Ukraine: Someone needs to speak for SA

I am in Ukraine to see for myself and to speak for my country. Someone must. It is strongly in South Africa’s interest to stand with the free world and come out hard against Russian aggression.

If President Ramaphosa will not do this, and he has made it clear he will not, then it falls to me as the leader of the opposition, and a party which governs for some 20 million South Africans.

Russia’s violent invasion of sovereign Ukraine is the biggest military mobilisation since World War Two. It has caused the biggest displacement of civilians – over 12 million people so far – since World War Two. Possibly, it represents the greatest threat of nuclear warfare since World War Two.

It would be naïve to view this war as a regional threat. Make no mistake, the effects of this war are already reverberating across the globe and as usual, the poor will suffer most.

According to the World Bank, global energy prices are expected to rise by over 40% in 2022, non-energy prices by 20%, wheat prices by over 40%. The longer this war lasts, the more severe and long-lasting will be the impact on global fuel and food prices.

Such is the interconnectedness of the world today that Ukraine’s problems are our problems too. As I write, the price of chips in South African school tuckshops is going up due to the soaring price of cooking oil. The R350 social relief of distress grant is looking more and more like a token gesture and less and less like anything which could actually relieve distress.

In my recent visits to KZN and the Eastern Cape I’ve seen and heard for myself how the flood disaster and rising food prices have taken a profound toll on vulnerable households.

South Africa is heading into a winter of discontent that will see the poor plunged deeper into poverty and millions more pushed below the poverty line. To a very large extent, we have brought this on ourselves, through self-harm decisions, the greatest of which has been to keep the ANC in national government.

Morally, geopolitically, financially, it is inconceivable that South Africa would remain “neutral” on the Ukraine invasion. Yet it is worse than that. Our so-called neutrality is in fact veiled support for Russia. We must ask ourselves why the ANC government would support Russia when it hurts South Africa to do so.

The answer is the same as when we ask why the ANC government would commit R50 million in aid for Cuba and employ hundreds of Cubans at inflated prices and buy unlicensed Cuban Covid drugs when South Africans are jobless, hungry and desperate.

It is the same as when we ask why the ANC government was prepared to bankrupt South Africa in pursuit of a Russian nuclear deal. And why the ANC government was prepared to sell South Africa to the highest bidder. Let’s not for a moment think state capture is a thing of the past.

No, Ramaphosa’s support for Russia is not about an ideological commitment to socialism, nor even about loyalty to historic allies. This is purely and simply about elite enrichment at the expense of the rest. The precise mechanisms have not yet been revealed, but more than likely South Africa’s relationship with Russia and Cuba yields kickbacks to ANC cronies.

Russia’s expansion into Africa has been through “elite capture”, where pliable leaders are ensnared in long-term patronage schemes. Fifteen African nations are currently involved in Russian-financed nuclear power deals, and many more are locked into Russian security contracts.

Also consider that a businessman close to Putin tried to run a disinformation campaign for the ANC in the 2019 election, and that the ANC’s biggest donor last year was a Putin-aligned oligarch.

Ramaphosa does not speak for SA on Ukraine. He speaks for the ANC. By refusing to condemn Russian aggression, President Ramaphosa has once again chosen to put ANC interests ahead of the interests of ordinary South Africans. The golden thread running through his presidency is that of putting party before country.

The DA cannot vote in the United Nations General Assembly. But we do have a voice and a constitutional duty to act in South Africa’s best interest.

Why am I in Ukraine? Because the people of South Africa overwhelmingly stand with the people of Ukraine and are appalled by the violent invasion of Putin’s Russian army. Someone has to speak for South Africa on this, and by being here and seeing for myself, I earn the authority and stage to do so.

The high cost of ignoring the invisible, unsexy stuff

President Ramaphosa was quick to pin the KZN flood disaster on climate change. And yes, that is certainly part of the problem. But while it may be a convenient scapegoat, climate change is certainly not the only issue here.

We need to be clear about what caused the enormous damage, so that next time a freak storm brings large amounts of rain to the KZN coast, we are better prepared to deal with it.

Because there will be a next time. There have been at least six significant floods in eThekwini in the past six years, including a catastrophic flood in 2019 where 85 people lost their lives.

So it’s a matter of when, not if.

Every time there were floods in eThekwini, experts warned about the state of the metro’s stormwater drainage and about settlements located on flood plains. These warnings were not heeded.

It is the responsibility of a local government to make sure that its communities are shielded from the worst effects of such floods by making cities and towns flood-resilient.

This means giving town planners and engineers the full backing and budget to build this resilience into communities through proper housing planning and infrastructure.

It also means that the local government must do its actual job when it comes to things like stormwater maintenance. Fix what is broken, clear what is blocked, and replace what is old and crumbling.

This may sound simple enough, but there is a fundamental flaw to the ANC-in-government that prevents it from investing properly in infrastructure maintenance and upgrades.

These things are “invisible” services. Unsexy stuff. There is no ribbon-cutting ceremony for unblocking a sewer. These aren’t legacy projects to which a politician can attach his or her name.

This part of the job is unglamorous, budget-thirsty and thankless. Which is precisely why an elected government should do it. You choose this job to serve, not to collect praise and plaudits.

But there is not a single ANC local, provincial or national government that operates by this ethos. They’ll invite the media to the unveiling of a toilet. Waste millions on a second-rate sports track with a rickety pavilion as long as it can bear someone’s name. Spend precious public money on overpriced, ill-conceived vanity projects.

But they will happily let the invisible things go to rot. Things like storm water systems and waste water treatment plants.

This is why ANC-run towns have raw sewerage flowing down the streets. It’s why up to a third of Eskom’s generation capacity is permanently unavailable. It’s why the stormwater in eThekwini had nowhere to go but through people’s homes and businesses. And it’s why effluent washing into rivers in KZN hindered efforts to provide clean water in tankers to communities cut off from supply.

Maintenance of infrastructure is just not a priority where the ANC governs because there’s nothing in it for them.

Compare this to DA-run metros.

In their recent State of the City Addresses, DA mayors in Johannesburg, Tshwane, Ekurhuleni and Cape Town announced big investments in the maintenance and expansion of infrastructure.

The City of Johannesburg will be investing R2.8 billion over the next three financial years to improve the city’s water services infrastructure.

In Ekurhuleni, the City is planning a major expansion of its electricity backbone infrastructure which includes many kilometers of new cable and the refurbishment of equipment. The City is also well ahead of its financial year target to maintain stormwater drains.

And in Cape Town the Mayor announced a capital expenditure budget of R8 billion, plus several billion more for the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

While DA metros spend at least 6% of budget on infrastructure, ANC metros spend just 2-3%.

The recently-release Green Drop report shows that of South Africa’s 850 wastewater treatment systems, only 22 are in excellent condition with over half of these being in the Western Cape.

DA governments understand not only the benefit of investing in infrastructure, but also the cost of not doing so. KZN just paid a very high cost in human lives, but there are other costs too.

When crumbling infrastructure and a lack of basic services make running a business untenable, they pack up and leave. The former employees of the Clover factory in Lichtenburg are suffering the consequences of government ignoring the invisible, unsexy stuff.

In eThekwini, Toyota had to scrap 4000 new cars at its Prospecton factory due to flood damage. They know that part of this was preventable, just as they know that last year’s riots were preventable. Toyota represents the single biggest investment in the metro and they’re a precious source of jobs, but they won’t stick around forever.

If government cannot hold up its end of the deal, these big employers will simply leave, taking those jobs with them.

DA governments build, fix and maintain the invisible, unsexy things without being begged or threatened. They think and plan and act on a far longer timeframe than just a five-year political term.

By investing in the boring, invisible, unsexy stuff, DA governments ensure not only long-term access to water, electricity and jobs. They also protect communities from the worst possible consequences of disasters.

At the same time, the DA’s Energy Policy maps out the fastest route to a low-carbon future, so that South Africa can play its part in keeping disruptive climate effects to a minimum.

These are the things voters should consider when they place their mark on the ballot paper in the next national election in 2024.

The DA is mitigating the current unfolding crises in South Africa

The country is currently facing several interlinked crises, the most urgent being Eskom’s move to level 4 rolling blackouts, and the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal which have led to the re-imposition of the National State of Disaster. The Democratic Alliance is taking important action steps to ensure that these issues are managed in a way that benefits South Africans across the board.

KZN floods and National State of Disaster

The Disaster Management Act allows cabinet to bypass Parliament’s constitutionally mandated role of exercising oversight over the executive, and instead govern by issuing regulations that have not been subjected to parliamentary scrutiny. Cabinet abused this Act during the pandemic, to detrimental effect.

The DA has requested and been granted an ad hoc parliamentary committee to oversee all aspects of the National State of Disaster to respond to floods in KZN and the Eastern Cape. This will help to ensure that this time, public money benefits citizens rather than cadres. (Meantime, our legal challenge of the Disaster Management Act, to try to correct this flaw in the legislation, is making its way through the court system.)

Using parliamentary mechanisms, we are challenging  President Ramaphosa’s stated decision to give “humanitarian aid and health items” to Cuba when South Africans are suffering multiple crises here at home, with government being unable to afford to rebuild and repair after the KZN floods.

The DA-run City of Cape Town has sent a team of Fire and Rescue and Disaster Management professionals to assist in KZN and has also coordinated the collection and delivery of flood relief donations from Capetonians to flood victims there.

The dire situation in KZN is being compounded by the electricity supply issues which affect the ability to pump much needed water supplies.

Rolling blackouts

Levels 3 or 4 loadshedding will be in place till Friday 22 April and many more days of loadshedding can be expected this winter. Eskom’s inability to secure a stable electricity supply has reached crisis proportions, costing the country R500 million per loadshedding stage per day.

Unnecessary regulatory and approval delays are standing in the way of independent producers generating the 4000 to 6000 MW additional capacity desperately needed by Eskom.

The DA has called for this electricity crisis to be declared a State of Disaster so that an immediate moratorium can be placed on onerous government red tape.

At the same time, DA governments are working towards an energy-secure future. DA-led Cape Town is working to buy electricity directly from independent producers; to empower residents to generate and trade their own electricity via the City’s grid; and to expand its own generating capacity. Through its Steenbras hydroelectric system, it already protects residents from one stage of loadshedding.

DA-run Ekurhuleni has contracted 47 private power producers, with construction starting soon. DA-run Drakenstein Municipality’s Leliefontein pump-as-turbine station generates electricity using the same set of pumps that pump water, by reversing the flow. And the DA-run Western Cape government is putting solar panels on the roofs of schools and clinics so that these facilities can keep operating during rolling blackouts.

Longer term solutions

Working with energy experts, DA Head of Policy Gwen Ngwenya and her team have produced an energy policy for South Africa that charts the quickest, fairest path to a least-cost, reliable, clean energy future. This plan maps South Africa’s best route to a competitive economy and to playing our part in keeping global warming below 2°C and ideally below 1.5°C as per the Paris Agreement, to avoid the worst climate-related disasters.

Far from this being an elite pursuit, poor communities will be the key beneficiaries of clean energy, since they stand to suffer most from climate disruption, as we’ve seen with the KZN floods. Poor communities have the most to gain from more affordable, reliable energy, since they spend a higher proportion of their income on electricity, food and transport, and since they suffer most the impact of South Africa’s uncompetitive economy.

The DA has also put forward solutions for building a capable state that could better avoid and mitigate crises such as these. We’ve tabled the End Cadre Deployment bill that would see public officials appointed on their ability to serve the public. And we’ve pushed hard for cabinet ministers to be held accountable, through performance agreements and through a motion of no confidence.

Ultimately though, the best way to avoid and mitigate these crises, to build a resilient nation with buffer, is to vote in a government that takes South Africa’s problems seriously and drives solutions that benefit all the people of the country, rather than a connected few at the expense of the rest. In 2024, a vote for the DA will be a vote for nationwide resilience.

The DA’s position on xenophobia

The DA sympathises deeply with the family of Elvis Nyathi, an innocent father of four, who was brutally killed last Wednesday in Diepsloot. His only “crime” was that he was from Zimbabwe.

The DA unequivocally condemns xenophobic violence and the rhetoric that inflames it. We ask South Africans to stand with us against all forms of violence and hatred.

South Africa’s growing jobs and poverty crisis is a result of the incompetence, corruption and bad policies of the ANC government; not of foreigners taking jobs.

(The pandemic and the Russian attack on Ukraine have aggravated the situation. But South Africa went into both those crises on the back foot, with no buffer and therefore no ability to offer people meaningful relief. And the ANC government has handled both challenges very badly, thereby unnecessarily aggravating the situation.)

The large number of undocumented foreigners living in South Africa is due to our broken ANC-run Home Affairs department and our porous ANC-controlled borders. It is not for want of foreign nationals trying to obtain or maintain their legal status, as can be seen from long queues outside Home Affairs offices throughout the country.

Foreigners are being scapegoated for ANC government failure. Of course, this is easier to comprehend if you are in the middle-class, employed, informed, and have the luxury of taking an unemotional, objective stance on the matter.

It is less clear to South Africans who are desperate, poverty-stricken, unemployed, uninformed, and living amongst employed, undocumented foreigners. That’s why South Africa’s leaders need to point to the real causes of xenophobia and drive workable solutions.

In his newsletter yesterday titled “Fight crime, not migrants”, President Ramaphosa rightly condemns xenophobia. But he blames crime instead, as if crime is the cause rather than yet another symptom of the same root problem: ANC government failure.

“Crime, not migrants, is the common enemy we must work together to defeat”, he says. This is dishonest and disingenuous. First, because it deflects attention from the real problem. Second, because it implies that ordinary citizens have the power to fix it.

As president, he has immense power to solve the root problems. He can replace useless cabinet ministers starting with Police Minister Bheki Cele, insist on key economic reforms, and end cadre deployment.

As the only person lending legitimacy to the ANC, he has far more power than he seems willing to wield. The only power that citizens have is to vote out the ANC altogether in 2024, and this they will need to do if jobs are ever to be created, crime reduced, and poverty ended.

Worse, though, is leaders like Julius Malema and Herman Mashaba who actively incite violence by unfairly and inaccurately targeting foreign nationals and deliberately fanning the flames of xenophobia for political gain.

Elvis Nyathi’s murder was no accident. It is the tragic but predictable outcome of ANC failure combined with xenophobic rhetoric by leaders unwilling or unable to identify the real root cause and drive real workable solutions.

It may also be just the first spark of a wildfire primed to happen in this dry wasteland that is our economy. Unfettered xenophobia could lead to a complete breakdown of law and order, and there is a very real danger that we could see a repeat of last year’s looting and destruction.

The DA has consistently pointed to the root causes of joblessness and poverty and put forward workable solutions.

The DA has fought hard to highlight and end the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment that has hollowed out the state’s capacity to deliver services to the poor and an environment conducive to investment. Indeed, it was DA action that forced the ANC to release the minutes of deployment committee meetings, proving that public officials are appointed for party political reasons rather than for their ability to serve the public.

The DA has fought hard against corruption. Indeed, former President Jacob Zuma is fighting charges of fraud and racketeering because we pursued this matter relentlessly, for years. The Zondo Commission came about because the DA filed a complaint against state capture with former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

The DA has also fought hard for better policies. Indeed, we have put forward a raft of reform bills that would bring rapid economic improvement and build an open, opportunity society for all.

DA head of policy, Gwen Ngwenya, has produced a rational, evidence-based migration policy motivated by opportunity rather than fear. While concerns about competition for low-skilled or unskilled work are understandable and legitimate, the evidence is that migrants either have a neutral impact on the employment prospects of South Africans or tend to create more jobs than they occupy.

The DA’s migration policy is designed to attract skills, knowledge sharing and know-how, promote trade, enable investment, increase freedom of movement and eliminate xenophobia. It has workable solutions that focus on fixing Home Affairs, streamlining our immigration system and attracting skilled immigrants.

These solutions include the opening of all refugee reception offices, the implementation of an advanced migration registry system to properly document all migrants that enter or leave the country, a points-based skilled migration system to attract skilled migrants, a possible e-verification system that would enable employers to check the work eligibility status of potential employees, and the blacklisting of officials who are found guilty of migration corruption and fraud from working for any State agency or government department, as well as laying criminal charges against them.

In the general election of 2024, a vote for the DA will be a vote for a capable, honest state that delivers services, attracts skills and investment, grows jobs and the economy, builds confidence in the future, and tackles poverty, just as we are currently doing where we already govern.

First 100 days in uMngeni: DA’s KZN flagship has made good progress

Yesterday marked the first 100 days of DA government in uMngeni, the first municipality in KZN to be run by the DA. UMngeni is the DA’s golden opportunity to showcase the DA difference to all KZN voters ahead of the general election in 2024, when we hope to win enough support to form a governing coalition in the province.

Critically, the DA won an outright majority in uMngeni, so mayor Chris Pappas and deputy mayor Sandile Mnikathi and their team have been spared the distraction and delays that come with managing a coalition.

Their progress in just these first 100 days shows the DA difference that comes from appointing capable leadership committed to serving residents.

They inherited a largely dysfunctional municipality:

  • Severe shortage of plant and equipment, an aging fleet, insufficient tools to deliver services.
  • A massive vacancy rate with some core service delivery departments having more than 50% vacancies. A skills audit revealed that 29% of staff are unskilled or unqualified for the work that they are employed to do.
  • Electricity losses of R85 million annually; 60c of every Rand collected goes to cover these losses.
  • A dumpsite that was hardly operational
  • Money owed to the municipality of R235 million
  • Lack of oversight, performance management and institutional direction
  • Skewed budgetary priorities

In the past 100 days, they have laid the foundation for a capable, accountable, financially sustainable, service-focused institution.

  • Reducing debt owed to municipality – R20 million recovered so far
  • The rollout of a revenue recovery strategy and an electricity loss reduction strategy
  • Municipal Income Grant expenditure recovery from 0% of projects in November to 85% completion across the municipality.
  • Building community partnerships, including the successful partnership for the Light the Falls festival
  • Launch of uMngeni Tourism
  • An agreement with Eskom to service street lights in their supply areas
  • Establishing policies and internal standard operating procedures
  • Steps to improve accountability and consequence management
  • Embarking on a progressive and inclusive stakeholder involvement programme called the KHULUMANATHI programme
  • Preparing and approving the adjustment budget

But they were also able to make visible difference for citizens.

  • Resurfacing of several roads
  • The stabilization of the functionality of the dumpsite
  • Improvements in grass cutting and waste collection
  • Resumption of street line painting
  • The employment of 40 contract workers to speed up various service delivery issues

There is still a long way to go, but the DA’s flagship municipality in KZN has the wind in its sails and is on course for success. By 2024, not only will it have improved the lives of all the residents of uMngeni, it will also stand as a shining example of what is possible throughout KZN when voters embrace DA principles of good governance.

Why SA needs a new cabinet

Yesterday, I tabled a motion of no confidence in President Ramaphosa’s cabinet of ministers. Section 102 (1) of the Constitution enables this action:

If the National Assembly, by a vote supported by a majority of its members, passes a motion of no confidence in the Cabinet excluding the President, the President must reconstitute the Cabinet.

I explained the reason for this motion in my reply yesterday, as leader of the opposition, to the President’s State of the Nation Address. Here is a summary.

In the July riots last year, 354 people lost their lives and billions of rands of property was destroyed. The independent report into the cause of these riots, produced by an expert panel lead by Professor Sandy Africa, specifically stated that:

Many reasons were proffered for this failure, but in the end the response remains that they (the police and the intelligence services) failed to do the necessary to protect life, limb and property. The reasons are set out in the body of our report. The Executive, however, carries some of the blame too and must take responsibility for its lapse of leadership.

In a functional democracy, this report would have triggered the replacement of the entire cabinet, and this should happen. Except, the alternative to President Ramaphosa, Deputy President David Mabuza, is too corrupt, ruthless, useless and self-serving to contemplate, so we have specifically not brought a motion against the president himself.

Furthermore, numerous members of his cabinet have failed spectacularly to perform their role in government or are implicated in acts of alleged corruption and maladministration. Some of these are:

  • Police Minister Bheki Cele, for SAPS’ failure to protect lives and property during the July 2021 riots;
  • Then Minister of State Security Ayanda Dlodlo, for intelligence failures before and during July 2021 riots;
  • Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu – for multiple delivery failures and for her recent despicable attack on the constitution and the judiciary;
  • Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe – for ongoing load-shedding and for his commitment to coal interests;
  • Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille – for the Beitbridge border fence fiasco and for the fact that Parliament was burnt down on her watch;
  • Education Minister Angie Motshekga – for the 5.9 million school dropouts during her 13 years in office;
  • Minister of Small Business Development Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams – Ramaphosa clearly has no faith in her ability to cut red tape for small business, which is why he has appointed a czar in his office, to do her job in parallel – and for her flouting of lockdown regulations during her previous role as communications minister;
  • Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, for spraying destitute people with a water canon for the “crime” of waiting in a queue to collect a SASSA grant;
  • Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, for the collapse of our railway infrastructure on his watch, and for the drivers licence debacle;
  • and Trade and Industry Minister Ibrahim Patel, because he is a sworn communist who has played a leading role in growing our broad joblessness rate to 46.6%, and because he will never support Ramaphosa in implementing the reforms South Africa needs to fight poverty.

Furthermore, we believe President Ramaphosa to be a lone voice in the ANC backing real reforms that would bring down poverty and unemployment. He has admitted this much by setting up a parallel state in his own office.

President Ramaphosa lacks either the courage or the political support within his own party to replace his cabinet. The only way to achieve it, therefore, is with the support of opposition members of parliament.

With a simple majority needed to pass this motion in the House, only 50 or so ANC members of parliament need to support this motion for it to pass. If the motion is rejected, it will stand as conclusive evidence that Ramaphosa is indeed a lonely president, and nothing more than a convenient front, lending a sense of legitimacy and decency to a wholly self-serving, useless, corrupt governing party.

DA heads to court to get kids back into school full time

Yesterday, the DA submitted papers to the Gauteng High Court to get an immediate order to allow all schoolchildren to attend school full time.

Over 80% of SA schools – those serving poor communities – are still operating on a rotational basis, whereby each child only attends school half the time, on alternate days or weeks. This is to satisfy government’s 1m (primary schools) and 1.5m (high schools) social distancing regulations in what would otherwise be crowded classrooms.

The argument in favour of opening schools fully is clear and compelling. The enormous harm done to poor children by denying them 50% of their school days – to their ability to learn, access food, earn a living one day, and generally thrive – far overshadows any potential benefit. In fact, it is not clear there is any benefit at all. (Not to mention the harm done to poor parents in increased childcare costs and stress.)

This argument was already made last year by the government’s own Ministerial Advisory Committee and by the South African Paediatric Association.

Denying poor children access to education and food is a gross violation of their constitutional rights to basic education, to basic nutrition, for their best interest to be paramount in all matters concerning them, and to equality.

Therefore, the DA fully expected all schoolchildren to be able to attend school full time from the start of this school year. When this turned out not to be the case, we started a campaign to make it happen.

A letter to the president went unanswered, as did various press statements.  Hence our court action, which elicited a prompt response from the Department of Basic Education that they are waiting for cabinet to announce on this.

One wonders what is keeping cabinet from pushing the green button to reinstate poor children’s fundamental rights. We are already over two weeks into the school term for inland provinces. Over 10 million children are affected, meaning over 5 million actual school days of learning are being irrecoverably lost every weekday.

Any rate, either government revokes the social distancing regulations very soon to allow poor kids back to school full time, or they see the DA in court.

This sad matter brings to mind a quote I read recently by Thomas Sowell: “Politicians can solve almost any problem – usually by creating a bigger problem. But, so long as the voters are aware of the problem that the politicians have solved, and unaware of the bigger problems they have created, political “solutions” are a political success”.

South African voters need to get better at identifying the bigger problems being created by government’s “solutions”. These bigger problems are why SA is slipping backwards on almost every measure of human wellbeing, be it employment, education, or the environment.

(Don’t be fooled by the “improved” matric results. They ignore the 341 403 who should have written matric but who dropped out of school altogether sometime in the past two years.)

Meantime, the DA will keep trying to highlight these bigger problems. In this particular matter, of schoolchildren returning to school, we will probably enjoy the support of most voters.

But this is not the case for many of the issues we drive, because the problem being “solved” by government is usually more visible, emotive, measurable and/or immediate than the bigger problem being created (or harm being perpetrated) in the process.

In his brilliant little book, Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt summed it up perfectly: “The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.”

Many of our government’s Covid regulations have been downright irrational. Others have focused too sharply on the immediate risks to some groups and failed to weigh up the consequences/harms for all groups.

Huge and growing unemployment is the very worst consequence for all groups. Less measurable is the harm to children of having to wear masks all day long in the classroom, in public areas, and even in the schoolyard while playing. This is just wrong, and if this regulation is not dropped very soon, we will take it on.

But first, let’s get them back into school full time.

2022: A year for building

I wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2022 and hope you are feeling cautiously optimistic about it, as I am. To be sure, South Africa starts the year with a collapsed economy, widespread suffering from loss of livelihoods, and a largely unaccountable government. Huge challenges.

Yet the pandemic is drawing to an end, EWC has been defeated, coalition governments run our major cities and many councils across the country, cadre deployment has been exposed, the full Zondo Report is now imminent, and the ANC is on its last legs. These hold the possibility to build our lives, our economy, our democracy, our future.

Pandemic

As I argue in this press statement, it is time to go back to normal living, with all the certainty that brings to families, investors, entrepreneurs, tourists, students and schoolchildren. This is a first and necessary step to building our economy.

Expropriation without compensation

The historic defeat in December of the ANC’s Expropriation Without Compensation Bill brings certainty around secure property rights, another important step to building our economy.

Coalition governments

The DA is now tasked with delivering services to over twenty million South Africans. Our coalition governments have survived the first 50 days and I look forward to reporting achievements in their first 100 days in office. These governments are an opportunity to enable job creation, relieve poverty, and inspire hope.

Cadre deployment minutes

Last week, the DA finally obtained the ANC’s cadre deployment minutes, hard evidence of how cadre deployment hollows out the state and enables corruption and state capture. The first step to recovery is accurate diagnosis.

Zondo report

The release of the full Zondo report at the end of February is a massive opportunity to hold the corrupt accountable, strengthen our public service, and firewall our democratic institutions against state capture.

ANC on last legs

ANC support dropped below 50% in the November 2021 local government election. This is a massive turning point for the country, showing that most voters now realise SA is better off without the ANC. The ANC knows it too. They won’t go down without a fight (and the burning of Parliament may well be one of these – the DA will push for the full truth), but they will go down.

Conclusion

South Africa is down but not defeated. The DA will work hard this year to find solutions, fight corruption, run successful coalition governments, and build an alternative offer that people can trust ahead of the national election in 2024. Hope is on the horizon.

Defeat of the populist EWC bill another sign SA is fighting back

This has been a historic week for South Africa as the ANC’s attempt to amend the Constitution to allow for expropriation without compensation was defeated in Parliament.

The DA and many other political parties and civil society groups fought hard for this outcome. It ends three and a half years of uncertainty around secure property rights, which experience the world over shows are an essential pre-condition for economic growth and prosperity.

This bill was a populist move to scapegoat the Constitution and distract from the real impediments to land reform, which are inadequate legislation, lack of budget, lack of political will, lack of capacity, tenure insecurity, lack of support for emerging farmers, corruption, and capture by politically connected elites, as identified in Former President Kgalema Motlanthe’s High Level Panel Report of 2017.

We can and must achieve meaningful land reform in South Africa. But it requires recognizing and overcoming these real obstacles. It is to this that we must now turn our focus. We will certainly never achieve it by changing our Constitution and destroying our economy.

The DA is committed to building an inclusive society. We believe the outcome of the equally historic local government election in November provides a pathway out of ANC dominance and towards a national coalition government able to start tackling these and other impediments to building a South Africa that truly is a country for all.

These bright rays of hope come at the end of another exceptionally tough year for South Africans, during which broad unemployment has grown to a record 46.6% while the economy has contacted by 1.5% in the past three months.

While the pandemic, including the recent travel bans, has dealt a major blow, our pain is mostly ANC-inflicted, and much of it could have been avoided had the DA been in national government.

From as early as April last year, the DA warned against lockdown as a response to the pandemic, arguing it would do more harm than good. Instead, we proposed more targeted interventions and decentralised decision-making, and pushed early and hard for vaccines. Our position has been entirely vindicated, with President Ramaphosa finally admitting last month that lockdowns are irrational and unaffordable.

We have also consistently fought for the economic reforms that could pull millions out of poverty and into jobs.

Our objectives in 2022 and over the next 1000 days until the 2024 election are threefold.

Where we are in government, deliver on our manifesto pledges and turn the places we govern into shining examples of good governance. (On that note, I can report that the DA-run Western Cape’s was the only provincial health department to achieve a clean audit this year.)

In opposition, continue to challenge harmful policies such as EWC, expose and fight corruption, and champion reform.

Internally, strengthen our branch network so that we can best hold our local public representatives accountable, train and capacitate activists, and attract talented, committed individuals to the party as we work towards the 2024 national election.

For now, on behalf of the DA, I wish everyone in this beautiful country a healthy and peaceful festive season.

How to fix the jobs crisis

Yesterday, Statistics SA released unemployment data for July to September 2021. The results are devastating and tragic. But not unexpected. And not inevitable.

660 000 jobs lost. South Africa’s narrow unemployment rate has hit a record high of 34.9%.

But the broad unemployment rate, which includes those who have given up looking for a job, more accurately depicts the real situation on the ground. It is at a high of 46.6% amongst all ages (15-64) and 77.4% amongst young people (15-24). These numbers show the real level of hopelessness, desperation, suffering, disempowerment, deprivation. The real level to which lives and dreams are being ruined.

Devastating and tragic, yes. Surprising, no. Because our current set of policies – the rules by which our economy is forced to operate – code failure into our economic system.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here is what we need do to fix this jobs and humanitarian crisis.

  • Arrest the instigators of the July riots, to prevent and deter any further anarchy, and to reassure investors. The rule of law is essential for economic growth and job creation. This is why I asked him, during parliamentary questions to the President last weeks: “Four and a half months later, with no high profile arrests and no further word on the so-called instigators, can you honestly say to the people of KZN that your government has done its best for them?”
  • Run an extensive vaccine education campaign and enable widespread access by taking vaccines to where people are – main streets, shopping centres, taxi ranks and so forth. And by taking people to where vaccines are – the City of Cape Town, for example, is currently offering free MyCiTi transport to the CTICC mass vaccination centre.
  • Make it clear right now that there will be no further lockdown restrictions in the coming months.
  • Relentlessly root out corruption by firing corrupt public servants, capacitating the NPA, and re-introducing the Scorpions.
  • Restructure SA’s R2 trillion budget away from managerial salaries and waste and towards service delivery infrastructure and social support to the poor. This will stimulate demand while also providing some immediate relief.
  • Appoint public servants based solely on their ability to serve the public.
  • Invest heavily in water, electricity and transport infrastructure.
  • Enable a reliable, affordable, clean supply of energy by opening the energy market. Allow competent metros and municipalities to generate their own power or buy direct from independent producers.
  • Enable cheap, safe, reliable public transport by harnessing the power of capable metros and private companies to solve SA’s public transport problems.
  • Enable cheap data by removing obstacles to digital migration and spectrum auction.
  • Enable small business creation and success by opening up the labour market. Collective bargaining agreements should only apply to those who sign up to them.
  • Remove unnecessary red tape and make South Africa an easy place to do business.
  • Make it easy and attractive for scarce skills and capital to enter and stay in South Africa.
  • Enable high- and medium-density housing close to economic opportunities.
  • Scrap investment-killing policies such as EWC, BEE, NHI, the Mining Charter, localization.
  • Properly train, incentivise and independently evaluate school principals and teachers.

This is how we can code our economy for success. For rapid job-creating growth. We need to tackle each of these challenges, even if it’s hard. This is the kind, compassionate, inclusive way forward.