Not even national pride can save SAA

Many politicians fear their nations will be irrelevant if they abandon their money-losing, flag-flying airlines.

In most places, the market would fill the gap — provided the government got out of the way.

But national pride is powerful, costly and often stupid.

What is South African Airways’ (SAA) stated vision?

I quote, it’s “to deliver a commercially sustainable world-class air passenger and aviation service in South Africa, the African continent and to our tourism and trading partners.”

Well that’s a fail then.

It is a commercial disaster bar none, and a massive drain on the fiscus.

South African Airways only continues to fly with massive government assistance – to the tune of some R57 billion cumulatively since 1994.

The airline has tried to restructure 10 times in the past two decades.

According to Sean Gossel, who teaches at the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town. “Over 50 African countries continue to dabble in the airline industry despite the continent’s poor track record, mainly because a national carrier is believed to be a source of patriotic pride and economic status – both of which are very seldom borne out in reality.”

South Africa, along with Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan and Romania still have tight control over their airlines – all of which are in debt – to the tune of many billions.

Many experts hold that a country should offer subsidies to a foreign airline to run routes the government wants served. South Africa might not get the boast of having its flag carrier abroad, but taxpayers will win.

Anyway, all of this is moot.

SAA is dying, it’s in the departure lounge – a lesson that governments should never be involved in airlines.

And if they do, a hands-off approach is needed, where government — which may or may not own shares — acts in the background to prop it up but doesn’t meddle much in day-to-day operations.

But the post-1994 ANC government has provided a textbook case for meddling, dictating labour hiring by way of cadre deployment at all levels, and the facilitation of graft. For example, at SAA Technical, the maintenance wing, this meant an inflation of between 30% to 40% due to middlemen in the overall expenditure of R3.4 billion. For doing nothing – dololo. Nice work if you can get it – assuming you have zero morality, that is.

It might have also helped if SAA were located in a place where operating an airline hub makes sense – in case you need a lesson in geography, we are situated on the southern tip of this continent, along with Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Argentina, we are the closest land mass to Antarctica.

One continental success story is Ethiopian Air, a government-owned but business-driven enterprise that by most accounts is the only true global airline in Africa, with a network stretching from Beijing to Los Angeles to Sao Paulo. It has been so successful that other African countries are asking it to manage their airlines.

So, sell this albatross to them, or to Richard Branson or anyone else who may be interested. We’ll probably have to pay them to take it off our hands. In any event SAA is a limited liability company and the cost of closure would be R19.7 billion.

The choices are clear – close it down, place it in business rescue, or pay someone to take it over – you might even negotiate a small carry to feed your socialist ego.

But to continue to bail it out – having shouldered bailouts to the tune of mega billions to date is sheer unadulterated madness.

And as for Dudu Myeni – lock her up and throw the key away.

South Africans have had enough of bailing out SAA

Since 1994, the South African taxpayer has paid bailouts that amount to R57 billion to South African Airways (SAA).

SAA is bankrupt. The organisation is riddled with cadre deployment, corruption and entitlement amongst the unions representing its 11 000 employees.

Who in their right mind demands any salary increase at all from a bankrupt employer let alone an 8% increase way above inflation? The irony is that they have been granted such an obscene increase by giving away other people’s money.

Just this year alone R5.5 billion in bailouts has already been paid to SAA all of it having to be borrowed at huge expense to future generations.

Despite Section 55 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) that requires that the Accounting Authority submit financial statements within five months of the end of the financial year, the SAA board has not tabled annual financial statements for the past two financial years and is rapidly heading towards the end of the third financial year.

The SAA board directors are simply flouting the law. They seem to think they are above the law and should be lauded for ignoring it!

Section 22 of the Companies Act prohibits any company from continuing to trade when it is unable to pay its debts when they become due. This was made patently clear last week when Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Public Enterprises, and the SAA board warned employees that SAA might not be able to pay salaries at the end of November.

There can be no doubt that the SAA directors are allowing SAA to trade recklessly and are acting in violation of Section 22 of the Companies Act.

It is not only Dudu Myeni, the corporate warlord, who should be declared a delinquent director. It is unconscionable that the current directors allow SAA to continue to trade recklessly whilst they hold out a begging bowl for ever more bailouts.

The SAA board treats Parliament with complete disdain. Fourteen days ago, SCOPA instructed SAA directors, who agreed, to provide SCOPA with certain documentation within 48 hours. SAA is due to appear before SCOPA again on Wednesday and yet none of the documents requested from SAA have yet been provided.

The board director who glibly quotes an unsupported figure of more than R40 billion that it would cost to liquidate SAA is clearly attempting to frighten Parliament into agreeing to more bailouts.

South Africans from all walks of life whether very poor or very rich have had enough of massive bailouts for SAA and it is only the ANC and the trade unions who stubbornly persist with maintaining SAA as a State-Owned Entity.

SAA must be put into business rescue, the Government guaranteed debt must be paid and the airline must be sold for whatever the best offer received from Branson, Emirates Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines or any other buyer is!

That is bottom line!

R12 billion stealth tax increase for working families

The following speech was delivered in today’s Parliamentary Debate on the Rates and Monetary Amounts and Amendment of Revenue Laws Bill.

Chair,

From the outset of the medium-term budget process, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has focused on whether the proposals by the government help to advance fairness in our society.

To govern is to choose. No government can have everything, or satisfy every want.

That is why the government is ethically obliged to make choices which are fair to the country as a whole.

This means choosing to prioritise the basic services on which the poor depend and choosing to emphasize investment overconsumption.

And it means protecting the incomes of working families, over the ideology of out-of-touch policymakers.

The Bills before us today contain a stealthy R12 billion effective tax increase for working families. This is done by failing to adjust tax brackets for inflation.

This R12 billion in additional revenue comes straight from the pockets of every hard-working South African.

Is it fair? No, it is not fair. And it is not ethically defensible.

The government has prioritised bailouts for zombie state-owned entities and has prioritised the salaries of millionaire managers in the civil service, over the working families who are already struggling to get through the month.

These good, hard-working people have faced electricity increases, petrol tax increases, VAT increases, public transport increases, and school fee increases. Their jobs are less and less certain, and their wages have been growing slower than inflation.

These are the people who are paying for this tax increase.

These are the people paying more of their hard-earned wages every month to bailout SAA and Eskom, and to keep millionaire managers in the sheltered comfort to which they have become too accustomed.

Is it fair? No, it is not fair. And it is not ethically defensible.

Last week the DA showed that the party that claims to govern for the poor, was cutting R50 billion in services to the poor.

This week, the DA is showing that the party that claims to govern for the working class, is making working families pay R12 billion more in taxes.

That is the truth of this budget.

The truth is, the ANC is not the party of the poor, or of the working class.

It is the party that governs for the new elite of millionaire managers in the civil service, and multi-millionaire deployed cadres in the zombie SOEs.

And in this budget process, we are showing in technicolour that only the Democratic Alliance is committed to using the levers of government to create a fairer society, where the interests of the poor and of working families are protected and advanced.

NMB’s R3bn IPTS grant recall by Treasury will bankrupt the Metro

The governance crisis in Nelson Mandela Bay Metro has reached a point where urgent intervention can no longer be delayed. We simply cannot stand by and watch as one of South Africa’s biggest cities collapses under the coalition of corruption made up of the UDM, ANC, AIC, PA and UF, and spearheaded by the UDM’s Mayor Mongameli Bobani.

It is critical that National Government intervene as a matter of urgency. They have the Constitutional power to step in and take over the running of the Metro. But until they do, the DA will pursue every other avenue available to it in search of solutions to this crisis. I will be establishing a task team made up of DA Members of Parliament whose aim it will be to find any possible intervention that can help rescue this city from its looters.

It is no exaggeration to say that NMB is imploding. It now has the highest level of Unlawful, Irregular, Fruitless and Wasteful expenditure in the country. It has only one permanently appointed Executive Director – the rest of them are all in acting capacities. It has had six different Acting City Managers in one year. Parts of the city have already reached Day Zero as taps run dry. The city has seen 18 people killed this year alone in connection with the irregular awarding of a drain cleaning contract. And its Mayor has been implicated in at least two cases of fraudulent activities relating to municipal contracts.

But it is the latest scandal around the grant funding for the Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS) that threatens to dramatically accelerate the City’s collapse into bankruptcy. National Treasury has indicated that it intends to withdraw and recall all transfers made since the inception of the IPTS conditional grant allocation because these funds have been used outside the framework stipulated in the Division of Revenue Act (DoRA). Treasury has also indicated that the Metro flouted various Supply Chain Management processes in procuring services. It is no surprise that Bobani himself has been linked to the IPTS scandal in Crispian Olver’s book, “How to steal a city”.

The amount the Metro stands to lose here is a staggering R3.2 billion, and this will almost certainly bankrupt NMB. The DA has been warning about this for months, and National Treasury, as far back as June this year, wrote to the Metro demanding feedback on its efforts to recoup this Unlawful, Irregular, Fruitless and Wasteful expenditure. None of this comes as a surprise. Mayor Bobani’s administration has known that this day will come, but yet they have done nothing to avert it.

The list of administrative calamities that have befallen this Metro since the coalition of corruption orchestrated the removal of DA Mayor Athol Trollip just over a year ago is astonishing. Council meetings, Committee meetings and Mayco meetings are simply not held. Vast amounts of critical budgets go unspent. Housing delivery has completely stalled and land invasions have skyrocketed. Wherever you go the city is filthy, and there is no maintenance being done on street lights, road signs and potholes. No one is running NMB because looting and covering your tracks is a full time job.

In just over a year, Bobani has undone all the hard work and outstanding results achieved by the DA-led coalition that took over in 2016. Remember that during the two years of DA-led government, NMB went from being deep in the red to having a R2 billion surplus for the first time, along with a AAA credit rating – the highest in the country. In those two years, NMB gained a brand new metro police force, it stopped R615 million of corrupt contracts, it achieved the best Urban Settlement Development Grants spending performance in the country, it got Shot-spotter technology to help curb gang crime and it eradicated almost 10,000 bucket toilets.

Importantly, the DA-led coalition government also put the IPTS buses on the road – a project that had stalled for years under the ANC. But today it is this very IPTS that threatens to sink the city, as the culture of corruption and patronage under Bobani infects every part of the Metro. If indeed National Treasury does come knocking for its R3.2 billion in misspent IPTS grant funding, this Metro will not be able to repay it.

The most astonishing part of this story of the collapse of NMB is that it has been allowed to happen. Everyone, at each sphere of government, knew exactly what was happening here. National government has the power to intervene though Section 139 of the Constitution, by taking over the administration of a local government. The President and the COGTA Minister are fully aware of the looming disaster, and yet they have failed to act. Even more puzzling is the failure to act by the leader of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), Bantu Holomisa. He knows exactly what his UDM Mayor is doing to this Metro, and still he chooses to sit on his hands. This makes him as guilty as Bobani himself of the collapse of NMB.

The inability of COGTA to intervene, the inability of the UDM to recall its rogue Mayor, the inability of the ANC Speaker in the Metro to allow the democratic process of debating a Motion of No Confidence in Bobani to proceed, and the inability of the coalition partners to pull the plug on this crime syndicate have all contributed to this situation. They are all jointly responsible, and they must all explain to the million plus residents of NMB why they have forsaken them in favour of protecting dodgy deals for connected cadres.

In 2016 the voters of NMB punished a government that had turned its back on them and stolen billions of Rands of public funds. But through trickery and coercion – and very likely through bribery of a DA councillor – these very same looters orchestrated a coup of this Metro council in August last year, and are now back and installed at the feeding trough.

I assure you the DA will not let them get away with this. Our duty to the people of NMB compels us to fight this coalition of corruption until it is no longer able to steal from the people. For now, we will do so as opposition, but in 2021 we will make every effort to ensure that the will of the people is once again reflected in their Metro government, as it was after the 2016 election.

For South Africa to work, Parliament must work

The following remarks were made today by DA Interim Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, to the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Dear Members of the Press Gallery,

Building, strengthening and defending our democracy is not an overnight job. You have to do the hard yards – there are no shortcuts. But if you persevere, the results will eventually come.

And so today I welcome the arrest of former State Security Minister and ANC MP Bongani Bongo on charges relating to the alleged bribery of the evidence leader in Parliament’s Eskom Inquiry back in 2017. It is encouraging to see that the wheels of justice are indeed turning.

On 22 November 2017 I laid criminal charges against Bongo in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act when it emerged that he had allegedly offered Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara a bribe in exchange for stepping down as evidence leader in the Inquiry. At the time there were the usual voices who questioned this, asking “what’s the point?”

The point is this: If you want to turn things around, you have to be prepared to put in the work at every step of the way. In this case it began with laying the charges in 2017, but it also involved continuously fighting for better resources for the NPA, as well as fighting for the depoliticisation of the institution.

I hope that Bongo’s arrest and prosecution will serve as encouragement to those who may feel despondent at what often feels like a lack of justice and accountability in our country. It may be two years down the line, but it’s happening. And if we all stick to our guns and do the hard yards, we can eventually fix every part of our troubled nation.

Recently I have spent a lot of time setting out my vision for both the future of the DA and for our country. I have addressed many different audiences and I have written in several publications as the newly-elected Interim Federal Leader of the DA.

But I also hold the position of Parliamentary Leader of the DA and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. And this is the hat I am wearing today in this engagement with you, the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I would like to share with you some of our plans for the Sixth Parliament – of how we can ensure that we best carry out our mandated duty on behalf of 58 million South Africans.

Parliament is the most crucial institution of our democracy. When it works as it should, it reflects the will of the people and it serves their interests. Now whether the current format of proportional representation is the best way to achieve this is up for discussion, and I will touch on this in a minute. But however it is constituted, we have a sworn duty to make it work.

The first and most obvious step towards achieving this is letting go of the notion that we are enemies inside the House. We may be political opponents, but when we sit in those benches we are bound by a common goal. Our collective job is to find solutions – to put forward coherent arguments for the ideas we believe in, and to listen with open minds to ideas that may be at odds with ours.

We have a vibrant multi-party democracy in this country, and this is reflected in the benches of our Parliament. But we will not benefit from this plurality of ideas and voices if we cannot learn to reach across the aisle and find common ground.

I know such common ground won’t always exist – there are some issues on which we fundamentally disagree – but there is plenty we can agree on. And if we are to make Parliament work for the people, then we have to be open to cooperation.

I don’t need to tell you that Parliament has failed to live up to this standard in recent years. Sitting in the gallery, you have had front row seats. You have watched how the National Assembly descended into a daily circus of insults, disruptions and even violence. And you have seen, first-hand, the deep polarisation and paralysis of Parliament that this has caused.

How do you explain this to ordinary South Africans who see these ugly scenes on TV? They know that members of the House are paid well to do a crucial job, but all they see is grandstanding and insults. It is little wonder that voters are increasingly losing faith in the democratic process.

We need to turn this around in this Sixth Parliament. We need to re-establish Parliament as a place of big ideas, vigorous debate and service to the people of this country.

Every single one of the 400 members of Parliament stood up in the front of the House and swore to uphold their duty, as set out in the Constitution. We need to be held to that oath.

That Constitutional duty has two components to it. One is to pass legislation that enables all South Africans to live a better life. This is what most people have in mind when they think of the role of Parliament. But there is another equally important function, and that is its role in exercising oversight over the Executive.

We have all seen, over the course of the Fourth and Fifth Parliaments, what happens when Parliament abdicates its responsibility to hold the executive arm of government to account: Our state falls into the hands of the highest bidder.

A full picture of the damage inflicted on our country through state capture has not yet emerged, and it will take generations to undo. But all of this could have been prevented had Parliament simply done its job.

This Sixth Parliament needs to find and show its teeth again. It needs to go from lapdog to watchdog.

Part of the challenge is that the Executive is chosen from within Parliament, which makes those cabinet members responsible for their own oversight. But this challenge can be overcome by a number of interventions.

Firstly, we need to introduce an oversight standing committee on the Presidency right away. It is the only department that has no such an oversight committee and is therefore allowed to operate without any scrutiny.

South African citizens deserve better than this. If we want to preach equality before the law as one of our foundational principles of democracy, then this must extend to the executive arm of government too.

In addition to this, there are a number of interventions proposed by the DA over the years which will undoubtedly enhance oversight and accountability, and which need to be reconsidered.

The first and most important of these goes to the very heart of accountability in government. It involves changing our electoral system from pure proportional representation to a hybrid system where some seats are awarded on proportional representation, and some are elected directly by voters.

The problem with the current system is that MPs don’t answer to anyone except their own party, and this has removed all accountability from Parliament. A purely constituency-based system, while far more accountable, wouldn’t be ideal either because small parties would be crowded out. The answer lies in a hybrid system, where there is both accurate representation of the vote and a degree of direct accountability to voters.

The DA put forward such a hybrid electoral system several years ago. It is now more urgent than ever that we relook this system and introduce real accountability for the people of South Africa.

Another DA bill that would enhance Parliament’s watchdog capabilities is the Public Finance Management Amendment Bill which we tabled last year. This bill will ensure real-time reports to Parliament of all the government guarantees that are issued, as well as those that are declined by the Minister of Finance.

We are in the process of drafting a number of other bills specifically aimed at strengthening oversight and building an accountable and capable state. If this Sixth Parliament is serious about getting its teeth back, it must give these bills due consideration.

When it comes to passing legislation, this Sixth Parliament must rally behind the only agenda that matters to our country right now, and that is growth. The only way to tackle poverty, inequality, unemployment and debt is through sustained economic growth.

If what we do inside the House does not contribute to this growth, then we’re doing the wrong thing.

There is no time left to debate whether this should be the top priority or not. Every day we are sinking further and further into debt. We are borrowing a billion Rand a day and we are spending most of this money on things that will not give us any kind of return.

Most of this will be have to be repaid by our children, and they will see nothing for it. We are maxing out their credit cards before they’re even old enough to own them.

If we don’t halt this slide immediately, it will lead to enormous misery and despair for millions of South African citizens. Critical budgets like education, healthcare, housing, social welfare, service delivery and infrastructure maintenance will all take a hit, and poor people will be the first to feel this.

Ten years ago our national debt sat at 30% of GDP. Today it is almost 60% of GDP, and Treasury expects this to climb to 80% by 2028.

If we were incurring all this debt to invest in infrastructure, or to spend on things like education, there would be sense in it. But instead we are borrowing this money to pay the salaries of a massively-inflated management level in the public sector, and to bail out already-failed state-owned companies.

We have a responsibility, in Parliament, to heed the warning signs and to take action. The legislation we pass in the House can make fundamental changes to the way our economy operates. If we all unite behind the idea of prosperity through growth, we can change the path we’re on.

An example of this is the Cheaper Electricity Bill which we tabled earlier this year. It provides the legislative framework to lower the cost of electricity and boost the reliability of supply – both of which are critical to the performance of our economy.

This bill is to be debated soon by the Portfolio Committee. We have an opportunity to take one small step in the right direction by cooperating on a piece of legislation that is clearly in the interest of our country.

That’s how these things work – one step at a time. There is no single silver bullet that will transform our economy. There are many small yet critically important steps that we must take to get where we want to be.

Another such a step has to do with the Copyright Amendment Bill that has been lying on the President’s desk for the past six months. If he signs this into law in its current form, it will put at risk an estimated R12 billion in exports to the USA. This needs to go back to the Portfolio Committee to be rectified.

We have already been told that the US is reviewing our access to their preferential trade system thanks to the insufficient protection to intellectual property rights in this Bill. We know that they are about to pull the plug on a trade deal that secures billions in exports and thousands of jobs. With over 10 million unemployed here, we simply cannot afford not to act on this.

There are several other DA bills that were rejected in the Fifth Parliament, but which need to be reconsidered by this Sixth Parliament, if we are to take our responsibilities seriously.

One of these is the Labour Relations Amendment Bill. This bill sought to protect the public from violence and intimidation during strike action, as well as from malicious destruction of private property. It also sought to allow non-striking workers the freedom to go to work without intimidation or threats.

Another older DA bill that needs to be reconsidered is the Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill. This has already been adopted in the Western Cape and has made a huge impact on the ease of doing business in the province. Now let’s do the same nationally.

And yet another one is the Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill. This bill was shot down on purely political grounds, despite the content of the Bill itself enjoying the support of the portfolio committee on Small Business.

We cannot continue to play these games of political one-upmanship in Parliament while our country sinks further into debt, poverty and unemployment. Our responsibility is to the people who voted us into Parliament, and not the parties who placed our names on their lists.

The only way Parliament will serve the people of South Africa is if we restore its functions of oversight and growth-enabling legislation. And this will require all 400 members of the House to remember their oath of office, and to remember who they work for.

That’s not the DA or the ANC or the EFF or any other party. MP’s work for the people of South Africa. They have been elected to Parliament to speak on behalf the people, and to protect ordinary citizens from abuse and neglect.

As Parliamentary Leader of the DA and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, I have made it my mission to help restore the dignity and decorum of this crucial institution of democracy, and to get it working again.

Let the legacy of the Sixth Parliament be one of cooperation across the aisle, of respect for the institution of Parliament, and of true service to the people of South Africa.

Thank you.

No shortcuts to success for the DA or SA

The following remarks were made today by DA Interim Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, to the Foreign Correspondents Association of Southern Africa. 

Respected members of the foreign press

It is an honour to be addressing you today as the DA’s new interim leader.

As you know, our party took a blow in the 2019 national election. Our loss of 1.5 percentage points marked the first regression for the party in what had been uninterrupted and somewhat meteoric growth since the inception of SA’s democracy in 1994 where we won just 1.7% of the national vote.

This loss in support is a setback, but it has taught us an invaluable lesson – and one that our whole country needs to learn. It is this: there are no shortcuts to success.

In its pursuit of further growth, and mindful of the gathering crisis in South Africa that is sinking more and more people into desperate circumstances, the DA turned to quick-fixes, yielding to the temptation to tell people what they wanted to hear and show them what they wanted to see.

But there are no shortcuts in life, really. Political parties everywhere need the same things: philosophical coherence; values-based, decisive leadership; and public representatives who are committed to the cause. And the DA is no exception.

And so, our party is going back to the basics, to do the hard yards of building trust and support through grassroots activism, good governance and an authentic message based on our liberal values.

My mission as interim leader is to unite the party around our founding purpose, which is to promote individual freedom by ensuring every person has not only the right but also the means to live a life they value. Quite simply: poverty is our enemy, prosperity our objective.

In South Africa, 99.9% of those living in poverty are black. And the harsh reality is that both poverty and racial inequality are growing. However, this does not require the DA to forsake its liberal principle of nonracialism, which is what it had begun to do in recent years.

On the contrary, the continued pursuit of race-based policies in SA has contributed to the gathering crisis the country faces today. BEE and affirmative action have acted as a brake on economic growth, a fig-leaf for corruption, and a deterrent to investors. They are exactly the kind of short cut that has failed South Africa, serving only to enrich a relatively small elite at the expense of the masses.

To put it bluntly, the “progressive, transformation” agenda has been downright regressive. It is elitist and anti-poor.

The DA I lead will unashamedly advocate for true nonracialism. By non-racialism, I mean an unequivocal rejection of racial classification and racial preferencing. And importantly, I also mean an unequivocal imperative to right the wrongs of South Africa’s unjust past in which the black majority were excluded and dispossessed on the basis of race.

And so the DA’s redress policies will prioritise those who remain excluded to this day: the over 30 million South Africans trapped in poverty.

But the stark reality is that there are no short cuts in the fight to reduce poverty rather than merely alleviate it. No country is special. As a nation, we have to do the hard yards of fixing SA’s broken education system, delivering better healthcare, ensuring safer neighbourhoods and enabling a successful economy.

Right now, our economy is crippled by short cuts that are trapping us in a high-debt, low-growth situation. Borrowing a billion rand a day to pay for thousands of unproductive public servants and to bail out failing state-owned companies is a crippling short cut. Look no further than crashing SAA to see it’s really a short cut to a dead end.

We need to cut these expenses so that we can free up resources to develop the transport, energy and communications infrastructure that will enable a successful, growing economy. These are the hard yards that the DA is committed to.

We need to train and incentivise our teachers rather than lowering the pass mark. We need to fix our hospitals and clinics and health departments rather than making lofty promises about NHI that cannot be kept. We need to undertake an effective land reform process rather than derail our entire economy with populist talk of expropriation without compensation.

Voters may temporarily be seduced by the appeal of short cuts. But investors are swayed only by the prospect of profit and nor will ratings agencies be fooled. As living standards slowly, inexorably deteriorate, voters too will come to learn the folly of short cuts.

South Africa will only turn the corner with real structural reform that gets us back to doing the hard yards. The good news is that now we have one party emboldened to speak up for the rational, evidence-based answer to South Africa’s problems. And not a minute too soon. The 2021 elections are almost upon our party, while a ratings downgrade is almost upon South Africa. It’s time for action.

Why is the ANC Government silent as taps run dry?

The following speech will be delivered in Parliament’s Debate on South Africa’s deepening water crisis today

Speaker,

On 17 October this year, President Cyril Ramaphosa urged Southern African Development Community (SADC) member States to implement comprehensive multi-year response plans to tackle the recurrent droughts and food insecurity in order to boost agricultural production. This was at the 39th SADC Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government.

While this sentiment is welcomed, I need to ask the President, where is South Africa’s drought plan?

Last year, on 13 February 2018, our country was classified as a national drought disaster.

This reclassification of drought as a national disaster designated the primary responsibility for the coordination and management of the disaster to the National Executive, who must act in close cooperation with the other spheres of government to deal with the disaster and its consequences.

Minister Zweli Mkhize, at that time, said that three provinces including Western Cape, some parts of the Northern Cape and Eastern Cape are extremely affected, and are not yet showing comforting signs of improvement.

That was 18 months ago.

Die situasie het intussen vererger en steeds is die ANC regering “missing in action”. Of nee, die Adjunk President het oor die Noord-Kaap gevlieg en gese die droogte is baie erg en kort onmiddelike reaksie.

Droogtes is ‘n normale reëlmatige verskynsel van ons klimaat. Ons weet almal dat Suid-Afrika ‘n droë land is en dat klimaatsverandering ons negatief beïnvloed.

Klimaatsverandering kan seker nie as ‘n ramp gesien word nie maar die uitwerking hiervan met ondergemiddelde reënval oor langer as ses jaar sowel as gepaardgaande rekordhoë temperature is ‘n huidige werklikheid en het ons land se boere op hul knieë gedwing.

Water is lewe en sonder water is daar dood. Geen mens, dier of plant kan oorleef as daar nie water is. Mense in dorpe en stede word direk geraak wanneer daar nie meer ‘n druppel water uit hul krane kom. Duisende mense in plattelandse gebiede drink egter nog water uit strome en riviere. Wanneer hierdie water opdroog raak die oorlewingstryd onmenslik.

The crippling effect on our agricultural sector is devastating. Not only do they have no income during this time but it cost billions to keep animals alive.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to decide which animals you will feed and which once you will leave to die?

This is a choice that our farmers make on a daily basis, most of them just don’t have the funds to keep on buying feed anymore.

And it is not only our livestock farmers that are affected, grain and crop farmers struggled trough below rainfall years during 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2019. It has placed many farmers in massive debt and they cannot get further credit from the banks. The agricultural debt is growing yearly and is currently around R190 billion.

We would like to thank the Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer, who has been instrumental in ensuring drought support to farmers and farmworkers of the Western Cape over the past 3 years. Not only is funding provided to buy feed and help keep workers employed, much needed funding is also going into support for counselling. We have seen farmers committing suicide during this time and emotional support is welcomed.

We also recognise the efforts of the Eastern Cape who has now gazetted drought in the province.

Thanks must also go out to all the groups who raise funds to assist with fodder and drilling of boreholes. This has been ongoing over the past four years and has kept many farmers and families alive.

But where is our National Government? And where is our National Drought Plan?
The Democratic Alliance would like to repeat our call that the drought be declared a national disaster in order to ensure improvement of planning, management and response across various organs of state as well as sectoral roleplayers.

This drought affects more than one province and we cannot leave it up to provincial
governments to deal with this alone.

We urge Minister Thoko Didiza to convene an urgent agricultural MINMEC in order to discuss the impact of the drought and to shift funds from AgriParks towards drought relief. This could make at least R1 billion immediately available.

Minister Tito Mboweni, we call on you, to look at legislation regulating our banking sector in order to assist with soft loan repayments during such long disaster periods.

We support the call by AgriSA to look at a way of getting agricultural insurance that could assist during these periods.

But most of all, we call on the ANC government to find the political will to support farmers, black and white, during these difficult times.

Government should learn from DA-led Cape Town to avoid a nationwide Day Zero

The following speech will be delivered in Parliament’s Debate on South Africa’s deepening water crisis today.

Chairperson,

The ANC National Governemt must wake up!

South Africa is on the verge of a national water disaster, with drought and poor infrastructure maintenance, corruption and the lack of political will to act swiftly to prevent this disaster from worsening.

In die afgelope paar maande het krane leeg geloop in meeste provinsies reg oor die land.

Scarce fresh water is decreasing in quality because of an increase in pollution of our rivers and streams. And the culprits! – Wastewater treatment works run by dysfunctional and corrupt municipalities with a license to kill the environment.

En wat doen die ANC regering hieroor. ABSOLUUT NIKS!!

Access to a secure, safe and sufficient source of fresh water is a fundamental requirement for the survival, well-being and socio-economic development of all humanity. Yet Government continues to act as if fresh water is an everlasting resource. Well It’s not!

National Government is the custodian of water resources on behalf of South Africans and Government acts through the Minister to fulfil this Constitutional mandate.

As die Minister en die Departement vir Water en Sanitasie nie gaan optree om besoedelaars te stop om ons water bronne te besoedel nie, is die Minister net so skuldig as diegene wat ons water bronne besoedel.

Chairperson, it’s common knowledge that South Africa is a water scares country and therefore drought will play a crucial role in water supply.

Despite the drought, the lack of infrastructure maintenance and the failure of infrastructure is a major contributor to our water crisis.

We need to use less water.

South Africans must become water wise and Government must create public awareness of the reality of the effect of climate change.

The delay of six years on the Lesotho Highlands scheme Phase 2, is a classic example of how political interference harmed our water projects.

Phase 2 was planned to be completed this year.

Chairperson, the completion date has now moved to 2026 costing millions more to complete.

While Nomvula Mokonyane was corrupting water, stopping the Clanwilliam Dam project and not assisting Cape Town with its water crisis, she also placed the rest of the country in danger of running dry.

Minister Nkwinti moes haar gemors kom reg maak en het opdrag gegee dat die konstruksie van die Clanwilliamdam moet voort gaan, wat die projek met meer as 2 jaar vertraag het.

The City of Cape Town learnt – the hard way- that prevention is better than cure. The question is did the ANC Government learn anything from this? It seems nothing at all.

While Cape Town – and the greater Western Cape managed to narrow down water usage to prevent a disaster, danger still looms for the rest of South Africa reaching Day Zero.

Chairperson, the Minister need to implement a water demand management strategy for municipalities

• involving water meter replacement;
• pressure management;
• leak detection; and
• free plumbing repairs for indigent households

The country’s non-revenue water loss average at 41% with individual municipalities as high as 70%. Nonrevenue water losses are costing us more than R9.9 billion per year. This after spending R2.9 billion on the corrupt War on Leaks Programme, and in the process not saving any water.

Water infrastructure projects are also at risk with municipalities owing DWS and water boards R15.2 billion.

Stad Kaapstad het hul water verliese afgebring na 16% en spaar miljoene liters water elke dag.

Voorsitter, hierdie is n goeie DA storie om te vertel.

The ANC National Government is failing to respond to this water disaster all around the country.

Dit is baie duidelik dat die ANC regering die bal laat val het om hul grondwetlike mandaat na te kom.

Chairperson, in conclusion:

The ANC National Government is failing South Africa with millions of people struggling without water, not just because of drought, but because of poor infrastructure, corruption and the mismanagement of our water resources.

ANC! – julle moet wakker word!

Suid Afrika sal nie Dag Zero oorleef nie.

African Continental Free Trade Area agreement crucial to the realisation of the AU Agenda 2063

The following speech will be delivered in Parliament’s debate on
Advancing the African Union Agenda 2063 today and is under embargo until delivery.

Honourable Speaker,

The ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement by 27 member states is a victory for the market-based economy and is crucial to the
realisation of the African Union Agenda 2063.

The AfCFTA will consist of a market of 1.2 billion people and a Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) of $2.5 billion across 55 member states. This makes the agreement
the largest free trade area post the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

For far too long, African countries have closed themselves off to their African
neighbours – the time has come for this to change

This is supported by United Nations Economic Commission for Africa who state that
“businesses face higher tariffs when they export within Africa than when they export outside it
”. However, the AfCFTA will go a long way in ameliorating this in the shortterm and vastly improving our continent’s fortunes in the long-term.

Moreover, it is argued that this agreement has the potential to improve intra-African
trade by up to 52.3% through the elimination of import duties and the minimization of non-tariff barriers. This would provide a marked improvement for Intra-African trade which only accounted for 16% of Africa’s total exports in 2017.

As one of the largest and most diversified economies on the continent, South Africa,
is in pole position to benefit from the AfCFTA. However, we should not be under the
assumption that continental trade policy is able to compensate for poor domestic policy choices.

This means that a renewed focus on solving the energy crisis, shutting down talk of
nationalisation and a clear action to trim the public wage bill are crucial. Moreover,
there needs to be an investment injection to infrastructure and logistics routes that
allow for seamless supply chain management.

According to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Rankings, South Africa, places
at 145 out 190 countries in terms of ‘Trading Across Borders’.

This poses a particular challenge in the context of the AfCFTA by virtue of the fact that these indicators are linked to the cost, time and cumbersome compliance items related to exports.

Earlier in the year, President Ramaphosa appointed a working group in collaboration with the World Bank to address these poor rankings. In lieu of this, the DA will be watching with a keen eye to see whether or not structural reforms are effected to improve this ranking and respond accordingly.

As one of the largest economies in Africa it is totally unacceptable that we find
ourselves in the position we do!

As the AfCFTA negotiations are still ongoing and member states’ are in process of
deciding on product-specific rules of origin, the DA urges decision makers to craft rules that prevent ‘fronting’ by extra-continental trading partners.

Furthermore, we call for the negotiations on investment, competition and intellectual property to be expedited and, that decisions made are true to market-based principles including the primacy of private property, fair competition and economic growth.

The AfCFTA provides an opportunity for South Africa to reestablish itself as a leader
on the African continent – we cannot allow this opportunity to be missed.

Advancing the AU Agenda 2063 may remain an idyllic pipe dream

Introduction

Ben Okri says that “the magician and the politician have much in common. They both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing”.

Unfortunately for us Agenda 2063 seems like an idyllic pipe dream of which there is more fantasy than reality. It seems to be an agenda created to grow hope and keep the people complacent whilst the common occurring tragedies continue to befall our continent.

Facing climate change, terrorism and migration the politicians have come out with a distraction or delaying tactic to buy time and favour whilst the outlook remains negative and stagnant. The DA realizes that Africa needs hope and we are committed to being part of the solution that turns hope into reality. We believe that South Africa has a great opportunity to push the process of implementation and monitoring the agenda on a continual basis.

We offer four key elements that can get us closer to that reality:

Commit to strengthening regional structures that commit their agendas to AU 2063

Being part of SADC the Africa Liberal Network and having served on the ACP, we are not short of plans and ideas, but we are poor on implementation.

All structures seem to work in isolation and have not aligned their output to that of
Agenda2063. South Africa must use their memberships on all regional bodies to ensure that  those plans speak to the ultimate AU vision and that we are constantly benchmarking performance to target.

Election observations and human rights monitoring

As a country and as a region, we need to be consistently speaking out against any election infringements, attacks on democracy in terms of free and fair elections; ensure regular elections and limited terms of office for leaders.

It is sad to note that this year SADC was not able to monitor elections in our region even though some were considered high risk. We have a duty to all citizens in our region to police the politicians and parties to ensure that the choice of the people is upheld. More importantly we should be more vocal and vigilant when citizens of other countries are attacked and abused by the very people in power to protect. We must be guided by principle and not friendships. We must also be fearless and broad in our approach.

We must live in the present and plan for the future even if it means challenging former allies

We have been blindly loyal to allies of the ANC for far too long. This has led to hypocrisy in our foreign affairs approach. In some instances, we cozy up to the identified aggressor and in others we cry with the perceived victims. Our approach needs to be helpful to the growth of Africa and for the safety of South Africa. We can play a constructive role in securing unity from South to North and West to East by selling the SADC vision of role model law and by ensuring peace in our continent first. The DA have well researched ways to bring finalization to the
Moroccan issue and would gladly partner with government to bring about a fair end to this highlighted region.

For agenda 2063 to be successful we need a united and peaceful Africa cohesive in their trade and approach to lift Africa.

We need to fight terrorism, migration and climate change together. Terrorism is affecting many Countries in Africa. The latest news informs us that terrorists have been active in Mozambique only a few kms away from us.

Terrorism has a huge cost burden to it and forces poor countries to spend more on defence and policing and less on social and human development. No Country in Africa can turn a blind eye to the plight of their fellow members and make it a “their problem” rather than an “our problem”. Piracy, terrorism and ongoing wars will keep Africa down and open to exploitation.

The vultures have been circling since post-colonialism and have already made a few key swoops to endear their prey.

Secure borders and domestic safety

It is therefore important for us to ensure that we know who comes in and who goes out our Country. That our borders are secure and that whilst people are in our country, they feel protected and are safe.

We cannot harbour international fugitives or allow them to leave our country. We need to work more intently with international bodies and respect the judgements and penalties meted out. Citizens and tourists must welcome at all times and criminals should be the ones feeling scared and targeted.

As the African proverb teaches us: Milk and honey is different, but they share the same house peacefully. Africa is home to all that live, invest and contribute to making it grow.

Taking loans, grants and “gifts” from certain countries could place the continent at risk of another rise of colonisation. It would be sad to invest time, effort, funds and energy into something that could be taken or stolen away from us just before the finish line.  With this in mind hear the call of the DA that says if we do not learn from our history, we will repeat our mistakes.

The DA commitment to the AU agenda 2063

The Democratic Alliance is committed as a party and through its vast network of sister parties and other political bodies to help find the solutions and to be a proactive and productive participant to help drive projects that will bring us closer to making the dream of AU Agenda 2063 a reality. We believe that the future of Africa transcends political parties and that we are stronger together.

As President Barack Obama once said:

“In a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power – including strong and principled diplomacy”

South Africa we have a chance to lift Africa – let us be on the right side of good decisions.

Thank you