GDE should ensure smooth online admission process for 2021 academic year

The Democratic Alliance (DA)  is calling on the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) to ensure that all systems are ready and that there will be no glitches in the system for Online Admission Applications for the 2021 academic year which opens tomorrow.

The Gauteng Admission Online Applications period for Grade 1 and 8 learners for the 2021 academic year will commence on 25 June at 08:00 and close on 25 July 2020 at 24:00.

Following the previous year’s disastrous experience where many parents applied online for their children for Grade 1 and 8 and had not secured school placement timeously. In some instances, the parents were told that there were glitches in the system.

We believe that the department has learnt from the previous year’s disaster and have found ways of improving the system going forward.

The department’s head office and the district offices will serve as walk-in centres to assist parents to make online applications. The department has also identified 34 decentralised walk-in centres across the province where parents will also be assisted to make online applications.

We urge parents to apply for their children as early as possible so that they will have time to prepare for the next academic year.

For those parents who have no access to personal gadgets or with no network, they must consider visiting the walk-in centres for assistance, to avoid last minute panic.

The DA will continue to monitor the Online Admission Application process as failure to ensure the timeous placing of Grade 1 and 8 will have a negative effect on such learners, and schools which could impact on their educational outcomes.

35 000 backlog of Covid-19 tests in Gauteng  

The current backlog of Covid-19 tests in Gauteng is 35 000 and results can take as long as 5 to 11 days for lesser priority cases.

This was revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in an oral reply to my questions yesterday at a virtual sitting of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to Masuku 173 450 tests were done from 1 May to 14 June this year, of which the results of 138 450 had been received.

The time taken for results varies from 48 hours for high priority hospital cases and as long as 5 to 11 days for community screening.

Masuku said that there are four categories of tests in order of priority as follows:

  1. Patients and health care workers in hospitals;
  2. People with high risk, including those in contact with a known Covid-19 case, and those in care homes, including mental health patients;
  3. Frontline staff including teachers, traffic officers and policemen;
  4. Surveillance testing in asymptomatic people which would only be done when antibody tests become available.

Masuku said that he expected the backlog in Gauteng tests to be cleared in a week or two after the backlogs in Western Cape and Eastern Cape have been resolved. He undertook that all swabs that had been collected would be tested.

I am greatly concerned by this huge backlog of tests which is 12 000 higher than the 23 000 backlog reported last week. The long delays undermine the test, trace and isolate strategy in hot spot areas that is so critical in Gauteng as infections climb exponentially.

It is very disappointing that the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS) has failed to expand capacity despite claiming earlier that they could do 36 000 tests a day. I hope that testing is sped up in future, including greater use of private and university laboratories.

DA opposes bloated GP budget

The DA notes that the Gauteng Legislature portfolio committee on Finance is unanimous in its criticism of the Gauteng Infrastructure Funding Agency (GIFA) .
We have criticised GIFA in the past and nothing has changed to change our standpoint that, as an agency, it is expensive and provides no meaningful value-add when compared to say, going to the DBSA and getting a loan.

In the last quarterly report, the agency gloated about achieving its targets, but in truth it achieved targets that had been missed in the quarter before.
The report of the Portfolio Committee says:
“Since 2017/18 FY GIFA planned to release 2 projects to the market, on the contrary no project has ever been released to the market to date”

What are they doing? In that same period, we paid this agency about R200m! In the same report the committee said that it was concerned about the lengthy process for GIFA projects to reach the implementation stage and wondered if GIFA’s feasibility studies were credible, hence they do not elicit interest from investors.

The committee report says further:
“The Portfolio Committee further noted with concern that despite funding of projects through alternative funding being one of GIFA’s mandates, such funding has not been forthcoming”
I would point out that your provincial government has paid out over R600m to this agency since its original inception. In that time, what was the value of infrastructure projects financed through the efforts of this agency? A billion? 2 billion?

When you measure the cost of this agency’s work relative to the financing of the projects it should be no greater than 0,5%. What has been the cost of this agency? 10%? Probably more than 30%!
This agency costs too much! The Committee says shut it down! Yet we are budgeting another R68.8 million for its existence.

The Treasury is responsible for addressing billions of rands worth of accruals. But the lack of consequence management from the Premier and his Executive Council regarding failure to do simple paperwork to get people paid, especially in the Department of Health means that these costs will continue to inflate the cost of service delivery by the Gauteng provincial government.

It is safe to say that the cost of government in Gauteng is bloated beyond what it could be and should be. GIFA and accruals are evidence of this.

The residents of Gauteng are paying for the costs of this bloated government. Hence, we cannot support this budget.

Turning around the department should be a priority for the new Gauteng Social Development MEC

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng welcomes the decision by the Gauteng Premier, David Makhura to appoint Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi as the new MEC for the Gauteng Department of Social Development.

The appointment of the new MEC for Social Development is long overdue as this crucial department has been without a political head since the passing of MEC Thuliswa Nkabinde-Khawe last year November

MEC Mokgethi has big shoes to fill as this department is in a mess and is failing to deliver on its core mandate.

Below are some of the main priorities that MEC Mokgethi should focus on to turn around the department:

  • Address underspending: this department has been consistently underspending on its allocated budget;
  • Review women empowerment programmes to ensure that they empower women to be independent and establish their own small businesses. Cooperatives are good; however, they keep women dependent on the state for income;
  • Address unfounded mandates such as homelessness when reviewing priorities and annual performance plans;
  • Ensure proper training for youth by offering scarce skills that are needed in the job market as well as providing them with accredited courses and certificates;
  • Fill all vacant crucial posts such as social workers and occupational therapists;
  • Improve the working conditions of social workers and the working environment of the department’s offices across the province;
  • In terms of Early Childhood Development Centres  (ECDs), the department should engage with the municipalities with regards to by-laws as there are many unregistered ECDs and most of the ECDs are relying on conditional grants and are not fully funded by the department. It will be ideal if the ECDs can also be fully funded by the department;
  • Ensure that all NGOs are paid on time to ensure that the services that they render to the most vulnerable members of the society is not affected due to late payment of the subsidy by the department.

There is a lot that the new MEC must look into to ensure that this department delivers social and welfare services to the residents of Gauteng.

The DA will continue to monitor the services rendered by this department under the new MEC, providing support as well as holding her accountable to ensure that this department delivers on its core mandate.

Gauteng May be short of 7000 critical care beds at peak Covid-19 period

Gauteng is potentially facing a shortage of 6878 critical care beds and 1788 ICU nurses when Covid-19 cases hit an expected peak in late August/early September.

This alarming information was revealed today by Gauteng Health MEC Bandile Masuku in an oral reply to my questions at a virtual sitting today of the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Masuku, these figures are based on modelling predictions that about 8000 critical care beds, which include high care and ICU beds, will be needed at the peak period. There are enough such beds for June, but in July it is anticipated that 2609 beds will be needed and only 1122 are currently available – a gap of 1487.

The situation with general beds is even worse. Whereas 25000 general beds will be needed at peak period only 6803 general beds are currently available, a gap of 18000 beds.

Masuku stressed that extra bed capacity is being built, including 700 more critical care beds that will be available by the end of June, repurposing 700 general beds and an extra 1600 general beds in four hospitals using alternative building technology. He said that there are currently a total of 1925 hospital beds for Covid-19 cases, of which 373 are critical care beds and 1552 are general beds. These beds are in the four clusters centered around the Chris Hani Baragwanath, Steve Biko, Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg and George Mukhari hospitals.

The total number of critical care nurses required is anticipated to be 3042, but only 1254 ICU-trained and ICU-experienced nurses are currently employed, so the current shortage is 1788 ICU nurses.

Masuku says that contracts for more health care staff are being finalized and there is a memorandum of understanding with private hospitals for extra beds. SA Defense Force nurses will also be used.

The projected figures of bed and staff shortages are of great concern. It is critical that an arrangement with private hospitals is finalized as soon as possible, and that more field hospital beds are opened.

I am relieved, however, by Masuku’s reassurance that there will be enough oxygen supplies for the high care beds which is very important for the survival chances of Covid-19 patients.

The projected figures can only be a guide as there is still much that we do not know about the course of this pandemic, but it is prudent to plan for worst case scenarios. It highlights the need to intensify infection prevention measures particularly for high-risk groups so that the need for extra hospital beds is lessened as much as possible.

Premier Makhura fails to account to the NCOP while Gauteng Municipalities rapidly deteriorate

The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has repeatedly failed to supply feedback reports on the status of municipalities in Gauteng. Specifically, in November 2018 the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) demanded the Premier provide them with quarterly reports in respect of Emfuleni. He failed to do so.

This was revealed during a virtual question sitting of the Gauteng Legislature this morning.

Answering on behalf of Premier, David Makhura, Cooperative Governance MEC, Lebogang Maile revealed that the GPG only provided such a report on the status of Emfuleni after being prompted by my question.

Over the last two years, many of Gauteng’s municipalities have fallen into disrepair due to an evident lack of intervention by the GPG.

These reports to the NCOP are critical in ensuring that services do not collapse and municipalities find themselves in a situation where they have to table unfunded budgets.

Recently, the GPG placed Emfuleni Local Municipality under administration in terms of section 139 (1) (b) of the Constitution. This intervention is more than three years overdue, as former Finance MEC, Barbara Creecy announced this administration process as far back as 2017.

Instead of attending to municipalities that are in disarray and in dire need of assistance, the GPG under the ANC has misused its legislative muscle to play politics and steal municipalities, as they did by illegally placing Tshwane under administration.

Instead of servicing the residents of Gauteng, the ANC has subverted the law to serve its own aims.

MEC Maile candidly admitted that only on 8 June 2020 did they submit a report to the NCOP in relation to Emfuleni.

Unless the DA had probed this matter, the non-reporting by the GPG would continue to be the status quo.

Instead of fulfilling its constitutional mandate to the people of Gauteng, the ANC would rather play games with the lives and livelihoods of residents.

The DA will ensure that the GPG complies with its mandate and that residents of Gauteng come before the narrow interests of deployed cadres.

Gauteng COGTA MEC taken to task by Parliament over failing Emfuleni Municipality

Note to Editors: Please find the link to a meeting of Parliament’s Select Committee on COGTA, Water and Sanitation, and Human Settlements here

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the decision by Parliament’s Select Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation, and Human Settlements, calling on Gauteng COGTA MEC Lebogang Maile to appear before the committee in a week’s time to account on the status of the intervention at the failing ANC-led Emfuleni Local Municipality.

Maile had appeared before the committee to make a presentation on the progress of the failing municipality during the two years that it has been under placed under administration in terms of Section 139 (1) (b) of the Constitution since June 2018, due to its inability to meet its financial obligations.

During a late night meeting of the Select Committee on Friday night, its Chairperson, China Dodovu told Maile to leave and return with a better picture of the situation at the failed municipality.

The picture presented was not well received by the Members of Parliament across party lines, especially after the Maile’s account was exposed as wholly inadequate by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), which raised serious and legitimate concerns around the conduct of the Gauteng COGTA Department to date as well as their proposed future actions.

The Emfuleni Municipality has been plagued by poor service delivery and inept management for years, with service delivery grinding to a halt as raw sewage flows into the Vaal River and communities sit without electricity for 4 to 5 days at a time.

The finances of the municipality are a shambles and after two years of provincial administration, no material improvements could be reported.

Maile’s response deflected blame and accountability and he was unable to respond to direct questions.

As Maile became increasingly defensive, the Chairperson stepped in and suggested that he limit his replies to generalities and revert with detail in a week’s time.

The DA has repeatedly made calls for a more rigorous process, strongly voicing its dismay in 2018 when an acting Municipal Manager was in turn appointed as Administrator, effectively changing only his title and leaving him to continue as he had before in spite of serious allegations against him.

The DA in Emfuleni has consistently highlighted the service delivery failures and financial irregularities in the municipality.

The situation became so bad that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had to be called in to assist with the unmanaged raw sewage flowing into the Vaal River, and National Government has had to channel additional funding into the area in order to stave off a major environmental and health disaster.

The DA will use its opportunity when the MEC returns to appear before the committee to insist on a realistic, effective and workable solution to turn around the Emfuleni Local Municipality to ensure that the residents can enjoy the service delivery that they pay for.

Covid-19 crisis exposes weaknesses in the Gauteng Health Department

Note to the Editors: Below is a summary extract of a speech delivered in today’s debate on the 2020/21 Gauteng Health Budget.

Madam Speaker, this 2020/21 R53.5 billion Health Budget has been superseded by events. It will need to be changed substantially to effectively combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

The tragedy is that this viral plague exposes all the long-standing weaknesses of our health system.

Many of our hospitals are grossly overcrowded especially in the winter months – Tembisa Hospital is a notorious example.

It happens quite often that there are not enough ICU beds for emergency cases, and survival chances are worsened for many patients because of a lack of resources.

Beds have been freed up for this pandemic by the cancellation of elective surgery, which already has unacceptably long waiting lists and waiting times.

I predict today that far more people will die this year in Gauteng from preventable and treatable TB and HIV/Aids than from Covid-19. More people will also die from other causes that could have been prevented by early treatment.

Madam Speaker, we wish the Honourable Health MEC well as he confronts the Covid-19 crisis. We are all in this together, and our criticism is meant to highlight where there are deficiencies and where there can be improvements.

As in previous years, however, the DA will not be supporting this budget.

This is because there have been countless promises of a turn-around from the pervasive dysfunction and poor financial management of this department.

Budget indiscipline is as bad as ever. The department failed to spend R908.5 million in the past financial year. This was worse than the R631 million that was unspent the previous year.

There were massive underspends in some programmes and massive overspends in others. What is the use of a budget if it is not adhered to?

The accruals are still very high – over R2 billion. And only 66% of businesses were paid within the required 30 days in the fourth quarter of the last financial year.

The DA is immensely concerned at the abrupt departure at this critical time of Chief Financial Officer Kabelo Lehloenya.

We need a full explanation of this as there are lots of talk about irregularities in the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment.

Special oversight measures should be put in place to ensure that all urgent purchases are value for money and free of corruption.

We desperately hope that the department can rise to the challenge of Covid-19, but it is handicapped by years of mismanagement.

It is very likely that the Auditor-General will issue another scathing report this year.

Reluctantly, therefore, we cannot support this budget.

Acting Social Development MEC Lesufi clueless about what is happening in his department

During the budget vote for the Department of Social Development in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) Acting Gauteng Social Development MEC, Panyaza Lesufi denied that the distribution of food parcels has been politicised in the province.

This despite the fact that the DA in Mogale City wrote to the Speaker of Council about the food parcels that have been distributed with political intentions in the area. Only certain people have been given food parcels, while there are a number of residents in the area who are in desperate need of food parcels.

Furthermore, the DA has been informed that when the Department of Social Development went into Mogale City to distribute food parcels they were accompanied by alleged members of the ANC.

During the distribution of food parcels, no list of those who need food parcels were used and only certain people in the communities were notified and received food parcels.

This means that some people received more than one food parcel, while many others have not received any assistance from government.

This is a clear indication that either MEC Lesufi does not know what is happening in his department or is turning a blind eye to officials who are deliberately flouting the regulations put in place to ensure that everyone who is in need of assistance in the form of food parcels receives it.

The DA will continue to put pressure on the Acting MEC for Social Development to ensure that no political party distributes food parcels and that those who need assistance the most are given the help they need.

Tshepo 1 Million programme should be prioritised by Premier Makhura for the 2020/2021 financial year

Madam Speaker,
Premier David Makhura
Hounarable Members
Fellow residents of Gauteng

Ke a le dumedisa

We are finding ourselves currently in uncharted territory, where millions across the world finds themselves living in fear induced by a virus that is determined to bring the world to its knees, while taking many lives in the process. Madam Speaker, we can say that South Africa, like many other countries on the continent has had an opportunity to react much quicker in somewhat slowing the spread of the virus, unlike most Western and Eastern Countries. This doesn’t mean that we should start celebrating. In fact, the worst is still upon us and calls for visionary leadership reciprocated by a cooperative citizenry, if we are to emerge on the other side.
We need firm action where people put themselves and those around them in danger by not following regulations. We need to do all that we can to save as many lives as possible.
Let us also thank the men and women on the frontline who are working tirelessly to ensure our safety and good health, while putting their own lives on the line.
One of the saddest realities highlighted by this pandemic, is how many of our people still live under the cruel shackles of poverty. Desperate families who are struggling to feed themselves are now more than ever asking for intervention from leaders. The haves, have a choice on whether to take their children back to school or continue with online learning, while the have-nots have no choice as it is either their children go back to school or don’t get education for the rest of the year. This also happening on the back or parents thinking on whether to forage for food, or stay at home and face starvation.
Businesses on the other hand is begging for the economy to start moving again, for them to survive and to keep the labour force employed.
Madam Speaker,
Amartya Sen in Development as Freedom states that “What people can positively achieve is influenced by economic opportunities, political liberties, social powers, and the enabling conditions of good health, basic education, and the encouragement and cultivation of initiatives”.

The Economic opportunities are becoming less and less for many in our province, Premier. Every year, without fail, you Sir announces during the State of the Province Address (Sopa) that the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) will focus on creating job opportunities for the unemployed in the province. With specific focus on the youth, women and people living with disabilities. This is usually done through the Tshepo 1 Million programme or through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

While you Sir constantly brags about the successes of the Tshepo 1 Million programme, the quarterly reports for this department during the last financial year paint a very different picture about how successful the Tshepo 1 Million programme has been. Every quarter there are job creation targets that are not met. For the 2019/2020 financial year the programme, the Office of the Premier failed to meet its target of training 200 000 economically excluded youth as part of the Pathways to Earning through the Tshepo 1 Million Programme. Only 127 426 economically excluded youth were placed.

Madam Speaker,

This trend within the Office of the Premier is extremely concerning, given the current unemployment rate in a province that is seen as been the economic hub of the country. And yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way in which we do things, however we cannot have a situation where the pandemic is used as an excuse as to why job creation targets are not going to be met for the next financial year. Programmes like Tshepo 1 Million are important as it provides our youth with opportunities to find jobs or to start their own small businesses, especially at time when the country and rest of the world are dependent on using technology to do business. Therefore, it is imperative that government embarks on training programmes that will equip our people with skills, particularly the youth as this will help them seek out sustainable job opportunities.

We propose that government become more friendly to business and ensure that partnerships with the private sector are entered into, enable the abortion of, and ensure that youth who do not have skills are to adequately given valuable on-the-job training as apprentices and interns, thereby giving them an opportunity to broaden their knowledge base and open the door to acquiring a permanent job.

Madam Speaker,

Today we have a “new normal” where we are forced to embrace the 4th Industrial Revolution. Last year, the Premier committed to establishing a 4th Industrial Revolution Advisory Panel, which appears to be just a pipe dream of Premier Makhura. When asked about the progress made in this regard, it was found that this panel is yet to be established.

Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic it is extremely concerning that no progress has been made in this regard. Having a panel in place that is able guide government on best practice is extremely important as this will go a long way in assisting SMMES and our youth in embracing the use of technology. In addition, this panel will also give government guidance on how best to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital industrial revolution in order for the economy to grow. This in turn will ensure that the right environment is created for businesses to be able to offer the unemployed sustainable job opportunities.

Madam Speaker,
This is extremely important for our youth, as they will be equipped with digital innovation skills, that is needed in today’s age of modern technology. Gauteng cannot be left behind in the digital revolution as the way in which business is done by both government and the private sector is indeed evolving.

Our proposal is that government would ensure that an advisory panel of such a nature is established as a matter of urgency and that quarterly meetings are held to assess government’s use of new technology that could assist in streamlining government services.

The DA sincerely hopes that during this financial year, the Office of the Premier will ensure that the 4th Industrial Revolution Advisory Panel is established as a matter of urgency. This is the only way in which we can ensure that government is constantly updated about changes in technology that would assist in growing the economy of Gauteng, which will then boost job creation efforts in the province.

Madam Speaker,

The Office of the Premier is supposed to be the crank that pulls and pushes all the pistons which are the departments, to ensure that the engine is moving forward. It doesn’t help that the office is performing better, if ultimately the departments aren’t following suit.

Premier, If we are to reach that which Amartya Sen describes as Positive achievement in the Development as Freedom, then the engine that is Gauteng Government needs to fire on all cylinders, and that calls for you to get all departments in line and do so quickly. The people of the Province demands that of you and all of us.