DA urges COGTA Minister to act swiftly as KZN flood crisis exposes alarming preparedness gaps

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Jacques Smalle MP

The DA calls on the Minister of COGTA to immediately intervene due to the lack of implementation by the KwaZulu-Natal government regarding a basic risk assessment plan followed by contingency plans. Heavy rainfall has once again caused flooding, particularly affecting the areas of Ladysmith municipality in the province.

The KZN province disaster centre has only filled 18 out of its 50 posts, with 1 swift water technician for every 105,000 people and 1 firefighter for every 13,422 residents. Additionally, it has only 145 vehicles at its disposal.

The latest floods in Ladysmith tragically resulted in 6 fatalities with 12 individuals still missing. Once again, the ANC-led province has failed to develop and mitigate against high-risk flooding areas. Their lack of understanding of municipal water systems, sources of flooding, and the impact of pluvial flooding is once again affecting the lives and livelihoods of residents.

Questions raised in Parliament earlier this year by the DA (3220, 3646, and 3841) highlighted that the department has no knowledge of the level of expertise at its disposal (3646 (2c)), thus preventing appropriate and effective action when disaster strikes.

It’s essential to address these shortcomings promptly to ensure the safety and security of the affected communities in the face of natural disasters.

DA cracks down on fake news peddlers

The DA is pursuing legal action against a Richards Bay businessman, Sheldon Cramer, who shamelessly propagated fake and manipulated content across social media platforms. Operating under the TikTok handle @bobbygreenhash, Cramer disseminated a fabricated audio clip claiming to feature DA MP Advocate Glynnis Breytenbach alleging that Federal leader John Steenhuisen had leveraged the Western Cape as collateral for a multimillion-Rand loan from the Bezos Foundation in America.

The malicious voicenote also included a direct threat against Steenhuisen.

Cramer, unfased by the consequences of his deceit, went further to assert that NASA planes circling Cape Town were evidence of this alleged transaction, urging people to act before it was too late. He brazenly called on supporters to “repost this video” to spread the unfounded message.

While TikTok promptly removed the video, and Cramer seemingly deleted it from his Facebook page, such reactive measures are akin to closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The video persists on various social media platforms and has circulated through WhatsApp groups.

The DA, guided by legal counsel, has initiated legal proceedings against Cramer under sections of the Cybercrimes Act 19 of 2020, targeting his role in making, publishing, and disseminating threatening and defamatory statements concerning the DA, Mr. Steenhuisen, and Ms. Breytenbach.

The DA emphasises that the use of social media, AI, and electronic systems to fabricate and publish fraudulent, defamatory content cannot be dismissed as harmless. Recognising the tangible consequences of such actions, the DA insists that the violation of the Cybercrimes Act must be met with substantial real-world consequences.

The DA issues a resolute warning that it will not hesitate to pursue legal action against any individual, group, or political party found employing these malicious tools to propagate fake, defamatory, or fraudulent content.

It preys on the most basic fears of our society, it is both reckless and dangerous. This very poorly faked nonsense nevertheless influences real people and feeds into a deeply riven society already on edge and suffering severe consequences of bad government. It has real world consequences, and as such, the DA believes that the violation of the Cybercrimes Act should also have real world consequences.

In the face of the evolving landscape of disinformation, and on the eve of a seminal election, the party stands prepared to employ all available legal means to hold accountable those who seek to undermine the principles of transparency and honesty in our democratic society. We call on all South Africans to join us in this fight against the rise of deep fake content.

OBP and Minister, end your disastrous tenure and provide farmers with crucial vaccines

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

The DA has been inundated with requests from the horse farming communities who are in a dire situation due to the lack of vaccines against African horse sickness. Despite the promises made to us in Gauteng at our last meeting with the acting CEO and his executive leadership team of Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), horse farmers have still not received the vaccines they so desperately need. This situation has left both horse owners and veterinarians in the dark about the reasons for this shortage.

The DA now urges the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Minister Thoko Didiza, to take decisive action. We implore her to seek help from the private sector to address the ongoing shortage of African horse sickness vaccines.

South African horse farmers should not be forced to resort to protests to draw attention to the inadequate support from the government. The petition to outsource some of the areas OBP is struggling with to the private sector has received over 11 000 signatures nationwide. This petition was submitted to Parliament. However, the Minister has not commented on this petition, nor has she sought to explain to the Committee the reasons why she does not support the call for private sector involvement in OBP production of African horse sickness vaccines.

We have considered steps to address this crisis. The DA will be writing to Minister Thoko Didiza, Mr. Ramasodi (Director General), and the Chairman of the OBP Board to demand an explanation for the bottlenecks that have led to the delay in vaccine distribution. We strongly believe that it is unacceptable for the government to maintain a monopoly on the production of these vaccines, especially when it is causing our farmers to suffer unnecessarily.

Furthermore, we will write to the Chairman of the Portfolio requesting that the Board and Managing Director of OBP appear before the Committee to provide a comprehensive report on the progress made in addressing the vaccine shortage and promises that were made to the portfolio about efforts in fixing the vaccine production at OBP.

The DA remains committed to the welfare of animals, including horses, and urges the relevant authorities to act swiftly to remedy this situation. We believe that collaboration between the government and the private sector is key to solving this urgent problem.

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DA condemns Minister Patel’s hasty scrap metal ban extension, demands transparency on real motivations

The DA strongly condemns the recent extension of the ban on ferrous and non-ferrous waste and scrap metal exports by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel. This decision, coupled with the manner in which it was communicated, raises serious concerns about the political motivations behind the ban.

The Minister’s decision to invite interested parties to a consultative forum with only 24 hours’ notice is not only disrespectful but indicative of an apparent intention to rush through this ban without due consideration. Such a hasty approach suggests that the Minister is pursuing this agenda for reasons beyond addressing crime concerns.

The DA once again challenges Minister Patel to be transparent with the industry and the public, urging him to reveal the true motives behind this ban. It is imperative that the Minister provides a clear and honest account of the objectives he seeks to achieve through the extension.

This move comes as a second formal objection by the DA to the continuation of the ban, highlighting the party’s unwavering commitment to fostering a fair and informed decision-making process. Despite the Minister’s claims of reducing crime, our engagements with portfolio committees reveal that the ban has not yielded the intended results. Municipalities continue to grapple with theft, and state-owned entities, such as Transnet, face increased security costs.

At a time when job losses are a looming threat, as seen in the recent announcement of potential job losses at ArcelorMittal, the extension of the ban exacerbates the economic challenges facing our country. The DA calls on Minister Patel to consider rescinding the ban for the Christmas period and the remainder of the financial year. This approach will allow for a comprehensive and data-driven assessment of the ban’s impact on the economy and job market, facilitating more informed decision-making.

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DA welcomes COP28 Global Stocktake Agreement

The DA welcomes the Global Stocktake Agreement of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), which for the first time speaks specifically to the need to transition away from fossil fuels.

It is now essential that nations across the globe take urgent and decisive steps to transition away from fossil fuels and towards greener and more sustainable energy sources as quickly as they can do so.

As South Africans, we must do all we can to diversify our own energy mix, which at present still relies primarily on coal. This will enable us to transition away from fossil fuels faster and create much-needed jobs.

In provinces such as the DA-led Western Cape we are already working to roll out ambitious rooftop solar projects, which serve to not only augment our existing energy supply, but also allow businesses and homeowners to generate additional revenue by selling electricity back into the grid. It is vitally important that Government works to expand the existing grid infrastructure in the Northern Cape to allow for more large-scale solar projects to come online and feed more clean energy into the system.

The reference in the agreement towards ensuring effective financing mechanisms for adaptation should also be welcomed. South Africa, along with the rest of the continent is already at major risk of catastrophic shocks and ongoing stresses as our climate changes. The KZN floods and ongoing droughts across South Africa have shown how vulnerable we are to fluctuations in the climate and we must place a renewed focus on ensuring that we are able to adapt. If we are to succeed in this task we will require significant financial investment.

None of this will be possible though, if we continue with a government that is unable to speak with one voice. For far too long key decision makers in the ANC have appeared to be at odds with one another, and have failed to see the bigger picture regarding climate change. We simply cannot allow for politicians with conflicted vested interests to dictate the collective future of our climate and our economy any longer.

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DA calls for urgent State Security investigation amid concerns of orchestrated attack on Parliament

Please find attached a soundbite by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.

The events surrounding the fire at Parliament on January 2, 2022, have raised serious concerns about the security and integrity of our national heritage building. The DA acknowledges the arrest and subsequent declaration of Zandile Mafe as unfit to stand trial in connection with the incident. However, we firmly believe that the focus on Mafe should not divert our attention from the possibility of a larger, orchestrated effort to undermine our democracy.

The recently revealed screenshots from CCTV footage present a shocking timeline of events leading up to the fire. It is evident that the individual in question roamed freely within the precinct without detection for more than 24 hours. This raises serious questions about the security measures in place and the potential involvement of others in this deliberate act.

Of particular concern are the picture stills that seem to depict Mafe talking on the phone, suggesting possible communication with an external party. This alone constitutes enough evidence to warrant a thorough investigation into who else may have been involved in this attack on our democratic institution. We are calling for an urgent intervention by the State Security Agency (SSA) to conduct a comprehensive inquiry.

It is imperative to ascertain whether Mafe’s phone was analysed by the prosecution and, if not, why not. Confirming or denying the analysis of his phone is crucial to understanding the full scope of this incident. The possibility of a cover-up must be addressed transparently.

While Mafe’s mental health condition has been cited as a factor, we emphasise that even individuals with mental health challenges can be influenced and taken advantage of by others. The assertion that this act was orchestrated does not negate the importance of holding those with direct involvement accountable.

The DA demands a thorough investigation by the SSA. It is essential to shift our focus from the individual to the broader context of what appears to be a deliberate and coordinated act resembling terrorism on the Parliament building. The real culprits may be exploiting the attention on Mafe to escape scrutiny.

Our democracy is at stake, and we cannot allow such attacks to go unanswered.

We will closely monitor developments in this investigation and continue to advocate for a thorough and transparent process to ensure the safety and security of our democratic institutions.

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DA National Manifesto Launch: 17 February 2024 in Pretoria

The Democratic Alliance will hold our National Manifesto Launch on Saturday 17 February 2024, in Pretoria.

Ahead of the tipping point 2024 Elections our National Manifesto will present South Africa with a clear and credible pathway to prosperity.

Thousands of DA supporters will gather on this day to mark the launch of this national plan, which builds on the DA track record of good governance and delivery already experienced by millions of South Africans.

The DA stands ready for Election 2024, to seize the moment South Africans have been waiting for. It is time to rescue South Africa.

Be part of the mission to rescue South Africa, get help registering to vote at check.da.org.za

DA submits PAIA applications on PetroSA/Gazprombank deal and 2500MW nuclear capacity procurement

Please find attached:

1. PetroSA PAIA and Annexure.

2. Nuclear Procurement PAIA and Annexure.

The DA is deeply concerned about the recent developments surrounding the PetroSA/Gazprombank deal and the determination to procure 2500MW of new nuclear capacity. Today, we will utilise the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to obtain the Records of Decision related to these critical matters.

We seek access to all relevant documentation, including bid criteria, scoring, feasibility and cost-benefit analyses, and any documentation addressing the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) suspensive conditions regarding the s34 determination. Our objective is to scrutinise and ensure transparency in the decision-making process, shedding light on the motivations behind these agreements.

It is evident that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), PetroSA, and the ANC government are pushing to finalise these deals before the upcoming national and provincial elections. The haste raises questions about the rationality of these decisions, especially given the potential impact on our national security and economy.

The DA contends that the rush to conclude these agreements necessitates a thorough examination of the decision-making process. We believe that any failure or discrepancies found may warrant a review and possible overturning of these decisions, similar to what transpired with the previous nuclear deal.

Furthermore, we seek clarity on the involvement of state actors in the PetroSA deal and question the wisdom of choosing Gazprombank as the preferred investment partner. This decision not only exposes South Africa to the risk of secondary sanctions but also contradicts the advice of National Treasury. The apparent disregard for these considerations by the PetroSA board and Cabinet demands an explanation.

The recent developments suggest potential state capture in the energy sector, and we categorically reject any form of undue influence, particularly from foreign governments. The choice of Gazprombank and the endorsement of a foreign government in the nuclear sector require careful scrutiny.

The DA is committed to safeguarding our economy and national security. We will rigorously scrutinise these transactions and take all necessary measures to ensure accountability and transparency in decision-making. Our focus is on building a resilient economy and securing trade deals that support sustainable economic growth for the benefit of all South Africans.

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Motherwell nurses failed Zenizole Vena

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

The Health Ombud Prof Taole Mokoena’s report on the death of Zenizole Vena, the 15-year-old girl who tragically died in September last year at the Motherwell police station after escaping her alleged rapists, is a step in the right direction. The DA requested the Health Ombud to investigate allegations that two nurses at the Motherwell Clinic in Gqeberha failed to provide her with the necessary care before referring her to the local police.

The Health Ombud has found that the two nurses at Motherwell Clinic failed to give the Zenizole the urgent attention required for patients after they have been raped or sexually assaulted. They also failed to take her history in order for her to be referred to a doctor, and in failing to care for Zenizole, the nurses failed to “take the total health of Ms. Z Vena into her consideration and maintain the utmost respect for human life…”

The Health Ombud made a number of recommendations including:

  • Disciplinary inquiries against both nurses;
  • Referring both nurses to the South African Nursing Council (SANC) for an investigation regarding professional misconduct;
  • Healthcare workers must undergo Adult Primary Care (APC) Training to ensure their effective management of sexual assault cases;
  • The development of a standard operating procedure for the management of sexual assault cases, as well as in-service training for the staff at Motherwell NU 11 Clinic.

The Health Ombud further recommended that all South African Police Service (SAPS) employees engaging with the public be trained in first aid or have physical access to first responders 24 hours a day.

Furthermore, Zenizole’s family should be assisted with counselling sessions, as well as transport to the sessions.

The DA again extends our sincere condolences to Zenizole’s family. Her life was precious and should have been treated as such by the Motherwell Clinic personnel who pledged to provide quality to health care but failed to do so.

We hope that the Health Ombud’s report and Zenizole’s story will be a lesson to all health care workers across the country to go the extra mile for every patient, and to ensure that they know the correct procedure to properly care for all patients, including victims of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). We hope these nurses’ failure of Zenizole be the last of its kind in South Africa.

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SAPO Business Rescue off to a false start, as National Treasury mum on conditional bailout

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Natasha Mazzone MP

Last week, as per Section 152 of the Companies Act, creditors of the South African Post Office (SAPO) voted and approved its business rescue plan. As has been mentioned, the plan seeks to close 420 branches and retrench 6 000 workers. Importantly, the plan is also conditional on the R3.8 billion bailout from National Treasury. The funds were announced in July by the Minister of Communications & Digital Technologies, Mondli Gungubele, and were meant to be included in the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement. We are of course aware of the fiscal situation the ANC has placed the Republic in; there is no money.

In today’s Committee meeting, I questioned the Minister, Director General and SAPO’s business rescue practitioners on the whereabouts of the funds. The response was that discussions were to be held with Cabinet. This effectively means that SAPO’s business rescue plan is built on sand and is conditional on funds that do not yet exist. SAPO’s survival is even more worrying.

In response to my questions, the Minister was also keen on lecturing on the nonsensicalness of privatising SAPO as being anti-poor, as well as job losses being worthwhile towards the viability of the Post Office. This coming from a Minister whose business rescue plan is unfunded.

While Government obfuscates, we already see the real-world implications of a failing Post Office. Since the pandemic, almost 400 branches have closed, as customers are forced to travel long distances to use the Post Office. Included in this cohort are SASSA-grant recipients, who as announced yesterday, will no longer be able to draw their grants from the Post Office as of next year. Interestingly, the Department so opposed to the private sector touts the various retailers where recipients can access grants. These are retailers that have stepped in because of a failing Post Office.

To grant recipients, the DA encourages that you open bank accounts at reputable banks. This way, you can apply to switch payment options and receive grants directly. Recipients can also use retailers – Boxer, Pick n Pay, Spar, Shoprite, Checkers or Usave.

To SAPO employees, the DA has your back and is fighting in your corner, as you close the year with such terrible news. We will continue to hold the ANC to account for its failures and ensure that retrenched employees receive the packages they deserve.

Be part of the mission to rescue South Africa, get help registering to vote at check.da.org.za