APPALLING SEWAGE PROBLEMS IN MIDRAND INFORMAL SETTLEMENTS

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

There are appalling sewage problems in Midrand informal settlements that are a health hazard but are ignored by the authorities.

I observed this on my visit yesterday to various neglected areas in the east Midrand area as part of my “Don’t forget the forgotten” campaign.

I was accompanied by DA Midrand Constituency Head Dion George MP, and DA Councillors Inneth Mbatha and Richard Newby

Raw sewage flows in the street in Sophiatown informal settlement near Rabie Ridge.

This sewage problem has been there for 17 years, and appears to be from the overflow from a pipe that is too small.

A petition about the sewage and other problems in the area was handed in to the Johannesburg Metro Council by the DA on 10 November 2010 but nothing was done about it.

It is shocking that this petition has been ignored for so long, and Clr Newby will be pressing for the petition to be acted on by the council.

A number of shacks in Sophiatown are built under electric power lines and need to be relocated, and there is also a flooding problem.

Another bad sewage problem is the use of a storm water drain as a toilet in the Baghdad informal settlement because the chemical toilets there are largely broken. Residents use buckets and human waste often ends up in the drain.

Other problems identified on my visit include:

* More water taps are needed in Baghdad as residents have to cross over a storm water drain to get to the available taps.

* The Hikhensile clinic is short of nurses and also many medicines, including the anti-retroviral drug Tenofovir for HIV/Aids which horrified me as drug resistance builds up if there is treatment interruption.

* In Emalahleni informal settlement brass taps have been stolen and not replaced by plastic ones.

* Taps in the K60 informal settlement go dry over weekends, apparently because of extra use by residents.

I stayed overnight with Mr Philemon Masimbi at the Meriteng informal settlement in Kaalfontein. The main problem there is lack of electricity, terrible roads and no street lights.

This is my seventh overnight stay in a shack. I do it once a month to experience what it is really like for the forgotten people of this province.

It is always a very humbling experience to see how people endure in terrible conditions and do their best to thrive and be creative.

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DA welcomes relaunch of specialised policing units

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Northern Cape: Leader

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the reinstatement of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units in the Northern Cape by Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, in Kimberley yesterday.

The DA has all along opposed the disbanding of the units and has been calling for their reinstatement since 2006. Our calls were vindicated by a Rapcan Study which proved that the dismantling of specialized FCS units severely hindered efforts to tackle crimes against women and children. Furthermore, international best practice and numerous studies confirm that such specialized units are the most effective manner in dealing with specialised forms of crime.

However, from the time of the disbanding of the units until now, there has been an absence of political will in government and in the SAPS in relation to the prioritization of victims, especially in terms of crimes against women and children. SAPS restructuring also failed to take into account the specialized nature of FCS services, resulting in confusion and uncertainty which consequently led to the placement of FCS staff in unsuitable positions, weakening the quality of service provided. This can be seen in the upward trend in all sexual offences in the Northern Cape. Not to mention general statistics indicating that one in six women is abused, which translates into the fact that thousands of women are suffering under the hands of an abusive partner in the Northern Cape alone. Or that it is estimated that nationally around 30 000 children per year are victims of sexual abuse.

The DA sincerely hopes that yesterday’s “relaunch” marks a turnaround in provincial government’s attitude towards combating domestic violence and crimes against women and children in the Northern Cape. Personal safety is an essential prerequisite for an Open Opportunity Society for All. At present, though, our people face some of the highest crime rates in the country, even in the world, and many feel trapped inside their homes, and suspicious of those in their communities. We cannot build a united, prosperous nation while so many are trapped in a web of terror caused by crime.

This said, Minister Mthethwa’s concession that the FCS units are important constitutes evidence that the DA’s policy framework contains some of the most effective solutions for South Africa in general and the fight against crime in particular. Just as the ANC has recently moved to support wage subsidies and an income support grant – two key DA policies – so the ANC government is fast realizing that their policy of centralised policing is simply not working and that specialised units are the common sense approach to effectively tackling crime in South Africa.

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Premier Must Implement Turnaround Strategies for Health and Education

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Leader in Mpumalanga

Mpumalanga’s Premier, Mr David Mabuza, must implement the turnaround strategies for the departments of health and education without delay, and bring quality health care and education to the people of the province. Both these departments have consistently failed at fulfilling their respective mandates, and it is inconceivable why cabinet would let it continue while turn-around strategies have been developed for each department, at great expense, yet they lie on a shelf collecting dust.

The strategic plans have been in the making since premier Mabuza took office in 2009, and were finally approved by the provincial cabinet in November last year – but have been put on hold due to insufficient funds – and will only occur if and when funding becomes available.

The DA absolutely condemns cabinet’s decision, especially when one considers the desperate plight both the health and education departments are in. The possibility very much exists that the turnaround strategy (if properly developed and effectively implemented) could very well pay for itself, especially if it prevents the further wastage of hundreds of millions of rand through failed programme implementation.

By the premier’s own admission in his 2012 State of the Province Address, 33 hospitals and 278 primary health care facilities were found to be non-compliant with the national core standards and the six priority areas for the successful implementation of the National Health Insurance scheme, yet the strategic turnaround plan is not prioritised. The DA is concerned that the premier would rather have the MEC for health (and top contender for the provincial ANC chairmanship), Dr Clifford Mkasi fail in his mandate, than bring about positive change in the province – and thus raise his own political profile.

The Department of Education suffers from a similar malaise, and the DA remains highly concerned that quality education does not reach the majority of learners in the province. Schools are not being built, others are not maintained, teachers and learners have no desks or learning materials – and classrooms are becoming more and more overcrowded by the day, much to the detriment of learners and teachers alike.

Instead of waiting for national intervention, Premier Mabuza should place the implementation of both turnaround strategies at the top of government’s 2012/13 list of priorities.

The DA submitted a series of questions regarding the turnaround strategy to the premier, which would have been answered during his questions for oral reply session scheduled for March 13. The DA asked premier Mabuza to explain why the development of these strategies took so long, and what if any affects it had on the public. The DA further questioned the premier on the costs involved to develop the strategies, as well as the implementation (if at all), and when the premier foresees their implementation. The DA also asked the premier to expand on the outcomes the administration expects from the plans (when implemented), and of course, to present the plans to the public for perusal.

However, the premier’s unavailability on that day forced the DA to resubmit these questions for written reply, and we are eagerly awaiting his response, which, if the Office of the Premier abides by the Rules and Orders of the Mpumalanga Legislature, should be within the next few days.

The DA will continue to exercise its oversight to ensure that quality health care and education reaches ordinary citizens of Mpumalanga.

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Lack of Engineers Retarding Municipal Infrastructure Development

Dacre Haddon MPL

Eastern Cape Shadow MEC for Local Government

Nine municipalities in the Eastern Province do not have Technical Directors or City Engineers in their service. This represents one fifth of the 45 municipalities in the province. This problem is contrary to the government commitment to emphasise, prioritise, enhance and develop infrastructure delivery and to be a catalyst for growth of the real economy throughout the country this financial year. Municipalities are unattractive work places for aspiring engineers. Generally, engineers are not keen to work for municipalities due to working conditions and remuneration packages which are more attractive in the private sector. I will be asking the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, that his department do a thorough analyses of the engineering situation in our municipalities and whether the infrastructural plans for the next Medium Term Expenditure Framework-period (MTEF) can be undertaken with the current engineering strength in our municipalities. Included in this survey I wish to ascertain what steps have and are being taken to attract graduate and other professional engineers to municipalities. Perhaps one thing we could consider would be a uniform policy of scarce skills allowances across the province in each municipality if this is feasible. Another scheme is to develop mentorship programmes and experiential working for engineering graduates on a sustained basis in every municipality. These and other issues like succession planning need to be confronted if this province is to attract high calibre engineers into all our municipalities In reply to a parliamentary question I was informed municipalities without engineering expertise were Nelson Mandela Metro, Cacadu District Municipality, Sundays River Valley, Blue Crane Route, Kouga, Ikwezi, Tsolwana, King Sabata Dalindyebo and Ntabankulu. For the reply, click here. Furthermore, with severe problems with water supply and dysfunctional sanitation services in municipalities, the lack of adequate engineers are having a detrimental effect on the quality and efficiency of these and other related services. This is a critical problem that needs immediate attention. Failure to adequately address this shortage of engineers will have severe consequences for current and future economic growth, job creation and service delivery in the province for the foreseeable future.

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DA INTERVENTION BRINGS AN END TO ADDITIONAL CHARGES FOR CREMATION

MAKHOSAZANA MDLALOSE MPP

DA KZN SPOKESPERSON ON HEALTH

THE Democratic Alliance welcomes an instruction by the KwaZulu-Natal health department, to management at the Phoenix mortuary, that they may no longer accept payments for cremation certificates supplied by a private service provider.

Last month the DA conducted a surprise visit to the mortuary and established that there was a receipt book recording payments made to a private pathologist for the issuing of after-hours cremation certificates. Evidently this was not covered by the pathologist’s contract for services to be provided at the mortuary. Since the issuing of cremation certificates was apparently an additional service, bereaved relatives have, until now, had to pay R250 to receive such a certificate – a matter of some importance to those who follow the Hindu faith and who wish their relatives to be cremated. A visit to the Gale Street mortuary on the same day revealed that no such practice exists at this facility. A large sign in the public waiting room stated that no payments were required for a range of services including the issuing of cremation forms, an after-hours service and post-mortem reports to families of the deceased. Clearly, two different policies were being applied, prompting the DA to ask KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo, to clarify exactly what was covered by service provider contracts and why one community was paying a different rate to everyone else. The DA also asked the MEC to investigate how these payments were being accounted for and audited in departmental records.

The outcome of these enquiries is the termination of additional fees being paid by the Phoenix community. The DA welcomes the department’s efforts to correct this discrepancy and that fact that officials have reacted positively to our concerns by enforcing the same policy for no charge for cremation certificates, as applied at all other mortuaries.

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DA REQUEST PUBLIC PROTECTOR PROBE CLAIMS ABOUT LATE RAJBANSI

GEORGE MARI, MPP

MEMBER OF THE DEMOCRATIC ALLIANCE IN THE KZN LEGISLATURE

THE Democratic Alliance in the KwaZulu-Natal Legislature has written to the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, requesting a comprehensive probe following a claim within a media report that former Minority Front leader, the Late Amichand Rajbansi, attempted to hide various assets, including several service stations.

The DA views the allegations within the article as serious. Should they prove founded, they point to a severe breach of ethics in terms of the declaration of members interests within parliament. We believe that it is in the public’s best interest that the Public Protector investigates the following;

– In terms of the Declaration of Members Interests, Members of Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures are compelled to disclose their interests, either in the Public or Private portion of the Declaration. The question posed is – did the Late Mr Rajbansi disclose all his assets, including his interests in the service stations named in the Sunday Tribune article dated 18 March 2012?

– It is alleged that the Late Mr Rajbansi owned or had an interest in the following companies; Manog Investments, Gahana Enterprise, Snapshot 1359 Investments, and Phoenix North Properties, which had service stations registered under their names. (The sites are at the corner of Eastbury Drive and Phoenix Highway, Hannaford Drive and Phoenix Highway, Brookdale Drive and Northern Drive, and Northern Drive and Phoenix Highway, Industrial Park Service Station. Also included is a property at Chatsglen Railway Station, to be developed by Shell for one of his daughters. The DA wants to know whether the above were disclosed by the Late Mr Rajbansi.

– How were the above-mentioned sites obtained by these companies? How did the Late Mr Rajbansi obtain an interest? The paper trail needs to be investigated i.e. from the City Council to the Companies or the Late Mr. Rajbansi?

– Did the Late Mr Rajbansi own the properties through the companies mentioned above? Was this disclosed?

– Did any of these sites form part of the Displaced Traders programme, where Traders and Business Owners affected by the Group Areas Act and the Inanda unrest were awarded sites to compensate them for their losses? (This was done during the erstwhile House of Delegates era). Was the Late MrRajbansi a Displaced Trader?

– Were these sites allocated to any of the Displaced Traders? What role did the Late Mr Rajbansi play in the allocations? Who were the beneficiaries? How did these sites change ownership? What was the cost of any Purchase and Sale agreement entered to by the Original beneficiaries and the companies, and the Late Mr. A. Rajbansi?

– Has there been any fraud and corruption uncovered within the companies mentioned, or by the Late Mr Rajbansi?

The DA in the KwaZulu-Natal legislature is committed to transparency within provincial government structures. We will continue to highlight this and other contentious issues until we have answers to our questions.

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MINISTER RUNS SCARED ON E-TOLL COURT CHALLENGE

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

Transport Minister Sbu Ndebele is obviously running scared of the court challenge to the Gauteng toll roads as he is quoted in today’s Business report newspaper appealing to the applicants “not to jeopardise South Africa’s international credit-worthiness”.

Government is opposing the court challenge by the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA), but it would be wise for them to assess the legal possibility of cancelling the e-toll collection contract that amounts to about R11 billion over eight years.

My estimate is that more than R6.6 billion could be saved by cancelling this contract even though damages would have to be paid.

Meanwhile, SANRAL faces another test tomorrow (Thursday 29 March) as the Democratic Alliance, represented by DA Gauteng Transport Spokesperson Neil Campbell, will challenge the fairness of the SANRAL e-tolling process at a hearing of the National Consumer Commission in Pretoria.

Issues to be raised include:

1. SANRAL’s registration process which includes disclosure of either your banking or credit card details.

2. The assumption by SANRAL that any driver using your vehicle number plate is yours and their requirement that the registered driver proves his or her innocence rather than the usual onus on the prosecuting authority to prove guilt. This despite at least 10% of Gauteng number plates being false or cloned.

3. The charges for all normal business operations carried out by SANRAL to be paid for by motorists e.g. account provision and legal costs (without court orders).

4. The required pre-payment of monies prior to using a road.

5. SANRAL’s assumption that all motorists have access to internet for the fine print of the SANRAL contract. This discriminates against the poor.

6. Discrimination against different categories of motorists based on their economic status. The DA is convinced that many of the conditions SANRAL seeks to apply to motorists fall foul of the Consumer Protection Act.

A ruling against SANRAL by the NCC will bolster the legal case against the tolls that has been lodged by OUTA.

The hearing will be at on Thursday at 12 pm at:

National Consumer Commission Berkley Office Park 8 Bauhinia Street Highveld, Technopark Centurion

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WHO REALLY DISCOVERED FRANCIS RASUGE’S BODY?

Kate Lorimer MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson for Community Safety

Last week it was reported that the remains of missing policewoman, Francis Rasuge, had been discovered by construction workers working on the property that belonged to her convicted killer, William Nkuna. This information was allegedly also confirmed by forensic scientists on the site.

However, almost a week later Gauteng Police Commissioner, Mzwandile Petros, said that the SAPS had known the whereabouts of Francis Rasuge’s body since January this year and that it was the SAPS who uncovered the remains.

Well, what is the real story? I find it unconscionable that if police had this information nothing was done until 2 months later. Francis Rasuge was one of their own. The uncertainty faced by families in these circumstances takes a terrible toll on a daily basis and the fact that the SAPS did not follow up rapidly on information they claim to have had illustrates how insensitive they are.

The added blow to the family and obvious disorganisation on the part of the SAPS was that the family had to find out from the media that the bones had been positively identified as Rasuge’s.

Police Commissioner Petros’ story on who found the Rasuge remains does not ring true. He needs to be honest in his dealings with the family and as well as the public about what really happened in this instance and why the SAPS did not act quicker on information they had allegedly received.

Why too was ground penetrating radar not used at the time of the original investigation to investigate the property?

Perhaps the family could have been spared trauma if the investigation had been properly conducted from the outset.

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KZN TRANSPORT’S ATTEMPTS TO JUSTIFY HIGH LICENCE RENEWAL FEES

RADLEY KEYS, MPP

DA KZN SPOKESPERSON ON TRANSPORT

ATTEMPTS by the KwaZulu-Natal transport department, to justify the reasons for the province having the highest licence renewal costs, are devious in the extreme.

KZN drivers are currently paying R250 to renew their driving licences. Meanwhile, motorists in the Western Cape pay just R140. If the licence is paid after expiry, KZN drivers must pay R340 while in the Western Cape it’s R185. After KZN, the next most expensive fee for driving licence renewal fees is Gauteng at R228. Claims by the department, that the high renewal fee is in place to top up this year’s R13.5-billion budget shortfall are misleading and a pathetic attempt to justify the discrepancy in fees between KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of the country. The reality is that the licence renewal fee is an administrative fee. It does not go towards upgrading roads, constructing new roads or any other such contracts. Neither is there cross-subsidisation within any of the provincial government departments. This begs the question – what are KZN motorists getting in return for paying a heftier licence renewal fee?

Lack of planning and poor management has led to massive wasteful expenditure within the province’s transport department. Efforts to rationalise the excessive licence renewal fee in KZN are a mere guise for what it is essentially the fleecing of road users.

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Helen Zille’s Response to the Refugee Debate

Helen Zille

Premier of the Western Cape and Leader of the DA

Many people have expressed outrage, and directed all sorts of insults at me, for referring (in a Tweet) to the growing number of children from the Eastern Cape seeking education in the Western Cape as “Education Refugees” . The exact wording (in the 140c limit of Twitter)came in response to repeated allegations that the Western Cape is not doing enough for “majority” learners in the Province. It was clear from the context of Umyezo Wama Apile, that the tweeter was referring to black learners.

I replied: “While ECape education collapsed, WC built 30 schools – 22 new, 8 replacement mainly 4 ECape edu refugees. 26 MORE new schools coming.”

Here is the nub of my response to one such attack, in a letter to the Cape Times from someone called Yonela Diko (“Zille Too is a Refugee” 25 March 2012). My response to Yonela Diko (et al):

A refugee, in its broad definition, is “someone who seeks refuge” because their rights are denied or suppressed where they live. There are different refugee categories. The United Nations defines a refugee as someone who seeks refuge across a national border (because that has implications for UN funding and other interventions). People who are forced to relocate within the borders of their own country because their rights are abused or denied are called “Internally Displaced Persons.” They are a refugee category — and their refugee status is becoming increasingly recognised internationally.

There is absolutely nothing pejorative or racist in the word “refugee”. Indeed it is actually intended to be an affirmation of people and an indictment of the authorities that denied and trampled on their rights in the first place.

Many people are displaced in South Africa, not as a matter of choice, but because they cannot secure basic rights where they live, such as the right to a decent (compulsory) school education. What is to become of the pupils who previously attended some of the 300 schools in the Eastern Cape that closed this week because they are so dilapidated? This human rights abuse becomes an outrage when one learns that the Eastern Cape Department of Education spent only 28% of its infrastructure budget (in contrast the Western Cape spent 99,5%). Yiko should be railing against incompetent provincial governments that force their children to become educational refugees in order to secure their basic constitutional rights elsewhere.

Yiko is right about my family. My parents were refugees (in the United Nations’ narrow definition of the word). Perhaps because I grew up in a refugee family, I don’t find the term offensive at all. It resonates empathy for the struggle that people face in re-establishing their lives in a new place. Compare it with the phrase “colonialist of a special type” which is the ANC/SACP’s term for whites. Or “Settler”, a word the Pan Africanist Congress usually couples with “bullets”. Or the derogatory use of “boer” (outside of the farming context) to incite hatred and terminal injury against whites in general and Afrikaners in particular. These are in common, daily usage.

I haven’t heard commentators, journalists or student leaders getting themselves into a froth about these terms (except, perhaps, Afriforum). But even their court case against Julius Malema did not “trend” for three days on Twitter.

Unlike these insults, the word refugee is used to describe people who escaped tyranny, developed democracy, and contributed to the achievements of much of the modern world. Like most other refugees, my parents started out poor, and worked extremely hard to provide their children the opportunities they never had. My father began his working life as a manual labourer, and advanced to delivering bread, while studying at night. Eventually he started a small business. I never once heard him complain about his lot in life. My parents taught us to take responsibility and never to perceive ourselves as victims. Only as an adult can I sufficiently appreciate their guidance and wisdom. Much of this, I believe in retrospect, grew out of the fact that they were refugees. They were strong, principled, and never blamed their plight on others. They certainly weren’t “professional offence takers” or “insult seekers”.

Personally, I was not compelled to move to the Western Cape from Gauteng to secure my basic rights. I came because I had fallen in love and wanted to follow my heart. So I suppose I could be called a “romantic refugee”, one of a growing number world-wide. Whatever, I don’t consider the term an insult, in any form. In contrast, it is a profound insult, indeed a SCANDAL, that our education system, after 18 years of democracy, is now worse for many children than it was under apartheid. That is the core problem. And it is worse in the Eastern Cape than anywhere else. No amount of froth and bluster will disguise it.

I have come to the conclusion that the bizarre outrage directed at my use of the term “refugee” is because many people conflate the word with “foreigners”. Because South Africans are generally so profoundly xenophobic, they regard this as an insult. That is the underlying issue here. And it is another component of the real scandal that very few commentators care to notice.

When this red herring has been tossed to death in this teacup storm, we can get down to focussing on the real issue: the fact that so many children are denied the right to the basic education guaranteed in our constitution. That is the real scandal. The Western Cape and Gauteng (and to a lesser extent KwaZulu-Natal) already pick up this responsibility on behalf of other provinces, and we could do a great deal more if we were allocated the funds that are currently poured down the bottomless pit of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo’s corruption-plagued governments, where they don’t have the capacity to identify “ghost schools”, let alone “ghost teachers”.

This is the real insult to South Africans. And we will counter it by doing what refugees have always done: build a life in a new place, with opportunities not only for our children and grand-children, but for everyone.

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