children are getting the full access they require to education.

The urgent vaccination of all teachers along other frontline workers should be a top priority for both the Departments of Basic Education and Health.

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