DA welcomes public reception to the Cyber Commissioner Bill

The DA welcomes the overwhelming public response to the party’s proposed Cyber Commissioner Bill.

Following the DA’s publication of its Notice of Intention to Introduce the Constitution Eighteenth Amendment Bill or the “Cyber Commissioner” Bill, the DA has received comments from all corners of society.

Furthermore, the party is encouraged by the widespread media interest shown in the objectives of the Cyber Commissioner Bill.

The DA will now begin considering all comments received ahead of the introduction of the Cyber Commissioner Bill into Parliament next year.

The DA’s proposed Cyber Commissioner Bill will seek to establish a new Chapter 9 institution tasked with supporting and strengthening constitutional democracy through advising, monitoring and establishing cyber security capability in the public sector, while also working with tertiary institutions and the public sector to establish minimum good standards and building cyber security capacity.

The office of the Cyber Commissioner will assist the state in modernising its cyber security capabilities and protecting the South African public against loss of personal information and interception of data.

It has become increasingly clear that South African state departments are not sufficiently protected against cyber threats. The Postbank recently revealed in Parliament that it has lost over R18 million to cybercrime attacks in a 3 month period. It was also revealed earlier this year that the Postbank had suffered a loss of at least R90 million in a cybercrime attack in October 2021.

South Africa urgently needs a dedicated Cyber Commissioner to enhance public sector cyber security capabilities. The DA will be providing further details on the Cyber Commissioner Bill in early 2023.

Home Affairs turning foreign nationals into illegal immigrants

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Adrian Roos MP.

The Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) failure to address the systematic delays in its visa adjudication processes is turning foreign nationals who have pending applications into illegal immigrants and discouraging highly skilled talent from considering South Africa as a work destination.

A reply to a DA parliamentary question has revealed that the DHA is currently sitting on a backlog of 56 543 across all visa categories and they are only expecting to clear this backlog by June 2024.

The DA is calling on the Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, to immediately consider capacitating the Department’s visa adjudication processes, through additional staff if needs be, to not only reduce the current backlog but to ensure that delays in adjudicating applications are reduced as a matter of urgency.

Meanwhile, some foreign nationals whose visas have expired while waiting for the outcome of their applications have essentially been turned into illegal immigrants and are at huge risk of having their bank accounts closed. In certain cases, they cannot leave the country until the outcome of their applications have been issued.

Motsoaledi is constantly raising the problem of illegal immigrants in the country but his Department is playing an active role in making the problem worse though delays in issuing decisions on visa applications, with some applicants claiming that they have been waiting for outcomes for two to three years.

For highly skilled individuals who may want to come to South Africa and make a contribution to our economy, these Home Affairs delays are enough to discourage them. Currently, there is a competition for global talent to build successful knowledge economies and South Africa is evidently losing out due to Home Affairs’ own inefficiency.

South Africa might as well discard its scarce skills list because the inefficiency of our immigration system is a huge disincentive to prospective highly skilled individuals. It’s evident that even President Cyril Ramaphosa’s commitment to make it easy for skilled individuals to come to South Africa is a pipe dream as Home Affairs continues to be the stumbling block.

Unless the Department of Home Affairs takes urgent steps to address the visa adjudication delays and backlog, South Africa will continue to lose its competitiveness as destination for highly skilled individuals looking for countries where they can make a contribution in the economy.

Senior public servant earning more than R 1 million per annum moonlights as municipal councillor

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP.

Following a revelation by the DA in September this year that nearly 300 public servants, across the public service, are moonlighting as municipal councillors, the DA can further reveal that a senior public servant earning over R 1 million per annum, at salary level 13, is one of these public servants.

This information was revealed in a written reply, by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), to DA Parliamentary questions on, among other things, the positions and salary levels of the implicated public servants and whether disciplinary steps will be taken, by the affected departments, against those public servants who did not obtain the requisite written permission from the relevant Executive Authority (EA) when assuming the position of municipal councillor.

The written reply, also revealed that soon after the DA made the revelation in September, the DPSA wrote letters to the affected departments requesting they indicate the public servants in their employ which are moonlighting as municipal councillors by 14 October 2022. However, by the due date, out of the more than 80 affected departments, a total of only three departments (one national department and two provincial departments) had provided this information.

Further according to the written reply, the DPSA has shared all the relevant information, on the implicated public servants, with the Accounting Officers of the affected departments so that disciplinary action can be instituted against those public servants who did not obtain the requisite written permission.

Although the DPSA has undertaken to monitor the situation and report on it, it remains to be seen if more affected departments will provide the requested information after the DPSA extended the deadline for providing the information to 14 December 2022.

It also remains to be seen how many of the affected departments will institute disciplinary action against those public servants who did not obtain the requisite written permission as well as take legal steps to recover the remuneration they received as municipal councillors.

The DA calls on the DPSA to continue monitoring the situation closely and also ensure the affected departments not only take disciplinary action against those public servants who did not obtain the requisite written permission but also take legal steps to recover the remuneration they received as municipal councillors.

Mbalula must account for communication blackout

Note to editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Chris Hunsinger MP

The DA will lodge a formal request to Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula to explain the circumstances following what appears to be a collapsed aviation communication support system under the control of Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS), an entity under the Department of Transport.

Aviation stakeholders reported the loss in transmissions by the controller-pilot data link communications (CPDLC), between aircraft and the Johannesburg Oceanic flight information region (FIR) control centre, stating that there is no contact available via either of the two conventional communication methods. The CPDLC system which works like SMS communication on cellphones is used by aircraft to communicate with ground control staff and vice versa.

The collapse of this system also revealed that the back-up system which is a conventional High Frequency Voice-communication system has been broken and not repaired for close to a year. Without both systems pilots and ground control had no way of communicating with each other.

This communication “blackout” raises serious concerns with regard to air traffic safety and is a serious breach of the international obligation which South Africa and ATNS must uphold for aviation safety in three different flight information zones.

The airspace which has been delegated to SA by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the United Nations, should be treated with the utmost responsibility as a global stakeholder in the global aviation industry. Safety, of which communication and ground support are integral parts, cannot be compromised.

Power outages are an ongoing issue in South Africa and while airports remain unaffected, directly the CPDLC outage coincided with a breakdown of several ESKOM powerplants. Mbalula will need to give assurance that this was not as a result of loadshedding.

While fruitless and wasteful expenditure at ATNS has had an annual year-on-year increase over the last four financial years, ending with a loss of R378 million in the past financial year, they intend to approach the government for financial support. In former years ATNS showed cash reserves of over R1.5 billion.

The DA will demand reasons why this communication breakdown has occurred and why this wasn’t repaired immediately. Why the backup system wasn’t available and what are the reasons for not having this fixed? The DA will also enquire why ATNS hasn’t published its Contingency Plan to help pilots work out what to expect when flying through our oceanic airspace while not being able to contact air traffic control (ATC).

Public servant on suspension with full pay for a solid 4 years

According to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), one of the 305 public servants currently on suspension, with full pay, has been suspension for a solid 4 years.

This worrying revelation is contained in a written reply by the DPSA to DA Parliamentary questions on, amongst other things, how long each of the 305 public servants currently on suspension, with full pay, and costing the South African tax payer more than R130 million, have been on suspension and the reasons for their suspensions.

The written reply also revealed that a public servant in the Department of Defence has been on suspension for 3 years (1157 days) for stealing state rations; followed by a public servant in the Department of Health that has been on suspension for 2 and a half years for fraud (930 days); and a senior public servant in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development that has been on suspension for 2 years (778 days) for negligence.

At a provincial department level – a public servant in the Gauteng Department of Economic Development has been on suspension for 4 years (1604 days) for fraud, followed by 3 public servants in the Northern Cape Department of Education that have been on suspension for 2 to 3 years for the sexual harassment of learners.

Given that the written reply contains a number of gaps in relation to information on provinces such as the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, it is highly possible that some provincial departments have public servants that have been on suspension for longer than 4 years.

The DA, accordingly, reiterates its calls for the DPSA, as the custodian of policy and prescripts in the public service, to urgently develop and implement a discipline management strategy that will assist government departments to finalise disciplinary cases within the 90 day period stipulated and prescribed by the Public Service Regulations.

It is grossly unfair that, year in and year out, the already burdened South African tax payer continues to pay a heavy price for the ongoing discipline management crisis in the public service.

STRAIGHT TALK: uMngeni chose progress and South Africa can too

uMngeni chose progress and South Africa can too

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The story of uMngeni shows that we can fix South Africa and get it working for everyone – and get everyone working. Road by road, streetlight by streetlight, DA Mayor Chris Pappas and Deputy Mayor Sandile Mnikathi along with their team and many helpful residents are fixing uMngeni. This beautiful KwaZulu Natal Midlands municipality, home to towns such as Howick, Mpophomeni and Hilton, is the first ever to be run by the DA in the province. After just one year since taking over from the ANC, the difference between uMngeni and other KZN municipalities is already striking. Here is a taste of the real, tangible progress that has been achieved for residents so far. Prioritising the poor and youth

Since the DA took over last year, the number of households receiving free basic services has gone up from 133 to 3 005, a 22-fold increase. The budget allocated to develop young people has been increased by 50% to R1.5 million. And a lot of effort and resources have been targeted at fixing roads and other infrastructure in poor, rural areas such as Shifu, Emashingeni and Hhaza. Cleaning up

To improve waste collection and reduce impact on the environment, they’ve procured a new refuse collection truck and TLB (tractor loader backhoe), with more such vehicles planned once finances allow. To address littering and illegal dumping, they’ve employed 60 people for a 6-month period. They’ve also supplied their NPO partners with 25 temporary workers for cleanup and gardening purposes. Fixing infrastructure

This is a massive challenge due to decades of neglect. The first priority has been to fix high-use roads, so they almost doubled the road maintenance budget, from R11 million to R21 million. A lot of pothole-fixing and stormwater clearing has been undertaken and R4 million has been budgeted to retrofit LED streetlights. Fixing the finances

R25,5 million of debt has been recovered so far and after only 11 months, the municipality paid back R10.4 million of loans leaving uMngeni debt-free and saving rate payers R450 000 in interest each year. Bringing law and order

Recognising that law and order is the essential foundation for a functional municipality, they are building a vehicle pound that will double up as the official offices and base for uMngeni Traffic, beefing up their CCTV and LNPR camera systems, and training more traffic officers. They’ve also expanded their contracted security services and undertaken an extensive repair of street lights, to deter crime. Creating work and jobs

To grow tourism jobs, they have begun the process of redeveloping the Howick Falls as a major attraction. Since November 2021, the administration has also created 230 employment opportunities and added 16 new permanent staff members. The budget to assist small-scale farmers has been doubled from R300 000 to R600 000, while the budget to assist SMMEs has been more than doubled, from R130 000 to R300 000. A clean, orderly, working municipality leads to job creation, because people feel confident about the future, and so they invest. When you fix a pothole, you don’t just restore the road, you restore people’s faith in the future. This is the most important way for any municipality to drive job creation. Being open and fair

Their goal is to be transparent, so all council meetings are open to the public and as much information as possible is published on the municipal website so that the public can scrutinise everything. Employment opportunities are provided in a transparent and fair manner, and no longer to the politically connected. Temporary employment opportunities are allocated using a randomised selection process. Conclusion

This is just the beginning and there is an enormous amount of fixing and building still to be done. But it’s happening, one bite at a time. In four years’ time at the end of their first term in office, uMngeni will be an island of order and progress in a sea of chaos and decline. It will be a beacon of hope and a shining example of what’s possible elsewhere. uMngeni chose the DA difference. In the next general election, the whole of South Africa can too.

Losses due to continuous blackouts overshadow any supposed economic growth

This year is the most intensive load shedding year to date and the effects of the latest high-level rolling blackouts in South Africa are wreaking havoc on fundamental sectors of the economy.

This week it was announced that South Africa narrowly escaped a technical recession. However, despite economic activity having rebounded slightly (which highlighted an environment of pent-up demand), rolling blackouts make it increasingly difficult for any business sector to up its activity as both large and small businesses in all sectors across the country are experiencing the effects of load-shedding on their performance.

Recent estimates suggest that economic losses for 2022 due to continuous blackouts have scaled up to R 950 billion. With no end to Eskom’s woes in sight, the damage to the South African economy is set to breach R 1 trillion before year end for 2022 alone. This is the inevitable result of the ANC’s approach to management which emphasises the removal of competent people, their replacement with party loyalists, and the pursuit of the extraction of wealth to feed cadre deployment networks.

The South African economy is facing an unprecedented scenario as load shedding not only impacts food security and mobile networks, but entire business sectors and industries. Losses in the manufacturing and finance sectors have both been estimated at more than R 200 billion for this year, with the transport and mining sectors not far behind.

The power utility’s problems set a hard cap on South Africa’s growth potential and GDP growth per year is therefore unlikely to breach the already low 2% level anytime soon. As a consequence, South Africa experiences less substantive economic activity, lower confidence and investment, fewer job opportunities, and soaring costs of living.

When factors such as population growth, interest rates, and upwards spiralling inflation are taken into account, South Africa have effectively become poorer as a result and can no longer afford to burden the economic cost of an ANC manufactured electricity crisis. The effects of which compound exponentially by the day.

The response to the electricity crisis must now be treated as a matter of National Security. Accordingly, the DA has resubmitted our request for a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom, which will enable disaster relief funding to be sourced from other departments and government resources, to be placed on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting.

The ANC and Eskom have effectively become the most destructive force the South African economy has ever experienced as rolling blackouts are evidently a threat to national security, at economic and social levels.

Our economic growth for next year is expected to be amongst the lowest in Africa. If Eskom is left to its own, without the participation of other Independent Energy Producers in the energy market, there is no way that South Africa can aspire to growth numbers and economic expansion that come near other emerging markets. The implications for employment, taxation, the budget deficit, living standards of South Africans and country wide political stability are very serious.

South Africans have been misled. There is no workable solution to the electricity crisis under an ANC government. The South African economy and therefore livelihoods of millions of South Africans are at great risk. The DA reiterates that the national focus should be on finding short term solutions to stabilize energy supply and calls for the urgent implementation of energy sector reforms as proposed by the DA.

Health Department owes R3 billion in outstanding accruals

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.

The Department of Health owes more than R3 306 151 427,65 in outstanding accruals across six of the provinces.

This, as well as the fact that these provinces had failed to pay 1 750 service providers, was revealed by the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, in answer to a written parliamentary question from the DA.

The outstanding accruals is likely much more as the Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga failed to provide the necessary information.

The Department of Health’s disturbing trend of apparently trying to dodge accountability seems to have pulled through to the provinces. Gauteng is a nest of corruption and scandal – certainly not a province that should be allowed to evade accountability. Nor should any of the provinces.

The fact that Minister Phaahla was unable to get the simplest of information from three of the provinces is as clear an indication as any that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill, which the ANC is trying to bulldoze through Parliament, will be nothing but a bureaucratic nightmare that will overwhelm an already failing public health system.

More and more stories of corruption and mismanagement are reported almost daily, yet consequence management isn’t properly implemented. The public health system has no hope of survival if those that abuse it are not brought to book. Maybe the Minister could start by questioning why the Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga Provincial Health Departments failed to supply information and ensuring that this does not happen again.

South Africans cannot possibly trust the ANC government with the immense structural reform that the NHI requires when the continuously fail in even the simplest of things, like paying service providers on time, ensuring that hospital infrastructure are maintained, filling critical vacant posts, and answering simple questions with information that should be on hand if the correct systems were in place.

Vote DA so we can rebuild Ditsobotla together

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by John Steenhuisen MP.  Please see pictures here, here, here, here and here.

Today I am in Lichtenburg, North West joined by DA activists and public representatives as we campaign ahead of a crucial by-election in the Ditsobotla Local Municipality. I am engaging with residents and business owners, and joining local community organisations to fill potholes and assess the dismal state of this municipality under the ANC. Ditsobotla was dissolved due to intensified factional battles within the ANC government which threatened to tear the municipality apart.

The DA is here to kick the ANC out, and usher in a DA government to begin the vital work of rebuilding this once vibrant North West town. In the 2021 Local Government Elections, the ANC only won 52% of the vote in Ditsobotla, winning by a very slim majority. We can break the ANC’s majority in Ditsobotla, and usher in a coalition of real change and delivery.

After almost 3 decades of corruption and neglect under the ANC, Ditsobotla is now a broken municipality. The local agricultural sector and small business are suffering under the weight of service delivery collapse and poor infrastructure maintenance, especially around water and sanitation, electricity, and roads. This has led to disinvestment and a rapid economic slump which have plunged residents into unemployment, despair, and misery. The ANC has failed the people of Ditsobotla for decades.

Where the DA governs in local municipalities across South Africa such as Umngeni in Kwazulu-Natal, Midvaal in Gauteng, and Kouga in the Eastern Cape, we are delivering for residents and getting things done.

In Umngeni we settled the ANC’s legacy of municipal debt within our first year of office, and rapidly expanded access to basic services while aggressively repairing public infrastructure. Midvaal and Kouga are the best-run municipalities in their respective provinces, where residents enjoy some of the highest access to basic services in South Africa, which sustain growing local economies and create much-needed jobs. We want to bring a better life filled with hope and opportunity for the people of Ditsobotla in a province that serves as a hallmark of ANC neglect.

As South Africa approaches a watershed General Election in 2024, we will see, for the very first time, the ANC lose its outright majority at a national level. But this is already happening in small towns across the country.

South Africans are tired of having no jobs, we are tired of not having electricity to run our businesses and our lives, and we are tired of living in towns and cities where money meant for services is stolen by connected ANC cadres and cronies. The ANC cannot save itself, and it cannot save South Africa. It is time for South Africa to enter into a new post-ANC era where we can truly realise the vision of a prosperous, opportunity-rich society for all.

The mission to achieve this starts here and now in places like Ditsobotla. We can no longer allow the ANC to run our towns and cities into the ground. Let us vote DA so that we can rebuild Ditsobotla together.

If Mantashe has nothing constructive to say, he must shut up!

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

The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, should be the last person to point fingers on the ongoing national electricity crisis as he carries equal responsibility for bringing the country to the brink of a national grid collapse. If anything, based on his disastrous record of constantly standing in the way of Independent Power Producers (IPPs), he should have resigned or been fired a long time ago.

In blame shifting comments that he made during the signing ceremony of Bid Window 5 projects yesterday, Mantashe appears to absolve himself of any responsibility for the current loadshedding nightmare and instead accuses Eskom of “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state”. These inflammatory comments are unbecoming of a Cabinet Minister and the DA condemns them with the contempt that they deserve.

Perhaps if Mantashe was doing his job, we would have a lot more electricity being generated. His fixation on Eskom comes at the detriment of ordinary South Africans who are waiting in vain for him to accelerate the procurement of new generation capacity, incentivise the uptake of small scale embedded generation and streamline the regulatory environment that is strangling investment in our electricity sector.

It exposes his continued bias against renewable energy and his ongoing overreach for more power – through his repeated “hints” that Eskom should be under his control.

Increasing generation capacity falls directly under his purview and the fact that he has failed to add significant new generation power to the grid speaks volumes about his dismal record as the Minister of Energy. Together with his counterpart, Pravin Gordhan, they must take collective responsibility for standing by while the country hurtled towards an energy emergency.

It doesn’t help that the country now sits with a lame duck President in Cyril Ramaphosa, who, in his quest to evade accountability on the Phalaphala scandal, will rather choose to keep a failing Mantashe in the energy portfolio as political payback for protecting him against the ANC’s toxic factional fights.

If Mantashe has nothing to offer in addressing the ongoing electricity emergency, he should tender his resignation immediately instead of making a bad situation worse with his unhelpful comments.