Gauteng Infrastructure Finance Agency failing to implement much-needed

The Gauteng Infrastructure Finance Agency (GIFA) is failing on its mandate to implement much-needed infrastructure projects to revitalise Gauteng’s economy. Judging from its track record, it appears that it has no idea of the progress of the projects that fall under its purview.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the establishment of a West Rand Airport was initiated by GIFA and in the 2014/15 financial year was listed as one of 6 projects where feasibility studies had been completed.

On 19 January 2018 a tender notice was issued for the appointment of a transaction advisor to undertake a feasibility study on this proposed airport, despite one having allegedly been completed three years earlier.

It is evident that this project never got off the ground, and brings into question the accuracy of reporting of other projects where feasibility studies have allegedly been completed.

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura since taking office in 2014, has gone to great pains to stress how his government is taking steps to encourage the development of new mass infrastructure projects in the province.

To date, of the numerous projects envisaged by this administration, only two projects – the Cedar Road upgrade as well as the Library and Archive Centre – have reached construction phase.

What is abundantly clear is that while the Premier talks a good game, his government’s inaction speaks louder than words.

What is required is a government that is serious about delivery, one will make use of expertise and people fit-for-purpose to ensure that the economy of Gauteng is resuscitated.

The DA will probe the readiness of GIFA projects and ensure that this administration is held to account for its short-comings before a competent DA government is elected into office in 2019.

Gauteng Premier cannot explain his ignorance of the move of Esidimeni patients to NGOs

Gauteng Premier David Makhura has expressed remorse and apologized for his role in the deaths of 144 mental health patients who were sent to illegal NGOs after the cancellation of the Life Esidimeni contract.

He has admitted at the arbitration hearings that he “was not aware”, and even acknowledged that this was “not an acceptable excuse … even where not directly involved.”

Justice Dikgang Moseneke has pointed out that the constitution imposes a duty on public officials to know.

Makhura said he agreed with this and said he was “embarrassed by having to say I don’t know.”

It is refreshing that he admits to error and accepts personal responsibility rather than “passing the buck”.

But it is an appalling failure for him to say that he never knew that patients were going to be sent to NGOs rather than state institutions.

It was clear at various times that patients were going to be sent to NGOs and that there was poor preparation for this that was likely to result in disaster.

On 18 November 2015, for instance, then Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu said in a written reply to my questions in the Legislature that 591 patients would be sent to NGOs and the rest to government facilities.

This was misleading in that more than 1000 patients were actually sent to NGOs, but it still showed that large numbers were not going to be accommodated in state institutions.

Makhura said that he was told that there were 4000 additional beds in state hospitals, but as Justice Moseneke pointed out, this was a “blatant untruth” and he could have been expected to question whether there was indeed such a large increase in beds.

I also warned several times in the Legislature that there would be a disaster as there were not enough suitable NGOs for the patients.

On 15 March 2016, Mahlangu said in an oral reply to my questions that 1835 patients from Esidimeni would be placed in alternative homes before the end of June, and that NGOs were hiring staff and being given licenses to look after them. Makhura was present in the House when she gave this reply and I expressed my doubts that everything was going as smoothly as she claimed.

See Hansard transcript here.

Makhura should also have taken note of the many media reports and the two court cases which highlighted the risks of transferring patients to the NGOs.

He has admitted to administrative failures in his office which prevented him seeing key correspondence that was sent to him, including a letter that Wits University occupational therapy students wrote to him on 18 January 2016 in which they warned about moving the patients from Esidimeni’s Waverley Care Centre in Germiston.

Furthermore, on 7 July 2016 the Gauteng Health Department announced that the process to move patients “to NGOs and psychiatric hospitals” was complete.

Makhura was grievously negligent in missing all the warning signs and not intervening decisively to prevent deaths occurring.

He should also have fired Qedani Mahlangu after she disclosed 36 deaths in reply to my questions on 13 September 2016. This would have saved many lives as Mahlangu and her officials continued to lie and cover-up what was happening to the patients.

Makhura is trying to make amends by apologizing and reaching out to the families of those who died, but the Esidimeni deaths will be an eternal blot on his reputation.

DA to assist victim of Springs racist farm assault

The DA is appalled by the latest report of the racial abuse of a farm worker by his employer in Springs, Ekurhuleni.

It is reported that the farm worker was forced to drink two litres of water contaminated with faeces and then locked away in a sewer for thirty minutes.

After managing to escape from the farm the next day, the farm worker went to the Springs Police Station to report the incident, only to be turned away.

Not only was this individual the victim of inhumane abuse by his employers, but he was treated with disdain by SAPS officers who failed in their duty to actively deal with this heinous crime, and treat the victim with dignity.

The evil of racial abuse in our society must be stamped out decisively. Those who perpetuate the mentality of racial superiority and the subjugation of others must be called out and subjected to the laws befitting their crimes.

Ours is a nation that abides by the Constitution which espouses equality for all. We cannot build a society where we negatively defined and divided by race.

The DA will ensure that the farm worker involved in this case is afforded the opportunity to make a submission before the Human Rights Commission, and encourages those that have been similarly abused at this farm to come forward to be afforded the same opportunity.

We will also follow up with Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane to ensure that action is taken against the officers at the Springs Police Station who initially failed into take this individual’s statement and assist in opening a case.

Venterpost Library: Residents have lost all faith in MEC Mazibuko

The Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR) MEC, Faith Mazibuko has yet again failed the residents of Venterpost in Randfontein as their library is still closed and awaiting renovations.

This despite MEC Mazibuko declaring that the Venterpost Library will be reopened in October 2017, according to the written replies to the DA’s questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.

The residents are frustrated and tired of the MEC’s empty promises. MEC Mazibuko failed the 2017 matriculants of this area as they were desperate to utilise this facility for research and revision in preparation for their final year matric examinations.

This is the only library in Venterpost, with the next closest library being Westonaria Public Library which is 10 km away and not on a taxi route. We will not accept her department’s incompetency and the impact this will have this year’s matric class.

This library was officially opened on 28 October 2014 and then closed on 13 March 2017 for renovations; since then the MEC has been making empty promises on when it will be re-opened.

This much-needed facility was closed due to shoddy workmanship; the roof, floors and the books shelves were not built properly.

This department lacks good leadership and a political will to monitor and manage its projects. MEC Mazibuko is for all intents and purposes absent from her duties as the political head of department only to pop up when she’s given a national platform in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

It is high time that she be reminded that the clock is ticking and her term of office is coming to an end. Come 2019 the DA will be leading Gauteng and we will ensure that all libraries are equipped with necessary resources and are delivered to the communities timeously.

The DA will hold MEC Mazibuko accountable to ensure that the Venterspost Library is properly fixed and re-opened as a matter of urgency.

Finance MEC exposes deep rot in Gauteng Health Department

The evidence provided yesterday by Finance MEC Barbara Creecy to the Esidimeni arbitration hearings exposes the deep rot in the Gauteng Health Department and deepens the culpability of former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu and her top officials in the deaths of mental health patients.

According to Creecy, there was no budgetary pressure to cut core services but departments were instructed to reduce spending on travel‚ events‚ catering‚ communication‚ entertainment and venues.

She said there was adequate budget for mental health services including the Life Esidimeni contract.

Creecy’s evidence directly contradicts Mahlangu’s claim that the Esidimeni contract was cancelled because of pressure from treasury to cut costs in this area.

Furthermore, there was continued wasteful expenditure, including R59 million paid to legal firm Ncebetsha Madlanga and R435 000 to McKinsey for a two day workshop.

The department still suffers from the terrible mismanagement under Mahlangu where dubious contracts were rife and unpaid accounts ballooned to over R4 billion.

It is still a puzzle why she was so obsessed with canceling the Esidimeni contract in such haste despite all the warnings that it would lead to disaster.

It appears that some people in NGOs saw financial opportunity in taking Esidimeni patients as more than R47 million was paid to them which is not completely accounted for.

Police need to finalize their investigations as soon as possible to press charges including murder, culpable homicide, fraud and theft against all implicated people.

Task team not doing enough to curb attacks on Uber and Taxify drivers

The ongoing war between metered taxi drivers and Uber and Taxify drivers is concerning as the lives of both drivers and passengers are put at risk on a daily basis.

This follows the recent fatal attack on a Taxify driver in Yeoville.

The DA strongly condemns the latest attack, which took place despite the fact that Gauteng Premier, David Makhura had established a task team to look into the ongoing war between metered taxi drivers and e-hailing taxi operators.

It is clear that the Uber task team established by the Premier is not doing enough to curb the ongoing violence.

The lack of communication about the work of this special committee shows that the ANC-led government cares little about the safety of Uber and Taxify drivers who have a legal right to be on the road.

While the formation of the task team is a step in the right direction, we still have no clarity on how long the investigation into the conflict will be and who exactly is part of the task team.

The DA once again calls on Gauteng MEC for Roads and Transport, Ismail Vadi and Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane to urgently set up a stakeholder meeting with the metered taxi companies and e-hailing taxi operators to find an amicable solution between these rivals.

An urgent update on the work of the Uber task team must be provided as well as  the proposed  steps outlining what action will be taken to curb the attacks and ensure the safety of passengers.

The DA believes that a safe and reliable mode of transport is a prerequisite for economic growth, hence it is imperative that Gauteng which is the economic hub of the country has an efficient and affordable transport system.

Gauteng Premier must account for Esidimeni deaths

Gauteng Premier David Makhura is due to appear before the Esidimeni arbitration hearings tomorrow where he will need to account for his role in the deaths of mental patients who were sent to unregistered NGOs.

It has now been established that the decision to cancel the Esidimeni contract was taken at a meeting of the budget committee which he chaired.

Former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has also revealed that NEHAWU met with the Premier in November 2015 to discuss the employment of those who would be retrenched when Esidimeni facilities were closed down. The undertaking was given that they would be given jobs in the department or with the NGOs where patients would be sent.

Makhura has always claimed that he did not know that Esidimeni patients would be sent to NGOs and would never have approved such a plan.

But it was always clear from statements by Mahlangu that a large number of patients would be sent to NGOs e.g. in her written reply to my questions in the Legislature on 18 November 2015 she said that 591 patients would be sent to NGOs and the rest to government facilities.

Makhura should have taken note of the many media reports and the two court cases in which he was cited as a respondent which highlighted the risks of transferring patients to the NGOs.

He also ignored a letter that Wits University occupational therapy students wrote to him on 18 January 2016 in which they warned about moving the patients from Esidimeni’s Waverley Care Centre in Germiston.

Furthermore, mental health review board director Dumi Masondo said at the Esidimeni hearings that Makhura had attended meetings on the move of the patients.

A key question Makhura needs to answer is why he did not fire Qedani Mahlangu after she disclosed 36 deaths in reply to my questions on 13 September 2016 as this would have saved many lives as remedial steps could have been taken far sooner instead of the attempted cover-up by Mahlangu and her officials.

It would be really disappointing if Makhura evades his personal accountability for the Esidimeni tragedy and chooses to blame others when he should have been listening to all the warnings and monitoring what was happening as the premier of this province.

Overvaal Case: MEC Lesufi should spend funds on improving the quality of education

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, would do well to shift his focus from appealing court judgements to providing quality education for all Gauteng’s schools.

It appears that the already cash-strapped department is wasting funds on court matters when in fact many schools, and particularly townships schools, are suffering without the necessary resources to function.

Cosmo City Primary School is overcrowded with a shocking number of 92 learners per class. Randfontein Secondary School and Noordgesig Primary School are battling with exposure to asbestos, thousands of learners remain unplaced and sexual abuse cases are mushrooming across the province.

Furthermore, parents of learners at Mayibuye Primary School in Snake Park, Soweto had, as of Wednesday last week, shut down the school demanding that MEC Lesufi immediately fix six classrooms that had been damaged during storms in December. Infrastructure conditions at Kwadedangendlela Secondary School in Zola, Soweto are near a state of collapse, placing both learners and teachers at risk.

The DA has visited a considerable number of schools to assess their readiness for the new school year and we found that conditions aren’t conducive for learning and teaching at many schools in the province.

MEC Lesufi should avoid becoming sidetracked and bear in mind that transforming and integrating schools in the province requires a solid plan and time to ensure schools are supported with the resources required to do so.

While the DA supports the transformation of schools in the province, it must however be taken into consideration that it an administrative process which the department could better manage by rolling out a transformation plan in phases.

It was ill-considered of MEC Lesufi to force learners to go to school without offering the necessary resources. Language must never be used as a discriminatory and social-exclusionary tool.

We strongly advise spending money on fixing schools with deteriorating infrastructure conditions instead of fighting lost cases. Schools have potholes and learners have no chairs and desks. It is high time that MEC Lesufi must get his priorities right, by fixing the basics first.

Quality schooling must be prioritized to ensure that the playing field is levelled which in turn will ensure transformation takes place and that all schools in Gauteng are functioning optimally.

DA to demand action by Premier regarding Merafong Mayor’s ‘thugs’

Today the DA met with 25 unemployed youths from Kokosi who had been employed by ANC Merafong Mayor,  Maphefo Mogale Letsie to disrupt election campaigning by opposition parties in the build-up to the 2016 local government elections.

These youths, who were paid with EPWP funds and armed with weapons, to stir up trouble in the municipality, were promised permanent positions after the elections.

Once in power, the ANC discarded them.

Facing a life of unemployment and without prospect, the group took to the streets to protest and demand that the Mayor fulfill her pre-election promises.

After months of protest and without any sign of Mayor Letsie, the group barricaded the Fochville Licensing Department to bring services to a halt.

Instead of meeting with the group, the Mayor through the council approached the court to take out a restraining order against them.

Once again, public funds have been abused at the people’s expense.

These members are in the process of compiling sworn affidavits, detailing how they were used by the Mayor and how, in typical ANC fashion, they have been used and abused.

Once this process is complete, the DA will present these affidavits to Gauteng Premier, David Makhura and insist that he investigate Mayor Lestie for defrauding EPWP funds, for political interference during the 2016 election and to ensure that justice is served for this group of unemployed young people who have been hoodwinked by ANC shenanigans.

No person or group of individuals should be used for nefarious ends. This tragic case is yet another example of how the ANC abuses the most vulnerable members of society to further its own selfish ends.

Commission of Inquiry urgently needed to probe extent of sexual abuse in GP schools

The DA strongly condemns the disgusting behaviour displayed by the Reiger Park High School Principal after videos and photos went viral on social media of him allegedly having sex with learners in his office.

It is an absolute disgrace that a principal who is supposed to be a true leader, a guardian and a shield to protect these learners from abuse within and outside the school premises is engaged in this type of behaviour.

We welcome this sex-pest principal’s immediate resignation from his post. However, he must not go unpunished for stripping these learners of their innocence and needs to face the full might of the law.

This principal must be named and shamed for destroying the future and the dignity of our learners and should be be registered as a sexual offender.

He must also be banned from ever working with children again.

For far too long, the Gauteng Premier, David Makhura and the Gauteng Department of Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi have ignored the DA’s call to establish a Commission of Inquiry to probe the extent of sexual abuse in Gauteng schools and to establish a toll-free line for learners to report sexual abuse in schools.

The DA made this call last year after more than 87 learners were allegedly sexually abused by patrollers in Soweto schools.

This problem is clearly far bigger than what we initially thought and requires greater intervention than the Premier’s task team.

There is no time line and no communication with regards to the findings of this task team and when its investigations will be completed.

Sexual abuse in Gauteng schools goes beyond allegations against the patrollers as it also involves principals and educators. The scourge of violence against our learners has infiltrated every level of our education system.

A Commission of Inquiry is the only way to deal with this pandemic.

The DA also condemns those who are circulating the videos and pictures of the principal having sex with these learners as it violates the rights of these children. Possession of child pornography, as well as distributing it, is a criminal offence and charges should be laid against those who are breaking this law.

Psychological counselling must be provided to the victims and their families.

The DA will continue to put pressure on both the Premier and MEC to ensure that the Commission of Inquiry and a sexual abuse toll-free line is established as a matter of urgency.

Our learners are the future leaders of this country and it is within their rights as guaranteed by the constitution to be protected against any sexual abuse, sexual exploitation and child pornography.