NAC sit-in: It is time for President Ramaphosa to look artists in the eye

Please find attached a soundbite by Tsepo Mhlongo MP, and pictures here, here and here

The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene in the crisis unfolding at the National Arts Council and personally meet with affected artists.

It’s been 42 days since artists began a sit-in at the offices of the NAC, attempting to force answers from the NAC about R300 million in relief funding that was promised through the Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PESP) but never received by the artists.

The government’s irrational lockdown regulations have caused many of those employed in the arts and culture sector to lose their income. Some of those engaged in sit-in at the NAC do not have homes to return to or food to eat.

Both the NAC Council and the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa have demonstrated an inability to adequately address challenges faced by the sector. As the DA we have continuously argued that, unless the arts and culture sector receive the necessary support, the regulations and economic restrictions would decimate the industry.

Instead of honesty, the NAC gave them lawsuits. For the past few weeks, it has been attempting to force the protesting artists from its premises. The NAC should rather have prioritised finding ways that would solve the crisis it created and speed up payments to artists.

In light of the Minister’s ineptitude, we hope that President Ramaphosa will accede to our call and personally meet with the artists. Their plight is the direct result of his government’s mismanagement of the Covid crisis. The only decent the President can do is to look them in the eyes and engage with their questions.

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DA welcomes ruling for Zuma to pay back taxpayers’ money

The DA welcomes a ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal today confirming that former President Jacob Zuma must pay back the money that the State spent on his personal legal costs.

The DA previously obtained an order to this effect from the High Court, which Mr. Zuma then took to the SCA on appeal. Today’s judgment dismissed Mr. Zuma’s appeal and confirms that the State Attorney is only obliged to act if it is in the Government’s or the public’s interest to do so. This was Mr. Zuma’s personal legal battle and he had no right to fund it with tax-payer money.

The DA takes strong exception to any abuse of public funds by current or former public officials, including former Presidents.

Mr. Zuma’s tenure in office was disastrous for South Africa, its economy, and our hard-won democracy. We are still reeling from the effects of State Capture and the hollowing out of public institutions that accompanied it. This a victory not for the DA alone, but for all South Africans, our Constitution and the Rule of Law.

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Hlophe: JSC must act urgently so that Parliament can get rid of him

The DA calls on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to urgently deal with the findings of the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s report on Judge President John Hlophe, so that the matter can be referred to Parliament to consider his removal from office.

The seriousness of the allegations and finding against Hlophe cannot be stressed enough and the process cannot be delayed.

The JSC now has to consider the Tribunal’s recommendation that Hlophe should be impeached, and if it is adopted the matter must be referred to Parliament. Under the circumstances, Parliament will be empowered to remove Hlophe from his position.

The DA believes that the Tribunal has put in place the necessary basis for Hlophe’s impeachment. The DA further believes that his removal will go a long way towards bolstering trust in our judiciary. The serious allegations levelled against Hlophe – including the attempted improper influencing that was the subject of the Tribunal investigation – contributed significantly to the erosion of this trust.

This matter has dragged on for far too long and casts a long shadow on the process, and public confidence in the regulatory processes of the JSC.

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DA to approach the Human Rights Commission for government’s failure to rollout vaccines

Please find attached soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP.

Today, the DA will approach the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to urgently launch an investigation into government’s tardy and criminally slow vaccine rollout strategy. This is in addition to the decision the party has taken to explore further legal challenge against the South African government on this matter.

South Africa began its vaccine rollout exactly seven weeks with the Johnson and Johnson Sisonke trial which is meant to overlap with phase 1 of the rollout to cover the target of 1.2 million healthcare workers. To date, just over 269 000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated – a fraction of the target. The trial alone is meant to cover 500 000 healthcare workers but has been impossibly slow. In the last 4 days alone, not a single jab has been administered.

The Health Minister, Dr Zweli Mkhize, continuously blames external and global factors for the throttled supply of the vaccine. However, South Africa’s acquisition was slow as we receive drips and drabs of supply; thus the rollout is pitiful.

For the past couple of months South Africans have been pleaded with to be patient as misleading words such as ‘secured doses’ have been bandied about to create a false sense of productivity by the South African government. All this is happening while there is a real threat of a 3rd wave of infections exacerbated by the winter season.

We cannot continue hoping that the timeline which keeps on being adjusted for the impossible delays will be met because nothing has gone according to government’s plan to date. The process has been marred by breathtaking tardiness.

This is why the DA will be approaching the SAHRC to launch an investigation into the entire vaccination process thus far. The reality is that the progressive right to health is enshrined in the constitution and the SAHRC is best placed – squarely so – with launching such an investigation and making binding findings. The commission has yet to show its constitutionally empowered teeth with any of the human rights violations in the recent while. This is their opportunity now to do right by the people of South Africa.

The DA will also continue with its exploration of a legal challenge on this government failure.

As the official opposition, it is our responsibility to ensure that we hold government accountable for the biggest and most important public health response since the dawn of democracy. Millions of South Africans who are vulnerable to this virus depend on a functioning government that will do what is necessary to rollout vaccines as soon as possible. We are not comforted by the publishing of big numbers of ‘secured’ vaccines when we can hardly get the basics right of targeting healthcare workers and vaccinating a fair amount daily.

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