DA welcomes Zak Yacoob’s recusal from CSA Board 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by Zak Yacoob to recuse himself from the position of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) acting Board Chairperson. Yacoob has been replaced by Stavros Nicolaou to head up the interim Board.

His recusal follows the release of a recording in which he can be heard verbally attacking a TimesLive journalist.

The DA yesterday called for Yacoob to be removed as his behaviour was completely disgraceful and unbecoming of anyone holding such a high office.

We hope that Yacoob will take this time to reflect on his behaviour and that he will reach out to the journalist involved to apologise.

While the media has a responsibility to be fair and accurate in their reporting, public institutions such as CSA and those who are at the helm of them, have a duty to be open and transparent as well as to be respectful of media freedom as a cornerstone of any democratic society.

CSA’s recent history of antagonism towards the press must come to an end. And we hope that the removal of Yacoob will send a strong message to CSA’s bigwigs that intimidation and secrecy at the institution will not be tolerated.

Gwede Mantasha Foundation fires COO: Where’s there’s smoke, there’s fire 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes reports that the Gwede Mantashe Foundation has fired its Chief Operations Officer, Caswell Mokoena, in the wake of a funding scandal, despite Minister Gwede Mantashe’s denial of any wrongdoing on either his own part or that of the foundation. It is alleged by the former internal auditor of electrical supply company Voltex that R935 000 was paid to a company called Ntlokholo Investments (of which Mokoena was a director at the time), but was disguised as a donation to the Foundation.

Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Mokoena’s dismissal raises more questions that must be answered:

  • Why was Mokoena fired if there was no wrongdoing?
  • Why did the Foundation receipt R935 000 from Voltex (a Bidvest subsidiary), if the money was intended for another company?
  • Why did Mokoena write to Voltex on a Foundation letterhead acknowledging the donation?
  • What is Minister Mantashe’s involvement with Ntlokholo Investments and/or Voltex?
  • Why was Ntlokholo receiving payments, allegedly in relation to the National Solar Water Heating Programme (NSWHP) – administered by Mantashe’s Department of Energy, when it was not involved in the NSWHP?

Minister Mantashe is willing to put his name on the Foundation, and therefore must take responsibility for its actions. We have previously called for a comprehensive investigation into this matter – looking into the affairs of all parties concerned – and reiterate our call on President Ramaphosa to remove Mantashe from office until all allegations against him are resolved. South Africa cannot afford more corruption in high office. Mantashe must go!

The Tourism Equity Fund will do little to grow the sector and jobs

The Democratic Alliance (DA) does not believe that the Tourism Equity Fund will meet its intended targets of boosting South Africa’s tattered tourism industry through improving the participation of black entrepreneurs in the sector. While it is important that there are continued efforts to strengthen the participation of emerging entrepreneurs, it cannot happen at the expense of the tourism industry as a whole. Especially not at a time when the industry is on its knees.

The Tourism Equity Fund that is R1.2 billion strong was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday. According to government, the aim of the fund is to improve participation of black South Africans in the tourism sector. As always, government’s solutions for tourism remains one-dimensional – as if funding is the be-all and end-all to making tourism enterprises successful.

The irony seems to be missed by government in that it was their illogical lockdown regulations that decimated the sector and killed a million jobs. Another irony missed by Ramaphosa, who described the tourism sector as “resilient” by nature, was that the resilience that he describes within tourism is despite government not because of it. In fact, government has caused huge destruction within the tourism sector.

If government ensured that the basics were done, it would go much further than the limited amount available from this fund to a limited number of people. Our tourism sector would grow faster and would ensure a more inclusive and growing sector if the various spheres of government improved and maintained tourism infrastructure, tourism sites and related infrastructure, such as the construction of roads to inaccessible or hard-to-reach tourism sites and access to water and electricity to tourism attractions.

By doing this, more people would be able to participate in the tourism sector without reliance of government funding which, based on this government’s performance, will be pilfered, lost by corruption and mal-management or distributed to those within the inner circle of the ANC.

Incentives, such as training incentives to entrants in the sector and tax incentives as a relief to those hit hard during lockdown, would go much further.

We will therefore be submitting official questions asking about this fund, how it will disburse and monitor funds and how tourism will benefit from it in real terms.

DA calls for removal of CSA Board Chairperson following verbal attack on journalist

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the removal of Zak Yacoob as Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) acting Board Chairperson following the release of a recording in which he can be heard verbally attacking a TimesLive journalist.

We condemn the former Judge’s disgraceful and aggressive attitude towards the journalist as it is unbecoming for someone in his position.

In a telephone call with the reporter regarding the suspension of CSA acting CEO, Kugandrie Govender, Yacoob can be heard hurling all manner of insults towards the journalist who was merely trying to do their job. He referred to the journalist as “dishonest”, “idiot” and accused the journalist of being “a rogue and dirty journalist.”

It is not the first time that CSA has been embroiled in controversy related to the treatment of the media. Last year, CSA came under fire after it revoked media accreditation of journalists because they wrote about the dire state of cricket in the country.

In a democratic state such as South Africa, freedom of the press must be protected and any attempt to silence or berate journalists must be condemned.

CSA will never operate in a transparent and independent manner if people like Yakoob show complete disregard towards the press – their modus operandi of attempting to silence any kind of dissent will run cricket in this country to the ground.

The DA believes that a vibrant media is the cornerstone of any thriving democracy. And while the media has a responsibility to be fair in their reporting, they also play a central role in holding institutions like CSA to account.

CSA must eradicate the waves of intimidation that have been perpetuated by some of its senior officials over the years. The DA will continue to fight for the protection of the free media and independent reporting, and we will oppose anyone who attempts to stifle media voices.

DA calls for disbandment of SSA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the total disbandment of the entire State Security Agency (SSA) and for the establishment of an independent, efficient and transparent state security agency.

Just when we thought nothing could shock us further, the revelations at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry have done just that. We knew it was bad, and indeed the openly available High-Level Review Panel Report revealed in broad strokes how the SSA had been refocused with only one aim: Protect Jacob Zuma.

We also knew from this report that millions had gone missing. However, to have these facts expanded upon in such technicolour detail – to hear how this country has lost hundreds upon hundreds of millions to Zuma and his cohorts, has been the final straw.

There is no possibility of saving the SSA in its current format. Those nameless, faceless officials who were put in place, are still there, and may well still be looting at levels never before seen in South Africa.

The High-Level Report was released in March 2019 and after the fanfare, and a flurry of media interest, nothing. No arrests followed. Here we are two years later, and still no arrests and not a cent recovered.

How many more years must the South African public wait for accountability? The looted money could have paid for vaccines for every single one of us. Instead it was swindled, and as far as anyone knows, millions are still streaming out to people who have no right to it, and who certainly have no interest in protecting us from either domestic or international threats.

The High-Level Report gave a detailed account of how to rearrange the deck chairs. However, not a cent has been recovered, not a single arrest made, and not a single soul jailed. Indeed, it has been business as usual, year after year, with the odd bout of musical chairs played by various new Ministers.

Urgent investigations need to be launched into the various allegations of Dr Sydney Mufamadi, including:

  • The alleged recruitment of members of the judiciary to secure Zuma favourable outcomes in cases against him, dubbed Project Justice;
  • The infiltration and manipulation of the media through Iqbal Survey’s African News Agency which is claimed to have received R20 million for services rendered for 8 months;
  • The R1.5 million per month spent on toxicologists to test Zuma’s bedding but only found expired cool drinks;
  • The false allegations against the heads of the Hawks and IPID;
  • Project Commitment which allegedly saw an estimated R80 million allegedly funneled to Zuma from the SSA for about two years;
  • Project Tin Roof reportedly cost around R5 million to provide housing for Zuma’s wife excommunicated wife, MaNtuli, and their children, with a further R800 000 spent on the project monthly; and
  • Project Wave sought to protect Zuma’s reputation locally and internationally.

Those that initiated, drove and participated in these various abominable projects should be investigated and pursued to the full extent of the law. They must no longer remain nameless and faceless, but their iniquities should face the full light of day.

The DA has put through rafts of questions asking about the implementation of the High-Level Review Panel Report recommendations – with zero response. What vague assurances are given, are done so in the lockdown of the JSCI committee meetings.

We are not satisfied that this report has been taken seriously by the latest powers that be, and that the undermining – or the looting – has been stopped in its tracks.

The only possible way to ensure this is carbuncle is finally lanced, is to shut down the entire SSA, and start again, from scratch.

South Africa’s Crime Intelligence is in chaos – and this must be music to the ears of enemies of our State. The SSA must be disbanded and replaced by an independent entity.

DA calls for R350 unemployment grant to be extended by reprioritising spending away from vanity projects

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls for the extension of the payment of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant of R350 under the adjusted level 3 lockdown. The grant is set to expire at the end of this month.

Millions of South Africans are reliant on the grant to meet their most basic of needs and face starvation without this monthly stipend.

With a stricter Covid-19 lockdown and the economy deteriorating at an alarming rate, these vulnerable people are often unable to find other means of putting food on the table.

With the haphazard payment of these grants already causing disruption to their lives, the recipients will now also have to worry about how they will provide for their families if the grant payment were to be stopped entirely.

Due to years of ineptitude, greed and mismanagement on the side of the ANC government, South Africa’s poor has become increasingly reliant on grant payments to survive. Despite its many promises – all broken – economic stimulation has not been the government’s priority. As a result, jobs are hard to come by. This desperate situation is exacerbated by the continued irrational lockdown of sectors of the economy causing the shedding of even more jobs.

The prioritization of ANC pet projects like the funding of SAA, and the fact that government dropped the ball on vaccine procurement perpetuates an endless lockdown that is claiming the lives of thousands due to Covid-19 and hunger.

Minister Zulu must urgently liaise with National Treasury to find solutions to ensure quality of life for the millions of vulnerable people in her care.

The DA cannot help but wonder how many grants could have been paid or vaccines bought with the billions wasted on SAA through the years. Last year, over R20 billion was allocated to this vanity project alone. A fortune that could surely have benefited a myriad of more worthy projects. R20 billion would have been better spent funding enough vaccinations to inoculate 67% of South Africans. R20 billion could also have covered the payment of an SRD grant to an average of 4.6 million beneficiaries per month at a cost of R1.6 billion until herd immunity is achieved – hopefully later this year. Now the money has been wasted and another solution needs to be found to stimulate both the economy in these dire times and take care of the poor.

SAA is hardly government’s only wasteful expenditure. There are many areas of waste and corruption and National Treasury must divert further spending on vanity projects and rather ensure the continued payment of grants and maintain UIF Ters commitments.

Government has walked a crooked path and it is South Africans reaping the consequences. Had it stimulated the economy as promised, job losses would not be at an all-time high and South Africans could have better weathered the financial storm of an extended lockdown. Had it more recently prioritised people over cadre enrichment, South Africa’s most vulnerable would not be facing hunger.

Minister Zulu should update South Africa on the outcome of her meeting with National Treasury when she reveals her action plans regarding the disability grant payment to the parliamentary portfolio committee on social development next week. A plan without Treasury’s backing is doomed to fail.

The ANC government has long shown that it only cares about South Africans for a few months during election years. Their own stomachs should no longer be prioritised over the lives of the people. The health and livelihoods and mental health of all South Africans, especially the most vulnerable, should be the main regard. A global pandemic forced the world to change and it’s time the government adapted.

BBBEE has no place in vaccine rollout 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is appalled at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent remarks that there would be “opportunities for BEE” in the distribution and rollout of life saving Covid-19 vaccines.

What the President has shown, is that he would rather pander to the hardliners, rent-seekers and the politically connected in his party than put the wellbeing of South Africans, at the centre of life and death decisions regarding vaccine rollouts.

That someone like Ramaphosa could even begin to believe that he should create business “opportunities” for his fellow cadres while his countrymen and women are dying of Covid-19 is quite frankly grotesque and sickening.

Why the President even thought to find a money-making angle out of the pandemic beggars belief and calls into question his morals and ethics.

If there is one thing that South Africa has learnt over the last 27 years, it is that BBBEE is nothing more than a front to empower those who hold ANC membership cards at the expense of millions of black South Africans who have been excluded from real, true and meaningful empowerment.

What we urgently need is a speedy and effective rollout of vaccines at the cheapest possible price to save lives and livelihoods. We simply cannot allow Ramaphosa and the ANC to build in a “BEE profit margin”, which South Africa can ill afford.

The President should rather spend every waking minute in the pursuit of procuring vaccines, which he has failed spectacularly at doing so far, not looking to grease the pockets of the political elite.

The truth is, President Ramaphosa must get his priorities straight. He can either enrich his friends and comrades or deliver vaccines in the fastest and most cost-effective method to save our citizens and economy. But he can’t choose both. Which one will it be?

NLC’s Letwaba and Huma must go

Recent revelations by the Mail and Guardian have now shed light on the fact that Johannes Letwaba, the brother of Phillemon Letwaba, Chief Operating Officer of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), registered a private construction company, Upbrand, in January 2016, which seems to have been involved in extremely corrupt deals with the NLC and some of its board members over the years.

Ten months after being registered, Upbrand made two dubious payments totaling R2 million to advocate William Elias Huma, a non-executive board member of the NLC, within the span of less than two weeks. Huma seems to have received a further kickback of R15 000 four months later. These kickbacks coincided with money being transferred to Upbrand.

Phillemon Letwaba also received a kickback from Upbrand to the value of R100 000 in July 2017. But before this kickback, payments totaling over R1.9 million were made by Upbrand to Letwaba Energy in November 2016, of which Phillemon Letwaba was also a shareholder at the time.

Upbrand has secured contracts from various NPOs, including I Am for God’s Glory (IAM4GG), which secured several funding grants in excess of R55 million from the NLC. All the kickbacks occurred after IAM4GG secured the grants.

Some of these grant monies seemed to have made its way to Upbrand. GroundUp revealed that IAM4GG received an R11 million grant from the NLC to build an integrated sports facility in Limpopo, R2 million of which was then paid to Upbrand.

Overall, IAM4GG has received numerous grants from the NLC, and then proceeded to contract Upbrand to do work that was never finished, even though Upbrand paid millions in kickbacks to NLC members.

The Chairperson of IAM4GG, Lesley Ramulifho, is also directly linked to the now-infamous NPO, Denzhe Primary Care, which he fraudulently took over according to GroundUp. Denzhe has received a total of R27.5 million from the NLC to build a still-unfinished drug rehabilitation and sports centre. The R15 million building contract was awarded to Upbrand.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU), which has been investigating the NLC, has flagged several payments to commission members and people connected to Upbrand over the years.

Phillemon Letwaba has been on ‘special leave’ as COO since March of 2020 due to credible allegations of corruption against him, with an exorbitant annual remuneration package totaling R3.35 million that he is still receiving. In essence, Letwaba is being paid to do nothing on top of apparently receiving kickbacks.

The financial rot within the NLC has reached levels that render it the VBS equivalent of the public-private non-profit sector. The NLC serves an extremely important role in the funding of various NPOs with above-board operations, and the opportunity costs of corrupt and wasteful expenditure is felt most heavily by the marginalised communities within South Africa, and it cannot be allowed to continue.

In light of the above, the DA formally requests Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, to execute the following actions:

  • Instruct the NLC to remove advocate Huma from the interim board of the NLC with immediate effect;
  • Instruct the NLC to fire Phillemon Letwaba as he has brought the institution into disrepute;
  • Make available the report into Mr Letwaba’s conduct to the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry; and
  • Instruct the NLC to immediately cut all ties with IAM4GG.

Minister Patel has failed dismally at dealing with corruption in his ranks. He has made little to no effort to reassure the public or Parliament that he has a strategy to turnaround this failing institution. He cannot stand idly by while public finances are abused by those who have scant regard for their mandate which is to assist the most vulnerable in our society.

Mr President, time is up for tabling the vaccine plan

Please find the attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) lawyers wrote to the Presidency seven days ago making the case that President Cyril Ramaphosa has a constitutional obligation – as does his entire Executive – to be transparent about the vaccine acquisition and distribution plan. We committed to approaching the courts for relief should this not be done within seven days. Time is now officially up. Should the President and his team not publicly table a detailed, costed and practical vaccine acquisition plan by day end, we will proceed with the court action.

Approaching the courts for relief is the last resort since, despite numerous calls by the DA, civil society and the public for government to showcase their plan for rolling out the life-saving vaccine, this has not been done. We are now relying on the precedent that was set during the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) case of 2002 against the department of health where the courts determined that transparency was key in matters of public health like this one.

Furthermore, we are now in an unenviable position where South Africa is meant to receive its first batch of vaccines before the end of January – in effect this week – but we are still none the wiser about when exactly this batch is due to arrive and how the allocation to the provinces will be handled for its healthcare workers.

In addition to the glaring questions which remain unanswered about this process, there is now clear evidence that the Department of Health was asleep at the wheel. A letter from Treasury states that the DoH only applied to them for deviation from the normal procurement processes for the acquisition of the vaccine on the 7th of January 2021. This the clearest confirmation that the Executive has been slow-footed in the process of acquiring this vaccine as such we are now scrambling; being charged exorbitant fees and still nowhere near getting the volume of vaccines that we so desperately need.

South Africa has no clarity on the exact timelines of the vaccination process including the acquisition, logistics and distribution. Provincial departments of health are hamstrung from bedding down concrete plans for the storage and distribution of the vaccine because they too, have no clue when and how many doses of the vaccines they will receive. This is breathtakingly poor form from government; one which will continue to cost us lives and livelihoods. We must do everything in our power to ensure that we reach frontline workers and those who are vulnerable to this pandemic with a vaccine. We take our role as the official opposition seriously in this crisis and that is why we cannot allow this to go unchallenged.

DA calls on police to arrest and fine Mpumalanga Premier

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the South African Police Service (SAPS) to arrest and fine the Premier of Mpumalanga, Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, following her non-compliance to wear a mask.

It is ridiculous that the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, has now called for an investigation. Mtsweni-Tsipane’s failure to wear a mask at the funeral of the late Jackson Mthembu, was broadcasted live on national television in full view of all South Africans – there is no need for an investigation. Had this been an ordinary citizen, they would have already been arrested and fined, without any investigation.

The DA condemns the blatant double standards that is on display when it comes to the treatment of ordinary South Africans compared to the treatment of ANC cadres during this lockdown.

Premier Mtsweni-Tsipane must be subjected to same treatment as any South African – she should be arrested and fined R1 500, payable in her personal capacity.

The weak excuse by the Premier’s Office that she did not notice her mask fell off (“she was oblivious of that when it fell”) is an insult to the intelligence of South Africans.

We also call for Mtsweni-Tsipane to appear before the Portfolio Committees on the Premier’s Office; Finance; Economic Development and Tourism in the Mpumalanga Legislature. She will simply not get away with a slap on the wrist.

If immediate action is not taken against the Premier, the DA will be left with no option but to open a case against her.