Gauteng premier must come clean on loaned BMW

John Moodey MPL

DA Gauteng Provincial Leader

The office of Gauteng Premier David Makhura cannot seem to make up its mind whether a 5-series BMW used by the premier is sponsored by, or on loan from BMW South Africa.

According to a reply received in mid-September, the premier uses a Mercedes ML63 AMG sports utility vehicle on lease from government’s G-Fleet, as well as a BMW 550i “sponsored by BMW on 10 June 2014”.

However, in response to follow-up questions, it seems the vehicle is on loan from BMW South Africa, after the company “approached the Office of the Premier”.

The agreement fuels the perception that high-powered politicians in Gauteng can expect a host of freebies from the private sector when they take office – which in the long term will only further harm the province’s image as a safe and secure investment destination.

While government may argue that the loan agreement will save public funds, historical events surrounding certain senior ANC politicians may create the impression that there is more to this agreement than meets the eye.

To this end the DA will submit further questions to Premier Makhura’s office requesting him to provide us with the loan agreement between his office and BMW South Africa.

Premier Makhura will have to face the fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch, and the DA will continue to pursue this matter until all information has come to light.

DA welcomes the sentencing of Diepsloot child rapist

Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL

DA Shadow MEC: Social Development

The DA in Gauteng welcomes the sentencing of Ntokozo Radebe, for the brutal rape and murder of three Diepsloot toddlers, Anelisa Mkhonto (5), Zandile Mali (3)  and her cousin Yonelisa (2).

The brutality of these three deaths highlights the scourge of sexual violence in our province.

Statistics show that South Africa has of the highest incidence of rape in the world, with one woman raped every 26 seconds. These shocking statistics call for the need for police to step up their efforts to protect our most vulnerable groups.

The DA appeals to the South African Police Service and the Gauteng Department of Community Safety to speed up the opening of the much-needed police station for the Diepsloot community.  The current satellite station cannot possibly serve and protect more than 350 000 people of Diepsloot.

The DA will continue with our fight to make our communities safer.

Gauteng Education MEC is protecting school fraudsters

Khume Ramulifho MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Education

The DA in Gauteng believes that Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, is protecting fraudsters and corrupt officials.

The DA is in possession of damning forensic reports implicating principals for financial irregularities. These include, amongst others, fraud, corruption and maladministration.

A total of 159 forensic audits have been conducted in the province over the past 5 years into irregularities amounting to R34 million; none of which have been made public.

School Governing Bodies (SGBs) which exposed these financial irregularities are being dissolved and are denied access to these reports.

Schools which have asked me for access to these forensic audit reports recently are amongst others, Glenvista High School, Brakpan High school, Senaoane Secondary and Parkdale Primary School.

The MEC is quick to dissolve the SGBs but takes no action against the real offenders. The department is failing to protect whistle blowers or taking a firm stand against corrupt officials.

I recently received another report regarding Parkdale Primary School which the MEC has asked me to hide from the public.

If the MEC is serious about democratic accountability he will release these reports.

In the meantime I will request the MEC to conduct a closed Education Committee meeting during which he needs to provide us with his plans for taking action against corrupt officials.

At the very least the affected schools deserve to know this information; however, the DA believes it is in the public interest and challenges the MEC to ensure that this happens.

Gauteng Human Settlements Annual Report shows massive irregularities

Mervyn Cirota MPL

DA Gauteng Spokesperson on Human Settlements

Gauteng’s Human Settlements Annual report for the 2013/14 financial year shows massive irregularities within the department and is a clear indication of the extent of the housing crisis within the province.

The Auditor-General qualified the report on several grounds, including but not limited to the following:

  • The department did not have adequate systems to maintain records and commitments made to service providers;
  • The department did not disclose all irregular expenditure;
  • The department is the defendant in a number of law suits where no provision for liability in the financial statements has been made;
  • For many performance indicators, the reported performance information was not accurate or complete when compared to source info or evidence provided;
  • Effective steps were not taken to prevent irregular expenditure;
  • Some goods and services with value above R500 000 were procured without inviting competitive bids; and
  • A lack of effective leadership, including the accounting officer, CFO, human resources and internal controls

The department also failed to reach most of its targets in key areas such as housing development, social and rental interventions, and the Twenty Prioritised Township Programme.

While the department indicated that a Sustainable Human Settlements Strategy was under development, it is unclear when this will be implemented or what it will contain.

Gauteng has experienced a recent spate of housing delivery protests which clearly derive from the department’s failure to adequately tackle the housing backlog or provide any clear policy direction on future projects.

I will be submitting questions to MEC for Human Settlements in Gauteng, Jacob Mamabolo, to establish what measures he will be taking to turnaround the department’s qualified audit, when the Sustainable Human Settlements Strategy will be implemented, what he plans to do about poor senior leadership challenges and how he will tackle missed targets in the key deliverables.

It is impossible to plan or implement a sustainable and effective housing strategy when the department remains in shambles and the MEC does not provide any clear political leadership or direction.

Municipalities under threat as Thaba Chweu gets torched

Farhad Essack MP

DA National Council of Provinces Member

Mpumalanga municipalities are under threat as a second municipal building has been burnt in less than a month amidst allegations of ANC infighting, bad service delivery and angry residents.

Lekwa municipality suffered damages when some of their buildings were set alight during violent protests on 9 October 2014.  The most recent incident was the destruction of the Mayor and Speakers offices in Thaba Chweu which were set alight during the course of last night.

MP Thaba Chweu burns

According to reports the residents of Thaba Chweu have been warning the municipality that if the corruption and bad service delivery were not attended to, they would take action against the municipality.  Although we acknowledge the frustrations of these residents, the DA strongly condemns the use of any violence or the destruction of property, such as what has taken place in Lekwa and now in Thaba Chweu.

Residents are embittered by a municipality which has had no less than five municipal managers within the last two years and the irony of this violence and destruction lies in the fact that the residents and taxpayers themselves will have to pay to rebuild these buildings.

Violent protests and destruction of property have never changed a government or bettered service delivery.  The only way to end the systematic decline in municipalities and total lack of service delivery is to put your cross next to the Democratic Alliance on the ballot papers in 2016.

Sheriff raids Gauteng health department as negligence payments soar

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health

I am appalled by the shameful scene yesterday (29 October) when the Sheriff of the court took away furniture from the Gauteng Health Department’s head office because of non-payment of a court-ordered medical negligence settlement.

This comes after the Department settled 17 medical negligence claims amounting to R79.6 million so far this year.

This information is revealed by Acting Health MEC Lebogang Maile in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

The largest payment this year is R22.2 million paid to Thato Mokheti for negligence at Sebokeng Hospital in operating a mass on his neck which resulted in him losing the use of his right arm.

R15 million has been paid to Mr Cleopus Souls who lost his left leg after negligent treatment at Natalspruit Hospital for a gunshot wound.

There were five payments for causing brain damage to babies at birth, the amounts ranging from R700 000 to R14.6 million.

Other cases include the following:

  • R700 000 for the death of a baby at the George Mukhari Hospital;
  • R500 000 to Nomathemba Tshabalala because a pair of scissors was left in her stomach after surgery at the Rahima Moosa Hospital; and
  • R471 000 to a patient who was sterilized without her consent at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

There are 76 further claims currently before the courts that total R793 million.

These cases are all very tragic. No amount of money can compensate for severe injury or needless death in our hospitals.

The Department has lost 17 court cases in the last five years, yet persists in wasting legal costs in cases where negligence is firmly established.

This is why Acting Judge Ronee Robinson is demanding that Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Maglangu pay punitive legal costs out of her own pocket in a recent case.

This department needs a shake-up to ensure that medical mistakes are minimized and legal payments to victims are expedited in a fair manner.

Eastern Cape: No money for AET teacher benefits

Edmund van Vuuren (MPL)

Shadow MEC for Education

Teachers employed by the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s programme for Adult Education and Training (AET) have, since 2009, been working for more than a third less of what they should be paid.

I have been reliably informed that the department has made a unilateral decision not to pay AET-teachers an agreed-upon 37% compensation-fee in lieu of benefits that these teachers do not qualify for because they are not permanently employed.

If this department can cut back on something as essential as a programme for AET, they do so at their own peril.  The Eastern Cape Department of Education is forsaking the legitimate expectations of both educators and AET-learners.   This, the DA finds deplorable.

Ring-fencing funds in the planning stage would have been prudent.

Following a query I received from a desperate AET-teacher, the department confirmed yesterday (subs:  Thursday, 23 October) that there was no money in the budget.

The DA believes that the Department of Education can relieve its financial pressure by cutting back on the large numbers of administrative officials in its top-heavy bureaucracy by moving administrative staff to parallel positions in other government departments.

The department states in its latest annual report that the 3 396 educators employed in AET-centres in 2013/14 were 1 308 less than the target of 4 704, due to “poor conditions of service”.

It stands to reason that teachers are simply not willing to work for a department that is unable to pay them for their services.

Adult education must provide second chance learning opportunities for out of school youth and adults.

The DA’s policy of innovation states that South Africa’s success as a nation will be determined by the country’s ability to generate knowledge and ideas by establishing an education environment that will equip students for meaningful economic participation.

An integral part of this system is to ensure institutional and financial stability within the education system to provide sustainable careers for teachers.

SAPS Commissioner mum on blue light brigade investigation

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Provincial Leader

50 days have passed since the DA requested Mpumalanga SAPS Commissioner, Lt Gen Thulani Ntobela to investigate the incident of the blue light brigade, involving the SAPS Chaplain Col. Simon Moyane, who allegedly blocked ambulances transporting injured passengers after an accident on the N4 outside Middelburg, on 3 September 2014. To date no response has been received.

The accident claimed the lives of six passengers, five of which burnt to death when the colliding vehicles burst into flames. Ms Bernine Booysen was the critically injured patient being transported in the ambulance which was blocked by the blue light brigade.  She tragically passed away in hospital later.

While confirmation has been received that Brigadier Adolph was appointed as the investigating officer and has questioned eye witnesses, police officers and journalists, no report has been forthcoming. The DA established at the time that the black Lexus being escorted by a SAPS vehicle with flashing blue-lights to by-pass the accident is registered in the name of L.H. Moyane, the Deputy Director General of the Mpumalanga Department of Education.

While the DA wrote to the SAPS Commissioner, calling on him to immediately suspend the Colonel pending the outcome of an investigation into his conduct, this has not happened.

On 4 October 2014, the Middelburg Observer published an article (click here) stating that the police had claimed that they were rushing to the scene and that the black Lexus assisted them in keeping the lane from being blocked.  Furthermore, Brigadier Adolph was appealing to members of the public who might have witnessed the incident to come forward and assist with the investigation.

In the interest of justice, the DA echo’s the SAPS call for additional eye-witnesses who may have information to assist in this investigation to come forward and contact the investigating officer.

The DA will once again write to the SAPS Commissioner requesting a progress report on this matter.

R70.7 million to eliminate eight level crossings

Donald Grant, Minister of Transport and Public Works and Richard Walker, Metrorail Regional Manager

As part of the Level crossing elimination programme, the construction of a bridge over the railway line at Vlaeberg Road is well under way. The level crossing elimination programme is a collaborative project between the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) and the Provincial Government of the Western Cape. The project is financed by the Western Cape Government, with a contribution by PRASA, at a cost totalling R70.7 million.

The Western Cape Metrorail region has the highest number of level crossings (forty/40) within its rail network. Thirty seven (37) of these belong to PRASA; the remaining three (3) belong to Transnet Freight Rail but are also used by Metrorail.

The first phase of the project will comprise:

  • the building of an overhead bridge at Vlaeberg level crossing;
  • the erection of a footbridge for pedestrians at Lynedoch level crossing and;
  • the upgrading of Metrorail’s service road in the section between Vlaeberg and Vlottenberg to a provincial road.

These three projects will result in the elimination of six (6) level crossings. In addition, two (2) farm crossings will be eliminated by the building of under-passes for the exclusive use of farmers; bringing the total number of crossings to be eliminated to eight (8).

“Level crossings in this province have been the scene of some of the most horrific crashes and incidents threatening the safety of the road using public. The Western Cape government, and our partners at PRASA and at municipal level, continue to look at ways in which to make level crossings safer, as well as ways in which we can move closer to the ideal where fewer and fewer vehicles have to make use of level crossings, as a means of safe passage over railway tracks. Our joint consolidation and elimination efforts are certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to increasing safety and compliance at level crossings,” said Minister Grant.

Speaking at a media briefing on site, Metrorail Western Cape Regional Manager Richard Walker said the benefits of eliminating level crossings are many: “Most importantly we would save lives and curtail injuries by removing level crossings. Fewer incidents will also limit damage caused to trains and infrastructure, thereby lowering maintenance and repair costs”.

He expressed his appreciation to Metrorail’s principal, PRASA, and the Western Cape Department of Transport & Public Works for their support of this worthy initiative: “This region is privileged to have supportive stakeholders who do not hesitate to work together to improve the dominant public transport mode in  the Western Cape”.

Twenty nine (29) level crossings are situated in this corridor. The motivation for the level crossing elimination programme to commence in the northern service corridor is that the number of rail incidents at level crossings along the Eerste River – Stellenbosch railway line is high, with several fatal crashes recorded. This is why PRASA supports viable proposals to eliminate level crossings along this stretch of railway line.

Commuters will see immediate benefits in the form of fewer delays/cancellations due to incidents, as well as through the lifting of speed restrictions on approach to level crossings.

Majority of candidates across the Western Cape wrote their first 2014 NSC examination today

Debbie Schafer, MPP

Western Cape Minister of Education

The 2014 NSC examination period kicked off with many candidates across the Western Cape writing their first NSC examination – English Home Language, English First Additional Language and English Second Additional Language.

The numbers for full-time and part-time candidates registered to write these subjects are as follows:

Subject Full-time Part-time
English First Additional Language 30150 2329
English Home Language 18790 1266
English Second Additional Language 2 1

I visited my first NSC exam centre at Belgravia High School where 108 candidates wrote their first exam. The school is aiming to achieve a 95% pass rate, compared to 90.1% in 2013.

As the new Minister of Education for the Western Cape Government, I wanted to find out first-hand from candidates how they felt about their first written examination of the 2014 NSC. Learners were confident that the exam went well with the majority of the learners giving the English paper the ‘thumbs up’.

The 1467 candidates will complete the Visual Arts Examination. The 9665 full time and 1596 part time candidates will write the Accounting Paper, as well as Xhosa. The numbers writing Xhosa are as follows:

Subject Full-time Part- time
Xhosa First Additional Language 621 20
Xhosa Home Language 11937 130
Xhosa Second Additional Language 77 1

While we are always cautious in making predictions, we are confident that we will increase the number of passes this year.

In the Western Cape, we have placed great emphasis on ensuring that we keep as many learners in the school system as possible for as long as feasible, and we are particularly proud of the improvement in our rate of retention.

In 2013, we had a record number of 40 558 candidates passing the NSC with a provincial pass rate of 85.1%. In 2014, we hope to grow even further the number of candidates passing with a stretch target of 43 000 passes.

If we achieve this target, it will be the highest number of passes ever achieved in this province since the inception of the NSC. It will also represent an increase of over 9 000 candidates passing since 2009 – a clear indication that the retention of learners within the system has improved significantly.

While we are excited about the record ‘quantity’ of passes that we can achieve this year, we are also confident that we will sustain the improvement in the quality of our results.

In 2013, in the Western Cape, 40.9% of candidates achieved access to Bachelor Degree study.

This figure was the highest in the country. Our target is, once again, to achieve over 40%, while at the same time increasing the number of passes.

A further indicator of success is the reduction of underperforming schools. An underperforming school is a school that has achieved less than 60% in the NSC.

In the last five years, this province has managed to reduce the number of underperforming high schools from 85 in 2009 to 23 in 2013 – a significant achievement. In 2014, we expect the existing underperforming schools to decrease by around 50%, in line with our goal of decreasing the number of underperforming schools in this province to zero.

I have every confidence in our matrics, who have worked hard throughout the school year.

I wish them all the best of luck and am sure that they will do both themselves and this province proud.