President Ramaphosa must put South Africa first, and end the lockdown

The State of Disaster – already extended – comes to an end in less than 24 hours, and there is no clarity at all on what happens next. This is unacceptable. The stranglehold this places on our country goes way beyond the immediate damaging effects of the regulations enforced under the State of Disaster, because it is the uncertainty that inflicts the most damage. Millions of livelihoods are in peril as thousands of businesses cannot plan for the immediate future, and every day more and more of them are taking the heart-breaking decision to close their doors.

Where is President Ramaphosa in all of this? How can it be that a country’s leader goes missing in the midst of its biggest crisis? We know he’s around, because he can find the time to make Women’s Day addresses or pen platitude-filled newsletters about a fantasy future, which we know will never happen under his government. But as far as making critical and urgent decisions right now to save our economy, which is fast collapsing thanks to a self-inflicted lockdown crisis, he is nowhere to be seen.

South Africa’s daily Covid-19 infection rate is declining, taking pressure off our public health system. At the same time, our recovery rate has increased significantly. While this is no reason to drop our guard, it is reason enough for President Ramaphosa to grow a spine and end the lockdown immediately and entirely.

There can be no more talk of levels that don’t serve any purpose whatsoever other than to obliterate what’s left of the economy and jobs. There can be no more bowing to narrow interest groups or the agendas of ANC factions. The lockdown must be ended right away, and along with this the irrational bans on alcohol and cigarettes as well as the curfew and travel restrictions must be lifted. And there can certainly be no consideration to extend the State of Disaster.

This is not the view of the DA or business or any specific interest group. It is the widely held view of the vast majority of our society, including government’s own political allies and its own scientific advisors. Just this week, both Cosatu and Nedlac urged the President to end a lockdown that cannot be justified. The scientists on the Ministerial Advisory Committee have long said that the lockdown should be lifted. We welcome this support for a view the DA has held ever since the initial three weeks of lockdown came to an end, and we urge the President to listen to these voices.

The virus will still be around a year, or even two, from now. We cannot remain trapped by indecision and ego until then. We must be smart when it comes to reducing the risk of transmission through masks, hygiene, distancing and ongoing testing, but we have to get out there now and rebuild our shattered economy.

Every day that the president dithers, our country is one step closer to economic ruin. Already we have lost more revenue thanks to the inexplicable ban on alcohol and tobacco than we borrowed, amid great fanfare, from the IMF. What is the point of that then? Our economy is estimated to have lost over a trillion Rand already due to this extended lockdown, and any positive outcome that might have followed the president’s much vaunted investment plans has certainly fizzled away as his government committed economic hara-kiri.

The truth is, this extended lockdown could never be justified, and President Ramaphosa knows this. But he and the ANC have painted themselves into a corner, because ending it now – without any significant increases in the country’s healthcare capacity, without any significant advances in our testing strategy and without any sign that we have contained the virus – would be an admission that it was all for nothing. And so it seems he would rather crush the economy and ruin the lives of millions than say “we got it wrong” and bring it to an end.

South Africa needs him to do the right thing for once: Act like a president, find some courage, face down the factions in his own party and end the lockdown immediately. Our economy was already in crisis before the virus arrived. Now national insolvency is all but guaranteed, while our economy lies in ruins and millions of people will suffer unnecessarily for years to come. Enough is enough. Let’s get back to work and start rebuilding.

ANC once again proves that GBV is not a top priority

The postponement of the ANC’s Virtual Men’s Dialogue is yet another reminder of the poor leadership we have come to witness from the ANC as it relates to Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).

Information on the reasons for the postponement of the dialogue or an explanation is non-existent and sends a clear message to South African men and womxn that the ANC is incapable of implementing its mandate to protect womxn and continues to let the country down when it comes to the serious issue of GBVF.

Many men and womxn were awaiting this dialogue to get a better understanding of the governing party’s commitment to ending this scourge.

The lack of urgency by the ANC government to tackle issues around GBVF and dismantling patriarchy is evident when they cannot even follow through on their own programmes.

The DA will continue to hold the ANC accountable in all spaces and expose its shortcomings when it comes to the poor handling of the national pandemic of GBVF, especially President Cyril Ramaphosa, a man of many words but very little action.

The ANC thinks that by mentioning GBVF in statements and speeches, it will give a false perception that it is a priority. All this while they continue to allow patriarchy to breed in their own ranks. The ANC will fool South Africans into thinking that it is their mandate to take issues of GBVF forward through programmes and legislation but they will postpone dialogues and drag their feet to bring legislation to Parliament.

Speaking about issues with no plan of implementation is useless and serves no purpose in tackling the challenges around GBVF. The ANC will continue to fail the womxn and children of South Africa and must be held accountable for its continued failure.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA condemns Cele’s shameless Crime Stats propaganda

The Democratic Alliance (DA) condemns Police Minister, Bheki Cele’s shameless use of crime statistics to score political points while bypassing Parliament. Today, he is announcing the quarterly crime statistics pertaining to the lockdown period without presenting it to Parliament first and being accountable to the Portfolio Committee on Police.

This year the annual crime statistics for 2019/20 were announced in July as opposed to September, which is when they have been released in the past.

The Portfolio Committee on Police has, for years, called on the Minister of Police to publish quarterly crime statistics to no avail. Suddenly, the Minister has, for the first time, decided to release quarterly crime statistics which conveniently fall within the lockdown period and come just two weeks after the premature announcement of last years crime statistics.

The timing of the release of the annual crime statistics and the Minister’s newfound commitment to release quarterly crime statistics exposes the Minister as a shameless political propagandist who is more serious about playing games with statistics than fighting crime.

When the annual crime statistics were released two weeks ago the Portfolio Committee on Police was unanimous in its condemnation of the Minister’s rushed approach having already scheduled a press conference immediately after the committee meeting, leaving only two hours for the Committee to interrogate the stats.

The Minister has once again demonstrated his flagrant disregard for Parliament, this time by completely bypassing the Committee in favour of the media spotlight to create the illusion that he is winning the war on crime.

The lockdown crime statistics are from a period when all South Africans were under ‘house arrest’ by an increasingly authoritarian government and are not a true reflection of the crime situation in South Africa. During this time we also witnessed unprecedented numbers of police officers and army personnel on our streets who, in many cases, ended up criminalising ordinarily law-abiding citizens by enforcing draconian regulations cooked up by a power-hungry ANC.

The Minister appears to believe that he can continue to fight crime by imposing curfews, banning alcohol, confiscating cigarettes and undermining the civil liberties of law-abiding South African citizens.

Today’s political stunt is designed to justify the Minister’s overzealous appetite for control over our freedoms as a crime-fighting strategy. It should serve as a stark warning to all of us.

It is now up to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Tina Joemat-Peterson, to demonstrate that the Committee is not just a rubber stamp for the Executive and demand accountability from this rogue Minister.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

NAC fails to enforce PP remedial action

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has seen an email dated, 12 August 2020, from a Public Protector official apologizing to the South African Roadies Association (SARA) for their delay in enforcing remedial action as it relates to the National Arts Council (NAC).

In May, the Public Protector published a report that substantiated claims that NAC CEO, Rosemary Mangope, submitted a fake funding proposal on behalf of the SARA without their knowledge and consent, and recommended that remedial action be instituted.

The remedial action included, among others instructions, an apology to the SARA from the CEO, that a standard operating procedure is implemented to address the inconsistencies in the NAC’s policies, that a “declaration of interests register” be initiated for all NAC employees, and that the CEO submit a report on how this remedial action would be implemented within 30 days following the release of the Public Protected report.

The Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, previously informed the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture that the Mangope would take the report on review.

It is now August, and the email that the DA has seen clearly suggests that Mangope has not taken the Public Protector’s report on review as she previously indicated she would, meaning that the remedial action is legally binding and the Minister and the CEO can no longer drag their feet.

The DA is of the view that the Minister should in fact go a step further and fire the CEO for her grossly improper conduct.

Government has recently made strong statements regarding the punishment of those found guilty of corruption and wrongdoing. Now is the perfect time for the Minister to demonstrate to all South Africans that criminality will no longer be tolerated in any sphere of Government.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Be our President for once, and end the lockdown

Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.

The State of Disaster – already extended – comes to an end in less than 24 hours, and there is no clarity at all on what happens next. This is unacceptable. The stranglehold this places on our country goes way beyond the immediate damaging effects of the regulations enforced under the State of Disaster, because it is the uncertainty that inflicts the most damage. Millions of livelihoods are in peril as thousands of businesses cannot plan for the immediate future, and every day more and more of them are taking the heart-breaking decision to close their doors.

Where is President Ramaphosa in all of this? How can it be that a country’s leader goes missing in the midst of its biggest crisis? We know he’s around, because he can find the time to make Women’s Day addresses or pen platitude-filled newsletters about a fantasy future, which we know will never happen under his government. But as far as making critical and urgent decisions right now to save our economy, which is fast collapsing thanks to a self-inflicted lockdown crisis, he is nowhere to be seen.

It is crystal clear what President Ramaphosa should do: Grow a spine and end the lockdown immediately and entirely. There can be no more talk of levels that don’t serve any purpose whatsoever other than to obliterate what’s left of the economy and jobs. There can be no more bowing to narrow interest groups or the agendas of ANC factions. The lockdown must be ended right away, and along with this the irrational bans on alcohol and cigarettes as well as the curfew and travel restrictions must be lifted. And there can certainly be no consideration to extend the State of Disaster.

This is not the view of the DA or business or any specific interest group. It is the widely held view of the vast majority of our society, including government’s own political allies and its own scientific advisors. Just this week, both Cosatu and Nedlac urged the President to end a lockdown that cannot be justified. The scientists on the Ministerial Advisory Committee have long said that the lockdown should be lifted. We welcome this support for a view the DA has held ever since the initial three weeks of lockdown came to an end, and we urge the President to listen to these voices.

The virus will still be around a year, or even two, from now. We cannot remain trapped by indecision and ego until then. We must be smart when it comes to reducing the risk of transmission through masks, hygiene, distancing and ongoing testing, but we have to get out there now and rebuild our shattered economy.

Every day that the president dithers, our country is one step closer to economic ruin. Already we have lost more revenue thanks to the inexplicable ban on alcohol and tobacco than we borrowed, amid great fanfare, from the IMF. What is the point of that then? Our economy is estimated to have lost over a trillion Rand already due to this extended lockdown, and any positive outcome that might have followed the president’s much vaunted investment plans has certainly fizzled away as his government committed economic hara-kiri.

The truth is, this extended lockdown could never be justified, and President Ramaphosa knows this. But he and the ANC have painted themselves into a corner, because ending it now – without any significant increases in the country’s healthcare capacity, without any significant advances in our testing strategy and without any sign that we have contained the virus – would be an admission that it was all for nothing. And so it seems he would rather crush the economy and ruin the lives of millions than say “we got it wrong” and bring it to an end.

South Africa needs him to do the right thing for once: Act like a president, find some courage, face down the factions in his own party and end the lockdown immediately.

Home Affairs extends visas for foreign nationals but refuses to facilitate passport extensions for South Africans abroad

The Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, recently announced a further extension of visas for foreign nationals in South Africa. However, he has bizarrely refused to make any provision for South Africans abroad whose passports will expire as a result of the extended lockdown.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) again calls on Minister Motsoaledi to urgently facilitate passport extensions for South African nationals abroad without any further delay.

Section 21(4) of the Constitution grants every citizen the right to a passport and for those South Africans living abroad the expiry of their passport could mean dire consequences for their immigration status, work, and ability to access healthcare.

Since writing to the Minister, proposing a passport validity extension stamp, the only step taken was the opening of passport renewals at South African missions abroad.

However, this has made little difference as the DA has been inundated with calls for help from citizens facing closed signs, evasive treatment, “out of office” emails and unanswered calls.

The largest Home Affairs office outside of South Africa, in London, remains closed while the rest of London is coming back to full speed. Applicants are told to email requests and these emails either receive an out of office response falsely claiming that the High Commission is closed, or remain largely unanswered. Phone calls are not answered yet applicants who go to the office to plead urgency find no queues and no clients being served.

There is currently a two-month waiting list just to get an appointment to submit a passport application at the UAE mission. Meanwhile, colleagues of these South Africans from India, Pakistan, Sudan, Kenya, Nepal have passports processed in between 3 days and 3 weeks through their embassies.

Further afield the last diplomatic bag to return to Hanoi only had one passport despite dozens of applications waiting since as far back as March 2019. A South African missionary in South America has been waiting for almost two years to have her passport renewed and has had to submit new passport photographs no less than six times.

The Minister needs to face the fact that Home Affairs is incapable of dealing with this growing backlog of passport applications through a system that has been ineffective even before lockdown. The DA’s proposal of extending passports through a stamp is a pragmatic approach which will allow Home Affairs to focus on passport applications of newborns and cope with the demand during the lockdown.

The DA will not rest until this situation is rectified and South Africans abroad are able to enjoy their constitutional right to a passport.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

DA urges Minister Didiza to act decisively on OBP crisis

Since the Democratic Alliance (DA) raised concerns over alleged attacks against leadership of Onderstepoort Biological Property (OBP) from faceless sources last month, we have been inundated by complaints from farmers and veterinary services regarding the poor service they are receiving from the State-owned enterprise (SOE).

It is time for the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, to intervene decisively and sort the problems at OBP in order to ensure the smooth running of the organization.

The DA will also submit parliamentary questions to the Minister asking the following questions regarding the problems facing OBP:

  • Why are blood samples not receiving timeous attention;
  • If it is true that the staff at OBP are on strike, what are the reasons for the strike and are these matters receiving attention;
  • Why are veterinary services not visiting farms; and
  • Why are the premises closed and not able to provide services?

Since the dissolution of the board, farmers and veterinary services have complained that blood samples sent to OBP had not receiving the attention it required in time. Other reports indicated farmers and veterinary practitioners found the OBP gates locked and were informed that the personnel were on strike. They were subsequently asked to send their samples to Cape Town. There are also concerns of the lack of reagents at OBP.

This is an institution trusted with the wellbeing of South African livestock and subsequently the country’s food security, and it is time the Minister and the interim Board take serious stock of the situation and put measures in place to rectify it urgently. Farmers are reliant on the OBP to issue certificates proving that their animals are free of foot-and-mouth disease when they want to sell or export them, and the potential for financial fall-out if these certificates cannot be issued is immense.

The DA urges Minister Didiza to give urgent feedback and provide swift intervention to the concerns plaguing OBP.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Despite legacy of political oppression, President Ramaphosa hails Robert Mugabe as a “champion” of unity and development

In a response to a Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary question President Cyril Ramaphosa defended a controversial tweet of a picture of the late Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, on the official Twitter account of The Presidency on Africa Day, 25 May 2020, with a quote attributed to him reading “Africa is for Africans” under the banner headline that reads “The Africa We Want…”.

In his response, President Ramaphosa stated that the leaders who were included in these posts “are deserving of recognition for their roles as leaders of national liberation and as champions of African independence, unity and development.”

While it is important that all African leaders are celebrated who have made positive contributions to our continent and its people, Robert Mugabe was barely a “champion” of “unity and development”.

In fact, Mugabe’s legacy in Zimbabwe is one of crushing economic decline, repression of opposition voices and military brutality against civilians. The same violence and abuse of human rights is only being perpetuated by the Mnangagwa-administration today.

It is therefore an indictment that President Ramaphosa would defend and hail Mugabe as a “champion” of “unity and development”. Clearly Ramaphosa is comfortable watching the decline of Zimbabwe and her people, in the same way he has silently watched the decline of South Africa and her people.

The President’s sentiments are no different to those shared by successive ANC governments that have stood by and watched as ZANU-PF trampled on civil liberties and disregarded for the rule of law.

The DA again calls on the President, in his capacity as African Union Chairperson, to stop enabling the brutality of despots, he show leadership and publicly condemn the Mnangagwa-government’s reign of terror on defenceless citizens, and for arresting journalists and activists on trumped-up charges.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Law enforcement must use new powers to act against Zondo Commission duffel bag-testimonies

The explosive testimonies of former security personnel and drivers of Ministers and State-owned Enterprises (SOE) Executives paints a picture of a ruling elite’s utter contempt for those they are meant to serve.

Three security officers told the Zondo Commission on Thursday, how former Eskom and Transnet CEO Brian Molefe, former Minister Malusi Gigaba, former Transnet CFO Anoj Singh and former Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama would often visit the Gupta compound at Saxonwold and then leave with duffel bags stuffed with R200 notes.

Now that the NPA has access to this information directly, and no longer has to wait for the completion of the processes of the Commission, they must act, and act immediately. These flagrant excesses cannot go unpunished any longer, and the NPA needs to demonstrate now, not later, that there are serious consequences to be faced for this type of disregard for the law.  These people need to be prosecuted, and if convicted, sentenced harshly.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) supported Batohi’s appointment two years ago in the belief that she would ensure that justice would be served upon all manner of criminals, but especially those looters and state capturers who are so sure that they would never face the consequences of their despicable actions. It is now time for action, words will no longer suffice.

It is now time the Hawks, the NPA and other law enforcement agencies use their new-found powers that allow them to use evidence given before the Zondo Commission to launch an offence against all individuals who contributed to the country’s capture.

It is a travesty that they are allowed to live free and in luxury, on the proceeds of crime, while law-abiding citizens are stuck with criminal records due to nonsensical Covid-19 lockdown regulations or dying of hunger as a direct consequence of these Gupta-captured cadres’ actions.

It is time to see action being taken against the likes of Molefe, Gigaba and Co over these allegations levelled against them.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court

Ramaphosa’s evasive answer about power grab plan raises more suspicion

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has received a formal response from President Cyril Ramaphosa to our parliamentary question about the origin and status of a leaked top secret government document that makes disturbing constitutional proposals.

The DA revealed the document last month, and to date nobody in the ANC or government has denied its authenticity or disavowed its content. We gave the President the chance to clarify the matter, but his response only raises further suspicions.

The document, leaked to the DA by a government official, proposes the establishment of permanent command councils with executive powers. It appears on the letterhead of Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and is marked “top secret”.

The unknown author describes the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic as “exemplary” and suggests that all this creates a chance for centralising power in the hands of the national government.

This is proposed under the guise of the District Development Model – a local government policy initiative that predates Covid, but has so little substance that you could fit almost anything else under its ambit.

If the top secret document isn’t an elaborate hoax – if discussions inside the Ramaphosa administration are in fact animated by plans of a new command and control system of government – then South African people deserve advance notice.

But in his response President Ramaphosa avoids reference to the top secret document all together (copy attached). He fails to say whether he has seen the document, whether it comes from a government source, or whether he agrees with its substantive proposals.

The President could have used the opportunity to say in clear and simple terms that the document doesn’t represent the plans or the policy of his government. His evasiveness suggests the opposite.

The DA does not believe that the President’s reply meets the standards set by the Rules of the National Assembly – which require the Executive to account to Parliament. We will be writing to the Speaker to request her to order the President to render a substantive reply.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court