Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams finally officially informs Parliament of SABC board member’s resignation after months of secrecy

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite from Phumzile Van Damme MP.

Following months of secrecy around the resignation of a board member of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), the matter finally been referred to Parliament this week by Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies.

In July, the Democratic Alliance (DA) was reliably informed that Bernadette Muthien, an SABC board member had resigned and publicly requested official confirmation from Ndabeni-Abrahams, and none was forthcoming.
And now months later and while Parliament is in recess, she has decided to finally officially inform Parliament in the publication of Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC).

This is not just lack of courtesy on the part of Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams, but it is yet another example of complete and utter disregard of Parliament as was demonstrated in the saga of the appointment of member of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)

The DA will write to the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Communications, Boyce Maneli, to ask that Muthien be summoned to Parliament to give reasons for her resignation as a SABC board member.

Parliament is often expected to take responsibility for (and clean up) the mess and chaos at the SABC. Any potential issues must be nipped in the bud, and this can only be done if Parliament is informed timeously of issues at the public broadcaster as they arise. Any secrecy severely hampers Parliament’s ability to conduct its oversight.

The DA hopes that Muthien will take Parliament and the South African public in her confidence and reveal the reasons behind her resignation – doing so would help expose serious matters (if any exists) that Parliament should be aware of. History has shown that once resignations from the SABC board begin, it usually means the beginning of strife at the public broadcaster.

We will not stand by if there are any indications that the SABC may once again be plunged into crisis. If steps can be taken to prevent this, it needs to happen early.

The DA will continue to push for SABC to always play open cards with the South African public to which it is accountable. For this reason, we will continue call out those who seek to challenge Parliament’s constitutional role.

We look forward to engaging with Ms Muthien in this regard.

Where is the missing R6.2 million monument, Minister Mantashe?

The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, has yet to answer an oral parliamentary question from the Democratic Alliance (DA) on 7 August 2020 regarding the whereabouts of a monument to fallen miners commissioned by the Mine Health and Safety Council in October 2017 and paid for over a period of 30 months, for installation in the Newtown Cultural Precinct.

The contract for R4.8 million between the Mine Health and Safety Council and CulArt Productions was signed on 18 October 2017, but interestingly CulArt received its first payment of R444 600 on 13 September 2017 – more than a month before the signing of the contract.

The contract between the council and CulArt states in paragraph 5.1 that the agreement shall commence on the effective date (non-given) and shall be valid for a period of three months from the commencement date. Paragraph 5.2 states that the services must be rendered and completed within two months.

To date, CulArt has been paid R6 295 950.46 without a sign of the memorial’s existence.

This is not the first time CulArt has been involved in dodgy dealings with the government. In 2011 faked invoices were allegedly submitted to the Department of Arts and Culture for CulArt’s involvement with South Africa’s participation at the Venice Biennale exhibition that year.

Minister Mantashe has yet to answer why CulArt received payment before the contract was signed or why the project that should have been completed in 2017 has to date cost 30% more than the original contract.

A country with a heritage as diverse as ours needs a plan that serves all its people

As our country pauses today to celebrate Heritage Day, we are reminded once more of just how diverse and colourful our nation is. We don’t share a single heritage, nor even a common idea of what heritage means. Today South Africans will be celebrating in a thousand different ways. Some of it will be serious and reflective, and some of it will be light-hearted and fun.

And that’s fine. This diversity of approach to Heritage Day reflects the diversity of our country. We truly are a melting pot of people, cultures and ideas. But that doesn’t mean we must live our lives separately, divided from one another by these demographic features. Our future is still one, united South Africa, and our only way of achieving a prosperous future for all is by pooling our resources and ideas.

Only one party in South Africa can offer such a truly rich diversity of ideas and that’s the DA. Across all levels of our structures and governments, our party, more than any other, personifies the rainbow nation. And this is because we were brought together not by a race or a language or a religion, but by a set of common values and a shared belief in what it will take to fix our country.

It is from this diverse pool of DA people that our newly adopted policies and principles were born. And because our party is not driven by a specific racial or ethnic nationalism, we were able to put the needs of South Africans at the front and centre of our policy offer. The most diverse party embarked on the most diverse approach to writing policy, and the result is a set of policies that truly cater for all South Africans.

No other major party can say that. When they all speak of “our people”, the understanding is clear that there is an “us” and a “them”. But when the DA speaks of our people, it simply means South Africans. And when we write, debate and adopt our policies, we emerge with a complex plan that serves each and every citizen.

This is also why we adopted non-racialism as a guiding principle for the party. It is not only possible, but entirely necessary to fix our country’s unjust past by focusing on the devastating effects of this past, rather than creating further divides between us.

The way this debate has raged in recent weeks, it is hard to imagine that there was a time not so long ago when non-racialism was considered a noble principle by all – one that just about every South African claimed to aspire to. And this includes the members of the ruling alliance. But how times have changed.

Supporting the idea that we are so much more than products of our skin colour should not be a controversial position, and I know that sanity will eventually prevail and many of those who now try to paint non-racialism as some kind of radical idea will eventually come full circle.

Until then, the DA will not waver in our principles. The days of this party blowing with the prevailing winds are done. We are not a weathervane. We are a fixed signpost for people to follow. And one of the foundations that solidly moors this signpost is the idea that a non-racial society, where people are judged by the content of their character, is the only one worth fighting for.

This is why there is a new energy flowing through the DA at the moment. The party is genuinely enthused by the outcome of our recent policy conference, and we are looking forward to our virtual Federal Congress at the end of next month. Because the real work starts then, as we prepare to take our offer to the people of South Africa in the build up to next year’s local government election. We know our offer is good one.

DA takes a firm stance against incitement of xenophobic violence on social media following @Lerato_Pillay exposé

Please find attached a soundbite by Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is considering legislative options to specifically and explicitly make online disinformation campaigns designed to foment hatred and incite violence, a crime.

This follows the revelation today that Sifiso Jeffrey Gwala, a former soldier, is the person behind the “anonymous” Twitter account previously known as @uLerato_pillay, which has been accused of inciting xenophobic tensions in South Africa.

The Constitutional Court recently gave Parliament 18 months to fix the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. My colleague Glynis Breytenbach MP, will propose the inclusion of a section specifically dealing with hate speech laden disinformation campaigns in the digital space that incite violence, while at the same time protecting freedom of speech.

While S16(1) of the Constitution already prohibits incitement of violence, we believe that given the growing proliferation of disinformation and incitement of violence in the digital space and on social media in particular, it needs to be made an explicit criminal act in enabling legislation, and dedicated digital investigators be allocated to this objective.

Disinformation is harmful to South Africa’s democracy as it subverts political discourse, not only inciting violence, but creating racial tensions as we saw during the Bell Pottinger saga.

The government, save for empty press statements, has not taken any concrete steps to take legal action against those who spread disinformation designed to foment hatred against any group in South Africa, including foreign nationals resident in our country legally. Our Constitution makes it clear that: “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.”

The DA thanks the Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) for its ongoing work to expose disinformation, as it has done with the @Lerato_Pillay account. Its work to promote objective truth as a foundation of government for and by people and to protect democratic institutions and norms from those who would seek to undermine them in the digital engagement space is laudable.

We live in a digital era, and most political engagement now happens online. Any Bell Pottinger-esque attempts to manipulate those discussions for nefarious reasons undermines our democracy. We call on all of South Africa to be united against any dastardly efforts to manipulate our discussions about the future of our country.

Fighting this requires a collaboration between NGOs, Parliament, government and indeed, an active citizenry The Democratic Alliance will do its part in Parliament as the official opposition to make sure that legislation is in place to protect our democracy against harmful disinformation, while at the same time protecting freedom of speech.

DA welcomes Ledwaba’s reinstatement – but SAFA must still be investigated

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the move to reinstate Ria Ledwaba as vice-president of the South African Football Association (SAFA), after the association unfairly removed her for writing a letter to the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa seeking his intervention.

This move comes after former Mamelodi Sundowns managing director, Natasha Tsichlas, decided to withdraw from SAFA vice presidency position, which she was unanimously appointed to, and suggested to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of SAFA that Ledwaba should be restored to her position instead.

Ledwaba was removed for allegedly writing to Minister Mthethwa asking for his intervention in the manner in which some matters have had been handled at SAFA, under the leadership of Danny Jordan. The letter called for the Minister to address the serious concerns within the organisation including “decisions [that] are taken which are not in accordance with the SAFA constitution.”

Therefore, the move to reinstate Ledwaba on SAFA’s part is nothing more than a stance to save face and shield SAFA from impending damages that would have resulted from a prolonged and lengthy arbitration process, which SAFA knew very well that it will lose.

As much as we are pleased that Ledwaba has been reinstated, this does not mean SAFA is off the hook. The association including its President, Danny Jordaan must still account for the governance issues and the alleged administration interference raised by Ledwaba that resulted in her dismissal.

The DA reiterates its call for an investigation into the allegations against Jordaan as he has continually ran the association like it is his spaza shop; wielding his unfettered political power to advance his interests.

For a long time the South African public has been blinded by the work Danny Jordaan did to help bring the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup in South Africa, and ignoring the fact that his current actions are destroying SAFA.

Illegal occupation not the answer to LGBTQIA+ concerns

The DA Metro LGBTQIA+ Committee rejects the illegal occupation of a Camps Bay Airbnb establishment by a group identifying as “Queer” and “vulnerable”.

It is disingenuous that the group has chosen to put their interests above those of the thousands of workers employed in the Airbnb industry. It is surely foreseeable that homeowners will no longer offer their houses to-let as Airbnb tourist venues, if this can result in illegal occupation. By this single, attention-seeking action this group could destroy an entire industry and lead to massive job losses at a time when unemployment is nearing 40%.

Their action also, ironically, increases their vulnerability to public criticism and censure, and will predictably increase homophobia and queer vulnerability. This illegal occupation must be called out for what it is: ill-placed opportunism under the guise of social justice activism.

There are multiple avenues available for vulnerable queer Capetonians, not the least of which is the Pride Shelter, which operates from a DA run City of Cape Town property in Oranjezicht, but also with DA-run City of Cape Town Grant-In-Aid funding.

The concerns and fears of many in the LGBTQI community are real, and need a constant spotlight of awareness in tackling the present dangers and hostilities faced by the queer groupings.

Illegally occupying a property, causing untold uncertainty and damages to an industry brought to its knees in a Covid 19 world, and instigating the widespread disapproval, is reckless, self-indulgent, and counter productive.

It is also worth noting that the substantial deposit required to be paid to secure the accomodation is no small fee, and begs the question how that was deemed payable and why resources could not be allocated for a flat share by this particular group?

I strongly urge those occupying the establishment, if they are feeling vulnerable, to consider contacting the Pride Shelter or making contact with us as the DA’s LGBTQI champions in order to find a way forward that achieves their goals, without damaging public feelings and industry stability.

The Pride Shelter is contactable on ‭(021) 423-2871‬ and is located at 1 Molteno Road, Oranjezicht.

There is always a legal, peaceful and proactive way to surmount real challenges without resorting to illegal and unjustifiable actions which are irresponsible, unrealistic, selfish and alienate our own current and prospective allies in the quest for an inclusive society, respectful of queer rights.

#Jetgate: ANC will need to pay back at least R260k

Today the Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that the cost of chartering an 18-seater private jet from Pretoria or Johannesburg to Harare, Zimbabwe amounts to approximately R260 000. This is according to two independent companies that are experts in the field of luxury travel. This amount, however, does not include payment for landing rights, parking fees or on-board catering.

The amount that the ANC will have to pay back after its delegation abused public funds to illegally travel to Zimbabwe and back aboard the air force’s Falcon-900 aircraft will therefore amount to even more than this. However, until Treasury, in the interest of accountability and transparency, has confirmed the total amount, and explained how and when the ANC will repay the money, the DA as well as the public can merely speculate.

We therefore call on Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and National Treasury to break their silence on this matter and tell South Africa:

  1. How much must the ANC delegation pay back for their illicit use of the ZS-NAN jet?
  2. How did National Treasury arrive at this number?
  3. What are the terms of the repayment?

While many law-abiding citizens have had to pay fines and were criminalised by the government during the lockdown for simply going surfing or taking a jog, ANC members thought it within their set of special rules to board a State aircraft to attend party business. The ANC’s repayment of this money does not in any way absolve the party of the criminality of their actions. We will pursue this matter until all involved have been held to account to the full extent of the law.

The DA will not allow the ANC to continue to abuse their power and loot our State resources.

History made as DA scoops up two environmental awards

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Eastern Cape has scooped up two environmental awards in the prestigious Eco-Logic Awards hosted by Enviropaedia yesterday. The DA EC won Gold in the Eco-Innovation category and Silver in the Eco-Build category for the innovative plastic road, also known as the eco-friendly road which was built as a pilot project in Jeffrey’s Bay in the DA-run Kouga Municipality.

The event aims to identify individuals, organisations and communities that positively contribute to a sustainable world. The event is widely recognised as South Africa’s most glamorous green eco-calendar event and is made up out of 12 environmental categories, amongst others the Climate Change Award, the Water Conservation Award, the Eco-Build Award and the Eco-Innovation Award.

I approached the DA-run Kouga Municipality, under the leadership of Mayor Horatio Hendriks, to pilot the project after facing a disappointing dead stop by the ANC in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature, who vehemently opposed the idea.

The end result, which can been seen in Woltemade Street, Jeffreys Bay, came about due to an amazing team effort by various role-players such as the Kouga Municipality, SP Excell, who built the project at no charge to the municipality, and MacRebur who supplied the plastic product for the pilot. Without these early-onset adopters, who believed in this idea, the project would not have been possible.

This innovative method of road construction replaces a large percentage of bitumen with waste plastic in the road’s construction process. The result is a road using plastic as the polymer binder, which will suffer no potholes or edge breaks and will require no maintenance for up to 20 years, resulting in massive cost-savings.

The aim is to address a ‘triple threat’ of unemployment, the billion-rand roads maintenance backlog and also, very importantly, marine pollution. A standard ‘plastic road’ will contain 1.5 tons of waste plastic (1.8 million plastic bags) per kilometre. Plastic that would otherwise have ended up on landfills or in the ocean. This plastic would have to be collected, sorted and packaged, potentially providing an income for the unemployed, while simultaneously reducing the amount of plastic that can end up in oceans, of which South Africa is contributing approximately eight tons every year.

The DA will remain the only party that is forward thinking, innovative and able to embrace the fourth industrial revolution in moving into the future, creating jobs and embracing change

DA welcomes initiative to allow EC matrics to write exams in isiXhosa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes reports that the Department of Education is piloting a programme in the Eastern Cape that allows matric learners there to complete their examinations in isiXhosa.

The DA has always supported mother tongue education. If successfully executed this should be hugely beneficial to the isiXhosa matrics in the province and bodes well for the development of all 11 official South African languages into business and sciences languages.

The benefits of mother tongue education are proven and all children in South Africa should be given this option. Mother tongue education would go a long way in eradicating the gaps that still exist in education in the country today.

We call on the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to provide more detail of the intended programme before the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Basic Education. Should this pilot be successful, it should be implemented across all nine provinces and piloted for different grades.

Minister Didiza still refuses to provide list of Covid-19 beneficiaries

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, is still refusing to account to Parliament on which farmers received aid from the Covid-19 fund.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes that this information, which we requested almost four months ago, is of the utmost importance. With this information, the DA would be able to conduct valuable oversight on whether the money reached those it intended to benefit.

The DA did not ask for this information on a whim. We asked it in response to an ever-increasing amount of complaints from farmers about the vouchers the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) issued.

There have been numerous complaints of farmers not able to redeem vouchers because government is not settling the bills. There are complaints that the vouchers issued can only be redeemed at certain companies – this often means that farmers don’t receive their money’s worth due to inflated prices or that these companies don’t sell what the farmers need. And then there are of course those people that are trying to sell their vouchers as they are not farmers and should not have received vouchers in the first place.

We ask the Minister once again to answer our original question posted to her on 29 May:

(3) whether she will furnish Mrs A Steyn with a list of all successful applications of farmers; if not, why not, if so, on what date;
 
(4) what (a) amount did each farmer receive in each district, (b) is the name of each farmer who received the Covid-19 financial support and (c) are the contact details of each farmer?

The Minister must stop ducking and diving and follow Parliamentary process. If she fails to provide the information, as she promised to do during an oral Parliamentary question session on 18 August 2020, the DA will write to the Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Deputy-president David Mabuza, to intervene.

It is the DA’s job to provide oversight. The Minister knows this. Her refusal to answer what should have been an easy question does not bode well, and inevitably raises questions of Covid corruption at DALRRD.