Parliament is shirking its oversight responsibility during the lockdown

A response from National Assembly Deputy Speaker, Lechesa Tsenoli, to my letter requesting the establishment of an ad hoc committee demonstrates a gravely worrying suppression of oversight and the gagging of parliament during the Covid-19 lockdown.

In his refusal to establish the committee, Mr Tsenoli states that my request is “so broad and of such a nature that it would not be feasible to expect a single ad hoc committee to perform”, further stating that the work “must be done by all existing parliamentary committees and Members of Parliament”.

What Mr Tsenoli fails to realise is that the National Disaster declaration, and the subsequent lockdown, have led to the establishment of a National Command Council creating a unique scenario in which wings of government are rolling out programmes which are out of the ordinary and thus cannot be effectively held to account by Parliament’s existing committees.

In its oversight role, Parliament is supposed to mirror government in order to exercise oversight comprehensively. Because the structure of government has adapted to deal with the Covid-19 outbreak, so must Parliament adapt its oversight capacity to oversee it. This is precisely why I have called for the establishment of an ad hoc committee.

Furthermore, Mr Tsenoli’s statement that “Parliament was using information and communication technologies for parliamentary committees and members to effectively continue to engage in their oversight and monitoring role” is worryingly misleading. Not one member of the DA’s Shadow Cabinet has received any such correspondence from Parliament’s standing committee chairpersons.

Parliament also has a pressing responsibility to help prepare South Africa for the realities of a post-Covid-19 world. We need an urgent economic recovery plan which parliamentarians have a duty to flesh out during this time.

Following Mr Tsenoli’s directive, every member of my Shadow Cabinet will be writing to their respective committee chairpersons requesting for committees to be urgently convened via videoconference during the lockdown period.

Considering the numerous acts of police brutality and the rising number of deaths allegedly at the hands of police officers during the lockdown, oversight over the executive has never been more crucial in our country.

Essentially, Parliament has been rendered obsolete by refusing to adapt to the changing government during this time and the changing circumstances surrounding its work. Mr Tsenoli’s failure to ensure oversight in this regard is a worrying manipulation of democratic processes which demands immediate attention.

It is incomprehensible that at the time of our nation’s greatest crisis, parliament remains disengaged from what is going on in our country and is not being utilised to prepare South Africa for the changing environment in a post-Covid-19 world.

For South Africa to work, Parliament must work

The following remarks were made today by DA Interim Leader, John Steenhuisen MP, to the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

Dear Members of the Press Gallery,

Building, strengthening and defending our democracy is not an overnight job. You have to do the hard yards – there are no shortcuts. But if you persevere, the results will eventually come.

And so today I welcome the arrest of former State Security Minister and ANC MP Bongani Bongo on charges relating to the alleged bribery of the evidence leader in Parliament’s Eskom Inquiry back in 2017. It is encouraging to see that the wheels of justice are indeed turning.

On 22 November 2017 I laid criminal charges against Bongo in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act when it emerged that he had allegedly offered Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara a bribe in exchange for stepping down as evidence leader in the Inquiry. At the time there were the usual voices who questioned this, asking “what’s the point?”

The point is this: If you want to turn things around, you have to be prepared to put in the work at every step of the way. In this case it began with laying the charges in 2017, but it also involved continuously fighting for better resources for the NPA, as well as fighting for the depoliticisation of the institution.

I hope that Bongo’s arrest and prosecution will serve as encouragement to those who may feel despondent at what often feels like a lack of justice and accountability in our country. It may be two years down the line, but it’s happening. And if we all stick to our guns and do the hard yards, we can eventually fix every part of our troubled nation.

Recently I have spent a lot of time setting out my vision for both the future of the DA and for our country. I have addressed many different audiences and I have written in several publications as the newly-elected Interim Federal Leader of the DA.

But I also hold the position of Parliamentary Leader of the DA and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. And this is the hat I am wearing today in this engagement with you, the Parliamentary Press Gallery. I would like to share with you some of our plans for the Sixth Parliament – of how we can ensure that we best carry out our mandated duty on behalf of 58 million South Africans.

Parliament is the most crucial institution of our democracy. When it works as it should, it reflects the will of the people and it serves their interests. Now whether the current format of proportional representation is the best way to achieve this is up for discussion, and I will touch on this in a minute. But however it is constituted, we have a sworn duty to make it work.

The first and most obvious step towards achieving this is letting go of the notion that we are enemies inside the House. We may be political opponents, but when we sit in those benches we are bound by a common goal. Our collective job is to find solutions – to put forward coherent arguments for the ideas we believe in, and to listen with open minds to ideas that may be at odds with ours.

We have a vibrant multi-party democracy in this country, and this is reflected in the benches of our Parliament. But we will not benefit from this plurality of ideas and voices if we cannot learn to reach across the aisle and find common ground.

I know such common ground won’t always exist – there are some issues on which we fundamentally disagree – but there is plenty we can agree on. And if we are to make Parliament work for the people, then we have to be open to cooperation.

I don’t need to tell you that Parliament has failed to live up to this standard in recent years. Sitting in the gallery, you have had front row seats. You have watched how the National Assembly descended into a daily circus of insults, disruptions and even violence. And you have seen, first-hand, the deep polarisation and paralysis of Parliament that this has caused.

How do you explain this to ordinary South Africans who see these ugly scenes on TV? They know that members of the House are paid well to do a crucial job, but all they see is grandstanding and insults. It is little wonder that voters are increasingly losing faith in the democratic process.

We need to turn this around in this Sixth Parliament. We need to re-establish Parliament as a place of big ideas, vigorous debate and service to the people of this country.

Every single one of the 400 members of Parliament stood up in the front of the House and swore to uphold their duty, as set out in the Constitution. We need to be held to that oath.

That Constitutional duty has two components to it. One is to pass legislation that enables all South Africans to live a better life. This is what most people have in mind when they think of the role of Parliament. But there is another equally important function, and that is its role in exercising oversight over the Executive.

We have all seen, over the course of the Fourth and Fifth Parliaments, what happens when Parliament abdicates its responsibility to hold the executive arm of government to account: Our state falls into the hands of the highest bidder.

A full picture of the damage inflicted on our country through state capture has not yet emerged, and it will take generations to undo. But all of this could have been prevented had Parliament simply done its job.

This Sixth Parliament needs to find and show its teeth again. It needs to go from lapdog to watchdog.

Part of the challenge is that the Executive is chosen from within Parliament, which makes those cabinet members responsible for their own oversight. But this challenge can be overcome by a number of interventions.

Firstly, we need to introduce an oversight standing committee on the Presidency right away. It is the only department that has no such an oversight committee and is therefore allowed to operate without any scrutiny.

South African citizens deserve better than this. If we want to preach equality before the law as one of our foundational principles of democracy, then this must extend to the executive arm of government too.

In addition to this, there are a number of interventions proposed by the DA over the years which will undoubtedly enhance oversight and accountability, and which need to be reconsidered.

The first and most important of these goes to the very heart of accountability in government. It involves changing our electoral system from pure proportional representation to a hybrid system where some seats are awarded on proportional representation, and some are elected directly by voters.

The problem with the current system is that MPs don’t answer to anyone except their own party, and this has removed all accountability from Parliament. A purely constituency-based system, while far more accountable, wouldn’t be ideal either because small parties would be crowded out. The answer lies in a hybrid system, where there is both accurate representation of the vote and a degree of direct accountability to voters.

The DA put forward such a hybrid electoral system several years ago. It is now more urgent than ever that we relook this system and introduce real accountability for the people of South Africa.

Another DA bill that would enhance Parliament’s watchdog capabilities is the Public Finance Management Amendment Bill which we tabled last year. This bill will ensure real-time reports to Parliament of all the government guarantees that are issued, as well as those that are declined by the Minister of Finance.

We are in the process of drafting a number of other bills specifically aimed at strengthening oversight and building an accountable and capable state. If this Sixth Parliament is serious about getting its teeth back, it must give these bills due consideration.

When it comes to passing legislation, this Sixth Parliament must rally behind the only agenda that matters to our country right now, and that is growth. The only way to tackle poverty, inequality, unemployment and debt is through sustained economic growth.

If what we do inside the House does not contribute to this growth, then we’re doing the wrong thing.

There is no time left to debate whether this should be the top priority or not. Every day we are sinking further and further into debt. We are borrowing a billion Rand a day and we are spending most of this money on things that will not give us any kind of return.

Most of this will be have to be repaid by our children, and they will see nothing for it. We are maxing out their credit cards before they’re even old enough to own them.

If we don’t halt this slide immediately, it will lead to enormous misery and despair for millions of South African citizens. Critical budgets like education, healthcare, housing, social welfare, service delivery and infrastructure maintenance will all take a hit, and poor people will be the first to feel this.

Ten years ago our national debt sat at 30% of GDP. Today it is almost 60% of GDP, and Treasury expects this to climb to 80% by 2028.

If we were incurring all this debt to invest in infrastructure, or to spend on things like education, there would be sense in it. But instead we are borrowing this money to pay the salaries of a massively-inflated management level in the public sector, and to bail out already-failed state-owned companies.

We have a responsibility, in Parliament, to heed the warning signs and to take action. The legislation we pass in the House can make fundamental changes to the way our economy operates. If we all unite behind the idea of prosperity through growth, we can change the path we’re on.

An example of this is the Cheaper Electricity Bill which we tabled earlier this year. It provides the legislative framework to lower the cost of electricity and boost the reliability of supply – both of which are critical to the performance of our economy.

This bill is to be debated soon by the Portfolio Committee. We have an opportunity to take one small step in the right direction by cooperating on a piece of legislation that is clearly in the interest of our country.

That’s how these things work – one step at a time. There is no single silver bullet that will transform our economy. There are many small yet critically important steps that we must take to get where we want to be.

Another such a step has to do with the Copyright Amendment Bill that has been lying on the President’s desk for the past six months. If he signs this into law in its current form, it will put at risk an estimated R12 billion in exports to the USA. This needs to go back to the Portfolio Committee to be rectified.

We have already been told that the US is reviewing our access to their preferential trade system thanks to the insufficient protection to intellectual property rights in this Bill. We know that they are about to pull the plug on a trade deal that secures billions in exports and thousands of jobs. With over 10 million unemployed here, we simply cannot afford not to act on this.

There are several other DA bills that were rejected in the Fifth Parliament, but which need to be reconsidered by this Sixth Parliament, if we are to take our responsibilities seriously.

One of these is the Labour Relations Amendment Bill. This bill sought to protect the public from violence and intimidation during strike action, as well as from malicious destruction of private property. It also sought to allow non-striking workers the freedom to go to work without intimidation or threats.

Another older DA bill that needs to be reconsidered is the Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill. This has already been adopted in the Western Cape and has made a huge impact on the ease of doing business in the province. Now let’s do the same nationally.

And yet another one is the Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill. This bill was shot down on purely political grounds, despite the content of the Bill itself enjoying the support of the portfolio committee on Small Business.

We cannot continue to play these games of political one-upmanship in Parliament while our country sinks further into debt, poverty and unemployment. Our responsibility is to the people who voted us into Parliament, and not the parties who placed our names on their lists.

The only way Parliament will serve the people of South Africa is if we restore its functions of oversight and growth-enabling legislation. And this will require all 400 members of the House to remember their oath of office, and to remember who they work for.

That’s not the DA or the ANC or the EFF or any other party. MP’s work for the people of South Africa. They have been elected to Parliament to speak on behalf the people, and to protect ordinary citizens from abuse and neglect.

As Parliamentary Leader of the DA and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, I have made it my mission to help restore the dignity and decorum of this crucial institution of democracy, and to get it working again.

Let the legacy of the Sixth Parliament be one of cooperation across the aisle, of respect for the institution of Parliament, and of true service to the people of South Africa.

Thank you.

It cannot be business as usual for the 6th Parliament while the Eskom threat continues to loom large

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has received a letter from the Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Thandi Modise, in which she declined our request for a debate of national importance on Eskom’s financial crisis.

It cannot be business as usual for this 6th Parliament while the debt-ridden Eskom, continues to be engulfed in corruption and mismanagement, posing the biggest single threat to our country’s economy.

South Africans are already burdened with rising electricity costs and a flatlining economy, and is now expected to pay for years of state capture, corruption and poor management that have led to Eskom being over R400 billion in debt.

Eskom has kept our economy down on its knees – with unacceptably high levels of unemployment and job losses due to episodes of rolling blackouts, we cannot let the Eskom threat to our economy continue unabated.

The utility is the single biggest threat to our economy, therefore, Parliament must use its mandate to perform oversight and debate the true extent of rot at the entity.

The DA has long called for Eskom’s anticompetitive throttlehold on electricity production and distribution to be broken. We have a plan to stabilise and secure South Africa’s power supply and that is contained in our Cheaper Energy Bill, which seeks to break Eskom into two separate entities – a generation and distribution entity.

This would reduce the cost of electricity, bring about much-needed competition and ensure that South Africa will shed a big chunk of Eskom’s debt.

There is no straightforward or easy way of dealing with the Eskom crisis, however a debate on solutions that will rescue the power utility cannot wait for a time of our convenience or else it will be too late.

Diverse, youthful and competent DA caucus ready to build One South Africa for All

Ahead of tomorrow’s opening sitting of the 6th Democratic Parliament of South Africa, the DA’s caucus sat for the very first time this morning. On behalf of the 84 National Assembly (NA) Members, and 13 National Council of Provinces (NCOP) members, we are truly humbled and honoured to have been elected as the Official Opposition in this 6th Parliament and we thank you for voting for us to be your elected representatives.

We take our constitutional duty very seriously and will work hard to ensure that the work of this Parliament will be to better the lives of all South Africans – nothing more and nothing less. Every bill, policy, regulation and motion will be measured against this, and we will fearlessly stand up to those whose sole aim is to undermine this project for their own enrichment.

The DA’s work in this 6th Parliament will be guided by the following two hold principles: (1)holding government accountable for the exercise of their powers, and (2) putting forward fresh ideas and credible alternatives to government plans and policies. This is how we intend to ensure parliament comes alive and works for the people, and not for politicians and their connected cronies.

 The DA’s Caucus

As Leader of the DA, I am immensely proud to lead this caucus. It encompasses the spirit of South Africa. Individuals from all walks of life – old and young, black and white, gay and straight – who are bound together by shared values and a desire to see our nation prosper and grow.

Of the 14 political parties represented in this 6th Parliament, I have no doubt that the DA’s caucus is the most diverse and competent of all. In this caucus you won’t find anyone with allegations of corruption or wrongdoing hanging over their head. Our selection process produces quality, fit for purpose MPs – not a patronage network of self-serving loyalists.

Some of the notable newcomers to our caucus include: Banking Executive and Founder of AgriProf, Noko Masipa; Youngest MP in democratic history, Sibongiseni Ngcobo; Former NFP National Chairperson, Maliyakhe Shelembe; DA Federal Youth Leader,Luyolo Mphithi; Author, Leon Schreiber; Outgoing Communications Director, Siviwe Gwarube; Eastern Cape DASO Chairperson, Baxolile Nodada; and Former MMC in Tshwane, Cilliers Brink.

In terms of caucus leadership, I can today announce that I have decided to appoint John Steenhuisen as the DA’s Chief Whip in the National Assembly for this 6th Parliament. John served as Chief Whip during the 5th Parliament and excelled in the execution of his duties. I have full confidence in his knowledge and experience of parliamentary operations, rules and procedures, and he adds incomparable value to the leadership of the DA caucus.

All other leadership positions will be contested through a caucus election. These are Deputy Chief in the National Assembly; Leader in the National Council of Provinces; Caucus Chairperson; and Deputy Caucus Chairperson. The election for these caucus leadership positions will be held in due course on date which will be communicated to the media and the public.

I have no doubt that with such a talented mix of skill, expertise and experience, this diverse caucus is well-equipped to serve the people of South Africa for the next 5 years.

In terms of this caucus’s agenda in the coming months, we have prioritised the following key interventions which we believe will strengthen Parliament and serve the people of South Africa.

Tabling the “Jobs Bill”

With 9.9 million South Africans without a job, and an expanded unemployment rate of 38%, our nation’s biggest challenge remains how we create work for the growing number of those without.

Therefore, within the coming weeks, the DA will table the “Jobs Bill” – our legislative blueprint to create an enabling environment for accelerated job creation in South Africa. This Bill focuses on two key areas critical to job creation: Foreign investment and SMMEs.

In this light, it aims to:

  • Provide for special tax incentives and property allowances for foreign companies that meet certain socio-economic empowerment goals, including key areas such as industrial projects, enterprise investment, critical infrastructure, research & development, agri-businesses and film and TV production;
  • Address many concerns that foreign investors have around the resolution of disputes in South Africa, providing certainty as to encourage investment;
  • Protect and supports SMMEs by ensuring greater flexibility in the labour market through minimum wage exemption for businesses that fall into certain classifications. This will keep the doors open to thousands of small businesses and protect the jobs of hundreds of thousands of employees;
  • Eradicate unnecessary red tape that small businesses still have to comply with; and
  • Create a special forum for dispute resolution specifically for SMMEs.

 Establishing Standing Committee on the Presidency

 As it stands, the Presidency – an integral government department – operates without any direct parliamentary oversight. Unlike other government departments, the Presidency can appoint and remove staff, pass budgets, and perform all other functions without the constitutional oversight which parliament is mandated to perform. This cannot continue.

Therefore, the DA will be pursuing the establishment of a Standing Committee on the Presidency – a dedicated committee which has oversight power over all the affairs of the Presidency. Indeed, “nine wasted years” showed us the extent of damage unchecked power in the Presidency can cause. We must remedy this loophole in accountability, and have no doubt that other parties will support this move to strengthen our democracy.

 Shadow Cabinet Meetings and Briefings

In the coming days, I will appoint the official opposition’s Shadow Cabinet, comprising of Shadow Ministers tasked with holding government accountable for the exercise of their powers, and putting forward fresh ideas and credible alternatives to government plans and policies.

This Shadow Cabinet will officially meet every fortnight to be chaired by the Chief Whip. The purpose of these meetings will be to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda; to deliberate on new policies, debates, and motions; and to table any other matters. The Shadow Cabinet will hold a media briefing after each meeting.

Establish a “Caucus of the Opposition”

While opposition parties differ on a litany of matters, there are issues which find accord with all those who find themselves on opposition benches. The collective work done by opposition parties in the build up to Jacob Zuma’s removal shows that despite our differences, we can find common ground of select issues.

Therefore, I will work to establish a working group of opposition party leaders in which we consider issues that transcend party politics – on a case-by-case basis – and work together to charter a way forward that puts the interests of South Africa first.

Regular Engagement with Leader of Government Business

The President is required to appoint the Leader of Government Business in Parliament – responsible for maintaining a cordial, working relationship between Parliament and the Executive. The LOGB is obligated to meet with Opposition Party Leaders on a regular basis – something which has not routinely happened in the recent past. I will be formally approaching President Cyril Ramaphosa, in writing, requesting his commitment to ensure that the LOGB is a present and engaged player, so that constructive dialogue between all parties becomes a standard practice of the 6th Parliament.


The DA is committed to making the 6th Parliament work, so that South Africa works. We will not oppose and critique just for the sake of it. We will engage in a practice of constructive opposition. Our mission is to work for the people of South Africa and rebuild a country and its institutions which have been hollowed out and broken.

Where we are in government we have shown that even under harsh economic circumstances there can be growth, job creation, and improving living conditions for all – especially the poor.

It is clear that the ANC has not reformed, and it shows no signs of doing so. To allow compromised characters such as Nomvula Mokonyane, Silvia Lucas and Pemmy Majodina to be appointed to senior parliamentary positions shows weak leadership by Cyril Ramaphosa and exposes the hollow fallacy of a “stronger mandate”. Instead of a stronger mandate, we are given the same corrupt ANC. Because in the ANC, corruption and unethical behaviour is a prerequisite for promotion.

In this light, the role of the DA as the Official Opposition has never been important, and we will work each and every day to uphold the country’s Constitutional Democracy and offer credible alternatives that seek to build One South Africa for All.

DA calls on SA to object to MPs and MPLs who belong in #PrisonNotParliament

Lodge you objection here

We are calling on all South Africans to visit the prison-not-parliament website and  object to ANC candidates that are implicated in undermining the county’s constitutional order by implicating themselves in, among other acts, corruption, gender-based violence and state capture.

Now that the ANC’s lists have been finalised, it is evermore clear that the ANC will never be renewed or self-correct. Whether the ANC and South Africa are led by Jacob Zuma or Cyril Ramaphosa, the country will not head in the right direction. South Africa will only become the country we all work for when the corrupt are in prison not parliament.

The ANC submitted provincial and national candidate lists to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) that are packed with leaders who have been implicated in state capture, some who have court judgments against them and some have actively undermined the constitution.

This system will send your objection anonymously to President Ramaphosa. The people of South Africa have until 02 April 2019 to voice their objections to ANC candidates who serve themselves instead of the people.

We must insist that those who are corrupt are prosecuted and sent to prison, where they belong, for stealing the people’s money.

South Africa deserves hardworking Members of Parliament and Legislatures who are beyond reproach. We must not allow ANC candidates to be elected to steal from us again.

Let us remove criminal candidates because they belong in prison not parliament.

The DA has shown itself to be the only party capable of putting the people first and Building One South Africa for All.

DA condemns Minister Ndabeni- Abrahams’s actions of censoring journalists

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is not surprised by reports that Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni – Abrahams blocked journalists from covering protests at an African National Congress (ANC) manifesto launch in the Eastern Cape. It is what the ANC has done for years, only this time the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) took a stand to enforce its independence and expose Ndabeni-Abrahams, and for that, we congratulate the SABC.

The manifesto proceedings were reportedly disrupted by singing demonstrators who are allegedly frustrated by a lack of service delivery in their area.

Minister Ndabeni- Abrahams blocked an SABC crew from filming protesters who were raising their dissatisfaction with her party’s failures.

This attempted act of censorship by the Communications Minister is against the constitutional values of freedom of the press. The DA stands by and supports the freedom of the press which is enshrined in our Constitution.

The Minister’s actions are no different from previous ANC Ministers who have sought to control the SABC through political interference. Her act is not a once off or a mistake, she was simply doing what the ANC has been doing for years, and were allowed to by captured SABC management and boards. We applaud the SABC for taking a firm stand and encourage it to report any attempts of persecution by the ANC for simply doing what is required of the SABC as an independent public broadcaster, not ANC mouthpiece.

At centre of the SABC’s problems is political interference, this combined with the deliberate delay in beginning the process of appointing a new board, speaks to their intentions to once again control the SABC. We note that in the latest Z-list (Parliament’s list of scheduled meetings), no Communications Committee meetings have been scheduled, yet another delaying tactic by the ANC.

The ANC would prefer an interim board be appointed with cadres who would be at their beck and call. This may come as news to the ANC, but to appoint an interim board would require the removal of the current one, by inquiry. There are no grounds for a dissolution, so no interim board can be appointed.

The DA will not be party to the ANC’s dereliction of their constitutionalist duty as elected public representatives, and will use all avenues available to ensure that a full permanent board is appointed, even if it means the Communications Portfolio Committee works after Parliament has risen, and a Special Sitting is called to approve the names of candidates recommended to serve on the SABC board.

The role of the media can never be understated, it can play an important role in the advancement of democratic values by informing citizens of the issues that affect them on a daily basis. The DA believes that this acts of censorship by the communication minister must be reprimanded by all who believe in a free, open and fair society.

The Minister can’t tell the SABC what to do

Please find attached a soundbite in English by DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is in possession of a letter to the SABC board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, by the new Communications Minister, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, and its contents are cause for serious concern.

At first instance, while the Communications Minister does indeed have an oversight role over the SABC, she does not, however, have the power to give instructions to the board. The fact that she has decided to “desist from all engagements with the SABC board” because it refused to take her instruction to halt retrenchments is puerile and in violation of the SABC’s independence.

Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams must continue discharge of her oversight role as shareholder and cannot decide not to do so because the board will not take her instructions and “…is no longer acting in the interests of the company, shareholder, and Parliament…” as stated in her letter. If she is not up to the task, she is welcome to resign.

The current SABC board has done well to enforce its independence and stand up to political interference by former communications ministers and it is evident it is doing the same with the current one.

That being said, the SABC board reports to and is accountable to Parliament and has not covered itself in glory regarding its proposed plan to retrench 2200 staff.

The DA has consistently said that the board must conduct an independent skills and salary audit before considering retrenchments, a view that was shared by the rest of the Communications Portfolio Committee when the board appeared before it last week. The committee also requested that the board present a clear strategic plan that will see the board self-sustain by cutting costs and exploring new revenue streams and funding models. The board has thus far done neither.

The SABC has until January to present both the results of an independent skills and salary audit, as well as a clear strategic plan to Parliament or face the risk of being axed. In terms of Section 15A of the Broadcasting Act, Parliament can dissolve the SABC board for the inability to perform its duties “efficiently.”

The DA is not blind to the politics at play. The SABC board has been adamant about enforcing its independence and this is not a situation Luthuli House would be happy with going into an election.

It has in the past had the SABC under its control and made sure that the public broadcaster was its mouthpiece and portrayed the ANC in a positive light to the electorate. The dissolving of the current board would allow for Parliament to appoint an interim board which could quite likely be filled with ANC-friendly individuals who would be at Luthuli House’s beck and call.

The ball is ultimately in the SABC board’s court. It must in January not give the Communications Committee reason to dissolve it, by presenting the results of an independent skills and salary audit and a clear strategic plan.

The DA is serious about rebuilding the SABC, protecting its independence after years of financial mismanagement, corruption and political interference by the ANC. We are also serious about protecting SABC staff against unjust retrenchment, we will not allow SABC staff to lose their jobs without just cause. We wait for the SABC board and management to redeem itself, and we hope it will do so.

Tito Mboweni should take on the wreckers and nutters in the governing party in SA

  1. Introduction

The new Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, delivered his “maiden” medium-term budget policy statement four weeks ago in Parliament.

The metrics were bad and took the markets by surprise, and as a result, the rand tanked and bond yields spiked.

But there were elements of the medium-term budget policy statement that were courageous.

To his credit, the minister took on the wreckers inside the governing party, warning them not to attack the mandate and independence of the reserve bank.

Which is exactly what the wreckers inside the governing party needed to be told as they force us closer to the brink.

  1. Economic Trouble

We are in deep economic trouble and the minister was absolutely right when he warned that we are at a crossroads.

We have a growth problem, with an average economic growth rate of 2% expected over the medium term between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

We have a revenue problem, with a revenue shortfall of R57 billion expected over the medium term between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

We have an expenditure problem, with an expenditure overrun of R23 billion over the medium term between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

We have a state-owned enterprises problem, with zombie state-owned enterprises requiring billions of rands in bailouts between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

We have a deficit problem, with our fiscal deficit expected to blow out to R251 billion, or 4% of GDP, by 2021/22.

We have a debt problem, with our national debt expected to reach a staggering R3.7 trillion, or 59% of GDP, by 2021/22.

And we remain a small open economy with “twin deficits” making us vulnerable to external shocks.

  1. Debt Ceiling

Which is why we welcome the minister’s announcement that it is now time to consider a new “fiscal anchor”.

The aim of fiscal policy has been to stabilize national debt, which has been a spectacular failure given the fact that national debt will increase from R627 billion, or 26% of GDP, in 2008/09, to a staggering R3.7 trillion, or 59% of GDP, in 2021/22.

What this means is that we will be spending a staggering R247 billion on debt service costs in 2021/22, which is the equivalent of what we will spend on basic education this year, in 2018/19.

We think the solution is a statutory fiscal rule and we are in the advanced stages of preparing a Private Members Bill, called the Fiscal Responsibility Bill, which will make provision for a “debt ceiling”.

  1. Wreckers

We cannot go on like this and we hope that the minister will not allow himself to be muzzled and will continues to take on the wreckers inside the governing party.

He started off well by:

  • by saying that zombie state-owned enterprises like South African Airways should be shut down; and
  • by saying that those who support land expropriation without compensation are ill informed.

Which, of course, was greeted with horror by the wreckers inside the governing party, because they still reminisce fondly about the good of days of Check Point Charlie and Aeroflot.

The minister needs to take on:

  • Jeremy Cronin, who is still shackled to the idea of a Soviet-style central state planning commission and who thinks the National Development Plan consists of “some useful insights and recommendations, intriguing but untested proposals, summaries of programmes long under way, and much else”.

He needs to take on

  • Rob Davies, who is still shackled to the idea of a Soviet-style smokestack economy with workers toiling around blast furnaces happily singing “Arise ye workers” as they deliver a perfect rendition of the “The Internationale”.

The minister needs to take on:

  • Ebrahim Patel, who is busy weaponizing the competition commission to stamp out monopolies in the private sector, while doing everything in his power to protect monopolies in the public sector, including desperately clinging on to the biggest monopoly in the country, Eskom.

Of course, there is one wrecker the minister does not have to take on and that is Yunus Carrim, because he is a “Communist of a Special Type”.

He fights the struggle of the working class, not from the factory floor, or from the plains of Outer Mongolia as he often claims, but from the lobbies of the most lavish hotels in Washington.

And that is because his best kept secret is … wait for it … that despite being a leading member of the Communist Party, he serves as a board member on the parliamentary network of …wait for it … the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

  1. Nutters

Oh, and the minister should not forget Nomvule Mokonyane, who is more of a nutter than a wrecker, and who thinks that we can just “pick up the rand”.

  1. Conclusion

In the end, we welcome the fact that the minister:

  • has decided to remain on Twitter; and
  • has decided to be more careful on Twitter.

We know he has had a bad start, but things will get better and we look forward to debating the best ideas to take us forward in South Africa.

We need a full investigation into Ramaphosa’s Bosasa payments

In a letter to Speaker Mbete, President Ramaphosa has admitted that he received a R500 000 campaign donation from Bosasa, during his campaign for the presidency of the ANC. He has clarified that what initially looked like a dodgy payment to his son, Andile, was in fact a dodgy payment to him.

The fact is that this requires a full investigation into the Ramaphosa family’s relationship with Bosasa. This investigation should cover all payments made to any member of the Ramaphosa family from Bosasa and African Global Operations, and should cover the business relationship between Bosasa and the President’s son. The President should come clean and disclose all payments received by him, his family, and his campaign by Bosasa. We need to find out: Did Ramaphosa solicit the donation? Are contracts awarded to Bosasa payback for their support for the President and his family? These questions can only be answered by a full investigation in Ramaphosa’s family dealings with Bosasa.

His now-standard defence that he “didn’t know” is wearing thin. He claims not to have known about state capture when it was happening right in front of him, and now he claims not to have known about this dodgy payment to his own campaign.

President Ramaphosa may be able to claim that he only found out about VBS too late, but he can’t run from Bosasa quite so easily. Just like VBS, this is another example of how the ANC’s web of corruption works. A company (Bosasa) receives billions in state tenders, then pays bribes to senior ANC figures, and donates money to the ANC and its candidates through hard-to-track trust accounts, all the while looting public money meant for services to the poor.

Only a full investigation and full disclosure by the President will begin to unstitch this web of corruption. The DA will continue our fight to rid South Africa of corruption.

DA Leader Maimane requests urgent Parliamentary debate on VBS heist

The blatant theft of almost R2 billion from VBS bank accounts by rich politicians, politically connected businesspersons, and their associates is crime against the poor, vulnerable and elderly in South Africa. It is a national disgrace, and the DA will not let this become another corruption scandal to be swept under the carpet. The VBS scandal has wreaked havoc on the lives countless poor South Africans who may very well have lost their life savings due to corruption by ANC politicians and their connected cronies.

It is for this reason that I will today write to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, requesting an urgent debate of national importance in Parliament on this matter. Parliament is the democratic institution tasked with holding executive power to account and must be afforded an urgent opportunity to carry out its mandate.

The DA had planned on using the President’s oral question session in Parliament tomorrow in order to pose an urgent question to him about this issue. Now that the session has been postponed due to the President’s ill-health, it is crucial that Parliament exercises its mandate and allows an urgent debate on this. The matter meets the criteria for an urgent, national debate as the implications of this scandal are wide-reaching considering that billions of public money has been stolen.

The DA believes those fingered in Advocate Terry Motau’s report ‘The Great Bank Heist’, must be criminally charged for fraud, money laundering, and corruption, and if found guilty, spend a minimum of 15 years behind bars. The DA has already laid criminal charges against the “VBS 50” – as recommended by Advocate Motau’s South African Reserve Bank (SARB) report.

While the report implicates a laundry list of ANC public office bearers and elected officials, the role of President Cyril Ramaphosa in the scandal needs Parliament’s urgent consideration. If it is true that the President had prior knowledge of the corruption and looting at VBS – and failed to act – he may be criminally liable in terms of section 34(1) of Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act 12 of 2004 (PACCA).

I therefore implore Speaker Mbete to grant this request and allow Parliament to get to the bottom of what really happened at the VBS bank. Those South Africans dispossessed by this crime deserve nothing less.

The VBS heist is yet another example of institutionalised corruption, cronyism and nepotism under the ANC – all which steals opportunity from South Africans.  Instead of governing in the interests of all South Africans, the ANC has chosen to create an ecosystem within the party and within government that only serves to makes themselves rich.

Only the DA can fix this broken system that locks South Africans out by creating an open, fair and transparent model of government that sees all politically connected individuals found guilty of corruption spending a minimum of 15 years in jail.