Make a national state of disaster subject to the same procedural constraints that already apply to a state of emergency in our law

We must have parliamentary oversight and make a national state of disaster subject to the same procedural constraints that already apply to a state of emergency in our law. After all, the risks of the abuse of power under a state of national disaster are similar to those historically associated with a state of emergency.

Every time the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, extends the national state of disaster without consulting Parliament, we are being habituated to a new constitutional convention.

This convention holds that the proper response to anything deemed by government as a national disaster is to shut up and comply with the ensuing ministerial diktats, finish and klaar.

The Disaster Management Act leaves Parliament with no formal and direct supervisory role over these decisions, even as it transfers extensive legislative powers to the national executive for indefinite periods of time. So much for the legislative authority of Parliament.

Opposition MPs are free to ask ministerial questions and call for reports in portfolio committees. But we have had to go to court to get crucial information such as the reasoning behind lockdown regulations and the details of the government’s Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plan.

Recently, the penny dropped for a few free-speech activists when they realised, with horror, that in this election year, all political events are currently banned. Even if the ban is lifted in the coming weeks, it can readily be reimposed by the stroke of a ministerial pen, regardless of whether there are less restrictive means to curb a third wave of the pandemic.

This command-and-control mode of government does not accord with the open and democratic society envisaged by our Constitution. And so, the DA has gone to court to challenge the constitutionality of section 27 of the act, the lynchpin of government power under a national state of disaster. Depending on the outcome of the case, we will also table amendments to the act in Parliament.

Our goal is not to tie national government’s hands behind its back. Of course, governments need temporary, extraordinary powers to deal with temporary, extraordinary circumstances such as emergencies and disasters. Our case is against the lack of substantial checks and balances on how national disaster powers are exercised – an enormous loophole for the abuse of power that will not magically close after Covid-19 has been defeated.

In terms of the act, the power to declare a national state of disaster is in the hands of one person – the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The incumbent in that job isn’t famous for her love of accountability. But in the near future we might have an even worse minister: someone like Jessie Duarte, perhaps, serving in something like an Ace Magashule administration.

What constitutes a national disaster is so vaguely defined that the decision almost amounts to a discretion. Once such a national state of disaster is declared, the self-same minister then obtains the power to make regulations and issue directions concerning vast swathes of ordinary life – and to authorise others to do the same. And before the national state of disaster expires, the same minister has the power to extend such a national state of disaster for a period of one month at a time, ad infinitum.

The DA’s solution? Make a national state of disaster subject to the same procedural constraints that already apply to a state of emergency in our law. After all, the risks of the abuse of power under a state of national disaster are similar to those historically associated with a state of emergency.

More specifically, we want the minister to table a declaration of national disaster in Parliament as soon as possible after it has been gazetted, along with all regulations made and directions issued under such a declaration. We want the declaration to include reasons the disaster in question cannot be dealt with under existing legislation.

We want Parliament, not the minister acting on her own, to have the power to authorise the extensions of a national state of disaster. And, most importantly, we want the National Assembly to have the power to vote down any subordinate legislation made under such a declaration following a public debate.

What’s the use of a parliamentary debate and vote, especially given that the president and the minister’s party is likely to have a majority in Parliament? At the very least, the public will have prior notice of the measures the government intends to take to curb an event deemed a national disaster, and a prior explanation as to why these measures are necessary.

If such parliamentary supervision existed in our law, maybe the defects in the research and reasoning behind the cigarette ban would have been discovered before the ban was imposed, and not months down the line in the Western Cape High Court.

And maybe if Parliament had insight into deliberations of the National Command Council, government would’ve been prompted, months ago, to make the procurement of the vaccine its top priority.

But the most compelling argument for giving Parliament a supervisory role in a national state of disaster concerns the future, not the past. SA is not immune to new strands of authoritarianism.

Budget: Only the DA will get SA’s debt under control

Albert Einstein was being perfectly serious when he quipped that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. If we don’t resolve our debt crisis very soon, South Africans are going to learn this the hard way with sudden, deep, painful cuts across state spending.

On Monday, the DA released our Alternative Budget, a credible and costed plan to get the ANC’s debt under control, and thereby protect essential social spending, such as on grants, health, education, and safety.

With very achievable spending cuts, and whilst still protecting essential social spending and frontline staff wages, the DA’s Alternative Budget turns debt around by 2024/25, and at a 2.5 percentage point lower peak debt rate than the ANC, which optimistically forecasts getting debt under control by 2025/26.

Getting debt under control sooner means lower debt service costs (because lenders see us as less risky, so are prepared to lend at lower interest rates), which then allows for greater investment in social spending.

DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube will be discussing the budget at 11am today on the DA’s Inside Track, with shadow minister of finance Geordin Hill-Lewis, economist Mike Schűssler and others.

No one should underestimate South Africa’s debt problem. We’re borrowing R2 billion every day at high interest rates, with no real plan or ability to pay back this fast-rising debt. That’s completely unsustainable – something’s got to give.

Currently, interest on debt is our fastest-growing expense category. We already spend R1 in every R5 of tax revenue on it, and that will become R1 in every R2 within a few years, unless we get our debt under control. As our interest payments grow, so the amount we have left for poverty relief shrinks.

At some point – probably in the next three to seven years – we’ll have a full-blown sovereign debt crisis, when lenders stop lending to SA altogether. The consequences will be profoundly painful for society – wider poverty and deep cuts to social spending. As with other government failures, the poor always suffer most.

Unsustainable debt is also deeply unfair on young people, who’ll have to pay it back out of their tax earnings one day. Every child born in South Africa today immediately carries a debt burden of their R67 000 share of South Africa’s R4 trillion of debt.

Reforms that enable our economy to grow are the only way to get South Africa out of this crisis other than painful spending cuts.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is acutely aware of this, but has been unable to force these through, for purely political reasons. Having lost the ability to deliver on their promise of a better life for all, the ANC has opted to deliver a better life for connected cronies to shore up their political support, at the expense of the majority.

So the DA will be tabling every one of the most critical reform measures in Parliament, and will press ahead with this reform agenda where we are in government. With significant support for these reforms on the opposition benches, only about one third of ANC MPs will need to support them, to get them pushed through.

A faster-growing economy has incredible power to reverse our economic fortunes. It would bend our unemployment trajectory, which is now at 42.6%, and grow tax revenues without increasing tax rates. Economic growth of just 1.5 percentage points above our current average growth rate will resolve our national debt crisis.

Along with economic reforms to unlock growth, we also need a budget that gets debt under control in the earliest possible time. The DA’s Alternative Budget:

  • Allows for a fully-funded vaccine rollout of R35 billion.
  • Allows for inflationary increases in social grants, health and education.
  • Protects working families from higher taxes.
  • Protects wages for frontline public sector workers – who are poorly paid relative to middle and senior management officials.
  • Stops bailouts to failing state companies such as SAA, Eskom and the Land Bank.
  • Allows R250 million to help cities procure independent power responsibly.

It is never easy to cut budgets, but it is far less painful than allowing SA to descend into a full-blown debt crisis. So the DA proposes the following spending cuts:

  • By freezing nominal public wages at the October 2020 limits.
  • By reducing the number of managerial posts in the civil service, through retrenchments and a hiring freeze until the number is down by 9000 – roughly a third.
  • By freezing nominal budgets of departments other than those that protect the most poor and vulnerable.

The DA is the only party that South Africans can rely on to build a more prosperous country for poor people today and for future generations. A vote for the DA in the 2021 local government elections will be a vote for growth and sustainability – and for Albert Einstein’s logic that the sooner you get debt under control the better.

Here is the DA’s plan to replace cadre deployment with professional appointments

After two and a half years of testimony, the recent and ongoing revelations at the Zondo Commission have revealed that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment is the fundamental cause of state capture and corruption in our country.

This system of job reservation sets aside powerful positions in the civil service – which are supposed to be staffed by skilled and non-political professionals – for ANC members who have proven themselves “loyal” to the party, rather than to the country. Cadre deployment robs the public service of desperately needed skills, because it locks out highly skilled professionals who are not members of the ANC from key positions. It also forms the bedrock of corruption and capture, because cadres appointed under this system of job reservation are expected to return the favour by using the sham of BEE to funnel tenders back into the pockets of the ANC.

As the Zondo Commission has revealed, this is the vicious cycle that sits at the root of the rot in our state.

Unlike under the ANC, where the DA governs, we have always been proudly committed to appointing officials on the basis of merit rather than politics. There is no cadre deployment policy or committee in the DA. There are no meetings in smoke-filled backrooms to undermine the Constitution and usurp powers of appointment. Instead, from the DA-run Western Cape provinces to the dozens of DA-run municipalities across the country, public servants are appointed on the basis of demonstrated merit following open and transparent selection processes. That is why the DA has become synonymous with capable and good governance.

But we are determined to do more to find ways of bringing good governance to places where the DA does not yet govern. Since President Cyril Ramaphosa has for the last three years failed to implement the reforms to replace ANC cadre deployment with DA professional appointments throughout the rest of government, the DA has now reached across the aisle to lend him a hand.

During the debate on the President’s State of the Nation Address, the DA’s Dr Leon Schreiber introduced our End Cadre Deployment Bill. This comprehensive piece of legislation, which took over a year to develop, holds the key to replacing our captured state with a capable state. It is not just another cosmetic intervention or talk shop. Instead, it tackles the root cause of state failure.

The Bill fundamentally reforms the way in which public servants are appointed to the state. While still allowing every citizens the full Constitutional right to be a member of a political party, the Bill makes it illegal for any public servant to hold political office or any other position of authority in a political party. The only exception to this provision would be members of the political executive, including Ministers, MECs and councillors, as well as the small group of political advisers they are allowed to appoint. But from the level of Director-General or Head of Department all throughout the ranks of the civil service, the End Cadre Deployment Bill would prohibit public servants from holding political office.

To further entrench the need for merit-based appointments, the Bill also requires the Public Service Commission to enforce the requirement for every state department to appoint officials strictly on the basis of merit. Any person who is found by the Commission to have violated this requirement by failing to appoint the most meritorious person for a particular position, will go to jail.

By outlawing the practice of public servants simultaneously holding positions of authority in political parties, and by making the requirement for merit-based appointments legally enforceable, the End Cadre Deployment Bill will allow the state to rebuild wall of separation that should exist between party and state, brick by brick.

But like Shaka’s famous bullhorn formation, the Bill goes further by also executing a decisive pincer movement against the enemies of good governance that are already entrenched in the state.

In addition to preventing corrupt appointments, the Bill also reforms the Public Service Commission to give it vastly greater powers to act against malfeasance committed by officials in the public service. To ensure that the Commission itself is freed from political interference and its own recent shameful past of nepotism, the Bill removes the power that the Minister of Public Service and Administration currently wields over the staff of the Commission. It further entrenches the financial independence of our most sacred public sector ethics watchdog by giving it the same legal status as the Public Protector and the Human Rights Commission.

The End Cadre Deployment Bill would then give this reinvigorated Public Service Commission the remedial power it needs to ensure that its recommendations are not simply ignored – as currently happens routinely. It also mandates the Commission to refer any evidence of corruption to the Auditor-General or the Special Investigating Unit for further sanction and criminal action.

This Bill presents the single greatest opportunity we’ve had in 27 years to fundamentally fix and reform our state. It restores the right of equality to all South Africans to enter public service, and allows us to draw on the talents of 60 million citizens, rather than only from a handful of ANC members.

The DA has not yet formally gazetted this Bill, because this is not a publicity stunt. We are deeply serious about the need for this Bill to be enacted to prevent the outright collapse of our state. We therefore understand that, if it is politically preferable for the President that this law not be submitted in the DA’s name, we would gladly replace the name on the front with that of an ANC MP, or turn it into a committee Bill.

Our country cannot afford another day of dithering. The DA unashamedly puts the interests of our country first, and we sincerely hope that the President will reciprocate, so that we can replace cadre deployment with professional appointments once and for all.

EWC: Ramaphosa is following Mugabe’s script on land reform.

In my State of the Nation reply speech yesterday, I drew attention to the plight of coloured farmer Ivan Cloete who has been leasing and successfully farming a state-owned farm in the Darling area of the Western Cape for the past couple of years.

Two weeks ago, Mr Cloete was served with a notice of eviction by agriculture department officials and told his farm is to be handed over to an MK Veteran.

This is not an isolated incident. Many productive black farmers in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga are being similarly intimidated with one-week notices to vacate their farms that they lease from the state.

Officials are doing so under the cover of Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza’s scheme to release 700 000 hectares of state land for land redistribution purposes, though many of these farms are not even listed under this scheme.

This is despite Deputy President Mabuza’s assurances in Parliament on 22 October 2020 that “…those people that are currently occupying those farms (identified for redistribution), I don’t think there is any intention to forcefully remove people at this point in time”.

Yet when the DA raised Mr Cloete’s case with Deputy Agriculture Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha in Parliament, he ignored the question, showing neither interest nor empathy. This constitutes tacit approval for land grabs.

The DA is fighting for Mr Cloete and other productive farmers in his predicament. Not just for secure lease rights, but for full ownership.

We did this successfully for Limpopo farmer David Rakgase, who now has title to his farm after a court victory in September 2020, a precedent-setting case fought by the DA together with Mr Rakgase.

Mr Rakgase is appearing on the DA’s Inside Track today in conversation with DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube and others, to talk about how South Africa can achieve just and meaningful land reform.

It is crucial that we South Africans recognise the difference between meaningful land reform and populist rhetoric.

The former can only be achieved through secure property rights and will lead to increased agricultural output. The latter is based on expropriation without compensation and will lead to lawlessness and disinvestment.

So, one of the few positives of President Ramaphosa’s SONA last week is South Africa’s reaction to it. Even his most ardent admirers are seeing through the spin, fantasy and doublespeak.

This is significant, because too many South Africans have been lulled into a false sense of hope by Ramaphosa’s veneer of credibility as “the great reformer”.

Don’t get me wrong. I too have hope for South Africa.

But that hope lies in the ability of South African voters to hold the ANC accountable at the ballot box, not in Ramaphosa’s ability to reform his party or South Africa through “playing the long game”.

Ramaphosa’s supporters are starting to find his “long game” as effective as Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” back in the early 2000s, when then President Robert Mugabe was overseeing the destruction of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector and food supply through land expropriation without compensation.

Mugabe portrayed his policy of land grabs as a key mechanism to redress the wrongs of Zimbabwe’s colonialist past and solve the economic crisis into which his own party, Zanu-PF, had plunged the country.

We are determined that expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.

This line from Ramaphosa’s SONA2021 reveals that Ramaphosa’s true “long game” is to follow Mugabe’s socialist, populist agenda on land reform.

What makes him far more dangerous than Mugabe or Zuma is that he hides it so well beneath a cloak of first-world sophistication and knack for speech-making.

Don’t get me wrong. South Africa’s unjust past must be redressed, black land ownership must increase massively, food security must improve, and the economic crisis must be solved.

But these can only be solved in a context of secure property rights such as those now enjoyed by Mr Rakgase. They are an essential foundation stone of liberal democracy and a functional, growing economy. Investment will evaporate without them.

We now know exactly how this strategy played out in Zimbabwe, where widespread hunger followed the lawlessness and disinvestment that are the inevitable result of expropriation without compensation.

So let us not be like the proverbial frogs in boiling water, where the temperature is raised so slowly that we never jump out.

As Maya Angelou famously warned: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

The deadline for submissions on the ANC’s Expropriation Bill has been extended to 28 February 2021.

In the local government election later this year a vote for the DA will be a vote for secure property rights for productive farmers such as Ivan Cloete.

These are crucial opportunities for all South Africans “to jump out the water” before Ramaphosa raises the temperature still higher.

SONA 2021: Ramaphosa has failed to protect the people, economy and democracy of South Africa.

This was once again a SONA of unworkable plans rooted in the failed ideology of central command and control. A SONA of “sector master plans” developed by people who’ve never started or run a business. The ANC mantra is Power to the state. The DA mantra is Power to the people.

South Africa is in deep, deep trouble. We’re a bus accelerating toward a cliff. People are suffering terribly and much more suffering is on the horizon. Lives are at stake.

The situation is truly urgent. It calls for radical action that goes to the heart of the problem, which is an over-controlling, incapable, unaccountable state. Tonight, we needed to hear about real progress on real solutions to our real challenges.

We needed to hear the practical steps that are being taken to roll out vaccines, get our economy growing, and restore the political accountability that is essential in a democracy.

Yet, President Ramaphosa remains a spectator president looking on with dismay as if he has no personal agency to alter the tragic course of events unfolding in our beloved country.

He used beautiful words and soothing tones to offer empty promises and impractical plans.

He is not steering the ship to calmer waters. It is not even clear he is at the helm.

Three crises are crippling South Africa: the Covid crisis, the economic crisis, and our crisis of democracy.

In the run up to the SONA, the DA set out the obvious solutions that must be implemented if South Africa is to overcome these crises. We hoped Ramaphosa would report progress on these solutions.

Mostly, he failed to do so.

Covid crisis

Ramaphosa failed to make the commitments that will ensure a rapid vaccine rollout.

  • A paltry 80 000 J&J vaccines with more being drip-fed in similar small batches means SA is on our hands and knees picking up the scraps because we didn’t bother to get in the vaccine queue. And Ramaphosa gave no assurance that negotiations have been entered into with every single reputable vaccine supplier so that regulatory approvals for all can get underway soonest. His government remains the bottleneck to acquisition.
  • He gave no assurance that his government will publish a transparent, detailed vaccine plan that citizens can use to hold them to account. The DA will therefore continue to pursue this plan though legal action. His appointment of corrupt DD Mabuza to head the rollout shows that ANC factional politics takes priority over the lives and livelihoods of citizens.
  • He gave no commitment to a decentralized acquisition and distribution process that harnesses all South Africa’s available capabilities to get the job done in the fastest, most efficient way.
  • He failed to commit to using only established service providers with a track record of delivery for the vaccine distribution. So the risk remains that BEE will be used as a vehicle for ANC cronies to steal vaccine funds under the cover of “transformation”. Given their looting of R13 billion of PPE funds, Ramaphosa should have taken every precaution possible to ensure that 100% of vaccine funds are spent on protecting the public, and that means dropping BEE from the process. Already the ANC’s business arm, the ironically named Progressive Business Forum, is lobbying for its members, who fund the ANC, to get a share of vaccine supply contracts.

The result: South Africa’s vaccine rollout will be neither rapid nor efficient. South African lives and livelihoods will be lost unnecessarily as the virus continues to spread though the population in successive waves, and as the government continues to use the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions to try to control it.

Economic crisis

Ramaphosa knows that a growing economy is the only way to grow jobs, employment, tax revenues, and opportunities. He knows economic growth is the only way to reverse our spiraling fortunes and beat poverty and inequality. He knows that the only thing that grows an economy is investment in productive enterprises.

Yet he failed to deliver an economic growth agenda. He failed to make it clear to the nation that the people who start and build productive enterprises are the good guys, not the bad buys.

And he failed to announce progress and action on making it easier to do business in South Africa. Even though most of these action steps simply entail getting his government to move out of the way.

His government will continue to be like a massive roadblock on the path to progress, blocking entrepreneurs and the poor, and extracting payments from all who try to pass.

  • He has failed dismally to ensure an affordable, reliable energy supply. This month we can expect stage 6 and maybe even stage 8 load-shedding despite Ramaphosa’s 2015 promise that: “in another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with energy and Eskom ever happened”. Municipalities and large firms are still not allowed to purchase power directly from independent power producers, despite a commitment in last year’s SONA. Households and businesses are still not free to produce as much power as they like and feed excess power into the grid. The ANC government is literally a deadweight pulling businesses and households down as they try to move up.
  • He failed to reject his “Suicidal Six” investment-killers that make up the ANC’s control-and-extract patronage machine. They are why skilled people are leaving South Africa in droves, leaving our tax base half what it was three years ago. And why our foreign direct investment plunged by 46% in 2020 compared to only 11% for Sub Saharan Africa:

o Reserve bank nationalisation
o Asset prescription
o Expropriation without compensation
o The Mining Charter
o BEE – the vehicle by which ANC cronies steal from the poor
o National Health Insurance

  • He failed to announce the reforms that could double the number of small businesses in South Africa. So, our percentage of employed who are self employed or employers will remain 20%, which is half that of our peer countries where 40% is the norm. Therefore our unemployment will remain unnaturally high, as it has been for 20 years now.

o He failed to reform small businesses financing mechanisms.
o He failed to exempt small businesses from bargaining council agreements that they were not party to.
o He failed to exempt small businesses from onerous labour legislation designed for massive firms.
o He failed to raise the minimum VAT threshold to R5 million.

  • He failed to commit to the actions necessary to get our debt under control. Therefore, while we are currently spending R1 in every R5 on servicing debt, it will soon be R1 of every R2. Money for basic services, health, education, policing and grants will dry up.

o He failed to announce that the 29 000 millionaire managers in the public service will get below inflation increases for the next decade, to bring down our patronage-driven public wage bill which is the single greatest cause of our ballooning debt.
o He failed to announce independent lifestyle audits for high-ranking public officials.
o He failed to announce the sale of any state assets, so that we can bring down our debt. Beware: compound interest is the strongest force in the universe!
o He failed to announce the closure of SAA and an end to bailouts of loss-making state owned companies.

  • Let’s call Ramaphosa’s public sector infrastructure drive out for what it really is: the ANC’s second wave of state capture, loading. Because the same cadre deployment and “empowerment” policies that destroyed our infrastructure will now be deployed in its rebuilding.

The result: South Africa can expect no private investment in productive enterprises, so no new job creation. We can expect unemployment and crime to remain unnaturally high and tax receipts to continue falling as skills and capital flee South Africa. Our credit rating will slip deeper into junk status. So we’ll pay more and more for the R2 billion we borrow every single day to fund the ANC’s public sector patronage requirements. As our debt spirals, we should expect the bus to go over the cliff 3 to 7 years from now in the form of a sovereign debt crisis, and all hell to break loose.

Crisis of democracy

Ramaphosa failed to make the commitments necessary to ensure political accountability in SA. Political accountability is the essence of the democratic contract.

  • He failed to commit to, or even show support for, the electoral reform necessary to give Parliament real teeth to hold the executive to account. The DA has long called for a hybrid electoral system where at least a portion of MPs are elected directly by voters, and thereby incentivized to show loyalty to people rather than party. The remaining portion of MPs could still be elected through a system of proportional representation to ensure minorities are fairly represented in Parliament. DCJ Zondo recently echoed this call, as the only way to build real political accountability in South Africa. Under a hybrid system, Zuma would not have survived eight motions of no confidence, and Parliament would be focused on protecting people, not the ANC. Which is why Ramaphosa said not a word about it. Party over country every time.
  • He failed to commit to ending the ANC’s policy of state capture, which is what their explicit policy of cadre deployment is explicitly intended to achieve. Even though this is quite clearly unconstitutional. This makes a lie of his commitment to building a capable state. A commitment echoed in the National Development Plan. Yet while ANC cronies are appointed to positions of influence within all institutions of the state, the state will remain not just incapable, but also corrupt and uncaring. Our schools will continue to suffocate under the boot of SADTU.
  • He has not made enough progress on corruption. In his first SONA three years ago he promised to strong action against corruption. Yet not one single high-profile ANC cadre has been convicted, despite theft of R1.5 trillion from the people of South Africa. And in fact, many of the worst offenders such as David Mahlobo and Gwede Mantashe are still in his cabinet.

Conclusion

These three central crises will not be resolved. The South African bus will continue accelerating toward the cliff. The unnecessary suffering will continue and worsen. Youth unemployment will grow even higher than 70%. Our debt will grow. Cities will crumble. Shops will shutter. Inequality will widen. Our democratic protections will continue to erode. ANC cronies will grow fatter. Instead of a new dawn we have old nightmares.

This is the ANC’s legacy of elite extraction, brought to you with a smile and a tear by Cyril Ramaphosa. How inappropriate to quote Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” while holding the country down with an authoritarian boot on its neck.

Just as fynbos needs fire every twenty years to renew itself, our country needs a similar blaze of renewal, in the form of a new government, if it wants to bloom.

Ramaphosa has failed to protect the people, economy and democracy of South Africa.

This was once again a SONA of unworkable plans rooted in the failed ideology of central command and control. A SONA of “sector master plans” developed by people who’ve never started or run a business. The ANC mantra is Power to the state. The DA mantra is Power to the people.

South Africa is in deep, deep trouble. We’re a bus accelerating toward a cliff. People are suffering terribly and much more suffering is on the horizon. Lives are at stake. The situation is truly urgent. It calls for radical action that goes to the heart of the problem, which is an over-controlling, incapable, unaccountable state.

Tonight, we needed to hear about real progress on real solutions to our real challenges.

We needed to hear the practical steps that are being taken to roll out vaccines, get our economy growing, and restore the political accountability that is essential in a democracy.

Yet, President Ramaphosa remains a spectator president looking on with dismay as if he has no personal agency to alter the tragic course of events unfolding in our beloved country.

He used beautiful words and soothing tones to offer empty promises and impractical plans.

He is not steering the ship to calmer waters. It is not even clear he is at the helm.

Three crises are crippling South Africa: the Covid crisis, the economic crisis, and our crisis of democracy.

In the run up to the SONA, the DA set out the obvious solutions that must be implemented if South Africa is to overcome these crises. We hoped Ramaphosa would report progress on these solutions.

Mostly, he failed to do so.

Covid crisis

Ramaphosa failed to make the commitments that will ensure a rapid vaccine rollout.

  • A paltry 80 000 J&J vaccines with more being drip-fed in similar small batches means SA is on our hands and knees picking up the scraps because we didn’t bother to get in the vaccine queue. And Ramaphosa gave no assurance that negotiations have been entered into with every single reputable vaccine supplier so that regulatory approvals for all can get underway soonest. His government remains the bottleneck to acquisition.
  • He gave no assurance that his government will publish a transparent, detailed vaccine plan that citizens can use to hold them to account. The DA will therefore continue to pursue this plan though legal action. His appointment of corrupt DD Mabuza to head the rollout shows that ANC factional politics takes priority over the lives and livelihoods of citizens.
  • He gave no commitment to a decentralized acquisition and distribution process that harnesses all South Africa’s available capabilities to get the job done in the fastest, most efficient way.
  • He failed to commit to using only established service providers with a track record of delivery for the vaccine distribution. So the risk remains that BEE will be used as a vehicle for ANC cronies to steal vaccine funds under the cover of “transformation”. Given their looting of R13 billion of PPE funds, Ramaphosa should have taken every precaution possible to ensure that 100% of vaccine funds are spent on protecting the public, and that means dropping BEE from the process. Already the ANC’s business arm, the ironically named Progressive Business Forum, is lobbying for its members, who fund the ANC, to get a share of vaccine supply contracts.

The result: South Africa’s vaccine rollout will be neither rapid nor efficient. South African lives and livelihoods will be lost unnecessarily as the virus continues to spread though the population in successive waves, and as the government continues to use the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions to try to control it.

Economic crisis

Ramaphosa knows that a growing economy is the only way to grow jobs, employment, tax revenues, and opportunities. He knows economic growth is the only way to reverse our spiraling fortunes and beat poverty and inequality. He knows that the only thing that grows an economy is investment in productive enterprises.

Yet he failed to deliver an economic growth agenda. He failed to make it clear to the nation that the people who start and build productive enterprises are the good guys, not the bad buys.

And he failed to announce progress and action on making it easier to do business in South Africa. Even though most of these action steps simply entail getting his government to move out of the way.

His government will continue to be like a massive roadblock on the path to progress, blocking entrepreneurs and the poor, and extracting payments from all who try to pass.

  • He has failed dismally to ensure an affordable, reliable energy supply. This month we can expect stage 6 and maybe even stage 8 load-shedding despite Ramaphosa’s 2015 promise that: “in another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with energy and Eskom ever happened”. Municipalities and large firms are still not allowed to purchase power directly from independent power producers, despite a commitment in last year’s SONA. Households and businesses are still not free to produce as much power as they like and feed excess power into the grid. The ANC government is literally a deadweight pulling businesses and households down as they try to move up.
  • He failed to reject his “Suicidal Six” investment-killers that make up the ANC’s control-and-extract patronage machine. They are why skilled people are leaving South Africa in droves, leaving our tax base half what it was three years ago. And why our foreign direct investment plunged by 46% in 2020 compared to only 11% for Sub Saharan Africa:
    • National Health Insurance
    • The Mining Charter
    • BEE – the vehicle by which ANC cronies steal from the poor
    • Expropriation without compensation
    • Asset prescription
    • Reserve bank nationalisation
  • He failed to announce the reforms that could double the number of small businesses in South Africa. So, our percentage of employed who are self employed or employers will remain 20%, which is half that of our peer countries where 40% is the norm. Therefore our unemployment will remain unnaturally high, as it has been for 20 years now.
    • He failed to raise the minimum VAT threshold to R5 million.
    • He failed to exempt small businesses from onerous labour legislation designed for massive firms.
    • He failed to exempt small businesses from bargaining council agreements that they were not party to.
    • He failed to reform small businesses financing mechanisms.
  • He failed to commit to the actions necessary to get our debt under control. Therefore, while we are currently spending R1 in every R5 on servicing debt, it will soon be R1 of every R2. Money for basic services, health, education, policing and grants will dry up.
    • He failed to announce that the 29 000 millionaire managers in the public service will get below inflation increases for the next decade, to bring down our patronage-driven public wage bill which is the single greatest cause of our ballooning debt.
    • He failed to announce the closure of SAA and an end to bailouts of loss-making state owned companies.
    • He failed to announce the sale of any state assets, so that we can bring down our debt. Beware: compound interest is the strongest force in the universe!
    • He failed to announce independent lifestyle audits for high-ranking public officials.
  • Let’s call Ramaphosa’s public sector infrastructure drive out for what it really is: the ANC’s second wave of state capture, loading. Because the same cadre deployment and “empowerment” policies that destroyed our infrastructure will now be deployed in its rebuilding.

The result: South Africa can expect no private investment in productive enterprises, so no new job creation. We can expect unemployment and crime to remain unnaturally high and tax receipts to continue falling as skills and capital flee South Africa. Our credit rating will slip deeper into junk status. So we’ll pay more and more for the R2 billion we borrow every single day to fund the ANC’s public sector patronage requirements. As our debt spirals, we should expect the bus to go over the cliff 3 to 7 years from now in the form of a sovereign debt crisis, and all hell to break loose.

Crisis of democracy

Ramaphosa failed to make the commitments necessary to ensure political accountability in SA. Political accountability is the essence of the democratic contract.

  • He failed to commit to, or even show support for, the electoral reform necessary to give Parliament real teeth to hold the executive to account. The DA has long called for a hybrid electoral system where at least a portion of MPs are elected directly by voters, and thereby incentivized to show loyalty to people rather than party. The remaining portion of MPs could still be elected through a system of proportional representation to ensure minorities are fairly represented in Parliament. DCJ Zondo recently echoed this call, as the only way to build real political accountability in South Africa. Under a hybrid system, Zuma would not have survived eight motions of no confidence, and Parliament would be focused on protecting people, not the ANC. Which is why Ramaphosa said not a word about it. Party over country every time.
  • He failed to commit to ending the ANC’s policy of state capture, which is what their explicit policy of cadre deployment is explicitly intended to achieve. Even though this is quite clearly unconstitutional. This makes a lie of his commitment to building a capable state. A commitment echoed in the National Development Plan. Yet while ANC cronies are appointed to positions of influence within all institutions of the state, the state will remain not just incapable, but also corrupt and uncaring. Our schools will continue to suffocate under the boot of SADTU.
  • He has not made enough progress on corruption. In his first SONA three years ago he promised to strong action against corruption. Yet not one single high-profile ANC cadre has been convicted, despite theft of R1.5 trillion from the people of South Africa. And in fact, many of the worst offenders such as David Mahlobo and Gwede Mantashe are still in his cabinet.

Conclusion

These three central crises will not be resolved. The South African bus will continue accelerating toward the cliff. The unnecessary suffering will continue and worsen. Youth unemployment will grow even higher than 70%. Our debt will grow. Cities will crumble. Shops will shutter. Inequality will widen. Our democratic protections will continue to erode. ANC cronies will grow fatter. Instead of a new dawn we have old nightmares.

This is the ANC’s legacy of elite extraction, brought to you with a smile and a tear by Cyril Ramaphosa.

How inappropriate to quote Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” while holding the country down with an authoritarian boot on its neck.

Just as fynbos needs fire every twenty years to renew itself, our country needs a similar blaze of renewal, in the form of a new government, if it wants to bloom.

DA Innovation Summit a resounding success

The first virtual DA Innovation Summit that took place today was a resounding success.

The Western Cape Premier, a number of DA Mayors, senior government leaders as well as experts participated in the summit and discussed and unpacked issues around innovation in the time of Covid, technology and economic development and energy and water resilience.

Around 200 DA public representatives attended the Summit and had the opportunity to pose questions to the four panels that convened in the course of the day. They will now take the innovations and ideas that were shared today back to their own local governments to run with the baton and take the innovations even further.

A theme throughout the day, that underpinned all the discussions, was the crucial importance of innovation in all spheres of government and the way that DA governments constantly push the boundaries and change the game to improve people’s lives.

This was especially evident the past eleven months where the Western Cape was head and shoulders above the rest of the country when it came to balancing a healthcare response to Covid-19 while also protecting livelihoods.

As DA Leader John Steenhuisen said in his opening address: “(With this summit) we get to recognise the incredible value of innovating in government. We get to speak about and showcase some of the successes the DA has achieved, and we hopefully get to spark some ideas among each other for more such successes in future”.

The last words of the day belonged to the DA’s Federal Chairperson Helen Zille who concluded the summit. She said that “people don’t realise how much innovation changes things. We must encourage innovation and not stop it with regulations. This summit was very important because it does not help winking in the dark. People choose to be governed better. If they choose bad government, that is where te downward spiral starts”.

The DA Innovation Summit that was live broadcast today can be viewed on our Youtube channel.

DA is fighting the root of the rot: cadre deployment.

This week, lawyers representing the DA submitted detailed questions to the Zondo Commission on Ramaphosa’s central and ongoing role in state capture, including as head of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee between 2014 and 2018 and as ANC president and SA president now. To end state capture, Ramaphosa must answer for his role in cadre deployment.

If the Zondo Commission fails to tackle and end the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, then all the problems it has identified will persist.

Until cadre deployment ceases to be a policy of South Africa’s governing party, the country will never have a functional democracy, a healthy economy, or a capable state. No other policy has done more to undermine these.

Consider just the past week’s news cycle: R9 billion of tax payer money syphoned off to the ANC via the State Security Agency; R431 million spent by Gauteng Health Department on “deep cleaning” of schools that was not required or recommended by the Departments of Health or Education; not a single vaccine administered yet when other countries are well into their vaccination programmes; Zuma still living large after two decades of evading accountability for corruption related to the Arms Deal, Nkandla and State Capture; electricity tariff increases from Eskom, which is in a death spiral.

All these have the same root cause: cadre deployment.

Emperor of empty promises and high king of hypocrisy, Ramaphosa wrote in this newsletter last month: “We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage.”

Yet he has appointed corrupt, incapable DD Mabuza to head up SA’s vaccine programme. And “redeployed” Arthur Fraser and David Mahlobo, under whose watch R9 billion was stolen from the State Security Agency, to head Correctional Services and Human Settlements, respectively.

Cadre deployment is as much Ramaphosa’s game as it was Zuma’s, hence state capture lives on long after the Gupta’s departure.

The policy of cadre deployment was formally adopted by the ANC at their 1997 Mafikeng Conference. It aims to “control every lever of power in the state” by loading public institutions with cadres loyal to the ANC, in line with its Marxist ideology of central command and control.

By valuing loyalty to the ANC over competence and loyalty to SA, cadre deployment has caused all the wrong characteristics to become dominant in our state: nepotism, corruption, patronage, impunity, arrogance, chaos and incompetence.

Cadre deployment directly destroys the separation of party and state, an essential component of democracy.

It is that gene in the ANC’s genetic material which has caused corruption and incompetence to spread like a cancer into every single organ of our body politic – even those intended by the Constitution to check and balance executive power such as the NPA, Public Protector and SAHRC. It is the code that long ago set South Africa up for failure.

Cadre deployment is the root cause of all South Africa’s rot: the Arms Deal, State Capture, the destruction of Eskom, SAA, the SABC, Transnet and our other SOEs, our unsustainable national debt, endemic corruption, the complete breakdown of political accountability due to the failure of the NPA, our hopeless Public Protector, our poor handling of the pandemic, our broken policing, health and education systems, and our sky-high levels of unemployment and inequality.

Hundreds of thousands of articles have been written over the years on these and other ANC failures, and yet the DA stands pretty much alone as identifying cadre deployment as the root cause.

Consider this Maverick Citizen editorial this week by Mark Heywood, titled: “Land of glorious impunity – and how to ensure constitutional accountability for public resources”. Heywood lists several ways that accountability could be achieved.

And yet Heywood fails to identify cadre deployment as the root cause of the problem. Even if every single one of his “solutions” is implemented, the problem of impunity will persist until cadre deployment ends. Because cadre deployment is why maladministration and corruption go unpunished.

Cadre deployment has cost South Africans not just our hard-won democracy and trillions in tax revenue lost to corruption, but also lives. Directly, through looting of funds intended for life-saving PPE procurement. And indirectly, because poverty kills.

The great irony is that cadre deployment has happened under the guise of “transformation”. BEE is the mechanism whereby cadres are deployed even in the private sector, to syphon off taxpayer money (by charging a premium on tenders) part of which is redirected to the ANC, or an ANC faction, to entrench its power and access to state resources.

That decision back in 1997 had profound implications for South Africa. It is why we find ourselves here today, almost a quarter century later, with a failed, bankrupt state unable to deliver on even its most basic responsibilities to its citizens yet hellbent on controlling every aspect of our lives.

Either the ANC dumps cadre deployment or South Africa dumps the ANC. Nothing else will tackle the root of the rot. Getting Ramaphosa to explain his role by answering the DA’s questions before the Zondo Commission will expedite the solution, one way or another.

The DA is committed to the liberal democratic principles of separation of party and state, the rule of law, and a social market economy where power resides with the people. The 2021 local government election is your opportunity to promote these principles by supporting the DA.

DA asks High Court to instruct national government to provide a detailed vaccine plan

On Monday last week the DA’s lawyers wrote to the office of the President, giving him seven days to respond with a detailed report on all government’s negotiations with vaccine suppliers as well as government’s full vaccine rollout plan, failing which we would take legal action to obtain this information. Those seven days passed on Monday evening with no response from President Ramaphosa, which leaves us no choice but to approach the courts.

Today our lawyers made an urgent application to the Western Cape High Court to obtain a declarator that government’s conduct in procuring vaccines as well as its preparation for the rollout of these vaccines are in violation of several constitutional principles. We asked the court to instruct government to develop a comprehensive and coordinated vaccination rollout plan, and to deliver this plan no later than one month of the order.

The failure to provide Covid-19 vaccines timeously when these vaccines are available is a violation of people’s rights, in terms of Section 27(1) of the Constitution, to have access to healthcare services, as well as a violation of government’s obligation in terms of Section 27(2) to take reasonable measures to achieve the progressive realisation of the right to access healthcare.

Furthermore it is a violation of the right to life, as enshrined in Section 11 of the Bill of Rights. There is also no rationality in failing to secure sufficient vaccines despite knowing early on how important they’d be and having had access to them. This falls short of the fundamental constitutional prescript of the Rule of Law, which requires that decision-making be rational.

The relief we are seeking is similar to the relief that the TAC was granted two decades ago when it took government to court to compel it to make public its antiretroviral rollout programme. Without such a transparent plan that includes clear timelines and division of responsibilities it will be impossible for not only the DA as official opposition, but also the media and civil society, to hold government to account. It is critical for the success of the vaccination plan that we know exactly where we are procuring our vaccines from, how we will be distributing and administering these, and who will benefit from the government contracts.

More specifically, the plan must set out:

  1. National government’s selection criteria for choosing vaccines.
  2. The number of people national government intends to vaccinate, along with the full details and dates on which various priority population groups will be vaccinated.
  3. How national government intends to notify people that their vaccinations are due and how they will keep record of vaccines administered.
  4. The full list of vaccines, including numbers, dates and price, for which national government has concluded final, unconditional supply agreements – both direct contracts and other arrangements with multilateral organisations.
  5. The full list of vaccines for which national government must still secure final and unconditional supply agreements, including reasonably anticipated doses, delivery dates and prices.
  6. How each batch of vaccines will be divided among provinces.
  7. The funds national government has made available for the purchase of vaccines.
  8. The funds national government has made available for the vaccine rollout programme.
  9. The approvals that must be issued by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) for these vaccines and the reasonably anticipated dates of these approvals.
  10. The requirements as well as the arrangements for storage and transport.
  11. The role of provincial governments and public hospitals in the vaccine plan.
  12. The role of the private sector in the vaccine plan.
  13. Details of the personnel required to administer the vaccines, as well as their training requirements.
  14. The locations where vaccines will be administered along with the necessary health protocols.
  15. The medical equipment required at the above locations, as well as details of how much has already been procured, at what price, and what still needs to be purchased.
  16. The policies that national government has formulated to regulate the acquisition and administration of vaccines, as well as the policies that still need to be formulated.

Furthermore, we will ask that the court instruct national government to update the vaccine plan as required and notify the court at least once every three months of any such updates. It must also deliver a status report every three months.

Ideally it should not have to come to this court action, as a country united in its efforts to defeat the virus and rebuild the economy is in a stronger position than one divided. But in order to stand united everyone in the country needs to know what is going on, particularly on an issue as important and urgent as the acquisition and administering of life-saving Covid-19 vaccines. Government needs to be honest in reporting its progress, it needs to be transparent in all its dealings and it needs to demonstrate that the safety of its citizens is paramount.

To date government has done none of these things. It dithered as other countries leapt into action to secure vaccines as far back as May last year. It did nothing beyond arranging vaccines for a mere 10% of South Africans through the WHO’s Covax initiative, at the highest possible price and only due for delivery as other countries are already aiming to finish their vaccination programmes. And when its inaction was exposed, it quickly sprang into belated action, trying all the while to spin its way out of the scandal through lies and deflection, the latest of which saw President Ramaphosa blame other countries for buying up all available vaccines. The truth is they bought those vaccines and we didn’t, simply because South Africa was never in the queue.

The President’s claim that his government had been negotiating with suppliers for the past six months has also been exposed as a lie, not only by the vaccine manufacturers themselves, but also by the date on which the Department of Health applied to Treasury for deviation from the normal procurement processes for the acquisition of the vaccine. According to a letter from Treasury, this application was only made on 7 January this year. This reveals the date on which they finally woke up to the crisis and started scrambling for whatever vaccine leftovers they could find.

The blame for our botched vaccine programme does not lie at the feet of the pharmaceutical companies that produce them. It does not lie at the feet of the countries that bought their vaccines long before we’d even started thinking about it. It lies squarely with the ANC government, and President Ramaphosa in particular. His government is not the victim of some global conspiracy. The people of South Africa are the victims of his government.

Ultimately there must be consequences, but first there must be a truthful and transparent plan.

DA to urgently investigate allegations of state-funded ANC political projects in Western Cape

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will urgently launch an investigation into allegations made under oath yesterday by State Security Agency (SSA) Acting Director-General, Loyiso Jafta, that the Agency funded projects that were specifically aimed at bolstering the ANC’s political prospects in the Western Cape.

According to Jafta’s testimony in front of the Zondo Commission yesterday, SSA resources were specifically marked at advancing the ANC’s political campaigns in previous elections – specifically in the Western Cape – and to strengthen the ANC faction within the party.

The DA is appalled that the ANC was given a blank cheque with public money to campaign in this province.

This is a gross and extremely serious transgression of the Agency’s constitutional mandate. It is clear that state entities were being politicized and used, not only to protect and legitimize the lawless ANC regime, but also to undermine the DA that was legitimately elected as the leading Party in the Western Cape.

During the period under review, especially around the 2014 national government election, the Western Cape ANC inexplicably had resources at the time for a destabilisation campaign in the Western Cape.

Jafta’s testimony yesterday confirmed what we had always suspected, namely that the ANC does not raise money for elections campaigns, they steal it from the State. Money that is supposed to go towards much-needed service delivery, is given to the ANC for their party-political purposes.

The DA will urgently investigate these allegations. A government slush fund used to fund the ANC is illegal and unconstitutional and we expect those implicated to be prosecuted.

We will share the details of the investigation in due course.