Government’s failures to blame for loss of lives and livelihoods during third wave

The restrictions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa this evening are only necessary because of his administration’s failure to acquire and secure an adequate supply of vaccines, failure to design and implement an efficient vaccine rollout, and failure to build healthcare capacity.

Had they acquired and administered vaccines timeously, lives and livelihoods would have been protected during the third wave. Instead, South Africans will suffer needless loss. Some people will pay for government’s failure with their lives. Others will lose their loved ones. Many will lose their livelihoods. Everyone’s lives will be disrupted. Put on hold in myriad ways, from children losing out on schooling and school-feeding and sporting activities to everyone losing out on precious time with friends and family. All at the hands of an uncaring, incompetent, corrupt government.

The DA has called for a comprehensive parliamentary inquiry into government’s handling of the vaccine programme. There must be accountability for this failure. Just as there must be full and speedy accountability for Health Minister Zweli Mkhize’s role in the Digital Vibes scandal. The people of this country resent paying his salary while he is on extended special leave.

Even in the absence of a successful rollout programme, many of these restrictions could have been avoided had other provincial governments ensured enough hospital beds, oxygen and human resource capacity to be able to provide life-saving treatment to all those in need.

The DA and Western Cape premier, Alan Winde, have consistently called for a differentiated approach depending on provincial readiness, and for provinces to have more power to determine their own response. The Western Cape has built enough hospital capacity to ensure that no-one is denied life-saving treatment, and so should not have to suffer the same restrictions of provinces which have made little to no effort to build capacity.

The Gauteng government’s failure to repair and re-open the 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital which was damaged by fire on 16 April is a case in point.

Resorting to alcohol bans, curfews and restrictions on restaurant capacity is a tacit admission that government has failed to do its actual job. Many of these restrictions are ineffectual and are being imposed to create the illusion of doing something. The illusion government needs to create because while the men and women and children of this country have done their bit and sacrificed much to mitigate the damage from the virus, government officials have done little and sacrificed nothing, being more focused on looting Covid funds.

If anything, the Ramaphosa administration has actively harmed society with ill-considered regulations and by standing in the way of people solving their own problems.

While the restrictions imposed this evening are mostly unnecessary, it should be noted that government’s response to the third wave is a far cry from their heavy-handed response to the first and second waves, when they responded with much harder and more damaging lockdowns. This is a tacit admission that the DA was right back in early April 2020 to call for an end to the hard lockdown that was costing the country an estimated R13 billion per day and condemning millions of people to hunger and poverty.

So many lives and livelihoods would have been saved had the DA been in national government during this pandemic. Because unlike the ANC, the DA gets things done.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

The time for change is now

My fellow Democrats

I might not be able to see all of you in front of me right now, but I know you’re there. This virtual rally is connecting us from every corner of the country.

We have watching parties in Bloemfontein and Rustenburg and Upington and Lusikisiki and Richards Bay and Polokwane and Saldanha Bay, and Soweto. This blue wave is spreading far and wide today.

I know there’s a buzz in all our provincial DA offices, and at homes where people have gathered to follow this rally online. I have felt this buzz of anticipation in the weeks leading up to today as I traveled across the country and spoke with our branches, our caucuses and our staff.

Of course we all miss doing these things live, in person. I’d much rather be standing in front of you right now. But if there’s one thing we’ve come to learn about our party this past year, it’s that we adapt to whatever challenge is put in front of us.

We innovate to find a way around, over or through, and then we get on with it. Because we know we have a big and urgent job to do, and there is no time to waste.

We have our eyes firmly set on a target, and that target is the 27th of October. Nothing will deter us.

But not everyone seems to share this urgency and this eagerness to go to the polls in October. Our opponents are trying their best to wriggle their way out of it.

They’re either simply not prepared for this campaign, or they fear what voters might say to them on the day. And so they talk about postponing, and they make up excuses.

But we will have none of that. The DA is marching confidently towards 27 October, ready for the challenge and the contest. We started our preparations a long time ago, when others were still asleep, and we are ready to take our message to South Africans in every community across the country.

Our public representatives are standing by. Our activists are standing by. Our staff members are standing by. We know this won’t be a normal campaign, but nothing this past year has been normal. And the DA has risen to the challenge, consistently, like no other party.

We have done our homework, we have built up our momentum, and we’re now ready to take on the ANC in municipalities across the country, as well as defend our own municipalities.

But I also want you to be aware of the responsibility that comes with this challenge. You must know that the DA is the only hope for turning South Africa around. We are the only party with the size, the reach, the vision, the policies and the people to be able to speak seriously and realistically about change.

We simply have to succeed, and we have to do so soon. Every municipality, every ward, every voting district that turns blue in October is one step closer to this goal.

South Africa needs this election, this year, because change cannot wait.

It’s no secret that many of our towns and cities are literally falling apart.

The list of municipalities in critical condition is now longer than the list of those that still function properly.

Service delivery has collapsed in hundreds of towns. Taps are about to run dry in the Eastern Cape. Budgets are being slashed everywhere, from housing to street maintenance to school toilets.

Municipalities owe billions and billions to Eskom and are on the brink of being disconnected.

The massive local government failure in recent years has left many communities almost unliveable. And people have had enough of this.

They’ve had to watch as politicians live it up in luxury, but then turn around and say to them: “Sorry, we just don’t have the money to replace the pit toilets at your child’s school with proper, safe toilets like we said we would. Maybe next year.”

“Sorry, but there is nothing we can do right now about the raw sewage that’s been running down your street for months.”

Or, as we read in a report just released: “Sorry but the almost R40 billion given by Treasury to municipalities over the past six years to fund free electricity to poor households has just disappeared without any of this electricity having been supplied.”

There are hundreds of stories like this of local government failures that have made people’s lives incredibly hard. Never before has it been so clear and so visible in so many places that South Africa needs change.

People are angry, and they have every right to be. We see service delivery protests every single day, right across the country.

Sometimes, just before elections, these protests actually bring some results. When the governing party realises that their failures could be punished, they quickly spring into action with a few visible projects or promises.

However, for the rest of the time – for the other four and a half years in between elections – these communities don’t see or hear from their government. Their pleas and protests are simply ignored.

But there is another form of protest that is guaranteed to get better results, and that is the protest you register with your vote.

That simple little action of drawing a cross in a block on your ballot paper carries more power and brings more change than a thousand tyres burnt and a thousand stones thrown.

That’s why this year is so critical. Millions of South Africans who have been left to fend for themselves – to find their own water, to clean up their own sewage, to cook without electricity, to do all the things their local government was employed to do – have this small but powerful window of opportunity every five years to say: No, that’s not good enough.

Once every five years they get to do a performance review of their local government. And if they’re not satisfied with what they’ve seen, they can say to their government: You had your chance to do your job. In fact, you had many chances, but you blew it. And now we’re firing you, because there must be consequences for failure.

That’s how you bring change.

If you don’t use this opportunity, then things will stay the same for at least another five years.

Albert Einstein once said “Nothing happens unless something is moved.” He may have been talking about physics, but this principle applies to everything in life. If you expect to see an action, a result or a change, then something first has to be moved.

And the way a democracy works is that you have to do the moving. You have to set in motion the change. No one can do that for you.

The very first words written down in the preamble to our Constitution are: “We, the people….”

Because that’s where everything starts, and that’s where all the power and all the responsibility lies: We, the people.

But this line also means something else. “We, the people” means that that we are one people, united in our rich diversity. Our future and our strength as a country depends on this. We cannot slip back into separate little corners of racial or cultural or language identity.

We have to find our common ground and our shared vision for South Africa.

But even more importantly, we have to fight for each other and speak up for each other. We’ll only ever be as strong as the most vulnerable among us, and so the plight of the poorest is also everyone’s plight.

The poverty that has swept across our country, ruining lives and ripping families apart, should offend and anger each and every one of us.

That is our crisis. That is our number one enemy. That’s what stands in the way of our progress as a nation.

And it is a crisis so big and so daunting that our government doesn’t even know where to start fixing it. Or how.

30 million South Africans live below the poverty line. That’s half our population.

42% of working-age South Africans don’t have jobs. That’s almost half our adult population.

And this poverty affects people in a terrifying way. It overshadows every aspect of their lives. It takes away their dreams and it threatens their very survival.

We dare not become accustomed to it. We dare not accept it as a given in our society – a problem so big and entrenched that there’s nothing we can do to solve it. Because poverty and unemployment do have solutions. We’re just not doing those things right now.

Our economic landscape has to change. It has to be reformed, but not in the way government wants to do it.

It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game, where one person loses so that another person can win. That kind of thinking will never change the lives of 30 million poor South Africans. It will only ever replace a few wealthy people with a few other wealthy people.

The only meaningful way to reform our economy is to lift millions of South Africans out of poverty and into jobs and opportunity. To give them a stake in their own future and the ability to build for themselves a life of dignity and independence.

If a solution isn’t aimed at doing this, it’s not a solution. Or at least, it’s not a solution to the crisis we should be solving.

Everything we do – every intervention, every policy, every line item in our budget spend – has to be judged by its impact on poverty and unemployment. And by this I mean its real-life impact, not its stated intention.

We have to be brutally honest when we assess these things. And that begins with asking the right questions, even if the answers are not what all of us want to hear.

Is this intervention targeted at poor South Africans, or is it really aimed at re-empowering the already-empowered?

Will this policy make South Africa a more attractive place to potential investors, or will it scare future business away?

Will these rules make it easier for a business to start up and survive or does it demand the impossible of employers?

Does this legislation protect the unemployed too, or only those who already have jobs?

Does this policy build non-racialism, or does it further divide us?

Only when we start answering these questions honestly, will we be in a position to start winning the war on poverty.

This crisis won’t be solved by who says what at the Zondo Commission.

It won’t be solved by who steps aside in the ANC and who doesn’t.

It won’t be solved by keeping dying state-owned companies afloat with billions of Rands that should be spent on more important things.

And it most certainly won’t be solved by doing all the same old things that got us into this situation in the first place.

Don’t expect to see a change if you don’t make one.

Fellow Democrats, our party is the one that has to make this change.

Only the DA understands that economic growth and job creation have to trump all other priorities and ideologies if we want to beat poverty.

Only the DA stands for values that protect and advance the rights of all the people of South Africa, and not only a certain group.

Only the DA respects the sanctity of public money and doesn’t tolerate corruption and mismanagement of funds.

Only the DA is committed to building a capable, fit-for-purpose state.

Only the DA has a national footprint big enough to be able to represent every person in every community, and to challenge the dominance of the ANC.

And, importantly, only the DA has already been handed a mandate, by voters, in metros and municipalities to demonstrate how it would govern differently from the ANC. And this has given us a track record of excellence that no other party can claim.

We don’t have to speak about what we would do in government, like every other party. Because frankly, that’s easy. Anyone can do this. The DA speaks about what it has achieved in government, and those achievements put ANC governments to shame.

The top 5 best-run municipalities in South Africa are all governed by the DA. The best-run metro is governed by the DA. And the best-run province is governed by the DA. That’s not my opinion – that’s according to independent audits and rankings.

This doesn’t mean these places are perfect. We know that there are still many challenges we need to solve and areas we need to improve on. But it is a matter of undisputed fact that where the DA governs citizens are better off and have a better chance of living a life of opportunity and dignity.

And that is what we now need to build on – to bring this DA difference to even more communities and people.

We’ve got a record of action and a promise of more.

But it is not something we can do alone. We need to harness the power of the people. We have to remind voters that “We, the people” speaks about them and their responsibilities in our democracy.

I know many South Africans are tired of politics. They’re tired of governments that don’t work and politicians that don’t do what they say. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We need to reignite the flame of democracy.

Every South African has a role to play in bringing about change. And so I encourage those who want to be part of it to go to time4change.org.za – that’s time4change written with the number 4 – and sign our pledge that says “I’m committed to getting South Africa working again”.

Let us all become active citizens and take ownership of our future.

Let us make sure our names are on the voters’ roll on the registration weekend of 17 and 18 July.

Let us declare poverty the enemy of the people, and let us not rest until every South African has dignity and security.

Let us find our common ground and stand united for a common cause. Because when we join hands we will discover that there are millions of us who want the same thing for our country. Millions of us who want change.

Let us rediscover the power that the people have in our democracy, and let us take it back from a government that has long ago stopped caring about the people.

The time for change is now.

Thank you.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

DA welcomes ruling for Zuma to pay back taxpayers’ money

The DA welcomes a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal today confirming that former President Jacob Zuma must pay back the money that the State spent on his personal legal costs.

The DA previously obtained an order to this effect from the High Court, which Mr. Zuma then took to the SCA on appeal. Today’s judgment dismissed Mr. Zuma’s appeal and confirms that the State Attorney is only obliged to act if it is in the Government’s or the public’s interest to do so. This was Mr. Zuma’s personal legal battle and he had no right to fund it with tax-payer money.

The DA takes strong exception to any abuse of public funds by current or former public officials, including former Presidents.

Mr. Zuma’s tenure in office was disastrous for South Africa, its economy, and our hard-won democracy. We are still reeling from the effects of State Capture and the hollowing out of public institutions that accompanied it. This a victory not for the DA alone, but for all South Africans, our Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

One year of lockdown, President Ramaphosa owes SA answers to these critical questions

Tomorrow marks exactly one year since President Ramaphosa announced that our country was going into lockdown in order to buy time to augment our healthcare system and put in place a track and trace programme. This preparation time was initially going to be three weeks, which became five weeks, then months, and eventually a full year. After all this time, we are no more prepared to deal with Covid-19 than we were back then. If anything, we are worse off thanks to a catastrophic failure to procure vaccines.

One year on we are still using lockdowns – or the threat of lockdowns – to slow the spread, as our healthcare capacity is nowhere near what it should be, our track and trace system never properly got off the ground and our vaccine rollout is still non-existent. According to the Ministerial Advisory Committee’s Ian Sanne, “Delaying the next surge in coronavirus infections would buy more time to prepare the health system and vaccinate vulnerable people,” said committee member Ian Sanne. A year later we are still talking of “buying more time” through lockdowns.

All that this ongoing lockdown – under the cover of the indefinitely-renewed Disaster Management Act – has done is to transfer government’s responsibilities onto the citizens, and make them pay a heavy price for government’s failures. That price was confirmed in a report just published by the United Nations University’s World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), where it was found that the consequences of lockdowns are especially severe and long-lasting for the most vulnerable South Africans. According to the report, half the people living in informal housing on the fringes of South Africa’s urban centres lost their main source of income, two-thirds of them ran out of money for food and one third went hungry during the initial lockdown.

The survivalist strategies of poor South Africans are severely undermined by constant economic disruptions. The cost of any further lockdown will far outweigh the benefit, so other than restrictions on large gatherings – and particularly indoor gatherings – there cannot be justification for any escalation of our lockdown levels.

Using lockdowns to “buy time” comes at a cost that our government, secure in their own guaranteed income, just doesn’t seem to grasp. But this is made far worse by the fact that the only way out of this predicament is a fast and comprehensive vaccine rollout, and this has been completely botched. We still don’t have a rollout plan and we still don’t have the vaccines for such a plan, and this is entirely due to the fact that government only woke up six months after the rest of the world, and then proceeded to blame everyone except itself for this deadly vaccine procurement failure.

To cover up this failure, government is deliberately using vague messaging around its vaccine procurement process that gives no real answers and is simply meant to placate the public and the media. For this reason I have submitted a set of precise questions to the President for which we want precise answers. If we expect citizens to buy into this vaccination effort, they are going to have to trust government, and the only way this will happen is through full transparency and accountability. I have asked the President to respond to these questions by Friday 2 April.

The DA is also considering its legal options to place further pressure on government in this regard and compel them to play open cards. South Africans are heading into a potential third wave of transmissions with no hard information. Even if it is bad news, people need to know what is going on. Vague terms like vaccines “secured for arrival in the third quarter” are essentially meaningless. People need honest answers to these critical questions. I have urged President Ramaphosa to take personal control of this process and to inject a sense of urgency into it. He needs to ensure that there is a workable plan. And he needs to be open and clear with the public, to win back their trust in this most critical of all programmes.

This is the full list of questions we submitted to the President:

  1. Which vaccines have been ordered? How many doses of each vaccine? What are the actual confirmed dates for delivery? Please provide receipts and contracts.
  2. How many calls have you made personally to vaccine suppliers? Which suppliers? What was the outcome?
  3. Please provide proof and dates of all correspondence between your administration (or those acting on behalf of your administration) and each of the vaccine suppliers that have been approached in attempts to procure vaccines.
  4. Please explain why South African production facilities in Nelson Mandela Bay are being used to produce 300 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by Aspen Pharmacare and yet SA is not going to get a single one of these doses? Why are we not front of the queue since they are being produced here?
  5. When will your government publish a detailed, implementable rollout plan?
  6. Why was no detailed rollout plan prepared last year? And why is there no detailed rollout plan as yet?
  7. When will government’s official rollout begin? The current “rollout”, as you know, is merely an extension of an existing Johnson & Johnson trial around existing trial sites, and is being run by trial scientists, not by your government.
  8. Why has the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still not been approved for general rollout in South Africa? Why is it taking so long, given that the US Food and Drug Administration has approved it?
  9. Why was the AstraZeneca vaccine sold without being offered to high-risk people on a volunteer basis, given that high-risk individuals have no other options going into the third wave, and given that the AstraZeneca vaccine would still have given them protection from severe disease and death, even if it doesn’t stop transmission? Why did you go against the advice of Professor Shabir Mahdi, who ran the clinical trials for the AstraZeneca vaccine here in South Africa, and of the World Health Organisation?
  10. By which date will all 1.5 million healthcare workers be vaccinated? (Phase 1)
  11. By which date will all those in the high-risk group be vaccinated? (Phase 2)
  12. By which date will the vaccination be available to the general public?
  13. By which date will 67% of the South African population be vaccinated against Covid-19?
  14. In your State of the Nation Address last month, you acknowledged that the vaccine programme is South Africa’s top priority. Why then have you delegated this most important of all programmes to your Deputy President, who is widely known to be corrupt?
  15. What has the Deputy President done so far to expedite the process of vaccine procurement and rollout?

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status

Zondo Commission confirms receipt of DA’s questions to Ramaphosa on cadre deployment

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Leader John Steenhuisen MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has received confirmation of receipt from the Zondo Commission of a series of questions directed at President Cyril Ramaphosa pertaining to his role as the chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee. The questions were submitted on the 2nd of February 2021.

The DA has also submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the ANC to obtain a full record of cadre deployment discussions, decisions, minutes of meetings, and other relevant information since President Ramaphosa became its cadre deployment committee chairperson in 2013.

We trust that in the interests of accountability and transparency in the wake of State Capture, Judge Zondo will ensure that these questions are put to President Ramaphosa when he testifies at the Zondo Commission between the 22nd and 29th of April 2021.

The full list of questions is as follows:

1. When did you become the chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee? When did you cease to be chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee? Did you serve on the committee prior to becoming its chairperson? Given your years as chairperson, would you say that you are well-acquainted with the workings of the committee?

2. Why does the ANC have a cadre deployment committee? What is the intention behind the party’s long-standing policy of cadre deployment?

3. Please explain the workings of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee. How does it go about identifying people it wishes to have appointed to powerful positions in the public sector? How does it come to know of vacancies in the public sector? What are the criteria it uses to select people? Is “loyalty” to the ANC one of the criteria?

4. Once the deployment committee has identified its preferred candidate, how is that preference communicated to officials in the state?

5. Are you aware of any instance where the ANC’s cadre deployment committee, or a member of the committee, informed a selection panel, executive authority or any other appointing authority in the state of their preferred choice for appointment to a position of influence in the public sector?

6. Do you believe that pressure being exerted by a political party on the state with the intention of influencing appointment decisions violates the principle of the separation between party and state?

7. Are you aware of any instance where a political party aside from the ANC has ever enjoyed the privilege of informing a selection process that they wanted one of their members appointed to a particular position in the public sector?

8. If not, would it then be reasonable to say that only the ANC enjoys the distinct privilege of advising the state on key appointments?

9. Would it also be accurate to say that as the former chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee, you believe that senior positions in the public service, the public administration, state-owned entities, municipalities and other government agencies should be staffed primarily by people who have proven themselves to be “loyal” to the ANC?

10. Once a person is selected as the preferred candidate by the ANC’s deployment committee, and that decision is communicated to officials in the state, does that person then enjoy an advantage over other applicants who were not selected by the committee, or who may not be member of the ANC?

11. Section 197 (3) of the Constitution stipulates that “No employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause.”

Given that cadre deployment is expressly designed to favour members of the ANC deemed “loyal” by the deployment committee while being prejudiced against applicants who are not members of the ANC when it comes to appointment decisions, do you agree that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment violates section 197 (3) of the Constitution?

12. Section 9 (2) of the Constitution further stipulates that “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

Given that cadre deployment in practice disadvantages applicants who do not express a favourable “conscience” or “belief” towards the ANC – as measured through the deployment committee’s assessment of “loyalty” to the party – do you agree that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment amounts to unfair discrimination and violates 9 (3) of the Bill of Rights?

13. Could you confirm under oath whether you have ever seen the memorandum entitled “Deployment Committee Procedures,” issued by the Secretary-General’s Office last year? Can you confirm the authenticity of this memorandum? (Attached)

14. Can you confirm whether the following procedures, outlined in the memorandum, accurately reflect the process currently being followed by the ANC’s cadre deployment committee: “The office of the Deputy Secretary General should be informed of all posts prior to them being advertised and be sent the advert once they have been published. This process is to allow for Comrades who meet the criteria on the database to be allowed to apply…No appointment should be taken to cabinet without passing through the deployment committee first.”

15. In particular, can you confirm that it is the policy of the ANC that “No appointment should be taken to cabinet without passing through the deployment committee first”?

16. Can you confirm whether the ANC continues to implement its policy of cadre deployment to this very day?

17. Between the time that you served as chairperson of the committee under President Zuma and the present day, would you say that there have been any substantive changes to how cadre deployment operates in the ANC? Or would you say that it broadly still operates in the same manner as when you were chairperson?

18. During her testimony delivered in November 2018, former minister Barbara Hogan described the ANC deployment committee as “a handful of people [that] just simply decide that this is their preferred candidate, on what basis, what transparency is there?” She went on to say that “the ANC saw it as their right to instruct a minister who should be appointed and not appointed. That is an abuse of power and that is usurping executive authority…It cannot be that closeness too or membership of the ANC should be the determining factors in the selection of candidates to senior positions.”

Do you agree with Hogan’s assessment of cadre deployment? If not, why not?

19. As the chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee during President Zuma’s tenure, do you agree that you were complicit in what Hogan calls “an abuse of power that is usurping executive authority?”

20. Do you accept responsibility for the appointments that were made while you were chairperson of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee?

21. Do you agree that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment – which appears to value political “loyalty” to the ANC over demonstrated merit – was a key element that enabled corruption and state capture through the appointment of unsuitable individuals into positions of power?

22. Do you believe that, in the absence of the ANC policy of cadre deployment and with a stronger separation between party and state, it would have been more difficult for nefarious actors to gain control over the levers of power in the state?

23. Do you believe that the country’s current public administration legal framework provides inadequate safeguards against state capture? In what ways do you believe it may be inadequate?

24. Do you believe that the outlawing of cadre deployment and the bolstering of the separation between party and state would be an important element of preventing state capture and corruption in the future?

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status

President Ramaphosa must explain his unethical decision to sell the only Covid-19 vaccines we have

Please find attached soundbite by John Steenhuisen MP.

South Africa has only administered 182 983 doses of Covid-19 vaccine, meaning we are hopelessly missing even our unambitious target of vaccinating 1 million healthcare workers by the end of March. By now we should have vaccinated 710 000, meaning we’re missing our unambitious target by 75%.

Incomprehensibly, not one single dose of Covid-19 vaccine was administered over the long weekend on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

The South African government will tell you this is because they have no vaccines. Yet they sold one million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine over the weekend, that had been sitting in storage in Gauteng.

President Ramaphosa must explain this unethically irrational decision.

These vaccines could and should have been administered to high-risk individuals (older people and those with co-morbidities) to protect them from severe disease and death, and to protect hospitals from becoming overrun and our economy from being locked down, when the third wave inevitably arrives.

On 10 February, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize tweeted: “What will happen to the current doses already in South Africa will depend on the advice from leading scientists.”

Well, leading scientists in South Africa and in the World Health Organisation and in the European Medicines Agency all advised that these doses should be administered to high-risk individuals.

We should not entertain government’s explanation that the AstraZeneca vaccine is not suitable for the B. 1351 variant circulating in the South African population.

Professor Shabir Mahdi, who headed the trials of the AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa, said on 4 February: “there remains a strong biologically plausible reason to expect the AstraZeneca vaccine will protect against severe disease due to the B. 1351 variant, likely to a similar magnitude as the J&J vaccine.”

He went on to say: “these first-generation Covid-19 vaccines even in settings such as SA still provide the only sustainable option of preventing flooding of our hospitals with severe Covid-19 cases and mitigate Covid-19 deaths once the next resurgence is upon us. Hence, the decision by SA not to deploy the vaccine goes against the spirit of what was previously espoused by the department of health — that it would take its lead from WHO recommendations. Furthermore, this decision inadvertently leads itself to choosing between leaving high-risk individuals largely unprotected against being hospitalised and dying of Covid-19, as opposed to rolling out the available AstraZeneca vaccine. It is largely premised on this, that the World Health Organization in mid-February 2021 recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine still be rolled out even in countries where the B. 1.351 variant or other similar variants of concern are circulating.”

We should also not entertain their excuse that the AstraZeneca vaccine was set to expire on 30 April. If they had had a rollout plan, there would have been plenty of time to administer these vaccines, especially as the vaccines are still effective up to two months after the expiry date.

Nor should we accept the excuse that the AstraZeneca vaccine requires a second dose. Another two million doses of AstraZeneca are available to South Africa.

Nor should we accept the excuse that the AstraZeneca vaccine posed a risk of blood-clotting. That theory was conclusively disproved before our government sold our one million vaccines.

And recent evidence supports this still further. The recently concluded US trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine confirm that the shot is both safe and highly effective. More than 32,000 volunteers took part, mostly in America, but also in Chile and Peru. The vaccine was shown to be 79% effective at stopping symptomatic Covid disease and 100% effective at preventing people from falling seriously ill. And there were no safety issues regarding blood clots.

Most likely, the true explanation is that we don’t have a rollout plan that is detailed enough to implement. We haven’t prepared enough vaccination sites to be able to roll out at scale. And there is no sense of urgency to develop one.

It is a terrible irony that on Human Rights Day, government trampled heavily on those rights by denying lifesaving vaccines to vulnerable people and selling them instead.

It is as if the South African government has been specifically tasked to sabotage our Covid response rather than manage it.

Our government never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity to help South Africans build their lives.

The Ramaphosa administration has a case to answer for why it left a million life-saving doses of vaccine leave our shores when they could have saved the lives of South Africans.

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Parliament should demand better from government on Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today, during the DA’s debate of National Importance on the government’s vaccine rollout plan

Covid-19 has been the toughest test of the world’s governance models.

It illuminated the cracks in health systems; the weaknesses in executive functions and stretched the capacity of the legislative arms of the state.

South Africa has not been spared from these tests.

Over the past year, it became clear that the decades of mismanagement of our health system; the under-investment and neglect of infrastructure would cost us dearly in the battle against this pandemic.

We saw government resort to secrecy and err on the side of lockdowns and restrictions.

We saw our healthcare facilities struggle to provide beds and, in some cases, oxygen for those who needed hospitalization.

In many instances, the pressure was so severe that mortuaries could not cope with the demand for burials.

We saw Parliament fumble; tripping over itself when it came to holding the executive to account.

While we eventually found our rhythm with virtual sittings of the House and accountability sessions in portfolio committees, this pandemic found us flat-footed and ill-equipped to rise to the occasion.

The partisan nature of Parliament made holding government to account an impossible task.

In committees that are composed of a majority of ANC members, the executive was often protected and tough questions blocked despite the crisis the country has been in.

Members of this House chose party lines over tough decisions that we so desperately needed.

For many in the Executive accountability; checks and balances – which are key tenants of our constitutional democracy – were viewed as attacks.

Pertinent questions were treated as antagonism.

And when the opposition started to ring the alarm about the vaccine rollout plan late last year, we were told ‘all is under control.’

Except it was not.

It was only months later when countries similar to ours started to roll out their vaccine plans that we started to scramble for scraps on the international table. 

Throughout this entire test of democratic South Africa, the true heroes were our healthcare workers.

Aba ngamagokra nama gokrakazi aye asithwala kwaphela unyaka sisilwa nalentsholongwane.

Baninzi abathe baphulukwana nobom babo besebenzela isizwe sabo; benceda abantu beli.

Siyababulela ngogalelo lwabo. Eneneni ngesingekho apha ngaphandle kwabo i- healthcare workers zethu.

Kumasapho abo, siyanibulela ngokusiboleka omama, otata, osisi, nabantwana bethu kulemfazo.

However, this battle is far from over.

We are only at a different phase of this pandemic.

We are at a crucial time where government is expected to acquire and roll out an effective vaccine against the 501YV2 variant that is dominant in South Africa.

The process until now has been marred with challenges – some beyond our control and some of our own making.

When it became clear that government was not forthcoming with a concrete and codified plan of how it would fulfil its own goal of vaccinating over 40 million South Africans by year-end – we approached the Western Cape High Court to force the Presidency to do so.

You see, we cannot perform our constitutional obligations of holding government to account if we have no benchmark against which to gauge its performance.

When the legislature failed to demand this from government, we had no choice but to require a court of law to do so.

The Constitutional Court has played this role before when it compelled the Department of Health to rollout ARVs back in 2002 from a case brought to it by the TAC.

It was only after the DA’s court action that government finally provided some semblance of a detailed response.

The excuse that no codified plan that would be tabled in this House for scrutiny because of

an environment that is highly competitive and forever changing is lazy. At best.

Parliament cannot be treated as an inconvenient stop for the executive; an annoying stakeholder that must be pacified.

It has to be a centre of excellence;

Where we as members take it upon ourselves to ask those difficult questions.

Despite changing factors; there must be a plan that details:

  • Manufacturers that government is negotiating with – this doesn’t mean undermining sensitive negotiations – but an indication of where we are with the process.
  • Expected doses of the vaccine – it has become clear that we will obtain vaccines from various manufacturers and they will have different needs for distribution and storage – those are the details that government must be ready to share;
  • Provincial readiness for the rollout of phase 2 and 3 which will prove complicated given our broken health system and deeply unequal access for millions of South Africans;
  • The budget allocated – what provinces will be responsible for and what Treasury has committed to this process. The Minister of Finance has an opportunity tomorrow to provide a far more detailed plan around this tomorrow during the Budget Speech;
  • Commitment to halt vanity projects like SOE bailouts;

Are we so used to mediocrity that asking very basic questions like this requires resorting to legal channels?

Can we not demand more from our government?

Countries world over are vaccinating people in their millions, we have yet to breach the 50 000 mark.

Pointing this out is not being negative or oppositional, it is demanding more. And that is our job.

In reality, here are the facts:

  • The vaccine committee was only established in September last year while other countries had already started to negotiations with manufacturers in May of 2020;
  • South Africa only registered with the COVAX facility on the 10th of December and that was the only intervention at that stage while other countries had started putting jabs in arms;
  • The Department of Health only begun negotiations with Treasury for procurement deviations last month – an indication of an impossibly delayed strategy;

The longer we take to vaccinate people, the higher the chances of another virus mutation which undermines the efficacy of vaccines and worsens our chances against a possible 3rd wave.

That is why it is crucial for us all in this House to respond to the call of this crisis:

We ought to place our party affiliations aside and unite in driving government to rollout a vaccine to as many people as possible regardless of where they are;

We need to unite in the call for an ad hoc committee to hold the inter- ministerial committee account to ensure deadlines are met and the process is corruption free;

And we need to unite in our understanding of our role and execute it ruthlessly;

The rules of the National Assembly empower us all to establish an ad hoc committee that will deal with a specific issue – like the vaccine rollout plan.

It will send the most assuring message to all South Africans if we can all vote for the establishment of this committee, regardless of who sponsors the motion.

We would be able to summon the executive; issue deadlines; perform oversight; hold them to timelines and ultimately make sure that this task is carried out as efficiently as possible.

The next phases of the vaccine rollout plan are difficult and crucial.

Phases two and three will mean a wider rollout of this vaccine to the most vulnerable across all corners of the country.

Of course, this will be met with massive challenges, but we too can be of great assistance in raising awareness about the importance of vaccines, conducting oversight in our constituencies and ensuring that clinics and distribution centres are ready.

We cannot relegate ourselves to being cheerleaders and celebrating mediocrity instead of demanding better for the people we serve.

Let us all show up for the people of this country and get their government to work to save lives and livelihoods.

There has never been a more watershed moment for this House than now.

We owe the people at home that much.

Why has it taken a legal challenge for Government to provide answers on vaccine?

The Democratic Alliance has welcomed the national Government’s long-delayed release of its Covid vaccination strategy and plan – but greatly regrets that we had to threaten court action before the government made the plan publicly available. Click here to download Government’s answering affidavit.

Now that this has happened, the purpose of our court challenge has been met, and there is therefore no point pursuing the case further.

We have made it clear to the Presidency that we will be monitoring the implementation of the plan at every step of the way, and he will see us back in court if the government’s actions show it is incapable of delivering on its commitments.

The long delay and the bungles so far, especially as far as the Astra Zeneca vaccine from India is concerned (which will expire before the second dose can be administered) is indicative of the extent to which oversight is necessary to hold this government accountable. The same applies to the release of the vaccine strategy and roll-out plan.

It is time that the Government treated South Africans with respect, and ensured that the plans to deal with a life-and-death issue are timeously shared and explained. South Africans deserve no less. The DA will continue to stand up for these rights.

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Show us you’re the President of the Republic, not just the ANC President

The following speech was delivered today during Parliament’s debate on the State of the Nation Address.

Mr President
Honourable Speaker
Members of Parliament
My fellow South Africans

I am sure you have all heard of Karen, she always asks to speak to the manager. Well Mr President, I am Natasha and I am speaking to the manager.

I like to think of myself as a positive person, always seeing the glass half full, even though during the lockdown period, the glass was completely empty, but even I am finding it very difficult to find anything to feel positive about. I am bombarded by stories of death, corruption, poverty, deliberate racial baiting, a failing economy and a barrage of constant lies.

Yesterday, South African learners and teachers went back to school, not a single one of them had even the faintest hope of protection from the Covid virus, never mind the variants because not one was vaccinated. What I find the most disturbing is as I look around me, there are 50 members in the House while the rest of the country is expected to go back to work and school, but Parliament remains in isolation. This is wrong on every level, the Parliament of South Africa must be recalled in full and only those who are in the high risk categories should join virtually. You see, this is what happens when a country enters into a National State of Disaster that it is not designed for and you land up with a Prime Minister and a President and I think we must be honest, Minister Dlamini-Zuma always said she would run the country, and now she is. We aren’t even consulted as a Parliament, the act is just extended at will.

The very minute we realised the hard lockdown was coming and coming fast, DA Leader John Steenhuisen called his Shadow Cabinet together and instructed me to chair the meeting and ensure that every DA Shadow Minister write to their ANC counterpart. We did just that, we offered our complete and unwavering support. Let me list who responded to these letters of goodwill – not one single minister. So much for standing together and what a crying shame.

I’ve thought long and hard this last week about how we can offer more help to the President and how he actually may take us up on the offer. I came to the following conclusion. Those appointing the commissions have a conflict of interest, that is why no one is arrested. Mr President, this includes you too Sir. You were the head of Government Business at the zenith of State Capture, you were the head of the ANC Cadre Deployment Committee overseeing the appointments of Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, Dudu Myeni etc.

So, what do we do now? We as the DA don’t think that you should establish the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Committee. We think it’s just more talk and even less action. So I say to you, Thuma Mina, send me, I will do it again. Let the opposition sit on a Committee that ensures that those responsible for corruption are brought to book, show that you are the President of the Republic of South Africa, not just the President of the ANC. We have given you too many chances, you have let us down too many times. We don’t believe you anymore. We don’t trust you anymore.

Can we take a moment to appreciate just how bizarre things have become. We now have Nkandla tea parties happening, “pay back the money” has changed to “pass the scones and jam”. We have defunct and none existent faux army structure who purchase uniforms at the local camping co-op threatening the actual President and actual military services should Jacob Zuma be arrested. How absolutely dare they. But no one knows where the powers starts and where it stops.

We have a wannabe Don, running around in dark glasses getting in and out of State Security vehicles saying that the Constitution is not sacrosanct, how absolutely dare him. Let’s get one thing very clear, these are acts of treason, they are threats to the sovereignty of our country, but we have a President who has no power to act against these threats because he has no idea where the power lines start and where they stop.

The most vulnerable of society were lining up, begging for their pittance to just survive for a few weeks, and a loud and cruel Minister, while sitting inside an armored police vehicle instructed the police to open water cannons on them. How absolutely dare she. But nothing thing will be done, because no one knows where the power starts and where is stops.

South Africans can only now say “HOW ABSOLUTELY DARE YOU?”

Ridiculous lockdown laws have decimated local businesses, destroyed the South African economy and left us in mourning for lives and livelihoods. Drive around any city in this country, there are empty shops everywhere, restaurants and hotels have halved their staff, the supply chain has broken. Alcohol and tobacco sales went underground and the black market thrived. Some people loved the prohibition period, lots of tax free money was collected. How absolutely dare you.

My favorite Poet, Dylan Thomas, once wrote:
The hand that signed the paper felled a city
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country
These five kings did a king to death

Mr President, you dare be the hand that signs this county to death. The people had hope in you, but I can tell you without a doubt the Ramaphoria is well and truly over. We now know where the power starts and where it stops.

Protecting lives, reforming the economy and saving our democracy

The following speech was delivered by John Steenhuisen MP today during his True State of the Nation Address.

  • Please see attached the DA’s Shadow Cabinet report on the performance of government departments.

My fellow citizens

It is my honour and my pleasure to address you today. Although I have to say I‘d much rather be standing in front of an audience right now than speaking to you through a screen.

There is something about face-to-face human contact on an occasion like this that really affirms what we share and what we have in common as human beings.

But isn’t it also remarkable how quickly we’ve become accustomed to living in isolation and working in isolation? Every time I think about what we – humans, right across the globe – have done this past year to make life possible under these strange new circumstances, I am awestruck.

People are capable of incredible achievements. All these new things we do online today – maintaining social contact, running our offices, shopping, providing services – would not have been imaginable in our wildest dreams a year ago.

But necessity truly is the mother of invention. When presented with something as daunting as a highly infectious airborne virus, humanity stepped up to the plate and found solutions to every single challenge.

And all of this happened immediately, in real time. Without missing a beat, we suddenly had Zoom and Teams meetings for everything. Our homes became offices, classrooms, entertainment spaces and gyms.

The world revolutionised right before our very eyes, and it’s been an incredible thing to witness. And it has afforded me the opportunity to speak to you today.

So even if it is through a screen, I am delighted that you took the time today to listen to me. Hopefully when we do this again next year, I will be able to look some of you in the eye and who knows, maybe even shake your hand afterwards.

In the past we have referred to this address as the Alternative State of the Nation, or ASONA, but I feel that this name does not accurately describe the difference between this summation of where we stand as a nation, and the one you will no doubt hear from President Ramaphosa in a few days’ time.

This here is a truthful assessment of what went wrong, where we now stand, what our realistic prospects for the future are and what we can do to improve this outlook.

Not a sugar-coated version. Not vague rhetoric or spin to conceal the harsh truth. Not lies to cover up wrongdoing. Just the facts. Which is why we’re calling this address the True State of the Nation.

Because, now more than ever, we need an honest assessment of the state of our nation. And you will almost certainly not get this from the President on 11 February. He will underplay our economic crisis, he will overplay government’s Covid response and he will outright lie about our vaccine plan.

The hard truth is that we are a nation in a crisis on three fronts.

Firstly, we’re in a Covid crisis, from which the only way out is the immediate rollout of a massive vaccination programme.

Secondly, we’re in an economic crisis, and here the only way out is a raft of urgent and bold economic reforms.

And thirdly, we’re in a crisis of democracy, as the recent shocking testimony at the Zondo Commission has revealed. And the only immediate way out of this crisis, if we’re brutally honest, is for our government to resign in shame.

However, we can say with near certainty that none of these three things is going to happen right away.

While we’re still waiting for a full, detailed vaccination plan from the president, we do know that we won’t have nearly enough vaccines in time to prevent a third and possibly a fourth wave of the virus from running through our country.

This leaves the prospect of further lockdowns looming over our already shattered economy. That will most certainly bring on a sovereign debt crisis, along with another wave of job losses, and extraordinary human suffering and deprivation.

We know that almost everything the President said about his government’s efforts to procure vaccines has been a distortion of the truth to create the impression that they’ve been busy for the past six months, while in reality they only woke up in January.

We already knew this from statements made by the vaccine suppliers themselves, but this was confirmed in a letter from the Department of Health to Treasury in which it requested a deviation from normal procurement procedures in order to acquire vaccines. That letter was only sent on 7 January this year.

When the President spoke in his televised address about the arrival of the various different vaccines, he deliberately kept the details vague by simply stating when delivery of each vaccine would commence.

What he didn’t tell us is how many of these vaccines would arrive on these commencement dates. However, those details were contained in a presentation made by the Health Minister to Cabinet, which shows that the bulk of these will only be arriving in October, November and December, with some only getting here next year.

So when the president tells of plans to vaccinate two-thirds of the population by the end of the year, even if we could launch a programme that could target in excess of 100,000 vaccine shots a day, we simply won’t have the vaccines to cover even half that target.

This is not because all those other bad countries hoarded the vaccines so we couldn’t buy them, as President Ramaphosa tried to spin it when speaking to the WEF crowd. It’s because we were simply nowhere when they were all queuing back in May, June and July 2020.

The failure to procure vaccines when they were available to us, and the failure to publish a detailed and transparent rollout plan are a violation of government’s constitutional obligations.

We have asked the High Court to compel government to make public all their dealings with vaccine suppliers as well as their rollout plan, as they had to do twenty years ago when the TAC took them to court to get clarity on their antiretroviral plan.

It is critical that we get our country’s vaccination programme on track as soon as we can.

We now have an enormous amount of lost ground to make up on other countries, some of which will be looking to wrap up their vaccination programmes as we’re only getting started.

We don’t have a choice but to try and make up this ground, because we have no time to waste in opening up our economy so that we can start to reverse our massive job losses.

That brings me to the other big story that has been dominating our news cycle: The crisis in our democracy brought about by the bombshell testimony at the Zondo Commission.

In a properly functioning democracy, this would’ve prompted the resignation of a government.

Using taxpayer funds to secretly pay for propaganda news reporting, to sway the judiciary, to destabilise the government of the opposition and to carry on enriching the disgraced former president is a scandal so large that for any government other than the ANC it would have spelled the end.

Even the National Party government of BJ Vorster back in the 1970’s was forced into shameful resignations when they were exposed for having run an almost identical state-funded propaganda programme.

Even the morally bankrupt Richard Nixon stepped down in disgrace after the Watergate scandal.

And just last month the whole government of the Netherlands resigned in disgrace in the wake of a child welfare scandal that saw thousands of families wrongly accused of welfare fraud.

That’s what it looks like when the weight of shame makes your position in government untenable.

It is inconceivable that, in a functioning, accountable democracy, a governing party that has been exposed for doing what the ANC has done would remain in office.

Forget for a moment about the Arms Deal and the Guptas and Bosasa and Nkandla and the recent PPE feeding frenzy. Each of those on its own should have ended this government, but let’s pretend they never happened.

What went on over the course of a decade at the State Security Agency with billions of Rands of public funds is nothing short of treason. If a revelation of this nature and magnitude does not trigger resignations, or at the very least dismissals, we have a fundamental flaw in our democracy.

But there were no dismissals. And I’m not talking about now, in the wake of Sydney Mufamadi’s testimony at the Zondo Commission. I’m talk about back in 2018, when his High Level Panel Report was handed to President Ramaphosa.

The president knew, back then, what was going on and who was implicated. And instead of firing the likes of David Mahlobo and Arthur Fraser, he found jobs for them in his administration.

Whenever someone tries to tell you about the so-called good ANC trying to fight back against the so-called bad ANC, just remind yourself of this story.

President Ramaphosa was given a report that spelt out, in great detail, the biggest scandal his government had ever been involved in. In this report he was given a recommendation to set up a task team to further unpack the events of the scandal, as well a recommendation that he instruct law enforcement bodies to investigate and charge those involved.

That was almost three years ago. And not only did Ramaphosa not follow these recommendations, he redeployed the main suspects in his own government. He knew every single detail of what David Mahlobo had done, and he still gave him a post in his cabinet.

Fast-forward three years later to the Zondo Commission where all these sordid details are revealed, and we see State Security Minister Ayanda Dlodlo desperately trying to prevent her acting director general, Loyiso Jafta, from spilling any further beans.

And it turns out, entirely unsurprisingly, that Dlodlo was doing so with the blessing of President Ramaphosa.

There is no good and bad ANC. There is only one ANC, and it does not want you to know what it’s been up to with your money because it reeks of treason.

If the checks and balances of our democracy had functioned as they should, the ANC would not survive this scandal.

But there is an even bigger issue than the State Security Agency saga that needs to be tackled at Zondo – an issue that sits at the very heart of every crisis and failure in our country.

Last week I submitted a list of questions to the Commission and requested that these be put to President Ramaphosa when he appears. Because until we deal decisively with this issue, we will not solve anything else in our country.

I’m talking, of course, of the capture of the South African state. Or, as the ANC likes to call it, cadre deployment.

You see, there is a commonly held misconception that the idea of state capture is something that began and ended with Zuma and the Guptas, and that this chapter is now behind us.

But that’s entirely wrong. The Guptas didn’t capture the state through Zuma and his allies in the ANC. The capturing part had happened a long time ago. What the Guptas did was simply to loot this captured state with the help of a weak and greedy president.

They were simply opportunists who spotted a gap to siphon money off state contracts, and in Zuma they found their useful inside man – a crooked security guard who would let them into the vault.

None of that would have been possible had the state not already been captured by the ANC. And that project had started all the way back in 1997, at the party’s Mafikeng Conference where the policy of cadre deployment was officially adopted.

Cadre deployment doesn’t even try to disguise its objectives. It states upfront that the aim is to extend ANC control over all levers of power in the state. This includes the civil service, all state-owned entities, the Reserve Bank, the NPA and SARS, the electoral commission, as well as Chapter Nine institutions such as the Public Protector and the Human Rights Commission.

Shortly after adopting this policy the ANC even boasted about its power to transform the judiciary and the office of the Auditor General without needing constitutional changes.

With no hint of shame or recognition of wrongdoing, the ANC freely admitted that this was a project intended to subvert the essential democratic principle of the separation of party and state.

It has been allowed to continue, unabated, for the past 23 years, resulting in virtually every problem we face today.

Because the only criteria for deployment is loyalty to the party, our state has been completely hollowed out and is today just an empty husk of ANC yes-men and women, devoid not only of skills but also of the crucial ethos of service to one’s country.

Cadre deployment has entrenched a culture of impunity, as those who fail at their jobs or who are caught stealing from the public are simply redeployed elsewhere.

And because ANC loyalists have been parachuted in to the top of the NPA, SAPS, the Hawks and SARS, every single check and balance on the abuse of power has been weakened.

The ineffective are rewarding themselves, the incompetent are assessing themselves and the corrupt are policing themselves.

And all the while this army of well paid deployed cadres just grows and grows until the state is so bloated and so top-heavy with people adding no value at all, that it simply ceases to function.

Allow this to continue for more than two decades, and you end up where we are today: a broken state incapable of delivering on even the most basic of its obligations to the people.

Every single problem in our country stems from this capture of the state by the ANC.

Every parastatal that has collapsed – or is in the process of doing so – is because it has been captured through cadre deployment, mismanaged and ultimately looted dry.

Every broken health department and every dysfunctional education department across eight of our nine provinces can trace its demise directly back to the calibre of the cadres deployed to its leadership.

Our inability in this country to bring crime under control, or to manage and protect our rail infrastructure, or to run local governments with even a semblance of competence are all because of this state capture project of the ANC.

And when we need to see some accountability for all of this – when we need to secure prosecutions for the looting of the state – cadre deployment once again trips us up because the foxes have been deployed to guard the henhouse.

If we want to be honest and realistic about the challenges we face in this country, we need to learn to connect all the dots.

For some reason, most analysis stops just short of connecting the most critical of all dots, and that is the role of the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment in the economic, social and governance collapse we see today.

More than enough has been written about government’s poor policy decisions, or weak leadership, or systemic corruption. But there is very little analysis that takes one more step back to see the full picture and the reason for all these failings.

We cannot correct our course until we see cadre deployment for what it is – state capture – and abandon it for good.

But not only do we need to correctly identify the ANC’s state capture as the genesis of our country’s slide towards a failed state, we also need to correctly identify all those responsible for it.

Believing in a supposed good faction of the ANC that had no part in this state capture is nothing but naïve wishful thinking.

No one has been more central to the deployment of party loyalists to positions in the state over the past decade than Cyril Ramaphosa himself.

He headed up the ANC’s Cadre Deployment Committee from 2014 to 2018, when he took over the presidency from Jacob Zuma. During this time some of the very worst appointments were made to our SOEs and public service, and corruption skyrocketed.

It is imperative that Ramaphosa answers the questions we sent to the Zondo Commission. South Africans need to know what his role was in the capture of the state, and where he stands on the policy today.

He will need to accept responsibility for every deployment that happened on his watch.

Once he has done this, he will have a chance to denounce the practice and inform South Africans that he intends to guide his party towards a true meritocracy, free from political manipulation.

He needs to state, unambiguously, whether the ANC under his leadership chooses the separation of party and state, or whether they still view the state as an extension of the ANC.

He cannot hide behind a public good-guy persona while continuing to cripple our state behind closed doors.

And while he’s clearing up his stance on cadre deployment, he also needs to speak up on the recent utterances of Ace Magashule on Jacob Zuma and his defiance of the Zondo Commission.

It is unthinkable that the Secretary General of the ANC can publicly support Zuma in defying the Zondo Commission, and the president of his party has nothing to say on the matter.

In the absence of a statement from the president, people will fill in the blanks themselves. And the only inference to be drawn from this is that the ANC itself supports Zuma in snubbing the Zondo Commission, the Constitutional Court, and the rule of law.

If that’s not the case, then Ramaphosa needs to set the record straight.

Fellow citizens,

All of these things – rolling out a massive vaccination programme so that our economy can open up fully, demanding accountability and repercussions for the Zondo bombshells, and turning our backs on cadre deployment once and for all – are critical if we want to tackle our biggest challenge: our stalled economy.

We cannot begin to do so if we are to remain in lockdown limbo forever.

We cannot begin to do so if the looters of our state remain safely in their positions.

We cannot begin to do so if we don’t start building a merit-based, apolitical state right away.

And we simply have no more time to waste. We have run out of road, as every single economist and analyst will tell you.

The shortfall in our revenue of over R300bn is going to have to come from somewhere, and tax increases are not the answer, as these will not generate increased revenue.

We are projected, according to the borrowing figures in last year’s budget, to reach a national debt of R4.5 trillion in two years’ time, and some call that a best-case-scenario estimate.

And a broad unemployment rate of over 40% and climbing every day is a powder keg waiting for a spark.

Anyone can see that South Africa is in a tremendous predicament, the full scope of which even the most informed experts and commentators sometimes struggle to adequately express.

We are in deep, deep trouble, and we don’t seem to be making any of the right moves to get ourselves out of it.

Yes, I know we are not alone.

Many countries across the world are facing very trying times along with us. Everyone has suffered enormous setbacks and is now grappling to find a way forward that best protects its people from both disease and economic hardship.

Our job losses and economic contraction are very severe, but there are other countries out there with similar numbers.

But the difference between us and most of those countries is the ability to absorb the impact and bounce back.

Where other countries that imposed severe and extended lockdowns were largely able to cushion the blow for affected businesses and furloughed or retrenched employees, we simply did not have the money.

The TERS and UIF fiasco was entirely predictable, as was the paltry size of the special Covid grant.

People who lost everything in the lockdown had nowhere to turn for help. Government simply held up its hands and said: Sorry, the money is all gone.

And then, instead of seeing the devastation caused by the lockdown and easing up, government spent ten months tightening the screws with measures that had absolutely no basis in science and no impact on restricting the virus. Measures that made them look busy and in control, but which wreaked havoc in our economy.

It’s not the pandemic that ruined thousands of businesses, as some would have you believe. It was regulation after senseless regulation, and one extension after another of bans that crippled our entire hospitality and tourism sectors.

I spoke earlier of how we’ve become isolated from each other during the past year. But I don’t only mean a personal isolation of friends and colleagues. Our isolation has also been as a society. Being cut off, we have often missed the big picture as it plays out in the streets of our towns and cities.

We may have heard every day in the news of the carnage in our economy, but for many it remained an abstract concept. If you weren’t out there to witness it for yourself, it was hard to imagine the scale of the devastation.

So let me tell you about it. I drove back to Cape Town at the end of last year along the R62 – that famous road-trip drive that connects Oudtshoorn with Montague through towns like Calitzdorp, Ladismith and Barrydale.

If you’ve ever driven out on the R62, you’ll know that these little towns are a must-see on a Western Cape holiday, each with its own unique character and flavour.

Apart from the agriculture in the region, they survive almost entirely on the business brought in by travelers.

What I saw when I drove through these towns in December was just heart breaking.

Shop after shop, restaurant after restaurant, were closed and boarded up. Barrydale, normally abuzz with travelling families and bikers in its many little eateries that line the road, was a ghost town.

Very few of those businesses would ever open again, and everyone who earned a living from them – cashiers, waiters, kitchen staff, cleaners – had suddenly become destitute.

There is no news report or statistic that can properly convey the scale of this devastation. You have to see it.

This has been happening in every town and city across the country.

And it hasn’t been confined to small businesses either. Just in the last few days we heard of Greyhound, Citiliner and Ster Kinekor either closing their doors or going into business rescue.

We heard of massive investments cancelled by South African Breweries and Consol Glass, and we heard of scores of retrenchments across all sectors of the economy.

Holding up our job losses or our economic contraction against countries like The United Kingdom or Japan does not provide a useful comparison, because we simply don’t have their reserves to survive and outlast this.

The only thing we can do is immediately open up our entire economy, keeping people as safe as is humanly possible, and then start with a programme of aggressive economic reform.

This is where the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa and Tito Mboweni are going to have to make a big choice between the unity of their party and the progress of their country. It’s one or the other.

They’re going to have to choose between either the outdated 20th century ideology of state control that has tied us to a low growth path for decades, or a loosening of the state’s grip so that the private sector can thrive.

They’re going to have to choose between either bending the knee to the unions, or embracing labour reforms to make South Africa an attractive investment destination.

They’re going to have to choose between spiraling national debt with the prospect of a default looming on the horizon, or a debt stabilisation programme to cap this at a manageable level.

They’re going to have to choose between a government monopoly on energy supply with all its loadshedding and spiraling costs, or an energy market that is open to far more independent power suppliers and competition.

They’re going to have to choose between the crippling effects of B-BBEE, or a version of empowerment that doesn’t chase away investments and actually targets those in need of redress.

They’re going to have to choose between Expropriation Without Compensation, or property rights.

In short, they’re going to choose between party and country. And this is something they’ve never been able to get right.

But we dare not lose hope. We simply have to keep plugging away with what we know are the sensible and achievable solutions to reform our economy, and then hope that our message finds fertile soil among a critical mass of South Africans, including some of those in the ruling party.

I am convinced that there are enough South Africans who share the same values and the same vision for our country, but that we simply have not found a way to discover each other yet.

Right now we’re spread across different parties, or perhaps some of us have even lost faith in the democratic process altogether. And so we remain largely invisible to each other.

But if we are to wrest our country from those who have hijacked it for their own gain, we are going to have to find each other.

We are going to have to look past old political allegiances and all the other things that still push us into separate little boxes, like race and language and culture. Because underneath all those superficial things, many of us share a dream for South Africa.

I have long held that our political landscape is due for a shake-up – a breaking up of the continents to realign in new landmasses.

I don’t believe our current alignments accurately reflect the values we all hold as South Africans. I think there is enormous potential for a realignment around the meaningful things that bring us and bind us together – values, principles, vision – rather than our superficial identities.

If we can do this, then I think we will find that those of us who want an honest government, those of us who want a vibrant, growing economy, those of us who want the dignity of a job, those of us who want our children to be safe and well educated, those of us who believe in one set of laws for everyone, those of us who believe that we are so much more than the colour of our skin – we will be in the majority.

So let us go out and find each other before our country has suffered too much damage for us to be able to fix it.

Let us discover who the reformers are in our country, no matter what political party they currently call home.

Let us build a new majority around the things that truly matter.

Sooner or later we will emerge from this pandemic. We will return to our schools and our universities and our workplaces and our sports stadiums.

We will get back every freedom that was taken away, and more.

So let us do all we can to ensure that we have a country and an economy worth returning to.

Thank you.