Department of Communications is not one of high priority for ANC Presidents

Honourable Chairperson,

This year marks the fifth and final year of this fifth Parliament.

As I look back on the work of the Communications Portfolio Committee, I see great improvement.

Improvement that has been as a result of a commitment to the discharging of our duties as public representatives of this august House.

I can proudly say that as South Africans from across political parties, we have done our best to conduct oversight over the Department of Communications.

This is not to say we have not disagreed along the way, we have, and have done so often.

However, what has always remained was our commitment to fixing the problems in this portfolio.

I unfortunately cannot say the same for members of the Executive who have been in charge.

The last three years have been an exercise of utter frustration.

Today before us we have the fourth Minister of Communications in two years, the second in the space of six months, and the tenth since 2009.

The constant reshuffling of Ministers means that there is perpetual policy uncertainty and a lack of continuity.

It is quite clear that this department is not one of high priority for ANC Presidents.

And less of a priority is South Africa’s Broadcasting Digital Migration programme.

Only R77 million has been allocated for its roll-out this year, whereas R6.6 billion is actually what is needed.

It is quite clear that another year will roll on by, and South Africa will not migrate to digital television.

In the meantime, technological advancements have sped by while South Africa still debates encryption.

It is clear that an in-depth review of government’s Broadcasting Digital Migration programme is needed and needed urgently.

I would suggest that the R77 million allocated to the process be put towards assembling a panel of experts in the field to start the process afresh, taking into consideration the technological developments in the sector.

It has been a worry for some time that the department has over the last number of years held numerous “public awareness campaigns” to promote digital migration, a process that it must have known for some time would not happen.

I was amazed to discover via reply to a parliamentary question that R30.3 million has been spent on these campaigns, which, according to some attendees, were sometimes nothing more than campaigns to promote the ANC. At each campaign a whopping R2 million is spent on food alone.

Interestingly, the amount spent by the department on travel and subsistence doubled in the lead up and during the 2016 election, when numerous of these public awareness campaigns must have taken place.

Until there is some clear direction around digital migration, these imbizos must be stopped, and the money budgeted for them, diverted towards the department’s core mandate, which is to develop national communications policy.

The lack of innovation and forward-thinking in this department is embarrassing.

To date, we have had no response from government regarding the protection of personal information online, and the phenomenon of fake news which threatens our democracy.

The EU, for example, has created a commission to propose measures to tackle fake online news, including an EU-wide Code of Practice on Disinformation.

The Code is anticipated to include a series of aims to help tackle the spread of fake news, including:

  •  Ensuring transparency when displaying sponsored content;
  • Enabling third-party verification;
  • Clarifying how algorithms work; and
  • Introducing additional measures to identify and close fake accounts.

The Department of Communications must look at international best practice in order to be at the frontline of responding to communications technological developments and threats.

Regulation must never lag behind technological developments.

Now regarding the entities reporting to this Department, it is astounding that Rubben Mohlaloga to this day remains the Chairperson of Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), despite have being found guilty of defrauding the Land Bank of approximately R6 million.

The Deputy Minister of Communications, Pinky Kekana is on record on 27 March 2018 stating that Mr Mohlaloga would be suspended.

Here we are 6 weeks later, and a convicted fraudster continues to draw a salary and chair a chapter 9

institution.

Pending the conclusion of parliamentary processes, Mr Mohlaloga must be suspended immediately.

It is unconscionable that he continues to Chair the ICASA Council.

We are pleased that ICASA’s is forging ahead with plans to open up the pay-TV market to create competition and provide more choice for consumers.

It cannot be that Multichoice dominates the market, closing out competitors, especially regarding Sports Rights.

As I discovered in a reply to a parliamentary question, over the last 3 years, the SABC has paid Multichoice over half a billion for Sports Rights.

Sports Rights which meant that South Africa’s football fans, for example, have to watch delayed matches on SABC.

It cannot be that the public broadcaster has to pay a private company for the benefit of broadcasting sport matches, especially those of our national teams.

The public should be able to watch Bafana Bafana, the Springboks and the Proteas on the public broadcaster without the SABC having to pay billions to an intermediary for the benefit.

I am also pleased that the SABC is pursuing the issue of ICASA’s “must-carry” regulations, which mean that its channels SABC 1, 2 and 3 are given for free to DSTV.

This means, that DSTV is able to gain advertising revenue from the SABCs channels, and it is dololo for the public broadcaster.

DSTV must pay the SABC for its channel. And the SABC should use this money purchase and commission better content, attract more viewers and in turn, advertisers and revenue.

Regarding the Films and Publications Board (FPB), we have expressed our unhappiness with the FPB amendment bill, with which material issues of constitutionality and enforceability remain. We hope the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will be able to iron out these issues, otherwise if passed, the Bill is likely to be subject to litigation.

Chairperson, we have also expressed our unhappiness with the manner in which the dismissal of the former CEO of the FPB, Themba Wakashe was handled by the board.

The FPB spent R350 000 on initial legal advice from Bowman Gilfillan which, told them that they do not have a case against Mr Wakashe. Further legal advice and an investigation at a cost of R499 000 by Sekela Xabisa was ordered by the board which came to the same conclusion. The CEO was eventually awarded a settlement amount of R2.1 million because the board clearly wanted him out, allegedly for reasons, which may have included homophobia.

The waste of public money in this matter cannot be tolerated.

The board members of the FPB, especially those who agreed with the manner in which Mr Wakashe was dismissed, must personally, individually and severally be held liable for this fruitless and wasteful expenditure. They must pay back the money.

Honourable Chairperson, these are but a few of the issues that exist not only with the department, but the entities reporting it. I do not get a sense of urgency or an appetite for innovation from the ANC, or its Ministers to bring about real change to this portfolio.

It is quite clear that the only time that this portfolio will deliver to South Africa what it must is when we have Total Change in 2019.

A DA government would ensure that all entities are well run, those that need to be sold off, are sold, that crooks are not allowed to lead boards, and that the innovation necessary in the digital era is front and centre of its policy-making.

We wish Minister Mokonyane well for as long as she is with us. With the ANC, you never know when a reshuffle is coming.

I thank you.

The ANC government consistent in its failure to restore the dignity of our people

Section 2 of the Housing Act compels all three spheres of government to prioritise the needs of the poor in respect of housing development. Millions of poor South Africans are looking to the Government to provide them with adequate housing to restore their dignity and that of their families. Shelter, a basic human right, is the very area in which the ANC government is failing dismally.

Human Settlements departments in most provinces are crippled by corruption, fraudulent housing allocations and the mismanagement of public funds. The money spent does not match the number of houses built.

At a housing project in Thabong (G- Block) in Welkom, Free State, no work has been done except for digging of trenches for a contract which was awarded in 2014 at a cost of R220 million. People were moved from the site to create space for construction. They were settled in a space where there are no toilets, no water and without electricity where they remain to date. This project was awarded to Mrs Nozuko Mbalula and Hlaudi Motsoeneng through their Mbuma and MM Development Trusts. Imali yona imkile ngexa abantu abahluphekileyo besajonge enkalweni ukuza kukaNxele.

In the same province, in Vogelfontein in Bethlehem, an RDP Project remains incomplete without toilets and electricity. Residents, including children, are exposed to serious health hazards while R70 million was paid to Unital Holdings, linked to Ace Magashule’s daughter, by the Provincial Department of Human Settlements.

The DA has laid charges with Bethlehem SAPS for an investigation to be undertaken. We now bring these issues to the attention of Minister Mfeketho so she can act. Aba bantu batya imali karhulumente ebimele ukuxhamla abantu abangathathi ntweni kufuneka baphoswe kwesimnyama isisele.

Performance of the department in dispensing title deeds is shocking. The Western Cape Government is the front runner in giving its citizens title deeds. On the 09th May 2018, we attended a ceremony wherein the people of Delft could not hide their joy when their dignity was respected through the handing over of title deeds by the Western Cape Human Settlements Department.

We however cannot say the same about 84-year-old Maome Makgala from Ficksburg, Free State, who has a title deed which indicates that her house was built in 2004. Guess what, akanayo indlu uhlala emkhukhwini. Ndinayo iaddress yomkhukhu ahlala kuwo.

There is a need for a credible National Database of housing beneficiaries which is transparent and accessible to the public. In its current form, it is manipulated and helps only those with money and those who are connected. In Unit P, just outside Mdantsane in the Eastern Cape, RDP houses are sold by officials known to the community. Others paid money but never even got those houses. In the same project izindlu zakhiwe emgxobhozweni. Xa kunetha amanzi ayangena ngaphakathi.

Elsewhere in the Eastern Cape, opposite Phakamisa Township, the ward councillor is giving houses to friends and relatives. Rightful beneficiaries from Zwelitsha have been crying with no help. We are in possession of a list of these individuals whose dignity has been sold off by the elite. This all points to the flawed housing beneficiary lists which do not benefit the poor.

The North West Province voluntarily returned R300 million which they felt they would not be able to spend. They went on to claim that they had no beneficiaries to build houses for. This is despite the fact that South Africa has a housing backlog numbering in the millions. In certain projects, units stand unoccupied for so long that renovations are necessary before the units can be occupied. Kutheni abantu benganikwa izindlu zabo xa zigqityiwe ukwakhiwa? There is simply no political will or commitment to serve the poor in the North West province. The resignation of Supra Mahumapelo unfortunately won’t be enough to address the depths of the rot in the government of that province.

In Mpumalanga, Steve Tshwete Municipality, we visited Rockdale housing project where houses stood vacant so long they were eventually vandalised. Beneficiaries like 43-year-old Ms Siphiwe Nhari took occupation of her house forcefully with no basic services. She had to pay money for water connection which is not up to standard. Some houses are occupied by employees of the contractor while rightful beneficiaries are still waiting in shacks with no basic services. Certainly Ms Siphiwe Nhari is one of those who do not have a good story to tell.

Where we govern in the Western Cape, we deliver. Even though we chase a moving target of informal settlements to formalize, we do our best to provide citizens with respectable houses. No wonder the Western Cape got the Govan Mbeki award as a top performer. We will continue on this path until all South Africans are able to benefit from our DA’s service excellence.

Department of Arts must prioritise sustainable job creation

Honourable Speaker,

I am starting my input to this debate with a quote by V. Pinchuk who said: “Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.”

Looking at the current state of our country and the widening gap of racial disharmony this quote touches a nerve and it is incumbent on us, as Members of Parliament, to set an example as our actions and utterances are examples to the public.

Honourable Speaker,

I have to acknowledge our government’s funding of cultural festivals across the country. These festivals bridge the cultural divide as art cuts across cultures and builds social cohesion. Speaking of social cohesion, the intentions of this Department is good, however the government must put more emphasis on the cultures, heritage and histories of the Khoisan communities. We cannot continue to marginalise exhibitions that depicts the Khoisan as the First Nation of South Africa.

The Department of Arts and Culture has spent a lot of money on conducting Nation Building and Social Cohesion Community Conversations, but the Department is yet to enlighten the Committee as to the outcomes of these conversations.

If these conversations are not bridging the divide between cultural groups, they are sadly in vain.

Our aim is and should remain to bring South Africa together under one National Anthem and under one flag.

Race relations in South Africa is need of a serious makeover. We owe it to our children to build on the racial harmony that was displayed by the first Democratic Parliament of South Africa.

Currently, only the DA is working to ensure that democracy in South Africa does not die an untimely death. We need to restore race relations in South Africa which are being eroded by political figures who utter reckless and irresponsible statements.

Honourable Speaker,

We best express ourselves through our language of choice. We find our cognitive base in the tongue of our mothers. Having said that Honourable Speaker, excluding and vilifying others based on their language has no place in a democratic South Africa.

Honourable Minister,

The silence from the Pan South African Language Board’s (PanSALB), an organisation which is mandated to promote multilingualism, develop the 11 official languages and protecting language rights in South Africa, has been deafening.

Honourable Speaker, we best express ourselves through our language of choice. We find our cognitive base in the tongue of our mothers. PanSALB must come to the party and fight to protect and promote all 11 official languages. Having said that Honourable Speaker, I would like to highlight a concerning case of demonising Afrikaans through the closing down of Afrikaans schools as driven by Panyaza Lesufi. This seems to be driving a wedge between cultural groups. Honourable Minister, the silence of PanSALB who have to drive the language issue, is deafening.

Having said that, language must never be used as a tool for exclusion. I acknowledge that this Department has created jobs, under the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) program. However, these jobs are not sustainable. Even though the relief is temporary it does contribute to poverty alleviation. When you know the face of poverty it must be applauded when people are given an opportunity to empower themselves. The Department must prioritise sustainable job creation.

A DA government will allocate more funding for the creation of cultural spaces where the artistic community can have more avenues for expression. This wil bring art to communities that cannot afford to go to expensive theatres or concerts.

My colleagues spoke about funding for the art drying up and government giving less funding for operas or so called euro centric cultural expressive nodes.

The DA will look towards tax incentives for companies that donate to the arts. We can only build the arts as a nation when all contribute and all can enjoy.

Art can lead the way towards moral regeneration.

Even though the Department has given money for the restoration of our core values and moral fibre, we still do not know whether these programmes have a positive impact on our society.

For a country to flourish in artistic expression it is important to restore the moral fibre by investing in value based programs to restore our moral fibre and focus on individual responsibility.

Honourable Minister, your Department has cut down on its key targets from 65 to 38. The targets that have been reduced mostly centre around monitoring and evaluation and accountability.

Honourable Minister, these are the key components of managerial responsibility and accountability of this Department, in order to ensure people get value for money and government money is used responsibly.

A DA government will focus on key issues of monitoring and evaluation to ensure that there is freedom of artistic expression for all; fairness in the work place; diversity and opportunity irrespective of political affiliation where all are embraced regardless of race or creed into the true democratic ideal.

Only a DA government can herald a new dawn for the economy

Honourable Chairperson

President Ramaphosa has assured the South African nation that a “new dawn” is upon us.

We are embarking, he announced in his State of the Nation Address, on “a new path of growth, employment and transformation”.

But with growth forecast at just 1.5% this year, over 9 million South Africans unemployed, and declining business confidence levels, this new dawn looks set to be a false dawn.

It is, in fact, only the brief blinding flash of Ramaphoria. And soon it will be eclipsed by the persistent, malignant forces of darkness – namely, corruption, cronyism and capture – that are part and parcel of the ANC’s political culture.

The prince of darkness, Jacob Zuma, has been banished to Nkandla. There he tends the R1.5 million-worth of cattle gifted to him at taxpayers’ expense by the is-he-or-isn’t-he Premier of the North West.

But Zuma’s legacy – state plunder, mismanagement of public finances and economic decline – still casts a gloomy shadow over the country.

And it will continue to do so until the sun sets on an ANC government, and we see the dawning of total change under the DA.

Scrap EDD

Chairperson

It is the role of the Economic Development Department (EDD) to bring coherence to economic policy-making and implementation across state departments.

EDD must promote inclusive infrastructure-led growth, and it must tackle unemployment by accelerating job creation.

In other words, it must duplicate the functions of countless other departments in the economics cluster.

President Rampahosa has promised to review the number of national government departments in order to “ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources”.

He should commence this process of fiscal fat-busting by applying his liposuction vacuum to the Economic Development Department. Its billion Rand budget offers some easy pickings.

EDD was one of a number of new departments fathered during the Zuma administration, in a fit of fiscal incontinence and without much thought to family planning.

To be fair, Minister Patel has been a devoted and conscientious guardian. But even though EDD has yet to reach old age, it is time – new dawn or false dawn – for the department to “go gentle into that good night”.

Its economic planning and co-ordination functions should go to Treasury. Its support services to the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission (PICC) should be delegated to the Presidency. And its oversight of the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) and competition authorities should be restored to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Investment, competition and trade

Chairperson

Of the Department’s R1.073 billion budget, nearly 90% (or R952 million) is channelled to Programme 3: Investment, Competition and Trade.

That is an almost 20% increase from last year’s allocation.

The bulk of it is for subsidies and grants to the IDC, ITAC, the Competition Commission and the Competition Tribunal.

President Rampahosa says we are going to “re-industrialise on a scale and at a pace that draws millions of job seekers into the economy”.

It will never happen without root-and-branch labour law reform.

He claims that, through the R23 billion IDC-sponsored black industrialists programme, we are going to develop “a new generation of black producers…able to build enterprises of significant scale and capability”.

But if the ANC’s black economic empowerment policy is anything to go by, the programme will produce a new elite of politically-connected billionaires at the expense of the poor.

That is why we need to ensure the IDC isn’t abused, as it was in the case of the R250 million loan to the Guptas, to enrich cronies in the guise of transforming the economy.

During his State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa said that the ANC was going to use “competition policy to open markets up to new black entrants”.

The Minister has reiterated that commitment with reference to the Competition Amendment Bill gazetted in December 2017.

While the DA supports the bill’s objective of greater economic inclusion, the Competition Act is not the right tool for tackling those structural features of the economy that exclude black South Africans from participation.

Making the economy more inclusive isn’t about using a regulator to create a new market structure. Economic inclusion is about radically transforming our labour laws to create jobs. It is about improving access to capital and credit for unbanked entrepreneurs, cutting red tape for small businesspeople, and growing the economy.

None of this can be achieved by the competition regulators.

The Competition Amendment Bill is too ambitious. It puts too great a burden on the competition authorities to solve South Africa’s economic problems. It gives them too much scope to encroach on the domain of other institutions.

In particular, the proposed market inquiry provisions – including recourse to “forced divestiture” as a remedy – will, in the words of one competition law expert, give the Competition Commission the power “to move parts of the economy around like pieces on a chess board”.

As it is, the Commission’s human and budgetary resources are stretched to breaking point. We should not strain them further.

DA proposals on jobs for youth

Chairperson

When President Ramaphosa finally unveils his reconfigured economics cluster, it must prioritise youth employment.

This will require far more than the innumerable working groups, summits and accords convened in terms of EDD’s Growth Path and Social Dialogue programme.

A DA government would assist young disadvantaged South Africans in finding work by:

  •  Introducing a Jobseekers’ Allowance for all unemployed young people aged between 18 and 34;
  • Rolling out a national Job Centres project where unemployed people can access job opportunities; and
  • Introducing a National Civilian Service year to provide work experience for matriculants to enter into work-based training in the fields of community healthcare, basic education or policing.

The DA will empower entrepreneurs with access to capital, infrastructure and skilled labour. And we will exempt small businesses from certain labour- and BEE laws to help them compete and create jobs.

That is the best way to promote economic inclusion.

This administration offers us the false promise of a new dawn. Let us work to ensure that the black, green and gold cock does not crow again in 2019!

Performing arts is an untapped source for job creation

Honourable House Chair,
Today, as we sit here and deliberate, marks another financial year end and the beginning of another. This is an annual practice that helps us to look back and determine whether the taxpayer’s monies are well and fully accounted for. Whether we are all learning something out of this is another
question.
To some it is about showing how much power they have with out providing a solution to the continuous challenges that are facing the Department and its entities.
House Chair, it is unacceptable the way some entities take their responsibilities for granted as they continue to play politics with their positions due
to infighting and forgetting the mandate that they were given by the Department of Arts and Culture.
The Department should manage relations between management, councils and entities by monitoring them closely to know their challenges on time as these could impact negatively on the budgeting outcomes.
Honourable Minister, this house needs to be cleaned and it needs your attention. Although, it seems as though you are doing something about the challenges in your Department, it is important that you deal with the rot as soon as possible, for the sake of the young and upcoming artists.
Honourable Minister, I know how hands-on you are and how much you love and devote your time to the Arts, however Honourable Minister, there are concerns about more doors of op era houses being closed down due to a lack of funding.
I would like to encourage the Minister and the officials to visit these events or some of the concerts and you will see that any notions of this art form being Eurocentric or elitist have long since been dispelled.
Opera is current. Opera is real. Recently we learned that another opera company, Gauteng Opera, and the Dance Umbrella Festival of Johannesburg are closing their doors.
At the moment many young, mostly black singers are concerned about this. In many countries opera survives because of financial support from their governments and because of private sponsors.
There is an untapped opportunity to create many jobs in the performing arts sector, especially opera.
To sustain an opera company means providing work to singers, orchestral musicians, costume designers and outfitters, lighting crews and carpenters.
Honourable House Chair, it is clear that the budget of this Department is not enough to deal with these challenges we need future Sibongile Khumalo’s and Pretty Yende’s.
The Department has often spoken about artists that are placed in schools. I have visited a number of schools in my province of North West and I still have to come across one of those artists.
Maybe it is about time that we are provided with a list of schools where these artists will be found.
House Chair, there is also a growing concern regarding libraries in rural areas including Community Arts Centres. These institutions are very important in rural areas especially when one looks at the rate that young people migrate to towns for the sole purpose of being able to access centres of this nature.
It is very important for this Department to always remember the commitment that it made through the following outcomes:
1. Improved quality of basic education
2. Decent employment through inclusive economic growth
3. A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth path
4. Vibrant equitable and sustainable rural communities with food security for all.
5. Create a better South Africa and contribute to a better Africa and a better world to mention but a few.
To achieve these we need a better budget to create and embrace the DA’s ideals of freedom, fairness and opportunity for all.

Social Development budget does not consider the needs of vulnerable communities

Honourable Speaker,

Citizens of South Africa,

With a budget of R37.5 million the Department Social Development is mandated to serve the poorest citizens of this country through its support of non-profit organisations (NPO).

It is still very evident that the Department does not have a clear plan on how they can best assist our most vulnerable communities.

We have established that the Department does not have an adequate NPO database yet, and the one currently in use is managed manually which is very difficult to monitor.

If the Department can move fast on implementing this, it could off load the burden on NPO’s as it will assist them in identifying, by a click of a button, how many NPO’s are funded and on what basis.

The absence of a proper management mechanism for NPO databases have dire consequences as many

NPO’s continue to struggle financially, and have already had to close down.

One such example is The Saving Grace situated in Lekwa Local Municipality in Mpumalanga. It is run by Mrs. Bongiwe Immaculate Sibeko, and it used to house around 18 children with ages ranging between 2 and 18 years.

Most of these children are orphaned and The Saving Grace was their only home, but today they are ALL homeless. We cannot continue to fail our children in this manner.

Women and Child Protection

We condemn the killing of women in our country in the strongest terms possible. Perpetrators of these killings should be given the maximum life sentences possible.

I wish to welcome Judge Peet Johnson’s heavy sentencing of one such case where on the 3rd May 2018. He sentenced Sandile Mantsoe to 32 years in jail for killing Karabo Mokoena.

Unfortunately there are many such unreported cases like one Ms. Fikile Ngwenya from Lekwa who resided in Rooikoppen was found dead in her house on the 10th April 2018.

She was allegedly strangled to death by her boyfriend.

I also need to mention Fikile Nengovhela, who was reportedly shot and killed by her husband together with her 6 month old baby in Evander, Govan Mbeki Municipality on the 3rd of May 2018.

It is critical to note these are only reported cases.

The DA is also concerned about the alleged serial women abuser, ANC MP, Mduduzi Manana who allegedly violently abused his domestic worker. We call on law enforcement agencies especially the NPA to prosecute Manana without fear or favour and to ensure that he faces the full might of the law.

There is a growing need for government to implement programmes that will raise awareness on how best to manage their anger and channel their energy in a constructive manner, and to prevent women and children from becoming victims of domestic violence.

People with disabilities

It is alarming to learn that the Welfare Services Policy Development and Implementation Support budget for people who are living with disabilities have been decreased by 2%, on the back of the 1% increment on VAT.

This decrease will have a severe impact on the much needed research to be done to find lasting and effective solutions to assist people living with disabilities.

We challenge the ANC government to start taking our people seriously by investing more money in this section of Social Development Programme.

This budget is proof that the ANC does not care about the needs of vulnerable communities within our society. The DA is the only party that can build a South Africa

Child grant not sufficient to fight malnutrition

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Minister, guests in the gallery.

I think everyone in South Africa is relieved to have a new Minister in the Social Development portfolio who seems collaborative and willing to address problems in this Department. However, my genuine concern is that the Minister will be kept so busy with sorting out administrative problems that core policy issues will remain unaddressed and this is where the real problem lies.

The entire model of the Department is outdated.

It dates from the industrial age which assumes that the majority of people will be in permanent wage employment while only a small number of people will be on welfare for a short period of time.

A reality which does not exist in South Africa.

As a result entire families have to survive on an old age grant, a disability grant and most concerning a child grant.

I emphasise the latter because it constitutes almost 70% of all grants being distributed.

Peter Drucker once said: “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”.

When it comes to this budget and the announcement that grants will be increased what wasn’t said was that the purchasing power of grant beneficiaries will in all likelihood be less because of the impact of inflation, the vat increase, the fuel levy and on top of that an additional bank charge of R10 to some grant beneficiaries due to the CPS contract debacle. Meaning, mothers will actually have even less money in their pockets, not more.

This is the key difference between the child grant now and in 1998 when it was introduced. In 1998, the financial value of a child grant was derived from the Household Subsistence Level for food and clothing for children. In other words it was link to an objective measure of what it costs to look after a child.

In a Parliamentary question last year, the Department admitted they no longer follow this approach.

As a result of this policy deviation and this budget, one of the most profound and direct consequences will be an increase in the number of children losing their lives every day due to sever acute malnutrition and stunted growth.

Unseen, will be the increased levels of stress and trauma experienced by families who are forced to make impossible choices. In some certain instances, mothers have to sacrifice their own bodies and fathers often feel they have no worth because they can’t provide.

This, Honourable Speaker, is the toxic mix which keeps our highly unequal society firmly intact.

The DA understands that malnutrition is among some of the most serious social and economic issues South Africa faces. The reason for this is that it causes children to struggle in and leave school; leads to illness; an inability to work and often fuels violence.

What is needed is total change on a policy level. The DA believes the first step in building such a new system is to align the child grant to an objective measure of what it costs to actually feed a child and closing the gaps in the social assistance scheme. This must be combined with robust economic growth and the creation of jobs.

A child grant, set below the food poverty line in a context of long term mass unemployment is simply unacceptable.

The DA will continue to fight to fight to see an increase in the child grant, as it is clear that the ANC government has no idea how the poor truly live in South Africa.

Dept. of Social Development teetering on the verge of collapse

Chairperson,

This Annual Performance Plan budget vote debate coincides with a change of Minister in the Department of Social Development, which has a direct impact on the state of the department and its entities.

We are at a very critical stage in the life of the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), with what we hope to be the last portion of grants paid by CPS.

What does this mean for the implementation of the plans we are debating today? If the latest meetings we have had with the new Minister are anything to go by, South Africa, especially the 17 million beneficiaries of the grants may just have their dignity restored.

It has been refreshing to listen to a Minister who seems to be upfront, transparent and in touch with the real issues that affect the vulnerable and the poor. We are, therefore, cautiously excited to work with the new Minister.

What has the Minister walked into though?

A department with key and critical positions filled in an acting capacity, which includes the Department’s Director General.

The entity that is responsible for the disbursement of R151 billion per year does not have a permanent CEO or COO; 7 of out 9 Regional Executive Managers are acting and a Corporate Services Executive have been in an acting status since 2009.

Why then, would it be surprising, for this agency to be run by the Constitutional Court?

At a risk of sounding like a prophet of doom Chairperson, the other parts of the Department are also teetering on the verge of collapse.

The NGO’s, to whom the department refers to as “’the key partners for social development”, are paid late or not paid at all. The Department’s offices in especially rural provinces operate from caravans since the 1990s.

Workers’ pleas for better working conditions fall on deaf ears! This is the Department which is leading in ensuring that social workers are deployed to alleviate the high levels of vulnerability in our society – these social workers are unemployed and sitting at home or work at tills in supermarkets
while their demand it skyrocketing both in government and the NGO sector.

The Minister has her work cut out in this department and we stand ready to work with her to ensure oversight takes place.

During the previous Minister of Social Development’s tenure, the DA called for the intervention of Treasury; a full Parliamentary Inquiry into the relationship between CPS and SASSA, including the bizarre payment of R316 million to CPS without following proper procedures; the personal security for the previous Minister’s, her spokesperson and the previous CEO’s children’s security without valid  threat analyses; and why these security contracts were entered into with SASSA and not the Department!

It is disconcerting how a Minister could get away with so much and how calls to hold her to account
could repeatedly go unheeded!

The Democratic Alliance have made it clear, we will continue to explore every possible Parliamentary avenue to fight for the constitutional rights of the poor and vulnerable.

We will, through the available Parliamentary oversight mechanisms, hold the Executive to account at every turn. This is because as the DA we believe that we need to create one South Africa for all, and that this can only be done by ensuring freedom, fairness and equal opportunities – especially for most vulnerable citizens in our society.

The DA will ensure that all the poor and vulnerable South Africans, deserving of the Department of Social Development’s services, have access to those services.

Thank you Chairperson

Many South Africans remain deprived of justice, Minister

Statistics, it has been said, are ordinarily used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination.

Chairperson, the conviction rates again quoted here today by the Minister as so-called proof of the good performance of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the criminal justice system, must be put in perspective.

If we, for a moment, assess real numbers rather than percentages, the following figures illuminate the regression in performance by the NPA under the political leadership of this Minister.

Consider this: Since 2015/16 the NPA has been allowed to lower the target they set themselves in respect of cases finalised with a verdict in our lower courts for 2018/19 from 337 403 to 298 706 in 2018/19.

In respect of convictions relating to sexual offences, the target for convictions expressed as real numbers have been adjusted downwards from 5 869 to 4 602, while the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres (once hailed as proof that this government is a caring one that empathises with the plight of victims of sexual crimes) aimed to be operational have also been adjusted downwards from 68 to only 55.

Juxtapose this with the information that over the same period murder increased by 1.8%, sexual assault by almost 1%, robbery with aggravating circumstances by almost 6% and carjackings by a massive 14.5%.

This clearly and sadly indicates how the system is already increasingly failing to deliver justice to victims who, by their very nature, are wholly dependent on this very system for safety and justice.

But Chair, this picture becomes even grimmer if we consider the manner in which the system keeps on failing us as South Africans in respect of the cardinal role it should play to fight the plague of corruption, state capture, fraud and theft that has so nearly robbed us of our constitutional integrity and freedom.

And yes, we have noted the massive increases in the targets set in respect of specifically the amounts to be recovered through corruption related prosecution and the concurrent freezing orders for this upcoming year.

But, given the inept and lackadaisical manner in which specifically the possible prosecution and arrests of the Guptas were handled earlier this year, when these crooks fled the country while apparently being under the constant surveillance of the Hawks, who acted under the guidance of the NPA, it would seem these targets are but a pipedream.

So, what must be done to turn this ship around?

Firstly Chair, the position of National Director of Public Prosecutions and the deputies stationed at the NPA headquarters should be filled by people who South Africans can trust to be not only competent but also committed to do this job without fear, favour or prejudice.

People like Shaun Abrahams, Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi have sucked out all public confidence in the leadership of the NPA through the manner in which they have undermined the rule of law through political manipulation of prosecutorial decisions.

Minister, while you are very eager to proclaim that you only have an overarching responsibility for the NPA, we know from the judgment in the Freedom Under Law case that you were prepared to dirty your hands and place your signature on an unlawful agreement with Mr Nxasana to get him to leave office – a move solely motivated by your zeal to serve your former political master, Jacob Zuma.

Now, President Ramaphosa, deliverer of New Dawns, Protector of our Constitution and King of the Walkers has asked for volunteers, people who are willing to be sent.

Here is a thought Minister: You can at least partially redeem yourself and for once do something of significance founded in sound, lawful reasoning. Just ask President Ramaphosa to send you with a note to Abrahams, Jiba and Mrwebi informing them that they should pack and leave – immediately.

Secondly chair, our justice and criminal justice systems are also under threat from budget cuts which now constitutes underfunding.

Are we to react to this apparent new normal of an ever shrinking budget with acceptance and a mild plea to National Treasury to look into assisting the NPA and Legal Aid, while also suggesting cost cutting measures to the role players in the justice system we oversee?

All of this while specifically Legal Aid has been operating without any of the trimmings and trappings so often associated with governmental indulgence long before the word austerity was first uttered post the 2009 recession.

No, what should happen is that the Department of Justice should embark on a critical evaluation of every position within its staff establishment in order to streamline its organogram in order to ensure that only essential positions remain.

The current way of assessing whether positions are to be deemed critical when they become vacant and are only filled then only tells us one thing: There are still non-essential positions in the staff establishment. We must act now, before service delivery is fatally wounded.

A DA government will use Stats SA to bring Total Change

The Democratic Alliance would like to thank the former Statistician General Dr Pali Lehohla for his 17 years of distinguished service to Statistics South Africa and the nation and welcome the new SG, Mr Risenga Maluleke. Mr Maluleke you, sir, have a very important, yet difficult task ahead of you and your shrinking team.

On that note chairperson, I am certain that much of today’s debate will centre on the continuous budget reductions applied to Statistics South Africa and the consequences thereof. This is entirely valid as it compromises both the aim and purpose of Stats SA.

The aim of Stats SA is to provide relevant and accurate statistics in line with internationally approved practice to inform users of the dynamics of the economy and society.

According to the Statistics Act, the purpose of official statistics is to assist organs of state, business, other organisations and the public in planning, decision-making, and monitoring or assessment of policies.

We are living in a global information society where the amount of information and its flow to society is increasing. Statistics play a major role in shaping and providing scientific information that is useful in almost every aspect of human life.

Modern decision making, whether done by a national government, potential investors or an international agency, is increasingly using statistical methods to improve the quality of information and decision making.

Increasing appreciation of the role, power and importance of statistics should lead to a higher priority attached to statistical capacity development.

Yet the budget before us stands at R2.22 billion for the 2018/2019 financial year. This is a significant reduction compared to the R2.49 billion budgeted in the 2016/2017 financial year.

These budget cuts have particularly compromised the ability of Stats SA to fill, attract and retain necessary skills. Its staff complement has been reduced with a significant decrease of funded posts in the current financial year.

At a time when Stats SA should have access to the best skills in the market to embody a modern, cutting edge utility, vacancies stopped being filled in October 2016, 170 staff have since left, and the vacancy rate has increased to 13%.

The consequence is that current staff are overstretched and more prone to errors, and the decline of the skills base continues unabated while Stats SA remains unable to fill critical vacancies. This puts basic statistics at risk of a declining quality over time.

Some of the key indicators at risk include:

– Gross Domestic Product;

– Poverty and service delivery;

– Consumer Price Index;

– Fertility and Mortality;

– Employment; and

– Population estimates

The risks to the population estimates alone will have significant consequences to the Division of Revenue Amendment Bill.

Hon. Chairperson, it thus becomes incumbent on us to ask why the untenable situation at this important institution has been allowed to persist given its importance to the nation and the work of government.

Last year in this very debate, I spoke of the need for government to make use of evidence-based policymaking in realising the goals set out in the National Development Plan.

In simple terms, evidence-based policy-making is a means by which policies and programmes intended to improve lives are based on clearly defined, time-bound, and measurable milestones.

This allows timely modification, consolidation or change of policy as the case may require, thus ensuring urgent responses to challenges.

It is in this context that statistics become part and parcel of ‘evidence-based’ policy-making, statistics understood here to mean more than a routine collection and storage of numbers, but rather as credible and scientifically derived evidence intended to evaluate the impact of policy-making.

Our statistics will remain meaningless and of little value to policymakers unless and until they are embedded in the key priorities of government and become part of the planning tools used by the three spheres of government in directing resources and informing the policy and practices implemented in order to achieve the goals set by the NDP in the manner prescribed by the NDP.

The lives of our people will also not improve when faced with a government that does not recognise the value and import of accurate statistics it can rely on in its every day work.

Honourabl eChairperson, a DA government would staff and equip this institution, utilising the valuable information produced to bring about total change for all the people of South African.

We will use it to combat inequality, to make our communities safer, to skill our youth, to attract investment and to create jobs, to combat illegal immigration, to confront apartheid spatial planning and improve the health services of government. Clearly this is not happening under our current government.