DA supported the Township Economic Development Bill in the interest of Gauteng residents

Gauteng townships have endured great hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic which has been worsened by the July unrest. As a result, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has thrown its weight behind the Gauteng Township Economic Development Bill in the interest of our residents and township enterprise development.

The passing of this bill is a step in the right direction and will greatly assist in helping to revitalise the township economy in our province.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused great disruption in our already stressed township economy and the passing of this bill by the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) is in the best interest of our residents and township enterprises.

The DA firmly believes that the bill will help transform the currently neglected areas in our township to bustling economic hubs, which will contribute to job creation and economic development in the entire province.

We have supported the bill because the Portfolio Committee of Economic Development agreed to the DA’s proposal not to create another agency.

The DA believed that the creation of another agency would have led to funds being looted and the enterprises which were the intended beneficiaries would not have been given any monetary assistance.

Furthermore, through our intervention we have also expanded the definition of what a township is to include areas that are currently economically deprived. This means that job opportunities for our unemployed residents will be created in a wider economic space, which will greatly reduce the current unemployment rate in the province.

The changes that were adopted by the Portfolio Committee were put forward by the DA.

This is once again a testament to the fact that we will always put the needs of our residents first and we will ensure that all our residents are given a fair opportunity to be active participants in the Gauteng economy.

The DA will be closely monitoring the implementation of this bill so that only businesses which meet the criteria set out in the Township Economic Development Bill are assisted.

We will also make sure that the checks and balances put in place to ensure that the growth of the township economy are strictly adhered to, so that our province can become the leader in reducing the unemployment rate particularly for our youth.

In order for our township economy to flourish and to contribute to GDP of our country there is a great need for such legislation to enable economic growth and investment to take place.

Small businesses kept waiting as GEP fails to allocate the full R100 million Rebuilding Fund

It is extremely disheartening that the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller (GEP) has only disbursed R2 million of the allocated R100 million of the Rebuilding Fund which is meant to assist small businesses affected by the looting and unrest in July, as well as the Covid-19 lockdown.

Many small businesses rely on this assistance offered by government as their stores were destroyed, to the point where they would have to fix the damage caused by the violence and looting, while also needing to procure more stock.

Furthermore, they would also no need to find an alternate way of paying their workers as they were unable to trade during the violence that erupted earlier this year.

The longer it takes for the money to be disbursed to qualifying small businesses, the sooner they may be forced to permanently close their doors, putting more strain on our economy and contributing to the rise in the Gauteng unemployment rate.

This is of deep concern to the DA, as we cannot afford to have more people face unemployment because of the ineptness of the provincial government.

It is becoming clearer by the day that the GEP lacks the necessary skills and expertise needed to ensure that the Rebuilding Fund does exactly what it is meant to do.

The GEP should source temporary expertise from the Industrial Development Corporation to assist in disbursing the funds as quickly as possible. In doing so, it will ensure that small businesses can get back on their feet and start to once again contribute to the Gauteng economy.

Gauteng Health underspent by R1.1 billion as Covid cases overwhelmed hospitals

The Gauteng Health Department failed to spend R1.1 billion of its total budget of R58.8 billion for the 2020/2021 financial year which covers the period from 1 April last year to 31 March this year.

This information is disclosed in the 2020/2021 Annual Report of the Gauteng Health Department that was tabled recently in the Gauteng Legislature.

This is a massive amount of money that should have been used to help hospitals that were overwhelmed by Covid-19 cases, causing lives to be lost that could have been saved with more staff and equipment.

District Health Services had an underspend of R407, and Central Hospital Services failed to spend R359 million.

Despite crumbling hospitals and a dire need for more beds, the Health Facilities programme underspent R201 million.

According to the Department, a major cause of the underspending was delays in the filling of vacant posts, and infrastructure project commitments that were not paid at the year end.

Meanwhile, there are 7000 vacancies in critical occupation posts, including a shortage of 2550 Professional Nurses and 1350 student nurses, 900 vacant posts for Emergency Care Practitioners, and 450 empty posts for doctors. Overall, about one in seven critical posts (14%) are vacant.

Another failure is R223 million fruitless and wasteful expenditure as a result of overcharging for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

This shows that poor management continues to plague the Department despite many promises by Premier David Makhura that this would be rectified.

Too many senior posts in this Department have acting personnel, including the Head of Department and Chief Financial Officer for more than a year. These posts need to be filled urgently with capable and honest people who will ensure that money is properly spent on care for sick people.

Senior health official Babita Deokaran was murdered because she exposed corruption in this department. The time for empty promises is over – the deep rot must be eradicated once and for all!



Gauteng vaccinations need to be boosted

A concerted boost is needed to push up lagging Covid-19 vaccinations in Gauteng, including one million people who have not returned for their second jab.

Only 23.29% of Gauteng adults are fully vaccinated, the second lowest in the country, compared to 34.44% in Limpopo and 32.23% in the Western Cape.

In South Africa as a whole 27.17% of adults are fully vaccinated.

Gauteng needs to do more than 100 000 vaccinations a day to reach the target of 70% vaccinated by December, but daily vaccinations have fallen below 60 000.

About four million people have registered in Gauteng on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS), but only 3 683 712 have received their first dose, and 2 668 617 are fully vaccinated.

I am concerned that less than 60% of the most vulnerable people over 60 years older have been vaccinated in Gauteng.

Anti-vaccine sentiment is probably less of a factor than transport and access issues for the elderly.

Although children between the ages of 12 and 17 are now eligible for the vaccine, the focus should still be on older people who are much more vulnerable to severe illness and death from the virus.

Better outreach efforts are needed to reach the elderly with vaccinations, including transport arrangements or visiting them where they live.

This will help to flatten the expected fourth wave of infections in December and ease the strain on our hospitals.

Gauteng Government using POPI Act, audit process as an excuse for not releasing Covid-19 expenditure reports

The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) is avoiding accountability to the taxpayers of the province by failing to disclose expenditure on the procurement of Protective Personal Equipment (PPE) since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an oral reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature during a recent sitting, the MEC for Finance, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko claimed that the reports on Covid-19 expenditure for February and March have not yet been made public due to the yearend process. The outstanding reports will be published after the audit closure which was due by the end of August 2021.

In addition, it would appear that the Gauteng Government is hiding behind the Protection of Personal Information Act, claiming that they cannot name the suppliers unless prior permission has been given – a flimsy excuse, denying the rights of citizens to know who has been paid with taxpayer money.

By not publishing regular Covid-19 expenditure reports, it would appear as if the Gauteng Provincial Government is flouting National Treasury Note 20 that was published last year.

The GPG has a responsibility to spend our taxpayers’ money in a transparent and responsible manner. It is important now more than ever that government spends their scarce financial resources in a proper manner, especially now that our economy has been hard hit by Covid-19.

Where we govern in the Western Cape, Covid-19 expenditure reports are transparently published on a regular basis, so that the residents are aware of exactly how their money has been spent.

This is what a responsible government would do. The DA will continue to demand that these Covid-19 expenditure reports are made public so that taxpayers can know exactly where and on what their money has been spent.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status. 

Were the people of Gauteng robbed of R2,5 billion?

While people in Gauteng are vulnerable to the very dire risks of Covid-19, it is extremely concerning that the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation has not yet revealed its report into possible corruption related to the building of Covid-19 related infrastructure.

In response to allegations of corruption, President Cyril Ramaphosa, instructed the SIU to investigate all government spending in terms of Covid-19 regulations. This included Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as well as health infrastructure. As we now know, the PPE tenders were manipulated to unjustly enrich people connected to the ruling party and the question now being asked is whether the same manipulation was applied to tenders for the building of R2,5 billion worth of Covid-19 related infrastructure. This infrastructure was meant to bolster hospital capacity in response to the pandemic.

At the beginning of June, the provincial government had spent R2,01 billion of the original budget, with a further R513 million to be spent in the current financial year.

While the SIU has confirmed to the DA that the infrastructure projects that have been undertaken as part of the government’s Covid-19 response are under investigation, there has been no feedback on how this element of the investigation is going.

Extremely poor planning resulted in a budget of R589 million being allocated to create just 181 ICU beds at Anglo-Gold Ashanti when that amount of money could have built a whole new hospital from scratch. In addition, R264 million was spent on the now decommissioned Nasrec facility, where the majority of beds were not utilised, resulting in wasteful expenditure.

Despite the huge expenditure, many of the facilities have not been available to treat Covid-19 patients. Who knows how many people have become incredibly sick, or even died as a result?

The people of Gauteng have a legitimate expectation that the money they contribute via their taxes will be spent wisely for the benefit of all the people of this province.

The DA will not hesitate to hold the government to account to ensure that public funds are not stolen or wasted. We will continue to pressure the government and the SIU to provide information relating to the infrastructure spend as the people of Gauteng deserve to know exactly how their taxes are spent.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Parents and stakeholders must ensure schooling resumes with no disruptions so children can learn in peace

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng calls on parents and different stakeholders across the province to ensure that learning and teaching resume on Monday, 26 July 2021 with no disruption to cover for the time lost due to the early closure of the schools as a result of the Covid-19 infections spike.  Children across the province deserve to resume with learning in peace, considering the many hiccups experienced since the beginning of the year.

Due to the sudden change to level 4 lockdown last month, schools had closed earlier than scheduled for winter break. This has resulted in students losing out on school time and falling behind with the curriculum.

Even though there is a rotational learning and teaching system in place as a result of this pandemic, the number of schooling days have been limited for certain grades which are not enough for effective learning and teaching.

The DA shares the concerns of parents and different stakeholders that the Covid-19 pandemic is severely affecting the education sector. However, we do not support any delays in the re-opening of schools.

 We also welcome the rapid vaccination of 92% of teachers and support staff to date. This is positive development in the sector and the DA is encouraging all education employees to take vaccines to ensure that there will be no disruption of schooling going forward.

Furthermore, the Gauteng Department of Education has reassured us that they are ready to resume schooling on Monday as all schools would have received their personal protective equipment (PPEs) on Friday.

The DA is appealing to parents and different stakeholders to allow children to go to school when they re-open tomorrow. We believe that all education stakeholders must do their best to ensure that we protect the future of our children.

We will continue to conduct oversight inspections to different schools across the province to ensure that there are adequate PPEs and resources so that learning and teaching are not affected. In schools where there is no bulk water supply networks, we will ensure that these schools are provided with elevated tanks and water is delivered timeously every day. The DA will report all the issues to the Gauteng Department of Education which has a responsibility to fix and deliver resources to our schools.

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


R500 million Gauteng hospital has only six Covid patients

The Gauteng Health Department used R500 million of Covid-19 funds to refurbish the Anglo Ashanti hospital in the Far West Rand, but it currently has only six Covid patients receiving low-level care.

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

Premier David Makhura opened this 181-bed hospital with great fanfare on 14 May, but according to Mokgethi only 25 Covid-19 patients have been treated so far in total. These patients receive “step down services”, and need to be transferred to other West Rand hospitals if they need specialist treatment.

The tragedy is that the expensive refurbishment of this hospital, which was donated by the AngloGold Ashanti mining company, was to provide ICU beds, but they cannot be used as they do not have equipment. None of the beds have oxygen provision for patients, which is the main thing that saves lives in this terrible epidemic.

There are 32 staff running this hospital and 24 more staff are being recruited to start on 1 August.

It is scandalous that so much money has been spent on this hospital which is far from major population centres and currently has 175 empty beds and vastly more staff than patients.

Meanwhile, other public hospitals are straining to cope with the flood of Covid-19 patients and many die because of a dire shortage of ICU beds.

It would have been far better to have spent the R500 million on extra beds and staff at other hospitals, rather than this white elephant hospital.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is investigating the spending of funds on the hospital, which confirms my suspicion that corruption is involved in this appalling waste of money.

The DA will push for accountability in this matter and a better use of funds to save lives of hospital patients in Gauteng.

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

R123 million spent on disinfecting government facilities while unemployed residents still wait for relief

While Gauteng residents continue to suffer the indignity of unemployment with little to no relief from government, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is concerned that government is unnecessarily spending R123 million on disinfecting and defogging various government facilities in the province. This is while residents continue to go without jobs, where this money could have been spent on job creating infrastructure projects.

This was revealed during a recent Infrastructure Portfolio Committee meeting where it was stated that R232,5 million was spent on emergency Covid-19 mitigation, which included the R123 million disinfection cost.

It is suspicious that under the cover of the emergency regulations, any funds are spent on defogging, which has been shown to add no value in the fight against the virus. This expenditure is over and above the R2,1 billion spent by the Health Department to build infrastructure to deal with the pandemic and the R431 million that was spent for disinfection of schools, for which there is a forensic investigation still be made public.

Despite this orgy of spending by government, the threat of the pandemic has not significantly reduced the overall risk to the citizens of Gauteng. Job losses and the loss of lives continue unabated, which calls into question the value produced by the spending of these eye-watering amounts of money.

In a time of hardship and suffering, one would expect government to spend every Rand of public funds on improving the quality of life of South Africans, but this government has let us down.

It is high time that our taxpayers’ money is spent responsibly. Politicians who exhibit disrespect for public money by overseeing wastage and inefficiency in order to achieve a political goal, and possibly to enrich themselves, should not be kept in office.

Where the DA governs, we ensure that our taxpayers’ money is spent wisely for the benefit of our people. The Western Cape Government has been transparent in timeously making public reports relating to Covid-19 expenditure.

The DA will leave no stone unturned in our quest to get clear answers from government officials that misuse taxpayer’s money. We have submitted written questions to MEC Tasneem Motara on how exactly this money was spent.

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

Covid patients die as Joburg Hospital ICU beds remain closed

Patients suffering from Covid-19 are dying from poor treatment while badly-needed ICU beds remain closed at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital since the fire on 16 April.

The only sections of the hospital that have reopened are the cancer radiology department, a ward for newborn babies and part of the neonatal ICU, and some maternity wards.

It is scandalous that this hospital has not treated a single Covid-19 patient during this devastating third wave of infections.

In the previous waves the hospital treated 150 Covid patients in ordinary wards and had a 21-bed ICU run by specialist “intensivists” who saved many lives.

Also unused is a 38-bed high care ward with oxygen equipment and ventilators donated by the Roy McAlpine Foundation.

The delay in reopening was worsened by the Gauteng Infrastructure Department which took more than a month to appoint contractors to fix the buildings.

It is unclear why emergency exemption has not been sought from technical safety issues raised by the Johannesburg city council despite Premier David Makhura saying he is prepared to go to jail to reopen the hospital.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that copper piping worth R30 million has been stolen from the hospital, as well as other items including televisions in the paediatric oncology wards that were used to entertain sick children.

It is a sad story of incompetence at many levels that is frustrating doctors and nurses who wish to save the lives of sick people.

We have immensely talented people in various private organisations who should be used to get the hospital running to save lives in this terrible epidemic.

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