Cash-strapped Gauteng residents to cough up more money for e-Tolls

by Fred Nel MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport

Despite the claims by Premier Makhura that e-Tolls have not worked and are fleecing residents of Gauteng, no tangible solution has been provided to scrap this unjust taxation of the Province’s roads.

As of the new financial year, the South African National Roads Agency (SANRAL) has increased toll fees between 6-7%.

This includes the e-Toll fees.

Coupled with last month’s drastic increase in fuel and another increase in the pipe-line for next month, as well as the increase in VAT, residents of Gauteng are starting to bear the brunt of poor government policies.

Premier Makhura has pronounced that he is a man of the people, but his inaction and indecisiveness on issues such as e-Tolls shows that he does not have the interests of the people at heart.

The people of Gauteng have had enough of their lives being affected by ANC government ineptitude, and want Total Change.

Come 2019, the DA will find a workable solution to the e-Toll matter and ensure that residents of Gauteng are afforded some financial relief during these trying times.

The ANC have for far too long bullied the people of Gauteng. It is now time for the people to fight back.

Premier Makhura ducks Constitutional responsibility

by Lebo More MPL – DA Gauteng Petitions Committee Member

Despite portraying the ANC-led Gauteng Government as a people-centred body, Gauteng Premier David Makhura has shirked his responsibility when dealing with the complaints of Gauteng residents who have petitioned his government for better service delivery.

In reply to DA questions regarding the ANC government’s responsiveness in dealing with petitions, Makhura simply brushed the question aside and indicated that petitions are dealt with by the Gauteng Legislature.

While the Gauteng Legislature receives residents’ petitions, it then re-directs them to the relevant department as well as the Premier’s office.

It is highly unlikely that the Premier does not know anything about the petitions backlog, nor is it likely that he has no idea about what petitions have come past his office and the offices of members of his executive council.

Petitioning government is enshrined in the Constitution and is a mechanism by which residents can hold government accountable. Gauteng has its own Petitions Act which clearly spells out the importance of this tool.

The ANC in Gauteng may hide behind smiling billboards boasting about service delivery, but the truth is that thousands of complaints remain unsolved and there appears to be no appetite to resolve issues.

The DA will question each MEC as to the progress of petitions that have been submitted to them.

Accountability is critical to good governance, something which the ANC is dismissive of.

Specialised traffic courts needed to deal with traffic violations

by Fred Nel MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport

The DA recommends that specialised traffic courts should be established to deal with traffic violations instead of reclassifying traffic offences to schedule five offences under the Criminal Procedures Act.

This follows the remarks made by the Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande that he will be looking at making all traffic violations a schedule five offence.

This would classify traffic offences as a higher offence than rape in the eyes of the law.

This is not the first time, that a Minister of Transport has hinted at changing traffic violations to a schedule five offence under the Criminal Procedures Act.

Should this indeed happen, then it will make it almost impossible for a pedestrian caught jay- walking to be granted bail.

This announcement by the Minister goes against his own amendment of the Administrative Adjunction of Road Traffic Offences Act (Aarto), which seeks to take traffic violations out of the criminal system.

Furthermore, we need to distinguish what is a serious traffic offence and what is not deemed to be as serious.

The only way we can reduce fatalities on our province’s roads is if we change driver behaviour and improve law enforcement on our roads.

On many occasions I have indicated that road safety campaigns cannot rely on marketing exercises alone.

What we need is comprehensive driver and pedestrian safety education in schools, proper driver training, an appropriate driver license testing system and more visible policing to deal with traffic offences. While the establishment of specialised traffic courts, will allow for a quicker turnaround time in dealing with traffic offences.

We call on the Minister of Transport to rather concentrate on heavier penalties for corrupt officials who sell licenses and take bribes instead of judicial semantics.

These are the real causes of accidents and fatalities on our roads.

Caring DA-led Tshwane administration fixes ANC Ga-Rankuwa mess

by Mervyn Cirota MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Human Settlements

The caring DA-led Tshwane administration has started the process of fixing the previous ANC administration’s abandoned and incomplete housing project in Ga-Rankuwa Unit 10 in the City of Tshwane.

This project which has been left incomplete for the past 5 years by the previous administration, was meant to provide 850 walk-up flat units for Ga-Rankuwa residents.

The DA-led City of Tshwane appointed a new contractor in February to revisit this existing, but incomplete infrastructure that has since been vandalised.

The infrastructure has been sabotaged as we found blocks of concrete, bricks, logs and the carcasses of dead animals inside the sewer lines of this infrastructure.

Despite the sabotage attempts, it will not stop us from delivering dignified and quality houses to our people.

This matter of this incomplete project is currently before the court due to a dispute between the City of Tshwane and the previous contractor. However, the City has taken a decision to appoint a consultant to prepare a bill of quantity that covers the additional scope such as demolition.

This indicates that we care about our people and we put our people’s needs first before any political interest.

We made a commitment to provide quality service delivery in our municipalities and by undertaking to complete this housing project we are demonstrating that we lead by example and not simple paying lip service.

This project will also help to ease the housing unit backlog in the City of Tshwane. In addition, it will also create job opportunities for our unemployed residents.

The DA is clearly bringing Total Change to the residents of Tshwane.

Gauteng Health Department is soft on criminals

by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

The Gauteng Health Department has instituted 179 disciplinary cases for fraudulent and criminal activities in the past five years, but has only laid criminal charges against 3 of the employees concerned.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

In the case of an employee at the Medical Supplies Depot (MSD), he was found to be involved in fraudulent and criminal activities in 2015, but no criminal case was reported to the police who “advised to secure the recovered stock and only report if there was any loss suffered.”

This employee was initially dismissed, but this decision was reversed on appeal and he is still working at the MSD after three months suspension without pay.

In the three cases where criminal cases were laid against employees, one was dismissed in 2015, and in two cases last year “the criminal case is still in the process of investigation and the disciplinary case is in the hearings stage, the staff members are still in service at the institution.”

Of the 179 disciplinary cases, 6 people were found not guilty and there were no grounds to charge for another 6 cases.

Six employees resigned during the disciplinary process, 45 were dismissed and the rest got warnings, including periods of suspension without pay in 26 cases.

I am concerned that criminal charges have been laid against hardly any employees implicated in criminal activities, some of whom still work for the department.

The department is soft on criminals despite the huge damage caused by corruption scandals that have negatively affected patient care at hospitals and clinics.

Criminal charges should always be laid so as to serve as a strong deterrent to further corrupt activities.

DA calls for speedy resolution to bus strike

by Fred Nel MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Roads and Transport

The DA calls on the employers in the bus industry and transport industry unions to reach a speedy resolution to end the transport strike, which is entering its sixth day.

According to a statement issued by the transport unions involved in the strike, the wage negotiations started in January but there has been a delay in reaching a final wage increase agreement, which has led to the deadlock.

This industrial action is having a negative impact on both our economy and commuters. Thousands of commuters have been left stranded or have had to find alternative transport to work.

In many cases, commuters who rely on the bus service have had to fork out extra money, which they can ill afford.

In Gauteng, university students who rely on the Mega Bus to get to and from campus have been left stranded, while some school children were also affected.

We cannot have a situation where the education of our learners and students is comprised because they are unable to get to school and our economy cannot be hamstrung because of this wage deadlock.

Despite the fact that unions have the right to strike, both the unions and the bus industry must consider the impact of this strike and how it affects the lives of ordinary South Africans who rely on buses as their mode of transport on a daily basis.

The DA hopes that a speedy resolution will be reached and that bus services across the country resume as soon as possible.

DA marks World Book Day

by Paul Willemburg MPL – DA Gauteng Spokesperson for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR)

Today, 23 April 2018, South Africa joins more than 100 countries cross the world in observing World Book Day.

This is the time to celebrate the work of our own diverse Mzansi authors, as well as acknowledging the need to cultivate a love of books and reading.

The commemoration of this day is important considering that as a country we are still facing a high rate of illiteracy and some of our secondary school learners can neither read nor write.

Books have the ability to educate, empower, equip, inspire and uplift the lives of our people.

Reading books helps our children to discover who they are and the career paths that they may want to pursue.

However, our children are being deprived of the opportunity to access books by the Gauteng ANC-led Administration which is failing to deliver libraries to our communities.

During the DA Gauteng Library Campaign last year, when we visited 28 libraries across the province, we discovered that the library books are outdated, there are internet challenges and some libraries are still not complete.

The Gauteng Department of Sports, Arts, Culture and Creation(SACR) is clearly failing in its mandate to deliver libraries to our people. It is the department’s responsibility to make it easy for all to access to books by delivering properly equipped libraries.

The DA firmly believes that libraries are a vital community resource to access information, internet services and to promote a culture of reading, writing and publishing books in all our local languages.

There is a need for Total Change in this Department and Gauteng residents, particularly for our children who can only thrive at school if they have access to books.

Hospital sick leave jumps in Gauteng

by Jack Bloom MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

Sick leave applications for staff in Gauteng state hospitals have risen alarmingly, from R161 million paid to 3244 employees in 2014 to R312 million paid to 5882 employees last year.

This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa in a written reply to questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Ramokgopa: “Short temporary incapacity applications are the highest applications applied for, but the long temporary incapacity leave applications constituted the highest amount paid during the management of incapacity leave in 2017.”

There were 442 cases of long-term incapacity in 2017, for which R15.3 million was paid out, compared to 411 cases which cost R1.2 million in 2014.

Ramokgopa says that nurses were the source of the majority of sick leave applications.

I am concerned by the unexplained jump in sick leave by hospital staff. Are staff experiencing increased illness, or is the sick leave system being abused because of poor management?

An investigation is needed into the sick leave increase, particularly with nurses, which could be due to burn-out from working in poor conditions or picking up infections from patients.

There should ideally be a Health Risk Manager to consider sick leave cases in terms of the Policy and Procedure on Incapacity and Ill-health Retirement (PILIR). This would ensure that all sick leave cases are justified, but Ramokgopa says that the Department can’t afford to pay for this post.

As an interim measure, the Department advises hospitals to have a Multidisciplinary PILIR Committee, but only 12% of cases were referred to such a committee.

Better management of sick leave is needed to prevent abuses and fix the causes of avoidable illness.

Is Merafong cash-cowing their sinkhole problem?

by Ina Cilliers MPL – DA Constituency Head Merafong

This past week the DA conducted a public feedback meeting with community members affected by the sinkhole in Khutsong that razed several houses and threatens the safety of the broader community.

This comes after a reply to written questions indicating that a whopping R184 million has already been allocated to rehabilitate several sinkholes in the Merafong Municipality that is being caused by unattended water leaks.

Of particular concern is that it is unclear how the funds are being spent.

The sinkhole in Khutsong is still not rehabilitated, and water from nearby leaks is gushing freely into the sinkhole.

The community members indicated a complete breakdown of the trust relationship with Merafong Municipality over the handling of this entire matter.

Whilst the affected families are facing an uncertain future, the reply indicates that the only long-term solution is to re-locate the entire community to a new 500 house RDP development that has not yet gotten off the ground.

Whilst the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) admits that sinkholes are caused by “sustained ingress of water into ground spaces, poorly managed surface water drainage systems, and aging asbestos water pipes”, the Municipality has no plans to wage a war on leaks. Instead, it is happy to keep asking for more and more funds to rehabilitate sinkholes that they themselves have caused.

The municipality already faces a PAIA application from the DA over the detailed expenditure on this disaster, a request they have been ignoring with impunity.

The affected community members have now asked the DA to take up the matter with the new MEC for Human Settlements and COGTA, Uhuru Moila directly.

It is a sign of the shocking indifference of the ruling ANC that this entirely preventable situation is being used to milk the South African taxpayer.

The DA will leave no stone unturned to uncover and expose the real situation and the daily struggle of this community until a long term, sustainable resolution is achieved.

In addition we will also be calling for an on-site visit by the Portfolio Committee on Human Settlements and COGTA to demand answers as to how R184m was spent.

The residents of Merafong desperately need the Total Change only the DA can bring.

Gauteng Housing HOD holding back service delivery

by Mervyn Cirota MPL – DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Human Settlements

Gauteng Human Settlements Head of Department (HOD), Matilda Gisela’s three-day suspension by Human Settlements MEC, Uhuru Moila, is a clear indication that there are major challenges within the department.

Last year, Gisela was alleged to have been interfering in the appointment of the deputy director position for internal communications.

Gisela reportedly re-shortlisted two candidates who were disqualified from the process, against the selection panel’s recommendations, as they did not meet the requirements for the position.

The DA called on then MEC, Paul Mashatile to act against Gisela for interfering in the selection process and undermining transparency and ensuring that the most suitable candidate would be chosen.

Her latest suspension is alleged to stem from the fact that the department under her watch has failed to produce sufficient plans on rolling out the 31 Mega Cities.

With a housing backlog of a million units in the Province, a competent and professional staff compliment is required to get the job done.

MEC Moila should take a step further than a three-day suspension and instead appoint a competent HOD to ensure the people of Gauteng have access to housing and security of tenure through the roll-out of title deeds.

It cannot be business as usual in this vital department. MEC Moila must clean up the department and avoid the mistakes made by former MEC Mashatile.