DA asks Minister Patel to let Parliament know what’s happening at AMSA

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has written to the Minister Trade & Industry and Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, today requesting that he comes and briefs the portfolio committee on trade, industry and economic development on the dire situation at Arcelor Mittal South Africa (AMSA).

In the letter we raise concerns regarding the events unfolding at AMSA following their announcement on the 6th of February 2020 that they would be shedding a further 400 jobs at their Newcastle and Vereeniging plants.

This is in addition to the 1000 jobs lost at AMSA’s Saldanha Bay plant, which was closed down as result of a restructuring plan.

Considering the country’s unemployment rate which presently sits at 29% and the raft of retrenchments happening in the private sector, the public and the portfolio committee deserves to know what’s going on.

The DA has consistently called for reform in the steel industry and will continue to fight for those most vulnerable to losing their jobs.

We cannot allow the jobs bloodbath to continue.

Public Enterprises Committee Chair blocks urgent meetings on Eskom

On Thursday, 16 January 2020, the Democratic Alliance (DA) wrote to the Chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises requesting that the committee be convened urgently given the unfolding situation at Eskom.

The DA also wrote to the Minister for Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, on Wednesday, 22 January 2020, requesting a meeting with him to discuss, in a non-partisan manner, the parlous state of Eskom and the various options on the table, with the interests of our country in mind.

To date the DA has not received an acknowledgment, let alone a reply from Minister Gordhan’s office. And on 26 January, the Committee Chair replied, denying the request for an urgent meeting.

As such, the DA will be escalating the matter to Parliament’s Chairperson of Committees, Cedric Frolick, to seek his intervention and once again request an urgent meeting of the committee with the Minister and Eskom. It cannot be that Parliament remains silent, when Eskom, the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy, continues on its disastrous downward spiral.

Of further concern, is that the parliamentary Z list, which tables the committee meetings, contains no notice of any meeting over the coming month. This is particularly remiss given the urgency at both SAA and Eskom. How are we expected to perform responsible oversight in the absence of proactive action by the Chair of the Portfolio Committee?

What is equally surprising is the total lack of response from Minister Gordhan.

Clearly this government pays scant regard to proper oversight and requests for meetings in the face of the crisis we continue to face at both entities.

The DA takes its role as the prime mover of oversight in Parliament seriously and is astounded by the tardiness of the Committee Chair and absence of a response from the Minister in the face of the dire circumstances that affect our nation and its finances – hardly the role of responsible government.

SAA Development Bank loan will only last until mid-March

It has come to the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) attention that the R3.5 billion loan South African Airways (SAA) reportedly secured from the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) will supposedly only last the airline until mid-March. After which, the airline will have no money to continue its operations.

This will leave Government with two options – either cut the defunct state-owned entity (SOE) loose or pump more taxpayer money into the SOE by means of a bailout.

The first option is obviously the best option – but given the ANC’s track record, they would much rather senselessly throw public funds at a bankrupt SOE which clearly does not contribute anything to South Africa’s fiscus or image.

The fact that the R3.5 billion loan will run out in almost a month’s time means that despite the best efforts of SAA’s business rescue practitioners, the airline is insolvent and should be closed down.

These sentiments are even shared by individuals within the ANC itself. Over the weekend, ANC chairperson and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe was quoted saying that the national carrier be sold off if it is unable to make a profit.

With the announcement that 11 regional and international routes will be cancelled by the end of the month, there is no clearer indication that the writing is on the wall. It is time that Government clips SAA’s wings.

Yet another humiliating SSA robbery: DA to request urgent briefing by Minister Dlodlo

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will request an urgent portfolio committee meeting with the Minister of State Security, Ayanda Dlodlo and the State Security Agency (SSA)  following reports that the agency – whose Pretoria headquarters are supposedly one of the best-secured entities in the country – had allegedly been robbed once again.

A day after Christmas in 2015 they were robbed of R17 million in foreign currency, as thieves strolled in to the Lyttelton property, opened the safe, and strolled out.  

Now it has been revealed that once again the same headquarters has been robbed – but this time the thieves even stole the CCTV cameras. 

The thieves allegedly simply strolled in, unlocked the multi-million rand safe, and strolled out with sensitive documents and an undisclosed amount of cash.  The security guard was conveniently absent while the safe was robbed.

As such the robbery went undetected until employees arrived for work the next morning, only to find the safe empty.

And these are the people we entrust with the security of our country.

After the R17 million robbery in 2015, the Hawks were reduced to asking the public if they had any information about one of the three criminals, after two – both SSA employees, were arrested.  Further arrests were then made, and eventually six suspects appeared in court – four of whom were from the department.

As was pointed out at the time, there is no access to the building without an access card.

While it was claimed in 2015 that a major vetting shake-up was immediately undertaken, and that additional security facilities and advanced electronic controls were introduced, it seems they, too, have failed.

What is of concern to the DA is not only that the money was stolen, but also sensitive documents.  The implications may be political, to protect and/or blackmail political enemies, or may be criminal – evidence against global syndicates perhaps? 

Will we ever know how much cash was stolen, and what it was used for?

Given the shroud of secrecy around the SSA, despite the bombshell report of the High-Level Review Panel on the State Security Agency stating that there is a disproportionate application of secrecy in the SSA stifling effective accountability and facilitating serious non-compliance with controls including blatant criminality – the South African public may well never know.

DA opens policy input to the public

On Friday the Democratic Alliance (DA) published an online portal where members of the public, party members and public representatives can give feedback on the DA’s important new draft policies.

This will be the first time that any political party in South Africa has taken the unprecedented step to ask for input by the public on policies.

The first document open for submissions is the party’s draft Values and Principles document that was released last week.

This document is the point of departure for the rest of the DA’s policy positions that will be released ahead of the DA’s Policy Conference that will take place on 4 and 5 April in Johannesburg.

The draft Values and Principles document as well as the draft Economic Justice policy and draft Local Government priorities will all be discussed, potentially amended and adopted by delegates at the conference.

The DA intends our Values and Principles document to be a social contract that we would like to co-sign with the people of South Africa. That is why it is important for us that South Africans engage us on this document.

The portal can be accessed at the following link:

https://www.da.org.za/what-do-you-want-the-das-policy-priorities-to-be

PP parties with rogues she’s supposed to be investigating

Yesterday the media reported that the current Public Protector (PP), Busisiwe Mkhwebane, has had a birthday bash celebrating her 50th birthday. While this in itself is of no general interest, some of the guests who attended the party most certainly are.

Her number one fan, Dali Mpofu was there, along with the dubious Bongani Bongo. Bongo spent a large part of his tenure in the fifth Parliament trying to outdo his ANC colleagues on the Justice Portfolio Committee in seeing who could treat the previous PP with the most discourteous contempt. He then eagerly competed for the post of Praise Singer in Chief of the current PP, particularly during his whirlwind stint as Minister of State Security, during which, rumour has it, he spent more time in her office than in his own.

If these reports are accurate, also in attendance was Mosebenzi Zwane, he of Estina Dairy Project infamy.

Zwane’s huge and unmistakeable role in the criminal enterprise that was Estina was conspicuously absent in the first and very questionable report of this PP, later emerging via a whistleblower’s report to the Speaker of Parliament, that this PP, now so cosily socializing with Zwane, instructed the investigator to remove evidence implicating Zwane and Ace Magashule.

In August last year, the PP announced that her office had undertaken a new investigation into Estina, where politicians would be held to account. This investigation, the results of which have yet to be shared, must of necessity include the machinations of Zwane.

Yet he reportedly shamelessly cavorts at the birthday celebrations of the person who is investigating him.

The staggering impropriety thereof aside, this PP, despite a cacophony of views to the contrary, insists that she has both read the Constitution and understands her mandate, and is fit and proper to hold office.

If she is unable to appreciate this rather glaring conflict, and the underlying erosion of independence that accompanies it, then we beg to differ.

DA commends NPA decision on SARS-rogue unit charges

The Democratic Alliance (DA) notes the withdrawal of charges against Mr Ivan Pillay, Mr Andries Janse Van Rensburg and Mr Johann van Loggerenberg by the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP).

Having appointed a panel of senior and expert prosecutors to evaluate the case docket and the available and admissible evidence, according to the correct principles and practices to be applied in all cases by a NPA doing its job diligently, they reached the conclusion that there was no prima facie case to be made against the accused, and therefore no prospect of a successful prosecution.

The NDPP,  having appraised herself personally of the relevant facts, as she must,  agreed with the evaluation and instructed the charges to be withdrawn.

This is how a Prosecuting Authority must go about its business. Scrupulously fairly,  scrupulously diligently. It is not a game.  Shamila Batohi has made not only the correct decision, but a courageous one.  It indicates a NPA getting back on the tracks of the rule of law.

But it cannot end there.

Each of the accused is a person in their own right.  Each held positions of some authority in institutions involved in upholding the law, and the rule of law. Each lost their employment and  have been impoverished by the very high costs of litigation, while their (and our) tax rands were used to litigate against them. Each has suffered irreparable reputational damage and public and private humiliation with the concomitant effects on everyday life and the lives of their families. This at the hands of (some in) an institution and a system that, when applied diligently, fairly and with absolute integrity, is meant to protect all South Africans from such abuse.

This cannot be undone.

If Ms Batohi is serious about the  rule of law and the integrity of the NPA,  then we must now also see the most serious consequences being visited upon those senior officials in the NPA  who instituted and drove this, and the many other, prosecutions that had no legal basis.

DA submits names of nominees to serve on independent panel on Public Protector removal

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has today submitted to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, the names of our nominees to serve on the independent panel which will determine whether there is a prima facie case for Parliament to continue with its removal process against the Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane. If the panel is satisfied that there is indeed prima facie evidence to support such a process, Parliament will proceed to establish an Ad Hoc Committee for Mkhwebane’s removal proceedings.

The DA is pleased to announce that we have put forward the names of some of the brightest legal minds in South Africa. They include Judge Robert Nugent and Judge Jeanette Traverso. We are confident that these individuals are fit and proper to independently assess the merits of the DA’s motion against the incumbent Public Protector.

Furthermore, the DA has taken note of the fact that Mkhwebane filed an application with the Western Cape High Court to interdict Parliament’s removal proceedings against her on the basis that the newly adopted rules which will govern the process were unlawful and unconstitutional.

While Mkhwebane has every right to explore the legal options at her disposal, the DA is confident that the rules which have been adopted by Parliament for the removal of Heads of Chapter 9 institutions, are not only lawful but also in line with the Constitution.

Mkwebane’s assertion that the DA has not been objective on her performance is untrue. Our assessment of her performance has been based entirely on her work and conduct throughout her tenure as Public Protector. Mkhwebane has staggered from blunder to blunder and has continuously demonstrated that she is neither fit nor proper to occupy the office of Public Protector.

If Mkhwebane spent as much energy on conducting her work independently and practicing the law, as she does evading accountability, then she wouldn’t have been in this position. The DA will not back down from this motion against Mkhwebane and is of the belief that she case to answer for.

Not one single tap for 2,000 residents. That should get a government fired.

Please find an attached soundbite,

My fellow South Africans

It is wonderful to be out here in Upington – in our biggest province with the biggest skies and the widest horizons. The Northern Cape has a way of humbling you with its sheer size and distance.

But there is something else that also seems to come with all this distance, and that is abandonment and neglect. It seems that the further you are from the ANC’s corridors of power, the further you are from their mind. This community of Dakota Road, on the edge of Upington, has all but been abandoned by its government.

When I was first told that a settlement of over 2000 people had to survive without a single water tap, I thought that something had got lost in translation, or that this was some kind of exaggeration. I could not believe that thousands of people living in one of the hottest and driest parts of the country had no piped water.

But I have seen it here with my own eyes – an entire informal settlement that has been here for eight years with no running water at all. This is a shameful indictment of the ANC local government elected to serve this community. I am told that the water tanks placed here by the local government are filthy and unhygienic, and that they aren’t filled according to the municipality’s own schedule. This is meant to happen twice a week, but residents are lucky if they get water once a week.

In fact, if it weren’t for the ongoing efforts of the DA ward councillor, Flip van der Steen, this would happen even less frequently. When these tanks run dry and the water trucks stay away, residents turn to the DA councillor to light a fire under the ANC local government, because they know they will have no joy with the ANC council itself. It takes filed reports from van der Steen to get this ANC government to uphold its Constitutional duty and provide citizens with drinking water.

How can this be? Twenty-five years into our democracy, how can a community of thousands not get something as basic as piped water from its government?

The worst is, installing taps and piping water into this community would cost a fraction of what the ANC government is paying to bring water in by truck. Several years ago councillor van der Steen tabled a motion to have 25 taps installed here, at a cost of R70,000. Predictably this motion was opposed by council, and they chose instead to carry on paying R250,000 to bring in the water by truck.

Why would they do this? Why would they deliberately choose not to solve a major service delivery issue at a fraction of the price, if it wasn’t to someone’s advantage to keep the status quo? You only need to look at the number of ANC government officials and public reps who do business with the state right across South Africa to know that this is no conspiracy theory.

But this community’s problems don’t start and end with piped water. This is also a place where bucket toilets can still be found, despite continuous promises to eradicate them. Just recently this municipality had to return R22 million earmarked for the eradication of bucket toilets because it had failed to spend it.

You have to ask yourself: Who is this government serving, if not the people living here? Who are they looking out for and to whom are they loyal? And the answer is: Themselves. This ANC local government, just like almost every other ANC local government across the country, exists first and foremost to keep itself, its families and its friends in jobs and in contracts. If you are outside of this closed circle, then you simply don’t matter to them.

They don’t care if you live in a community ravaged by violent crime, and particularly gender-based violence, as we see here. They don’t care that drug abuse is rife in this community, and that drug dealers are allegedly being protected by corrupt SAPS officers. They don’t care about the chronic unemployment that steals the dreams and future of just about every young person here. They don’t care that they haven’t installed a single running tap here this past decade. Because they’re too busy caring about themselves.

Fellow South Africans, this is not the country you were promised. This is not the freedom they spoke about. And this is certainly not the way our democracy is meant to work. This ANC government cannot expect you to keep on voting them into power while they deny you your basic human rights, year after year after year.

Your vote hires a government, and your vote also fires a government. That is why DA-run municipalities consistently outperform ANC-run municipalities on every possible measure, from housing to basic services, and from education to healthcare. Because if we don’t deliver, we know we could – and should – be replaced. That’s how a democracy works.

If you want to see changes here in Dakota Road, Upington, no one can bring those changes but you. Yes, a different government could do a better job, but the only way to get such a government is by dumping the old one and installing a new one. And you do that with your vote.

Resignation of SABS Acting CEO a huge blow to business and consumer confidence

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has been reliably informed that South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) Acting CEO, Garth Strachan, has suddenly resigned after a spectacular fallout with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Director General (DG), Lionel October.

This stems from the portfolio committee’s oversight to the SABS this week where we were told that the entity is essentially bankrupt, will run out of cash in the next financial year and is battling to attract thousands of customers it lost under the previous delinquent Board and management which was dissolved under former DTI Minister Rob Davies.

The DA posed questions on what a ‘repurposed’ version of SABS would look like given the financial realities of impending bankruptcy which would have to involve staff retrenchments and liquidation of assets.

It is clear this question and Mr. Strachan’s answers led to the blow-out between him and the DG who seems completely opposed to this sensible and logical plan for SABS, and is more concerned with pacifying NEHAWU-affiliated employees who have embarked on an unprotected strike this week at the SABS.

There can be no doubt that the departure of Mr. Strachan will have a knock-on effect for exporters who rely on the SABS for quality assurance in international markets and for consumers who expect goods that display the SABS mark to meet minimum standards for health and safety.

This drama in the SABS must be urgently addressed by Minister Ebrahim Patel and for this reason that the DA will write to him and request the full reasons for Mr. Strachan’s resignation to be made known as well as a plan for the way forward.

The DA believes that the SABS has a big role to play in quality assurance to support our exporters and to give local consumers peace of mind which is why we believed in Mr. Strachan’s ‘repurposed’ version of the SABS and will continue to fight for it.