Ramaphosa chooses ANC over SA

This evening, in his 2020 SONA speech, President Ramaphosa was forced into making a choice he has been putting off since assuming the office of the President two years ago. He was forced to choose between saving his country from economic disaster and saving his party from internal war. And tonight he chose the ANC over South Africa.

I am sure this was no easy decision for the President. No one wants to be remembered as the man on whose watch the country’s economy collapsed and millions of people were forced into hardship and suffering. But similarly, he would not want his legacy to be the weakening and possible split of the former liberation movement.

A bold president, however, would have chosen his country every time. Cyril Ramaphosa chose his party.

This SONA speech was his moment. The perfect storm of a stalled economy, rampant unemployment, fast-disappearing investment, shrinking tax revenue and a failed state-owned power utility has meant that this decision could no longer be kicked down the road, as the President has been doing these past two years. We have reached the proverbial D-day for introducing the critical reforms needed to stave off an economic collapse.

President Ramaphosa knows this urgency, and he also knows exactly what needs to be done. Since the start of his term as president – and particularly in recent months – economists, ratings agencies, opposition parties and even his own Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, have been telling him the same thing: Either you make bold economic reforms – even if this politically difficult – or you sign the death warrant of our economy.

The most urgent of these reforms are:
Breaking Eskom’s monopoly, closing the tap of taxpayer bailouts and keeping government’s hands off pension savings
Relaxing our stifling labour legislation to enable labour-absorbing businesses to succeed.
Reviving investor confidence by immediately walking away from the destructive populist policies of Expropriation Without Compensation and the National Health Insurance.

These were the low-hanging fruits that would have made the big difference. Without these critical interventions, our chances at rescuing our free-falling economy become very slim indeed. There are, however, many other things the President should also have announced tonight, such as doing away with the elite enrichment scam that is BBBEE, fixing basic education by curtailing the power of SADTU, and ensuring the safety of South Africans by devolving SAPS power to the provinces and metros.

But in each of these instances there is an interest within the ruling ANC alliance that was considered more important than the fate of 58 million South Africans.

In the case of Eskom and the electricity crisis, the President made some moves in the right direction, but stopped far short of what was required. Eskom remains the biggest threat to our nation, and the emergency measures announced tonight simply confirm what we all know: Eskom is dead. The ANC’s insistence on trying to resurrect it by raiding the pensions of government employees is madness. There is no “financially sustainable” way to throw a quarter of a trillion Rand of pension savings down a hole that has no bottom.

So while we welcome the announcement of plans to add additional energy to the grid, promises to process applications by commercial and industrial users to produce their own power within 120 days, as well as the decision to back the DA’s long-fought proposal to allow municipalities to procure their own power from independent producers, this is simply not enough.

What the President should have announced tonight was not only the breaking up of the utility into three separate entities – that of generation, transmission and distribution – but also the privatisation of parts of it to settle its debt. He should have announced a rationalisation of its bloated workforce, and he should have vowed to keep his hands of the pension savings of hard-working South Africans.

Instead the president chose to side with its union partners. He chose to protect the monopoly of the failed power utility at the expense of ordinary South Africans, who now have to pay three times for this failure: Once through the tax-funded bailouts, once through hiked electricity tariffs, and once through load-shedding and its resultant effects on the economy.

The president also chose to protect the financial interests of the unions who would stand to lose out if any of their members lost their jobs at the overstaffed Eskom. The irony of protecting the jobs of the same people whose pension savings he is planning to raid to prop up Eskom seems to have been lost on him.

We saw this same party-ahead-of-country decision playing out in virtually every other decision or omission of this SONA speech.

What the country, and particularly the 10.4 million South Africans without work, desperately needed was bold reforms to our draconian labour legislation that would allow businesses to thrive and absorb labour. For instance, there is no logical reason that Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises should have to jump through all the onerous and business-killing labour legislation, other than the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

The business community have been begging this ANC government to help them solve our massive unemployment crisis, and President Ramaphosa knows exactly what needs to be done to free up our labour regime. But still he chose to side with the economic insiders – those with jobs as opposed to the millions on the outside – and maintain our hostile labour laws.

The same can be said for the economy-killing policies of Expropriation Without Compensation and the National Health Insurance. Both of these are guaranteed to have disastrous consequences for our economy and our people, yet the president and his government remain attracted to them like doomed moths to a flame.

In the case of the NHI, this is a plan we don’t need and certainly can’t afford. The additional tax burden this will require will surely slam a nail in the coffin of our already-dwindling tax revenue, not to mention the inevitable drain on our doctors and nurses as they leave our shores to flee the NHI. Furthermore, nothing in the NHI proposal speaks to the real challenges of healthcare infrastructure failure, skills shortages and the shortage of life-saving medicines.

Similarly, EWC will kill off all future investment in South Africa. A country that can’t guarantee secure property rights cannot possibly convince anyone that their investment will be safe. The moment you start picking and pulling at the thread of property rights, you start to unravel the entire economy. This is precisely what happened to Zimbabwe when they went down this road.

President Ramaphosa knows all of this. He knows that NHI will ruin healthcare in South Africa, both private and public. And he knows that EWC will shut the door on all investment, thereby hastening our runaway unemployment and our economic collapse. But yet he is prepared to persist with both these schemes, not because they are in the interest of the people of this country, but because they offer a cheap and easy tool for his party to win populist support. ANC first, South Africa last.

Tonight was his chance to be bold and courageous – to be the President of South Africa and not just the President of the ANC. To turn to his party and say, “This won’t be comfortable, but there are some things we have to do for the sake of our country.” But when push came to shove, President Ramaphosa simply could not do that.

Many South Africans were shocked back in 2015 when then President Zuma said, “I argued one time with someone who said the country comes first and I said, as much as I understand that, I think my organisation, the ANC, comes first.” It seemed treasonous for a President to unashamedly suggest that the interests of his party should trump those of his country. But Zuma was no aberration in his party. This attitude of “ANC first, South Africa last” is part of the DNA of the ruling party. President Ramaphosa’s decision to save the ANC at the expense of South Africa comes as no surprise.

His choice this evening could not have been simpler: Save your country from near certain economic collapse, or save your party and its alliance partners from a possible split down the middle.

This evening, with the eyes of the world on him and the hopes and expectations of every single South African resting on his shoulders, President Ramaphosa said, “Sorry, but I choose the ANC”.

DA calls on NERSA to reject Eskom’s proposed R27.3 billion tariff increases 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today presented arguments against Eskom’s application for tariff hikes at the Cape Town leg of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (NERSA) hearings. Eskom is currently in the process of challenging the electricity tariff increases previously approved by NERSA for 2019 to 2022, and now wants consumers to pay 10-15% more for electricity, followed by tariff increases of 50% over the next few years.

This, despite the fact that South Africans experienced over 418 hours of load-shedding in 2019 alone.

The DA’s main points of objection are:

  • Consumers simply cannot afford Eskom’s proposed tariff increases;
  • The utility has been entirely unable to demonstrate that they can operate prudently and efficiently, with gross financial mismanagement and procurement processes that have not been competitive enough; and,
  • Eskom has demonstrated that it is wholly incapable of managing South Africa’s electricity supply. To allow an increase in the rate of their tariffs would only reward them for their failures.

The DA has therefore called on NERSA to reject this application, and to protect consumers from Eskom’s incompetence.

The DA has long maintained that the ANC Government cannot continue to allow any form of bail-outs for a state-owned entity (SOE) that is no longer viable.

With over R400 billion of debt, the ANC must accept that Eskom can no longer be saved and that the lunacy surrounding Eskom bailouts, in any form, needs to end now.

South African consumers cannot afford further tariff increases on electricity. It is unconscionable that this Eskom would ask citizens to pour more money into the blackhole of an entirely defunct SOE.

Values and Principles: Our social contract with the people of South Africa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will hold a policy conference on the 4th and 5th of April 2020. At the conference three draft documents will be discussed, potentially amended, and adopted by delegates:

  • Values and Principles
  • Economic Justice Policy
  • Local Government priorities

Today we release the first of these draft documents: The DA’s Values and Principles.  

Click here to download the document.

Trust between people and their elected leaders is at its lowest point since 1994. The Values and Principles document is intended to be the social contract the DA would like to co-sign with the people of South Africa.

It is the point of departure for the rest of our policy positions, and represents the basis which South Africans should expect all of our conduct to conform to, and which we measure ourselves against.

We have always said that we stand for freedom, fairness, opportunity, and diversity. This is not something we say and then forget about. This a chance to reaffirm these commitments, and others such as to a social market economy, evidence-based decision making, redress, and non-racialism, not only to ourselves but to the public.

Without a clear and commonly agreed to foundation, it is impossible for all of us to work together towards a common purpose.

This approach differentiates us within a political landscape where politicians are not known to hold themselves to a clearly stated set of values which can be scrutinised by the public.

From today we invite party structures to discuss, debate, and apply their minds together with their constituencies to the draft values and principles document.

The final document will emerge from the policy conference in April, after it has been adopted by delegates.

Sixth clean audit for DA-led Midvaal Municipality

Please find an attached soundbite, by John Moodey MPL, the DA Gauteng Provincial Leader here.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) applauds the DA-led Midvaal Municipality for continuing its good governance practices and managing its financial resources in a sustainable manner.

The Auditor General has awarded the municipality another clean audit for the 2018/19 financial year, the sixth consecutive award since 2013.

The DA-led Midvaal remains the best performing municipality in Gauteng.

Where we govern as the DA, we will do our utmost to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent on delivering services efficiently to our communities.

The DA commends Mayor Baloyi and his team, and most of all we thank the people of Midvaal for their support.

Section 25 Amendment Bill public participation period has been extended to 29 February 2020  

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the extension of the Section 25 Amendment Bill public participation period to 29 February 2020. We have long held the view that the public participation period would have been severely curtailed by gazetting of the Bill in December 2019, coupled with the festive season and the 31 January  2020 deadline.

The DA unequivocally opposes the amendment of Section 25, the Property Clause, of the Constitution and we reject land expropriation without compensation. Section 25 is not an impediment to meaningful land reform, but rather the corruption, mismanagement, and lack of political on the part of the ANC government.

The DA-run Western Cape has a 72% success rate in agricultural land reform projects compared to an estimated 10% success rate nationally. Further proof that meaningful land reform is possible through a capable and competent government.

The DA’s online objection portal has already received thousands of objections from ordinary South Africans who reject the proposed amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution. We urge South Africans to protect the Constitution and use this extension to come out in their numbers and voice their objections to this disastrous Bill.

It is time for government to admit that SAA can not be rescued and must be liquidated

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is not at all shocked to note reports that South African Airways (SAA) has run out of cash and as a dire, but foreseeable consequence, had to cancel as many as 19 domestic and international flights. We will now write to the business rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, urging them to play open cards with South Africans and admit that SAA can not be turned around. They must urgently apply to the courts for SAA to be liquidated.

SAA is bankrupt and has been for a very long time. It is in debt to the extent of some R20 billion. It has no cash reserves, it is unable to meet its current liabilities (including salaries) and still requires more bailouts funded by taxpayers. National Treasury is simply not able to keep the failed public enterprise afloat and the current cash crisis was always inevitable.

This is not simply a result of unfortunate circumstances or bad luck. It is as a result of a frankly incompetent and corrupt ANC government that has grossly and irresponsibly mismanaged billions in taxpayer money, and it is inconceivable that to date nobody has been held accountable for this.

It is now up to Matuson and Dongwana to do the right thing by being honest with South Africans: without further massive taxpayer-funded cash bailouts, SAA cannot continue to trade. The R5.5 billion appropriated in the Adjustments Appropriation Bill that was signed into law on the 13th of January 2020 by President Cyril Ramaphosa is specifically set aside for “South African Airways SOC Ltd: Debt Obligations” and may not be used for continued working capital for SAA. Any attempt by SAA business rescue practitioners to use these funds to keep SAA in business will undoubtedly be illegal.

Matuson and Dongwana must ensure that SAA is put into liquidation without further delay, by applying to Court in terms of section 141 (2)(a)(ii) of the Companies Act No. 71 of 2008, for an order to discontinue the business rescue proceedings and to place the company into liquidation.

DA reveals salaries of Simelane and Shaik following leaks in Water Department

Please find attached the DPSA salary scales for 2019 here.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) can reveal that Menzi Simelane and Mo Shaik are currently earning an estimated R1 978 533 per annum as “Special Advisors” to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu.

This amount is at Notch A of a Level 16 DPSA Grading – the Grading given only to Director Generals of National Government Departments.

If, however, Shaik and Simelane’s positions have been benchmarked at a higher notch on the same scale, they could be earning in excess of R2.2 million per annum – which is double the remuneration received by Members of Parliament.

The DA can also reveal that Minister Sisulu’s “Special Advisors”, are – according to the Grading’s leaked – earning roughly R700 000 more than the Ministry’s Chief Director, who holds both an Honours Degree in Public Administration and a Masters Degree in Economic Policy.

The total annual cost of Sisulu’s Ministerial Office staff remuneration stands in excess of R13.9 million per year. This is excluding the costs of the additional 19 employees recently staffing her “National Rapid Response Task Team”.

By having yesterday attempted to re-issue her Office’s response to a Parliamentary Question originally replied to with full staff details on Friday, the Minister has done an excellent job revealing the cracks in her office, as well as the fact that she does not want taxpayers to know who she spends their money on – and just how much she is spending.

The DA is yet to understand how an optometrist and an ex-prosecutor are qualified to provide advice to a department whose focus is on water, sanitation and housing delivery. There is no doubt that gross mis-hiring has taken place – and the deck has been stacked with well-paid political cadres.

Sisulu’s staffing of a political war room in lieu of a capably staffed Ministry will not be allowed to continue unabated, while taps are running dry across our nation.

The DA will, in the coming days, reveal further information and action taken in regards to the Minister’s Office, and her National Rapid Response Task Team.