Petrol price bungle reinforces DA call for deregulation of the sector 

Find an attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP

The shocking admission by the Department of Energy and Mineral Resources that it made a mistake when it announced that petrol went up by 81c, and has subsequently revised it downwards to 75 cents, is clear proof that the system of centralised determination of the petrol price has failed and must be abolished.

At a time when the economy is struggling to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and millions of South Africans have lost their jobs, the Department’s bungling of the petrol price is reckless and indicative of a government that has lost its legitimacy in extricating South Africa from the economic crisis that it finds itself in.

What has become clear from this petrol price bungling is that the government’s centralised determination of the petrol price is an archaic system which has, for years, been burdening consumers with exorbitant taxes. It explains why the government has resisted calls to deregulate the sector and allow the free market economy to set the price for petrol.

To this end, the DA demands an end to this extractive government system which relies on exorbitant taxes to fleece overburdened consumers. Poor South Africans who rely on the public transport system should not be expected to spend a huge part of their income on transport costs, It is immoral and reprehensible.

Government’s loss of legitimacy on petrol price determination means that it should abolish the system and allow the free market to compete freely to set the price. Over time, this will bring the price down through marginal trading among competing players.

The DA holds the view that having an affordable and fair price on fuel will only be possible if government stops interfering with market forces and using the petrol price as blank cheque to extract taxes from overburdened consumers.

How to fix the jobs crisis

Yesterday, Statistics SA released unemployment data for July to September 2021. The results are devastating and tragic. But not unexpected. And not inevitable.

660 000 jobs lost. South Africa’s narrow unemployment rate has hit a record high of 34.9%.

But the broad unemployment rate, which includes those who have given up looking for a job, more accurately depicts the real situation on the ground. It is at a high of 46.6% amongst all ages (15-64) and 77.4% amongst young people (15-24). These numbers show the real level of hopelessness, desperation, suffering, disempowerment, deprivation. The real level to which lives and dreams are being ruined.

Devastating and tragic, yes. Surprising, no. Because our current set of policies – the rules by which our economy is forced to operate – code failure into our economic system.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Here is what we need do to fix this jobs and humanitarian crisis.

  • Arrest the instigators of the July riots, to prevent and deter any further anarchy, and to reassure investors. The rule of law is essential for economic growth and job creation. This is why I asked him, during parliamentary questions to the President last weeks: “Four and a half months later, with no high profile arrests and no further word on the so-called instigators, can you honestly say to the people of KZN that your government has done its best for them?”
  • Run an extensive vaccine education campaign and enable widespread access by taking vaccines to where people are – main streets, shopping centres, taxi ranks and so forth. And by taking people to where vaccines are – the City of Cape Town, for example, is currently offering free MyCiTi transport to the CTICC mass vaccination centre.
  • Make it clear right now that there will be no further lockdown restrictions in the coming months.
  • Relentlessly root out corruption by firing corrupt public servants, capacitating the NPA, and re-introducing the Scorpions.
  • Restructure SA’s R2 trillion budget away from managerial salaries and waste and towards service delivery infrastructure and social support to the poor. This will stimulate demand while also providing some immediate relief.
  • Appoint public servants based solely on their ability to serve the public.
  • Invest heavily in water, electricity and transport infrastructure.
  • Enable a reliable, affordable, clean supply of energy by opening the energy market. Allow competent metros and municipalities to generate their own power or buy direct from independent producers.
  • Enable cheap, safe, reliable public transport by harnessing the power of capable metros and private companies to solve SA’s public transport problems.
  • Enable cheap data by removing obstacles to digital migration and spectrum auction.
  • Enable small business creation and success by opening up the labour market. Collective bargaining agreements should only apply to those who sign up to them.
  • Remove unnecessary red tape and make South Africa an easy place to do business.
  • Make it easy and attractive for scarce skills and capital to enter and stay in South Africa.
  • Enable high- and medium-density housing close to economic opportunities.
  • Scrap investment-killing policies such as EWC, BEE, NHI, the Mining Charter, localization.
  • Properly train, incentivise and independently evaluate school principals and teachers.

This is how we can code our economy for success. For rapid job-creating growth. We need to tackle each of these challenges, even if it’s hard. This is the kind, compassionate, inclusive way forward.

Modise must act on her commitment to take action on the irregular procurement of the Cuban drug

Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Kobus Marais MP.

Following the findings made by the Auditor General (AG) and the Ministerial Task Team (MTT) set up to investigate the Department of Defence and the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF) on the procurement of the Cuban drug, Hebron, Minister Thandi Modise should now proceed with the laying of criminal charges against all those implicated.

During her first appearance before the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans in August, Minister Modise made a commitment to crack the whip on those responsible for the irregular procurement of Hebron. She told the Committee that “There is no way that heads are not going to roll. Procurement systems were ruined”.

The moment of truth has come for the Minister to take decisive action and hold offending parties accountable for the deliberate breach of procurement and supply chain laws.

According to the AG and the MTT, DoD and SANDF members not only went ahead with the procurement of Hebron without approval from the South Africa Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), they flouted the Regulations for the Medicines and Related Substances Act and procurement regulations as provided for in the Public Finance Management Act.

The AG and the MTT reports concluded that there was:

  • Inadequate planning in the procurement of Hebron resulting in an open-ended contract;
  • No evidence of SAHPRA approval prior to importation of Hebron;
  • Material irregularity on the failure to comply with the Medicines and Related Substances Act;
  • Irregular expenditure of R2.1 billion, including R33 million for the procurement of the Interferon from Cuba without approval from SAHPRA, resulting in a qualified audit opinion; and
  • A breach of the Regulations for the Medicines and Related Substances Act as a result of the importation of a drug through an undesignated port of entry.

In addressing the material irregularity, the AG recommended that the Accounting Officer in the Department of Defence should determine the officials responsible for procuring the drug without regulatory approval, and take the necessary disciplinary action which may include liability for the losses incurred.

The SANDF should not only return the Hebron vials that are still in storage, but they should also stop any further payments to the Cubans and cancel any open-ended contracts that may still be active. South Africans should not be held to ransom by claims that an abrupt end to the contract may result in a political fallout with the Cubans. We are a country governed by law and public expenditure is not predicated on political expediency.

DA calls for Wild Coast blasting to be halted to allow for further public participation 

The DA calls for the immediate halting of the seismic blasting that is due to begin along the Wild Coast today. The potential environmental impact of this blasting on the area remains a threat and has largely been ignored by the national government.

Various environmental groups, activists, NGOs and local residents have expressed serious concerns regarding the impact of the blasting on marine life in the area. Unfortunately, these concerns have not been adequately responded to by either the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment or the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. The only response so far has been to suggest that concerned citizens take the matter to court. Neither department has shown any concern regarding the fragile marine environment which lies at the heart of the concerns. 

A responsible government cannot agree to allow this large-scale blasting to take place without empirical evidence that marine life will not be impacted. Many environmental groups are of the belief that the blasting could impact both large marine mammals and smaller fish stocks in the area.

On Thursday last week I met with concerned residents and local fisherfolk in Morgan Bay, one of the areas where blasting will take place. Local small-scale fisherfolk expressed their concerns regarding the potential impact on their livelihoods and advised that they had not been consulted regarding the way forward should local fish stocks be negatively impacted. 

Government simply cannot rely on the scant public participation undertaken way back in 2014 to make a decision that could have catastrophic consequences for the current marine environment of the Wild Coast.

The DA therefore again calls on government to urgently halt the blasting to allow for an updated round of public participation to take place with all relevant stakeholders, including local community members and environmental scientists. The future of our precious natural environment is at stake and we must do all we can to prevent irreparable damage from taking place.

DA calls on Energy Department to explore the rationalisation of the fuel tax system

Please find an attached soundbite by Kevin Mileham MP

In response to the recently announced upward revision to the fuel price by the Department of Energy, which is likely to add significant pressure on the economy and the commuting public, the DA again calls on the government to review the current fuel pricing model.

It is long past time that South Africa review its fuel pricing. Minister Mantashe is derelict in his duties in this regard: the DA, and others, have on several occasions requested that this review take place, but our correspondence has been completely ignored.

The DA therefore the Department of Energy to conduct exploratory research on the possible rationalisation of the fuel tax system.

It has become increasingly clear that the various fuel taxes, such as the Road Accident Fund (RAF) Levy, are adding to the cost pressures on the fuel cost per litre, which now stand at all-time record highs. Add to this the fact that the RAF is fraught with challenges, the South African government may be left with very few options other than to consider alternatives to the Road Accident Levy.

The Road Accident Fund Levy has not only become a key driver of the total cost per litre, but its poor administration by the Road Accident Fund has instead created a R300 billion funding deficit.

Exploratory research on the rationalisation of the fuel tax system by the Department could be a critical first step towards bringing down the price of fuel.

The current fuel pricing model is killing South African consumers. After years of economic decline due to ANC mismanagement, corruption and looting, and the harshest Covid-lockdown in the world forcing our economy to a near standstill, South Africans simply do not have the financial means to afford the fuel hike.

Unemployment disaster: What is the President doing?

Please find attached soundbite by Dr Michael Cardo MP.

The 3rd quarter Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) – which revealed that the expanded unemployment rate has risen to 46.6% – indicates a worsening pandemic of joblessness.

Instead of sitting on his hands and allowing job losses to mutate and multiply, President Cyril Ramaphosa should treat this as a public health emergency. It is a national disaster. His government should institute measures to revive the economy, liberalise the labour market and foster an environment conducive to job-creation.

Instead the government is likely to do nothing, or carry on doing the wrong things. It is remarkable that nearly five months after the July riots – which devastated some regional economies and led to significant job losses in the 3rd quarter – not a single individual has been brought to book for masterminding the mayhem.

The key takeaways from the QLFS are as follows: between the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2021, on the strict definition of unemployment, the unemployment rate increased from 34.4% to 34.9%. The number of employed persons decreased by 660 000 to 14.3 million. The number of discouraged work-seekers increased by 545 000 (or 16.4%). This means that, overall, nearly 12 million South Africans do not have a job. The figure is gobsmacking.

President Ramaphosa’s administration should begin to tackle job-creation by reforming our onerous labour laws and freeing up the labour market to make it more flexible and absorptive.

That is why the DA is pushing, among other things, for an end to the pernicious practice whereby the Minister of Employment and Labour extends collective bargaining agreements to parties who did not sign them in the first place. This imposes huge costs on new- and small firms. It is a job-killer.

President Ramaphosa’s government needs to take the hard decisions that will begin to arrest our economic decline, like abandoning the malevolent Mining Charter, fixing Eskom and bolstering our energy supply. Loadshedding is having a devastating effect on the economy and jobs. The government should ditch its hare-brained localisation scheme, which will lead to further job losses. Meanwhile any further lockdown restrictions over the coming months will cripple the economy.

The fact that South Africa’s unemployment rate is heading for 50% poses the single biggest threat to the commonweal. President Ramaphosa needs to overcome his default lackadaisicalness and take decisive action.

DA launches travel helpdesk for South Africans stranded abroad

Please find an attached soundbite by Darren Bergman MP

The DA has once again felt the need to step in and assist stranded South African residents abroad and those who have to travel abroad from South Africa.

Using the channels afforded to the DA in Parliament, the Department of Internal Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and with the help of volunteer programmes such as the Facebook group, ‘Community Circle Home SA’, and foreign embassies – we have launched a helpdesk to provide assistance to South Africans who have been hamstrung by recent travel bans.

It must be made clear that the DA is not looking to replace consular services nor are we interfering in government. We are merely formalising again the work we have done in the past in order to provide assistance to the many South Africans who are struggling to navigate the irrational travel bans imposed on the country.

South Africans who are travelling abroad; emigrating; have visitors coming to the country; cannot access urgent consular services and/or witness any unfair practices are encouraged to email traveldesk@da.org.za.

We have created this channel to utilise our resources to deal with queries professionally and in a streamlined manner. We urge South Africans to reach out to the DA’s helpdesk as a last port of call should they not get the assistance from airlines, DIRCO and airport staff.

The DA welcomes the President’s commitment to engage with foreign partners to have the travel restrictions reversed as these restrictions will have devastating consequences on our economy.

DA calls for a probe into SANDF’s bizarre decision to open bakeries

Please find attached soundbites in English and Afrikaans by Kobus Marais MP

The DA will write to the Minister of Defence, Thandi Modise, to call for an investigation into the South African National Defence Force’s (SANDF) bizarre decision to create a chain of bakeries which could potentially constitute as irregular and wasteful expenditure.

According to reports, South African soldiers are putting their guns aside to run bakeries in order to help the SANDF deal with its budgetary crisis.

While the DA acknowledges the fact that the cash-strapped SANDF is confronted with a number of operational challenges, the opening of bakeries is not the solution. These bakeries fall outside of the defence force’s mandate and has potentially opened SANDF up to irregular and wasteful expenditure of its already limited funds.

This decision once again highlights the lack of strategic thinking and foresight within the SANDF’s leadership ranks.

In order to address its budgetary contracts, SANDF needs to be reformed and repositioned to address the modern-day challenges that South Africa faces, building  a chain of bakeries will do little to achieve that goal.

SAPS drags feet on making GBV a crime category

Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

The DA calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP-GBVF) is implemented as a matter of urgency. This after we were have learnt that the South African Police Service (SAPS) has yet to create a specific crime category for gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF).

In a written reply to a parliamentary question from the DA, the Minister of Police Bheki Cele admitted that “in order to determine a GBV motive or that gender dynamic contributed to a crime, one currently would have to go into individual docket analysis”. Minister Cele also stated that “GBV is a social construct and not a specific crime”.

As the nation observes 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children, the national government again shows its lack of political will and urgency to root out this plague from our society.

The DA is very concerned that one of the reasons GBVF might be on a perpetual increase in South Africa is the lack of coordination between the different government departments, as well as SAPS, tasked with addressing this scourge.

In 2020, the NSP-GBVF were released after President Ramaphosa called the violence against women and children in this country a second pandemic. But little seems to have been done to implement the plan.

Instead, all these different departments and SAPS seem to do is collect statistics that show the growing problem, without ever implementing any countermeasures. Progress on implementing any of the five stages of the NSP are at glacial pace.

South Africa’s women and children deserve better than uncaring Ministers and SAPS officials paying them nothing but lip service. They deserve to be protected and to feel safe within their homes and communities. They deserve a government who delivers on its promises and doesn’t just repeat them year after year after year.

State Capture Commission withholding ANC cadre deployment records from public scrutiny

Please find attached a soundbite by Dr Leon Schreiber MP

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned by the refusal of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture to comply with a request we submitted over three months ago in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA). In terms of our PAIA request, the DA had asked the Commission to make public the records of the ANC’s cadre deployment committee that were presented as evidence in front of the Commission during the testimony of ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa on 11 and 12 August 2021.

Following Ramaphosa’s testimony, during which it was revealed that his cadre deployment committee had even influenced the appointment of judges to various courts – including to the Constitutional Court – the DA on 25 August submitted a PAIA application requesting that the Commission make public “any and all meeting minutes, attendance registers, lists of decisions, contents of communication and all other records of the national Deployment Committee of the African National Congress that the Commission has in its possession.” In terms of PAIA, the Commission was legally required to inform us whether it would comply with our request within 30 days.

 The Commission however violated this deadline. Over 90 days after we submitted our request and despite our repeated pleas, the Commission has still not provided us with an answer. As a result, our lawyers sent the Commission a letter of demand requesting that we be provided with an answer by 22 November. Once again, the Commission ignored us. I am advised by our attorneys that this latest brushing off of the public’s right to see these records amounts to a “deemed refusal” in terms of PAIA. In other words, by postponing and ignoring our request for more than three months, the Commission has effectively refused to make this information public so that the people of South Africa can see how the ANC’s cadre deployment committee corrupted, captured and collapsed our state.

Instead of providing the DA with the requested documents, which entered the public domain as soon as the ANC handed them to the Commission, the Zondo Commission tried to outsource this decision – to the ANC.

On 16 September, in a move akin to asking a thief whether stealing should be illegal, the Commission requested the ANC’s view on whether evidence of ANC cadre deployment corruption should be made public. On 7 October, the ANC predictably responded by pleading that the records of how they captured and corrupted the state should remain hidden from public view.

In a clear sign of just how damning – and therefore publicly relevant – these records are, the ANC even asked the Commission not to share the information because it was just “days before a local government election is set to take place.”

Distressingly, the Commission fell completely silent after receiving this plea from the ANC to be protected from the political fallout of making these documents public. Even after our final letter of demand sent last week, the Commission has still not even demonstrated the common courtesy to acknowledge receipt of our latest letter.

It is further worth noting that the Commission has routinely published hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence on its website – yet refuses to similarly publish what may be the most vital evidence it has heard during the past four years on how the deployment committee that was chaired by Cyril Ramaphosa between 2013 and 2018 captured the state.  

The DA is fighting to expose the truth about Ramaphosa’s cadre deployment policy on behalf of every South African citizen who wants to live in a country with a functioning and honest state. We are disturbed that the State Capture Commission refuses to allow South Africans to see the inner working of the very committee that laid the foundation for state capture. This clearly runs contrary to the Commission’s mandate and violates the spirit of trust it is supposed to help repair.

In the interest of protecting the Commission’s integrity and fully exposing to the South African people how Ramaphosa’s cadre deployment committee captured, corrupted and collapsed our state, the DA publicly calls on the Commission to immediately comply with our PAIA request and publish complete and unredacted copies of the ANC’s cadre deployment records.

It is time to stop hiding these records from the people of South Africa, who have the right to know the full and unvarnished truth about ANC cadre corruption.