Government must act on water related issues in the Free State

Patricia Kopane MP

DA Free State Spokesperson

Yesterday, South Africans celebrated Human Rights Day across our country. We also celebrated the fact that under our democratic Constitution, every person is treated equally under the law and government is elected to improve the quality of life of all citizens. As South Africans we acknowledge the injustice of our past, but also hope for an improved society where we all can be free and receive the services we deserve.

For this reason the DA is visiting the community of Brandfort and Majwemasweu today to reveal that there are still communities in South Africa whose basic human rights are being neglected. Health Care to residents of this community are being abandoned as a result of poor municipal management and inadequate service delivery.

Owing to the fact that the municipality cannot ensure reliable water supply, the Marantha Clinic is also not able to deliver health services. Considering the good infrastructure as well as the enthusiastic personnel at this clinic, it is cause for concern that the community is prevented from accessing sufficient health care services because of poor municipal management.

In this regard, it is important to note that during the State of the Province address, the Free State Premier Mr Ace Magashule, announced that the provincial government will this year “continue the process of re-engineering primary health care in all districts and municipalities to expand access to primary health care services…” It appears as if the Premier did not consider the levels of service delivery in many Free State municipalities are not up to standard before making such a promise. The ongoing water problems in the communities of Brandfort and the resulting lack of health care services border on gross neglect of the Human rights of residents.

Furthermore, it is unacceptable that the poorest of the poor in Free State towns such as Brandfort and more recently Marquard need to walk long distances to water points, while water is being wasted at an alarming rate in Mangaung less than 60 kilometres from here.

Unless the local, provincial, and national government are committed to ensure sound service delivery, our dreams and hope for improved circumstances for all residents of rural towns will not become reality and our communities will not benefit from the promises enshrined in our Bill of Rights and Constitution.

The DA will officially request that the Ministers of Local Government, Health as well as Water and Environmental Affairs implement viable solutions to the ongoing problems in Masilonyana (Winburg, Brandort, Theunissen, and Soutpan) and Setsoto (Marquard, Ficksburg, Senekal, and Clocolan) . The DA will also submit questions to the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs to find out whether the department will assist in upgrading the water infrastructure in the municipalities and what it will do to ensure that similar problems do not occur in future.

The DA today also wrote to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) requesting it to investigate what is happening in this and other communities in the Free State that have been without clean water for months. The HRC is the appropriate body to get to the bottom of this and hold whoever is responsible accountable. The rights to access to safe and sufficient water resources as well as basic health care services are vital for addressing the inequalities of our past. It is the responsibility of government to ensure that residents can benefit from the promises of our Human Rights, especially during a week that we celebrate our national human rights day.

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SCA judgement a victory for constitutional democracy

The following statement was distributed at a press conference held in Parliament on Tuesday by Democratic Alliance Leader Helen Zille and Chairperson of the DA Federal Executive, James Selfe MP.

The judgment handed down today in the Supreme Court of Appeal is a victory for our constitutional democracy and for every South African.

In upholding the right of the Democratic Alliance to challenge the National Prosecuting Authority’s decision to withdraw the corruption charges against Jacob Zuma, the judgment confirms that our justice system is currently strong enough to withstand political pressure.

This judgment is of seminal importance for three reasons.

Firstly, it confirms that a decision to discontinue a prosecution is reviewable by the courts. This is a fundamental check and balance to prevent power abuse in our prosecuting authorities and to protect the criminal justice system from political manipulation.

As the judgment notes:

“In fulfilling the constitutional duty of testing the exercise of public power against the Constitution, courts are protecting the very essence of a constitutional democracy. Put simply, it means that each of the arms of government and every citizen, institution or other recognised legal entity, are all bound by and equal before the law. Put differently, it means that none of us is above the law. It is a concept that we, as a nation, must cherish, nurture and protect. We must be intent on ensuring that it is ingrained in the national psyche. It is our best guarantee against tyranny, now and in the future.”

Equality before the law is a principle that the Democratic Alliance will fight to uphold in this case and any other case in which we suspect that power has been abused. The future of every South African depends on it.

Secondly, the judgment affirms that the DA has the legal standing to bring this review application on the grounds that:

“All political parties participating in parliament must necessarily have an interest in ensuring that public power is exercised in accordance with constitutional and legal prescripts and that the rule of law is upheld. They represent constituents that collectively make up the electorate. They effectively represent the public in parliament.”

The judgment went on to say:

“It clearly is in the public interest that the issues raised in the review application be adjudicated and, in my view, on the papers before us, it cannot seriously be contended that the DA is not acting, genuinely and in good faith, in the public interest.”

This was in stark contrast to the arguments advanced by the opposing advocates that the DA had simply brought this action to score political points. The judgment confirms that the DA, like any other political party, has the right (and, we contend, the duty) to bring legal actions in the public interest and in defence of the Constitution.

Thirdly, the judgment held that the National Prosecuting Authority must make available the requested record of decision it used when the then Acting National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) Mokotedi Mpshe made the decision to drop the charges against Jacob Zuma. Furthemore, the SCA ruled that the NPA “will be obliged to make available whatever was before Mr Mpshe when he made the decision to discontinue the prosecution.”

The importance of this evidence to the outcome of this review application cannot be overstated. The record of decision will shed light on whether Mokotedi Mpshe made the decision to withdraw the prosecution on rational/legal grounds or whether he made the decision based on political considerations. Time will tell.

The Supreme Court’s judgment to uphold our appeal was emphatic and unanimous in all the legal issues before it. We have now secured the foundation from which to challenge the NPA’s decision in the North Gauteng High Court.

We know that this is the first step on a long journey. We expect President Zuma and the NPA – with the financial muscle of the state behind them – to use every legal trick in the book to delay, stall and sidetrack proceedings in an attempt to win time for Jacob Zuma to serve two terms as President.

If anything is acting in bad faith against the people of South Africa, it is this.

Whatever challenges lay ahead, the DA remains committed to fighting this case in the interest of all South Africans and in defence of the Constitution. If we can stop political meddling in our criminal justice system in its tracks, we will make our constitutional democracy stronger so that all citizens are equal before the law.

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Constitutional Court judgment on leases will hit Gauteng government hard

Paul Willemburg, DA MPL

DA Gauteng Infrastructure Development spokesman

The recent judgment by the Constitutional Court, concerning the rights of tenants and landlords, could be profoundly important for Gauteng.

The majority judgement found that offering tenants of a Braamfontein building a choice between sharply increased rents or eviction could possibly constitute an “unfair practice”, a matter that the Gauteng Rental Housing Tribunal would be able to judge. A similar situation is brewing with regards to rental housing owned by the Department of Infrastructure Development.

They have also been allowed to decay, to the point of being well-nigh uninhabitable (a reversal, incidentally, of the situation in the court case, where it was common cause that the building had been refurbished). Despite this, the department is in the process of hiking the rents and aligning them with market related rentals.

Scant consultation appears to have been undertaken, and there is in any event no justice in expecting people who can ill afford it to meet a massively escalated rental obligation for a structure that is falling apart. I have warned the provincial Government that this it is on a disastrous course. The judgment suggests that its actions are not only flying in the face of justice, but are risking a well-supported legal rebuke.

In the judgment, the point is made that the “right of access to adequate housing ripples out to private rights is when the state itself takes measures to fulfil the right.” In the coming months, I suspect that those ripples will make for some difficult navigation for the Gauteng Provincial Government.

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Benadie to March Against Drug Abuse

In celebration of Human Rights Day on March 21, the DA and its provincial leader, Anthony Benadie will host a march against drug abuse and the effects of drugs and the drug trade on the lives and times of our communities. Benadie will be accompanied by DA members, a number of civil society organisations, as well as broader public of eMalahleni, Steve Tshwete and other constituencies from the rest of the province. The march will converge on the Middelburg Police Station where a memorandum will be handed over to the station commander.

Date: Wednesday, March 21

Time: 08h30

Venue: Eric Jiyane Hall, Ngwako Street, Mhluzi, Middelburg

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Remember the Poor while Celebrating Human Rights Day

James Masango MPL

DA Chief Whip in the Mpumalanga Legislature

The following is an address, as delivered by James Masango, during the Snap Debate on Human Rights Day to the Mpumalanga Legislature.   Honourable speaker, while we will be celebrating Human Rights Day on 21 March 2012, we must remember the 69 people killed at Sharpeville and the 20 killed in Langa for protesting pass laws. We must also remember all freedom fighters who were arrested, tortured and killed for these freedoms and rights we enjoy today.   Similarly, while celebrating and remembering the heroes and heroines of the freedom struggle, we cannot make the mistake of forgetting the poor, vulnerable and homeless people who do not know when their next meal is going to be.   Honourable Speaker, South Africa has the best constitution in the world and the Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of our democracy. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.   Our constitution guarantees the right to life. But you can only survive when you have a job and have something to eat. And this is the challenge facing South Africa today. We have too many people who are unemployed and living in poverty. Once you are unemployed and cannot provide your family with food, you start to lose respect from your family, neighbours and community members – and ultimately you find yourself with no dignity at all.   The conditions in which so many of our people live in are actually taking away their dignity. Much still needs to be done to restore the dignity of the poor and the vulnerable.

As South Africans we can do more to change the circumstances of our people if all of us are committed to better the lives of poor South Africans, and not enrich ourselves at their expense.   Honourable Speaker, corruption takes away from the poor and makes them poorer.   ·         As government, we need ensure that our people have access to a decent healthcare system. ·         Our children need quality education to count, read and write. ·         Municipalities have to improve better their service delivery to communities. ·         Ensure the delivery of clean and quality water to the people. ·         Create decent and sustainable jobs.   In Mpumalanga, access to water still remains the biggest challenge. Along with this challenge, we are now facing the dangerous issue of contaminated water. Municipalities are polluting the water streams through their sewer plants that are only operating partially or not at all.   Mines are being opened across Mpumalanga – and some without water usage licenses are now polluting our rivers and dams. A recent case in point is Carolina’s water that is contaminated by mine acid.   It is also important that while we are teaching people about their rights, we must indicate their responsibilities for every right they have. Because Honourable Speaker, there is still lack of ownership of responsibility amongst the people.   Celebrating Human Rights Day every year must serve as a reminder of how far we have come to ensure that all people in South Africa enjoy the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

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The Constitution Hasn’t Failed us, the Government Has

Helen Zille

Leader of the DA

Note to the readers: This is an edited version of the speech DA Leader Helen Zille delivered on the 10th of March, 2012, at the Gauteng Provincial Congress in Thaba Tswane, Pretoria.

Hier is ons almal vandag in Thaba Tshwane in Pretoria. Sikhona apha eThabaTshwane!

This is the City that we came closest to winning in May last year in the wonderful Province, my birth-province, Gauteng. Ndiyagoduka!

It is a province whose significance to South Africa is inversely proportional to its size.

It may be the smallest province, tucked up in the left-hand chest cavity of South Africa. But we all know what a heart means to a body. It is the small pump that keeps us going every day.

Gauteng is the heart of South Africa. It pumps the economic life blood into the furthest reaches of South Africa.

And the battle for Gauteng in the election of 2014 will determine whether South Africa suffers from heart-failure after prolonged neglect and gradual arterial sclerosis, OR whether this heart will again pump as vigorously as we know she can, to give our country a new lease on life through sustained, inclusive growth.

That can only come through a pumping economy.

In every respect, for our country’s future, Gauteng is the next frontier, for South Africa, for our democracy and the DA.

We have set our sights on what we are told is impossible, and that is winning Gauteng in the 2014 provincial and national elections. We are always being told our goals are impossible to achieve. In 1994 when we got 1,7% of the vote, we were told it was impossible to achieve our goal of becoming the official opposition — and we did it within 5 years.

When we first became the official opposition, we were told it was impossible to become a party of government, and we did it. Now we are told it is impossible for us to win more than one province, or to break through the glass ceiling of minority support. We don’t believe this either. In fact our historic election of 2011, when we won 133 supposedly safe ANC seats, was a portent of things to come. Siyaya e 2014, Siyaya!

But when we say we know we can win Gauteng, we must not under-estimate just how difficult it will be. The next election is two short years away. We all know that a week can be a long time in politics. But when you are preparing for an election, two years is a very short time. And to win Gauteng in two short years is a challenge the likes of which we have never faced before.

We are not looking to win the election for ourselves but for South Africa. SA needs the DA.

Because if it were not for us, the ANC would succeed in its heavily disguised plan to strip our Constitution of the checks and balances that empowers the people and limit the ruling party’s power abuse. If we allow that to happen, South Africa will become yet another example of a failed transition to democracy, where people end up as oppressed as they were before they embarked on the struggle for liberation.

The DA, together with the free media, an independent judiciary, every other independent institution under the Constitution as well as civil society, must each play their part to ensure that South Africa does not join the ranks of the failed states. We will not allow South Africa to become yet another transition shipwreck that litters the shores of our continent. We will keep the proud ship South Africa, not only afloat on the High Seas of Democracy, but in full sail.

And this Province, Gauteng, is make-or-break. It is the next frontier of struggle to sustain and build our democracy.

It is right here that we have to rally South Africa’s forces to defend the gains of the struggle and to take them to the next level. The ANC is no longer complacent about its grip on the hearts and minds of the majority of South Africans.

It has been receding, election after election, since it reached its high water mark in 2004. That slide has been particularly apparent in our major metros.

In Jozi, the ANC slipped below 60% in the 2011 election for the first time in our democracy. And in Tshwane the ANC fell to 55% — putting them within striking distance.

It is for this reason that Gwede Mantashe, the ANC secretary general, recently told a closed meeting of the ANC’s NEC: “If we, in the ANC carry on like this much longer, the DA will soon govern this country.”

His statement did not take long to reach me, such is the state of division within the ANC. It is wounded, and its wounds are self-inflicted which makes them so much more painful. But as we have all learnt from nature: an animal is at its most dangerous when it is wounded.

The ANC lies with its wounds exposed.

They have promised so much and delivered so little.

Remember 1994 when the ANC gave us one of the best slogans ever in South African politics: A Better Life for ALL. By using those words, the ANC was saying that the future of South Africa is not a contest between different race groups. It is a project of building one nation with one future, where everyone has the right to a fair chance in life, and the obligation to use each opportunity.

By 2006, after various permutations of this slogan, the ANC reverted from a promise to “a plan to make local government work better for you.” After 12 years of democracy, they had managed to come up with a plan. When that didn’t get very far, the ANC told us, during the May 2011 local elections: “Together we can build better communities.”

So what now? Where do they go next? Unfortunately there is no more place to hide.

So now, predictably, the ruling party is looking for a scapegoat. And like every other failed liberation movement, they are turning on the Constitution, the central pillar of our democracy and our freedom.

Like most ex-liberation movements facing the prospect of losing power, they are turning against the Constitution that stops them abusing power — in order to stay in power. They want to strip the power away from people who plan to change their government through the ballot box. And they are going to do it through false pretences.

They are going to argue that they have to change the Constitution because they need more power to bring a better life for all. That argument is false. They know that our Constitution not only enables, but mandates a governing party to realise the so-called “third generation” rights, which are the socio-economic rights to land, work, health, housing opportunities, education and social services.

That is why, until now, the ANC and the DA have agreed on one very important thing: we were both deeply proud of what we all described as “the most progressive constitution in the world.”

In fact the ANC used to like it so much that it claimed sole authorship and ownership of it. The ANC was always claiming to have written the Constitution single-handedly when we know the truth is that the DA’s predecessor parties had a major hand in negotiating and drafting it, including some of its most important clauses.

We will have to keep reminding the ANC of its fulsome praise for the Constitution, because behind the scenes, within ANC ranks, the assault on our Constitution is gathering momentum. We don’t believe President Zuma anymore when he woodenly reads words, written by someone else, in his State of the Nation address, describing the Constitution as an “embodiment of the values that the ANC stood and fought for, including the independence of the Judiciary and the rule of law.”

Anyone who has seen the impact of cadre deployment in the Judicial Service Commission, or understands what the government intends to achieve with its “review” of Constitutional Court judgements, can only say: Ja, Right! Once-upon-a-time that may have been so. But this fairytale won’t automatically have a happy ending.

Because behind the scenes there is a raging debate within the ANC, which breaks through the surface from time to time, like an ominous shark-fin announcing the predator beneath. It came recently in the form of Ngoaka Ramathlodi, a Zuma confidante, who described our Constitution as a “fatal compromise”. This was uncharacteristically open — much of this talk will be camouflaged in the future, but we must learn to recognise it in the give-away weasel words.

So, what happened? What went wrong between the point at which the ANC claimed a monopoly on the “most progressive constitution in the world” and the “fatal compromise”?

What went wrong is simply this: the ANC failed in government.

They failed to deliver on any of their promises, plans and contracts. And more than that, they came to face, for the first time, a threat at the ballot box from the DA. They have succeeded primarily in centralising power in the hands of the ruling clique, in cronyism, cadre deployment, and corruption, all of which are rapidly taking South Africa in the direction of the criminal state.

And the only thing that can stop this trajectory is if enough people stand up and defend our Constitution, because it is the only thing that can defend us from the head-long slide to a full-blown criminal state.

We must let the ANC know: “Don’t touch us on our Constitution.”

In the 2009 election we succeeded in keeping the ANC below a 2/3rds majority, which is what it would require to change the Constitution — but sadly the ANC can still get it with the support of some of the tiny parties. The Freedom Front Plus, for example, broke its election commitment to the voters and now serves in Zuma’s Cabinet. In any combination, the smaller parties could give the ANC the numbers it needs. So the voters must believe us when we tell them that we are the ONLY party that can be relied upon to prevent the ANC changing the Constitution unilaterally. We will not let them do it.

But don’t expect the ANC to go into the next election being upfront and honest with the voters that it wants a mandate to destroy the most progressive constitution in the world.

No, they will be far more subtle than that. Beguiling.

During their mid-year policy conference, you will hear ANC leaders say that South Africa needs a “Second Transition”.

This sounds appealing, and it is meant to.

But believe me, it is the biggest, most skelm con-trick perpetrated on South Africa since democracy. It aims to convince South Africans to willingly participate in the destruction of their democracy, like a phalanx of millions of Turkeys marching in step towards Christmas.

The argument will go like this. Our “first transition” that has taken place since 1994, was a “political transition” from authoritarian rule to democracy.

The “second transition that the ANC wants to launch during its centenary year is the “social and economic” transition. After 18 years, it finally wants to get around to the much spoken about but little delivered “better life for all.”

At last, you might say. Except for the fact that the intention is clear. City Press and Rapport pierced the veil recently when they wrote that “The ANC is contemplating dramatic changes to the country’s constitution, including scrapping the sunset clauses and changing the powers of the Reserve Bank”, thus eroding its independence. As part of this “second transition” the ANC is justifying its review of Constitutional Court decisions and a so-called “transformation” of the judicial system as well.

We all know this is Orwellian double-speak to disguise the blatant attempt to turn our criminal justice system (from the prosecuting authority to the courts) into an extension of the ruling party. We know that this so-called Second Transition will be the transition to a failed state.

The DA must do everything it takes to ensure that every South African knows what is at stake when they make their cross on the ballot paper in 2 years time.

It must be the catalyst to galvanise South Africans and show the ANC that it will not govern till the Second Coming. We will stop their so-called Second Transition long before that.

We will expose the lie that the ANC needs to change the Constitution at all to achieve the socio-economic transition. Not only does the government have all the powers it needs in the Constitution to drive the socio-economic transition, in fact the Constitution MANDATES it to do so. It is actually unconstitutional for them NOT to do so.

THE TRUTH IS THIS, SOUTH AFRICA. YOUR CONSTITUTION HASN’T FAILED YOU. YOUR GOVERNMENT HAS.

And now they want to fail you further by scrapping provisions in the Constitution that protect you from power abuse. And if every South African does not understand this by 2014, then the DA has failed in its duty. Either that, or the people will get the government they deserve.

Interestingly even COSATU’s Zwelinzima Vavi has told his own supporters that if they simply keep voting for the ANC, the party can safely ignore them. During the march against e-tolling this week, Vavi said the ANC had betrayed its voters by introducing e-tolling after it promised not to. According to reports, Vavi said “the ANC had taken its constituency in Gauteng for granted, as e-tolling in the Western Cape had been scrapped immediately when the DA opposed it.”

Right on, Zweli. The majority of COSATU members in the Western Cape voted for the DA (along with many others) in the last election, because they know their vote is their power to bring change. You do not change a government in a march or a strike. You change it in an election. And that is what the voters in the Western Cape did, and those in Gauteng will soon follow suit.

Let us examine what else the voters in the Western Cape achieved through their vote. The Western Cape has by far the most successful land reform projects in the country with a 70% success rate as opposed to 10% elsewhere in the country; the Western Cape has turned around the 6-year decline in education under the ANC, particularly among the poorest schools, one of which — in Khayelitsha — is now among the top ten performing schools in the Province. The Western Cape has one of the most successful ARV roll-outs in the world, with a mother-to-child transmission rate below 1%. And contrary to popular myth, Cape Town is the least unequal City in the country, it has the lowest level of unemployment, broadly defined, and is “the best metro in the country for service delivery” according to the BEE ratings agency, Empowerdex.

That is not to suggest we are anywhere near perfect. We still have a long way to go to achieve a better life for all. But at least, where the DA governs, we are making progress in the right direction.

So the message is clear:

If you want successful land reform, you don’t need a new constitution — you need a new government.

If you want better education, you don’t need a new constitution — you need a new government.

If you want better health-care, you don’t need a new constitution — you need a new government.

If you want a growing economy and more jobs, you don’t need a new constitution — you need a new government.

This is the message we must bring to South Africa. And the DA must win a second province to demonstrate this beyond reasonable doubt. That Province is Gauteng, the Golden Heart of South Africa.

Gauteng, you can do it. You started the ball rolling in the first by-election since the local government election when you won Merafong from the ANC for the first time since democracy. We have repeated that in Polokwane, in Mogalakwena, in Thembelihle and in Thaba Chweu since then. All these over and above the 133 seats we took from the ANC in May last year.

So Gauteng, the DA is on a Roll.

Are you ready to catch the wave?

You can do it for your province

You can do it for our country

You can do it for our continent, Africa.

You Can, you Must, and you Will.

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