NMB Council makes progress while ANC walks out

The Nelson Mandela Bay Council today elected an interim speaker, passed the adjustments budget and noted the 2022/23 budget and IDP.

The DA welcomes this much needed progress following months of instability and thank all parties for cooperating in the interests of the people of Nelson Mandela Bay.

This comes following the DA’s ongoing engagements with opposition parties and the Mayor to ensure that we bring stability back to council.

It is however disgraceful that while the council made some progress today the ANC ultimately chose to collapse the council meeting to prevent council affirming the position of interim speaker, Cllr Khusta Jack, until such time as a permanent speaker can be elected.

The council elected Cllr Jack as interim speaker only for the day. The DA then proposed that the elected interim speaker, Cllr Khusta Jack, remain in his position until such time as the council can elect a permanent speaker. This would guarantee sustained stability while council addresses a range of issues raised by the courts.

The ANC did not support this proposal and instead collapsed the meeting leaving the council with no speaker, yet again.

This proves once more that while the majority of parties were able to put their differences aside in the interests of the metro, the ANC remains intent on sustained instability and chaos.

The DA will now write to COGTA MEC, Xolile Nqatha, to request that he once again seconds an official to the next council meeting scheduled for Thursday the 28th of April. At this meeting council can ensure the office of the speaker is stabilised by allowing Cllr Jack to remain in office until such time as a permanent speaker is elected.

Mr President, government cannot disappear in a crisis

The following speech was delivered today in Parliament by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP. 

Madam Speaker

Honourable President

Honourable Members

The devastating flood in KwaZulu-Natal has brought immense misery to a part of the country that was still battling to recover from last year’s riots and looting.

We hold the affected communities in our hearts and in our prayers, and we extend our deepest condolences to everyone who lost family, friends and colleagues.

We can rebuild homes and streets and bridges, but we cannot bring back the 435 South Africans who perished in the disaster.

Our priority now lies with bringing humanitarian relief to stricken communities, and to reconnect them to water, electricity and sanitation infrastructure as soon as possible.

It’s been over two weeks since the flood, and many communities are still without water and electricity. In many areas there is still no sign of water tankers, which could’ve easily been brought in from other provinces.

If widespread access to clean water is not resolved urgently we will soon see the outbreak of a second disaster in the form of deadly diseases.

The urgency of restoring these services – and particularly clean water – cannot be overstated.

But someone needs to drive this, and therein lies the problem.

Honourable President, you clearly knew that neither your provincial government in KwaZulu-Natal nor your local government in the metro of eThekwini was up to the task of dealing with this disaster, which is why you declared a National State of Disaster.

Indeed, the eThewkini Executive Committee has met just twice, and the full council is yet to meet, since the floods. The Mayor of eThekwini has been entirely absent these past two weeks, and the Premier’s sole contribution was to hijack a water tanker for his home.

You were right not to trust them.

In your televised address straight after the flood you said that the primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster had been assigned to national government. In theory, this would lift the responsibility off the shoulders of these inept local and provincial spheres of government and allow you to manage the rescue and relief process centrally.

But I say “in theory”, because in the real world this is not what is happening at all. In the real world, no one is managing the process. Everyone has simply run away from the problem, and desperate residents have been left to fend for themselves.

City officials have switched off their phones, the mayor has gone AWOL, councillors are telling panicked residents to eff off on WhatsApp, the Premier grabbed a water tanker for himself, council staff tried to steal care packages donated to rescuers, and when ministers finally arrived on the scene they ended up commandeering helicopters meant for rescue and recovery missions for their own self-important fly-overs.

Amid this chaos, our own DA councillors are trying their best to assist frustrated communities, and they are having to bear the brunt of these frustrations simply because they are the only people there.

Despite your best assurances on television and in this House, there is no coordinated national response at all. Your government is absent.

By declaring a National State of Disaster, and then not stepping in with a national government presence, you have created a dangerous leadership vacuum in a time of great crisis.

And as we saw in the riots last year, when leadership is absent, lawlessness and chaos ensues. Already one City official has been shot and killed at a water tanker filling depot. We dare not let this become a deadly repeat of last July.

Mr President, you said in your address that this situation called for a “massive and urgent relief effort” but two weeks later there is no sign of this effort.

If a Disaster Management Plan exists, no one has seen it.

If there is a Disaster Management Centre – as is mandated by the Disaster Management Act – where all the various response services are brought together into one location, no one has seen or heard of it.

If leaders from national government have indeed been assigned to take the reins and steer the response in KZN, they are operating by extreme stealth, because no one has seen or heard from them.

As we have seen so many times before, the promises you make in speeches bear very little resemblance to what happens in the real world, where it matters.

This is why the motion passed by this House this morning to establish an ad-hoc committee is important. The committee must hold the executive to account, ensure that money is not stolen, and that relief reaches the people it is intended for. This House should never be relegated to the role of spectator in the time of national crisis. We have seen what happens when this government is given unfettered power with no legislative oversight.

If I may offer you some advice, taken from the experience of our own governments in dealing with the drought disaster in the Western Cape, it is this: Be present, be clear and be honest.

Let the people know you’re there and in charge. Let them know exactly what the plan is and update them about this plan as often as you can. And don’t say things that you know won’t happen.

Don’t promise 10,000 soldiers if you’re only going to send 500.

Don’t guarantee that no relief aid will be stolen when you know full well your party has a looting problem.

Don’t describe your relief effort as “massive and urgent” when it is neither of these things.

In the fight against Day Zero, our governments in the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town immediately set up a live dashboard to share real-time information on dam levels and water usage. You need to do something similar to communicate the state of water infrastructure repairs, electricity reconnections, water tanker locations and how often these will be replenished.

People need to know who is in charge of coordinating government’s disaster response. Tell them.

Tell them the details of the relief plan: Who is in charge of humanitarian relief, and who is in charge of the next phase – the stabilisation and recovery? This needs to be a clear and published plan.

Tell them where they can report issues in their neighbourhoods, and give them the assurance that these reports will be acted on.

You’re dealing with people who have been through a terrible ordeal and are extremely vulnerable. They need reassurance, and they need to know that they can trust you.

Be present, be clear and be honest.

You cannot disappear in a crisis.

Thank you.

Premier must appoint independent body to provide true assessment of KZN’s flood damage

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) today calls on Premier Sihle Zikalala to appoint an independent body to provide an accurate assessment of costs relating to recent flood damage in the province.

The move comes after conflicting reports from the ANC-run provincial government regarding the monetary value of urgent repair work.

Earlier this week, the people of KZN were officially informed by the Office of the Premier (OTP) that the estimated flood damage would cost in the region of R950 billion. This was followed by a late night correction – which saw the figure drop to R17 billion – accompanied by a lame apology for the error.

If a mistake of this magnitude was made once, it can be made again. KZN’s government has a dismal track record when it comes to the spending of disaster relief funding. Nothing seems to have changed this time around.

Regrettably, this is not an isolated incident. The Premier’s overall conduct during the past two weeks has also been riddled with question marks.

Firstly, there is his initial denial of a water tanker being parked outside his house, for the exclusive use of his family. The denial extended to accusations that the video footage had been digitally manipulated. Just two days later, the Premier admitted his blunder and issued an apology to the people of KZN.

Then the Premier advised me that the reason why eThekwini Mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, was missing in action at the height of the floods was because he had flu. This was promptly followed by a statement from the Mayor’s office, detailing his extensive involvement during the crisis.

The DA also notes that some of the areas included in flood damage estimates did not experience heavy rains two weeks ago. The question is – what damage is this exactly?

It is clear that nothing that comes out of the mouth of the Premier and his ANC-led provincial government can be trusted.

The appointment of an independent auditor is the only way that the DA will have any faith in the Premier’s commitment to transparency and accountability. Until then, they remain hollow words.

The DA in KZN is committed to protecting public funds and to ensuring that governments hyenas and vultures are kept at bay. We will continue to work to ensure that those most affected by the recent disastrous floods are given priority, along with the rebuilding of our economy in order to ensure jobs.

We assure the people of our province that our Legislature caucus will do everything in its power to monitor KZN’s recovery programme right down to the last few rands and cents.

KZN Floods: DA calls for proactive response from Education PC as schools face long road to recovery

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Education portfolio committee Chairperson, Sifiso Sonjica, to request an urgent briefing by the province’s Department of Education (DoE) on the full impact of the recent floods on schools in the province.

Currently, the DA is aware of some 600 schools which have been severely affected. This while more rain is expected. Then there are the claims that at least 100 schools are being used for shelter and not just one, as reported during a COGTA briefing last week. This requires urgent clarification by the DoE.

While there has already been a provincial legislature oversight programme, with inspections of affected areas, this has not been sufficient or specific enough when it comes to education.

There are some 1 050 schools in eThekwini alone and the province’s Education portfolio committee needs to schedule oversight visits to – at the very least – those that are worst affected. The committee also needs to visit schools that are housing displaced citizens to see what is happening with regards to getting teaching and learning going again.

KZN’s schools have a long road to recovery. Not only have the recent floods had a devastating impact, there is also the existing infrastructure backlog from previous storms. Added to this is the damage caused during last July’s insurrection, not to mention the asbestos roofs, pit latrines and vandalised schools which form part of KZN Education’s dismal legacy.

The sooner the portfolio committee gets a handle of the situation on the ground, the better. Certainly, it cannot be another seven months before it meets again, as was recently the case.

The DA looks forward to a favourable response from the Chairperson. We need to get out into the province and see for ourselves if we are to make a difference.

The DA calls for a full compliance inspection into OR Tambo Hospital 

Please find an attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP 

The DA will write a letter to the Member of the Mayoral Committee in Ekurhuleni, Heather Heart, in order to request,  for the City Planning Department to conduct a compliance inspection to check whether OR Tambo hospital is in compliance with the Cities building regulations and by-laws.  Five years ago, the province embarked on a project to replace the hospital but the project never got off the ground due to financial constraints.

The plans were passed, however till date, the project never came to fruition due to funding constraints. Last week, the DA Shadow Minister of Health, Michele Clarke, and the DA Deputy Shadow Minister of Health, Haseena Ismail conducted an oversight visit to OR Tambo Hospital in Gauteng.

These are the main challenges the hospital is facing:

  • Outdated staff structure and a decrease in the services offered due to budget constraints.
  • Poor maintenance of building infrastructure with two assessments being conducted have concluded that the hospital is not fit for human consumption.
  • Underwater drainage systems are leaking, which causes water to remain stagnant resulting in horrific smells.
  • Shortages of doctors with only one doctor on call with a hospital that has a casualty that sees around 1700 patients per month.
  • Delays in medical waste removals due to contractors not being paid on time.
  • Patients need to bring their own linen as the laundry appointed by the province simply does not deliver on the services needed.
  • Shortages of critical drugs for schedule 5 upwards.
  • A surgical backlog of 60 percent.
  • No high care unit.
  • A shortage of skilled nurses within the system with the hospital needing an additional 200 nursing posts to meet demand.

Healthcare is one of the most important services in the country. In order to provide quality healthcare services to communities and to ensure public health workers’ moral remain high, there is a need to ensure that health spaces remain compliant, clean, and adhere to the Departments norms and standards. The Department of Health must ensure that facilities are provided with the adequate resources to secure timeous infrastructural repairs. We cannot allow are public facilities to disintegrate without proper interventions.

DA calls on Parliament to investigate Hlengwa’s behaviour in SCOPA meeting

Please see find an attached soundbite by Natasha Mazzone MP 

The DA will write to the speaker of Parliament, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to request an urgent investigation and action to be taken against the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), Mkhuleko Hlengwa for his conduct during a meeting that took place with the Board of Eskom on Friday 22 April 2022.

Hlengwa got into a heated and embarrassing confrontation with Eskom Board member Busisiwe Mavuso during the meeting. Hlengwa reprimanded Mavuso for implying that the ANC was responsible for Eskom’s woes, calling her actions “gutter politics” and ordering her to leave.

Hlengwa’s actions are not only reprehensible, but they are also the polar opposite of what a Scopa chairperson should be like. Members of various boards of directors are summoned to SCOPA to be held accountable by Parliament, and they have the right to speak freely and honestly, and they are required to tell the truth. It has never happened that a board member who was telling the truth or speaking frankly was asked to quit because the SCOPA chairperson did not like what he was hearing. Hlengwa treated  Mavuso with total disrespect and disdain after she presented an honest account of her findings and experiences with Eskom. If the ANC is not problem at Eskom, then who is?

The DA demands for a full apology to be sent to Mavuso for being thrown out of a meeting where she was asked to give an honest opinion; and for Hlengwa to be reported to the Powers and Privileges Committee for a full investigation into his behaviour.

Additionally we ask the Speaker of the National Assembly to ensure the following:

  • That a confirmation investigation with the House Chairperson: Committees, Cedric Frolick begins to confirm that no meeting occurred between Hlengwa and any ANC member before the meeting in question. That Hlengwa publicly apologise during the next sitting of the Assembly for the actions he took against Mavuso;
  • Hlengwa’s ruling that Mavuso leave the meeting must be referred to the Rules Committee for probing.
  • That Hlengwa be suspended as Chairperson of SCOPA until his hearing with the Powers and Privileges Committee is finalised.

All sides of the story should be heard in SCOPA sessions, and people should be allowed to speak without fear, favour. Mavuso, like every other individual asked to speak, should be afforded some protection and not have their right to speak trampled. Given his total partiality toward the ANC in his conduct, it appears that Hlengwa takes his instructions on Eskom matters from the ANC.

More than 21000 specialist medical personnel posts are vacant

The DA calls on the Department of Health to present solutions on filling vacancies for nurses and medical specialists as a matter of utmost urgency.

In a Parliamentary Question it was revealed that South Africa currently has a vacancy rate of 18.6% for specialist medical personnel and 13.7% for nurses. The province worst effected is the Free State, with a vacancy rate of 25.3%.The total number of vacancies for nurses is 21 453.

When looking at vacancies for specialist medical personnel, the province with the highest number is the Northern Cape, at a staggering 46 %.  Vacancy rates as high as this undoubtedly affect the provision of quality healthcare.

The DA-led Western Cape represents the lowest vacancy rate for both nurses, at 5.5% and specialist medical personnel, sitting at 9.2%.

I will write to the Chairperson of the portfolio committee to request the department come and present on the following:

  1. The reasons for such high vacancy rates
  2. Plans on how these vacancies will be filled and;
  3. How the Department plans to strengthen training nursing colleges.
  4. If the department has communicated such vacancies to Home Affairs in order to encourage the department to include nurses and specialist medical personnel in the critical skills list.
  5. If the Department has made any strides in forming PPPs with the private sectors with regards to training of nurses.

In March this year, thousands of temporary Covid staff were let go. The reason for this is that Provincial Health Departments lacked the funds to retain staff after the peak of the pandemic. Challenges in the healthcare sector include a shortage of medical skills and a shortage of funds to absorb these critical skills into the system.

It is clear that the ANC government cannot currently fill critical health vacancies. It is therefore doubtful that they will be able to do so when the NHI will inevitably lead to a brain drain.

DA calls for CSA board to resign for sloppy handling of SJN commission

Please find an attached soundbite by Tsepo Mhlongo MP

The DA calls on the board of Cricket South Africa (SCA) to resign following the messy handling of the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) commission, which has essentially dragged cricket in South Africa into disrepute.

An independent arbitration panel has ruled in favor of former South Africa captain Graeme Smith over racism allegations brought during the 2021 Social Justice and Nation (SJN) hearings. Some of the concerning elements that we have noted include the fact that the hearing was rushed and the Terms of Reference were never going to be completed due to the way the process was set up, leading to the conclusion that this was just a CSA box-ticking exercise. This is extremely concerning, given that people’s reputations and careers were at stake.

We will be submitting a request for the full report to be made public, and for the board of CSA to resign because of the way they handled this process.

SJN should have constituted a proper commission of enquiry that was empowered to carry out its work. We cannot allow a situation where allegations of racism are thrown around against people on public platforms without any mechanisms in place to get to the bottom of it.

Given our history, we must take charges of racism most seriously, but we must also avoid organising commissions on the spur of the moment without giving them the resources they require to do their duties as was the case with the SJN, which left us with more questions than answers.

DA Launches the Zondo Dashboard Tracker

Please find an attached soundbite by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP

Today, the Official Opposition (DA), has launched its “Zondo Dashboard” in response to the release of the State Capture Commission Reports. Chief Justice Raymond Zondo has released four parts to his State Capture Reports which outline damning evidence against many high-level ANC members, Government officials, their families, and their friends.

In the first three parts of the reports alone, 1438 people have been implicated in State Capture, fraud, or corruption.

The Zondo Dashboard can be found at www.statecaptureconsequences.co.za and its purpose is to:

  • Name and shame all high-level ANC and government officials implicated in state capture.
  • State what each person or entity has been accused of.
  • State what recommendations have been made by the Commission for each person or entity; and
  • Provide real time updates on what action, or inaction, has been taken by both the police and NPA against these individuals or entities so far.

We will be providing weekly updates to the Zondo Dashboard so that all South Africans, can have real time information on any progress (or lack thereof) the NPA and police have made against each person or entity implicated in these reports.

The State Capture Commission was officially created on 23 January 2018, and it took more than 4 years for the Commission to finally complete its work. This came at an approximate cost of R1 billion, with 1438 people being implicated in State Capture. When President Ramaphosa was elected as ANC leader in 2017, he stated that:

Corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality” and that “we must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks.”

In the almost 5 years since his first speech as ANC leader, we have failed to see any material action taken against those within the ANC who were involved in State Capture or corruption. The South African public deserve to see a transparent and open process unfold against these implicated ANC officials. If the ANC will not play open cards with the South African public, the DA will!

That is why, together with the Zondo Dashboard, the DA will be writing to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services to request that the NPA is brought before it to account for its lack of prosecutions to date. We will also be providing the NPA with a list of high-level implicated officials highlighted on our Zondo Dashboard. Some these figures include, Gwede Mantashe, Cedric Frolick, Brian Molefe, Malusi Gigaba and Nomvula Mokonyane.

This kind of oversight is the very least the people of South Africa deserve. If the ANC will not reset their moral compass and do the right thing, which they have shown repeatedly they will not do, then the DA will name and shame them until action is taken.

SRD beneficiaries receive the short end of the stick due to legal technicalities and delays

Please find an attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP 

The DA calls on the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, to allow for payment of grants for existing beneficiaries as well as clear grant payments owed for the month of April. On Friday, the Department of Social Development announced that all eligible recipients, including those who received the grant previously, must re-apply.

The SRD grant was introduced in 2020 to support those who experienced economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. SASSA spokesperson, Paseka Letsatsi highlighted that only after government has amended the regulations from the Disaster Management Act to Social Assistance act, will new applications be considered. Letsatsi said that no applications would be processed until the covid-19 regulations have been amended.

What is concerning however, is that those who have previously applied and qualified for their SRD grant will have to re-apply. This announcement comes close to three weeks after many were set to receive their grants for the month of April. Many need to travel great distances, spend little funds they do have on transport, to visit SASSA offices and wait for hours in long queues.

Additionally, the burden that sits on SASSA to process all SRD grants is great and will only cause further delays in delivery. Considering that applicants whose grants have been wrongfully declined, many have been waiting for their appeal outcomes since August 2021. Such delays cannot occur in the new applications process of the SRD grants. SASSA must therefore consider the delivery of existing grants where beneficiaries have already been vetted and verified.

It is regretful that when there are legal or administrative challenges, that no provisions are implemented to ensure beneficiaries still receive their grants. Grants play a critical role in improving the standards of living in society and ensuring the most vulnerable are protected from extreme poverty and hunger. It is therefore unfortunate that beneficiaries will not receive their grants as a result of this legality.  The DA will not allow inefficiencies in government to worsen the vulnerabilities of already impoverished South Africans.