DA calls on Energy Department to explore the rationalisation of the fuel tax system

Please find an attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP

In response to the recently announced upward revision to the fuel price by the Department of Energy, which is likely to add significant pressure on the economy and the commuting public, the DA again calls on the government to review the current fuel pricing model.

It is long past time that South Africa review its fuel pricing. Minister Mantashe is derelict in his duties in this regard: the DA, and others, have on several occasions requested that this review take place, but our correspondence has been completely ignored.

The DA therefore the Department of Energy to conduct exploratory research on the possible rationalisation of the fuel tax system.

It has become increasingly clear that the various fuel taxes, such as the Road Accident Fund (RAF) Levy, are adding to the cost pressures on the fuel cost per litre, which now stand at all-time record highs. Add to this the fact that the RAF is fraught with challenges, the South African government may be left with very few options other than to consider alternatives to the Road Accident Levy.

The Road Accident Fund Levy has not only become a key driver of the total cost per litre, but its poor administration by the Road Accident Fund has instead created a R300 billion funding deficit.

Exploratory research on the rationalisation of the fuel tax system by the Department could be a critical first step towards bringing down the price of fuel.

The current fuel pricing model is killing South African consumers. After years of economic decline due to ANC mismanagement, corruption and looting, and the harshest Covid-lockdown in the world forcing our economy to a near standstill, South Africans simply do not have the financial means to afford the fuel hike.

Unemployment disaster: What is the President doing?

Please find attached soundbite by Dr Michael Cardo MP.

The 3rd quarter Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) – which revealed that the expanded unemployment rate has risen to 46.6% – indicates a worsening pandemic of joblessness.

Instead of sitting on his hands and allowing job losses to mutate and multiply, President Cyril Ramaphosa should treat this as a public health emergency. It is a national disaster. His government should institute measures to revive the economy, liberalise the labour market and foster an environment conducive to job-creation.

Instead the government is likely to do nothing, or carry on doing the wrong things. It is remarkable that nearly five months after the July riots – which devastated some regional economies and led to significant job losses in the 3rd quarter – not a single individual has been brought to book for masterminding the mayhem.

The key takeaways from the QLFS are as follows: between the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2021, on the strict definition of unemployment, the unemployment rate increased from 34.4% to 34.9%. The number of employed persons decreased by 660 000 to 14.3 million. The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 545 000 (or 16.4%). This means that, overall, nearly 12 million South Africans do not have a job. The figure is gobsmacking.

President Ramaphosa’s administration should begin to tackle job-creation by reforming our onerous labour laws and freeing up the labour market to make it more flexible and absorptive.

That is why the DA is pushing, among other things, for an end to the pernicious practice whereby the Minister of Employment and Labour extends collective bargaining agreements to parties who did not sign them in the first place. This imposes huge costs on new- and small firms. It is a job-killer.

President Ramaphosa’s government needs to take the hard decisions that will begin to arrest our economic decline, like abandoning the malevolent Mining Charter, fixing Eskom and bolstering our energy supply. Loadshedding is having a devastating effect on the economy and jobs. The government should ditch its hare-brained localisation scheme, which will lead to further job losses. Meanwhile any further lockdown restrictions over the coming months will cripple the economy.

The fact that South Africa’s unemployment rate is heading for 50% poses the single biggest threat to the commonweal. President Ramaphosa needs to overcome his default lackadaisicalness and take decisive action.

DA launches travel helpdesk for South Africans stranded abroad

Please find an attached soundbite by Darren Bergman MP

The DA has once again felt the need to step in and assist stranded South African residents abroad and those who have to travel abroad from South Africa.

Using the channels afforded to the DA in Parliament, the Department of Internal Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and with the help of volunteer programmes such as the Facebook group, ‘Community Circle Home SA’, and foreign embassies – we have launched a helpdesk to provide assistance to South Africans who have been hamstrung by recent travel bans.

It must be made clear that the DA is not looking to replace consular services nor are we interfering in government. We are merely formalising again the work we have done in the past in order to provide assistance to the many South Africans who are struggling to navigate the irrational travel bans imposed on the country.

South Africans who are travelling abroad; emigrating; have visitors coming to the country; cannot access urgent consular services and/or witness any unfair practices are encouraged to email traveldesk@da.org.za.

We have created this channel to utilise our resources to deal with queries professionally and in a streamlined manner. We urge South Africans to reach out to the DA’s helpdesk as a last port of call should they not get the assistance from airlines, DIRCO and airport staff.

The DA welcomes the President’s commitment to engage with foreign partners to have the travel restrictions reversed as these restrictions will have devastating consequences on our economy.

DA calls for a probe into SANDF’s bizarre decision to open bakeries

Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Kobus Marais MP

The DA will write to the Minister of Defence, Thandi Modise, to call for an investigation into the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) bizarre decision to create a chain of bakeries which could potentially constitute as irregular and wasteful expenditure.

According to reports, South African soldiers are putting their guns aside to run bakeries in order to help the SANDF deal with its budgetary crisis.

While the DA acknowledges the fact that the cash-strapped SANDF is confronted with a number of operational challenges, the opening of bakeries is not the solution. These bakeries fall outside of the defence force’s mandate and has potentially opened SANDF up to irregular and wasteful expenditure of its already limited funds.

This decision once again highlights the lack of strategic thinking and foresight within the SANDF’s leadership ranks.

In order to address its budgetary contracts, SANDF needs to be reformed and repositioned to address the modern-day challenges that South Africa faces, building  a chain of bakeries will do little to achieve that goal.

SAPS drags feet on making GBV a crime category

Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP-GBVF) is implemented as a matter of urgency. This after we were have learnt that the South African Police Service (SAPS) has yet to create a specific crime category for gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).

In a written reply to a parliamentary question from the DA, the Minister of Police Bheki Cele admitted that “in order to determine a GBV motive or that gender dynamic contributed to a crime, one currently would have to go into individual docket analysis”. Minister Cele also stated that “GBV is a social construct and not a specific crime”.

As the nation observes 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children, the national government again shows its lack of political will and urgency to root out this plague from our society.

The DA is very concerned that one of the reasons GBVF might be on a perpetual increase in South Africa is the lack of coordination between the different government departments, as well as SAPS, tasked with addressing this scourge.

In 2020, the NSP-GBVF were released after President Ramaphosa called the violence against women and children in this country a second pandemic. But little seems to have been done to implement the plan.

Instead, all these different departments and SAPS seem to do is collect statistics that show the growing problem, without ever implementing any countermeasures. Progress on implementing any of the five stages of the NSP are at glacial pace.

South Africa’s women and children deserve better than uncaring Ministers and SAPS officials paying them nothing but lip service. They deserve to be protected and to feel safe within their homes and communities. They deserve a government who delivers on its promises and doesn’t just repeat them year after year after year.

State Capture Commission withholding ANC cadre deployment records from public scrutiny

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned by the refusal of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to comply with a request we submitted over three months ago in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). In terms of our PAIA request, the DA had asked the Commission to make public the records of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee that were presented as evidence in front of the Commission during the testimony of ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa on 11 and 12 August 2021.

Following Ramaphosa’s testimony, during which it was revealed that his cadre deployment committee had even influenced the appointment of judges to various courts – including to the Constitutional Court – the DA on 25 August submitted a PAIA application requesting that the Commission make public “any and all meeting minutes, attendance registers, lists of decisions, contents of communication and all other records of the national Deployment Committee of the African National Congress that the Commission has in its possession.” In terms of PAIA, the Commission was legally required to inform us whether it would comply with our request within 30 days.

 The Commission however violated this deadline. Over 90 days after we submitted our request and despite our repeated pleas, the Commission has still not provided us with an answer. As a result, our lawyers sent the Commission a letter of demand requesting that we be provided with an answer by 22 November. Once again, the Commission ignored us. I am advised by our attorneys that this latest brushing off of the public’s right to see these records amounts to a “deemed refusal” in terms of PAIA. In other words, by postponing and ignoring our request for more than three months, the Commission has effectively refused to make this information public so that the people of South Africa can see how the ANC’s cadre deployment committee corrupted, captured and collapsed our state.

Instead of providing the DA with the requested documents, which entered the public domain as soon as the ANC handed them to the Commission, the Zondo Commission tried to outsource this decision – to the ANC.

On 16 September, in a move akin to asking a thief whether stealing should be illegal, the Commission requested the ANC’s view on whether evidence of ANC cadre deployment corruption should be made public. On 7 October, the ANC predictably responded by pleading that the records of how they captured and corrupted the state should remain hidden from public view.

In a clear sign of just how damning – and therefore publicly relevant – these records are, the ANC even asked the Commission not to share the information because it was just “days before a local government election is set to take place.”

Distressingly, the Commission fell completely silent after receiving this plea from the ANC to be protected from the political fallout of making these documents public. Even after our final letter of demand sent last week, the Commission has still not even demonstrated the common courtesy to acknowledge receipt of our latest letter.

It is further worth noting that the Commission has routinely published hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence on its website – yet refuses to similarly publish what may be the most vital evidence it has heard during the past four years on how the deployment committee that was chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa between 2013 and 2018 captured the state.  

The DA is fighting to expose the truth about Ramaphosa’s cadre deployment policy on behalf of every South African citizen who wants to live in a country with a functioning and honest state. We are disturbed that the State Capture Commission refuses to allow South Africans to see the inner working of the very committee that laid the foundation for state capture. This clearly runs contrary to the Commission’s mandate and violates the spirit of trust it is supposed to help repair.

In the interest of protecting the Commission’s integrity and fully exposing to the South African people how Ramaphosa’s cadre deployment committee captured, corrupted and collapsed our state, the DA publicly calls on the Commission to immediately comply with our PAIA request and publish complete and unredacted copies of the ANC’s cadre deployment records.

It is time to stop hiding these records from the people of South Africa, who have the right to know the full and unvarnished truth about ANC cadre corruption.

YES to vaccines, NPIs, and hospital readiness. NO to economic restrictions.

The DA has consistently spoken out against blanket economic restrictions, believing them to do more harm than good. We are glad that the government has finally come to its senses and moved away from stifling economic activity, banning beaches and so forth.

It is just a pity that thousands of businesses, millions of jobs, and billions of rands of tax revenue had to be lost before government came to its senses on economic restrictions.

We welcome government’s intention to lift the state of disaster and will hold them to this in the coming months. We also welcome their engagement with foreign travel partners to get them to lift international travel restrictions.

We reject any restrictions on freedom of movement – meaning we do not support the curfew and continue to call for it to end.

With respect to gatherings, we note that the ANC flouted their own regulations during the election. They should not create rules that they themselves are not prepared to abide by.

We call on the government to take the following steps:

  • Ensure that healthcare facilities are adequately equipped in case of an uptick in demand.
  • Monitor hospitalisation rates and bed availability.
  • Ensure that every healthcare worker is placed, as a matter of priority. Interns and other qualified healthcare workers waiting for placement are dead assets to the healthcare system if not placed.
  • Support non-pharmaceutical interventions.
  • Make vaccines more readily available to the poor and vulnerable, including by offering them at workplaces and in easily accessible places in poor communities. People should be able to get their jab at many more points in SA than just Clicks and Dis-Chem. Government should partner with retailers and have mobile units.
  • Run proper communication campaigns to dispel myths about vaccination.
  • Provide booster doses of J&J or Pfizer to all adults who received a single dose of J&J, as well as to high risk individuals.

In addition to these steps, and crucially, government needs to provide financial support for businesses, especially in the tourism and hospitality sector, if international travel bans endure throughout the festive season. If necessary, government should seek foreign aid relief. Support to businesses should be administered as transparently as possible and should not be based on race.

South Africa’s record high unemployment rate is driven by low rates of business creation and survival. International travel bans over the festive season will decimate businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector, many of which are hanging on by a thread, having barely survived the lashings of lockdown and loadshedding that the government has already administered.

If government fails to get international travel bans reversed and fails to provide financial support to businesses, we can expect first quarter unemployment numbers to rise and more people to join the social grant queue.

DA leaders, including Premier Alan Winde and mayors Mpho Phalatse, Tania Campbell, Randall Williams and Geordin Hill-Lewis will all be asking our travel partners in the international community to rethink their stance on travel bans to and from South Africa, as there is no evidence that this variant originated in South Africa, only that we were the first to sequence the RNA.

Introducing the 27 DA mayors

The following remarks were delivered by the DA Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen MP in Bruma, Johannesburg. 

Good afternoon, and thank you for taking the time to come out here to Bruma and meet our team of newly-elected mayors.

We are truly excited to introduce them to you, because we know we have brought together an excellent crop of public servants.

We wouldn’t have asked you to come here on a Friday afternoon if we didn’t think it was important. But 30 months out from the next national election – and with the ANC’s destructive dominance under threat across the entire country – these men and women are going to play a critical role in shaping the immediate future of our country.

We’d like you to meet them face to face, introduce yourselves, ask them questions and get a sense of where they and the DA intend to steer their municipalities over the next five years.

But I also want to state upfront that we are mindful of the enormous challenge that lies ahead of us, particularly in the hung metros and municipalities where we are going to have to quickly establish good working relationships with our new co-governing parties.

Having been through similar scenarios in both Johannesburg and Tshwane after the previous municipal elections, we know only too well how precarious such minority governments can be.

But this will not deter us from our commitment to the people of these towns and cities, and it will not cause us to compromise our principles as a party in any way. If that refusal to compromise should mean that any of these governing arrangements are short-lived, we will still spend every single minute in office in service of the people.

I also want to assure our co-governing parties that we will do all we can to foster a productive and mutually respectful environment. We owe it to the millions of residents in these cities and towns, and to every voter who made it possible to remove the ANC there, to prove that multi-party democracy works for them.

Importantly, this team of men and women you see here today – who have been tasked with charting the way forward in 27 municipalities, including four of South Africa’s eight metro municipalities – are a team that is entirely focused on the future.

Given our country’s enormous challenges, we simply cannot afford to indulge a government that lives in the past and clings to its fading history. That will not solve our problems.

Former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, once said, “If what you have done yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.” He could easily have been talking of the ANC there.

And that is why voters finally cut them off in so many different places on the first of November. There was a realisation, 27 years down the line, that a liberation movement doesn’t necessarily translate into an honest, capable government.

Citizens deserve better, and now voters have chosen better. And that is why these 27 men and women now have an opportunity to help write this new chapter in our history.

You will know many of them, but I am sure there are some names here that will be new to you, and we thought it was important that you had the opportunity to meet them – to put faces to the names, and to hear from some of them what they have in store for these municipalities.

As you can see, this is a group that reflects not only the incredible diversity of our party, but also of the communities we serve. This diversity includes a healthy mix of youth and experience, including the City of Cape Town’s youngest ever executive Mayor, the very capable Geordin Hill-Lewis.

And as we say goodbye to one youthful and highly competent mayor in Midvaal’s Bongani Baloyi, we welcome another young, energetic and very talented DA mayor to the fold in uMngeni’s Chris Pappas.

You will also see here in this group the first ever women to wear the mayoral chains of both Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni metros – Dr Mpho Phalatse and Tania Campbell.

We have mayors here of three places where the DA has never governed before – KZN’s uMngeni, Gauteng’s Ekurhuleni and the Eastern Cape’s Beyers Naude municipality. This gives us the opportunity to introduce residents for the first time to what we call The DA Difference.

It also has to be said that the challenges before these mayors differ considerably. These municipalities range from settled four-term DA governments to first-time DA governments.

Twelve of these municipalities have outright DA majorities, while fifteen of them have either a DA-led coalition or a minority government in which the DA is the biggest party.

This is why our coalition negotiations these past few weeks have been of such critical importance, because we need to hit the ground running in all these municipalities. We also think the public should be privy to these coalition agreements, and we have committed to publishing all of them on our website as they are signed off. You can already access some of them on da.org.za

I also want to point out that our talks with other parties that haven’t signed coalition agreements are still ongoing. We are reaching out to these parties as we try to establish majority coalitions in these hung councils. This will be critical if we want to create stable governments that are able to best serve residents.

Maintaining this momentum through stable governments will also help us to not waste this historic opportunity to chart a new course for our country.

What happened on the first of November, and in the three and a half weeks since, has been a watershed moment in our country’s history as a democracy. I think the significance of these developments is yet to fully sink in, and it will require some passage of time and a slightly wider vantage point to truly grasp what we are going through right now.

In short, the past month has seen our country step off the edge of a quarter of a century of one-party dominance and into a brand new future that is, to borrow that well-worn slogan, “alive with possibilities”.

We have often spoken of this moment in the past – of a post-ANC South Africa where the liberation movement finally makes way for a healthy and truly multi-party democracy. That moment has arrived.

What this means is that, not just our party but indeed the whole country, is going to have to get a lot better over the next five years at collaborating. We have now entered the era of coalitions and cooperative governance, and this calls for a maturity in our politics that has often been missing until now.

The days of operating in political silos are over. The sooner we can figure out who our allies are in this mission of building better cities and towns, and building stronger and safer communities, the better off everyone will be.

And so I want to say to our mayors: You will find these allies all around you. They might sit in the council chamber under the banner of a different party, but many of them want to see the same improvements to people’s lives as you do.

We have to find ways to still remain firm and true to our principles, while building and maintaining bridges with council colleagues from other parties. Nowhere is this more important than in the minority governments – and particularly the Gauteng metros – where we are going to have to write a whole new chapter on selfless and cooperative public service.

Then you will have allies outside of politics, but your cooperation with them is no less important. Reach out to NGOs, to civil society, to churches and to educators. Pay attention to groups and individuals who approach you with suggestions – be open to ideas.

You’ll have allies in the world of business and industry too. You’d be amazed at how many businesses genuinely want to be part of the solution – and are willing to share their time, money and expertise – but either don’t trust political parties, or have been ignored or dismissed in the past.

You will also find that your towns and cities might have a wealth of talent and expertise that has already entered retirement, but sill has a lot to offer. Don’t let this treasure chest of experience go to waste.

In short: Look beyond your own benches, form partnerships and take help when it is on offer. You have a massive responsibility, so don’t try to do it all by yourself.

A fair bit of that help will also come from the DA itself, which is what today is about. We have brought all our mayors together to meet with the party’s leadership as well as our governance unit, to outline the critical work that needs to take place in the coming months.

Each mayor will receive the DA’s Ready To Govern guide – which our governance unit has been painstakingly compiling over several years – and which covers critical parts of the job such as legislation, budgets, appointments and caucus management.

But today is also about establishing working relationships between the mayors themselves. So much of the work we do in government relies on experience and institutional knowledge. While we thrive on the fresh energy that our young leaders bring, we’d be lost without the wisdom and knowledge of those who have seen it all and done it all.

Sessions like these allow us to spread this wisdom and knowledge, along with all the little tricks of the trade that make running a government or managing a coalition possible.

And it lets us reaffirm what the DA brand means in government. When we say on our posters, billboards and TV ads “The DA gets things done”, it means nothing if that’s not also what residents see in their communities.

When we, quite rightly, point out that DA governments are far and away the most pro-poor governments in the country, we need that to be the lived experience of all residents across all communities of all the towns and cities where we are in charge.

This cannot be lip service and campaign slogans.

Which is why the immediate task before these 27 mayors and their administrations is to give life to the line that we get things done, and particularly in our country’s most vulnerable communities.

Of course, this challenge differs greatly in these different government situations.

Where we’ve had stable governments with solid majorities over multiple terms, resulting in healthy finances and proper budgets, our plans can include big innovations and investments.

But where we are stepping into vulnerable governments – and where the municipal finances have been neglected and depleted over the years – there has to be a more incremental and conservative approach to turning things around.

In these vulnerable metros and municipalities, our mayors are going to have to focus first and foremost on strengthening workable coalitions, drawing up a short-term plan for urgent delivery, and obtaining a detailed picture of the municipality – from its financial status, debt and income to its infrastructure backlog, service delivery arrears and current projects.

This team of mayors knows what is expected of them in the coming months and years. They know that this important moment in our country’s history comes with great opportunities, but also great risks.

They know that any DA government or DA coalition doesn’t merely assume the regular duties of a local government, it also takes on the responsibility of shielding residents from the failures of national government.

It goes beyond the call of duty to keep residents safe where SAPS has failed.

It goes beyond the call of duty to fight for control of passenger trains where PRASA has failed.

It goes beyond the call of duty to fight for control of the ports where Transnet has failed.

It goes beyond the call of duty to make its town or city loadshedding-proof where Eskom has failed.

And it takes on the responsibility to grow the local economy and create jobs despite the continuous failure by national government to do so.

These are big responsibilities, but each and every mayor here has gladly shouldered them. And that fills me with hope and inspires confidence for the next five years.

I now call on some of our newly elected mayors to briefly introduce themselves, and to give you a short overview of their vision and plans for their municipality, starting with Cape Town’s new Executive Mayor, Geordin Hill-Lewis.

Thank you.

SA back on UK red list: Sisulu should set up a tourism war room

Please find attached soundbite by Manny de Freitas MP.

The DA will write to the Minister of Tourism, Lindiwe Sisulu, with a proposal to establish a tourism-focused war room that will concentrate on obtaining the latest information and communicating this to all tourism markets, focusing on our largest tourism markets. A large section of South Africa’s tourism sector and its various sub-sectors is dependent on these markets, and they are an important contributor to creating employment opportunities and our economic growth. Such a war room would go a long way in communicating and liaising with key tourism markets.

The United Kingdom (UK) is South Africa’s largest tourism market. It is therefore most concerning that the UK has put South Africa back on the travel red list. Their decision was reached after the Covid B.1.1.529 variant, which appears to have originated from South Africa, was identified. This variant appears to be more transmissible and has the potential to evade immunity.

Constant communication, information dissemination and liaison, and direct communication between South Africa and specific tourism markets would go a long way to allay fears and concerns. We need to be proactive when it comes to travel red lists. This may save jobs that could potentially be lost.

This is particular concerning considering that the World Travel and Tourism Council indicated that at least 470 000 tourism and travel sector jobs have been lost, contributing an astronomical decline of R181 billion to our economy.

StatsSA also reported that the overall number of arrivals and departures of tourists has decreased by 71% with little signs of improvement in the foreseeable future.

Tourism has the potential to be an economic “easy win” which can greatly assist in our economic recovery with relatively little expenditure by government provided it creates the environment for the sector to flourish. Instead, the government is the greatest barrier to this much needed economic growth. The creation of a tourism war room will go a long way to change the trajectory of tourism in South Africa.

An aggressive vaccination drive needed to combat Covid-19 resurgence

Please find attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The announcement by the Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, yesterday that a new Covid-19 variant (B.1.1.529) has been detected in South Africa, underscores the need for an aggressive vaccination campaign. Ultimately, the best antidote against the resurgence of Covid-19 cases is a fully vaccinated population.

The performance of provinces with regards to the vaccination rollout is averaging between 30% – 40% of fully vaccinated adults. This is simply not good enough. There is still room for government departments to reach South Africans where they are by making vaccines easily available and effectively communicating to people about the benefits of vaccination.

The Department of Health has performed poorly in terms of an effective communication strategy for vaccinations. This has often been attributed to the lack of funds for communications when we know that over R150 million of public money was stolen during the Digital Vibes corruption scandal. The people of South Africa cannot be made to pay for the ANC’s inability to keep their hands off public money meant for services.

An outreach strategy is needed that targets areas with large numbers of people like transport hubs, religious gatherings, shopping malls and areas of entertainment such as beaches and nightclubs.

In order for South Africa to escape the devastating effects of a fully blown forth wave, we need to make sure that enough people are inoculated and shielded from severe disease and hospitalisation. Until then, we will be stuck in a continuous loop of lockdowns and job killing restrictions.

There are millions of doses of vaccines in the country, as supply is not the issue. Therefore, much can and should still be done to rollout of the vaccine.

While there isn’t a full picture of the new variant, being vaccinated remains the most effective tool against an overwhelmed health system.