From State Capture to State Collapse: The Legacy of a Failed ANC

The following remarks were delivered by Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP, the DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises, Natasha Mazzone MP, and the DA Shadow Minister of Social Development, Bridget Masango MP, at a press conference in Cape Town today.

State Capture has been the defining feature of the ANC government for the past decade. While the DA welcomes that the work the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, has now begun, it is important to confront its legacy.

From the appointment and protection of corrupt or unqualified individuals, the purging and threatening of whistle-blowers and dedicated state employees, the unabated looting of public funds, the ANC’s mismanagement has gutted the State. What is worse, the ANC has forced South Africans to carry the cost.

Not only has the ANC allowed State Capture to thrive but they have reached into the pockets of every South African to pay for it, indirectly through bailouts and guarantees, and directly through the recent VAT increase, the successive fuel increases. Life is harder and more expensive for citizens.

Essentially State Capture has led to the very real reality of State Collapse which we are now left with. This collapsed state is not just about the billions lost, but it is the very real consequences it has had on suffocating the potential of our people and country to realise its potential.

State Collapse means our children attend schools with no toilets, it means our elderly go hungry for days not knowing when or if they will get the social grant they rely on just to get by. It has meant that millions more South Africans live with the indignity and fear of entrusting their loved ones to a health system that neglects, abuses and in many instances, kills them.

State Capture came to light two years ago and yet there have been no arrests of politicians or corrupt officials. The DA has called for commissions, laid criminal charges and made great endeavours to hold the ANC government to account. However, it is now clear that South Africa can no longer endure another five years of disastrous ANC governance. While we will continue to fulfil our Constitutional role to hold those who loot the public purse accountable, it is clear that the ANC cannot self-correct. They simply do not know how. It is now incumbent on the millions of South Africans to punish them for their broken promises.

Today, we are here to join the dots on how this reckless and self-enriching approach to governance has resulted in bankrupt state entities, increased criminal activity and the highest number of unemployed people since the advent of democracy.

State Capture hollows out tax collection as government levies corruption tax

Once the beacon of public sector excellence, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) has suffered massive institutional erosion since former president Jacob Zuma deployed Tom Moyane to head the tax-collecting agency in 2014. Over the last four years, as State Capture reached its zenith, there has been a revenue shortfall of approximately R100 billion, described by one senior SARS official as entirely self-inflicted. The agency’s notorious investigative capacity was dismantled, and honest taxpayers’ rights were violated as tax refunds were refused or delayed, causing some business to shed jobs and others to close entirely.  Meanwhile, Moyane ensured Gupta-linked companies received hundreds of millions of rands in tax refunds, often illegally paid into attorneys’ trust accounts.

Corruption has infiltrated the once proud tax agency with the illicit tobacco trade increasingly being overlooked, costing the fiscus an estimated R37 billion between 2010 and 2017. There is no clearer example of organised crime and corruption costing ordinary South Africans dearly, both in terms of money for service delivery and jobs.

In a desperate attempt to plug the revenue gap, the ANC has turned to levy corruption tax on each and every South African. From the increase in VAT to the increase in the fuel levy, South Africans have been asked to pay an inefficient and indifferent government more and more, precisely as the cost of living amid soars.

Throwing good money after bad

Nothing illustrates that abject failure of the ANC government better than our ailing state-owned entities (SOEs) which became the epicentre of the State Capture project and the embodiment of maladministration and unimaginable waste.

The list of SOEs that have been swallowing up tax-payers money is shamefully long and cannot be considered in its entirety. However, some have become synonymous with corruption, cadre deployment, poor governance and the ever-present threat of financial ruin.

Eskom

Eskom has received large injections of capital from the government to the detriment of spending on other key areas. A R23 billion capital injection in 2015 was soon followed by the dubious conversion of a R60 billion subordinated loan to equity in 2016 to strengthen the utility’s balance sheet.

While cash has been pouring in, State Capture allegations and financial mismanagement have been rampant with the sale of the Optimum mine to the Gupta-owned Tegeta; inflated coal contracts; and redundant McKinsey/Trillian consulting fees.

The two large, coal-fired power stations at Medupi and Kusile have also doubled in price since they were first commissioned, with poor project management, labour unrest, procurement irregularities and contractor incompetence leading the way.

While high electricity costs and power outages have acted a brake on economic growth, Eskom accounted for R41.5 billion in finance costs and continues to record annual financial losses, amounting to R2.3 billion in the previous financial year alone.

South African Airlines (SAA)

SAA has been one of the most inefficient and worst run SOEs, hollowed out by State Capture and mismanagement by ANC cadres. Since 2009/10, the airline has received bailouts to the tune of R11.5 billion –  this doesn’t even consider guarantees extended to the airline, the R5 billion transition finance agreement announced earlier in 2018, or the R21.7 billion promised over the next three years set out in SAA’s corporate plan. The airline is a good example that the ANC puts cadres before South Africa, as the airline has no strategic or developmental value, yet good money that could be used far better is given to the SAA elites.

 

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA)

Systematic corruption and mismanagement at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) have led our rail system into near collapse. The rail system is plagued by chronic delays, dangerous conditions and vandalism that is totally out of control. According to the Auditor-General, the entity and group had incurred a combined accumulated loss of R8.9 billion at March 2017, with another R14.1 billion in irregular expenditure during the 2015/16 financial year. The Public Protector’s 2015 “Derailed Report” described how top officials at PRASA handed out contracts to friends and allies, amounting to almost R3 billion. Corruption and mismanagement have led to a lack of safety officials and police which is making crime thrive and chronic delays are costing jobs because no alternatives are in place when the system inevitably breaks down. With the context of increasing fuel prices and record unemployment, it is shocking that the only truly affordable transportation has been brought to a standstill.

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC)

The after years of political capture and gross mismanagement, the SABC is now almost R700 million in debt. This week, senior employees revealed to Parliament’s portfolio committee that they are paying salaries first and thereafter utilities, in the hopes of just keeping the doors open. After meeting all of their obligations this month, the public broadcaster will have only R26 million left in its bank account.

The SABC has also failed in its mandate as the public broadcaster, acting instead as a captured “state broadcaster” that serves as an ANC mouthpiece and even dutifully airing videos made by the Party’s leader upon request.

This week we also saw hundreds of employees of the “Afro World View” news network, formerly known as ANN7, summarily lose their jobs because the network was forced to close its doors.

This comes amid an economic climate where millions of young South Africans struggle to find employment. The thought that employees of the SABC may soon follow suit is unbearable.

From State Capture to State Collapse: The Human Cost

Social grants

After a disastrous 2016/2017 in which the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), Net1 and the Department of Social Development came close to entirely collapsing the social grant systems, whilst spending R42 million on setting up unnecessary “workstreams” and wasting R1.4 billion in irregular expenditure, it was hoped that under a new Minister in 2018 the entity will turn itself around. So far, this hope is not holding up.

During the past few months, the DA has conducted numerous oversight inspections to SASSA pay points to monitor the process of switching over from CPS to the South African Post Office (SAPO). The process has been characterised by long queues and endless frustration. In July and again in August many grant beneficiaries had to wait for weeks to receive their money as glitches in the system caused many payments to not go through or to not reflect on beneficiaries’ cards.

Meanwhile, the cost of living has been rising steadily for South Africans across the spectrum, with enormous fuel price hikes driving up the cost of food and other commodities. According to the PACSA monthly food price barometer, the price of a basic food basket increased by about 7% between September 2017 and May 2018. Standing at just over R3,000 now, this is entirely unaffordable for the average family that rely on social grants for their income.

Local government in disarray

State Capture and State Collapse influences every single level of government, yet local governments are especially impacted, and their financial position is perilous. Only approximately 7% of our municipalities function well; 112 out of 257 municipalities had unfunded budgets in 2017/181; 87 municipalities are labelled as distressed; and 11 municipalities are under Section 139 interventions (under some form of administration). This is a clear picture of maladministration, and at the end of the day, the poorest of the poor pay the most for this maladministration and collapse of local government.

Maladministration is not the only issue, but blatant corruption is present at many municipalities. The clearest example is the fact that 15 municipalities illegally deposited funds with VBS Mutual Bank, in contravention of the MFMA and against the explicit instructions of National Treasury to not do so. It is highly unlikely that these municipalities will get their deposits back, estimated to be R1.5 billion. This will hamper their ability to provide services and could lead to a collapse of these municipalities.

Public safety

The Presidential Protection Unit currently employs 1,382 staff members at a cost of R693 million per annum, protecting a mere 17 individuals on a permanent basis. VIPs are kept safe by 81 protection personnel each, whereas ordinary South Africans have to make due with one police officer for every 369 people. In Nyanga in the Western Cape, the country’s so-called “murder capital”, the police-to-population ratio is an estimated one police officer to every 628 residents.

While current and former Heads of State and their spouses are safely protected, millions of South Africans live in constant fear of being the next victims of violent crime in our country.

Human settlements

There is currently a backlog of 1.8 million people registered on the Department of Human Settlement’s National Housing Needs Register (NHNR). The Department is a sterling example of how the ANC government has taken South Africa backwards.

In Mpumalanga, years of maladministration and rampant corruption under then-Premier DD Mabuza has left thousands out in the cold.  With a housing backlog of 183,555, a collapse of service delivery and spreading protests are the legacy of the Deputy President in the province. Indeed, under President Ramaphosa, looters and crooks have not been prosecuted: they have been promoted.

The DA has conducted countrywide visits and exposed how the failed ANC government has denied South Africans dignified housing. Too often even those residents who have been given structures continue to wait for the running water, electricity and proper sewerage systems to be fully installed at incomplete and crumbling houses.

Public healthcare

The ANC has decided to forge ahead with the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme despite the dismal failure of the pilot projects around the country. This failure has cost South Africa a budgeted amount of R2,3 billion this year alone, and still, the failing ANC government would have us gut the private health care system, putting the health of South Africa in their exclusive care at a cost of almost R200 billion per year.  We are only now coming to grips with the trauma that began with a R1.2 billion corruption scandal in the Gauteng Department of Health and culminated in the deaths of 144 patients in the Life Esidimeni tragedy. We mourn the 499 cancer patients who died while awaiting treatment in KwaZulu-Natal in 2015 and 2016, the result of the oncology crisis which unfolded on the ANC’s watch. This government has broken our healthcare system and the NHI is a poisonous solution devised to fuel further ANC corruption.

Higher education

In a last-ditch attempt to shore up his corrupt patronage network, Jacob Zuma announced increased financial support for students in December 2017. This desperate attempt to sway the ANC elective conference in favour of his chosen successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is set to cost the taxpayers R43 billion extra as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) is expanded over the next three years.

Zuma’s surprise declaration meant that NSFAS officials had less than a month before the academic year got underway to deal with tens of thousands of new applications in an already struggling system. Treasury and the Department of Higher Education and Training admitted that they were not consulted and were not ready. As a result, nearly 75,000 students who were awarded NSFAS funding for 2018 have not yet received their funding – eight months into the academic year. Stuck in limbo without qualifications or support, these students will not be securing lasting employment any time soon.

Basic education

School safety is one of the major casualties of the looting of the fiscus and Zuma’s Higher Education promise. The 2018 budget for school infrastructure suffered a massive cut of R7.2 billion, despite a backlog of schools that are falling apart and lack basic services.  Pit toilets at schools, in which two young learners have lost their lives in recent times, would cost R7.5 billion to eradicate – almost the exact amount cut from the infrastructure budget. 24 years after the advent of democracy, 3,898 schools still have only pit toilets for use, while another 3,040 have dangerous unused pit toilets that have not yet been demolished. Meanwhile, 97,000 learners who need transport to get to school safely are not receiving it, due to a budget shortfall of R640 million. These learners will never make it to post-school education or employment if their safety at school continues to be compromised.

Unsecured borders

Constitutional delinquent and ultimate Cabinet reshuffle survivor, Malusi Gigaba, has failed to attend to South Africa’s burgeoning immigration problem. Seemingly preoccupied with expediting the Gupta’s naturalization process, he has overseen a failing Department of Home Affairs (DHA) which simply does not have the capacity or the resources to identify, detain and deport illegal immigrants. In 2017 alone 384,357 people came into South Africa and failed to leave upon expiry of their visas – this figure only accounts for those persons from the top five ‘offending’ countries. Department figures dating back to 2013 put that number at well over one million. Our failure to deal with illegal immigration has cost the country R279 million over the last five years on deportations alone. And with fewer than 800 immigration officers in the country whose job it is to seek and arrest undocumented immigrants, undocumented immigrants often go undetected for years.

The asylum system has a backlog of more than 100,000 applications which, by DHA’s own admission, is a gross underestimation. The Department’s inefficiencies in the processing of asylum applications have led to asylum seekers – who followed proper procedures upon entry into the country – failing to get renewed permits timeously due to staff shortages and Refugee Reception Office closures. These applications are then kicked out of the system, rendering the applicants illegal. And these cases are not included in the backlog figure quoted above.

 

Water and sanitation

The Vaal River crisis is a potential environmental catastrophe. Accounting for some 45% of the drinking water in South Africans and 60% of economic water support supplied, the system forms an integral part of South Africa’s water supply.

The crisis was identified as far back as 2008, with studies by the CSIR pointing to high levels of toxicity caused by the discharge of raw sewage and industrial waste, the direct result of mismanagement, poor infrastructure development and lack of maintenance by the Emfuleni and Ngwathe local authorities. Water experts believe it could cost between R800 billion and R1 trillion to rejuvenate the water system.

Meanwhile, the Auditor-General found R6.4 billion in wasteful and irregular expenditure at the Department of Water and Sanitation, dating back to 2014 when Nomvula Mokonyane was appointed as minister. Mokonyane’s tenure included an unbudgeted amount of R2.5 billion for the Trans Caledon Tunnel Authority; the so-called “War on Leaks” programme, costing R524 million, was included under the service programmes and not budgeted for; and a staggering R848 million is owed to municipalities and water boards.

Moving South Africa Forward Again

The DA, as the Official Opposition, has done everything possible to hold the ANC-led government to account. Through our tireless work and using every tool at our disposal that corruption, State Capture, bad governance and institutional incapacity has been laid bare. The ANC has been given every opportunity to address these problems, be it through Motions of No Confidence in Jacob Zuma and his enablers or through our tireless drive to expose State Capture in the Legislature.

The Zondo Commission is finally up and running, and we hope it is given the space and support to complete its important work. It will take time. But we cannot ignore the fact that, to date, no-one has gone to jail and no senior politician has lost their job.

The DA believes that the ANC as an organisation must be called to appear before the Zondo Commission to explain their part in the project of State Capture, and we will be consulting legal advisors on how we can achieve this.

The DA in Parliament has done everything possible to uncover the rot and hold people to account, but Parliament itself has been sidelined and undermined by the ANC. In June 2017, four portfolio committees that were tasked by House Chairperson Cedric Frolick to investigate allegations of State Capture, yet it was the sterling work done by another portfolio committee, on Public Enterprises, that turned the tide and made it impossible for the stonewalling to continue.

The ANC is clearly not fit to govern. Indeed, it doesn’t matter who is tasked with leading the organisation. The failing ANC has brought the State to the brink of collapse and it has no idea how to turn things around.

It’s now up to the voters.

We will be launching our offer to South Africans, alongside all our Premier candidates next month. We will travel to every corner of the country, knocking on every door and speaking to South Africans. It is now time for voters to remove the failing ANC at the polls in 2019. We no longer can endure another 5 years of disastrous ANC governance.

EC drought crisis: Minister Mokonyane must urgently intervene

Following an oversight visit to the Nooitgedacht Low Level Water Scheme in Port Elizabeth today, the DA discovered that citizens in the area are being confronted by a rapidly dwindling water supply due to the crippling drought in the region.

The towns of Humansdorp and Patensie which heavily rely on the Kouga Dam, now face a serious risk of running dry as the region was declared a disaster area in May 2017. Since then water restrictions have been enforced.

The Department of Water and Sanitation is required to provide the bulk water supply to municipalities across the country to enable the distribution of water to their citizens, especially where communities face dire conditions of droughts and water scarcity.

Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, must now urgently ensure the availability of water as per the constitutional mandate of her department.

What is further alarming is that other parts of the Eastern Cape are now also being severely affected by the drought.

Across the Eastern Cape dam levels have plummeted to severely low levels. The latest figures of the dam capacity in the province are as follows:

  • Kouga Dam at 7.71%;
  • Churchill Dam at 18.71%;
  • Impofu Dam 43.47%;
  • Loerie Dam at 86.55% and
  • Groendal Dam at 51.80%.

The reality is that national government failed in its duty to ensure an adequate supply of water and repair and maintain the aged water infrastructure which has exacerbated the severe water shortages in drought stricken provinces of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Limpopo.

Minister Mokonyane as the rightful custodian of the country’s water under the National Water Act has a legal mandate to work hand in hand with local and provincial authorities to find solutions to the crippling drought. At the end of the day all South Africans will be impacted in some way or another if the water crises throughout the country is not resolved.

The DA will not allow for Minister Mokonyane to continuously shirk her key responsibility and trample on our people’s basic human right to have access to clean water.

We will be conducting oversight visits to every corner of the country that has been severely impacted by the drought and collate information that can be submitted directly to the portfolio committee as soon as parliament reconvenes. Scarcity of water is not a political football, all sectors must come to the party including Parliament in order to ensure executive oversight.

Why is Mokonyane in Liberia instead of attending to the national drought crisis?

The DA finds it most worrying that the Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane will today represent President Jacob Zuma at the inauguration of the new Liberian President, George Weah.

Instead of attending to the on-going water crisis here at home, the Minister is off on a junket while South Africans are facing a potentially crippling drought.

If Minister Mokonyane took her job seriously, she would ensure that her department applies its resources to assisting municipalities which are grappling with the drought. As the custodian of the country’s water resources, the Minister has a legal mandate to work with local authorities to find solutions to provide water to drought-stricken communities.

The DA has on numerous occasions called for national government’s intervention in the water crisis involving the city of Cape Town. The Eastern Cape and Limpopo are also being ravaged by drought, yet Minister Mokonyane is missing in action while the situation is becoming increasingly grim.

The DA in the Western Cape has been at the coalface of managing the drought situation by vigorously encouraging its residents to reduce water consumption and by working tirelessly to roll out projects to boost bulk water supply, despite this not being a local competency. Initiatives include desalination plants and identifying aquifers.

With a bloated cabinet, President Zuma could have deployed any other minister to represent him at this occasion but he instead picked the one facing a national crisis in her department. Managing a drought is a national competency and South Africans need decisive leadership to ensure major contingency plans are in place to offset the imminent disaster.

The DA continues to urge all our communities to implement water saving measures in their homes, schools and businesses.

We have long held the view that the severity of this drought is a result of the Department and Minister Mokonyane’s failure to properly maintain and upgrade the country’s aging water infrastructure and we will do all we can to hold her accountable.

Defaulting municipalities will not face water cuts in the short term

The DA welcomes the decision by the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, to offer a temporary reprieve to the municipalities facing water restrictions for their failure to pay off their debt. This followed a robust debate in a Joint Portfolio Committee of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Water and Sanitation.
The committee agreed that no municipalities would be cut off or throttled in the short term and that an Interdepartmental Committee will convene, within 14 days, to consider a way forward.
This comes on the back of Minister Mokonyane’s deadline of 8 December 2017 within which the 30 defaulting municipalities had to honour their debt.
The deadline was impractical as these municipalities simply could not have collected enough revenue to honour their debts within this short period.
It was also resolved in the meeting that no equitable share would be utilised to pay the water boards before the join portfolio committees meet in March to reconsider the matter.
The DA is satisfied that this decision re-affirms that innocent South Africans and businesses that will not be cut off from water by the ANC’s mismanagement and inefficiencies, for now.
 

Minister Mokonyane should be criminally charged

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Water and Sanitation, Leon Basson MP, during the Budget Vote on Water and Sanitation.
Chairperson,
President Zuma led South Africa into junk status and his Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, led Water and Sanitation and the Water Trading Entity into a financial quagmire where it now owes the Reserve Bank, contractors and the Water Boards almost R5 billion.
The Water Trading Entity is technically bankrupt and does not have the ability to collect money owed to them.
It is apparent that Minister Nomvula ‘Mama Action’ Mokonyane has taken zero action to get the finances right.
Minister, while you have made it your number one priority to protect the President, the Department of Water and Sanitation is collapsing under your leadership and infrastructure projects are delayed for years whilst others are stopped or simply unfunded.
This is a direct result of poor management and political interference.
Chairperson, the downgrading to junk status will have a devastating effect on projects like the Lesotho Highlands scheme that could cost South Africa billions more due to higher borrowing costs and further government guarantees on these loans.
It is shocking to note that the budget for water infrastructure development decreased by over R500 million from R12.7 billion in the 2016/17 financial year to R12.2 billion in this financial year.
Funding pressures of R2 billion and unpaid contractors of R1.5 billion will leave the Department with only R8.7 billion for infrastructure development this year.
This while South Africans are struggling without water and with sewerage flowing in our streets, rivers and dams.
What happened to the Blue and Green Drop reports for the 2015/16 financial year?
Nothing – they were not done!
Water infrastructure is under pressure and water specialists agree that the current situation is even worse than the last Green Drop report of 2014, which indicated that 84% of sewer plants are in critical risk, high risk or medium risk.
This implies that 4200 million litres of untreated or inadequately treated sewer is illegally discharged into 82% of our rivers every day.
South Africans should not be subjected to this any longer and whilst the Water Act empowers the Minister to act on behalf of the nation, it also mandates the Minister to protect and preserve the country’s precious water resources – something she is failing at.
Furthermore, protecting and preserving South Africa’s water resources is a constitutional mandate.
Minister Mokonyane can, and should, be criminally charged for allowing the pollution of our rivers, streams and ground water.
Chairperson, let’s look at the Minister’s track record with Water and Sanitation:
• The Department underspent more than R3 billion in the last 3 financial years;
• The Department had two Director Generals in 3 years;
• The Lesotho Highlands project was delayed by 6 years;
• The Clanwilliam Dam project was stopped by the Minister. Her decision to remove the Dam Construction Unit from site, to create a tender that will delay the project between 3 to 4 years, could cost rate payers as much as R1 billion more; and
• The employee cost of the Dam Construction Unit is costing rate payers R2.5 million per month, amounting to R23 million to date, and these employees are not currently working.
Under a DA government, we will focus on the following turnaround strategies to change the critical situation within Water and Sanitation:
• We will appoint accountable management who will not politically interfere in the day to day running of the Department;
• We will protect our water resources and implement the DA’s “use it or lose it”-principle by facilitating assistance from Water Boards to underperforming Municipal Water Infrastructure;
• We will monitor pollution of our rivers and water streams by appointing more Blue Scorpions that will enforce the DA’s “polluter must pay” principle;
• We will institute a rapid response unit to provide project management interventions and to assist municipalities that do not possess the requisite technical skills;
• We will analyse the feasibility of developing and introducing legislation which allows for the National Treasury to provide emergency financial aid to municipalities, and recover the funds from the Municipal Equitable Share;
• We will create opportunities for private sector partnerships with government, in funding, managing, upgrading, maintaining and creating new infrastructure. This will assist in funding the needed R800 billion over the next 10 years; and
• We will build additional smaller dams in catchment areas and downstream existing dams to prevent access water flowing to the ocean.
Minister, you are requested to start implementing the DA’s turnaround strategy plan to prevent a full scale collapse of South Africa’s water infrastructure.
Chairperson, prior to the 2016 elections, Minister Mokonyane visited the community of Jericho in Madibeng and had a big party in a big tent, promising water to the community in exchange for votes.
Unfortunately, Chairperson, nothing came of this promise!
Every day, the community of Jericho has to walk a dangerous route through bushes to the Sandsloot river and dig for water that the community has to share with cattle.
Minister, this is a disgrace!

An activist’s prayer

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, Tarnia Baker MP, during the Budget Vote on Water and Sanitation.
“We cannot merely pray to you, O God,
To root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all people
If we would only use them rightly.
We cannot merely pray to You O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.”
Powerful words by the world-renowned Rabbi Jack Riemer.
It is in this spirit that I stand before you today and call on all South Africans to ensure that we hold those on whom we bestow power accountable.
It is no coincidence that so many religions use water as a symbol of cleansing and purity.
In South Africa we lose more than R7 billion worth of water a year – water literally flowing down the drain because of ageing infrastructure and water theft.
That is why Mayor Solly Msimanga of Tshwane has allocated R13 million for the restoration of water infrastructure.
I suggest to you, Honourable Chair, that the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has no idea just how valuable a resource water actually is, especially considering that South Africa is a water scarce country.
In 2003, the Strategic Framework for Water Services was approved by Cabinet with the target for the complete eradication of the bucket system of sanitation set for 2006, and a budget of R1.2 billion was allocated for the Free State alone.
Fast forward to 2017 and the goal has still not been met. It is ludicrous to think that the minister now stands before the National Treasury, begging bowl in hand, looking for a further R1.5 billion!
Minister, let us stop talking about concluding the long overdue Bucket Eradication Programme and just do it.
I urge you, Minister, to take a take firm stance against the scourge of corruption in our country and no longer allow companies to mine in one of our protected water catchment areas, like Mabola in Mpumalanga, particularly when names like “Gupta” appear on the Board of Directors and Zuma appears on the board of the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) partner company.
Just do the right thing, Minister, and revoke that Water Use License granted to Atha Africa.
I will commend the Minister for one thing she has actually done and that is to advertise for the replacement of the Umhlatuze Water Board and its Chairperson, Miss Dudu Myeni.
Unfortunately, this was only after the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruled in December 2016 that the Minister had acted unlawfully by extending the contract of the Chair and Board, which expired in February 2015.
Basically, this means that the Minister broke the law.
It is for this reason that we have written to the Public Protector and asked her to investigate the Minister’s actions and hold her accountable for the court costs, including the appeal which she lodged, as well as the R1.4 million paid to Miss Myeni during her unlawful occupation of the position of Chairperson from February 2015 to date.
Another thing you can actually do, Minister, is to hold our municipalities accountable for the R3.6 billion owed to the various Waterboards.
This debt severely impacts on the provision of essential water services these Boards can deliver.
However, not all is doom and gloom, as there are some municipalities which do govern well, like the DA run Midvaal municipality which does not owe Rand Water anything, or Eskom for that matter. Well done Mayor Baloyi.
It is generally accepted that in life there are some things which are beyond our control, like the weather. However, we can control our state of preparedness to deal with natural disasters when they do occur. In South Africa, provision is made for monetary and other forms of assistance, on the declaration of a disaster, so as to minimise its effects.
But when the Minister first refused to admit that there was a drought crisis and later resisted declaring a national disaster, she robbed the people of South Africa of the support and assistance they could receive and added to the suffering of millions, leaving hundreds of towns to just dry up.
The drought intervention measures by the Department were so haphazard, the cost of which cannot be accurately counted or accounted for. It is for this reason we have written to the Auditor-General asking for an investigation into this drought expenditure, and I’m happy to report that this investigation is also underway.
Fellow South Africans, I understand that the ravages of the apartheid era cannot be reversed overnight, I appreciate the fact that millions more South Africans now have access to water, a right previously denied to them, but as a result of the high unemployment rate in our country, the number of people actively contributing to the national fiscus is limited.
As a result, we have to ensure that we get excellent value for money from every cent spent on service delivery. So, when the DWS overspends its budget by R18 million and yet only achieves 43% of its targets, we should be seriously concerned.
The Portfolio Committee spent many hours interrogating the Department’s budget. The more we probed, the bleaker it looked.
The final conclusion, Chairperson, is that the finances of the national Department of Water and Sanitation are deeper, darker and messier than any of its abandoned pit latrines, and just like the Bucket Eradication Programme, can only be rescued by a competent DA-led government.
I thank you.