Questions remain about Hlongwa’s alleged undeclared interests

Jack Bloom MPL

DA Gauteng Shadow MEC for Health:

Lifestyle audits should be considered to check whether elected representatives are being truthful when they declare their financial interests every year.

 

This is my proposal following the report of the Gauteng Legislature’s Privileges and Ethics Committee concerning my referral of the alleged undeclared interests of ANC Chief Whip Brian Hlongwa as detailed in court documents.

 

This report was adopted by the Legislature on Friday last week (click here to view).

 

According to the report, Integrity Commissioner Ralph Mgijima presented his report, arising from which the Committee noted “that the matter is ‘sub-judice’ in terms of South African law and that it will be prejudicial to the rights of Hon Hlongwa to require him to submit a specific and detailed response in relation to allegations raised in the complaint.”

 

The Committee acknowledged the status of the investigation as current and on-going pending the outcome of the case which is currently before the South Gauteng High Court, and recommended that the Integrity Commissioner should provide a progress report on the matter in due course.

 

In my view this highlights the weakness of the current system where little verification is done of the financial interests that are declared annually by each member of the Legislature.

 

My referral was based on court documents in which the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) alleges inter alia that: “At no time did Mr Hlongwa declare to the Gauteng Legislature the holiday to Cuba, payments towards his new house at Eccleston Crescent, various home renovations, rent-free accommodation, cash, spa treatments or other benefits received from Mr Payne, Mr Smidek, Mr Pillay or their various entities.”(Note: Mr Heinz Smidek is the CEO of the Baoki consortium that won the tender from the Gauteng Health Department for a Health Information System).

 

It was submitted further that Hlongwa and two senior officials “did not declare these benefits because they were well aware they were not innocently given or received, involved contractors to the GDoH and would attract attention.” (see my letter to Integrity Commissioner Ralph Mgijima below for more details of the alleged undeclared interests).

 

The assets of the Baoki Consortium have now been forfeited to the NPA as they conceded that they could not provide a defence concerning the alleged role of Mr Smidek in purchasing Hlongwa’s former home at 16A College Drive in Bryanston for R4.6 million as well as other gratifications to Hlongwa in order for him to improperly influence the award of the tender to Baoki.

 

I am disappointed that the Integrity Commissioner did not ask Hlongwa to reply to any of the allegations which are extremely serious. If he is innocent he could surely have provided a response that would not have prejudiced his case in court.

 

Court proceedings are unfortunately extremely slow, so Hlongwa will continue to serve as ANC Chief Whip despite strong evidence that he was remiss in not declaring his full interests when he was previously MEC for Health.

 

I will be proposing that lifestyle audits are done in select cases where MPLs appear to be living well above their declared income.

 

This should have happened when Hlongwa declared in a story in the Sowetan newspaper in 2007 April headlined “I’m too rich for my job” that he had made 10 times his MEC’s salary from his businesses and could therefore afford a R7.2 million house.

 

Declaration of interests by politicians will only be effective in detecting possible corruption if they are properly verified. Lifestyle audits will be a valuable addition to methods of detecting unjust enrichment by politicians and civil service staff.

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ANC shenanigans once again take precedence over Legislative Functions

Anthony Benadie MPL

Leader of the Official Opposition in Mpumalanga Legislature:

A sitting of the Mpumalanga legislature, originally scheduled for Friday 27 March 2015 to afford MPL’s to pose questions to MEC’s, was first moved to Thursday 26 March and then postponed to next week, without any explanation.  It has now come to light that the ANC scheduled their Provincial General Council to start on the same day as the sitting.

 

The Legislature has three main functions:

 

Law-making

  • MPLs discuss, debate, amend and vote on laws for the province
  • Initiate or prepare legislation, except money Bills

 

Oversight

  • Maintain oversight on the exercise of Provincial Executive authority in the Province, including the implementation of legislation and any Provincial organ of state
  • Approve budgets for Provincial Government Departments
  • Question government officials about their work
  • Seek explanation on how government spent their previous budgets and how they will spend their new budgets

 

Public participation and education

  • Conduct public hearings on laws that are envisaged
  • Educate the public on the law-making processes

 

It is blatantly obvious that the ANC holds very little regard for the importance of the functions of the Mpumalanga Legislature as an institution.  Just over a month ago, a similar situation took place (Click here for press release by Bosman Grobler, MPL) in which the ANC cancelled a committee meeting at the eleventh hour in order to hold their own private meetings.
MPL’s will now have to abandon their constituency work next week to accommodate the sitting.

 

When one takes into account a recent report by the City Press, it is clear that the ANC is so caught up in their own infighting and struggles, that the dire situation the Mpumalanga Departments find themselves in, is of little or no interest to them.  The functions that are performed within Legislature are essential to ensure that government can account to the people.

 

The DA will write to the Speaker of the legislature requesting her to provide the reasoning behind the cancellation and moving of the sittings. It goes beyond comprehension, considering the state of our province, that internal ANC happenings can take precedence over the business of our democratic institutions.

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Gauteng Transport MEC fails to deliver on street light promises

Graham Gersbach MPL

DA Constituency Head – Bronberg:

Despite numerous requests by the DA and the Bonaero community to the Department of Roads and Transport, street lights at the Atlas road/R21 off-ramp have still not been repaired.

 

The delayed repairs of street lights along Atlas Road and other roads including Bonaero Drive, Elgin Street and Great North Road, has resulted in these roads becoming hot-spots for hijackers.

 

Furthermore the Gauteng Legislature’s Roads and Transport Committee recently submitted an urgent request to the department to finalise the road maintenance agreement, which calls for all provincial roads, including those surrounding Atlas Road, to be repaired.

 

Every day motorists live in fear of hijackings as they drive along these roads, and government needs to act if it wants to live up to its promises of creating a safe and prosperous global city region.

 

To this end, the DA has submitted further written questions to roads MEC Ismail Vadi, to follow up on the finalization of the maintenance agreement, as well as requesting a breakdown of the roads maintenance budget allocation.

 

The DA will also present the MEC with a petition signed by residents of Bonaero Park community calling for the MEC’s urgent intervention.

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Government forges ahead with Algoa Bay fish farm despite huge public outcry

Ross Purdon (MPL),

Shadow MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism:

Despite enormous public outcry it has become evident that the ANC led government is forging ahead with the controversial Algoa Bay fish farm. It also plans to extend the project in future. It has been revealed that this sea cage farming will be a yellow tail project .

The DA, business and residents in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro vigorously oppose this project due to its location off Port Elizabeth’s Hobie Beach and the risk it holds for the city’s R13-billion annual tourism income.

In a province where jobs and opportunities are scarce, we must protect our already fragile economy.  As citizens we cannot simply be kept in the dark about matters that will have an impact on the economy of the city.

In a reply to an oral question I asked the MEC for Economic Development, Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Sakhumzi Somyo, confirmed that the Algoa Bay Aquaculture Development Zone (ADZ) is part of Operation Phakisa, launched by President Jacob Zuma in 2014.

ADZs identified in the Eastern Cape and which were to be completed by 2019 were:

  1. Kob farming expansion at the East London IDZ;
  2. Expansion of oyster farming and new kob farming project at Hamburg;
  3. Abalone and finfish farming project at Qholorha; and
  4. Yellow tail sea cage farming in Algoa Bay.

Future enhancement and expansion of ADZ projects were also identified at the Coega IDZ, Wild Coast, Hamburg and Algoa Bay and that their predicted environmental effects were “still to be finalised based on individual EIA applications”.

While the DA is acutely aware of the economic growth needed in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, we are steadfast in our stance that we cannot support this venture at the proposed site.

The DA will continue to monitor developments regarding this process. I have sent questions to the MEC for further clarity on the lack of public participation, the outcome of the EIA and details about the expansion of the project.

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DA assists evicted Marikana residents in Ladybrand

James Letuka

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

I have today written to Social Development MEC, Sisi Ntombela, and her COGTA counterpart, MEC Olly Mlamleli, requesting them to urgently intervene in the Marikana impasse in Ladybrand. The Department of Social development must immediately mobilise the supply of food, sanitary products and blankets while the Department of COGTA urgently identify suitable land for resettlement.

 

Yesterday, we met with 25 women headed families that have been living in a dilapidated hall since they were evicted from Marikana two weeks ago. The women and children have little privacy and the situation they find themselves in compromises their dignity.

 

The Mantsopa Local Municipality has failed to make alternative land available for resettlement of these families.

 

We were also made aware by evicted residents that their furniture, clothing and other household goods were unlawfully seized by the Red Ants. DA Mantsopa councillor, Tania Halse, is assisting the destitute women daily with food donations as well as with the opening of criminal charges of theft against the Municipal Manager, Selby Selepe.

 

The women informed us yesterday that Mantsopa Mayor, Dennis Ntsepe, told them to refuse food donations from DA councillors on account that the food is poisoned. This after the municipality has failed to extend adequate social assistance.

 

Mayor Ntsepe’s behaviour in the whole saga has been despicable.

 

It is rumoured that Premier Ace Magashule had deployed four bodyguards to protect Mayor Ntsepe. It goes to show that the ANC places its most loyal cadres above the plight of the people. Mayor Ntsepe’s life and property would not be threatened if he governed effectively and improved people’s lives through efficient service delivery.

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DA in Buffalo City pleased with non-merger of Great Kei

Cllr Jan Smit

Caucus Chairperson – Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality:

The DA in Buffalo City is very pleased that the proposed merger of Buffalo City Metropolitan Municipality (BCMM) and Great Kei local municipality will no longer happen.

The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) announced via circular 5 /2015 Annexure A, that it will not consider or reconsider the disestablishment of Great Kei local municipality and amalgamate it with BCMM.    It also stated that it had already considered the proposal previously and that it was not approved.

The Democratic Alliance was against the merger from the start and lodged objections against the proposed merger.  The list of objections can be found here.

It is, however, not clear if any of these or other proposals were considered by the MDB and it is strange that the MDB had such a drastic turnabout on its own proposal.    Questions can be asked as to why such a proposal was made in the first place.   It is clear that the MDB did not apply its mind on this and other issues of demarcation.

Buffalo City has its own challenges and problems.  The merger with Great Kei would have been to the detriment of both Great Kei local municipality and BCMM.

BCMM administration can now focus on resolving its own issues without the burden of incorporating a vast new area into its boundaries.

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Amalgamation of municipalities in Mpumalanga is not viable

James Masango, MP,

Provincial Leader:

Welcome to the first edition of the Democratic Alliance News Letter in Mpumalanga.

 

The letter will focus on different issues in the province coupled with those of national interest that affects us all.

 

This month our focus is on the amalgamation of municipalities in Mpumalanga which has been dominating the news.

 

The ruling party believes that amalgamating some municipalities could better service delivery. This is yet to be proven.

 

In the year 2000 smaller municipalities were amalgamated with the hope that there will be better service delivery since the revenue for some municipalities was too little to

better service delivery in the previously disadvantaged communities. If amalgamation improves service delivery, then WHY since 2000, has the delivery of services not

improved in these municipalities?

 

I am talking about municipalities like Ogies with Witbank, Hendrina with Middelburg, Nelspruit with Hazyview and White River and many more.

 

The purpose of establishing municipalities was to bring government closer to the people and that municipalities will be the face of government.

 

In South Africa, we also have the so-called district municipalities that should assist local municipalities with capacity and bulk service deliveries. As the DA, we have been on

record saying do away with district municipalities as they are of no assistance to government  and the people of South Africa. These district municipalities are just used as an

employment agency for ANC cadres.

 

What is worse is that the ANC plans to create sub-district municipalities, how will this help our communities?

 

The ANC must learn simple mathematics that adding two negatives will always give you a negative answer and not a positive sum, which means bringing together two

dysfunctional municipalities, will create a worse off municipality.

 

This might just be another strategy for the ruling party to garner votes for next year’s local government elections as they are losing voters and it seems that the only other

way to cling onto power is through amalgamating smaller municipalities with bigger ones.

 

The DA is completely against such a move as this will not bring better service delivery to our communities. What we need in our municipalities is, people with the correct skills

to be employed in the right positions. The ANC must stop cadre deployment. Fraud and corruption takes away money meant for service delivery to the poor people.
The DA in the province has written a letter to the Municipal Demarcation Board formally objecting to the amalgamation of municipalities in Mpumalanga.

 

Here are more reasons why the DA does not support the amalgamation:

 

  1. The distances between the municipalities are too vast and the geographical size of the municipality will be unmanageable. As consequence, towns located far from

the municipal ‘seat of government’, are bound to be neglected when it comes to service delivery. The proposed amalgamation of Lekwa and Dipaliseng is but one

example. The people of Balfour, which is in Dipaliseng, are fighting to be incorporated into Heidelberg (Gauteng) which is less than 30km away.  This does not make

logical sense based on the above mentioned reasons. However government still insists on amalgamating them with Lekwa in Standerton (Mpumalanga), which is even

further than the proposed amalgamation (60km away.)

 

  1. It will also be unsustainable to amalgamate a financially unstable municipality with one that is financially stable. One such example – is the proposed amalgamation of

Mbombela in Nelspruit and Umjindi (Barberton) local municipalities. According to the 2013/2014 annual report for Mbombela, the municipality has failed to achieve any

of its targets with regard to service delivery standards as set out in the Service Delivery and Budget Implementation Plan, while Umjindi is financially stable.

 

The DA has written a formal letter to the demarcation board not to consider these proposed amalgamations. This comes after violent protests in Dipaliseng municipality earlier this

month. These protests might increase as residents feel they are not heard.

 

The DA does not condone violent protests, but sympathises with these communities. Through our deliberations with communities we have been requested to ask the MDB to reject

the request for amalgamation in any municipality in Mpumalanga.

 

The DA therefore request the MDB to refrain from amalgamating municipalities in the province.  We believe that this will not be beneficial to the residents.

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Education MEC must act to discourage pregnancy in primary schools

Anthony Benadie MPL

DA Spokesperson on Education:

The DA is shocked to learn that Mpumalanga has one of the highest school pregnancy rates in South Africa.

 

This was revealed in a reply to questions posed to Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, by DA Mpumalanga Deputy Leader and Member of Parliament, Sonja Boshoff.

 

In the 2014 academic year, Mpumalanga had the second highest pregnancy rate in primary schools with 130 learners falling pregnant. The majority of these girls were 13 years old or under.

 

KT Twala Primary school in Govan Mbeki municipality had the highest amount of pregnant primary school girls with 13 learners, while Matimba Primary School in Mbombela municipality had 11 learners that fell pregnant in one year.

 

The province has the third highest pregnancy rate in secondary schools with 3 196 teenagers falling pregnant in the 2014 academic year.

 

Seme Secondary school in Pixley ka Seme municipality had the highest pregnancy rate with 77 learners falling pregnant while Mathipe secondary school in Bushbuckridge municipality recorded 49 pregnancies.

 

The majority of the schools that recorded a high number of pregnancies are lower quintile schools which are known to battle with infrastructure, discipline and educational challenges. This begs the question of what action plan the provincial Education MEC, Reginah Mhaule is undertaking to address this problem as the high learner pregnancy rate can’t be news to her and her office.

 

The high number of primary school learners falling pregnant is exceptionally concerning as these children are unlikely to be able to look after their babies, let alone stay in school up to matric. It is also concerning because these pregnancies could be a sign of sexual crimes taking place either at home or at school.

 

The DA will submit questions to MEC Mhaule asking for a detailed action plan on how she intends to discourage scholars from falling pregnant. We will also ask the MEC to explain whether or not teachers in Mpumalanga are vetted against the Child Protection Register and for the MEC to tell us how many teachers have been dismissed due to sexual crimes against learners.

 

The time has come to identify and deal with the real cause of teenage pregnancy, rather than the department’s feeble attempt of addressing the consequences and symptoms thereof. More support must be provided to learners, especially those in lower quintile schools because not only are they burdened with socio-economic challenges but they bear the brunt of the education department’s failures.

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DA calls on provincial government to intervene in Marikana, Ladybrand

James Letuka

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

The DA in the Free State calls on the Free State Provincial Government to intervene in the Mantsopa Local Municipality to restore peace and order.

 

During our visit to Ladybrand today, the situation in Manyatseng was calm, but remains volatile.

 

Our visit follows days of violence and protest action by the Manyetseng community, against the Executive Mayor, Dennis Ntsepe, for initially evicting people of the Marikana informal settlement two weeks ago.

 

The evictions did not comply with the Prevention of Illegal Eviction From and Unlawful Occupation of Land Act (Act No 19 of 1998). The municipality failed to inform residents of the pending evictions and failed to make alternative land for resettlement available.

 

The evictions aggravated the community who have been forced to endure poor to non-existent service delivery and socio-economic issues that come with poor economic prospects and high unemployment.

 

While we understand the community’s frustration with Mayor Ntsepe and the disregard the ANC-led council have for the wellbeing of the people, the DA cannot under any circumstances condone the wilful destruction of property.

 

The DA calls on the community to remain calm.

 

DA councillors in the Mantsopa Local Municipality have been engaging community leaders trying to negotiate a solution to resort to peaceful protest.

 

The violent protests have seen businesses closed for two days and are set to remain closed until 01 April 2015. This negatively impacts on the community’s ability to access goods and services and further hampers the municipality’s economic outlook.

 

We have repeatedly called on GOGTA MEC Olly Mlamaleli to intervene in poor performing municipalities like Mantsopa to no avail. The failure by senior ANC leaders in government to intervene in such volatile situations show that they either do not have the political clout to take action against poor performing mayors or that they just don’t care about the wellbeing of the people.

 

The DA maintains that the surest way to hold government to account is to use the power of the vote. In 2016 the Mantsopa community will have an opportunity to reject the ANC’s poor governance for the effective governance of the DA.

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Inkwanca prospects for better services dim

Kobus Botha (MPL),

Shadow MEC for Human Settlements:

I will be writing a letter to the MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional affairs, Fikile Xasa, urging him to present a progress report about what he is going to do about the ailing service delivery to the people of Sterkstroom and Molteno.

Seven months ago the ANC controlled Inkwanca local municipality (Sterkstroom and Molteno) was subject to a shocking forensic investigation that has exposed that the ANC controlled municipality was riddled with fraud, corruption, nepotism and maladministration.

The Provincial ANC then invoked Section 139 (c) of the Constitution of SA and an administrator was sent in to stabilize the administration.

It was reported recently that Inkwanca is one of the 13 most dysfunctional municipalities in the Eastern Cape. During my recent two day visit to the area, it was clear why.

I found that in both towns, Sterkstroom and Molteno, the roads are in desperate need of maintenance and the road signs have faded.

I noticed a recently built vehicle bridge in Nqeshi, Sterkstroom that carries taxi loads of people over a river to and from town. The structural integrity of the bridge has been compromised as stone cage support structures are moving away from supporting the carriageway. Click here to view a picture.

A multi-million rand community hall is closed and not in use. According to residents, the contractor has not been paid for work done on the hall and won’t give the public access to the community hall.

On my visit to the airport strip (Marikana), I found that the R 60 million RDP housing development project has come to a standstill. Click here to view a picture.

Sterkstroom school children try to navigate a flowing river crossing to get to school as the multi-million rand foot-bridge collapsed years ago. Click here to view a picture. These children’s lives are at risk, this is shameful! Tata Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

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