DA calls for lawful consultation on new ICT policy

I have written to Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in his capacity as Leader of Government Business, requesting that a lawful consultation process, in terms of the Electronic Communications Act that solicits written submissions for consideration, be held on controversial aspects of the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper gazetted last October.
I am concerned that the process of developing legislation arising from the National White Paper is irregular in terms of the Electronic Communication Act 2005 and is proceeding with reckless haste.
While much of the White Paper was subjected to lengthy public participation since 2013, its plans for a Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) – the most controversial and potentially destructive aspect – was not subjected to public dialogue.
The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) has indicated that the first draft of legislation will be presented to Cabinet by the end of March 2017.
The Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr Siyabonga Cwele, has told various public forums that there will be no discussion on the recommendations, only on how they will be implemented.
The Minister’s spokesperson, Mr Siya Qoza, yesterday confirmed this approach in an interview with TechCentral.
The consultations on the White Paper that have taken place with the ICT sector since last October have been informal and not in compliance with the Electronic Communications Act.
My view is that the Minister and his department have cynically participated in these to create the impression of public consultation.
Despite a concerted effort by the network operators, who are most affected by the WOAN, to propose a win-win compromise, there has been no indication that Minister Cwele is prepared to thoroughly engage on these.
I fear that unless a lawful public participation process of some of the White Paper’s key aspects and a credibly researched socio-economic impact assessment is done, much of the legislation will be legally contested because of its unconstitutionality, asset expropriation plans and inadequate processes.
Such is the fundamental opposition from the ICT sector to the contentious aspects of this White Paper that I am concerned that, should we leave the public participation until the parliamentary legislative process, positions on these will become unnecessarily entrenched and hostile.
This means there will be years of vigorous legal battles that will hinder the deployment of leading-edge, affordable communications networks for years, at great cost to economic expansion and job creation.
I have urged Minister Ramaphosa to propose to Cabinet that the implementation of the White Paper initially focus on legislating the recommendations which are urgent, and not contentious – such as the Rapid Deployment Guidelines that were unnecessarily delayed for inclusion into the White Paper – and embark on a thorough public participation process to develop a wireless network strategy that is constitutionally, legally and financially sound.

Cronin’s actions confirm EPWP jobs are only for ANC card carrying members

I will today write to the Deputy Minister of Public Works, Jeremy Cronin, to ask him to explain why it was that the ICC was used for the ANC Caucus meeting this morning, and why they were joined by hundreds of Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) participants.
Durban North Ward Councillor, Shaun Riley, of the DA, thought he needed to attend the meeting, but upon arrival was ordered by the eThekwini Mayor, Zandile Gumede, to leave immediately as it was, “an ANC caucus meeting”.
Despite the fact that I have been assured over and again by the Deputy Minister Cronin that the EPWP does not see thousands of work opportunities given only to ANC cadres, what happened in Durban today shows I have been misled.
The Mayor allegedly went on to promise to extend the EPWP contracts for the current participants until the work opportunities became permanent jobs. This, too, flies in the face of every fact we have been told of the Programme in the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee by the Deputy Minister.
It is generally accepted that indeed the poorest of the poor are only able to access these job opportunities if they can produce an ANC membership card. Attached is a photograph from the ICC today where the EPWP participants were called to join the ANC caucus.
The Deputy Minister of Public Works must answer to this abuse of the system he purports to be so proud of and try again to convince South Africa that there is no abuse of the programme which is generally viewed as system of largesse dished out by ANC Councillors to loyal cadres.
Unlike in DA-run municipalities, where these job opportunities are determined in a stadium filled with local residents, who have their IDs drawn from a barrel to ‘win’ the job opportunities.

Deputy Minister Dlodlo spends R1.5 million on two luxury Audis in 3 weeks

According to a reply to a DA parliamentary question, Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, spent a shocking R 1.5 million on two cars in the space of 18 days last year.
On 2 June 2016, an Audi A8 3.0 TDI Quatrro Tip-tronic was purchased for R 750 000 and on 20 June 2016, an Audi A7 Sportback 3.0 TDI Tip-tronic was purchased for R 735 700.
It is wasteful expenditure like this that has created the lost generation, the millions of young people that have given up on ever finding work because the ANC would rather spend money on fancy cars than on quality basic education and skills development for our young people.
The DA will not let this shocking abuse of public money stand and call on Deputy Minister Dlodlo to return the cars and opt for a more appropriate one.

OR Tambo heist: DA calls on crime intelligence heads to brief police portfolio committee

The DA will today write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police, Francois Beukman, to request that he summon the national head of crime intelligence as well as the Gauteng provincial head, to brief the committee on what intelligence, if any, they had before the heist that recently happened at OR Tambo, and what steps they are taking to make sure that an intelligence failure on this level does not occur again.
Reports suggest that up to ten heists, with the same modus operandi, have occurred at OR Tambo in the last year. Many of these heists have been carried out by individuals dressed in police uniforms. This is on top of the heist on Tuesday in which a reported R24 million was stolen, a bogus police vehicle was used and the criminals were dressed as police members. This clearly points to a failure in crime intelligence.
Crime intelligence must account for their inability to prevent these incidences and what they are doing to curb these.
In a press conference today, Acting National Police Commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane, was asked about what role crime intelligence played in preventing the heist and whether this could be seen as a failure on their part.
Phahlane’s reply was to acknowledge that crime intelligence is important in preventing and solving crimes.
In light of the previous heist, this response is simply not good enough and it is now time that the Crime Intelligence division account for their inability to prevent airport heists which are apparently on the rise.
Crime intelligence needs to assist in getting the police information about crimes before they happen, in order that police can act on the information and prevent crime.
In the cases where crime intelligence don’t succeed in this, they are still important role players and should assist in gathering information on what happened, as fast as possible.
Crime intelligence is vital, and the failure of crime intelligence in this instance is deplorable.

DA to report homophobic abuse of school girls to the SAHRC

The DA is appalled at the report of homophobic abuse of school girls in the Eastern Cape and will report this abuse to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) for full investigation.
On Wednesday 7 March 2017, the principal of Ulwazi High School in Mdantsane, Nomampondomise Kosani, forced 38 teenage girls, aged 14 to 18, to publically tell their parents they are gay.
The girls were then subjected to a barrage of insults and were told to “stop” being gay.
The DA will not stand for any form of discrimination, on any grounds. We stand opposed to all forms of bigotry, including homophobia, racism, sexism, xenophobia and any other forms of discrimination.
The SAHRC is mandated to address human rights violations and seek effective redress. This incident indicates a clear violation of these children’s human rights and must be investigated fully.
Principal Kosani’s reference to the pupils’ sexual orientation as a “problem” and that the girls were teaching other pupils “bad habits” is deeply concerning.
These comments are grossly out of line with the Bill of Rights which states that “no person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on the grounds of sexual orientation.”
The DA is committed to building a united nation where all people are free to enjoy the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and will continue to fight to ensure these rights are upheld.

Social Grants Crisis: DA will demand the release of the new CPS contract

The DA will write to the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, to demand that the new contract with Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) be made public.
If she will not do so voluntarily, the DA will submit an application, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), to force her to.
Reports indicate that the new contract with CPS has already been signed, yet ‘dodging Dlamini’ has taken every opportunity to avoid answering vital questions of clarity on the terms of the new contract.
The ANC and Dlamini have shown time and time again that there will be no accountability for this crisis and that is why the DA is left with no choice but to submit an application in terms of PAIA for the contract, in the interest of openness and transparency.
The current invalid contract between SASSA and CPS will come to an end in just over 3 weeks, on 31 March 2017.
The 17 million South Africans who rely on social grants just to put the bare essentials on the table from day to day, deserve to know if and how their grants will be paid.
Despite the Department of Social Development and SASSA knowing that the current contract was invalid since 2012, they ignored the Constitutional Court, and the DA believes this crisis was manufactured to force a new contract with CPS.
The DA has reason to believe that SASSA’s new contract with CPS will be at an inflated cost that may cost taxpayers billions of rands.
Tomorrow, 10 March 2017, the DA will march, en masse, to the Department of Social Development to show Minister Dlamini, that even if the ANC-government rewards bad behaviour, the DA and South Africans will not.

DA will stand up to Eskom onslaught

The DA notes the media release by Eskom today signalling their intent to claim damages from the DA for defamation and wrongful actions against Eskom and the Group Chief Executive, Matshela Koko.
We have already filed our intention to defend this action and look forward to the opportunity to do so.  The fact that Mr Koko is seeking R20 million from the DA is laughable.
The DA will not be intimidated and will not back down.
This court action will no doubt be funded by the South African taxpayer and therefore the DA will also be submitting parliamentary questions to expose how much this litigation will cost.
Yet again the state is using public funds to defend the elite.
The DA is of the belief that the comments Mr Koko refers to, were fair and made in relation to the Dentons report which is publically acknowledged to allegedly contain damning information on widespread corruption within the State-owned Entity (SOE).
The DA has tried to access the full, uncensored version of the report and have submitted an application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to gain access to the report by Dentons into Eskom. Yet, to date, only redacted versions have been released.
The report cost South Africans R27 million and we all deserve to know what the uncensored version contains.
It is hoped that during this process, the full report, will be released.

We need a super committee on inclusive economic growth in Parliament

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the DA’s Shadow Minister of Finance, David Maynier MP, during the debate on the Fiscal Framework 2017.
1. Introduction
Two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, tabled the main budget in this Parliament with both hands tied behind his back and with very little political space, fiscal space and policy space to give hope to the 8.9 million people who do not have jobs, or have given up looking for jobs, and who live without dignity, independence and freedom in South Africa.
2. Main Budget 2017
The minister tabled the fiscal framework, outlining government’s revenue, spending and borrowing projections over the medium term, which envisages economic growth recovering to 2.2%; revenue of R1.66 trillion, or 30.1% of GDP; expenditure of R1.81 trillion, or 32.7% of GDP; and most importantly a budget deficit of R145.8 billion, or -2.6% of GDP, by 2019/20.
2.1 “Fiscal Target”
Whatever the case the central fiscal policy objective of government is to stabilize net loan debt, which is projected to reach R2.67 trillion, or 48.1% of GDP, in 2019/20.
To illustrate the magnitude of net loan debt, consider the fact that a net loan debt of R2.67 trillion is the equivalent of:
• a debt of R47 000 per person in South Africa; or
• a debt of R6.68 billion per Member of Parliament.
Because of the “debt mountain”, debt service costs are now the fastest growing expenditure item on the budget and are projected to reach R197.3 billion in 2019/20.
To illustrate the magnitude of debt service costs, consider that in three years’ time we will spend more on debt service costs than we will spend this year on:
• on Health (R170.8 billion); or
• on Defence, Police and Justice (R190.03 billion); or
• on Higher Education (R68.95 billion); or
• on Social Protection (R164.93 billion).
However, the fact is government has a “slow bleed” and simply cannot seem to stabilize net loan debt.
We were told that in Main Budget 2016 net loan debt was going to stabilize at R2.19 trillion in 2017/18, or at 46.2% of GDP.
Then we were told in Medium Term Budget 2016 that net loan debt was going to stabilize at R2.63 trillion in 2019/20, or at 47.9% of GDP.
And now we are told in Main Budget 2017 that net loan debt is going to stabilize at 48.2% of GDP, in 2020/21.
And that is why we propose that government consider implementing a debt-ceiling in South Africa.
2.2 “Slow Bleed”
The “root cause” of the “slow bleed” is stagnant economic growth, which is projected to average 1.83% between 2017 and 2019, and which is below what is required to stabilize our public finances.
Economic Growth: The economic growth projection is 1.3% for 2017, up from 0.3% in 2016, due to a moderate recovery, though it is insufficient to reduce unemployment.
Revenue: However, the moderate economic recovery is not only insufficient to reduce unemployment, it is also insufficient to generate the required revenue, because to borrow a phrase from former Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene, “without economic growth, revenue will not increase. Without revenue growth, expenditure cannot increase”.
The minister penciled in revenue of R1.41 trillion, or 29.8% of GDP, for 2017/18. However, because of lower-than-expected revenue collection, due to stagnant economic growth, and poor tax administration, the minister was forced to announce tax proposals to raise an additional R28 billion in 2017/18.
What the minister chose to emphasize was the formation of a new “super tax bracket”, for personal income tax payers with a taxable income of more than R1.5 million, to be taxed at a new marginal tax rate of 45%, to raise an additional R4.4 billion in 2017/18.
However, what the minister chose not to emphasize was that:
• an additional R12.1 billion would be raised from all personal income tax payers as a result of limited relief for fiscal drag; and
• that an additional R3.2 billion would be raised from the general fuel levy in 2017/18.
What this means is that whether you are rich, and taxed directly, or whether you are poor, and taxed indirectly, the minister will reach into your pocket and help himself to the R28 billion, required to plug the fiscal hole in 2017/18.
That is why it is a pity that government seems to have abandoned the sale of non-strategic assets to raise revenue.
The former minister began a process of selling non-strategic assets, and made a good start by selling government’s stake in Vodacom, which raised R25.4 billion in revenue in 2015/16.
The fact is that substantial revenue could be raised by disposing of non-strategic assets, including the sale of government’s stake in Telkom, which could raise about R14.7 billion.
And that is why we propose that government considers selling non-strategic assets to raise revenue that could, for example, be “ring fenced” to fund infrastructure expenditure.
Expenditure: The minister pencilled in expenditure of R1.56 trillion, or 33.0% of GDP, for 2017/18.
However, because of lower-than-expected revenue the minister announced that the expenditure ceiling would be lowered by R10.2 billion and expenditure of R16.9 billion would be reallocated in 2017/18.
We welcome the R151 billion that will be spent on social grants and the R77.5 billion that will be spent on higher education.
However, new spending pressures loom in the form of the public sector wage bill, which will consume R550.3 billion in 2017/18, and irregular expenditure has skyrocketed, reaching an all-time high of R46 billion in 2015/16.
The Minister of Mineral Resources, Mose(wabenzi) Zwane, became a powerful symbol of the let-them-eat-cake style wasteful expenditure, when days before the budget was presented, it was revealed that he had purchased a new Mercedes Benz E400, at the cost of R1.35 million, in violation of cost containment measures implemented by National Treasury.
We have to get on top of reducing expenditure, but the minister employs a fragmented arsenal of “fiscal tools” to contain spending, including an expenditure ceiling, cost containment measures, procurement reform, and performance and expenditure reviews.
We need to do things differently and implement a Comprehensive Spending Review that would require National Treasury, working together with national departments, provinces, municipalities and state-owned entities, to review the composition of spending, the efficiency of spending, and future spending priorities with a view to reprioritizing expenditure in the medium term between 2017/18 and 2019/20.
And that is why we propose that government considers implementing a Comprehensive Spending Review which has proved successful in Australia (Comprehensive Spending Review 2010), Canada (Strategic Operating Review 2011) and the United Kingdom (Comprehensive Spending Review 2010).
2.2.4 Borrowing: There has been considerable “fiscal slippage” with the fiscal deficit of R149 billion, or 3.1% of GDP, being pushed up by R1.9 billion; and net loan debt of R2.22 trillion, or 47% of GDP, being pushed up by 17.1 billion, in 2017/18.
3. Conclusion
However, in the end the “root cause” of the “slow bleed” and the fact that government is unable to achieve the central fiscal objective and stabilize net loan debt is that private sector investment has collapsed in South Africa.
Who would invest:
• when President Jacob Zuma, ditches his own policy of “inclusive economic growth”, set out in the National Development Plan, and inspired by Trevor Manual, in favour of “radical economic transformation”, inspired by the likes of Hugo Chavez;
• when you have an aspirant Deputy-Minister of Finance, Sifiso Buthelezi, who seems to believe that corporate income tax should be increased to punish the private sector for not investing in South Africa; and
• when you have another aspirant Deputy Minister of Finance, Brian Molefe, who is committed to destroying the private sector, or what he calls, the “monstrous beast” in South Africa.
We cannot stop the “madness”. But we can start doing our jobs.
And that is why will propose that parliament establishes an ad hoc multi-party committee to provide scrutiny and oversight of the implementation of the structural reforms necessary to boost economic growth and create jobs in South Africa.
Because a multiparty ad hoc committee holding governments feet to the fire on the implementation of structural reforms to boost economic growth and create jobs will give hope to the “lost generation”, which includes millions of young people, who do not have jobs, or have given up looking for jobs, in South Africa.
When we look back the minister did not apportion blame for government’s failures, but what he did do was apportion the burden for government’s failures, in the form of a R28 billion tax hike in 2017/18.
The fact is that last year the minister reached into your left pockets and helped himself to R18 billion, and this year the minister reached into your right pockets and helped himself to R28 billion.
And that is all because President Jacob Zuma, and his cronies inside, and outside the ruling party, are reaching into your back pockets and are helping themselves to billions of rands.
That is why, unless the corruption and waste stops in this country, it is not going to be long before people say, “we are prepared to pay our fair share, but this far and no further” and we have a “tax revolt” on our hands in South Africa.

Dismissal of PRASA Board does not let Peters off the hook

Today, in the Portfolio Committee on Transport (PC), it was revealed that the Board of PRASA was dissolved by the Minister of Transport, Dipou Peters.
The DA supports the decision, but it is too little, too late and should not absolve Peters from accountability for the mess that the entity is in.
PRASA is currently under investigation for over a billion rand in the current financial year in irregular payments.
The announcement of the dissolution of the board came at the same time that the PC decided to launch an inquiry into the gross mismanagement at PRASA.
While the DA welcomes the decision by the PC to launch an inquiry into the governance challenges at PRASA, the DA is suspicious of the timing of the dissolution of the Board.
This would not be the first time that Minister Peters has asserted her power unilaterally over state-owned enterprises, and we believe that this move is an attempt by the Minister to escape accountability.
The presentations made to the PC in the past two days has made it abundantly clear that the Minister is not innocent in the disastrous state of affairs at PRASA. The DA will not sit by as yet another Minister attempts to evade accountability.
The DA remains resolute that the mess at PRASA needs to be resolved and that the Minister accounts for her role the crisis.
The massive amounts of wasteful expenditure at SOE’s could be used for funding the education of the lost generation, but because of mismanagement these funds end up in the hands of a corrupt and elite few.

ANC absenteeism means more delays on Whistle-blower Bill in the NCOP

For the second time, the ANC has been unable to pass its own legislation in the Select Committee on Security and Justice today due to a lack of quorum.
The approval of the Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill was postponed from 23 February 2017 to today, purely because the ANC did not have the required quorum of 6 members present to pass the Bill.
Today, when it became clear that the ANC would again have no quorum, the item was again removed from the agenda of the meeting without any reasons given.
The DA objects to section 9B of the Bill on the grounds that it may serve as a deterrent for possible whistle-blowers in the future. This view is shared by organisations such as Whistle-blowers International, Corruption Watch and Open Democracy.
It is the duty of the opposition to ensure that possibly problematic provisions in proposed legislation do not get passed, not to pass such legislation on behalf of the government.
The inability of the ANC to reach a quorum to pass their own legislation is a clear indication that they have lost the will to govern and no longer respect the parliamentary process.