The tragedy of lives lost in Johannesburg CBD Fire

Note to editors: Please find pictures here, here and here. Please find a soundbite here.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Johannesburg is deeply saddened by the tragic deaths caused by a devastating fire in the Johannesburg CBD. We would like to express our deepest and most sincere condolences to the families of the people who tragically passed away during the fire.

There are no words that can help, or reassure someone who is grieving. Sadly, the building was very crowded, and is essentially being described as an informal settlement, which is only exacerbating the situation. The DA is in the process of determining who the owner of the building is, and will take steps to ensure transparency on this issue too.

While families are grieving, and anxiously awaiting news regarding the well-being of their family members and loved ones who called this building their home, we can only pray that they find peace in this difficult time.

This tragedy has left a scar on Johannesburg, that will not be easily forgotten. We will ensure that the cause of this disaster is thoroughly investigated, and we will do all we can to ensure that loved ones, victims, and family members of those impacted by this disaster are assisted during the aftermath of this disaster.

We would further also like to thank the first responders who have been attending to those injured, and ensuring that the fire is contained. The residents of Johannesburg owe an incredible debt to the brave men and women who have put their lives on the line tonight, and now.

There will be a time to find the cause of this blaze, and a time to hold people accountable for their actions or inaction – and they will be held accountable. Now, however, we need to ensure that those who are going through the most difficult time in their lives are looked after.

Residents’ lives at risk due to long waiting times for ambulances

Gauteng residents in dire need of medical attention are on the losing end because of the sluggish service provided by the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Gauteng. This is despite trackers being installed on all ambulances during the 2021/2022 financial year, as reported in the annual report.

To remedy this problem, the Gauteng Department of Health and Wellness has now suggested that trackers be installed again next quarter. This is worrying, as it would appear that our taxpayers are paying twice for the same solution.

In the first quarter report for the department, the indicator for ambulances arriving on time was not met.

It is unacceptable that the department is unable to track where the ambulances are and the exact amount of time it takes for the EMS service to respond to an emergency. If this is left unchecked, many of our residents risk losing their lives.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will be tabling further questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to determine when the first batch of trackers were installed, whether the department is ensuring that the ambulances are not used for lunch runs, and what the average response time is for an emergency.

Gauteng residents deserve a healthcare system that puts their needs first and operates efficiently.

Unfilled vacancies at Green Scorpions negatively impact Gauteng wetlands

The vacancy rate at the Green Scorpions is negatively impacting the speed with which they can respond to complaints about the potential pollution that may affect the environment and the natural fauna and flora in Gauteng.

Currently, the Green Scorpions have a staff component of 51, of which six funded vacancies are vacant.
This information was revealed in a written reply to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mbali Hlophe.

According to the MEC, the work of the Green Scorpions is human resource driven. Environmental Management Inspectors (EMIs) have to physically investigate complaints and monitor compliance with conditions of authorisations and licences issued by the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD).

Given the fact that not all posts are filled at the Green Scorpions, this means that wetlands challenges cannot be attended to with the speed required.

This is worrying because several wetlands are being polluted by raw sewage. This has been made worse by the fact that the department is unaware of the number of wetlands in the province.
The DA will be engaging with the MEC directly on the issue to ensure that all the funded vacancies are filled as a matter of urgency.

Correction: DA in Joburg to host its Regional Congress this weekend

The DA Johannesburg Region is excited to host our 2023 Regional Congress this weekend on 2 September, at the Braamfontein Recreation Centre. The day’s proceedings are expected to run from 8:30 to 13:00.

At the Regional Congress, various leadership positions for the DA Johannesburg Region will be contested. Nominations for these positions closed on 14 August 2023.

The almost 400 delegates in attendance will, amongst other positions, vote for the following leadership roles in the region:

a) Regional Chairperson

  • Wendy Robyn Alexander
  • Darren Bergman
  • Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku
  • Nonhlanhla Sifumba

b) Regional Vice Chairperson

  • Lyson Komani Dhlamini
  • Solomon Masehlele Maila
  • Luyolo Mphithi
  • Rowen Kurtzahn Walkley

Media wishing to attend the Congress must please contact Franco van der Berg on 076 882 4413

The details are:

Date:               2 September 2023    

Time:              8:30 – 13:00

Venue:            Braamfontein Recreation Centre

                          Harrison St, Wanderers View Estate, Johannesburg, 2193

Learners to lose out on valuable learning and teaching time due to no budget for building new schools

Gauteng learners and teachers will continue to endure overcrowded classrooms that are not conducive to learning and teaching because there is no budget for building new schools in 2024.

This information was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Education, Matome Chiloane, during a Portfolio Committee meeting on Education this week.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned because there are many abandoned school projects in the province. This trend is ongoing and costing taxpayers a lot of money. The latest school to be abandoned is Semphato Secondary School in Soshanguve. This school was scheduled to be completed in March this year, but the service provider has abandoned the project.

The following schools have also been abandoned:
• Mayibuye Primary School;
• Nanciefield Primary School;
• Laerskool Frikie Meyer;
• Ahanang Primary School;
• Hillcrest Primary School;
• Thubelihle Primary School;
• LG Holele Secondary School;
• Ruster Vaal Secondary School.

The number of abandoned schools will create a huge burden on the placement of learners in 2024. This will be compounded by the department’s failure to build new schools in 2024.
The GDE has failed in its core mandate to provide access to quality basic education. Currently, there are schools where learners attend classes on a rotational basis because the department has failed to provide the necessary classrooms.

The DA brought these issues to MEC Chiloane’s attention, but he is out of touch with how the department functions.

There appears to be a new trend: projects are abandoned after spending more than 70% of the allocated budget. This is an opportunity for looters to reward the same projects to other connected service providers.

The DA will continue to put pressure on the MEC to ensure that all abandoned schools are fixed and utilised for learning and teaching.

Only 203 title deeds out of 23 403 were issued, while Gauteng residents continue to live in squalor

Gauteng residents desperately waiting for title deeds may have to wait longer because only 203 title deeds had been registered post-1994 for the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year. The Gauteng Department of Human Settlements has set a target of issuing 23 403 title deeds for the 2023/2024 financial year.

This slow process of issuing title deeds is concerning, and if it continues, it means the Department of Human Settlements will not meet its target for the 2023/24 financial year.

This information was revealed in a reply to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) written questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to the MEC for Human Settlements, Lebogang Maile, regarding the number of title deeds issued.

Gauteng residents have waited a long time for title deeds. This means that most housing beneficiaries who have been allocated housing do not have the security of tenure and evidence or documents to show that the house belongs to them. In most cases, the beneficiaries have passed on, and the dependents or spouses will now struggle to access the title deeds. The rightful beneficiaries must be issued with title deeds when they are allocated the houses so they can do what they want with them.

This unnecessary delay in issuing title deeds is disappointing and frustrates our residents.

It is high time that this department put proper plans in place to ensure that title deeds are issued speedily to the rightful beneficiaries. This can be done by ensuring the housing waiting list is made transparent.

The DA will continue to fight for the housing waiting list to be made public so that we can hold the executive to account where houses are not allocated to the rightful beneficiaries.


Gauteng residents continue to live in fear as Lesufi’s crime prevention wardens fail to deliver

Gauteng residents continue to fear for their lives and belongings as Gauteng police stations dominate the top 30 nationally in attempted murder, sexual offences, rape, common assault, and robbery. This is despite the Gauteng Premier spending millions of rands on crime prevention wardens meant to fight crime and ensure the safety of residents.

Robbery at the residential premises has increased by 248 from 1810 in the first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year to 2058 in the first quarter of the 2023/ 24 financial year. Robbery at non-residential premises has also increased by 28 from 1588 in the first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year to 1616 in the first quarter under review. Kidnapping has also increased by 159 from 1909 in the previous first quarter of the 2022/23 financial year to 2068 in the first quarter under review.

The crime statistics for the first quarter of the 2023/24 financial year indicate that Lesufi’s crime prevention wardens are an electioneering ploy and not a serious attempt to curb crime despite millions spent on it.

Furthermore, the Gauteng crime prevention wardens did not meet their target of 23 826 crime prevention operations, as only 5066 operations were conducted. The department claims that challenges with resources and tools of the trade resulted in wardens not meeting their crime prevention operation targets. This information was revealed in the Gauteng Department of Community Safety’s First Quarter Report for the 2023/24 financial year.

This indicates a lack of planning from the Premier and the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety on this programme as they fail to meet set targets, and the crime prevention wardens are ill-equipped.

The DA has been demanding budget details and expected outcomes from this programme. To date, nothing has been communicated. This is worrisome, as crime is increasing in the province, yet the crime prevention wardens are failing to meet targets. This raises questions about the role of crime prevention wardens in assisting the police in fighting crime.

The DA will table questions to MEC Mazibuko in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to ascertain what happened to monies allocated to resource the crime prevention wardens to fight crime. We also want to know what measures will be taken to address these challenges and ensure they achieve their set targets.

Gauteng municipalities spend billions on water tankers, leaving less money for service delivery

Gauteng municipalities spent R2 367 014 126,30 over five years on hiring water tankers, funds which could have been used to improve service delivery. This information was revealed in a reply to the Democratic Alliance’s questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Mzi Khumalo.

Since 2018, the following amount of money has been spent on renting water tankers:

Rand West R0,00
Mogale City R260 285 713,84
Merafong R9 365 748 ,41
Lesedi Local Municipality R3 732 400,00
Joburg R306 381 951,36
City if Ekurhuleni R135 326 540,44
Tshwane R1 661 287 520,65
Total R2 367 014 126,30

This year, Mogale City stopped renting water tankers and procured their own. The DA demands that MEC Khumalo urgently intervene in this situation and assist municipalities in procuring their own water tankers to save costs.

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, it became evident that having access to clean drinking water is essential to prevent the spread of Covid and other water-borne diseases.

Through all the mechanisms in place, we will apply pressure on the MEC to assist municipalities in formulating a plan that ensures that more money is made available for procuring resources for basic service delivery instead of outsourcing.

Lesufi’s Crime Wardens are not above the law

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng demands answers from Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, regarding the haphazard, and lawless way his nearly R500 million Crime Wardens are conducting themselves.

This follows after the emergence of reports that Crime Prevention Wardens (CPW) are conducting illegal search and seizures, physically assaulting residents, and acting in contravention of the law. The DA is therefore demanding that Premier Lesufi is held to account.

There has been significant worry and pushback since the inception of the CPW programme. We have, amongst other things, raised worries that the expanded budget for these 6000 poorly trained will be a waste of money. These fears have now realised in examples of them acting in contravention of the law.

It is unacceptable that individuals who are meant to keep citizens in the province safe, are contributing to their fear. Residents already fear the South African Police Service (SAPS), as they so often act with brutality, they do not need to fear the additional so-called “Crime Prevention Wardens” Panyaza put together.

The most worrying, however, is that when residents report these wardens’ wrongdoing, they are treated with the disregard saved for those who get in the way of the political ideals the Premier holds dear.

It has now been established that these wardens do not fall under SAPS, nor do they fall under the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid). So, if their wrongdoings are to be reported directly to the Gauteng Province, where Lesufi is the Premier – will anything come of these allegations?

In the spirit of transparency, and bearing the safety of the province’s residents in mind we demand that Premier Lesufi be held to account for the failings of his costly, and poorly thought-out plans.

We demand he answers for the following:

  1. What exactly do these people do?
  2. What legal standing do they have?
  3. Under which law do they operate?
  4. Who will be held responsible for the lawsuits that follow their illegal operations?

Gauteng cannot become a place where those who have been elevated to artificial levels of importance do as they please, to the detriment of our residents. We will not allow it, and we will not stop until the Premier intervenes, and provides clarity. Surely a glorified civilian cannot walk into my house without a warrant and search it? Gauteng’s residents deserve answers.

NPOs battling to provide social services abandoned by Gauteng Department of Social Development

Unfortunately, a protest by Gauteng NPOs in the Johannesburg CBD turned violent this week. NPOs working with children and people with disabilities once again highlighted their dissatisfaction with the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD) after their funding was reprioritised.

Their anger this week was fuelled by the fact that the GDSD gave them the impression in April that their funds would be returned and they should carry on with the work they are doing.

Five months later, the NPOs that provide much-needed services to the most vulnerable in our society are still waiting for their funding to be paid. This was after the department promised that they would get paid. Instead, R258 million is still in the department’s coffers and has not been allocated.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) does not condone the violent action that took place outside GDSD’s offices yesterday. We are, however, sympathetic to the NPOs who have continued to work without receiving payment.

The DA will continue to put pressure on GDSD to explain what is happening to the unallocated funds and the beneficiaries of these NPOs whose funding has been taken away.