Undertaking to halt farm evictions means nothing unless it’s transparent

While the DA welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Thoko Didiza, that all farm evictions have been halted in the Gert Sibande district, pending an investigation to be undertaken in the next two weeks by a team from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) in Pretoria, we insist on transparency.

In a meeting with farmers from the district yesterday, Minister Didiza admitted that there were clear signs of corruption regarding these farm evictions in Mpumalanga.

This acknowledgement of malfeasance in her Department is a step in the right direction but means nothing if the Minister promises farmers the sun and stars, while officials in her provincial departments continue their corrupt conduct.

Mr Vuyani Zigana’s struggles with DALRRD has been widely reported. He believed that his woes had finally come to an end after Minister Didiza wrote a letter instructing that section S38 of Melville Park near Underberg, be allocated to him.

When he arrived at his newly promised farm however, he found the land already occupied by six other emerging black farmers, each with cattle, and large parts of the farm overgrazed.

Despite the Minister’s seeming intervention, he has been struggling since his arrival on 19 February to reach a resolution with the KwaZulu-Natal DALRRD, whose officials informed him that they had given the farm to someone else and that his letter from the Minister meant little to them. He was instructed to move to a different farm with nine other farmers but has refused to do so.

From Mr Zigana’s example alone it is clear as day that Minister Didiza does not hold the regard of her officials. It is no wonder that farmers across the country are struggling as corruption seemingly weighs far heavier in DALRRD provincial departments than political will from the Minister.

Mr Zigana’s case is unfortunately not an isolated incident. The DA will write to the Minister regarding the many other farmers who has shared their troubles with us. We hope the Minister does not ignore our communication as she has those of the many farmers that have repeatedly tried to inform her of their suffering.

The DA also calls on the Minister to release a list of all state-owned land. DALRRD cannot possibly hope to address restitution and reparation without transparency. It will only lead to more corruption – something her Department is already drowning in.

Hlophe misconduct: DA welcomes Tribunal decision

  • Please find attached soundbite by Adv Glynnis Breytenbach MP.

The DA welcomes the Judicial Conduct Tribunal’s (JCT) finding that Western Cape Judge President John Hlophe is guilty of gross misconduct.

Hlophe’s behaviour through the years have decimated the reputation of the Western Cape Division of the High Court. He is a blight on the judiciary, and it is about time he suffered the most serious consequences of his actions.

Parliament must now deliberate on his removal in terms of Section 177(1) of the Constitution which states that “A judge may be removed from office only if the Judicial Service Commission finds that the judge suffers from an incapacity, is grossly incompetent or is guilty of gross misconduct.

The DA again calls on President Cyril Ramaphosa to appoint a retired judge to investigate all allegations of undue influence and possible bribery of members of the judiciary as part of the so-called “Project Justice”, said to have been part of the nefarious activities of the State Security Agency.

Murder of crippled KZN farmer: How much more must our farmers take?

The DA is shocked and horrified by the murder of crippled farmer, Neil McKay of KwaZulu-Natal.

Who would murder a man in a wheelchair? A man in a wheelchair who was both unarmed and physically unable to protect himself.

We are also appalled by the news that the reason he was crippled was because of in an initial farm attack some 20 years ago. In that attack he was shot and disabled. It seems that despite the passing of 20 years the attackers who crippled Neil McKay have never been convicted.

Surely this second attack and horrendous murder will move Minister of Police, Bheki Cele to finally give as much attention to solving the thousands of unsolved murder cases as he does to arresting people minding their own business on the beach?

Neil McKay was a gentle and friendly man of peace who apparently refused to carry or even have a gun, despite living alone on a farm where his now deceased father made it possible for his beloved son to farm from a wheel chair.

The murderer/s apparently attacked Neil in his office in the farm shed immediately after the farm manager and staff left for their homes on Friday evening. It seems they were keeping watch and attacked the defenceless Neil Mackay once he was on his own. First they cleaned out the safe then they apparently dragged Neil to his bedroom where they brutally strangled him to death.

People who would murder a defenceless man are a danger to all of society. They must be found and locked away without delay before they murder again.

Neil’s dogs clearly did their best to defend him and were savagely slashed but, judging by the blood on the scene, it seems the dogs did manage to injure those who murdered Neil McKay.

It is up to the South African Police to do their job and conduct a thorough forensic investigation to collect the DNA and other evidence needed to ensure that the murderers are charged, convicted and thrown into jail for life.

The DA expresses its most sincere condolences to Neil’s mother who arrived at his farm in Winterton on Saturday morning only to find her murdered son dead in his bedroom. It is impossible to comprehend the shock and sadness that Mrs McKay must have experienced and will experience for the rest of her life.

Mrs McKay has had to live through her son being twice attacked, this second time murdered by people who don’t deserve any place in our society except in a maximum-security prison.

The DA will monitor the progress that the SAPS makes in this investigation. We will follow up, and exert extreme pressure until such time as the murderers of Neil McKay are apprehended.

We will demand answers from the Minister about the failure to charge and convict the first attackers. We will do oversight to ensure that the case is properly investigated and not simply shoved into File 13 along with the thousands of unsolved murder cases that should give the Minister Cele sleepless nights but like Jimmy Kruger who presided over the non-investigation of Steve Biko’s murder, seems to be “left cold”.

High Court orders artists out of NAC premises

The DA has been made aware that the National Arts Council (NAC) has obtained a court order from the South Gauteng High Court effectively ordering all artists staging a sit-in at the NAC offices to vacate the premises.

The artists have been exercising their right to protest peacefully for more than 40 days by staging a sit-in at the NAC offices in an attempt to get answers from the council regarding promised funding from the Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PESP) to the tune of R300 million. The artists have told the DA that there had been no “stoning the building” as initial reports indicated. They have also indicated that they have no intention of leaving the NAC premises.

The NAC`s unlawful decision to break legally binding contracts awarded to more than 600 artists caused much misery. Many of these artists had already commenced their projects and created employment for others in the arts and culture sector when they received the NAC’s announcement of contract breach. The majority had also not received a cent of promised payment from the Council.

While the DA understands the pressure the Council, that started their term in January 2021 must feel, many of its problems could have been solved had the NAC decided to be transparent with the artists and engaged with them. Instead of forcing the artists from their premises, the NAC should rather seek to solve this crisis of its own making and speed up payments to artists.

Multitudes of people who were employed in the arts and culture sectors have lost everything. They do not have homes to return to and have no food to eat. The NAC has now robbed them of hope as well. This, while there are ever more reports seeing the light of alleged maladministration and corruption regarding the PESP.

The DA implores the NAC to see reason and rather engage with the artists. Most of them are artists themselves after all. The whole of the sector has suffered from the irrational regulations of government decimating the economy and the arts and culture industry during the extended Covid-19 lockdown. This has stripped many South Africans of the dignity of gainful employment. It seems to have stripped the NAC of a little more – their humanity and compassion.

DA reports Lwazi Lushaba to Human Rights Commission over Hitler comments

The DA will lodge a complaint against UCT lecturer, Lwazi Lushaba, with the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) following his racist comments regarding Adolf Hitler on a pre-recorded lecture. 

Reports confirm that Lushaba made the following comments: “Hitler committed no crime. All Hitler did was to do to white people what white people had normally reserved for black people.”

The Holocaust was unequivocally a crime against humanity orchestrated by Hitler. The DA therefore strongly condemns the comments made by Lushaba.

His comments were not only racist, offensive and vile, but also completely insensitive to the victims and survivors of the Holocaust and the Jewish community as a whole. 

South Africa’s Jewish community will today observe Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. In remembering the victims of the Holocaust, we must place a renewed sense of responsibility on those in positions of power and influence to defend the truth and to defend our democracy against any racist or anti-Semitic sentiments. 

Lushaba has a long history of offensive and controversial actions. In 2019, he allegedly took exception to one of the contender’s in UCT’s election of its Dean of Humanities being Tanzanian and not South African. In an interview with Power FM, Lushaba stated that “reason and rationality are white”.  Lushaba was also suspended by Wits back in 2015 for “participating in activities which were not conducive to free and fair elections and were intolerant to a democratic society”.

The DA has taken note that UCT will probe Lushaba’s comments and we urge the institution’s Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng to place him on suspension pending the investigation. 

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

DA rejects Athletics South Africa’s discriminatory actions on school sports

The DA will request that both Athletics South Africa (ASA) and South Africa Schools Athletics (SASA) account to the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture as a matter of urgency. This follows worrying reports from schools across the country that ASA is trying to bully them into only participating in ASA competitions.

Athletics participation at school level usually runs on two tracks: on provincial and national level by SASA and on club level by ASA. While SASA provides a platform for all learners in South Africa – primary, secondary, and special educational needs learners – no matter their socio-economic situation, the ASA competitions are a lot more exclusive with participating learners having to join clubs and pay club fees, as well as providing for all their own transportation to and from competitions.

The push to have learners only participate in ASA competitions is discriminatory as it will exclude a vast majority of athletes from poor backgrounds and those living in rural areas. ASA competitions have always been optional, and this is the first year that the entity seems to want to enforce participation.

This restriction on athletic competitions hosted by SASA contradicts the Department of Basic Educations’ direction gazetted on 27 March 2021 that school sports matches may resume without spectators as long as there is compliance with Covid-19 hygiene and safety measures.

It is astounding that ASA would be so completely unaware of the detriment their actions will bring to the development of athletics in South Africa, as well as its discrimination against learners unable to comply with financial and distance restrictions that club competitions bring.

The Recognition of Sport and Recreation Bodies Regulations states that “Participation in any sport or recreation body must be open to all sections of the community and not be restricted for reasons of cost, gender, disability or […] any form of direct or indirect discrimination”. ASA’s own constitution states that one of its basic cornerstones is “The continual striving to ensure that no form of discrimination […] be permitted in athletics and to take all practicable measures to prevent such discrimination.”

By trying to stifle all SASA competitions, the cornerstone in the grassroots development of athletics in South Africa, ASA is discriminating against all young athletes whose only option for talent development is their schools.

If ASA is allowed to continue with its discrimination, athletics in South Africa will be stopped in its tracks.

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

Agriculture deserves the support and protection of Government

DA Federal Chairperson and Western Cape Minister of Agriculture, Dr Ivan Meyer,  accompanied by the Leader of the Opposition in the Free State Legislature, Dr Roy Jankielsohn, are assessing local farmers’ initiatives to combat crimes such as farm attacks and stock and other theft.

The Free State visit is of great comparative value for the Western Cape Government as the Western Cape endeavours to implement provincial initiatives to ensure rural communities’ safety and security.

The visit has emphasised the criminal justice system’s failure to protect farmers, farmworkers, and farm dwellers from crime.

Not only are SAPS resources restricted, but there are serious allegations of complicity between senior SAPS officials and crime syndicates. The recent arrest of the acting station commander at Tweeling for alleged stock theft by a private security company contracted by farmers supports this view.

During a meeting with local farmers, the delegation was informed that cross-border crime remains a serious and very costly problem. The visit to the Lesotho border with the Free State, between Clarens and Fouriesburg, highlighted how porous our country’s borders are.

The border has no fence and no other visible measures to combat cross-border crimes. Although the SANDF are deployed along the border, they are too few to make any meaningful contribution in visible policing.

The Caledon River with little water in it during the winter months provides no barrier for illegal immigrants or would-be criminals.

The economic cost of stock and other theft to the local agricultural sector remains unacceptably high. It is threatening the sustainability of agriculture as an economically viable option in this district.

In 2017, the Free State was the second-largest income-generating province in terms of commercial agriculture at R46,9 billion, after the Western Cape at R64,4 billion.

The Thabo Mufutsanyana District is the third-largest agricultural income-generating district in the country, with the Lejweleputswa district leading South Africa in terms of potatoes and maize. The Free State is an essential link in the national agricultural value and food security chain.

Some noteworthy initiatives by local farmers to ensure their safety and their workers and families include the erection of security cameras and local farm patrols along the border.

These initiatives are noteworthy and should be supported by the national government. Other government initiatives to improve rural safety should include specialised rural safety units, crime-fighting drones, and other technology to enhance visible policing.

Our farmers and their employees are national assets. They continue to produce the agricultural commodities that provide our people in South Africa with food, clothing, and other day-to-day necessities.

The agricultural sector, across all provinces, deserves the support and protection of local, provincial, and national governments.

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

Minister Mthethwa missing in action as distrust between NAC and artists deepen 

Despite numerous attempts by the DA and various artist and organizations, the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, failed to utilize a perfect opportunity yesterday to meet with artists staging a sit-in at the National Arts Council (NAC) offices in Johannesburg. The DA yesterday met with artists at the NAC offices as part of oversight visits that the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Sports, Arts and Culture are doing countrywide.

Very early into the extended Covid-19 lockdown it became clear that unless the arts and culture sector received extensive support, the regulations and economic restrictions would decimate the industry. Yet, despite numerous calls from industry stakeholders, letters from the DA to the Minister, the NAC board and the chairperson of committee, Beauty Dlulane, and our calls for an independent forensic investigation and a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) investigation, large parts of the sector have been thoroughly let down by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture and the bodies it used to implement relief funding.

The DA will write to the Auditor-General of South Africa (AG), Tsakani Maluleke, to request an investigation into the alleged malfeasance by the NAC regarding the R300 million Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme (PESP) relief funding, as well as the Portfolio Committee Chairperson to request that relief funding administered by the NAC be put at the top of the agenda when Parliament resumes.

Minister Mthethwa should be encouraging the NAC to be transparent regarding the administration of relief funding and acting as a mediator between the Council and the arts and culture sector to resolve the miscommunication between them. Instead, he adds to the clamor. It should be no surprise then that his and the NAC’s actions have led to the sector to mistrust them.

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

DA calls for ex-Eskom bigwig to testify before Zondo Commission following ANC bribery allegations

The DA calls for Ms Thandi Marah, a former senior Eskom official, alleged to have been at the centre of a bribery scandal at the utility, to be summoned to testify before the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

According to media reports today, Econ Oil & Energy Ltd. allegedly won contracts to supply Eskom with fuel oil at the inflated cost of R15 billion, because Ms Marah, the then Senior Manager of Business Enablement at Eskom interfered in the tender processes. Econ Oil & Energy Ltd. allegedly sweetened the deal by offering donations and bribes requested by Marah, including a R100 000 donation to the ANC.

In addition to Ms Marah testifying before the Zondo Commission, the DA also calls on the ANC to pay back the R100 000 donation it is alleged to have received from this oil company. This tainted donation was clearly nothing more than a bribe.

This scandal is yet another example of how the ANC is structurally prevented from taking a strong stance again corruption because it always been one of the main benefactors of the corruption and maladministration at SOEs.

It is imperative that a strong message is sent to the ANC that the public will not condone their continued looting and dodgy backroom dealings.

All corrupt officials at SOEs need to be made aware that there is no place to hide for looters as the DA seeks to ensure, via  the Zondo Commission,  that all those implicated be held fully accountable.

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

DA wants SACAA to answer to Parliament following the de-categorisation of Polokwane airport

The DA will write to the Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Transport, Mosebenzi Zwane, to request the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) be summonsed to appear before Parliament following the de-categorisation of Polokwane airport.

According to reports the Polokwane airport has been de-categorized to CAT2, due to its inability to provide the minimum level of emergency services required to maintain its license category. CAT2 level is below the required minimum for scheduled commercial air services, and as consequence, Polokwane airport is now unable to take commercial flights.

The DA wants SACAA to explain the following to the Portfolio Committee:

  • How this level of negligence at the Polokwane airport was allowed to happen;
  • Whether anyone has been held accountable for the neglect;
  • What measures are being put in place to address the non-compliance at the airport to regain the minimum category required to accommodate commercial air services; and
  • How this negligence will be corrected and avoided in the future?

The Polokwane airport, despite its size, is a key air transport connection for business travellers and people who are based in Limpopo. The airport is also a vital source of revenue for the region as it provides much-needed job opportunities. The de-categorisation will, without doubt, have an immediate, and severe impact on the revenue of businesses that are related to air connectivity, furthering the blows of South Africa’s current economic crisis.

The disruptive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses and livelihoods in the air travel sector has been enormous. SACAA’s negligence will therefore deal airlines a further blow.

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