A nation united in grief

Helen Zille

Leader of the DA

Today, South Africa lost the greatest son of its soil. Today the rainbow nation lost its father.

Today, we are a nation united in grief.

It is with deep and profound sadness that we say: Lala ngoxolo Tata. Asoze sikulibale (Rest in peace Tata, we will never forget you).

Our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers are with Madiba’s wife, Graca, his former wife, Winnie, his daughters Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindziswa, his grandchildren and his great grandchildren.

May they find the strength to overcome the pain of this great loss. And may the entire Mandela family be accorded the respect they deserve at this time. May they be accorded the right to mourn in peace. The nation mourns with them.

We all belong to the South African family – and we owe that sense of belonging to Madiba. That is his legacy. It is why there is an unparalleled outpouring of national grief at his passing. It is commensurate with the contribution he made to our country.

Through his humility, moral conviction and bold leadership, Madiba gave us a gift for which we, and successive generations will be forever grateful. He gave us his vision of a free and inclusive South Africa and the unwavering belief that such a society could be achieved in his lifetime.

He was, quite simply, the greatest South African that ever lived. We shall never see his like again.

Let all South Africans join hands as we mourn Madiba’s passing and celebrate his life. Let us re-affirm his values and recapture his spirit in all we do.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Tata Madiba: 18 July 1918 – 05 December 2013

Minister Grant wishes all learners and educators a happy and safe holiday

Minister of Education Donald Grant

Western Cape Government

The end of the formal 2013 school year is here for learners.

I find this quite hard to believe – this year has certainly flown by.

Today, thousands of learners across the Western Cape will be celebrating the end of the 2013 school year and the start of their summer holidays.

Educators and school staff will remain at school until the 6th of December to finalise any outstanding administration issues and preparations for the 2014 school year.

We should like to wish them, and all our learners, a very happy, safe and well-deserved holiday.

While our educators and learners enjoy their time off, the WCED will continue to be hard at work.

In the next six weeks, the WCED will be putting the final touches to our readiness for the 2014 school year.

So far, our readiness plans have been a success:

  • All textbooks in Grade 7-9 and Grade 12, in line with the final rollout of CAPS, have been delivered.
  • All schools have received workbooks for Grades 1 – 6. A few reported shortages are currently being dealt with by the DBE.
  • Arrangements for desks and chairs for learners in 2014 have been made.
  • Learner enrolment for 2014 has been finalised in most schools. The WCED are currently assisting parents who have not yet enrolled their children.
  • Teacher appointments have been finalised and timetables will be in place by the time schools close on 6 December.

Our main focus during the holiday period will be on school infrastructure and maintenance.

The WCED has arranged for 130 schools to receive a “maintenance makeover” during the holiday period. There will also be “volunteer holiday teams” working at schools to ensure that everything is in place for the start of the 2014 school year. Ie. that windows and doors have been mended; and that ablution and playground facilities are spick and span.

The WCED has also arranged a number of holiday programmes at specific schools and sports complexes.

Most of these programmes will take place between the 5th and the 20th of December.

Educational Programmes on offer include workshops on dealing with substance abuse, conflict management and gangsterism. There are also programmes on children and woman’s’ rights.

Fun activities including baseball, swimming, board games, soccer and netball clinics, as well as arts and crafts and drama and dance classes.

Holiday programmes, such as these, have helped to keep children off the street, keeping them safe and preoccupied. They also have, in recent years, reduced the incidence of vandalism at schools significantly.

Last year, 24 schools were vandalised over the holiday period.

It is important that communities are aware that our schools are vulnerable to burglary and vandalism during the holidays and we ask that communities help us protect our schools.

Safe Schools has arranged security patrols in selected areas during the December/January holiday. However, schools are safest where local communities play an active role in helping to look after schools, by reporting suspicious behaviour and participating in neighbourhood watches.

Our aim is to come back to clean and neat schools that have been safe and secure.

Next year, we look forward to the release of the 2013 NSC on the 7th of January.

We also look forward to the release of the 2013 Grade 3, 6 and 9 systemic results. In both areas we have continued to progress and we hope to see further improvements this year.

I want to thank our learners for their hard work throughout this year and I am grateful for the support their parents have provided.

I should like to appeal to all our parents to ensure that their children arrive at school prepared and on time for the new school year, which will begin on the 15th of January 2014.

In preparation for the new school year, we urge parents to note the following:

  • They should buy uniforms and stationery in good time.
  • Parents should buy return tickets in December for trips to areas far away from their homes.
  • Parents must plan ahead to pay school fees at schools that charge fees unless they intend applying for fee exemption.

By ensuring that our children are at school the first day of the new school year, we will be making education better, together.

I should also like to thank our educators, school administration staff, and district and head office staff for their support and dedication in 2013.

It is now time to have a good rest, relax and re-vitalise. I have no doubt that next year will present even greater opportunities for our learners as we continue to improve our schools.


Moloto Rail Corridor implementation: DA to lead Legislature debate

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The DA yesterday successfully tabled a notice of motion to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature calling for a debate of extreme public importance on the implementation of the Moloto Rail Corridor. The debate will take place on Friday 6 December.

Following the horrific bus accident along the R573 Moloto Road, which caused the tragic death of 30 commuters, the DA reiterated its call for the speedy implementation of the Moloto Rail Corridor.

The DA believes that the Rail Corridor would not only provide an alternative mode of transport for thousands of commuters to Gauteng, but also serve as an industrial development artery for Gauteng-based industry – creating much opportunity for economic growth and job creation.

However, this vital infrastructure development project was approved by Cabinet in 2008, only to be shelved due to a lack of funds. Since then, the ANC-led government at all levels has just kept talking about the implementation of the corridor, with very little action to show for it.

The corridor has subsequently been relegated to the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission for further study – delaying its implementation even further.

Of further concern is that every time a horrific accident occurs along this infamous “Road of Death” government is quick to blame driver behaviour and or the state of vehicles on our roads, but takes no decisive action to address the symptoms, not to mention the cause.

By debating the implementation of the Moloto Rail Corridor, the DA hopes to

  • Get a firm commitment from the provincial administration to increase visibility of law enforcement along this road,
  • To realise the critical importance of finding a suitable transport solution for commuters to and from Gauteng,
  • To recognise the socio-economic benefits the rail corridor would have on local residents, and
  • To call on government on all spheres to make the implementation of the Moloto Rail Corridor Mpumalanga’s number one transport and road safety priority.

The DA believes that through applying sustained pressure on government, the Moloto Rail Corridor will be implemented, bringing hope and prosperity to the people of the Thembisile Hani and Dr JS Moroka local municipalities.

KZN Human Settlements must weed out dodgy developers

George Mari, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Human Settlements

The DA calls on KwaZulu-Natal’s Human Settlement MEC, Ravi Pillay to ensure that the ability of developers and contractors to do the job is properly scrutinised before tenders are awarded.

This after a media report today which confirms that a massive R398 million has been spent on the rectification of hundreds of shoddily built low cost homes erected since 2004.

That the homes are finally being fixed is positive.  Many inhabitants have, for years, been forced to live in unsafe conditions.

However, the department cannot afford to find itself in this situation again.

This is a vast sum of money by any account – particularly when every cent is needed to deal with our province’s serious housing backlog.

That the department has been unable to recoup monies from many of the companies, after they were liquidated, is yet another sign that developers were not properly screened prior to receiving tenders.

Meanwhile, contractors continue to falsify their CIDB grading to get tenders.

The DA calls on both the department and the Bid Adjudication Committee to look more closely at the capacity of contractors, while the NHBRC must ensure stringent quality assurances.

Minister Alan Winde encourages class of 2013 to work hard as they enter the job market

Minister Alan Winde

Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism

Western Cape Government

As the class of 2013 gets ready to embark on the next phase of their lives, Alan Winde, Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, had one message for them:

“Work hard to get a job, because a job is the best way out of poverty”.

Minister Winde said he hoped that every matriculant put their full effort and dedication into finding employment.

“We know that youth is the demographic with the highest unemployment rate and I want to encourage the class of 2013 to be pro-active in their search for work. The Western Cape has a range of interventions designed to increase opportunities for young people that are unemployed, despite trying hard to get a job.

“We have had success with initiatives such as the Premier’s Advancement of Youth project and Work and Skills. We see this when we speak to young people who have been in the programmes. They have skills, on the job training and this means they are taken from being unemployable to employable, they have been given hope that they can play a meaningful role in the economic future of our country.”

The Premier’s Advancement of Youth project has so far given 1 425 matriculants practical training through working in a government department for a year.

Over the next two years, the project will reach 2 000 matriculants.

Work and Skills, one of the Western Cape’s flagship work readiness programmes, has provided opportunities for more than 4 000 young people since 2009 and permanent employment for 1 958 participants.

Going ahead the Western Cape’s key growth areas will be in the Oil and Gas sector and in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO).

“These sectors will deliver a massive boost to youth employment, especially those trained as artisans. Our current artisans are an average of 55 years old, nearing retirement, so this a good career choice for young people. Over the next few weeks, I wish our matriculants well as they take the first steps in shaping successful and productive futures,” said Minister Winde.


Eastern Cape post provisioning crisis can be alleviated with early retirement option

Edmund van Vuuren (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Education

Despite the on-going post provisioning crisis in the province the Eastern Cape Department of Education seems to have made no effort to investigate alternative suggestions in order to address the problem.

One solution that the DA has put on the table is that teachers who are in the cohort of 50 to 60 years of age and who are not in critical posts should be offered early retirement without incurring penalties.  This will begin to alleviate the decade-long dilemma in the province whereby we have twice as many surplus teachers than we have funded vacant posts.

As long as the current situation is allowed to continue our children will suffer the consequences of not getting an education.

According to the reply to a parliamentary question I asked the MEC for Education, Mandla Makupula, the department had not approached any teachers to apply for early retirement without penalty.    However, there were 12 115 teachers between the age of 50 and 55 and a further 6 786 teachers in the 56 to 60 age bracket.  To date only 182 teachers had applied for early retirement during the 2013 academic year.  For the reply, click here.

The on-going post-establishment deadlock between schools and the department is an indication that the 2014 academic year will be a continuation of the past decade’s failure by the department to address the issue of over- and understaffed schools.

The Eastern Cape Department of Education must place the right number of correctly qualified teachers in every school in the province.

Some 700 schools in the province will enter the 2014 academic year with critical shortages after the department announced that there will be 5 024 less posts than in 2013.

The Eastern Cape again fared the worst in last year’s matric results.   Education is the ticket out of poverty.  The current administration has been unable to come up with workable solutions to improve education in the province.  It is time for change.

HIV/Aids prevalence: Stop talking and act now!

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the Snap debate on World Aids Day on Tuesday 3 December 2013.

Today the house will have three distinct debates namely: the Mpumalanga University, 16 Days of Activism against the abuse of women and children, World Aids Day – and in a few moments adopt a range of departmental annual reports.

How ironic for all these aspects to come up for consideration on a single day, each which have a decisive role to play in the fight against HIV/Aids.

For it is only through:

  • Proper education
  • Mutual respect within relationships, healthy and safe sexual relations, and adequate prevention of abuse,
  • Good governance and adequate funding for health care and NGO services, and
  • A proper functional health department,

That we can even begin rolling back the advances which the HIV/Aids pandemic has made throughout communities in Mpumalanga.

Honourable Speaker, on 26 July 2013, the Mail and Guardian published an article entitled “Mpumalanga loses ground in war on HIV”, describing that the province has fallen far behind in the drive to deliver key infrastructure essential for HIV/AIDs treatment.

The article was published three months after Premier Mabuza committed himself to the fight against HIV/Aids, following a protest by the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the National Association of People with AIDS (Napwa).

Just last week the same organisations boycotted the World Aids Day Celebrations with a silent protest in Piet Retief, whilst Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi re-launched the country’s HIV counselling and testing campaign in Piet Retief.

This protest was due to the fact that efforts being made to curb the scourges of HIV are being undermined by a shortage of medicines and mismanagement in state owned healthcare facilities in Mpumalanga.

The DA has raised the similar concerns on numerous platforms; one of them was to lay a charge against the Department of Health with the Human Rights Commission late last year.

We believe that attention must be drawn to the serious problems in the health system in the province. It will not help people to know their status if they cannot get access to ARV treatment, counselling, or quality health care in the province.

A year ago my colleague Honourable SJ Masango called on the Mpumalanga Government to  take the fight against HIV/AIDS seriously,  as  the province’s HIV prevalence rate increased from 34,7% in 2009 to 35,1% in 2010. However it saddens me to stand here today knowing that the province’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate has increase to 36,7%.

This province has the second highest rate after KZN, however it must be highlighted that the Gert Sibande district has the highest prevalence rate in the country.

This shocking statistic should be a warning sign for Mpumalanga residents as well as government to realise that the fight against HIV/AIDS needs to be strengthened in our province, not just with words but with action and dedication.

While the department increased the amount of active community care givers to 3676 in the past financial year, many of them are not properly equipped to care for the community they serve – as they do not receive basic equipment like latex gloves to protect themselves from illnesses they are exposed to. More disappointing is that many caregivers wait as long as six months to be paid their R1500 stipend, yet are expected to continue serving the ill.

This was amplified in June when Public Protector Thuli Madonsela stated that “Government is placing the burden of the poor onto the poor” after hearing about the way Mpumalanga government treats community health care workers.

Honourable Speaker, we cannot effectively fight HIV/Aids and curb the spread of further infections when our health department is constantly facing shortages. In the past financial year alone, the department experienced shortages on:

  • TB drugs ( 5% stock out)
  • 15% on condoms,  distributing 6 851 000 less condoms than originally planned, and
  • 21% of HIV patients could not receive their INH prophylaxis medication due to supply shortages, in the first quarter of this year.

The Department of Health simply cannot stand for stock shortages on ARVs, TB medication and condoms. Stringent guidelines must be put in place for suppliers to ensure zero stock shortages on these items, and decisive action must be taken against any departmental official whose negligence results in the shortage of these critical items.

Honourable Speaker, the fight against HIV/Aids can no longer just be an annual talking point – it must become a daily action point. Only when this stance is taken by government and communities, can we begin striving for HIV reduction and an Aids-free province.

University’s establishment must not be reduced to political game

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on the establishment of the Mpumalanga University.

As one the first and longest standing campaigners for the establishment of a university in the province, the DA is elated to see this dream become a reality, and welcome its long-awaited establishment.

Over the past years, the DA has made repeated calls for the establishment of the Mpumalanga University, as we firmly believe that if managed properly, it can play a pivotal role in producing and retaining top quality academic graduates in the province. This will not only help address the severe skills shortage in this region, but also contribute to reducing unemployment and in turn, boost the economy and alleviate poverty.

In this light, we wish to congratulate all the role players, particularly the members of the interim University Council, for their role and contribution in making this dream a reality. While much still needs to be done as the 2014 academic year fast approaches, I am sure that within a few short years we will be able to look back to where it all began, and see an institution of knowledge which we can all be proud of.

However, as supportive of the university the DA is and regardless our belief that the establishment of such a facility must be highlighted, discussed and commemorated, we firmly believe that from the outset, it must be an independent apolitical institution.

We will tarnish beyond repair, the independent and academic brand of this university if we allow it, to be hi-jacked for political point-scoring in its infancy.

It is in this light that I question the reasoning behind deputy the Chief Whip, Honourable BA Majuba’s call for this debate, and his praise of Premier Mabuza.

Honourable Speaker, I think the man is confused and suffers from a severe case of political schizophrenia.

Today, the Honourable Majuba will attempt to convince us of what a great leader the Honourable Premier is, by referring to the leadership of Premier Mabuza and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, as “visionary”.

However, just last week, the Honourable Majuba said that Mafia-type leaders in the ANC were killing people, but not getting arrested. Last week you said and I quote, “that the ANC was infiltrated by “lumpen tenderpreneurs” and that “The ANC in the province is run by mafias and gangsters ….. We can’t have an ANC run out of fear.”

Honourable Majuba, you can’t have two positions on the same man!

Which begs the question, were you forced to table today’s motion of praise as a result of your utterances last week, or did you make those utterances last week to counter this motion of praise?

Both ways, it raises serious questions about your commitment to the Mpumalanga University and its independence. By doing so, you have not only exposed yourself as a flip-flopping politician of low principle, but you have shown that the ANC is hell-bent on using the establishment of the University for its own political self-interest.

The DA believes that the function and purpose of the Mpumalanga University is paramount to develop skills and improve the lives of the youth in the province. For this reason we call on it to be an institution without reproach – an institution which solely focuses on improving lives, reducing poverty and boosting the local economy.

We will not allow it to be abused by the ANC, and in wishing the interim council the very best for their journey ahead, we call on them to do everything in their power to ensure that the University of Mpumalanga is always a centre of knowledge and excellence – free from political interference and abuse.

British Airways increases direct flights on Cape Town-London route

Minister Alan Winde

Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism

Western Cape Government

Alan Winde, Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, has welcomed a British Airways decision to introduce more direct flights on its London to Cape Town route during the winter season.

British Airways today (3 December 2013) announced it will increase its services from London to Cape Town by three flights a week from May 2014.

The airline will offer an extra 657 seats when it introduces three Boeing 777-200ERs on the route.

Speaking at the official announcement at the V&A Waterfront this afternoon, Minister Winde said the move would led to an increase in tourism between the Western Cape and the United Kingdom.

Minister Winde added that while the Western Cape was globally popular as a leisure destination, there had also been an increase in business and events tourism. In addition, as Cape Town geared up for the World Design Capital next year, the Western Cape, and indeed the African continent, would see substantial tourism inflows.

“In 2012, 438 023 visitors travelled from the United Kingdom to South Africa. The Western Cape was one of the most popular destinations for UK travellers, welcoming a share of 181 886 of the total number of visitors. The UK is certainly one of our most strategic routes and that is why we are thrilled at the announcement made today that British Airways has committed to extra seats in the off-peak season.”

Minister Winde said air access was critical in increasing tourism.

“The power of direct flights is clearly demonstrated by visitor numbers. In 2012, 227,149 visitors flew between Cape Town and Germany and 93,659 visitors flew between Cape Town and the Netherlands. In short, direct flights do matter. That is why we are currently developing an air access strategy, where we are investigating the establishment of further direct routes between Cape Town and strategic destinations. If we are serious about tourism we need more direct routes.”

Protect our women and children from abuse: DA

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie to the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature during the debate on 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children.

This year marks the 11th consecutive year of the 16 Days of activism against the abuse of women and children campaign. It is a campaign that highlights the plight of victims who are so often the most vulnerable in our society.

Sadly, despite the continued public exposure of this campaign, it would appear that when it ends, so too does government’s listening to the plight of our women, children, NGOs and social workers.

South Africa remains home to high levels of violence against its women and children, despite a world-renowned constitution and a legislative overhaul that safeguards women’s and children’s rights.

Violence, rape and abuse of women and children have increased over the years. The abuse has become more brutal, barbaric and brazen, highlighting the need for more action and tougher consequences.

Government must stop paying lip service to this horrendous social ill in our society, and needs to ensure that perpetrators of rape and abuse are brought to book and convicted.

NGOs and social counsellors working with rape and abuse survivors must be adequately funded and equipped to provide such victims with the needed emotional, physical and trauma support.

Honourable Speaker, the DA welcomes the announcement made in August that 22 sexual offences courts would be reintroduced by the end of the 2013/14 financial year, and that up to 57 sexual offences courts would be operational countrywide within the next three years.

The reinstatement of sexual offences courts will go a long way in improving South Africa’s efforts to put an end to violence against women and children.

It is a disgrace to witness year after year the lack of commitment from our provincial government to fighting the scourge of women and child abuse.

Every year NGOs that set out to help victims and survivors of sexual and physical abuse are on the brink of closure because of government’s lack of funding.

While so many NGOs continue to fulfil a function that government is unable to, the Premier and MEC after MEC continues to squander millions of rand of government funds.

Today, I want every MEC to know, that for every cent you and your department wastes, every time hundreds of thousands of rand is spent to buy you a new luxury car, you are denying a rape survivor or child abuse victim the chance of a better life, because while there is never enough funds for NGOs, there is never a shortage of funds to feed the ANC’s indulgent appetite for public funds.

So too, the Department of Education continues to fail our children, with little to no formal programme to educate learners about abuse, and practically no counselling support for learners who fall victim to abuse.

The department must have a more hands-on approach. Schools need to be safe havens for learning that gives children their best chance at a successful life. In this light, there must be a zero-tolerance approach to intimate relations of any kind between learners and teachers.

Honourable Speaker, government needs to start taking this campaign seriously, because in spite of what it claims is being done, rape, abuse and the spread of HIV/Aids are on the rise.

We stand today, in solidarity with every women raped and every child abused, and say clearly that real men don’t rape, real men don’t abuse their children – and we will stop at nothing to see justice done and our society freed from the thugs and cowards who destroy the lives of our loved ones.