Cyril’s Great Vaccine Failure – no vaccines, no plan, no information, no urgency

South Africa is heading into the Easter weekend and a possible third wave without a single vaccine having been administered outside of trials.

It is not poverty or “vaccine apartheid” condemning people to death. It is President Ramaphosa’s administration, which has failed spectacularly to deliver timeously on a Covid-19 vaccine rollout, just as President Mbeki’s failed to deliver an ARV rollout.

Benchmark countries such as Chile and Rwanda have achieved rates of 300 000 and 70 000 doses administered per day, respectively. Israel has already covered 55% of its population and the US, UK and Chile 25%.

They’re trying to spin it otherwise, but there is no national rollout by government. The “rollout” they are crowing about is the expansion of the Johnson & Johnson trials, run by trial scientists around existing trial sites, using other countries’ leftover J&J trial vaccines. The J&J vaccine has not even been approved yet by SAHPRA for general rollout in South Africa.

Hence South Africa fell 75% short of its target for March, vaccinating only a quarter of the one million healthcare workers it promised. This means 99.6% of our population remains unprotected ahead of an expected third wave.

Having failed to secure bulk supplies of any other vaccines, the decision to resell South Africa’s million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the African Union was irrational and unforgivable. They squandered this one precious opportunity to protect half a million high-risk individuals from severe disease and death.

A group of top medical scientists has called this decision irresponsible. They also find it to be unethical, since if government truly believed the AstraZeneca vaccine does not work, they should not have sold it on to the AU where the same variants are circulating.

Quite likely, the true reason behind this bizarre decision was to hide the fact that government still lacks a workable rollout plan and fears being shown up by the DA-run Western Cape Provincial Government which stands ready to administer 30 000 to 40 000 doses per day as soon as vaccines are available.

Discovery Health claims it can administer 50 000 doses per day once it gets vaccines. Yet there are no vaccines and there is no hard information on when and how many vaccines will be delivered. As with our energy and jobs shortages, the people of South Africa have the solutions, but the ANC government stands in their way, obsessed with centralizing control, yet incapable of delivering.

In a speech on Monday, President Ramaphosa tried to lay the blame on “vaccine apartheid”, implying it is deeply unfair that countries which didn’t bother to order vaccines last year haven’t received any. Is “vaccine apartheid” also to blame for our lack of workable rollout plan and lack of transparency?

Ramaphosa can point as many fingers as he likes, but the buck stops with him.

The vaccine programme should be his top priority and he should have been directing it himself from the get-go, not delegating to his corrupt deputy president and hapless health minister, both of whom are far more interested in their own career progression than they are in saving lives and livelihoods.

Last week, I sent the president a list of 15 questions relating to South Africa’s vaccine programme, asking him to be open and clear with South Africans. The reply from the Presidency was dismissive, referring me to the Health Department, from whence very little hard information has been forthcoming.

The Israeli president personally made seventeen calls to vaccine suppliers last year. Ramaphosa has known since last year that Aspen Pharmacare would be manufacturing 300 million vaccines for J&J at their facility in Port Elizabeth. Yet he only took it upon himself to intervene and “secure” J&J vaccines for South Africa this week.

Instead of answers, all he has been able to offer the nation is spin. This week it was his announcement that South Africa “will have access to” 30 million J&J vaccines produced at the Aspen facility in the Eastern Cape. Without a definite date, this statement is as meaningless as all the past ones announcing other bulk vaccines his government has “secured”, none of which has materialised.

More telling is the revelation this week that we can expect delays in the delivery of J&J vaccines because government has failed to implement a key contract clause in its agreement with the supplier, concluded in early February.

Meantime, South Africans remain locked down and locked out, living in an effective dictatorship under a continuous state of disaster as the most travel-restricted people on the planet. Prospects for revival of our tourism industry remain distant.

At some point in the second half of 2021, global vaccine shortages will suddenly swing to global glut, as large countries such as the US reach herd immunity. Then, last-in-line Ramaphosa will spin it as a massive victory when his feckless government procures sufficient vaccines. Don’t be fooled.

History will judge Ramaphosa harshly for his great vaccine failure. Voters should too.

Fee-free higher education: socialist dream, real-world nightmare

In a recent newsletter, I argued that South Africans face a binary choice between socialism and liberal democracy.

The choice is binary because from our starting point now, we can either move in the direction of more socialism or more liberal democracy. I argued that saving South Africa requires political realignment, where those who support liberal democracy come together to defeat those who support socialism.

ANC members of parliament would have experienced this binary yesterday in Parliament when they had to vote on a DA motion to institute an inquiry into Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane. ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule instructed them to oppose the motion while ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe instructed them to support it.

The burning issue of higher education funding provides another excellent case study on this binary choice.

The South African Union of Students has this week decided to shut down all 26 of South Africa’s universities until their demands are met for zero fee increases for 2021 and for all historical student debt to be cleared.

This is perfectly on cue with the “progressive” socialist script South Africa is following.

It’s Scene 10 in a movie which goes something like this:

  1. Adopt a socialist approach to the economy, namely a high degree of ownership and control for the state.
  2. Deploy politically loyal cadres into all institutions of state, to accelerate the “progressive” socialist revolution. (The ANC calls this the National Democratic Revolution.)
  3. Employ as many people as possible in the state and pay them as much as possible, because it is “progressive” (and because it buys political support). Don’t hold them to account for poor performance because that is “regressive”.
  4. When bloated state-owned companies inevitably fail, bail them out by borrowing money (at high interest rates because lenders know how risky it is to lend to socialist countries).
  5. When tax revenues inevitably decline because investors are scared off by the socialist agenda, maintain budgets for social spending by borrowing money (at high interest rates because lenders know how risky it is to lend to socialist countries).
  6. When unemployment inevitably rises, borrow more money to pay social grants and congratulate yourself for this “progressive” achievement of supporting more people on social grants.
  7. When your credit rating hits junk status and it becomes hard to borrow, cut budgets for social spending, but keep bailing out state-owned companies, which cannot be allowed to fail because they are “progressive” (and because they are a great source of patronage to shore up declining political support).
  8. When budget cuts to social spending erode political support and you have no way to deliver real improvements to peoples’ lives, make populist promises that are “progressive”, such as national health insurance, expropriation without compensation and more BEE.
  9. When these promises deter investment in South Africa and raise the cost of borrowing money and reduce tax revenues and increase unemployment, make more “progressive” promises, such as free higher education.
  10. When you don’t keep these promises because it’s getting hard to borrow enough money, and students threaten to shut down universities, “reprioritise” budget from basic education and social grants so that you can try keep your “progressive” promise of free higher education.
  11. Whatever happens, keep bailing out those state-owned companies, otherwise people may get the impression that your socialist agenda has failed.

And so we find ourselves at that point in the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution where qualifying students can’t register, and the entire university system is on hold, because NSFAS is underfunded by R6.8 billion, while the ANC government has spent R27 billion bailing out SAA in the last two years and is needing to spend another R5 billion this year in terms of the Business Rescue Plan. All while the airline is not actually flying anyone anywhere.

If you’ve seen this movie before, it’s because fellow socialist states Venezuela, Cuba, Argentina and Zimbabwe have already screened it, though they’re tiring of it now.

South Africans wanting to get out of this death-spiral need to unite behind the liberal democratic alternative. This is where the truly progressive policies are to be found. Policies which improve peoples’ lives in the real world where it matters.

The truly progressive approach to funding higher education in South Africa is to implement a student loan system where commercial banks via NSFAS provide either full or partial government-backed loans according to household income.

The loan becomes repayable when the graduate gets a job earning above some threshold, with capped repayment amounts, in a system administered by SARS.

Under this system, every qualifying student has full access, regardless of their ability to pay. Higher education is “free” for the poor student, but not for the income-earning graduate.

This income-contingent loan scheme is based on the simple principle that public goods should be state funded and private goods should be privately funded. Higher education is part public good and part private good, since graduate work contributes enormously to both society and to the graduate’s personal income stream.

When it operates in a liberal democratic order with a social market economy and secure private property rights, the likelihood improves that graduates will find gainful employment and be able to repay their loans. This is because economic growth follows opened economies like night follows day.

This approach boosts higher education funding in two ways. First, the recovery rate of student loans is higher. Second, the annual budget for NSFAS and university grants is higher because tax receipts are higher.

It generates a sustainable system which protects not only access to higher education, but also the quality and quantity of higher education on offer in South Africa.

It is based in the reality that fee-free higher education is regressive because it requires cutting budgets for social priorities such as basic education and social grants.

This policy position is not held by the DA alone. It was recommended in 2017 by the Heher Commission into student funding. It is extensively set out in this London School of Economics paper on higher education funding. Universities South Africa (USAf) has also set out the case against fee-free higher education.

In the local government elections later this year, a vote for the DA will be a vote to get South Africa out of our socialist death spiral and onto a liberal democratic path in which every qualifying student has full and fair access to higher education.

PS. At 11am today, DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube will be on the Inside Track in conversation with DA shadow minister of higher education Chantel King and others about how to fix South Africa’s higher education funding crisis.

Getting rid of RET protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane

It is now widely recognised that Busisiwe Mkhwebane is the very opposite of a public protector. She is a Zuma state capture appointee, hired to protect state looters from the public who naturally seek accountability for corruption and state capture. Of course, the Public Protector’s role should be to protect the public from a corrupt state, not the other way around.

A process is now underway to potentially impeach Mkhwebane. This will be a historic and revealing exercise. This situation has strong parallels with the motions of no confidence in then President Zuma when ANC members of parliament were forced to choose between party and country.

As with the ANC’s current dilemma of whether to support Zuma in his refusal to appear before the Zondo Commission, the question is: will ANC factionalism require SA to be sacrificed yet again on the altar of political expediency.

Some background. The DA tabled yet another motion of impeachment against Mkhwebane in February 2020 and submitted reams of supporting evidence, after Parliament passed new rules pertaining to the removal of office bearers in institutions supporting constitutional democracy.

These new rules call for an independent panel to conduct a preliminary assessment as to Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office. Last week, this panel found that there is sufficient prima facie evidence of both incompetence and misconduct, and therefore that Parliament should begin removal proceedings against her (as per section 194 of the Constitution).

On Tuesday next week, 16 March 2021, parliament will convene to “consider” the independent panel’s report. This is an opportunity for those ANC MPs who claim to have South Africa’s best interest at heart to support a formal impeachment process.

It will be revealing to see how ANC members of parliament respond to the issue of her impeachment, since the party is so divided on this matter. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, himself deeply implicated in state capture and corruption, has called on ANC MPs to oppose any motion to impeach Mkhwebane.

A date has not yet been set, but when the time comes to vote on Mkhwebane’s future, the motion will require a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Again, ANC MPs who have South Africa’s best interest at heart will need to support this motion, even while their RET faction colleagues on the ANC benches vote to protect Mkhwebane.

More likely, though, the ANC will draw out proceedings as far as possible, to avoid having to confront this issue head on, much like they drew out the Nkandla proceedings for years. Mkhwebane is already five years into her seven-year term, so they may get away with it. In which case voters should punish the ANC at the polls.

If a motion of impeachment does come to pass, and enough ANC MPs support it, this would be a classic example of political realignment that the DA has long called for. It is indeed the only route out of SA’s deadlock.

The issue of Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office also exposes another key aspect of our body politic – that of the commentariat’s general inability or unwillingness to give the DA credit where credit is due.

When Mkhwebane’s name was first put forward as a possible candidate for the role of Public Protector, the DA stood alone in arguing that she was not fit to hold this office. Yet our predictions have turned out to be correct.

During her tenure as Public Protector, the Courts have made damning findings against Mkhwebane, which seriously question her fitness to hold office:

  • The Constitutional Court foundthat she acted in bad faith and was not honest with the High Court regarding her investigation process in the Reserve Bank matter.
  • Her appeal to overturn Judge Ronel Tolmay’s scathing judgment of her poor handling of the Estina Dairy Farm matter and the report thereof, was dismissed by the North Gauteng High Court.

Her independence and credibility have also been called into question on several occasions:

  • She celebrated her 50th birthday party with individuals implicated in state capture– the very people she should be investigating.
  • She chose to absolve then Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo, despite unequivocal evidence that he lied to Parliament. Recent testimony by Sydney Mufamadi at the Zondo Commission bears out the DA’s point on this matter.
  • She laid criminal charges against former Public Protector, Adv. Thuli Madonsela, for releasing a transcript of an interview she had with former President Jacob Zuma.

With the slew of evidence against her independence and credibility, it is now common cause that Mkhwebane is a state capture appointee and must be replaced.

Political commentators are quick to pounce on the tiniest error the DA makes, whether fake news or not. Yet, I’m not aware of a single commentator who has given the DA credit for doing our homework properly up front and sounding the alarm on Mkhwebane.

This situation is echoed in our Stop Zuma campaign back in 2009 which met with almost universal hostility in the media. None of these detractors has publicly acknowledged their error, and that the DA was right to sound the alarm on Zuma back in 2009. Just as none has given us credit for sounding the alarm on state capture back in 2012.

The DA will continue to act in South Africa’s best interest, without fear or favour. For South Africa’s sake, we hope that reformist ANC MPs and political commentators will do the same.

In the local government elections later this year, a vote for the DA will be a vote to put South Africa first.

The DA is the strongest force for reform in South Africa

Whether wilfully or inadvertently, the Sunday Times misrepresented my answers in an interview last Thursday on the issue of political realignment which the DA believes is central to fixing South Africa.

So let me clarify our position.

The DA is unequivocally committed to four core principles which we believe are essential for a prosperous South Africa. These are:

  • Respect for the Constitution and the rule of law including that all are equal before the law.
  • A social market economy. Only an open, market-driven economy can produce the economic growth, jobs and tax revenue needed to roll back poverty and ensure a sustainable social safety net/trampoline.
  • Non-racialism
  • A capable state that delivers to all rather than a connected few. This requires adherence to the principle of the separation of party and state, and that non-political public appointments be made on ability to deliver rather than on political loyalty as is currently the case.

To realise these principles several reforms are required which include but are not limited to:

  • Opening our energy market to ensure a reliable, affordable power supply.
  • Removing the barriers to starting and growing businesses.
  • Rejecting policies that deter investment.
  • Getting our runaway debt under control.
  • Ending bailouts for failing state-owned companies.
  • Ensuring non-political public appointments are based on ability to deliver not political loyalty.

This is the DA’s pro-growth, pro-reform agenda. It gives rise to a system which benefits all rather than a connected few as is currently the case. It fosters accountability and inclusivity. It will open opportunities to more and more people, bringing them into the active economy.

The current system of centralized control in a corrupt, incapable state which organises society on racial lines benefits a few at the expense of the majority. It repels investment and entrenches poverty, unemployment and inequality.

There may be disagreement around the finer details of policy, but most South Africans share the DA’s core principles and want what the DA wants: a reformed system which builds an open, opportunity society for all.

But it’s only going to happen if this diverse, dispersed, silent majority comes together. There is no single grouping which can achieve reform acting alone and so it makes no sense for people to retreat into laagers, based on their cultural, religious or racial identities.

Only together can we overcome those pushing for a corrupt, predatory, socialist state as envisaged by Magashule, Malema and their hangers on. They have a strong incentive to mobilize: to stay out of jail and in riches.

The problem is that this dispersed majority has been unable to act in unity because the current political party landscape doesn’t reflect the actual values in our society.

Specifically, there are many people in the ANC who don’t “belong” there anymore, but the culture of the party and our politics is such that they cannot easily speak up. Those on social grants perceive a vote for the ANC to be a survivalist move, believing as many do that the grant comes from the ANC. So their reformist values don’t reflect in electoral results.

President Ramaphosa talks reform but walks socialism, either because he truly is a socialist at heart, or because it is the only way to keep the ANC united – clearly his top priority.

He has championed most of the socialist policies scaring off investors – expropriation without compensation, national health insurance, asset prescription, BEE.  He has achieved very little progress on reform in the three years of his presidency, and in fact South Africa has moved towards greater, not less, state control of the economy. Therefore, millions of people voted for reform in 2019 but got socialism.

This is the reality of our country’s politics so we need to be pragmatic in seeking solutions.

As the biggest political party backing reform unequivocally, the DA is the strongest force for reform in South Africa. It is my intention that the DA should be the powerful magnet that attracts like-minded individuals, organisations and political parties to this rational centre of the South African political landscape.

The DA is committed to putting South Africa first and we are willing to work with any political parties, organisations or individuals who share a commitment to our core principles and the reforms necessary to realise them – including those within the ANC whose values are not reflected in government outcomes.

We will not go into a formal coalition with any party, including the ANC, if it means compromising on our core principles. We are all for pragmatism, but only where it promotes our vision of an open, opportunity society for all.

An obvious route to political realignment that enables South Africa’s true constellation of values to dominate is an ANC split. But this seems unlikely given that President Ramaphosa is on record as saying he would rather be seen as a weak president than split the ANC.

But there are other routes.

The ANC itself is a party in inexorable decline due to systems such as cadre deployment and internal election processes which code the ANC and South Africa for failure.

Most likely, the party’s support will drop below 50% in many municipalities across the country in the local government elections later this year and in the national elections of 2024. The challenge for reformists is to save South Africa from going down with the ANC.

We are only as strong as we are united. As the saying goes: together we stand, divided we fall. If reformists come together at the centre of the political landscape, we will have the strongest voice at the negotiating table when the inevitable political shake up comes.

But even before then, reforms can be pushed through if we work with those ANC MPs who want to put South Africa first. Most ANC MPs do not support reform because it closes the taps of patronage to many in the ANC’s support base. Hence South Africa’s relentless decay, stuck as we are in a low-growth, high-debt trap. But there may still be enough good men and women on the ANC benches.

The DA will be tabling a raft of reforms in Parliament over the coming five months. We need just one third of ANC MPs to support them.

As I said in my SONA reply speech recently:

We will be tabling them here …to give those good men and women still left in the ANC the opportunity to vote for reform and growth even if your enemies on the benches around you won’t.

You see, it’s not necessary for the entire ANC caucus to back these bills. It’s not even necessary for half the caucus to do so. If our reform agenda is supported by the majority of these opposition benches, then we need little more than a third of your party to back them too.

Lets call it 85 members. Surely thats possible. And more importantly, surely its morally right. There must be at least 85 ANC members in this house who want to do the right thing.

But the big issue here is the urgency. We will be introducing all these bills in the first half of the year because we have no more time to lose. South Africa simply cant afford another year of ANC dithering and tiptoeing around factions.

This is a pragmatic plan of action to get South Africa on a path to prosperity.

There is nothing new about the DA’s desire to unite reformists, including those within the ANC. Both former DA leaders Mmusi Maimane and Helen Zille consistently called for this political realignment.

With the ANC clearly unable to deliver on its promised better life for all, the need for this political realignment has never been greater. Ahead of the local government elections later this year, voters need to ask the leaders of other political parties where they will stand when the time comes for South Africa’s political realignment: on the side of radical socialists, or on the side of reformists?

As for the DA, we are strong and united and working hard to build a new majority to take South Africa forward to prosperity.

On today’s Inside Track at 11am, DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube will be in conversation with Helen Zille and me, to discuss coalition governments and the realignment of politics.

Budget: Only the DA will get SA’s debt under control

Albert Einstein was being perfectly serious when he quipped that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. If we don’t resolve our debt crisis very soon, South Africans are going to learn this the hard way with sudden, deep, painful cuts across state spending.

On Monday, the DA released our Alternative Budget, a credible and costed plan to get the ANC’s debt under control, and thereby protect essential social spending, such as on grants, health, education, and safety.

With very achievable spending cuts, and whilst still protecting essential social spending and frontline staff wages, the DA’s Alternative Budget turns debt around by 2024/25, and at a 2.5 percentage point lower peak debt rate than the ANC, which optimistically forecasts getting debt under control by 2025/26.

Getting debt under control sooner means lower debt service costs (because lenders see us as less risky, so are prepared to lend at lower interest rates), which then allows for greater investment in social spending.

DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube will be discussing the budget at 11am today on the DA’s Inside Track, with shadow minister of finance Geordin Hill-Lewis, economist Mike Schűssler and others.

No one should underestimate South Africa’s debt problem. We’re borrowing R2 billion every day at high interest rates, with no real plan or ability to pay back this fast-rising debt. That’s completely unsustainable – something’s got to give.

Currently, interest on debt is our fastest-growing expense category. We already spend R1 in every R5 of tax revenue on it, and that will become R1 in every R2 within a few years, unless we get our debt under control. As our interest payments grow, so the amount we have left for poverty relief shrinks.

At some point – probably in the next three to seven years – we’ll have a full-blown sovereign debt crisis, when lenders stop lending to SA altogether. The consequences will be profoundly painful for society – wider poverty and deep cuts to social spending. As with other government failures, the poor always suffer most.

Unsustainable debt is also deeply unfair on young people, who’ll have to pay it back out of their tax earnings one day. Every child born in South Africa today immediately carries a debt burden of their R67 000 share of South Africa’s R4 trillion of debt.

Reforms that enable our economy to grow are the only way to get South Africa out of this crisis other than painful spending cuts.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni is acutely aware of this, but has been unable to force these through, for purely political reasons. Having lost the ability to deliver on their promise of a better life for all, the ANC has opted to deliver a better life for connected cronies to shore up their political support, at the expense of the majority.

So the DA will be tabling every one of the most critical reform measures in Parliament, and will press ahead with this reform agenda where we are in government. With significant support for these reforms on the opposition benches, only about one third of ANC MPs will need to support them, to get them pushed through.

A faster-growing economy has incredible power to reverse our economic fortunes. It would bend our unemployment trajectory, which is now at 42.6%, and grow tax revenues without increasing tax rates. Economic growth of just 1.5 percentage points above our current average growth rate will resolve our national debt crisis.

Along with economic reforms to unlock growth, we also need a budget that gets debt under control in the earliest possible time. The DA’s Alternative Budget:

  • Allows for a fully-funded vaccine rollout of R35 billion.
  • Allows for inflationary increases in social grants, health and education.
  • Protects working families from higher taxes.
  • Protects wages for frontline public sector workers – who are poorly paid relative to middle and senior management officials.
  • Stops bailouts to failing state companies such as SAA, Eskom and the Land Bank.
  • Allows R250 million to help cities procure independent power responsibly.

It is never easy to cut budgets, but it is far less painful than allowing SA to descend into a full-blown debt crisis. So the DA proposes the following spending cuts:

  • By freezing nominal public wages at the October 2020 limits.
  • By reducing the number of managerial posts in the civil service, through retrenchments and a hiring freeze until the number is down by 9000 – roughly a third.
  • By freezing nominal budgets of departments other than those that protect the most poor and vulnerable.

The DA is the only party that South Africans can rely on to build a more prosperous country for poor people today and for future generations. A vote for the DA in the 2021 local government elections will be a vote for growth and sustainability – and for Albert Einstein’s logic that the sooner you get debt under control the better.

EWC: Ramaphosa is following Mugabe’s script on land reform.

In my State of the Nation reply speech yesterday, I drew attention to the plight of coloured farmer Ivan Cloete who has been leasing and successfully farming a state-owned farm in the Darling area of the Western Cape for the past couple of years.

Two weeks ago, Mr Cloete was served with a notice of eviction by agriculture department officials and told his farm is to be handed over to an MK Veteran.

This is not an isolated incident. Many productive black farmers in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga are being similarly intimidated with one-week notices to vacate their farms that they lease from the state.

Officials are doing so under the cover of Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza’s scheme to release 700 000 hectares of state land for land redistribution purposes, though many of these farms are not even listed under this scheme.

This is despite Deputy President Mabuza’s assurances in Parliament on 22 October 2020 that “…those people that are currently occupying those farms (identified for redistribution), I don’t think there is any intention to forcefully remove people at this point in time”.

Yet when the DA raised Mr Cloete’s case with Deputy Agriculture Minister Mcebisi Skwatsha in Parliament, he ignored the question, showing neither interest nor empathy. This constitutes tacit approval for land grabs.

The DA is fighting for Mr Cloete and other productive farmers in his predicament. Not just for secure lease rights, but for full ownership.

We did this successfully for Limpopo farmer David Rakgase, who now has title to his farm after a court victory in September 2020, a precedent-setting case fought by the DA together with Mr Rakgase.

Mr Rakgase is appearing on the DA’s Inside Track today in conversation with DA spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube and others, to talk about how South Africa can achieve just and meaningful land reform.

It is crucial that we South Africans recognise the difference between meaningful land reform and populist rhetoric.

The former can only be achieved through secure property rights and will lead to increased agricultural output. The latter is based on expropriation without compensation and will lead to lawlessness and disinvestment.

So, one of the few positives of President Ramaphosa’s SONA last week is South Africa’s reaction to it. Even his most ardent admirers are seeing through the spin, fantasy and doublespeak.

This is significant, because too many South Africans have been lulled into a false sense of hope by Ramaphosa’s veneer of credibility as “the great reformer”.

Don’t get me wrong. I too have hope for South Africa.

But that hope lies in the ability of South African voters to hold the ANC accountable at the ballot box, not in Ramaphosa’s ability to reform his party or South Africa through “playing the long game”.

Ramaphosa’s supporters are starting to find his “long game” as effective as Thabo Mbeki’s “quiet diplomacy” back in the early 2000s, when then President Robert Mugabe was overseeing the destruction of Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector and food supply through land expropriation without compensation.

Mugabe portrayed his policy of land grabs as a key mechanism to redress the wrongs of Zimbabwe’s colonialist past and solve the economic crisis into which his own party, Zanu-PF, had plunged the country.

We are determined that expropriation without compensation should be implemented in a way that increases agricultural production, improves food security and ensures that the land is returned to those from whom it was taken under colonialism and apartheid.

This line from Ramaphosa’s SONA2021 reveals that Ramaphosa’s true “long game” is to follow Mugabe’s socialist, populist agenda on land reform.

What makes him far more dangerous than Mugabe or Zuma is that he hides it so well beneath a cloak of first-world sophistication and knack for speech-making.

Don’t get me wrong. South Africa’s unjust past must be redressed, black land ownership must increase massively, food security must improve, and the economic crisis must be solved.

But these can only be solved in a context of secure property rights such as those now enjoyed by Mr Rakgase. They are an essential foundation stone of liberal democracy and a functional, growing economy. Investment will evaporate without them.

We now know exactly how this strategy played out in Zimbabwe, where widespread hunger followed the lawlessness and disinvestment that are the inevitable result of expropriation without compensation.

So let us not be like the proverbial frogs in boiling water, where the temperature is raised so slowly that we never jump out.

As Maya Angelou famously warned: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time”.

The deadline for submissions on the ANC’s Expropriation Bill has been extended to 28 February 2021.

In the local government election later this year a vote for the DA will be a vote for secure property rights for productive farmers such as Ivan Cloete.

These are crucial opportunities for all South Africans “to jump out the water” before Ramaphosa raises the temperature still higher.

SONA 2021: Ramaphosa has failed to protect the people, economy and democracy of South Africa.

This was once again a SONA of unworkable plans rooted in the failed ideology of central command and control. A SONA of “sector master plans” developed by people who’ve never started or run a business. The ANC mantra is Power to the state. The DA mantra is Power to the people.

South Africa is in deep, deep trouble. We’re a bus accelerating toward a cliff. People are suffering terribly and much more suffering is on the horizon. Lives are at stake.

The situation is truly urgent. It calls for radical action that goes to the heart of the problem, which is an over-controlling, incapable, unaccountable state. Tonight, we needed to hear about real progress on real solutions to our real challenges.

We needed to hear the practical steps that are being taken to roll out vaccines, get our economy growing, and restore the political accountability that is essential in a democracy.

Yet, President Ramaphosa remains a spectator president looking on with dismay as if he has no personal agency to alter the tragic course of events unfolding in our beloved country.

He used beautiful words and soothing tones to offer empty promises and impractical plans.

He is not steering the ship to calmer waters. It is not even clear he is at the helm.

Three crises are crippling South Africa: the Covid crisis, the economic crisis, and our crisis of democracy.

In the run up to the SONA, the DA set out the obvious solutions that must be implemented if South Africa is to overcome these crises. We hoped Ramaphosa would report progress on these solutions.

Mostly, he failed to do so.

Covid crisis

Ramaphosa failed to make the commitments that will ensure a rapid vaccine rollout.

  • A paltry 80 000 J&J vaccines with more being drip-fed in similar small batches means SA is on our hands and knees picking up the scraps because we didn’t bother to get in the vaccine queue. And Ramaphosa gave no assurance that negotiations have been entered into with every single reputable vaccine supplier so that regulatory approvals for all can get underway soonest. His government remains the bottleneck to acquisition.
  • He gave no assurance that his government will publish a transparent, detailed vaccine plan that citizens can use to hold them to account. The DA will therefore continue to pursue this plan though legal action. His appointment of corrupt DD Mabuza to head the rollout shows that ANC factional politics takes priority over the lives and livelihoods of citizens.
  • He gave no commitment to a decentralized acquisition and distribution process that harnesses all South Africa’s available capabilities to get the job done in the fastest, most efficient way.
  • He failed to commit to using only established service providers with a track record of delivery for the vaccine distribution. So the risk remains that BEE will be used as a vehicle for ANC cronies to steal vaccine funds under the cover of “transformation”. Given their looting of R13 billion of PPE funds, Ramaphosa should have taken every precaution possible to ensure that 100% of vaccine funds are spent on protecting the public, and that means dropping BEE from the process. Already the ANC’s business arm, the ironically named Progressive Business Forum, is lobbying for its members, who fund the ANC, to get a share of vaccine supply contracts.

The result: South Africa’s vaccine rollout will be neither rapid nor efficient. South African lives and livelihoods will be lost unnecessarily as the virus continues to spread though the population in successive waves, and as the government continues to use the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions to try to control it.

Economic crisis

Ramaphosa knows that a growing economy is the only way to grow jobs, employment, tax revenues, and opportunities. He knows economic growth is the only way to reverse our spiraling fortunes and beat poverty and inequality. He knows that the only thing that grows an economy is investment in productive enterprises.

Yet he failed to deliver an economic growth agenda. He failed to make it clear to the nation that the people who start and build productive enterprises are the good guys, not the bad buys.

And he failed to announce progress and action on making it easier to do business in South Africa. Even though most of these action steps simply entail getting his government to move out of the way.

His government will continue to be like a massive roadblock on the path to progress, blocking entrepreneurs and the poor, and extracting payments from all who try to pass.

  • He has failed dismally to ensure an affordable, reliable energy supply. This month we can expect stage 6 and maybe even stage 8 load-shedding despite Ramaphosa’s 2015 promise that: “in another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with energy and Eskom ever happened”. Municipalities and large firms are still not allowed to purchase power directly from independent power producers, despite a commitment in last year’s SONA. Households and businesses are still not free to produce as much power as they like and feed excess power into the grid. The ANC government is literally a deadweight pulling businesses and households down as they try to move up.
  • He failed to reject his “Suicidal Six” investment-killers that make up the ANC’s control-and-extract patronage machine. They are why skilled people are leaving South Africa in droves, leaving our tax base half what it was three years ago. And why our foreign direct investment plunged by 46% in 2020 compared to only 11% for Sub Saharan Africa:

o Reserve bank nationalisation
o Asset prescription
o Expropriation without compensation
o The Mining Charter
o BEE – the vehicle by which ANC cronies steal from the poor
o National Health Insurance

  • He failed to announce the reforms that could double the number of small businesses in South Africa. So, our percentage of employed who are self employed or employers will remain 20%, which is half that of our peer countries where 40% is the norm. Therefore our unemployment will remain unnaturally high, as it has been for 20 years now.

o He failed to reform small businesses financing mechanisms.
o He failed to exempt small businesses from bargaining council agreements that they were not party to.
o He failed to exempt small businesses from onerous labour legislation designed for massive firms.
o He failed to raise the minimum VAT threshold to R5 million.

  • He failed to commit to the actions necessary to get our debt under control. Therefore, while we are currently spending R1 in every R5 on servicing debt, it will soon be R1 of every R2. Money for basic services, health, education, policing and grants will dry up.

o He failed to announce that the 29 000 millionaire managers in the public service will get below inflation increases for the next decade, to bring down our patronage-driven public wage bill which is the single greatest cause of our ballooning debt.
o He failed to announce independent lifestyle audits for high-ranking public officials.
o He failed to announce the sale of any state assets, so that we can bring down our debt. Beware: compound interest is the strongest force in the universe!
o He failed to announce the closure of SAA and an end to bailouts of loss-making state owned companies.

  • Let’s call Ramaphosa’s public sector infrastructure drive out for what it really is: the ANC’s second wave of state capture, loading. Because the same cadre deployment and “empowerment” policies that destroyed our infrastructure will now be deployed in its rebuilding.

The result: South Africa can expect no private investment in productive enterprises, so no new job creation. We can expect unemployment and crime to remain unnaturally high and tax receipts to continue falling as skills and capital flee South Africa. Our credit rating will slip deeper into junk status. So we’ll pay more and more for the R2 billion we borrow every single day to fund the ANC’s public sector patronage requirements. As our debt spirals, we should expect the bus to go over the cliff 3 to 7 years from now in the form of a sovereign debt crisis, and all hell to break loose.

Crisis of democracy

Ramaphosa failed to make the commitments necessary to ensure political accountability in SA. Political accountability is the essence of the democratic contract.

  • He failed to commit to, or even show support for, the electoral reform necessary to give Parliament real teeth to hold the executive to account. The DA has long called for a hybrid electoral system where at least a portion of MPs are elected directly by voters, and thereby incentivized to show loyalty to people rather than party. The remaining portion of MPs could still be elected through a system of proportional representation to ensure minorities are fairly represented in Parliament. DCJ Zondo recently echoed this call, as the only way to build real political accountability in South Africa. Under a hybrid system, Zuma would not have survived eight motions of no confidence, and Parliament would be focused on protecting people, not the ANC. Which is why Ramaphosa said not a word about it. Party over country every time.
  • He failed to commit to ending the ANC’s policy of state capture, which is what their explicit policy of cadre deployment is explicitly intended to achieve. Even though this is quite clearly unconstitutional. This makes a lie of his commitment to building a capable state. A commitment echoed in the National Development Plan. Yet while ANC cronies are appointed to positions of influence within all institutions of the state, the state will remain not just incapable, but also corrupt and uncaring. Our schools will continue to suffocate under the boot of SADTU.
  • He has not made enough progress on corruption. In his first SONA three years ago he promised to strong action against corruption. Yet not one single high-profile ANC cadre has been convicted, despite theft of R1.5 trillion from the people of South Africa. And in fact, many of the worst offenders such as David Mahlobo and Gwede Mantashe are still in his cabinet.

Conclusion

These three central crises will not be resolved. The South African bus will continue accelerating toward the cliff. The unnecessary suffering will continue and worsen. Youth unemployment will grow even higher than 70%. Our debt will grow. Cities will crumble. Shops will shutter. Inequality will widen. Our democratic protections will continue to erode. ANC cronies will grow fatter. Instead of a new dawn we have old nightmares.

This is the ANC’s legacy of elite extraction, brought to you with a smile and a tear by Cyril Ramaphosa. How inappropriate to quote Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” while holding the country down with an authoritarian boot on its neck.

Just as fynbos needs fire every twenty years to renew itself, our country needs a similar blaze of renewal, in the form of a new government, if it wants to bloom.

DA is fighting the root of the rot: cadre deployment.

This week, lawyers representing the DA submitted detailed questions to the Zondo Commission on Ramaphosa’s central and ongoing role in state capture, including as head of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee between 2014 and 2018 and as ANC president and SA president now. To end state capture, Ramaphosa must answer for his role in cadre deployment.

If the Zondo Commission fails to tackle and end the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment, then all the problems it has identified will persist.

Until cadre deployment ceases to be a policy of South Africa’s governing party, the country will never have a functional democracy, a healthy economy, or a capable state. No other policy has done more to undermine these.

Consider just the past week’s news cycle: R9 billion of tax payer money syphoned off to the ANC via the State Security Agency; R431 million spent by Gauteng Health Department on “deep cleaning” of schools that was not required or recommended by the Departments of Health or Education; not a single vaccine administered yet when other countries are well into their vaccination programmes; Zuma still living large after two decades of evading accountability for corruption related to the Arms Deal, Nkandla and State Capture; electricity tariff increases from Eskom, which is in a death spiral.

All these have the same root cause: cadre deployment.

Emperor of empty promises and high king of hypocrisy, Ramaphosa wrote in this newsletter last month: “We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage.”

Yet he has appointed corrupt, incapable DD Mabuza to head up SA’s vaccine programme. And “redeployed” Arthur Fraser and David Mahlobo, under whose watch R9 billion was stolen from the State Security Agency, to head Correctional Services and Human Settlements, respectively.

Cadre deployment is as much Ramaphosa’s game as it was Zuma’s, hence state capture lives on long after the Gupta’s departure.

The policy of cadre deployment was formally adopted by the ANC at their 1997 Mafikeng Conference. It aims to “control every lever of power in the state” by loading public institutions with cadres loyal to the ANC, in line with its Marxist ideology of central command and control.

By valuing loyalty to the ANC over competence and loyalty to SA, cadre deployment has caused all the wrong characteristics to become dominant in our state: nepotism, corruption, patronage, impunity, arrogance, chaos and incompetence.

Cadre deployment directly destroys the separation of party and state, an essential component of democracy.

It is that gene in the ANC’s genetic material which has caused corruption and incompetence to spread like a cancer into every single organ of our body politic – even those intended by the Constitution to check and balance executive power such as the NPA, Public Protector and SAHRC. It is the code that long ago set South Africa up for failure.

Cadre deployment is the root cause of all South Africa’s rot: the Arms Deal, State Capture, the destruction of Eskom, SAA, the SABC, Transnet and our other SOEs, our unsustainable national debt, endemic corruption, the complete breakdown of political accountability due to the failure of the NPA, our hopeless Public Protector, our poor handling of the pandemic, our broken policing, health and education systems, and our sky-high levels of unemployment and inequality.

Hundreds of thousands of articles have been written over the years on these and other ANC failures, and yet the DA stands pretty much alone as identifying cadre deployment as the root cause.

Consider this Maverick Citizen editorial this week by Mark Heywood, titled: “Land of glorious impunity – and how to ensure constitutional accountability for public resources”. Heywood lists several ways that accountability could be achieved.

And yet Heywood fails to identify cadre deployment as the root cause of the problem. Even if every single one of his “solutions” is implemented, the problem of impunity will persist until cadre deployment ends. Because cadre deployment is why maladministration and corruption go unpunished.

Cadre deployment has cost South Africans not just our hard-won democracy and trillions in tax revenue lost to corruption, but also lives. Directly, through looting of funds intended for life-saving PPE procurement. And indirectly, because poverty kills.

The great irony is that cadre deployment has happened under the guise of “transformation”. BEE is the mechanism whereby cadres are deployed even in the private sector, to syphon off taxpayer money (by charging a premium on tenders) part of which is redirected to the ANC, or an ANC faction, to entrench its power and access to state resources.

That decision back in 1997 had profound implications for South Africa. It is why we find ourselves here today, almost a quarter century later, with a failed, bankrupt state unable to deliver on even its most basic responsibilities to its citizens yet hellbent on controlling every aspect of our lives.

Either the ANC dumps cadre deployment or South Africa dumps the ANC. Nothing else will tackle the root of the rot. Getting Ramaphosa to explain his role by answering the DA’s questions before the Zondo Commission will expedite the solution, one way or another.

The DA is committed to the liberal democratic principles of separation of party and state, the rule of law, and a social market economy where power resides with the people. The 2021 local government election is your opportunity to promote these principles by supporting the DA.

Why a DA government would have been rolling out a vaccine by now.

Were the DA in national government, South Africans would be looking forward to a return to normal life this year, because a vaccine rollout would be well underway already. Nothing could more clearly highlight the importance of voting for a party with sound fundamentals, such as a commitment to merit-based appointments and tenders, an essential precondition for building a capable state.

The ANC government’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic (ranked second to last in Bloomberg’s ranking of 53 countries) is arguably their greatest failing yet, despite intense competition from disasters such as state capture (the full effects of which are now being revealed by the Zondo commission), endemic corruption, and one of the world’s highest unemployment rates.

The crucial difference between the DA and the ANC is in their core values. These are the seeds from which all outcomes ultimately sprout.

The ANC’s many governing failures are all due to the same fatal flaws in the party: its ideology of centralised state control, its policy of cadre deployment (where appointments are based on political loyalty rather than merit), and its policy of BEE (where tender allocations are based on identity rather than merit, providing a fig leaf for the enrichment of a politically connected elite).

These have combined to create a failed state incapable of performing even its most basic public sector duties such as providing healthcare and policing, but nonetheless hellbent on controlling every aspect of the private sector, to the detriment of both sectors.

Hence, we went into this pandemic with a weak healthcare system, unsustainable debt levels and an economy in recession. Our flailing, failing state has responded with heavy-handed restrictions which have wreaked enormous social and economic disruption, shutting down whole industries with neither rationale nor compensation. And yet they have failed to suppress the virus, which has run rampant through communities.

Under such conditions a swift, efficient vaccine rollout becomes all the more urgent but all the less likely.

Under a DA government, SA would have entered the pandemic in a much better state with a stronger healthcare system, because public appointments and tenders would be based on ability to deliver, which gives rise to a capable state.

Additional healthcare capacity would have been added as a matter of priority, as was showcased in the DA-run Western Cape province where the supply of available beds was quickly increased by building several fully equipped and staffed field hospitals so that the provincial government was able to deliver healthcare to all in need. There would have been no BEE to provide mechanism and cover for the looting of PPE funds.

SA would have entered the pandemic with a much stronger economy and better resourced Treasury, simply because the DA believes decision-making should be decentralised, giving rise to a market-driven economy. So, no state-owned companies syphoning off public money for decades, and far fewer restrictions on the real builders of our economy, entrepreneurs.

We would have responded to the pandemic by focusing on the high-impact interventions: adding healthcare capacity and rolling out an effective testing and tracing system to isolate the virus.

We would have allowed for more decentralised decision-making within a sensible set of safety protocols, so that households and businesses, municipalities and provinces could balance their need to save lives and livelihoods based on their specific risk profiles.

We would have been able to provide a much stronger safety net to households and businesses impacted by the pandemic.

And we would have begun negotiating with manufacturers for a supply of vaccines back in mid-2020 when most other middle-income countries were doing so. And planning and budgeting for a rollout. Not because we’re a special political party. But because we share the same core principles as the world’s most successful countries: appointments and tenders based on merit, which produces a capable state that knows to focus on its own role of providing public goods and give citizens the freedom to focus on theirs: building their lives and livelihoods.

But the DA is sadly not in government, and our ANC government only woke up to the need for vaccines this year. This failure may cost thousands of lives, millions of livelihoods and billions in tax revenue in the coming years. It is a major, major setback for South Africa, and it should spell the end of the ANC in government.

Let’s be clear here. This is entirely the fault of the South African government; it was entirely their responsibility. Especially as they insisted on full, centralized control without parliamentary oversight, under the cover of the flawed Disaster Management Act, which makes no provision for executive oversight. (The DA is challenging this in court but was denied direct access to the Constitutional Court.)

And so, no-one should be fooled by the victim narrative that President Ramaphosa is now pushing, to shift blame elsewhere.

Yesterday, in a World Economic Forum speech, he blamed other countries for buying up all the available vaccines. He blamed them for doing their job and getting in the queue, saying: “We are deeply concerned about the problem of vaccine nationalism, which, unless addressed, will endanger the recovery of all countries.”

Which is code for: “Other countries are to blame for South Africa not having vaccines because we didn’t pay our deposits to get in the queue and other countries must now give us some of their vaccines otherwise it will be their fault if South African lives are lost.”

Israel has already vaccinated 40% of their population, after their prime minister personally made 17 phone calls to the CEO of Pfizer last year to secure a sufficient supply of vaccines. Is Israel now to blame because Ramaphosa didn’t pick up the ball or the phone till this year?

Ramaphosa has also tried pleading poverty, saying South Africa couldn’t afford to risk paying deposits for vaccines that had not yet passed their trials. This is deeply disingenuous on two counts. Firstly, the deposits (known as advance market commitments) involved a refund for unsuccessful trials. And secondly, a fully costed vaccine rollout to herd immunity is estimated to cost R8.6 to 16.4 billion – roughly the same cost as a single day of hard lockdown, which was estimated to cost R13 billion. In other words, we couldn’t afford not to pay those deposits.

The DA gave the government seven days to disclose details of their vaccine acquisition and rollout plans. This deadline has now expired, so we will be filing court papers tomorrow to obtain a court declaration forcing government to do so. This will enable us to track and monitor government’s performance and hold them to account for non-performance, rather like the declaratory order that finally got the government to take the anti-retroviral rollout seriously to fight HIV.

If we need to defy the SA government’s decision to be the sole procurer of vaccines to get them to the people of the Western Cape sooner, we will. Just like we defied national policy to keep school-feeding programmes open and ECD subsidies flowing during the hard lockdown last year.

It is our core values that define the difference between the DA and the ANC. It is our core values around which we seek to unite South Africans. It is our core values that enable us to deliver superior outcomes where we govern. And it is our core values that we will be looking to apply in more and more municipalities when we contest the local government elections later in 2021, the year that South African feel mostly keenly the results of their political choices.

Vaccine rollout would have been well underway with a DA national government.

This is my first newsletter of the year. On behalf of the Democratic Alliance, I wish you and your family a healthy, happy 2021.

Last year was exceptionally dark and this year is looking darker still. Lives continue to be lost, businesses continue to shutter, and investment drains away, while our heavily indebted government claims to have no money to compensate households suffering the worst ravages of lockdown restrictions.

But the development of a safe, effective vaccine for Covid-19 means there is light at the end of this tunnel.

There is no higher priority for South Africa this year than to roll out vaccines. We are in a race against this virus, which is mutating as it transmits, and we will only win this race with a swift, efficient vaccine rollout. Specifically, frontline workers and the most vulnerable among us need to be vaccinated by end April to avoid the worst ravages of a third wave as we head into winter.

Had the DA been in national government, we would be vaccinating thousands of people each day right now, as is underway in many other middle-income countries.

But our incapable ANC government has massively dropped the ball on acquiring an adequate supply of vaccines, failing to place orders with manufacturers on time, even as it insists on being the sole procurer. So thousands of lives, millions of jobs and billions of rands of tax revenue will be lost unnecessarily this year and next as the government continues to use the blunt instrument of blanket restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

Ever since Covid-19 hit our shores, the DA has been calling on government to focus on the big, high-impact interventions, given South Africa’s precarious situation of limited resources and wiggle room.

It’s all about priorities.

As I set out in my speech on Monday, the three biggest interventions are building healthcare capacity, rolling out a proper testing and tracing programme to isolate the virus, and rolling out vaccines. Government has failed on all three while going all out on often petty, meaningless lockdown restrictions. Only in the DA-run Western Cape province was healthcare capacity boosted and an efficient testing and tracing programme undertaken.

The DA understands that when it comes to vaccines, no effort is too great nor price too high so that we can fully reopen our economy. Consider that a full rollout programme is estimated to cost R8.6 to 16.4 billion, about the cost of one day of hard lockdown – R13 billion – and a fraction of the R389 billion of economic output lost in 2020 due to lockdown.

Yet Ramaphosa’s government has shown unforgivable disinterest (see here and here) in acquiring vaccines, with the result that South Africa is now at the back of the queue and scrambling to pick up any scraps we can, at double the price. As a group of eminent scientists put it:

This lack of foresight will visit on us the consequences of the greatest man-made failure to protect the population since the Aids pandemic, when we refused to provide life-saving medicines out of choice and against the desperate pleas of horrified medical and humanitarian agencies here and abroad and directly caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. A high probability of a reprise of this is a monumental and unforgivable failing.

To make matters worse, government initially sought to cover for their failure by downplaying the importance of vaccines. This is grossly irresponsible, given that 53% of adult South Africans are already suspicious of the vaccine. Fortunately, government retracted after a swift backlash from top scientists (see here and here).

Given the unconscionable corruption in PPE purchasing last year, we should not disregard the possibility that government’s reluctance to negotiate with vaccine manufacturers is because the politically connected are hoping for kickbacks from contracts with Russian and Chinese suppliers.

But perhaps they simply got their priorities wrong and were too focused on their (net harmful) blanket bans on alcohol, beaches and freedom of movement that have so distracted Police Minister Bheki Cele from doing his real job of fighting real crimes that contribute to real pressure on our trauma units.

Or perhaps they failed to prioritise funding and so missed the first two Covax payment deadlines and avoided direct negotiations with suppliers. Indeed, the national department of health offered lack of funds as the reason, blaming National Treasury for their reluctance to pay deposits.

In a damning interview last week, President Ramaphosa claimed that government’s failure to secure vaccines was because they couldn’t afford the risk of losing deposits if trials proved unsuccessful. Yet this is an outright lie, since the advance market commitments required to secure a supply of vaccines promise a refund for unsuccessful trials, as noted by Professor Shabir Mahdi, who headed up the vaccines trials in SA.

Whatever the true reason, the fact remains that President Ramaphosa was lying when he claimed government has been negotiating for the past six months, when in fact they only started serious negotiations this year. No matter how he spins it, he is fast losing people’s trust at a time when trust in his government is all important to secure a swift rollout once we receive a supply of vaccines.

He was also lying when he claimed in his address to the nation on 11 January that government has a comprehensive plan to vaccinate 40 million people this year. This is no more than wishful thinking, and virtually impossible to attain. Even 20 million will be an extraordinary undertaking.

Yet more evidence of the ANC government’s rank failure to prioritise vaccines is that corrupt, incapable Deputy President David Mabuza is heading the vaccine task team responsible for the rollout.

On The Inside Track yesterday, DA national spokesperson Siviwe Gwarube brilliantly unpacked the vaccine issue in discussion with WC Premier Alan Winde, health economist Professor Alex van den Heever, and DA shadow minister of finance, Geordin Hill-Lewis.

What is the DA doing about all this?

Firstly, we are applying maximum political pressure, which has succeeded in prompting the government to finally get serious about vaccines.

Secondly, in the Western Cape we are taking steps to acquire vaccines directly and readying for a swift rollout once we get supply.

Thirdly, we are pursuing legal action to compel government to provide a full, detailed vaccine procurement and distribution plan against which we can hold them accountable, like the mechanism by which they were finally forced to roll out HIV treatment.

Perhaps most importantly, we are preparing to contest the 2021 local elections, to offer South Africans an alternative to the incapable, uncaring ANC. Breaking the news this week of a vaccine tax hike, government said people will just have to “bite the bullet”. Well, most taxpayers don’t have bullets, but they do have ballots, and 2021 is the year to make them count.