DA calls for Minister Cwele to explain his WOAN statement

The controversial statement by Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Dr Siyabonga Cwele, published in the media on 20 February 2017, stating that the controversial proposed national wireless network received widespread support from the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is apparently untruthful.
I have written to the acting chairperson of the Parliamentary portfolio committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services, Ms Dikeledi Tsotetsi, to urgently call a meeting at which the Minister and communications network operators can put on the record the substance of the interactions between them.
The minister’s media statement was issued after his National ICT Forum hosted a meeting of ICT sector players on February 17 to discuss – in the main – the controversial national Wireless Open Access Network (WOAN) outlined in the National Integrated ICT Policy White Paper gazetted last October.
The minister maintained that, “the delegates supported the introduction of the Wholesale Open Access Network and made presentations on how it can be implemented”. He emphasised that now there was general agreement on the issue the focus needs to be on ‘speedy implementation’ of the policy.
It is important to note that the minister’s statement used the word ‘Wholesale’ instead of ‘Wireless’, which is the word used in the White Paper to name the network.
The ICT sector has been publicly silent on the minister’s statement. It took an article by Mr Leon Louw of the Free Market Foundation, who attended the February 17 meeting, to state that the Minister’s statement was untruthful on agreement about the WOAN. This article was attacked by the Minister’s spokesman Mr Siya Qoba.
My conversations with sector players this past week lead me to believe that Mr Louw’s criticism has credence.
This prompted my request to the committee’s acting chairperson to schedule a meeting for the last week on March at which both the Minister and the network operators can publicly state their plans and objections so pending legislation can be drafted to avoid lengthy litigation that may well be the outcome of laws on this controversial issue.

Storm brewing at South African Weather Service

The DA will today write to the Public Protector, Ms. Busisiwe Mkhwebane, to request that she launch an investigation into allegations of corruption at the South African Weather Service (SAWS).
The DA will also be submitting charges against the board of SAWS for breaching Sections 50 (1) (a), 50 (1) (b), 50 (1) (c), 50 (2) (a), 50 (2) (b) and 50 (3) (a) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA).
This is in light of the suspended Chief Financial Officer of the SAWS, Ms. Marlize Hogendoorn, supported by an internal compliance report, raising a number of issues regarding irregularities at the state-owned entity.
A Presidential tipoff line received a call regarding allegations that the former Chief Executive of the SAWS, Dr Linda Makuleni, allegedly awarded herself and an executive with large bonuses whilst altering the bonuses down for other employees in 2015.
This claim was investigated by OMA Chartered Accountants and the findings were presented to the SAWS board in September 2016.
A compliance officer’s report was compiled, which found a number of issues regarding the bidding process, the signing of contracts and the authorisation level of the company secretary, which were all in breach of the PFMA.
It should be noted that at the time of the investigation, OMA had submitted a bid to be the audit firm for SAWS which would be a conflict of interest. A legal firm was then requested to look into the OMA Report, to review whether OMA should be paid for their services, however, the board’s selection of the legal firm was also in breach of the PFMA.
On the 22nd November 2016, the interim CEO, Ms Mmapula Kgari, overturned the executive committee’s decision to employ the legal services to investigate the OMA case, as she did not want to fight with Minister Edna Molewa. The CEO instead pushed for the OMA invoice to be paid.
When the CFO refused to authorise this irregular payment, she was suspended for ‘’poor performance”. This was following her bombshell notification of a potential case of fraud regarding a letter of guarantee for a radar project in the millions.
South African’s money cannot be wasted on supporting corrupt and fraudulent activities. The DA will continue to push for clean and competent governance within state-owned enterprises.

The Speaker is very poorly “informed”

In today’s meeting of the National Assembly Programming Committee (NAPC), I repeated the DA’s call for the establishment of a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions.
On 21 February the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, responded to my question, posed during NAPC the week before, as to whether any reports of Chapter 9 Institutions had not yet been tabled. In her letter, she said: “I am informed that all reports from Chapter 9 Institutions that were submitted to my office were tabled and referred to the relevant parliamentary structures, including reports of the South African Human Rights Commission.”
Less than one week later, no fewer than three SAHRC reports were tabled on 27 February. One of these, a report on Investigative Hearing into Safety and Security Challenges in Farming Communities in South Africa, was released in October 2014! The other two reports, into the Impact of Protest-related Action on the Right to a Basic Education in South Africa and on Transformation at Public Universities in South Africa, were released in September and December 2016, respectively.
All three reports pertain to very pertinent issues.
It is disturbing that these reports were only tabled after the DA enquired about them. It is even more disturbing that the Speaker misled Parliament and myself. Increasingly, Parliament is failing to do its job and increasingly it quietly ‘self-corrects’ once the opposition points out their failings. This is a worrisome trend.
This latest mishandling of reports shows once again the urgency of establishing a parliamentary committee to receive and process reports completed by Chapter 9 institutions, including reports completed by the Public Protector and the SAHRC.

Minister Dlamini summoned to appear before SCOPA

The DA welcomes the decision by SCOPA to summon the Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, to account for the SASSA grants crisis.
Following the farcical SASSA engagement with SCOPA on Tuesday, which the minister chose to ignore, the DA urged the SCOPA chair to call the Minister alone to appear before the committee on Tuesday 7 March.
SCOPA sent a letter to the minister late on Tuesday evening requesting her attendance and are now awaiting a response.
The DA calls on the Minister to summon the courage to appear before SCOPA, face the music and come clean on her plans, or lack thereof, to ensure that the 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans who depend on social grants each month receive their grants on 1 April 2017.
Since this crisis became public knowledge, Minister Dlamini has evaded every opportunity for accountability. She has continuously prioritised campaigning for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, rather than prioritising the millions of poor South Africans who depend on her to put their interests first.
If the Minister fails to accept this invitation, she will once again prove that the ANC does not care about the poor and vulnerable in our society.
Date: Tuesday 7 March 2017
Time: 09:00
Venue: V454; Fourth Floor, Old Assembly Building, Parliament

Attack on Balfour disabled home highlights desperate need for Rural Safety Units

The desperate need for rural safety units has once again been highlighted by yet another brutal attack on vulnerable members of our society.
On Tuesday night, 10 men attacked the Sunfield Fortuna home for intellectually disabled people in Balfour and demanded money while threating to kill the home’s manager and other residents.
The attackers only left the home when the manager had written them a cash cheque worth R20,000.00 because there was no money on the premises. This incident comes just three weeks after 4 members of the Smuts family were brutally murdered on their farm in Balfour.
It is clear that crime is a problem that affects all members of society particularly defenceless people living in rural areas. The longer it takes to address crime in rural areas, the longer vulnerable members of our society are left at the mercy of ruthless criminals.
Residents of the home have been left severely traumatised by the incident.
Crime in rural areas requires a specialised force that is equipped to deal with the specific challenges of policing in rural areas. We call for the urgent attention of the government to implementing Rural Safety Units immediately.
Every person should feel safe and protected in our country instead of feeling like they are more at risk of being attacked just because they live in a rural area. The DA will continue to fight for the safety and protection of rural communities.

Confused Mbalula must scrap Commonwealth Games

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula’s flip flop and lack of clear direction on Durban’s intention to host the 2022 Commonwealth games is enough reason to scrap the event.
The prognosis is simple, South Africa can not afford to host such an expensive sporting event. Limited fiscal space, low economic growth and growing unemployment, especially among the youth, require that resources are spent on expanding opportunities for our lost generation.
Prioritising a sporting event over jobless South Africans will simply be a betrayal of the worst kind.
In a 2016 Parliamentary reply, Minister Mbalula, did not rule out hosting the games but indicated that his Department was in the process of obtaining information from Durban on whether the City was able to host the games. Yesterday, in an about turn, he indicated that “it doesn’t look good for Durban’s hopes of hosting the games”.
Today, he released a statement in which he indicated that talks between the South African government and the Commonwealth Games Federation (CFG) were still ongoing. This is a reflection of the level of confusion within the Department of Sport and creates uncertainty over an issue which should never have been involved in at all.
The Minister needs to be honest and inform South Africans that we will no longer be hosting the games. Minister Pravin Gordhan, in his budget speech, indicated that we need to reign in on government borrowing and the widening budget deficit. If Durban goes ahead and hosts the games, budget cuts will have to be made from essential social services to free up money to fund the event.
In 2014, the city of Glasgow spent £575 million (R11,8 billion) on the Commonwealth Games. This is enough to fund all the students who have been denied funding by NSAFS for the 2017 academic year.
The DA will not stand by while scarce resources are spent on non-priority pursuits instead of the urgent need for jobs, entrepreneurial seed funding and education opportunities for our youth.

Labour Minister cuts funding to critical job-saving entity

The DA has requested that the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Labour, Ms Lumka Yengeni, summon the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, to account for the mess in her department, especially the crisis at Productivity SA.
The Portfolio Committee on Labour was recently informed that all the Labour Department’s funding to Productivity SA has been stopped while a forensic audit takes place to investigate allegations of financial mismanagement at Productivity SA. No-one has been suspended pending the outcome of the audit.
Although the DA welcomes this investigation for the sake of good governance and transparency, simply cutting off funding repeatedly is no way for the Department of Labour to manage this entity.
Productivity SA also had their funding cut completely in quarter one of the current financial year, and after being reinstated in quarter two, it was again completely cut in the third quarter.
The mandate of Productivity SA includes saving jobs by saving companies in distress through various rescue initiatives. These initiatives have saved thousands of jobs each year, by making companies more productive and more competitive in the marketplace.
In 2016, 713 000 jobs were lost in South Africa – some of which could have been saved by Productivity SA, if they were financed to do their job.
With Productivity SA on the brink of collapse, Minister Oliphant is once again missing in action. In the last seven years, she has only accounted to the Parliamentary Committee twice. She is yet to send out a statement or conduct a media briefing on the matter.
The DA will not sit back in silence as Minister Oliphant runs her department without any accountability. Funding to Productivity SA must be reinstated in order to provide more job opportunities for the lost generation who struggle to gain employment.

Fire Dlamini and give grants negotiations to Gordhan

With only a month until the expiration of the Cash Paymaster Services (CPS) contract and the switchover of social grants payments to 17 million vulnerable South Africans, the eleventh hour withdrawal of SASSA’s Constitutional Court application by Minister Bathabile Dlamini is a clear display of her disdain for the law and her firm commitment to disregard every piece of advice she has received from key government institutions and her legal counsel.
Minister Dlamini’s sudden withdrawal of this application raises a number of questions. Is the Minister nervous of what could happen should the Constitutional Court make adverse comments on her conduct? Is she nervous of the possible consequences to her political future? And most importantly, what is going to happen to the 17 million South Africans who rely on social grants to stay alive?
The DA cannot, as a matter of conscience, trust Bathabile Dlamini with the livelihoods of 17 million poor and vulnerable South Africans, and urgently calls on President Jacob Zuma to hand over the negotiations of the grants payment process to the Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan.
Minister Dlamini has allowed for this situation to reach crisis point. The President must appoint National Treasury to take the lead role in the negotiations for a new service provider, in terms of Section 97 of the Constitution, in order to ensure that this process is cost effective and transparent.
The DA is also currently consulting with its lawyers to explore the possible avenues for the DA to take to contribute to a transparent and legal grants payment process.
The DA shares the anger of all decent South Africans at the Minister’s blatant disregard of the consequences of her disdainful ineptitude towards the 17 million South Africans who rely on social grants which is a cause for great concern.
It only serves to strengthen our call that Bathabile Dlamini is no longer fit to head any governmental department and President Zuma must fire her with immediate effect.
The DA will do everything it can to help ensure that South Africans receive their full grants, on time. The ANC will not be allowed to get away with taking away the grants of poor South Africans.

Did SAA pay R50 000 for Myeni’s splurge in Oyster Box presidential suite?

The DA has been informed that SAA board chair Dudu Myeni spent a night in the presidential suite of the luxury Oyster Box Hotel in the up-market Umhlanga Rocks beach resort on Saturday the 25th of February 2017.
We believe that Dudu Myeni apparently attended the ANC fundraiser at the five-star Oyster Box Hotel on Saturday the 25th of February and then apparently spent the night in the presidential suite which we understand costs R 50 000 for a one night stay.
This is extreme extravagance from a person who has single-handedly managed to drive SAA into debt of R17.9 billion that is secured by way of a South African Government (taxpayer) guarantee of R 19.1 billion. We should not be surprised that such excess comes from the same person who apparently made 23 holiday trips around the world at the expense of the Mhlathuze Water Board.
Also at the Oyster Box the same night as Ms Myeni was President Zuma who addressed an ANC fundraiser event that cost attendees up to R 750 000,00 for a “package”. The cost presumably varied depending on how close to President Zuma you sat. The proximity that allowed for holding hands was no doubt the most expensive.
I will submit a written question to the Minister of Finance to establish whether SAA or any other public entity paid for accommodation at the Oyster Box hotel for SAA Board Chair Dudu Myeni.
In addition I will ask whether SAA or any other public entity sponsored the ANC event or paid for any persons to attend the ANC fundraiser held at the Oyster Box Hotel on the same night.