Kannaland Municipality must own up to R12m Eskom debt-disaster

Masizole Mnqasela MPP, DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Local Government, Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Local Government in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament:

Kannaland Municipality owes Eskom an unpaid bill of about R12m. Eskom has given parties until 12 February 2016 to make written submissions to prevent the power supply being cut.

In my capacity as the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Local Government in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament, I will write to the Executive Mayor of Kannaland Municipality, Jeffrey Donson, calling on him to submit a plan on adhering to the payment agreement that is currently in place with Eskom.

If Mayor Donson fails to do so by close of business on Friday 22 January 2016, I will lay criminal charges against him for mal-administration.

The Kannaland Municipality, as governed by the Independent Civic Organisation of South Africa (ICOSA), is ducking accountability by simply asking for an increase in its equitable share from National Treasury. At a time when the national fiscus is taking serious strain, it is up to the political leadership to innovate sustainable models of administration.

The 25 000 residents of the Kannaland Municipality, who stand to lose their power supply, are being let down dismally by ICOSA. The ICOSA-led Kannaland Municpality must be wholly accountable for this mess and they must come to the fore with sustainable solutions in the interest of its electorate.

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No excuse for delays in MECs’ appointment

By Andrew Louw, MPL, DA Provincial Leader in the Northern Cape:

The Democratic Alliance calls on the premier of the Northern Cape to take the provincial administration seriously. There is no excuse for the delays in the appointment of a permanent Member of the Executive Council for Education and for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. Both of these portfolios are pivotal in driving provincial growth and require a permanent appointee.

Why does it take the ANC-led administration so long to make permanent appointments and when will it begin to prioritise provincial interests over internal party matters? The province and its people matter more than a political party. When former premier Hazel Jenkins suffered a stroke, it took more than a year to appoint a new premier.

We are not casting aspersions on the work being done by either of the acting MECs. But it is inhumane to expect that one person can do justice to both the crucial portfolios of Health and Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. We know that Mac Jack has made all the right noises about service delivery, but there simply isn’t enough time in the day for him to do everything that these demanding portfolios require.

Likewise, Education requires full-time attention which should not be split with the equally important portfolio of Transport, Safety and Liaison. It was recently revealed that the provincial pass rate for grade 12 learners has decreased by 7%, including a decrease in bachelors’ passes of 3.6%, a decrease of 6.4% in the Mathematics pass rate and a decrease of 6.1% in Physical Sciences. While the quality of education offered to learners declines, violent crimes such as assault and robbery have shown an increase in 2015. We need two different MECs who can devote their attention full-time to delivering quality education on the one hand and safe communities on the other.

Not only is the premier neglecting her duty to appoint competent members of her executive, but she is failing to appoint permanent heads of departments. There has also been a number of vacancies among heads of department in the province, including a vacancy in the Provincial Treasury since October 2014 and in the Department of Economic Development and Tourism since November 2014.

One cannot run a spaza shop like this, let alone a province.

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Letter to the Editor – All the President’s Men

By Francois Rodgers, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance:

JACOB Zuma’s dismissal of Finance Minister Nene can only be described as absurd during the current challenging global economic times. Even more bizarre is that the President offered no substantial reason for this move.

It is evident that this is a Luthuli House decision based on power and in particular power surrounding the President. Again, it is nothing more than the President surrounding himself with “yes” men or “all the president’s men”!

It is abundantly clear that the President has no understanding of economics and the impact of his rash decisions will impact most on the poorest of the poor. The immediate reaction of SA’s rand following the announcement is a fine example.

But then this is a President who can’t differentiate between a thousand and a billion or a million when publicly speaking on finance.

Zuma’s new appointee, David van Rooyen, is mostly unknown in the financial market with most of his experience obtained in the field of municipal finance.

His subsequent Twitter comments send shivers down the spine – “not even my first day on the job and the rand is already at a record high! This gig is going to be a piece of Woolies red velvet cake#askiji” followed by “Everybody just chill. I got this”.

The astounding developments of the past few days will no doubt have a detrimental effect, not only on our country but also on investor confidence in KZN – this at a time when we least need it.

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Nene’s firing is reckless and irrational

By Mmusi Maimane MP, Leader of the Democratic Alliance:

Tonight’s announcement by President Zuma that he has fired Nhanhla Nene as Finance Minister is a reckless and dangerous move that further damages our country’s economy. Accompanied by no reasons for such a drastic move, one can only conclude that tonight’s action is yet another example of how President Zuma puts himself first and the country second.

It is common knowledge that Nhanhla Nene sought to reign in excessive government spending and was causing too much of a blockage for President Zuma in respect of the nuclear procurement deal and SAA. President Zuma has made one thing very clear tonight: if you stand in my way as Finance Minister and seek to introduce fiscal prudence, you will find yourself redeployed and cast aside. A Zuma ANC government has no regard for sensible finance policy that puts South Africa first.

Tonight’s firing of Nhanhla Nene has already had profoundly negative effects on the rand which has plummeted since news of the announcement broke. This is sure to make the plight of the unemployed in South Africa even more difficult.

The appointment of David van Rooyen as Finance Minister provides no assurance that our economy is in safe hands. The fact that President Zuma waited until after last Friday’s rating assessments to make this decision shows that he knew this was a bad decision.

By President Zuma’s own admission, Mr Nene “has done well […] during a difficult economic climate”, so it makes absolutely no sense for him to be fired.

President Zuma has again proven himself to be a President incapable of making the right decisions to set South Africa on a path to increased economic growth and job creation.

At this time, our country requires strong economic leadership. Tonight’s decision is the complete opposite.

As the DA, we will subject Minister van Rooyen to close oversight as he begins his tenure. And we will intensify our efforts to bring change to South Africa. Change that brings strong leadership and a government that puts South Africa and its people first.

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Gauteng drought: Plans on paper don’t feed the destitute

By Adriana Randall MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC on Finance:

Indigent families of Cullinan, Rayton, Refilwe and surrounding areas in Tshwane bear the brunt due to the lack of political will to assist these communities with financial aid.

I therefore urge the MEC for Agriculture, Lebogang Maile, to direct drought relief funds to the small scale emerging farmers.

The drought has impacted small scale farmers more than commercial and with no assistance forthcoming from the government at this stage, jobs will be lost and farmers will be forced to stop their operations.

Cullinan and surrounds are well known for their Protea flowers, these flowers are exported to others countries and available to local flower shops, the drought has had a major impact on the industry.

What is of great concern is that the much talked about Tshwane Agro Processing Hub is still mostly just a pipe dream and for most of these small scale farmers it will be too little too late.

A total amount of R5.4m was budgeted over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. In 2015/16, R1.7 million will be made available for a feasibility study and business plan, and 2016/17 R1.8million to commence with the project implementation plan.

These plans are more of the same, these papers won’t feed families nor restore the dignity of the community.

The DA together with the communities of Cullinan, Rayton, Refilwe  and surrounds have started our own community forum to address the challenges many small scale farmers face.

MEC Maile must meet with the community forum, hear their plight and monetarily assist these communities.

The DA will not stand by and see jobs being shed and the livelihoods of farmers seen degrading. The buck stops with the MEC and he must address this matter as soon as possible.

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New Gaming and Betting Amendment Bill a victory for the people of KZN

By Francois Rodgers, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance:

Yesterdays Finance Portfolio committee meeting, held to adopt amendments to the controversial KZN Gaming and Betting Amendment Bill , was a victory for the people of KZN after all of the contentious proposals objected to by the DA were removed.

The changes mean that KZN Finance MEC, Belinda Scott will now have to regulate the limitations of any gaming or betting outlets at retail shopping centres, religious centres and schools.

This after the previous Gaming and Betting Board randomly issued gaming licenses in shopping centres with some outlets having a disastrous impact upon more vulnerable communities.

The amendments also ensure that there will no longer be a shift of power away from the legislature to the Provincial executive and that the Finance portfolio committee will continue to play its oversight role of legislation pertaining to the industry.

This is a victory in terms of the separation of powers.

The meeting also saw the committee’s outright objection to the extremely contentious amendment -brought about and heavily punted by Finance MEC Belinda Scott -that a single and exclusive KZN horseracing licence be issued for a minimum of 15 years.

The DA is satisfied that this proposal will never see the light of day.  The move is a victory for freedom, fairness and opportunity for any role player wanting to enter the horse racing industry.

The people of KZN have spoken and the DA has heard their concerns.  This is how government should function – people and their rights must be placed above all else.

The DA will continue to closely monitor the performance of the Board and MEC Scott in the implementation of the Act.

Gaming and Betting is a sensitive industry but if strictly regulated and controlled it has the potential to play a major role in driving KZN’s economy and assist in development through revenue collection and job creation, which are the key to a brighter future.

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DA to object to unconstitutional KZN Gaming and Betting Bill

By Francois Rodgers, MPL, DA KZN Spokesperson on Finance:

The DA will, at Tuesday’s Finance portfolio committee, object to the current proposed KZN Gaming and Betting Amendment Bill and will table amendments to ensure that this Bill addresses the various challenges currently facing the industry in our province.

The DA firmly believes that the Bill in its present form does not adequately address current problems related to the issuing of licences and the location of gambling sites in our province.

This is borne out by the groundswell of community protest against gaming licences in shopping malls, near learning institutes and places of worship over the past year in KZN.  It is patently clear that that they would have a negative impact on vulnerable communities.

Certain clauses within the Bill also signal a worrying shift of certain strategic powers relating to the gaming industry being removed from KZN’s Legislature and handed to provincial Finance MEC, Belinda Scott and the KZN Executive.

This is unconstitutional. The MEC already fulfils an executive function and the conferring of legislative and judiciary functions is in direct conflict with the doctrine of separation of powers.

The DA will oppose this dangerous amendment and ensure that a sole mandate is not given to the Executive so that all relevant stakeholders are able to play a constructive role in the gaming industry.

A further serious concern is the Bill’s proposal that MEC Scott issue directives to the Gaming and Betting Board relating to the single exclusive right racecourse operator licence, with the proposal that this licence be valid for a period of at least 15 years.

This amendment is in direct contravention of section 54 of the National Act which enforces that the gambling and betting industries in the country are not closed off to competition but subject to normal market forces.

This proposal will spell the death knell for other role players in the province and will entrench a monopolistic position of race course and totalizator operators in the province.

It is also clear that if this clause is adopted, Gold Circle will be given sole rights in this province.

The DA has been reliably informed that MEC Scott and many of her close family are current members of Gold Circle.  If this is true then the MEC has a vested interest in the outcome of the clause and it is then no small wonder that she has played a key role in this proposal and the motivation thereof.

KZN’s Gaming and Betting Bill has divided the ANC caucus in the provincial legislature and it is no longer clear who is calling the shots.  This Bill has stumbled through the legislative process, from being a matter of ‘life or death’ to being placed on the backburner.

It is currently being driven with some aggression in KZN again – despite the fact that the legal team dealing with its contents are still awaiting opinions on certain contentious amendments.

The question is why – especially when the National Act is still under review.  Surely it would be more beneficial to await the finalisation of this process.

The DA can only assume that this rush is pre-empted by a proposed change of leadership in the province which has led to certain individuals taking a keen interest in the adoption of the Bill ahead of a much-rumoured KZN cabinet reshuffle.

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DA stages walk-out to halt Gauteng adjustment budget

By Adriana Randall MPL, DA Gauteng Shadow MEC on Finance:

The DA today walked out of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, and prevented the 2015/16 Gauteng Midterm Adjustment budget from being tabled and approved.

The walk-out comes as a result of the ANC’s refusal to adhere to due process as set down by the Division of Revenue Act (DorA) and hold public consultation meetings as is required by law.

In Gauteng, no effort was made to advertise public hearings for feedback on the bill for the public to comment on where funds would be allocated in the midterm adjustment budget.

One of the reasons for this must surely have been the allocation of an additional R 135 million to the e-Tolls project, which the ANC is insistent on rubber stamping despite massive public contempt for the project.

This government, despite its talk of transparency, refuses to walk the walk.

The Standing Rules of Order of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature demand that a majority of all members must be present when a vote is taken on a Bill or amendment to a Bill.

The DA’s walk-out reduced the numbers in the house to less than the required 37, force Speaker Ntombi Mekgwe to defer the bill to the next sitting.

The Legislature is scheduled to rise for recess tomorrow.

The DA will not stand by and watch institutions and the mechanisms of democracy erode because the ANC chooses to trade transparency for expediency.

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DA debates 2014/15 Finance Annual Report

The following speeches were delivered in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature today by the DA’s Adriana Randall MPL and Mike Moriarty MPL during a debate on the 2014/15 Annual Report for the Department of Finance.

 

Speech by
Adriana Randall MPL

“Finance department drastically lacking critical skills”

  • One of the areas of underperformance for the period under review was the funded vacant posts, with Administration underspending the appropriated budget by R32m or 14%.
  • The transformation of the GDF into an ICT department for the Gauteng Province requires a continuous and an uncompromising acquisition of the required skills. Development and training of employees MUST BE considered one of the highest priorities within the department.
  • The department needs to perform a resource Gap analysis, establish a prioritised list of initiatives, provide a risk assessment of all high-level initiatives, provide an actionable 3-year ICT plan.

The full speech can be obtained here.

 

Speech by

Mike Moriarty MPL

“ICT must be capitalised on to enhance Gauteng’s financial standing”

  • The problem of vacant posts in the department, particularly in ICT shared services, still persists, as it has for a while, and this problem appears to be continuing into the current financial year. Previously, we were told that the DPSA had to approve a new staff structure, but more than a year later, the problem persists.
  • It concerns me greatly that R499 320 was spent on a single consultant for a single day’s work to provide consulting and advisory services on the E-government strategy. This must be the most expensive daily rate a consultant has charged in the history of the GPG – almost half a million rand.
  • As we go forward, the investment into the Gauteng Broadband Network should yield more government to citizen services.

The full speech can be obtained here

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Operation Hlasela: Another failed project – now you see the money, now you don’t!

By Roy Jankielsohn, Leader of the Official Opposition in the Free State Provincial Legislature:

Another Operation Hlasela project in the Free State has been exposed as a disaster that will cost the Free State Development Corporation (FDC) R10 million.

In 2013 Premier Ace Magshule announced that a medical supplies project with Unicore Trading (Pty) Ltd would open in Kroonstad as part of Operation Hlasela. The project would initially have provided 150 jobs which would have been expanded to 300. Since no such facility was established, it is improbable that this loan will ever be repaid and appears to be another one of Magashule’s Hlasela tricks that make money magically disappear.

In a statement in 2010 the Free State Provincial Government indicated that Unicore in Kroonstad would manufacture medical products such as bandages, gauzes, abdominal swabs, hospital linen, uniforms, linen savers, etc. Parys was earmarked for the establishment of a full safety product manufacturing facility that would produce arc flash suits, fall arrest harnesses and belts, chemical suits, etc. Sasolburg was identified as a location for medicals product extrusion plant producing face masks, chest drains, nasal cannulae suction catheters, etc. These projects were meant to serve as “a springboard into Africa” and as suppliers to the Free State and other provincial Departments of Health.

Former MEC for the Department of Tourism and Economic Development, Mxolisi Dukwana, announced the projects in his budget speech in 2011 as a “R35 million investment of a huge high tech medical supplies manufacturing facility, Unicore, in Kroonstad. This establishment is set to provide 300 jobs once it is fully operational. This project is a pilot for other manufacturing enterprises to set up in Parys and Sasolburg, which will ultimately form part of the Free State manufacturing triangle.” Adamant not to miss an opportunity, Magashule announced this as part of his Operation Hlasela projects in 2013.

A reply to a question from the DA to the MEC for Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Mr Sam Mashinini, indicates that the Unicore project has ceased and with it probably the R10 million non-interest bearing “soft loan” to that company by the FDC. In terms of the loan the company would only have paid the first instalment in 2021. He indicated that the depot “was since closed due to the competition against imports pricing challenges”.

The DA confirmed that this project was never operational and is just another Operation Hlasela failure along with others such as the Vrede Dairy and Diyatalawa Agri-Village projects.

The question remains whether Operation Hlasela was established to benefit the people of the Free State, or as a way of diverting money to benefit individuals who are part of the ANC’s closed crony society?

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