Cabinet turns its back on 17 million vulnerable South Africans

In today’s post cabinet briefing, the Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, announced that the matter of the ongoing social grants issue was raised, but that cabinet would schedule time next week to deal with the complexities of the issue.
This is an outrageous abdication of responsibility and it should leave every South African angry.
With just over three weeks left until the deadline, this clearly demonstrates just how little the ANC cabinet cares about the 17 million vulnerable South Africans that depend on social grants as a lifeline.
It seems that the tendency to avoid accountability and responsibility is not unique to the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and the Department of Social Development but is also present throughout the Cabinet and the ANC as a whole.
For months Minister Dlamini and SASSA have been stalling on this issue and with just over three weeks to go, this crisis cannot be left without action from the Presidency and Cabinet for a moment longer.
We again urgently call on President Zuma to hand over the negotiations of the grants payment process to the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan. It is clear that Bathabile Dlamini cannot be trusted with the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans and should be relieved of her duties immediately.
The DA will continue to hold the Presidency and Cabinet to account for their negligence, seeing that the uncaring ANC government is failing to do the same. We will not allow the ANC to get away with depriving poor South Africans of their grants.

DA growth in Mangaung by-election a triumph

Strong growth by the Democratic Alliance in yesterday’s by-election in Ward 39 Mangaung, is a triumph for the party and shows increasing support for the DA in the Metro.
The DA surged in voter support, doubling our votes from the August 2016 elections, and bringing the ANC below 50% in this Ward for the first time. While the ANC nosedived by 6%, the DA grew by an outstanding 13% in this Ward.
This is a victory for the DA, and is in line with the trend of increasing DA support all across South Africa.
At the Ebenezer Pre-School voting station, in Morolong Township, DA support grew from 5,4% in 2016 to 19,4% yesterday. And at the Shammah Primary School voting station, in Taba Nchu, the DA achieved 24,1% of the vote yesterday, which is an enormous achievement in a voting district where the DA has previously obtained very few votes.
At both the Mmabana Community Hall voting station, and the Itireleng Tsoelopele Creche voting station, the DA beat the ANC for the first time. This shows that increasingly voters in areas previously considered ANC strongholds are making the choice to support the DA, and our brand of good governance, while turning their backs on Jacob Zuma’s ANC.
The DA is thrilled with this surge in support in Mangaung, and we thank the voters of Ward 39 who came out in their numbers to support us.
The DA looks forward to winning Ward 39 in future, as the trend continues to move us closer to shifting the just 8,5% now needed to overtake the ANC in this Ward.

State sponsorship of Jimmy Manyi and the Progressive Professionals Forum was simply wrong

Today, after bashing his critics on social media as “retards”, President of the Progressive Professionals Forum, Jimmy Manyi, finally called a press conference to fight back in the scandal surrounding the R840 000 received in “sponsorships” from Eskom and Transnet.
The fact is that sponsoring Jimmy Manyi and the Progressive Professionals Forum was simply wrong.
That is because the sponsorships:

  • could not possibly have advanced Eskom’s mission (“Powering the world”) or Transnet’s mission (“Delivering freight reliably”);
  • involved the use of public funds from state-owned enterprises, who are so cash strapped that they, in the case of Eskom, are squeezing consumers with electricity tariff hikes; and
  • supported an organization which is deeply involved in politics and which campaigns against the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, and National Treasury, who, ironically, not only guarantees Eskom’s R350 billion debt, but also masterminded Eskom’s R83 billion bailout.

We are not going to sit back and allow state departments, state-owned enterprises and public entities to be used as “washing machines” to recycle public funds to organizations pursuing political agendas on behalf of factions in the ruling party, or on behalf of families supporting factions in the ruling party, as it heads towards the ANC 54th Elective Conference.
We believe that the R840 000 in sponsorship received from Eskom and Transet is the tip of a big iceberg. And That is why we will be ramping up our investigation and will be:

  • probing whether public funds have been transferred by state departments, state-owned enterprises and public entities to the Progressive Professionals Forum, Decolonization Foundation and the Black Business Council;
  • submitting requests, in term of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (No. 2 of 2000), for copies the sponsorship policies employed by Eskom and Transnet; and
  • requesting the Audit-General, Kimi Makwetu, to investigate the sponsorships received from Eskom and Transnet.

We have to be sure that the sponsorships, received by Jimmy Manyi and the Progressive Professionals Forum, were in fact consistent with the sponsorships polices employed by Eskom and Transnet.
The fact is that in the end Jimmy Manyi and his Progressive Professionals Forum should not have received one cent from Eskom or Transnet.

Silent Mbalula must fire racist Sports spokesperson

The DA calls on the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, to immediately fire the Media and Communications Manager of the Department of Sport and Recreation, Esethu Hasane, for a racist statement posted on Twitter and Facebook.
On 27 February 2017, Hasane Tweeted that “Only Western Cape still has dry dams. Please God, we have black people there, choose another way of punishing white people.”
The fact that three days have passed and the minister has not fired Hasane or taken any action for that matter, means that he either shares this racist view or condones it. This would seem to contradict the minister’s previous views on racism and sport. Responding to racists comments made last year, he said that racists “have no place in our society and must be isolated as they take us backwards…”.
Hasane’s statement only serves to hurt and divide and he must be held to account. His racist statement is an indictment on the Department of Sport and Recreation and should not be tolerated.
Racists in this department should be permanently benched and therefore Mbalula must publically denounce the statement, distance himself and his department from it and fire Hasane.
The DA vehemently opposes all forms of discrimination. We want to build a non-racial, non-sexist South Africa, that belongs to all – based on the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity.

DA calls for Minister Cwele to explain his WOAN statement

The controversial statement by Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Dr Siyabonga Cwele, published in the media on 20 February 2017, stating that the controversial proposed national wireless network received widespread support from the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is apparently untruthful.
I have written to the acting chairperson of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, Ms Dikeledi Tsotetsi, to urgently call a meeting at which the Minister and communications network operators can put on the record the substance of the interactions between them.
The minister’s media statement was issued after his National ICT Forum hosted a meeting of ICT sector players on February 17 to discuss – in the main – the controversial national Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) outlined in the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper gazetted last October.
The minister maintained that, “the delegates supported the introduction of the Wholesale Open Access Network and made presentations on how it can be implemented”. He emphasised that now there was general agreement on the issue the focus needs to be on ‘speedy implementation’ of the policy.
It is important to note that the minister’s statement used the word ‘Wholesale’ instead of ‘Wireless’, which is the word used in the White Paper to name the network.
The ICT sector has been publicly silent on the minister’s statement. It took an article by Mr Leon Louw of the Free Market Foundation, who attended the February 17 meeting, to state that the Minister’s statement was untruthful on agreement about the WOAN. This article was attacked by the Minister’s spokesman Mr Siya Qoba.
My conversations with sector players this past week lead me to believe that Mr Louw’s criticism has credence.
This prompted my request to the committee’s acting chairperson to schedule a meeting for the last week on March at which both the Minister and the network operators can publicly state their plans and objections so pending legislation can be drafted to avoid lengthy litigation that may well be the outcome of laws on this controversial issue.

Storm brewing at South African Weather Service

The DA will today write to the Public Protector, Ms. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to request that she launch an investigation into allegations of corruption at the South African Weather Service (SAWS).
The DA will also be submitting charges against the board of SAWS for breaching Sections 50 (1) (a), 50 (1) (b), 50 (1) (c), 50 (2) (a), 50 (2) (b) and 50 (3) (a) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
This is in light of the suspended Chief Financial Officer of the SAWS, Ms. Marlize Hogendoorn, supported by an internal compliance report, raising a number of issues regarding irregularities at the state-owned entity.
A Presidential tipoff line received a call regarding allegations that the former Chief Executive of the SAWS, Dr Linda Makuleni, allegedly awarded herself and an executive with large bonuses whilst altering the bonuses down for other employees in 2015.
This claim was investigated by OMA Chartered Accountants and the findings were presented to the SAWS board in September 2016.
A compliance officer’s report was compiled, which found a number of issues regarding the bidding process, the signing of contracts and the authorisation level of the company secretary, which were all in breach of the PFMA.
It should be noted that at the time of the investigation, OMA had submitted a bid to be the audit firm for SAWS which would be a conflict of interest. A legal firm was then requested to look into the OMA Report, to review whether OMA should be paid for their services, however, the board’s selection of the legal firm was also in breach of the PFMA.
On the 22nd November 2016, the interim CEO, Ms Mmapula Kgari, overturned the executive committee’s decision to employ the legal services to investigate the OMA case, as she did not want to fight with Minister Edna Molewa. The CEO instead pushed for the OMA invoice to be paid.
When the CFO refused to authorise this irregular payment, she was suspended for ‘’poor performance”. This was following her bombshell notification of a potential case of fraud regarding a letter of guarantee for a radar project in the millions.
South African’s money cannot be wasted on supporting corrupt and fraudulent activities. The DA will continue to push for clean and competent governance within state-owned enterprises.

The Speaker is very poorly “informed”

In today’s meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee (NAPC), I repeated the DA’s call for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions.
On 21 February the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, responded to my question, posed during NAPC the week before, as to whether any reports of Chapter 9 Institutions had not yet been tabled. In her letter, she said: “I am informed that all reports from Chapter 9 Institutions that were submitted to my office were tabled and referred to the relevant parliamentary structures, including reports of the South African Human Rights Commission.”
Less than one week later, no fewer than three SAHRC reports were tabled on 27 February. One of these, a report on Investigative Hearing into Safety and Security Challenges in Farming Communities in South Africa, was released in October 2014! The other two reports, into the Impact of Protest-related Action on the Right to a Basic Education in South Africa and on Transformation at Public Universities in South Africa, were released in September and December 2016, respectively.
All three reports pertain to very pertinent issues.
It is disturbing that these reports were only tabled after the DA enquired about them. It is even more disturbing that the Speaker misled Parliament and myself. Increasingly, Parliament is failing to do its job and increasingly it quietly ‘self-corrects’ once the opposition points out their failings. This is a worrisome trend.
This latest mishandling of reports shows once again the urgency of establishing a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions, including reports completed by the Public Protector and the SAHRC.

Minister Dlamini summoned to appear before SCOPA

The DA welcomes the decision by SCOPA to summon the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, to account for the SASSA grants crisis.
Following the farcical SASSA engagement with SCOPA on Tuesday, which the minister chose to ignore, the DA urged the SCOPA chair to call the Minister alone to appear before the committee on Tuesday 7 March.
SCOPA sent a letter to the minister late on Tuesday evening requesting her attendance and are now awaiting a response.
The DA calls on the Minister to summon the courage to appear before SCOPA, face the music and come clean on her plans, or lack thereof, to ensure that the 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans who depend on social grants each month receive their grants on 1 April 2017.
Since this crisis became public knowledge, Minister Dlamini has evaded every opportunity for accountability. She has continuously prioritised campaigning for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, rather than prioritising the millions of poor South Africans who depend on her to put their interests first.
If the Minister fails to accept this invitation, she will once again prove that the ANC does not care about the poor and vulnerable in our society.
Date: Tuesday 7 March 2017
Time: 09:00
Venue: V454; Fourth Floor, Old Assembly Building, Parliament

Attack on Balfour disabled home highlights desperate need for Rural Safety Units

The desperate need for rural safety units has once again been highlighted by yet another brutal attack on vulnerable members of our society.
On Tuesday night, 10 men attacked the Sunfield Fortuna home for intellectually disabled people in Balfour and demanded money while threating to kill the home’s manager and other residents.
The attackers only left the home when the manager had written them a cash cheque worth R20,000.00 because there was no money on the premises. This incident comes just three weeks after 4 members of the Smuts family were brutally murdered on their farm in Balfour.
It is clear that crime is a problem that affects all members of society particularly defenceless people living in rural areas. The longer it takes to address crime in rural areas, the longer vulnerable members of our society are left at the mercy of ruthless criminals.
Residents of the home have been left severely traumatised by the incident.
Crime in rural areas requires a specialised force that is equipped to deal with the specific challenges of policing in rural areas. We call for the urgent attention of the government to implementing Rural Safety Units immediately.
Every person should feel safe and protected in our country instead of feeling like they are more at risk of being attacked just because they live in a rural area. The DA will continue to fight for the safety and protection of rural communities.

Confused Mbalula must scrap Commonwealth Games

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s flip flop and lack of clear direction on Durban’s intention to host the 2022 Commonwealth games is enough reason to scrap the event.
The prognosis is simple, South Africa can not afford to host such an expensive sporting event. Limited fiscal space, low economic growth and growing unemployment, especially among the youth, require that resources are spent on expanding opportunities for our lost generation.
Prioritising a sporting event over jobless South Africans will simply be a betrayal of the worst kind.
In a 2016 Parliamentary reply, Minister Mbalula, did not rule out hosting the games but indicated that his Department was in the process of obtaining information from Durban on whether the City was able to host the games. Yesterday, in an about turn, he indicated that “it doesn’t look good for Durban’s hopes of hosting the games”.
Today, he released a statement in which he indicated that talks between the South African government and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CFG) were still ongoing. This is a reflection of the level of confusion within the Department of Sport and creates uncertainty over an issue which should never have been involved in at all.
The Minister needs to be honest and inform South Africans that we will no longer be hosting the games. Minister Pravin Gordhan, in his budget speech, indicated that we need to reign in on government borrowing and the widening budget deficit. If Durban goes ahead and hosts the games, budget cuts will have to be made from essential social services to free up money to fund the event.
In 2014, the city of Glasgow spent £575 million (R11,8 billion) on the Commonwealth Games. This is enough to fund all the students who have been denied funding by NSAFS for the 2017 academic year.
The DA will not stand by while scarce resources are spent on non-priority pursuits instead of the urgent need for jobs, entrepreneurial seed funding and education opportunities for our youth.