Rolling blackouts: DA to request Commission of Inquiry into Eskom

Please find an attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP

The DA will write to President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, requesting an urgent Commission of Inquiry into Eskom and the issue of electricity generation and supply.

Eskom this week announced Stage 2 rolling blackouts. This follows on the utility’s CEO, Andre de Ruyter, warning that the road to operational recovery and sustainability will be long and hard. It also comes after the country exited one of its most intensive periods of loadshedding in November last year.  

De Ruyter promised greater transparency in future on both the state and performance of the power system given the likelihood that the risk of disruption will persist for the coming three to four years.

In view of these ongoing challenges – financial, operational and criminal – which impact lives, livelihoods, businesses and the general state of the economy in an unconscionable manner, it is time to take serious action.

The time has come to rip the band aid off this festering sore and implement the recommendations of tried and trusted experts – not cadre deployees or political appointments. Any failure to act with urgency will continue to imperil the very lifeblood of the economy.

DA to request debate of national importance on rising cost of living

The DA will write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to request a debate of national importance regarding the rising cost of living in South Africa.

Eskom’s announcement of Stage 2 loadshedding starting again today, the ludicrous proposed tariff increases for a power utility that cannot provide consistent power, and the fuel and paraffin price hikes are crippling South African households.

The nearly 40 000 people that signed the DA’s petition to stop the electricity tariff hike, shows that South Africans are sick and tired of the constant increases to the cost of living.

But it’s more than mere outrage; for millions of people living in South Africa it is a case of life or death. They cannot afford to light their homes, travel to their jobs (if they’re part of the 50% that have jobs) or buy food for their families. They cannot cut their budgets any finer. They have no more cents to turn twice. They are starving. Yet the ANC government callously continues to bleed them dry and push them into deeper poverty. Death by a thousand cuts.

This while President Cyril Ramaphosa gleefully admitted in a leaked recording that the ANC uses taxpayers’ money as a personal piggy bank and that he will continue to put his party above the well-being of the people of South Africa.

These increases prove that the ANC has no plan to turn the economy around and better the lives of South Africans. More than that, they have no desire whatsoever to even try to come up with a strategy. The only reason every single person in the ANC clings to power is to enrich themselves. They do not care one iota for the country’s well-being.

The DA will use the debate as an opportunity to once again make rational, viable suggestions to turn South Africa’s economic Titanic around. The country can just about avoid the ice berg if the people of South Africa’s needs are put above greed.

Nzimande missed the last opportunity to ensure stability in the higher education sector

Please find an attached soundbite by Chantel King MP

Minister Blade Nzimande’s ‘Higher Education Readiness Briefing’ on Tuesday was nothing more that PR stunt with the same tired rhetoric he employed in 2021. Instead of addressing the real issues, the Minister attempted to present a flowery version of reality.

Minister Nzimande indicated during his briefing that NSFAS was ready to fund all qualifying students. However, NSFAS’ funding guidelines for 2022 has not yet been released nor has there been any indication from the Minister on how the entity’s funding shortfall will be covered.

Should these issues not be addressed, South Africa’s higher education institutions will again be at the centre of protest action as a result of NSFAS’ funding shortages.

The Minister’s promise that all qualifying students will receive NSFAS funding also stands in complete contradiction with the comments made by the NSFAS CEO, Andile Nongogo, during a parliamentary oversight at Sol Plaaitjie University in the Northern Cape, that funding guidelines cannot be released if there is no confirmation of how the NSFAS shortfall will be covered.

The DA therefore urges Minister Nzimande to immediately release NSFAS funding guidelines for 2022 and to urgently present how the NSFAS funding shortfall will be covered.

Fee-free higher education is yet another failed ANC socialist policy. It is for this reason that the DA suggest to the Minister that the department:

  • Revert back to the Heher commission’s findings on the sustainability of fee-free higher education
  • Stick to the NSFAS Act in its current state, which indicate contingency loans converted into a bursary on condition of academic distinction
  • Set up a single application system that includes all avenues of funding source from public and private sector
  • Reprioritise funding towards scarce skill, especially in the TVET sector

This is the most prudent way to create a fair system for all students to benefit and to ensure a wider access to tertiary institutions by funding more TVET colleges linked to scarce and apprenticeship skills.

Ramaphosa must reprimand Finance Minister for disrespecting Parliament over R11bn loan 

The DA will write to President Cyril Ramaphosa requesting that he urgently reprimands Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana for not adequately answering questions in Parliament on the R11 billion World Bank loan. In a Finance Committee meeting today, the Minister displayed exactly how little he cares about the finances of South Africa and Parliament’s oversight role.

He failed to join the meeting on time and connected 30 minutes late without an acceptable excuse. He then insulted Parliament further, by speaking for less than a minute and then said he will field questions.

The Minister clearly failed to afford Parliament the respect it deserves in its role of holding the Executive to account.

This is not the first time that the Minister displayed total disregard for the people of South Africa and the important job that he is expected to do. He also failed to appear before the Committee after his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement and without any explanation.

The Minister was unable to provide any detail and Treasury was vague on when drawing rights would be exercised.

With our national debt spiraling upwards and interest repayments crowding out service delivery, the servicing of our national debt will soon be the largest part of our national budget.

Government has mismanaged the people’s money through wasteful spending on failing SOEs and allowed enormous leakages from the public finances. The state would rather increase borrowing to pay its bills, instead of tightening its belt and stimulating economic growth. It appears the Minister has never learnt that the first step to start getting out of a hole is to stop digging.  

The Minister needs to start taking his job seriously, stop digging our nation into an even deeper debt hole and instead create economic growth.

While the Minister may not take Parliament seriously, the DA certainly does. We will be ensuring that Parliament works again in 2022, by holding the executive to account and bringing a raft of new legislation aimed at fixing this institution in the near future.

There still is no clarity on what the loan will be used for and what conditions are attached to it. Since the Minister was not prepared to answer questions in person, I have submitted written questions to him, which he will hopefully have more time to prepare for. I will also be writing to the President to request further details given the failure of the Minister to properly account to the public this morning.

Motsoaledi must take swifter action on corrupt Home Affairs officials living the good life

Note to Editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Adrian Roos MP.

The DA will hold the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to his word on claims he will “suspend or arrest everyone in his department if that’s what it takes to clean up the rampant corruption that has taken root.”

For all the talk of ‘cleaning up’ only 33 fraud and corruption hearings took place in 2020/21 at Home Affairs, with a mere 8 people suspended from a workforce of 8 541. In fact, fraud and corruption hearings have halved since Minister Motsoaledi took over in 2019.

Apart from the low numbers being caught, the length of time officials remain on paid suspension must be swiftly addressed. While the Minister has trumpeted the recent suspension of three senior officials accused of failing to execute court orders, officials are now suspended for an average of 442 days and according to response to a DA parliamentary question in December 2021 these 8 persons received R1.1 million in benefits last year while on suspension, excluding salaries and bonuses.

The DA feels it is totally unacceptable for Home Affairs employees on suspension continue to enjoy perks while the Department drags its heels on investigations – this is a slap in the face of South Africans who have been told to tighten their belts and bear the brunt of fraud and corruption.

The Home Affairs investigative report on permitting, due to be tabled in Parliament on 8 March, is a golden opportunity for the Minister to show he is serious about tackling fraud and corruption at Home Affairs.

The DA has further called for cameras to be placed at Home Affairs offices, with the DA getting a resolution through Parliament in November 2021 giving Home Affairs six months to present a report on how this will be achieved. The set-up of cameras outside and inside Home Affairs offices will record incidents of collusion of officials to sell spaces in queues and investigate footage where citizens are mistreated.

Fraud and corruption at Home Affairs have dire consequences, with South Africans struggling to get to the front of a queue to apply and then paying fees to expedite the excessively long processing time out of sheer desperation. Without an ID South Africans have been unable to apply for a driving license, get a job or apply for much needed social support.

The DA will continue to fight for opportunities for all South Africans, not just connected cadres.

Review fuel pricing model: Paraffin price hike will hurt the poor

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP.

The DA has noted the announcement of yet another hefty fuel hike which will come into effect on Wednesday.

We’ve previously written to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, requesting a review of the fuel pricing model. The Minister has yet to respond to our letters and statements regarding our suggestion to consult with major sector stakeholders and develop a new fuel pricing model that recognises the impact of fuel prices on our economy (including high taxes, and consumer and producer inflation).

The latest price hikes will see petrol prices increase by 53c a litre, diesel will increase by between 79c and 80c, and illuminated paraffin will see a staggering increase of R1.01. To the many South Africans who are dependent on paraffin, this increase will be a major blow to their pockets.

This price hike will put tremendous strain on the poorest and most vulnerable in South Africa. With budgets already slashed to the bone after two years of the ANC government’s economic mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, they simply cannot afford the resultant increase in food and transport that the fuel price hike will bring.

Once again, the Minister refuses to put the people of South Africa first. The ANC government continues to put their irrational policies and politics above the well-being of ordinary South Africans struggling to survive.

Schools are opening. Now let’s end the state of disaster.

The DA welcomes the announcement that children will be allowed to go back to school full time. However, we will only withdraw our court action once the new regulations have been officially promulgated.

We note that this announcement comes six months late for primary schools, as the government’s own medical advisory council (MAC) advised in July last year already that it is safe for primary school children to attend school on a full-time basis.

Poor schoolchildren have lost 50-70% of their learning time, much of this unnecessarily.

The regulations necessitating rotational schooling in poor schools have severely impacted curriculum coverage, learner drop-outs, learner pregnancies, learning outcomes, and the wellbeing of both poor school children and their parents. About 90% of all school children have been affected.

The DA’s recommendations to the Department of Basic Education:

  • Immediately provide the much-needed support to schools to enable their full reopening.
  • Work with educational experts to urgently develop and implement a plan to recover the immense learning losses of the past two years. The department must clearly communicate on its plans to address lost learning time.
  • Trace learners who have dropped out of school since the start of the pandemic and make every effort to get them back into school.
  • Address the issue of bad school maintenance and infrastructure by ensuring the unspent R1 billion allocated towards infrastructure is adequately spent. Schools need to be conducive to teaching and learning, therefore we need to completely eradicate the existing mud and asbestos schools as well as remove the 2111 pit toilets that still exist and replace them with proper sanitary equipment.
  • Allow school sporting and extramural activities to resume fully as this will encourage learners to return to school and help relieve the mental stress they have experienced during the pandemic.

The DA will conduct oversights to ensure that promises made by the department such as providing for mobile classrooms in the provinces are adhered to.

We will continue to monitor curriculum coverage plans to ensure schools catch up on the 50-70% learning time lost as highlighted by the NIDS-CRAMS study.

Finally, we call on government to end the state of disaster. The pandemic has become endemic and requires a more normalised response. The real disasters now are unemployment and major learning losses. These should be the focus.