Lukhanji mayor suspended after DA motion

Dacre Haddon, MPL

Shadow MEC for Local Government

A motion by the DA to suspend the mayor of Lukhanji was successful today following a damning AG report which found that the financial statements of the municipality were “indicative of significant fraud”.

The most serious comment in the report is in paragraph 38 where the AG states:

“The numerous misstatements identified in the financial statements are indicative of significant fraud, which calls into question the reliability of the evidence obtained and genuiness of accounting records and documentation. But for the legislative requirement to perform an audit of the municipality, I would have withdrawn from engagement in terms of ISAS”.

It is clear that rampant corruption and fiduciary negligence has caused the chaos in this municipality.

Amongst some of the issues highlighted by the AG are electricity losses of 42%.

The municipality has lied about having cash reserves of R73, 3 million when the bank statements reveal an amount of R33, 9 million. Where is the missing R39, 4 million?

Furthermore, amounts of R4, 8 million and R8, 1 million grant funding is missing.

Other concerns raised in the report are understatement of irregular expenditure, lack of effective supply chain and contract management systems and inadequate integrated development planning.

The DA-motion, which was drafted in collaboration with my colleague in Lukhanji, Councillor Chris De Wet, also seeks an immediate forensic audit into the fiduciary affairs of this municipality.

While the motion to have the mayor, under whose watch this catastrophic shocker took place was successful, a debate on the report itself has been deferred to the next council meeting.

The appalling state of affairs in Lukhanji and other municipalities continues to enforce the perception that local governance in the Eastern Cape enjoys basket case-status.

With such on-going perceptions doing the rounds it is no wonder that unemployment and lack of sustained investor confidence prevail in this province.

It is situations like this where missing grant funding or stolen money needed for service delivery causes communities in municipalities throughout the county to go berserk and riot as we saw in Sasolburg and Sterkspruit recently.

It is time for radical action!

The on-going lethargy by the MEC for Local Government, Mlibo Qoboshiyane, not to take vigorous and severe corrective action against individuals implicated in financial misconduct is of serious concern.

I have written to the MEC asking him to investigate and consider invoking section 139 of the Constitution for provincial intervention.

I have also written to the chairperson of the portfolio committee on Local Government and Traditional Affairs in the provincial legislature requesting that the MEC address the committee as a matter of urgency in this regard.

MEC must explain targeting tuk-tuk taxis

Dr Neil Campbell MPL

Spokesperson on Roads and Transport

Gauteng Roads and Transport MEC Ismail Vadi must explain his anti-competitive and potentially inflammatory remarks about tuk-tuk taxis in Johannesburg.

In a letter to the Business Day Vadi warned tuk-tuk operators to avoid “unhealthy competition and conflict” with minibus taxis, metred taxis and buses and that they should not encroach on their “legal routes”.

Targeting tuk-tuk taxi operators in this manner exposes them to the risk of open and violent conflict with volatile minibus taxis drivers. The MEC’s remarks are dangerous and draw into question his grasp of the law governing public transport.

I will also submit questions to the MEC requesting that he outline the statutory provisions he believes limits the provision of legitimate, convenient and cost-effective tuk-tuk taxi services.

Who is the MEC and other authorities really trying to protect? Clamping down on consumer choice and access to alternative modes of transport does not protect passengers or advance the public interest.

Transport is the second highest priority for Gauteng residents according to a recent survey and it is baffling that the MEC wishes to limit and regulate consumer choice when public transport and affordability, accessibility and safety of transport are prominent issues of concern.

Pretoria Train Collision – Rail system desperately needs upgrade

Fred Nel MPL

Spokesperson on Local Government

Reports that two trains collided head on in Saulsville, Pretoria this morning sharply draws attention to rail safety and the urgent need to upgrade signalling systems and rolling stock in Gauteng.

The current trains used by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) are technologically outdated and does not adhere to international safety standards. Modern trains can override driver error and prevent accidents like these from happening. However, a modern signalling system for this is also required. The Gautrain possesses this technology which makes it a safer mode of transport.

The current configuration of old trains and an outdated signalling system allows for drivers to circumvent signals which, in many instances, lead to these types of accidents.

Although the cause of this morning’s accident has not yet been determined it still highlights the safety deficiencies of the trains currently being used in South Africa.

The Rail Safety Regulator must investigate this accident as speedily as possible in order to determine the cause and prevent similar accidents in future.

PRASA must also improve its safety standards by instituting regular mandatory refresher courses and testing for train drivers.

Firm action needed to curb rampant fraud & corruption within KZN

George Mari, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Human Settlements

The Democratic Alliance in KwaZulu-Natal calls on provincial Human Settlements MEC, Ravi Pillay to take firm action and introduce a policy to withdraw housing allocations from beneficiaries who fail to occupy the homes provided to them.

The move is aimed at curbing rampant fraud and corruption within low cost housing developments in the province. Accusations have recently been leveled against councilors and officials who have allegedly allocated houses to friends and relatives. Meanwhile, the sale of RDP houses and illegal occupancy thereof is rife.

The DA believes that introduction of a policy which sees beneficiaries forfeit their allotted houses will assist in curbing the problem. We believe that the pre-emptive clause of illegally renting out a dwelling should be enforced, with the clause strengthened to include the prohibition of the sale of the dwelling, unless there is a legitimate reason, such as a beneficiary having to move elsewhere for employment purposes. In this case, the dwelling should be offered first to the State before it is sold.

The MEC needs to act. A thorough investigation into all low cost housing in the province is needed in order flush out illegal occupants and criminal charges must be opened against those that have unlawfully sold dwellings or are collecting rental illegally.

The DA has requested that this matter be placed on the agenda of the next KZN Human Settlements Portfolio committee meeting and is committed to ensuring that the matter is prioritized by the department.

Health MEC muddies the water on closure of pharmaceutical depot

James Masango MPL

Provincial Chief Whip of the Official Opposition

Mpumalanga MEC for health Dr Clifford Mkasi botched the perfect opportunity to set the record straight over the closure of the Middelburg pharmaceutical depot, and instead opted for a downright denial – causing even more confusion and uncertainty over job security and the state of health care service delivery in the province.

On Friday MEC Mkasi called a hasty press conference with the intent to “dispel rumours and numerous false assertions” over the department’s performance, and to clear the air around “recent speculations that the medicine depot in Middelburg will shut down for reasons that are still unclear to me”.

The DA finds it baffling how the MEC can continue contradicting himself when he was quoted in the Middelburg Observer of 10 January as saying: “The only solution would be to shut down the pharmaceutical depot and put in place a system whereby drug manufacturers can directly supply hospitals and clinics,” and has not, since that article appeared, retracted his statement.

It is also rather ironic that the MEC replaced his spokesman, Mr Dumisani Mlangeni, on the same day that the DA took him to task for his contradicting remarks which appeared in the Mpumalanga News of 24 January.

The truth is MEC Mkasi’s public relations exercise was a disastrous attempt at damage control, reinforcing the perception that he is a confused political leader, desperately trying to transform the health department, while Premier David Mabuza visits hospitals throughout Mpumalanga highlighting the department’s failures.

With rumours of an imminent cabinet reshuffle doing the rounds; it comes as no surprise that MEC Mkasi is torn by his priorities of bringing decent health care to the people of Mpumalanga, and saving his political career.

Loss of Jazz Legend

Solly Nkhi MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation

I am saddened by the sudden loss of jazz legend Victor Ntoni who died of a heart attack at the Helen Joseph Hospital in Joburg earlier this week.

Bassist, composer, singer and arranger, Mr. Ntoni was involved in music tuition for deprived black musicians during the apartheid era and worked with many music industry giants including Hugh Masekela and Abigail Khebeka. As a self-taught bassist, he was both a role model and an inspiration.

The DA sends condolences to Mr. Ntoni’s ex-wife Linda and to his family and friends.

Shocking Neglect of Tembisa Informal Settlements and Backyard Tenants

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

Tembisa informal settlements and backyard tenants are shockingly neglected by the Ekurhuleni metro council.

This is the major finding of my visit there yesterday as part of the DA’s “Don’t forget the forgotten” campaign in which I visit deprived communities once a month and stay the night to experience and highlight what needs to be done to improve their lives. I was accompanied by DA Constituency MP Mike Waters and DA Councillors Barbara Harrison, Phillip Thamahane, Khetha Shandu, Allan Sauls and Eddie Taylor.

The Vusimuzi informal settlement is vast, with about 8500 shacks wedged in between a cemetery, power lines and a stream that often overflows. Polluted water flows everywhere from leaking pipes, but there are less than 20 working taps for everyone to use, which is grossly inadequate for more than 30 000 people who live there.

A decent water engineer could easily fix all the leaks that waste a huge amount of water, as well as install more taps that are desperately needed, but the council has ignored all pleas by residents.

Despite the power lines, there is no electricity – as one resident put it, there is “electricity above but not below”. A few chemical toilets are provided, but most residents use pit toilets that they dig themselves. Rats are a major problem. They are everywhere, and one actually ran over my feet. I saw a young child whose ear had been chewed off by a rat.

Across the way from Vusimuzi are RDP houses built in Esselen Park which many residents claim they should have been allocated but weren’t because of corruption in the housing lists.

Another major unattended problem in Tembisa is the plight of backyard tenants. I met leaders of the Phomolong Tenants Forum, which has 5000 members in wards 12 and 13. They actually outnumber the home-owners in these areas.

Despite the fact that there are 200 000 families who live in backyards in Ekurhuleni, the council has no policy to improve their lives. This compares badly to Cape Town where Mayor Patricia de Lille has paid a great deal of attention to the needs of backyard tenants.

The council has so far ignored their petition that land be identified for social rental housing that they could afford, and have the option of buying later on.

Other observations from my visit include:

* Poor roads and rat infestation at the Winnie Mandela informal settlement

* A collapsed bridge on Benjamin Nthlane road has been unrepaired for two years despite five people who have died in car accidents there. This bridge joins Tembisa and Ivory Park, but people now have to take a long alternative route to travel between these areas. The problem is that the Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni councils both say that the other council is responsible for the repair, but meanwhile the residents suffer.

I stayed a peaceful night at the shack of Mr Justice Langa in Vusimuzi. There is a good community spirit at Vusimuzi, but life is hard because of the council’s neglect of their basic needs.

The DA will campaign for the council to meet its obligations to upgrade their living conditions.

East Rand Farm Attack – DA calls on Mokonyane to back Rural Safety Units

John Moodey MPL

Provincial Leader

Another gruesome farm attack and killing in the early hours of Sunday morning in the Olifantsfontein on the East Rand of Gauteng again underscores the need to prioritise rural safety in Gauteng. A farm foreman was killed and his employer critically wounded following the attack near Kempton Park.

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane must back the DA’s rural safety policy as a blueprint for ensuring the safety of all people in rural Gauteng, which includes:

* a specialized Rural Safety Division within the police;

* a rural Intelligence Centre to monitor criminal activity;

* rural reaction units to respond to crimes; and

* support for police reservists and Community Policing Forums (CPFs).

Other areas such as Muldersdrift on the West Rand have also been hard hit by robberies and murders, with fed up community members labelling it as the “Wild West”.

The Provincial Government must reassure residents of rural Gauteng that it has a sound strategy to deal with increasing violent crimes in their area. The war on crime in Gauteng must not be merely confined to the major urban areas, a clear strategy to combat crime on the outskirts of the province is also needed.

The continued lack of a concrete rural safety plan has a dangerous impact on our rural communities and food security more generally. It is time for Mokonyane to act now and join the DA in fighting for the safety of all the people in Gauteng, including those in rural areas.

DA will probe mokonyane’s R700 000 New Age Splurge

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Caucus Leader

The Democratic Alliance will probe Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s reported splurge of R700 000 on a business briefing hosted by the New Age newspaper.

According to the Star newspaper, R683 095 was paid by Mokonyane’s office for the briefing. The premier’s office was also invoiced for 500 guests at R801.78 per head, totalling R400 890; and four front-page advertisements at R44 070 each, amounting to R176 280.

I will be asking questions in the Gauteng Legislature on this extravagant spending which does not seem justified in terms of benefit for people in Gauteng.

The natural suspicion is that money is being funnelled to assist this newspaper because it is owned by the Gupta family who are major benefactors of the ANC and Jacob Zuma.

What value for money was there with this exercise? Public money should go to areas of greatest need, of which there are many in Gauteng.

DA requests information regarding CEO’s at FS hospitals

Basil Alexander MPL

DA Spokesperson for Health

The Democratic Alliance (DA) today requested the acting MEC for Health, Mr. Msebeni Zwane, to indicate how many new CEO’s were appointed at state hospitals in the Free State.

Recently, the Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi announced that 103 new CEO will have been appointed across the country with effect from 1 February 2013.

The DA welcomes the appointments in the struggling Free State hospitals, but wishes to establish whether the correct processes and criteria were followed in the selection of the CEO’s, who will play a vital role in delivering health care services at our hospitals.

The Free State government should realize how important health care services are to bring about true change in the communities that have historically been deprived of such services. Many patients have been denied decent medical care and services as a result of poor management in the health department, at hospitals and clinics across the province.

Filling vacancies of CEO’s is an important step to be able to achieve a more balanced health care in a province where there is a disparity in the levels of health care our patients receive. The newly appointed CEO’s will play a pivotal role to address the levels of imbalance the health care system in the Free State.

The DA today requested the MEC to indicate:

In view of the announcement by Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi that 102 CEOs at public have been appointed at hospitals across the country;

whether new CEO’s to all hospitals in the Free State have been appointed, if not,

1. why not, and

2. when does the department intend to fill the remaining vacancies,

3. if so

I. which individuals have been appointed as CEO’s at the respective hospitals,

II. what are the qualifications of each respective CEO at the respective hospitals

III. what process was followed to appoint the CEO’s,

IV. what criteria were used to appoint the CEO’s, and

V. whether the CEO’s will receive any training, if not, why not, if so, what are the relevant details?