Boksburg North freeway: DA to submit questions about affected residents

The DA welcomes the decision by the Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC, Ismail Vadi, to continue with the plan to build a provincial road through 14th and 15th Avenue Boksburg North in Ekurhuleni.

The project will alleviate traffic congestion on the existing roads, accelerate the development of the aerotropolis and the Tambo-Springs Logistics hub, and unlock economic opportunities in Ekurhuleni.

However, in reply to DA questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, the MEC confirmed that the 36 houses situated in 14thand 15th Avenue Boksburg North were acquired for the purpose of building this road of which the construction is intended to start in the 2018/2019 financial year.

The DA is concerned about what will happen to the residents of the 36 houses who have been residing there for over a decade. We will subsequently table questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain the following:

  • What will happen to the people who have been residing in these houses for many years?
  • Is there an identified place to house these people, if the answer is yes, could you indicate the place and if the answer is no, why not? and
  • What steps will the department take with regards to people who have illegally occupied these 33 houses?

The DA will continue engaging with the MEC on this matter and ensuring that proper legal actions are followed with regards to evicting these people who occupied these houses for many years.

Together farmers crack stock theft syndicate

Late on Friday afternoon, an organised group of farmers reported stock theft of over 30 head of cattle to the local Community Policing Forum (CPF) in Westonaria.

Farmers from the Westonaria and Merafong areas responded to the call and an immediate search was undertaken that included areas in Finetown and Lenasia.

The cattle were found at Lenasia Livestock, on the N12, ready to be slaughtered, from where they were recovered. Another makeshift kraal was also found, newly built for the purposes of stock theft.

Several farmers from the area donated funds towards a Rural Safety Fund to assist with logistical costs such as diesel and airtime.

A case was opened with the South African Police Service in Westonaria

Farmers have told the DA that it is becoming increasingly difficult to curb and prevent stock theft and that they will be using simple technology to assist with cases.

They are following up on every reported case, and will push to ensure a conviction.

The CPF group is appealing to the community in the West Rand to assist with information, funds and time to ensure a collaborative effort in clamping down on cattle theft.

The DA has long held that the absence of organised Rural Safety Units is exacerbating the problem of stock theft, creating a situation where farmers put themselves at risk to help one another.

I will, therefore, write to the Gauteng SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Lt General Deliwe de Lange, to encourage SAPS engagement with the CPF and the organised farming community with regards to surveillance technology.

With collective expertise, tracking of cattle theft syndicates can be expedited and perpetrators can be brought to justice.

The DA will be monitoring this case closely and pursue all avenues to encourage state, community and civil society to work together in preventing cattle theft in the province.

Gauteng Education: 15 000 tablets, 50 smartboards missing

More needs to be done to safeguard Gauteng Province’s education resources. According to a reply from the Gauteng Education MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi, between 2015 and 2016 a total of 122 smartboards and 17 520 tablets were stolen, with only 72 smartboards and 2 367 tablets recovered. This translates to 15 153 missing tablets and 50 missing smartboards over two years.

While the full roll out of tablets for 2017 to Grade 12 learners at no-fee schools is something to be congratulated, we cannot shy away from the fact that the basics are still not in place:

  • The Gauteng Department of Education missed the 30 November 2016 deadline to eradicate school structures built from asbestos, thus putting the lives of learners and educators at risk. A new deadline has not been set;
  • MEC Lesufi is unable to account for the number of maths and science teachers in Gauteng, despite it being critical subjects for the advancement of the economy;
  • In the first quarter of 2017 (January – May) 31 731 teachers in Gauteng were recorded as absent, and of that number, 110 were recorded as absent without leave; and
  • MEC Lesufi is unable to hold to account the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), who persistently undermines education in the Province by, inter alia, holding meetings during teaching time.

On the surface, the ICT agenda by MEC Lesufi appears to be working, but it is experiencing the same problems faced in the implementation of Gauteng Online. This was confirmed in a 2016/17 report by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature Education Portfolio Committee, pointing to a number of problems in the implementation of the ICT strategy in Gauteng Schools, namely:

  • Poor project management;
  • Safety of devices;
  • Lack of WiFi connectivity at some schools;
  • The non-payment of contractors;
  • Underqualified or poorly skilled teachers in the ICT sphere; and
  • Lack of utilization strategy.

MEC Lesufi and the ANC in Gauteng are falsely seen to be exceptional in the management of Gauteng, the reality is that the residents of Gauteng deserve a government that not only acts when the cameras are rolling but a government they can trust and that truly cares.

Only the Democratic Alliance is committed to delivering quality education, and a caring and trusting government that delivers on its commitments.

DA conducts oversight visit to Home Affairs office in Alexandra

Today I, together with the Gauteng Community Safety MEC and ANC’s Alexandra Constituency Head, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, conducted an oversight visit to the Home Affairs district offices in Alexandra.

My visit followed an incident on Friday 28 July where, as the office was nearing closing time, officials improperly rushed members of the public away and refused to assist them.

I was there trying to obtain a diplomatic passport and tried to amicably resolve the situation with a senior official who subsequently accosted me in front of my family and all other patrons.

This behavior of the staff, and especially the senior official, was unacceptable, to say the least. It flies in the face of the Batho Pele (“people first”) principles which all public servants must adhere to.

During our oversight visit, issues of quality service, ICT and queueing were addressed. I received an apology from the staff and a commitment that things will change at this office.

The community of Alexandra is predominantly poor and there is no justification for treating anyone badly or passing any judgement. Better quality service is a right, not a privilege.

The DA will closely monitor the progress or lack thereof at this particular Home Affairs branch.

Merafong Councillors and staff fleecing the people’s municipality

At a Council meeting of the disaster prone Merafong Municipality this week, it transpired that Member of the Mayoral Committee G.M Sello has allegedly been living in a Council house for more than a year without paying rent, services or rates and taxes. According to the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA), municipal properties must be rented out at market-related prices.

The Democratic Alliance’s written questions about the Merafong rental stock have remained unanswered since November 2016. It is clear that the Gauteng Provincial Government and Merafong Council have something to hide.

According to reports tabled in Council, four Merafong councillors are in arrears on their municipal accounts, owing almost R54 000 to the people of Merafong. Staff members are even worse, with a total of 12 staff members owing more than R160 000 to the people of Merafong.

The prospect of recovering the money is dwindling daily because Merafong has failed to appoint a service provider to perform debt collection. The previous service provider, Trifecta’s contract came to an end on 31 May 2017.

To compound this untenable situation, expenditure on overtime is sitting at 238% of the budget; capital expenditure is only 54%; Council is out of pocket by 19% just for the month of June alone and; outstanding invoices to debtors sits at R1,2 billion at end of June 2017.

No municipality can survive when it spends more money than it receives every month.

The ANC did not take kindly to robust discussion about these figures in Council. Debate was completely shut down when a councillor was forcibly removed from the chamber.

The DA will request that the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Paul Mashatile, investigate the abuse and theft of the people’s resources and money.

MEC Lesufi must urgently address racist incidents across the province

The Gauteng Education Department and MEC Panyaza Lesufi, have in the past week been mired with racial controversies at schools across the province.

MEC Lesufi’s swift action at some of the schools is welcomed, however, the state of policy renewal and transformation at schools has not been adequately addressed.

The DA believes that a diversity and transformation unit within the office of the MEC would be best placed to monitor and engage with all schools which have not yet aligned their values and policies to that of our Constitution.

There is no place in our democratic society for human rights abuses, racism or any form of discrimination.

Young learners should not have to be subjected to verbal abuse which is a reminder of the oppression which a minority population group had over the majority in our past.

Our born free generation must be engaged in constructive dialogue in order to challenge the status quo.

The DA implores MEC Lesufi to take up our suggestion to bring about real and meaningful change in schools facing issues of diversity.

Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has failed to pay Villa Liza land owner

Yesterday, the DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Human Settlements, Mervyn Cirota MPL, as well as the DA Boksburg East Constituency Head, Janet Semple MPL and the DA Ward 45 PR Councillor, Lebo Makhathini conducted an oversight visit to provincially built RDP houses and private land in Villa Liza Extension 1-4 in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni.

The owner of the land on which RDPs have been built in Villa Liza Extension 1-4 claims that the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has failed to pay for the land as per the sales agreement.

Despite the fact that a court order was granted in favour of the land owner to stop the department from building RDP houses, the department continued to build on the land.

The land owner developed more than 2000 stands, which are serviced with all the infrastructure which includes tarred roads, water and electricity.

The photos of these houses can be viewed hereherehere and here.

Gauteng Department of Human Settlements MEC, Paul Mashitile and Ekurhuleni Mayor, Mzwandile Masina are boasting about the success of the new housing developments in Villa Liza, despite the fact that they have stolen this land.

Last year residents were protesting over corruption regarding housing allocations that resulted in these houses being vandalized by angry residents.

Unfortunately, people who have been allocated at these houses will not have a security of tenure as the land is still privately owned.

The DA will continue investigating this issue and engaging both MEC Mashatile and Mayor Masina to ensure that they resolve the dispute between the department and the owner of the land.

We will also be tabling questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain the following:

  • What was the initial agreement or contract between the owner of the land and the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements?
  • For how much was the land sold to the department?
  • What were the payments arrangements?
  • Why did the department fail to honour the agreement?
  • Why has the department not adhered to the terms of the court order stopping the building of new houses?
  • What actions is the department going to take to solve this dispute with the owner of the land?
  • Who are those people that benefited from these RDP houses?
  • Were these beneficiaries on the waiting list?

Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department fails to pay Soweto small businesses

The former MEC of the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (DID), Faith Mazibuko, promised the Soweto Business Forum the opportunity to renovate and rehabilitate clinics in Soweto and at the Chris Hani Baragwaneth Hospital.

Now, almost seven years later, many small business have had to close up shop and many have lost their jobs due to the department’s failure to pay for services rendered.

This was revealed at the internal hearing of the Gauteng Legislature Petitions Committee, whereby the Soweto Business Forum representatives submitted their grievances on the non-payment for the work done at these facilities in 2010.

The DID’s response to the petitioner’s statements are contradictory. The department has acknowledged that work had been done although some projects have not taken place or are not completed. Yet, the department says no order was issued for the work done and therefore payments cannot be made to the Soweto Business Forum as it will be regarded as irregular expenditure.

However, it makes absolutely no sense to not pay for work that was done and commissioned by the department, as confirmed in the hearing.

Small businesses are the backbone of our ailing economy and non-payments from government departments cripple their ability to create jobs and to ensure that the entire community benefits.

I will submit questions to the DID MEC, Jacob Mamabolo, to ascertain exactly how many projects were completed, how much money is owed to the business forum and what the department intends to do with regards to honouring their commitments.

Faith Mazibuko is now the Gauteng MEC for Sport, Arts, Recreation and Culture.

Lab strike – No tests at all for Clinics or extreme diseases

Thousands of patients at clinics are being asked to come back later for tests as the strike by staff at the National Health Laboratory Services enters its third day.

Acting NHLS Head Professor Shabir Madhi has informed the heads of provincial health departments that the NHLS will outsource “essential tests” to private laboratories and bill them the NHLS tariffs for those tests. But no tests at all will be outsourced for primary health care facilities.

This means that basic tests typically requested by clinics will only be done after the strike – this includes tests for TB, HIV, CD4 counts, Pap smears, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Haemoglobin, Full Blood Count, urea and electrolytes, and Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).

The problem is that a number of patients will not come back for these tests which are essential for diagnosis at the primary care level.

Private laboratories are assisting with urgent tests at public hospitals, but they cannot test for certain extremely dangerous diseases like Ebola, Marburg, Rift Valley Fever, Lasso Fever, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever and Dengue.

These Level 4 pathogens are the most dangerous known to humans and can only be tested for at the NHLS headquarters in Johannesburg, which is the sole Level 4 centre in the Southern Africa region.

Travelers can bring in these extreme diseases which are notifiable and need to be rapidly diagnosed.

We need to hope that none of the highly infectious Level 4 diseases come into the country during the strike as they won’t be able to be diagnosed.

The underlying problem at the NHLS is severe mismanagement over a long period of time and the non-payment for services of provincial health departments.

I have established that the total accumulated debt owing to the NHLS is an astounding R7 billion, of which R5 billion is owed by Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal. Some of this debt dates back for five years.

This strike is hopefully resolved as soon as possible, but another strike could follow if the NHLS runs out of money to pay salaries later this year.

Klipspruit School: A school with deep problems, National Education Inspectorate needed

This morning, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Education and Johannesburg Regional Chairperson, Khume Ramulifho MPL, and DA Gauteng Spokesperson for COGTA, Makashule Gana MPL, conducted an oversight visit to Klipspruit West Secondary School in Eldorado Park.

It is a forgone conclusion that schools with capable and dedicated leadership and teachers perform better than those where the leadership and teachers are poorly resourced, and without a mission. Race should not be a barometer for ability nor should race determine who leads which schools. Any attempt to say that Race X should only be led and taught by Race X should be rejected and treated with the contempt it deserves.

The abolishment of apartheid meant that we, as South Africans from diverse backgrounds, no longer subscribe to nor do we tolerate areas or facilities reserved for one race over another.

Our schools must be environments that promote diversity and unity for both learners and teachers alike.

Having spent some time at the school this morning, with parents, learners and teachers it has become clear that the problems are deep and extend beyond the incident of protest against a black principal. The situation is a dire and requires responsible political leadership.

We conducted an inspection of the facilities and the following was noted, which I will bring to the attention of Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi:

• There is no electricity;
• ICT infrastructure is not utilized;
• Ablution facilities are filthy, with only two working toilets for boys, and only four working toilets for girls;
• As a result of the protest only 169 of the 751 learners reported for class;
• Of the 22 teachers, many of them arrived after 08:00 and 4 didn’t report to work;
• There are no fire hydrants on the property.

Furthermore, I had an interaction with the district official, who was surprised by the litany of problems at the school, meaning that both district and Provincial Department where not doing what they are mandated to do in order to ensure that learners are taught in an environment conducive to learning.

This dire situation reinforces the Democratic Alliance’s call for the introduction of a National Education Inspectorate, to ensure that teachers and principals are supported and held accountable for the performance of their learners.

While Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi continues to paint a rosy picture of education in Gauteng and he bows to the whims of the destructive South African Democratic Union, the DA will continue to champion measures to ensure that the country’s future leaders receive a quality education.