Debt forgiveness must also be a part of scrapping e-Tolls in Gauteng

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the National Transport Minister, Fikile Mbalula to include writing off the e-Toll debt in his announcement when he makes a decision about the future of e-Tolls in Gauteng.

Many residents in the province have not paid their e-Tolls as they are unable to afford this extra burden that was placed on them by the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG).

This added expense has led to dissonance from the public and has proved to be a loss in revenue for the South African National Roads Agency.

For more than a year now, the GPG, as well as National Government have made countless promises on an announcement regarding the future of e-Tolls in the province.

The DA hopes that an announcement on this matter is made soon as residents cannot be billed any longer for a system, they did not want in the first place.

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Crisis at Joburg hospital cancer unit puts lives at risk

The cancer unit at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) is short of 71 staff, has frequent chemotherapy drugs out of stock, and has broken and out-of-date radiation machines.

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

It shows the dire situation for 1300 cancer patients even before the recent fire at the hospital closed the unit and made things even worse for them.

According to Mokgethi, the unit needs 175 staff to provide a proper service, but has only 104 staff. The shortages include the following:

16 Specialist oncologists
15 Radiation Therapists
9 Specialists in training
9 Medical Physics Interns
6 Registered Nurses
5 Staff Nurses
3 Oncology trained pharmacists
2 Medical Registrars
2 Medical Officers

The problems at Medical Oncology include:

• recurrent chemotherapy drug shortages delaying patient treatments.
• insufficient number of nursing staff for inpatient volume which falls below the international recommended 1 to 4 nurse to patient ratio.
• insufficient nursing staff for volume of infusions in the outpatient unit.

At Radiation Oncology there are:

  • insufficient number of linear accelerators for patient volume.
  • 50% of equipment is old and needs replacing, causing regular breakdowns and treatment delays.
  • two cobalt units have not been working for two years. These need to be replaced with two small linear accelerators.
  • a brachytherapy unit and a north voltage unit have been broken since March this year.

The worst waiting list is for prostate cancer patients – 700 patients are on hormonal therapy and will wait from 3 to 5 years for radiotherapy.

The recurrent chemotherapy drug shortages lead to delays or switching of treatment midway, which results in “suboptimal response rates” and impacts on the overall survival of patients.

Insufficient nursing staff below the internationally recommended 1 to 4 nurse to patient ratio “increases the risk of administration errors which can result in poorer outcomes, fatalities and treatment delays.”

The lack of cutting-edge technology such as an MRI-Linear accelerator means that patients with tumours such as pancreatic cancers are not getting optimal radiotherapy.

Efforts are being made to resolve a salary dispute which is causing Radiotherapists to leave, taking valuable intellectual capital with them.

All these problems predated the closure of the cancer unit after the fire six weeks ago. The alternative arrangements to treat cancer patients at the Chris Hani Baragwanath and Steve Biko hospitals are woefully inadequate, and the treatment delays are getting worse.

The one ray of light is that there are discussions with the Netcare Hospital Group who are putting together a Private Public Partnership for cancer treatment.

This proposal should be speeded up, as well the reopening of the CMJH unit with extra staff and new machines.

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Mental health patients in Gauteng suffer from late payments

Late payments to more than 100 NGOs are causing suffering to thousands of mental health patients as staff go unpaid and even food is in short supply.

These NGOs were supposed to be paid on 7 May but have still not been paid their subsidy of R4900 per patient by the Gauteng Health Department.

The delay is due to new Service Level Agreements that should have been signed earlier, and also because of the new financial year which started in April.

Every year there is a so-called “dry season” where payments are delayed because the department is short of funds as the new financial year starts.

Legal action has even been used in the past to get the department to pay.

Meanwhile, the welfare organisations struggle to provide for vulnerable patients on top of the extra expense in dealing with the Covid-19 epidemic.

I have communicated with Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi on this issue, and officials promised to pay by the end of last week, but this has not occurred.

It is really appalling that mental health patients are treated so badly even after the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

The department needs to get its act together and pay on time!

Gauteng roads in atrocious state while residents fork out thousands on vehicle maintenance

It is extremely concerning that our roads are in an atrocious state while the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport has underspent by R1.3 billion during the 2020/21 financial year. Residents in the province are forced to spend thousands of rand on vehicle maintenance due to damage by potholes and the general lack of maintenance of roads.

According to the fourth quarterly report of the department, R512 million was underspent for the quarter, bringing the total amount of underspending to R1.3 billion for the previous financial year. Underspending occurred in various programmes and the department has used Covid-19 as a scapegoat. This is unacceptable as this underspending occurred during the fourth quarter while the country is operating as normal with the various Covid-19 protocols in place. This means that by now the department should have these measures in place to ensure that critical programmes do not grind to a halt.

For this quarter, the department has failed to meet its target to visually assess 4,571km of surface road. No gravelled roads were visually assessed, yet a target of 1,359km was set. Furthermore, only 50 out of 100 construction and NMT jobs were created through the implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) created, while zero EPWP Rehabilitation Job Opportunities were created against a target of 20. The department says this was not created due to the cancellation of tender P73/1 and Covid-19 national lockdown regulations.

Covid-19 has had far reaching implications on our economy and any more delays in ensuring that programmes within this department that are not only meant to create jobs, but to also ensure that our roads are properly maintained will be detrimental to the province which is also the economic hub of the country. Our roads are littered with potholes, which have not been fixed by this department.

This department should have by the third and fourth quarter of the financial year, adapted their programmes to ensure that the budget is utilized properly. With underspending by such a large amount, the department is at risk of losing additional funding come the next financial year.

Where we govern in the Western Cape our roads are maintained on a regular basis and the allocated budget is spent where it is needed the most. A Democratic Alliance (DA) government will ensure that all the Covid-19 protocols are put in place, so that service delivery can continue uninterrupted.  

The DA will continue to put pressure on the MEC for Roads and Transport, Jacob Mamabolo to ensure that the targets which were not met for this past financial year and which rolled over into the current financial year, are met. The only people who are on the losing end are the residents who are already cashed-strapped and cannot afford to spend the little they have on additional maintenance on vehicles or on increased public transport costs. It is unacceptable that our residents who are unemployed are not being given a fair opportunity to earn a living simply because government is unable to implement proper Covid-19 protocols.

SIU Report: DA calls for suspension of top Gauteng Education Department officials

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi to immediately suspend Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) Head of Department (HOD), Edward Mosuwe, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Johan van Coller and Supply Chain Management Chief Director, Samora Mhlophe following the Special Investigative Unit’s (SIU) report findings that 173 service providers appointed to decontaminate Gauteng schools were not accredited and not on the Central Supplier Database.

The Gauteng Department of Education irregularly spent more than R431 million on decontamination of schools within three months. 

The DA welcomes the SIU’s report findings and progress made so far and believes the recovered money should immediately be allocated to eradicating asbestos schools and classrooms, as well as the construction of more classrooms to alleviate overcrowding in schools. This will ensure more effective teaching and learning for students. 

The SIU has frozen the assets of 14 entities linked to over R431 million school decontamination tenders. The SIU was granted an order by the Special Tribunal to freeze assets and bank accounts worth R40.7 million which belong to seven companies, five individuals and two family trusts, to which the department awarded contracts.

This is a step in the right direction to ensure that they recover all our monies meant to ensure that our children receive quality education and are taught in a conducive environment.

The SIU report described the selection and appointment of suppliers to sanitise schools as haphazard and unfair as the Supply Chain Management Division was not involved in the process. The names of the service providers that were appointed were received via WhatsApp from the department’s officials. The fee paid to the service providers bears no relation to the work done.

All this points to the HOD, CFO and the Supply Chain Management Chief Director’s failure to adequately review and monitor compliance in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act and treasury regulations.

These three top officials of the department failed in their responsibilities to ensure that this tender is above board and that policies of supply chain management, procurement processes and financial management are adhered to.

They must explain what happened, where they were when all this happened and what role they played during this process. These three individuals are the main signatories and the decision makers within the department and should be taken to task and held accountable. 

So far, the SIU findings has revealed their incompetency and inability to lead this department as they have failed to follow proper supply chain and tender processes which has resulted in an irregular expenditure of more than R431 million.

We will not allow the behaviour of three individuals to bring the department that have a crucial role to play on the future of our children, to its knees.

The DA will continue to monitor the progress of the SIU investigation to ensure that those who are implicated are brought to book and they pay back every cent owed to the education of our children.

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DA calls for calm and police visibility in Ga-Rankuwa

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is extremely concerned about the ongoing unrest and violence in Ga-Rankuwa, Tshwane. 

Workers and parents are currently protesting at Sefakho Makgatho Health Science University and Tebogwana Secondary School. The DA calls on the SAPS to ensure visibility, as well as both workers and parents to remain calm and allow authorities to intervene.

The DA has been reliably informed that the Congress of South African Students Greater Tshwane Region and some parents are protesting outside Tebogwane Secondary School disrupting learning and teaching from taking place at the school. They are demanding that the SGB chairperson to step down following the arrest of a grade 12 learner accused of allegedly stealing hard drives at the school.

It is alleged that the accused learner was found in possession of the stolen goods, he was arrested and appeared before the Magistrate’s Court and has been denied bail. The protesting parents are accusing the SGB of failing to discipline the learner instead of reporting him to the police. The DA condemns in the strongest terms anyone who prevents learning and teaching from taking place as they are denying children their right to access basic education.

Furthermore, the body of a dead man was found at Ga-Rankuwa Zone 1 Park. The reason for his death is still unknown, however, the residents have reported this incident to the police, and they claim that the police are taking their time to get to the crime scene.

Last week, the residents of Ga-Rankuwa marched against crime in the area and handed a memorandum of grievances to the Ga-Rankuwa police station. The residents are demanding police visibility and a quicker response to crime scenes. They also complained about the level of crime in the area such as robberies, burglaries, and rapes.

The DA is calling on the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko to ensure police visibility in Ga-Rankuwa in order to ensure the safety and security of our residents.

We also appeal to parents to find alternative ways to solve issues without disrupting schooling and to keep calm and seek interventions from the Gauteng Department of Education.

Violence will not provide a solution to problems faced by our residents on a daily basis, however using proper channels to air their grievance will yield positive feedback.

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MEC Mamabolo must stop holding out false hope on e-Tolls

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is calling on the MEC for Transport, Jacob Mamabolo, to stop causing confusion about the future of e-Tolls. The comments he made during an interview with SAFM this morning that e-Tolls have been scrapped in the province, has caused false hope, where he was subsequently forced to clarify his confusing comments.

This has caused unnecessary confusion, considering that the National Minister of Transport, Fikile Mbalula, was supposed to make an announcement last week, but was still in talks with the task team that was set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa to look at the e-Toll issue and possible solution in the province.

For a long time, we have been putting pressure on the ANC-led government to scrap e-Tolls as it is an unfair burden on the residents of this province who cannot afford to pay for something they were not consulted on.

If e-Tolls have indeed been scrapped, the DA welcomes this but it appears as if the MEC has spoken out of turn. On several occasions, ANC leaders have been using this as an electioneering tool which is unacceptable, giving our residents false hope.

We urge politicians and political heads to refrain from making irresponsible statements about e-Tolls as it affects our livelihoods.

The announcement still rests with Minister Mbalula. We hope the MEC’s confirmation was not premature and that he indeed shares the views of Minister Mbalula.

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Mazibuko must engage Cele as Gauteng SAPS Air Wing Unit only has one helicopter in service

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is extremely concerned that there is only one SAPS helicopter in Gauteng that is serviceable and operational in the entire province.  Initially there was two serviceable and operational helicopters, but one has been sent to the Western Cape since the province had no serviceable helicopter for the past two years. This is one of the provincial Air Wing Unit’s most needed resources in order to effectively tackle crime, particularly for rapid response crime call outs, rescue operations of missing persons, and crowd control to ensure the safety of residents.

This information was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko in a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.

According to MEC Mazibuko, the SAPS Air Wing Unit in Gauteng is not fully functional because of helicopters not being serviceable. 

Gauteng residents already do not feel safe, especially considering the increased rate of crime as revealed by the SAPS crime statistics for the fourth quarter for the 2020/21. Gauteng has been rated number one in terms of violent crimes such as multiple murders, murder related to illicit mining, robbery, and robbery of cash-in transit, carjacking and truck hijacking.

The SAPS Air Wing Unit provides critical support to officers on the ground by helping them find criminals hiding in thick bush, searching for missing persons, and chasing armed robbers in high-speed chases.

 Furthermore, the MEC indicated that each region in Gauteng, namely Johannesburg Air Wing located in Germiston, and National Heliport and Wonderboom Air Wing both located in Pretoria, are not fully operational because they do not have a full complement of helicopters. Most of the helicopters have not been functioning since November 2018 and some helicopters were expected to be operational as of July 2020, but to date, they are still not operational.

These aircrafts are strategically placed in different regions for crime prevention and to respond to call outs for armed robbers and cash-in transit heists. The Air Wing Unit is also crucial for accurate aerial observation of crimes and can track suspect movements rapidly and without obstructions of traffic and bystanders.

In order to ensure the safety and security of our people, we need to have adequate resources that will allow police to perform their duties efficiently.

The DA demands MEC Mazibuko to engage with her national counterpart, Minister of Police, Bheki Cele to ensure availability of serviceable, airworthy, and well-equipped aircraft to effectively fight crime in the province.

I will be tabling follow-up questions to the MEC in the Legislature to ascertain what plans are being put in place to ensure that our SAPS Air Wing Unit that is severely under-resourced is given the resources it needs to combat crime. Our residents deserve a police service that is adequately resourced to keep them safe in their homes and on the street.

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Police lose docket for malicious damage to Joburg Hospital

There will be no prosecution for malicious damage to the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) in April 2018 as the docket has mysteriously gone missing at the Hillbow Police Station.

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

According to Mokgethi, a charge of public violence and a charge of malicious damage to property were laid at the Hillbrow Police Station following the vandalism of employees at the CMJH during an illegal strike in April 2018.

The public violence case was returned from court in July 2018, and it is still undergoing a court process.

According to the computer record, however, the case of malicious damage to property has been closed, and “the reason for closing the case was not determined as it was recorded in a paper-based docket which apparently went missing because it was not found when hospital security personnel requested to obtain its copy.”

This withdrawal of the case is outrageous as it was estimated that R3 million in damages was caused, and former Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi described it as “pure hooliganism”.

Forty employees were recently disciplined by the hospital and found guilty for this incident. They were given two months suspension without pay and a final written warning.

These employees will now escape the criminal charge of malicious damage because of police incompetence.

I will be asking further questions as to why this docket went missing as there should be severe consequences for those who violently trashed this hospital.

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Gauteng government causing motorists extra insurance costs and unnecessary fines as licensing fiasco continues

Gauteng motorists are frustrated beyond belief due to the licensing renewal fiasco at the province’s licensing centres. In March, MEC for Roads and Transport in Gauteng, Jacob Mamabolo, gave the Portfolio Committee on Roads and Transport in the Gauteng Legislature the undertaking that the problem with booking license renewal slots was to be resolved as a matter of urgency.

However, the problem has only worsened since the MEC’s undertaking. Motorists in the province are not able to make appointments for the renewal of their driver licenses while “agencies” who are getting paid by motorists seem to have access to slots that they sell to motorists.

This is an untenable situation and the MEC needs to come clear immediately about what the problems are with the booking system and why motorists are unable to make their own bookings.

The DA in Gauteng has called on the MEC to conduct an audit of slots made available by licensing centres and whether all these slots made it onto the Natis platform for bookings. The MEC ignored our plea and as a result the problem persists.

The MEC needs to come clean on what the problems are with the online licensing booking system and why motorists cannot access slots to renew their licenses.

We require immediate action by the MEC on the release of licensing slots as the current system is a complete failure. We can no longer put motorists in a position where they have to drive without licenses as it affects their insurance cover and are fined when pulled over by traffic officials.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit to check your voter registration status.