Our historic opportunity to dismantle cadre deployment

Things are falling apart in South Africa because twenty five years ago, a very damaging piece of code got into the ANC’s operating system, inevitably infecting and destroying almost every institution of state.

Ultimately fatal

The Zondo reports and the ANC deployment committee minutes have confirmed what the DA has been saying for decades. That by erasing the separation between party and state, the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment is the foundation of state capture, grand corruption, institutional breakdown, and service delivery collapse.

The policy says that public sector appointments should be based on loyalty to the party rather than on ability to deliver to the public. This has undermined the capacity of state institutions to deliver on their mandate. By enabling the ANC to control most levers of power, it has also undermined the principle of separation of powers, the essential prerequisite for a functional democracy.

Formally adopted by the ANC at their 1997 Mafikeng conference, cadre deployment tied the party into an ultimately fatal parasitic relationship with the South African state.

Full effects

With cadre deployment in its endgame, its full effects are now bombarding South Africa from every angle, creating a perfect storm of human suffering.

It is the root cause of SAPS’s inability to enforce law and order, which has led to 6083 murders in the first three months of this year, 306 of children under the age of 17, an increase of 22% in the murder rate compared with the same period last year.

It is the root cause of municipal collapse, as reported by Ratings Afrika, this week. According to its Municipal Financial Sustainability Index, most municipalities in South Africa are on the verge of collapse financially – except in the DA-run Western Cape.

It is the root cause of state capture and the grand corruption it enabled that saw R1.5 trillion stolen from the public purse.

The root cause of the load-shedding and soaring electricity prices and collapsed rail system that are crippling our economy.

The root cause of the factionalism, the fierce internal competition for access to state resources, that saw ANC politics spill onto the streets of KZN in July last year, destroying hundreds of lives, thousands of jobs, and billions of rands of property.

And of our broken education system that has so stunted the life prospects of millions of South African children, with six out of nine provincial departments of education having been captured by SADTU, the ANC-affiliated teacher’s union.

To save South Africa we need to jettison the policy or the parasite, preferably both.

Evidence

With all the evidence that has been exposed by the Zondo Commission and the DA, we now have a historic opportunity to fundamentally uproot it.

Thanks to sustained DA pressure, the minutes since 2018 of the ANC’s Deployment Committee were made public, giving South Africans insight into the mechanism by which cadre deployment destroys the state.

The DA is still in court to obtain the minutes from 2013 to 2018, when then Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was chairperson of the Deployment Committee, the period when the worst state capture appointments were made – such as of Brian Molefe to head up Eskom and Tom Moyane SARS.

But the good news is that there is now widespread agreement in the media and in civil society at large that cadre deployment is the root of the problem and needs to go.

The DA is taking two major action steps this week that could bring it to a decisive end.

End Cadre Deployment Bill

Today, Leon Schreiber is presenting the DA’s End Cadre Deployment Bill to parliament’s committee on public service and administration. The bill would: make it illegal for politicians to work in the civil service; enhance the independence and powers of the Public Service Commission; and make it a crime for anyone to appoint a public servant on the basis of political considerations other than merit. It would also give the PSC power to enforce merit-based appointments and take remedial action against anyone not following its directives. So it is a very comprehensive reform bill.

Despite President Ramaphosa’s repeated defense of cadre deployment and his request to DC Justice Zondo not to rule that it be scrapped, the first Zondo report makes it clear that an independent, empowered PSC is necessary, concluding:

  • 418. When regard is had to all of the above, it is quite clear that the appointment of members of Boards of Directors of SOEs as well as senior executives such as CEOs and CFOs can no longer be left solely in the hands of politicians because in the main they have failed dismally to give these SOEs members of Boards and CEOs and CFOs who have integrity and who have what it would take to lead these institutions successfully. They are all going down one by one and, quite often, they depend on bail outs.
  • 419. It is therefore necessary that a body be established which will be tasked with the identification, recruitment and selection of the right kind of people who will be considered for appointment as members of Boards of SOEs and those who will be appointed as CEOs and CFOs at these SOEs.

Coming soon

On Friday, the DA will announce another unprecedented and historic intervention to force the government and the ANC to scrap cadre deployment and ensure it never sneaks in again going forward.

The DA will continue to lead the fight against cadre deployment and for a capable, honest state able to deliver on its constitutional mandate, with institutions that check and balance power, and thereby prevent the abuse of political power that has infiltrated our body politic, from the President down.

Replace failed BBBEE with DA’s Economic Justice policy

On Monday, in his weekly newsletter, President Ramaphosa came out guns blazing for BBBEE, the ANC’s approach to redressing the injustices of South Africa’s Apartheid and colonial past, saying it is “a must for growth”.

This is not just a president living in fantasyland. This is a president actively deceiving a nation. And he knows it. But he does it anyway, because BBBEE is the glue that keeps his faction-riven party from falling apart.

A radically different approach

After 19 years, it’s time to admit that BBBEE has failed and needs replacing with the DA’s Economic Justice policy, or something similar.

The DA’s Economic Justice policy differs from BBBEE in three important respects.

First, it targets the poor black majority for redress, rather than a small, connected elite. It does so by directly addressing the key drivers of inequality of opportunity rather than relying on “trickle down redress”.

Second, it prioritises cost and competence in government procurement where BBBEE allocates state contracts at inflated tender prices to companies often unable to deliver.

Third, it promotes rather than undermines economic growth by attracting rather than deterring investment.

BBBEE has failed

According to the government’s website, “the fundamental objective of the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, No. 53 of 2003, is to enhance the economic participation of black people in the South African economy”.

On Tuesday, the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey revealed that the official broad unemployment rate amongst black South Africans in Q1 of 2022 is 50%, up from 36% in Q1 of 2008.

This equates to a doubling of the number of unemployed black South Africans from 5,7 million to 11,3 million during the past 14 years. (2008 is the earliest year that StatsSA gives employment data for.)

The fact is, after 19 years of so-called “broad-based” BEE, inequality and black poverty are at record highs and there are more black people locked out of the economy than ever before.

Of course, the black unemployment rate and the black poverty rate are not the only measures of black economic participation. But they are surely the most important.

BBBEE has so obviously failed in its fundamental objective of achieving broad economic inclusion for the black majority.

Profound harm

Worse still, it has profoundly harmed this group.

Nineteen years down the line, it is now clear that BBBEE has enriched a small number of politically connected individuals – of all races – at the expense of the black majority.

It has done so by giving connected individuals/companies preferential access to lucrative government contracts at inflated tender prices, and without sufficient regard for whether these individuals/companies are able to deliver.

This actively and disproportionately harms the poor black majority who most suffer the consequences of inefficient and ineffective state spending, since they are most dependent on the state.

The DA is resolute that cost and competence must take priority in government procurement. Over-priced and unfulfilled or badly delivered contracts hurt the poor black majority because that is the group most reliant on government services.

BBBEE, operating in tandem with cadre deployment, is the mechanism whereby R1.5 trillion was lost to state capture and R14 billion to covid-related PPE theft, and whereby R238 000 was paid for a wooden mop, as Eskom reported last year. Inflated tender prices are not the exception; they are the norm.

Hence, not only has economic disadvantage been perpetuated for the black majority, but the gap has widened.

BBBEE has also harmed the black majority by deterring investment.

A must for growth?

The only thing that grows an economy is investment in productive enterprises. BBBEE is a major obstacle to this, not only because compliance is difficult and costly, but because it has engendered a corrupt, patronage-driven, incapable state.

In 2016, the EU Chamber of Commerce in South Africa indicated BBBEE legislation as its top legislative impediment, and top three challenge overall to doing business in South Africa.

The DA’s Economic Justice policy, on the other hand, bases preferential government procurement on the globally recognised Sustainable Development Goals model, choosing competent companies that make a positive socioeconomic contribution to the poor black majority.

This model promotes investment, because investors, shareholders, and analysts look for companies with strong SDG awareness and commitments. Rather than being deterred by the BBBEE model, investors are attracted by the SDG model.

Broad-based transformation requires growth

As President Ramaphosa correctly pointed out in his newsletter on Monday: Economic transformation and economic growth are intertwined. There cannot be one without the other.

Growth is essential for two things:

  • Job creation on a massive scale to bring millions of black people into the South African economy; and
  • Growing access to opportunities (education, health, housing, transport, electricity, safety, communication, grants, title deeds) for the poor black majority by spending growing tax revenues disproportionately on this group. These are the opportunities which enable people to participate in the economy.

Whereas BBBEE is anti-growth and exclusive, the DA’s Economic Justice policy is pro-growth and inclusive.

Conclusion

South Africa desperately needs a radically different approach to redress and inclusion. We can win the fight against our deeply unequal, unjust past. But the only way to do it is to ensure economic opportunities are available to all, not just the elite. The DA’s Economic Justice policy does that. Our approach to broad-based transformation will succeed where BBBEE has failed.

Time to say no to SA’s exorbitant petrol price.

On Wednesday, the government is planning to increase the price of petrol by around R3.80 per litre, to an outrageous R25 per litre. As we did with the R22 million flagpole plan, South Africans need to put our national foot down and say a firm NO.

It’s high time to heed the Chinese proverb that says the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. The best time to push back against South Africa’s inexorable petrol price hikes would have been a decade ago, when it began its swift climb from R11 per litre. The second best time is now.

A petrol price increase will take food prices up with it because the price of food includes the cost of transporting it to shops, and all our food is transported by road now that South Africa’s rail system has collapsed.

As it is, millions of South Africans are already going hungry, and things are about to get a lot worse. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, China’s covid lockdowns and the impact of climate change are reducing the supply and increasing the cost of food and fertilizer globally.

Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa is trapping 25 million tonnes of grain, equivalent to the annual consumption of all the world’s least developed countries. Many countries have put export blocks on grain to protect their own supply.

At the same time, South Africa faces multiple domestic crises, where 46% unemployment, stage 4 load-shedding, floods in KZN, drought in the Eastern Cape and collapsing service delivery are already making it hard for millions of households to put food on the table.

State-owned Foskor, which has historically produced 80% of SA’s fertilizer needs locally is only managing to produce 20% now, due to the same cadre-deployment-induced mismanagement that has blighted other state-owned companies.

This week, Tiger Brands, South Africa’s largest food manufacturer warned that prices for some basic food categories such as bread, maize meal and baking flour will rise by 15-20% in the coming six months.

All in all, government’s plan for a massive petrol price hike next week is terribly timed. It will push millions more into poverty and hunger, risking violent riots as seen in Sri Lanka recently in response to exorbitant fuel price hikes there.

South Africans cannot afford this price hike and shouldn’t accept it. A full one third of the price of petrol goes to government as taxes and levies. Petrol in Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and Kenya is on average about R5 cheaper per litre, because their governments don’t tax it as much. The South African government can do something to lower the fuel price in South Africa, it just chooses not to.

The DA has put a plan on the table to slash fuel prices and we’ve successfully requested a debate of urgent public importance in the National Assembly to get the ball rolling. There are three elements to the plan.

1. Scrap the General Fuel Levy

The General Fuel Levy of R3.93 per litre is little more than a corruption tax. Road users are effectively reimbursing National Treasury for taxpayer funds lost to corruption and wasteful expenditure. By cutting wasteful expenditure on luxuries like catering and entertainment, VIP protection and vehicles, and by uprooting state capture corruption that has cost South Africa at least R1.5 trillion so far, the General Fuel Levy of R3.93 per litre can be scrapped entirely.

2. Give exemptions to the RAF Levy:

Through a SARS tax rebate, government should exempt those who already pay for comprehensive third party insurance from the RAF levy. This includes bus, taxi and transport companies, and private commuters. This would free up the RAF from claims for those drivers and save those drivers another R2.18 per litre, who would get this back as a tax rebate from SARS.

3. De-regulate the Fuel Price:

The cost of fuel can be further reduced by deregulating the fuel sector to spur competition between sellers, as per the DA’s pending Private Member’s Bill.
The forces of market competition among fuel sellers, in a market for 11 Billion litres of fuel a year, would naturally drive down prices as they compete for business. Like any other consumer good, it is only reasonable that the same market competition determines the final price at the pump.
To this end, the DA has a Private Members Bill going before Parliament soon to de-regulate the Fuel Price. We call on all Parties to support this.

The DA will pursue every available avenue to prevent the upcoming rise in fuel prices and to slash fuel prices going forward. We will fight this fight on behalf of every South African battling to make ends meet, because we care about their plight.

Progress in Ekurhuleni shows multiparty coalitions can work

Multi-party coalitions are the future. As we head into our toughest winter yet since the dawn of our democracy, it is becoming ever clearer that there will be no progress or prosperity while the ANC governs South Africa. Unemployment is at a record high 46% including those who have given up looking for work; prices of essential goods are set to skyrocket with no plan to shield the poor; and our electricity grid is on the brink of total collapse.

With South Africa’s political landscape as fragmented as it is, a multi-party national governing coalition is the only way to reverse our current relentless slide to state failure. That’s why so much rests on the multi-party coalitions running the three Gauteng metros – Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

They are test centres ahead of the 2024 general election. If they can show real progress over the next two years towards building capable, honest, pro-poor, service-delivery-driven governments, they will build public confidence in the ability of a multi-party national government to take South Africa forward in 2024.

So it is great to be able to report that, despite being a minority government, the multi-party coalition that has run Ekurhuleni since December last year has held, passed an adjustment budget for the remainder of the financial year, and is making meaningful progress on multiple fronts.

The coalition consists of the DA, Action SA, Freedom Front Plus, Inkatha Freedom Party, African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People, and Patriotic Alliance. Working together, these 7 parties are turning the ship. The clearest evidence of this came last month when the City’s credit rating was raised two notches from negative to stable.

This was after the coalition adjusted its medium term budget for greater efficiency and established systems to strengthen Ekurhuleni’s financial position and root out the scourge of fraud and corruption in the metro.

But the coalition cannot take all the credit for this. Ekurhuleni is lucky to have had an experienced and diligent City Manager since 2016, Dr Imogen Mashazi, who was re-appointed last month for another five years.

Together with Dr Mashazi, the coalition is taking a pro-poor, back-to-basics approach, focusing on the things that matter most to residents: reliable electricity and water, public transport, waste management, housing, safety and financial stability.

This has already made some positive impact on the lives of residents and laid the foundation for much more to come. The City faces massive infrastructure maintenance backlogs, but just the first few months in office has shown that Ekurhuleni citizens can expect steady, meaningful, measurable progress over the coming years.

Electricity: The coalition is confident of ensuring a reliable and expanded electricity supply well before the end of this political term. It recently appointed 47 Private Power Producers to build and sell electricity direct to the city from 2024 onwards. To finance the replacement and expansion of backbone infrastructure at a rate of at least 10km of cables per year, the City has committed to a 40% increase in capital expenditure in the next financial year and an average 12% thereafter.

Water: By June 2023, nine additional water towers and reservoirs will have been constructed, in addition to the nine projects being completed by the end of this financial year. This is to counter the metro’s all-too-frequent water outages caused by drops in pressure in supply from Rand Water due to Eskom outages. Last month, Ekurhuleni won six Green Drop awards for excellence in wastewater treatment plant operation. This year, the City is on track to replace 8000 water meters and replace or upgrade sewer pipes across the city.

Stormwater drainage: During its first 100 days, the coalition cleared and maintained 2100 stormwater drains and are on track to well exceed performance of prior financial years.

Potholes: In its first 100 days, the City patched 29 000m² of road and has reallocated savings from the salary bill to try to get on top of massive inherited backlogs.

Public transport: The Harambee Bus Rapid Transport Network running from Thembisa via Kempton Park to OR Tambo International Airport will be fully operational, and three public transport facilities will be refurbished, in the coming financial year.

Waste management: The City is rehabilitating infested waterbodies, targeting the protection of wetlands, reopening two inoperative landfill sites, introducing waste separation at source at all municipal buildings, and dealing with illegal dumping around the city. Maintenance activities such as grass cutting have increased significantly, and clean-ups have started in the CBD to entice businesses back, with many other waste initiatives underway.

Safety: In January this year, the City launched Operation Buya Mthetho in which the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EPMD) will work with other law enforcement agencies to address the many crimes plaguing the City. In the next financial year, the EMPD will deploy an additional 480 municipal police officers to improve policy visibility and by-law compliance.

Financial stability: Cash on hand has improved to a 21-day reserve from just a 14-days reserve and the metro is working to meet National Treasury’s 30-day minimum requirements. Spending on non-service-delivery areas has been reigned in to reverse the depleted state in which the coalition found the city’s finances. And audit systems have been put in place to build an honest administration.

While Ekurhuleni’s multi-party coalition is fully aware of the challenges and the mammoth task ahead, the 7 parties are working together to build a capable, honest administration that can take the metro forward. In doing so, they are showing the nation that a multi-party national governing coalition is a realistic and hopeful option for South Africa post 2024.

With limited policing powers, Western Cape and Cape Town are doing what they can to fight crime in murder hotspots

“This is our daily life… to have people shooting all around,” a mother of three said after six people were killed this weekend in yet another mass shooting in Site C, Khayelitsha, the third mass killing in the area since March.

The threat of being hit by a bullet or stabbed is ever present for those living in many poor areas of the Western Cape. In just the 30 months between June 2019 and December 2021, there were nearly 450 mass shootings (shooting of more than 3 people) in the province, with nearly 600 people shot dead and over 1000 wounded.

This tragic and traumatic state of affairs is not inevitable. The DA-run Western Cape and Cape Town governments are determined to get crime under control in these areas. And they are making real progress.

National government controls SAPS

Being in government in the Western Cape and Cape Town, the DA takes a lot of criticism for this high crime rate. Yet like Home Affairs, control of the South African Police Services (SAPS) is centralized in the national ANC government. Provinces only have oversight policing powers, while municipalities have by-law enforcement and limited crime prevention powers as metro police.

Western Cape Safety Plan

Nevertheless, the DA-run Western Cape and Cape Town governments are taking major steps to tackle violent crime in Khayelitsha and other murder hotspots. Their target is to reduce the province’s murder rate by 50% by 2029. Working together, they have trained and deployed 1000 extra Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers to the 11 worst crime areas in Cape Town.

The provincial Khayelitsha Commission showed that SAPS tends to under-resource areas with high violent crime. The irrationality of this was confirmed by the Equality Court in 2018. But SAPS made little changes to policing numbers despite the court finding.

71 LEAP officers have been deployed to Site B and Site C and 80 to Harare in Khayelitsha. In these areas, there are LEAP officers on duty 24 hours per day, seven days a week. These LEAP officers generally have a good working relationship with SAPS towards promoting safety in priority communities and ensuring a clear safety presence on the ground.

This has already achieved a 40.5% reduction in crime in Kraaifontein, a 24% drop in Nyanga, 21% in Khayelitsha and a 14.5% decrease in Harare. These are all places that the Khayeltisha Commission identified as having too few SAPS police officers.

Some of these hotspots have now dropped off the “murder capital” lists that they have dominated for years. The Western Cape actually experienced a 7% drop in the number of murders in the final quarter of 2021 compared to 2020, while every other province increased, with the average for South Africa being a 9% increase – including an 18% increase in Gauteng.

The city and province will continue expanding their training college to produce yet more trained LEAP officers. In 2022, an additional 230 new officers will be deployed. Other municipalities can also make use of the training offered.

The province has budgeted for more CCTV cameras to plug the policing intelligence gap and Cape Town Metro Police have a unit monitoring and responding to issues detected by these cameras. The Western Cape is also the only province to have a provincial police ombudsman to provide independent oversight of policing.

This massive safety project is beyond the scope of the metro and provincial mandate, but the province and city have undertaken it nonetheless, to plug the gaps left by SAPS.

Chronic underfunding and under-resourcing

Despite the finding of the Equality Court, all 10 of the priority crime stations in the Western Cape have suffered a decrease in the total number of SAPS officers per station.

Gugulethu, for example, had 8 fewer SAPS officers per shift in 2021 than in 2020 because the station had to accommodate a decrease of 16 officers. This makes it even tougher for already over-burdened police officers, and so crime prevention efforts suffer.

Hamstrung by Pretoria

Western Cape MEC for Safety Reagen Allen is also pushing hard for the province to get its own gun destruction site, for dealing with the dozens of illegal firearms and ammunition that hauled off the streets by LEAP and SAPs officers.

Corrupt police in Pretoria failed to destroy seized guns and they were sold back to gangs in the Western Cape. Although the corrupt officers were convicted, the guns are still out there and linked to crimes. Quick and efficient destruction of illegal firearms is crucial to fighting crime and preventing confiscated guns from making their way back onto the streets.

This is another area where the province is hamstrung by red tape and decision-making in Pretoria, since only national government has the power to authorize a site. Again, there seems to be no sense of urgency in dealing with the matter.

Functional federalism

The fastest way for the Western Cape and Cape Town to get on top of crime would be for control of SAPS to be devolved to the province and metro.   In the bargains made to finalise the Constitution, however, policing became highly centralised, and the SAPS Act is even more centralised.

Federalism – the devolution of power to the lowest effective level – is a core DA principle. Federalism ensures decisions are made closer to the local people, communities and businesses they affect. The DA will continue to push for policing to be more devolved in the Western Cape. Meantime, within constitutional limits, DA governments are intent on performing functions for citizens where national government is struggling to do so.

The City of Cape Town is taking this same approach to passenger rail and electricity generation. It is working to bring independent power producers on board to reduce reliance on Eskom. And last week, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana gave Cape Town the go-ahead for a feasibility study into the city taking over passenger rail.

Conclusion

The DA is determined to get on top of crime in the Western Cape. Our governments are committed to working with national government to make this happen, and to filling in for national government where necessary. We are making progress and will continue to go above and beyond to make Khayelitsha and other crime hotspot areas safer. Efficient government saves lives.

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.