SASSA in Benoni needs to improve customer service

Refileo Nt’sekhe MPL

Spokesperson on Social Development

The DA in Gauteng is concerned that South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) beneficiaries in Benoni struggle when trying to inquire their grants. The lack of quality service, lack of queue marshals to attend to the lengthy queues and preference to the elderly is not the modus operandi at these offices. These shortcomings do not adhere to the SASSA vision which is being “a leader in social security services”.

Earlier this month an elderly lady aged 76 tried to make an inquiry about her pension fund at the Benoni SASSA offices. She arrived at their offices around 08h30 only to find that their gates were still closed with long queue outside. Some of the people had started queuing as early as 07h00. After standing for hours she finally got to a counter where she was not helped but wasdirected to another counter. There too, she had to queue and was redirected to yet another counter.

Finally she was told to complete a form and have it signed at the Police station. By this time it was almost and too late for her to return in time to submit her paperwork. When she went back she was told that the elderly have to come in the morning, which could have been told to her earlier that day.

After completing this tedious process, the elderly lady got her card sorted out however she was then told to complete another form to be taken to the police station for her relocation application.

The responsibility of SASSA as a social security organization is to administer quality customer-centric social security services to the poorest of the poor ; thereby restoring the dignity of the beneficiaries.

I will be tabling questions in the legislature to determine the following:

  • Why there are no queue marshals at the Benoni SASSA offices?
  • Why are there no clear directions to assist people?
  • Why are the SASSA offices so dirty?
  • Why the staff did not explain to the old lady that she needed two documents from the police station and that the elderly were only assisted in the morning,
  • Furthermore has SASSA considered having a commissioner of oaths at their offices to assist people?

Joburg Hospital unable to train new heart surgeons

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

I am shocked and appalled that the cardiac unit at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital has reportedly lost accreditation to train new heart surgeons.

This is a huge blow to the future of specialist heart surgery in Gauteng as the only other cardiac unit for training is at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in Pretoria.

The Health Professions Council of South Africa has yet to give reasons for the loss of accreditation, but it is probably due to a shortage of surgeons to train registrars and a lack of vital equipment like ICU beds.

Doctors at the hospital have warned for some time that accreditation for training could be lost, but hospital management has ignored their pleas.

The Anaesthetics Department could also lose accreditation because of a lack of specialist anaesthetists.

This hospital is plagued by poor management, which is why R53 million of its R80 million equipment budget was not spent in the 2013/14 financial year.

Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu must intervene to ensure that this flagship hospital maintains high standards and is able to train new specialists for the future.

Gauteng Premier’s e-toll “review” must bear fruit

John Moodey MPL

Caucus Leader and Gauteng Provincial Leader

Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s promise to convene a panel to review the impact of e- tolls on the province must not become yet another talk shop with government merely going through the motions of after the fact consultation and then imposing the same illogical, expensive and unpopular ‘solution’ on Gauteng motorists.

The people of Gauteng have demonstrated their wholesale opposition to these tolls by planned boycotts and a refusal to pay. Even the Catholic Church has come out in support of this civil action and as a member of the Church, I will heed such call.

That does not make me a criminal or a lawless citizen. As my colleague Dr Niel Cambell MPL, DA’ Shadow MEC for Transport often says, “threats from government and Sanral have not, nor will they ever, bear fruit”.

If Makhura is serious about resolving the problem of e-tolls, there is really only one solution and that is to re-introduce the concept of a ring fenced national fuel levy, which funds all other major road improvements across the country.

Those who state that they are against a national fuel levy must bear in mind that Gauteng taxes support every other province in the country. They must realize that an effective national road network is imperative to support and grow our economy which is almost stagnant presently. It must be understood that the paltry budget given to Sanral leaves that Agency with little choice to fund road upgrades, other than tolls.

The ring fenced fuel levy is the most cost effective way of solving an ongoing problem and the Premier’s panel must be inclusive, open to reason and most importantly it must bear fruit. It’s mandate should include means of addressing the unnecessary and questionable collection costs.

The proposed e-toll review must not become Makhura’s first empty promise, a legacy left by his predecessor, the Queen of Empty Promises, Nomvula Mokonyane.

DA to raise crisis in Eastern Cape safety and security operations

Bobby Stevenson, MPL

Shadow MEC for Safety and Security

I will be raising the crisis surrounding SAPS vehicles and 10111 calls centres in the province in the Eastern Cape legislature on Wednesday  (2 July 2014) during questions for oral reply.

The existence of a safe environment is a key factor in bringing investment, and in turn jobs, to the Eastern Cape.

I have, on behalf of the DA in the provincial legislature, tabled a series of questions for oral reply to the new MEC for Safety and Liaison, Weziwe Tikana, regarding the shortage of vehicles for the SAPS flying squads in Port Elizabeth and East London, as well as delays that have been experienced in getting the anticipated SAPS 10111 call centres in the two cities fully operational.  For my questions, click here.

Last year a damning report was tabled in this legislature which spelled out the dysfunctional state of affairs of our emergency response centres in this province.

It also highlighted the extremely difficult working conditions that members of the SAPS are subjected to, including lack of toilets, broken furniture, outdated equipment, condemned buildings and lack of vehicles.

The department and the provincial government need to take note of the rising tide of dissatisfaction when it comes to service delivery and the high rate of crime in this province.

The department needs to pull out all the stops to ensure the SAPS are operating efficiently in reducing crime and making communities feel safe.

Premier Mabuza’s ambitious plans need more than just lip service

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

The DA notes premier David Mabuza’s state of the province address delivered today, this address is his most ambitious yet and has set the bar for government delivery for the next five years.

We welcome premier Mabuza’s inclination to adopt DA policy proposals as workable government strategies, in particular the following;

  • The decentralisation of the department of health’s decision making powers to hospital CEO’s, allowing them to have control over what takes place in their respective hospitals and to be held accountable for it,
  • The acknowledgement that school principals are the managers of their schools and should be held accountable for what happens under their watch,
  • The establishment and revitalisation of industrial parks in former homeland areas which will allow for potential growth in the industrial sector,
  • Setting up internships so that young people can benefit from artisan development programmes rolled out and supported by public-private partnerships,

The DA welcomes the premier’s commitment to infrastructure development especially in the health, education, local government, roads and water sectors. When implemented well, infrastructure development and government spending are key to stimulating provincial economies.

We are however concerned that while premier Mabuza has set an ambitious target of 390 000 work opportunities over the next 5 years and to grow the economy by 5% annually, this is not attainable given the pace at which Mpumalanga’s government implements its strategies. The premier has also not given any specifications as to how these jobs will be created.

We are further concerned that the premier made no mention of the disbanding of the boards of provincial parastatals, MEGA and MPTA and the processes that are to follow. This is particularly concerning as MEGA was mandated to roll out massive water infrastructure projects in the province and is a major roll player in the establishment of the Fresh Produce Market.

In order for the premier’s ambitious targets to even be remotely achievable, he needs to ensure that public officials are capacitated with the necessary skills and knowledge to implement and monitor his radical strategies.

Further, premier Mabuza needs to fully commit himself and his administration to rooting out corruption in both the local and provincial government sectors.

State of the province address positive and negative

Athol Trollip (MPL)

Leader of DA in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature

Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle delivered his State of the Province Address in the Bhisho Legislature today.

Apart from the fact that the DA believes that this exercise was a very expensive handing over of the baton from the one Premier to the next, it did give us an insight into premier Masualle’s thought processes and strategic objectives.

It is encouraging that he identified the importance of creating better opportunities for the people of this province through improved education and the provision of learnerships and internships.  This is an important measure to reverse the brain drain that this province has been experiencing for the last decade.

We are encouraged with his special focus on economic development and growth and his intention to convert our two IDZs into special exporting zones.  This is to be commended, as this is international best practice and can go some way to improving investor confidence and attracting foreign investment to this province in order to provide jobs.

His reference to growing the rural economy through partnerships between the public sector and the private sector is encouraging but the ambiguity of what he says and the proposals by the Rural Development and Land Reform Minster, Gugile Nkwinti’s proposal on land reform are in conflict with each other. This ambiguity needs to be addressed urgently.

With regard to corruption it appears that the premier is determined to launch and offensive against this scourge and we are encouraged by the fact that he said those charged for serious fraud and corruption in the public sector will be suspended until resolution of the charges.

However, this was fundamentally undermined by the fact that one of his MECs, Sakhumzi Somyo, instructed his BCM colleagues to carry on in their current positions.  This dichotomy will have to be addressed and we will put it to the premier in the debate next week.

The DA is also very encouraged that the premier has identified local government as a priority challenge in this province and this follows the theme from the State of the Nation Address.  Local government is in a parlous state in the Eastern Cape and his undertaking to focus on the two metros and other specified municipalities is long overdue.

In this regard it is important to note that the DA will also be focussing on these municipalities, especially Nelson Mandela Bay and other strategic municipalities with the view of establishing a DA-footprint in the Eastern Cape to showcase the difference between ANC- and DA government.

DA KZN: Time for the Provincial Legislature to begin work in earnest

Mark Steele, MPL

Chief Whip to the DA in the KZN Legislature

The Democratic Alliance today issued an urgent appeal to the Legislature’s Chairperson of Committees to expedite the first meetings of all portfolio committees so that the work of the provincial Legislature can commence.

The appeal was made during a motion at today’s Sitting.

While election-time will always bring disruption to legislature activities, it has now been more than 50 days since ballots were cast.  It is widely acknowledged that the portfolio committees are the engine room of the Legislature, but if the committees are not meeting then the engine can’t even get into gear.

Furthermore, there are portfolio committees, including Scopa, which need to table and work on reports which were due on the 31 May.

The people of KZN elected this Legislature to work for them in exercising oversight over the work of the provincial government.  Further delays are simply unacceptable.

State of the province address a costly handing over of the baton

Athol Trollip MPL

Leader of the official opposition in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature

The newly appointed Premier of the Eastern Cape, Phumulo Masualle, will deliver his State of the Province address in the Legislature in Bhisho today (27 June 2014).

The Democratic Alliance does not anticipate much change in this State of the Province Address, as all that is happening is the subsequent handing over of the ANC-baton from Noxolo Kiviet to Phumulo Masualle.

It is however, an important opportunity for the new premier to outline his vision for the province and to provide a framework for his executive members to frame their policy proposal thereon.

The DA believes that the premier must concentrate on the following key issues:

Dwindling equitable share allocation:  This is a matter of concern as it compromises our ability to deal with the myriad challenges that this province faces.  This is caused primarily by rapid urbanisation and mass exodus of people from this province to other provinces that provide better employment opportunities, such as the Western Cape and Gauteng.

Rising unemployment, especially amongst the youth as well as related poverty and socio-economic challenges.  In this regard the premier will have to highlight how he intends to create an environment that will stimulate economic investment and growth.  Growth is based on confidence and certainty, which are in turn based on:

  • a professional and competent public service;
  • a corruption-free society;
  • reliable energy provision; and
  • reliable and regularly maintained infrastructure.

The parlous state of local government in the province requires urgent attention as highlighted by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address, the embarrassing arrest of senior Buffalo City Metro officials and elected ANC office bearers along with the number of outstanding forensic audit reports such as the Kabuso- and Pikoli reports in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro are testimony to collapsing local government in the province.

Education remains a matter of grave concern and embarrassment for this province, despite national government intervention.  The issue of vacant posts and excess/surplus teachers will require political will to go against Sadtu to find a resolution.    The issues around mud schools, poor school infrastructure and dignified sanitation provision will also have to be addressed.

Agriculture, rural development and tourism remain the areas with the highest potential to create job in a relatively short space of time.  This potential however is seriously compromised by the government’s ambiguous policy positions that create less certainly and confidence than which is required to stimulate this sector.  The latest policy proposals on land reform that proposed 50% expropriation without compensation are catastrophic.

If these issues are not adequately addressed, we will be destined to remain on the current trajectory that continues to result in deepening state dependency, a constant outflow of people from this province and pervasive poverty.

Another chemo shortage at Joburg Hospital

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow Health MEC

Another shortage of a key chemotherapy drug has hit cancer patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.

Patients were told that the Oxaliplatin chemotherapy drug was not available from the supplier, and would possibly only be available at the end of July.

Oxaliplatin is used to treat colorectal cancer, usually together with other chemotherapy drugs.

In April this year there was a shortage of Gemzar for the treatment of breast cancer.

It is highly distressing that life-saving chemotherapy is interrupted because of drug shortages.

In the case of Mr Derrick Liebenberg (54), he was supposed to have his second dose of Oxaliplatin this week, but may not even get his third scheduled dose to treat his colon cancer.

More than 100 other cancer patients across the province will have their survival chances lowered by this drug shortage.

The Gauteng Health Department needs to explain why it has not managed to get reliable suppliers of chemotherapy drugs.

Emergency procurement from overseas should be considered to get vitally needed chemo drugs.

SOPA 2: An expensive rehash

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader

Today’s State of the Province Address (SOPA) was a pricey disappointment, as it was an almost exact replication of Premier Sylvia Lucas’s first SOPA in February this year. The only difference this time round was that John Block and Alvin Botes were actually seated on stage and not in court.

The DA is of the view that, considering Lucas didn’t have any real “game-changing” announcements to make to the people of the Northern Cape, she should have rather just presented her speech via a standard House Sitting.

Instead, however, she again chose the glamorous route with estimates suggesting that the legislature has had to cough up in the region of R1,6 million for this senseless parade.

Lucas could rather have used this money towards setting up a business incubator in one the province’s poorer towns. Unlike her speech, this would have at least given the unemployed some hope towards a better future in the Northern Cape.

The DA is concerned that Lucas continues to blame the global economic recession for poor socio-economic progress in this province. She should rather reflect on her own administration’s failure to optimise state resources.

In this regard, the ongoing absence of a workable provincial government plan to root out corruption and grow jobs within the next five years is worrying.

Lucas made sweeping statements about the province becoming the solar energy hub of the country, yet the only so-called energy achievements she could mention were electrification connections by Eskom.

Lucas attempted to deceive the public by overstating government successes. In this regard, she mischievously referred to the new mental hospital as a positive whilst in reality the facility is on the verge of yet another crisis.  She also rehashed old commitments of appointing qualified staff to municipalities and ensuring consequences for poor performance, with new vigour. We, however, suspect this is just a ruse to try and create confidence in the ANC government ahead of the looming 2016 local government elections.

Lucas further chattered on about how provincial government has aligned itself with the NDP, without even a hint as to how, in practical terms, this will be realised.  In the same vein, an overstated focus on the establishment of working groups and ministerial committees at this late stage in the game, is unacceptable.

Probably the only positive in Lucas’s entire speech are the significantly improved targets for the appointment of a large contingent of health care professionals. Aside from this single ray of sunshine, however, it looks as if it will be business as usual for the Northern Cape government in the next five years. This is a depressing thought, as it means that poverty and unemployment levels will continue to spike, while fat cat politicians will get even richer.