DA calls on Minster Mantashe to come clean on the country’s dwindling fuel supply

The Democratic Alliance (DA) calls on Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, to inform the country of the challenges facing the petroleum sector as our economy gradually re-opens.

According to information received from the South African Petroleum Industry Alliance and others, South Africa faces a shortage of diesel over the next few weeks. The increase in economic activity has absorbed the surplus that was on hand at the start of the lockdown.

Minimal refining capacity is online, and there is very limited imported stock arriving on our shores. As at the end of last week, 3 of South Africa’s 6 refineries had yet to restart operations, 2 were in limited production, and the PetroSA facility had halted production temporarily due to product contamination and pipeline failures. This means that diesel is likely to be rationed for the foreseeable future.

Of particular concern is the fact that South Africa’s strategic fuel reserves are not able to meet demand – due primarily to mismanagement, a lack of clear policy and the political machinations of the ANC government.

Given the lengthy lead time to procure, ship, offload and distribute fuel stock, it makes sense to hold sufficient reserves in the country to offset any potential supply chain interruptions (as has been the case now). The 2013 Draft Strategic Fuel Stocks Policy (which was never adopted) endeavours to ensure the uninterrupted supply of petroleum products throughout the country. At that time, it was estimated that fuel supply shortages would cost South Africa R1 billion per day in lost economic opportunities.

One of the requirements of the policy was that, over and above the stocks held directly by Government, licenced manufacturers and wholesalers of petroleum products would be obliged to hold 14 days of refined products as strategic stocks. But again, that policy was never adopted.

It is time for Minister Mantashe to come clean about the state of South Africa’s fuel supply for the next two weeks, and that he urgently addresses the fact that our strategic fuel reserves are, to all intents and purposes, worthless in this time of crisis. South Africa urgently needs to pay attention to its policy in this regard. We cannot continue to ignore the elephant in the room, in the hope that it will go away.

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Sisulu hires failed Minister Shabangu to advise on Water

The Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu has appointed failed ex-Minister Susan Shabangu as Water Services advisor.

This was revealed in a reply to a Parliamentary Question put to the Minister.

Shabangu is the latest in a long list of incompetent and unqualified cadres appointed by Sisulu to fill lucrative positions in her technically bankrupt department.

Shabangu’s track record in government speaks for itself and she resigned from Parliament last year after being denied a position on President Ramaphosa’s cabinet.

Failed ex Minister Bathabile Dlamini and ex NDPP Menzi Simelane were also appointed by Sisulu earlier this year – both of whom were subject to scathing findings by the Constitutional Court.

This latest appointment is indicative of Sisulu’s absolute disregard for the people of this nation, already languishing under the crushing weight of drought, disease and endemic ANC government incompetence.

Sisulu’s penchant for appointing incompetent and unqualified cadres to lucrative taxpayer-funded positions in her Department further flies in the face of her ongoing “Sisulu anti-corruption” PR campaign.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will add this to the long list of irregular appointments already submitted to the Public Protector for investigation.

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DA calls on Government to open Level 3 regulations for public comment

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is concerned that President Ramaphosa has not made concrete promises to South Africans that the Level 3 regulations will be open to public comment and submission.

This would be a departure from his previous willingness to hear from citizens when we moved from Level 5 to Level 4.

The DA has written to the President, through his Parliamentary Councillor to request that a list of consolations be provided to us as well as opening up a the opportunity for submissions by members of the public.

It was as a result of this process that the Government told us that cigarette sales would not be allowed because 2000 people opposed it.

Surely it would be correct for the President, who extols his willingness to consult, to hear from South Africans if they indeed agree with many of the regulations including the continued ban on cigarette sales or does he not want to hear from those that will oppose this ban now, given the opportunity?

In President Ramaphosa’s speech, he said that he had consulted “widely” in the move to Level 3. While the DA by and large supports this, it is important he provides us with the list of who he consulted with.

Did he consult with tobacco companies? Did he consult with hairdressers on their continued exclusion from operating and did he consult with the liquor industry on the reduced trading hours which will lead to long queues outside bottle stores?

We simply can not afford to leave it up to Ministers Dlamini-Zuma and Patel to draw up these regulations without public comment as it will no doubt lead to more confusion and anger from the public. They have hardly covered themselves in glory to date.

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DA calls on Home Affairs to issue directive allowing SA citizens to return to countries where they reside without delay

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Home Affairs that South African citizens may return to countries where they reside, work and study.

However, the DA calls on Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to urgently issue a directive in this regard.

An email to the covid19travel@dha.org.za address provided to process requests to return overseas still refers to the existing directives and states that Home Affairs is working on amended directives and regulations. Another automated response indicates applicants will need wait up to 5 working days for a decision. This means these South Africans are still not free to leave.

If the intention is to wait until 1 June 2020 for level 3 regulations to be in place, then it could be two weeks before affected persons may leave. This is simply unacceptable, as the affected persons are losing an estimated R2m a day on top of R60m in the last month alone.

Provided their travel documentation is in order and the embassy, diplomatic or consular representative has confirmed right to resident and provided confirmation that the person will be permitted to return, they should be able to depart without delay.

Currently foreign nationals and South Africans with medical emergencies, dual citizenship, permanent residency, those that are family of a foreigner may leave. This means that a dual national or foreign national have more rights under the current regulations and directives than a South African citizen.

The DA will continue to fight for the rights of South Africans unfairly discriminated against by irrational regulations and directives.

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DA calls for urgent resolution for stranded South Africans on SA borders

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling for urgent answers from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) as to why more than 1 000 citizens stranded in neighbouring countries are not getting repatriated back to South Africa.

The Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi, announced that South Africans who work or study abroad have been given the green light to return to where they are studying or working, yet South Africans on our borders are being denied entry into their home country. Why is DIRCO and foreign ministries in individual countries not providing feedback to anxious people who have been trying to come home for more than four weeks?

Over 7 000 South Africans having been repatriated to date, most of them from Europe, Asia, the USA and the UK. Very few have been brought home from Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Eswatini. This despite some of the people needing urgent medical attention. At least a month has passed since any significant responses have been received from either DIRCO, the Department of Health, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), or any foreign missions or embassies.

There are at least 60 people stranded in Namibia; 300 in Zimbabwe; 500 in Mozambique; 200 in Eswatini; and 100 in Botswana. We also believe there are in the region of 100 people in Angola. Included in the group is a family whose six-year old twins have been separated from them in Swaziland, and people in need of urgent medical attention in both Mozambique and Eswatini.

The only reason given has been a ‘lack of quarantine facilities’, but no explanation as to whether this is due to the inefficiencies of the DPWI, or because the Department of Health has not approved quarantine sites in Northern KwaZulu-Natal – particularly for those returning from Mozambique.

The DA demands that answers be provided as a matter of urgency. All South Africans deserve to be back in their homes – irrespective of where they are stranded.

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If government “appreciates challenging views of scientists”, why gag them?

Please find attached soundbite from John Steenhuisen MP.

The censoring of scientists by the Medical Research Council (MRC), along with a grovelling apology issued by its board chairperson, Professor Johnny Mahlangu, to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, makes a mockery of President Ramaphosa’s statement last night when he said: “We appreciate the diverse and sometimes challenging views of the scientists and health professionals in our country, which stimulate public debate and enrich our response.”

This gagging and grovelling follows a campaign of bullying of the President of the MRC, Professor Glenda Gray, after she spoke critically in an interview of aspects of the lockdown response. The bullying culminated in a letter sent from the acting Director General of the Health Department, Dr Anban Pillay, to the MRC on Friday instructing them to investigate Gray.

These actions of intimidation aimed at silencing opposing views are not acceptable in our open democracy, and particularly not in the circumstances of a pandemic response that requires constant updating and amending. We need a wide range of views to be heard. Now more than ever the principles of transparency and accountability are of critical importance. We cannot tolerate the authoritarian censorship of those who raise their concerns.

President Ramaphosa was being disingenuous when he said on live on TV that government welcomes challenging views of scientists. The exact opposite is true. Government is doing everything in its power to shut down the growing wave of dissenting views in the scientific community. The MRC members should have the freedom to express their opinions, even if these do not align perfectly with those of government. There is no point in co-opting 50 scientists onto government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee if they are all expected to hold and express the exact same view on all aspects of the Covid19 response.

Minister Mkhize was entirely within his rights to disagree with Professor Gray, which he duly did in a rebuttal piece. But for the Director General of his Department to write to the MRC instructing an investigation into her conduct, along with veiled threats of revealing other unnamed issues from unnamed sources, is simply unacceptable. It is equally unacceptable that the MRC capitulated the way they did before government’s bullying.

Government has already lost credibility in its Covid19 response by failing to supply the model and data on which it based its decision to place South Africa in the longest hard lockdown in the world – a decision that will cause untold suffering for an entire generation of South Africans. Gagging dissenting voices in the scientific community will certainly cost it whatever credibility might be left.

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Didiza’s attempt to legalise the consumption of wild animals is unfathomable

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has submitted several parliamentary questions to the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, requesting clarity on whether existing conservation legislation such as the regulations on Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) will still apply to wildlife species that are commercially-bred or that have been re-classified as “livestock”. We have also submitted a question to Minister Didiza on her motivation to add endangered and threatened species for legal consumption under the Meat Safety Act.

The DA is deeply concerned by the unilateral decision taken by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, whom without any consultation with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), gazetted for comment an amendment to Schedule-1 of the Meat Safety Act for inclusion of critically endangered species such as black rhino and threatened species such as African elephant, hippopotamus, giraffe and mountain zebra.

The Meat Safety Act ensures the safety of animal products by setting out the national standards with respect to abattoirs; the import and export of meat; and meat safety schemes. Minister Didiza’s amendment seeks to add numerous threatened and endangered wildlife species such as black and white rhino, African elephant, giraffe and hippopotamus to Schedule-1 of the Act, permitting their legal slaughter and consumption. A proviso at the end of the amendment to the act points out that the slaughter for human and animal consumption will be in line with conservation provisions.

The conservation provision at the end of the act appears to render the inclusion of critically endangered and threatened species to the act redundant, as conservation legislation would seemingly always take precedence. What then is Minister Didiza’s aim in adding these iconic species to Schedule-1 of the Meat Safety Act, if indeed they will never be butchered in abattoirs and their meat and body parts never sold and exported?

In May 2019, the then Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Senzani Zokwana, in a very similar vein enacted a controversial amendment to another piece of legislation affecting threatened species: The Animal Improvement Act (AIA). The amendment saw 33 wild mammal species, commonly bred by wildlife ranchers, reclassified under Table 7 of the regulations as livestock. The AIA amendment would appear to have paved the way for the commercialisation of wildlife including meat sales which will now be legalised under the Meat Safety Act.

In the wake of the devastating global cost to life and economy brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, mitigating the risk of future zoonotic spillover should be of the highest governmental priority. Minister Didiza’s attempt to legalise the consumption of wild animals is unfathomable. The DA will continue to fight for the protection and responsible management of South Africa’s wildlife.

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DA proposes special Inspector-General to prevent Covid-19 relief funding corruption

The following statement was delivered during a virtual press conference by the DA Shadow Minister of Finance, Geordin Hill-Lewis MP, DA Member on the Appropriations Committee, Ashor Sarupen MP and DA Member on the Standing Committee on the Auditor-General, Jan De Villiers MP.

Please find attached the DA’s proposal for a Special Inspector General.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today tabled a proposal to the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, for the creation of a Special Inspector-General to prevent corruption relating to Covid-19 pandemic relief, recovery and stimulus funding. This Inspector-General will have broad, sweeping powers to investigate and take pre-emptive, real-time action to prevent corruption at all levels of government for any taxpayer monies allocated to Covid relief and stimulus.

This is necessitated by the fact that previous localised disasters, as well as regular expenditure, has been lost through illegitimate procurement practices, undue cost escalation and direct theft.

The DA specifically proposes that the Special Inspector-General will have the following powers:

  1. Summoning information or assistance from any government department, agency, or other entity at National, Provincial or Local government level. Failure to disclose information within seven days will be regarded as a criminal offence;
  2. Direct departments to take immediate action to address deficiencies identified by a report or investigation of the Special Inspector General;
  3. Prevent the payment of any monies to, or recall moneys from any individual or entity where the Special Inspector-General finds deficiencies, non-adherence to processes, or potential abuse of power or corruption;
  4. Nullify the awarding of tenders and contracts where the Special Inspector-General finds deficiencies, non-adherence to processes, or potential abuse of power or corruption;
  5. Have powers to investigate the legitimacy of any eligible businesses receiving any state-backed Covid funding;
  6. Require an explanation of the reasons the State determined it to be appropriate to procure any goods or services for Covid relief, including a justification of the price paid for, and other financial terms associated with, the applicable transaction; and
  7. Preventing and/or Terminating procurement where exorbitant pricing is detected.

The direct expenditure planned in the forthcoming Special Appropriations Bill will amount to nearly 10% of the annual budget, in addition to existing expenditure that has been re-prioritised and freed up under emergency provisions. As such funding is being dispersed under disaster relief and emergency provisions of law, regular processes are suspended in the interests of efficiency. However, as demonstrated by the Public Works department has demonstrated, this can result in massive wasteful expenditure with no results.

This Inspector-General would differ from the Auditor-General (AG) in that the AG only considers spending after it has happened at the end of a financial year, and cannot take any preemptive action to prevent corruption. Legal provision for this Special Inspector General can be made in the forthcoming Special Appropriations Bill to be tabled to Parliament in June to give effect to the R500 billion stimulus package announced by the President and Finance Minister.

In the interests of co-operation, the DA will today table this proposal to the Finance Minister, however, should no mechanism to prevent corruption be included in the Special Appropriations Bill, the DA will table this as an amendment to the bill when it is presented to Parliament in July.

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UIF Covid-19 Ters benefit: Make an announcement today about May payments

The Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi, needs to make an announcement today about what is happening with the Covid-19 Ters benefit for the month of May.

On Saturday I wrote to the Unemployment Insurance Fund Commissioner (UIF), Teboho Maruping, asking him when the UIF would begin accepting Covid-19 Ters applications for May.

Given the length of time it took the UIF to make April payments (many of which only occurred in May), and the constant, desperate struggle of employers and employees to get their pound of flesh from the Fund, the latest delays do not augur well.

Even with the UIF’s promised payment processing time of 24-48 hours, it seems most workers will have to wait until June to get their Covid-19 Ters benefit for May.

At a time of desperate financial struggle, this delay is unacceptable.

During a Portfolio Committee meeting on Employment and Labour last week, the UIF Commissioner indicated that the UIF’s online application system would be “going live on Friday [22 May]” and that, at the latest, the system would be open on the weekend.

Today is payday for millions of workers. I still have not received a response from the UIF Commissioner, and as of 8 am today, the UIF website states: “We have not started accepting Ters applications for May 2020 yet. Kindly keep visiting the website for the latest updates…Thanks for your patience”.

For most employers and employees, their patience has worn thin with waiting. It now hangs by a thread.

For much of April, several employers were not able to access the Covid-19 Ters website because the site repeatedly crashed. Many employers were locked out of their UIF uFiling profiles. Phone calls and emails to the Fund went unanswered. By the end of April, unpaid employees were desperate and mutinous.

Now we run the risk of repeating the disaster. To complicate matters, in terms of a directive issued by the Minister of Employment and Labour earlier this month, individual employees can now apply directly for the Ters benefit (and not only employers and bargaining councils as was the case previously). This is going to place an additional intolerable strain on the system.

The Minister of Employment and Labour urgently needs to level with the nation and explain what the delay is with the UIF’s applications process for May, and announce when the system will go live.

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Lifting of the hard lockdown comes a full six weeks too late

The DA welcomes the announcement by the President that large swathes of the economy will be opened up, subject to hygiene, mask and distancing protocols, as we move to Alert Level 3 of the lockdown on 1 June. This is in line with what the DA has called for, repeatedly, for the past month. For clarity on the DA’s position on the Covid19 response and the lockdown crisis, please see our FAQ document here.

While it is critical that we now save what can be saved in our economy, it must be said that by the time Alert Level 3 comes into effect in a week’s time, it will be a full six weeks too late. There was no rational justification to extend the hard lockdown beyond the initial three weeks, and this extension has now caused irreparable damage to our economy. The resulting hardship and suffering – and ultimately, the premature deaths of South African citizens due to this – will have been largely avoidable. Government and President Ramaphosa will need to answer for this.

South Africa has now entered its ninth week of hard lockdown, which makes ours the second-longest lockdown in the world, after only Italy. By 1 June, we will have surpassed Italy. Our economy could barely withstand the initial three weeks. This extension has come at an enormous cost to millions, and there is very little to show for it in return.

For the past month and a half, South Africans have had to sit at home and watch everything they had built up fall apart. Businesses went bust, employees went unpaid, rents accumulated, home loan payments were missed and hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs. This figure will soon be millions, as the effects of this lockdown reverberate through our economy. And people did this – they sat at home and watched it collapse – because they were told this was their end of the deal. Their part of the so-called social compact President Ramaphosa speaks of.

But the other end of this deal never materialised. Government didn’t use the past five weeks to ready itself for the wave of infections. And it didn’t use the time to find and help those South Africans most in need. The additional R350 grant has still not kicked in, apart from a ten-person pilot, and many businesses have still not received a cent in TERS funding. Citizens sacrificed everything while government reneged on the deal. And there has been no comprehensive reporting on healthcare readiness, other than in the Western Cape, where Premier Alan Winde has consistently been transparent.

So while the DA welcomes this move to Alert Level 3, we must stress that it comes far too late for millions of South Africans who have already paid heavily for government’s dithering. And why should this only come into effect a week from now? This lockdown is costing our economy around R13 billion a day. The President must end it tomorrow, not next week.

And even now, at Alert Level 3, the irrational regulations and exclusions remain. There is no reason for businesses such as hair salons to remain shut, if they can operate under the same health protocols as other businesses. There is also no reason at all for cigarettes to remain banned, as most smokers have not given up smoking and are simply buying their illicit cigarettes elsewhere. We call on President Ramaphosa to provide us with the scientific justification for the continuation of this ban, which is costing our country hundreds of millions of Rands in missed tax revenue.

We also need the President to fill in the biggest missing piece of the puzzle: the plan to fix the past six weeks of economic devastation and the past decade of mismanagement and looting. There can be no more delay when it comes to spelling out the bold economic reforms we need. Due to the government’s dithering, an economic depression is already baked into the cake. Unless we immediately implement structural reforms, which include selling and privatising SOEs, scrapping destructive plans like EWC and NHI, and dramatically cutting the public wage bill, an entire generation of South Africans will be left to pay the price for the six weeks that destroyed our economy.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court