Tshwane Mayor: SA faces stark choice between service and self-interest

The DA whilst acknowledging the legitimate election of a new Executive Mayor in the City of Tshwane, condemns the underhanded dealings by which the ANC-EFF coalition of corruption and chaos recaptured control of the City.

The DA has fought for South Africans from opposition benches before today. A DA opposition is an ANC-EFF government’s worst nightmare. We will make the ANC-EFF coalition of chaos and corruption regret today’s shameless politicking to achieve through the backdoor what voters have denied them at the ballot box: the power to loot and leech whilst South Africans languish.

Parties in the Tshwane City Council today showed their true colours. The DA voted for Cilliers Brink to lead the Multi-Party Coalition in government. This was a vote for service delivery to residents, clean governance, and fiscal prudence. Unfortunately, other political parties put self-interest, patronage, and political opportunism above the people of Tshwane.

That today’s capture of local government was made possible by unaccountable minor political parties, vulnerable to the patronage and pressure of the coalition of corruption, drives home the urgent necessity for shoring up our country’s democracy through fair and reasonable thresholds for election to public offices.

The reality is dawning with painful clarity: South Africans face a choice between growth and corruption, delivery and thuggery, service or self-interest, the DA way or the ANC-EFF way.

DA’s Dr Leon Schreiber challenges Minister Patricia de Lille to a public debate after she pens open letter defending the Ministerial Handbook

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes that the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Patricia de Lille, has penned an open letter to the DA’s Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration, Dr Leon Schreiber. I can confirm that the letter was delivered to the DA digitally, presumably because the ANC government that De Lille is part of has destroyed the Post Office.

Nonetheless, I hereby acknowledge receipt of the Minister’s letter. Given the defense of ministerial perks contained in her letter, I hereby wish to respond by inviting Minister De Lille to publicly debate me over the ethics, morality and legality of the Ministerial Handbook. I am prepared to debate her on any day, at any venue, for any length of time and on any platform of her choosing.

If you genuinely believe the Ministerial Handbook is defensible, just name the time and place, Minister.

In her letter, De Lille defends the fact that the Ministers and Deputy Ministers who have run our country into the ground are currently living like rockstars in 97 mansions in Cape Town and Pretoria. The combined value of these 97 properties is nearly R1 billion, which means that the average value of the two homes used by each Cabinet cadre is R20 million. This is in addition to the four free luxury vehicles, VIP protection, free water and electricity, and other expensive perks they receive. De Lille’s department also recently spent R2.6 million to buy generators for these ministerial mansions to shield the ANC elite from the load-shedding crisis they created.

While it is accepted global practice for top government leaders such as the President, Deputy President and Premiers to occupy official residences – which are often located in heritage buildings or estates open to the public – De Lille is clearly unable to justify why each and every ANC Minister and Deputy Minister who presided over the collapse of every public service and government department in this country should continue to live like rockstars. This is especially true after former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter revealed that it is these very same Ministers who are sabotaging our country’s electricity supply for their own corrupt gains.

Instead, De Lille’s primary defense is that “this was a practice we inherited…since before 1994.” If one wants to see just how profoundly a spot at the feeding trough can erode one’s sense of basic ethics, just witness how Patricia de Lille now uses the pre-1994 regime as her moral standard. It is breathtaking to witness how, thirty years into our constitutional democracy, a Minister essentially says that “because the Apartheid government did it, we can also do it.”

De Lille’s secondary, and equally weak, defense, is that we should not question whether it is appropriate for people who have run our country into the ground to live like rockstars at taxpayer expense, because the Ministerial Handbook entitles them to live like this. There is however a serious problem with this cop-out: there is no law that provides for the existence of the Ministerial Handbook in the first place. Perks doled out by President Cyril Ramaphosa and Minister De Lille are, in effect, illegal.

To combat this illegal abuse of taxpayers by Ramaphosa’s government, the DA has already laid a complaint with the Public Protector. We have also introduced legislation to Parliament that will make the Ministerial Handbook subject to full parliamentary oversight and accountability. At the moment, the Handbook is nothing but a blank cheque for the ANC and its allies like De Lille to abuse taxpayers.

I look forward to the opportunity to publicly debate De Lille. It will provide an opportunity for the people of South Africa to witness the full depravity of a regime that lives in opulence while it robs ordinary people of access to life-saving basic services like electricity and clean drinking water.

QLFS: Fewer pointless cabinet committees and more jobs: Western Cape leads the way

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dr Michael Cardo MP.

The persistence of South Africa’s sky-high unemployment rate – reiterated by the release today of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for Q4 of 2022 – won’t be tackled until the ANC is ejected from the Union Buildings, and the DA becomes the governing party.

The DA-run Western Cape can proudly boast a quarter-on-quarter increase of 167 000 jobs (a rise of 6.9 percent), while gains in ANC-run provinces are either far more modest or non-existent.

The fact is that instead of being able to establish an environment conducive to job creation, all the ANC can do is establish yet another talk-shop. Its impact on employment is likely to be inversely proportional to the amount of hot air that it generates.

The Minister of Employment and Labour’s big idea, announced during the recent debate on the State of the Nation Address, is the establishment of an “Employment Creation Coordination Committee” to be chaired by the Deputy President.

The outcomes of this initiative are sure to be as successful as those of the “energy war room” chaired by Deputy President David Mabuza.

Meanwhile, load-shedding and the economic fallout of South Africa’s recent “greylisting” (coupled with the consequences of the ANC’s other failed economic policies) will continue to drive up unemployment and exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis.

Today’s QLFS reveals that the number of unemployed people increased by 28 000 to 7.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2022, while the number of discouraged jobseekers decreased by 151 000 to 3.36 million. The official unemployment rate declined by 0.2 of a percentage point from 32.9% in Q3:2022 to 32.7% in Q4:2022. According to the expanded definition of unemployment, the unemployment rate decreased by 0.5 of a percentage point to 42.6% in Q4:2022 compared to Q3:2022.

These marginal improvements are welcome, but they are hardly cause for celebration. Of particular concern is that there were 10.2 million young people aged 15-24 years in Q4:2022 who were not in employment, education or training (the so-called ‘NEETs’).

Joblessness poses the single greatest threat to our social fabric, and the ANC government doesn’t have a clue what to do about it.

The government should be focusing on an extensive programme of labour market reform so that the private sector can be freed up to employ predominantly low-skilled workers at scale.

Instead, the Minister of Employment and Labour is unilaterally imposing above-inflation minimum wage increases and convening meaningless committees. All the while unemployment continues to cast a sinister shadow over the nation.

DA tables urgent establishment of ad hoc parliamentary committee to investigate corruption at Eskom

Note to Editors: An Afrikaans voicenote is attached here and English here.  

I have today written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, to request the urgent establishment of an ad hoc parliamentary committee to investigate serious allegations of systemic ANC corruption at Eskom.

Ex-CEO Andre De Ruyter’s eNCA interview last week strongly suggests that Eskom power stations, the heartbeat of the nation’s economy, are under siege from a corrupt network of ANC-connected cartels. Some allegations point to the involvement of individuals who currently serve in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

The nation needs to know the full, unvarnished truth. The allegations suggest that the ANC is systematically sabotaging South Africa’s electricity system to further its own corrupt aims. If true, this is treason – an unforgivable betrayal of the country by the governing party.

Parliament needs to take the lead and institute a thorough inquiry into the full extent of the ANC’s criminal capture at Eskom. An ad hoc parliamentary committee will have the power to subpoena any individual it deems necessary to come before it for questioning, including Mr De Ruyter himself. The inquiry will have the power to provide recommendations for further action based on the testimonies and evidence gathered.

The question of whether to establish an ad hoc committee would be debated and voted on in the plenary of 16 March 2023.

The ANC has been vocal in denying its involvement in corruption at Eskom. If the governing party is indeed innocent, it should strongly support the DA’s request for an ad hoc parliamentary committee, both to clear its name and to identify the true perpetrators of Eskom corruption. This should be the first step in bringing an end to the criminal capture of our institutions and state-owned entities by the ANC, and an end to the ANC-created load shedding disaster.

ANC government must come clean on Russian collaboration in Antarctica

The DA will write to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy to request a copy of the memorandum of understanding signed between South African and Russian Antarctic research teams. The MOU defines the level of logistical support that South Africa is providing to Russia in pursuit of its national Antarctic programme.

This comes after a response to a Parliamentary question where the Minister claimed that the department was not aware of any alleged Russian gas and oil prospecting in Antarctica. This prospecting goes against the Antarctic Treaty signed by South Africa and Russia in 1961. It seems hard to believe that neither the Minister (who visited Antarctica recently), nor her department would have any knowledge of the prospecting, which has been covered widely by local and international media and NGOs.

Furthermore, a Russian research vessel, The Akademik Aleksandr Karpinskiy recently docked in Cape Town harbour on its way to Antarctica to carry out testing in Antarctica and this sparked a flurry of environmental protests. The ship is known to be owned by a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned mineral exploration company RosGeo.

It is vitally important to establish whether the direct logistical support being provided by South African scientists is being used to facilitate illegal prospecting in the Antarctic by the Putin regime. It is clear that the ANC government is moving ever closer to Russia and refusing to condemn its murderous invasion of Ukraine. It is not unfounded therefore to assume that the ambivalence being shown in relation to illegal Russian prospecting could also be seen as tacit support.

DA reveals that ANC Cabinet cadres live in mansions valued at nearly R1 billion

The Democratic Alliance (DA) can today reveal that the mansions occupied by ANC Ministers and Deputy Ministers in Cape Town and Pretoria are collectively worth a staggering R967 million. This information has been exposed to the public for the very first time following a parliamentary question submitted by the DA to the Minister of Public Works in the ANC Cabinet, Patricia de Lille.

In her reply to the DA’s request for information, De Lille revealed that no less than 97 mansions are currently occupied by ANC Ministers and Deputy Ministers in Cape Town and Pretoria. In Cape Town, 26 Ministers and 32 Deputy Ministers live in state-owned residences. In Pretoria, 14 Ministers and 25 Deputy Ministers currently occupy these mansions. The homes in Cape Town are currently worth nearly R830 million, while the homes in Pretoria are valued at R137 million.

On average, each ministerial house is valued at nearly R10 million, which means that every ANC Minister and Deputy Minister currently lives in two mansions (one in Cape Town and one in Pretoria) valued at a collective R20 million – all courtesy of South African taxpayers.

Cabinet cadres are entitled to these houses in terms of the Ministerial Handbook, which also provides them with freebies that include four luxury vehicles each, VIP protection and international travel perks. And in order to shield these ANC cadres from the electricity crisis their corruption created – in which at least two senior ANC Cabinet members have been implicated by former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter – Ministers and Deputy Ministers also receive free water and electricity (up to R5 000 per month) and Patricia de Lille spent R2.6 million on generators for ministerial homes.

While it is accepted global practice for top government leaders such as the President, Deputy President and Premiers to occupy official residences – which are often located in heritage buildings or estates – it is difficult to justify why each and every ANC Minister and Deputy Minister who presided over the collapse of every public service and government department in this country should continue to live like rockstars.

This is compounded by the apparent fact that the Ministerial Handbook is itself illegal, as there is no provision in law that provides for the existence of a Handbook that doles out R1 billion houses to Cabinet cadres. That is why the DA has already filed a complaint with the Public Protector to investigate whether the perks handed out to cadres in terms of the Handbook are indeed illegal. To stop this abuse of taxpayers, the DA has also already published our intention to introduce an amendment to the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers Act that would make the Ministerial Handbook subject to full Parliamentary oversight.

The DA will not rest until we have eradicated the practice that sees President Cyril Ramaphosa abusing taxpayers with impunity to finance perks for an ANC Cabinet that has plunged our country into stage 6 load-shedding and economic devastation.

Another SAPO bailout: DA calls for accountability

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Dianne Barnard Kohler MP.

The DA is appalled by the recent announcement from the Minister of Finance that the South African Post Office (SAPO) will receive yet another bailout, this time of R2.6 billion. This despite previous, firm commitments to end bailouts due to ongoing corruption, irregular expenditure and general financial chaos at the SAPO.

Year after year, the SAPO has requested and received massive bailouts  while failing utterly to improve its operations.

For instance, in 2022, they requested R3.4 billion, and in 2021, they asked for R8 billion, and in 2020 they sought R4.9 billion. The SAPO’s continuous mismanagement and corruption have resulted in a planned 40% salary reduction for employees and the potential loss of 6 000 jobs.

The DA has recently been informed that the Hawks investigation, undertaken at our request, is at an advanced stage, and going forward to the National Prosecuting Authority.  This relates to the SAPO management taking medical aid, pension and other ‘contributions’ paid by staff and pensioners, and not handing them over to the medical aid, or pension, but rather using that money elsewhere. The consequences for the staff and pensioners have been catastrophic.

Unfortunately watching the lack of will on the part of the government to investigate and prosecute all instances of corruption and mismanagement at the SAPO, we are forced  to call in various security agencies to do the job for them.

Meanwhile, the CEO earns a salary of almost R4 million per year, and staff medical aid contributions of R700 million remain unpaid, leaving employees without medical coverage. A week ago, on the day the SAPO management claimed it was up to date with medical aid payments, I received yet another of a seemingly endless torrent of letters – this time from a desperate daughter whose elderly mother had been turned away from hospital as her SAPO medical aid had been discontinued due to non-payment.

The main issue here is the fact that there is zero clarity on how the R2.6 billion bailout will be used.

The  DA demands transparency and accountability and a firm instruction on how the funds must be spent. Especially in light of the fact that the SAPO received the worst possible audit outcome: a Disclaimer,  from the Auditor General.

We urge that the R2.6 billion, which will sadly no doubt disappear like the morning mist, be allocated towards fulfilling SAPO’s outstanding financial obligations, including the payment of all outstanding medical aid contributions and pensions  and the proper compensation of the 6 000 employees who are likely to lose their jobs.

We call on the Minister of Finance to provide a detailed report on how the R2.6 billion bailout must be apportioned and to ensure that the money is used for the benefit of SAPO employees and not on vanity projects to improve the tainted reputations of the utterly inept management team.  We have written to him today asking him to provide exactly that.

DA congratulates the South African women’s national cricket team on reaching the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup

The Democratic Alliance (DA) sends our heartfelt congratulations to the South African women’s national cricket team on reaching the final of the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup for the very first time in history.

The South African women’s national cricket team were beaten by the Australians by 19 runs in the final.

The South African women’s national cricket team reached the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup for the very first time, a remarkable feat and one that is even more phenomenal as it all unfolded on South African soil.

This phenomenal achievement comes at a time when South Africa is at the edge of the precipice —a nation reeling from deep divisions and in desperate need of a renewed sense of togetherness.

The ICC Women’s T20 World Cup has been a highly anticipated event for South Africans and we thank the team for once again reminding the nation that we are indeed #AlwaysRising and of our shared commitment to building a stronger South Africa for all.

The South African women’s national cricket team have reinvigorated and revived our collective pride for our young nation and have shown us what can be achieved when we all pull together to attain a common goal.

The DA would like to congratulate Australia on winning the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup, they displayed great professionalism, athleticism and competed in a manner that their whole nation can be proud of.

Congratulation once again to the South African women’s national cricket team. Their performance throughout the tournament truly transcends the sports field and is an important tool that we can use towards building South Africa to what we all know she can be – a beautiful nation that stands together with all South Africans who share a community of values embodied by freedom, fairness, opportunity and diversity.

Loashshedding interventions for the agriculture sector welcome but implementation is key

Following a series of requests by the Democratic Alliance (DA), to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Inkosi Zwelivelile Mandla Mandela, requesting that Minister Thoko Dididza comes and accounts before the committee on measures to address the impact of loadsheding on the agriculture sector, the Minister and her Agriculture Energy Task Team (AETT) appeared before the committee on Friday last week.

The AETT which was set up by the Minister included well-known agriculture economists like Dr Ferdi Meyer, Dr Ntombela, Kalaba and Wandile Sihlobo and other BFAB team members.

While the DA welcomes the careful articulation of the problem areas by the AETT and perceived possible solutions, frustrations on the ground remain very high as this task team was agreed on only the 13th of January 2023 with industry bodies to deal with energy. Some farmers feel is too little too late.  However, it is now left to the Department of Agriculture Land Reform and Rural Development to provide the committee with implementation timelines.

The AETT acknowledged the damage done by the ANC government-led Eskom blackouts on agriculture and the potential destruction of biological assets and food security. Still, AETT must consult widely to map practical support interventions needed to produce and supply energy to farmers let alone rebates and tax relief. So far, they have identified the well-known adverse impacts on agriculture and the costs to the agriculture economy.

The DA welcomes the clarity that fuel rebates on agro-processing are being attended to and shall follow similar process that’s being applied at the primary farming level.  The Minister of Finance is reviewing the rebate implementation.

The Democratic Alliance remains concerned that the AETT is going to rely on the competence of DALRRD and Eskom to treat the crisis as a matter of urgency and implement the recommendations speedily.

Furthermore, while we are satisfied with the preliminary work done by the AETT, the DA still feels that there were no clear timelines for what needs to happen and when. Farmers are very frustrated by load shedding and need solutions now.  Agriculture is time sensitive and all measures that the energy task team identified require an implementation timeline.

While there is enough green energy to harvest from the Northern Cape side, there was no indication that Eskom or DALRRD has immediate plans in that regard.

Going forward, it is important to conduct a follow-up engagement with the task team to ascertain the progress made on all areas identified for possible interventions.

And furthermore, there are other vital areas that the committee couldn’t get clarity on from the department. These areas include:

  1. Northern Cape: We need to know about the Eskom grid capacity of the Northern Cape to harvest green energy to feed into the grid and give the needed relief for the farmers, especially the irrigation belt.
  2. Electricity Generation for Own Use: The DA recognizes a great potential in the agricultural sector to create small co-ops (typically 4 to 5 farms) that can build methane digesters and use the methane produced to generate their own electricity (for own use). We need to understand if DALRRD shall consider incentives for this type of programme and if budget reprioritization shall be considered to support farmers.
  3. Zero Vat Rating for Poultry: For years the DA has been advocating for a zero Vat rating on the poultry industry, we would like the AETT to negotiate this with National Treasury. Ministerial support in this regard is very important.
  4. Joint Sitting with DPE: Lastly, the Democratic Alliance welcomes a proposal to have a joint sitting with the Department of Public Enterprise to take a deep dive into Eskom’s possible solution towards agriculture and save the country from plunging into food insecurity.

The Democratic Alliance remains concerned about these aggressive power cuts and the impact they have on agriculture and food security. We will continue our oversight role and ensure that we put solutions on the table in the best interests of saving vulnerable farmers and the rural economy.

Only 55% of health facilities have achieved ideal status

Only 55% of South Africa’s public health facilities have “Ideal Clinic” status. This was revealed by the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, in answer to a written parliamentary question from the DA.

Ideal Clinics are facilities that conforms to the following standard: “good infrastructure, adequate staff, adequate medicine and supplies, good administrative processes and sufficient bulk supplies that use applicable clinical policies, protocols, guidelines to ensure the provision of quality health services to the community”.

Of the country’s 3 477 clinics and hospitals, only 32% have achieved platinum status, which means they achieved 100% in the category for non-negotiable vitals, more than 80% in the vital category, more than 70% in essential and important categories. What is particularly concerning is those facilities that do not pass the non-negotiable vitals criteria, of which there are only three:

  • Emergency trolley is restored daily or after each use;
  • Functional oxygen cylinder with pressure gauge is available in resuscitation/ emergency room; and
  • Oxygen available in the cylinder is above the minimum level.

Furthermore, Health MECs have warned Parliament that they were running out of funds to buy fuel for generators as hospitals are forced to rely on them due to loadshedding. They also revealed that power often had to be cut to critical areas and that the lifespan of specialised equipment were being reduced because of the rolling blackouts.

This while its vital for ideal clinics to have access to a functional back-up electrical supply when needed.

Given the dire state of health facilities the DA has encountered on oversights and the number of complaints we’re received from patients and staff at hospitals and clinics, it seems a miracle that 55% of hospitals and clinics managed to receive ideal status at all. With loadshedding ever on the increase, the number of facilities that maintain their status could decrease dramatically.

The President’s announcement in his post-SONA debate reply that the ANC will push NHI implementation come hell or high water despite the country’s economic reality, staff shortages and infrastructure failures, does not bode well. Not only has ANC policies of cadre deployment and facilitated corruption hollowed-out the public health system, their single minded focus on a system bound to fail will decimate what little is left of South African health care.