Opinion | This is how South Africa became a criminal state

The power struggles in the ANC are so fierce precisely because they mean control of the machinery of cadre deployment to loot on behalf of those connected to the winning faction.

The impact of the social media hashtag #VoetsekANC, and the comments that accompanied it, show that people finally understand we live under a criminal state.

The abuse of Covid-19 relief funds by ANC-linked cadres, raking in huge profit for adding no value (except their political connections), has been the last straw for many South Africans. 

The tenderpreneur feeding frenzy was symbolised by Ace Magashule’s son buying a BMW worth R2-million, a week after it was revealed that his “company” (of which he is sole director) had scored big on a project to provide soap and masks to the Free State provincial government.

Although this is small scale corruption in comparison to, say, the Arms Deal or the Medupi power plant, or the billions raked off from state-owned enterprises, the callousness of looting donor funds provided to protect people from a potentially deadly illness reflects the extent of the ANC’s moral depravity.

The key question no one seems to be addressing is this: How did we manage, in 26 short years of democracy, to fall from the pedestal of international respectability; to become a byword for corruption and criminality?

Why didn’t our magnificent Constitution (often described as one of the best in the world), with all its checks and balances, prevent this? And what about our vigorous opposition, vigilant media, independent judiciary, active civil society, and a raft of Chapter 9 institutions? Why did they all fail to stop the onward march of the state from international poster child for democracy, to corruption and blatant criminality?

The answer is: because the ANC legalised corruption. It did so openly, under our noses, often with the fulsome support of almost all the institutions that should have prevented it, including the international community.

What’s more, these institutions not only failed to protect us – they actually facilitated this downward trajectory.

To get to the root of the problem, we must face the fact that Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), as conceptualised and implemented by the ANC, made corruption legal and morally acceptable.  Anyone who saw through it, and called it for what it is, was automatically dismissed as “racist”.

In over 100 laws mandating B-BBEE and racial “representivity” throughout the public and private sector, the ANC created a useful camouflage to cover its deployment committee’s work in setting up this looting machine. Cadres were deployed to all institutions of state, controlling multi-billion budgets, dispensing funds and managing procurement systems, with the primary aim of enriching the ANC cadres in business and securing significant “kickbacks” for the party and its network.

Inevitably, before long, competing networks arose. The factions in the ANC are not driven primarily by political or ideological differences, but by intense contestation for control over these funding sources. After 26 years, the South African state has become a web of competing criminal syndicates posing as a government.

And they made fools of the electorate by successfully selling the lie that their form of B-BBEE was synonymous with black empowerment. It was the very opposite. It left SA destitute, with unemployment levels at 30% (and that was before the Covid-19 pandemic).

Some people still believe the ANC’s race laws were motivated by a real commitment to redress. I do not believe that, and never have.

And to be fair, the ANC has been pretty honest about its intentions from the start. 

Right at the start of our democracy, the ANC told us that their National Democratic Revolution (NDR) required “State Capture”. It took 23 years before journalists and most analysts actually took this seriously.

As Joel Netshitenzhe, a leading ANC intellectual, wrote in the ANC mouthpiece Umrabulo in 1996: The aim of the NDR “is extending the power of the ‘National Liberation Movement’ over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals, and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on”.

The unparalleled revulsion to the extent of looting in the rest of the country is based in the disbelief that the ANC would actually use a national crisis to milk the state – especially the billions borrowed to deal with Covid-19.

The ANC’s deployment policy was aimed at achieving party control of the state. And then, through the state, controlling every other sector of society by introducing stricter and stricter B-BBEE and EEA laws that enabled cadre deployment (and the associated corruption and criminalisation) to reach into every money flow – every stream of funding – in the country.

In the earlier years, the notorious Chancellor House provided a clearing house, allocating tenders and contracts through the state in return for generous donations to the ANC.

But even that filter finally fell away. Now it is straight, personalised corruption to politically linked individuals.

We were warned. As Kgalema Motlanthe said in 2007:

“This rot is across the board. It is not confined to any level or any area of the country. Almost every project is conceived because it offers opportunities for certain people to make money.”

The power struggles in the ANC are so fierce precisely because they mean control of the machinery of cadre deployment to loot on behalf of those connected to the winning faction.

Former Business Day editor, Tim Cohen, described it aptly in 2008 when he wrote: “At issue is the creation of the state in which politicians enter politics not with the intention of public service, but with the intention of getting rich. The result is that political battles are a kind of proxy for deciding not how social issues are to be addressed, but which faction will gain the ability to insert itself into the circulation of money streams.” (Cohen is editor of Business Maverick – Ed)

The only places where this has not occurred, is where the DA governs.

The unparalleled revulsion to the extent of looting in the rest of the country is based in the disbelief that the ANC would actually use a national crisis to milk the state – especially the billions borrowed to deal with Covid-19.

In order to try to prevent this feeding frenzy, the DA went to court seeking a declaratory that B-BBEE criteria could not be used to disburse disaster relief to small businesses that had suffered severe losses under the lockdown. The court dismissed our case. It found that not only was the minister empowered to use B-BBEE criteria, but that she was mandated to do so.

Our application for leave to appeal this judgment was also dismissed, this time with costs. The court found that while the minister was constitutionally and legally compelled to use B-BBEE criteria, she might choose not to give this criterion any weight in allocating the resources.

This single judgment demonstrates the extent to which all the checks and balances against the institutionalisation of corruption and the resulting criminalisation of the state, have failed.

The only way out of this mess is to understand that no democracy can make sustained economic progress without actively striving to become a meritocracy, where people are appointed to positions, or win tenders, on clear, value-adding criteria, not on their colour or their political contacts.

In this context, it is hardly surprising that two sons of ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule, as well as various close allies, benefited so handsomely from contracts for PPE equipment at significantly inflated prices. As Ace himself said: “There is no law against it.”

He is right.

As Jacob Zuma famously said in his response to allegations of corruption: “I was only applying B-BBEE.”

Indeed, he was. On this basis, his lawyers will be able to put up a good defence, if the ex-president ever gets his day in court.

The system creates every possible incentive for this cynical abuse of black economic empowerment. It isn’t an accident. It was designed this way.

The new appointments to the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) show exactly how it is done: there is the façade, a pretence, of due process. People are invited to apply for board positions that carry key responsibilities. Scores of people put in applications in good faith, often highly competent, experienced and well-skilled for the role. But Luthuli House hands its list to the selection panel, dominated by ANC cadres, and with a little additional input from the ANC Women’s League and the Young Communist League, the predetermined board emerges, almost totally devoid of the skills required to do the job.

A new looting vehicle into the funding stream of R500-million annually that is the NYDA’s budget.

The only way out of this mess is to understand that no democracy can make sustained economic progress without actively striving to become a meritocracy, where people are appointed to positions, or win tenders, on clear, value-adding criteria, not on their colour or their political contacts.

And the only way we can get there is if the voters begin to understand why this is so important, and begin to vote for it.

Otherwise we must stop feigning shock when the looting continues.

The ANC’s Covid looting has to be the final straw

What do Bilal Erdoğan, Isabel dos Santos and María Gabriela Chávez have in common? Well, two things. One is that they are all incredibly wealthy, and the other is that they are all children of current or former presidents (of Turkey, Angola and Venezuela). And these two things are very much connected.

It’s a pretty accurate rule of thumb: where the children, wives and husbands of world leaders do exceptionally well in business it generally doesn’t take much scratching to unearth a rot of corruption. Our very own Duduzane Zuma did not amass his fortune at that tender age thanks to his extraordinary business acumen.

In countries where government corruption is endemic, the ruling elites loot because they can. Years of deliberate dismantling of investigation and prosecution bodies – and in some cases the judiciary – make it possible for them to get away with it.

But they also loot because many of them don’t actually believe it’s all that wrong. Among these ruling elite there is often a genuinely-held view that access to wealth through the state is one of the spoils of war. If you’ve clawed your way onto an upper rung of the ruling ladder, you’re somehow entitled to the perks of the position.

These are predator governments. They prey directly on the people they’re meant to serve, because the money they hoard carries a substantial opportunity cost for communities who depend on government services and social assistance for their survival. Very often this cost is the lives of the nation’s poorest citizens. Corruption is not, as former President Zuma once tried to argue, a “victimless crime”.

It’s easy to spot such predator governments, because after a short while in power all shame evaporates and all pretence is abandoned. The idea of being caught out and exposed is no longer a deterrent, and the only handbrake on the looting is whatever remains of the country’s rule of law.

This is when we see politicians unashamedly living it up far beyond the means of their supposed income. It’s when we see factional battles waged for access to these riches, which often include political assassinations. And it’s when we see a relentless feeding frenzy for the Holy Grail: government tenders and contracts.

Sound familiar? Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a couple of decades, you will clearly recognise the ANC government in all of this. Across all three spheres of government it has become synonymous with corruption, tender fraud and BEE-enabled price-gouging on a massive scale.

The big stories easily spring to mind: the Arms Deal, State Capture, Nkandla, Bosasa. But it’s the thousands of little stories of procurement looting – euphemistically called “tenderpreneurship” – across every ANC-run province and municipality that has really bled our country dry. If there’s a scam out there, the ANC has either invented it or perfected it.

And now, in a new low, the ANC has added pandemic looting to its corruption resume. In recent weeks we learnt how emergency PPE procurement became a free-for-all for the families of high-ranking ANC members. Because that’s how it’s done, with one degree of separation. It’s always a husband, wife, son or daughter who scores the windfall. And thanks to the “emergency” nature of this government spending there was no requirement for competitive pricing, which cadres duly exploited with massively inflated prices.

The cost of this looting couldn’t be higher. Inflated prices means less PPE and other equipment, and so hospitals are constantly running out, forcing healthcare workers to wash and re-use disposable equipment and even fashion their own protective gear from everyday items like rubbish bags. Sub-standard equipment supplied by get-rich-quick cadres with no history in this kind of work also poses a life-threatening danger to healthcare workers.

This looting involves hundreds of people and scores of brand new companies established only months ago to get in on the action. But predictably it is the names of close family members of top ANC politicians that always float to the top of the cesspool, many of whom are already embroiled in earlier corruption sagas.

The two sons of Ace Magashule, who were also central characters in the Gupta looting of the Free State, have suddenly become PPE suppliers. The daughter of Nomvula Mokonyane, who also benefitted from her mother’s many Bosasa bribes, is now also a PPE supplier. Even the son of President Ramaphosa, who famously ended up on the Bosasa payroll the moment his father became president, has landed himself some business modifying Gauteng taxis to make them Covid compliant.

It is brazen and shameless, and evidently a large portion of the ANC think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Ramaphosa faced massive pushback in the NEC when he suggested they relook the rules around families of politicians doing business with the state, and there was no shortage of ANC defenders for Magashule’s sons and Mokonyane’s daughter.

When then ANC spokesperson, Smuts Ngonyama, said back in 2004, “I did not join the struggle to be poor,” he was speaking for the party.

The latest attempt by the president to placate an increasingly outraged public – yet another toothless “inter-ministerial committee” to investigate its own Covid corruption – must be seen for what it is: window dressing.

No previous inter-ministerial committee has ever found its own ANC cadres guilty of anything. Not when it was investigating Nkandla. Not when it was investigating the Gupta landing at Waterkloof. And this will be no different. It simply creates the illusion of action. History has taught us that the looting of the state will continue, and it will go unpunished.

But while this endless corruption by the ANC and their network of cronies feels like it has infected our entire country, there is in fact a part of South Africa that has been bucking this trend with remarkable results. The DA government in the Western Cape has long prided itself on achieving clean audits from the Auditor General, but it’s not always that easy to show the direct link between clean governance and better service delivery.

The Covid crisis, however, has shone a spotlight on this. While other provinces turned emergency procurement into a feeding frenzy for connected cadres, the Western Cape government published all the recipients of its Covid procurement tenders on a public portal, because it has nothing to hide.

While other provinces now have to scramble to explain the actions of wealthy tenderpreneurs who occasionally moonlight as government officials, the Western Cape government conducted lifestyle audits of its cabinet members, all of whom passed the test.

And while all other provinces now have a dire shortage of hospital beds, a critical lack of PPE, and hospital patients fighting each other over precious oxygen supply, the Western Cape reached its peak with room to spare in its hospitals, which included four fully equipped field hospitals.

The difference between the Western Cape’s Covid response and the rest of the country is the cost of corruption. It is costing the lives of South African citizens, and we have to end it. There is no working around corruption if we want to save our country. It has to be cut out entirely.

We need to stop justifying it. There is never a legitimate level of tenderpreneurship. There is no such thing as “earned reward for the struggle”. Public service should be its own reward, and if the salary is not enough then it probably isn’t the right line of work.

We need to stop ignoring it. Just because it is relentless and exhausting doesn’t mean we can ever stop fighting it. If our country is worth fighting for, then we have to draw the line in the sand – even if it means drawing the same line every day.

And we need to stop accepting that corruption is part and parcel of our country’s future. It may be baked into the DNA of the ANC, but it doesn’t have to become baked into the DNA of South Africa. If the Western Cape’s Covid response has taught us one thing, it is that clean, transparent government is entirely possible. You just need to vote for it.

Education HOD perjured himself to avoid accountability

Download a sound clip from DA Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Education, Yusuf Cassim, in English.

Education Head of Department, Superintendent General Themba Kojana, has broken the law by providing false testimony and information to the Eastern Cape Portfolio Committee of Education, under oath.

This is concerning the awarding of the controversial R530 million contract to Sizwe Africa IT Group, which is a subsidiary of well-known ANC ally Iqbal Survé’s Ayo Technology Solutions

This once against illustrates that the Eastern Cape is not only the epicientre of the Coronavirus, but the epicentre of Covid Corruption.

Today we have laid criminal charges against Kojana for breaching the Evidence and Information Before the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature Act (Act 4 of 2007 (EC), at the Humewood Police Station.

SEE: Affidavit, Annexure 1, Annexure 2 and Annexure 3.

Kojana is in breach of the Act in terms of section 5(2)(d) – with the intent to deceive a House or Committee, produces to the House or Committee any false, untrue, fabricated or falsified document; and section 5(2)(e) – whether or not during examination under section 3, wilfully furnishes the House or Committee with information or makes a statement before it, which is false or misleading,

In terms of the Act, in breaching section 5(2)(e), the person is committing an offence and is liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years, or both.

During an Education Portfolio Committee meeting held on 13 May 2020, Kojana, produced to the portfolio committee, under oath, a report stating that the costs for procuring 72 000 sim cards and the 13 broadcasting studios would be R49,022,181.00; and that acquiring 55 000 Samsung tablets would cost R123,704,778.00

During another Portfolio Committee meeting, held on 16 July 2020, Kojana, again under oath, stated that the cost of the virtual classrooms was now R133,436,229.34. This is R84,414,048.00 more than the amount reported in a meeting the previous month!

He also said the cost for the tablets was now R404,852,000.15. This is R280,709,270.00 more than the amount reported in the meeting on 13 May 2020!

Kojana was adamant that the contract with Sizwe Africa is the best value for money, but the retail price for the same tablet is approximately R3 279. Added extras like a sim card, software, protective accessories and related equipment can take this amount up to R4 000, at least R3,000 cheaper than what has been put before the committee.

Kojana initially understated the contract costs on 13 May and then overstated the market value of the tablets on 16 July, to falsely demonstrate savings made by the Department.

Why have the amounts changed so drastically? It is clear that Kojana lied to the portfolio committee, under oath, on at least one occasion. These lies were made after the final award letter was given to Sizwe Africa on 2 April 2020, which means the final value of the contract should not have ch

Subsequently, it had come to light that Kojana is now attempting to use the former Chief Financial Officer, Mr Jason O’Hara, as a scapegoat, even though Mr O’Hara was suspended in December 2019, long before the contract was awarded.

Kojana has lied, under oath, to the Legislative arm of government, and should be dealt with by the law.

Kojana and the Department have entered into this overpriced contract illegally and have now lied to the Legislature to try and get away with it. His actions are criminal and are a danger to our representative democracy, which relies on accountability to the people. He must be brought to book.

Opinion | Time for the political commentariat to give the DA a fair shake

South Africa’s political commentators are almost universal in decrying the failures of the ANC-led national government, especially when it comes to Covid-19 corruption. But when will they acknowledge the successes of the DA-led Western Cape and City of Cape Town?

“There are only nine meals between mankind and anarchy,” said journalist Alfred Henry Lewis in a March 1906 issue of American Cosmopolitan magazine. South Africans are hungry and getting hungrier. We need to be realistic about what works, and then pursue it.

In a Daily Maverick opinion piece on 2 August 2020, Wits professors Mills Soko and Mzukisi Qobo lament the governing ANC’s failures “to build a meritocratic, competent, professional and corruption-free public service”.

They point to the large-scale theft of Covid-19 relief funds as the latest manifestation of the “widespread mismanagement, dysfunction and corruption that have hobbled state institutions in South Africa”, warning: “This culture of wanton criminality and impunity will have dire consequences for future generations.”

Soko and Zobo have correctly diagnosed South Africa’s malady as rooted in the ANC’s failures. But if those “dire consequences for future generations” are to be averted, it is equally important to prescribe effective treatment. This is where they, along with so many other political thought leaders, demonstrate a collective failure of imagination.

They could point to the DA-run Western Cape province as a shining example of “meritocratic, competent, professional and corruption-free public service” and suggest the DA be given an opportunity to implement this more widely.

Premier Alan Winde’s government has executed a world-class Covid-19 response, building adequate prevention and treatment capacity in an open, honest manner. Not only would other provinces and municipalities benefit from such a government, but it would also send a strong message to the ANC that corruption and mismanagement are unacceptable to voters, and fatal to political parties.

They could point to the DA-run Cape Town, which has just been rated the only South African city with the capacity to successfully weather the Covid-19 storm. Ratings Afrika said Cape Town was the only metro in SA to show significant improvement in the past five years.

But instead, they promote the twin notions that the ANC is South Africa’s only hope and that the party is capable of self-correction. This is misleading and damaging. To suggest that the ANC is SA’s only hope is to risk creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, where voters feel compelled to continue returning the ANC to power. Accountability is a keystone of democracy. Have they given up on the ideal of a democratic SA?

It is naïve to imagine the ANC will self-correct unless forced to do so by voters. Patronage has become the party’s lifeblood. It cannot retain political support without it. Decades of cadre deployment have given rise to a predator state incapable of self-correction.

Covid-19 corruption appears to have taken many by surprise. It should serve as a reality check. It was entirely predictable for those not in denial, just as the reality of a meritocratic, competent, professional and corruption-free public service is on full display in DA-run Western Cape for those willing to look.

And yet we have Ismail Lagardien lamenting that the ANC has “left us to hopelessness”. Why punt hopelessness rather than the obvious solution, when the Western Cape government stands as a shining beacon of hope, backed by a party committed to the Constitution, to liberal economic reform and to building a capable state?

What the DA has achieved, building on only 1.7% of the national vote in 1994, and still achieves in opposition and in government, is extraordinary. Internal contestation is an open battle of ideas, not a closed fight to the death over access to state resources. When we go wrong, we admit such, make the necessary changes, and keep going – and growing.

Imagine the wake-up call for the ANC were municipalities to fall en masse to the DA in 2021. Ramaphosa’s election as ANC president in 2017 was down to the wire. What tipped the balance in his favour was the very real threat of the ANC dropping below 50% in the 2019 national election after a strong DA showing in the 2016 municipal elections.

Justice Malala recognises that an ANC victory in 2024 “will propel SA into becoming a country with no hope”.  Yet his suggested remedy is that “we need more Herman Mashabas, Mluleki Georges and Julius Malemas – but with more stamina and new ideas”. Huh?

South Africa does not need new ideas. We need to embrace principles that have stood the test of time in building societal wellbeing: the rule of law, market economics, and the separation of party and state. We need to go back to basics and fix the fundamentals: open our energy and labour markets, fix our schools and hospitals, auction spectrum for cheaper data.

We certainly don’t need more Malemas. His populist prescription for South Africa – revolutionary nationalisation of the economy and private property – have collapsed Zimbabwe and Venezuela, eviscerating their economies and immiserating their societies.

The EFF remains united because it is not a political party in the democratic sense of the word, but rather Malema’s fiefdom, run by his gauleiters for their own material benefit: Access to resources and the security of office. Their VBS looting says everything one needs to know about how the poor would fare if there were more Malemas.

Herman Mashaba is about to learn the hard way how difficult it is to build a party with a regional foothold, let alone one able to offer an alternative national government. He sacrificed core principles to retain the mayoralty in Johannesburg and adopted racial nationalism to scapegoat his failure to lead his own caucus.

What the DA has achieved, building on only 1.7% of the national vote in 1994, and still achieves in opposition and in government, is extraordinary. Internal contestation is an open battle of ideas, not a closed fight to the death over access to state resources. When we go wrong, we admit such, make the necessary changes, and keep going – and growing.

Malala offers no evidence for his assertion that the DA is “haemorrhaging support”. This is not borne out in our own polling which has our national support up significantly from our poor showing in 2019 when Ramaphoria was still the order of the day.

Though this is no thanks to opinion formers, who cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the outstanding performance of the DA during this pandemic. In opposition, we have led from the beginning, warning against hard lockdowns and offering practical alternative strategies for suppressing the pandemic. In government, we have shown the difference a capable government makes to people’s lives.

Peter Bruce seems to have finally  shed the last of his Ramaphoria, but is yet to acknowledge that the DA’s performance before and during this pandemic stands in sharp contrast. Possibly, he is still absorbed by personality-based politics when what South Africa needs is principle-based politics.

In his tome of an article decrying Ramaphosa’s ANC, Richard Poplak’s what-is-to-be-done conclusion calls on “the kindness of individual South Africans, the charity of corporates, the scrutiny of the media and the activism of civil society” to save the country, because “any further talk about the Ramaphosa presidency and its promise needs to be binned with yesterday’s PPE”. Poplak is never lost for words, yet he cannot bring himself to acknowledge that “fearless, resolute and intelligent action” has been demonstrated in the Western Cape.

South Africa is in an extremely precarious situation. The last thing we need now is opposition to the main opposition. Our political commentators need to realise that they are part of the problem and that the DA is part of the solution.

Opinion | Open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa: It’s time to fire Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu

Dear Mr President

The Covid-19 pandemic caught the entire globe by surprise, and despite this, South Africans willingly joined the fight back in March.

The pandemic has had severe effects on the populations of the world – economic collapse, hunger, and poverty have been exacerbated in countries already struggling with internal issues such as inequality, high unemployment rates, corruption, mismanagement, looting and last but not least, a lack of political will. This is the nub of my letter to you.

By the time you announced the lockdown, signs of crippling poverty, hunger, and unemployment had already been hogging headlines. Millions of people were food insecure even before the announcement of the initial Covid-19 lockdown of 21 days. Back then, one of the few things that South Africans were allowed to do, was leave their homes to access their Sassa grants.

It therefore never made sense, Mr President, for Sassa offices to be completely closed during the lockdown when it is an agency of Government that is critical in implementing the Disaster Management Act (DMA).

The Democratic Alliance (DA) called for Sassa offices to be prioritized for personal protective equipment (PPE) and be opened immediately when cries could be heard from disability grant applicants, from mothers who had just given birth, from those who had just turned 60 and had hopes of staving off hunger by applying for the Old Age Grant, these sectors of society were devastated.

We appealed to Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, but sadly these appeals fell on deaf ears.

I was one of those South Africans and public representatives who heaved a sigh of relief when you made the announcement to aid the many millions of unemployed via the special Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress (SRD) grant of R350.

This money, along with the desperately needed food parcels, would go a long way in relieving hunger for many families in distress.

However, applications for the grant were to be submitted through online platforms, and therefore applicants would need access to a phone/gadget, airtime, know how, etc.

South Africa is a country where unemployment has hit the rural, remote part of the country hard – which is where the Sassa offices come in handy for the poor and vulnerable, and where access to the necessary technology to apply for the grants are not a given.

In a bid to circumvent these challenges, Minister Lindiwe Zulu announced that volunteers from government agencies such as the National Development Agency (NDA) and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) would be deployed in rural areas to help those who could not apply. These volunteers were to be trained and given gadgets to help applicants access the unemployment grant. To this day, I have not heard of a single volunteer who has helped SRD grant applicants access the grant.

What in fact happened was that Sassa offices, with already trained staff who were earning their salaries and who could be equipped with protective gear, were closed and desperate potential beneficiaries were not able to take advantage of Government’s otherwise welcome intervention. Armed with this reality, the DA again called for the Sassa offices to be opened – to no avail.

Public representatives and ordinary South Africans came to the rescue by applying on behalf of the unemployed – as the system allowed this. Why did Minister Zulu not open the Sassa offices?

Almost three weeks after the announcement of the grant, only 10 applicants received their grant. To date, there are still vulnerable South Africans who have not received this grant because of supposed “systems glitches”, lack of proper communications to the applicants about how the system works, Sassa call centres simply not functioning and again, the sad and tragic lack of political will.

Minister Zulu and the CEO of Sassa, Busisiwe Memela-Khambula, have given long-winded explanations of why people have not received the grant, yet no solutions to how they can receive it to put food on the table for their families.

The government food parcel saga has been widely reported on. The Minister seems to have no way or will of ensuring that public representatives and officials do what they are supposed to do other than stealing food parcels meant to support the poor and vulnerable.

We urged the Minister and her Department to launch an investigation into the brazen theft of food parcels by the politically connected, and again these calls were met with arrogance and ignored.

Instead of investigating the looting and supporting efforts by good Samaritans to feed the poor, the Minister instead thought it wise to block food distribution by NGOs that have been doing this work for years, with her now-infamous draft regulations. With one stroke of her pen, the Minister halted the entire country’s efforts to assist the poor, as people were harassed by SAPS, had their permits confiscated, were loaded in police vans, and had their food taken away.

This is all due to a Minister who was preaching partnership among all stakeholders to deal with what was, and still is, a food insecurity crisis. It is for these reasons, Mr President, that I strongly believe that there is a lack of political will on the part of the Minister to address the plight of the poor – something I find deeply concerning.

I am reminded of the Minister’s selfish comment that she made in the early days of the lockdown, when she said, “stay at home if you can, I am finding it hard to stay at home! Virus, leave us alone, we have a life to live”. The poor and vulnerable that the Minister has the honour to serve, were nowhere in her mind then, and they don’t seem to be now, which just means that she has no interest in serving these persons.

It would take the DA and NGOs turning to the courts for the Minister, who asked South Africans to partner with Government in feeding the poor, to allow these same South Africans and NGOs to distribute food to the millions of desperate people. According to the Department of Social Development’s (DSD) own presentations, more and more South Africans are joining the ranks of the food insecure and this situation is set to get worse as the lockdown continues and even after it is lifted.

There has not, according to presentations to the portfolio committee on Social Development, been any concrete plans to address the food insecurity matter, other than inviting South Africans to partner with the Department.

Then there was the challenge with the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres that left these centres in the dark as to their reopening and left hundreds of thousands of mothers worried about where they will leave their children as more sections of the economy started to reopen.

The Minister would only have her first meeting with the sector on 26 May to create work streams that would work on how to move forward in the sector. Again, the sector had to approach the courts for it to have any chance of knowing where it was headed.

For many centres, the reopening of the sector came too late, as many had to close their doors permanently. All because the Minister seemingly had no desire to listen to their pleas.

The above and many other matters are indicative of a Minister who is obsessed with power, is out of touch with the challenges facing the people she has been mandated to serve, will do anything to show that the buck stops with her – no matter how that affects the poor and vulnerable, about who the Constitution is very clear – they have a right to food, and children have a right to education.

Surely a Minister who took pride in her mandate and whose Department has a very unfortunate history of being run by the courts, would do everything in her power to ensure she changes this precedent.

In the spirit of protecting the poor and the vulnerable from their rights being further violated and giving them access to services and resources budgeted for, and saving government money lost through cost orders, I ask you, Mr President, to relieve Minister Lindiwe Zulu from her duty as Minister of Social Development immediately and find a Minister who will bring some dignity and fortitude to this vital Department by ensuring that those it’s mandated to protect and serve are being taken care of.

Opinion | At last, a glimmer of hope as Eskom begins to recover ‘lost’ billions

While R3,8bn is relatively small beer given Eskom’s debt which is currently north of R450bn, the issuing of summonses against 12 people accused of helping loot the utility sends a much-needed and long-awaited message to the lengthy list of crooks who have defrauded state-owned enterprises over many lucrative years.

Barely a day after the dawn of the new year, Mandy Wiener, writing for News24, asked whether 2020 was going to be the year of prosecutions for South Africa.

Following on from these high expectations some six months later, the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) appears to have worked through the evidence and forensics to file summons in the North Gauteng High Court to recover R3.8-billion that was diverted from Eskom “to help the Gupta family and its associates acquire the operations of OVH, which owned Optimum Coal Mining”. If this is anything to go by, a number of prosecutions may well follow.

Eskom has listed 12 defendants in the current case – including the Guptas and their partners in crime, a former minister, former Eskom executives and a number of board members – which seeks to recover the R3,8-billion the utility suffered in associated losses.

While R3,8-billion is relatively small beer given that Eskom’s debt is currently north of R450-billion, give or take a billion or two, it does send a much-needed and long-awaited message to the lengthy list of crooks who have defrauded state-owned enterprises (SOEs) over many lucrative years.

Over and above this  clawback from the past, what is required across all SOEs and government departments is an emulation of the DA-run Western Cape provincial treasury, which has released the first-ever “Procurement Disclosure Report” detailing all personal protective equipment bought and paid for by the Western Cape government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The report has been made available to the public.

The province’s Finance and Economic Opportunities MEC, David Maynier, explained that “this report is the first of its kind. It discloses in detail the procurement of PPE and it provides significant transparency… it goes a long way to mitigate risks in the procurement system. So at the end of the day, we can ensure that the vultures who feed on Covid-19 do not settle in the Western Cape.”

While Maynier’s remit is the Western Cape, in the wake of the exceedingly muddy waters churned up by the rapacious engine of the ANC in Covid-19 procurement structures across the country, this most welcome exercise in government transparency – if implemented more broadly across the nation – may well go a long way to securing a better future while the rogues of the past are brought to book.

In the same early January article, Wiener said, “there is only so much the executive can do to assure citizens and prospective investors that there is change and that there is no room for the corrupt and crooked. An effective, efficient and independent NPA, bringing the high-profile State Capture accused to book, will have a massive effect on public sentiment”. Later that same week, I concurred in my capacity as shadow minister, Public Enterprises, and further called for “full transparency, full forensic audits, the institution of rotating tier-1 audit firms and a halt to (this) profligacy at the expense of consumers”. These are the measures that are called for.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) lists three generally agreed upon principles that underpin good governance: accountability, meaning that it is possible to identify and hold public officials to account for their actions; transparency, meaning that reliable, timely and relevant information about the activities of government is available to the public; and openness, meaning that governments listen to citizens and businesses, and take their suggestions into account when designing and implementing public policies.

Half the problem with our SOEs is that simple, honest, accepted and essentially commonsense tenets like the OECD principles have not been adhered to. Instead, the manner in which our SOEs have been run have been shrouded in secrecy and rooted in a command and control culture. Hardly a surprise then, that tenders, procurement and key contracts shrouded from the public gaze, led to runaway opportunities for graft.

If government is able to separate and sever the interests of party and state and embrace an openness that has hitherto not even been paid lip service, we might begin to drain the swamp that chokes the flow of our fiscus. 

The jury is out on the matter but the pulse of the media – both social and mainstream – appears to indicate an increasing arrhythmia when it comes to measuring the ongoing acquiescence of citizens, investors and other key players. This cannot be seen to be a show trial organised by a government in order to have an effect on public opinion and reduce political opposition – not that the SIU and the prosecuting authorities are in any way complicit.

The modus operandi, that began with the nefarious Arms Deal in 1999 and continued ever since, needs to change. The question is: can it? 

Opinion | Ramaphosa’s empty rhetoric is wearing thin

The ANC needs to abandon cadre deployment, state-led development and its relationship with unions to ensure the country’s economy survives the Covid-19 pandemic

Only a man deeply out of touch with reality could sprout such empty platitudes as were contained in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s newsletter this week even as his government holds its boot to the neck of South Africa’s economy and education system while evidence mounts of ANC “covidpreneurs” looting Covid-19 relief funds.

With no hint of shame or irony, his piece concludes: “We will do what we must to build an economy that is resilient and dynamic, that creates work and opportunity, and that meets the needs of all our people.”

This, just days after putting the demands of teacher unions ahead of the constitutional rights of children to education and setting the police on small business owners peacefully demonstrating for the right to operate. The only “strong commitment to a social compact” in evidence is the patronage arrangements between his party and the vested interests that keep it in power.

Let’s be clear: without real commitment to the public good over the ANC’s special interest groups, and real action on structural reform, this newsletter is dishonest and deceitful.

The ANC’s economic recovery document proposes ever more state control over South Africa’s “development”. This will only plunge us deeper into debt, poverty, unemployment and inequality. The ANC’s solution to all the problems brought on by the economic meddling of our incapable state is even more meddling.

This is even as the government reluctantly accepts generous assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the form of a low-interest R70 billion Covid-19 loan. The irony should not be lost on anyone that market-driven economies are effectively coming to the rescue of our increasingly socialist state.

If Ramaphosa wants to rebuild credibility, the best place to start now would be to follow through on commitments made to the IMF. This means stabilising our debt by holding the line on the public sector wage bill, refusing endless bailouts to failing state-owned enterprises and real action on other such reforms.

Unless South Africa embraces the three fundamental principles of the rule of law, a market-driven economy and the separation of party and state, nothing Ramaphosa says is going to arrest our inexorable decline.

His assurances suggest all that’s needed is a consensus-driven plan of action. “In the coming weeks, we will work with our social partners to finalise an economic recovery programme that brings together the best of all the various proposals.”

It is not clear who these social partners are, but it is crystal clear what needs to be done. Forget about oxymoronic “well-crafted public employment schemes” and just take the boot off private sector job creation by freeing up the energy and labour markets, auctioning spectrum, and walking away from investment-killing policies such as NHI, EWC, prescribed assets, SA Reserve Bank nationalisation and BEE. Until this happens, there will be no investment, growth and job creation at a scale needed to make real inroads into debt, poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Ramaphosa rightly points out that SA is faced with “a health, social and economic crisis of massive proportions”, but is at pains to blame this on the pandemic, when in reality, the virus has only served to accelerate and accentuate existing realities.

This has brought into sharp relief the difference between what a capable and incapable government can do to promote the well-being of citizens. The DA-run Western Cape government quickly reprioritised funds and used the lockdown to build sufficient capacity to accommodate all those requiring treatment. By contrast, the ANC-run provinces have not managed to produce a single functioning field hospital bed. Any functional capacity added there has been contributed by the private sector.

Actions speak louder than words, Mr President. This fundamental failure to deliver on even the most basic requirements to save lives says more about the ANC than any speech or newsletter ever could.

Cadre deployment

The root of the problem is the party’s decades-old policy of cadre deployment in which appointments and promotions in all entities of the state – including the civil service – are based on political loyalty rather than performance. This has hollowed out the state’s ability to deliver, requiring it to build and fund patronage networks instead, opening up avenues for corruption. It also incapacitated those entities intended by the Constitution to check and balance power.

Which is why Ramaphosa’s soothing April assurances that Covid corruption would not be tolerated have become July’s Covid feeding frenzy.

And this is the point. Fixing our health, social and economic crises is not so much about the various “plans under discussion” as about fixing the underlying systems that code failure into our society. First amongst these is cadre deployment, the central tenet on which the ANC house of cards is now built. An incapable state is the inevitable consequence of cadre deployment.

Until the ANC abandons cadre deployment, state-led development and its cosy relationship with unions, Ramaphosa’s calming reassurances are simply empty promises by a spectator president trying to lull people into a false sense that hope is just a plan, compact and commission away.

Opinion | Covid-19 must be politicised when the ANC’s politics have failed South Africa

Earlier this week National Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, called on the Democratic Alliance to refrain from politicising the battle against the spread of the coronavirus in the country, stating that: “It’s wrong for the DA to try and politicise Covid-19 responses because the crisis is bigger than any political party”.

While Minister Mkhize may be correct in his assertion that the crisis is bigger than any political party, he is wrong and, quite frankly, impertinent to dissuade South Africans from politicising this pandemic when it has laid bare the deadly effects of ANC politics and corruption over the past decade. While South Africans of all walks of life have united in the fight against the coronavirus, we cannot simply glaze over the fact that our crumbling public health system, and its collapse under the weight of this pandemic as a result, are a direct and irrefutable result of the ANC’s politics and government in our country.

The ANC cannot absolve itself of its corruption, and it cannot expect South Africans to fall into a state of selective amnesia when it comes to the party’s track record in government. It has been 26 years since the ANC came into power. There are no longer any scapegoats for its entrenchment of a criminal state through cadre deployment and corruption which have, over the years, stolen the money meant for our citizens. The ultimate price for the ANC’s politics is now finally being exposed: the very lives of the South African people.

At the Financial Times Africa Summit in London last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa estimated that South Africa has lost close to R1 trillion in corruption over the past decade. To put this into perspective, R1 trillion equates to almost 20 years of our current national health budget of R51 billion for 2019/20. Many analysts have conceded that even this is a conservative estimate if one does a more comprehensive investigation. This excludes the billions wasted on projects from which South Africa has received zero return on investment such as Eskom and South African Airways bailouts, which are dangerous examples of how the ANC continues to flagrantly waste taxpayers’ money on bad investments for the benefit of its party and not the country.

Dr Joachim Vermooten and economist Jacques Jonker of the Free Market Foundation have estimated that SAA alone has received close to R84 billion in total cash and loan guarantees since 1999. After more than a decade of government bailouts, SAA is still in business rescue. Tragically, and astonishingly, government is still negotiating further bailouts footed by the taxpayer. These negotiations are currently underway while residents in the Eastern Cape are fighting over oxygen tanks and waiting for hours in hospital passageways for medical treatment.

A BBC exposé on a Port Elizabeth public hospital’s response to the coronavirus outbreak reported a harrowing account of mothers and babies dying, rats feeding off of red-stained medical waste, and terrified hospital staff on the verge of complete mental breakdown. Nurses report war-like conditions where a job that was once a passion, is now a daily dose of sheer torment, anguish, and misery. The coronavirus pandemic has finally given a face to the ANC’s corruption in South Africa, and it is gruesome, bloodied, and monstrous.

We know that the State Capture Inquiry and the Zondo Commission are living, breathing evidence of just how deeply, and appallingly the ANC’s corruption has ravaged our country. And yet even in the wake of such treachery having been exposed and laid bare for all to see, there are still vultures clothed in black, gold, and green pecking at the corpse of our once healthy and thriving economy. ANC cadres continue to syphon off Covid-19 relief funds meant for afflicted South Africans, the Eastern Cape Health Department wasted R10 million on scooters fitted with emergency beds, and even the husband of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s own spokesperson, Khusela Diko, is alleged to have pocketed a R125 million Covid-19 personal protective equipment contract.

Those who once believed that Cyril Ramaphosa would reform the ANC and morph into South Africa’s proverbial saviour, will be disappointed to realise what many knew all along: that the ANC is beyond saving and cannot be reformed without an internal purge which would cause the entire organisation to implode. After 26 years of ANC government we now know two things: that struggle credentials do not a competent public servant make, and that a liberation movement does not a capable government become. The ANC wants so desperately for South Africa to cling to and remember the days when it was the only answer to our future, that it wants to lobotomise us of 26 years of its bad politics.

And this is precisely why Minister Mkhize’s call for the coronavirus pandemic not be politicised is so ill-placed, because South Africa continues to suffer to this day from the way in which the ANC has politicised our economy, our public service, and each and every part of our society.

The ANC has politicised the public service through cadre deployment which, over time, has eroded the capability of the state by appointing those loyal to the ANC instead of those fit for purpose. The ANC has politicised empowerment policies such as B-BBEE by catapulting a small elite linked to the party and privy to the workings of government into obscene wealth. The ANC has politicised the State by creating a separate economy which runs parallel to government comprised of tenderpreneurs and party hacks. The ANC has even gone as far as to politicise our society, rashly claiming ownership of black thought entirely, and pitting races against each other as a deflection mechanism, all the while collecting, wasting, and stealing tax revenue from the ‘white economy’ that it denounces so vociferously.

South Africa must politicise the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, because it is bad politics fed into a corrupt government that has brought our public health system to its knees and rendered it incapable of saving the lives of our people. The politics in question belong to the ANC and the ANC alone. This is undisputable, unavoidable, and now very much palpable. It is just sad that this moment of clarity has come at far too high a cost: the dear lives of our very people, their families, and their loved ones.

Minister Mkhize cannot distance his government from its politics, when they are one in the same. Ultimately, we must politicise this crisis, because it has shown us, in stark detail, that South Africa desperately needs a different kind of politics to survive. This is especially true when our fight for survival has become desperately and fearfully literal under 26 years of the ANC’s watch. I’m afraid this is the kind of politics that South Africa simply cannot ignore, nor forget.

DA to approach courts to keep nation’s schools open

The Democratic Alliance (DA) strongly opposes the decision by President Ramaphosa to close the nation’s public schools for four weeks. We will be approaching the courts, on the basis that it is politically rather than scientifically motivated and not in the best interests of South Africa’s 14 million schoolchildren.

The decision to close the nation’s schools for four weeks is irrational based on the available evidence which is that schools do not expose learners and staff to higher levels of risk than other places. Indeed, to quote Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga from her statement yesterday following the President’s announcement: “It is important to bear in mind that the latest opinions of the Ministerial Advisory Committee (MAC), medical and science experts, is that learners are better at school than in communities and homes where the infections are actually taking place.”

The ANC government has refused to open the MAC’s advisories to public scrutiny, precisely because the government’s decisions go against the advice of scientists. Professor Shabir Madhi, who serves on the MAC, confirmed yesterday that government had not taken their advice that schools should not be closed. He said: “I think it’s a case of government deciding to take advice from the unions, rather than from the scientists, because the scientific community has been pretty uniform that there is very little reason to close the schools. The opening of the schools has got very little to do with the transmission of the virus and if anything, the closure of the schools is going to do more harm than good.”

Another MAC member, Professor Glenda Gray, confirmed that the decision contradicted their advice and went against the scientific evidence, saying “We believed that it was the best thing for children to be at school because we do not believe that Covid-19 infection poses a risk to their health.”

The decision to close schools is rather a result of the ANC capitulating to all-powerful teachers’ unions, in particular SADTU, who do not have the best interests of learners at heart. In bowing to this threatening interest group – a crucial component of the ANC’s political support base – the ANC is trampling on children’s constitutional right to education, which recognises that education is fundamentally important to a child’s health, food security, future earnings and safety.

The DA will not let children become another political football in the ANC’s game to entrench their power and access to state resources in the face of dwindling popular support due to their failure to deliver a better life for all.

Not only MAC advisors but also both the South African Paediatric Association and the American Association of Paediatricians have come out in strong support of schools being open. The latter cites “mounting evidence” that transmission of the coronavirus by young children is uncommon, partly because they are less likely to contract it in the first place.

Governing body associations, NGOs and medical specialists have argued to keep schools open, but these arguments have been swept aside on a wave of political expediency.

In the Western Cape, there is no evidence of mass spreading of the virus at schools. Indeed, not a single learner death has been reported to the Western Cape Education Department and covid mortality among the province’s teachers, at 0.07%, is not higher than for other essential workers. Over half of Western Cape schools have not reported a single positive case, and of those that have, the majority (72.4%) have only reported one or two cases at their school. Furthermore, it should be remembered that a case reported by a school does not necessarily mean that the individual was infected at the school.

In fact, organisations monitoring Western Cape schools have commented that learners practice better physical distancing and hygiene measures at school than they do outside school in the surrounding community (where they may be unsupervised as parents are at work).

The DA’s position remains that those parents who choose to keep their children out of school should be allowed to do so. Staff members who choose to stay home must accept a salary cut. If this were the case, it is doubtful that unions would be calling so loudly for schools to close.

The cost to closing schools is profound and will be borne by children and families for many years. Many children will drop out of school never to return, and many more will fall so far behind that they are never able to catch up. Inequality in our society will increase, as poorer families are not able to provide any at-home learning, while more resourced families will naturally do whatever is possible to continue their children’s education even while schools are closed.

Closing schools increases the risk of children – especially those from poorer families – being left home alone while parents are forced to return to work to sustain the family. Furthermore, surveys show that school closures raise levels of substance abuse, depression, fear, loneliness, domestic violence, and child abuse. Schools will be vandalized. As education is compromised, so poverty will go up, along with the suffering and loss of life that accompanies that. Let us be under no illusion: poverty kills.

The decision to close schools underscores the ANC’s indifference to the fate of South Africa’s children. It comes not even a week after the Pretoria High Court found that the basic education minister and the eight ANC provincial education heads had breached their constitutional duty by freezing the school feeding scheme. Schools closures will have a serious impact on the nutrition of vulnerable children, 2.5 million of whom experienced hunger even before the lockdown. Even if the schools feeding programme continues in line with the court order, many learners will not be able to get to school to collect food, especially in very rural communities.

After four weeks of school closures, the virus will still be there and infections will still be rising in some provinces. What happens then? Do we succumb meekly to extensions, even as government keeps on failing to build testing or treatment capacity?

In the Western Cape, infections are falling, so the government’s specious reasoning that schools should be closed because infections are rising does not apply to that province in any case, yet government has made no exception for the over one million learners there.

The ANC has targeted the nation’s schools for closure even as taxis are allowed to operate at full capacity and gatherings of up to 50 adults are allowed for funerals and religious services. This is not science, it’s politics.

Instead of an education and a bright future, the ANC is bequeathing our children debt, hunger, and ignorance. The DA will fight this every step of the way.

City of Cape Town one step closer to establishing the Atlantis Special Economic Zone

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape applauds the progress the DA-run City of Cape Town has made to grow our local economy and develop our communities.

In Atlantis this week, the City has made huge strides in the establishment of the Atlantis Special Economic Zone. Following the Mayoral Committee’s agreement to recommend to Council to approve the transfer of land in Atlantis, the Atlantis Special Economic Zone is one step closer to realisation.

This initiative will see the establishment of a GreenTech hub which focusses on the ‘green’ market currently growing globally. It aims primarily to secure a better future, not only for the Western Cape Province as a whole but also for Atlantis and its residents. It is expected that by 2034, this initiative will have contributed over R15 billion to the Western Cape GDP and the creation of many new job opportunities.

Initiatives, such as the Atlantis Special Economic Zone project, emphasises the DA’s commitment to growing the economy, create employment opportunities and build a South Africa that prospers.

We commend the City for being the caring City the people deserve by alleviating poverty through the creation of job opportunities and skills development.

We look forward to seeing this development progress and we support the City’s efforts to ensure that not only the residents of Atlantis but also the Western Cape as a whole be well taken care of and be given the opportunities they deserve.