DA calls for full reopening of sports and arts events

Please find an attached soundbite by Tsepo Mhlongo MP

As South Africa begins to emerge from the ANC-imposed hard lockdowns, the DA calls on the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa to reopen sporting events and arts and cultural events to full capacity.

The arts and culture industry has particularly been decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic as many artists have lost their sole source of income during this time. Added to this, artists and athletes alike have received little to no support from the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture.

The restrictions relating to the National State of Disaster has had a severe impact on the sports and art sectors as many events were either cancelled or extremely limited in terms of audience/spectator attendance.

As other industries are returning to some form of normalcy, the sports and arts sectors are still hindered by tight and irrational lockdown regulations.

The DA urges the Minister to fully open up the arts and cultural sector so that artists can return to the stage, practice their craft, and provide for their families. We also advocate for the return of fans to stadiums, since this will help to revitalize the industry by allowing athletes to practise their discipline in front of fans for the first time in years.

We must strike a balance in our reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, ensuring that while protecting lives is our first concern, we do everything we can to protect livelihoods.

SIU Report: DA calls for swift prosecution of Covid funding thieves

Please find attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The DA welcomes the release of the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into government’s spending of Covid-19 funds. We have long called for this report to be made public and will be analysing it with a fine-tooth comb.

The SIU found that assets and money to the tune of R551.5 million need to be recovered, and they have yet to complete the investigation. The final amount of money pilfered is likely more than this.

This was money earmarked to procure procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other lifesaving resources during the height of the Covid-19  pandemic. Sadly true to form cadres and tenderpreneurs took advantage while vulnerable and ill people were struggling to survive the devastation of the pandemic.

The SIU investigated 5 468 contracts for the procurement of PPE of which 476 cases still need to be finalised. 2 803 contracts were identified as irregular, which implicates 1 217 service providers who inappropriately and illegally gained millions from this crisis. To date, R34 million has been recovered.

We welcome the fact that referrals have been made to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and we call on them to swiftly prosecute those who are guilty without fear or favour.

A strong message needs to be sent to those who seek to profit off and loot the State. The only way to secure South Africa’s future is to ensure that the wheels of justice continue turning.

The corrupt and greedy have tried to make the country a lawless wasteland where the rule of law and vulnerable people can be trampled. This must not be allowed to continue.

Criminals should know that the free-fall is over.

DA petition against Eskom price hike gains 30 000 signatures in 5 days

Please find attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP.

The DA’s petition to oppose Eskom’s application to hike the price of electricity by 20.5% has gained more than 30 000 signatures within the space of five days.

The DA rejects Eskom’s attempts to raise the price of electricity at a time when the cost of living is on the rise in South Africa. The cost of food, accommodation and transport continue to spike and an electricity tariff hike will only contribute to the financial distress faced by poor households in particular.

The overwhelming reaction to the DA’s petition highlights how callous Eskom’s application truly is. Eskom can barely keep the lights on, and to expect South Africans to pay more money for an unreliable service is completely out of touch.

We are encouraged by the thousands of South Africans who have voiced their objections to this outrageous increase. And we urge more South Africans to add their signatures by signing our petition using the following link: notoincreases.co.za

ICAO must urgently inspect SACAA and SA airports

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

The DA will write to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on transport, Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, to ask that he request the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to inspect the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) and South African airports as a matter of urgency.

This is after the partial release of a report by the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) of Ethiopia regarding their investigation of the crash of a SACAA aircraft tasked to carry out a calibration flight at the George Aerodome on 23 January 2020 in which all three flight crew members succumbed.

The DA will also request that SACAA release the full report of the investigation as page 56, which contains paragraphs 19 to 30 of the conclusions, was omitted from the released report.

AAIB found a host of irregularities in the operation of the Cessna S550 ZS-CAR, including:

  • ZC-CAR’s Certificate of Airworthiness was invalid at the time of the accident due to the flight data recorder (FDR) not being updated annually;
  • ZC-CAR conducted multiple operations for several months in 2021 without the proper authorization of the Flight Inspection Unit (FIU) in place;
  • There was not sufficient graded evidence that the pilot-in-command (PIC) performed the mandatory unusual altitude recovery training on a simulator;
  • Irregularities in assigning the PIC to the flight;
  • The aircraft did not trigger the recording of all the mandatory parameters on the FDR; and
  • There was no indication of whether the installed Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS) was operational at the time of the crash.

AAIB made the following safety recommendations:

  • SACAA must install FDRs capable of recording all mandatory parameters;
  • The South African Accident and Incident Investigations Division (AIID) must become independent from SACAA “and other entities that could interfere with the conduct of objectivity an investigation and conflict of interest” to ensure full accountability. The DA has advocated this and other critical changes and interventions for many years;
  • An in-depth review of FIU to ensure that operators comply with all requirements and that crew are proficient in unusual attitude recovery according to regulations.

Navigational calibration is crucial for airports and aircraft. Without these measures safety of flight crew and passengers cannot be guaranteed. That SACAA would flaunt vital compliance regulations and standards is unacceptable.

This brings to mind the dangerous SAA alpha-floor event on 24 February 2021 which SAACA seemingly tried to sweep under the rug. Serious questions regarding the safety standards of air crew and other personnel were put under the microscope.

While the AAIB report does not explicitly state that SACAA tried to influence an AIID-investigation, the recommendation that AIID becomes fully independent does indicate that there does seem to be undue influence over investigations.

SACAA’s attitude and growing ineptitude have a big impact on the country’s aviation sector with several airstrips at airports being downgraded due to safety concerns, the direct responsibility of SACAA. Downgraded airports have a major impact on our international aviation status and the flight routes through our country, tourism and the economy.

4 days to deadline day – Will Mantashe’s disastrous RMIPPP meet its (extended) deadline?

With 4 days left before the 27 January 2022 deadline to reach financial close for the repeatedly delayed Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMPIPP), the lack of a status update from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) raises the prospect of yet another deadline extension and a programme on the verge of collapse.

For the RMIPPP to proceed to implementation stage, preferred bidders should already have secured Environmental Impact Assessment approvals, port authorisations, pipeline agreements, power off-take MoUs and fuel purchase agreements. However, all indications are that the bidders are yet to meet some or all of these mandatory requirements.

If the bidders to the RMIPPP fail to meet the financial close deadline, the question is whether DMRE will follow through on its commitment to effect consequences on the respective bidders. In March 2021, DMRE’s IPP Office Acting Chief Operating Officer Maduna Ngobeni stated that:

“…there are consequences for a preferred bidder failing to achieve financial closure and commercial operation by the target dates. If the dates for financial closure or commercial operation are not met, the bid bond can be pulled or the power purchase agreement (PPA) can be terminated.”

Having already lost credibility due to its Stalingrad approach to renewable energy generation in South Africa, DMRE’s failure to implement an effective, transparent and sustainable programme to urgently address our electricity crisis will only serve to deepen distrust in it as an entity.

The DMRE cannot keep extending the financial close deadline in perpetuity. If the successful bidders are unable to meet the requirements of their contractual obligations, Mantashe should come clean and inform the country, and alternative plans should be put in place. What his Department cannot and should not do is to negotiate questionable environmental impact certification and project finance with the banks on behalf of the RMIPPP bidders. That would be against the contractual terms of the programme which enjoined successful bidders to assume all the risks associated with project implementation.

The uncertainty around the RMIPPP is not helped by the fact that bidders such as Karpowership are struggling to secure the requisite environmental impact certification due lack of clarity on how their operations will impact the marine environment and coastal communities. For other potential bidders, the inability to comply with local manufacturing requirements, as dictated by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, remains a problem. This is indicative of a government that places ideological concerns ahead of the urgent need to to reinforce our economy and rapidly address our electricity generation shortfall.

DMRE’s RMIPPP was meant to add 2000MW of power to the grid and help alleviate South Africa’s crippling power crisis. As things stand, the country may have to start factoring in the reality that this will never happen, as the RMIPPP may be on the verge of collapse. Minister Mantashe needs to acknowledge that this poorly planned and badly implemented programme is a handbrake on the economic potential of the country. South Africa needs electricity now, and the private sector is ready to provide – if Mantashe and his incompetent department would just allow them to do so.

The REAL matric pass rate is 51%

Please find an attached soundbite and video link by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP

The DA can reveal that the real matric pass rate for 2021 is 51.4%. The Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga announced the results of the NSC matric examinations last night.

The results do not however take into consideration the high dropout rate. This year, the dropout rate of learners between grade 10 to 12 is 32.7% (or 341 403 learners). See the dropout rates per province here.

The two provinces with the lowest dropout rates are Mpumalanga, with a dropout rate of 25.5% and the Western Cape, with a dropout rate of 29.7%.

The Free State got the highest percentage pass rate sitting at 85.7%. However, it is the province that is experiencing the highest number of learners dropping out which is 42.5% (25 882 learners). The province with the highest learner dropouts is the Northern Cape with 44.7% of learners that were enrolled in grade 10 in 2019 (10 297 learners).

When looking at the DA run Western Cape, the province came out on top with achieving the greatest number of bachelors passes, which was 45.3% of those that wrote. The province with the lowest number of bachelor passes was Limpopo, receiving 29.7% of bachelors achieved.

The Minister must stop whitewashing the matric results in an attempt to mask the systematic failures of her department but rather implement innovative school retention strategies, do away with the rotational timetables, track learners who drop out, place a focus on improving the quality of teaching and accelerate the development of a curriculum that is relevant to the country’s economy. It is time to put our learners first and adequately prepare them for their future.

Treasury should provide clarity on the World Bank loan 

Please find an attached soundbite by Dr Dion George MP

The DA calls on National Treasury to provide clarity on the conditions that were attached to the recently announced R11,4 billion loan extended to South Africa by the World Bank.

In the absence of a loan programme document from the World Bank or an explanatory note from Treasury, South Africans have no way of knowing the purpose of the loan and the associated repayment terms.

South Africa has a substantial national debt burden, with the country currently spending R303 billion annually to service debt. We therefore cannot afford to take on additional debt with no plan to boost economic growth.

With the debt to GDP ratio currently standing at over 70%, South Africa faces the real risk of falling into a debt spiral that can trigger a sovereign debt crisis. It is therefore important that the government holds the fiscal line and does not increase the country’s debt exposure.

At the very least, Minister of Finance, Enoch Gondongwana, will need to clarify how this World Bank loan will be spent and repaid. The current debt level is already crowding out service delivery to the most vulnerable members of society and accruing debt for consumption will result in stagnation at best.

The prospect of getting ensnared in a debt trap is a looming reality for South Africa. More debt will not solve South Africa’s economic challenges. Resolving incoherent economic policy and addressing staggering levels of corruption is required. Pragmatic economic policy is needed to attract investment capital to accelerate economic growth.

Livingston hospital orthopaedic surgeries come to a halt

Despite being the biggest hospital in the Eastern Cape, and having an orthopaedic wing, orthopaedic surgeries in the Livingston hospital have ground to a halt unless they are emergencies.

Frustrated patients requiring elective joint replacement surgeries and other corrective surgeries are being turned away from the wing, and clinics and hospitals in the area have been advised to stop referring such cases to the hospital.

The only surgeries which will be considered are those as a result of trauma or post-surgery complications. Patients who are living in pain, often immobile and desperate to regain some quality of life are being neglected.

Patients have reported that lifts in the hospital are not working and that porters are taking up to 45 minutes to move patients to and from the theatre wing as a result. Many porters do not report for work and doctors are moving the patients themselves and despite heavy workloads, are themselves standing waiting for lifts for hours on end.

Image intensifiers – which are used during operations – are not all working, resulting in theatre down times, while doctors fight for the resources to continue surgeries. This results in schedules not being met, and surgeries being delayed.

The DA is appalled that people are being forced to suffer because of mismanagement of the hospital and a lack of resources. It is unacceptable.

Minister Phaala and the Eastern Cape MEC for Health must account for the continued collapse of the hospital and the province’s health facilities in general. We are calling on the Minister to do an oversight with the National Portfolio Committee of Health to witness the poor state of the hospital and to urgently intervene.

Ministers Cele, De Lille and Speaker Mapisa-Nqakula a no-show at Parliamentary fire meeting

This morning, the Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament was due to receive a briefing from the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele; Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia De Lille; and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe- Mapisa-Nqakula on the ongoing investigations into the fire that destroyed Parliament.

At the eleventh hour, the committee was notified that the meeting has been canceled due to the unavailability of the Ministers and the Speaker. This is unacceptable and a complete disregard for Parliament’s oversight role.

The DA will be writing to the Chair of Chairs, Mr Cedrick Frolick and the Leader of Government Business, Deputy President David Mabuza to urgently intervene on this matter. The Ministers must be reprimanded by Parliament as a matter of urgency and the Chairs of this committee sternly reminded of their role in holding the executive to account.

This committee has summoned the Minister of Police in particular to account for the security breach that led to the burning down of Parliament while under the 24-hour guard of the South African Police Service (SAPS). The Minister is yet to provide an account to Parliament since the fire broke out and a suspect was arrested.

In addition, the Speaker of the National Assembly accounts to this committee. As the head of this institution, she ought to understand the importance of prioritizing appearing before this body especially when the discussion centers around the failure of systems to prevent this devastating fire.

For too long Parliament has been ignored by the Executive and often as an optional accountability mechanism.

That can no longer be allowed to happen.

The DA is fighting for the national legislature to get its teeth back; hold the executive to account and truly represent South Africans. The investigations into this fire are no different.

Between Parliament, the South African Police Service and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure, the truth about what happened that day must be sought and those responsible need to be held accountable. That cannot happen when the committee simply accepts flimsy excuses for non-attendance.

Matric pass rate is misleading

The DA congratulates all matrics who passed the 2021’s NSC matric exams. This is the first matric cohort that experienced their full grade 11 and 12 years under the national lockdown conditions, which included school closures, rotational timetables, and constant changes to their schooling environments.

Despite the matric pass rate announced by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, is an inflated 76.4% that does not reflect the reality. The Department does not account for the number of learners who dropped out between grade 10 and matric, and the real pass rate might be much lower. The DA will study the detailed results and reveal the actual pass rate in due course.

We know that 897 163 learners wrote the examination, but the grade 10 enrolment in 2019 was 1 045 424. This means that at least 148 261 learners dropped out of the system and did not complete matric. The actual figure is much higher if we consider the students who wrote the examination but failed. The DA believes this is due to stringent lockdown regulations implemented by the Department. For these reasons, the DA is compiling court papers to bring an urgent interdict to direct schools to open fully. This policy is irrational and unjustifiable.

During the announcement, Motshekga painted an unrealistic picture of what is really happening on the ground. We have been experiencing a crisis in our education system year on year. This is clearly evident when considering the learner dropout rates in the statistics. Covid regulations for schools have only made matters worse, and it is clear by the results that the Minister should scrap the rotational timetable with immediate effect.

When looking at the DA-run Western Cape, the province has successfully managed the challenges within the sector. This is evident by the province coming out on top having the highest percentage of bachelor passes and distinctions.

The Minister must stop whitewashing the matric results in an attempt to mask the systematic failures of her department and rather implement innovative school retention strategies, do away with the rotational timetables, track learners who drop out, and accelerate the development of a curriculum that is relevant to the country’s economy. It is time to put our learners first and adequately prepare them for their future.