Lessons from the looting spree

The orgy of mass destruction that began in KZN on Friday 9 July has done immeasurable harm to the communities and organisations affected and to the country at large.

I spent most of last week in affected areas seeing for myself and speaking to people on the ground. I don’t think I would have quite believed the extent of senseless destruction had I not been there. It is genuinely hard to describe in words.

History turns on moments such as these. This coordinated looting spree has the potential to greatly accelerate South Africa’s descent to a failed state. It has dealt a body blow to confidence in our state and in our economy.

The first “no” is the easiest “no”. The state’s failure to anticipate and act swiftly to quell this insurrection before it properly got going means there is now a heightened risk of recurrence.

This will scare away more skills and investment and our tiny tax base will shrink still further, with terrible consequences for our ability to provide social services and relief to those millions of vulnerable households who need these now more than ever.

But there is also the real possibility that this devastation will convince people of the changes we need to make if we are to build our society into one which really does deliver a better life for all.

Sometimes hard evidence succeeds where reasoning fails.

The mayhem last week is painful proof of the DA’s long-held view that the rule of law, a capable state and a social market economy are essential prerequisites for a successful South Africa. South Africa needs a government that is deeply committed to each of these fundamental, interdependent principles.

The rule of law

The rule of law is a precondition for safety, stability and order and therefore an indispensable characteristic of a functional society. Where people feel emboldened to rebel against the rule of law, as they did in KZN and Gauteng last week, wellbeing, investment and productivity give way to suffering, anarchy and destruction.

A capable state

The rule of law requires enforcement by a capable state. It is no coincidence that the state intelligence and police services failed utterly to protect people and property before and during the uprising. And no one will be surprised if the state fails to arrest, charge and imprison the perpetrators for their actions.

The institutions of our state have been severely weakened by years of cadre deployment, the ANC’s policy of basing public service appointments on political loyalty. Cadre deployment is directly responsible for the incompetent, corrupt and captured state that let citizens down so badly last week.

The DA has spoken out against this unconstitutional policy since its formal adoption by the ANC in 1997 and consistently called for public appointments to be based on merit (ability to get the job done, which requires skills, experience, commitment) rather than on considerations of political loyalty, identity or patronage.

Inherent in the concept of the rule of law is a culture of accountability. But it is only possible to instill this in society when institutions of state, such as the National Prosecuting Authority and the whole criminal justice system have the necessary capacity.

A capable state, acting in unison with a social market economy, is also an essential precondition for tackling the dangerously, unacceptably high unemployment, poverty and inequality that exacerbated the chaos. This imperative has never been more urgent than it is now.

A social market economy

Last week laid bare not only the incapacity of the state to deliver on its most basic responsibilities, but also the incredible capacity that resides amongst private citizens to make the right decisions and get things done. It was private citizens who protected people, jobs and workplaces. With no established systems, budget or leadership, private citizens performed the state’s most basic role of providing protection and stability.

The contrast between a capable, motivated private citizenry and an incapable, demotivated state has never been more starkly on display. Can anyone now still support the ANC’s ideology of a command economy, controlled at the centre by the state?

This should deal a death blow to the ANC’s many attempts to centralise economic control in national government, including its attack on private security companies, private gun ownership for self-protection, metro police services, private medical aids, and independent power producers.

The more economic decision-making and control is decentralised to private individuals and organisations – where the capacity and incentives reside – the more jobs and tax revenue will be created to provide a lifeline to the millions of citizens suffering in abject poverty.

Without a healthy, growing economy that only the private sector can deliver, all talk of a basic income grant is merely hollow rhetoric and empty promises. If we are serious about a basic income grant – and we should be – then we need to be equally committed to a market-driven economy.

Conclusion

This has been a hinge of history moment. If ever there was a need for South Africans to come together around these operating principles and to back a reform agenda, it is now. The DA will continue to fight for, operate by, and govern according to these principles. A vote for the DA in the upcoming local government election will be a vote for the rule of law, a capable state, and a social market economy.

Government must be held accountable for all lives lost due to vaccine delays.

The DA has called for a full parliamentary inquiry into the government’s handling of the Covid-19 vaccine programme. And we’ve called for budgeted funds to be released to allow for vaccinations to proceed at full pace seven days a week.

A full 15 months into the pandemic less than 1% of South Africans have been fully vaccinated. That’s fewer than 500 000 people out of a population of 60 million who are fully protected. A further 2.7% have received a first dose and await a second.

We are lagging far behind not just our upper-middle-income peer countries but also lower-middle-income and many poor countries including Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Thousands of South Africans are dying avoidable deaths and yet our vaccination programme is only running five days a week because we “can’t afford to pay overtime”.

Vaccine delays cost lives. Every South African should be outraged at government’s approach to vaccines, which has been secretive, slow, disorganized and deadly.

Thousands of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, grannies and grandpas are gone today who should still be alive. Thousands of high-risk patients who should have been vaccinated in March with the AstraZeneca vaccines we had are instead fighting for their lives, some of them in chairs while they wait for hospital beds to come available. Thousands more will die avoidable deaths in the coming weeks as the third wave crisis gathers fatal momentum.

This unfolding human tragedy is self-inflicted. The Ramaphosa administration is entirely to blame. Yes, we’ve had setbacks. But setbacks happen. They should be planned for and buffered against.

South Africa should have placed early bulk vaccine orders with a wide variety of suppliers, to ensure sufficient supply. We should have chosen to use the one million AstraZeneca vaccines we received in February to protect the high-risk group as per scientific and WHO advice, rather than sell them. We should have planned our vaccine rollout programme months in advance of delivery. We should be vaccinating at full speed seven days a week. The private sector and competent provinces should have been allowed to procure their own vaccines.

Instead, the Ramaphosa administration has botched the vaccine programme from beginning to end. They twice failed to pay the Covax deposits timeously. 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 roll out the AstraZeneca vaccines that were the only ones available to us back in March. They failed to plan an efficient rollout. They’ve failed to release budget for a seven-day per week programme. They’ve failed to communicate clearly. And they’ve failed to admit to any of their failures.

The only logical explanation is that they just don’t value South African lives. The only things they have consistently delivered on are excuses, corruption, and a resolute determination to keep full centralized control over the process even as they sleep at the wheel.

Notwithstanding these vaccine failures, had government built healthcare capacity and released sufficient budget, we would have been able to accommodate all those in need of medical assistance.

But they didn’t. The current shambolic situation in Gauteng has prompted one scientist to ask if there is anyone in the Gauteng department of health. Covid facilities that cost South Africans millions are non-operational because of staff shortages.

The 1000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Hospital in Johannesburg is still inexplicably closed over two months after a fire broke out there. Politicians can wheel out excuses, but where there’s a will there’s a way. The 850-bed CTICC Hospital of Hope in Cape Town started admitting patients just one month after work on the site began.

The DA-run Western Cape is the only province which has successfully built healthcare capacity to be able to accommodate all in need.

And so now South Africa faces the prospect of economic restrictions, which have already been shown to do more harm than good. But they’ll be implemented anyway because they give the illusion that government is doing something.

And so thousands of families will go hungry as thousands of businesses and jobs disappear. All of this avoidable suffering.

Of course, none of the individuals tasked with rolling out an efficient vaccine programme and none of those deciding which parts of the economy to shut down 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 can’t 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.

There must be consequences.

The government must be held accountable for all lives lost avoidably due to vaccine delays. The local government election on 27 October 2021 is your chance to punish the ANC and to vote for the DA, the only party with a proven track record of getting things done in government to save lives.

The DA gets things done for young people.

On Youth Day, we grown-ups owe it to the children of South Africa – past, present and future – to take honest stock of the way this country treats young people. We need to ask ourselves if this is the best we can do, or if there are things we can do to build a better future for them.

So here are the facts.

No country for poor young people.

Nearly three million of our children experience hunger regularly, while 600 000 children experience hunger every day or almost every day. For every single one of these children, hunger is a personal disaster, stunting their joy of childhood and prospects for adulthood. For their parents, it is humiliating defeat. For our country, it is a stain on our national conscience.

This hunger crisis exploded when government glibly shut down whole industries and stole billions in Covid relief funding. But the raw deal that children get didn’t start and won’t end with the pandemic.

Schools in poor communities are so deficient that only one in five school children in South Africa leaves foundation phase able to read for meaning. Only one in three entering grade 1 will pass matric and only one in 25 will receive a post school qualification.

The single biggest reason for these bad outcomes is that the ANC puts the interests of SADTU ahead of the needs of poor schoolchildren, in return for SADTU’s political support. The “Cash-for-jobs” report compiled by Professor John Volmink in 2016 revealed that through the process of cadre deployment, SADTU has captured and corrupted six of South Africa’s nine provincial education departments.

Three out of every four young people aged 15 to 24 and over half of those aged 25 to 34 who want a job can’t find one. Poor, young people are shut out of opportunities, most living bleak existences in metros and municipalities where crumbling infrastructure and growing debt point to a future that is bleaker still.

The single biggest reason for disparities in unemployment levels between youth and other age groups is that the ANC puts the interests of unions over the needs of young people, in return for political support. By setting up artificial barriers to entry into the labour market, labour law protects the employed at the expense of new entrants and the unemployed.

Let’s face it. We grown-ups are failing our children. On empty stomachs, they must struggle through bad schools only to face a hostile labour market and a bleak future. Their fate is surely our call to action.

The DA difference.

There is one province that has their back and is working hard to build a better future for poor young people. This is the DA-run Western Cape.

During lockdown and school closures last year, the province defied a national government directive to terminate school-feeding programmes. It introduced and funded an Emergency School Nutrition Programme that delivered 1.6 million meals to school children across the province. Other provinces were eventually forced by a court order to follow suit.

The Western Cape was also the only province to continue providing a full subsidy to funded Early Childhood Development centres throughout the lockdown.

The DA gets things done to tackle hunger and poverty.

National government’s decision to close schools in response to the pandemic dealt a particularly devastating blow to children from poor families because they could not make full use of available online resources. The DA and the Western Cape government have consistently lobbied for schools to reopen based on sound scientific evidence that children are at low risk for severe Covid-19 infection and are low-risk spreaders to adults and are in fact safer at school because of safety protocols in place there.

The provincial government procured masks and sanitizer for every school in the province. It was the only province to publish details of all personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and expenditure.

The DA gets thing done for poor young people. Efficiently and transparently.

The DA-run Western Cape government keeps more children in school (from each cohort of kids who entered grade 1 twelve years previously) till the end of matric than any other province. By law, children only have to attend school to the end of Grade 9. The province has consistently achieved retention rates (grade 10 to 12) of over 60%, which is 10 percentage points above the national average.

It also consistently achieves the top matric results in the country for each of these cohorts. Other provinces have higher drop-out rates during grades 10-12 for low-performing kids, which artificially boosts their matric results, which are generally reported only as a percentage of kids who wrote matric.

The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa to have implemented a Schools Evaluator. It is independent and properly resourced to accurately assess schools, to ensure better results at more schools in the province. Reports are published online for all to see.

The province has lead innovation in education by establishing Collaboration Schools – 15 in all so far – in which schools serving disadvantaged communities are partnered with non-profit organisations.

It leads in connectivity, having connected 85% of public schools in the province (1297 out of 1523) to broadband.

The DA is challenging in court the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment which has enabled capture and corruption of much of SA’s education system by SADTU.

The DA gets things done for school children.

And finally, when Western Cape youth seek out jobs, they have a better chance of finding one. Unemployment in the province is 17.5 percentage points lower than the average for the other eight provinces. This is because DA governments work hard to create an enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

The DA gets things done for young jobseekers.

Their fate our call to action.

What can you do to help build a better future for South Africa’s children? There are so many ways that people can make a difference. I’d argue that the most powerful step you can take is to vote DA in the upcoming local government election on 27 October 2021. Because unlike the ANC, the DA gets things done for young people.

Midvaal’s clear blue water

Nothing could better underscore the importance of voting – and voting DA – in the upcoming local government elections than yesterday’s news that dairy group Clover has decided to close South Africa’s biggest cheese factory, in the North West town of Lichtenburg.

This decision comes on the back of large financial losses due to poor or non-existent service delivery by Ditsobotla Local Municipality. The frequent water and electricity supply disruptions and crumbling municipal infrastructure including the practically impassable road leading to the factory means it is no longer feasible for Clover to operate there.

Clover is consolidating its production activities in its Durban factory, a move which will cost Clover R1.5 billion. This is a massive vote of no confidence in Ditsobotla municipality and a massive blow to the community. Some 330 breadwinners will lose their jobs. Other smaller businesses in the municipality will suffer a drop in demand for goods and services.

On the other side of the spectrum lies Midvaal Municipality, the only local government in Gauteng that the DA runs with a full mandate.  A decade of solid delivery under the capable leadership of DA mayor Bongani Baloyi has attracted investment to the area and boosted local economic activity, giving rise to its reputation as the fastest-growing municipality in Gauteng.

Unsurprisingly, Sedibeng Breweries, South African distributors for Heineken chose to establish its national office there, bringing with it new opportunities for job creation and small business. Other major organisations operating there are Ferrero Roche, New Hope, BSI Steel, South 32, Paramount Trailers and the Oprah Winfrey School. You will not find any of them closing or moving because of poor municipal service delivery.

Midvaal is rated one of the top five best-run municipalities out of 278 municipalities in the country, by independent ratings agency Ratings Africa. It is also the best-performing municipality in Gauteng, and the only one that can boast seven consecutive years of clean audits, meaning public money is reliably spent on the public.

This tale of two municipalities shows the clear blue water between DA- and ANC-run governments. It also makes clear the relationship between local government performance and the area’s ability to attract and retain investment.

More investment means more jobs, more economic activity, and more revenue that can be spent on things that improve people’s lives, such as electrifying informal settlements and building community sports facilities. DA-run Midvaal Municipality does these things and much more.

Local government is the coalface of service delivery and is therefore especially important to vulnerable communities. It is also the essential foundation on which our country’s economy is built. Businesses like Clover vote with their feet. No business will risk investing in a municipality that can’t guarantee delivery of the most basic services required to run a business profitably – water, electricity, roads, sanitation, refuse collection.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the broad unemployment level in DA-run Western Cape province, where most DA-run municipalities are located, is 17.5 percentage points lower than the average for the other eight provinces. This is according to Statistics SA’s recently released figures for the first quarter of 2021, which show unemployment at 27.9% in the Western Cape and at 45.4% in the rest of South Africa.

The DA is the only party with a proven track record of delivery. If we want to revive the dying economies of our towns and cities, we have to install DA governments in municipalities and metros across the country. The upcoming local government elections on 27 October 2021 is a crucial opportunity for voters to do this.

Yesterday, the DA was first out of the blocks with its voter registration campaign, fixing DA registration posters to street poles in Nelson Mandela Bay. DA registration posters will be going up across the country from this week, calling on all South Africans who will be 18 years or older by 27 October to use the registration weekend of 17 and 18 July to make sure they registered to vote DA.

If we want South Africa to work, we need to fix it. There is no more powerful action step you can take to fix your town or city than to vote DA on 27 October 2021, because the DA gets things done.

Kouga, a South African success story

No matter how bad things are in many parts of South Africa, the story of Kouga Municipality in the Eastern Cape shows us that things can turn around swiftly with the right leadership.

Kouga is home to some 200 000 people living in Jeffreys Bay, Humansdorp, St Francis Bay and the surrounding areas. When they gave the DA an outright majority in the 2016 local government elections, we inherited an indebted municipality collapsing under years of ANC neglect and corruption. To make matters worse, it was also the start of a prolonged drought.

Five years on, Kouga is a place of hope and progress, where the promise of “a better life for all” is real for people. The difference between 2016 and 2021 is striking. Consider the progress made in the following delivery areas.

Housing: The ANC-run council had neither built nor facilitated the building of a single house in Kouga since 2007. Since 2016, the DA-run council has completed 611 houses and another 3025 are in the pipeline while a further 2790 are being held up by land and infrastructure issues. This is against a backlog of about 15 000 houses needed, meaning that real progress is being made.

Fleet: In 2016, only 4% of Kouga’s vehicle fleet was operational. Today, 96% of the municipality’s vehicles are on the road every day to service communities, and 57 new vehicles have been added to the fleet.

Roads: From 2011 to 2016, the ANC-run municipality spent an average of R3.5 million per year on road maintenance. The DA-run municipality has tripled that delivery rate, spending on average over R10 million per year on repairing and upgrading roads in the past five years.

Public amenities: In 2016, public amenities were in a state of disrepair with little to no maintenance happening. Since 2016, the DA council has undertaken a massive maintenance drive and upgraded community halls, ablution facilities, sports facilities, parks, and campsites.

Investment: By 2016, investment in Kouga had all but dried up and local businesses did not want to take on contracts for the municipality because of its reputation for non-payment. Kouga is now an investment hub. A brand-new hospital is being built in Jeffreys Bay, while R4 billion has been invested in two housing developments, and several large companies have set up in Kouga.

But the municipality isn’t just content with getting these basics right. It is actively innovating, to take Kouga from good to great.

The municipality won gold at the Eco-Logic awards last year for the first plastic road in Africa, built in Jeffreys Bay using recycled plastic (equivalent to 1.8 million plastic bags per kilometre of road). This revolutionary new approach to tarring could increase the lifespan of roads while reducing maintenance costs and plastic pollution. If ever there was hard proof that the DA goes the extra mile, this is it.

Kouga has its sights on becoming the country’s leading Bioeconomy Zone. An SA subsidiary of Hive Energy is set to develop a waste-to-energy plant, a solar plant, and a biochar plant that turns invasive alien vegetation biomass into “green charcoal” which has several environmentally friendly applications. The first biochar units have been manufactured to kickstart the project.

The council has built a new state-of-the-art waste water treatment works and is upgrading its three other waste water treatments works, one of the many ways this municipality is fighting off Day Zero during a devastating drought which has brought the Kouga Dam level to below 5% this week.

Day Zero may be just weeks away but if it happens, Kouga residents will know their municipality pulled out all the stops to avoid it. It is aggressively pursuing water security by every means possible, including through groundwater supply and water conservation and demand management initiatives.

All this investment and innovation comes at a cost, and yet Kouga’s finances are in a much healthier state now than five years ago when the DA council took over. In 2016, Kouga was heavily indebted. Today, this debt has been paid off yet cash on hand is almost double what it was back then.

Kouga is a wonderful South African success story that needs to be replicated in municipalities across the country. What are the keys to its success?

First is meritocracy. People and service providers are appointed based on their ability to get the job done for the benefit of the public, rather than on political connections for the benefit of the party. This is why the people of Kouga are at the centre of everything council does.

Second is accountability. Before 2016, corruption was rife and went unchecked. Since 2016, the approach has been one of zero tolerance for corruption, driven by an anti-corruption unit which has seen two officials suspended for fraudulently issuing drivers licenses.

Third is decentralization. By collaborating with community groups and the business sector, they’ve managed to get much more done than would have been possible working in isolation. The trick to getting stuff done in government is to understand that government is not so much about doing stuff as about enabling stuff to get done. South Africans are super entrepreneurial and innovative. They just need a government that’s working for them rather than against them.

The story of Kouga shows that the first step to building a successful South Africa is to vote DA. In the local government elections on 27 October 2021, a vote for the DA will be a vote for success because the DA gets things done.

A reason to hope.

A shallow dive into the recent news cycle will deepen one’s sense of despair. But there is reason to hope and reason to act on that hope.

The third wave is hitting Gauteng, Free State and Northern Cape and appears to be just weeks away in other provinces. Fourteen months under a state of disaster with varying levels of lockdown and yet South Africa faces the third wave unprotected and vulnerable with not enough beds and oxygen and less than 1% of the population fully protected against serious Covid. (Recall that it takes 2-4 weeks to develop full immunity once vaccinated.)

To make matters worse, our vaccine rollout continues to be held back by a shortage of vaccines, a failure for which president Ramaphosa must ultimately take full responsibility.

To cover for this failure, the National Coronavirus Command Council is considering moving SA to “an adjusted lockdown level 2”. If the NCCC announces irrational blanket bans, it will deal a deathblow to thousands of businesses and jobs teetering on the edge.

Meantime Health Minister Zweli Mkhize is distracted by shocking revelations of Covid corruption that implicate him in his department’s allocation of a sham R150 million contract to his close friend and former associate’s company Digital Vibes.

It is a chilling portent of what is to come if the Health Professions Council of South Africa gets its way. Last week, it told Parliament that the current reserves of the medical schemes must be transferred to the NHI which should be the only health funding mechanism.

Consider the implication for health outcomes if one individual, the Minister of Health, gets full control of SA’s R450 billion health services procurement budget.

Citizen safety also seems more fragile than ever after the horrific incident in Zandspruit where nine young people were stripped naked and burnt to death in an open field by a vigilante group fed up with local crime and policing failures.

Yet rather than taking measures to make South Africans safer, government’s solution to policing failures has been to cut the budget for visible policing and to release the Firearms Control Amendment Bill which proposes a ban on firearm ownership for self-defence. At the same time, it has increased VIP protection for the political elite.

Our power-hungry national government can’t deliver on its basic responsibilities but is amassing more power than ever before.

Understandably, this barrage of bad news leaves one feeling helpless and hopeless.

But there is a South African success story that the media seems strangely reluctant to tell.

The DA in government shows that a successful South Africa is possible. This claim is not the facile promise of a party in opposition. It is the real track record of a party that runs 27 governments across four provinces in South Africa.

Consider how the recent news cycle would have differed had the DA been in national government.

The DA-run Western Cape Government is confident it has prepared enough beds, oxygen & staff to ensure no person is denied access to life-saving medical treatment at a third wave peak. This removes the need for all but the most low-cost, effective interventions to push out and flatten the wave (masks, handwashing, social distancing and limiting indoor gatherings), meaning both lives and jobs are saved.

Unlike its national counterpart, the Western Cape Department of Health spends the entire health budget on delivering health services to citizens and can therefore focus on this objective without the distraction of corruption scandals. As proof, it received a clean audit for the second year in a row – the only health department in the country to do so.

The province has everything in place for a rapid, efficient vaccine rollout, and is constrained only by a shortage of supply from national government.

While the rest of the country lives in evermore fear, the Western Cape Government is making residents feel safer through their Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP), which is on track to meet its target of deploying 1000 officers in high-crime areas of Cape Town by October 2021.

The DA gets things done. Which is why the best-run province, the best-run metro and the top five best-run municipalities in South Africa are all governed by the DA, according to independent audits and rankings.

The fastest route to a successful South Africa is to bring this DA difference to more towns and communities across the country. A thorough analysis of by-election trends shows the DA is growing in wards representing both black and white voters.

However, it is concerning that smaller ethnic and race-based parties are splintering the opposition in specific areas, making it harder for the DA to achieve the crucial objective of beating the ANC. These parties are effectively the “opposition to the opposition” and could end up doing far more harm than good, no matter their true intentions.

Therefore it makes sense for everyone to get behind the DA, to give maximum momentum to the project of replacing the ANC with a credible alternative government.

And I’m happy to report momentum is already on our side for the upcoming municipal elections. Our hugely successful and vibrant virtual rally launch showed that we are ready and eager to contest the local government elections on 27 October. Join us and support us. Together, we can grow this South African success story.

 

 

Ramaphosa’s vaccine strategy: Empty promises, deceit, deflection

There are signs that South Africa may be heading into a third wave. Infections are on the rise.

Had President Ramaphosa acted on vaccines with a sense of urgency when other countries were getting into the queue in early 2020, we’d be approaching this third wave with our high-risk group vaccinated.

Instead, we’re heading in unprotected and “phenomenally vulnerable”, with stricter lockdown levels looming. And all Ramaphosa can offer the nation is empty promises and blame-shifting to hide his poor performance.

In his address on 11 January 2021, Ramaphosa reassured the nation we would reach herd immunity by year-end, saying: “South Africa’s vaccine strategy is well underway.”

Yet four months later, not a single vaccine has been administered in South Africa outside of trials and the target for herd immunity has now been shifted out to February 2022.

Our peer countries are far ahead of us. While Chile has managed to vaccinate over a third of its population and Israel over half, South Africa has only managed to vaccinate 0,7% – and this within trials run by trial scientists.

In terms of vaccines administered, South Africa is coming 33rd in Africa, behind the likes of such failing states as Sudan, Sierra Leone, Angola, Somalia, Gambia and Zimbabwe.

Our unforgivably slow progress means it is extremely unlikely we will get significant numbers of high-risk individuals vaccinated before the third wave is fully established.

Let’s be clear. The Ramaphosa administration is directly to blame for many of the recent and future Covid deaths. They have failed dismally to protect South Africans.

Instead of vaccines in arms or sincere apologies, Ramaphosa has produced meaningless reassurances and deceitful excuses that deflect blame for his monumental, unforgivable vaccine failure.

Vacuous commitments

The government’s new target of vaccinating 40 million people by end February 2022 is not realistically achievable and Ramaphosa knows it. When I challenged him on this in Parliament last week, he exposed his target for the lie it is.

Only 380 000 South Africans have been vaccinated so far. To reach the target of 40 million people vaccinated by end February 2022, we’ll have to administer 380 000 doses every two days without missing a single day. This is a higher rate than top performers Israel or Chile have managed.

Consider that on Sunday, not a single dose was delivered.

Consider that his government has still not published a detailed, implementable rollout plan.

Ramaphosa’s assurance of herd immunity by Feb 2022 is as insincere as his reassurance was back in 2015 when he said: “In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power and energy and Eskom ever happened.”

He has simply lost all credibility, at a time when public trust in government is critical to a speedy vaccine rollout.

Deceit and deflection

In his newsletter this week, Ramaphosa attempts to shift blame to richer countries, accusing them of practicing “vaccine apartheid” by vaccinating their own populations first rather than sharing their vaccines with other countries.

With one catchy phrase he attempts to erase the evidence of his own failure to get into the queue for vaccines back in early 2020 when other countries were doing so. Recall that his administration:

  • twice failed to pay the Covax deposits on time.
  • delayed initiating discussions with manufacturers and cancelled the meeting when Johnson & Johnson reached out to them in August 2020.
  • was unresponsive for months and months when Pfizer tried to initiate discussions.
  • squandered the opportunityto protect 500 000 high-risk individuals by selling 1 million AstraZeneca vaccines to other African counties against the advice of the World Health Organisation and leading scientists. (Their reason for selling them was that the AZ vaccine is not effective against the dominant SA variant. Yet they are now going ahead with purchasing Sinopharm and Sputnik vaccines, neither of which have shown efficacy against the dominant SA variant.)

If anyone is practicing “vaccine apartheid” it is Ramaphosa himself, who has failed to provide lifesaving vaccines to millions of high-risk South Africans, just as the Mbeki government failed to provide lifesaving ARVs.

Is Ramaphosa planning to share the 60 million doses we have secured with poorer countries? If not, his accusation smacks of cynical hypocrisy.

His focus now on getting the World Trade Organisation to waive intellectual property (IP) rights for the production of Covid vaccines is another red herring intended to deflect blame for his poor performance. A waiver will make no difference to South Africa’s ability to save lives in the third wave or to reach herd immunity.

No company will invest for a once-in-a-generation windfall, and with a glut in supply imminent. Especially not in a country as hostile to investors as is South Africa.

The main challenge facing South Africa is no longer vaccine supply, but a speedy vaccine rollout to high-risk individuals. We need the public and private health sectors working together, with doctors, pharmacies, clinics and mass vaccination centres running at full speed. This is where Ramaphosa should be focusing his attention.

Instead, when he isn’t focused on internal ANC matters, he’s focused on red herrings such as “vaccine apartheid” and IP waivers that will make no material difference to the urgent matter at hand of getting jabs to high-risk individuals. Because his government simply cannot deliver.

His appearance before the Zondo Commission has laid bare that he is deeply complicit in the hollowing out of our state, through the policies of cadre deployment and BEE, to a point where it is completely unable to deliver on the most basic of its responsibilities, a speedy vaccine rollout to save lives and jobs.

DA-run Western Cape

The DA-run Western Cape is on track for an efficient vaccine rollout and is only constrained by the supply of doses from national government. The DA difference in the Western Cape is that appointments and tenders are based on ability to deliver to people. This is the only way to build a caring, capable, professional state.

Conclusion

Ramaphosa’s vaccine strategy of delivering empty promises, deceit and deflection is indeed well underway. If South Africans want a caring, honest, capable government that delivers on its commitments, they can begin by voting the DA into local government in the upcoming municipal elections on 27 October 2021.

Mantashe’s fishy powership deal

Like Zuma’s dodgy nuclear deal, Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe’s powership deal is deeply suspect and frankly reeks of corruption.

It locks South Africa into a 20-year contract to purchase expensive, dirty power when the cost of clean renewable energy is falling every year. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has estimated this deal will cost South Africa R218 billion over 20 years. That is a truly vast commitment.

A powership is a ship on which a power plant is installed. They anchor just offshore to provide ship-to-shore electricity to countries unable to generate enough of their own. These are generally failed or failing states such as Ghana, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal, Sudan, Beirut, Iraq and Pakistan which are currently using powerships on contracts of two to five years.

Under Mantashe’s deal we’ll be paying R2.30 per kilowatt hour while Saudi Arabia has just signed a power purchase agreement for solar power at a record-low $0,0104 per kilowatt hour which is equivalent to 15c per kilowatt hour in South Africa.

Worse still, this price will most likely increase over time in real terms because the liquified natural gas we’ll be importing to fuel these ships is priced in dollars and linked to a carbon tax, both of which are likely to push the price up in South African Rands.

Consider how it will impact South Africa’s ability to compete globally and create jobs locally when we are paying high and rising prices for dirty power while other countries are paying low and falling prices for clean power.

There is no doubt that South Africa urgently needs to secure additional power supply. We face a 4000-megawatt (MW) shortfall over the next 5 years. Almost any solution will be preferably to load-shedding, which is estimated to cost our economy R1 billion per stage per day, amounting to a loss to SA of at least R59 billion in 2019.

Electricity from powerships will cost us about 30% less than that of our current emergency supply system, Eskom’s open-cycle gas turbines (OCGTs) which burn diesel. Mantashe is hanging is hat on this argument.

However, there are alternatives to powerships that are cheaper, cleaner, less risky and more job-creating.

Renewables provide a cheaper, cleaner solution that involves more fixed local investment. Energy experts say solar and wind power, in combination with battery storage could provide the same amount of power that Mantashe’s powership deal can provide, and with the same lead time.

Self-generation – allowing and incentivising businesses and households to generate electricity which can be fed into the grid – has the potential to add 3 400 megawatts of electricity supply within two years and create over 30 000 construction jobs, according to the CSIR. In Vietnam, self-generation produced 7,200MW of generation capacity from the private sector in just over a year.

Hydrogen fuel cell technology could start supplying the grid with significant additional power within just two years. It is estimated that the local market for “green hydrogen” could be R140 billion and the export market R1.5 trillion per year by 2040.

Unforgivably, the ANC government has dragged its heels on all of these.

Mantashe has sat on his hands for over a year refusing “to be rushed” into opening bid window 5 for renewable energy independent power producers (IPPs), without any reasonable explanation for the delay. In fact, bid window 5 for renewables was originally intended to be opened in 2016.

He has outlawed self-generation of more than 1MW and only recently and with some reluctance called for public comments on the raising of the threshold to 10MW, itself a ridiculous limit when there is no technical reason to cap it below 50MW.

Government has also been “extremely slow” to support the development of green hydrogen generation capabilities in South Africa.

Which begs the question: Why? Why has the ANC government been so reluctant to enable these decentralised energy solutions?

There is almost certainly a hidden agenda here. The best way to get to the truth is to follow the money. As Kgalema Motlanthe warned in 2007: “Almost every project is conceived because it offers opportunities for certain people to make money.”

With PPE looting, the ANC used a national crisis to milk the state.

In the case of power shortages, it seems the ANC has created a national crisis in order to milk the state. Mantashe’s powership deal has corruption written all over it, albeit corruption lent legal and moral authority by BEE legislation. So the broad-based poverty that will come from higher electricity prices and fewer jobs is packaged and sold to the nation as “transformation”, because it enriches a few ANC-connected cronies.

Having stalled long enough to create an emergency requirement for additional energy supply, Mantashe could then justify the need for a Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP).

Karpowership SA was the most successful bidder, winning two-thirds of the power generation capacity in the programme (1,220MW of the 1,845MW) with its bid to moor three Turkish powerships off the coast of South Africa, for 20 years.

Karpowership SA is 51% owned by Turkish Karadeniz Energy Group. Its 49% BEE partner in this deal, Powergroup SA, was only established in March 2020 and brings no skills or expertise to the table, having no prior experience in energy generation. Former special advisor to ex-State Security Ministers David Mahlobo and Bongani Bongo (themselves both deeply implicated in state capture and corruption), Thabo George Mokoena, is reportedly a 20% shareholder in Powergroup SA.

It is hard to conclude anything other than that, as with the rampant looting through PPE contracts, ANC-connected cadres are going to be raking in huge profits while adding absolutely no value. This is what happens when a political party captures the state through cadre deployment.

This is not black economic empowerment, it’s broad-based black economic impoverishment. The poorer people are, the larger the share of their meagre budgets that goes to food and electricity, both of which will see ever-inflating prices under this deal. So the 30 million South Africans living below the poverty line stand to lose the most, and 99.8% of them are black. There’s also the indirect harm to poor people as South Africa’s employment figures continue to fall as SA industries becomes less and less competitive.

Unsurprisingly, there has been the usual lack of transparency around the RMIPPPP process. The DA has submitted several Parliamentary Questions, including requesting that the records of the bid adjudication process be made public. Failing that, we will invoke the Promotion of Access to Information Act to request the details.

Yesterday, the ANC prevented the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy from performing basic oversight, by refusing an investigation into the processes followed and the scoring in the RMIPPPP. The DA will now approach the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) to obtain the information we seek.

The DA will use every mechanism available to us to get to the bottom of this fishy deal, and to fight for the lowest-cost, cleanest, least risky energy supply for South Africa. In the local government elections on 27 October 2021, a vote for the DA will be a vote for honest government that puts South Africa first

No economy without ecology. Every day must be Earth Day.

Today, on Earth Day and in this week of devastating fires on Table Mountain, we at the Democratic Alliance reaffirm our commitment to protecting and preserving the natural world on which our lives and livelihoods depend.

This has been a week of heart-breaking loss in which, amongst other precious heritage items, the priceless treasure that was UCT’s African Studies collection has been needlessly destroyed.

Measures could have been taken to prevent this tragedy. SANParks could have better fulfilled its mandate to clear invasive alien vegetation, which burns hotter and faster than fynbos. Firebreaks could have been maintained. Fire response could have been quicker. Vagrancy laws could have been more rational. On a broader level climate change, which is making our summers hotter and drier, could have been avoided.

This is the lesson we must take away. The imperative to act before it is too late.

Preventing ecological collapse cannot be something we think about annually on Earth Day or leave to those most passionate about the natural world. It is a survivalist move for humanity and must be front and centre of how we live.

World-renowned thinker, Yuval Harari, has warned that humanity faces three existential threats in the 21st century: the return to war, technological disruption, and ecological collapse. Whereas the other two are a future risk, ecological collapse is a current reality.

Protecting our environment makes economic sense. To realise the immense potential of tourism to generate jobs and foreign exchange, we need to protect South Africa’s magnificent natural heritage. Imagine too how swiftly Cape Town’s economy would have collapsed had Day Zero arrived in 2018.

Protecting our environment is also a moral imperative, since the poor will always suffer the effects of environmental degradation most keenly, with less buffer against rising food prices and other impacts.

There is much that each of us as individuals can do to live more sustainably. But the key environmental challenges (climate disruption, biodiversity loss, pollution etc) are systemic and require collaboration and cooperation. This means governments – local, provincial, national and international – have a key role to play.

How would a DA national government produce cleaner, greener outcomes? What is the DA doing locally and provincially to build ecological resilience?

The DA is firmly committed to a low-carbon future. We passed a policy resolution at our Federal Congress last year to cut South Africa’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2030, well ahead of the timeline set out by the Paris Agreement.

A DA national government would long since have opened South Africa’s energy market, ending Eskom’s monopoly on power generation. The renewable power industry would be far further developed by now enabling us to reduce coal consumption and avoid dirty emergency measures such as burning diesel in open-cycle gas turbines, and powerships.

Indeed, DA-run Cape Town is Africa’s green economy hub, with 70% of South Africa’s renewable energy manufacturing taking place in DA-run Western Cape.

Under a DA national government, small-scale generation would also be a significant contributor to the national energy supply by now, as the DA would have capped supply at 50 megawatts rather than the 1 megawatt that has so held back this source of energy.

In the DA-run Western Cape, most municipalities have in place the necessary systems to accept rooftop photovoltaic power into their grids and have approved tariffs in place so consumers can be compensated for electricity they feed back into the grid.

A DA national government would fix our broken railway system, privatising it if necessary. We would devolve rail power to metros, enabling rail to be integrated with bus transport. This would take millions of passenger and freight vehicles off our roads, relieving congestion and pollution, since rail is far the greener option.

Cape Town has set the goal of attaining urban forest status and has employed satellite technology to map the tree canopy over the entire metro. It is a member of C40 Cities, one of 97 leading megacities around the world taking climate action, and it will release its updated Climate Action Strategy Document this year.

DA governments have built plastic roads (to create an end-use for plastic waste). They’ve deployed experimental electric vehicle charging stations. They lead in waste recycling initiatives.

The opportunities to innovate, save, and restore are limitless, exciting and urgent. We need to be smart enough to find solutions and wise enough to know how important this is. In the upcoming local government elections on 27 October 2021, a vote for the DA will be a vote for a cleaner, more resilient South Africa.

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.