Pupils from a newly opened Mpumalanga boarding school – hospitalised after food poisoning

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Provincial Leader and Spokesperson on Education:

At-least 50 pupils from the newly opened state of the art Emakhazeni Boarding School in Machadodorp, were hospitalised on Wednesday after an alleged food poisoning.

According to information given to the Democratic Alliance (DA), the pupils were hospitalised in Waterval Boven hospital, but parents were not even permitted inside the premises to see them.

The DA is concerned about these developments. We call for an urgent investigation and we will directly engage with the MEC of Education, Reginah Mhaule for her to give answers. The MEC must also make a public statement on how this could happen in this brand new facility.

The R250 million boarding school was completed last year and it mainly targeted children from nearby farms.

The facility was opened for the first time this year, and consists of 24 classrooms, administration block, library and science laboratory as well as sleeping units and sports facilities.

It is one of four boarding schools in Mpumalanga and it will cater for Grade R to Grade nine learners this year.

Near-by farm schools like Blomplaas, Nhlupheko, Thembalethu, Ellie and Ummeli primary schools have all closed their doors and pupils have been accommodated in this new boarding school.

There are no reports yet as to what led to the food poisoning, but the DA has learned that the 50 pupils who were hospitalised on Wednesday, were treated and discharged on Thursday.

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NC Tourism failing to grow

Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL

DA Provincial Spokesperson on Economic Affairs:

It is unfortunate that Justice Malala’s recent opinion piece, in which he describes Kimberley as “just a big hole”, is indeed very true.  It is a shame that the supposed ‘sparkling city’ is indeed a “shabby mess”, which does not inspire tourists to explore the province beyond Kimberley’s borders. Tourist attractions in the city, such as the McGregor Museum and the Rudd House, are not receiving optimal support from government and cannot be optimally maintained. The William Humphreys Art Gallery, a national museum, has a yearly maintenance bill of R100 000 against a budget of approximately R6 million. And, as Justice Malala points out, the buildings are set in a city with “cracked pavements”. The facts are not likely to inspire much tourism to the province.

While the South African tourism industry has grown by more than 10% in 2014, the Northern Cape tourism industry did not even grow by half a percent. This is despite the fact that there have been so-called high impact projects like the Bloodhound Land Speed Project, which is supposed to introduce the Northern Cape to the rest of the country. In 2014, both foreign and local tourists spent an average of one day less in the province and spent significantly less money. Tourists are spending their time and money in other parts of the country, but they are less and less likely to do it here.

What is disturbing is that the provincial tourism industry is failing to grow when there are at least two provincial departments and two provincial entities working on tourism. The department of Economic Development and Tourism and the department of Environment and Nature Conservation as well as the Northern Cape Tourism Authority and the Northern Cape Economic Development Agency all have units and programmes dedicated to tourism. The department of Sport, Arts and Culture also pledges significant resources to the so-called ‘mega-events’ like the Kimberley Diamond Cup, which is supposed to draw tourists to the province. Ultimately, all that this system achieves is the duplication of functions and double expenditure without seeing any concrete returns on investments.

We call on the MEC for Finance to streamline this inefficient system and to establish one unit with the sole task of driving tourism in the province. We need one unit with the capacity and financial resources to do a good job and not an endless string of entities fumbling around in the dark.

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Gariep Municipality – A sinking ship. Not a good story to tell

Marina van Zyl

DA Caucus Leader – Gariep Municipality:

Gariep Municipality was named and shamed by Minister Pravin Gordhan as one of the 9 municipalities in the Eastern Cape that are  “non-viable” and would either be almalgamated with a “viable municipality” or be turned into a District Management Area.  The proposed “viable” municipality is Maletswai Local Municipality: which is also in great debt. Two dysfunctional municipalities will not make one functional municipality, Mr Pravin Gordhan.

One fact that the Minister got right, would be that Gariep Local Municipality is not able to sustain itself financially.  This municipality is basically bankrupt.  In a council meeting yesterday, the latest monthly budget statement clearly shows that this municipality is crippled by debt.  It owes a total of R64,2 million to its creditors.

Some of these are:

  • Eskom at R39,2 million;
    •  SARS at R5,7 million;
    •  Auditor General at R5,2 million; and
    •  Pension Funds at R10,6 million.

This is not a good story to tell.

In the Auditor General’s report, Gariep Local Municipality has received a Qualified audit opinion. This was based on unallocated receipts amounting to a staggering R29,1 million;  and Irregular Expenditure at R15,2 million, among other things.

The most worrisome, is that of accountability by the Accounting Officer.  The AG points out in its report that “the leadership has not fulfilled its oversight role and responsibilities with regard to the implementation and monitoring of internal controls and compliance with laws and regulations”.  The leadership, under the guidance of the Municipal Manager, has not set the tone at the top, and management was not held accountable.

This is another ANC cadre deployment gone wrong – in the form of an unaccountable Municipal Manager.  In a DA run municipality, corrupt and incompetent officials would have been fired, like what has been done recently in the Bitou Municipality.

I will today be writing to Dorah Matinkca, Shadow MEC of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to ask the MEC of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs how long Gariep Local Municipality must suffer under the administration of this ANC cadre.

Gariep municipality will only become a viable municipality under a DA government, we will therefore be meeting with communities to explain this poor performance of the ANC to them.

The communities of Gariep deserves better.

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DA not invited to Phokwane meetings

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader:

The Democratic Alliance is shocked and dismayed that none of the opposition councillors were invited to a recent meeting held between the department of COGHSTA and the ANC-councillors of the Phokwane municipality. It was after this meeting that the appointments of a new mayor, speaker, chief whip and municipal manager were announced. The legitimacy of these appointments hangs in the balance.

The MEC for COGHSTA must remember that meetings between the department and a council is for the whole council. It is not an ANC branch meeting. It is ironic that the MEC acknowledges the ‘vital role’ played by local councillors while he seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the council. In terms of section 36 and section 41 of the Municipal Structures Act, the election of speakers and acting speakers is a council matter that must be decided on by the council. Similarly, section 48 of the Municipal Structures Act states that mayors must be elected by the council.

It is not the MEC’s task to appoint officials who should be elected.

In fact, this micromanagement by the MEC could create a burden of loyalty on officials who will be expected to dance to the MEC’s tune.

The first loyalty of elected officials should never be to politicians, but to the people who elected them.

We are also given to understand that the meeting between the department and the ANC-part of the council included training on the ‘Back to Basics’ programme. Since the opposition councillors have missed out on this training, the department must go back next week and give the training again.

We welcome the fact that the MEC is trying to do something about the poor administration of Phokwane. We encourage him to follow the correct procedures and to do things the right, legal way.

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Premier must fire block

Andrew Louw, MPL

DA Provincial Leader:

The Democratic Alliance demands that the Premier of the Northern Cape immediately relieve John Block of his duties as MEC for Finance.

A warrant of arrest has been issued for Block following his failure to appear in court yesterday in one of the many criminal cases against him. This latest instance of utmost contempt for the court shows that he is not a fit and proper person to be in provincial government.

A man who has been in the dock so many times is surely familiar with court procedure. It cannot be that he conveniently ‘forgot’ or ‘misunderstood’ the need for him to appear in court. As the DA, we view his contempt of the court in a very serious light and we urge the premier to do the same.

In the past, the premier has been extremely reluctant to take any action against the MEC for Finance. Perhaps she lacks the courage or the support from the provincial ANC structures to do so. But if she is serious about rooting out corruption and maladministration in the provincial government, she’s going to have to start at the top.

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DA KZN: Today’s EMRS protest march must be the last

Dr Imran Keeka, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health:

THE DA has been reliably informed that an Emergency Medical Rescue Services (EMRS) protest march, scheduled to take place this morning in Ladysmith, will go ahead with a memorandum of grievance to be delivered to the KZN Health District offices thereafter.

The DA has consistently raised the issue of EMRS staff working conditions. We believe they are victims of unfair labour practice and expected to work under conditions that don’t always allow for optimal functioning. The fact that in some parts of KZN they are working out of make-shift ambulances is evidence of this.

Some of the grievances raised by EMRS workers, solutions of which have been gazetted as far back as 2007 and not implemented, include;

  • OSD vs Salary/ Salary Grading
  • Processes through which disciplinary matters are handled
  • Long working hours
  • Overtime pay
  • Safety
  • No danger allowance

The DA is on record as having tabled several motions and stimulated debate around this matter in the KZN legislature.

The response by KZN’s Health MEC and his department is no different to the response given to EMRS staff – deafening silence – rather than dealing with these long standing issues, some of which go back to 2012.

It is difficult to comprehend how the MEC can recklessly ignore the many calls for action knowing full well how these conditions affect not only the working morale and livelihoods of staff, but patients’ lives too.

Any time spent away from performing their life saving work may result in fatalities and morbidity for those who are dependent on this essential service.

Today is no exception and there can be no doubt that response times to emergencies will be severely affected.

The DA has requested a copy of today’s memorandum and will call on KZN’s Health MEC to establish a task team as a matter of urgency. We will also communicate this request to the Chairperson of the provincial Health Portfolio Committee.

Thereafter a detailed report of the current situation within the EMRS must be tabled and sufficient time allocated to work towards a lasting and permanent solution.

The issues raised by EMRS staff must be dealt with so that there is no more wanton waste of time or worse still death as a result of the department’s inaction.

 

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DA KZN: MEC must call urgent summit on learner transport crisis

Rafeek Shah, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Transport:

THE DA in KwaZulu-Natal is devastated by the loss of young lives on our roads in two separate accidents involving scholars – one in Imbali and another in Umlazi – within the short space of 24 hours.

We convey our deepest sympathies to the families of these young people who have been taken so suddenly and tragically.

Learner transport is a complex and emotive issue.  Parents are forced to rely on various transport measures to ensure that their children get to school and receive an education.

The ANC-led province’s massive failures when it comes to the provision of public transport such as bus or rail have only exacerbated the issue.

The problem of learner transport has been shuttled between the KZN Transport and Education departments for several years – nobody really wants the responsibility as neither department can afford or properly police it.

KZN’s Transport department is mandated to look after main and provincial roads.  Meanwhile most accidents involving learners take place on municipal and rural roads.  And while the Education department has a Learner Transport policy, it serves little use if it is not monitored and enforced.

The onus for ensuring that learners are transported in roadworthy vehicles, with licensed drivers and with no overcrowding, lies squarely with municipal traffic officials.  They have both the manpower and the jurisdiction to stop such practices.  Moreover, those who violate the rules must face consequences with strict enforcement of the policy followed by severe judicial action.

The DA will today write to KZN Transport MEC, Willies Mchunu.  We will urge him to call an urgent summit which must include municipal traffic officials.  A proactive stand must be a taken to prevent further loss of life.

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Service delivery protest erupts in BCMM

Cllr Sue Bentley

Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality:

The residents of Bongweni and Fort Grey in Ward 31 feel they were forced to burn tyres and block off Buffalo Pass road yesterday in order to have their voices heard by the Buffalo City ANC-lead municipality.

Their protest was a reaction to BCMM Law Enforcement moving into the area to remove the illegal electricity connections which had been connected during the last month. While the communities of these two areas acknowledge that their illegal connections amounted to theft, they have been waiting for years for BCMM to address their land issues, to no avail.

Many of these residents have lived on the land for the last 30 years and are desperate to receive proper services, but due to the fact that both communities fall within the dangerous noise contour of the airport and any future expansion of the airport, they will need to be moved. BCMM cannot therefore provide proper infrastructure to the area. BCMM has failed these communities by not making land available for them to live on legally.

In order to gain clarity on this issue for these communities, and to try and force BCMM to act on this current unacceptable situation, I submitted the following question to Council in June 2014:

NOTING THAT Farm Portion 1 Greydell 871, commonly referred to as Bongweni, belongs to the Department of Public Works and that non conclusive discussions have been held with BCMM regarding the future of the land over many years, and

FURTHER NOTING THAT at the IDP hearings held on 22/4/13 at the Kidds Beach Community Hall it was stated and minuted that “Bongweni belongs to Public Works. Solid waste will not be serviced by BCMM – it must be serviced by Public Works”,

AND FURTHER NOTING THAT no provision was made in the IDP budget for 2014/15 for Bongweni,

AND FURTHER NOTING THAT brick dwellings and businesses are being erected illegally and without approved building plans on the land with neither Public Works nor BCMM stating categorically that all building must cease with immediate effect,

AND FURTHER NOTING THAT with the land still being zoned Agricultural land it is impossible to implement Health and Public Safety bylaws where the farming of pigs and other animals is occurring between residential dwellings

TO ASK of the Executive Mayor, Cllr Z. Ncitha, and/or the Acting Municipal Manager, Mr A. Fani:

  1. i) To give clarity on the future of the land known as Bongweni and the final outcomes of discussions held between the Department of Public Works and BCMM.
  2. ii) To give clarity on the discussions with Airport authorities re potential airport expansion and its influence on the land known as Bongweni.

iii) To give information on, as Bongweni does not form part of the IDP budget for 2014/5, where the budget will come from regarding the promises made by the Mayor during her visit to the community in early May 2014 that the roads will be graded; the culvert fixed; that a database will be drawn up to ascertain how many toilets are needed so that toilets and potentially more taps can be provided for the community.

  1. iv) To give information on why BCMM has erected two refuse drop off points in the area if they have no intention of removing solid waste.

To date, this question remains wholly unanswered and bounces from one Council agenda to the next.

While the DA will never condone illegal electricity connections, we commit to fighting to get the voices of the shack dwellers from these two areas heard so that they can be allocated land where they too can enjoy the basic services that are their right.

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January road deaths set to reach record low as we head towards #paydayblues weekend

STATEMENT BY DONALD GRANT

MINISTER OF TRANSPORT AND PUBLIC WORKS:

This January, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Provincial, City and municipal traffic services, and the innovations of the Safely Home campaign, the Western Cape has been experiencing record low numbers of road traffic fatalities. It is probable that the province will experience its lowest monthly fatality rate for January, as the festive season draws to a close, since the beginning of the Safely Home campaign in 2009.

Comparative January Road Deaths Statistics:

  • January 2009:            147
  • January 2010:            117
  • January 2011:            109
  • January 2012:            104
  • January 2013:            80
  • January 2014:            91
  • January 2015:            69 (as of the 29th of January)

However, the first Pay Day Weekend of the new year is approaching at the end of this week. Last year, Western Cape road traffic fatalities indicated that month-end Pay Day Weekends are the most dangerous time of the month. On average, 18 people were killed on month-end Pay Day Weekends in 2014, compared to an average of 13.75 people on normal weekends. On ordinary week days, an average of 2.47 people were killed per day in 2014. This means that road users are 240% more likely to become a fatality on Pay Day Weekends compared to on a regular day. Pay Day Weekend fatalities have become known as #PayDayBlues, due to “code blue” being Emergency Medical Services voice procedure for a fatality.

These dramatic increases in fatality rates can be ascribed to the greater mobility and access to alcohol that Pay Day Weekends bring.

The Province urges all road users, whether driving, walking or cycling to avoid mixing alcohol and the road.

For more information on Pay Day Weekends and the anti-drinking and driving campaign that we are currently running, visit the Safely Home website, www.safelyhome.westerncape.gov.za, twitter: @WCGovSafelyHome hashtag #PayDayBlues and #BoozeFreeRoads. The latest videos for the campaign are available online:

Afrikaans: http://youtu.be/VMFt5-5X_CI

English: http://youtu.be/s3G9MEQJ3Co

 

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Dept failing Postmasburg Primary School

Boitumelo Babuseng, MPL

DA Constituency Head for Postmasburg:

During an oversight visit I conducted to the Postmasburg Primary
School this week, it became clear that the department is failing this
school. The school infrastructure is ageing and in desperate need of
repairs, but the school’s pleas are falling on deaf ears.

The school was built in the 1910s. One of the infrastructure problems
at the school is a large hole in the ceiling in a corridor, which
exposes the school to all elements of the weather. The department has
promised on numerous occasions to fix this hole, but it is still wide
open.

The school governing body and the principal of the school have been
proactive in trying to find solutions to the infrastructure problems.
As a result of their efforts, they have sourced funds from a local
mine, which built a state-of-the-art facility for the grade one
learners. It is welcome to see that mines embrace their
social responsibility. However, interventions from the private sector
should never be a replacement for long-overdue services from the public
sphere.

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