The Minister of Women has failed our women

 The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Women, Terri Stander MP, during the Budget Vote on Women.
Honourable Chairperson,
If, reflecting on the number of tragic incidents reported on lately, you are asking who has failed our women and why – the answer is seated on that very bench today.
Minister Susan Shabangu’s core mandate is to champion the advancement of women’s socio-economic empowerment and promote gender equality in the country.
In response to my questions in a committee meeting, Minister Shabangu could not name a single thing attributed to her Department that meaningfully impacted the lives of South African women.
Instead, she complained of underfunding and blamed her administration for being “bloated”, “stuck with people” who did not have the capacity, and that “nothing could be done” about it.
More than 60% of the Department’s budget is spent on salaries and services whilst core mandates are underfunded, and the Annual Performance Plan and indicators are changed as often as underwear.
It is deeply concerning that the Department of Women has scant prioritisation and an unintelligible plan for women.
Perhaps the lack of leadership and direction can be explained by statements made by Minister Shabangu during a recent interview with ENCA’s Checkpoint. In discussing the tragic example of Karabo Mokoena’s abuse and ultimate murder, the Minister said: “Karabo came across as very strong, but internally she was weak, she was weak and hence she became a victim of abuse.”
Yet, today you have the audacity to deny that you said these words. Minister, you are a disgrace to the office you hold and you should be removed immediately, in the best interest of all women in South Africa.
Women are not weak, Minister.
Women have been failed by the weak ANC cadres in every Ministry and sphere of Government for 23 years!
Every statistic that exposes the ANC’s inadequate transformation within its own government departments highlights the horrific truth: little protects our women from oppression, abuse, rape, murder. Google them.
To empower and unleash her potential, a girl must have access to quality education. It is common knowledge that the majority of black girls, especially in rural areas, miss around 50 days of school every year because of their period.
If the Presidency can develop quiet, tasty condoms, why has nothing been done to assist these girls to have access to sanitary towels?
Women deserve to feel safe, whether boarding public transport, walking down a street or simply being in their own homes.
We know violence against women is not new, but we lack reliable and credible statistics.
Why hasn’t the Minister lobbied the Police Ministry to ensure accurate recording and publication of crime statistics relating to violence against women? This would assist your Department to lead, collaborate and oversee transformation that saves women’s lives.
The Minister’s silence on the Traditional Courts Bill before Parliament is also really concerning. Women should not be required to be represented by men. Women must benefit from land redistribution and own titles.
Any patriarchal practice that is not in line with the Constitution, like ukuthwala and female genital mutilation, must be stopped and prosecuted. A woman’s vagina belongs to her. No man nor government can interfere, or dictate what she should or shouldn’t do with it.
We need more women to be entrepreneurs and sit at the top decision-making tables to drive economic growth that creates jobs.
It is an indictment on the ANC that only 22% of people in top management positions are women. Even the ANC’s own Government Departments, in every sphere, fail. Why don’t women have the option of flexi-time or to work from home? Why don’t women enjoy equal opportunities and receive equal pay for work of equal value?
Chairperson, eggs, butter and Handy Andy will not bring change that empowers or protects our women.
Thankfully the DA does care about women. When we govern nationally in 2019, we will prioritise the rights of women, because the lives of our women matter.

Bloated Public Administration serves ANC cadres, not the public

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Minister of Public Service and Administration, Desiree van der Walt MP, during the Budget Vote on Public Service and Administration.
Honourable Chair and Colleagues,
Today I would like to honour the thousands of hard working and dedicated public servants striving to do their jobs, those servants who are not captured but try to deliver services to the South African public.
Minister Muthambi, today marks the 55th day since your appointment to this Department.
Yet, you have made no effort to attend any of the Portfolio Committee meetings or the two-day workshop which dealt with the Department of Public Service and Administration’s (DPSA) Annual Performance Plans (APP) and Budget.
You were, however, very quick to start spending money by hosting two Imbizos – one on your 29th day in office and a second on your 35th day in office, at an estimated R1.3 million.
You were even quicker to start building your personal empire.
I am not sure if you have seen this document referred to as the Ministerial Handbook with specific reference to Chapter 8 before?
It states that you are allowed a total of 10 posts in your Private Office Staff Compliment, not 22.
However, Minister, you have never been one to adhere to rules. As you have shown time after time, you have an utter disregard for your oath of office and the Executive Ethics Code.
Was it really necessary to re-staff DPSA with your cadres? Clearly, we all know the answer to this.
In the ANC, blind loyalty is rewarded, especially the blind loyalty to corruption and ineffectiveness.
I suggest that you prioritise the following on your reading list:
• The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa;
• The Ministerial Handbook;
• The Austerity Measures Document of National Treasury;
• Treasury Regulations; and
• Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
Please note that according to Chapter 10 of the Constitution of South Africa, this Department must be governed by 9 democratic values and principles which includes:
• The efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted;
• Services must be provided impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias;
• People’s needs must be responded to; and
• Public administration must be accountable.
Public administration must be broadly representative of the South African people, with employment and personnel management practices based on ability, objectivity, fairness and the need to redress the imbalances of the past to achieve broad representation.
South Africa’s bloated Cabinet is amongst the worlds largest in relation to the size of its population. Obviously President Zuma’s massive Cabinet has a direct correlation with the massive size of our Public Sector Wage Bill.
The Public Sector Wage Bill is reflective of the growth of the Executive – as increasingly more government posts and entities must be created to support a bloated executive structure.
This is problematic because it is one of government’s biggest expenditure items. The ANC-led government allocated more than R550 billion to public sector wages for the 2017/18 financial year.
This means that the public wage bill, which amounted to 5% of total government expenditure in 1994, has swelled to 43% of total government expenditure in 2017.
The government headcount has finally levelled off at around 1.32 million staff‚ but wage growth remains spectacular compared to the private sector.
Should the upcoming wage negotiations, which are to be conducted later this year‚ be concluded at similar agreements to previous years‚ it could definitely add further risk to the fiscal outlook.
Minister it will be useful for you to examine the details of the wage settlements since the 2015/16 financial year which has already resulted in a total average increase of 11.5% per employee.
The total increase in the wage bill over the past 3 years is an absolutely shocking R77.3 billion. Let that sink in, R77.3 billion- this money could certainly be spent in a better place.
We literally have people who are dying of hunger in our country, we have people living on the streets and 9 million South Africans are unemployed. Surely there must be a better way to spend this extravagant amount?
Wave after wave of above-inflation pay hikes for public sector employees, particularly in ministries which provide very little public benefit, is simply not sustainable nor is it justifiable.
As part of your Department’s 38 Annual Targets, you have to develop proposals for the next round of salary negotiations.
What criteria will you use to ensure it is sustainable and that it will enhance service delivery to the people especially the poorest communities in South Africa?
Yet, the ANC government even with its bloated public service, has failed miserably to provide basic services to our people.
But there is hope. When the DA takes over the Union Buildings in 2019, we will ensure that there is service delivery for every single citizen in our country by reducing public administration to make it more efficient and therefore freeing up money for service delivery.
Our new reshuffled Minister has an utter disregard for money and has very little regard for austerity measures.
After being moved around from one department to another, when will we finally be able to consider this Minister’s mischief managed?
The DA has absolutely no Faith in Minister Muthambi.
Thank you.

The pachyderm in the room

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Labour, Michael Bagraim MP, during the Budget Vote on Labour.
The Department of Labour has as its primary responsibility two real issues. Firstly, to ensure that decent jobs are created and sustained, and secondly, that fairness, productivity and safety is ensured at the workplace.
Our Minister and in turn officials of the Department have surely failed.
We know and understand that 9 million South Africans who are looking for jobs cannot find them. We also understand that monthly, people are being retrenched as unemployment bites deep into our citizens.
Despite the horrific unemployment figures and 50% of our youth being unemployed, our Ministry sees fit, recklessly, to firmly place a National Minimum Wage on the table.
Our Treasury tells us that this will lead to further job losses.
The DA is calling for a sectoral minimum wage to ensure that we don’t have bloodshed in some of the sectors such as the clothing sector.
You, Minister, have stated “setting a national minimum wage only for the sector of the current workforce that is not covered by wage regulations and collective bargaining is not up for consideration at this stage”. It is pleasing to see that you use the words “at this stage”.
Minister, are you waiting for devastation at the workplace before you start considering? By then it might be too late.
I implore you to go back to the various bargaining councils and get feedback from their directors as to how the industry in that particular sector might suffer if a minimum wage is introduced.
Minister, you and I disagree heavily on the role and the need of labour brokers. Despite this, both you and I enjoy meals in this august institution prepared and served to us by labour brokers. We both enjoy neat and clean offices serviced by labour brokers. In fact, the majority of the work done in this house is through labour brokers. Indeed, one of the services which has been brought in-house is security. Unfortunately, when you bring these services in-house, we see how you are unable to step in as fair and reasonable employers.
There’s an ongoing issue between the security of this house and the institutions.
I have here today a large portion of our security personnel who are working hard under increasingly difficult circumstances who are being prejudiced because they are earning 20% less than the new so called white-shirts who are brought in specifically to eject the EFF.
The whole system is riddled with worms.
I specifically ask our unsung badly affected security personnel to stand so that I may introduce them to this house and to alert the house how they have been severely prejudiced. Indeed, we have just heard that Parliament has informed them that they will not be getting an increase due to various constraints.
Minister, you state “there is no conclusive evidence suggesting that the introduction of the national minimum wage will result in mass retrenchments in the businesses belonging to bargaining councils that may have already set minimum wages below the national minimum wage level”.
When you do have conclusive evidence, i.e. when there are mass retrenchments, don’t you think that will be too late? If we lose another two million jobs, we will probably have the worst nightmare you can imagine.
Minister, you state “we are aware of the risk of possible job losses”. If you are aware and you are wide awake, you would be very hesitant before you have an across the board tsunami. All I am asking is for you to consider more research, more input and maybe even a test run of the National Minimum Wage in parts of a particular industry.
Minister, you also state “to mitigate the risk… is the exemption provisions for those employers who have a sound business case”.
It is notorious that these exemption provisions that already exist in the various bargaining councils are almost impossible to obtain and incredibly onerous to complete.
Small businesses across the country are already suffering because they are unable to obtain these exemptions. We are all aware that small business is the engine room of job creation. However, Minister, you are doing everything in your power to halt their development. Small business has deemed labour laws and industrial regulations to be the handbrake on job creation.
The whole world is turning to a typical employment model but we in South Africa know better and would rather destroy job creation to pray at the foot of the idol of a trade union.
We already have a minimum wage in the various sectors which cover over fifty percent of our workforce.
This makes so much more sense as it is the role players who help determine what is sustainable for both employer and employee.

In Zuptastan the Labour Ministry doesn’t care about jobs

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Labour, Ian Ollis MP, during the Budget Vote on Labour.
In the post 2008 global economic meltdown, countries have been scrambling to create jobs by any possible means.
Except here in Zuptastan in the South.
In the USA, where the credit meltdown started, Barack Obama introduced stimulation packages, bought out troubled banks, offered incentives to produce electric vehicles, drastically lowered federal interest rates and created many jobs.
But In Zuptastan, the President met in Saxonwold and appointed Zupta-friendly Ministers, and then shuffled, and shuffled, and shuffled them every time a Minister disobeyed a directive from you-know-who!
In the EU, debt in Greece, Turkey, Spain and even Italy was restructured or written off, or stimulus packages were implemented to save or create jobs.
Here in Zuptastan, we, including the Labour Minister, did nothing about strike violence until 2016.
We collapsed electricity provision into rolling blackouts, forcing businesses like the aluminium smelter for COEGA to go elsewhere and rapidly raised electricity prices making companies uncompetitive.
We then also implemented a de facto ban on temporary employment services, all costing jobs during the global economic downturn.
In China, the government invested in one of its largest infrastructure rollouts to boost their economy, building houses and even whole cities. Now under the new Belt and Road project, China is revitalising its old silk trade routes to Europe and Africa to boost trade.
In January, a new train route was launched between Beijing and London, taking goods across the whole of Asia and Europe to boost trade.
Here in Zuptastan, we implemented a much hated e-toll system and failed to complete our two new coal-fired power stations with colossal cost over-runs and corrupt deals in coal, power, mining and the like.
In Kenya, 8000 Jobs were initially created, rising to 30 000 jobs, by the building of a new standard gauge railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi to change travel time from days to mere hours. In fact, this train line is now going to be extended to Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, with funding already approved and the Kenyan government indicated it will extend the line to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), creating the first Indian to Atlantic ocean rail route across central Africa.
Unfortunately, most residents of Zuptastan don’t realise that our President was appointed the head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative or PICI, and that he is in charge of the Southern African rail and road infrastructure programmes.
To date, he has delivered on not a single new kilometre of road or rail in 5 years of heading this initiative, has not revitalised the rail route between Durban and Dar es Salaam as promised and must be ranked as the poorest performing head of state in charge of an infrastructure project of all the Champions in Africa!
No jobs have been created by this president, or by actions of the Labour Minister, during the global economic downturn.
In fact, the Zupta cabinet under President Zuma lost 900 000 jobs.
I know, Minister Oliphant, that you are quick to point out that creating jobs is not your mandate. But in fact, Minister, creating jobs is everyone’s mandate, especially cabinet members.
When you radically and without warning upped the minimum wage in Agriculture, even your friends in the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), the research unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), say that you cost South Africa thousands of jobs.
When you and the ANC amended labour laws to effectively ban Temporary Employment Services in SA, you cost SA jobs, and when your boss, the President of Zuptastan, shuffles the cabinet in the dead of night, it wrecks business confidence and leads to job losses.
You can deny and obfuscate all you like, but voters punished the ANC and the Zupta cabinet with the biggest drop in electoral support that has ever happened in our democracy, from 62% of the vote down to a measly 53%. Aren’t you embarrassed?
Now in this context, it is difficult to understand the Department of Labour and the two Ministers’ intentions to once again fail this coming year:
The first planned failure: The Department of Labour has reduced the target for the Public Employment Services to place people in jobs compared to last year. In 2016, they placed over 14 000 people in permanent employment. This year, the actual target has been reduced to only 8 000 people as a result of budget cuts. Ratings downgrades cause budget cuts.
So when the President says that the ratings downgrade is no problem, he clearly doesn’t care that the Department is actually planning to fail by placing 6000 fewer people in jobs than last year. This is entirely unthinkable!
The second planned failure: Productivity SA had their funding cut twice in the past financial year and the Minister is planning again to delay their funds!
Let’s remember that Productivity SA’s methods are the cheapest way of saving jobs in SA. Compared to the massive incentives to create jobs in the motor industry, Productivity SA requires a fraction of that money to save companies from liquidation or save jobs through improving productivity.
Every time the Labour Committee meets, we are given a different explanation for the cutting of the funds to Productivity SA. First, we were told that they didn’t apply for the funds. Then we were told that they didn’t follow the correct accounting procedures. Then we were simply told “there is something fishy with the finances of Productivity SA and we have appointed an external investigator”. Then we were told that the leadership resigned. Then the Minister said during question time that they were given their money, but in future they will only receive budgeted funds when projects are completed. Yet the strategic plan of Productivity SA tabled on 4 May 2017 says that they only received R95 million of the budgeted R191 million.
The third planned failure: The Minister says she is not going to study the potential impact of the National Minimum Wage on the textile sector or any other sector and not even consider any sectoral exemptions. So essentially, we are driving the economy into a dark tunnel, with no lights on our train and hoping that there won’t be a crash!
The fourth planned failure: The Department of Labour has reduced all target indicators across all entities that report to the Department to approximately one third of the indicators on which they had to report to Parliament last year.
Now you get what you measure.
If Parliament will only get reports of one third of the indicators, it means the transparency is gone. We simply won’t know in many cases where the problems are, because the target indicators will be concealed from Parliament.
After intervention from the Committee, the Director General has agreed to change some of this and ensure that the Committee has full reporting of the indicators as they did previously.
We hope.
However, Minister, you wouldn’t know this, because you never attend our Committee.
Having attended only two committee meetings in over seven years means that even you are not accountable, unless you are held accountable in Saxonwold, that is.
Imagine having the ignominious accolade of not having been fired by the Saxonwold mafia?
Here in Zuptastan, we don’t care about jobs, we don’t care about helping unemployed workers finding jobs, we are not concerned about infrastructure projects to create jobs and stimulate economic growth.
All we are concerned about is staying in the good books at the shebeen at 5 Saxonwold Drive!

Department of Fisheries is the most dangerous threat for the fishing industry

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Pieter van Dalen MP, during the Budget Vote on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Agbare Voorsitter,
Graag wil ek die vissermanne en vroue in die gallery welkom heet hier in die Parlement.
Hulle is die sout van die aarde. Hulle ken visvang en het grootgeword in vissersfamilies. Hulle is die mense wat tot armoede gevonnis is deur U en die Departement se beleide.
Terwyl u nog lekker lê en slaap in weelde om vier-uur die oggend gaan hulle see toe om kos op die tafel te sit vir hulle families.
Hulle ken niks anders nie. Hulle is die mense wat u gefaal het.
Hierdie vissermanne behoort aan ‘n hegte familie wat saam bly is as die vis byt. Dan deel hulle met die hele gemeenskap. Hulle huil ook saam as een van hulle nie terugkeer van die see af nie.
Ons baklei ook saam as iemand ons onregverdig behandel.
That is why, Honourable Minister, I have invited the fishing communities to join me today. So that you can hear the plight of our fisher family.
A family to which you and the honourable members of this committee also belong.
As the Minister, you assume a father figure role. The father is the head of this family and can be strict and firm with the discipline.
The role of the mother is assumed by the officials of the Department, including the Director-General (DG) and Deputy Director-General (DDG). The mother is meant to nurture and show equal love and sympathy to all her children. A mother listens and is the cornerstone of any family.
We also have a Grandmother whose role is assumed by the Portfolio Committee and the Chairperson. The grandmother performs an oversight role. She is a safe haven for them all. She does not pick sides. She does what is good for the whole family.
That is a basic family.
Unfortunately, ours is a dysfunctional family.
In our family, the father fails to provide equal protection to all members of the fishing community. By taking away their right to fish the Minister has with the stroke of a pen sentenced 800 fishermen and women in this sector to a life of poverty where their children will go to bed hungry.
The mother is not any better. She too has failed our family. The DDG has shown disregard to the plight and the cries of the communities who feel prejudiced by the fishing allocations process. The DDG, by reducing the fishing quotas by 90%, has condemned these communities to a life of hunger and poverty.
Instead of ensuring that these communities are fed, the Minister’s Department, has instead chosen to feed the patronage system. Both the mother and father of this family have acted against the very people who depend on them.
But what about the Committee. What have we, as the Grandmother, done to comfort and solve the problems of these fishing communities?
Fish depletion or scarcity of fish resources are no longer the single biggest threat to the fishing industry.
The Department of Fisheries is the most dangerous threat to the fishing industry. They don’t seem to know that they are playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives.
Agbare Voorsitter,
Hierdie is ‘n baie emosionele onderwerp en graag wil ons by u hoor hoe u hierdie problem gaan aanspreek.
U kan nie net bloot u skouers optrek nie. Verduidelik asseblief vir hierdie vissermanne, u familie, teenwoordig wat u gaan doen om hierdie humanitêre ramp af te weer?
Om net van die een te steel en vir die ander te gee is nie die oplossing nie. U moet n regverdige vader wees. Dit is tog u plig.

It’s been a year of antagonism between the Minister and the ICT sector

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Marian Shinn MP, during the Budget Vote on Telecommunications and Postal Services.
About a year ago, the took fright at the National Integrated Information and Communication (ICT) White Paper Policy and within months, gazetted its invitation to network operators to participate in an auction for the much sought after high demand spectrum.
There’s an impolite way to say what happened next, but let’s just say that the fan is still spinning.
It’s been a year of antagonism between the Minister and the ICT sector. Legal battles were launched, there were threats of expropriation, or more benignly, nationalisation of the mobile network business, and mutterings about taking this ANC government all the way to the Constitutional Court to protect the due process of law making and the preservation of private-sector financial investments.
But the hullabaloo around contentious aspects of the White Paper has had some effect. The Minister’s agreement last week to some of the recommendations of the ICT stakeholders, including mobile network operators, must be clearly documented as policy amendments – which is what they are – despite the Minister’s spin of ‘flexibility in implementation’.
All of this angst could have been avoided if the Department’s true focus was on a credible process of delivery of ubiquitous, affordable, robust broadband access for all. Instead, we were presented with a suspiciously spawned network idea that smelled of connected cronies making a grab for other people’s businesses in the guise of radically upending the ICT sector to transform it.
What ICASA saw a long year ago was a policy idea that would introduce a wholesale network monopoly that would inhibit investment in the sector and keep costs high through lack of competition.
The way this ANC government ambushed the ICT sector with a drastic plan that would crush, arguably, the most dynamic and successful economic sector since our democratic dawn, is shocking.
The deluge of critical opinion on the details of the network and the Policy White Paper came from many sources: specialist IT lawyers, business leaders in the sector, academics.
The outcry forced the Minister to encourage informal talks with the sector to get its views on how to ‘implement’ the policy. He was adamant there would be no changes to the policy.
The concessions he has agreed with the core of stakeholders involves allowing the mobile network operators to retain the spectrum they currently use to service their customer bases, as well as access to ‘sufficient’ high-demand spectrum. This will enable them to run in parallel to the Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) while committing to be its significant customers.
There’s a legal and operational minefield to traverse here as the WOAN will depend on a share of the operators’ business to survive, and its assigned spectrum might not always be appropriate to the demands of the operators’ customers.
Also, the operators are being asked to commit, now, to using 51% of a network that, even with optimum efficiency, will take at least six years to build. Who knows what the market and the economy will look like in 2022.
We await the written details of the way forward with the new network plan. It must be implemented in a phased approach to test its objectives and refine its implementation.
The plan must be underpinned by thorough, credible research, on the financial, economic and social impacts. It cannot be another shoddy, tick-box job that the Minister reluctantly put out earlier this year to extol the virtues of his policy.
But the promise of open access wireless network is years away. Its birth is hampered by another spectacular ANC government failure: the migration to digital broadcasting that will free up the spectrum needed for the wireless broadband delivery of a vast array of content, applications and services.
This migration is bogged down in the courts thanks to a suspect policy amendment made by Minister Muthambi. The new Minister of Communications indicates that a reversal of this policy is pending.
But this is only the first step in breaking the logjam. There is the seemingly corrupt procurement process for the production of government-sponsored set-top boxes. The process needs to be revised.
Another failure of this ANC government in delivering affordable internet throughout the country is South Africa Connect. The tender to find a lead agency to manage this ambitious project failed last year.
Had the Minister taken the advice of the National Broadband Advisory Council, rather than snubbing it into oblivion, they would have steered him clear of the ‘lead agency’ mistake. Phase 1, announced in SONA 2015, would be well on its way by now.
Despite its mantra of bringing down the cost to communicate and spreading internet connectivity to the farthest and poorest regions of our land, this department is treading water.
Its delivery is weighed down by misguided ANC policies, its hoarding of spectrum, its actions without consideration of consequences and its determination to centralise and control this most dynamic, innovative and fast-paced economic sector.
It creates one talk shop after another to pretend it is listening to the ICT sector players. They’re becoming conference groupies, both here and abroad.
It dreams up policies to create more bureaucracy and establishes boards for connected cronies at the expense of the taxpayers. All of which pushes up costs which taxpayers fund.
The Department has neither the budget nor the resources to deliver on the legislative mandate it has foisted on itself for the next three years.
They should instead focus their energies on key deliverables, such as facilitating and incentivising the investment and rollout of fixed and wireless broadband internet. The Western Cape government gave them a presentation last week on best practice in this field.
Its main messages are: one size doesn’t fit all; devolve responsibility locally; seek innovative solutions relevant to the circumstances and preferably with local providers who are managed to deliver on standards and to deadlines.
This is what a DA-led government does to deliver connectivity. We’ve already proved this where we govern.

Government must stop talking and start doing

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Cameron Mackenzie MP, during the Budget Vote on Telecommunications and Postal Services.
Thank you House Chairperson,
The time for talking is past.
Telecommunications has moved far beyond making a phone call or sending a SMS. Budget speeches this year have been littered with talk of the fourth industrial revolution and e-government – a good indicator of how far technology has taken us since the birth of the internet and the rollout of fast, ubiquitous broadband.
The fourth industrial revolution – digitisation, automation and the internet of things – is already with us, changing the way the world lives, works and plays.
E-government and its ability to connect citizens with government, business with government, and government with government, is a game changer in how government interacts and communicates – more efficiently, more effectively and at a lower cost.
There is broad agreement across all political parties that inequality is one of the biggest challenges facing South Africa and our people. A growing economy creates jobs and opportunities and a job is a pathway out of poverty but job creation depends entirely on economic growth.
Few economic sectors have the power to directly contribute as much and as quickly to economic growth than Information and Communication Technology (ICT) – and broadband specifically. World Bank research shows that every 10% increase in broadband penetration could contribute an extra 1.38% to the economic growth rate for low and middle income countries. And at 1.38%, that’s double the pedestrian 0.6% economic growth projected for South Africa this year.
Given this fact, we would expect this government and the Department to lead the way in the rollout of broadband and the implementation of e-government in South Africa.
Yet, with a national budget of more than a trillion rand, less than R1.7 billion has been allocated to Telecommunications and Postal Services. This seems comparatively little for a sector that has so much potential to contribute to our country’s economic growth.
So how is the Department doing?
Let’s use the Department’s own goals (pun intended) to gauge this.
In the Department’s Annual Performance Plan, it aims to:
• Expand and modernise ICT infrastructure by implementing the South Africa Connect broadband policy (that’s a fail);
• Coordinate the migration to digital broadcasting (that’s a fail – missed deadlines included);
• Implement the legislative framework stemming from the 2016 National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper (we’re going to be waiting until next year for this); and
• Rationalise state-owned companies (fail – three years later and there’s lots of talk but little action).
The Department is seized with discussing the ICT White Paper, e-government, digital strategies and the mythical SA Connect. The problem is not for want of policies, statements or intentions though; we are awash with these.
The problem is lots of talking and little implementation.
Two of the Department’s Annual Performance Plan priorities for 2017/2018 are the finalisation and approval of the National E-strategy and the e-government strategy.
But they’ve been paying lip service to the concept of e-government for decades. And it’s not me who says this – it’s government itself.
In the proposed national e-government strategy, published in the Government Gazette of 7 April, on page 495, it says “Existing e-government policy and strategies have played lip service over time which led to outdated approaches as well as the fact that South Africa has not moved forward in achieving the strategic objectives as set in the 2001 e-Government policy.”
Sixteen years later and the government is still talking more but doing less. In this regard, time is the enemy and South Africa is losing the battle.
A recent Parliamentary oversight to Mpumalanga provides a useful clue as to why we are so far behind. According to information supplied by the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA), as part of SA Connect, several clinics, schools and government offices had been connected to a broadband network designed and built by MENG, a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) start-up. When we visited the sites, with the exception of a single clinic, no connectivity existed and the network infrastructure was vandalized and not maintained. Yet the government had paid around R30 million for connectivity that doesn’t exist.
It is important to contrast this with another connectivity programme in this country that’s rolling out government services and internet access to our citizens – and its right here, in the DA-governed Western Cape.
The Western Cape Broadband Strategy and Implementation Plan aims to coordinate and integrate government action to radically improve the provision of telecommunication infrastructure, skills and usage within the province so every citizen in every town and village has access to affordable high-speed broadband infrastructure and services, has the necessary skills to be able to effectively utilise this infrastructure and is actively utilising this in their day-to-day lives.
And this is not lip service.
This province has brought together the public sector in the form of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), Neotel from the private sector and the Western Cape government itself in a 10 year, R3.6 billion self-funded programme that is contributing to the provision of affordable, ubiquitous broadband to meet the diverse needs of public and private users.
And it’s working.
The Western Cape is ready for the fourth industrial revolution. It is rolling out broadband and e-government services. It is paying more than lip service to these concepts. But where is national government and where are the other provinces?
It is three years since the illogical, irrational and unnecessary split of Communications and Telecommunications. Who can fathom the inner workings of the President’s mind? (Although a letter writer to Business Day suggested the President is still running on Microsoft Disk Operating System (MS-DOS) while everyone else is running Windows 10…)
Three years later and this Department and its programmes are still wracked by underperformance, lack of delivery, policy confusion and worse still, policy implementation.
This government is not just running out of other people’s money, it’s running out of time.
The fourth industrial revolution, e-government and the broadband network that underpins it has the power to effect positive change on a scale sorely needed by this country. But for this to happen, fast, reliable and universal broadband and access to it must be in place, because unless you’ve built the foundation, you cannot deliver the future. The revolution won’t wait for South Africa to catch up. It needs to be done and done now because the time for lip service has passed.
Let me leave you with a piece of advice from Walt Disney:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and start doing.”

ANC has robbed 600 000 disabled children of their right to an education

Note to EditorsThe following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Member of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Sonja Boshoff MP, during the Budget Vote on Basic Education.
Honourable Chair,
Standing here today I can confirm that over half a million, or nearly 600 000, children with disabilities are not in schools.
These children are being denied their right to basic education as virtually no special needs schools – where most children with disabilities are erroneously sent – are ‘fee-free’ schools.
Children with disabilities are also forced to shoulder additional costs and fees in special schools typically differ as there are no set tariffs.
Location is also a problem – many special needs schools are located in urban areas with little or no boarding facilities. Where boarding facilities are available, we find waiting lists of up to 200 learners every year. If a child with disabilities is accommodated, staff are not always adequately trained.
This is why so many of our learners with disabilities do not attend school. The absence of money should never be a barrier to education. No child should be denied their right to learn because they cannot afford it.
The new grant for learners with profound intellectual disabilities is a step in the right direction for the sector but does not address many of the problems.
Special needs programmes suffer from a lack of qualified educators and specialised learning materials, just one example is a severe lack of braille books.
Physically disabled learners who do not have any cognitive disabilities can, with proper education, enter the labour market at the end of their matric year, and achieve great things: like the founder of Motswako Office Systems, Sebenzile Matsebula, or former Justice of the Constitutional Court, Zak Jacoob.
Yet, these learners sit at home or are sent to Day Care Centres where mothers of those communities assist in providing care whilst the parents are at work. These caregivers do their best but are not equipped to assist in stimulating these children cognitively or physically.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) must finally acknowledge that all children must be able to learn and that all children need support. This can be done through enabling the education structures, systems and learning methodologies to meet the needs of all children.
Does the ANC government not think these children are worth the investment?
The DA is committed to allowing parents to make the best choices for their child, with special education programmes both in mainstream schools and in special needs schools.
In the Western Cape, where we govern, the government has worked tirelessly to improve access to specialised support in townships and rural areas, through multi-disciplinary teams and well-trained educators. In the 2017/2018 Western Cape Education budget, over R1.2 billion is allocated to Special Needs Education.
It really is amazing what can be achieved when a governing party focuses on its mandate to support its citizens, instead of dreaming up new schemes to defraud the public.

It takes courage to stand up to our friends

Note to Editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education, Gavin Davis MP, during the Budget Vote on Basic Education.
Honourable Chairperson
I am not going to go into the many ways that our education system is failing poor children. Suffice to say that each one of us here wants a world-class education system for every South African child.
The truth is that some of us want it more than others.
Now I am sure that Minister Angie Motshekga wants a better education system. But she suffers from the same problem that afflicts all ANC politicians.
She is compromised by the internal politics of her party and its alliance partners.
She is bound up in a corrupt patronage network that prevents her from doing her job properly.
This is why she lacks courage when dealing with the number one problem in our schools. And the number one problem is that trade union bosses from the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) have captured our education system.
Now the Minister knows this very well. She just doesn’t have the guts to say it in public.
So allow me to report to this House what the Minister said in her correspondence with the South African Human Rights Commission on the subject of SADTU.
In this letter that I hold in my hand:

  • The Minister bemoans what she refers to as SADTU’s “hardened” attitude to measures to improve education.
  • She accuses SADTU of using policy matters as “bargaining chips” to get its own way.
  • She talks of SADTU’s “antagonistic approach.”
  • She says she is disappointed with illegal SADTU strikes, boycotts and stay-aways.
  • And she singles out SADTU as the culprit in the so-called ‘Jobs for Cash’ scandal.

Honorable Chairperson
You will never hear the Minister say these things in this House. And you won’t see her taking action against her alliance partners.
She doesn’t have the courage. Because she needs SADTU for her own political survival.
Now we all know that the Minister is supporting Mr. Cyril Rampahosa to become the President of the ANC. And we saw last week how Mr. Ramaphosa had nothing but praise for SADTU when he spoke at their Congress.
This is why the ANC cannot self-correct, even under new leadership.
The uncomfortable truth is that, for as long as the ANC is in power, our education system will remain captured by SADTU.
So we need to start thinking beyond the ANC, to a new government under a new President.
When a new government under President Mmusi Maimane enters the Union Buildings we will bring balance to the education system.
We think it is wrong that South Africa has the highest number of teaching days lost to strikes on the continent.
So we will initiate legislation that regulates teachers’ strikes, so that no child loses their right to a decent basic education.
And, instead of weakening School Governing Bodies – as the Minister wants to do – we will strengthen them so that they can help check and balance SADTU.
We will also implement recommendations of the ‘Jobs for Cash’ Report, such as stopping the cadre deployment of SADTU officials into provincial education departments.
Then, we will introduce bold new reforms to improve the quality of teaching, whether SADTU likes them or not.
We will start by implementing the teacher competency tests and Principal Performance Agreements that have been blocked by SADTU for five years.
We will introduce a National Education Inspectorate at arm’s length from government with the power to assess teaching and learning in the classroom.
Teachers who do not have the qualifications to teach – and there are still more than 5 000 of them in our schools – will not be allowed to teach.
To bridge the skills gap, we will aggressively headhunt excellent Mathematics and Science teachers from all over the African continent.
And we will bring back teacher-training colleges to give teachers the practical skills they need to make a meaningful impact in the classroom.
Finally, Honourable Chairperson, we will give parents more choice in their children’s education.
For example, we are looking at the introduction of a school voucher system. This will give poor parents the financial muscle to take their kids out of schools that don’t perform and into schools that do.
We are also looking at the rollout of Contract Schools. Because we think that private education providers and civil society should be encouraged to work with government to manage, develop and fund failing schools.
Now, SADTU will not like any of these proposals. But this will not stop us from putting children first.
Honourable Chairperson
I want to end off by commending the Minister for her “Read to Lead” campaign to get kids reading.
And I encourage her to take a leaf out of one of the best-loved children’s books, Harry Potter by JK Rowling. In it, the great Wizard Dumbledore says:
There are all kinds of courage. It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.
Stand up to your friends, Minister. Stand up to SADTU. Stand up for the children of South Africa.
I thank you.

We are in cycles of outrage followed by amnesia and inaction

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Police, Marius Redelinghuys MP, during the Budget Vote on Police and Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
Last year I spoke about the war on women, the war on LGBTI, the war on the independence of state institutions, and the war raging in rural communities across this country.
It is beyond frustrating to stand here again today to address these very same issues, and to observe how little, if anything, has changed.
For the benefit of the new Minister, I will repeat the suggestions I made to his ill-fated predecessor:
We must have specific, separate data on sexual and gender-based crimes, crimes against queer persons and farm attacks and murders.”
In March, after years of DA and civil society pleas, we finally got disaggregated sexual offences statistics following my request for it captured in the September mid-term budget Committee report.
I also said that “effectively trained police must ensure that these crimes are promptly and thoroughly investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice. Survivors must have access to full reparation and means of protection.
And finally, I said “the Rural Safety Strategy does not lead to actual, specialist boots on the ground” and reiterated “our call for adequately trained, equipped and capacitated specialised Rural Reaction Units.
I hope that the new Minister will embrace the bona fide proposals of the opposition as eagerly as he fires away on Twitter.
But, as being able to get disaggregated statistics on sexual offences showed, Parliament can get things done without – and often in spite of – the whims, wishes and excuses of the executive.
Thus, turning to the war on the independence of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) and the Hawks, I urge the Committee to initiate proceedings amending both Acts to bring them in line with the Constitution.
We have watched with disbelief the public spat between IPID and the South African Police Service (SAPS), and the on-going Hawks saga.
In this, I advise the Acting National Commissioner to let the investigation run its course and refrain from attacking IPID’s very existence, lest somebody seeks a declaratory order for him violating the Constitution. Findings and alleged procedural irregularities can be taken on judicial review if he is unhappy.
I am pleased that the Minister has taken a hard-line approach on Berning Ntlemeza, but it is not enough.
The Constitutional Court set clear deadlines for Parliament, not the executive, to remedy the legislative defects.
The Committee should fix this as speedily as the Justice Portfolio Committee fixed the Sexual Offences Act in the previous Parliament after a Western Cape High Court judgement.
Lastly, Chairperson, on the “war on women” we are, unfortunately, in what Lisa Vetten describes as cycles of outrage followed by amnesia and inaction.
Sadly, after making the headlines, Karabo Mokoena, Bukelwa Moerane, Lerato Moloi, Jeannette Cindi and the countless other names become mere statistics debated in hearings like this; footnotes to the real horror story South African women face on a daily basis.
So, what is to be done?
We, as MPs, must debate and engage with the failures of this government to meaningfully address violence against women in Parliament.
In addition to what my colleague said, we must also heed civil society’s calls and pioneer a budgeted national strategic plan on gender-based violence, aligning government and societal efforts around clear strategic priorities, timeframes and resources, and create an inescapable accountability mechanism.
Police must also heed the pleas of thousands of women when they say this bridge, or that park, or that corner is not safe. Turning a woman away when reporting a domestic violence case should be a dismissible offence. Make an example of police officers who do this.
Ending the war on women goes beyond just public and private sector programmes. We must change deep-seated, often dearly held, attitudes. Each one of us, men specifically, must take ownership of and tackle our own attitudes that enable or encourage toxic, deadly masculinity.
My fellow man, if you’ve laughed at, or even sheepishly smiled at, a sexist joke without calling such rubbish out, you have enabled, if not encouraged, the men you warn your daughters and sisters about.
We demand that the Minister brings Parliament the plans he and the department have to seriously address this scourge.
Changing attitudes of men is the first step, but the SAPS must desist from continuing to ignore the serious violence women face each day.