Jobs not Jets: Is the R1.3 billion in the special defence budget for the new luxury jet?

It has come to the DA’s attention that the estimated expenditure increase in the Department of Defence’s budget for 2017/18 is R1.38 billion, almost exactly the same price as the new presidential jet that the Department is allegedly procuring.
Estimated expenditure on the Special Defence Account (SDA), an account which is used for the procurement of weapons and equipment and to cover the costs of covert operations, is expected to increase by R1.53 billion.
In the meantime, the Department expects to cut an estimated 11,581 jobs by 2019/20 to ensure decreased spending on the compensation of employees. We will thus submit further parliamentary questions to Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula to ascertain exactly why expenditure on the SDA is being increased.
The possible increase in spending on a new presidential jet comes at a time when South Africa’s defence capabilities are severely hampered by a lack of funding and understaffing.
It is apparently more important to the ANC government to ensure that the President travels in luxury than ensure the safety and security of the country’s citizens.
The DA has been reliably informed that the presidential jet, Inkwazi, is fully operational and has conducted at least 8 eight flights since the beginning of February this year.
This is yet more proof that the ANC’s supposed “radical economic transformation” is not based on providing opportunities for the millions of South Africans that cannot find employment, but rather on ensuring that an elite few benefits from the tax-payers’ money.
If this deal is approved, money that could have been spent on improving the standard of education and skills that young people need to access opportunity will be wasted once again on a President who puts his needs above the peoples.

DA welcomes that our request for the Tax Ombud to investigate SARS has been taken up

The DA is pleased that the Tax Ombud, Judge Bernard Ngoepe, has asked for permission from Finance Minister Gordhan to investigate possible systemic problems with the payment of refunds by the South African revenue Service (SARS).
All efforts by SARS must be to ensure the efficiency and credibility of the VAT system, which includes the payment of refunds of diesel and Employment Tax Incentive (ETI) claims. The DA has been reliably informed of serious backlogs across the board which is a clear indication of the weak administration and technology at SARS.
On the 3rd of February 2017, I wrote to Minister Gordhan and requested that he use his authority as contained in section 16(1)(b) of the Tax Administration Act to request the Tax Ombud to conduct an investigation into:

  • Whether or not;
    • There are systemic failures with regard to SARS refunds of tax/VAT?
    • There are grounds to conclude that SARS are deliberately delaying the payment of tax/VAT refunds?
  • Identifying the sections of legislation that SARS may be using in order to “legally” delay the payment of refunds.
  • Identifying any other methods that SARS may be using in order to delay the payment of tax/VAT refunds.
  • Recommend solutions that will ensure that tax/VAT refunds are paid out promptly by SARS and within 30 days of the submission of returns.

At the same time, I suggested to Minister Gordhan that:
As an alternative approach, and as the Davis Tax Commission is currently reviewing the SARS operating model, we request that the Minister consider referring this vital issue to the Davis Tax Commission to review as part of the operational model review.”
After I had not received a response from Minister Gordhan by the 8th of March 2017, I sent a follow-up reminder and received the following response:
“Dear Mr Lees. My sincere apologies for not sending an acknowledgement.  Your matter has been escalated to the Tax Ombud for review and is receiving the necessary attention.”
I have no doubt that Judge Ngoepe initiated his request to investigate to Minister Gordhan on the basis of my letter to Minister Gordhan.
The delays with VAT, diesel and ETI refunds directly impacts on the creation of new jobs and negatively impacts small businesses which often rely on timeous refunds to keep their cash flow positive. However, it does artificially inflate the tax revenue collected.
The need for a far-reaching investigation is clear and the DA welcomes the fact that the Tax Ombud has taken up our call.

DA requests Public Protector investigation into relationship between Dlamini and CPS

The DA has written to the Public Protector, Adv Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to request that she launches an urgent investigation into the relationship between the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, and Cash Paymaster Services (CPS), as well as her role in manufacturing this crisis, in conflict with a Court order.
Given that Dlamini has continuously blocked any recommendations for alternative contractors or payment methods that do not involve CPS as well as the media reports this weekend that Zuma’s adviser, Michael Hulley, held special meetings with Dlamini and top officials at SASSA to ensure that the contract with CPS is renewed, the vital question as to why Dlamini is so hell bent on ensuring that CPS continue distributing social grants must be investigated fully by the Public Protector.
This investigation will help shed light on whether Dlamini will either directly or indirectly benefit from this contract with CPS.
The DA has long held that Dlamini manufactured the grants payment crisis in order to force the South African Social Security Agency (SASA) to renew its invalid contract with CPS. SASSA’s CEO, Thokozani Magwaza, claimed that Dlamini blocked him from reporting to the Constitutional Court about the distribution of social grants, and subsequently ensuring that CPS gets the contract.
‘Dodging’ Dlamini has become the personification of the ANC government’s arrogance and utter disdain for the 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans who depend on social grants each month to put food on the table.
She is no longer fit to hold office, yet the ANC continues to protect her. It is clear that the ANC cares more for ineffective Ministers than for poor South Africans.
The DA will not stand for this and will continue to fight for our people’s right to hold publically elected officials accountable when they fail.

Jobs not Jets: DA strongly opposed to new R1.3 billion regional presidential jet

The Democratic Alliance will submit Parliamentary questions to the Defence Minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngqakula, to get clarity on the reported acquisition of a new luxury 18 passenger jet for regional flights for President Jacob Zuma.
Media reports today detail a meeting between South African Air Force Brigadier­General Mzayifani Innocent Buthelezi, a director of air transport, and air force chief and military commander Lieutenant­General Fabian Msimang to discuss spending R1.3 billion on a new regional jet.
Reports claim that the jet must have an executive lounge, to hold eight passengers at a minimum and must be fitted with business­class style seating that reclines as well as audio and video entertainment capabilities.
The Minister must confirm the intention to acquire a short-haul jet, whether the said meeting between members of the top brass took place and must release any and all relevant documentation relating to this lavish purchase as well as a detailed justification for the purchase.
The President seems to prioritise his tendency for luxury travel over the needs of South Africans. In fact, the DA have been reliably informed that the Presidential jet Inkwazi has flown at least 8 times since the beginning of February this year and is clearly fully functional. There is, therefore, no need to buy another plane.
The DA is vehemently opposed to spending billions on a luxury jet while millions of young people in South have been abandoned by the ANC to a lifetime of joblessness by poor quality basic education and lack of skills development.
The billions for the new luxury jet should be spent on providing our people with the skills they need to find employment. Improving the lives of South Africans should be the priority not one mans’ unjustifiable need for luxury.

DA welcomes swift action by SAPS to find baby Siwaphiwe

The DA welcomes the swift action taken by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Durban which led to finding one-month old baby Siwaphiwe Mbambo alive and well after she was kidnapped in a hijacking at a Durban shoppinrg centre on Friday.
Baby Siwaphiwe was found in the early hours of Sunday morning after police intercepted a vehicle near Mariannhill Toll Plaza – two days after frantic searches by police and community members.
The kidnapping during a hi-jacking highlights the crisis of rising trio crimes, carjacking, house robbery and business robbery, and the DA reiterates our call for SAPS to ensure that Crime Intelligence functions more effectively to address this.
The DA welcomes the arrest of three suspects and trusts that a full investigation will take place.
After a hijack took place on Friday afternoon, the police appealed to the Durban community to come forward with any information which may have led to the recovering of baby Siwaphiwe and subsequent arrest of the suspects. SAPS offered a reward of R250 000 and deployed over 100 police officers, community volunteers and sniffer dogs to assist in the search.
The DA has for a long time emphasised that combatting crimes in our communities requires collective efforts between SAPS and community members and baby Siwaphiwe’s case is a classic example of what that collaboration can achieve.

Social Grants Crisis: DA’s PAIA request confirms no new contract

The DA has received confirmation from the Department of Social Development to our application, in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), confirming that no new contract exists between Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) and South African Social Security Agency (SASSA).
With less than 3 weeks until the invalid contract with CPS is set to expire, this confirmation is a damning indictment on the devastating inability by the Minister of Social Development, Bathbile Dlamini, to ensure that 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans will receive their grants next month.
The DA also notes, with grave concern, media reports that President Jacob Zuma’s special adviser, Michael Hulley, played a key role in ensuring that CPS keeps the contract. It is reported that Hulley held meetings with Dlamini and top SASSA officials to advise them to continue with the CPS contract. This may point to improper actions by him with the aim of thwarting a judgment of a Constitutional Court, and the DA will, therefore, report him to law society for investigation.
For some time the DA has been of the opinion that Dlamini has manufactured this crisis to ensure that CPS would be allowed to continue distributing the roughly R10 billion in social grants. It has been reported that Dlamini has rejected any payment options that do not involve CPS.
The vital question which must be asked is why is Dlamini so hell bent on making sure CPS continues to distribute grants?
It is blatantly obvious that Dlamini is not fit for office. Her utter disregard for the rule of law and the Constitutional Court’s that the current CPS contract is invalid, her continued unwillingness and inability to answer questions around the payment of grants after the 31 March, her failure to answer 93% of Parliamentary questions on this crisis and her palpable disdain for millions of South Africans should see her fired immediately.
With each passing day more evidence mounts against Dlamini. It is time that the livelihoods and well-being of millions of South Africans are put above narrow party political interests.
The DA will explore all avenues to ensure Dlamini and all other implicated individuals are held accountable for putting lives at risk.

Baleka Mbete leaves businesses in the lurch as bill for The Speaker's Ball goes unpaid

I have reliably been informed that none of the service providers that worked on The Speaker’s Ball, a post-SONA event hosted by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, have been paid in full. Some service providers have not received any payment for the event which was held at a five-star hotel in Camps Bay on 9 February.
The DA will be reporting the matter to Parliament’s Joint Committee on Ethics and Members’ Interests as we contend that Mbete has brought the Office of the Speaker into disrepute.
More than a month after the event, several small businesses are still owed payments ranging from R70,453 for flowers and décor to R137,444 for equipment hire to R206,482 for catering and staffing.
It is understood that Western Cape service providers were engaged by a Johannesburg-based events company which, in turn, was engaged by yet another Johannesburg-based events company purporting to be acting on behalf of Baleka Mbete and Nkuli Kgositsile, both of whom were personally involved in planning the event. We are led to believe that legal action is now pending against Mbete.
The DA raised questions over The Speaker’s Ball on 7 February, seeking clarity over who was paying for the lavish event and whether or not Parliament had contributed or committed any funds, in disregard of Treasury’s cost-cutting measures. Media conjecture prompted ANC spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa, to state explicitly that it was not a party event.
It is especially concerning that the event was organised and held in the name of the Speaker, who is indeed the representative of Parliament. Tarnishing the name of the Speaker is no different to tarnishing the institution itself.
The DA is appalled that Mbete’s failure to pay her accounts has placed businesses in distress. This ugly affair is symptomatic of a self-indulgent, opulent ANC leadership that holds honest, hard-working South Africans in contempt.
Mbete must settle her dues immediately, failing which she should be called to account to Parliament on why she has disgraced the Office of the Speaker and, by extension, the Legislature.

Change begins with all of us

Note to Editors: The following remarks were delivered by the DA Leader during a public meeting in Atteridgeville to mark the start of the #Change19 National Tour. The Leader was joined by DA Gauteng Provincial Leader, John Moodey, DA Shadow Minister in the Presidency and Constituency Head, Sej Motau, Tshwane MMC for Human Settlements, Mandla Nkomo, and DA Gauteng North Regional Chairperson, Fred Nel.
 
My fellow South Africans
Life does not get better by chance. It gets better by change.
If you are worried or angry about what you see around you, then you have to ask yourself: What have I done to change it?
Today I want to invite you to join hands with those who feel the same as you, so that we can do what needs to be done to get our country working again.
I know that our problems often seem too big to overcome. Rampant unemployment has shattered the dreams of millions and left entire communities struggling to get by from day to day.
More than half our people live below the poverty line. That’s 27 million people who have to survive on less than R780 a month.
11 million of them live below what is called the Food Poverty Line. This means they cannot even afford the minimum daily nutrition.
These are numbers that we should never, ever have to accept as good enough.
But this ANC government wants you to think they’re doing the best anyone can do – that this is, for now, as good as it will get.
They want you to accept that our economy can’t grow at even half a percent a year, that we have the highest youth unemployment rate in the world, and that more than a third of our people cannot find work.
According to the ANC they have done all they can do, and we must just tough it out until things get better.
Well let me tell you, I refuse to accept any of this.
I know we can tackle and beat poverty by creating opportunities for people to become truly financially independent.
I know we can change. But I also know we are going to have to do so without this ANC government.
The truth is, this ANC under Jacob Zuma doesn’t want change. Because change means giving up what you have in order to gain something else.
And this ANC has worked too hard to set up a network of corruption where everyone benefits. Where tenders go to friends, where cronies become billionaires and where the kickbacks flow like water.
They’re not going to give any of this up.
The good news, my fellow South Africans, is that there are enough of us to change this country without the ANC. We are everywhere, we just need to find each other.
We already took the first steps in last year’s municipal elections. Opposition parties in three metros found enough common ground to be able to say to the ANC: you are no longer needed here, we can do it without you.
And it’s not only political parties. NGOs are finding allies in business, churches are standing together with civil society.
Our country has transcended politics before to fight an unjust government. In the 1980’s the UDF united civic bodies, churches, students and workers to fight for a free and non-racial society.
Today we are once again seeing such a realignment – a Coalition of South Africans who have nothing in common other than a hunger to build a country that works for all its people.
South Africans who are not bound by race, by language, by religion or any other superficial “identity” that some like to label us with.
South Africans who share a common vision for our country, and who despise the selfish people with their wicked plans who stand in the way of our vision.
We just need to find each other to see how great our numbers really are.
Fellow South Africans, today marks the start of our #Change19 National Tour.
Over the next year I will visit communities in every province, where I will go door-to-door, conduct street meetings, town hall meetings, engage with the youth and speak to stakeholders in communities.
I will make it my mission to let South Africans know just how big our movement for change really is.
And when we go to the polls in 2019 to elect national and provincial governments, you will see that our movement – our Coalition of South Africa – will be unstoppable.
Together, we will be the change we want to see in South Africa. But for that to happen, many of you are going to have to be bold and do something you’ve never done before: You’re going to have to put your faith in the DA and not in the ANC.
That’s the only way this country will change. If the DA should disappoint you, then you must take your vote back and lend it to someone else. But first give us a chance.
If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.
Please join me in making South Africa the country we all know it can be..
Ke a leboga. Thank you.
 

Meddling Muthambi must personally pay for her judicial review of SABC report

The DA will write to Communications Minister, Faith Muthambi, to demand confirmation that she will personally pay for the legal costs of taking the SABC Ad Hoc committee report on judicial review.
Muthambi is doing her utmost to avoid accountability by taking the report, which was adopted in the National Assembly on Tuesday by most parties, including the ANC, on review.
She claims she was not given proper notice of the allegations against her and as a result was “substantially prejudiced” in her ability to respond meaningfully. This is a bold-faced lie.
Muthambi was given ample opportunity to reply to the allegations in person before the committee and was also allowed to publish a written response to the findings of the report before final publication, which she did.
During the Ad Hoc committee proceedings, it became clear that the SABC board’s failure could, in many ways, be attributed to the Minister’s meddling. The committee also found that the Minister displayed incompetence in carrying out her responsibilities.
If the Minister had one ounce of shame, she would do the honourable thing and resign, not use public money to try and defend the indefensible.
The DA has already written to the Public Protector, Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to request an urgent investigation as we believe she lied under oath, gave false and misleading evidence to the committee and used her position to unduly benefit Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
In so doing, the DA believes she has breached the Constitution, Executive Ethics Code and the Powers Privileges and Diplomatic Immunities of Parliament and Provincial Government Acts.
It is clear that the Minister is now scrambling as the evidence against her is plain for all to see.
Muthambi is clearly not fit for office.
Whether Muthambi does the honourable thing and resigns or the President removes her of her position, she must go with immediate effect.

BOKAMOSO | Our Constitution is the most powerful tool we have to effect land reform

The 1913 Land Act dispossessed millions of black South Africans, denying them the right to buy land in most of South Africa or even to farm white-owned land as tenants or sharecroppers. Further legislation caused millions more to be forcibly removed from the land they lived on and owned during Apartheid. These inhumane, immoral laws had devastating socio-economic repercussions, causing and continuing to cause tremendous pain and loss of dignity, and entrenching the deep racial inequality, poverty and resentment that still plagues our society today.
Our Constitution was designed to achieve justice and redress, and to prevent arbitrary, destructive deprivation ever happening again. However, the ANC government’s land reform efforts since 1994 have been an unmitigated failure. The failure rate, depending on the measurement of success, has been calculated as between 73% and 90%.
Last Tuesday, the EFF led a debate in Parliament calling for an amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation. The motion was rejected by MPs of most other parties, including the ANC. Three days later on Friday, President Zuma echoed EFF sentiments in an address to Traditional Leaders calling on “black parties” to unite to enable expropriation without compensation. Fortunately, Zuma does not have the backing of his party or government, though the ANC commonly blames the Constitution for land reform failure.
Land reform is a social, moral and constitutional imperative. It can and should be made to work. There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the government from implementing land reform rapidly and successfully. In fact, our Constitution is the most powerful tool we have for achieving justice and redress in land reform. Changing it will not fix our land reform problems. Instead, it will put South Africans at risk of experiencing the same deprivation and disaster now being suffered in Zimbabwe.
The ANC and the EFF like to scapegoat the Constitution for failed land reform when in fact it is due to failed policy and corruption. It is disingenuous and lazy to blame the Constitution. One major policy downfall is that government has prioritised allocating land over helping beneficiaries to farm it productively, resulting in unproductive land, which helps neither the recipients, nor South Africa at large. The transfer of skills and support into beneficiary communities is absolutely critical to a successful land reform process.
Another is the unintended consequences of state ownership with long-term leases for beneficiaries. Without title to the land, beneficiaries are unable to access the credit they need to farm productively. In many cases leases are not given at all or, worse still, are given to “strategic partners” rather than the beneficiaries themselves, creating avenues for elite enrichment and corruption. With neither title nor lease, there is little to distinguish “beneficiaries” from squatters on state-owned land.
Corruption is the biggest problem of all. Land reform deals often involve inflated prices that enrich the elite. Last month, the Sunday Times reported on a Limpopo farm that Agriculture Minister Gugile Nkwinti lined up for two ANC cronies. The deal cost R130 million of public money, while 31 farm workers went unpaid and a productive farm fell into disrepair. The Mala Mala land claim deal cost taxpayers R1 billion and yet the “beneficiary” community has not seen any benefits and remains in deep poverty.
Government puts much blame on the “willing seller willing buyer” approach. But if government were serious about acquiring land for reform, they could go onto the open market and buy farms for a bargain, without having to go through the arduous land claims process. Currently, arable land in SA is very cheap because of the drought. There is an unprecedented number of commercial farms on the market, especially smaller farms. The fact is that the ANC government lacks the will, competence and integrity to effect successful land reform. It has failed despite the Constitution, not because of it.
Policy uncertainty and the ANC’s radical economic transformation rhetoric is already deterring long-term investment in agriculture. A move to expropriation without compensation will open the way for the kind of uncontrolled, arbitrary land seizures that happened in Zimbabwe in 2000, which has reduced the country from an exporter of grain, to a recipient of food aid for over four million people.
Where the DA governs, we make land reform a priority and it happens faster than anywhere else in South Africa. This is why the DA-led Western Cape has delivered in total over 75 000 title deeds since 2009, more than any other province. This number includes the transfer of title deeds to housing beneficiaries in urban areas – the DA believes that urban land reform is a very important empowerment tool. In national government, we would enact legislation to secure the property rights of those who live on state land, state-owned land reform projects and former homelands. We want poor people to own their own property and not have their property controlled by Traditional Councils or by the state.
And we would buy well-priced arable land on the open market and allocate it transparently. We would target young, black aspirant or emerging farmers and provide both title deeds and appropriate support to enable productive farming, ensuring sustainable funding models. As we have done in the Western Cape, we would provide an on-going package of financial support, technical and managerial assistance as well as invest in supportive infrastructure.
Also as in the Western Cape, we would support farm ownership equity schemes whereby workers share in the ownership of existing, successful commercial farms enabling a progressive transfer of ownership and skills and providing access to markets – an approach which has been found to be far more successful than a wholesale transfer of land to people who may be ill-equipped to farm it successfully.
The DA’s combination of well-considered policy and effective, honest implementation will rapidly expand property ownership and wealth creation for black South Africans. And when they finally have title to their own land, they will be glad that the Constitution protects their right to own it.