DA establishes a task team to combat the theft of public infrastructure

Please find an attached soundbite by Mat Cuthbert MP 

The DA has met to establish a task team to combat the industrial-scale theft of public infrastructure that is widespread across South African cities and towns. (see document here)

This is as a result of the failure of the national government to address this crisis in a meaningful way.

In a joint statement released in July 2021, Telkom, Eskom, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and Transnet, revealed that the persistent challenge of cable theft and infrastructure vandalism was leading to a combined direct loss of R7 billion every year, with an R187 billion knock-on effect on the economy per annum.

Furthermore, this impacts the ability of local governments to deliver electricity and other basic services.

This team comprises of our Shadow Ministries of Police, Public Enterprises, Trade, Industry, and Competition, Transport, as well as executives in the municipalities where we govern.

Together, we have developed a set of local, provincial, and national interventions we know can help deal with the crisis at hand.

National interventions that we propose are:  

  • Proper implementation of the Second Hand Goods Law of 2009
  • Giving copper theft its own crime code and making the theft of it a priority crime at the SAPS
  • Creating a Specialised SAPS Unit
  • Setting copper theft reduction targets at parastatals
  • Close cooperation between law enforcement and metal recyclers to assist in the tracking of illicitly-traded metals
  • Empowering the Non-Ferrous Theft (NFTCC) Combatting Committee through legislation and its dedicated budget
  • Establishing a reward hotline
  • Eradicating the backlog of scrap dealer Licences
  • Multi-agency cooperation and information sharing
  • Standardised transaction recording of scrap metal sales.

Each of the relevant shadow ministers will be writing to their ministers to request that they undertake a costing exercise to see how much funds they can allocate to the proposed set of interventions (within the scope of their department).

Provincial interventions that we propose are: 

  • Provinces map out public infrastructure vandalism hotspot areas to assist law enforcement agencies with the allocation of security personnel to protect these areas;
  • Provinces develop anti-vandalism infrastructure plans to coordinate their response to the challenge.

Local interventions that we propose are:

  • Set up specialised units within metro and town law enforcement authorities
  • Ensure that indelible markings are placed on all electrical infrastructure.
  • Install anti-theft bolts and fasteners on the infrastructure where possible.
  • Investigate the use of alternative metals to replace the use of copper.
  • Create information-sharing networks between local law enforcement and metal recyclers.
  • Install alarm systems on infrastructure that is linked to local law enforcement authorities.
  • That electrical and infrastructure departments budget for the necessary security to patrol sites such as substations etc.

We will request our local governments to formally adopt these interventions through the relevant council processes and include them in their budgetary considerations, which are currently underway.

In addition, we will be writing to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to request that this matter be urgently debated.

Government cannot sit idly by while our country’s infrastructure is being stripped and pillaged.

To protect our economy, we must safeguard our infrastructure. This is why the City of Cape Town has been strident in taking over the local rail infrastructure currently managed by SOE Transnet.

This is why the DA has taken to developing these constructive proposals and will put pressure on the government to implement them.

Mantashe goes nuclear

Minister Gwede Mantashe is reported to have said that “If you resist nuclear and you [are] a board member, I fire you, simple. You can’t be a board member of something you’re not advocating for.” He made this outrageous statement at the ANC’s Eastern Cape elective conference on Saturday, in obvious reference to his recent dismissal of National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) board member, Peter Bekker.

Mantashe appears unaware of, or perhaps chooses to blithely ignore, the National Nuclear Regulator Act 47 of 1999, which outlines the role the NNR (and its board) play in terms of nuclear technologies in South Africa. The Act states in section 5 that:

The objects of the Regulator are to—

(a) provide for the protection of persons, property and the environment against nuclear damage through the establishment of safety standards and regulatory practices:

(b) exercise regulatory control related to safety over –

(i)  the siting, design, construction, operation, manufacture of component parts, and decontamination, decommissioning and closure of nuclear installations; and

(ii) vessels propelled by nuclear power or having radioactive material on board which is capable of causing nuclear damage, through the granting of nuclear authorisations;

(c) exercise regulatory control over other actions, to which this Act applies, through the granting of nuclear authorisations;

(d) provide assurance of compliance with the conditions of nuclear authorisations through the implementation of a system of compliance inspections;

(e)  fulfil national obligations in respect of international legal instruments concerning nuclear safety; and

(f)   ensure that provisions for nuclear emergency planning are in place.

It is clear from the above that the promotion or advocacy of nuclear technology is not among the objects of the Act, and indeed that role in South Africa is undertaken by another state-owned entity, the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (NECSA).

Furthermore, the Act makes specific provision for a board member representing communities affected by nuclear activities. This was the role that Bekker was appointed to fulfil.

Mantashe’s doubling down on his dismissal of Bekker, purely because he asks difficult questions about nuclear safety, flies in the face of good governance and indicative of how the ANC views appointments to government controlled boards and entities. Mantashe went further, in the same speech, to lambast ESKOM board member Busiswe Mavuso for her criticism of the ANC before SCOPA, saying: “Anyone who want attention attacks the ANC. We put someone in a board at ESKOM and they then insult the ANC.” Clearly the truth hurts, and Mantashe is afraid to have the continual failures of the ANC pointed out to him.

This minister is clearly unfit to hold office. His conflation of party and state, his arbitrary decisions and his rudderless energy and mining policy framework make it impossible for him to stay on. President Ramaphosa should get rid of this incompetent minister now, before he causes more damage to our already failing economy.

NAC must account for Rosemary Mangope’s golden handshake

During the committee meeting on Tuesday, the DA asked the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sports, arts and culture, Beauty Dlulane, to request the urgent appearance of the National Arts Council (NAC) board in Parliament to explain the apparent golden handshake the now former NAC CEO, Rosemary Mangope, received.

Despite an ongoing disciplinary hearing against her after an investigation into alleged irregularities and inconsistencies in the management, adjudication, and approval of Presidential Employment Stimulus Programme (PESP) applications, Mangope was allowed to resign and the NAC has dropped all the charges.

That this was allowed to happen is shocking, but not surprising. No doubt, Rosemary Mangope will soon resurface in another position of power at a public entity where she will once again be allowed to irregularly and inconsistently manage to the detriment of beneficiaries.

It was under Mangope’s management that the NAC bungled Covid-relief and allowed artists to starve. The fact that the terms of the agreement between Mangope and the NAC – a public entity – is confidential just reeks of further possible malfeasance. South Africans, especially our long-suffering arts community, deserves to know the intimate details of Mangope’s pardon. The DA will not rest until all is in the open.

Minister Gordhan got it wrong, here is why the DA is calling for a State of Disaster on Eskom and the energy sector

Please find an attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP 

In his rush to quickly dismiss the DA’s call for a State of Disaster to be declared on Eskom and the energy sector in South Africa, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, completely misses the point and assumes that our call is only motivated by fear of a grid collapse.

While concerns about a grid collapse are legitimate, the premise of the DA’s call for a State of Disaster on the electricity crisis is primarily focused on addressing the lethargic pace at which policymakers and regulators have approached this looming national emergency.

What Gordhan exhibited in his parliamentary reply was a complete dereliction of duty in that while he acknowledges the real prospect of stage 8 loadshedding, he won’t declare a state of disaster to avert a blackout that would imperil critical infrastructure and the economy.

Waiting for stage 8 to manifest before action is taken is reckless and places South Africans in danger from the fallout that would ensue from a total grid collapse.

Cabinet needs to reprioritise efforts to address this national emergency. At the bare minimum, must it focus on lowest cost, accelerated solutions to solve the crisis. This will require:

  • Creating specific timelines on all new and supplementary energy projects that have been approved thus far, and ensure their accelerated implementation and connection to the national grid;
  • Investigating without delay additional measures to mitigate the crisis in the short term while embedding sustainable medium and longer term solutions;
  • Lessen or remove the costly regulatory burden that is standing in the way of self-generation, especially at household level and in discrete industry environments;
  • Compelling NERSA to conduct its regulatory approach within an emergency frame to help lessen red tape and approve generation projects in shorter timelines;
  • Ensuring that South Africans are constantly provided with updates on project completion and costs on all current and future alternative and additional energy projects;
  • Ensuring budget reprioritization of resources from non-emergency expenditure items towards accelerated spending in energy generation projects.

South Africa will struggle to expeditiously address the loadshedding nightmare if the electricity ecosystem, comprising regulators and policymakers, is continually beset by lack of urgency in removing regulatory obstacles for Independent Power Producers (IPPs). Despite the dire state of our electricity generation capacity, South Africa should be making it easy, not difficult, for IPPs to bring new power at scale and in the shortest possible time.

Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter, has already revealed that:

  • There is potential to add 200MW of new capacity from existing IPPs but they were being constrained by contractual obligations which prevent them from feeding this into the grid regularly. It is scandalous that the IPP office has not amended these contracts to allow for uncapped supply to the grid, considering the negative impact that loadshedding is having on the economy.
  • Existing IPPs were also potentially able to add an additional 200MW to their existing generation capacity if they were allowed to expand their plant capacity. However regulatory decisions were standing in the way.
  • The Eskom Board approved a plan on the 3rd of August last year to enable private generators to make bids and supply power to the grid. However, Treasury, Mantashe’s DMRE and NERSA are yet to approve the plan.
  • There were onerous registration requirements for embedded or own generation players who produce electricity less than 100MW. These requirements are being kept in place by NERSA.
  • Stringent zoning and slow environmental impact assessment processes were impeding the progress of onboarding IPPs interested in leasing Eskom land in Mpumalanga.

The ANC government may be in denial but the reality is that South Africa is in the middle of an electricity emergency. Unless urgent steps are taken to remove existing red tape for IPPs, there is a high probability that South Africa could face another decade of continuous loadshedding.

Now is the time to put aside petty politics and galvanise the national effort towards finding a lasting and permanent solution to the prevailing national electricity crisis.

DA calls for mask mandate in schools to be lifted

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

The DA calls on the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, to lift the regulation that masks should be worn in schools, and to Gazette it as a matter of urgency.

The DA has long called for this irrational regulation to be scrapped as several South African health experts have repeatedly explained that the risks of the mandate to learners outweigh any possible benefits.

After the regulations were Gazetted earlier this week, Wits University Professor of Vaccinology Shabir Mahdi once again highlighted the risks of the mandate to learners and the irrationality of the Covid-regulations in general. He said, “SA remains on its unique mission of rehashing regulations which have unsurprisingly failed to prevent spread of the virus in SA context.” Many countries across the globe have scrapped most of their Covid-regulations as new variants seem to be less infectious.

Prof Madhi have also previously stated mask mandates in South Africa have failed to make a significant impact on deterring the spread of Covid-19.

If the ANC government wishes to continue its exercise in irrational regulations, it must provide Parliament and the public of South Africa with the scientific evidence on which the decisions regarding regulations are made.

A position paper from the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC) on Covid-19 dated 8 February 2022, stated that “substantial population-level immunity that has been built up through a combination of prior infection and vaccination”, and that “by the end of August 2021, 62% of individuals had experienced at least 1 SARS-CoV-2 infection”.

Data has also shown that children have a much lower risk of severe disease, and that the psychological impact of wearing masks could be more harmful.

It is becoming clearer every day that for the ANC government, Covid-19 regulations are simply a means to an end – the retention of dwindling power. They are trying to sneak the powers of a State of Disaster into the National Health Act without due consideration or care of the harm to Constitutional rights. The DA will not stand for this, and will continue to put the health and rights of South Africans first. We will not waiver in our fight to stop the amendment of the National Health Act.

Alpha-floor incident captain appointed as SAA Manager: Aviation Training Organisation

Please find attached soundbite by Alf Lees MP.

A leaked copy of a SAA draft media statement reflects that Captain Vusi Khumalo has been or is to be appointed as the SAA Manager: Aviation Training Organisation.

The DA will submit a parliamentary question to the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, to establish whether or not Captain Khumalo has been or is to be appointed in this position and if so, to obtain details of:

  • The aviation training qualifications held by Captain Khumalo that make him a suitable person for appointment to this position;
  • Whether or not Captain Khumalo is and was the best available person to be appointed as the SAA Manager: Aviation Training Organisation; and
  • Whether or not Captain Khumalo was paid the Voluntary Severance Package (VSP) offered to SAA staff during the Business Rescue process? If so, what the procedure was that resulted in his re-employment at SAA, did he repay SAA for the VSP payments made to him?

These questions are vital to ensure that the safety of passengers flying on SAA is the highest priority at SAA.

There are various reasons for concern regarding Captain Khumalo’s appointment:

  • His role as the captain of the ill-fated SAA vanity flight to Brussels to collect Covid-19 vaccine on 24 February 2021. This flight suffered an alpha-floor incident on take-off from the Johannesburg OR Tambo airport. Despite the alpha-floor incident having clearly been a real incident as confirmed by the SACAA investigation, it was not reported within the required 72 hours. To make matters worse, the crew of the flight, including Captain Khumalo, apparently refused to participate in a meeting on 16 March 2021 during which the incident was to be discussed. They apparently claimed that the incident had not happened and that “the aircraft lied”.
  • On departure from Brussels, noise abatement procedures were violated as the aircraft was apparently accelerated past 200 knots whilst below 150 feet AGL whilst taking off from Brussels airport.
  • Captain Khumalo apparently has no aviation training qualifications.

Nearly a year after the dramatic announcement by Minister Gordhan that the Takatso consortium would be gifted with 51% shares of an asset rich and liability free SAA, the deal has still not been concluded. The details of the SAA/Takatso deal remain a closely guarded secret. What is known is that National Treasury is not happy with some of the terms and conditions contained in the agreement. Given information from a reliable source that SAA has been running at monthly losses in the region of R600 million, the DA will oppose the additional taxpayer bailouts that will likely be requested from Parliament by Minister Gordhan.

DA will obtain legal opinion regarding current Covid-regulations

Please find an attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.

The DA will seek legal advice regarding the Covid-19 regulations that have, last night, been promulgated under the National Health Act, 2003. The regulations regarding wearing of masks, venue capacity and international travel were previously promulgated under the National State of Disaster.

This is in addition to draft regulations that are currently open for public comments that aim to essentially force the use of Covid-vaccines and mandatory quarantines.

The ANC government has now desperately added regulations to the Health Act to allow the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, unprecedented and far-reaching powers to impede on South Africans’ Constitutional rights. The legality of these regulations are questioned, as they are similar regulations that were previously used under Disaster Management Act, that has now lapsed.

The DA has been very vocal in our opposition of the State of Disaster, which is now being sneaked into the regulations of the Health Act. Again, the ANC is governing through regulations, without consulting South Africans or Parliament, and in this case, likely promulgating regulations beyond the scope of the Act. We will not hesitate to go to court to confront government in abusing its powers.

The promulgated regulations, furthermore, does not have a time-frame attached to them, and South Africans are thus expected to live under a perpetual “State of Disaster”.

Similarly, the DA will continue to oppose the draft regulations to the Health Act that have been gazetted on 15 March 2022 and for which public comments close in three months’ time. These regulations will ultimately force South Africans to have compulsory medical examinations, tests, and treatment such as the Covid-19 vaccine. While the DA strongly supports vaccinations, we do not believe it should be mandatory.

The irrational capacity restrictions for venues continues to decimate small businesses and the arts and culture sectors. In its draconian and single-minded determination to cling to its dwindling power, the ANC government is sacrificing economic recovery. With a government that has engineered every aspect of its governance to be as corrupt as possible, the various Ministers, cadres and cronies in positions of power do not have the same survival concerns as ordinary South Africans who continue to suffer and starve.

It is no surprise that Minister Phaahla sneaked the current, promulgated regulations into the Government Gazette at the 99th hour. It is a tactic often employed in the Zuma-era. The ANC government will indeed do everything to avoid accountability to Parliament and the citizens of South Africa.

ActionSA fights to split the opposition, and loses

Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Cilliers Brink MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has retained ward 96 of Tshwane in a tightly contested by-election. We believe that this victory strengthens Tshwane’s governing coalition against constant attempts by the ANC and EFF to disrupt the city council.

Despite a huge effort by Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA to win the ward, the DA still received more votes than its two closest rivals (ActionSA and the Freedom Front Plus) combined.

The by-election was trigged by the resignation of the ward councillor, Hannes Coetzee. It seems that ActionSA induced Coetzee to resign in order to stand as the party’s candidate. Shortly before his resignation Coetzee had lost his job as a council committee chairman.

ActionSA then offered another DA politician, Michael Shackleton, a full-time position as an in-house legal adviser. His defection was announced with some fanfare last week.

As part of the ActionSA by-election campaign, Shackleton – who claims to be a resident of ward 96 – was put to work attacking the DA’s service delivery record in the ward.

Ironically ActionSA’s Hannes Coetzee had been the councillor for the same ward since 2011. If the irony wasn’t lost on ActionSA, it was wilfully ignored.

This dishonest campaign reached its climax yesterday when ActionSA shared a video of Shackleton on social media in which he claims to have voted in the ward 96 by-election “in solidarity” ’with Coetzee.

It later turned out that Shackleton had lied. He did not vote in the by-election. His name didn’t even appear on the voters roll. Did ActionSA think it could get away with the lie?

Counting the cost of its defeat, ActionSA must decide whether splitting the opposition vote is the best use of its resources. Judging by the time, money and attention the party poured into the ward 96 by-election, Herman Mashaba and his people fully expected to win the ward.

The DA reaffirms our commitment to the stability and success of the Tshwane coalition government. What is happening in Tshwane serves as a model for how South Africa can be governed after the 2024 election.

Rolling blackouts: DA reiterates call for Eskom State of Disaster while Ramaphosa is missing in action

Please find an attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP

In recent weeks South Africans have seen more of Eskom CEO André de Ruyter than of the President of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa.

It beggars belief that while South Africa has once again been plunged in loadshedding – this time around for six consecutive days – President Ramaphosa is nowhere to be seen or heard.

Rolling blackouts are the single greatest threat to South Africa’s economic recovery.

The DA has long called for government to put Eskom’s 14-year loadshedding problem at the top of its priority list. However, President Cyril Ramaphosa has failed to deliver the strong leadership and direction that is required, time and time again.

We reiterate our call for Eskom to be declared a State of Disaster. This will ensure, among other things that a moratorium is placed on unnecessary regulatory requirements, to allow provinces and municipalities that have the resources and capacity to generate electricity do so more expeditiously. Further, this can help remove existing red tape for IPPs, because at this current rate South Africa could face decades more of continuous loadshedding.

The DA will hold press briefing in the coming week to unpack the Party’s recently adopted Electricity and Energy policy, which will shed more light on this.

President Ramaphosa must act in South Africa’s best interests and take on board our provisions for a State of Disaster on Eskom.

The ANC government must stop denying reality and acknowledge that South Africa is in the middle of an electricity emergency. They must choose between appealing to ideologues and preventing Eskom from further destabilising the country.

South Africans, who agree that it is time for the President to do what is best for the country, can sign our petition here: https://petitions.da.org.za/p/give-sa-its-power-back).

DA calls for clarity regarding draft health regulations

Please find an attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.

The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ANC government to provide clarity on when the State of Disaster will finally come to an end, and clear steps on what the road ahead would entail.

Public comment for the consequential Draft Health Regulations closed on 24 April 2022, which gave Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla, and his Department only 12 days to process and analyze more than 300 000 submissions before tomorrow’s deadline.

As yet, the Minister has provided no feedback on the DA’s various requests and suggestions to ensure transparency and oversight. There is currently no confirmation that an audit has been done to indicate whether submissions lost due to a technical glitch were recovered and included. The Department has also not provided the DA with a copy of all submissions made, nor provided a breakdown of their analysis method.

These draconian draft health regulations could have far-reaching consequences on the public’s Constitutional rights and the Department of Health must make every effort to ensure that all concerns are addressed.

In the past, the ANC government have used public participation as a mere block-ticking exercise and disregarded submissions by experts and the general public to push their agenda. The DA will not allow this to happen again.

Government cannot continue to treat South Africans as the enemy. We need to know the status of the draft health regulations. The country has suffered enough the past two years and deserves to know what lies ahead.