Social Grants Crisis: DA calls for immediate Parliamentary enquiry into ‘Dodging Dlamini’

Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, has yet again dodged accountability before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) today, as she failed to adequately account for the social grant crisis and even tried to make an early exit.
The DA once again reiterates our call for a full Parliamentary enquiry into the social grants fiasco as Dlamini’s astounding inability to provide clear answers on the terms of the new CPS contract, the new cost, or on the resignation of the DG, cannot be allowed to stand. By not answering these key questions Dlamini wishes to escape accountability and the DA will not allow this.
Dodging accountability has now become the hallmark of the ANC and comes straight from the top as just yesterday President Zuma instructed officials to stop answering questions on SASSA.
The President’s lack of action and refusal to fire Dlamini is a clear indication of how little he and the ANC care for the millions of vulnerable South Africans who rely on social grants. It is, therefore, the responsibility of Parliament to investigate the social grants crisis to ensure that Minister Dlamini is held accountable.
The DA has already submitted an application in the Constitutional Court, to pursue accountability for those who have created this crisis and put 17 million South Africans at risk. We have sought a declaratory order from the court confirming that the Minister of Social Development, the CEO of the SASSA and the SASSA, violated their duties in terms of Sections 165 (4) and (5) and Section 195 of the Constitution.
The ANC cannot continue to protect ineffective ministers at the expense of poor South Africans. The DA also believe that Minister Dlamini has violated her oath of office by failing to perform the functions of her office with honour, dignity and to the best of her ability and we are seeking a declaration from the court in this regard.
The DA will be marching, en masse, to Dlamini’s office on Friday, 10 March 2017, to send a clear message that her contempt for the poor will not be left unanswered.
The DA will continue to pursue all avenues possible to make sure that Dlamini and all those responsible for this crisis are held accountable to the full extent of the law.

ANC remarks threaten internet and media freedom

State Security Minister, David Mahlobo’s, remarks at the recent Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster media briefing that the ANC-government is contemplating regulating South Africa’s social media space is worrying.
Such statements pose a direct threat to media and internet freedom in South Africa.
Instead of making such irresponsible threats, our government should rather distance itself from the continent’s despots when it comes to developing policies and regulations for internet behaviour.
Minister Mahlobo’s apparent concerns about false news and scams need to be seen in the light of the pending 2019 general election and the increasing denial of digital rights by African governments feeling threatened by the citizen empowerment that the World Wide Web facilitates.
In light of Monday’s joint declaration on fake news, misinformation and propaganda released by international freedom of expression experts, South Africa will be out of step with the international drive to protect human rights and media freedom if it uses scare-mongering tactics to suppress opposition voices in the run-up to the 2019 general election.
While our government’s statements in policy documents commit it to multi-stakeholder collaboration on Internet issues, including saying the correct things about freedom of access, connecting the marginalised and the poor, human rights and free speech, its actions on the United Nations floor undermine their words.
Our government’s dubious stance on internet rights was highlighted last year when it – along with cyber bullies such as Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and India – voted against the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHCR) declaration that access to the internet was a human right; that people have the same rights online as they have offline.
The DA is on side with our fellow African democrats who support and give life to human rights principles online, such as the freedom of speech and opinion, and the protection of these rights from harassment from governments or individuals.
We believe that online rights have the same protection as offline rights and that the governance of the internet must be multi-stakeholder driven and in line with accepted international standards.
For South Africa to play a positive and credible role in international telecommunications governance forums it needs to reappraise its conservative stand on human rights and internet freedoms.
Its global track record on these issues is not a vote catcher in the age of heightened citizen empowerment and opposition to human rights infringements.
The DA will fight against censorship, for media freedom and will continue to defend the constitution.

SAHRC agrees to investigate textbook delivery failures

The South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) has agreed to the DA’s request that they investigate the Eastern Cape Department of Education for their failure to deliver top-up textbooks to more than 50 % of schools in the province.
On 21 February 2017, the DA wrote to the SAHRC to request an investigation into the Department of Education in the Eastern Cape, after a presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education revealed that an astounding 42 % of top-up textbooks had not been delivered.
The SAHRC’s decision to investigate this matter is based on a “prima facia violation of a human right” and is a clear indication that the Eastern Cape’s Education Department has breached the human rights of vulnerable young South Africans.
Many of the affected schools, especially those in the townships, have experienced a backlog in textbooks and other educational resources for many years.
It is unacceptable that young South Africans, who are desperate for a quality education and the opportunities that education provide, are subjected to such gross negligence by the ANC-led government.
In the Western Cape where the DA govern we believe in empowering our young people to be the best they can and therefore we have the best performance record in delivering textbooks on time for the start of the school year.
It is of utmost importance that our children have the necessary tools to create better lives for themselves.
Yet, the ANC-led government is failing yet another generation of young people.
The SAHRC investigation will play an important role in holding the Eastern Cape’s Education Department accountable for their failures.

Social Grants Crisis: Ramaphosa must ensure Dlamini attends critical SCOPA meeting tomorrow

Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, as the Leader of Government Business, must urgently instruct the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, to attend the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) meeting in Parliament tomorrow.
The DA has written to him this morning to urge him to do so, and also requested that he provides Parliament with an update before the SCOPA meeting, to this effect. Section 56 of the Constitution states that “The National Assembly or any of its committees may require any person or institution to report to it” and therefore the Minister is accountable to Parliament and must account.
Since this crisis emerged and despite the DA’s efforts, Dlamini has evaded every opportunity for accountability. If rumours are to go by, it seems likely that she may do so again tomorrow.
This cannot be tolerated by Parliament or by the Leader of Government Business. Indeed, accounting to Parliament is not optional – Dlamini has no choice but to attend and explain herself to South Africa.
SCOPA has invited Dlamini, as the political head of the Department, to answer questions regarding fruitless and wasteful expenditure within SASSA as well as the current invalid Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract.
The DA will accordingly demand that Dlamini provide a complete breakdown on the allegedly signed contract with CPS, including a breakdown of any other costs incurred, and she must make copies of the said contract available.
She must also provide answers on the resignation of Social Development Director-General, Zane Dangor, as her refusal to explain this to date provides a clear indication as to why we are in this mess today.
The truth of the matter is that if Dlamini had even an ounce of integrity, she would have resigned for her role in this growing crisis. Likewise, if Jacob Zuma and the ANC really cared about the poor, and social grant recipients, young and old, he would have fired her as soon as the extent of the mess she created emerged.
The reality is that the ANC doesn’t care about the poor. They only care about lining their pockets – taking as much as they can for themselves.
The DA will not allow this to go unanswered. We will fight the ANC’s attempts to take away people’s grants. Every person who needs a grant, must get a grant, come 1st April 2017.
We are therefore continuing with our application in the Constitutional Court, and with our mass march in Tshwane on 10 March 2017. We will also use every opportunity, inside and outside of Parliament, to make sure this matter is resolved in the interests of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans.

SACE fail to answer corruption allegations and Minister must now investigate

On 20 January 2017, the South African Council of Educators (SACE) committed to respond, in writing, to the allegations of corruption put to them by the DA by the end of February. However, a month has passed and the DA is yet to receive any correspondence from SACE on the matter.
The DA will now present these allegations of corruption to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, to demand that she investigate possible corruption at SACE.
SACE is mandated to ensure that teachers and principals who are accused of misconduct are held to account. Their role is, therefore, critical in ensuring our children are kept safe from those educators who wish to harm them.
The DA condemns the failure by SACE to respond to these allegations and they must be held to account for their lack of transparency when it comes to their own misconduct.
Whistleblowers have alerted the DA to various irregularities at SACE, including:

  • The CFO not having the qualifications, skills and experience for the position, and resorts to intimidation to scare off any objections to his alleged corruption;
  • The COO appointing unqualified investigators to probe corruption;
  • Nepotism regarding administrative positions at SACE;
  • The IT systems at SACE being improved by a company without a proper tender process; and
  • Irregularities regarding the salary pay scale of SACE employees.

In the meantime, the Public Protector has been investigating these allegations, as well as a long list of other alleged corrupt activities at SACE.
The abrupt resignation of the CEO of SACE, Rej Brijraj, on 31 January 2017, has lead the DA to believe that there may be substance to the allegations.
The DA demands that Minister Motshekga provide clarity on her department’s awareness of the possible crisis at SACE and her assurance that she will investigate the matter fully.

Why did it take Absa Bank Limited 15 months, or 312 days, to close the Guptas’ bank accounts?

Today, I wrote to Maria Ramos, Chief Executive of Barclays Africa Group Limited, requesting a reasonable explanation for why it took Absa Bank Limited (“Absa”) 15 months, or a full 312 working days, to close the Guptas’ bank accounts in South Africa.
An affidavit, submitted by Yasmin Masithela on behalf of Absa, in the Minister of Finance versus Oakbay Investments (Pty) Ltd case, which is before the High Court of South Africa, Gauteng Division [Case No. 80978/16], reveals that it took the bank:

  • 13 months, that is a full 272 working days, from the time the decision was taken to terminate the banker-client relationship with the Guptas’ (18 November 2014) to the notice of termination of the banker-client relationship with the Guptas’ (18 December 2015); and
  • 15 months, that is a full 312 working days, from the time the decision was taken to terminate the banker-client relationship with the Guptas’ (18 November 2014) to the termination of the banker-client relationship with the Guptas’ (16 February 2016).

The affidavit provides a detailed explanation of why the Guptas’ bank accounts were closed, as well as a detailed explanation of the process followed in closing the Guptas’ bank accounts, but does not provide any explanation as to why it took so long to close the Guptas’ bank accounts.
What the delay in closing the Guptas’ bank accounts suggests is that Absa may have failed to comply with processes, procedures and controls to manage money laundering and terrorist financing risks, including its obligations in respect of “Politically Exposed Persons”, in terms of the Banks Act (No. 94 of 1990) and the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (No. 38 of 2001).
In the end, the real question, in the controversy surrounding the closure of the Guptas’ bank accounts, is not why the Guptas’ bank accounts were closed, but why it took so long for the Guptas’ bank accounts to be closed, by inter alia Absa.

94% of Zuma’s Cabinet claim to have “never met” with Guptas

Answers to a series of written parliamentary questions to all 35 Ministers in the Zuma Cabinet indicate that it is not just a select few in the ANC who serve the Gupta project of State Capture, but rather the majority. Zuma’s Cabinet is now working tirelessly to enrich the connected few, while over 9 million South Africans go without a job.
I submitted parliamentary questions to each Minister asking whether he/she had met with any member, employee and/or close associate of the Gupta family and/or attended any meeting with these persons at the Gupta’s Saxonwold Estate in Johannesburg or anywhere else since taking office.
What has become quite clear from the answers provided is that the Gupta project of State Capture is an ANC project – fully endorsed and supported by the majority in the ANC. This is why Ministers are forced to dodge questions, or provide flimsy and equivocal answers to direct questions.
The written responses reveal the following:

  • The Ministers of Finance, Defence, Economic Development, Energy, Home Affairs and Trade and Industry all admitted to have “attended social events where members of the Gupta family were present”;
  • Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies states that he has indeed met with the Gupta family on several occasions;
  • Well-known Gupta affiliates – The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Des Van Rooyen, and the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane – both denied having met with members of the Gupta family despite the Public Protector’s State of Capture report providing concrete evidence to the contrary – including phone records and flight details;
  • The Ministers of Environmental Affairs, Public Enterprises, Sport and Recreation, State Security and Women in the Presidency all flatly refused to give an answer to the question;
  • The Minister of Energy admitted to meeting with Gupta employees Mr Nazeem Howa and Mr Moegsin Williams at various New Age breakfasts;
  • The Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, has refused to even reply to the question, which was put to her in writing 11 months ago, in April 2016; and
  • The Minister of Finance avoided answering the question as it related to his Deputy, Mcebisi Jonas, even though the question specifically asked about the Deputy Minister in light of his public proclamations that he was personally offered the post of Finance Minister by the Guptas in 2015;

Lying to Parliament is a serious offense, and if it transpires that any Member of Cabinet misled Parliament – to which they are Constitutionally accountable – we will take whatever action necessary.
I have also today written to the Leader of Government Business in the National Assembly, Cyril Ramaphosa, requesting that he ensures that the Ministers who have yet to answer, failed to answer, or answered vaguely, are made to provide sufficient answers to the question within the next 14 days.
The DA has already laid criminal charges in terms of the Prevention and Combatting of Corrupt Activities Act against members of the Gupta family, with the Hawks having confirmed to be investigating this matter. We eagerly anticipate the outcome of said investigation.
It cannot be that the ANC works to enrich and promote a small elite minority of connected cadres, while millions of South Africans go without work and rely on social grants for their survival.
The DA will continue to expose the capture of state institutions by President Zuma and his gang of cronies, who loot the state for personal gain while South Africa suffers.

Social Grants Crisis: DA to proceed with our application in Constitutional Court

The disgraceful contempt shown by the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, towards 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans this morning, deserves condemnation in the strongest terms possible.
The DA is both shocked and angered by the Minister’s failure to table a clear plan to resolve this crisis. If anything her unwillingness to provide clear answers, determination to blame the media, and refusal to explain the Director General’s resignation, provides the clearest indication yet as to why we are in this mess today.
Indeed, Dlamini doesn’t care about the poor, or all those South Africans, young and old, who rely on a social grant to survive. She is in this job just to feed at the trough – not to make a difference.
President Zuma must also be held accountable for this growing crisis. He has remained silent until the last possible minute, and failed to fire Minister Dlamini – the bare minimum he could do – to show that he was equally concerned about grant recipients.
Jacob Zuma rewards failure, so long as it means he remains in power.
The DA will not let the ANC get away with taking grants away from our poor and vulnerable. We are ready to do whatever we can to ensure that every person who needs a grant, gets a grant, come 1st April 2017.
We will therefore continue with our application in the Constitutional Court, seeking accountability for those who have failed to ensure SASSA’s readiness to take over the distribution of grants and who have put the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans at risk.
As a part of our application, we have sought a declaratory order from the court confirming that the Minister of Social Development, the CEO of the SASSA and the SASSA, violated their duties in terms of sections 165(4) and (5) and section 195 of the Constitution.
We are further seeking a declaration that the Minister has violated her oath of office in failing to perform the functions of her office with honour, dignity and to the best of her ability.
Our preparations for our mass march this week Friday, 10 March 2017, are also continuing. We are ready to send a clear message to Minister Dlamini that her disdain for the poor will not be left unanswered. Dlamini must go and go now. We will make this clear on Friday.

DG resignation: Dlamini must go immediately

Reports today that Social Development Director-General, Zane Dangor, has resigned is yet another sign of the Social Development Minister’s destructive and toxic influence and should see her removed immediately.
The DA will write to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Rosemary Capa, to request that she invite Mr Dangor to come before the committee to detail what has been taking place.
Dlamini has utterly failed to ensure that SASSA was ready to take over the distribution of grants at the end of this month when the current invalid CPS contract comes to an end and has allowed the situation to reach crisis point.
In fact, she has manufactured this crisis and even misled the Constitutional Court in October last year when she stated that SASSA would be ready to take over the distribution.
Dlamini cannot be trusted with the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans.
The President has more than enough cause to remove her and for the sake of millions of South Africans, the DA calls on him to do so immediately.

Zuma determined to keep NPA ‘captured’ & delay facing 783 charges of corruption

President Jacob Zuma’s decision not to suspend the National Director of Public Prosecutions, Adv Shaun Abrahams, is simply explained by his determination to keep the NPA ‘captured’ and to delay him having to answer for the 783 charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering, that stand against him.
The fact is that Adv Abrahams is comprised. His decision to prosecute Pravin Gordhan, despite having ignored vital evidence in this decision, as well as his meeting at Luthuli House, the day before Mr Gordhan was charged, proves this.
It sadly comes as no surprise that Jacob Zuma has yet again undermined what should be an ‘independent’ institution of state in his bid to avoid accountability and remain in power.
The DA will continue to pursue our case against Mr Zuma in the courts, and we look forward to the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling in this regard.
Today, we remind Jacob Zuma that we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that the principle of equality before the law is respected. His day in court is coming.