DA calls on Minister Didiza to find a solution for Botswana export crisis

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

The DA expresses deep concern regarding the recent announcement of Botswana’s extension of import restrictions on fresh produce from South Africa.

We have taken note of Minister Thoko Didiza’s efforts to engage in discussions through the South African Ambassador to Botswana to address this issue. While we welcome this initiative, it is disconcerting that a meeting date has not yet been established.

Urgently setting a date is crucial, as farmers are already facing significant challenges.

They are producing goods for their markets, and those who have planted crops for Botswana customers are now unable to sell their produce. Adding to the complexity, South Africa lacks mechanisms to shield its farmers from such market disruptions, in contrast to Botswana and other nations that prioritise their farmers through rebates and protectionist measures.

The DA firmly upholds the principles of a free-market economy and discourages any form of anti-competitive market regulations imposed by trading partners. We call upon the ANC government to articulate its position on this matter decisively.

In a recent live television interview, Minister Didiza highlighted the challenges confronting South African farmers, including the impact of the Russian war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, and animal diseases. These issues are compounded by the ANC government’s failure to proactively safeguard farmers from such shocks.

The root causes of the problems affecting farmers lie in poor ANC governance, lack of clear priorities, corruption, mismanagement, and inadequate geopolitical strategies. The ANC’s alignment with communist, war-mongering nations lacking respect for the rule of law further exacerbates the situation, negatively impacting our economy and contributing to rising unemployment.

The DA urges Minister Thoko Didiza and her department to collaborate effectively with Botswana to find a lasting solution for regional farmers. Additionally, we call for transparent and regular communication to keep both farmers and the South African public informed. The DA will be corresponding with the Minister to inquire about the expected dates of engagement and the actions she plans to undertake if Botswana persists in its current stance.

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Health Minister’s ‘Ubuntu’ will bankrupt South Africans and enrich cadres 

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP

The Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla’s remarks yesterday simply proves that the ANC government is unwilling or unable to face the fact that the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill is not only widely rejected, it is also unaffordable and will decimate the public and private health sectors.

As for his so-called support for the NHI Bill, the truth is that the South African public, health and economic experts, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, opposition parties and civic society organisations staunchly opposed the Bill, and continues to do so.

Minister Phaahla’s “Ubuntu” and social solidarity is nothing more than cheap electioneering, when the ANC government is eating while their neighbour (the South African public) is literally going hungry.

His promises are cheap and cruel when mothers are forced to have their babies on hospital floors, when surgeons are forced to perform surgeries by cell phone flashlights, when hospitals and clinics are unsafe, when patients are refused health care, when vulnerable and sick patients do not have access to life-saving medicine and the backlogs for surgeries are staggering. Minister Phaahla’s promises mean nothing to the registrars who wasted two years training as specialists while their Master of Medicine (MMed) specialist degrees were unaccredited or the 991 unplaced applicants of the Internship and Community Service Programme (ICSP).

Under the NHI, the only South Africans that will thrive will be politically connected tenderpreneurs and deployed cadres. Taxpayers will be bled dry, while the corruption and mismanagement will continue to flourish.

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DA calls for greater transparency over Koeberg’s life extension

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP

Koeberg’s operating license runs out in July 2024 and Eskom has still not succeeded in extending its life span to ensure safe, reliable long-term operation. If the project is not completed and the license is not renewed by the July deadline, Eskom will be required to shut down the plant’s two reactors. Should that occur, it would plunge South Africa into an even greater load-shedding crisis than we are currently experiencing. As it is, extended shutdowns of each reactor (consecutively) will be needed over the next 12 to 18 months to ensure the necessary upgrades and maintenance for ongoing operational safety.

The DA had previously called for the involvement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as early as last year, and submitted a request for short-term technical assistance, seeking expert advice from the Agency to work alongside Koeberg’s engineers and finalise the life extension project. Not long after, the IAEA not only confirmed that this project was in serious danger but formally offered to assist in getting it back on track – provided that the Minister, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), and Eskom requested and accepted such assistance.

In July of this year, the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, rejected this offer of much needed and urgent expert assistance from the world body overseeing nuclear energy.

We are no further along today, and, in fact, we are in an increasingly precarious position. With the life extension project dragging along and the odds of Eskom completing its efforts by the deadline next year waning, we must brace ourselves for further reactor shutdowns in the very near future, contributing to even more severe loadshedding.

The DA has already called on the government to reach out to the IAEA for expert assistance. We have already called upon the Minister, the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), and Eskom to accept the IAEA’s first offer. Now, with so much time having passed, the need for the IAEA’s expertise is even greater.

We cannot afford to allow a project of this scale and importance to be conducted in secrecy and behind closed doors.

Considering the little time we have left and the urgency with which this matter needs to be dealt with, the DA calls upon the government, Eskom, and the NNR to approach the IAEA. We must not only seek their assistance in the implementation of the life extension project. We must also request another safety audit to be undertaken (considering that the last one took place more than a year ago), that regular inspections be done on the project’s progress, and that the IAEA will monitor and report on the project on a continuous basis.

Despite the ANC’s attempt at hiding the situation at Koeberg, with Eskom denying access to parliamentary oversight at the plant, the DA will continue to drive for greater transparency and accountability over this project. We will continue to press for
Members of Parliament to be allowed to conduct their constitutional obligation of oversight so that we can ensure that the life of Koeberg is not only extended successfully before the deadline, but that it is done so safely and under the watch of truly independent authorities.

Additionally, we call on the ANC government to make public all safety audit reports to ensure a transparent and accountable process is followed, so that the safety of Koeberg is not in doubt.

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Health Minister must intervene in Walter Sisulu University degree scandal

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Madeleine Hicklin MP

The DA has written to the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, to urgently engage with Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, to intervene in the debacle with the Walter Sisulu University failing to get their Master of Medicine (MMed) degree accredited with the Council on Higher Education (CHE) in time.

It is very concerning that Minister Nzimande, the CHE, and the Dean of Walter Sisulu University have apparently ignored letters from the South African Health Professionals Collaboration about the issue.

Furthermore, unless the situation is urgently solved, registrars will lose their years of training time, and might have to repeat it at great cost.

This issue was first raised in March 2022, after which the CHE issued a statement assuring registrars that their specialty disciplines were accredited. It now seems that the CHE were either mistaken or liberal with the truth. Neither of which will help the registrars unless CHE and the Walter Sisulu University pulls up their socks.

The South African Society of Anaesthesiologists (SASA) has stated that the on-going delays in accrediting the MMed degree specialisations in anaesthesia, ear, nose and throat (ENT), internal medicine, and ophthalmology at Walter Sisulu University will have a profound effect on both the struggling registrars and the delivery of healthcare in the Eastern Cape.

According to Dr Caroline Corbett, SASA President, many public health posts will remain frozen until the accreditation process is complete, which exacerbates the strain on an already stretched public health system, resulting in longer waiting times for patients, decreased access to specialised care, and compromised patient outcomes, thus impacting the well-being of the South African public.

The DA has written to the CHE to determine which of the MMed programmes at each of the universities are in fact registered, while the DA also requests for urgent intervention from Minister Nzimande.

The ANC government’s callous failure of these registrars, without even an apparent attempt at intervention, is the truest reflection of how they feel about South Africans. The ANC government does not care to assist registrars in completing their specialist training, they do not care to assist students and interns with placement for their internships and community service years, and they do not care to improve the public health system. The National Health Insurance (NHI) will exacerbate the many problems with the country’s health care without solving a single one.

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Department of Home Affairs must account for what happened at Beitbridge border

The DA calls on the Department of Home Affairs to provide a detailed account of the events that transpired at the Beitbridge border. The DA expresses concern regarding the conflicting reports surrounding the interception of children purportedly ‘trafficked’ from Zimbabwe into South Africa.

Earlier this week, the Commissioner of the Border Management Authority (BMA) announced that 42 buses, transporting 443 unaccompanied children from Zimbabwe to South Africa, were intercepted. The Minister of Home Affairs asserted that these children were being trafficked and were subsequently handed over to the Zimbabwean authorities at the border.

However, the Zimbabwean authorities have contradicted these statements. According to them, only 124 children were handed over to the Department of Immigration for attempting to cross without the necessary travel documentation. Out of these, 101 were successfully reunited with their families, leaving 23 children at the Beitbridge Reception Centre.

The contradictory versions of events raise troubling questions, particularly regarding the fate of the remaining 319 children, if the claims of South African authorities are accurate. Moreover, the Commissioner’s admission that many BMA officials lack proper training raises serious concerns, especially in the context of the best interest of the child. Notably, the statements from the Department of Home Affairs omitted any mention of the Department of Social Development (DSD).

In accordance with the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act, read with the Children’s Act, the DSD must be notified when officials suspect that a foreign child has been trafficked. The absence of such notification is alarming.

The DA has decided to submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the Department of Home Affairs to seek clarification on these issues and determine whether the best interest of the child was prioritised during this operation. The PAIA application will encompass the following information:

1. Protocols in place for unaccompanied minors and child trafficking.
2. Whether BMA officials have received adequate training in dealing with unaccompanied children and trafficking at the border.
3. The rationale behind handing over the children to Zimbabwean authorities.
4. The precise number of children intercepted.
5. Whether the DSD was notified about the situation concerning the children.

The ANC’s lack of compassion and protection of these children once again proves their utter disregard for the most vulnerable.

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DA Abroad to launch online petition calling for more overseas voting stations

Please find attached a soundbite by Kelly Clark, the DA Abroad communications manager.

The Democratic Alliance Abroad will this week launch an online petition to call for more overseas voting stations for the 2024 National Elections.

After months of pressure from the DA and DA Abroad, the IEC launched the online registration portal for South Africans abroad yesterday. The portal, although welcomed, still limits South Africans abroad to register and vote at embassies, high commissions and consulates which are often challenging to access.

With more than two million South Africans either living, working, studying, or traveling abroad, the IEC has an obligation to provide these citizens with their constitutional right to register and to vote and to ensure that voting stations are easily accessible for all South Africans abroad.

The only solution to ensuring that overseas South Africans can vote in 2024 would be an increased number of voting stations to accommodate cities with high numbers of South African citizens.

Irrespective of where in the world you find yourself, South Africans abroad should be able to vote in a city near them without incurring high costs and long travel hours to exercise their constitutional right to vote in the 2024 National and Provincial Election.

The DA Abroad will continue to fight for South African citizens abroad to exercise their constitutional right and put pressure on the IEC and DIRCO to ensure that more voting stations are made available. We therefore encourage South Africans living, working or studying abroad to sign our petition and to share it with South African friends and families across the world. By signing this petition, you will contribute to our campaign to ensure that all South Africans citizens abroad can exercise their constitutional right in the upcoming election.

The DA will exhaust every avenue to ensure South Africans have fair and equitable access to voting.

To take part in the online please complete the quick questionnaire here: Petition for more overseas voting stations near you (da.org.za)

The petition will close by 31 January 2024 – we encourage everyone living or working abroad to complete it – the more people that partake, the more power we will have to make this happen.

ANC government sacrifices health care for cheap votes

Please find attached a soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.

Today the ANC government sacrificed both the public and private health sectors for the sake of votes when the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) followed the National Assembly’s suit and bulldozed the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill through Parliament.

The ANC government has proven that it cares not one iota about the very people the NHI is ostensibly meant to serve. None of the many submissions raising concerns and questions about the NHI Bill was ever taken into consideration, despite the fact that the Constitutional Court judgment on the Traditional and Khoi-San Leadership Act has it very clear that “a reasonable opportunity to participate in legislative affairs must be an opportunity capable of influencing the decision to be taken. It is unreasonable if the content of a public hearing could not possibly affect Parliament’s deliberations on the legislation”.

Nor has the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, or his Department ever definitively revealed how the NHI would be funded – a real calamity as the Minister of Finance, Enoch Godongwana, has repeatedly said that the country cannot afford the NHI.

The truth is that the NHI Bill is nothing more than cheap electioneering ahead of next year’s election. The ANC government knows that its legacy of cadre deployment, corruption and failure is unpalatable to the South African public, and instead of actually addressing the myriad of problems in the public health sector and the rest of the country, it put forward the irrational NHI in the hopes of deceiving voters into believing it’s a government that cares.

Unfortunately, the NHI is not the answer to South Africa’s health care problems. The only answer to that problem is the amputation of a cancerous ANC government whose callous corruption infected every sphere of government.

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SA’s Water and Sanitation crisis is a crime against humanity

Please find attached a soundbite by Nicholas Myburgh MP.

The latest Green and Blue Drop Reports released yesterday confirm our worst fears about the devastating consequences of the ANC’s policy of Cadre Deployment. It is crystal clear that a massive failure in water and sanitation services is being manifested in most parts of South Africa.

For years now the DA has warned the government about the rapidly deteriorating condition of wastewater treatment facilities (WWTF) and water treatment plants across the country. Industry experts, environmentalists, health practitioners, and economists have all raised their growing concerns about the devastating effect this has on the health and economic prospects of our people, and the irreversible damage that is being inflicted upon the environment.

Just as the government was warned way back in 1998 about the looming electricity crisis, so the DA and many others have consistently pleaded with the government for the past 10 years to take effective measures to avert a water and sanitation crisis potentially more devastating than the Eskom disaster.

There is no joy in seeing how the ANC is failing to rise to the challenge of providing safe drinking water and sanitation services in precisely the same way that they have been unable to rectify the energy crisis that they have created.

With almost 50% of drinking water systems classified as “unsafe” the risk of life-threatening diseases such as cholera and chronic diarrhea has risen sharply. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the World Bank has identified water as one of the three biggest risks for doing business in SA. Divestment will continue and much-needed foreign direct investment will stay away.

In addition, nearly two-thirds of the country’s WWTFs are now discharging partially treated or raw sewage into waterways and the environment. This further exacerbates the depletion of critically important water resources, wreaks havoc in complex ecosystems, and amplifies the appalling living conditions of mostly poor neighbourhoods.

The escalating water and sanitation crisis, as illustrated by the latest Blue and Green Drop Reports, is the direct result of poor governance, financial mismanagement, and widespread corruption brought about by the ANC’s policy of Cadre Deployment applied in every structure or entity where they govern. Whilst the government acknowledges these failures they remain impotent in solving them. The defeatist response by the beleaguered Minister of Water and Sanitation came in the understatement of the century when he simply said “It is not pretty”!

With DA-governed municipalities once again outperforming all others in their management of water and sanitation services as well as the all-important field of revenue collection, the electorate remains the key change-maker in restoring standards and improving livelihoods. Services will only improve by electing competent politicians and appointing fit-for-purpose officials.

We repeat our appeal to the Minister of Water and Sanitation to unleash the full might of the law in bringing to book those Mayors and Municipal Managers who are criminally responsible for the unprecedented failure to provide the life and dignity to our people inherent in proper water and sanitation services.

The accompanying suffering and deprivation is nothing but a crime against humanity!

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DA demands investigation into lavish R5 million funeral spending by SANDF

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Kobus Marais MP

The DA expresses deep concern over the reported excessive spending by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on the funeral arrangements for Chief Logistics Lt Gen Xolani Ndlovu. Despite clear directives from the National Treasury to exercise fiscal restraint, it is disconcerting to learn that over R5 million was allocated for the funeral expenses.

While acknowledging the need to honour and support the passing of military personnel, the DA questions the seemingly unrestrained use of funds, especially during a period of austerity measures. A downscaled yet dignified funeral would have been more appropriate, considering the urgent requirements to save the SANDF’s defense and protection capabilities.

The use of the only serviceable C130 and the only two serviceable Gripens from AFB Makhado for a flypast, along with the reported use of the Brazilian Embraer C-390 as a luxury taxi, raises serious concerns about responsible resource allocation. These actions come at a time when defense budget cuts and critical resource challenges threaten the retention of essential defense force capabilities.

In light of these concerns, the DA urgently calls on the Minister of Defence to institute an independent board of inquiry into this apparent reckless spending spree. There must be consequences for those responsible for these preventable and unjustified expenses. The DA further emphasises the need for clear guidelines to ensure the implementation of austerity measures across all sectors of the Department of Defence and the SANDF.

The DA reaffirms its commitment to honouring fallen soldiers while urging prudent financial management to safeguard the nation’s scarce funds and prioritise the funding of constitutional primary responsibilities within the DoD and SANDF.

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SACAA’s “safety measures” lack backing

The DA demands that the recently withdrawn Aeronautical Information Circular (AIC) 18.19 be immediately reinstated, or a new AIC with the same intent and meaning, be issued by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

With no warning or consultation, the withdrawal was imposed with severe and far-reaching effects. According to reports from the aviation sector, the immediate impact on flight schools, aircraft owners, students and commercial operators is detrimental. Additionally, it will eventually have a long-term negative impact on the aviation industry by raising the cost of flying.

As a direct consequence of the CAA’s purported mishandling of the situation, significant losses have already been incurred and businesses are facing circumstances that could lead to their liquidation. There is strong evidence that no consultation preceded this extreme measure and it has been described as unconstitutional and harshly unsympathetic.

The AIC 18.19 withdrawal necessitates immediate compliance and will have a significant financial impact because any aircraft with an engine older than 12 years must now be overhauled before it can be placed back in service. AIC 18.19 provided an exemption and an alternate method of compliance through an inspection to ensure safe, continued airworthiness. The cost of an overhaul is close to R1 million per engine.

What constitutes a mockery of safety is the ability to travel with your family and friends in an affected aircraft, provided that it satisfies the present regulations and is not considered commercial. It is deemed “unsafe” if the flight is commercial in intent, in other words, payment is received. As a result, it is no longer legal to fly an aircraft commercially with an engine over 12 years old despite it undergoing a service every 100 hours of flight time or every year. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and authorities are alleged to only consider it from the standpoint of potential legal action avoidance and income creation.

The downtime of doing the overhaul, excluding scheduling delays, could run up to a year. If the withdrawal of the AIC is enforced, immediate compliance with the change would be required to ensure that insurance does not become void.

Considering the excellent safety record these older aircrafts have maintained for the last 17 years in compliance with AIC 18.19, this withdrawal has not been substantiated by any empirical data or credible accident statistics from South Africa. We find statements by the CAA relating to “High Risk to Safety” misleading and lacking in supporting data as the service information letters (SILs) and SI’s lack factual substance and in themselves are not mandatory. Significant statistical evidence exists that the risk of engine failure on aircraft, that have exceeded the 12-year overhaul recommendation, does not increase significantly as claimed, providing that other sensible maintenance practices are adhered to.

The poor decision made by the regulator should have been influenced by the effects of the disastrous Covid-19 pandemic, from which the aviation sector is still recovering, and which devastated financial reserves.

The above matter once again highlights the necessity of regulators and policymakers to possess the necessary expertise in their fields. At the least, they should make use of specialists to complement any shortcomings, as they are within the CAA, to ensure that policy and decisions do not harm the national interests. Significantly the democratic process should be always followed and proper consultation with affected parties is essential to avoid any infringements of our Constitution. The Democratic Alliance prides itself on adhering to these principles as its current involvement in several initiatives, to stimulate growth in the Aviation Sector, would attest to.

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