Justice for Esidimeni not a priority for Zuma and ANC

Tomorrow, 09 March 2017, marks three weeks since I wrote, on 16 February 2017, to President Jacob Zuma, urgently requesting that he use his constitutionally assigned authority to establish a Judicial Commission of Inquiry into the Esidimeni tragedy, which resulted in the death of over 100 mentally ill patients at the hands of an uncaring ANC government in Gauteng.
Since writing to the President almost a month ago, I have only received an acknowledgment of receipt from the Presidency. This lengthy waiting period for a full response implies that the death of over 100 citizens, due to government negligence, is not a priority area for the Zuma-led ANC administration.
The ANC and Zuma cannot tip-toe around this tragedy and hope that it goes away. The reality is that the ANC has failed the most vulnerable in the country’s healthcare system, and the time for accountability is now. Like the Marikana Massacre, this tragedy requires a full probe that has the backing of the highest office in the land.
When the DA first raised this matter in 2015, the ANC government in Gauteng ignored the warnings of the DA Gauteng Shadow MEC of Health, Jack Bloom MPL, and again the ANC is ignoring the DA’s urgent request for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, which will fully interrogate matters and seek justice on behalf of the victims and their families, who are still without real answers.
The inquest by the Health Ombudsman did not go far enough, therefore a Judicial Commission of Inquiry is necessary in order to ascertain what exactly transpired, how it was allowed to transpire, what national governments role was – and ought to have been, and to identify the shortcoming of the current system so as to avoid a catastrophe like this from occurring again. Moreover, the terms of reference of the Commission ought to be wide, so as to include an investigation into the treatment of mental health patients across the country.
The ANC and Zuma cannot continue to place political allegiances ahead of the lives of the people of South Africa. The people and accountability always come first.
A Judicial Commission of Inquiry will not bring back the victims, but that should not stop the DA from seeking accountability. Something went terribly wrong, and this will start the process of fixing it.

Final SABC Ad Hoc committee report reads like a horror story

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the Chairperson of the DA’s Federal Executive, James Selfe MP, during the discussion on the adoption of the Final Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry.
I want to commend the Ad Hoc Committee for the rigorous way in which it conducted its enquiry into the affairs of the SABC.
The report reads like a horror story. It is a story of maladministration and corruption; of fear and intimidation; of nepotism and of abuse of power. At the centre of this story sit two malignant individuals: Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the Minister of Communications.
Like so many public institutions, the SABC has failed the public. Viewed cumulatively, the report portrays a SABC that is indistinguishable from that which existed under apartheid: biased, partisan, irresponsible, profligate, and unaccountable.
As members of Parliament, to whom this institution reported, we need to introspect about how we allowed it to happen.
Ultimately it was left to the Public Protector to expose the rotten state of the SABC in her Report, When Governance and Ethics Fail. This report was released in February 2014.
When we realised that the government and Parliament would not implement the Public Protector’s remedial action about him, the DA approached the Courts in a two-part application: first, to suspend Mr Motsoeneng and subject him to a disciplinary hearing, which had been ordered by the Public Protector; and secondly, to declare that his appointment as COO was irrational and therefore illegal.
On 24 October 2014, we got an order compelling the SABC to suspend Mr Motsoeneng and to subject him to a disciplinary hearing. He and the SABC sought leave to appeal. On 23 April 2015, Motsoeneng was granted leave to appeal, but the SABC was ordered to implement the disciplinary hearing pending the appeal. He and the SABC appealed again. The case was adjudicated by the Supreme Court of Appeal on 8 October 2015, and the appeal was dismissed.
On 27 November 2015, the Western Cape High Court reviewed and set aside the appointment of Mr Motsoeneng as COO. He and the SABC appealed. On 23 May 2016, leave to appeal was dismissed. The SABC and Motsoeneng petitioned the SCA for leave to appeal. In September 2016, these petitions were dismissed by the SCA.
The SABC convened a sham disciplinary hearing against Mr Motsoeneng in December 2015, which predictably exonerated him, as key witnesses were not called. The DA again approached the courts to review and set aside this disciplinary hearing. The SABC, in turn, applied for a stay of these proceedings. That application for a stay was dismissed on 14 June 2016.
Judgment in the DA’s case was delivered on 12 December 2016. The disciplinary hearing of December 2015 was set aside and a new one ordered, and Mr Motsoeneng’s appointment as Group Executive: Corporate Affairs was set aside, and the court ordered that he could not occupy any senior position in the SABC until after his disciplinary hearing. Mr Motsoeneng and Mr Aguma were ordered to pay our costs personally to demonstrate the courts’ displeasure.
Guess what? The SABC and Mr Motsoeneng applied for leave to appeal. On 7 February 2017, this application was dismissed.
At every stage, the SABC and/or its Executive Directors were ordered to pay the DA’s costs, which run to millions of Rand. We hope that the new Board will root out this culture of impunity.

The DA no longer has faith in Muthambi

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Democratic Alliance, Mike Waters MP, during the discussion on the adoption of the Final Report of the Ad Hoc Committee on the SABC Board Inquiry.
Madam Speaker,
At the outset let me thank the Chair of the ad-hoc committee, Hon Smith, for the manner in which he chaired the committee.
Millions of South Africans tuned in to see how Parliament was going to save the SABC, and many were surprised at how MP’s from across the political spectrum held the Minister and board members to account. In the main, political differences were put aside to the good of the people.
The 82-page report has all the ingredients of a Shakespeare tragedy from treachery, corruption, deceit, intimidation, abuse of power, trickery and sheer greed.
The main characters in this tragedy are the Minister of Communications, Hon Faith Muthambi and Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng, likened to Lady Mac Beth and Lord Mac Beth. With the journalists and staff being the victims.
Both the Minister and Mr Motsoeneng believed that the SABC was their own fiefdom to do with as they pleased to further a broader political agenda. This reign of terror was aided and abetted by some not all of the board members, the company Secretary and by the majority of the MP’s serving on the Communications Portfolio Committee. I am proud to state that DA MP’s did everything in their power to expose the Minister’s blatant abuse of power.
In addition, she committed perjury by giving the committee false evidence while under oath. This, Madam Speaker, is of such a serious nature that criminal charges must be brought against the Minister.
But let’s start at the beginning of the Minister’s term of office, back in 2014 where on 26 September the Minister signed a Memorandum of Incorporation (MOI) of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. This MOI, as Hon Davis pointed out on the 8 February in a letter to the then board Chairperson Professor Maghuve, would, amongst other things, destroy the independence of the public broadcaster by giving the Minister overarching control of the running of the SABC, in contravention of section 11 of the Broadcasting Act and giving herself new powers to waive the requirement for the board to advertise and shortlist candidates who apply for the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Operations Officer.
Paragraph 9.1.2 states, “During her evidence the Minister insisted that amendments to the MOI were effected in accordance with both the Broadcasting Act and the Companies Act. She stated that although legislation did not require her to do so, the Ministry had consulted the Board on the amendments as a courtesy before they were submitted to the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). She had also briefed the Portfolio Committee on the MOI in June 2015. According to the Minister, neither the Board, nor the Portfolio Committee had raised any reservations about the impact of the amendments or the manner in which they were processed.”
Let us unpack the paragraph. No, I repeat no MOI was ever submitted to the Minister. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, the ad-hoc committee asked CIPC for proof of a submission by the Minister which they could not find.
With regards to the Minister’s statement that neither the Board nor the Portfolio Committee had raised any reservations about the impact of the amended MOI again, the facts speak a different truth, Minister. The minutes of the board meeting clearly show that some board members did have reservations and with regards to the Portfolio Committee meetings minutes the DA’s Hon Davis as well as COPE and the EFF all raised reservations.
So why lie Minister?
I can answer that for you.
You knew that the amendments to the MOI, probably assisted by Mr Motsoeneng, were a transgression of the Broadcasting Act.
Paragraph 23.1.7 states, “The MOI signed in October 2014 as well as the proposed amendments to the Broadcasting Act, demonstrate efforts to concentrate power in the Ministry by curtailing and removing the powers of both the Board as the accounting authority, and Parliament’s role in the appointment and removal of non-executive
Board members. It also strips the Board of its role in the appointment of the executives.”
In addition, paragraph 23.2.2, the Committee also notes from Board minutes of a meeting that took place on 7 July 2014, that the Minister may have, directly or indirectly, pressurised the Board to appoint Mr Motsoeneng in the COO position. Was it coincidental, Minister, that you just happened to be lurking outside the board meeting at 11 pm the night that it was decided to appoint Mr Motsoeneng as the COO?
Despite the Public Protector having found adverse findings against Mr Motsoeneng, you found it fit not to advertise the COO position and to appoint him into that position.
Madam Speaker, the ad-hoc committee found that the Minister displayed incompetence in carrying out her responsibilities. In addition, the Minister interfered in some of the Board’s decision-making and processes.
The report recommends that, given the Ministers violations, Parliament must refer any violations of the Constitution, Privileges Act, the Executive Code of Ethics and/or the Broadcasting Act to the Ethics Committee and/or the Presidency for processing.
As the Executive Members Ethics Act dictates that Public Protector investigates any violations and the fact the ad-hoc committee felt no need to refer the Minister to the Public Protector, the DA will be writing to the Public Protector to conduct such an investigation.
The great late George Michael said, “we gotta have Faith.” Unfortunately, the DA no longer has faith in Minister Muthambi and she must be fired.

SAA spends R21 million on investigations yet takes no action

A reply to a DA parliamentary question has revealed that South African Airways spent R 21 million on 16 investigations, all of which centred on allegations of fraud and corruption within SAA, but do not seem to have taken any action against those identified by the investigations.
All these investigations took place during the tenure of Ms Dudu Myeni as Chair of the SAA board, a position that she retained when a new board was appointed in September 2016.
The DA’s view that the reappointment of Ms Myeni as Chair of the SAA board was irrational has been vindicated.
Ms Myeni presided over all these immensely expensive investigations but there is no information that any person employed by or associated with SAA has, as a result of the investigations, been criminally charged or even disciplined within SAA and fired.
On the 2nd of February 2017, I submitted a PAIA application to the National Treasury to request copies of all these investigations.
On the 1st of March 2017, National Treasury requested that I grant them a further 30 days to allow them to consider my application.
I have granted their request despite my concerns that the reason given for the delay was:
“To facilitate this request, consultations among divisions of the National Treasury were necessary to decide upon the request and this could not be completed within the prescribed timeframe due to the unavailability of the concerned divisions…”.
We trust that these full reports, without any deletions, will be made available without further delay.
There can be no question that they must be made available before SAA appears before the Standing Committee on Finance on the 29th of March 2017.

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.