Closure of Tshwane Fresh Produce market due to Covid-19 a serious blow for farmers and traders

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes the temporary closure of the entire Tshwane Fresh Produce Market due to a positive case of Covid-19.

Whilst it is understandable that health and safety protocols must be followed, the DA calls on the City to urgently re-assess their pandemic response for the market. If the entire market is shut down every time a case of Covid-19 is confirmed, it will have devastating consequences for producers and traders to the tune of up to R28 million a day. Farmers were turned away with virtually no notice and perishable produce was left abandoned on the market floor.

A responsible and caring government will be mindful of the impact of their actions on the thousands of daily users of the market. It is not always possible or affordable to simply deliver at another market, especially for small and emerging producers. A better approach would be to close off affected sections and to implement pro-active systems of communication with clients

In a previous reply to written questions about the serious neglect of fresh produce markets in the province, the Department of Agriculture flippantly responded that markets fall under the management of each municipality. This response is simply not good enough, as the provincial government is well aware of the dire straits that the pandemic has wrought on local governments.

The DA will be tabling further questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain what measures have been put in place to assist farmers who may be affected by the closure of the Tshwane Fresh Produce Market.

In addition, we will also be asking the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development what assistance her department can offer to markets in terms of a responsible, effective and standardised approach that can be implemented to curb the spread of Covid-19 at all fresh produce markets in the province.

Food insecurity at household level in Gauteng is already on the increase as a result of the unreasonable lockdown. We therefore need local and provincial authorities to be mindful in their policy responses and to ensure that farmers and traders are able to deliver food at all times

132 civilian claims against Gauteng SAPS during lockdown

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Gauteng Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko and Gauteng SAPS Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela to ensure discipline among the members of the SAPS and that they adhere to their Code of Conduct.

This follows the revelation that 132 civilian claims have been made against the members of the Gauteng SAPS since the inception of the national lockdown period due to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

This information was revealed by MEC Mazibuko in an oral reply to the DA’s questions during the Gauteng Provincial Legislature’s (GPL) virtual sitting.

According to MEC Mazibuko, of these 132 claims, 79 claims are being processed, 44 claims are under investigation and only nine claims have been finalised.

These civilian claims were made during the national lockdown period, however not all of them are related to the national lockdown.

The monetary value of all these claims is approximately R180 million.

It is worrying that some members of the SAPS in this province are failing to abide by the SAPS Code of Conduct and that they are failing to respect the rights of our people while they are conducting their duties.

This money that will be paid for these civilian claims could be used to ensure that our police stations are equipped with all the necessary resources needed for effective crime prevention.

For far too long the DA has been calling on the ANC-led national government to do a complete overhaul of the SAPS by curbing corruption, hiring people with a passion for policing and retraining police officers to make the police service honest, professional and one that serves and protects our people.

DA concerned that Lesedi Local Municipality once again presents an unfunded budget

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is extremely concerned that the Lesedi Local Municipality has once again presented and adopted an unfunded budget for the 2020/2021 financial year.

This is worrying and raises questions as to how the municipality will deliver services to its residents without any funding amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, the municipality has also proposed tariff increases that are not realistic and way above the Consumer Price Inflation Index (CPIX), which measures the annual consumer price inflation.

During a National Treasury meeting in April this year, we warned that there are major cuts on the cards for conditional grants in municipalities.

On the 24th June 2020, National Treasury wrote to the Lesedi Local Municipality regarding their tendency to adopt unfunded budgets and warned that they need to self-correct or face intervention.

See full letter here.

In addition, the DA is concerned that the current Covid-19 pandemic will be used as an excuse to present unfunded budgets.

The DA is calling on the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to liaise with the Lesedi Local Municipality to expedite the implementation of the revised strategy to address municipal finance performance failures, which have been endorsed by both the budget council and budget forum.

Furthermore, a progress report must be submitted as a matter of urgency during the first quarter of the 2020/2021 financial year.

Gauteng Health Department owes R1.2 billion to 823 firms 

The Gauteng Health Department owes R1.209 billion to 823 companies for more than 90 days even though they are legally required to be paid within 30 days.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Masuku, only 68% of companies were paid within the 30 day period as at 31 March this year. The late payments are because: “The department had previously experienced cash flow challenges which resulted in unavailability of cash to settle obligations timeously. The majority of transactions that were not paid as at 31 March are those transactions where the department had entered into payment plans with the Service Providers. The 2020/2021 financial year is the last year for the settlement of the payment plans.

It is disappointing that so many companies are still owed huge amounts of money by this department which has a notorious record of poor financial management. Some of these companies may have to close and lay off workers due to the Covid-19 crisis.

It is still unclear why the department’s Chief Financial Officer resigned recently, but I hope her successor does what is necessary to ensure that all companies are paid in good time.

Residents owe Gauteng Municipalities R2.7 billion

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is deeply concerned that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on municipalities as residents are struggling to pay for services provided by municipalities.

This information was revealed to me by the MEC for Finance, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to the MEC, between April and May 2020 debtors increased by R2.7 billion. However, Mogale City did not submit any information on its debtors, and it is expected that this total will go up once they have submitted.

The table below indicates the monthly trends of debtors for April and May 2020:

Municipality April 2020 May 2020 Difference
EMM R15, 858,942 R16, 212,240 R353,298
COJ R29,664,931 R31, 155, 951 R1,491,019
TSH R15,285,694 R15, 864,516 R578,821
Emfuleni R9,121,795 R9,249,420 R127,625
Midvaal R420,183 R427,694 R7,510
Lesedi R938,200 R938,261 R61
Sedibeng District R68, 095 R70,799 R2,703
Mogale City R1,829,729 R1,829,729
Merafong R2,539,382 R2601,774 R62 393
Rand West City R700,222 R772,010 R71,787
West Rand District R27,797 R27,965 R168
TOTAL R76,454,961,600 R79,150,356,327 R2,695,384,727

If this trend in revenue loss continues, then municipalities will struggle to render services to its residents.

Some municipalities have already been struggling to provide services because residents have not been paying, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the situation.

The DA calls on the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lebogang Maile to closely monitor how the municipalities used the Covid-19 relief fund to ensure that adequate services are rendered to Gauteng residents in these difficult times.

Four more violent incidents at Bheki Mlangeni Hospital since patient’s murder

Four more violent incidents by mental health patients at the Bheki Mlangeni Hospital have taken place since a patient was stabbed to death by a psychiatric patient last month on 8 May.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC, Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Masuku, there have been ten violent incidents at the hospital since January this year:

  1. 09/01/2020; Patient assaulted by a mental patient.
  2. 18/01/2020: Patient damaged the property and assaulted an employee.
  3. 27/01/2020; Patient assaulted by a mental patient.
  4. 07/03/2020; Patient gained access through the fire hydrant into the ceiling to escape.
  5. 28/04/2020; Burglar door was disconnected by the patient and used to escape.
  6. 08/05/2020; Patient allegedly stabbed another patient to death.
  7. 09/05/2020; Patient assaulted by a mental patient.
  8. 12/05/2020; Patient assaulted by a mental patient.
  9. 15/05/2020; Patient gained access through the shower room into the ceiling to escape.
  10. 19/05/2020: Patient vandalised the male medical ward (broke windows and damaged certain equipment in the ward).

Masuku says that these incidents are caused by “the medical conditions of the patients. These patients are also managed in a non-secluded environment as there are no dedicated mental health wards.“

Furthermore “Preliminary investigations are underway in order to inform appropriate actions. The Chief Executive Officer is on precautionary transfer” and ”Mental health services are currently suspended to allow Infrastructural challenges to be dealt with by Department of Infrastructural Development (DID).

I am highly disappointed that this hospital has not taken sufficient security steps to prevent violent incidents even after the murder of a patient.

The key problem is that mental health patients are kept in an ordinary ward rather than a dedicated high security ward which should have been built long ago.

I welcome the precautionary suspension of CEO Ruth Mabyana as she has failed dismally to manage the hospital for six years. She should be replaced with someone who can ensure that there is safety and quality care for all patients at this hospital.

Confusion around budget for the supply and delivery of meals to learners

In a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), the MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi denied that his department had applied for a Covid-19 deviation for the period between the 26 March 2020 and 16 April 2020.

See reply here 

A deviation of the planned budget is the difference in costs between the planned baseline against the actual budget.

However, according to a recent presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Finance, the Department of Education had indeed applied for a deviation between the period of 26 March 2020 and 16 April 2020 for the supply and delivery of meals to learners.

See presentation here

The MEC in a reply in June denied that any deviations were applied for yet the presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Finance in April indicates that he did.

This is a clear indication that either the MEC does not know what is happening in his department or he is hiding the fact that the department has indeed applied for a deviation. Again, this shows that the MEC was not coping heading up two departments which includes the Department of Social Development.

It is high time that the MEC must concentrate on his department instead of leaving all the work to the officials.

The DA is calling on MEC Lesufi to come clean about the deviation that his department applied for, to ensure that everything is above board.

The DA is taking its oversight role very seriously especially with the emergency procurement instructions from National Treasury and will monitor departments to ensure that they spend money responsibly.

Thousands of hungry Gauteng residents last received one food parcel from the department between March and April

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is deeply concerned that thousands of hungry residents only received food parcels once from the Gauteng Department of Social Development since the inception of the national lockdown period in March due to the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.

This was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Nomathemba Mokgethi while responding to the DA’s oral questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature’s (GPL) virtual sitting.

According to MEC Mokgethi, the department has received 241481 food relief applications from March to May. Of these applicants, none have been re-issued with food parcels.

The MEC stated that the second round of food parcel distribution will only be done as soon as the number of new applications subsides and depends on whether the foodbanks’ stock is replenished in large quantities so as to meet the demand. This is concerning because the department also underspend on food parcels and dignity packs  distribution in the fourth quarter of the 2019/20 financial year.

The actual number of food parcels distributed were 52 185 against a target of 108 433. The actual dignity packs distributed were 228 852 against a target of 464 000. The underspending in these two areas come to R22 097 392,00 and R76 714 715 ,00 respectively .

It is worrying that there are some families who do not have any source of income during this difficult period and are solely dependent on government’s food relief programme and, that they have last received food parcels in March.

This means that many families are starving yet they do not know when they will receive the second round of food parcels.

This food relief programme is for a maximum of three months and the beneficiaries are supposed to have received food parcels three times over this period.

The DA calls on MEC Mokgethi to speed up the process of issuing food parcels to ensure that no one suffers from starvation. The MEC should consider other alternatives such as food vouchers and e-wallet cash deposits to ensure that all beneficiaries have access to food.

Gauteng Health Department forced to cancel R140 million fishy contract

The Gauteng Health Department irregularly appointed a company for R140 million to assist with financial reporting and the accrued debt of more than R2 billion owed to suppliers.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Masuku, a company called Impela Alliances was appointed for a R140 million contract for 18 months. They set up a project team to handle the accruals but the Department is now terminating their contract. This is explained as follows:

“The appointment was a deviation from normal Supply Chain Management processes. Post the appointment a request was made to Gauteng Provincial Treasury (GPT) to approve the deviation which was declined. This therefore meant the transaction is non-compliant and any payments processed against it will be irregular expenditure. A legal opinion was sourced on how to remedy the situation in moving forward. The legal opinion provided was that the contract be terminated after paying all services rendered to date.”

I am astonished that this hard-pressed department wanted to waste R140 million on something that could easily have been done internally. Instead of paying a consultant, this huge amount of money would have been better spent paying off suppliers who have been waiting for their money for months and years.

I suspect that this very fishy contract was only cancelled because I asked questions about it in the Gauteng Legislature. Why were normal tender processes bypassed for such an inflated amount?

It is yet another example of financial mismanagement in a department that now faces the COVID-19 crisis but has yet to prove that it has moved beyond the scandals of the past.

GEP offices should be converted into one-stop shops during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the Department of Economic Development to convert all Gauteng Enterprise Propeller Offices into one-stop shops. This will allow businesses that need to apply for Covid-19 business relief to do so.

If the department does this then these one-stop shops have the potential to bring under one roof, municipalities, SARS, CIPC and lending institutions.

By doing this the department will be focusing on saving jobs as well as job creation which is needed to stimulate the economy during this time.

Furthermore, loan holidays on payments should be extended until the end of the year for small businesses which owe money to GEP. While the rent payment holiday for businesses operating in industrial hubs of Gauteng should also be extended until next year.

The department should assist small businesses and informal traders with a Business Safety Kit that will include sanitizers, reusable cloth masks and information pamphlets to enable businesses to operate safely as we approach the Covid peak in Gauteng.

In addition, the department should also ask municipalities to stop confiscating the goods of informal traders who are trying to make a living.

It is our mothers, sisters, uncles and brothers who are bracing the cold Gauteng winter to try make a living and provide for their families.