Minister Gordhan must stop cancelling and provide answers at Public Enterprises Committee

Please find attached a soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

The DA will today write to the Leader of Government Business, Deputy President Paul Mashatile, calling on him to address Minister Pravin Gordhan’s disregard for the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee. This follows Minister Gordhan’s repeated no-show before the Committee to answer and rebut serious allegations made by his former Director General, Kgathatso Tlhakudi, who he fired.

The allegations by Tlhakudi includes that Gordhan interfered and handpicked the Takatso consortium as the preferred bidder to purchase the 51% shareholding in South African Airways.

On two occasions the Portfolio Committee had gone through significant cost and trouble to accommodate the minister and he has now refused again to show up, citing health reasons.

The repeated instances of postponement and non-appearance by Minister Gordhan are causing great disruption and frustration within the committee’s proceedings. Last-minute cancellations without substantial medical documentation raise significant doubts. The DA underscores that the seriousness of the allegations and the necessity for due process necessitate swift action.

We call upon Minister Gordhan to honour his responsibilities and constitutional obligations by promptly confirming a specific date for his appearance before the committee. Should health concerns continue to impede his ability to effectively fulfil his parliamentary obligations, the DA firmly holds the view that he should contemplate stepping down from his position.

The cornerstone of our democracy is built upon transparency, accountability, and the unhindered functioning of parliamentary oversight. The public rightfully demands answers, and it is the fundamental duty of all public servants to wholeheartedly participate in these procedures.

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DBE statement confirms BELA Bill is a thinly veiled assault on school governing bodies

Please find attached a soundbite by Baxolile Nodada MP.

The DA notes the Department of Basic Education’s statement, and we are surprised that DBE would so willing expose their intent to use the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill to disempower school governing bodies (SGBs) and communities.

James Ndlebe, Chief Director for Provincial Monitoring and Delivery Oversight, said in the statement that “It cannot be correct that SGBs are given unlimited and unchecked powers and have a finalise [stet] say in a school matter which is a public school. No grouping can have absolute power and account to no one in a democratic and sovereign state.”

While we agree that no grouping should have absolute power, that especially applies to the Department. The statement also fails to reflect the truth that SGBs are held directly accountable by communities themselves.

DBE’s statement is essentially a confirmation of their intent to target single medium schools and a testament of the ANC government’s failure to build enough quality schools in South Africa to ensure that all learners have the opportunity to receive basic education in their language of choosing.

Over the past 30 years in power, DBE has failed to eradicate pit toilets at schools, mud and asbestos schools, and overcrowding remains a major barrier to quality education. This while the Western Cape’s Rapid School Build programme is building schools in 65 days. The contrast is glaring – one government takes responsibility and ownership of quality education, while the other fails to ensure that grade 4 learners can read for meaning and seeks to disempower schools.

Without the DA’s insistence on due process in the past weeks, thousands of email submissions on the BELA Bill would have remained unanalysed and robbed those participants of their opportunity to give input and raise their concerns.

The ANC and Department on the other hand were happy to adopt a flawed report, despite the DA and other opposition parties voicing our concern and ultimately walking out of the committee meeting and breaking quorum. On Tuesday, we again raised the issue and all parties agreed with the DA that the correct process must prevail. We have also penned a letter to the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, on this.

The DA will do everything in our power to ensure that any education law that goes through Parliament is in the best interest of the children and will ensure they receive the best possible quality education.

We will not allow a draconian Bill that seeks to disempower communities and SGBs and centralise power, a Bill that fails to incorporate the concerns and suggestions from the homeschooling sector and does not address online or blended learning, nor the severe systemic problems of the basic education sector, to be bulldozed through Parliament.

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The DA’s alternative NSFAS funding model

Please find attached a soundbite by Chantel King MP as well as pictures here and here.

Today, the DA revealed our alternative student funding model to solve the myriad of problems with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and provided an update on the Private Protector’s investigation of NSFAS direct payment contracts.

The current higher education funding model is highly unsustainable considering declining levels of economic growth, the shrinking tax base, poor fiscal management, and corruption.

The problems are exacerbated by the centralised NSFAS operations model and ICT interface differences between institutions and the scheme, which affect payment and result in students being unable to register on time for the new academic year and failing to secure accommodation.

The DA will reform NSFAS and create a sustainable funding environment

Please find attached the DA’s Draft Position Paper on NSFAS.

The DA alternative funding model will be a tiered system for loans and grants, with a primary focus on providing substantial financial support to students hailing from low-income households.

This differentiated loan scheme will be based on income bands which will be regularly evaluated and updated and would give students access to a variety of government loans with favourable repayment conditions. Loans would be converted to bursaries based on academic performance to incentivise a better throughput rate at institutions.

This system provides a funding solution for the “missing middle” who can afford to pay a portion of their expenses without excluding poorer students.

With more funds thus available, budgets for accommodation allowances could be broadened and the blanket accommodation cap scrapped in lieu of individualised accommodation funding.

The DA will also conduct an updated national survey on the state of higher education in South Africa, which will include an investigation into the projected demand for student accommodation to guide the policy approach and ensure quality and affordable student accommodation.

The Public Protector’s investigation of the NSFAS direct payment scheme

The Public Protector advised that their investigation is focused on the possible transgression of tender processes and policies, with a secondary focus on the four companies that won the contracts – Coinvest Africa, Tenet Technology, Ezaga Holdings and Norraco Corporation – and their directors. The Public Protector has also undertaken to report any irregularities in this regard to financial authorities.

The bid evaluation committee (BEC) will have to account on every part of the process, including NSFAS CEO Andile Nongogo’s presence and participation at the bid presentations. Should it be deemed necessary, Minister Blade Nzimande will also be questioned.

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DA extends condolences to victims of Johannesburg fire

On behalf of the Democratic Alliance, I would like to extend our sincerest condolences to all the individuals and families affected by the horrific fire in Inner City Johannesburg that has taken over 50 lives so far and devastated many more.

This is a catastrophe for our nation, causing unimaginable pain and suffering to innocent people.

The DA mourns this tragic loss and we pray that emergency services in Johannesburg will work swiftly to prevent any further loss of life, and to bring comfort to those affected by this tragedy.

The DA’s public representatives in Johannesburg will be on the ground do what we can to assist those affected, and we will continue to push for safer living conditions and the provision of adequate housing for inner city residents.

Now is the time for South Africans to stand together for better and safer living conditions for all.

Fezile Dabi District Municipality achieves remarkable audit outcomes

Note to editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by David van Vuuren MPL.

In a span of less than a single financial year, the recently elected Democratic Alliance (DA) led government in Fezile Dabi District Municipality has achieved significant improvements in its audit outcomes. The DA-led council has effectively demonstrated that the once seemingly unattainable goal of implementing robust financial management is, in fact, feasible.

This council has accomplished the following milestones:

  • Successfully cleared unauthorized expenditure from R 9,899,855 in the 2021/22 financial year to Zero Rand in 2022/23, marking a remarkable 100% improvement.
  • Drastically decreased irregular expenses from R 14,298,487 in 2021/22 to R 4,344,691 in 2022/23, reflecting a commendable 69.61% improvement.
  • Significantly slashed fruitless and wasteful expenses from R 4,031,882 in 2021/22 to R 14,712 in 2022/23, showcasing an impressive 99.64% improvement.
  • Successfully reduced deviations from R 6,888,512 in 2021/22 to R 2,409,418 in 2022/23, registering a substantial 65.02% improvement.

Although these improvements are not yet at an optimal level, they underscore the potential of efficient and targeted financial management in the short term. By appointing a Municipal Manager who comprehends the significance of sound financial management and remains committed to holding officials under their jurisdiction accountable for audit outcomes, the DA-led council has achieved noteworthy progress. Additionally, 28 irregularly appointed and underperforming officials have been suspended.

DA Speaker, Sidney Pittaway, ensures a consistent and effective functioning of the Municipal Public Accounts Committee, Chaired by Cllr April Motaung, ensuring that the executive committee and officials are held answerable for the applied management practices. This committee plays a pivotal role in enhancing accountability and transparency in the municipality.

The DA-led government’s ultimate aim is to streamline the current high salary expenditure, which accounts for 73% of the operational budget, to 60% in the next adjustment budget in December, and further reduce it to 50% by the end of the financial year.

This significant leap in improvement serves as a testament to the DA’s ability to make swift and substantial changes given the opportunity. Such transformations can be replicated in numerous small towns if voters exercise their democratic right to reject corruption and inefficiency, and instead opt for accountability, competence, and sound financial governance.

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SARB Governor evasive on Phala-Phala – DA to proceed to Court

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Dion George MP.

The Governor of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), Lesetja Kganyago, today briefed parliament on the SARB investigation into allegations that President Ramaphosa contravened Exchange Control Regulations by holding US dollars at his farm for a period exceeding legislated limits.

The briefing followed an obtuse media release by SARB on 18 August, wherein the SARB stated that the President did not violate any exchange control regulations but refused to disclose their full report on the matter.

Despite the DA’s efforts to obtain the report — which included correspondence with the Governor himself and filing a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application — the SARB has remained steadfast in its unwillingness to disclose the document or sufficient information to ensure that the integrity of the SARB has not been compromised.

It is therefore that, during today’s meeting, I presented a sequence of questions to Governor Kganyago. These questions included:

1. Section 33 of the Reserve Bank Act prohibits directors, officers, and employees from the Bank from disclosing information. Not the Minister. Was the report made available to (any) Minister or the President himself?

2. Mr Hazim left the money as a security deposit. Where is the contract and why was cash taken and not a bank guarantee, and who carried the risk of the dollars?

3. Did the SARB consider how an entitlement can be contingent as envisaged in regulation 6(5), and did the SARB consider the duty in regulation 6(5) against delaying a contingency from eventuating?

4. Did the SARB consider the impact its reasoning could have on money laundering and how persons can avoid declaring foreign currency by simply stipulating conditions in a contract?

5. Has any action been taken previously against any individual or entity even though a transaction has not been perfected.

Governor Kganyago’s responses were evasive, incomplete and unconvincing.

The Governor did however admit that the SARB had not seen any contract, other than an invoice, that outlined the conditions of the transaction in question, which raises doubts about the integrity of the investigation. Moreover, he offered no insight into any precedents set by previous investigations.

South Africa’s financial stability hinges on the transparency and integrity of its Central Bank. It is an institution that cannot be left to operate in a shroud of ambiguity. Given that our attempts to extract transparency through other channels have been futile, the DA will now turn to the court to review the SARB decision.

The DA will not let this matter rest. South Africans have a right to know what actually happened at Phala-Phala and that includes knowing whether the President broke any financial law he is entrusted to uphold.

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Eskom’s demand for another R24 billion from consumers is outrageous and must be rejected

Please find attached a soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

As the DA prepares to contest NERSA’s decision to award Eskom a 31,4% tariff increase over two years, at the North Gauteng High Court on 11 September, it has since emerged that Eskom has submitted a new application to extract an additional R24 billion from overburdened consumers.

The DA finds this stealth cost recovery application by Eskom outrageous and completely tone deaf to the difficulties being faced by consumers in a high inflationary environment. With the court’s permission, we will add this latest Eskom application as part of evidence to motivate why NERSA’s January 2023 electricity tariff increase decision must be reviewed and set aside.

Eskom is reported to have submitted a regulatory clearing account application (RCA) to NERSA in April in which it is seeking to recoup R24 billion in historical cost and revenue variances for the 2021/22 financial year. If NERSA approves this application, it will likely be added on top of future electricity tariff increases.

The ramifications of NERSA’s 31,4% tariff increase is already being felt across the country as consumers take to the street to protest the increasingly unaffordable electricity bills. If NERSA goes ahead and approves this clandestine application by Eskom for an additional R24 billion, it will further increase electricity costs beyond the reach of many and price out poor households from accessing electricity.

Consumers should not be expected to fund Eskom inefficiencies through predatory cost recovery measures. The fact that Eskom is on the verge of blowing through their diesel budget should not be used as a basis of passing on the cost to consumers. This is essentially a predatory abuse of Eskom’s monopoly where costs of dysfunction are regularly being passed on to the consumer.

Despite clear evidence that the Eskom monopoly has become a burden on consumers, through a permanent state of loadshedding and high electricity tariffs, the ANC government still insists on preserving that monopoly. This stealth application for more money by Eskom should be rejected outright because consumers will not fund the high maintenance costs of an entity on its death bed.

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Department of Human Settlements contradicts Minister’s plan to capture gated communities

Please find attached a soundbite by Luyolo Mphithi MP.

The Department of Human Settlements have contradicted the Minister of Human Settlements, Mmamoloko Kubayi, by revealing that it has no record of decision for her plan to capture gate communities by enforcing broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) on services procured by community housing schemes.

This was revealed in answer to a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application from the DA.

The Minister first revealed her plan on 8 August 2023 at the Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS) Inaugural Indaba.

The DA requested the following information from the Department of Human Settlements:

  • The record of decision to implement BBBEE to services procured by community housing schemes;
  • A record of deliberations by the Minister and/or Director-Generals to implement BBBEE to services procured by community housing schemes; and
  • A record of any and all legal opinions, internal opinions or advice sought by the Minister and/or Director-Generals on implementing BBBEE to services procured by community housing schemes.

The reply stated that they are “unable to provide you with access to requested record/information as the record does not exist in the Department” as stated in Annexure A. The department further stated that the Minister was merely stating her opinion which was not in line with the department.

The DA will further probe the matter at the oral questions session scheduled in Parliament next week.

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BELA Bill: DA victory ensures public voices will be heard

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

Parliament agreed with the DA today that the thousands of email submissions yet to be analysed as part of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill must be processed. The DA has always maintained that the public participation process cannot be minimised and that no submissions can be discarded, and we are gratified that the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education has finally seen reason on this.

Despite the ANC’s attempts to push the BELA Bill through Parliament, the DA will not allow the voices of thousands of individuals to be silenced. Parliament’s agreement that the submissions must be analysed shows that the DA and other opposition parties were correct and justified in breaking quorum two weeks ago and walking out.

The DA will write to the committee chair, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, to request that due process is followed, including the presentation of a qualitative and quantitative matrix of all submissions on each clause of the BELA Bill as they might have a significant impact on the A-list and the continued deliberations of the Bill.

The DA will do everything in our power to ensure that all laws that pass through Parliament – including legislation on education – are in the best interest of the people. Learners already have an uphill battle with the country’s subpar education system.

We will not allow a draconian Bill that seeks to disempower communities and school governing bodies (SGBs) and centralise power, a Bill that fails to incorporate the concerns and suggestions from the homeschooling sector and does not address online or blended learning, nor the severe systemic problems of the basic education sector, to be bulldozed through Parliament. We will continue to fight for good quality education for South African children.

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DA calls for reopening of applications for Public Protector

“We hold the view that none of the candidates interviewed are suitable for appointment, given the enormous responsibility this position holds. The candidates all showed an alarming lack of basic knowledge of the legal framework in which they would be required to operate. We further hold the view that an appointment should not be made simply due to a lack of any better alternatives.”

The Public Protector is a critical Chapter 9 institution tasked with strengthening constitutional democracy in South Africa. The importance of a strong, independent Public Protector cannot be overstated, and was excellently outlined within the Constitutional Court’s Nkandla judgement as follows:

“The Public Protector is thus one of the most invaluable constitutional gifts to our nation in the fight against corruption, unlawful enrichment, prejudice and impropriety in State affairs and for the betterment of good governance…She is the embodiment of a biblical David, that the public is, who fights the most powerful and very well-resourced Goliath, that impropriety and corruption by government officials are. The Public Protector is one of the true crusaders and champions of anti˗corruption and clean governance.”

The outgoing suspended Public Protector, Adv. Busisiwe Mkhwebane has done immense damage to the institution of the Public Protector. This was confirmed in the final report of the S194 Committee which recommended that Adv. Mkhwebane be removed from office on the grounds of misconduct and incompetence as established by evidence before the Committee. The reversal of this damage to the institution and its reputation will take a concerted effort from any newly appointed Public Protector.

The Public Protector often stands as a last line of defence against state capture and corruption. It is therefore of utmost importance that the newly appointed Public Protector restores respect and credibility to the office, and who possesses integrity that is beyond reproach.

The process of the Ad Hoc Committee to nominate a new Public Protector to replace the disastrous ANC candidate, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, is now drawing to a close. After two intensive days of interviews, consisting of eight shortlisted candidates, the Committee has had the opportunity to deliberate on each candidate and their suitability for the post.

The DA did not nominate any of the applicants and nominees for the shortlist, simply because they were all unknown players, none of whom stood out as a suitable candidate. It is unfortunate that the pool of applicants and nominees was disappointing when compared with the pool available during the last interviews – however this may serve as an indication of the damage which has been done to the institution under Adv. Mkhwebane’s term.

We hold the view that none of the candidates interviewed are suitable for appointment, given the enormous responsibility this position holds. The candidates all showed an alarming lack of basic knowledge of the legal framework in which they would be required to operate. We further hold the view that an appointment should not be made simply due to a lack of any better alternatives.

The current acting Public Protector Adv. Kholeka Gcaleka, had an obvious advantage in that she is the sitting Deputy and has acted in the position since the suspension of Adv. Mkhwebane. She was further unable to shake off the baggage from her past and has not demonstrated the dynamism required during her acting stint.

The DA will not be supporting any of the shortlisted candidates for appointment. The DA further strongly recommends that the post be readvertised in an effort to attract more suitable candidates. The position is of far too great importance to settle for an unsatisfactory candidate for the second time in a row.

Parliament must reopen the application process, in order to find a candidate truly worth of being the new Public Protector of South Africa.

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