SASSA fails to pay social grants

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

Scores of people are struggling to get their social grants from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and Postbank this month. The DA has been inundated with calls, emails and WhatsApp messages from desperate grant beneficiaries that aren’t able to access their grants.

The petrol price increased with 59 cents per litre yesterday – a devastating increase for the poorest of the poor in South Africa. Not only will transport to and from their grant access points become more expensive, but they increasingly have less every month to spend on basic necessities.

To add insult to injury, Postbank said in a statement Tuesday that beneficiaries who use Postbank or SASSA gold cards wouldn’t be able to withdraw their grants from ATMs for December due to criminals targeting the network. And while Postbank tried to assure the public that experts and law enforcement agencies were working towards fixing the network and apprehending the criminals, millions of grant beneficiaries are now only able to access their funds from retailers. And that is not a given – the DA has received numerous complaints that beneficiaries weren’t able to access their funds at the partner retailers.

The DA is especially worried about beneficiaries in rural areas. They often do not have the luxury of retailers close to where they reside and would now have to travel great distances to access their funds. What little they have are wasted on unnecessary and increasingly expensive travel costs. And from past experience, traveling the vast distances does not guarantee payment. Often they have to return home without money because of the various problems at access points.

Beneficiaries struggling to access their grants have been a recurring monthly problem for many years now. And while the excuses offered by SASSA and its partners like Postbank might differ, the impact on grant recipients are massive and compounding – physically, financially and psychologically.

It is high time that the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, earned her salary and addressed SASSA’s many flaws once and for all. SASSA must do what the act that established it 16 years ago says – social grant payments must be paid consistently and correctly to all recipients without fail. The repeated failures to pay recipients on time, shows that it is time that SASSA institutionalise grant payments and insource this function again. Beneficiaries cannot continue to suffer day after day, year after year because the Minister and the Agency that are meant to serve them are inept and callous. The people of South Africa deserve better.

Fuel price increase tightening the noose on SA economy

 Note to editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Kevin Mileham MPSee graph illustrating the fluctuation of the fuel price over the year.

While President Ramaphosa is busy dealing with the fallout of his Phala Phala scandal, millions of South Africans are buckling under economic pressure, compounded by yet another increase in fuel price.

The Department of Energy has announced that citizens will now pay 59 cents more for petrol and R1.57 and R1.52 less for diesel respectively.

The fluctuation in the fuel price this year has proven that South Africans are at the mercy of an uncaring government, taking them on a roller-coaster of disaster. Today’s increase means South Africans are paying almost R4 more than in January this year.

Over R5 of the fuel price is an artificial levy and tax going straight to government. The general fuel levy of R3.93 per litre is little more than a corruption tax. Road users are effectively reimbursing the National Treasury for taxpayer funds lost to corruption and wasteful expenditure.

It is disgraceful that government calls for the price of fuel to increase given the country’s dire cost of living crisis, with no innovative solutions to provide any kind of relief.

The ANC Government is still committed to the same fuel pricing methodology that has resulted in consumers paying more and more over the past 12 months. They have not shown any real willingness to review the Basic Fuel Price methodology, or to engage business, civil society and other political parties on the matter. At the end of the day it is consumers and the economy that suffers.

The ANC is wholly to blame for the increase in the price of fuel because instead of lessening the burden on citizens they continuously bail out failed SOEs.

The DA therefore calls for the general fuel levy to be scrapped and for the deregulation of the fuel sector. Deregulation of the fuel sector will spur competition between sellers ultimately reducing the cost of fuel and the cost of living. We will continue to put pressure on Government to implement workable economic policies to get our economy on the path to growth and to urgently address the cost-of-living crisis.

Indefinite stage 6 load shedding – DA asks Cabinet to use common sense and declare a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom

While Ramaphosa’s lieutenants are busy working overtime to shield him from accountability over the Phala Phala farm scandal, the country has been forced into stage 6 loadshedding by Eskom.

The undeniable reality is that the ANC government has long given up on finding a lasting solution to the electricity crisis and the country now finds itself on the cusp of a total grid collapse. Sadly the festive lights will be switched off as people contend with the reality of Minister Pravin Gordhan and the ANC government’s failure.

In July 2022, while presenting his Energy Response Plan, President Cyril Ramaphosa responded directly to the DA call for a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom by stating that ‘We do not need a state [of]…. national disaster to implement common sense regulations that should help in resolving our energy crisis.’

Yet, 5 months later, South Africa finds itself in an indefinite stage 6 loadshedding schedule which is projected to get worse due to Eskom’s depleted diesel budget to keep its Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) operational.

As if this was not enough, Koeberg nuclear power station is preparing to shut down its Unit 1 on December 8 for maintainance and refueling. This will take 920MW off the grid at a time when Eskom’s coal fleet is breaking down across the board.

It is likely that Eskom will need to further escalate load shedding in the next few days.

Faced with this rapidly worsening electricity crisis, the DA has resolved to re-submit our request for a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom, to be placed on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting. The country cannot afford to continue carrying the devastating economic cost of an electricity crisis that becomes more severe and harmful to our country with each passing day.

The response to the electricity crisis must now be treated as a matter of National Security, and handled with the urgency, scale and focus of a war-like situation.

The immediate outcome of a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom is that it will enable disaster relief funding to be sourced from other departments and government resources, and reprioritized to keep the open-cycle turbines running in the immediate term.

Most importantly, such a declaration will allow government to bypass its own self-imposed obstacles, bottlenecks and cost inflations in the form of unworkable labour legislation, localisation requirements, cadre deployment and preferential procurement.

Failure to adopt a National Security approach to the electricity crisis has already exerted a significant economic cost on the country and dimmed our prospects of addressing the high unemployment rate.

With loadshedding costing South Africa’s economy R500 million per stage, per day, it is hardly surprising that the economy has basically been stagnant over the past decade and a half. New investments cannot be made in an energy scarce environment and existing businesses cannot expand their operations due to energy uncertainty.

The rolling blackouts are evidently a threat to national security, at economic and social levels. The livelihoods of millions of South Africans are at risk and the national focus should be on finding short term solutions to stabilize supply while expanding energy market participation by Independent Power Producers.

PRASA collapse:  DA calls for unbundling and rescue model

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) during their presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Transport recently, conceded that the state-owned entity is in “ICU”.

This is a startling concession and the most honest admission yet that the entity will never actually recover under an ANC government.

Corporate governance has been eroded at the entity that has almost 20% of its total workforce unaccounted for. Recent news reports revealed that PRASA has 3 000 ghost employees. Yet, a ballooning wage bill is honoured monthly with no value for money.

In 2009 PRASA was moving almost four million passengers per annum, compared to a paltry twelve thousand passengers in 2021. Over the last 13 years PRASA has lost a frightening 99.5% of their passenger numbers.  PRASA is not financially viable nor in a position to recover cost let alone realise any significant revenue. Their chaotic business model ensured the entity’s total collapse, including a looting spree by ANC cadres and their benefactors and total corporate governance collapse.

In 2010 PRASA’s fare revenue collection stood at R228 million compared to a horrific R2.8 million in 2021. The railway agency remains a significant financial risk to the South African fiscus, particularly given our country’s rapidly shrinking tax revenue base.

To compound this dire situation, some of the PRASA train stations which are still operational have no ticket inspectors, leaving platforms open for anyone to access and board trains and the ticketing booking phone line (086 000 8888) resembles a loadshedding schedule, with significant down times. These are but some of the many revenue leakages that exist within the system.

The DA has been consistent in calling for the necessary unbundling of PRASA from being exclusively funded by government. This move will enable the entity to tap into the financial markets, raise capital, and become competitive. Furthermore, the appointment of the PRASA board can never be left to the discretion of the Minister, a more transparent process needs to be developed one which will also involve Parliament, similarly to the Section 13(8) of the Broadcasting Act, No 4 of 1999.

Furthermore, the DA calls for a public private partnership ownership and rescue business model to be developed that will enable the private sector to bring in expertise that can lead to the entity becoming financially viable. To this end, the DA also calls on the Minister of Transport to brief the Portfolio Committee on a tangible, measurable and bankable unbundling and rescue plan. The plan must have timelines as well as milestones that can be used to track and monitor progress but also aimed at holding the Board, Executive Management and the Minister of Transport accountable.

South Africa narrowly escapes a technical recession

Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) announced today that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 1.6%. Even though positive growth was recorded in this quarter, it comes on the back of negative growth of 0.7% in the previous quarter, and long-term trends indicate that economic moment is far too low. Expectations are that our economy will grow at less than 1% next year, amongst the slowest in Africa.

The slight growth increase indicates that while the South African business environment has shown resilience and is recovering from damage done by the harsh lockdown restrictions imposed on it, the sector cannot achieve full growth potential under the ANC.

South Africa’s low growth trap is exacerbated by the Government’s self-manufactured energy- and economic crises that have resulted in soaring living costs. Government must utilize the freed up fiscal space to combat the cost-of-living crises more effectively.

The first step would be to release its stranglehold on the South African traveler and consumer by removing the fuel levy and increasing the zero-VAT rated food basket – the DA has proposed that the zero-VAT rated food basket also include items such as bone-in chicken, beef, tinned beans, wheat flour, margarine, peanut butter, baby food, tea, coffee, and soup powder.

Removing VAT on these items would disproportionately benefit the poorest 50% of South Africans who are already battling to put food on the table.

The ANC has effectively normalised sub-optimal growth and has shown itself far too interested in using taxpayer money to bail out failed SOEs, factional infighting, and upcoming party elections to worry about running the economy.

The DA will not allow this to continue. We will increase pressure on Government to implement workable economic policies to get our economy on the path to growth and to urgently address the cost-of-living crisis.

Health Ombud condemns conduct of two Motherwell Clinic nurses

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP.

Zenizole Vena’s tragic story touched the heart of every South African. After the 15-year old bravely escaped the men that had captured and raped her, she was ultimately failed by the public health workers that were meant to help and care for her.

After an investigation requested by the DA, the Health Ombud has come to the same conclusion. The Ombud’s response to the DA stated that “the patient’s social, psychological and physical state were not considered” when the two nurses at the Motherwell Clinic in Gqeberha referred her to the Thuthuzela Centre at the Dora Nginza Hospital via the local police station – where she died.

The Health Ombud further stated, “the conduct of the two professional nurses is condemned; they violated the frameworks and guidelines of professional ethics concerning the management of rape victims. Their inappropriate actions could have subjected the rape victim to risk from the perpetrators she had escaped from.”

Perhaps more despairing than Zenizole’s tragic fate, is that she is one of many. Between July and September this year alone, 10 590 people were raped, 1 895 were sexually assaulted and 989 women were murdered. In that same period, 315 children were killed and 1 670 had been assaulted with grievous bodily harm (GBH). The latest quarterly crime statistics paints a picture of pervasive gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) and a country that have become so desensitised to the continuous violence that our apathy perpetuates it.

And while programmes like the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign are crucial, they cannot make a dent without structural overhaul and political will.

The DA will do an oversight to the Motherwell Clinic in 2023 to ascertain whether the Health Ombuds’ recommendations for training on the management of sexual assault and GBV victims and the BathoPele Change Management and Engagement training have been conducted and to check how the referral pathways in the Nelson Mandela Metro were strengthened. We will also hold the Department of Health and the Clinic to account regarding the disciplinary action against the two nurses as recommended by the Health Ombud and initiated by Labour Relations.

Accountability and education are crucial in the continued war against GBVF. Without it, thousands more women and children will suffer the same horrible fate as Zenizole.

 

DA lays criminal charges against Coalition of Corruption in Knysna

Note to editors: Please find soundbite here and photos herehere and here

Today, the DA laid criminal charges against Knysna Mayor, Councillor Ndoda Aubrey Tsengwa and Speaker, Councillor Mncedisi David Skosana for fraud and perjury.

This follows charges laid against Councillor Alberto Riccardo Marbi, Deputy Mayor, acting Municipal Manager, Roland Butler and Acting Director of Corporate Services, Adv Luvuyo Loliwe.

In granting the DA an urgent application in the Western Cape High Court to interdict the payment of illegally employed cadres, Judge Henny’s judgment was scathing against Councillor Marbi in particular for attempting to “commit fraud on the court” by submitting a false affidavit. In his affidavit, Councillor Marbi swore under oath that the former Acting Municipal Manager had signed employment contracts for the cadres, and therefore were employees at the Municipality, knowing this was untrue.

Councillor Tsengwa and Skosana swore under oath that they were aware of the affidavit submitted by Councillor Marbi and that it was true. Both knew that it was not.

The first action of the ANC/Patriotic Alliance/PBI/EFF Coalition of Corruption, after ousting the DA-led government, was to illegally change the council organogram to add eight new positions that it then filled with cadres deployed by the ANC, Patriotic Alliance and PBI, without following any due process. This included the wife and brother of Patriotic Alliance and PBI senior officials.

The illegal changes to the organogram and employment process form part of Part B of the DA’s application to court and will be heard early next year.

Disciplinary action will be taken against Butler and Loliwe as municipal employees and code of ethics violation charges will follow for the 11 councillors who voted to pay the salaries, even though they had a legal opinion advising them against payment.

This money was meant to fund temporary employment for unemployed Knysna youth during the high season. The DA will not stand by while the Coalition of Corruption attempts to capture the town and steal the money of the hardworking ratepayers of Knysna.

This judgment is a victory for democracy against cadre deployment and corruption that the DA will fight, tooth and nail for.

Horrendous state of EC hospitals prove Department not ready to implement NHI

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP. Please see pictures of the DA’s oversight visit here, here, here, here, herehere and here.

The DA welcomes the parliamentary portfolio committee on health’s adoption of the report of our oversights to four hospitals in the Eastern Cape on Friday.

The oversight to Dora Nginza Provincial Hospital, Livingstone Tertiary Hospital, Uitenhage Provincial Hospital and Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital revealed the horrendous conditions that health care personnel face every day in their efforts to care for patients.

One of the biggest problems facing the province is the avalanche of medico-legal claims draining the budget. Once accruals and medico-legal claims are deducted, a mere R4.6 billion of the R24 billion budget remain – this is not nearly enough to provide quality health care in all of the Eastern Capes hospitals and clinics.

One of the major problems the committee encountered at Dora Nginza was staff shortages. Despite the Clinton Health Access Initiative’s (CHAI) generous donation to upgrade the neonatal and paediatric facilities, shifts are under capacitated. Quality of care in the public health sector will not improve until the thousands of vacant nursing posts have been filled.

The conditions at Livingstone Hospital were some of the worst we ever encountered. From the stench that hit us as we entered the hospital from the medical waste and dirty linen lining the corridors to the unsafe infrastructure, broken equipment, lack of supplies and staff shortages – a recurring theme throughout our oversights – the conditions that the patients have to endure is inhumane. The surgical backlogs continue to increase, and as all of the hospital’s top management are temporary, a turn-around strategy seems a bridge too far.

Uitenhage Hospital’s oversight continued in the same vein – personnel shortages, with no indication of when, if ever, they would be filled; lack of equipment and supplies; and space constraints. We were told that the hospital had not received personal protective equipment (PPE) since 2018. Is it any wonder that non-clinical staff regularly strike in these terrible conditions?

While the Port Elizabeth Hospital has pockets of excellence and fantastic specialists, some of them are forced to work with overwhelming challenges. The state of the art Cath lab and neurology units, for instance, is in stark contrast to the rest of the hospital, which is in a terrible state.

Despite the overwhelming challenges, the clinicians, doctors and nursing staff are some of the most dedicated the DA has had the privilege of meeting and we commend them for their diligence and care towards their patients.

It is clear from this oversight, and the many others the DA have done throughout the year, that the vast majority of South Africa’s public health system is simply not up to scratch. Decisive intervention is needed, and the ANC’s foolhardy focus on the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill will exacerbate the problem. South Africa deserves a quality universal health system where patients can be assured of the best care possible. At the moment, patients are likely to leave sicker than when they entered their nearest hospital or clinic. Unless the ANC government addresses these problems – not through useless and unconstitutional legislation like the NHI, but with practical and continued intervention – our public health system will continue to crumble.

DA rejects Mapisa-Nqakula’s decision to deny a roll call vote in Parliament

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has received the Speaker of the National Assembly’s correspondence rejecting our motivation for a roll call vote during the vote in the House tomorrow. She bases this decision on the connectivity issues MPs might face due to load-shedding. She makes this crucial decision of principle based on feeble logistical issues.

More importantly, she does this despite the fact that a precedent has been set when she acceded to the same request back in March this year.

This can only mean Mapisa- Nqakula is on over-drive, keen to protect the President and the executive and less interested in accountability and the critical role Parliament must play.

A roll call voting mechanism is used in parliaments across the world, and even in South Africa’s own provincial legislatures, where public representatives are called upon individually by the presiding officer to publicly verbalise and cast their vote in a parliamentary motion.

The DA called for this voting procedure to be employed as it is the only means of allowing Members of Parliament to vote with their conscience and not in party voting blocks, while still adhering to the constraints of a hybrid model for the parliamentary sitting and in the absence of a chamber large enough to accommodate all 400 MPs.

A roll call voting procedure ensures that the South African people are afforded the necessary transparency in our parliamentary democracy, where citizens can witness exactly how the people representing their interests vote on crucial and life-changing matters in the National Assembly.

Despite this, we will be voting for the impeachment process to continue tomorrow. The reality is that a sitting head of state has serious findings made against him and Parliament must satisfy itself – through an impeachment inquiry – on whether or not the President broke the law and by extension his oath of office.

We urge all other political parties to do so, as a matter of principle and commitment to the rule of law.

Parliament and President Ramaphosa owe South Africa an early election

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by DA Federal Leader John Steenhuisen MP.

The DA has today submitted a motion to dissolve the National Assembly. We call on South Africa’s 400 Members of the National Assembly to support this motion, because it is strongly in the country’s best interest.

Thereafter, we call on President Ramaphosa to proclaim and set dates for an early election, to be conducted in 2023. The Constitution provides for this in Sections 49 (2) and 50 (1).

The ANC has effectively lost its 2019 mandate to govern, which was granted on the back of Ramaphosa’s promise to clean up the state and reform the economy.

Instead, he himself is entangled in a web of personal wrongdoing, while South Africa battles an electricity crisis, a cost-of-living crisis, a joblessness crisis, and a service delivery crisis – all of which are set to get a lot worse in the coming months and years unless there is a step change in government.

South Africa’s future should not be decided now by 4000 bribed and bought ANC congress delegates, but by all the voters of this country. Parliament’s role is precisely to step up at times such as this, and hand power back to the people. It can only do this by dissolving the National Assembly so that the President can call an early election.

The Section 89 independent panel report into his many alleged wrongdoings in the matter of the theft of undeclared dollars hidden in a sofa on his Phala Phala game farm has left President Ramaphosa deeply compromised, regardless of the outcome of the possible review.

While President Ramaphosa fights for his political future, the country sinks ever faster into a state of suffering, destruction and chaos. The Presidency has claimed that Ramaphosa is guided only by a consideration of what is in South Africa’s best interest. There can be no doubt that an early election is in the country’s best interest. It is the only way out of the terrible mess we’re in.

Whether his Zuma-like Stalingrad strategy of avoiding accountability by dragging out legal processes is successful, or he submits himself to an impeachment process and a criminal investigation, or he simply relies, also Zuma-like, on being protected from accountability by a pliant ANC caucus in Parliament, South Africa has been plunged into an untenable situation that will only accelerate our decline.

In the event that the impeachment process goes ahead and rules against him, Ramaphosa has a wholly unsuitable individual, DD Mabuza, as his immediate successor. Mabuza has an international reputation for having killed and stolen his way to the top and he has done nothing of value for South Africa since becoming Deputy President. His rise to Acting President will deal a further terrible blow to South Africa’s wellbeing and credibility.

Furthermore, both the candidates lined up to take over the ANC Presidency – Zweli Mkhize and Paul Mashatile – are tainted by allegations of corruption, while the ANC itself is paralyzed by bankruptcy, infighting and outdated ideas. The ANC’s nomination list for seats on its 80-member national executive committee (NEC) is packed with convicted criminals and corrupt individuals. Ramaphosa’s only use to them is to keep them at the trough by saving the ANC from electoral oblivion in the next general election.

Whether or not Ramaphosa survives the Phala Phala fallout, there is no prospect at all of arresting South Africa’s rapid decline under an ANC government.

Ordinary South Africans cannot suffer further blows to their lives and livelihoods for 18 months while the ANC eats itself from the inside. It is time to hand power back to the people, to decide their own future.