ANC’s land reform shame – 75% of land reform farms have failed

Find attached a voicenote from Noko Masipa MP, DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

After spending over R12 billion since 2006 acquiring farms for land reform purposes, under the Proactive Land Reform Strategy (PLAS), the ANC government’s poor implementation of post settlement support has resulted in a 75% failure rate on PLAS farms. Of the 529 PLAS farms that were handpicked for R3,4 billion post settlement support through the Recapitalisation and Development Programme (RADP), 397 are either operating at subsistence level or are not productive at all.

The DA will be writing to the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to advise her to urgently convene a whole of society national Indaba with industry stakeholders, land reform beneficiaries and agriculture experts. The purpose of the Indaba will be to find solutions, outside of the ANC government’s failed approach to land reform, which are centered on beneficiary success as opposed to the ongoing failed, fragmented and uncoordinated process that has characterized land reform policies since the amalgamation of the former Department of Agriculture and the Department of Land Reform and Rural Development.

A beneficiary centered land reform system will ensure that farmers are capacitated to reach commercial farming status. It is imperative that the national Indaba is convened before the implementation plan of the Agriculture and Agro-Processing Master Plan, which is currently being designed, is finalized to prevent the same failed land reform approaches from being recycled.

During a presentation before Parliament’s National Council of Provinces, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) shared outcomes on a assessment that was done to ascertain the impact of the multi-billion RADP intervention on PLAS farm productivity. The DALRRD conceded that RADP ‘…did not have a significant impact on productivity’ and that ‘RADP played a modest role in improving farm infrastructure’. What this means is that taxpayers have spent over R3 billion on farms where little to no farming is taking place, but this has not stopped the ANC government from allocating more money to RADP.

To its credit, the DALRRD admitted, for the first time, that part of the failure of land reform farms can be traced to poor beneficiary selection. In fact, the presentation revealed that ‘the majority of RADP beneficiaries had low to fair capability ratings’, adding that ‘many low potential beneficiaries received RADP with little resulting increase in productivity’. The government essentially conceded that it knew that some of the handpicked beneficiaries for post-settlement support were incapable of running farming operations at a commercial level, but it still went ahead and availed millions of rands to them.

Then again, the issue of poor beneficiary selection is hardly surprising. Land redistribution is currently not clearly targeted to benefit the many millions of poor and marginalised South Africans. Instead, there is significant anecdotal evidence of land allocated to and proceeds of land redistribution coming into the hands of persons connected to certain DALRRD officials, politicians, and other politically connected individuals. The process by which such individuals qualify to benefit is not transparent, and it is a significant deviation from the initial pro-poor design of the land reform programme.

According to the DALRRD, for PLAS farmers that became commercially successful, ‘Land was to be transferred permanently after three seasons of productive land use’. With 75% of the farms having little to no production, the objective to increase land ownership by the ANC government has been a monumental failure. Failure of land reform suites the ANC’s long-held policy position – to nationalize all land and make South Africans tenants of the state.

The ANC’s land reform policies have failed and it’s now time that ordinary South Africans come together through a whole of society national Indaba to find solutions to make it work. It is critical for the success of land redistribution that clear criteria and transparent processes for beneficiary selection are established and implemented. To give effect to the constitutional requirement for equitable access, those experiencing the most disadvantage must be prioritised.

Only four out of 212 SASSA Offices nationwide answers phone

Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

A recent study by the DA revealed that only four out of 212 SASSA offices around the country answered their phones.

This alarming finding comes as SASSA grant beneficiaries have been struggling for weeks on end to get hold of SASSA offices regarding incorrect pay-outs.

When conducting this research, the most recent parliamentary question where a list of 424 offices was provided, was used. A sample of 50% , 212 offices, were called, which proved to be a challenging task as SASSAs website did not even keep a record of all the local office telephone numbers. The website was outdated and only had a few numbers of local offices in the Western Cape and Limpopo.

A few offices had no number listed on the website. The yellow pages and google searches were a last resort to obtain these contact details. A troubling 83 office numbers could not be found through our various search efforts, which means that 39.1% of offices nationwide, had no visible telephone number online.

Only four out of 212 SASSA offices answered their phones. Out of the four, only one, in the Western Cape, had a system that was online and therefore able to assist beneficiaries.

We also called the SASSA hotline, which was created during COVID and cost millions of taxpayers rands. When calling, a pre-recorded message played, which gave a few options and immediately cut off when selecting any of the options. Additionally, we also decided to phone all nine provincial offices of SASSA, and not a single call was answered.

The self-proclaimed leader in the delivery of social security services is unreachable to the most vulnerable in our society.

The DA calls on the minister of Social Development to make good on the Agency’s own principle of being “Customer centric – putting customer needs at the forefront of everything we do”. SASSA is not putting its customers at the forefront – they are languishing on the back burner with no means of putting food on their table and no way of contacting SASSA to seek the services to which they are constitutionally entitled.

We also call on the Minister to institute a thorough review of SASSA’s customer communications channels and report to the Portfolio Committee at its next meeting scheduled for the 30 November 2022.  When the non-payment of grants hit on the 4th November, beneficiaries had no way of contacting SASSA, and we were inundated with queries and complaints – now we know why! 

The DA will continue to hold those charged with looking after the vulnerable in our society to account.

DA welcomes 12 names put forward for SABC Board

Negotiating one’s way through the minefield that is a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee is an art mastered only after many years in this business.

While expertise should, in my view, have been at the top of the “must have” register, during the selection of the SABC Board in Committee, the ANC predictably resorted to bean-counting in terms of gender, race, age and representation of the minorities.

All parties agreed that former Board member, Dr Renee Horne, should return, which would provide continuity.

However top of my list by far was the former SABC head of news, Phatiswa Magopeni. She scored full marks on my scorecard in her interview and while others were brilliant, such as Advocate Tseliso Thipanyane (an expert on the constitution) and former journalist Professor Franz Kruger, she was head and shoulders above the rest.

What was done to her in terms of her having been removed from a position she filled so well, and having been completely exonerated by the CCMA but not returned to the job, has always stuck in my craw. Well today a great wrong has been righted.

Also high on my list were Khathutshelo Ramukumba an internal audit specialist and Mpho Tsedu formerly a journalist of the SABC.

Some of the other Board members were a bit lower on my list, but will still contribute on the Board, such as arts expert Aifheli Makhwanya, and Rearabetsoe Motaung (former Competition Commission analyst.

Compromise candidates from my perspective were ANC favourite and former Board member David Maimela, and Magdalene Moonsamy (formerly ANC then EFF MP, and now seemingly back with the ANC).

It is interesting that there were former Board members and other candidates who didn’t make the cut – such as former Board members the controversial Mamodupi Mohlala-Mumaudzli, Prof Sathasivan Cooper and Jack Phalane, or others one might have imagined would be pushed for, such as Lumko Mtimde, and Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki.

I’m most interested that former Board member Dinkwanyana Mohuba was put forward by both the ANC and the EFF – despite enormous issues in terms of a Doctorate degree that wasn’t, and his seemingly enforced from a departure from a Limpopo university. While he was found guilty, the matter is on appeal – and my questions as to what would be the process should his appeal fail, went unanswered. Equally, there was some controversy in relation to Nomvuyiso Bayti, and a possible conflict of interest.

On the whole the Board has expertise not only in broadcasting, but in other areas, too, and a steely determination to fix what is patently broken. Hopefully they will soon pull the CEO back from Qatar, and have conversations with the CFO, COO, HR managers and more on the top structure – all of whom have issues to answer for.

DA blocks establishment of state-run insurance company

Today, the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements sat to finalise the Housing Consumer Protection Bill. This followed extensive public hearings across all nine provinces, and two weeks of clause-by-clause committee readings.

Until today, the draft Bill contained a clause that would see the Department of Human Settlements establishing a non-profit insurance company. This company, operating as a state-run financial services provider, would compete with the private sector in providing risk-based insurance cover to home owners.

Already the Department is failing to meet its basic Constitutional obligations, achieving only 41% of its formal housing delivery targets last year. Despite their inability to achieve their basic targets, they now intend to compete with banks and insurance companies, too.

The DA has no doubt that this state-sponsored company would become yet another vehicle for ANC patronage and looting. It would require hundreds of new employees and extensive financial resources. Looking at the ANC’s management track-record, such a company would no doubt also require bail-outs from Treasury in time to come.

Today, mounting a decisive set of arguments, the DA was finally able to achieve consensus from a majority of members that the establishment of such a company was indeed, undesirable.

As such, the state law advisors amended the final A-list to reflect that the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements will reject the inclusion of Section 39, in its entirety.

The DA extends its thanks to all rational members of the Committee who supported the ultimate rejection of this clause.

The DA furthermore extends its thanks to all external role-players who assisted in collating submissions to block this preposterous proposal.

The Bill will now proceed to the National Assembly for deliberation.

Crime state/stats reveal children are not safe at schools

Today marks the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign, yet safe spaces for South African children continue to diminish.

The crimes statistics for the second quarter of 2022/23 revealed the horrifying reality of 83 rapes and 19 murders committed on the premises of educational facilities, including primary, secondary and high schools, day care facilities, special schools and tertiary institutions. There were 6 rapes at day care centres, 5 at special needs schools and tertiary institutions and 67 at schools.

The DA will submit parliamentary questions to determine how many of these heinous incidents involved learners, teachers and staff.

Given South Africa’s pervasiveness of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) and the revelation from Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) earlier this year that 90 037 girls aged 10 to 19 years gave birth between March 2021 to April 2022, it is extremely disturbing that 258 cases of assault/grievous bodily harm (GBH) and 22 cases of attempted murder occurred on educational premises.

Given the 411 gang-related incidents reported the Department of Basic Education in 2022, it is clear that schools have become a battleground.

The DA will also ask the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, how many of South Africa’s schools have received training on the National School Safety Framework (NSSF) and how implementation is monitored.

Decisive intervention is urgently needed – a 16 Day-campaign once a year will do little to change the circumstances of millions of women and children trapped in daily violence. The ANC government needs to move beyond beautiful speeches and empty promises to boots on the ground implementation of programmes that will equip women and children to break free from the tormentors they face every single day. Without political will from the governing party, the bloodbath will continue.

Poor rural infrastructure adds to the woes of farmers’ high input inflation cost

Increasing agricultural input costs continue to weigh heavily on South African producers, especially farmers who farm in the most remote rural areas of the former homelands. Statistics released yesterday by StatsSA revealed that the South African agricultural sector experienced a staggering 12.4% year-on-year increase in production costs.

Much of the input inflation is driven by significant increases in the prices of fuel, fertiliser, transport, and feed. A highly inflexible regulatory environment, soaring electricity prices and perpetual energy blackouts have added to the woes of South African farmers.

Poorly maintained infrastructure has seen some farmers opting to leave the municipality where there is poor road infrastructure, unreliable water supply and poor services from the municipality. These elements also contributed to the high agriculture input costs.

Despite the high inflation, the agricultural sector of South Africa expanded by 8.3% in 2021, which is the second consecutive year of strong performance following 13.4% growth in 2020. This reflects the resilience of agriculture during a most challenging period.

These costs have a big impact on farming processes where farmers might be forced to cut down on the size of production, fertilisers and feeds which could be detrimental to the quality of food being produced. Even farmers with a strong cashflow, will be forced to increase the selling price of the product they produce just to break even. The current situation constitutes a danger to national food security.

Government’s support for farmers has weakened with poor infrastructure that exacerbated the costs of doing business. The significant gap between investment in farming communities by government and cost of doing business by farmers has increased significantly with farmers spending heavily to maintain some of the municipal infrastructures. There is no ease of doing agri for many upcoming farmers in South Africa as they battle the incompetent government.

Now more than ever, farmers need government support to cushion farmers from high agriculture input costs to stop them from passing the costs to the consumers that are already battling with food crises. A prosperous South Africa starts with the availability of food. To ensure this, we as the DA understand that we must nurture our farmers, only they can ensure that South Africa steers clear of a food shortage crisis.

The DA calls on the government to urgently review its support to the agriculture sector to ease inflation. The DA is going to request that Minister Thoko Didiza appears before the portfolio committee in the new year to account for the actions that she has taken to ease pressure on farmers in relation to poor road infrastructure, water crises, failing municipalities and a poorly maintained biological sector. There is a potential to cut costs of doing business by addressing these areas.

DA Takes on Companion Animal Breeding Crisis

The DA is  in the process of drafting a Private Member’s Bill (PMB) which will outline proposed breeding and welfare regulations pertaining to both dogs and cats. The proposed regulations will provide a national standard for responsible breeding and ownership of dogs and cats which will increase protection for both humans and animals.

In light of the recent spate of maulings, we send our deep condolences to the families of the victims for the trauma this has inflicted on the families and their communities.

This loss of life could have been avoided had the government adopted national regulations on the breeding and keeping of dogs, especially power breeds, in response to the call from civil society and South Africans that have been voiced for years.

We also condemn any call to inflict violence on dog breeds as has been agitated by other political parties. Cruelty towards animals is illegal and any individual engaged in any criminal activities towards animals must be held accountable.

The root cause of the irresponsible proliferation of power breeds, such as pit bulls, can be traced back to the absence of national laws to regulate the breeding and responsible ownership of dogs.

With no national regulations to govern the breeding and welfare of dogs and cats, this legislative gap has resulted in an animal welfare crisis that has been unfolding for years across South Africa and is directly responsible for the population explosion of stray, surrendered, neglected and confiscated animals. The recent pit bull maulings have brought the consequences of an absence of regulations into sharp focus, as power breeds, and specifically pit bulls, have long been weaponized, abused, and bred for dog fighting and other illicit activities.

Our bill will propose a number of regulations which will speak to:

  •  The breeding and keeping of power breeds (especially pit bulls)
  • The responsible and humane breeding of dogs and cats
  • The companion animal overpopulation crisis (dogs and cats)
  • Responsible Ownership and Duty of Care
  • Companion Animal Welfare

As the DA, we will be engaging with stakeholders and civil society to draft comprehensive regulations that will seek to prevent any further loss of life in our communities and fatalities of companion animals.

An Open Letter to Minister Pravin Gordhan

Dear Minister Gordhan,

Following your last-minute intervention to block my oversight visit of the Kusile power station on Wednesday, and your subsequent comments in the media afterwards, I would like to set the record straight on a few things.

Obstructing oversight is the oldest trick in the ANC government’s book. Your party has always considered Parliament’s constitutionally-mandated oversight role as a hinderance and a threat, rather than a critical function of democracy. Wednesday’s hastily arranged blockade was not about you suddenly being a stickler for protocol, as you claimed in the media. No one stopped our Public Enterprises Shadow Minister when he performed a similar oversight visit to the same power station earlier this year.

Nor was it about the supposed busy schedule of Eskom senior management that morning, as you also tried to claim. We’d made arrangements and were granted permission for the visit by the CEO himself on the Tuesday morning. In addition, my Chief of Staff visited Kusile at midday on the Tuesday and was assured by the Stakeholder Manager that our visit was in order. The notion that we just pitched up and were denied is untrue.

You only hastily intervened to block us because thorough oversight is toxic to the ANC government, and particularly to a failed department like yours. You view parliamentarians who do their jobs by shining a light on corruption, mismanagement and bad policy as the enemy. To you, Parliament should be nothing more than a rubber stamp for ANC policy. But I’m afraid that’s not going to happen, not as long as the DA has members in the National Assembly.

The second-oldest trick in the ANC book is to shift the blame for its own failures to others, and lately these “others” are quite often within its own ranks. I see President Ramaphosa is now repeating a similar line that you used back in September, when you claimed that you (presumably meaning one version of the ANC) inherited the Eskom mess from what we’re supposed to believe is a different version of ANC. And yesterday President Ramaphosa repeated this bizarre excuse when he blamed “historical issues” for the power utility’s woes.

That would be funny if it weren’t so serious. There is only one ANC, and you and the president and most of your cabinet colleagues have been part of that ANC government all along. You didn’t inherit anything, you are simply reaping the whirlwind of your own party’s gross mismanagement, relentless looting and suicidal policies. If you supported cadre deployment at Eskom, this is your mess. If you supported BEE and preferential procurement at Eksom, this is your mess. If you supported measures to block or delay independent power producers, this is your mess. And if you voted, time and time again, to shield the president whose cronies were bleeding Eskom dry, this is your mess.

But surely your most disingenuous comment yesterday was when you said the DA has no solutions for the energy crisis and only criticism. Even as you were speaking those words, you must have known full well than no one has offered more constructive solutions to South Africa’s energy crisis over the past decade than the DA. I challenge you to scroll through the timeline at keepthelightson.co.za, where we keep a log of our inputs and activism on the energy crisis, and then publicly repeat your statement that the DA has offered you no solutions.

Allow me to list some of these proposed solutions, all of which you have either dismissed or simply ignored during your time in office:

  • Declare a ring-fenced State of Disaster in the electricity sector in order to suspend all legislation currently blocking solutions to this crisis;
  • Issue a blanket Section 34 determination so that all municipalities in good financial standing can procure, generate and store their own electricity;
  • Incentivise and ease the regulations on small-scale embedded generation such as rooftop solar;
  • Waive all local content requirements for electricity procurement. The only priority now is restoring our supply;
  • Waive all preferential procurement requirements. Only the quickest and cheapest solutions will do, and we cannot afford the extra layer of cost that BEE adds;
  • Establish an Emergency Electricity Commission or a War Cabinet, headed up by a power utility specialist, to deal with the crisis;
  • Update the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). In its current (2019) guise it is based on entirely incorrect assumptions on additional energy sources and available Eskom capacity;
  • Establish an Independent System Market Operator so that the transmission grid can be run separately from Eskom;
  • Aggressively pursue new generation capacity from diverse sources and technologies;
  • Establish proper governance structures to oversee the foreign funding for our transition away from fossil fuels;
  • Invest in grid infrastructure and system upgrades – this is as important as new generation;
  • Build more storage capacity. Investing in the technology of batteries and other forms of storage (such as pumped storage) will take a lot of pressure off Eskom;
  • Deal with sabotage through integrated security and intelligence measures, and by vigorously prosecuting the treasonous saboteurs;
  • Employ engineers qualified in electricity generation and cut the dead wood at Eskom;
  • Ramp up maintenance on Eskom’s generation fleet. Fixing just half of the utility’s broken generation capacity will end load-shedding; and
  • Review all Eskom coal contracts to eradicate corruption and ensure best-price contracts.

You will find a record of all of these proposed solutions and many more at the link I shared above. There you will also find reference to our Independent Electricity Management Operator (IEMO) Bill (also known as the Cheaper Electricity Bill) which we asked you to support in Parliament. If you were genuinely interested in saving South Africa from this electricity crisis, you had many opportunities to reach across the aisle and accept our help. This was offered in good faith and with good intentions.

The DA constantly engages your government with plans and solutions, not as a “party political football” as you cynically claim, but because that is our job as opposition. And on Wednesday I drove out to Kusile to do my job as a member of Parliament – a job which all 400 of us who sit in those benches share. But even if only some of us are prepared do this, it must and will still happen.

If we are to beat this crisis, I would urge you to focus on doing your job, rather than trying to prevent me from doing mine.

Yours sincerely,

John Steenhuisen

Leader of the Official Opposition

Democratic Alliance

Auditor General’s new powers ‘dead on arrival’ due to delays in concluding investigations

Amendments to the Public Audit Act, that came into effect in April 2019 with the express purpose of giving the Auditor-General (AG) power to take remedial action against government entities flagged for material irregularities, are at risk of being rendered useless by law enforcement agencies and other public bodies that are taking too long to conclude cases referred to them for investigation by the AG.

In her report tabled in Parliament yesterday titled ‘Material irregularities in National and Provincial government’, the AG revealed that it is taking, on average, close to two years for law enforcement agencies such as the Hawks, SAPS, State Attorney, Special Investigating Unit and Competition Commission to conclude cases referred to them for investigation.

The DA has written to the Chairperson on the Standing Committee on the Auditor-General, Sakhumuzi Somoyo, requesting that he invites heads of the aforementioned agencies to come and account to Parliament on why they are failing to conclude their investigations timeously to enable the recovery of public resources from offending parties.

With the AG confirming that over R12 billion has been lost by the state over the 2021/2022 audit reporting period, the failure to conclude material irregularity cases on time ‘hampers the timeous recovery of financial losses, consequence management processes and criminal proceedings’.

In fact, due to the lengthy time taken to finalize investigations against suppliers flagged for irregular business conduct with government departments, some suppliers have had the audacity to liquidate their businesses to avoid having their assets attached and liquidated. Offending parties are essentially ‘gaming the system’ in open mockery to the new AG powers which were meant to hold them accountable for abusing taxpayer money.

Without mincing her words, the AG made it clear in her report that the state is unable to recover financial resources and institute consequence management against officials because:

  • Investigations by public bodies (e.g. the SIU and Hawks) take long to conclude;
  • Suppliers are often liquidated before any recoveries can commence;
  • There are delays in the financial recovery processes by the State Attorney;
  • Delays is in disciplining officials responsible for material irregularities – either the investigation to identify the responsible officials takes too long or the disciplinary processes against implicated officials are delayed.

In order to ensure that the AG’s newly acquired powers do not become a footnote in the public consequence management ecosystem, the Standing Committee has to come to the party and heed the AG’s call in which she calls ‘on committees in Parliament and the provincial legislatures to continue to advocate for action by accounting officers and authorities and their executive authorities, while also paying attention to the problems experienced by public bodies in playing their role in the accountability ecosystem’. Failure to act will breed impunity and sustained abuse of public resources by public service employees and suppliers with ill intent.

The Incapable ANC government is responsible for the SARB needing to hike rates

Please find attached soundbite by Dr Dion George MP.

Today the Reserve Bank Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) announced that the repo rate will be increased by 75 basis points. This means that the cost of servicing debt will increase and reduce disposable income at a time when South African households are already battling a government induced cost-of-living crisis.

The announcement comes as a measure to contain the unprecedent levels of inflation consumers have experienced in recent months. The shocking inflation statistics released yesterday by StatsSA revealed that year on year food prices increased by 12% while transport prices increased by 17%.

The price of bread, a basic food item, has increased by nearly 20%.

The upward spiralling cost-of-living is the direct consequence of the ANC’s incoherent economic policies that get in the way of economic growth. In inflationary times, fiscal policies are required to soften the impact of rising prices, yet, in his mid-term budget, the Minister of Finance did nothing and never once mentioned the cost of living crisis. Instead he bailed out bankrupt state owned enterprises, again.

If the ANC Government had a more effective economic framework our economy would be able to grow, and monetary policy would not need to tighten as much as it has. The SARB’s latest response is largely a consequence of government failure to implement effective fiscal policy.

To combat the cost-of-food crisis and alleviate pressure on lower income South African households the DA has proposed to cut the fuel levy and expand the zero-VAT rated food basket to include items as bone-in chicken, beef, tinned beans, wheat flour, margarine, peanut butter, baby food, tea, coffee, and soup powder. VAT on these items disproportionately impact the poorest 50% of South Africans who are already battling to put food on the table.

The Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, has rejected the DA’s proposals. In this blatant electioneering attempt the Minister continued to favour his ANC cadres by opting to provide additional funding for the party’s patronage networks.

It is clear that government doesn’t care about the reality of hunger and starvation in South Africa. The DA will not allow this to continue. We will increase pressure on Government to implement workable economic policies to get our economy on the path to growth and to  urgently address the cost of living crisis, especially the cost of food.