MDDA governance neglect calls for urgent portfolio committee intervention

The Democratic Alliance is troubled by the lack of urgency in dealing with the governance issues at the Media Development & Diversity Agency (MDDA). This follows the failure of the Portfolio Committee of Communications and Digital Technologies to secure permission from the Chair-of-Chairs in the National Assembly, to meet with the current and former board members of the entity.

Noting that the third term Portfolio Committee (PC) programme had no plans to address the plethora of issues regarding MDDA; which are already in the public domain, the DA wrote to the PC Chair, Boyce Maneli, objecting to the exclusion of MDDA PC programme.

The DA welcomes the decisive direction taken by Maneli, who then revised the PC programme and invited the MDDA board to the committee on the 30th of August 2022. At the meeting the members of the committee and the board of MDDA agreed to a meeting, at which former board members would be invited to provide more clarity on historical matters, that the current board might not be able to answer.

However after members of parliament were informed and duly availed themselves for the planned ‘oversight’, which was scheduled for 5 – 7 October 2022, the expedition was cancelled due to failures in the systems of the National Assembly (NA) to deliver on its oversight role. The DA further notes with great concern that the committee has not embarked on any oversight visits on the recent past terms. While the DA appreciates that the committee oversees a massive department, oversight is a critical component of the Portfolio Committee.

We call on the NA to provide the PC with as much support as possible so the committee can urgently address the governance issues at MDDA.

Pensioners going hungry due to government incompetence

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Dion George MP.

When the South African Revenue Service (SARS) decided to increase the amount deducted from annuities at source, it did not take into consideration the gross incompetence of the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) and their inability to action this effectively.

In the first week of October, following the directive of SARS, thousands of pensioners who do not have an additional source of income have now had an over-deduction of tax, which means that the money in their pockets have significantly decreased and will in many instances lead to hunger amongst the most vulnerable members of our society

Following a directive from SARS that provides for an increased PAYE tax rate to be deducted from pensioners’ monthly pension payments, the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) decreased the pension pay-outs of more than 42 000 of its members in the first week of October.

Pensioners are amongst the most vulnerable groups in our society, and amidst upward spiralling costs of living, here government is causing hunger.

To address the crisis, I have written to the Commissioner of SARS, Mr Edward Kieswetter, and the Acting Director General of National Treasury, Mr Ismail Momoniat to request that they take urgent action to remedy this problem and to reimburse the people that have been overcharged on tax and ensure that it does not happen again.

Cllr Dada Morero needs to provide answers on the ongoing Joburg water crisis

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Johannesburg Leader, Dr Mpho Phalatse.

The DA in Johannesburg has noted that Cllr Dada Morero will be conducting oversight inspections of various water reservoirs and towers across the City, amid Stage 2 restrictions that have affected homes, businesses, schools, and even health facilities like Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph, which have struggled to operate due to demand for water outstripping the supply from their respective boreholes and emergency tankers.

His inspection of the water reservoirs and towers barely scratches at the problems that Johannesburg is facing.

This is nothing short of a crisis, on the back of rolling blackouts that oscillate between stages 3 and 4.

Parts of the City have been without water for days with no political leadership, with only a notice that Cllr Morero will be inspecting water infrastructure.

From the time Cllr Morero became aware of water cuts across Joburg, he should have been on the ground, not days later when water is being restored to many parts, although at a trickle.

Having identified that the City’s water infrastructure was collapsing, the Joburg Multi-Party Government allocated close to R800 milllion to water supply infrastructure and R600 million to sanitation facilities in the 2022/23 budget which went live on 1 July 2022.

The service delivery instability caused by the illegal removal of the Multi-Party Government Executive is already starting to show. Residents have little to no communication on the ongoing water crisis; We have received reports of late to no refuse collection in parts of the City; and with no end in sight for rolling blackouts it is unclear whether the work to rollout Independent Power Producers (IPPs) will continue.

For the sake of residents, we hope that Cllr Morero is able to provide answers and a plan for the water crisis, which has either left residents without water for days, or an intermittent supply of water. His inspection of water infrastructure will merely be a public relations stunt, if a plan is not articulated.

If this is a sign of governance to come, the state of Joburg will only regress.

It is therefore vital that we pursue our court challenge to reverse the illegal actions of last week, and regroup the coalition so that the repair and rebuild of Joburg can continue under a leadership that cares and is in tune with the needs of residents.

Brutal killing of farmers come at a huge cost to the economy and must stop

Please find attached video by Noko Masipa MP.

The DA implores President Cyril Ramaphosa and his government to protect farmers and farm workers by providing rebates on security on farms, increasing visible police patrols on farms, improving networks and roads and providing regular intelligence and alerts to the farming community.

South Africa has experienced one of the bloodiest months of farm murders in the month of September. At this rate, it should not only scare farming communities and those living on farms but also all potential farmers and investors in this country.

This must be condemned by Parliament and South African society at large because we are all at the mercy of these farmers to put food on the table.

The perpetrators of these crimes must be arrested and receive long prison sentences. And the community must help in identifying these criminals.

According to the latest statistics, agriculture contributes at least 3% to GDP and almost 10% if you add the entire value chain. However, a study released by AgriSA in 2018 reflect that at least 70% of farmers have experienced some sort of crime on their farms. And furthermore, these crimes cost the economy R7.7 billion.

Many farmers in South Africa are struggling to keep their heads above water with the industry being indebted with more than R130 billion. Farmers must still service these debts under the harsh reality of possibly being killed on their farms.

On an annual basis, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development has been reducing budget allocation towards farmers. Furthermore, there has not been an alignment towards tackling the emerging issues that include increased crimes on farms, high input costs of production, farm labour support and high costs of in-kind support provision by some farmers.

With unemployment so high, many South Africans being food insecure and families going to bed hungry, there should be a national outcry about the killings and attacks of farmers and farm workers, climate change threats and higher costs of agricultural production.

These are real threats towards agriculture providing food and protecting employment in the sector. And farm killings coupled with the above factors have a potential to destabilize the country and the economy even further.

During Covid-19, farmers played a key role in saving South Africans from hunger despite their many financial and farming condition challenges. While South African farmers do not receive subsidy or any form of rebates as a result of situations that are beyond their control unless in a declared disaster situation, they continue to farm.

While challenges are many in the farming sector all over the world, the least the South African government can do is to protect farmers and farm workers. The DA will relentlessly place pressure on government to do just that.

Public address by Dr Mpho Phalatse

The following remarks were delivered today by the DA Johannesburg Leader, Dr Mpho Phalatse, during a live broadcast.

Dear South Africans, and in particular, the residents of Johannesburg,

I am Dr Mpho Phalatse, Executive Mayor of the City of Johannesburg, and I’d like to share with you my views on the recent developments in the Johannesburg City Council, and the way forward for our city.

I introduced myself as Johannesburg’s Mayor – despite the council having appointed an ANC Mayor in my place last week Friday – because I believe that sitting was a sham, and the decisions taken there unlawful.

I believe a court will soon confirm this view.

As far as I’m concerned, I still have a duty of service to the residents of Johannesburg – a duty which I intend to perform to the best of my ability.

I love this great city, and I love its people. My term of office, to date, has been both the hardest and the most rewarding time of my life, and I know we’ve made a positive difference here.

There is no way that I will back down now, at the first sign of adversity at the hands of a takeover by a corrupt few. I made promises to the people of Joburg before last year’s elections, and I repeated those promises when I took office in January.

I have every intention of keeping my promises.

The recent events in the Johannesburg Council have dealt a major blow to the progress we have made here since the beginning of the year.

Turning Johannesburg around after decades of corruption and mismanagement was never going to be quick or easy, but I am proud to say that our coalition government has made great strides in a very short time.

From the R2.8 billion invested in the city’s water infrastructure and the 157% increase in the arrest of cable thieves, to the 1,800 new JMPD officers deployed in the inner city, we have already made a visible difference across the city.

But on Friday, that was all brought to a halt when the ANC was let back into office by people who couldn’t care less about the fate of Johannesburg. People for whom self-advancement trumps everything else.

On Friday, the newly elected Cope Speaker wasted no time in effecting what can only be described as an unlawful council coup.

And since then, Colleen Makhubele and others have been trying to score mileage out of this unlawful council coup, or disguise the fact that they were complicit in handing Johannesburg back to the ANC. They have been working hard to create a false narrative around these events.

There is no rift in our party.

I have the full backing of the party and its national leadership. And we have always remained united in our mission, which is to offer Johannesburg’s 6 million residents a government that truly cares for them.

Our work here, to bring dignity to Johannesburg’s vulnerable and neglected communities, and to restore this city to its rightful place as this continent’s beating economic heart, has only just begun.

It is a pity that some, who have abandoned the coalition, have now given power back to the ANC. This is not what their voters wanted, and I call upon them to reconsider. They have shown that a vote for parties that let us down is actually a vote for the ANC.

I will not allow the coalition of corruption to simply waltz back in and undo everything we’ve accomplished here.

Some have said, “why bother?” Some have accused me of wanting to keep power. Not so. For me, it is about serving the people, not power.

Firstly, we need to fight because of principle: unlawful acts must not go unchallenged. Secondly, the power-grabbers are not for the people of Johannesburg. Actually, this is not my fight, this is your fight.

I will continue to fight with and for the people of Johannesburg, and the next round of that fight is our court application to have last Friday’s sham council sitting declared unlawful.

The sitting, rushed through by the new Speaker, Colleen Makhubele, in order to vote me out of office before a court could stop her, was irregular and unlawful and we are confident that the court ruling will confirm this.

We are also asking the court to set aside all decisions taken by the ANC’s Dada Morero since he was appointed Mayor. We hope to have that ruling within a week.

And then I want to get back to work, because every day wasted on these cynical plots and schemes is a day we could have spent fixing something in this broken city.

We have so much to do and we really cannot afford this distraction.

Now, I know some of you are thinking: Why could the DA not just relent, this once, and give in to the demands of the parties who were calling for a new Speaker to be elected from another party, despite the stipulations of a coalition agreement they all signed?

I have been asked that question in many interviews these past few weeks. And the answer is simple. We signed a coalition agreement which makes provision for a review once the original agreement had been tested.

While the DA agrees to that, we believe that such a review should not happen in the middle of a crisis, with time constraints and an adversarial psychological climate.

Our parties spent weeks, sometimes even months, ironing out details that everyone agreed on, including the allocation of positions. We then signed this agreement together and made it publicly available. Equally, any review that is embarked on should be afforded the same indulgence.

Our residents deserve stability, and we believe that sporadic deviations from the signed coalition agreement, outside of the agreed-upon framework, would set the tone for an unstable political tenure.

Our detractors will now have you believe that this is evidence of arrogance – an unwillingness to compromise or share power in a coalition.

But these accusations are nothing but a smokescreen designed to distract from what’s really going on: The return to power of a corrupt ANC syndicate, which now once again has its hands on the country’s biggest municipal budget.

Let’s also not forget that this is not the first time they’ve used this very tactic. When the DA-led coalition was ousted in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2018 to make way for the coalition of corruption, the exact same smokescreen was used: “The DA is arrogant and therefore we must return the City to the thieves.”

So let me say this once more: Sticking to a signed coalition agreement is not arrogance. It is a critical part of honouring your duty to the people who placed their trust in you through their votes.

These events in Johannesburg may be frustrating, but they’re not unsurprising.

We have often warned in the past that the ANC will not willingly give up access to its biggest cash cow: the R77.7 billion City of Johannesburg budget.

And we know from experience elsewhere that they are more than willing to buy the help of smaller parties or rogue individuals when the margins are close and they only need a few votes.

That is why, if you intend to get rid of the ANC with your vote, you have to know and trust where your vote will ultimately end up.

I am sorry if yours was one of the many votes betrayed when Johannesburg was handed back to the ANC. If you voted against the ANC, only to have your vote now used to return them to power, you have every right to feel aggrieved.

But let this be a learning moment. Take note of which parties can be trusted to stick to their word and which ones will turn on a whim or on the promise of a better personal deal.

I assure you, the DA and I will never betray your trust. Everything that drove us to want to govern in Johannesburg is still there and still valid.

I love this city more than ever before, and I am 100% committed to finishing the job I started here.

In these times of loadshedding you may feel powerless. You are not. You have power. Your voice is your power. You can speak out against this unlawful hijacking of our democracy.

If what you want for Johannesburg is a continuation of our Golden Start, please let your voice be heard. Support us on social media. Support us on radio stations and in the press.

Use the hashtag #HandsOffJoburg to claim Johannesburg as your city and to tell the corrupt cabal that they are not welcome here.

I too will be doing my part by seeing this court battle through.

I’ve said before, and I still maintain, that a court victory alone will not see the city restored to a trusted government. There is a political battle to be fought too. A battle to appeal to the senses of political parties who genuinely care about our city and its residents.

Parties whose voters tasked them with ensuring that the ANC does not get its hands on their rates and taxes.

These parties have an obligation to their voters. A duty to rise above party politics, to choose to enter the fight, joining hands with others to keep the ANC out.

I will be reaching out even as we prepare for the court battle. Crucial conversations must be had, but at the centre of these should be our residents – the reason we are all here.

Coalition governance is not easy. However we have no option but to make it work. We cannot give up now. We either make this coalition work, or we give the ANC a license to loot.

I look forward to being part of a coalition of like-minded political parties, and to serving you, the residents of Johannesburg, playing my part in rebuilding this incredible city.

Thank you.

Killing of German tourist could’ve been avoided if government was doing the basics

Please find attached a soundbite by Manny de Freitas MP.

The shooting of a German tourist in White River in Mpumalanga on Monday highlights what the DA has been warning about all along; that the SAPS must prioritise the safety and security of tourists, as a single criminal incident can have devestating repercussions on international tourism.

I call on the ministers of Police and Tourism to announce their plans to police and protect tourist areas in the country. These ministers must ensure South Africans that they are doing everything in their power to prevent a repeat of this tragic incident and that the criminslas will be caught and apprehended as soon as possible.

The death of the German tourist has made front-page news in Germany and will no doubt cause a dip in tourism from Germany, which is one of our major tourism markets.

The fact that there is a lack of security and police presence in the area is particularly concerning when one takes into account that there has been unrest, barricading of Kruger National Park (KNP) gates and protest action in the area and throughout the park in the last four weeks.

Information that I received from the ground is that there has been no, or very little, police presence during the protests and unrest action.

There is no doubt that the SAPS are aware that this is a high crime area, considering that this incident is the latest of many similar incidents on this particular road; the road leading to Numbi Gate. A previous incident occurred in January when a family from Pretoria was involved in an attempted hijacking incident.

In addition, it is traditionally peak period for international tourists to visit Mpumalanga and the Kruger National Park from now until November every year. The fact that the Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism (KLCBT) has had to step in to assist in the protection of tourists and the combatting of crime is an inditement on the police and their inability to fulfil their basic mandate in the area.

DA wins costs order against bankrupt ANC over Stalingrad tactics in cadre deployment case

Support DA court action against ANC cadre deployment corruption, click here

The DA has today won yet another battle in our ongoing war to expose and abolish the ANC’s system of cadre deployment corruption.

Following months of delays right out of the ANC’s Stalingrad playbook, the Gauteng High Court today ordered the ANC, which is so bankrupt that it cannot even pay staff salaries, to pay the DA’s costs for the delays.

The court also directed the ANC to file its Heads of Argument – which have been outstanding for the past 11 months – within ten days. Should it fail to file these documents, the ANC’s opposition will be struck down and the DA will win the case.

In terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), the DA has asked the court to compel the ANC to hand over all records of discussions and decisions by the cadre deployment committee – including meeting minutes, documents, emails and Whatsapp conversations – dating back to 1 January 2013.

The DA’s latest victory against cadre deployment corruption means that South Africans have never been closer to seeing the full truth about how ANC cadre deployment captured and collapsed our state.

Our ultimate victory in this matter will also enable us to provide complete transparency to the people of South Africa over the personal role played by President Cyril Ramaphosa in capturing and corrupting the state, as he was head of the deployment committee between 2013 and 2018.

We will not rest until we have exposed the full truth that the ANC is the fundamental cause of state capture corruption to the people of this country.

Today’s victory is however also part of a much bigger strategy to not only expose this evil practice, but to abolish it once and for all. On 23 and 24 January 2023, the DA will be back in court for our second case against ANC cadre deployment, where we are asking a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court to declare this system unconstitutional and unlawful.

The continuous electricity blackouts that our country is currently suffering under is a daily reminder of the cost of ANC cadre deployment corruption. Government departments and state-owned entities like Eskom have been looted dry and robbed of skills, because the system of cadre deployment unconstitutionally gives the ANC the power to appoint public sector officials on the basis of loyalty to the corrupt ANC, rather than on the basis of skill and their ability to do the job.

The DA is waging this war against cadre deployment because we care about the rights of South Africans to receive honest and quality services. The only way to achieve that is by replacing cadre deployment with merit-based appointments.

The DA is committed to turning the ANC into a minority party in 2024, whereafter we will form a new government and use these court victories to abolish cadre deployment in favour of a reformed system where all appointments are based on demonstrated merit and skill.

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP.

Annual Reports reveal more failing SOEs

Please find attached soundbite by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.

The failings of State Owned Entities (SOEs) have become endemic to South Africa.

This was emphasised by two annual reports from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies. These annual reports are for two imploding entities: the South African Post Office (SAPO) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and reveal how mismanagement and corruption are costing South Africans an absolute fortune.

It is truly shocking to see the staggering amount of money that the public has paid over the years for SOEs which continue to fail year after year.

The Post Office Annual report reveals that the SAPO reported a net loss of R2.2 billion. This despite receiving massive bailouts from government. What is more worrying is that only 68.36% of mail got delivered. In the space of one year, 146 branches closed across SA, leaving millions of our grant beneficiaries with nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, messages are flooding in from desperate current and retired employees whose Medical Aid has been stopped, while accompanied by threats of thousands of rands of money they have already paid, being taken from their pensions.

The SABC, another sinking ship’s annual report reveals that the corporation incurred R2.8 billion in irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure, with a net loss of R201 million. It also reveals a number of lawsuits against them.

Another revelation in the report is that financial statements weren’t prepared as required by the framework of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). The Minister and the board have shown no evidence that steps have been taken against officials who were implicated in massive irregular expenditure. Yet the board claims they maintain strong governance and operational excellence at all levels of the Corporation with zero tolerance for corruption and maladministration.

These are only two of the eight annual reports that have been released by Minister Ntshavheni’s Department. Soon the Post Office and SABC will be holding out begging bowls for further massive taxpayer-funded bailouts.

The DA will call for an urgent committee meeting following the R5 billion in irregular expenditure at the Post office and SABC alone.

43 Acting DGs and HODs in the public service

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Mimmy Gondwe MP.

As at 1 June 2022, there were a total of 43 acting Director Generals (DGs) and Heads of Departments (HODs) in our public service.

This was revealed by the Minister in the Presidency, Minister Mondli Gungubele, in a written reply to a Parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) on the number of acting DGs and HODs in the public service and the costs incurred by the state in paying acting allowances to these acting DGs and HODs.

According to the written reply, 10 out of the 45 national departments in the country were headed by acting DGs and 33 out of the country’s 111 provincial departments in the country were headed by acting HODs, with the Northern Cape and the Free State having the highest numbers of acting HODs.

Out of the 11 provincial departments in the Northern Cape, 7 have acting HODs amounting to a 64% vacancy rate and out of the 12 provincial departments in the Free State, 6 have acting HODs amounting to a 50% vacancy rate.

The written reply by Minister Gungubele further revealed that within a period of 6 months (that is from March 2022 to August 2022) the state had spent approximately R4 million in paying some of these acting DGs and HODs acting and non-pensionable allowances.

The DA is not only concerned about the high number of acting DGs and HODs but also about the costs associated with paying these acting DGs and HODs acting allowances, which costs would not have been incurred by the state had the appointments for these positions been made within 6 months of the positions becoming vacant.

Our public service is experiencing a plethora of challenges and simply cannot afford to have such a high number of national and provincial departments without accounting officers at their helm as this is likely to have a negative impact on the stability and performance of these national and provincial departments.

The DA therefore calls on President Ramaphosa and the relevant Premiers to expedite the appointments for these senior government positions in line with the provisions of the Public Service Regulations of 2016.

Minister Ntshavheni still silent on sudden closure of Post Offices

Please find attached soundbite by Dianne Kohler Barnard MP.

Today, 2 million pensioners from all over South Africa will be trying to collect their pensions from Post Offices (PO). Tomorrow, the 4 million people who need disability grants will go to collect theirs. The next day the 12 million people who receive child grants, will also line up to collect theirs.

Post offices all over the country are however closing doors without warning or any information on where these vulnerable groups must go. At least 144 post offices have been closed thus far, with many more still to face the cut.

Are pensioners expected to take an expensive taxi to another far-flung post office in the hope that it’s both open, and has sufficient cash on hand to pay them out? In rural areas, there are no big supermarkets where they may go to collect their money, nor do the recipients seem to be aware that this is a viable alternative. From Verulam in KwaZulu-Natal to Darling in the Western Cape – everywhere reports are flooding in about sudden closures. Hundreds of thousands of citizens are being massively inconvenienced, and the transport costs to collect their money at another Post Office often take the lion’s share of the grants.

Last year, the DA put questions to the minister to find out what contingency plans were in place for the payment of social grants which may be affected by these closures. Minister Ntshavheni is yet to answer these questions 495 days later…

The Minister must also explain where exactly the last R8 billion bailout went – and how the Post Office has managed to incur a R1.8 billion loss last year, with its liabilities exceeding its assets by R1.5 billion. Moreover, the Post Office owes over R485 million to its creditors. Allegations of management siphoning off employee UIF, medical Aid, VAT and Pension contributions to pay these creditors are being investigated by the Hawks following DA pressure.

The Post Office closures are also leaving in its wake debt owed to local landlords, employed and retired postal workers. These workers are desperate, having now received letters from their medical aid cutting them off. Retired postal workers are dumped by the medical aid, as managers realise that their medical aid contributions have been taken by PO management and not paid over – as families realise their children no longer have medical aid cover.

Where is the Minister? When will she advise our grant recipients? The Post Office staff? The Post Office creditors?

The ever-rising number of poor South Africans cannot continue to pay the price for mismanaged, poorly operated and corrupt SOEs. As is often the case, poor and vulnerable people suffer the brunt of the ANC government’s poor management, which led to the closure of these post offices.