#RisingFoodPrice: Cost of load-shedding passed onto Gauteng residents

The impact of load-shedding has hit Gauteng residents where it hurts the most: their pockets. The ongoing load-shedding has resulted in farmers charging retailers more for their produce.

This information was revealed in a 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 MEC Hlophe, fresh produce farmers have been forced to pass the cost of alternative supply of electricity onto retailers, an increased cost borne by the poor consumer.

Furthermore, the price of some goods like chicken, pork, and vegetables has increased due to low supply and high consumer demand.

This is worrying because many of our residents cannot afford basic food items to sustain themselves and their families.
In addition, the Gauteng Provincial Government has failed to indicate exactly how high the cost of food has risen due to load-shedding.

While the government has given some support to agro-processors by providing them with backup generators, the cost of diesel is too high for this to be a sustainable solution.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will continue to pressure the government to find a long-term solution to ensure that the province is less reliant on Eskom for electricity. If this current situation continues, more jobs will be lost, and the risk of food insecurity will increase.

Shortage of AHS vaccines intensifies food security risk

The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) has no compassion for farmers whose animals need vaccines. The current shortage of the African Horse Sickness (AHS) vaccine is putting many horses at risk severely impacting food security in the province.

In a reply to the Democratic Alliance’s questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mbali Hlophe, stated in her reply that the department has no control over the production or release of vaccines at Onderstepport Biological Products (OBP) , a State-Owned Entity (SOE). It is exactly this lack of accountability that the department as custodian of Gauteng agricultural activities , should be urgently intervening together with the national department.

Being a provincial sphere of government does not mean that they can obfuscate their responsibility but to the contrary should be intervening on behalf of all farmers in the province.

Furthermore, GDARD, as the custodian of agriculture and veterinary services in the province, should engage their national counterparts to ensure that the vaccine shortages are resolved urgently.

If animals are not vaccinated against diseases, farmers will be forced to cull them if they get sick with a deadly or highly contagious disease.

The DA will be putting pressure on GDARD to assist farmers in getting the vaccines they need timeously on time. Our farmers need to have a reliable supply of vaccines at all times. Failure to deliver vaccines will negatively impact food security.

Abandoned Kempton Park Hospital costs Gauteng residents over R6 million annually for security

The abandoned Kempton Park Hospital costs Gauteng residents R6 694 583.64 for security services annually.

This is a massive waste of resources because the hospital has not operated for over two decades.

For several years, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has been calling for the refurbishment of this hospital to benefit Kempton Park residents and neighbouring suburbs who are currently travelling far to access health care services.

This information was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Infrastructure Development, Lebogang Maile, in a written reply to the DA’s questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to MEC Maile, the Department of Health intends to rebuild Kempton Park Hospital on the current premises; however, the timelines have not been finalised.

The DA reiterates its call to Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi and the MECs for Health and Infrastructure Development to fast-track the reopening of this hospital.

We will table follow-up questions to determine the companies contracted to safeguard the hospital and how much they have been paid to date. We also want to know why they fail to protect this facility, as some people are illegally utilising it for financial gain.


DSD fails to assist over 50 000 Gauteng homeless people

Over 50 000 homeless people in Gauteng are unemployed, starving, lack social security, and most suffer from substance abuse, while the Department of Social Development (DSD) is dragging its feet in addressing this plight.

The latest homeless strategy presented by DSD revealed that the department only funds four homeless shelters in Gauteng: one in Johannesburg, which supposedly caters to over 15 000 homeless people, and three in Sedibeng.

This is not enough, especially when the Kempton Park CBD has a minimum of 1500 and Tshwane has over 10 000 homeless people.

The DSD’s strategy highlights the non-existent collaboration between the department and relevant stakeholders, who are critical pillars to reducing the problem of homelessness. There is also a lack of national legislation that currently deals with the issue of homelessness, and no specific department is prepared to take responsibility due to the complexity of the issue.

We applaud the work being done by civil society organisations to address the challenges facing homeless people; however, they cannot do it alone; the government must assist them.

DSD has proven to have no interest in working with municipalities, NPOs, and other stakeholders to provide care and support to homeless people.

The DA will write to MEC Mbali Hlope to ascertain when her department will collaborate with the Department of Infrastructure to identify unused government buildings that can be used as homeless shelters.

The DA will continue to advocate for homeless people’s access to social services, including reunification services that reunite them with their families. We will not sit back and let DSD neglect its duty to provide support to homeless people.

Shortage of African Horse Sickness vaccine severely impacts Gauteng farmers

Hundreds of jobs are on the line in the equine industry, and farmers produce will be affected due to the shortage of the African Horse Sickness (AHS) vaccine. This is despite an undertaking made by the National Minister of Agriculture, Thoko Didiza, earlier this year that the Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP) facility has enough AHS vaccines.

Horses are not only used for racing but also as a means of transport and ploughing on farms. Horses that are not vaccinated between June and October are at risk of dying. This window of opportunity to vaccinate is closing.

The horse industry must be protected, as this industry provides work for thousands of people and is a critical part of our economy.

In March this year, the Democratic Alliance (DA) handed in a petition with over 11 000 signatures from horse owners and breeders who expressed concerns about the shortage of AHS vaccines and, in some instances, delayed delivery of vaccines.

During a recent engagement with horse breeders in Kyalami, it emerged that many horses are still not vaccinated and that there are not enough AHS vaccines available. Two doses of the vaccine are needed yearly.

Currently, nearly 2000 doses of the vaccine are needed in Gauteng alone. The deadline for the vaccinations has been extended to December this year by the National Horseracing Authority.

AHS is an infectious but non-contagious insect-borne viral disease that is endemic to Southern Africa. Horses need to be vaccinated between June and October each year to protect them against AHS during the late summer months, which is the peak AHS season.

Commercial, emerging, and subsistence farmers rely heavily on OBP to ensure that this country has sufficient vaccines to protect our agricultural sector. However, like all government entities, OBP is no different and has been allowed to go to ruin due to bad management practices.

The DA is calling for the privatisation of the OBP facility, as this is the only solution to ensure that the agriculture sector receives the vaccines it needs to continue operating optimally.

A DA government will ensure that the problems at OBP are immediately investigated and that all non-performing employees are brought before the disciplinary process as they are complicit in destroying both the agricultural sector and the viable horse racing industry.

DA lays criminal charges against Ekurhuleni CM for permanent electricity crisis challenges faced by residents

This week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng laid criminal charges against the Ekurhuleni City Manager (CM), Imogen Mashazi, for failing to ensure proper maintenance of all critical electrical infrastructure. This has resulted in Kempton Park residents only having four hours of electricity over the last six days. This double blow to our residents has become untenable and can no longer be tolerated.

See the photo here.

Furthermore, the DA has requested that a full investigation be launched into the alleged failure of the 66 KV cable in Kempton Park, which is barely five months old and has cost at least R200 million. The new cable was laid between the Spartan and Van Riebeeck Park substations. Load-shedding by Eskom is taking its toll, and added to this are the continual power outages due to this newly laid electrical cable.

Whistle blowers have informed the DA that the new 66KV cable was not correctly installed and is not in line with industry standards due to shoddy workmanship. It is alleged that due to the continual power shortages and outages, this cable has started to melt, causing untold misery to the residents of Kempton Park.

These allegations must be urgently investigated. Our residents deserve answers on the cause of the continual energy crisis in Kempton Park, depriving them of a reliable electricity supply that they pay for.

The fact that this newly installed electricity cable is already causing problems shows a total lack of care towards residents whose daily lives have become a nightmare during this cold winter.

Residents receive limited, if any, feedback from municipal officials, and the acting Executive Mayor is nowhere to be found during this crisis.

The DA demands that a comprehensive state of infrastructure plan be produced by Ekurhuleni so that the province can assist in guiding them on maintenance plans. The infrastructure plan can be used to determine where Ekurhuleni needs to spend money on maintenance going forward.

Our residents are entitled to a regular supply of electricity and infrastructure maintained by the City of Ekurhuleni as long as they diligently pay their rates and taxes.

DA interventions lead to eviction of illegal occupants at Glen Marikana Informal Settlement illegal occupants

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the eviction of illegal occupants at Glen Marikana Informal Settlement in Kempton Park.

This is a huge relief to the landowner of the land, the Jansen van Vuuren Beleggings (PTY) LTD, and the residents of Glen Marais.

These illegal occupants invaded this private land in 2016, which has placed an immense financial and resource burden on the landowner, municipality, and Glen Marais residents.

The illegal occupants were connecting electricity illegally to the substations belonging to the residents of Glen Marais.

This caused immense distress to the residents, who were sharing their resources with them. These illegal occupants did not have access to basic services such as proper sanitation and refuse removal, and the area became polluted with trash. The area was no longer safe, and it affected the value of the bond houses in the area.

The DA has been at the forefront of helping the residents and the landowner evict the illegal occupants.

In November 2018, an eviction order was granted, but the City of Ekurhuleni needed to relocate the occupants before 31 March 2019. Therefore, the eviction order could only be implemented in February 2020, but this was stopped due to the national lockdown.

The eviction process is underway, and the illegal occupants have been moved to Putfontein. We applaud the role of law enforcement agencies in ensuring that eviction takes place, which is a victory for the rule of law.

The DA will continue to monitor the eviction process and work with law enforcement agencies to ensure residents’ safety and engage them to provide support when needed. At last, law, order, and calm will be restored in Glen Marais.

Disciplinary action taken against Gauteng Agriculture Chief Director is a step in the right direction

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng welcomes the disciplinary action that has been taken against the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Director for the irregular appointment of 28 intern graduates.

Earlier this year, the DA raised concerns about the irregular appointment of interns by the department. The graduates were initially appointed for two months; however, the project will last 24 months.

R426 400,00 has been spent irregularly on stipends for the two months the graduates were appointed. R5 013 144,00 has been budgeted for the 24 months the graduates will be employed.

This information was revealed in a written reply to our questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) regarding the irregular appointment of the 28 graduates.

In addition, measures have been put in place to ensure that irregular appointments do not happen again within this department.

According to MEC Mbali Hlophe, the Human Resources (HR) department has been given a checklist that ensures that submissions for appointments go through the senior managers within HR and are in line with HR delegations.

The DA will keep a close eye on this department’s quarterly reports for the 2023/2024 financial year to ensure that all HR procedures are followed.

Our residents deserve a government that will ensure equal employment opportunities for all while following proper recruitment procedures.

Over 35 000 chickens died in Gauteng due to load-shedding

Over 35 000 chickens have died, and more than 5000 were culled due to load-shedding in Gauteng.

This is causing the price of chickens to go up as poultry farmers cannot keep up with the supply and demand from retailers.

This information was revealed in a reply to the Democratic Alliance’s questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mbali Hlophe.

The MEC further revealed that broiler farmers are the hardest hit by the ongoing load-shedding.

This is because broiler farmers require more electricity during the first week of the chick’s placement to maintain the required temperature using infrared lights.

Furthermore, the growth rate is affected because chickens are non-nocturnal feeders. During load-shedding, there won’t be light, and chickens are unable to eat. Once feed intake is affected, the growth rate will be compromised.

Load-shedding negatively impacts farmers with egg-laying chickens because the egg grading machine requires power to grade eggs into different sizes.

Delays in grading eggs will mean that the farmers will not be able to meet the high market demand, resulting in business losses.

Load-shedding has also provided the perfect opportunity for criminals to steal equipment like borehole pump motors, electrical cables, and transformers.

In addition, load-shedding has cost poultry farmers around R2 million. The poultry farmers have also incurred additional costs through procuring backup power.

Load-shedding has an impact not only on the unemployment rate in the province but also on the price of basic food.

The DA will continue to push for broadening the zero-VAT food basket to include essentials like bone-in chicken, beef, margarine, baby food, and soup powder.

Proposal to reopen Kempton Park Hospital falls on deaf ears

Efforts by the Democratic Alliance (DA) proposing for the Gauteng Provincial Government to utilise Kempton Park Hospital have fallen on deaf ears.

For several years both the Gauteng Department of Health and the Department of Infrastructure and Development (DID) have dodged taking responsibility for the reutilization of this abandoned hospital.

The DA has been requesting that the government reopen the hospital or refurbish it for commercialisation purposes that will benefit the residents of Kempton Park and surrounding areas.

However, in a recent sitting in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, MEC for Infrastructure and Development, Lebogang Maile said his department has no mandate to establish the hospital as a multipurpose centre.

According to Maile, his department implemented the scope for Phase 1 of the hospital’s refurbishment in 2015, which was to fence the hospital. The other two phases are still to be implemented, which DID is said to be waiting for a go-ahead instruction from Health.

Contradictory to Maile’s oral replies, in a previous written reply to Questions from the DA to the Health Department, the DA was informed that the Department of Health leased the hospital from DID and is not responsible for the building or infrastructure projects. This shows that this government is clueless about its own responsibilities and keeps shifting accountability. This is while the province is being looted and & burned to the ground.

Maile has further denied that there has been illegal access to the hospital, although we have received reports that it is being used as a ghost touring location and for Airsoft games. Furthermore, the DA has supplied the MEC with contact details of the ghost touring and Airsoft organisers. To this day, the MEC has not provided the DA with updates on an investigation into the matter. This implies that those leading the Gauteng government do not care about our infrastructural resources.

This unused hospital should be used to alleviate the influx of patients at neighbouring hospitals like Tembisa Hospital, or it could be commercialised to encourage the growth of Kempton Park’s economy. If nothing is done soon, the R457 billion investment into the hospital will be wasted as the infrastructure deteriorates.

The DA demands that Premier Panyaza Lesufi urgently intervene before this building is looted, vandalised or destroyed.