DA to question postponement of tabling of balk tariff increases for municipalities

Despite the fact that the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) has already granted a 2.2% bulk tariff increase for municipalities, Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, requested a last-minute postponement to table these before parliament, on the day of the deadline, on 15 March 2017.
Minister Brown now has until 5 April 2017 to table to the increases and the DA will submit parliamentary questions to get to the bottom of this seemingly unnecessary postponement, which could be potentially disastrous for local municipalities and Eskom.
It is also suspicious that Minister Brown only requested a postponement on the day of the deadline considering that National Treasury had responded to this request for postponement on 2 March 2017.
The DA will therefore also submit questions to get clarity on why the Minister waited almost two weeks before approaching Parliament to ask for a postponement.
Further questions will be submitted to the National Treasury on the affect the extension means for municipal revenues for 2017/18 and whether the condoned delay still allows for implementation in this 2017/18 financial year as opposed to the 2018/19 financial year.
The DA expresses our deepest concern at the following potential problems that this creates:

  • Delayed budgeting processes that may leave municipalities open to costly legal challenges (eg Nelson Mandela Bay);
  • Delayed budgeting processes at municipal level that could threaten front line services;
  • Uncertainty amongst consumers, made up of balk tariff increases in municipalities and businesses, which adds to already substantial economic uncertainty.

The tariff increases must be tabled before municipalities can go ahead with their budgetary processes. It is, therefore, vital that we get to the bottom of this delay to ensure that service delivery is not hampered.

DA welcomes Yengeni guilty judgement

The DA welcomes that ANC national executive committee member, Tony Yengeni, has been found guilty of drunk driving.
This sends a positive message to the public about driving while under the influence of alcohol and should serve as a reminder to motorists that drunk driving will not be tolerated as it puts the lives of motorists and pedestrians at risk.
The DA would also like to congratulate law enforcement for taking action in this case, proving that they will take action to protect motorists without fear or favour.

SAA losses skyrocket to R3.5 billion

Replies to questions by members of the Standing Committee on Finance from South African Airways (SAA) have revealed that the projected losses for the 2016/17 year amount to a massive R 3,5 billion.  This represents a staggering R 2 billion increase compared with the R 1,5 billion loss declared in the 2015/16 year.
There is no doubt that these massive losses will mean that SAA will once again run out of cash and will have to pull out the begging bowl to get another government guarantee hand-out.
The DA will write to the Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, to urge him to refuse any further financial assistance to SAA which is set on a path to self-destruction.
It is greatly concerning that this is R 1,8 billion more than the R 1,7 billion loss that was projected a mere four months ago. This will represent a real cash loss as it will not contain the R 1,9 billion Airbus deal impairments that contributed to the R 4,9 billion loss in the 2014/15 year.
It must be asked whether the 2015/16 loss was massaged down to make the old SAA board and Chairperson, Ms Dudu Myeni, in particular, look like they were making good progress.
The new board of SAA has clearly not been able to turn SAA around or even just stem the massive losses. The board is hamstrung by the apparently poor and incompetent leadership of its chair Dudu Myeni.
This once again reinforces the DA’s view that the reappointment of Ms Myeni as the Chair of the SAA board was irrational.
SAA can only be saved if put under immediate business rescue and action taken to achieve a private equity deal that would result in capital revenue for the shareholder and thus the taxpayer.
The DA has asked that SAA produces a cash flow analysis for the 12 months of the current 2017/18 financial year. This will enable the full extent of the bankruptcy of SAA to be seen.
The DA is even more convinced that the only way to stop the monumental losses is to put the airline into business rescue and we will therefore make every effort to ensure that the Minister of Finance takes action to achieve this.

BOKAMOSO | The National Development Plan is gathering dust, not momentum

The ANC released its policy discussion documents this week ahead of the party’s mid-year National Policy Conference. ANC policy is ideologically incoherent, reflecting the war inside the ANC at the moment. Much of the policy is based on the National Development Plan, which is a widely supported blueprint for achieving the society envisaged by the writers of our Constitution. However, many of these policies are opposed by the powerful Zuma faction which is in charge. They are not interested in sensible policy that will grow the economy and create jobs. They are interested in policies that facilitate further state capture and looting. Opposed to this faction are those who do have an interest in real reform and renewal, and who hate what the ANC has become. But they are in the minority, and will soon have to choose between the ANC and South Africa.
The fact is that today’s ANC lacks the capacity, the unity of purpose and the political will to effectively implement policy. By the ANC’s own admission, “deviant conduct has become deeply entrenched; and arrogance, factionalism and corruption have been identified by large sections of society, including ANC supporters, as dominant tendencies within the movement. It warns that: “Internal squabbles, money politics, corruption and poor performance in government all conspire to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the broader public. 
The policy document seeks to increase state control and size. But the ANC is incapable of implementing this interventionist, developmental state agenda. They have failed to create a capable state. By President Zuma’s own recent admission, ANC local government destroyed the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. “We ruined it for years, bit by bit. Now the opposition is in charge. We cannot say we are surprised by that.” Their disastrous policy of cadre deployment bit by bit replaced competency with corruption.
The ANC clearly recognizes that it faces the very real prospect of losing its majority in the next national elections in 2019. It states the need to “prepare itself for the complicated relationships involved in coalition governments. It correctly recognises the urgent need to renew the organisation, and to make rapid inroads into fighting poverty and inequality if it is to retain its majority. But realistically, organizational renewal is extremely unlikely, because corruption is so deeply entrenched and because much of the party itself is captured by private interests.
In the real world where it matters, the ANC cannot rapidly improve the lives of South Africa’s poorest, because the Zuma faction has adopted the cause of “radical socio-economic transformation” to justify policies designed to accelerate large-scale corruption. This is why the many admirable policies contained in this document offer cold comfort. “Nuclear power generation should be… based on the requirements of affordability, procedural fairness and transparency.” While we welcome this statement, it is hard to be reassured by it when the actual nuclear deal process has been conducted in secrecy and looks set to bankrupt the country. “The Constitution’s commitment to ‘just and equitable’ compensation for the acquisition of land for land reform purposes should be codified“. But back in the real world, we have a President calling on “black parties” to unite to enable expropriation without compensation.
We all agree that “social grants must be defended and run efficiently”. And yet Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini has been absolutely incompetent at ensuring that they will in fact be paid to 17 million poor South African on 1 April 2017. She has treated the poor and those who care about the plight of the poor with arrogance and disdain, and she has done so with impunity. In Parliamentary question time on Wednesday, Zuma denied that Dlamini should be held accountable for the grants crisis.
The fact is that the ANC rejects the notion of accountability within the state. A free media is an essential cornerstone of democracy precisely because it enables society to hold government accountable.  And yet the ANC policies in the communications document seek to steer South Africa away from a free media and towards a controlled media. South Africans must fight for media independence and reject the media appeals tribunal which seeks to control what editors can and cannot publish, and the Hate Speech Bill which seeks to deter and even criminalise criticism of the government.
Evading accountability is also at the heart of the drive to vest more power in the presidency. “The presidency must be strengthened as the strategic center of power in the state.” This is a very, very bad idea. Zuma’s presidency has already delivered conclusive and devastating evidence of the dangers of over-centralisation of power. By enabling Zuma to capture elements of the state and grow a massive patronage network, it has done great damage to South Africa. And it has also done great damage to the ANC. All of which is why the National Development Plan is gathering dust rather than momentum.

Ntlemeza ruling should see Nhleko removed

The DA welcomes Judge Peter Mabusa’s ruling that Berning Ntlemeza’s appointment as Head of the Hawks be set aside, as his appointment was unlawful.
The application brought before the North Gauteng High Court by Freedom Under Law and the Helen Suzman Foundation, relied on an earlier High Court ruling in which Ntlemeza was found to be dishonest and lacking in integrity.
The DA has long held that Ntlemeza was unfit to hold this position and that his appointment was irregular and unlawful. Furthermore we believe he should be removed on grounds of incompetence due to his role in the Hawks witch-hunt investigation against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.
The ruling today is a reflection on the Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko’s, failure to ensure a rational appointment process. The time has come for the President to fire Nhleko, as he is clearly incapable of carrying out the mandate of his office.
South Africans deserve to trust that the police services have competent leadership and are working to ensure our people feel and are safe. Until such time that the leadership of the police services are above reproach, South Africans cannot fully trust that.
The DA will continue to fight to ensure that those who are tasked with fighting corruption are fit-for-purpose.

Social Grants Crisis: DA welcomes victory for grant recipients in spite of Dlamini

The DA welcomes the fact that the 17 million social grants will be paid after 31 March 2017, in spite of the astounding “incompetence” displayed by Social Development Minster, Bathabile Dlamini.
What is clear is that the Minister has been directly responsible for this crisis.
The Constitutional Court has given Dodging Dlamini until 31 March to submit her argument as to why she should not personally pay the legal costs for this process, which is a damning indictment on her.
Dlamini has failed spectacularly and has been directly responsible for this crisis, which the DA believes she purposefully manufactured to ensure CPS would continue to distribute grants, no doubt for her own personal gain.
It is now time that President Jacob Zuma immediately fire Dlamini to ensure that she will no longer be able to exert her toxic influence, interfere or block alternative payments methods for the distribution of social grants.

Zuma has no plans to hold Minister Dlamini accountable for social grants crisis

The Democratic Alliance condemns, in the strongest terms, President Zuma’s unwillingness to hold the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, accountable for the social grants crisis that she has created. It is now clear that 17 million South Africans have been abandoned by the President and the ANC.
Today President Zuma told Parliament and the people of South Africa that there exists no social grants crisis. This indicates a President out of touch with reality.
He has no interest in making sure that Minister Dlamini is held to account for her astounding lack of action and utter contempt – not only for the Constitutional Court – but for the 17 million poor and vulnerable people who depend on social grants for their livelihood and survival. This is the very Minister who Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng yesterday called “incompetent” in discharging her responsibilities.
Zuma fails to see how Dlamini has sat on her hands for three years since the highest court in the land declared the CPS contract invalid and ordered that SASSA make alternative plans for the distribution of grants. Dlamini has been far too busy campaigning for the ANC to prioritise the payment of social grants.
Zuma fails to see how Dlamini wilfully misled Parliament when she claimed, in her budget vote speech on 5 May 2016, that SASSA will be ready to distribute grants come 1 April.
Zuma fails to see that Dlamini has failed in her responsibility as a Minister to answer 93% of Parliamentary questions relating to the crisis.
The President is flatly refusing to stand up for the 17 million South Africans. The DA will not hesitate to do so and that is why we have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request that she establish an Ad Hoc Committee to fully investigate this crisis and to hold those responsible to account.
The millions of South Africans who have been left to wonder if they will be able to put food on the table for their children and families after 1 April 2017 deserve nothing less.

We must unite to safeguard our Constitution

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in Parliament today by the DA Member in the NCOP, George Michalakis MP, during the debate on Human Rights.
Honourable Chairperson,
George Bizos in his autobiography, An Odyssey to Freedom, quotes Nelson Mandela, saying in 2001:
“The Constitution speaks of both the past and the future. It permits us to build a nation based on the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom, through constitutionalism and the rule of law. It describes the mechanisms and institutions which we have created to ensure that we achieve this. There are no shortcuts on the road to freedom. The constitution describes the path which we must and shall follow.”
These are profound words. It implies that there is something sacred about the principles underlying the Constitution and that we, as the people – and more so the leaders of this nation – must and shall follow it.
The Constitution grants citizens inalienable rights, such as:
The right to equality: Yes, there is a vast legacy of apartheid that needs to be addressed and this government should have made an honest effort to address it over the past 23 years.
How many billions that were supposed to be used to address the apartheid legacy got lost through corruption?
Is this legacy not prolonged because the ANC failed to address it in the past 23 years?
The right to life: A right denied to the citizens at Marikana and elsewhere across the country, brutally killed at the hands of the State. Every time our State kills one of us, it is denying us our fundamental right to life. One can argue that every single time that our State fails to protect us, they are also sharing in the guilt.
The right of freedom of expression: Where an artist’s work is defaced because he has dared to draw a penis on a democratically elected dictator who is driving a spear through the core of our democratic life and value system.
The right to access to information: With bills brought before Parliament in the previous term that was found to be unconstitutional. Ministers who do not answer to Parliament or to the public, but think that they are above the law and the Constitution.
The right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition: Time and again undermined by President Zuma and his riot police. Against students protesting, against private citizens raising their concerns and even against members of Parliament.
Political rights: Undermined by the alleged involvement of the ANC in so–called “war-room” tactics, to sabotage the opposition by printing false posters and hijacking the media.
The right to property: Undermined by the President’s recent foolish announcements about expropriations, despite clear opposition from the wiser factions of his Party and others.
The right to access to adequate housing: Felt every single day by millions of South Africans who have to either live in a dwelling that is falling apart with apartheid-style planning by the ANC with a toilet OUTSIDE, or no house at all because the money simply disappeared or you do not qualify because you are not a card carrying member of the ruling party.
The right to health care: Esidimeni.
The right to access to water: With 27 towns in the Free State alone experiencing this problem constantly due to nothing other than bad administration by ANC municipalities.
The right to access to social security: Where the only grants Minister Dlamini is concerned about is the one that comes in liquid form.
The right to education: Where we get excited about a pass rate of 72.5%, but fail to mention how many students dropped out on their way to matric, or were asked to let subjects stand over for the sake of numbers. We are failing a generation of students who are in desperate need of quality education, skills and jobs. A lost generation that, if we do not look after them, will carry the legacy of the ANC in the same manner that they will have to carry the legacy of apartheid.
All of this speaks to the heart of our right to human dignity.
Then there is just administrative action: Nkandla, the decision to withdraw from the ICC, and the disrespect shown for our Chapter 9 institutions. And then, probably the root of all the problems in the first place: Schedule 2, the President’s failure to stay true to his Oath of Office: to obey, observe and uphold the Constitution, promote all that will advance the Republic, protect and promote the rights of all South Africans, discharge his duties to the best of his abilities, do justice for all and to devote himself to the wellbeing of the Republic and all its people.
Chairperson, this Constitution is the inheritance that my generation receives from your generation. It is supposed to be the guideline, the road map for us to move forward. And yet, the President has given us the middle finger and this government has violated almost every single one of our most important rights.
President Mandela said: “The Constitution is a living document. Our understanding of its requirements will and must adapt over time. But the fundamental principles are and must be unchanging. Full understanding of how and why those principles were adopted will help us to ensure that we remain true to the solemn undertakings which we have made to each other and to those who follow us.”
Chairperson, it is a road shown to us by giants. You will note that 2017 is not only the year of OR Tambo, but that on 7 November 1917 another giant was born on MY side of the House, that made such a profound contribution to establish our democracy that President Mandela invited her to stand next to him when he signed it into law 20 years ago.
On 7 November 1917, Helen Suzman was born. Chairperson, whether you are a child of Helen Suzman or a child of OR Tambo, we share a common heritage: a set of values, of what we as progressive South Africans want to achieve. To safeguard the rights and freedoms of our Citizens as enshrined in the Constitution, to address the legacy of apartheid and to build an open opportunity society for every single individual.
The late Honourable Dene Smuts said that accountability for an MP should lie in the four C’s: conscience, country, Constitution and constituency. She makes no mention of Party. Because principles are above politics and you will find that the voters out there are ahead of most members in here: for them, it is about principles, a better life and a better country. It is not about the party banner under which Tambo stood, but the principles for which he stood.
Perhaps then, it is time for the children of Suzman and of Tambo to stand up, to stand united and to say: enough is enough. This, Chairperson, is the only way in which we can safeguard their legacy, our Constitution.
I thank you.

Colonialism, like Apartheid, was wrong and cannot be justified

DA Leader Mmusi Maimane has referred Ms Helen Zille to the Federal Legal Commission for investigation, following a series of tweets this morning, which may have violated the DA’s social media policy for public representatives. Ms Zille has already issued an unreserved apology for her tweet.
Colonialism, like Apartheid, was wrong. It oppressed millions of people and violated human rights in a cruel and inhumane way.
Colonialism, like Apartheid, is in every single way against our cherished values of Freedom, Fairness and Opportunity for all.
The DA is party that is committed to redressing the wrongs of the past. We want to build a united South Africa – one nation, with one future.
We are a party that stands up for the Constitution, and everything it represents. We want to build a Fair Society where  every single South African – no matter the circumstances of their birth – can live a life they truly value.
We will continue to do so, tirelessly, because we want South Africa to succeed for all.

Social Grants Crisis: DA calls for Ad Hoc committee

Today we are faced with a crisis, manufactured by the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, which has put the livelihoods of 17 million South Africans at risk.
We know that in 2012, Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) won the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) tender to distribute social grant payments. In April 2014, the Constitutional Court declared the contract invalid based on two grounds:

  • First, was that SASSA failed to ensure that the BEE credentials claimed by CPS were objectively confirmed; and
  • Second, was that the second bidder’s notice did not specify with sufficient clarity what was required of bidders regarding biometric verification, which resulted in only one bidder, CPS, being considered in the second stage of the bidding process, which rendered the process uncompetitive and made any comparative consideration of cost effectiveness impossible.

In November 2015, SASSA reported to the Constitutional Court that it would be ready to take over the distribution of social grants from 1 April 2017.
Indeed, in her budget vote speech on 5 May 2016, Dlamini reaffirmed that SASSA would take over the payment process of social grants.
The DA has written to the Public Protector asking her to conduct an urgent inquiry into an alleged breach of the Executive Ethics code for wilfully misleading parliament.
It has become clear that the Minister has done everything in her power to ensure that CPS would continue to distribute social grants and we must get to the bottom of who will benefit from this.
That is why we have also requested that the Public Protector launch an investigation into the relationship between Dlamini and CPS, as there must be a reason why Dlamini has been so hell-bent on ensuring that CPS would continue to distribute grants.
On 12 March, SASSA CEO, Thokozani Magwaza, claimed that Minister Dlamini blocked all his efforts to report back to the Constitutional Court about the payment of social grants and that she personally interfered when he tried to find a solution to the crisis.
Dlamini also wilfully ignored three separate legal opinions which all recommended that SASSA proactively approaches the Constitutional court, as it was clear, a full year ago in April 2016, that they would not be ready to take over the distribution.
The DA can today reveal all three legal opinions, the golden thread running through each is that SASSA should proactively approach the Constitutional Court to seek directions on how to proceed as it is clear that they would not be ready to take over, despite the Ministers assurances.
In May 2016, SASSA was advised by Advocates Nazeer Cassim and Mias Mostert to approach the Constitutional Court to proactively to seek guidance as to whether the Court wished to resume its supervisory jurisdiction and to inform the Court regarding the delays in the institutionalisation of grant payments and inform them of the new time frames. Tellingly, this opinion stated that “our concern is that the impression may be created that SASSA has, all along, been pulling the wool over the Court’s eyes.”
In October 2016, Adv. Trengrove found that “The Constitutional Court has already held that the original procurement was unlawful and invalid…[and] We conclude that SASSA’s proposed interim agreement with CPS will not be lawful.”
Adv Trengrove essentially stated that SASSA should contract with CPS only for the bare minimum time to allow them to enter into a lawful contract following a tender process. Further, the interim contract with CPS must be on “the same or similar” terms. It cannot be more preferential than the original, unlawful conduct or they would fly in the face of their financial obligations. Adv Trengrove also stated that the failure to enter a legal contract “is due instead to SASSA’s own failure to get its ducks in a row in time” Finally, SASSA were once again advised to proactively approach the court with this information, which they did not do.
In November 2016, SASSA and the Minister received counsel from Adv Sikhakhane. He advised that SASSA reports to the Constitutional Court on its chosen option or solution for the payment of social grants and that SASSA should make every possible attempt to be in a position to perform the services itself.
Advocate Sikhakhane stated that “Any attempt to extend the contract with CPS without leave of the Court, may be viewed as perpetuating an illegality”.
“SASSA may approach the Constitutional Court to seek to extend the suspension of the declaration of invalidity in order to allow SASSA more time to procure the ancillary services from a service provider”.
According to Sikhakhane’s advice, SASSA had enough time to find an adequate alternative service provider. Thus, based on this counsel, it can be deduced that SASSA sought to change the circumstances by doing absolutely nothing, hoping that the court would be misled. This crisis is indeed self-made.
Dlamini, refused, with typical ANC arrogance, all of the advice presented to her. The DA will send all three legal opinions to the Public Protector to supplement investigation into whether the Minister wilfully mislead parliament.
Not only did the Minister manufacture this crisis, she also avoided every opportunity at accountability.
With only two weeks to go until the contract expires – and no alternate plan to ensure grants will be paid, this is an unbelievable example of recklessness and Dlamini’s inability to prioritise the livelihoods of millions of South Africans above her own Interests.
The DA has therefore submitted a draft resolution to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to request that Parliament establishes an Ad Hoc Committee to launch a full parliamentary inquiry into the social grants crisis.
An ad hoc committee into this crisis will play an important role in ensuring that all the guilty parties are held to account.
This ad hoc committee must investigate:

  • the circumstances surrounding the crisis, including the role of the Minister
  • the nature of the relationship between CPS, the current and former ministers of Social Development and the current and former Chief Executive Officers of SASSA;
  • Serge Belamant’s role in this crisis; and
  • the various legal opinions which were sought regarding the issue over time, including that of the Special Advisor to the President, Michael Hulley.

17 million South Africans receive social grants every month. These grants barely cover the cost of the bare essentials and now these grants, which in some cases are the only source of survival for the poor, is in danger because Dlamini saw it fit to play political games, most likely as she will benefit in some way or another.
It is now blatantly clear that Dlamini has done all in her power to avoid having to produce any contract for the Constitutional Court’s scrutiny and that the minister is desperate to ensure that CPS keeps this lucrative contract at all costs.