NEWS & ANALYSIS

Gwen Ngwenya returns as head of policy – DA

FedEx also says economy remains single biggest threat to a shared, prosperous future for all

DA is rebuilding, refocusing and reconnecting with the people of South Africa

24 November 2019

Over the past two days, the Democratic Alliance’s Federal Executive (FedEx) convened for its first sitting since the election of the party’s new Interim Federal Leader and Interim Federal Chairperson. The FedEx discussed and decided upon matters of importance to the party and the nation and this press statement serves to communicate such.

The FedEx began by congratulating John Steenhuisen and Ivan Meyer on their election as Interim Federal Leader and Interim Federal Chairperson respectively. The FedEx was unanimous in giving its full support to and confidence in the leadership, and fully endorsed the new direction in which the party will head towards the 2021 Local Government Elections and beyond.

In their remarks to the meeting, the new Interim Leadership provided the FedEx with the following key principles upon which the DA must embrace in its new direction.

Firstly, it is vital that the party goes back to the basics, guided by the Interim Federal Leader’s insistence on the “ABCs” of politics – Activism, Branches and Campaigning. To reaffirm the DA at the rational centre of our political spectrum will require us to make the hard yards and avoid shortcuts at all costs. This is the only way to re-establish “clear blue water” between the DA and other political parties and their respective offers to the electorate.

Secondly, it was laid down that members of FedEx and the party as a whole should, even during moments of debate and disagreement, always maintain a culture of respect, openness and transparency. Now is the time for greater discipline in our unity of purpose. Now is a time for big ideas and big principles – not big personalities.

Thirdly, there was a firm commitment made to rebuild, refocus and reconnect with the people of South Africa. This will be a collective effort and it is all hands on deck – from the Federal Leaders to branch members.

And lastly, the recent report released by the Auditor-General, Kimi Makwetu, highlighted the DA governance difference, with 70% of Departments in the Western Cape receiving clean audits. This means that public money is being used carefully for service delivery and development, and not stolen. FedEx particularly congratulated Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, the Western Cape MEC for Health, as being the only Health MEC in the country to receive a clean audit.

The FedEx held extensive engagement on a wide range of issues as follows:

The Economy

The South African economy remains the single biggest threat to a shared, prosperous future for all. Runaway unemployment rates, the collapse of SOEs, and growing inequality signal that the status quo remains Recent pronouncements made by the national government are yielding little to no tangible change to the economy and to the lives of South Africans – in particular the poor and unemployed. Our job is to work hard to provide hope and opportunity to the over 10 million unemployed South Africans.

A decade ago our national debt sat at 30% of GDP. Today it is almost 60% of GDP, and Treasury expects this to climb to 80% by 2028.The country is fast running out of money and we are staring down the barrel of economic and fiscal collapse.

Our sole focus must be to open up, diversify and grow the economy. The DA will drive this agenda through the National Assembly by pursuing the following five pieces of crucial legislation:

The Cheaper Electricity Bill to provide the legislative framework to lower the cost of electricity and boost the reliability of supply – both of which are critical to the performance of our economy. This will split Eskom into two, allowing Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to come on board and provide electricity to our much-strained grid;

The Public Finance Management Amendment Bill to extend Parliament’s oversight capacity in relation to the granting or refusal of government guarantees, indemnities and securities;

The Labour Relations Amendment Bill to protect the public from violence and intimidation during strike action, as well as from malicious destruction of private property. It also seeks to allow non-striking workers the freedom to go to work without intimidation or threats;

The Red Tape Impact Assessment Bill that will slash red tape and over-burdensome bureaucracy, making it easier for SMMES and businesses to create new jobs; and

The Small Enterprises Ombud Service Bill to address the problem of delayed payments and bullying by big business through the establishment of an Ombud Service to create a level playing field between small businesses, big businesses and government.

In terms of South African Airways (SAA), FedEx endorsed the position to put SAA under business rescue in order to mitigate any further loss of revenue and to ensure that the entity is a going concern. SAA is losing an estimated R52 million per day and is a ticking timebomb. The only sustainable solution is to seek part or full privatisation of the beleaguered SOE and we call on President Ramaphosa to take a firm stance against his union friends in favour of economic stability..

Our nation’s growing inequality strengthens the DA’s view that redress is a non-negotiable in SA, however redress is not best advance through race-based interventions. Undeniably, the majority of the poor are black, but if we fail to look at disadvantage holistically we will not build a prosperous country for all, and we will not achieve meaningful and lasting redress.

It is crucial that we set out clear markers of disadvantage and this will be a central aspect at the party’s Policy Conference in April next year.

National Drought Crisis

Our country is in the midst of a crippling drought crisis which requires immediate intervention by all spheres of government. Currently there are one million farms at risk, jeopardizing trade, national food security, and hundreds of thousands of jobs. Since January 2018, 31 000 jobs have been shed in provinces affected by the drought. It is time for government to take ownership of drought management or face being an accomplice to the collapse of province’s rural economy and to large scale job losses.

Earlier this month, Parliament was informed by national government that R1.3 billion is needed to contain the effects of the ongoing drought crisis and its impact on the agricultural sector.

FedEx welcomes the Western Cape government’s decision to provide R50 million in additional funding for drought relief in the province. We call on all other provinces to follow suit by invoking Section 25 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) to set aside funds for drought relief.

In addition to extra funding, the DA proposes the following three immediate interventions:

A declaration of a national drought state of disaster to mitigate the effects of the ongoing national drought crisis;

The creation of a temporary jobs fund to assist with the paying of wages of some of the worst-hit farms. A temporary jobs fund will not only help prevent further job losses, but it will help free up much-needed funds to provide for livestock feed, water infrastructure, borehole drilling, desilting of dams and covering any replanting costs.

The establishment of an inter-departmental task team between the National Treasury, Department of Water and Sanitation, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development to develop a strategy for the completion of big-budget water infrastructure projects. Government’s chronic inability to manage big-budget capital projects has largely contributed to the ongoing water crisis.

City of Johannesburg

The DA thanks Mayor Mashaba for the work he has done in leading a complex multiparty government and his role in bringing real change to the country’s economic hub. FedEx endorsed the nomination of Councillor Funzi Ngobeni as our candidate for Mayor. The vote for the new Mayor will take place at a Council meeting scheduled for Thursday, 28 November 2019.

We have noted that the EFF will field a mayoral candidate and we assume the ANC will do the same. We are confident that we have the support of our formal coalition partners, and we will work together to ensure that Joburg does not fall back into the hands of coalition of corruption, as is the case in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Head of Policy & Policy Conference

Considering the party’s Policy Conference scheduled for 4 & 5 April next year, FedEx considered the appointment of a Head of Policy. It is critical that a Head of Policy is appointed as soon as practically possible in order to get the ball rolling as it relates to the Policy Conference.

The position of Head of Policy will be employed as a staff member and tasked with implementing political decisions and direction as it pertains to policy.

Despite this appointment being an HR process, and not a political process, FedEx considered both the job description and the individual who has been identified to fill this role.

Having begun the policy process some months ago before her resignation, Gwen Ngwenya, has been identified to fill this role. Gwen brings with her enormous experience and talent as it pertains to policy. The process to appoint her is fully underway.

Conclusion

The time for excuses, taking voters for granted and being unclear about who we are and what we are about is over. We are working hard to rebuild, refocus and reconnect with the people of South Africa. The project we are engaged in is too important to fail because South Africa is running out of both time and money. The DA is ready to build a united and prosperous South Africa for all.

Issued by Solly Malatsi, DA National Spokesperson, 23 November 2019