BOKAMOSO | Not every part of the fuel price is beyond government’s control

Wednesday’s massive 99c fuel price increase – the biggest ever in the history of our country – will have calamitous implications for millions of economically distressed South Africans. We’ve become so accustomed to this news that it is easy for us to miss the true scale of these implications. For many it will seem like just another petrol price hike, followed by some more hand-wringing from government, more calls for South Africans to “tighten the belt” and then we must simply get on with life until the next wave hits us.

But the truth is, there is no more belt left to tighten for many families. And not only families – small businesses too. We often hear how poor families spend a disproportionate part of their household income – up to a fifth of it – on transport. Well, the same goes for many small enterprises. And when this input cost rises beyond a certain point, telling them to tighten the belt is not a helpful piece of advice. Often, all they can do is shut their doors and cut their losses, leaving their own families as well as those of their employees with no income at all.

While it claims to commiserate with struggling South Africans, our government could not possibly be more out of touch with the real-life challenges of our people. In a series of tweets following the fuel price hike, the government’s first piece of advice was to “consider replacing your vehicle with a more modern, high technology, fuel efficient product”. As many people pointed out to them, this was Mary Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” all over again.

But government’s biggest mistake is not its ill-considered petrol saving advice on Twitter. Its most glaring shortcoming is its unwillingness to take any responsibility for this situation, choosing instead to blame “outside forces” for a string of increases that has seen the inland price for 95 octane petrol climb from R13-76 in March this year to R17-08 on Wednesday. If you take a step back and look at our petrol price over the past decade, you get a true sense of just how badly poor South Africans have been affected. The same litre of petrol that now costs R17-08 would have set you back R7-01 in 2007.

I know full well that there are many factors that determine the fuel price, and that some of them are beyond the control of any government. The price you see at the pump includes the cost of crude oil, the cost of refining fuel from this oil, the cost of distributing this fuel to depots and stations, the margins added by filling stations and the two government taxes, the General Fuel Levy and the Road Accident Fund (RAF) Levy. I know that Brent crude oil has increased dramatically this year, and I know that our currency has tumbled sharply against the Dollar. I have a very realistic view of what can and can’t be done to rein in the fuel price.

But for government to now wash its hands of the effects of the plummeting Rand – said to be responsible for more than half of Wednesday’s increase – is more than a little disingenuous. Our currency has weakened by almost 30% since President Ramaphosa took over, and much of this has been in direct reaction to ANC policy. When the President made his late-night television announcement on Expropriation without Compensation in July, the Rand immediately plunged by 31c to the Dollar. Yes, the weakening of our currency is a factor in the rising fuel price, but it most certainly is not an external factor over which the ANC and President Ramaphosa have no control.

And while government might want to debate its culpability in the weakening of the Rand, there can be no debate whatsoever over the tax it levies on every litre of fuel. The combined government tax now accounts for almost a third of the price of a tank of petrol or diesel. And, when measured against rises in the other input costs, this is the portion of the fuel price that has increased more than any other – 165% over the past decade. The RAF levy alone increased by more than 300% during this time. Keep in mind that the corruption-plagued RAF’s debt (R29 billion) is fast approaching the total revenue (R37 billion) it received from the fuel levy this past financial year.

The General Fuel Levy isn’t a ring-fenced tax either. It simply gets dumped into the fiscus to try and help plug the ever-widening gap between our tax revenue and our expenditure. This is the reason for the extraordinary increases over the years. The ANC has no plan stop our economy from shrinking, it has no strategy to collect taxes more efficiently through SARS and, less than a year from the elections, it seems intent to carry on spending at its current rate. Which explains increases in the tax component of the fuel price, increases in VAT, increases in personal income tax plus a host of new “sin” taxes.

This is a full-blown tax war on the citizens of the country, and it is the poorest who will end up suffering the most. The AA estimates that this latest fuel price increase will extract a further R2.5 billion a month in transport costs from an economy that is already on its knees. This will be felt across every industry.

I know there is nothing we can do about the oil price, but there is plenty we could do immediately to reduce the tax on fuel. However, judging by the limited scope of the technical team set up by government to look into the fuel price (the fuel levy does not even make up part of this investigation), it would seem that the ANC has no intention to do so. They’d rather you just bought a new car and stop complaining.

There is even more we could, and must, do in the long run to ensure that our economy grows and our currency strengthens. But this would require a complete ideology and policy shift from an ANC government so firmly rooted in the past they cannot even imagine our future. And so it will fall to a new government to revive our economy, stabilise our currency and turn our country around. Only the DA can be this government.

BOKAMOSO | Only the DA can bring change that builds one South Africa for all.

The following speech was delivered by DA Leader Mmusi Maimane on Saturday 22 September 2018 during the party’s 2019 National Elections Campaign Launch at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Newtown, Johannesburg.

My fellow South Africans,

On Monday we will celebrate our country’s beautiful and diverse heritage.

It’s a day to pause and reflect on the rich tapestry of culture and history that has shaped us into the nation we are.

Our past was brutal and divided precisely because people tried to use these differences to drive wedges between us.

They tried to tell us that our skin colours, our languages, our cultures and our religions were things that should divide us. But they couldn’t be more wrong.

Our diversity is precisely what makes us strong. Our future lies together. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Today I want to ask you to cast your mind back to a very specific moment in time. I want you to think back to April of 1994.

I want you to try and remember exactly how you felt then.

I remember 1994 very well. Many of you will remember it too. Some will be too young, but you will have heard the stories.

I was only a boy then, barely in my teens. But I will never, ever forget what I felt as we closed the chapter on the old South Africa and opened a new one.

I knew I was witnessing history unfolding, and I was thrilled to be part of it.

I remember what it meant to the people where I grew up – my community in Dobsonville, Soweto. The excitement was tangible.

I remember our hope, our belief that we could make it work. That we would make it work, and that we would heal our broken past.

Fellow South Africans, what happened here during the years of Apartheid and colonial rule left deep, deep wounds in our society.

These wounds haven’t healed yet, and they won’t heal for many years to come.

The injustice then remains an injustice now. The inequality then remains an inequality now.

People are still suffering today. And they will continue to suffer until we correct the structural defects in our economy.

They will continue to suffer until we break down the spatial segregation of Apartheid and bring people closer to work opportunities.

They will continue to suffer until we find a way to bridge the divide between business and labour.

They will continue to suffer until we find real solutions to dealing with our country’s historic exploitation of labour. Solutions like Mayor Mashaba’s decision to bring in thousands of contract security workers in Johannesburg, so that they can earn a decent salary and have a better hope for tomorrow.

They will continue to suffer until, through better education and training, our young people become more employable.

Yes, our country is still scarred from our past, but I remember a time when we all believed we could make this right.

When we took our first steps as a democracy back in 1994, we had a visionary leader who was able to paint a picture of what we could be if we set our hearts and minds to it.

A leader who made us believe that, whatever our country’s history and whatever our hurt, we would overcome it. Together.

A leader who reminded us we had a nation to build. A brand new nation with new ideas, new opportunities and new challenges.

We had a new government, a new Constitution and, importantly, we had millions of new neighbours.

Yes, we may have lived alongside each other for decades, but for the most part we lived past each other. We were strangers to each other, even enemies.

But that was all about to change, because for the first time ever, we were one nation. One people, bound by one common goal. And I loved how that felt.

When I saw the pictures on the TV of the helicopters flying over the Union Buildings, carrying those massive flags, my heart swelled with pride and belonging.

I had a flag, and it was beautiful.

My flag had these big bands that swept together in a V and continued as one united band. Just as we had come together from a fractured past, but were now headed towards one united destiny.

We were truly a country alive with possibilities. And these possibilities were rooted in our people. The talent, the creativity and the hunger to make a mark in the world; to leave a legacy.

Yes, there were those who said it wouldn’t work. There were those who said the wounds were too deep and the divide too wide.

There were those who predicted resistance, revenge, even civil war.

But those weren’t the people we listened to. They were a small minority.

The rest of us – the vast majority of South Africans – stood united under a new flag, bound and protected by a new Constitution, ready to face our future.

We could see a path laid out before us, stretching off into this bright new future.

Do you remember this? If you were there in 1994, can you recall how it felt?

Because I do. I remember feeling like we were united, and that we had a purpose.

But I also know that somewhere along the way we left this path.

Yes, for a while we made progress. Communities long overlooked and neglected were given services for the first time.

Electricity, water, sewage, roads, lights – the things so many of us take for granted, but which can make all the difference in the world.

Houses and schools were built. Townships started attracting new businesses, shops and big new malls.

You could see the progress all around you. In those early years it seemed like we would become the nation we dreamed of.

But it didn’t last. First our progress slowed down, and then it came to a complete stop.

Communities found themselves once again forgotten by the government, unless there was an election coming up.

Service delivery slowed down, housing projects stalled. But above all, the millions of jobs that were promised never materialised.

Every year, more and more people joined the long queues of the unemployed. Finishing school with a matric pass no longer meant anything.

The number of young people I have spoken to who spend their days at home – “chasing the sun” around the house because there’s nothing else to do – is just heart-breaking.

Every promise this government made turned out to be empty. After two decades of freedom, our people were still no closer to being free.

The South Africa I see today looks nothing like the vision of the South Africa I saw in 1994. It looks nothing like the dream we all shared. Not even close.

And I know I am not the only one to see this. Every single day in our cities and our towns across all our provinces, people voice their anger at being sold empty promises.

Crime is rising everywhere, and particularly the violent crimes like murder, rape and robbery.

People feel scared and alone. They feel like their government has abandoned them – left them at the mercy of gangs and drug dealers. They are angry about this.

Jobs are scarce, and the few jobs that are available are given to those with connections, those who pay bribes, even those who are forced to sleep with someone out of desperation. People are angry about this.

Corruption has become the new normal in government. It is an oppressive evil for which no one is ever punished. Even when all the facts come out, they still keep their jobs.

In fact, they not only keep their jobs, they get promotions. Ace Magashule is now the ANC Secretary-General. David Mabuza is now the Deputy President. People are angry about this.

All the progress that was made in bringing services to communities is slowly being reversed. These days, taps run dry and sewage flows down the streets. Municipalities can’t keep the lights on or the streets clean. And people are angry about this.

All of this anger has started boiling over in towns and cities across South Africa. Our country is on a knife’s edge all the time.

Every protest action throughout this country is a reminder of just how far we missed the target we set for ourselves in 1994.

But here’s the thing: We didn’t just happen to lose our way by accident. This wasn’t simply our bad luck.

We lost our way the moment this government realised it could become rich off the money of the people.

When it became clear just how easy it was to take the money meant for the people and put it in the pockets of politicians and their friends, that’s when we left the path.

And since then we have been drifting further and further away from the bright future we once imagined.

Instead of one nation pursuing one common goal, we were two separate South Africas living in one country.

One of these South Africas was the people with jobs; those with opportunities and connections. The economic insiders.

The other South Africa was made up of all those stuck on the outside – people without access to jobs and without the right connections.

It is this second group that is becoming bigger and bigger every year. This growing unemployment, poverty and hopelessness is the single biggest threat we face as a nation.

If we don’t find a way to bridge the gap between these two South Africas and become one nation again, then our dream of a safe and prosperous country will fade away completely.

Fellow South Africans,

The only way we will achieve this is if we’re completely honest about how we got here. And I’ll tell you right now how this happened.

It is complacency that got us here. This government realised it didn’t have to work for the people to still be voted into office.

It is indifference that got us here. We have a government that has long forgotten the sacrifices made for our freedom. A government that simply no longer cares.

And it is greed that got us here. The more they stole from the people, the more they wanted.

This is why we lost our way.

If we now want to fix our country, then we have to ask ourselves: Which South Africa do we want to live in?

Do we want to continue down the road we’re on, where the gap between the insiders and the outsiders just grows and grows until there is no way to close it up?

Or do we want to return to the dream of one united South Africa, working together to build a future in which everyone is included? A South Africa that has dealt with the inequalities of the past, and where everyone has access to opportunities.

Because if it is the latter – and I know, in my heart, that it is – then there is only one party fighting for this cause, and that party is the Democratic Alliance.

If that’s what we choose for our country, we cannot waste another moment. Our work begins right now.

Today marks the start of the DA’s Election 2019 campaign. And from now until we go to the polls, my colleagues and I will spend every single day telling South Africans what they can expect from a DA government.

It’s a simple message: The DA will bring change that builds One South Africa for All.

But captured within this simple message is everything our country needs to reach its enormous potential.

In particular we will focus on the five key issues of corruption, crime, jobs, immigration and service delivery – what we call our “agenda for change”.

These are the issues that really matter to South Africans. And they are issues which only the DA has a clear and credible plan to deal with.

Our message speaks to fighting corruption and state capture, and ridding our country of this scourge for good.

We know now that our country did not enter a new dawn after Jacob Zuma left. It is clear that nothing has changed.

The same corrupt people that sold our country to the Guptas under Zuma still occupy the top positions in this new government. No one was ever charged. No one was ever prosecuted.

Only one party takes clean, corruption-free government seriously, and that’s the DA. This much is obvious from our track record in government.

So when we say we will jail those found guilty of corruption for 15 years, you know we’ll do it.

Our message speaks to fixing our Police Force so that it can actually protect and serve the people.

I worry about the gunshots my children hear on the TV, but these gunshots happen every day in communities like Nyanga and Mitchells Plain.

Right now, our Police Force can’t keep our communities safe. They’re not properly trained to do so, and they are riddled with corruption.

The DA will transform SAPS into a lean, clean crime-fighting machine.

We will only hire people with a passion for policing, and we will retrain existing officers so they can serve and protect with pride.

We will also bring back the gang and drug units that were disbanded by the ANC government so that we can keep our communities, and particularly our young people, safe.

Our message speaks to the crucial issue of employment, and how we can ensure that all South Africans have fair access to jobs.

And when I say jobs, I mean real long-term, sustainable jobs.

Only the DA has a plan to harness the power of the private sector and the power of the entrepreneur to create these jobs.

We have proven this beyond all doubt in the province and Metros where we govern. In the last year, three-quarters of all new jobs were created in the DA-run Western Cape.

We must break down our State Owned Enterprises, we must make sure our cities can build sustainable infrastructure, and we must allow small businesses to thrive. This is our agenda for change.

But our goal is not only to help create new jobs. It is also about making sure that young people have the skills and experience to make the most of these opportunities.

We have some big plans to achieve this, like a year of voluntary national service for school leavers, and a network of job centres throughout the country.

But jobs mean nothing if all our people can’t access them. And so the DA will make fair access to jobs a key focus.

We will charge and prosecute each and everyone who tries to solicit cash for jobs, or sex for jobs.

Our message speaks to the urgent need to secure our country’s borders, welcoming those who want to come here legally, but shutting out those who try to do so illegally.

We’ll do so by strengthening our border posts and ridding Home Affairs of corruption, but also by supporting and caring for legitimate refugees and asylum seekers.

No country in the world can afford uncontrolled immigration, and particularly not a country where resources are as scarce as ours.

We need a government that is prepared to lead on this – a government that won’t allow this dangerous powder keg to be left unchecked.

Under the DA, we will immediately restore the law and order that this government has been unable to maintain.

Our message speaks to a better quality of life for our people by speeding up the delivery of basic services to all communities.

Living without these basic services is robbing people of their dignity.

All over South Africa there are still communities without access to water. There are still communities with no electricity. There are still communities that use bucket toilets.

All the promises made by government to the people living under these conditions have turned out to be empty.

In under two years, the DA-led coalition in Nelson Mandela Bay managed to rid the metro of 60% of its bucket toilets – something its previous government couldn’t do in two decades.

The DA has a plan to speed up the delivery of basic services. By cleaning up local and provincial governments we will ensure that the people’s money is spent on the people. This includes managing the allocation of government housing in a fair and transparent manner.

And finally, our message is about justice. And it is justice that lies at the heart of the land question. We will ensure that more black South Africans are able to own land through secure private property rights.

Fellow South Africans,

These issues will form the core of the message that we will be taking to every corner of the country over the coming months.

It will be our most ambitious election campaign yet. And to do so, we will rely on the efforts of the biggest team we have ever assembled. We call it Team One SA.

This team is not only DA public reps, staff members and campaign spokespersons. It’s not only signed-up DA members either.

Team One SA includes every single South African who wants to join us in building the country of our dreams, no matter how big or small their contribution.

The DA today runs a massive election operation, and in recent years we have spread to every corner of every province.

It is out in these communities where the election will be won or lost, and our vast network of activists and volunteers will form the heart and soul of Team One SA.

Anyone can be part of this movement. Whether in your community or online, your contribution will make a difference.

So I urge you to go to TeamOneSouthAfrica.co.za today and sign up. When we unite, we have the power to change anything we want to.

We have also produced a TV ad that talks about this strength in unity – about how unimportant our superficial differences are – and I would like to show it to you now.

Fellow South Africans,

I know some people have become despondent by the state of our nation in recent years.

Our daily headlines certainly make for painful reading. But I need you to keep your focus far ahead, on the ultimate goal.

I need you to remember – and to remind yourself every day – how you felt back when we all believed that anything was possible for our country.

I want you to remind yourself how it felt to be part of a unified movement towards a goal we all truly believed in.

How it felt the first time we all sang our anthem, or the first time we raised our flag.

And then I want you to ask yourself: Which country would you rather live in – the divided one we have now with its poverty, unemployment and growing anger, or a united one where we all build a shared future together?

If it’s the latter, then you know what to do in next year’s election. Because only one party can bring change that builds one South Africa for all. And that party is the DA.

So let us unite around this goal. Let us all roll up our sleeves and build the South Africa we dream of.

One nation pursuing one shared future.

Nkosi Sikelele iAfrika.

Let us live and strive for freedom in South Africa our beautiful land.

Amandla!

BOKAMOSO | Only the DA can grow the economy for all

The following speech was delivered by DA Leader Mmusi Maimane in the National Assembly on Wednesday 12 September, during the debate on the economy.

Honourable Members,

The choice we face as a country is simple: Which world do we want to live in?

Because these are two options available to us: One is the world of the ANC, and the other is the world of the DA. Each of these choices will lead us towards a distinct future.

Economists have described the ANC’s world as a pre-1990 universe. A world in which the Berlin Wall is yet to come down.

In their world, the State is everything, and must do everything.

In their world, SOE’s – no matter how badly run – are the answer.

In their world, citizens can’t be trusted to control their own destiny or own their own land. The state knows what’s best for you.

In the other world – that of the DA and many others who share our view – people hold the power over their own lives.

In our world, citizens have agency. They can own their land, run their businesses, build their wealth.

In our world, more often than not, the state must get out of the way of enterprise and progress.

Our world is one of inclusion and growth.

This is the choice we face, Honourable Members, as we contemplate the reality of a country in deep, deep crisis.

I’m not going to waste your time telling you about the extent of our economic distress. We all know this.

9.6 million people cannot find work.

Real per capita income has been dropping for the past five years.

Our national debt has ballooned to R3 trillion.

And we now face the threat of a further sovereign rating downgrade.

Anyone still denying that South Africa is in the midst of a severe economic crisis has no business standing up here on this podium today debating solutions.

Parliament should ask why we find ourselves here, and what we should do to fix it.

One analyst described our situation this week as “death by a thousand cuts”, referring to the many factors that came together to paralyse our growth and bleed our fiscus dry. And this is largely true.

Yes, corruption has cost us dearly. As much as R100 billion, according to some estimates.

Yes, the crisis at SARS has led to a huge under-collection of around R50 billion.

Yes, the never-ending bailouts of our poorly-run State-Owned Enterprises continue to divert tens of billions of Rands away from other crucial budget items each year.

Yes, our ever-expanding public sector wage bill along with our massive cabinet place a drain on our fiscus that we simply cannot afford.

Yes, populist policies such as Expropriation Without Compensation, the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and the proposed NHI are a recipe for economic disaster.

All of these things played a part in bringing our economy to its knees.

But they pale in comparison to the biggest cause of them all – the economic elephant in the room that still goes unmentioned in so much of the analysis.

What lies at the very heart of our country’s crisis is the ANC.

The fact is this: The ANC doesn’t accept responsibility for causing this recession, and it has no plan to get us out of recession.

This administration is only seven months old, but it is already stumbling around in the dark looking for excuses, instead of facing up to hard truths.

There is no plan. There is no firm direction.

You can come here today and attack the DA’s plan to rescue the economy, but we have a plan. And where we govern, this plan is working.

In Johannesburg, the government of Mayor Mashaba has already attracted more than R6 billion in investment since taking over in 2016.

In Tshwane, Mayor Msimanga’s government has tripled investment in the metro.

75% of new jobs added in the past year were created in the DA-run Western Cape.

Honourable Members,

We all know that South Africa has a big problem. And it is a problem that won’t be solved with a stimulus package or an investment conference.

The root of our problem is an ANC that has no shared, positive vision for our future, never mind the ability to lead us there.

We have already been left behind by the rest of the world – and indeed by our African neighbours.

While the rest of the world surges forward with innovative and dynamic economies, we are retreating back to a time of state-led economies.

While the rest of the world embraces inclusive economic growth as the instrument to lift people out of poverty, we can’t look beyond redistributing what’s already there.

Our government is so obsessed with control, it cannot see how it is suffocating enterprise and strangling small business.

It honestly believes that every state failure just needs another state programme to fix it.

You cannot grow like this. This has to change.

Stop blaming the Global Financial Crisis. That was ten years ago. The world has moved on.

Stop blaming Jacob Zuma, as is fashionable these days. Jacob Zuma didn’t cause this mess, he only exploited it because he was allowed to.

The blame lies squarely at the feet of the failed ANC, collectively.

And if the ANC government can’t swap its outdated worldview for one better suited to the 21st century, then we must swap the ANC government for one that can take this country forward. That is the DA.

I know our country is ready to become part of a dynamic global economy. Just this morning I visited a business incubation and training centre in Delft, and what I saw there was inspiring.

We certainly don’t lack motivated people with ideas.

Honourable Members,

If there is real commitment to “picking up” the Rand and turning the economy to growth, then it is time for real choices. Hard but necessary choices that will restore investor confidence and get us out of the red.

Number One: We must cut loose the SOE’s that are dragging us under. This means the privatisation – or at least part-privatisation – of South African Airways, and splitting Eskom into two separate businesses, one for power production and one for power distribution.

Number Two: We must put an end to the stifling Eskom monopoly by allowing cities to purchase electricity directly from independent power producers.

Number Three: We have to curb spending and stabilise our national debt at 50% of GDP by introducing a fiscal austerity package. All revenue shortfalls must be covered by cutting waste, and not by increasing taxes.

Number Four: We must trim our Cabinet by more than half. Our massive executive with its double ministers for each portfolio is a direct result of patronage politics. We simply can’t afford this.

Number Five: We must exempt small businesses from complying with unworkable labour legislation. Those employing less than 250 people must be given every chance of success, and the only labour laws they should have to adhere to are the Basic Conditions of Employment.

Number Six: Immediately settle all budgeted-for invoices that are owed to small businesses by National and Provincial governments. This alone will add a R28 billion boost to the SMME sector.

And Seven: Scrap the reckless populist policies that are destroying investor confidence in our country and have sent business confidence to an all-time low.

Abandon your irresponsible and reckless plunge towards Expropriation Without Compensation. Let’s reform the land and keep our Constitution intact.

This doesn’t mean land reform and restitution must be delayed. On the contrary, it must be sped up, and it must involve the transfer of full title. But this cannot be done at the expense of property rights and the rule of law.

Stand up for the independence of the Reserve Bank, instead of trying to nationalise it. Protect and defend our excellent Governor; stop undermining him.

If we can implement these changes right away, we can undo much of the damage caused over the past decade.

What we can’t do is sit back and watch our growth stagnate for another quarter, and then another.

Because poor South Africans cannot withstand this. Their “real” household income cannot shrink any further – life is already barely affordable.

Now is the time to make some hard choices. Not easy choices like taking on more loans or hiking VAT. Hard choices about the world we want to live in.

And this means choosing either the unity of the ANC or the prosperity of South Africa. We can’t have both.

Thank you.

BOKAMOSO | Economy needs a healthy lifestyle, not stronger painkillers

Nothing like being roused from slumber with ice-cold water to the face. That happened to South Africa on Tuesday with the news that our economy is in technical recession, having contracted by 2.6% in the first quarter and 0.7% in the second. The rand plummeted to R15.50 to the dollar as investors woke up to the cold reality that our economy is seriously sick.

The good news is that the DA has a proposal that can get the economy out of recession and build one South Africa for all.

South Africa is ripe for change and that change needs to come soon. Make no mistake, this recession is a very big problem that will bring even more pain than is already being felt. Junk status may be on the cards when Moody’s rates our credit in October. Our debt, which breached the R3 trillion rand mark this week, will become even more expensive and unsustainable, our social fabric even more frayed if not ripped to shreds.

Food and petrol prices will be pushed up and incomes down. Jobs will be shed: jobless numbers will soon breach 10 million. People’s hard-earned savings will be further eroded.

Our economy is nose-diving, and it is taking our hopes for the future with it. SA is running out of time to save it. We need decisive action to remedy the situation. This is a time for hard action, not soft consensus-building.

Without doubt, this crisis is due to government’s gross mismanagement of the economy. Africa is growing at around 3%, with growth in Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Rwanda above 7%. SA is falling behind both emerging and developed countries. Among the world’s largest economies, we are the weakest and the only one in recession. So external factors cannot be blamed, though they are certainly not helping right now.

Even the ANC government admits that economic mismanagement is at the heart of the problem, though it has chosen to put the blame on Zuma, conveniently foregoing the usual “collective accountability”. (Would they be giving Zuma the credit if our economy were rebounding? Would Zuma have lasted nine years as president if they hadn’t protected him in eight successive motions of no confidence?)

Less widely understood is that the economy will stay on its downward trajectory until we get the basics right. The patient is very sick and only a back-to-basics lifestyle change to healthy eating and exercise will get it on the road to recovery. The patient has been on expensive painkillers for so long now that the painkillers themselves are becoming part of the problem.

The government’s latest proposed painkiller, a R43 billion stimulus package, could do more harm than good. The sickness is not acute, like a bout of flu that can be relieved with aspirin. It is chronic, from years of hard living. Years of bad and uncertain policy based on failed ideology. Years of inaction or wrong action.

In fact, households have been getting poorer for the last five years, as real per capita incomes have been falling since 2013.

The only road to health is to do what every broadly prosperous society has done. Embrace a market-driven economy and build a lean, capable state that creates conditions that promote investment, be it the planting of seeds by small farmers or the building of factories by multinationals.

Despite many constraints imposed by national government, the DA has done this where we govern, and we’ve achieved the results that show it works. Three quarters of all jobs created in the past year were created in the DA-governed Western Cape, despite a crippling drought in the area. That amounts to 123 000 new jobs created while during that same period 124 000 jobs were destroyed in Gauteng, the country’s biggest provincial economy.

South Africa’s agenda for reform must be based on the principles of policy certainty, fiscal prudence and national unity, showing a decisive move away from statist interventionism.

Building a lean, capable state is the first step towards ensuring fiscal discipline. We must commit to appointing people on merit rather than on political loyalty. This is key to eradicating corruption in the public service and to ensuring efficient, effective delivery of services.

Our bloated public sector and lumbering state-owned enterprises are like ticks sucking our fiscus dry. We have to reduce the public wage bill. Whilst not a massive saving, cutting our bloated cabinet will indicate our commitment to reducing the size and cost of our bureaucracy.

We should immediately set about privatising or part-privatising our non-strategic SOEs such as SAA, the bottomless pits into which billions of rands of public money is poured never to be seen again. Eskom must be split into separate power production and distribution businesses, and Eskom’s production monopoly must be terminated by allowing cities and municipalities to purchase power directly from producers. Competition in power production will very quickly reduce the cost of electricity, which alone will be a major boost to our economy.

We must commit to the protection of private property by decisively rejecting expropriation without compensation in favour of effective, well-resourced, constitutional urban and agricultural land reform that puts productive ownership in the hands of millions of black people.

A healthy, growing economy will be able to collect the taxes required to fund better education and healthcare systems, a compassionate welfare programme, effective land reform and restitution programmes, and an effective police service, trained, resourced and equipped to be able to maintain law and order and keep people safe.

We must restore and protect the independence of key democratic institutions such as the reserve bank, public protector and national prosecuting authority, so that power is checked and balanced and corruption curbed. Those implicated in state capture must be held accountable.

These are the basics of good economic management and the foundations for a strong constitutional democracy. There is no magic drug. Just sound economic principles, leadership willing to implement them, and an electorate willing to appoint that leadership. That’s why every single South African has a role to play in building one prosperous South Africa for all.

BOKAMOSO | Beware the ANC-EFF coalition of corruption

In August 2016, the DA went into coalition government in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay to save these cities from imminent collapse under corrupt ANC governments, which were fast destroying them. In two years, the coalition governments arrested the decline in all three cities and have laid a solid foundation for future progress.

Coalitions can be a force for good, and are standard international practice in many democracies, most notably Germany. In South Africa, coalitions will be the key to unseating the ANC and freeing the country from liberation movement politics, just as they did in Kenya. The ANC’s tripartite alliance is itself a coalition that came together to wrest power from the apartheid government.

The EFF was never part of the DA-led coalition but they supported us, claiming to share a common objective of releasing the three metros from the ANC’s corrupt grip. This week, however, they moved to return Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane to the ANC. The political events that unfolded are revealing. They give the South African voter valuable insights ahead of the upcoming national election in 2019.

On Tuesday, the EFF and UDM voted with the ANC to remove the DA-led coalition in NMB. The DA has challenged the legality of the process and is awaiting a ruling. But either way, the message is clear: the ANC, EFF and UDM are acting in their own narrow interests and against the best interests of NMB residents.

The numbers in NMB speak for themselves. On taking over the council from the ANC in August 2016, the DA-led coalition inherited an administration that was R2 billion in debt. The extent of corruption in the city was well documented in Crispian Olver’s book, How to Steal a City. Two years later, the city has a R615 million surplus and an AAA credit rating.

The DA-run coalition had kept its promise to fight corruption, deliver better services and create jobs in NMB. Among other achievements, it had terminated R650 million worth of corrupt contracts, eradicated 60% of all bucket toilets in the metro and attracted millions of rands of private investment to the City, as well as tripled the number of EPWP jobs. It had introduced a metro police which had shown impressive results in fighting crime, and it had taken NMB from being second least to second most trusted metro in SA (after Cape Town).

The only logical conclusion to draw is that in handing the metro back to the ANC, the EFF and UDM are motivated by narrow, political considerations and is willing to sacrifice the wellbeing of NMB residents who were just beginning to reap the fruits of good governance after decades of ANC neglect, attested to by no less than then president Zuma in 2017 when he said: “Of all the metros, I won’t talk about the Nelson Mandela Bay metro, because you know all about it. We ruined it for years, bit by bit. Now the opposition is in charge. We cannot say we are surprised by that.”

The ANC is clearly motivated by the need to gain access to state resources to fund its 2019 election campaign and to feed its patronage network. ANC regional treasurer admitted last month: “Let me scare you immediately – asinamali (we are broke).”

But it’s not just why the coup was attempted, but how, that is so indicting.

Two of the ANC councilors, Andile Lungisa and Bongo Nombiba, are convicted criminals. In the case of Nombiba, his leave to appeal was denied. So, he should be in jail, not determining the futures of NMB residents. That the ANC and EFF are prepared to let the fate of an entire city rest on the votes of convicted criminals shows their contempt for the rule of law and for the people of NMB.

And why is a convicted criminal who has been denied leave to appeal not in jail? One can only conclude that the ANC put pressure on SAPS to delay arresting Nombiba until after he could exercise his vote, a shameful abuse of state resources.

A successful coup also required the abstention of DA councilor, Victor Manyathi, who is charged with fraud (though is not yet convicted so was still able to vote). It would be naïve not to speculate that Manyathi was lured by promises of legal assistance and a political future in the ANC. Unfortunately in SA, councilors are vulnerable to being bribed, a practice which strongly undermines democracy, underscoring the central importance of rigorous vetting during the councilor selection process.

Further disregarding the interests of NMB residents, the ANC, EFF and UDM then proceeded to elect lone UDM Councilor Mongameli Bobani as mayor. Crispian Olver has labeled Bobani a “deeply corrupt man….. a very shrewd operator who covers his tracks carefully and no one has been able to make a corruption charge stick to him”.

Bobani promptly appointed Andile Lungisa to head up infrastructure and engineering, a searing insult to residents, considering that as an ordinary member he failed to attend a single committee meeting since 2016. Even more alarming, Olver reckons “Lungisa….is no stranger to personal enrichment. He is also fighting a political campaign to keep himself out of jail and resuscitate the Zuma faction in Nelson Mandela Bay. It’s alarming to see that he was given infrastructure and engineering as that portfolio deals with the Bus Rapid Transfer system and all the City’s engineering contracts.” 

ANC President Ramaphosa and Luthuli House are yet to make any comment at all, which must be taken as a tacit endorsement of this callous disregard for people’s interests. Of course, they are keenly aware that if the DA-led coalition were to govern for the whole five-year term, the DA would be given a full mandate from voters at the next local election in 2021, as happened in Cape Town in 2011 after five years of coalition government there.

Experience in Cape Town and in the three metros where the DA has led coalitions show that coalitions can work and are a powerful mechanism to shift power away from the hegemonic ANC if the coalition partners all share the same core values.

In the case of the DA’s coalition with COPE, ACDP, IFP, FF+ and UDM, the agreement was that we would stay true to the principles of respect for the rule of law including a zero tolerance of corruption, and commitment to building a capable state that delivers to all.

The DA, COPE, ACDP, IFP and FF+ met today and reaffirmed our commitment to those principles and to the coalition. The UDM has shown itself to be tolerant of corruption, so we will be approaching them to discuss the way forward.

Coalitions are only a force for good when partners are bound together by the power of principle. Which is why the new coalition of corruption between the ANC and EFF does not bode well for South Africa.

The DA is extremely keen to govern more and more councils in South Africa, to bring change that improves peoples’ lives, and to prove to voters that we are willing and able to do this. But we are not willing to surrender our principles, and if that is what is required to remain in government, then we would rather walk away. That is why we have stood firm against expropriation without compensation, despite the EFF’s threats to unseat us in the metros.

We at the DA stand ready to govern to the best of our ability. We stand by our commitment to bring honest, capable government to the people of SA. We are willing to work in coalition because we know it can be a powerful force for good in improving lives. But ultimately, it’s up to voters to determine their government and their future. This week’s shenanigans should inform their choices.

BOKAMOSO | Don’t trust Eskom’s Chinese loan until you’ve seen the terms

The long-awaited State Capture inquiry has finally kicked off. And I think we’ll all agree that the outcome of this inquiry should be two-fold: Firstly, to bring the perpetrators of state capture to justice, and secondly, to ensure that this never, ever happens again in our country.

When President Ramaphosa was asked earlier this year at a South African National Editors’ Forum event how much he knew about state capture, he denied all knowledge. Claiming to be taken aback by the startling revelations contained in the Gupta leaks, he said he thought at the time “it was just a wheel nut that had come loose” while in fact “the wheels had come off completely”.

This can’t ever happen again. We cannot have a situation where ministers and presidents claim they knew nothing about the brazen crimes that took place right under their noses. And the only way to prevent this is by putting an end to the secrecy around the deals struck between our government and other players, including other governments. Which brings me to the loan agreement between Eskom and the China Development Bank.

We all know what happens when someone is in deep financial trouble and, having nowhere else to turn, approaches a loan shark for cash. The result is never mutually beneficial. When a lender has you over a barrel and is not restricted by codes and laws that keep the terms in check, they have all the power. More often than not you’ll end up even deeper in a debt trap, and this always comes at a heavy price.

Our government, and particularly Eskom, are over a barrel. By March this year the power utility’s debt had ballooned to R400 billion, and this is forecast to increase to R600 billion over the next four years – more than our entire revenue from personal income tax. This is the position from which they “negotiated” a mega-loan from the China Development Bank to bail out the Kusile power station project.

The chances of this Chinese loan’s terms being favourable to South Africa are beyond slim, which is why no one is prepared to come out and say what these terms are. We only know that the R33.4 billion is to be paid off over 10 years, starting in 2023. The rest of it – the interest rate, the conditions and the repercussions should we default – remain a closely-guarded secret. When I asked President Ramaphosa in Parliament on Wednesday to share with us these terms, his answer was this:

“We can assure you that all the agreements that our government enters into are agreements that are based on ethics, they are agreements that are based on good corporate governance, they are agreements that are meant to advance the interests of our people. That’s all I can tell you.”

In other words, South Africans don’t need to know any details. They must just trust that the ANC government will act in the country’s best interest. But if we’ve learnt one thing these past two decades, it’s that this ANC government is guaranteed to do the exact opposite.

The last time Eskom obtained a large international loan to finance its Medupi power station – R30 billion from the World Bank – it ended up being part of an elaborate ANC scam in the form of multi-billion Rand contracts to Hitachi Power Africa, which was partly owned by the ANC’s investment arm, Chancellor House. It was an audacious act of corruption for which Hitachi paid a R270 million fine to make the investigation go away.

So no, simply saying “trust us, we’ll act in your best interest” won’t cut it. If anything it should set the alarm bells ringing. And this is not only the view of the DA. In the past month many experts have expressed their concern at the secrecy around the Chinese loan, and for a very good reason. China’s “Belt and Road Initiative”, their massive global investment and lending programme, has been described as “a debt trap for vulnerable countries around the world, fuelling corruption and autocratic behaviour in struggling democracies.” (New York Times, 25 June 2018)

No country knows this better than Sri Lanka. The island nation paid a heavy price for taking on a high interest loan from China for the development of a port – a loan they would eventually default on. In the end they had to hand over the entire port in question plus 15,000 acres of land around it to the Chinese for the next 99 years. And after all of this they are still more heavily indebted to China than ever before. These are the strong-arm tactics of a loan shark. Except, instead of broken knee-caps the price extracted is part of your country’s sovereignty.

The cloak and dagger nature of this Chinese loan is not at all dissimilar to the secrecy around the ANC’s dealings with the Russian atomic agency as they tried to push through the controversial nuclear build. Back then we were also reassured by Jacob Zuma and his nuclear team: trust us, it’s all above board. But only the extremely naïve would ever believe this. Almost everyone saw it for what it really was: an opportunity for corruption on a scale never before seen in South Africa.

We’re now told the ANC under Ramaphosa is different. We’re led to believe that they have distanced themselves from the corruption and secrecy of the Zuma administration. But six months into the Ramaphosa presidency that seems like nothing but empty words, because the modus operandi looks identical.

If there’s truly nothing to hide in this Chinese deal, then there should be no reason not to play open cards with us. The best way to scrub out corruption is with lots of sunlight. No more secrecy; no more shady deals behind closed doors. I have written to the President requesting him to table the full terms and conditions in Parliament within 14 days, failing which I will make a PAIA application to obtain this information.

What I won’t do is blindly trust the intentions of this ANC government simply because Cyril Ramaphosa said so. And neither should you.

BOKAMOSO | Let’s learn lessons from Zimbabwe while we can still act on them

The thing with warning signs is they are most useful when acted on early enough to avert disaster. Sometimes it’s hard to tell warning sign from alarmist conspiracy theory. In 2013, the DA’s warnings about state capture fell on deaf ears, even though many of the red flags were already waving. In 2009, our Stop Zuma campaign was denounced as alarmist, even racist.

Zimbabwe’s experience offers up valuable lessons to South Africa that we ignore at our peril. It demonstrates how a political elite will destroy a nation’s economy, collapse its wealth and ruin millions of lives if that is the price of holding onto power after its authentic moral authority has evaporated.

Zimbabwe’s recent election shows how difficult it is to restore true democracy once a single dominant party has entrenched power over decades. The only observer missions to proclaim the controversial electoral process free and fair were those colluding in the charade: SADC and the AU. Being themselves dominated by liberation movement parties who have similarly entrenched power, it is in their interests to play along.

The elections were compromised from the start.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation is evidently a ZANU-PF mouthpiece. Campaign coverage was not remotely fair, with ZANU-PF getting the lion’s share. In South Africa the ANC is not beyond using the SABC as its party mouthpiece as President Ramaphosa confirmed this month, when he used it to make a Zuma-style late-night announcement that the ANC would indeed be changing the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation, simultaneously undermining the Parliamentary review process underway.

Zimbabwe state newspapers were also heavily biased towards ZANU-PF. Coverage of opposition parties was mostly negative and propagandist in nature. Once again, here at home the ANC has not been beyond taking control of “Independent” newspapers to gain unfair advantage over opposition parties and consolidate its domination of the national psyche.

Zimbabwe’s politicised military was quick to use force to crush any post-election protests, shooting and killing six unarmed civilians. This is the surest sign that ZANU-PF never intended to hand over power peacefully at the ballot box.

Rather than hold the military accountable, the ZANU-PF government instead arrested several opposition leaders for “inciting violence”. The Marikana anniversary memorials this week remind us that the ANC government is capable of using armed forces to quash rebellion, and slow to hold the real perpetrators accountable.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is also compromised, evidently captured by ZANU-PF. Hence the lack of transparency about the printing of ballot papers and the failure to disclose the voters roll. South Africa is not there yet. In the 2019 election, we can still rely on an independent Electoral Commission. Best we make the most of that.

The ZEC made no effort to enable the Zimbabwean diaspora to vote. The only vote they got was with their feet when they left to seek opportunity elsewhere. In 2019, South Africans living abroad can vote if they have the necessary documentation. They should make the most of that.

Zimbabwe’s presidential election result is especially fishy. It took an interminable amount of time to be announced, and Emmerson Mnangagwa only scraped in with 50.8% of the vote, to MCD Alliance presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa’s 44.3%, amidst several unexplained irregularities.

As chair of SADC, Cyril Ramaphosa was quick to congratulate Mnangagwa on his victory. No questions asked. No eyebrows raised. No furious condemnation of the use of armed forces against an unarmed civilian population. This is a red flag and we South Africans should heed it.

Chamisa is right to challenge the validity of the election through the courts, though it must be acknowledged that the Zimbabwe courts have not escaped politicisation and an impartial finding is not guaranteed. This case is a real test for the Zimbabwean judiciary. So much hangs in the balance.

Until the true voice of Zimbabwe is heard, ZANU-PF will have power but no legitimate democratic authority. Zimbabwe will remain a de facto soft military dictatorship and kleptocracy where ZANU-PF’s greatest act of theft has been to steal the hopes and futures of another generation of Zimbabweans.

Investors will stay away. Zimbabwe is a country bursting with potential. The World Bank says it could be a middle-income economy within a decade. Just think how that would improve the lives of millions of people. The new Zanu-PF government does not deserve the benefit of the doubt. And when it comes to reading warning signs here in SA, nor does the ANC. Best we act on them while we still can.

This week, the rand dropped back to Zuma-era levels. When people invest in a country, they want to know that they will get a return and that their investment will not be stolen. Investors are no longer certain of either. They are heeding the big, red flags waving over our precious democracy. So should we.

While we still can, South Africa needs to free itself from anti-democratic, liberation movement politics of the ANC. The DA is committed to constitutional democracy with strong, independent institutions and all the checks and balances required to ensure that power stays with the people. This includes a steadfast commitment to private property rights and a wholesale rejection of land grabs. We are committed to building an inclusive economy that addresses past injustices. The DA can bring the change South Africa needs.

BOKAMOSO | The DA believes in REAL empowerment

There has been much debate within the party recently about the DA’s position on BBBEE. It is both necessary and good that a growing political party such as the DA grapples with the complex issues of our society. The DA’s mission is to be a party of and for all South Africans, regardless of race or class. We aspire to represent anyone who holds our core values of respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, and commitment to a market-driven economy and a capable state that delivers to all. This is the centre ground in which very diverse people can work together to fight our real enemies: poverty, unemployment and inequality.

This is a historic and crucial mission, from which we shall never retreat. The debates we have are important as we forge a way forward. We dream of living in a society where race is no longer a proxy for disadvantage. To get there, we need policies that really transform our society.

The only policies that will achieve real transformation are those that fundamentally break down the system of deprivation constructed by past policies of racial discrimination. Policies that work in real life. Policies that broaden access to opportunity. What we do not need is policies that sound good, but don’t work. The DA decisively rejects policies that enrich and re-enrich a connected elite at the expense of the poor majority.

Our rejection of the ANC’s BBBEE policy is not about protecting privilege. On the contrary, it is about rejecting elitism. When I travel around South Africa, I am struck by how deeply unequal our country is. It is the tale of two countries: a South Africa of those who are on the inside and a South Africa of those who on the outside. My heart breaks when I see over half our people living in abject poverty, 10 million people without work, and children not being able to read with comprehension in grade four.

This is a humanitarian crisis. It requires much more than platitudes and nice-sounding but ineffective policy. It requires courageous, cool-headed leaders who are willing to face up to the reality of what works and what doesn’t. People willing to speak and act on the truth. People willing to call populist policy out for what it is.

South Africa is at a crossroads where urgent economic and governance reforms must be implemented if we are to jolt the country out of its technical recession. We need to get back on a path towards realising the potential of our nation. Towards building one nation where there is equal access to opportunity for all.

The DA is the only political party where there is open, healthy contestation of ideas. This is a core strength, because it enables us to reach policy proposals that will take the country where it needs to go. Debate is robust, and every idea is vigorously interrogated.

Through this process we have come to reject the ANC’s version of empowerment, BBBEE. Even by the ANC’s own admission, its BBBEE policy has failed dismally. Objectively, it has not delivered broad empowerment. On the contrary, it has disempowered the poor majority by deterring investment and job creation, and by making state spending extraordinarily inefficient. It is not a policy for the poor, it is a policy at the expense of the poor.

Numbers don’t lie. SA’s growing joblessness figure of now almost 10 million speaks for itself. It’s poverty rate of 55% and growing speaks for itself. It’s illiteracy rate amongst 10-years of 78% speaks for itself. Unemployment, poverty and illiteracy are the very opposite of empowerment.

The function of any policy which seeks to redress the injustices of the past, which saw black South Africans systematically locked out of opportunities, cannot be to replicate the very evil of Apartheid by denying millions of people the opportunity to improve their lives.

And yet this is what is happening in South Africa today. The DA rejects it wholeheartedly and unreservedly. We will only ever support empowerment policies that broaden ownership and earning opportunities to those currently denied them, the vast majority of whom are black.

And without doubt, the most effective way to empower people is to create jobs and grow the economy. Increased economic activity makes more people financially independent. It also increases tax revenue to spend on providing quality education and healthcare to all. The ANC’s BBBEE has not only failed to create jobs and grow the economy, it has hindered job creation and economic growth.

The fact is, the vast majority of poor people in this country are black. Inequality in SA is still very strongly along racial lines. And this will continue to be the case until we have empowerment policies that seek to deconstruct that system of deprivation that denied black people opportunities to learn, earn and own.

The main pitfall of South Africa’s debate about BBBEE is that too often empowerment policies are viewed through a prism of the ANC’s policy framework. This is a massive mistake. The ANC’s BBBEE is not the only way to approach empowerment. In fact, it is the one way we shouldn’t be approaching empowerment, because it has already been tried and shown to have failed dismally.

As a party which governs for over 16 million South Africans and controls the bulk of the country’s local government budget, the DA has an obligation to craft a clear alternative to the ANC’s failed policy of BBBEE. It is incumbent on us to study what has not worked with their policy and seek to do better.

The greatest flaw of the ANC’s policy of BBBEE is that it has enabled corruption and the enrichment of an elite few. It is a system characterised by economic exclusion instead of broad inclusion.

This is why the DA categorically rejects the ANC’s policy of BBBEE. It has failed too many South Africans and contributed to inequality and social instability, widening the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

The DA’s policy on this matter is clear. Our core principles as an organization are non-negotiable. We support broad-based economic empowerment but reject the ANC’s policy of BBBEE. We do not support a policy which has merely perpetuated economic inequality and restricted access to opportunity.

This position is not new to the DA. In Parliament, we have repeatedly voted against the ANC’s policy of BBBEE because we believe there are more effective and innovative means to achieve the stated intentions of the policy without being confined to the ANC’s narrow view on this. It is our role and obligation to advance this alternative to the voters.

We believe that our economic offer would be able to achieve true black empowerment, by doing away with a system of patronage and simultaneously creating an environment which is fertile ground for job creation.

This is based on our underpinning values contained in the party’s founding documents which guide our policy process. A DA national government would never advance a policy that only empowers those who enjoy proximity to political power. We have demonstrated this where we govern without exception.

Our obligation is to ensure that true empowerment reaches far and wide so that the gap between those who are in and outside the formal economy is closed shut. Failure to do so would mean we continue to subject our people to the very same old and tired policies of the ANC which have done little for the majority of South Africans plunged into poverty and unemployment.

The DA is a young, dynamic, forward looking party. In government, we would take a multi-pronged approach to empowerment.

Most urgently, we would implement economic reforms so that jobs may be created for the millions who worry about putting food on the table for their families daily. Specific empowerment policies would support, rather than undermine, the imperatives of job creation, quality education, broadened ownership and increased entrepreneurship.

Our policies will always seek to bring more and more poor people into the economy. We will never support policies that undermine our ability to bring those who have been excluded on board. That is why we reject the ANC’s BBBEE.

As part of the economic offer which the DA is crafting, we are exploring various options that we believe will broaden access to learning, earning and owning opportunities to the majority of South Africans. There are numerous existing suggestions of a new empowerment framework that are designed to empower poor, primarily black South Africans. These include:

  • The World Bank’s proposal of a contributory pension which would help provide more South Africans with pension savings and thus exposure to the wealth created by financial assets.
  • The model of Economic Empowerment for the Disadvantaged (EED) proposed by the South African Institute of Race Relations.
  • The Pact for Inclusive Empowerment (PIE) that develops an empowerment index for listed and non-listed companies. This could provide a way for market pressure and shareholder activism to drive corporate behaviour towards a positive social impact.
  • A tax credit for those who support adult dependents. This would lower the tax obligations of those who support adult non-taxpayers. In other words, provide support for what has become known colloquially as ‘black tax’.
  • Promotion of Employee Share Ownership Schemes.

These proposals are lateral in thinking and allow for broader access to economic opportunities for more poor, black South Africans. South Africa cannot be confined to the ANC’s failed policy framework. Times are rapidly changing, and our economy and nation have suffered greatly under years of ANC governance.

The time has come for innovative policy proposals that will rapidly grow the economy and empower the black majority at the same time. Admitting that BBBEE has failed spectacularly is difficult for the ANC. It would mean acknowledging that theirs has been a policy that has simply provided a patronage and crony system, proof they are incapable of managing the real problems South Africa faces.

It is a massive injustice that a quarter century after the end of Apartheid, opportunities and life chances are still defined by the colour of one’s skin. The DA will not be deterred in crafting policies that will rectify this. Our alternative empowerment policy ideas will be discussed and tabled at the next federal executive. This is an ongoing discussion. The DA will not be reduced to populist rhetoric. We are truly on a mission to build an inclusive South Africa for all.

BOKAMOSO | Cut the unjust fuel levy now!

The following remarks were delivered by the DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at a protest outside the National Treasury’s offices in Tshwane on Tuesday. Mr Maimane was joined by the Freedom Movement, political parties, religious bodies, civil society organisations and ordinary South Africans. 

Fellow South Africans,

We all know that our people are facing a daily assault from the rising cost of living and rising government taxes.

In the past year alone, this tax war on ordinary citizens has made life extremely hard for those who can least afford it.

VAT has gone up. Income tax has gone up. “Sin taxes” have gone up. Electricity has gone up. All this while income and social grants have barely kept up with inflation.

But the one increase that has really hit poor people in the pocket has been the fuel price, because this affects the two things they spend the biggest part of their income on: transport and food.

This year alone there have been four fuel price increases in four consecutive months, with a fifth coming into effect tomorrow. And there will no doubt be more in the near future.

Every cent of every increase finds its way into taxi fares, bus fares and the price of food transported on our roads. Poor people, already stretched to breaking point, must simply pay more. And the truth is they just can’t any longer.

Thanks to the sharp increases in the cost of fuel, the cost of living is fast becoming unaffordable.

When people say this to government, they just wash their hands and say: Sorry, there’s nothing we can do. It’s the oil price. It’s the Rand/Dollar exchange rate. It’s beyond our control.

Except it’s not. When government says the fuel price hikes are purely because of global conditions and therefore unavoidable, they are not telling you the whole truth.

A large chunk of our fuel price – in fact a full third of it – is made up of two government taxes: the General Fuel Levy and the Road Accident Fund Levy. For every litre of petrol you buy, R5,30 goes towards these two taxes.

And when you look at all the factors that make up our fuel price, it is these two taxes that have increased far more than anything else in recent years. Over the past ten years the General Fuel Levy has almost doubled, and the RAF levy has more than tripled.

Our neighbouring countries also add a government levy to their fuel price, but nowhere near what we pay. Where ours is R5,30 per litre, Botswana adds around 40c per litre. That’s why petrol in Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho costs between R10,50 and R12,80 per litre while we pay R16.

So no, it is not out of government’s hands. It is very much within their control. And if they refuse to lower this tax, then you have every right to demand answers from them.

In fact, we already know government’s answer to this. It was right there in their press statement earlier this month that announced the latest increase, where they said: “taxing fuel is one of the most efficient instruments of raising revenue for governments”.

They see it as easy money – simple as that. Just add it to the fuel price and everyone has to pay it. No one has a choice.

And it’s not as though these taxes are either ring-fenced or put to good use. The General Fuel Levy simply disappears into the fiscus where it becomes part of the endless bailout of corrupt and failing state companies and projects.

As for the RAF levy, it’s even worse. The fund is basically bankrupt and unable to pay out most claims, but that doesn’t prevent it from being treated like an ATM by corrupt cadres.

It was recently discovered that The RAF was renting office chairs at over R1600 per month per chair, and they were trying to force through an even bigger furniture rental scam.

So when government says “sorry, there’s nothing we can do to lower the fuel price” they are, in effect, asking each and every South African to carry on funding this sort of behaviour.

Their exorbitant fuel levy is simply there to pay for their corruption. Because if you take away the money lost every year to government corruption, we could easily afford to pay a fraction of this tax.

And this is not going to get better any time soon. We’re not going to reach a point where government suddenly discovers how to rid itself of systemic corruption and turn our economy around.

This creep in taxation will continue until there is nothing left to tax, because this is the ANC’s only plan to plug the gaps that are appearing all over our budget.

The longer they fail to kick-start our economy, and the more our money ends up the pockets of corrupt officials, the more they will increase existing taxes and think of new ones to add.

So today we are here to say to them: No more. Poor South Africans cannot be made to bail out the theft and the failures of this government any longer.

We must have an urgent debate in Parliament on the way our fuel price is made up, and we must overhaul the Road Accident Fund to ensure a clean and transparent operation. But most urgently we must slash the combined fuel levies by at least 20%.

The DA has shown, on many occasions, that it is possible to fund any shortfall through sensible fiscal reform. By trimming our massively bloated cabinet and SOEs, and by making a serious effort to curb government corruption, these cuts are well within our reach.

If we lower the combined fuel levy by 20%, we will bring the fuel price back to below R15 per litre. Which is still high, but it will offer struggling South Africans some relief while we fix the underlying flaws in our fuel price.

The fuel levy, in its current form, is an unjust tax on the poor. We must not rest until it is cut.

Thank you.

BOKAMOSO | Accountability: Rise, South Africa, rise!

Accountability is like baking powder. If you’ve got it in the mix, the cake is bound to rise. If you haven’t, that cake is staying down no matter how great the other ingredients.

In South Africa, we can have impunity, or we can have progress. We cannot have both. All living systems act on feedback, human beings included. If you steal from your country and get reappointed or promoted, you keep stealing from your country. If you do a bad job and get away with it, you keep doing a bad job.

It’s really that simple.

South Africa needs to build a culture of political accountability, meaning that if there is corruption in a department, or if the department performs poorly, the political principal, the minister, is held to account. Currently, the litmus test is if corruption can actually be pinned on the principal, through a lifestyle audit. This is not enough. That is why outrageous crimes such as Marikana and Esidimeni can be committed against South Africans, and not a single politician is held to account.

The Gauteng ANC Provincial Executive Committee’s message to Qedani Mahlangu and Brian Hlongwa is: it’s ok to kill people and steal from the public. Mahlangu was MEC for Health when 144 mentally ill patients died from neglect. Hlongwa was implicated by the Special Investigating Unit in corruption amounting to R1.2 billion, receiving kickbacks from companies contracted by the provincial health department during his tenure as MEC. Both were re-elected to the PEC this weekend.

Failure to hold wrongdoing to account shifts the blame to those whose responsibility it is to demand accountability. Gauteng Premier David Makhura recognized this when he promised: “There will be justice. I made a commitment to the affected families, that I will walk all the way with them to ensure that justice is served.” If Makhura’s PEC don’t hold Mahlangu and Hlongwa to account, then it falls to voters to hold the Gauteng ANC to account.

Accountability is the essential raising agent that will see South Africa rise out of its current slump. The ANC has time and again failed to hold its public representatives to account for gross misconduct. It claims to uphold women’s rights, yet retained Mduduzi Manana as Deputy Minister of Higher Education after he was convicted for assaulting three women. To add insult to injury, Bathabile Dlamini, was rewarded for the SASSA debacle by being appointed Minister of Women.

The ANC recently appointed convicted fraudster, Tony Yengeni, to chair its committee on crime and corruption. Arther Fraser, was redeployed to head up Correctional Services having been justifiably accused of treason. In his January cabinet shuffle, President Ramaphosa appointed Bheki Cele as Minister of Police. Cele was dismissed as national police chief in 2012 on allegations of corruption involving inflated leases. Malusi Gigaba was made Minister of Home Affairs, having played an instrumental role in enabling state capture as Minister of Public Enterprises.

The ANC removed Zuma to save themselves ahead of the 2019 election, not to hold him accountable for grand corruption and state capture. They never told him or South Africa what he had done wrong. The official who allowed the Gupta plane to land at Waterkloof base was rewarded with an ambassador’s post.

In every instance, the message is clear: it’s ok to behave like this. And when voters keep voting for the ANC, they send leaders the same message: it’s ok to behave like this.

Even bureaucrats are not held accountable. The ANC’s policy of deploying its branch members into the bureaucracy and as accounting officers means there’s a cosy relationship between politicians and bureaucrats in which no one is ever held to account.

Accountability is not just about fighting corruption and gross misconduct. It is also an essential performance management tool. The standard to remove someone from their job cannot be ANC-level corruption. If a public servant is failing to serve the public with distinction, that must be reason enough to consider giving someone else the opportunity to do a better job.

Angie Motshekga was reappointed as Minister of Education, even as SA continues to rank lowest of the low for reading and maths. Aaron Motsoaledi has overseen the disintegration of our health services and is in no danger of losing his job as a result.

Our public education system is a crime against our children. Our public health system is an insult to the sick. We cannot afford to ignore or reward poor performance. If we want different outcomes, we have to do politics differently in this country. If we change our politics, we can change our nation.

The thing we South Africans need to grasp is: if voters don’t hold parties to account for their actions or inactions, we must assume part responsibility for the outcomes. In a democracy, accountability ultimately rests on the shoulders of the electorate.

The DA will continue to pursue accountability in the De Lille matter. Accountability is a core DA value. No-one can be above the rule of law. No individual’s interests can be above the collective interests of the residents of Cape Town.

Next week, Zimbabweans go to the polls. This is a game-changing opportunity for them: a chance to rid themselves of a liberation movement party atrophied by corruption and patronage; a chance to usher in a new era of accountability; a chance for the people of Zimbabwe to reclaim their power and their freedom. It appears to be a close race and we can’t be sure what the outcome will be. But we can be sure that when accountability is a guiding principle, South Africa and Zimbabwe will rise.