DA launches one-stop-shop Federal Congress website

The DA has launched a detailed and information-rich website ahead of the virtual Federal Congress which takes place on Saturday 31 October and Sunday 1 November. For the first time, the 2020 Federal Congress order of events and sessions is now published, and is available on the Congress website.

The website is a one-stop-shop for Congress delegates and also for members of the public to discover more about the historic DA Congress taking place later this month.

The arrangements for our innovative Congress continue smoothly. With more than 2000 delegates attending from their homes or from physical venues nationwide, as connected to the virtual Congress, this is South Africa’s largest ever virtual political congress.

The website includes a 14-page delegates’ guide which is a handbook for delegates attending the elective meeting.

The site also contains the DA’s first ever digital toolkit for a Federal Congress. The kit includes the DA’s values ​​and principles adopted at our Policy Conference earlier this year and a variety of digital graphic and social media content.

The site also explains the Congress theme: Real Hope. Real Change. Now.

The Congress website will soon add a full media information section, with the full scope of details required for journalists and media houses to ensure successful coverage of the virtual Congress.

This website will be updated regularly as information is released by the Party in the run-up to the Congress.

We are delighted to be able to ensure that despite more than 200 days of Covid-lockdown, the DA’s democratic processes go on and our internal democracy is working.

The DA Federal Congress website can be accessed at: https://www.da.org.za/dacongress2020

DA calls for a moratorium on the eviction of farmers on State-owned land 

Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, must issue a moratorium banning all impending eviction notices against emerging farmers, occupying State land, until due diligent investigations are concluded by the Department’s Forensic Investigations Directorate on the farmer’s lease agreements.

Recently, there has been a worrying uptick in the number of eviction notices being served on farmers, especially emerging black farmers.

In one such case, DALRRD had to launch an investigation into Mr Vuyisile Zigana’s complaints against what he termed as unfair treatment and alleged corruption in relation to the allocation of Spionskop farm by the Department’s KwaZulu-Natal officials.

After considering the recommendations of the report, Minister Didiza wrote me a letter to give assurance that Mr Zigana’s caretakership rights of the farm will be honoured and that the Department will assist him with applying for a lease with an option to purchase.

While this is a welcome development, there are many more cases similar to Mr Zigana’s which have paralysed thriving farming enterprises because of the uncertainty brought about by eviction notices.

Mr Velly John Mabaso, a successful black farmer in Mpumalanga recently contacted me to let me know that he has been served with an eviction notice. The Goedhoop farm from which Mr Mabaso runs a successful enterprise has been in his family possession for generations.

Mr Mabaso’s farm cannot be classified under the underutilized category as he runs a successful livestock enterprise. He has repeatedly tried to negotiate with representatives from the DALRRD’s Mpumalanga Provincial Offices, in the hope that they could reach a mutual understanding on the terms of his lease agreement, but all his efforts have been in vain.

In June 2020, Mr Mabaso was one of the farmers who wrote to Minister Didiza requesting her intervention in addressing their ill-treatment by officials working in her Department’s Mpumalanga office. Some of the grievances in their submissions include:

  • State officials demanding R250 000 in exchange for a 30 year lease agreement with the department of land affairs and rural development. Those who did not comply with this suggestion later received eviction notices.
  • Non renewal/ issuing of promised lease agreements for some of the farmers;
  • Inconsistent processes being followed with regard to issuing/ renewal of 30 year lease agreements, e.g. 2 farmers sub-lease farms, one gets a contract and the other doesn’t; and
  • Some farmers have received written notices to vacate the farms and have appealed such decision with the nation office, Director General but received no feedback and the re-allocations are continuing irrespective of those appeals.

The affected farmers are yet to get a response from Minister’s office.

The DA finds it hypocritical for the ANC government to pursue a constitutional amendment calling for expropriation of land without compensation while at the same time evicting successful black farmers from state land that they have put under productive use.

Emerging farmers deserve a fair shot at scaling up their operations to commercial production and they can only do so without the unnecessary distraction of rent seeking behaviour from corrupt land administration officials.

DA calls on Hawks spokesperson who received R3 million from the NLC to come clean

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on the Hawks Spokesperson, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, who received R3 million from the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) to establish a sports centre in Limpopo to come clean on the details of this project.

In response to the DA’s statement on 13 October 2020, Brigadier Mulaudzi in a News24 article asserted that “[the] DA is fuelling the narrative that I am corrupt. As to what I have done, I don’t know, my job entails communicating issues of the Hawks”.

It is clear from his statement that he has chosen to employ a Stalingrad defence and believes that he has done nothing wrong.

His claim of plausible deniability regarding the Hawks investigation into the Denzhe Primary Care scandal is disingenuous at best.

Surely the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) would have discussed this matter with the Hawks and their communications team prior to them making public their intention to hand over evidence related to Denzhe Primary Care scandal to the Hawks on 2 September 2020.

If that wasn’t bad enough he then took a leaf straight from the NLC’s playbook and reported to the Star Newspaper that “political leaders have put his life in danger with their agendas”.

My question is – where does a civil servant get off questioning an MP’s request for details related to the expenditure of public money?

It is clear from Brigadier Mulaudzi’s response to the media that he is not being honest and that he seeks to deflect from his compromised ethical choices.

Therefore, the DA calls on him to do the following;

  • Make public the full, unredacted financial report of the sports centre project worth R3 million;
  • That he approaches his nearest SAPS station to depose an affidavit regarding which clarifies that he was not aware of any information relating to the Denzhe Primary Care scandal; and
  • That he provides the public and parliament with any other relevant details pertaining to this matter.

The DA is not in Parliament to pussyfoot around government officials who are not honest and transparent with South Africans – we will hold you to account for your actions.

Fire Ministers who stand in the way of reform 

The President’s speech was not the brave commitment that we had hoped for, and which South Africa needs. It was full of jargon, and at times turgid. Most importantly, President Cyril Ramaphosa did not close the “credibility gap” between promised reform and absent action.  

He should have used this speech to take on the enemies of growth and reform. And he needed to show exactly how, and when, the promised reforms would be achieved. Without this detail, the President will get zero benefit of the doubt.  

If South Africa’s economy is to recover at all, then it is not more plans that are needed. South Africa has a surfeit or plans. The only thing that counts now is whether the needed reforms can actually be implemented in time to avoid further mass unemployment and poverty. The clock is already ticking.  

He should fire Ministers who stand in the way of reform.  

He should commit to public implementation timeframes that are set in stone.  

Every Minister responsible for a key reform area must commit to a timeline for the implementation of that reform. If they fail to meet that timeline, then they should be held accountable and fired.  

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is completely committed to a wide-ranging reform agenda. We must move policy away from a preoccupation with state control in the economy. This has failed. Now is the time to focus on pro-growth, pro-innovation policies. 

We have told President Ramaphosa that if he cannot carry his own party, he can rely on the DA’s support for the reform agenda. We will also hold him accountable for his promises. That is why we have launched an Economic Reform Tracker, to hold government accountable for slow progress on reform. That document, which sets out the most urgent reforms to focus on, is available here:

https://www.da.org.za/economic-structural-reform-tracker 

Some of the announcements today make little sense, and it is unclear how they will be paid for. The promise of an expansion of the public employment program while at the same time cutting the public wage bill, is clearly contradictory. This promise is not achievable and is nothing more than dishonest spin. We will interrogate the coming budget announcements to see how, or if, these promises will be funded. Increasing trade protectionism is not pro-growth. It is anti-competitive.  

The President must also show commitment to prioritizing people’s need over ANC needs. This means cancelling any further bailouts for SAA, and focusing spending on services to the poor. It is indefensible to prioritize bailing out SAA over the many urgent needs in South Africa now.  

Our economy, our country, is at a crossroads. If we do not make very rapid progress on wide-ranging pro-growth reform, then we will not recover. Today’s speech was a missed opportunity to show genuine tough commitment to driving the reform agenda through government. 

Extension of state of disaster is a blatant power grab

CoGTA Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has once again extended the national state of disaster, which was set to expire today, justifying it with “the need to continue augmenting the existing legislation and contingency arrangements undertaken by organs of state to address the impact of the disaster”.

Let’s be clear. This is a blatant power grab. The state of disaster deliberately cuts out parliamentary oversight. It effectively allows government to run a dictatorship, making new laws that fundamentally effect people’s lives without having to consult Parliament.

This has absolutely nothing to do with the virus. SA has recently recorded around 10 Covid-19 deaths per day, in a country where average deaths per day from all causes is well over 1 200. Around 40 people die daily on SA’s roads, yet we do not give government extraordinary powers to shut down our road network.

This is rank opportunism by a party hellbent on controlling every aspect of people’s lives. It’s an anti-democratic move that will hamper our economic recovery by reducing investment certainty and by enabling a continuation of government’s irrational, ineffective lockdown restrictions. They are abusing the shortcomings of the Disaster Management Act, which the DA is challenging in court.

The real disaster in this country is the rampant poverty, unemployment and inequality that have ballooned due to our disaster of a state and its disastrous, prolonged lockdown.

Even the World Health Organisation has appealed to all world leaders to stop using lockdowns because “they just have one consequence… and that is making poor people a whole lot poorer”. They have caused a “terrible, ghastly global catastrophe” that will likely see a “doubling of world poverty by next year” and “at least a doubling of child malnutrition”.

SA’s lockdown has done far more harm than good. Financial services group Discovery estimates that 16 000 lives may have been saved from Covid-related deaths by the lockdown. That’s the sum total of lockdown benefits, which is far outweighed by the catastrophic social costs which include:

  • A significant expected increase in deaths to cancer, TB and other diseases due to disrupted access to screening, testing, vaccines etc.
  • A significant rise in depression and suicide rates.
  • 3 million job losses including over 300 000 domestic worker jobs.
  • Widespread hunger – a quarter of township households don’t have enough to eat.
  • The most disadvantaged groups (poor, rural, women, unskilled, less educated) have suffered most, with job losses 10 times higher for the poorest 50% of workers compared to the richest 25%.
  • 40% of school days will be lost for most children in 2020, with education inequality and school dropout rates inevitably increasing. ECD attendance levels are still down by 75%.
  • Massive curtailment of basic civil liberties.
  • Billions of rands of annual tax revenue foregone, which could have been used to deliver essential services and reduce poverty.

And these are only the immediate costs. Then there are the long-term costs, most notably an inevitable drop in life expectancy due to greater poverty and childhood stunting. Add to that the opportunity cost of the increased life expectancy that could have been achieved had lockdown not reduced annual tax revenue by billions of rands for the foreseeable future. There will inevitably be lives lost to increased violence that is the natural result of the social instability which arises from SA’s large and growing inequality. Let’s not fool ourselves, lockdown is the bigger killer.

And yet the ANC government, far from recognizing the catastrophic damage it has caused to people’s lives, wants to extend its powers to cause even more damage.

No one should accept this blatant power grab. Please join the DA in calling for a full end to the state of disaster and the lockdown, including by ending:

  • All restrictions on international travel, which continue to harm our already crippled tourism industry.
  • All restrictions on the trade of alcohol.
  • All restrictions on normal school operations.
  • The curfew, which is an unnecessary restriction on people’s freedom of movement.

This government remains the biggest risk to South Africa’s wellbeing. Anything which gives them more power should be resisted.

Step one of President Ramaphosa’s Economic Recovery Action Plan that he is presenting later today should be a lifting of the national state of disaster and a full end to the lockdown. That would give investors some confidence that more rationality and stability can be expected in future.

Economic recovery action plan: implementation is all that counts now

Tomorrow, President Cyril Ramaphosa will present his government’s Economic Recovery Action Plan to the nation. Structural reform is no longer imperative just for the economy’s growth, but for its survival. South African households are in deep distress. Lockdown delivered a body blow to our economy which was already in recession on the back of bad policy, corruption and endless state meddling.

Ramaphosa has run out of road for plans and promises. Now we need action and results. If this plan fails on implementation, it will go down in history as his Economic Destruction Inaction Plan and his presidency will mark the biggest ever sustained contraction of South Africa’s economy.

Assuming the final version of this plan echoes the most recent draft circulated, it contains some long-overdue pro-growth reforms which, if actually implemented, will have a major positive impact on South Africa’s economic and social wellbeing.

The most vital of these is energy sector reform to improve reliability and affordability of electricity. Government has finally gazetted the necessary determinations to allow independent power producers to generate and sell almost 12 megawatts of much needed additional electricity. The measure of this commitment will be how fast the necessary requests for proposals are issued and the bid window for renewables opened. There is also a welcome promise to fast-track implementation of self-generation projects above 1 megawatt.

Other long-overdue reforms promised are the release of spectrum to bring down data costs and the overhaul of the visa regime to import critical skills and promote international tourism. The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Economic Structural Reform Tracker will be monitoring progress on these and other reforms closely.

Almost every growth-promoting reform does so by putting more power in the hands of ordinary South Africans, who together make up the private sector. The path to prosperity is private enterprise and entrepreneurship. Economic activity will flourish only to the extent that our feckless state stops trying to control every aspect of it and instead starts to perform its own role with a degree of competence and integrity.

The president must therefore be held to account for his promise to implement independent life-style audits for public office bearers and officials such as have already been implemented by Premier Alan Winde in the DA-run Western Cape.

The plan contains many insincere commitments that the government has no intention of acting on. “Building a capable state”, for example, isn’t worth the ink it’s written with until the ANC commits to ending their policy of cadre deployment that hollowed out the state in the first place.

In some areas, there is a stated intention to place yet more power in the hands of the state. Let us hope commitments to“strengthen the master planning process” fail on implementation.

And then there are some major gaps, such as a failure to commit to liquidating SAA, and to a clear roadmap to debt stabilisation.

Overall, the plan is unlikely to move the needle on socioeconomic wellbeing unless we see real and rapid implementation of the big-ticket structural reforms promised, particularly energy reform. Our future, and President Ramaphosa’s legacy, is at stake.

The president has long and often promised pro-growth reforms, and he must be held to account for these commitments. Endless plans and empty rhetoric are not going to cut it. Implementation is all that counts now.

Why must someone die in order for Minister Cele to get to grips with conditions on farms?

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) investigation into allegations that members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) are involved in the stock theft syndicate operating in the Senekal-area in the Free State and call on them to expand the investigation to encompasses more rural communities in South Africa.

The DA has been reliably informed from our numerous oversight inspections to various rural communities through the years that SAPS officers are often linked to the crimes they are supposed to investigate.

Rural communities cannot reasonably be expected to trust the police to keep them safe when they are alleged to be part of the perpetrators committing crimes against community members.

Recently, the DA wrote to genl. Khehla Sitole, the National Police Commissioner, regarding concerns in Tlakgameng-community in the North West and requesting the implementation of the SAPS Rural Safety Strategy there. Farmers and members of the community there regularly experience stock theft, poaching, vandalism, illegal land grabs, illegal grazing and intimidation.

The farmers in Normandien in KwaZulu-Natal brought similar complaints to an imbizo with Police Minister Bheki Cele in September. On that occasion the Minister told farmers in isiZulu that they must not complain if they get hurt – an allegation the Minister has since denied and blamed on a poor translation in a Sunday newspaper, but that have been confirmed by various sources present at the meeting the day.

While Minister Cele seemed to listen to farmers in the Free State at a meeting yesterday, there will never be true change unless he shows the political will and a change of attitude towards rural communities. According to a joint report by SAPS and StatsSA there were 28 418 reports of stock theft between 1 April 2019 and March 2020. Yet, the Minister was unable or unwilling to answer farmers’ questions in Normandien and had the audacity to accuse them of arrogance.

Conditions in SAPS will never change if the Minister does not change his attitude. It is exactly this kind of behaviour on the part of Minister Cele, which trickle down to the entire police service.

Yesterday, my colleague Andrew Whitfield MP, DA Shadow Minister of Police, wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, to request the establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee of the National Assembly to investigate criminality and corruption at SAPS.

South Africans are tired of the show of outrage and sympathy when a life is lost in a brutal and tragic way. We are tired of Minister visiting communities and promising the world just to negate those promises the first chance they get. Why must someone die in order for Minister Cele to get to grips with conditions on farms? When will action be taken to prevent these vicious deaths?

The DA will closely monitor the promises made by Minister Cele in the Free State yesterday to see if action will follow his words, or if they will ring hollow.

IMF makes it clear that SA government should prioritise poverty over SAA

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), in characteristically diplomatic language, has made its view clear on government’s plan to bail out South African Airways (SAA) again. The IMF has acknowledged the need for the South African government to weigh “subsidies to persistently loss making state-owned enterprises” like SAA, “against alternative uses of scarce public resources, including investments in alternative growth enhancing and/or poverty-reducing investments”.

 This was the response from the IMF Executive Director, Kristalina Georgieva’s to a letter the Democratic Alliance (DA) wrote to her in early October to draw the Fund’s attention to the government’s decision to proceed with a further R10.4 billion bailout for SAA.

This decision to throw the defunct airline another lifeline is at odds with the commitments Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni made in his Letter of Intent (LOI) sent to the Fund to secure a $4.3 billion emergency loan. The LOI clearly commits the government to use the funding from the IMF to support health and frontline services, solve the balance of payments problems caused by the pandemic, protect the vulnerable, support economic reform, drive job creation and stabilise public debt.

This SAA bailout will likely be funded by cutting Covid stimulus expenditure earmarked for public employment programmes and for rail infrastructure, or by cutting basic services on which South Africans depend. This decision to prioritise SAA over all other urgent spending priorities is morally indefensible.

In her letter, Ms Georgieva reiterated the importance of IMF emergency funds to be used “in an inclusive way to protect people’s lives and livelihoods, and in particular those of the most affected and least prepared to weather the crisis.”

The Fund also underscored the South African government’s commitment “to transparently plan, use, monitor and report all [Covid-19] related spending to ensure it reaches the targeted objectives”. We are pleased that the IMF is keeping close tabs on the government’s spending of this emergency loan and trust that the Fund will trigger its funding requirement for ‘full transparency and accountability’ on the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) loan it extended to South Africa.

DA welcomes implementation of SAPS Rural Safety Strategy

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the announcement from the South African Police Service (SAPS) that there will be a closer relationship between the police in rural areas and the communities they serve.

General Khehla Sitole, the National Commissioner of the South African Police, said in a statement yesterday that national and local Joint Rural Safety Command Centres would be established in rural areas across South Africa.

These centres would make it easier to respond to and prevent crime and would be capacitated with enough personnel and resources, including helicopters and drones and use of crime intelligence, to address the serious safety concerns that exit in our rural areas.

It is certainly a welcome change that the rural safety of farmers, farm workers and community members are being taken seriously by senior members of SAPS instead of them being told that they should fend for themselves as the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, told farmers in Normandien in KwaZulu-Natal.

The DA also welcomes the fact that the Tlakgameng area in the North West would be used as a launching pad to address the serious issues plaguing the community there. After an oversight visit to this community in September this year, the DA wrote to Genl. Sitole and suggested that the SAPS Rural Safety Strategy be implemented there after we received numerous complaints from farmers and members of the community and had an encouraging meeting with Tlakgameng Cluster Commander, Brigadier Tlhotleng.

The DA has been calling for the urgent implementation of a rural safety strategy, and as was seen just this past week with the brutal murder of Brendin Horner on the farm where he worked in the Paul Roux-area in the Free State, it cannot come at a better time. Farmers and farm workers need intervention and protection so that they can shift their focus from their own safety and to ensuring food security.

It is high time that SAPS and the agriculture sector take hands and fight farm attacks and murders together as discussed during the meeting between the police, Agri SA, TLU SA and AfriForum. The DA hopes that this was the first of many such opportunities to work together towards the safety and security of rural communities and that next time the meeting would be expanded to include other organisations like the African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) and the Southern African Agri Initiative (SAAI). It’s unfortunate that farm workers were not adequately represented at the initial meeting as they too are often victims of farm attacks and farm murders. It is crucial that all voices be heard in this very important matter.

DA writes to IMF over SAA bailout

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva, to draw the Fund’s attention to the government’s decision to proceed with a further R10.5 billion bailout for South African Airways (SAA). This decision runs counter to the commitments the government made in its Letter of Intent (LOI) sent to the Fund to secure the $4.3 billion loan. We request that the Fund trigger its funding requirement for ‘full transparency and accountability’ on the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) loan it extended to South Africa.

We have brought to the attention of Fund the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni’s intentions to extend this immoral bailout to the country’s mothballed national carrier and have asked that the IMF request that the South African government gives an update on how emergency funds have been spent.

The Minister’s LOI clearly stated that emergency funding from the IMF would be used to support health and frontline services, solve the balance of payments problems caused by the pandemic, protect the vulnerable, support economic reform, drive job creation and stabilise public debt.

Now it seems likely that the SAA bailout will be funded by cutting Covid stimulus expenditure earmarked for public employment programmes and for rail infrastructure.

The DA argues that this is a deviation from the commitments Minister Mboweni made in the LOI, and it critically undermines the credibility of the government’s economic reform promises.

Seeing that the Minister now clearly intends to dishonour his commitments with this SAA bailout, the DA believes that the IMF should trigger the accountability requirement for the RFI funding instrument without delay.