Report of the History Ministerial Task Team doesn’t make jobs the focus of basic education

The DA has taken note of the Report of the History Ministerial Task Team (MTT), released by the Department of Basic Education (DBE) yesterday. The report is comprehensive and voluminous, and we look forward to studying its findings and recommendations.

However, of current concern is the proposal that History be made a compulsory subject until Grade 12.

The DA has always supported History being a compulsory subject up until Grade 9 in recognition of the importance of the subject and the need for our youth to be educated about our country’s complicated and often painful past. We agree with Minister Motshekga that “History should … enable learners … to engage critically with the truths of colonialism, apartheid, and the liberation struggle”.

However, we fail to see how this decision by the DBE addresses the biggest challenge in basic education today, namely preparing our learners for the world of work and making sure they have the necessary skills to be competitive in the jobs market once they graduate.

History is vital in producing learners who have a good understanding of South Africa and the world. However, even if History replaces Life Orientation as a compulsory subject until Grade 12, learners are still faced with the problem of leaving school without being prepared for a very competitive and tough job market.

It is important that young people are best placed and prepared for the world of work. With close to 10 million unemployed people in South Africa, the DBE must be seized with solutions to this crisis. The only way we can begin to undo the injustices of Apartheid is to ensure that learners eventually become active participants of the formal economy.

Department of Land Reform and its entities have 20 million hectares of land

Do you support land expropriation without compensation? Make your voice heard:

Replies to Parliamentary questions posed to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) have revealed that the Department and its entities have nearly 20.7 million hectares of land.

In its reply to my question, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane reveals that her department owns approximately 13 588 879 hectares of land and has exclusive rights to another 2 222 920 hectares. It furthermore states that the Ingonyama Trust Board (ITB) owns approximately 2 000 000 hectares and has exclusive rights to approximately 2 882 000 hectares more.

The report of the High-Level Panel (HLP), chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, found that the “land area of South Africa” was approximately 122.3 million hectares.

This astonishing admission by the DRDLR follows similar replies from other departments, notably the Department of Public Works (DPW) which revealed that it has some 1.9 million hectares of unutilised land, and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries which revealed that it administers some 73 000 hectares of farmland on behalf of the DPW. The Department of Public Enterprises, which has vast amounts of land, is yet to respond to the question.

This information begs the question: why is the ANC pushing for Section 25 of the Constitution to be amended to allow for expropriation without compensation when government is sitting on vast tracks of urban and rural land, much of it suitable for development and/or agriculture?

Adding to the confusion is a recent statement by the ANC Secretary-General, Ace Magashule, that “[w]e are rolling out implementation of policy of land expropriation without compensation, we are not waiting”, and the resolution by the ANC, following the party’s two-day land summit in May, that Parliament must urgently pass the Expropriation Bill, ostensibly to test the limits of Section 25.

Meanwhile, the DRDLR responded to another DA question by confirming that (1) government has not determined the land that will be earmarked to be expropriated without compensation, and (2) will be guided by the outcome of the Constitutional Review Committee which has been tasked with considering possible amendments to Section 25 and is only set to report back to the National Assembly on 11 September.

Confusion reigns.

The DA believes that the ANC is continuing to use expropriation without compensation as a convenient ruse to deflect attention away from their massive, two-decade long failure to address land reform in South Africa. Indeed, the HLP Report found that “increasing evidence of corruption by officials, the diversion of the land reform budget to elites, lack of political will, and lack of training and capacity have proved more serious stumbling blocks to land reform.”

The DA wants South Africans to be real owners of land with the right to choose, unlike the ANC and the EFF who want the State to be landlord and the people to be permanent tenants on the land.

DA welcomes SABC ‘Sex for Jobs’ Commission of Inquiry

The DA welcomes the announcement by Acting SABC CEO, Nomsa Philiso, that the public broadcaster will institute a Commission of Inquiry which will investigate the prevalence of sexual harassment at the SABC.

The initiative to investigate the “sex for jobs” scandal at the public broadcaster is long overdue. Vulnerable young people in the entertainment industry, particularly women, are often expected to perform sexual favours in exchange for jobs and opportunities.

The scourge of sexual abuse is exploitative and those who have been accused of initiating these acts must be suspended pending the Inquiry. This is a particularly insidious form of corruption, one which takes advantage of vulnerable job-seekers and violates their right to dignity irreparably.

Furthermore, the DA welcomes the SABC’s Commission of Inquiry into whether there was any external political and commercial influence affecting the SABC’s news agenda during the period of 2012 – 2018.

The DA calls on the SABC to ensure that these Inquires are transparent and independent and hopes that the outcomes will set the tone for a safer and more conducive working environment.

Gauteng provincial government should have prepared for Joburg hospital violence

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa should have anticipated yesterday’s violence at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital and put in extra security to prevent it happening.

There were signs earlier in the week that violence by disgruntled workers was brewing, which included tyre burning and blocked entrances on Wednesday.

Police should surely have been on standby at the hospital on Thursday as it was likely the violence would intensify.

And once again, Premier David Makhura’s much-vaunted war room failed to pick up clear warning signs and intervene early both to address the worker grievances and to prevent further vandalism at the hospital.

Following the trashing of the hospital at the end of April, Makhura made promises that workers would receive their bonus pay, but the delay in doing this led to the deplorable disruption this week.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi now calls for the hooligans to be arrested, but why did this not happen after the previous vandalization?

The Gauteng Health Department has handled this whole matter poorly – they need to settle worker grievances speedily and fairly, and also ensure that hospitals are able to provide their essential service at all times.

Department of Small Business Development has no approved organizational structure after 4 years

The DA has received information that confirms that the Department of Small Business Development (DSBD) does not have an approved organisational structure, four years after its formation. This has rendered it incapable of fulfilling its core function of small business development in the country.

On 23 of October 2017, the former Minister of Public Service and Administration, Faith Muthambi, sent a cautionary note (see here) to Minister Zulu advising that the DSBD still lacks a finalised organisational structure based on the Department’s strategic plan.

Subsequent to this cautionary note, on 11 May 2018, DPSA officials confirmed via email correspondence that the DSBD still lacks an organisational structure in terms of the Public Service Regulations of 2016. The Public Service Regulation 25 (2)(a)(i) states that – “based on the strategic plan of the department, an executive authority shall:

  • determine the department’s organisational structure in terms of its core mandated and support functions; and
  • in the case of a national department or national government component, after consultation with the Minister and National Treasury.

As a result of the recurring dysfunction at the DSBD, on 22 May 2018, the DA lodged a complaint (see here) with the Public Service Commission (PSC) into hiring practices, management and composition of the Department’s administrative component. Yesterday, the PSC wrote to advise the DA it is considering the merits for a possible investigation into the issues raised in our complaint (see here).

A whistleblower alerted the DSBD committee on some of the challenges affecting employee productivity in the Department, and these include:

  • low staff morale;
  • transfer process of staff from the Department of Trade and Industry being done without consulting employees;
  • career development of individuals transferred being ignored;
  • lack of capacity in certain departments within DSBD;
  • employee grievances not being addressed by the Director-General; and
  • lack of resources to fulfill mandate of DSBD

It is unacceptable that, in an economic environment where small business are closing shop and shedding jobs, the Department that is meant to support them is embroiled in administrative chaos and inability to adequately address their grievances.

Small business owners need immediate reprieve and this is precisely why the DA has tabled a Private Members Bill (see here) in Parliament that is advocating for the establishment of a Small Business Ombudsman to act as an arbiter of challenges facing the sector.

Minister of Small Business, Lindiwe Zulu, has not only failed small business but also her employees at the DSBD. The Department has been mismanaged from the outset. The only way to move forward is for the Department to be disbanded.

Cancellation of tender for rape and DNA collection kits deals a massive blow to the fight against sexual violence in SA

The DA notes the admission by the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) that there is a shortage of rape and DNA collection kits at some of its police stations, and we are concerned by the fact the procurement process is reported to have faltered due to the unsuitability of all the bidders involved.

According to the SAPS, “two of the suppliers that took part in the bid process were disqualified because they could not meet the specifications as outlined by the department. During this process, the SAPS however discovered that the third supplier that did meet the required specifications is currently under criminal investigation”.

The DA previously revealed massive shortages of 18,637 rape kits and 43,489 DNA kits in the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units alone in several provinces.

These statistics are both shocking and reflective of the nation-wide crisis in which victims of rape and abuse are failed on a constant basis due to the under-resourced and under-equipped police service.

The SAPS does not seem to take the matter as seriously as they should, failing to acknowledge that this is a crisis for thousands of rape victims across the country. That this situation has come to pass is due to appalling mismanagement in the SAPS.

Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, must ensure that the bidding process to stock up much-needed and crucial equipments is urgently but lawfully expedited to ensure that perpetrators are successfully prosecuted and that victims of rape and abuse – many of them children – can be confident that justice will be served when they report these cases to the police.

Minister Cele must urgently address the chronic mismanagement in the SAPS and tackle the numerous issues which impede the police’s ability to ensure safe streets and safe homes for all South Africans.


ANC covers up State Capture in Mineral Resources

The long-delayed inquiry into State Capture in the Department of Mineral Resources is being sabotaged by the ANC. Months after being instructed by House Chairperson Cedric Frolick to conduct an inquiry into the behaviour of previous Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Parliament supplied an evidence leader and the process appeared, at last, to be on track.

However, at today’s meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources, the evidence leader Ms Fatima Ebrahim reported that her plans to travel to interview witnesses had to be cancelled at the last minute when Parliament refused to supply a budget.

This action amounts to nothing less than an attempt to shut down an inquiry which is sure to be embarrassing to the ANC and those deployed to senior positions in the Department.

Some ANC Members on the Portfolio Committee have suggested that the inquiry be shut down due to lack of budget.

The committee has resolved to write to Mr Frolick to ask for clarity and further instructions. To us it seems the decision has already been taken. That decision is unacceptable.

The Ramaphosa administration has sought to portray itself as a new broom that will sweep away the abuses of the Zuma years. But by trying to sweep abuses under the carpet, it is clear that the reputation of the ANC is being put above the need to hold people accountable for criminal and ethically unacceptable acts that have ruined the reputation of South Africa’s mining industry and rendered it all but uninvestable.

One of the consequences of this, is the loss of fifty thousand mining jobs over the past year. The reputation of South Africa as a worthwhile investment destination will only be restored if the abuses of the past are dealt with. The quashing of this inquiry means state capture will go unexplored and unaddressed by Parliament, which will have failed again in its oversight function.

Jobs will once again be on the line and Parliament will be shown again to have failed in its duty.

Zimbabwean elections set the stage for a new democratic agenda

The DA welcomes the announcement by Zimbabwean President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, that the country’s national elections will take place on 30 July 2018.

The DA calls on President Mnangagwa to maintain his “new era of freedom and hope” and ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent. The elections must comply with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections as well as the African Union’s Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

We note with concern the ruling by Zimbabwean Courts that Zimbabweans in the diaspora will not be able to cast their votes,  as Zimbabweans abroad should have the democratic right to vote for the party of their choice.

The DA’s Deputy Chief Whip, Mike Waters, is introducing a Private Member’s Bill to allow South Africans living overseas to be included in Provincial elections and for an increase of voting stations internationally,  and we encourage opposition leaders in Zimbabwe to fight for Zimbabweans abroad to be afforded the same rights.

The DA will closely monitor events as they unfold. Now is the time for Zimbabwe’s new democratic agenda to be set.

Government’s December “free higher education” announcement has brought student funding system to its knees

Parliament was told today that at least 100 000 registered students who qualify for National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) funding in 2018 have not yet received their allowances.  Another 29 473 students have not even received their 2017 funding.

The Minister of Higher Education and Training, Naledi Pandor, and her department acknowledged that there was a failure of systems across the board – in both NSFAS and institutions.

NSFAS itself has not paid funding directly to a single student and those who have received funding have only done so via the lump sum payments given, in desperation, by NSFAS to the institutions at which they are registered.

Only 45 338 University students and 15 348 TVET students meeting funding criteria have signed their contracts – which they must do before they are paid. In fact NSFAS has not even issued the appropriate contracts to these students, while the information being provided by institutions and students themselves is often incomplete or unusable.

This level of administrative chaos is absolutely unprecedented and a major setback for disadvantaged students.

University, College and student representatives told the committee that the much vaunted “student-centred funding model” brought in by NSFAS as a way of streamlining payments has failed in the context of this crisis.

Whereas in the old system, universities and colleges could advance money to students from their own funds whenever there were backlogs at NSFAS, they are, in the student-centred model, less able to do so.

NSFAS claims that partial upfront payments to Universities and Colleges have all been paid, implying that students should have received funding from their institutions – in spite of the fact that funding is now meant to be student centred.

However both University and College representatives state categorically that this was not the original intention of the funding and that they, especially Colleges, don’t have the capacity to bail out NSFAS’s administrative crisis.

Colleges are in a far more serious crisis than Universities, as they are both underfunded and lack administrative capacity to help them manage the complexities involved in the funding scheme.

Thousands of students who have not received funds have been vulnerable to eviction by private accommodation providers, who depend on NSFAS funding for their own cash flow, leading to immense hardship and often the end of the student’s studies. Others have no access to food, transport, or study materials. Many do not attend classes.

Once again the hasty, crowd-pleasing promises made to the poor by the ANC-led government and the actual reality of what is delivered at the grassroots are poles apart. This is shameful, the result of a mismatch between the populist instincts of the ANC and its capacity to deliver.

Even more urgent action is needed by the Minister than that which she has already announced. Instead of bringing student protests to an end, free higher education has given rise to widespread dissatisfaction and disruption. Colleges have been closed, or, as in the case of Maluti TVET College, even burnt down. Long term damage has been done to the system and to the hopes, lives and careers of students.

The DA calls for an emergency fund to be set up to assist students in dire need and for extraordinary efforts to be made to bring this crisis to an end.

It will take 50 years to deliver the 1 million jobs President Ramaphosa promised

The following remarks were delivered today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, Mmusi Maimane, during a visit to what used to be the biggest labour centre in the country. The Leader was joined by the DA Leader in Gauteng, John Moodey

Today I visited the Johannesburg Labour Centre, once the largest Labour Centre in South Africa, but now closed for nearly three years.

When the DA did an oversight visit here in January 2016, there was nothing to oversee as the Centre was closed due to “health and safety” risks. While we were assured this was being addressed urgently, it’s been over two years since then and the doors of opportunity remain shut to work seekers. The building is still dilapidated and falling apart.

But while labour centres continue to fall apart across the country, the DA remain resolute in our belief in City-led economic growth. Increasing the rollout of Khuphuka Training and Development Centres nationally, reducing the size of and streamlining government and implementing a year civilian service for school leavers would be a positive step in this direction.

President Ramaphosa plans to pilot the new Youth Employment Service (YES) programme in existing Labour Centres. He should abort this plan. If he presses ahead, it will ruin the potential of a good programme in labour centres that are utterly dysfunctional.

The fact is that the President’s target of 1 million jobs in three years through the YES will not be achieved, and it certainly will not be achieved using the dysfunctional Labour Centres. If the performance of the current Labour Centres continues, it will take fifty (50) years to achieve the 1 million jobs target.

Replies by the Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, to DA Parliamentary Questions have only last week revealed that the number of work seekers that were successfully placed through the country’s 22 active Labour Centres was slashed in half from 40 000 in 2015/16 to 20 000 in the last year. At the rate of only 20 000 successful placements a year, it will take 50 years to place 1 million work seekers.

And only half of 40 self-help desks that the Department committed to having set up in labour centres by two months ago were actually installed.

So in light of the failure by Labour Centres to deliver on their stated goals, I was stumped to learn in the Minister’s replies that the YES programme recently launched by President Ramaphosa will be piloted in these same Centres.

And to add fuel to the fire, the National Minimum Wage Bill that was passed yesterday in the House was widely reported on as ‘historic.’ But the only thing historic about the Bill will be the over 750 000 jobs that used to exist but will soon be exiled to the pages of history as a result of big government and big labour that have put the interests of 9.5 million unemployed South Africans stone last.

Comparatively, under the DA-led government in Johannesburg, employment has increased by a total of  91 000 jobs from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the first quarter of this year. 11 034 Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) opportunities were created from the beginning of July 2017 to the end of March 2018. This means that one DA-led government in one Metro has outperformed all of the 22 Labour Centres across South Africa in getting unemployed people into work.

Nothing demonstrates the DA difference more succinctly than this.