If you want what Stellenbosch municipality has, register to win, vote to win and let the ANC dominoes fall

Please find attached a soundbite by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP and pictures here, here and here

Today we are in the town of Stellenbosch which, together with Franschhoek and Pniel, form the Stellenbosch municipality – what we consider to be a true flagship DA municipality.

This is an example of what is possible when a DA local government receives a strong enough mandate to clean up a town, stabilise its finances, plan well ahead and prioritise service delivery for all the municipality’s residents.

Having swung back and forth between DA and ANC governments for the first decade of this century due to floor crossings and defections, voters handed the DA an outright majority in Stellenbosch in 2011, and then strengthened this majority in 2016. The result today is a municipality that has benefitted from back-to-back DA local governments and is now seeing the rewards of a decade of long-term planning and projects, as can be seen in this impressive list of government successes.

This is a town that works, and the reason it works is because the DA gets things done.

This local government demonstrates the perfect blend of business-friendly efficiency and the kind of caring attitude that sees no resident left behind. And this is exactly what we want to bring to even more towns and cities on 1 November.

The story of Stellenbosch is evidence of what happens when you liberate people from an ANC government. Our mission now is to free hundreds of thousands – even millions – more South Africans from the catastrophic failure that is ANC local government.

As we head towards the elections in just over six weeks’ time, everything is in place for us to do so. The ANC’s failure to register a single PR candidate anywhere in the Western Cape means they now face the very real prospect of not winning a single municipality in the province, or even ending up as the strongest party in a coalition. This historic election could signal the end of the ANC in the Western Cape for good as they will not likely recover from such a sweeping loss.

This is very good news for the people of this province, but also elsewhere in South Africa in places like KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, where they failed to register candidates.

The only tenuous lifeline the ANC is still clinging to is a decision by its deployed cadres at the IEC to set aside the agreed-upon rules and reopen the candidate registration process to allow it to re-register its candidates. A decision you can be sure the DA will fight till the very end. We will not allow elements in the IEC to ignore the rules in order to save the ANC from its own incompetence. They did not bend these rules for the NFP in 2016 or the IFP in 2011, and they cannot be allowed to do so now simply because the ANC demands it.

While the IEC fights to save the ANC, the DA is fighting to protect the fairness of the election process and the very foundation of our democracy, and to free South Africans from the ruin of the ANC.

But it is a fight we cannot win on our own. We can, through our legal steps against the IEC, ensure that every party has to play by the same rules and that the ANC has to live with the consequences of its own incompetence. And we can, by offering a competent and committed DA candidate in every ward, open the door to a future that is 100% ANC-free. But it is up to voters to step through that door and secure that future.

The rot of ANC local government needs to be removed or else South Africa will slide entirely into a dysfunctional and failed state. We’ve already seen a preview of this failed state in scores of floundering municipalities across the country, and particularly in the North-West, Mpumalanga, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. The way this election is teed up now presents a once-in-a generation opportunity to cut out the rot in many more municipalities and usher in the kind of era of growth, positive forward planning and service delivery that Stellenbosch has seen these past ten years.

South Africa cannot waste this golden opportunity to rid itself of the ANC. While the DA asks the Constitutional Court to uphold the law and enforce the rules of this election fairly – a decision we are expecting within the next few days – it is up to voters to cast the corrupt and the incompetent out of their municipalities and metros for good. And the most crucial first step in doing so is to ensure that you are correctly registered to vote in the ward where you live.

There is nothing worse than being gifted the opportunity to oust the ANC from your town, but then discovering on election day that your name is not on the voter’s roll. That is why the Registration Weekend this coming Saturday and Sunday is of such critical importance. After Sunday the voter’s roll will be closed and no further names added. If you haven’t ensured, by Sunday, that you are correctly registered, you may have wasted the best opportunity you’ll ever have to turn your hometown into an ANC-free zone.

Today we are saying: Look at what a place like Stellenbosch has achieved under the DA in just one decade. Look at how it is fighting to be the first municipality to free its residents from the burden of Eskom load-shedding by putting in place mechanisms to procure its electricity elsewhere and generate its own. Look at the huge list of housing projects currently underway to offer the people of this fast-growing municipality the dignity of a quality home. Look at the big capital investments into water treatment, road upgrades, firefighting, public facilities and many, many more projects.

Look at what happens when you rid a town like Stellenbosch – or any of the DA’s other flagship municipalities like Mossel Bay, Swartland, Saldanha Bay, Overstrand, Midvaal or the City of Cape Town – of the ANC’s looting and mismanagement. The local economy is revived, services are restored and the town comes alive again.

That’s why the best thing any voter can do is to make sure they’re correctly registered so that they are able to give a DA local government a full mandate to implement its vision, and then to simply let the ANC dominoes fall.

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

DA Speeches: Debate on the Devolution of Policing Powers

The following speeches have been delivered in the National Council of Provinces on Thursday, 09 September 2021.

Adv. Albert Fritz MPPA call for the Devolution of Policing Powers
DA Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

Isaac Sileku MPThe Western Cape can develop the blueprint for provincial police service
DA Member of the NCOP
084 810 5907

Michael Shackleton MPL – Devolution of SAPS will lead to safer communities
DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Community Safety
066 043 0155

Employment Equity Amendment Bill: A job-destroying jackhammer

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today. 

  • Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Dr Michael Cardo MP

Honourable Speaker

The Employment Equity Amendment Bill is a job-destroying jackhammer.

It is a blunt and brutal tool handed carelessly to the Minister of Employment and Labour, so that he might wield the workforce into a shape the ruling party deems racially acceptable.

The ANC will have you believe this bill is a weapon of transformation. In truth, it is a weapon of economic mass destruction.

Its repercussions will reverberate for generations to come; unwelcome aftershocks to an economy already in upheaval.

There are two fatally flawed clauses in the Employment Equity Amendment Bill.

Firstly, there is clause 4 which introduces Section 15A into the Act. This section empowers the Minister of Employment and Labour to identify national economic sectors and then to determine numerical employment equity (EE) targets for these sectors. The consultation requirements imposed on the Minister are vague and ill-defined. In this way, the ANC seeks to foist its narrow, ideologically-driven goal of ‘demographic representivity’ from the Minister above onto biddable employers below. This is the warped notion that the workforce should mirror exactly the racial and gender composition of the economically active population.

This new provision confers upon the Minister a set of arbitrary and discretionary powers that are wholly incompatible with the drivers of a market-based economy.  There is a simple word for rigid racial targets determined by the Minister, thrust upon employers after a thin veneer of consultation, and backed by punitive measures for non-compliance. In effect, they are quotas.

Secondly, there is Section 53 of the Act, which now comes into operation, as amended by clause 12 of the bill. Henceforth, state contracts will only be awarded to employers who are in possession of a compliance certificate issued by the Minister. Of course, in order to obtain the certificate, an employer must have complied with any sectoral target set by the Minister in the first place.

All of this is a recipe for malicious ministerial meddling.

Section 53 concentrates powers in the hands of the Minister which might be used capriciously to benefit selected companies in the allocation of state tenders. This is a textbook ANC manoeuvre. It allows them to manipulate outcomes – by rigging tenders or funneling contracts – in the guise of righting past wrongs and redressing racial inequalities. Yet, after more than two decades of employment equity- and black economic empowerment legislation, we now know beyond any reasonable doubt that these legislative lynchpins of racial transformation are really a fig leaf for crony enrichment.

What is driving this racial mania?

The ANC looks at the upper echelons of management in the private sector – as opposed to the public sector – and gasps in horror at their complexion. There are too many whites. Able-bodied Coloured men are over-represented here. African women with disabilities are under-represented there. And the ANC comes to the conclusion that the government should shift workers around as if they were pawns on a chessboard. In fact, the ANC goes one step further. It seeks, through diktat, to conjure an entirely new chessboard into existence.

That is not how societies or economies function.

If the ANC wants to level the playing fields, or broaden economic opportunity, let it increase the pool of available skills by putting in place a first-rate education system. Let it foster the conditions conducive to economic growth that allow for opportunities to flourish. But that is not how the ANC thinks.

The Employment Equity Amendment Bill is, to recall Tony Leon speaking on the original legislation, a ‘pernicious piece of social engineering’, pious in intention but destructive in effect.

And, make no mistake, this bill will sew economic destruction. That is what happens in a command economy when a politician hauls out a racial abacus and declares how many beans should be in each row and what colour they should be.

As it is, our economy is mangled – damaged and deformed by decades of ANC policy incoherence, state capture and corruption. It has been disfigured further by Covid-19 and the stringent lockdowns. The numbers are well known. In 2020, economic activity slumped by 7%, the biggest annual fall since 1946. We are still trapped in the longest downward cycle since the Second World War. The economy hasn’t grown by more than 3% annually since 2012. Last year, there were over one million job losses. Our unemployment rate sits at 44.4% on the expanded definition. Almost 12 million people do not have a job.

Meanwhile, as I speak, a huge flight of skills and capital is underway. Desperate, anxious middle-class South Africans of all races are rushing for the boarding gates to put daylight – and continents – between themselves, their families and the ANC government. They can see which way the wind is blowing. They know that ANC policies like expropriation without compensation will bring economic ruin.

The Employment Equity Amendment Bill will hasten that destruction. It will deter investors. It will stunt growth, and it will kill jobs. Why should anyone want to invest in an economy, or create new jobs, when a politician gets to decide what the labour force looks like or how the labour market operates?

The ANC has rammed this bill onto the order paper before we rise for the Local Government Election campaign so that it can lay claim to some conveniently-timed victory for ‘our people’. It is a sham achievement. For this bill will do nothing for the poor, the marginalised, or the rural masses on whose behalf the ANC professes to speak. Its remedial measures, such as they are, do not target the disadvantaged. They do not advance the disadvantaged, and they do not promote the achievement of equality.

As such, this bill is – to put it lightly – constitutionally suspect.

In truth, the Employment Equity Amendment Bill will help only a small, skilled- and politically connected elite.

It will widen the inequality gap between the small black elite that benefits from EE and BBBEE and the 10 million black South Africans who are unemployed and unlikely to find a job because of laws – like this one – that disincentivise job creation.

Our delicate social fabric is frayed. Our economy – if not yet quite in smithereens –  lies broken. And now, Speaker, we propose to give the Minister of Employment and Labour a job-destroying jackhammer.

The DA opposes this bill.

DA’s first posters go up. Bring on the elections!

Please find attached soundbite by John Steenhuisen MP, as well as attached pictures here, here, here, here, and here.

This morning the DA put up its first election posters in eThekwini, KwaZulu-Natal, thereby sending a loud and clear message: We are ready for these elections, and we are ready to bring real change to metros and municipalities destroyed by years of ANC failure.

The message on our posters – and our national slogan for these elections – is simple: “The DA gets things done”. Across all spheres of government this ability to deliver is the only criteria that matters, but it is particularly true at local government level where citizens are immediately and directly impacted by the efficiency or failure of their government. There is no other party in South Africa that can make this claim.

It is also fitting that our first poster is going up right outside the offices of the ANC government that has failed the people of eThekwini. In doing so, we are saying to the residents of this city and the rest of South Africa: This is what your choice comes down to in this election. Look at the difference and then decide what you want for the future of your city.

On the 25th of this month we will be setting out this choice in more detail when we officially launch our election manifesto. This is an opportunity for all South Africans to get to understand our offer in this election, and what we can bring to their town or city in government. We encourage everyone to follow the live-stream of this launch.

Our posters will also serve as a daily reminder that the DA is the only significant party willing and ready to contest these elections. While the ANC, and others, have been desperately trying to get the elections postponed because their internal warfare and their shambolic finances have left them in no position to launch a campaign of any sort, the DA has already put in a year’s work in finalising lists, fine-tuning our messaging and producing our campaign material.

We also have no doubt that the Constitutional Court judgment intended for the elections to take place in seven weeks’ time without bending the rules for the ANC on candidate submissions. Their disastrous preparations and missed deadlines deserve no different treatment to that of the IFP in 2011 and the NFP in 2016. The DA will not allow either the ANC or the IEC – or both of them – to manipulate the rules.

What this means is that dozens more municipalities and metros are now in play, and stand a real chance of ending decades of ANC mismanagement at the ballot box. This could be the catalyst for change in our country, and could ripple all the way through the next national and provincial elections. Our very own South African Spring.

Actions speak louder than words. Given a clear mandate to govern and five uninterrupted years to start ushering in the DA difference, we will demonstrate that there can be no going back to an ANC government. We will demonstrate that only the DA gets things done.

We are ready, we are fired up and we say: Bring it on!

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

Meet the DA’s candidates for Metro Mayors – the Team that will Get Things Done

The following speech was delivered today by DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen MP. 

My fellow citizens

It is my pleasure and my privilege to address you here today at the announcement of the DA’s candidates for Mayor of South Africa’s major cities in the upcoming Local Government Elections.

We, in the DA, feel that this is an important part of the democratic process. We have a duty to let voters know, well ahead of the elections, who will be tasked with running their cities and towns should we win in those municipalities, or secure the majority share of a coalition government.

Democracy isn’t just about casting your vote on election day. It’s a process and it should start well before the ballot box.

The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words – “demos”, which means people, and “kratos” which means rule. It’s literally “government by the people”, and for this to have any real meaning the people need to play an active role.

This means knowing exactly who you’ll be voting for. It means being able to interrogate the offer of a candidate so that the choice made on election day is an informed one.

It’s about listening to what they have to say, and then challenging the parts you either don’t agree with or simply don’t believe.

It’s about knowing what your options are, because otherwise what exactly are you weighing up? What are their plans for your town or city?

If they’re an incumbent and you feel they have done a poor job so far, they must be given an opportunity to answer for this.

And if they’re a new candidate and perhaps unknown to voters, there has to be a way – and enough time – to get to know them.

Ideally you want to see your two or three frontrunner candidates testing their offers against each other.

Parties that back their candidates and believe in their offer look forward to this kind of engagement in the build-up to an election. They are eager for voters to ask them for more details or press them on things they’re unsure of or don’t agree with.

But parties that don’t believe in their candidates – or even worse, that can’t actually arrive at a name because the internal contestation is so fraught and toxic – these parties hide behind a veil of anonymity right up to the election date.

At the DA we’ve spent an entire year on our candidate selection process.

This has included extensive interviews, practical assignments and assessments by independent panels to get to the point where can confidently say: These are the people we trust to bring the DA’s vision to life in local government. Now please ask them everything you’d like to know.

Each of them will have an opportunity to tell you a little more about themselves, but allow me to introduce to you the men and women who will stand as the DA’s candidates for Mayor of the five Metro municipalities of Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town.

Our candidate for Mayor of the City of Ekurhuleni is Refiloe Nt’sekhe.

In the City of Tswhane our candidate for Mayor is Randall Williams.

In the City of Johannesburg, our candidate is Mpho Phalatse.

In Nelson Mandela Bay, our mayoral candidate is Nqaba Banga.

And our candidate for Mayor of the City of Cape Town is Geordin Hill-Lewis.

These men and women have proven to us that they not only carry the DA’s vision for building a better South Africa into everything they do, they have also demonstrated that they are not afraid to put in the effort that this will require.

We’ve long held the view in the DA that if we want to fix this country, we have to start by building a capable state.

This means governments that are made up of fit-for-purpose individuals, who are not tainted by corruption and who have demonstrated that they have the commitment and the drive that any good public servant needs.

That’s why our candidate selection process is so rigorous – we can’t afford to get it wrong.

We also believe that voters should be given enough time to get to know these candidates.

Whether the elections go ahead at the end of October – as they’ve been proclaimed – or whether the courts decide that they need to be moved to early next year, this will give voters more than enough opportunity to do their election homework.

You will notice that very few other parties have done this. The only other party to govern in municipalities and metros, the ANC, certainly does not seem to have any desire to announce its mayoral candidates.

And this is a shame, because South African voters deserve far better from this hard-won democracy. They deserve a proper government by the people where they get to play an active role all the way up to election day.

It’s still not too late for this to happen. I’d like to challenge the ANC to do what we’ve done, for the sake of our democracy. Make this election the open contest it was always meant to be. Put your candidates out there in front of the people, alongside ours.

It won’t be hard to find us. For the next few months we’re going to be out there, on the ground, every day.

I am personally going to spend a lot of time with each of these candidates here, taking our message to communities across the country.

So I’m calling on the ANC to meet us there – whether this is in a town hall debate, a televised debate or a debate on the radio. Name your candidates and let the voters interrogate them together with ours.

That’s what a real democracy looks like.

Fellow citizens, if we’ve ever needed this kind of open, engaging election campaign, it is now.

I don’t need to tell you that the state of so many of our towns and cities is dire.

Dozens of municipalities across South Africa have completely collapsed under the weight of corrupt, predatory, cadre-deployed governments, and hundreds more are on the verge of collapse.

The problem is so big that placing these distressed municipalities under administration and running them by remote control is simply not feasible because there are just too many of them.

This situation is not normal.

We can no longer pretend that the total implosion of service delivery and infrastructure in these towns and cities is normal.

We cannot pretend that it is normal for companies and their factories to have to relocate at great cost and with massive job losses because they cannot be guaranteed the very basics like water, electricity and usable roads.

We cannot pretend that it is normal for municipalities to owe water and power utilities billions and billions of Rands.

We cannot pretend that a river of sewage running down a street where children play is normal.

We cannot pretend that it is perfectly normal for hundreds of municipalities to rack up billions in irregular and unauthorised spending every year, and to never get a stamp of clean governance from the Auditor General.

We cannot pretend that daily protests in multiple communities against an invisible, unresponsive government is normal.

None of these things are normal.

What is normal though – or what should be – is a government that either responds by fixing these things or is fired and replaced by another government that is prepared to fulfil the five simple objects of local government as set out in Section 152 of our Constitution.

That’s what needs to happen now. Voters need to start firing and hiring governments.

There is no other way to undo what has happened to these broken municipalities, and there are no shortcuts.

So why should voters trust these people here on the stage to run their towns and cities, rather than the ANC or any of the other smaller parties? What does the DA offer in government that these other parties don’t?

Well, let me perhaps start by telling you what the DA doesn’t offer.

The DA’s offer is not some fading struggle history or similar stories from the past. Because none of that can fix what needs to be fixed now.

The DA’s offer is not that it looks or speaks like a certain type of person. Some parties will come to you and try to convince you that you can only be represented by someone from your own race or culture. But that kind of racial nationalism and identity politics cannot fix what needs to be fixed.

And the DA’s offer is not every imaginable pie-in-the-sky promise of free things. Parties that do this know they will never have to deliver, and so they promise everything to everyone without ever doing the maths. That’s no way to fix what needs to be fixed.

The DA is a forward-looking party. We acknowledge the injustice of the past, but we make plans for the future.

The DA is a party of ideas and values, and not identity. Which is also why we are the most diverse party, by far, in South Africa.

The DA is an actual party of government. This means we’re in the business of making government work by carefully planning how every Rand is spent for the benefit of the people. It’s easy to call yourself a revolutionary party and just make things up. The DA operates in the real world.

But above all, the DA is a party of results. Not past glories, not race, not populist promises. Just results.

Our achievements where we govern are what set us miles and miles apart from any other party.

And that’s why our message to voters in this election campaign – and the message these candidates will take with them on the road – is that the DA gets things done.

That’s all we want voters to judge us by. Because if you want to have any chance of turning these struggling municipalities around and giving the people who live there hope for a better future, you must start by doing the actual job of a local government.

And that’s what our party does far better than anyone else.

The DA governs less than 10% of municipalities in South Africa, but the top 5 are all DA-run. All the failing municipalities are run by the ANC.

DA municipalities consistently outstrip ANC municipalities when it comes to basic service delivery, clean audits, the maintenance of infrastructure, attracting investments and creating jobs.

DA municipalities are at the forefront of protecting their residents from droughts and water shortages, as we saw in the world-class effort by the City of Cape Town to defeat Day Zero.

Compare this to the current water situation in NMB or in towns like Makhanda, where Day Zero has already arrived for many.

DA municipalities are also leading the charge in shielding their residents to some degree from Eskom’s failures and load-shedding.

The City of Cape Town often manages to keep its electricity customers on one load-shedding stage less than the rest of the country, and municipalities like Stellenbosch are preparing to become even less reliant on Eskom by taking steps to procure their power elsewhere.

But nowhere has the direct link between good, clean governance and service delivery been more clear than in Nelson Mandela Bay following the 2016 Local Government election. The impact of the DA-led coalition government was immediate.

Roads were resurfaced, streetlights were fixed and water infrastructure repaired. The city’s integrated bus service was launched, along with the metro police. And, importantly the city’s finances were turned around and for the first time in years the deficit became a surplus.

Fast-forward two years later, when the coalition of corruption ousted the DA-led coalition in a council coup, and every single gain made in those two years under the DA was reversed.

Today NMB is back where it started before the DA took over and the city’s coffers have been stripped bare once more.

The rise and fall of service delivery in NMB perfectly matches the electing and eventual ousting of the DA government.

And all this says to me is that we simply have to do it again, and this time make sure our majority is strong enough to withstand a coup by the corrupt.

And not just in NMB. We need to protect and bolster our majority wherever we govern so that we can continue our work uninterrupted.

Just look at what happened in the City of Cape Town after the DA took over in 2006. For that first term we were locked in a very tricky coalition arrangement, and our position in government was always touch-and-go.

But in the next election we managed to stretch that majority far enough to govern outright, and this allowed us to start making the big gains that are only possible in back-to-back terms.

Today, after three uninterrupted terms under a DA government, the City of Cape Town operates in a different league to the other metros, on every single criteria.

Similarly, a municipality like Midvaal in Gauteng has enjoyed a decade of uninterrupted DA governance, and it has left its neighbouring ANC-run municipalities in its dust.

Why? Because the DA gets things done. It’s that simple.

This is what we want to bring to even more towns and cities, and this is why we have assembled this team here on stage. The team that can get things done.

I know them, and I know they are not afraid of the hard work that lies ahead – not only in this election campaign, but also once they take office.

I want to invite you to get to know them too. Look out for them on the road over the next few months. Follow them on social media. Understand what their plans are and see whether this aligns with your own ideas.

Our country is in a very tough space right now, but I assure you we will get through this. We will rebuild our communities, our towns and our cities into the vibrant, inclusive places we’ve always dreamt of.

We will grow our local economies again, so that people have hope of finding jobs and building a future wherever they live.

We will reclaim our democracy from those who tried to steal it for their own selfish gains.

We will put the bad days behind us and look to the future with hope.

But first we need to put in place governments that live and breathe this vision.

Governments that don’t steal.

Governments that serve the people and not the other way round.

I’m talking about DA governments that get things done.

Thank you.

Shutting down the economy to cover for vaccine failures adds insult to injury

Please find attached a soundbite by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP.

South Africa’s vaccine programme has been a disgraceful, unforgivable failure so far. Secretive. Slow. Disorganised. Fatal.

A full 15 months into the pandemic less than 1% of South Africans have been fully vaccinated, according to statistics shared by the Presidency’s head of digital communications.

This puts us far behind not just our upper-middle-income peer countries but also lower-middle-income and many poor countries.

It means we have the same Covid response toolkit available to us in the third wave as we had 15 months ago in the first wave, with almost no progress made in preparing hospitals or building track and trace capacity.

The Ramaphosa administration has botched the vaccine programme from beginning to end. They failed to pay the Covax deposits. They failed to contact vaccine suppliers last year when peer countries were getting in the queue. They failed to respond to suppliers when suppliers contacted them. They failed to rollout the AstraZeneca vaccines we finally took delivery of in February, which could have offered protection to those in the high-risk group. They failed to plan an efficient rollout. They failed to communicate clearly. They failed to admit to any of their failures.

All of which means we are back of the queue, picking up the dregs of other country’s soon-to-expire vaccines, contemplating the prospect of more lives being avoidably lost, more businesses avoidably closing, more jobs being avoidably destroyed, more families going avoidably hungry, more children avoidably missing school.

Of course, none of the individuals who have been entrusted to roll out an efficient vaccine programme and none of those around the table deciding whether to shut down the economy face losing their own lives or livelihoods.

They remain on full salary no matter what, and most of them have probably been vaccinated.

None of them will need to face their hungry families and explain why they cannot put food on the table. Even Zweli Mkhize who benefitted from the Digital Vibes scam is assured a full salary at the end of the month.

They will wheel out excuses about bad luck, but that is exactly the point.

They should not have expected the vaccine programme to be without challenges. That’s why smarter countries ordered excess vaccines and from a variety of sources.

The only tool government seems able to wield is the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions.

We should reject these with contempt, since they will do more harm than good.

There is plenty that can and must be done to mitigate the third wave crisis unfolding in Gauteng.

The situation there is dire indeed. It is going to get a lot worse over the next 7 to 10 days as more infections develop into full-blown illness. And there is no sign yet of a decline in the spike, meaning we should expect and plan for thousands more people still to be infected.

The appropriate response is for President Ramaphosa to crack the whip and jolt the National and Gauteng Departments of Health from their lethargy.

Targeted, coordinated action is required now, to mitigate losses.

Here are the instructions he needs to issue to the National and Gauteng Departments of Health.

  • The 500-bed Covid-19 facility at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital (CHBAH) needs to be put to full use urgently. Redeploy unutilised staff from the 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, which is still closed due to the April fire, to CHBAH. Charlotte Maxeke has spare staff but no beds, while CHBAH has beds but insufficient staff, which is why only 100 of CHBAH’s 500 available beds are currently operational.
  • Urgently get other Covid-19 facilities fully operational. This includes the 183-bed facility in Carletonville, 300-bed facility in George Mukhari Hospital, the 300-bed facility at Jubilee Mall, and the 150-bed facility at Bronkhorstspruit. Do this by ensuring that currently employed healthcare workers are being used efficiently. The Department of Health needs to find the budget to pay overtime. It is absolutely unacceptable that residents should suffer and die because “there is no budget for overtime”. It makes sense for national government to provide top-up funding if there are financial constraints. There should be no financial barriers to treatment. Enlist private sector doctors and nurses, including agency nurses and unemployed nurses and doctors, if necessary. If Ramaphosa hadn’t shut the economy down for nine full weeks last year, there would be far more tax revenue to spend on healthcare now.
  • Get the 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Hospital operational as soon as possible. It is just not acceptable that this facility is still closed two months after the fire. If the Western Cape Government could get a fully functional 850-bed CTICC field hospital, the Hospital of Hope, up and running in just four weeks, there is no excuse for the Gauteng Government taking over two months to get Charlotte Maxeke back up and running.
  • Properly enforce restrictions on indoor gatherings and taxis. Properly enforce mask, sanitation and social-distancing protocols and ventilation requirements. Ensure all taxis travel with all windows open. Enforce an open windows rule at high schools. It is far cheaper and easier to prevent infection than to treat it. Government needs to be prepared to take a differentiated approach in the country if losses are to be minimised.

At the same time, Ramaphosa needs to face the reality that his administration is failing on vaccines, and outsource the vaccine programme to the private sector. He needs to empower provinces to make their own decisions about restrictions, based on their individual situations. The only thing that should shut down entirely is the National Coronavirus Command Council.

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

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