South Africans continue to reel from the effects of load shedding

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP

South Africa passed 200 days of power cuts in 2022 on Tuesday (27 December), with more to come. This represented 55% of the days in the year.

On top of this, Eskom is implementing Rotational Geographic Load shedding nationwide to circumvent the court order which ordered that paying customers cannot be prejudiced by inter-governmental disputes between Eskom and non-paying municipalities.

The impact on ordinary people and businesses is almost immeasurable. This intolerable state of affairs continues despite the ability of many municipalities to distinguish between paying and non-paying customers.

The Democratic Alliance will consider the best legal course of action on a local and national level to address this crisis and will demand transparency from the utility about its rate and volume of diesel burn; the schedule and timeframe for fixing and bringing onstream broken units and the prognosis for the country’s electrical supply as we enter 2023.

This is the least ordinary people and businesses need to understand and plan for what portends to be yet another annus horribilis on the electricity front.

In the interim, all DA public representatives will hold Eskom local, regional and national functionaries to account in an effort to ensure some light in what promises to be a very dark tunnel.

It’s time government, as the sole shareholder, briefed the nation comprehensively on the future of electricity in our country.

DA mourns with victims of Boksburg gas tanker explosion

Today, as most of us are preparing for Christmas celebrations with family and loved ones, the families of the victims claimed by the gas tanker explosion in Boksburg, during the early hours of this morning, are facing a much bleaker reality.

We wish to convey our sincere condolences to those who have lost loved ones and a speedy recovery to those still in recuperation following the horrific incident.

The DA thanks everyone who has aided in dealing with this tragedy.

We are reminded of how valuable time with those closest to us are especially during this season.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all during this trying time.

Eskom compounds electricity crisis with additional rotational loadshedding

Please find attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP

As if loadshedding that fluctuates between stage 4 and stage 6 is not of sufficient concern and impact on South Africans, Eskom is now implementing additional rotational loadshedding to penalize non-paying municipalities. This means that ordinary households and businesses in the run-up to Christmas and New Year are having to operate with extended periods of blackouts – at considerable extra cost and inconvenience.

This additional rotational loadshedding schedule is implemented on a geographical basis and also affects customers directly supplied by Eskom, even those who are up to date with their accounts. This is being implemented despite a court ruling that paying customers cannot be prejudiced by inter-governmental disputes between Eskom and non-paying municipalities.

The DA has contacted Eskom for clarity on the matter but has received no response. In many areas water pumps, dependent on electricity to feed reservoirs are negatively impacted resulting in many places having no water for weeks.

The question is twofold: why is the exact nature of the problem and the measures being taken by Eskom not communicated to the nation and why are government ministers enjoying a brightly-lit festive season while South Africans who dutifully pay for electricity being excessively loadshed to the point of virtual darkness accompanied by the breakdown of other essential services dependent on power to operate?

DA welcomes commitment to implement polygraph testing for SANParks employees

The DA welcomes the SANParks board’s approval of polygraph testing for employees in an effort to combat the rampant ongoing poaching of South Africa’s endangered wildlife. The approval was confirmed in response to a DA question to Minister Barabara Creecy and after ongoing pressure from DA MPs. The Minister has now committed to fully implement the testing by the end of 2023 and the DA will be keeping a keen eye on progress to ensure that this happens.

The DA has been one of the strongest advocates for the use of polygraph testing as a means to hold SANParks employees to account. Our members in the National Assembly have raised the matter on numerous prior occasions through written questions and portfolio oversight. Plans to implement polygraph testing have unfortunately been stalled for many years, during which time thousands of endangered animals, in particular our rhinos have been poached.

The move will sadly come too late for the many rangers who have lost their lives to poachers and so many animals that have been the victims of collaboration between corrupt staff members in SANParks and the criminal underworld. The Minister must do all she can to compel the Minister of Police to work with Interpol to tackle these criminal networks, both in South Africa and abroad.

Defence Minister Modise is denying pension benefits to statutory forces

The proposed military veterans pensions benefits regulations policy signed by the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Thandi Modise on the 7th December 2022 for public comment is a complete marginalisation of other military veterans and is not in line with the Military Veterans Act no 18 of 2011.

The draft policy signed by the Minister to provide pension benefits to military veterans is only considering the non-statutory forces and has completely left out statutory forces.

These proposed pension benefits regulations are unfair unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights in our Constitution clearly states that everyone is equal before the law, has the right to protection and further stipulates that discrimination on one or more is unfair and

The DA finds it very disappointing that the Minister is undermining and failing to uphold the Military Veterans Act which clearly defines that the “Military Veterans means any South African Citizen (1) who rendered military service to any of the military organisations, statutory and non statutory forces which were involved in all sides of South Africa’s liberation’s War from 1960 to 1994, (2) who became the member of the South African National Defence Force after 1994” but in the draft the Minister only mentions the non-statutory forces of Umkhonto weSizwe and APLA. Another worrying question is why the South African Cape Corp has been left out in the draft.

This marginalisation of other military veterans by the Minister of Defence is totally unacceptable and inappropriate. Hence the DA will be writing to Minister demanding her to not undermine the Military Veterans Act of 2018 and do the right thing. We are furthermore concerned that the Department of Military Veterans has since 2011 to date been failing to implement the act and again is still failing with the regulations of rolling out pensions benefits.

We reiterate that the Minister must be steadfast and unwaveringly support the Act and our Constitution in order to accommodate all military veterans. The current draft military veterans pension benefits regulations policy should not be taken at its current status until all forces are included.

DA secures major concession in the fight to fix the broken discipline management system in the public service

Find attached a soundbite from Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP, DA Deputy Shadow Minister of Public Service and Administration

After months of pressure by the Democratic Alliance (DA) over the broken discipline management system in the public service where we, among other things, exposed instances of how some public servants have been on suspension for 4 years with full pay, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has subsequently written to the DA, informing us that it will be convening a whole of society roundtable, in 2023, the primary purpose of which will be to solicit inputs from various stakeholders on the strategies to improve and strengthen discipline management in the public service.

In the letter, dated 13 December 2022, the PSC also informs the DA that it has been having ongoing engagements with the Department of Public Service and Administration aimed at addressing the discipline management crisis in the public service.

The concession by the PSC comes after the DA revealed in November this year that there are currently 305 public servants on suspension with full pay and costing the tax payer R130 million. Following this revelation by the DA, we immediately wrote to the PSC and requested it to intervene in this glaring discipline management crisis in the public service.

The DA looks forward to offering actionable and concrete solutions to the discipline management crisis, in the public service, during this crucial whole of society roundtable. A key reform area would be to ensure that disciplinary cases are concluded within the prescribed time frames to avoid a waste of taxpayers’ money.

In October this year, Cabinet approved the National Framework towards the Professionalisation of the Public Sector ‘to ensure a responsive and professionalised public administration in the service of the people’. The lofty ambitions, set out in the Framework, will be difficult to achieve if our country’s public service remains bogged down by a perpetual backlog of disciplinary cases that distract from the actual business of delivering services to the public.

It is the DA’s sincere hope that the roundtable will not be another talk shop but will result in the solicited inputs informing the discipline management strategy of the DPSA.

South Africa’s state of readiness for the agriculture season is in crisis

A reply to a DA parliamentary question has revealed that despite the Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform (DALRRD) allocating R293 million to prepare and plant 83 849ha for the current planting season to assist smallholders farmers, only 12 128.3ha and 3 180.8ha has had their land preparation done and planted respectively across the country. However, the total amount of R218 million allocated towards this planting season has already been spent. This constitutes a total of 74% of the allocated budget.

According to the DALRRD, the breakdown allocation per commodity amounted to 84 000 hectares and was targeted for the planting of various commodities including grains, fruit and vegetables. However, only 14% of that land has been prepared for planting, with only 4% having been planted so far. This is an 86% failure rate. In provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Free State, Limpopo, Northern Cape and the Northwest, the targeted land has neither been prepared nor planted at all.

The DA is calling on Minister Thoko Didiza to urgently provide a national update on the steps that her Department is taking to address this impending crisis because the department’s budget is almost exhausted and departmental plans are far from being achieved.  South Africa cannot afford to miss its agricultural output targets, especially now when food inflation is at an all-time high.

With grains such as maize, dry beans, groundnuts, wheat, sunflower and sorghum forming part of the country’s staple food crops, it is profoundly worrying that Provinces with higher unemployment rates and food insecurity have either not begun preparing the land to plant them or haven’t started planting them despite the rainy season having started already. The Western Cape is the only Province that has managed to prepare and plant all its planned hectarage for the forthcoming season.

South Africa can only begin to drive down the cost of food if we increase the output of our staple agricultural commodities. For this to happen, Minister Didiza and her Department have to cancel their holiday plans and get working on addressing the stalled state of preparedness for the 2022/2023 agricultural season.

DA calls for a centralized university ombudsman system

The 2023 academic year is around the corner, but the challenges of 2022 has not been resolved making university spaces a breeding ground for conflict if grievances aren’t addressed.

It is very concerning that only 8 out of 26 universities have an ombud system where students, and academic and non-academic staff can raise concerns in a confidential setting.

The DA is calling on the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, to gather inputs from higher education institutions regarding a centralized university ombud system to all 26 universities.

The University Ombud should be seen as an impartial and confidential resource to address university related issues, complaints and concerns. The ombud work collaboratively with academic and general staff to help create a campus environment where matters raised are investigated and resolutions are facilitated. They act on request of parties, is not subjected to any imperative mandate and acts with autonomy and independently of all universities.

University of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes University, UNISA, Stellenbosch University, and Vaal University of Technology have ombud offices at the universities, while Nelson Mandela University outsource services of the ombud.

The disregard of the recommendation of the previous UCT ombud’s report in the behavior of the UCT Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, after numerous complaints received on the toxic work environment, is a point in question how an ombud can be perceived as overstepping its mandate. Had the complaints been tested through an internal investigation, UCT would not have faced governance challenges.

University ombud’s role is communicative in nature and include strategies such as active listening, giving hearing to feelings, defusing rage, giving advice, creating problem-solving and developing options, investigating facts findings and mediation.  These are approaches that will be needed to defuse any tensions before it escalated.

Another critical aviation infrastructure maintenance blunder by the ANC

In less than a week after the DA learnt of the collapse of our pilot-control-tower communication system and that the backup communications system has been broken for close to a year, more complaints have been reported of navigational and guidance support equipment that is not being maintained adequately.

According to reports received, the touchdown zone sensors on the aircraft runway pathways at OR Tambo in Johannesburg are broken and unrepaired since 6 December.

Touchdown zone sensors also known as RVR (Runway Visual Range) sensors are typically three sets of transmissometers located at the touch-down, mid-point and roll-out end of a runway. The transmissometer measures how much light still makes it through the atmosphere and determines how much visibility there is on the runway. These safety features are particularly valuable to aircraft in conditions of low visibility like fog, mist, precipitation, haze etc.

The touchdown zone for runway 03 has been left inoperative with no indication of when this will be fixed. While an international airport like OR Tambo should have at least one spare set of transmission meters it is unlikely that this will be fixed before the end of this year.

In the absence of such an automatic, electronic RVR report, during Low Visibility Procedures (LVOs) pilots are now going to rely on a human observer who will count the number of runway lights they can see and report this as the RVR, a manual RVR report.  Relying on a manual report poses a serious risk to aircraft operators that need to land.

The DA will add this transmissometers report to our concerns about the broken communication systems matter and demand a full technical explanation given the incident report Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) showing the problem as “Runway Touchdown Zone Lights Unserviceable”, instead of saying the electronic visibility sensors are broken.

The DA will ensure that Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula, be held accountable for the lack of maintenance and repairs to the country’s navigational and guidance support equipment at OR Tambo airport.

De Ruyter sacrificed at the altar of politics

André de Ruyter’s apparent sudden resignation as the CEO of Eskom is a reflection on Gwede Mantashe’s relentless campaign against a man who despite having one hand tied behind his back as he battled to get the utility on track – fighting corruption, debilitating policies and political interference – conducted a dutiful and responsible effort at the discharging of his duties.

Clearly his minister, Pravin Gordhan is powerless in the face of Mantashe and many in the RET faction who have been baying for his blood.

Yet again the factional shenanigans of the ANC are spilling over into the efficient running of key utilities and the results will be more than dire. At a time when de Ruyter needed all the support he could muster and a free hand to deal with the most pressing challenge facing the country, he has been sacrificed at the altar of political expediency, factionalism and racism.

The DA condemns this thinly-veiled “resignation” and repeats its call for bold emergency action to be taken to fix the ever-increasing problem of loadshedding. It’s time for a ring-fenced state of disaster to be declared around Eskom, governed independently by a panel of experts that ideally should include the former CEO who knows more than most what bedevils Eskom.