DA mourns the passing of struggle stalwart Denis Goldberg

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is saddened by the passing of struggle stalwart and Rivonia trialist, Denis Goldberg, on Wednesday evening.

From a young age, Goldberg was active in politics and was dedicated to the struggle to obtain freedom for all in a free and democratic South Africa.

Goldberg was among the 16 activists and freedom fighters who formed part of the Rivonia Trial and spent 22 years in jail. After his release, he continued to support the struggle against apartheid from London where he was exiled with his family. After the first democratic elections in 1994, Goldberg found the development organisation Community H.E.A.R.T. to improve the lives of South Africans.

Whether it was during apartheid or in democratic South Africa, Goldberg never shied away from speaking truth to power, even if it would have been easier for him to look away.

The DA sends its heartfelt condolences to Goldberg’s family and loved ones during these difficult times.

DA calls on MEC Hlophe to outline the details of the relief fund to help Gauteng arts crafters

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the Gauteng MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation (SACR), Mbali Hlophe to provide a detailed outline of the relief fund package which will help Gauteng arts crafters affected by the pandemic lockdown.

Amongst the many that are suffering greatly during this national lockdown are the arts crafters whose business is mostly dependent on both local and international tourism.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the arts crafters as the tourism sector has shut down and operations have stopped completely.

Many Gauteng local crafters are desperately in need of help and a directive on how they can tap into the business relief initiatives.

Furthermore, many of these local crafters who are situated in Gauteng rural communities do not have access to the internet in order to complete online applications hence it is important that the MEC should announce the various ways they can access relief funds as well as how they can access and submit their application forms.

The MEC should provide a plan of action for reaching out to arts crafters who are in rural communities and townships.

The DA will continue to put pressure on MEC Hlophe to ensure that the Gauteng SACR relief fund includes the arts crafters. We also call on the MEC to urgently outline details of the relief package to help ease the impact of the Covid-19 economic crisis on the livelihood of those in sports, arts, culture and recreation in this province.

DA calls on Premier to fire MEC Lebogang Maile

Today, the North Gauteng High Court ruled in favour of the Democratic Alliance (DA) on the matter of the dissolution of the Tshwane Municipal Council.

Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, in his ruling, laid the reason and blame for the dysfunctional Tshwane council firmly at the feet of the ANC and EFF.

Whether it related to perceived tender irregularities or service delivery issues, the court did not identify a single executive obligation that the City had failed to meet. The court further highlighted how MEC Maile had failed to properly follow the Municipal Systems Act in addressing the issues plaguing the Tshwane council with the repeated walkouts by the ANC and EFF.

This ruling is an indictment on both Premier David Makhura and Gauteng COGTA MEC, Lebogang Maile, who have consistently neglected their Oath of Office.

MEC Maile has consistently shown a flagrant disregard for both the law and the constitution. He showed himself unable, and unwilling, to bring his truant councillors to book. Indeed, all the MEC had to do was order the councillors in question to attend the council meetings and do their legally prescribed duty. Instead he chose to play politics, placing Tshwane under administration in order for the opposition to get its hands on the resources of the municipality through the backdoor.

Besides the unlawfulness of these actions, the MEC wasted taxpayers’ money on needless legal costs which could have been directed towards critical service delivery issues in the City.

This blatant power grab occurred under the Premier’s watch, who abided and abetted the stealing of Tshwane by refusing to intervene, instead choosing to protect MEC Maile at all costs.

MEC Maile has undermined service delivery and democracy in the capital city of South Africa.

We call on the MEC to resign from his post and if he chooses not to, Premier Makhura must fire him, as he is an embarrassment to the provincial government and a constitutional delinquent.

Are Covid-19 cases being missed in Tshwane?

I am concerned by the closure yesterday of the Bronkhorstspruit Hospital as two staff members have tested positive for Covid-19. No new patients are being accepted and the entire hospital is now being deep-cleaned.

Bronkhorstspruit falls in Tshwane’s district 7 which includes Ekangala, Sokhulumi, Dark City, Zithobeni, Kanana and Rethabiseng. Only one Covid-19 case was recorded in this district as at 27 April.

The entire city of Tshwane has recorded 136 cases, which is far lower than the 804 cases in Johannesburg and the 300 cases in Ekurhuleni which has a similar size population.

I suspect that a fair number of Covid-19 cases have not been picked up in Tshwane because of inadequate screening and testing.

Intensified efforts are needed to ensure that Covid-19 infection clusters in Tshwane are identified as soon as possible, and appropriate quarantine measures taken to break the chain of transmission.

Unnecessary red tape for donations will chase donors away

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes with great concern the directive issued by the Gauteng Department of Social Development Head of Department, Thembeni Mhlongo pertaining to any kind of donations as part of the Gauteng Food Relief Scheme.

According to the letter of authorisation to donors, only the department is facilitating and receiving donations from all organisations, companies, civil society bodies and individuals’ citizens who would like to assist. All donations must be delivered to the Booysen warehouse in the City of Johannesburg and if an organisation wishes to distribute food or any donations directly to the communities they need to abide by the stipulated conditions.

These conditions include that an organisation that wishes to distribute directly to communities must apply for an authorization letter from the department and the application must be submitted by no less than 48 hours before the envisaged distribution date. Upon receipt of the authorisation letter from the department, the organization must ensure that they have informed the local police station. Only food parcels are allowed, no cooked meals are permitted, and the distribution must be done in collaboration with the department.

The DA is concerned that the department has proven to be incompetent in this area and won’t be able to issue authorisation letters to the donors in time.

The same department also made a promise that the food parcels will be delivered within 48 hours and failed to meet its allocated timeframe.

The department does not have the capacity to deal with this crisis by themselves and the challenges currently being faced with regards to food parcel distribution clearly indicates that they are not capacitated to deal with this centralised process.

We also submitted a list of NGOs which were willing to assist on the first day of the lockdown, more than 30 days ago, however the department is yet to respond and has not yet issued permits to these NGO’s.

While we understand the need and importance of adhering to the lockdown regulations, alienating NGOs with these strict red tape measures means that more people will be left hungry and destitute.

The DA calls on the Acting Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Panyaza Lesufi to reconsider the terms on the letter of authorisation for donors and to rather issue a framework within which the NGOs can operate and comply with the lockdown regulations instead of trying to centralise the entire process.

Better communication needed for Joburg Region E Covid-19 screening and testing

I am concerned at a notice sent out by Johannesburg Health MMC Mogeru Morewane to residents of Johannesburg Region E which seemingly advises high risk groups for Covid-19 to tests at local sites together with people who have flu-like symptoms.

Region E is currently the sub-district with the highest number of cases in Gauteng with 248 (31.5%) of Johannesburg’s 788 recorded Covid-19 cases. It includes Sandton, Bryanston, Fourways, Alexandra and north eastern suburbs such as Orange Grove, Sydenham, Waverley, Highlands North, Sandringham, Kew and Greenstone.

According to the notice, the screening and testing is happening today (27 April) and the targeted group includes “those with flu-like symptoms, community members who are above 60 years and those with co-morbid chronic conditions (e.g. Diabetes, Asthma, Hypertension, HIV infection, Tuberculosis).”

Furthermore, it urges “all the local political leaders, faith-based organization, ratepayers association, organized labour, traditional healers, businesses and members of the public to avail themselves to the identified sites.”

I have established that the intention of this exercise is that the high risk group over 60 and with co-morbid conditions will be seen in their homes, but it is highly inadvisable for them to go to the testing sites in each ward where they could come in contact with people who have flu-like symptoms.

This morning I visited the Jabula Recreation Centre in Sandringham which is the designated testing site for Ward 72. There were only three cars in the parking lot at 10am and I was told by one of the waiting people that the testers were still on their way.

There needs to be better communication and arrangements so that only the appropriate targeted groups i.e. those with flu-like symptoms or in contact with those with such symptoms, leave their homes to visit testing centres. Everyone else should stay in their homes.

Food parcels stolen at Greenfields in Ekurhuleni

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has learnt that food parcels meant for the poor during this critical national lockdown was stolen at the Smart Angels Crèche in Greenfields Ward 8, Ekurhuleni.

It is alleged that a truck delivered the food parcels on Thursday evening to crèche for the Greenfields residents in Ward 8. The food parcels were to be distributed to the residents the next day and were allegedly stolen from the crèche premises overnight.

The residents who were meant to receive the food parcels were angry and frustrated about having to go back home empty handed after receiving the sad news that the food parcels have been stolen.

Food parcels have now become a target for criminals.

We will closely monitor this case to ensure that no stone is left unturned and that those implicated are arrested and face the full might of the law.

The DA is calling on Acting Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Panyaza Lesufi to urgently investigate this incident and ensure that places where food parcels are to be kept are safe and have tight security.

The MEC should also make other means available to ensure that these residents receive their food parcels as they are desperately in need of food.

Stringent measures needed to prevent Covid-19 infections at Gauteng hospitals

I am concerned that 28 Gauteng Health Department employees have so far tested positive for Covid-19 as there is high potential for public hospitals to become sources of infection.

This follows 90 employees who have tested positive at the Mediclinic Morningside clinic in Sandton, including 11 patients.

Years of poor management and a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) could see a similar or worse outbreak in Gauteng’s public hospitals.

Earlier this week staff at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Soweto protested about inadequate safeguards after a patient was found to have Covid-19.

Staff are also worried at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital after six pharmacy employees tested positive for the virus. It is worrying that more than 50 other staff members are still dealing with patients even as they await the outcome of their tests.

I am also aware of a Covid-19 scare at South Rand Hospital after a cleaner tested positive there last week. Other cases last week include a nurse at the George Mukhari Hospital, which led to a deep cleaning of the casualty section, and a staff member at Kalafong Hospital who has now recovered from the disease.

This highlights the necessity for stringent measures to ensure that all hospital staff and patients are properly protected from Covid-19.

DA welcomes Gauteng sub-district figures for Covid-19

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Gauteng Health Department’s publication yesterday of sub-district figures for Covid-19 cases.

This provides a much better indication as to areas of risk, and people can track where infections are flaring up or slowing down.

Johannesburg accounted for 712 (59%) out of 1199 infections in Gauteng as at 21 April. Region E, which covers Sandton, Alexandra, Orange Grove and Houghton, has the highest number of cases (227), followed by Region B (Randburg, Rosebank, Greenside, Melville, Mayfair, Parktown, Northcliff) which has 140 cases, and Region F (Inner City, Yeoville, Kensington, South Johannesburg) has 93 cases.

The lowest number of cases in Johannesburg is in Region D (39 cases) which includes Soweto and Doornkop, followed by Region C (Roodepoort, Northgate, Florida, Braamfischerville) with 44 cases.

Ekurhuleni has 21% (257) of Gauteng cases, mostly in the north sub-region (105 cases), which includes Bedfordview, Kempton Park, Edenvale and Tembisa.

Tshwane has 125 cases (10% of Gauteng), mostly in two sub-regions that include Centurion, Lyttelton, Waterkloof, Silverton, Hatfield, Olivienhoutbosch, Lynnwood, Eesterus, Lethabong, Mamelodi, Garsfontein, Lynnwood, Silverlakes, Brummeria, Mooikloof and Queenswood, which have a total of 75 cases.

Sedibeng has the fewest cases (11), with zero recorded cases in Midvaal.

Only 40 cases are recorded for the entire West Rand, of which 30 are in Mogale City.

As we can see, there is a wide variation in the areas where cases are currently occurring, but the danger is that infections can surge terrifyingly in densely populated areas where social distancing is difficult to achieve.

More testing is needed to pick up the trends at an early stage, but it does appear that there could be a more flexible approach to the lockdown in parts of Gauteng that are less affected e.g. Sedibeng and West Rand.

It would be helpful if the Gauteng Health Department provided a further breakdown of figures for smaller areas, ideally wards, which would further assist the public in assessing trends and particular risks.

We should learn from countries such as South Korea which learnt from previous infectious outbreaks to be totally transparent in publishing very localized statistics.

Merafong Local Municipality on the brink of collapse, DA concerned that other smaller municipalities may follow

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has learnt that the ANC-led Merafong Local Municipality will not be able to pay May salaries without the assistance of the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG).

The payment levels of Merafong have dropped to below 50% and Eskom and Rand Water were short paid this month. Currently the Merafong municipality is paying creditors in order of priority and only when money is available.

This municipality, like many others under the ANC- led government which have had unfunded budget such as Emfuleni Local Municipality, Lesedi Local Municipality, Mogale City Local Municipality and Rand West District Municipality are battling to pay for bulk services from Eskom and Rand Water.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the municipalities are struggling to collect revenue. This pandemic, which has seen the country on lockdown since 26 March has led to some residents being forced to stay at home without earning a salary which in turn means that they are unable to pay their municipal accounts.

Furthermore, these municipalities were also battling to deliver basic services prior to the lockdown. The DA is deeply concerned that this pandemic will only put municipalities in a worse financial position as the residents continue to battle to pay for services.

If these municipalities do not get financial assistance from GPG they are at risk of being unable to pay salaries to Councillors and staff and this will also mean relief efforts and food support to the most vulnerable will fail.

While the President announced that municipalities will receive financial assistance to ensure that they are able to provide basic services we call on the Gauteng MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lebogang Maile to provide us with a detailed response plan on how the GPG will mitigate the revenue shortfall in rural Gauteng municipalities so that those societies are not left out without governance and support.

Furthermore, the MEC must as a matter of urgency provide the amounts and timeframes before the end of May on how the financial assistance will be allocated.

Instead of focusing on Tshwane, the MEC should be focusing on these failing ANC municipalities who are in dire need of urgent intervention.