The DA gets things done for young people.

On Youth Day, we grown-ups owe it to the children of South Africa – past, present and future – to take honest stock of the way this country treats young people. We need to ask ourselves if this is the best we can do, or if there are things we can do to build a better future for them.

So here are the facts.

No country for poor young people.

Nearly three million of our children experience hunger regularly, while 600 000 children experience hunger every day or almost every day. For every single one of these children, hunger is a personal disaster, stunting their joy of childhood and prospects for adulthood. For their parents, it is humiliating defeat. For our country, it is a stain on our national conscience.

This hunger crisis exploded when government glibly shut down whole industries and stole billions in Covid relief funding. But the raw deal that children get didn’t start and won’t end with the pandemic.

Schools in poor communities are so deficient that only one in five school children in South Africa leaves foundation phase able to read for meaning. Only one in three entering grade 1 will pass matric and only one in 25 will receive a post school qualification.

The single biggest reason for these bad outcomes is that the ANC puts the interests of SADTU ahead of the needs of poor schoolchildren, in return for SADTU’s political support. The “Cash-for-jobs” report compiled by Professor John Volmink in 2016 revealed that through the process of cadre deployment, SADTU has captured and corrupted six of South Africa’s nine provincial education departments.

Three out of every four young people aged 15 to 24 and over half of those aged 25 to 34 who want a job can’t find one. Poor, young people are shut out of opportunities, most living bleak existences in metros and municipalities where crumbling infrastructure and growing debt point to a future that is bleaker still.

The single biggest reason for disparities in unemployment levels between youth and other age groups is that the ANC puts the interests of unions over the needs of young people, in return for political support. By setting up artificial barriers to entry into the labour market, labour law protects the employed at the expense of new entrants and the unemployed.

Let’s face it. We grown-ups are failing our children. On empty stomachs, they must struggle through bad schools only to face a hostile labour market and a bleak future. Their fate is surely our call to action.

The DA difference.

There is one province that has their back and is working hard to build a better future for poor young people. This is the DA-run Western Cape.

During lockdown and school closures last year, the province defied a national government directive to terminate school-feeding programmes. It introduced and funded an Emergency School Nutrition Programme that delivered 1.6 million meals to school children across the province. Other provinces were eventually forced by a court order to follow suit.

The Western Cape was also the only province to continue providing a full subsidy to funded Early Childhood Development centres throughout the lockdown.

The DA gets things done to tackle hunger and poverty.

National government’s decision to close schools in response to the pandemic dealt a particularly devastating blow to children from poor families because they could not make full use of available online resources. The DA and the Western Cape government have consistently lobbied for schools to reopen based on sound scientific evidence that children are at low risk for severe Covid-19 infection and are low-risk spreaders to adults and are in fact safer at school because of safety protocols in place there.

The provincial government procured masks and sanitizer for every school in the province. It was the only province to publish details of all personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and expenditure.

The DA gets thing done for poor young people. Efficiently and transparently.

The DA-run Western Cape government keeps more children in school (from each cohort of kids who entered grade 1 twelve years previously) till the end of matric than any other province. By law, children only have to attend school to the end of Grade 9. The province has consistently achieved retention rates (grade 10 to 12) of over 60%, which is 10 percentage points above the national average.

It also consistently achieves the top matric results in the country for each of these cohorts. Other provinces have higher drop-out rates during grades 10-12 for low-performing kids, which artificially boosts their matric results, which are generally reported only as a percentage of kids who wrote matric.

The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa to have implemented a Schools Evaluator. It is independent and properly resourced to accurately assess schools, to ensure better results at more schools in the province. Reports are published online for all to see.

The province has lead innovation in education by establishing Collaboration Schools – 15 in all so far – in which schools serving disadvantaged communities are partnered with non-profit organisations.

It leads in connectivity, having connected 85% of public schools in the province (1297 out of 1523) to broadband.

The DA is challenging in court the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment which has enabled capture and corruption of much of SA’s education system by SADTU.

The DA gets things done for school children.

And finally, when Western Cape youth seek out jobs, they have a better chance of finding one. Unemployment in the province is 17.5 percentage points lower than the average for the other eight provinces. This is because DA governments work hard to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

The DA gets things done for young jobseekers.

Their fate our call to action.

What can you do to help build a better future for South Africa’s children? There are so many ways that people can make a difference. I’d argue that the most powerful you can take is to vote DA in the upcoming local government election on 27 October 2021. Because unlike the ANC, the DA gets things done for young people.

Midvaal’s clear blue water

Nothing could better underscore the importance of voting – and voting DA – in the upcoming local government elections than yesterday’s news that dairy group Clover has decided to close South Africa’s biggest cheese factory, in the North West town of Lichtenburg.

This decision comes on the back of large financial losses due to poor or non-existent service delivery by Ditsobotla Local Municipality. The frequent water and electricity supply disruptions and crumbling municipal infrastructure including the practically impassable road leading to the factory means it is no longer feasible for Clover to operate there.

Clover is consolidating its production activities in its Durban factory, a move which will cost Clover R1.5 billion. This is a massive vote of no confidence in Ditsobotla municipality and a massive blow to the community. Some 330 breadwinners will lose their jobs. Other smaller businesses in the municipality will suffer a drop in demand for goods and services.

On the other side of the spectrum lies Midvaal Municipality, the only local government in Gauteng that the DA runs with a full mandate.  A decade of solid delivery under the capable leadership of DA mayor Bongani Baloyi has attracted investment to the area and boosted local economic activity, giving rise to its reputation as the fastest-growing municipality in Gauteng.

Unsurprisingly, Sedibeng Breweries, South African distributors for Heineken chose to establish its national office there, bringing with it new opportunities for job creation and small business. Other major organisations operating there are Ferrero Roche, New Hope, BSI Steel, South 32, Paramount Trailers and the Oprah Winfrey School. You will not find any of them closing or moving because of poor municipal service delivery.

Midvaal is rated one of the top five best-run municipalities out of 278 municipalities in the country, by independent ratings agency Ratings Africa. It is also the best-performing municipality in Gauteng, and the only one that can boast seven consecutive years of clean audits, meaning public money is reliably spent on the public.

This tale of two municipalities shows the clear blue water between DA- and ANC-run governments. It also makes clear the relationship between local government performance and the area’s ability to attract and retain investment.

More investment means more jobs, more economic activity, and more revenue that can be spent on things that improve people’s lives, such as electrifying informal settlements and building community sports facilities. DA-run Midvaal Municipality does these things and much more.

Local government is the coalface of service delivery and is therefore especially important to vulnerable communities. It is also the essential foundation on which our country’s economy is built. Businesses like Clover vote with their feet. No business will risk investing in a municipality that can’t guarantee delivery of the most basic services required to run a business profitably – water, electricity, roads, sanitation, refuse collection.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the broad unemployment level in DA-run Western Cape province, where most DA-run municipalities are located, is 17.5 percentage points lower than the average for the other eight provinces. This is according to Statistics SA’s recently released figures for the first quarter of 2021, which show unemployment at 27.9% in the Western Cape and at 45.4% in the rest of South Africa.

The DA is the only party with a proven track record of delivery. If we want to revive the dying economies of our towns and cities, we have to install DA governments in municipalities and metros across the country. The upcoming local government elections on 27 October 2021 is a crucial opportunity for voters to do this.

Yesterday, the DA was first out of the blocks with its voter registration campaign, fixing DA registration posters to street poles in Nelson Mandela Bay. DA registration posters will be going up across the country from this week, calling on all South Africans who will be 18 years or older by 27 October to use the registration weekend of 17 and 18 July to make sure they registered to vote DA.

If we want South Africa to work, we need to fix it. There is no more powerful action step you can take to fix your town or city than to vote DA on 27 October 2021, because the DA gets things done.

Open Letter to President Ramaphosa

Dear President Ramaphosa,

Your silence on the unfolding saga around Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and the irregularly-awarded Digital Vibes contract can no longer be justified or accepted. Unless you speak up on the issue and follow this with action against the errant Minister, South Africans will be left with no choice but to believe that his behaviour has your blessing.

The verified information already in the public domain is more than enough to satisfy any possible requirement for action on your part. This R150 million contract was not only irregularly awarded – as the Minister has publicly conceded – but it was indeed signed off by the Minister himself, which in itself is highly irregular and reason for alarm.

By now you should know better than to take at face value an accused member of your executive’s claims that he or she didn’t know the details of a particular contract or isn’t acquainted with a particular individual. The Minister’s signature on the contract along with the subsequent revelations of reciprocal largess from Digital Vibes towards the Minister and his son outweigh his solemn protestation of innocence many times over. If he continues to serve in your cabinet in the face of this evidence, we can reasonably assume that he does so with your full approval.

Talking about cleaning up your government and your party is easy, which is why we have heard you do so much of it in recent years. However, doing it is another matter entirely. It’s not good enough to only direct this clean-up action at your political enemies inside the ANC. Yes, the likes of Ace Magashule must step aside – and then be charged and prosecuted – but the same goes for those whom you consider your allies, or at least not politically hostile towards you. If they abuse the system for personal gain, they too must go.

This scandal around Minister Mkhize has now progressed way beyond the point where you can still claim to be assessing the information in order to make a decision. You need to act.

But we, in the DA, know better than to hold out hope for such action. After all, you took no action against Public Works Minister Patricia De Lille for her role in the infamous Beitbridge “washing line” border fence scandal. And you’ve said nothing yet on your Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa’s outrageous kickbacks scandal. Selective intolerance for corruption does not serve the interests of the people of South Africa, which is why the DA will take action of our own.

Today the DA Shadow Minister for Health, Siviwe Gwarube, will lay criminal charges against Minister Mkhize as well as Health Director General, Dr Sandile Buthelezi, for contravening both the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (POCCA) and the Public Finance Management Act (PMFA). The latter specifies that contracts must be signed off by an accounting officer and not the executive authority – something Minister Mkhize would have known.

Our scope for action may be limited compared to what you can do as President and Head of the Executive, but rest assured we will do everything in our power to keep the corrupt far away from public money.

Citizens of South Africa need to see the same commitment from their President. Please do not disappoint them.

Yours sincerely,

John Steenhuisen
Leader, Democratic Alliance

Kouga, a South African success story

No matter how bad things are in many parts of South Africa, the story of Kouga Municipality in the Eastern Cape shows us that things can turn around swiftly with the right leadership.

Kouga is home to some 200 000 people living in Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, St Francis Bay and the surrounding areas. When they gave the DA an outright majority in the 2016 local government elections, we inherited an indebted municipality collapsing under years of ANC neglect and corruption. To make matters worse, it was also the start of a prolonged drought.

Five years on, Kouga is a place of hope and progress, where the promise of “a better life for all” is real for people. The difference between 2016 and 2021 is striking. Consider the progress made in the following delivery areas.

Housing: The ANC-run council had neither built nor facilitated the building of a single house in Kouga since 2007. Since 2016, the DA-run council has completed 611 houses and another 3025 are in the pipeline while a further 2790 are being held up by land and infrastructure issues. This is against a backlog of about 15 000 houses needed, meaning that real progress is being made.

Fleet: In 2016, only 4% of Kouga’s vehicle fleet was operational. Today, 96% of the municipality’s vehicles are on the road every day to service communities, and 57 new vehicles have been added to the fleet.

Roads: From 2011 to 2016, the ANC-run municipality spent an average of R3.5 million per year on road maintenance. The DA-run municipality has tripled that delivery rate, spending on average over R10 million per year on repairing and upgrading roads in the past five years.

Public amenities: In 2016, public amenities were in a state of disrepair with little to no maintenance happening. Since 2016, the DA council has undertaken a massive maintenance drive and upgraded community halls, ablution facilities, sports facilities, parks, and campsites.

Investment: By 2016, investment in Kouga had all but dried up and local businesses did not want to take on contracts for the municipality because of its reputation for non-payment. Kouga is now an investment hub. A brand-new hospital is being built in Jeffreys Bay, while R4 billion has been invested in two housing developments, and several large companies have set up in Kouga.

But the municipality isn’t just content with getting these basics right. It is actively innovating, to take Kouga from good to great.

The municipality won gold at the Eco-Logic awards last year for the first plastic road in Africa, built in Jeffreys Bay using recycled plastic (equivalent to 1.8 million plastic bags per kilometre of road). This revolutionary new approach to tarring could increase the lifespan of roads while reducing maintenance costs and plastic pollution. If ever there was hard proof that the DA goes the extra mile, this is it.

Kouga has its sights on becoming the country’s leading Bioeconomy Zone. An SA subsidiary of Hive Energy is set to develop a waste-to-energy plant, a solar plant, and a biochar plant that turns invasive alien vegetation biomass into “green charcoal” which has several environmentally friendly applications. The first biochar units have been manufactured to kickstart the project.

The council has built a new state-of-the-art waste water treatment works and is upgrading its three other waste water treatments works, one of the many ways this municipality is fighting off Day Zero during a devastating drought which has brought the Kouga Dam level to below 5% this week.

Day Zero may be just weeks away but if it happens, Kouga residents will know their municipality pulled out all the stops to avoid it. It is aggressively pursuing water security by every means possible, including through groundwater supply and water conservation and demand management initiatives.

All this investment and innovation comes at a cost, and yet Kouga’s finances are in a much healthier state now than five years ago when the DA council took over. In 2016, Kouga was heavily indebted. Today, this debt has been paid off yet cash on hand is almost double what it was back then.

Kouga is a wonderful South African success story that needs to be replicated in municipalities across the country. What are the keys to its success?

First is meritocracy. People and service providers are appointed based on their ability to get the job done for the benefit of the public, rather than on political connections for the benefit of the party. This is why the people of Kouga are at the centre of everything council does.

Second is accountability. Before 2016, corruption was rife and went unchecked. Since 2016, the approach has been one of zero tolerance for corruption, driven by an anti-corruption unit which has seen two officials suspended for fraudulently issuing drivers licenses.

Third is decentralization. By collaborating with community groups and the business sector, they’ve managed to get much more done than would have been possible working in isolation. The trick to getting stuff done in government is to understand that government is not so much about doing stuff as about enabling stuff to get done. South Africans are super entrepreneurial and innovative. They just need a government that’s working for them rather than against them.

The story of Kouga shows that the first step to building a successful South Africa is to vote DA. In the local government elections on 27 October 2021, a vote for the DA will be a vote for success because the DA gets things done.

South Africans are becoming unemployable

Long-term unemployment, which measures those unemployed for one year or longer, is not a standard headline grabbing figure when quarterly labour force survey results are released. It should be.

The full picture of the crisis of unemployment in South Africa lies in the number of unemployable, not just unemployed, people whose proportion can be partially gauged by the long-term unemployment figures.

This is what we know about the features of those who experience long term unemployment:

– The likelihood of remaining unemployed is greater for the long term unemployed.

– People who have been unemployed for longer than a year become discouraged and stop looking for work. On average the long term unemployed give up looking for work and join the ranks of the economically inactive in greater numbers than they reintegrate back into the job market.

– Long term unemployment strongly and negatively effects psychological well-being, increases social exclusion and propensity to crime. Furthermore, when reemployed those returning after a long period of unemployment tend to earn less than in their previous jobs and are demoted from their past career paths.

Unfortunately, the long term unemployed are not a tiny subset of the unemployed in South Africa, they are a significant majority.

People who have been unemployed for longer than a year make up 75.3% of the unemployed population according to the latest results released by Stats SA for the first quarter of 2021. Many of them have been unemployed for a great deal longer than a year- 60% of unemployed South Africans have been out of work for longer than 5 years, and at least 1 in 3 have never worked before. 

The situation has grown more critical over the years. The proportion of the South African labour force which has been in long term unemployment has increased from 16% of the labour force to 24.5% of the labour force, between q1 2010 and q1 2021, a 53% jump. Frighteningly, according to 2018 data about two-thirds of those in long-term unemployment were youth (15–34 years). Young people often struggle to find work due to lack of experience, long term unemployment further exacerbates this handicap. 

There are several reasons the long term unemployed find it increasingly difficult to secure work: employers are more likely to filter out candidates who have gaps in their work history, especially long recent gaps; long periods of detachment from one’s profession erodes skills and professional networks; money to finance job search costs runs out; and after a long time out of work many spend less and less time looking for work. South Africa with one of the world’s highest proportion of unemployed workers, the majority of whom have been unemployed for a long time, is at risk of becoming one of the most unemployable populations in the world.

A large cohort of the labour force being inexperienced, young, and never employed imposes severe consequences not purely for the individual but for the future of national and regional economies. We are witnessing the erosion of human capital at an alarming scale, which is going to be felt for a very long time to come.

It is not just the young who are at risk. There are also significant consequences for older workers, for whom long term unemployment means they enter retirement inadequately prepared. The long term unemployed are an indicator of the future strain on welfare support for the elderly who were unemployed for most or all of their working lives.

Long term unemployment further exacerbates the risk of jobless growth, should South Africa be able to reverse its economic downturn. Unemployment becomes particularly difficult to address when we are talking about the reintegration of people who have been out of work for many years instead of many months.

These are people who are most likely to be left behind even in the event of an economic upturn. The concern is that a significant proportion of the unemployed are not poised to be able to take advantage of a change in South Africa’s economic fortunes.

In the opposite direction these features of the South African unemployed have an impact on growth; as the combination of low qualifications, low experience and low productivity work together to kill off prospects of growth.

As a result of its impact, there needs to be greater attention and analysis focused on long term unemployment. One could argue it is the most important labour indicator for South Africa right now because it is a measure of the population most vulnerable to never finding employment.

For comparison, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the unemployment rate reached almost 25% of the labor force in the United States. We have proportionately more people in long term unemployment than the US had unemployed in the Great Depression. Remember these are just the people for whom finding a job is unlikely, the total unemployment rate is much higher at 32.6%.

The results of the quarterly labour force survey are one of the most, if not the most, highly anticipated statistical releases in the country. Considering that the long term unemployed constitute the majority of the unemployed we should amass more detail about this demographic. Yet it is typically not mentioned in reporting of the survey results.

We need to regularly track and scrutinise long term unemployment including by province, duration, age, previous sector, education level etc. Another approach developed by the Boston Consulting Group for a pilot in Frankfurt involved more detailed segmentation of the unemployed. In that study segmenting by ability and motivation.

The point is we need to understand more about this cohort, if we are to develop policies which will help absorb the long term unemployed into the labour market. We cannot take it as a given that their reintegration will come about organically if economic output improves. It won’t.

Part of the solutions will likely need to include reducing obstacles in the way of the long-term unemployed finding work. Germany is the only country in the world which excluded the long term unemployed from minimum wage prescriptions it introduced in 2015. The results of that are now slowly coming in.

A recent paper by Matthias Umkehrer and Philipp vom Berge found that there has been low take up of the exemption in Germany. The authors note that “long-term unemployment remained disturbingly persistent” in Germany at around 2,4%.

This makes it difficult to know what the effect of minimum wage exemptions for the long term unemployed would be in South Africa, in part because the take up rate by businesses could be higher.

We know South Africa has a large and rising unemployment rate. The release of jobs numbers needs to be accompanied now by analysis and conversation on the nature of the unemployed.

The danger of South African unemployment is not just that it’s rising but that the unemployed are not a fluid cohort- they are trapped. And that view is a shift of perspective in how we think about unemployment, i.e. it’s not just new people entering unemployment.

Unemployment numbers have a false newness about them in the way they are communicated, “there are now 25% unemployed”, “there are now 32% unemployed” etc. Instead of also including that 60% of the people unemployed 5 years ago are still unemployed, are still trapped.

This better conveys that we are running out of time and that dislodging unemployment becomes more difficult the longer people remain unemployed. Placing a spotlight on the long term unemployed introduces a temporal aspect to the unemployment data, and with it hopefully a sense of urgency.

A reason to hope.

A shallow dive into the recent news cycle will deepen one’s sense of despair. But there is reason to hope and reason to act on that hope.

The third wave is hitting Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape and appears to be just weeks away in other provinces. Fourteen months under a state of disaster with varying levels of lockdown and yet South Africa faces the third wave unprotected and vulnerable with not enough beds and oxygen and less than 1% of the population fully protected against serious Covid. (Recall that it takes 2-4 weeks to develop full immunity once vaccinated.)

To make matters worse, our vaccine rollout continues to be held back by a shortage of vaccines, a failure for which president Ramaphosa must ultimately take full responsibility.

To cover for this failure, the National Coronavirus Command Council is considering moving SA to “an adjusted lockdown level 2”. If the NCCC announces irrational blanket bans, it will deal a deathblow to thousands of businesses and jobs teetering on the edge.

Meantime Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is distracted by shocking revelations of Covid corruption that implicate him in his department’s allocation of a sham R150 million contract to his close friend and former associate’s company Digital Vibes.

It is a chilling portent of what is to come if the Health Professions Council of South Africa gets its way. Last week, it told Parliament that the current reserves of the medical schemes must be transferred to the NHI which should be the only health funding mechanism.

Consider the implication for health outcomes if one individual, the Minister of Health, gets full control of SA’s R450 billion health services procurement budget.

Citizen safety also seems more fragile than ever after the horrific incident in Zandspruit where nine young people were stripped naked and burnt to death in an open field by a vigilante group fed up with local crime and policing failures.

Yet rather than taking measures to make South Africans safer, government’s solution to policing failures has been to cut the budget for visible policing and to release the Firearms Control Amendment Bill which proposes a ban on firearm ownership for self-defence. At the same time, it has increased VIP protection for the political elite.

Our power-hungry national government can’t deliver on its basic responsibilities but is amassing more power than ever before.

Understandably, this barrage of bad news leaves one feeling helpless and hopeless.

But there is a South African success story that the media seems strangely reluctant to tell.

The DA in government shows that a successful South Africa is possible. This claim is not the facile promise of a party in opposition. It is the real track record of a party that runs 27 governments across four provinces in South Africa.

Consider how the recent news cycle would have differed had the DA been in national government.

The DA-run Western Cape Government is confident it has prepared enough beds, oxygen & staff to ensure no person is denied access to life-saving medical treatment at a third wave peak. This removes the need for all but the most low-cost, effective interventions to push out and flatten the wave (masks, handwashing, social distancing and limiting indoor gatherings), meaning both lives and jobs are saved.

Unlike its national counterpart, the Western Cape Department of Health spends the entire health budget on delivering health services to citizens and can therefore focus on this objective without the distraction of corruption scandals. As proof, it received a clean audit for the second year in a row – the only health department in the country to do so.

The province has everything in place for a rapid, efficient vaccine rollout, and is constrained only by a shortage of supply from national government.

While the rest of the country lives in evermore fear, the Western Cape Government is making residents feel safer through their Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP), which is on track to meet its target of deploying 1000 officers in high-crime areas of Cape Town by October 2021.

The DA gets things done. Which is why the best-run province, the best-run metro and the top five best-run municipalities in South Africa are all governed by the DA, according to independent audits and rankings.

The fastest route to a successful South Africa is to bring this DA difference to more towns and communities across the country. A thorough analysis of by-election trends shows the DA is growing in wards representing both black and white voters.

However, it is concerning that smaller ethnic and race-based parties are splintering the opposition in specific areas, making it harder for the DA to achieve the crucial objective of beating the ANC. These parties are effectively the “opposition to the opposition” and could end up doing far more harm than good, no matter their true intentions.

Therefore it makes sense for everyone to get behind the DA, to give maximum momentum to the project of replacing the ANC with a credible alternative government.

And I’m happy to report momentum is already on our side for the upcoming municipal elections. Our hugely successful and vibrant virtual rally launch showed that we are ready and eager to contest the local government elections on 27 October. Join us and support us. Together, we can grow this South African success story.

 

 

The truth about by-election trends.

Having been caught up in wall-to-wall mayoral selection interviews last week, I was unable to properly analyse the results of the by-elections on Wednesday 19th May.

Eventually, over the weekend, I found a spare moment to do so.

Unsurprisingly, I discovered that the truth about those results is entirely different from the picture painted in the newspapers, and parroted by broadcasters.

A summary of the main trends revealed in these by-elections are these: 

  • the ANC’s support base is collapsing in South Africa’s cities.
  • In contrast the DA is showing considerable growth in wards representing 89% of South Africans —  ie among both black and white voters.

Of course, there was also some bad news.  We lost four wards in specific circumstances where smaller ethnic- and race-based parties are splintering the opposition, and making it difficult for us to do the really important work of South African politics  —   beating the ANC.

This is bad news, not only for the DA, but for all South Africans and we need to address it.

But it is only one part of the picture, (and a small one at that).

The really important trends (that already became apparent in by-elections during 2020 and were reinforced during 2021), have not been analysed anywhere, as far as I am aware.  I therefore do so here:

The bottom line is this: Across 64 by-elections where the DA faced-off against the ANC, in November and December 2020 and in May 2021, the ANC grew in only 18 and declined in 46.

In contrast, the DA grew in 36 – well over half — and declined in 28.

Moreover, the DA’s support doubled in several of these by-elections, while ANC support doubled in none.

Some of the most notable examples include:

  1. In the City of Cape Town (in the by-elections of 11 November 2020) the ANC declined by 37%, (from 71% to 46% in Ward 88 Philippi), where the overwhelming majority of voters are black.
  2. In Tshwane, in Wards 3 and 92, both majority black and both contested last week, the ANC polled a paltry 31.6 % and 31.5% respectively.  In both these wards, political commentators were predicting a DA loss.  We had a comfortable win, so the result was predictably ignored by the same commentators.
  3. In Ekurhuleni Ward 42, a ward in which the ANC had an absolute majority in the 2019 general election, we came within 88 votes of winning.
  4. The DA is growing in wards with a demographic profile in which we previously would never have stood a chance.  In Ward 92, Central Pretoria, a ward that is now majority black, the DA won comfortably last week.  We came within 85 Votes of winning a black ward in Matjhabeng and took a voting district off the ANC in a ward in Ekurhuleni.
  5. We are the only party building the moderate, non-racial centre of politics  —  and we are able to beat back challenges from both the Freedom Front Plus, and the ANC, on the same day in the same City.  No other party can do this.

These are simply remarkable results compared to what we were polling only a few years ago.

A truthful analysis of the by-elections reveal that it is the ANC that is imploding while the DA is growing across broad right across South Africa.

Yes, we do have localised problems and we are doing our best to understand and to reverse the negative trends.  But the full picture tells a different story.  And it is a story that, for some reason, the media and columnists refuse to tell.

Either they genuinely do not understand it, or they wish to deliberately mislead the public for their own motives.

And, irony of ironies, having falsely described the DA as “imploding” some columnists then blame the DA for “letting South Africa down” by not growing, as Makhudu Sefara did in the Sunday Times last week.

I have given up trying to understand the South African media and its motives.  All I can do is try to get as close to the truth as possible, and convey this to those who are interested in facts, rather than the agendas of those who call themselves “political commentators”.

DA sets record straight on misinformation about DA Councillor Nora Grose

The Democratic Alliance (DA) takes note of the significant misinformation being spread on social media in relation to events that unfolded at the Atlantis Police Station earlier this morning. We wish to put the following on record:

This morning, Councillor Nora Grose, who serves as the Sub Council Chairperson of Sub-Council One (Atlantis) availed herself at the Atlantis Police Station in order to be formally charged in relation to a Hawks investigation that is currently underway. This was a procedural process.

It must be stated upfront that in availing herself to be formally charged, the Councillor did not plead to any charges.

As the Councillor and the City’s legal team have not been provided with the case docket by the Hawks, we are unable to comment on the veracity or the merits of the charges.

The investigation currently underway by the Hawks is multi-faceted and concerns a case of TERS fraud allegedly committed by an ex-DA member, as well as the procedural processes that were followed in the distribution of Covid relief grant funding.

Over the past year, the City of Cape Town has allocated R39 million to an emergency food relief programme, going above and beyond its municipal mandate to assist those who’ve fallen on hard times due to the global pandemic and national lockdowns.

Sadly, there seems to be a deliberate attempt from certain quarters to sub-join and conflate what are clearly two separate matters.

Councillor Grose has and will continue to cooperate with the authorities concerned as this investigation runs its course.

Opinion | The ANC must be treated like any other tax delinquent.

The ANC tax scandal is a far bigger deal than has been reported so far. If any other company or organisation had collected millions in PAYE contributions from its employees and then withheld this money from SARS, they’d be in court quicker than you can say “it’s the right thing to do”. Yet the party of government has been doing exactly that, while simultaneously guilt-tripping citizens into tax compliance.

Paying tax – and particularly paying South Africa’s exceptionally high tax rates – is the ultimate grudge spend. No one wants to do this, not even our self-styled socialists in red. It’s one thing to part with a third or more of your earnings if you can actually see this money reaching its intended target. But it’s an entirely different proposition to dutifully hand it over, and then see a massive chunk of it either wasted on government excess, badly spent or just plain stolen.

Taxpayer frustration is slowly but surely morphing into taxpayer anger, and every year the mutterings of tax revolts get louder and louder. Yet it seems that government is largely oblivious to this pressure cooker situation. Aside from the large amounts looted or misspent every year, the smaller but highly visible amounts blown on material trappings such as luxury cars, house upgrades, fancy hotels, travel and VIP protection points to a government with a massive blind spot.

Year after year SARS runs ad campaigns imploring South Africans to do their patriotic duty and pay their taxes. These campaigns have used every kind of messaging, from instruction and sermon to heartfelt appeals, citing the many worthy projects funded by tax revenue. Over the past decade we have seen one emotive campaign after another, with titles like “Touching Lives” and “Your Tax Matters”, reminding us that the massive social spend that millions rely on is only possible if we all do our bit.

No one disagrees with this, yet almost every taxpayer resents parting with his or her money. Up until now this resentment has stemmed from what government does with all that hard-earned income it collects from you – from its waste, its inefficiency and its greed. But now there’s a whole other angle to this resentment, and that is the fact that the governing party itself is a massive tax cheat. Not only does it misappropriate the money it collects from you – which includes continued salary payments to its corruption-accused MPs who have “stepped aside” – it also doesn’t pay its own share.

According to reports, an amount of R80 million in PAYE tax, dating back to 2017, was owed by the ANC to SARS. This money was deducted from ANC employees’ salaries but never paid over to the tax collector. SARS is now trying to recover the money, and a bill of R17 million taken from the party’s IEC allocations has led to the late payment of April salaries and warnings that this could be the case for the next six months. Some of the chickens are clearly coming home to roost, but it is critical that every cent of this money is recovered.

The matter is a big test for SARS Commissioner, Edward Kieswetter. When asked last week in the Standing Committee on Finance by DA Shadow Finance Minister, Geordin Hill-Lewis, whether there is any political pressure on him to go easy on the ANC, Kieswetter solemnly promised that this is not the case. “I can give the assurance that I will not tolerate any political interference. I would rather resign than comply with any political request,” he said.

All eyes are now on him and how he handles this case as it could have far-reaching implications for future tax compliance in South Africa. But not only this case. It also emerged this week – in an answer by Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, to a DA parliamentary question – that the taxi industry contributed a mere R5 million in corporate income tax last year, despite its revenue for the year being estimated at around R90 billion. This means that most taxi operators are declaring no income at all and paying no income tax for their employees. This, too, is fraud. If Mr Kieswetter wants to prove that he is immune to political pressure, he needs to go after this industry too.

However, recovering the outstanding money is all good and well, but that’s not all that should happen here. In the case of the ANC it is almost certain that it broke the law. It is a criminal offence, in terms of the Tax Administration Act, to withhold money owed to SARS without justification. An offence that is punishable by prison time. If the ANC acted negligently or fraudulently, it is liable for the tax debts of its employees. The taxi industry’s under-declaration and tax evasion is also a crime under the Tax Administration Act.

They are no different to any other employer, and the consequences – both financial and legal – should be no different. If you and I and every other South African citizen must pay our taxes or face the law, then so should the ANC and its allies. Equality before the law is a fundamental requirement to build a functional, prosperous society. It is one of the Democratic Alliance’s core principles, and an issue on which there is miles and miles of clear blue water between the DA and the ANC.

Ramaphosa’s vaccine strategy: Empty promises, deceit, deflection

There are signs that South Africa may be heading into a third wave. Infections are on the rise.

Had President Ramaphosa acted on vaccines with a sense of urgency when other countries were getting into the queue in early 2020, we’d be approaching this third wave with our high-risk group vaccinated.

Instead, we’re heading in unprotected and “phenomenally vulnerable”, with stricter lockdown levels looming. And all Ramaphosa can offer the nation is empty promises and blame-shifting to hide his poor performance.

In his address on 11 January 2021, Ramaphosa reassured the nation we would reach herd immunity by year-end, saying: “South Africa’s vaccine strategy is well underway.”

Yet four months later, not a single vaccine has been administered in South Africa outside of trials and the target for herd immunity has now been shifted out to February 2022.

Our peer countries are far ahead of us. While Chile has managed to vaccinate over a third of its population and Israel over half, South Africa has only managed to vaccinate 0,7% – and this within trials run by trial scientists.

In terms of vaccines administered, South Africa is coming 33rd in Africa, behind the likes of such failing states as Sudan, Sierra Leone, Angola, Somalia, Gambia and Zimbabwe.

Our unforgivably slow progress means it is extremely unlikely we will get significant numbers of high-risk individuals vaccinated before the third wave is fully established.

Let’s be clear. The Ramaphosa administration is directly to blame for many of the recent and future Covid deaths. They have failed dismally to protect South Africans.

Instead of vaccines in arms or sincere apologies, Ramaphosa has produced meaningless reassurances and deceitful excuses that deflect blame for his monumental, unforgivable vaccine failure.

Vacuous commitments

The government’s new target of vaccinating 40 million people by end February 2022 is not realistically achievable and Ramaphosa knows it. When I challenged him on this in Parliament last week, he exposed his target for the lie it is.

Only 380 000 South Africans have been vaccinated so far. To reach the target of 40 million people vaccinated by end February 2022, we’ll have to administer 380 000 doses every two days without missing a single day. This is a higher rate than top performers Israel or Chile have managed.

Consider that on Sunday, not a single dose was delivered.

Consider that his government has still not published a detailed, implementable rollout plan.

Ramaphosa’s assurance of herd immunity by Feb 2022 is as insincere as his reassurance was back in 2015 when he said: “In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power and energy and Eskom ever happened.”

He has simply lost all credibility, at a time when public trust in government is critical to a speedy vaccine rollout.

Deceit and deflection

In his newsletter this week, Ramaphosa attempts to shift blame to richer countries, accusing them of practicing “vaccine apartheid” by vaccinating their own populations first rather than sharing their vaccines with other countries.

With one catchy phrase he attempts to erase the evidence of his own failure to get into the queue for vaccines back in early 2020 when other countries were doing so. Recall that his administration:

  • twice failed to pay the Covax deposits on time.
  • delayed initiating discussions with manufacturers and cancelled the meeting when Johnson & Johnson reached out to them in August 2020.
  • was unresponsive for months and months when Pfizer tried to initiate discussions.
  • squandered the opportunityto protect 500 000 high-risk individuals by selling 1 million AstraZeneca vaccines to other African counties against the advice of the World Health Organisation and leading scientists. (Their reason for selling them was that the AZ vaccine is not effective against the dominant SA variant. Yet they are now going ahead with purchasing Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccines, neither of which have shown efficacy against the dominant SA variant.)

If anyone is practicing “vaccine apartheid” it is Ramaphosa himself, who has failed to provide lifesaving vaccines to millions of high-risk South Africans, just as the Mbeki government failed to provide lifesaving ARVs.

Is Ramaphosa planning to share the 60 million doses we have secured with poorer countries? If not, his accusation smacks of cynical hypocrisy.

His focus now on getting the World Trade Organisation to waive intellectual property (IP) rights for the production of Covid vaccines is another red herring intended to deflect blame for his poor performance. A waiver will make no difference to South Africa’s ability to save lives in the third wave or to reach herd immunity.

No company will invest for a once-in-a-generation windfall, and with a glut in supply imminent. Especially not in a country as hostile to investors as is South Africa.

The main challenge facing South Africa is no longer vaccine supply, but a speedy vaccine rollout to high-risk individuals. We need the public and private health sectors working together, with doctors, pharmacies, clinics and mass vaccination centres running at full speed. This is where Ramaphosa should be focusing his attention.

Instead, when he isn’t focused on internal ANC matters, he’s focused on red herrings such as “vaccine apartheid” and IP waivers that will make no material difference to the urgent matter at hand of getting jabs to high-risk individuals. Because his government simply cannot deliver.

His appearance before the Zondo Commission has laid bare that he is deeply complicit in the hollowing out of our state, through the policies of cadre deployment and BEE, to a point where it is completely unable to deliver on the most basic of its responsibilities, a speedy vaccine rollout to save lives and jobs.

DA-run Western Cape

The DA-run Western Cape is on track for an efficient vaccine rollout and is only constrained by the supply of doses from national government. The DA difference in the Western Cape is that appointments and tenders are based on ability to deliver to people. This is the only way to build a caring, capable, professional state.

Conclusion

Ramaphosa’s vaccine strategy of delivering empty promises, deceit and deflection is indeed well underway. If South Africans want a caring, honest, capable government that delivers on its commitments, they can begin by voting the DA into local government in the upcoming municipal elections on 27 October 2021.