A minute to midnight – declare a ring-fenced state of Disaster around Eskom now!

Please find attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

The shocking revelation by Eskom that all its Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) have ceased operation due to Eskom’s inability to buy more diesel, is a consequence of a decision that was taken by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 25 August when he presented his Energy Response Plan. Ignoring months of DA advice to declare a ring-fenced state of disaster around Eskom, Ramaphosa flatly refused to acknowledge that Eskom was teetering on the brink.

Now that Eskom’s OCGT’s have come to standstill, the country is facing high levels of loadshedding. Eskom has no money to buy more diesel and the grid faces the real risk of collapse, Ramaphosa and his ineffective National Energy Crisis Committee should take responsibility for failing to declare Eskom a disaster area. Moreover the newly appointed board announced with much fanfare, appears powerless in this regard.

The ANC government should stop its band-aid approach to the Eskom crisis and declare a ring-fenced state of disaster on the entity to allow for an emergency reprioritization of resources to keep the OCGTs running. Declaring a State of Disaster on Eskom, under the Disaster Management Act, will enable the government to act with speed to prioritise disaster relief funding and ensure all encumbrances – labour, localization, cadre, deployment and preferential procurement are banished while this crisis is dealt with.

It is completely unacceptable that Eskom continues to be bound by red tape on the use of OCGTs when the country is clearly facing an electricity crisis. In the current scenario, and largely due to the failure to declare a ring-fenced state of disaster on Eskom, Eskom is forced to continue using the much more expensive Dedisa/Avon OCGT IPP because NERSA allows the costs of Power Purchase Agreements to be passed on to consumers. On the other hand, Eskom cannot use its cheaper Ankerlig/Gourikuwa OCGTs whose over budget spend NERSA might disallow.

With OCGTs in complete shutdown due to diesel unavailability, there now exists a real risk that Eskom might struggle to bring them back to operation through a black start. It is for this reason that the DA has sent a request to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Nosiviwe Mapisa Nqakula, asking that she allows us to place an urgent question to Minister Gordhan for his oral question later in the week.

Gordhan needs to come clean and inform South Africa why he failed to act in time to stop Eskom from running out of diesel in the first place. Most importantly, he must provide answers on whether Eskom will be able to do a black start on the OCGTs, secure the money it needs to buy diesel and where that money will come from. Eskom continues to function in crisis management mode because Gordhan only wants to act when the horse has already bolted from the stables. The longer that the ANC government takes in declaring a ring-fenced disaster around Eskom, the closer that the country will get to a total grid collapse.

DA welcomes SCA’s ruling that Jacob Zuma’s medical parole was illegal

The DA welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) to uphold the Gauteng High Court’s finding that former president Jacob Zuma’s medical parole was illegal.

On 10 September 2021, the DA applied to the Gauteng High Court to review and set aside Correctional Services Commissioner Arthur Fraser’s decision to place former president Jacob Zuma on medical parole. Our application resulted in the High Court declaring Mr Zuma’s medical parole unlawful and ordering him to return to prison. The Department of Correctional Services appealed this judgement, unsuccessfully.

Today’s SCA judgement orders that Mr Zuma must return to the Estcourt Correctional Centre to finish serving his prison sentence. But the SCA stopped short of ruling on the matter of whether the time spent by Mr Zuma on unlawfully granted medical parole should be taken into account in determining the remaining period of his incarceration, saying that this is a matter to be considered by the Commissioner.

The SCA did, however, express its disapproval that while this judgement was pending, the Department of Correctional Services released a media statement saying that Mr Zuma had completed his sentence. The SCA rightly pointed out that this pronouncement was premature given that the issue was pending before the court, and that it potentially undermines the judicial process, particularly since the Department of Correctional Services was an appellant in the matter.

It is crucial now that the Commissioner of Correctional Services does the right thing. Zuma must be made to serve his sentence like any ordinary South African would be made to do. The Commissioner should not be swayed by threats of a repeat of the July unrest in KZN last year, which were sparked by Zuma supporters protesting his arrest.

This SCA judgement is a victory for the DA on behalf of the people of South Africa. It is a victory for the rule of law, for the principle of equality before the law, and for accountability, all of which are essential prerequisites for a successful, prosperous society.

The DA will not waver in our defense of these principles. We hope the same can be said for the Commissioner of Correctional Services. Certainly, the same cannot be said for President Ramaphosa who failed to speak out against the decision, now ruled illegal, to grant Mr Zuma medical parole.

To recap, Fraser’s medical parole decision was unlawful for at least two reasons. First, it was taken against the recommendation of the Medical Parole Advisory Board not to grant medical parole to Mr Zuma. Second, it was taken for an ulterior purpose not permitted by section 79 of the Correctional Services Act and Regulations (which govern the granting of medical parole), and not rationally connected to the purpose of medical parole or the information before the Commissioner.

Mr Zuma was imprisoned for contempt of court so serious that it constituted a near-existential threat to the authority of the judicial system. In the words of the Court:

“Indeed, if we do not intervene immediately to send a clear message to the public that this conduct stands to be rebuked in the strongest of terms, there is a real and imminent risk that a mockery will be made of this Court and the judicial process in the eyes of the public. The vigour with which Mr Zuma is peddling his disdain of this Court and the judicial process carries the further risk that he will inspire or incite others to similarly defy this Court, the judicial process and the rule of law.”

If left unchallenged, Fraser’s parole decision would have harmed the court in exactly the same way that Mr Zuma’s contempt of court did. It would have made a mockery of the judicial process, sending the message to everyone that, as long as you are powerful and politically connected, you need not fear punishment for breaking the law. If you are sent to prison for your crimes, you will be let out well before the end of your sentence on “medical parole”.

It is a terrible indictment on President Ramaphosa that he not only failed to speak out against this egregious decision to medically parole Mr Zuma, but that he openly welcomed it. Worse still, he facilitated it by deploying the deeply compromised Arthur Fraser to the position of Commissioner of Correctional Services in the first place.

President Ramaphosa transferred Arthur Fraser from his position as Director-General of the State Security Agency to the post of National Commissioner of Correctional Services in 2018, knowing full well the many crimes Fraser stood accused of, including the parallel intelligence network he set up to serve Mr Zuma’s personal interests.

The president’s ulterior motive for allowing Mr Zuma to be placed on medical parole has become clearer with the benefit of hindsight. It was not only an attempt to placate the Zuma faction of the ANC for the sake of ANC unity, and to avoid another frenzy of mass destruction as happened in KZN in July last year after Mr Zuma was convicted. It was also aimed at stopping the president’s own smallanyana skeletons from tumbling out the Phala Phala closet, since Mr Fraser held the key to that closet.

The Democratic Alliance will continue to use every means at our disposal to protect the Constitution and the rule of law from destruction by the ANC.

DA calls for comment on Responsible Spending Bill as cost-of-living crisis bites hard

As the cost of living crisis bites deeper and deeper into the pockets of South African households, government shows no sign of responding.

With 81% of households reporting that they cannot afford to put enough food on the table and transport costs stretching budgets beyond breaking point, the DA has proposed urgent relief measures to reduce the cost of the food basket and to tackle the high fuel price. These urgent interventions can bring immediate relief, if government better manages our public finances and spends responsibly.

Government debt will increase from R4.7 trillion to R5.6 trillion and debt servicing costs from R332 billion to R380 billion by 2025/26. This excludes the transfer of at least R200 billion of Eskom’s debt onto the national balance sheet.

Debt‐service costs have been the fastest growing item on the Budget while consuming an increasing share of GDP and revenue for the past two decades, and today, on average, 20 cents of every Rand collected in revenue every year will be needed to pay debt‐service costs. As a consequence, interest payments on accumulated debt have crowded out spending on essential public services that include policing, public health, and basic education among others.

Government is unable to respond to the cost of living crisis because it has chosen to borrow money to bail out the failed state owned enterprises and to fund its bloated, corruption riddled administration.

Urgent action is required to bring our national debt levels under control.

The DA is therefore announcing our intention to introduce the Responsible Spending Bill to Parliament. The purpose of this Bill is to introduce statutory fiscal rules aimed at containing national debt and debt service costs. The rules ensure that the primary budget is in surplus, the wage bill is contained, and increases in government spending is dependent upon economic growth. These rules will apply to different debt level bands, adjusting as debt levels reduce. The rules will be binding on government, while allowing for reviews and exemptions under specified circumstances, and subject to Parliamentary approval.

The DA calls on all parties and institutions to submit comments on the proposed content of the draft Bill to speaker@parliament.gov.za and to legislation@da.org.za by 17 December 2022.

Health Minister refuses to provide concrete answers on NHI finances

Please find attached soundbite by Michele Clarke MP

Last night, the Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, met with the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, to answer the committee’s most pressing questions regarding the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill.

Sadly, the Minister failed to use this opportunity to address the many serious questions and concerns raised during the many deliberations on the Bill, particularly those regarding the financing of the Bill.

The DA’s Shadow Minister of Finance, Dr Dion George, will write to the chairperson of the standing committee on finance, Mkhacani Joseph Maswanganyi, to request that the NHI’s implications on the fiscus be discussed and that the Ministers of Finance and Health present to the committee regarding how much the NHI has cost to date, the projected cost, as well as how Treasury plans to finance the NHI should the Bill be pushed through. The DA members on the health portfolio’s numerous requests in committee meetings, as well as our letters to the health committee chair, Dr Kenneth Leonard Jacobs, to invite Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana – and a letter to the Minister himself – to present on the financing of the Bill, have fallen on deaf ears.

It is crucial that the ANC government be compelled to give absolute answers on how the NHI will be funded and the predicted economic impact, as the Health Minister and the deputy director-general for the Department of Health, Dr Nicholas Crisp, seem to have opposing ideas on this.

While Dr Crisp have stated that additional taxes would have to be introduced to fund the NHI, including a possible increase in value-added tax (VAT), a change in general taxation, and adding a payroll tax, the Minister insisted that the NHI would be fully funded by the reallocation of funds. Requests for an updated economic impact and feasibility study have been outright denied.

It is extremely worrying that the Minister is unable to answer even the simplest of questions regarding the financing of the Bill, especially given the ANC view that the NHI Bill is “not a matter of money, but of health”. When concerns regarding the high risk of corruption is raised, the Minister simply states that measures would be put in place, yet the Department of Health’s lack of consequence management continues to be raised by the Auditor-General.

The ANC government is clearly trying to push the NHI Bill through Parliament – deliberations on the Bill and engagement with stakeholders and the public seem to be largely a tick boxing exercises with concerns raised either ridiculed, ignored or met with blatantly disrespectful and untrue statements that those who oppose the Bill do not care about the people of South Africa. For the ANC government, the people and Parliament are flies in their ointment. They have no interest in upholding the country’s participatory democracy.

The NHI will be just another bite of the dwindling fiscal apple for corrupt cadres and politically connected comrades.

Electoral Bill: NCOP can’t just be a rubber stamp

Please find attached soundbite by Carin Visser MP.

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) is expected to rush through arguably one of the most important bills in recent history in less than a month if the ANC and EFF has their way.

Although the Constitutional Court gave parliament two years to deal with the Electoral Amendment Bill, making provision for independent candidates to stand in National and Provincial elections, the National Assembly (NA) had more than 8 months to process this bill.

It is likely that the NCOP will amend the draft bill, which means that it has to go back to the NA for consideration and be passed in that house before 10 December 2022, unless the NCOP approaches the Constitutional Court for an extension.

In deliberations on the bill, the ANC acknowledged that public participation is a corner-stone of our democracy. However, they cited the imminent deadline for only accepting written submissions without any oral submissions or public meetings to solicit the input of the public. The outcome of this bill will determine what our democratically elected Parliament will look like for the next five years following the 2024 elections. It cannot be that a deadline for which an extension can again be applied, can be more important than the constitutional principle of participatory democracy.

The DA in the NCOP supports the many civic pleas for proper public participation. Parliament must exercise proper electoral reform and that includes allowing South African citizens and civil society to adequately participate in the process to allow for a free, fair and justified electoral system.

The DA is on record warning about the possible embarrassment to the institution of parliament should this bill eventually be challenged before the Constitutional Court. The DA in the NCOP will be calling for an urgent discussion on the manner in which parliament deals with deadlines to allow both Houses to fulfil their constitutional obligations properly.

DA se 44 Afrikaanse LP’s nooi Charlize vir gesprek oor taalregte

Vind asseblief aangeheg ‘n klankgreep deur Veronica van Dyk LP.

Die DA kan bevestig dat in ons nasionale parlementêre koukus alleen daar reeds meer as 44 Afrikaanssprekendes is.

As die mees diverse politieke party in Suid-Afrika praat baie DA-lede verskeie tale, insluitend Afrikaans. Dit blyk ‘n wyle te wees sedert me Theron haar geboorteland besoek het, waar Afrikaans nou die mees diverse sowel as die derde grootste taal is, wat deur meer as 7 miljoen mense van alle agtergronde gepraat word.

Die DA nooi me Theron graag na ‘n parlementêre sitting wanneer sy weer in die land is, sodat sy kan sien hoe ons verseker dat ons pragtige inheemse tale, insluitend Afrikaans, uitdrukking vind en beskerm word in die sale en gange van die Parlement.

Ons is ook dankbaar vir die kollig wat haar kommentaar op die belangrikheid van die beskerming en bevordering van ons inheemse tale gewerp het. Hierdie tale is nie net meganismes vir kommunikasie nie, maar hulle gee ook uitdrukking aan ons unieke Suid-Afrikaanse identiteit, kultuur en erfenis – wat me Theron dikwels beklemtoon het tydens haar opgang na roem.

Die DA is trots daarop om die voorste politieke kampvegter te wees vir die taalregte van alle Suid-Afrikaners, insluitend die 7 miljoen sprekers van Afrikaans. Terwyl dit baie jammer is dat soveel energie deur die ANC bestee word om Afrikaans te belaster terwyl ons land se ekonomie en infrastruktuur verkrummel, sal die DA aanhou opstaan ​​vir taalregte, soos ons gedoen het toe die ANC die naam van die Afrikaanse Taalmonument probeer verander het en toe hulle Afrikaans as “uitheems” probeer klassifiseer het.

Gegewe haar oënskynlike kommer oor die risiko dat Afrikaans “uisterf”, nooi ons me Theron om met haar volgende besoek met die DA in gesprek te tree, sodat ons kan saamwerk om haar moedertaal teen die ANC te beskerm.

Freedom Front Plus protects alleged criminal corruption in Abaqulusi

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in KwaZulu-Natal is alarmed by the outcome of today’s council meeting in the Abaqulusi Municipality (Vryheid), where the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) voted to protect alleged corruption and wasteful spending committed by the IFP Mayor and Deputy Mayor.

At the council meeting, a full Special Ethics Committee Report (view here) was tabled to be deliberated on by parties represented in the municipality. The report makes very serious findings against the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, including:

Mayor:
– Wasteful expenditure of R513 063.00 by using an extra VIP protection guard and backup vehicle, in contravention of COGTA regulations;
– No threat analysis or permission for this expenditure was ever sought from council or the Speaker of Abaqulusi Municipality; and
– Wasteful expenditure on renting a mayoral vehicle (Toyota Prado) at a cost to taxpayers of R281 551.00.

Deputy Mayor:
– Unauthorised expenditure of R103 500.00 on VIP security where no threat analysis was conducted; and
– Wasteful expenditure on renting a mayoral vehicle (Toyota Fortuner) at a cost of R187 489.00.

The report recommended that the a full forensic investigation be carried out by investigators into these matters, as there may very well be criminal cases to answer.

Instead of voting in favour of the report along with the DA, the FF+ voted with the IFP to defend this alleged corruption and shelve the report. The FF+’s collaboration in shielding this alleged corruption led to a deadlock in council, which enabled the IFP Speaker to cast the deciding vote to block the report.

The DA is appalled by this behaviour. It is clear that the FF+ is now complicit in this alleged corruption perpetrated against the people of Abaqulusi. We will be exploring remedial steps. The DA will be meeting with the IFP regarding thisl conduct at a technical task team meeting taking place on 18 November 2022

StatsSA confirms cost of living crisis

Please find attached soundbite by Dr. Dion George MP.

Statistics released by StatsSA reveal that retail trade sales declined in the year to September.

The “food, beverages and tobacco in specialised stores” category was the most significant contributor to this overall decrease as the group saw a staggering 8.1% decrease in sales on an annual basis.

These numbers confirm that South Africans are under severe pressure from the government-induced cost of living crisis that has left households unable to afford the food items they were able to in the past.

Consumption spending is an important part of total spending in the economy. If consumers are doing well, the economy does well. However, the Eskom blackouts have made it more difficult for retailers to keep afloat, high fuel costs have increased on transport costs, and the weak labour market has kept consumer confidence low.

The resulting food price inflation has pressured vulnerable South African consumers into hunger.

To fight the cost of food crisis the DA has proposed that Government drops VAT on more food items commonly purchased by the poorest 50% of households, which include bone-in chicken, beef, tinned beans, wheat flour, margarine, peanut butter, baby food, tea, coffee, and soup powder. This will help households to stretch food budgets further while enabling the purchase of more nutritious food.

I have formally requested the Minister to convene an expert panel to analyse the expansion of the zero-VAT rated food basket. He refused to do so. Instead, the Minister referenced an outdated 2017/18 report to supplement his reasoning and continued to announce that Treasury will yet again bail out failed SOEs, this time to the tune of hundreds of billions of Rands.

The Minister’s laissez faire response reveals that he, along with high living ANC cadres and public officials, are not bothered by the sharp increases in food prices that disproportionately affect poor South African households’ ability to put food on the table.

The DA will relentlessly continue with our pursuit to pressure the Minister and hold him to account for dismissing the plight of South African households. Today we reiterate our demand for the Minister to convene an expert panel that would analyse the expansion of the zero-VAT rated food basket.

Semi-permanent loadshedding – NERSA should reject Eskom’s 32% tariff increase application

The announcement by Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer, Jan Oberholzer, that South Africans should brace themselves for longer daily loadshedding schedules over the next 6 to 12 months, is the clearest admission yet that the country has been placed on an unofficial semi-permanent loadshedding schedule.

With 2022 on course to be the worst loadshedding year on record, the revelation by Oberholzer confirms that 2023 will easily eclipse this years’ record by a significant margin. Based on this new reality, consumers should not be forced to pay Eskom 32% more in tariffs just to stay in the dark.

As NERSA is currently in the process of reviewing Eskom’s 32% tariff application, the DA has taken the decision to submit an unsolicited ‘Eskom change in circumstances’ note to NERSA asking them to reject the entity’s tariff application request. Electricity availability is declining markedly and it would be immoral for NERSA to grant Eskom their tariff application request when they can’t even deliver electricity half the time.

Granting Eskom the requested 32% tariff increase will be tantamount to levying an ‘Eskom Inefficiency Tax’ on consumers – where struggling South Africans are forced to carry the financial cost of Eskom’s failing business model. Consumers have subsidised Eskom’s inefficiency for far too long and any notion that they should pay more into this black hole should be dismissed with contempt.

The only way out of Eskom’s death spiral, as admitted by Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter and Oberholzer, is to build new generation capacity outside of government and Eskom. Independent energy experts have made projections to the effect that approximately 53 GW of new generation capacity is required by 2032, mainly from renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind, to effectively deal with loadshedding.

If previous bid windows are anything to go by, there is significant interest from energy investors in the private sector to get involved in renewable energy generation. All the government needs to do is to get out of the way and allow them to building a project pipeline of energy projects that would free consumers from Eskom and loadshedding.

In the short term, the energy regulator NERSA should protect consumers from commercial exploitation by Eskom through exorbitant tariff increase requests. By breaking the social contract to supply reliable electricity, Eskom has forfeited the prerogative to demand more money from consumers, who are essentially sitting in the dark on a daily basis.

BELA Bill: Erosion of constitutional rights will not ensure quality education

Please find attached a soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.

Yesterday’s presentations to the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education regarding the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill continued to largely echo the DA’s concerns with the Bill.

Many of the organisations that made oral submissions on the Bill argued that disempowering school governing bodies (SGBs) and communities to make and implement language and admission policies, would endanger quality mother tongue education and lead to the erosion of the country’s unique diversity.

Organisations like Afriforum, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), Cause for Justice, and the Federation of Associations of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS) warned against disempowering SGBs in favour of Basic Education Heads of Departments.

Several organisations espoused parents’ rights to choose the education option that would be best for their children, including their Constitutional right to be educated in their mother tongue – including the Pestalozzi Trust, which was of the view that the BELA Bill is in fact trying to force home schooled children back into formal schooling against parental choice.

It is clear that the writing is on the wall for the Bill. It is largely unsupported by both the public and the majority of education stakeholders. It is clear that the South African public has grown wise to the ANC government’s steady attempts to erode their fundamental rights.

The ANC government’s arguments seem to centre around availing existing schools of excellence to as many learners as possible – an admirable goal – but one which ignores the fact that single language of instruction schools’ excellence are irrevocably linked to the benefits of mother tongue education.

Rather than decimating the dwindling number of single language schools, the Department of Basic Education should focus on developing and implementing curriculums in all of South Africa’s official languages and building quality schools to ensure that as many learners would have access to mother tongue education and would reap the benefits thereof. The DA’s collaboration model is one solution to this.

The BELA Bill is an ill-disguised attempt at centralizing power and targeting schools with a single language of instruction – particularly if that language is indigenous. And while the argument that SGB-determined language policies would be used as a means to exclude certain learners, the IRR debunked this in their presentation; “The SEIA report also claims that these amendments are necessary to ‘remedy discrimination against learners on a variety of grounds’. However, where disputes over admission, language policies and other SGB powers have gone before the court in recent years, alleged discrimination against learners has not featured as an issue. Nor does the SEIA report provide any evidence that discrimination has occurred and must therefore be ‘remedied’.”

It is extremely worrying that the ANC government is pushing legislation to the detriment of learners and communities – and that this legislation seems to be born from ideology to capture schools rather than facts.

The DA will continue to do everything in our power to stop the BELA Bill from being pushed through Parliament. We’ve heard the people, and will do our best as their representatives.