DA to submit a PAIA application to the Presidency to make Digital Vibes SIU report public

Please find attached a soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube MP

The DA will submit a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) application to the Presidency to obtain access to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report into the Minster of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize’s involvement in the Digital Vibes corruption scandal. 

Two weeks ago, the Presidency confirmed that the report had been delivered to President Cyril Ramaphosa by the SIU. The DA then called on the President to immediately make the full, unredacted report public.

The President appears to be hesitant to act on this report. His inaction is preventing South Africa from having a permanent Health Minister and Minister Mkhize remains on perpetual special leave.

A previous report by the Mail & Guardian indicated that a source close to this matter has stated that “the SIU had recommended ‘executive action’ against [Minister Mkhize] and disciplinary action against the officials who were involved”.

In addition to this, the Daily Maverick, has revealed that there was a department wide effort to rig the entire tender process related to the awarding of this contract – a debacle that Minister Mkhize remains at the centre of.

If this is true, then President Ramaphosa is merely stalling to do what is right and dismiss Minister Mkhize with immediate effect. President Ramaphosa’s  inability to make difficult and ethical decisions will cost us dearly during a time of great crisis like this. 

The President needs to clean up his Cabinet and appoint a permanent Minister of Health who is capable and beyond reproach.

The fight against the Covid-19 pandemic will never be won if we have a Health Minister who is on perpetual special leave and an Acting Health Minister who is juggling two portfolios. 

The SIU report must be made public and all those implicated in this theft of public money must face the full might of the law. Minister Mkhize must be permanently removed from this post and a Minister must be appointed for continuity and stability in the portfolio.

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

Clean up the cabinet to clean up South Africa

Please find attached a soundbite by the Leader of the DA John Steenhuisen MP

Tonight, President Ramaphosa should have reassured the nation by announcing a cabinet clean up. Nothing else is going to cut it.

For starters, South Africa needs a full-time health minister to manage a full-time pandemic response. He should have announced that he has fired Health Minister Zweli Mkhize for his part in the Digital Vibes scandal and that he has replaced him with a competent individual with the skills and experience to make the right decisions.

It beggars belief that Mkhize is still on fully-paid leave, over six weeks after his suspension. If Mkhize is innocent, then Ramaphosa would have released the Digital Vibes report by now, and we call on him to do this. The public has a right to know. South Africans are tired of being treated like children.

The president should also have announced competent replacements for police minister Bheki Cele and state security minister Ayanda Dlodlo, both of whom have completely failed South Africa. Confidence in South Africa is at an all-time low and only a wholesale cabinet clean-up is going to get people to believe in this country again.

Hapless energy minister Gwede Mantashe must be replaced with someone who understands the urgency to bring down the cost and increase the supply of electricity by opening South Africa’s energy market. Structural reform has never been more urgent. Any minister standing in the way of progress must be summarily replaced.

We welcome social relief grants. They are desperately needed. But these relief measures are not going to be sustainable over the longer term without swift and decisive structural reform. The best and most sustainable way to help the poor and vulnerable is to create jobs.

South Africans are under indescribable pressure. The suffering is unimaginable to those of us who are lucky enough to have secure jobs. Trust in Ramaphosa’s administration is at an all-time low. Tonight, people needed to hear that their need for competent, caring leadership comes before the ANC’s need to balance factional claims for political positions.

We need to do absolutely everything in our power to get back to normal life. The level of vaccine hesitancy in South Africa is worryingly high. Government should be running a massive campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated and to dispel fears around vaccine safety.

We welcome the relaxation of some restrictions, but the President should have gone further and removed all restrictions that are costing South Africans their jobs. Specifically, the curfew and the ban on alcohol should have been fully lifted. The curfew is doing irreparable damage to restaurants, small towns and tourism. There is so much illicit alcohol available that it frankly makes no difference to transmission, but a big difference to tax receipts and jobs. Enough with irrational, arbitrary regulations such as forcing restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 8pm but food at 9pm. Has anyone in government ever actually run a business?

Parliament needs to be reconvened to deal with the multiple serious challenges battering South Africa. Now is not the time for heads in the sand, it’s time for cool heads around the table to provide the solutions needed to secure our future.

DA calls on the President to furnish Parliament with full details of SANDF deployment to Mozambique

The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to furnish Parliament with the full details of the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) apparent deployment to Mozambique last week. 

The DA has reliably learned that 1495 soldiers have been employed to Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region, as part of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Standby Force last Monday. However, Parliament has not yet been notified by the President as is required by Section 201 of the Constitution. 

We have serious concerns about the deployment. Particularly, how it will be funded and resourced. We cannot allow another CAR embarrassment and unnecessary death of our soldiers on foreign ground, especially given it is the same commanding officer involved . 

The public require the full details of the number number of soldiers who have been deployed, their mandate, how they will be resourced, and the period they will be deployed. 

The President must therefore inform Parliament of this deployment without further delay.

Urgent action needed to prevent a food security crisis in rural KZN

Please see attached pictures here, here, here, here and here.

Last week, the DA conducted a 3-day oversight visit to rural KwaZulu-Natal towns to assess the impact of the tumultuous events of the past fortnight on food security and the farming sector. 

While food donations have started to trickle in, an emergency social assistance programme is needed to prevent a full-blown food security crisis from unfolding in the short term, especially among some of the most vulnerable communities in these towns. 

With all the attention on areas like Soweto, Durban and Pietermaritzburg, the DA conducted a food security oversight visit to rural KZN. Areas visited included eSikhaleni, Empangeni, Pongola, Nongoma, Dundee, Pomeroy, Tugela Ferry, Greytown , Mooi River and Howick. The scale of the looting differed variably in each area that we visited with Nongoma and eSikaleni standing out as some of the hardest-hit areas of those we visited. We received reports of other towns also being destroyed in totality or in part.

The total destruction of both malls in eSikaleni has left thousands of people unemployed and people now dependant on Empangeni to buy food and other much needed necessities. In Nongoma, only one food store managed to open and people were queuing outside of town with police controlling access of just 60 people at a time into town.

Along the pre-planned route that we took, we came across farms that showed signs of burning and disturbance. Representatives from local farming communities told us that not only had they been manning road blocks to protect towns from further looting, they had been fighting raging fires for several days to stop them from causing further damage to their farming operations. 

Farmers raised several issues which they said could slow down the recovery rate from the looting and arson campaign, namely: 

  • Short-sighted petrol container ban. 
  • Inability to off-load perishable products leading to their eventual discard. 
  • Closure of auctions and its impact on the rural economy. 

This multi-faceted disruption to farming will have a disproportionate impact on the poor. Agriculture jobs, which are the lifeline of rural communities, will be negatively affected leading to a spike in unemployment and loss of income.  

Worse still, some of the rural towns we visited are still in the grips of a foot and mouth outbreak. The events of the past two weeks may potentially exacerbate the problem. If this happens, this could be devastating to farmers trying to pick up the pieces from the losses that they suffered from the looting and arson. 

An urgent intergovernmental effort is needed to starve off a food security crisis in KZN rural communities. This should be matched with a targeted support programme to assist farmers who suffered notable losses as a result of the damage inflicted on their farming operations. 

DA notes IEC decision to accept recommendation to postpone Local Government Elections

Please find attached a soundbite by Siviwe Gwarube

The DA has taken note of the decision by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to accept the recommendation of the Moseneke Inquiry to postpone this year’s Local Government Elections (LGE). The Commission has indicated that it would now approach the Court for a postponement of the elections to 2022. 

On Tuesday, former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke released his report on the outcomes of his Inquiry into Ensuring Free and Fair Local Government Elections. The report recommended that it will not be reasonably possible for South Africa to hold a free and fair LGE on 27 October and that the elections be held by no later than the end of February 2022.

The DA’s position remains unchanged – we did not support the postponement of an election based entirely on the equivocal provisions of the Constitution which call for regular, free and fair elections.

We will, however, be studying the submission of the IEC to the Court to specifically look at the mechanism that the Commission seeks to use to postpone the election. It is absolutely important that this process is in line with the spirit and letter of the Constitution and protects the rights of all South Africans to go to the polls and elect a government of their choice. We will also be looking at issues of precedent that could be set by this postponement and on the basis of those specifics, make a decision on the next steps.

In our submission to the IEC, we made a number of arguments against the postponement which include the following:

  • Our view is that the LGE must adhere to the constitutionally prescribed timeframe. Which, according to the Constitution, is every 5 years.
  • The election timetable is a regulatory mechanism to ensure free and fair elections, and the “state of readiness” of political parties to participate in the elections is not a valid reason to postpone the LGE. 
  • Mass gatherings are not essential to holding free and fair elections. It is these events that give rise to the risk of Covid transmission – not the holding of elections in themselves. 
  • Arguments that the LGE will lead to increased Covid-19 infections can be disputed in light of the various by-elections which took place since the start of the State of Disaster.

Now that the IEC has made the decision to approach the courts, we will be keeping a close eye on this process in order to ensure that we protect the cornerstone of our constitutional democracy – frequent, free and fair elections.

Speaker Modise shields Didiza from accountability 

Please find attached soundbite by Annette Steyn MP.

Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, has taken her ‘head in the sand’ approach to a whole new level, this time by using her position to try and shield the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, from accountability.

In a letter that she sent yesterday, she erroneously attempts to dissuade me from exercising my oversight responsibilities due to a ‘concern’ raised by the Minister over an oversight visit that I conducted at the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) head office in Pretoria on 15 June 2021.

I undertook the oversight visit after receiving repeated calls for assistance from farmers in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal who are yet to receive their lease agreements despite promises to do so by the Minister. In addition, I wanted to take a look at the land administration database, records of lease agreements and the database of all Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (PLAS) farms.

Not only was I prevented from carrying out the oversight and getting answers on the aforementioned, in line with my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament, but Departmental officials went to extreme lengths to make sure that I left.

In Modise’s book, the plight of farmers who have been left in the lurch by unfulfilled promises made by Didiza do not matter. She would rather prevent an MP from doing her job than let Didiza account to desperate farmers.

This is the second time this week that Modise has failed to exercise discretion in the exercise of her responsibilities. She refused two requests to reconvene Parliament and debate the tumultuous events of the past fortnight in KZN, even though they amounted to an insurrection – as stated by the President.

Didiza and her officials may dodge accountability but they will not hide forever. If she can’t handle the heat, the kitchen is better left to those who are committed to serve South Africans with integrity.

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

Tokyo Olympics: DA wishes Team SA well! 

The DA wishes the South African Olympic and Paralympic teams the very best at the Games in Tokyo.

We have no doubt that the athletes will hold South Africa’s name high and do the nation proud.

The whole country will be watching with bated breath and we trust that our athletes will do their very best and give it their all.

The Olympic Games will be an unprecedented event due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The DA hopes that all athletes and support staff will keep safe.

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

President Ramaphosa must be the first witness before Parliamentary inquiry into riots 

Please find attached soundbite by Natasha Mazzone MP.

The DA welcomes comments by National Assembly House Chairperson, Cedric Frolick, that Parliament pursue an inquiry into the insurrection which took place last week in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.

This probe will, however, not hold any legitimacy if President Cyril Ramaphosa is not called to testify before the inquiry. In fact, Ramaphosa must be the first person called to testify to account for his Cabinet’s utter failure to respond adequately to the insurrection.

South Africans have seen many inquiries over the years and have became inquiry-fatigued. The public will, therefore, not accept anything less than full, open and honest transparency especially from the ANC government.

The DA calls on Parliament to ensure that the inquiry:

  • Call on President Ramaphosa to appear and account for his and his Cabinet’s poor showing during the insurrection.
  • All Ministers of the security cluster must testify before the inquiry, including the entities responsible for crime intelligence.
  • Strict, clear terms of reference should be drawn up to guide the proceedings of the inquiry.
  • A clear commitment by all political parties that they will work towards true accountability and that the inquiry won’t simply be an attempt to whitewash what happened or exonerate anyone.

The violence and looting which took place in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week was unprecedented and a watershed moment in our nation’s 27 year old democracy.

The inquiry can, therefore, not be a tick-box exercise. It must be thorough and transparent with the eye on producing recommendations which will strengthen our State institutions and prevent the country from ever having to witness this level of carnage and destruction again.

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

Shutdown of Transnet operations cannot be understated

Please find attached a soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

Industry reports of a complete shutdown of Transnet operations on Thursday were met with an anodyne statement from Transnet.

The media statement announced:

“Transnet is currently experiencing a problem with some of its IT applications”.

“We have had to shut them [the IT applications] down to identify the source of the problem.”

“We have activated our business continuity plans in order to contain any adverse impact on operations,” the letter adds.

“We are working to reduce the downtimes to ensure that the systems are up and running again as soon as possible.”

The implications of this cyber attack on the logistical economic spine of the country cannot be underestimated nor ignored.

In the event of this attack being part of a sabotage plot by ANC factions within key SOEs, the implications are further compounded to levels affecting the very security of the state and its key economic operations.

Attempts by the DA to ascertain further information from Transnet’s Media Desk were met with a simple reiteration of the statement issued.

I was referred to the Group CEO, Patricia Derby, but on requesting her mobile number was again referred to her PA, whose number remains unanswered.

Transnet and Minister Pravin Gordhan must immediately clarify the tenuous situation at Transnet. The economic fate of key logistics in the country are at stake here and the nation needs to be taken into confidence instead of the continued application old policies of command and control.

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

While the ANC plunges SA into darkness, the DA municipalities move closer electricity independence

Please find attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP.

The DA welcomes the announcement from the Western Cape Minister of Finance and Economic Opportunities, David Maynier, that the provincial government has concluded the signing of the Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the six candidate municipalities participating in the Municipal Energy Resilience (MER) Initiative in the Western Cape.

The six municipalities include:

  • Stellenbosch Municipality;
  • Drakenstein Municipality;
  • Mossel Bay Municipality;
  • Overstrand Municipality;
  • Saldanha Bay Municipality; and
  • Swartland Municipality.

The province will also collaborate with the DA-run City of Cape Town in this regard.

The project seeks to help municipalities in the province generate or buy their own electricity in the medium- and long-term and free its residents from Eskom’s monopoly.

However, as the DA and its governments inch closer to independence from Eskom, the ANC government has again plunged the country deeper into darkness with the announcement of stage 2 loadshedding from 4pm this afternoon.

On top of the economic meltdown brought on by the continuing Covid-19 lockdown and exacerbated by the wide-spread riots in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week, Eskom and the ANC are fanning the flames of the financial downfall of country.

Without consistent power-supply the economy will have no chance to ever recover, and ever-more livelihoods lost forever, while the unemployment lines continue to grow daily. It is time the ANC government made good on its promises to increase NERSA’s licensing threshold for embedded generation projects to 100MW and allow for the energy regulations to be changed to allow for independent power producers to ease the pressure on the national grid.

It is time well-run, financially stable and functioning municipalities were allowed to seek independence from Eskom, both to rescue their citizens from the ongoing rolling blackouts of our dysfunctional electricity provider and to alleviate demand on the grid. The DA is working hard to make this a reality where it governs.

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