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Viewpoint by Thulas Nxesi

CORRUPTION: THE NUMBER ONE ENEMY OF THE NDR: REFLECTIONS ON THE RECENT ALLIANCE SUMMIT AND THE CORROSIVE EFFECTS OF CORRUPTION BY THULAS NXESI

The Summit took place as we are entering the 2nd phase of our transition which we have proclaimed as the radical phase of socio-economic transformation that will usher in social justice for our masses and decisively take forward our National Democratic Revolution. The present conjuncture calls for an honest appraisal of the challenges we face and the tasks necessary to take forward the NDR.

Viewpoint by Edna Molewa

CLIMATE JUSTICE IS A POLITICAL ISSUE BY EDNA MOLEWA

When the drafters of our Constitution located environmental rights within the context of the Bill of Rights, they evidenced not only foresight, but also an unwavering commitment to recognizing the rights of future generations. South Africa is one of the few countries around the globe where environmental rights are constitutionally protected - thanks to the policy instruments put in place by the African National Congress (ANC).

Viewpoint by Busani Ngcaweni

TUNNEL VISION TAKES ITS TOLL ON OUTA BY BUSANI NGCAWENI

Scintillating or dumbfounding? That is the dilemma I faced after putting myself through the 331 pages of Wayne Duvenage's book, "The E-Tolls Saga". Was it three and a half hours well spent on a chilly Wednesday morning, especially for a miserably slow reader like myself, I wondered.

GOOD STORY TO TELL

 

VIEWPOINT BY THULAS NXESI

CORRUPTION: THE NUMBER ONE ENEMY OF THE NDR: Reflections on the recent Alliance Summit and the corrosive effects of corruption

Cde Thulas Nxesi is the Deputy Chairperson of the SACP, Member of the ANC NEC and Minister of Public Works

Prelude:

The recent Alliance Summit provided an opportunity for a brutally honest and critical introspection of where we are, where we are going, and where we are supposed to be. We were reminded of the milestones of our revolutionary path travelled so far:

  • It is 60 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter in Kliptown - a beacon of hope and a blueprint for our struggle for social justice and total emancipation of our masses.
  • It is 70 years since the defeat of fascism that almost engulfed the world during WWII, and this victory occurred after some 46 million lives had been lost.

The Summit took place as we are entering the 2nd phase of our transition which we have proclaimed as the radical phase of socio-economic transformation that will usher in social justice for our masses and decisively take forward our National Democratic Revolution.

The present conjuncture calls for an honest appraisal of the challenges we face and the tasks necessary to take forward the NDR. Allow me to preface my remarks with the words of that great revolutionary African leader, Amilcar Cabral, in 1965, when he issued the following Party directive:

“We must practice revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our party life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victory.”

Corruption: The cancer eating into the bone marrow of our revolution

Allow me to share my experiences at the Department of Public Works since being appointed Minister at the end of 2011. It is here that I have come to realize that pervasive levels of corruption, tenderpreneurship and the insidious relationship between business and politics - and the counter-revolutionary threats that these pose to our struggle for social justice. This poses one of our greatest practical and reputational risks.

Indeed the enemies of the Tri-partite Alliance and the NDR have focused on this weakness and made it their rallying point. We appear extremely vulnerable when it comes to the public perception of how decisively - or not - we deal with perceived or real instances of corruption in the public sector. Never mind that the bulk of real corruption, in multi-billion rand terms, is taking place in the private corporate sector. Here I am reminded of Franz Fanon's clinical analysis of the “Pitfalls of National Consciousness” in which he systematically exposes the weaknesses and seduction of the political elite in the post-colonial states in Africa allowing themselves to be co-opted.

In the Summit there was general consensus on the need to combat fraud and corruption and the other practices that weaken our movement. Look at what we said in the Summit Declaration. We condemned:

  • crass displays of wealth and arrogance, and
  • the manipulation of membership through gatekeeping and the use of money to advance individual ambitions and factions based on patronage and nepotism. This behaviour, we said, is also the entry-point for corporate capture and private business interests outside of our formations to undermine organisational processes.
  • The Summit resolved that these deviations must be dealt with firmly and without fear or favour. Those guilty of funding factions and those guilty of accepting money for these purposes must be exposed.
  • Internal disciplinary processes must be pursued speedily and consistently.
  • Where money intended for our organisations is diverted into private pockets, civil and criminal cases must be pursued.
  • Those found guilty in court must be placed on the Registry of National Treasury which makes them ineligible for being awarded public tenders.

We concluded: Let us remind ourselves that leadership of society must be earned through exemplary conduct and adhering to revolutionary morality.

The objective of combatting fraud and corruption is also reflected in the ANC Strategy towards the 2016 Local Government Elections. Our branches are instructed to undertake a performance assessment of current councillors and municipalities during July - before candidate nomination - in order to remove corrupt and incompetent representatives. It is therefore imperative that - at every level of the Alliance - we support and empower honest cadres to carry out this mandate.

Pushing back against corruption

To return to my own experience: so serious were the challenges of fraud and corruption in Public Works, that we took the decision to establish a specific branch - Governance, Risk and Compliance - to lead the fight back against corruption. We have made progress along the following lines:

  • Investigating and prosecuting cases of fraud and corruption. This has resulted in a number of internal disciplinary processes, dismissals and criminal and civil cases;
  • A systematic Risk Analysis of the department has been undertaken to identify areas of risk;
  • A fraud awareness campaign is under way to conscientise and educate employees; and
  • Most importantly a systematic overhaul of procurement processes was undertaken - with the support of the National Procurement Officer of National Treasury - to implement the necessary controls to prevent fraud and corruption at source.

The point I am making is that it is possible to take on the wrong-doers and to radically reduce the opportunities for fraud and corruption.

Lack of decisiveness in dealing with cases of fraud and corruption:

The ANC, in its various congresses and forums, has made several policy pronouncements and adopted resolutions on fighting corruption and dealing with members who may be involved in fraud. But our actions, as some prominent cases spectacularly demonstrate, often portray a lack of resoluteness and firmness, thus creating an impression that we are weak or we are accomplices in these matters. Again our enemies are extracting maximum political mileage from these “own goals,” and as we go from election to election we look more and more vulnerable and defensive.

Indeed the ANC had taken a resolution that comrades should voluntarily leave their positions while investigations or cases against them are being pursued. In the main, we seem to have ignored this resolution, with the result that organisation and institutions have been brought into disrepute and weakened. Yes it is true that we should presume innocence until proven otherwise, but surely it should be possible for comrades to take leave, or be made to take leave, while court processes are underway - especially when these cases impact on their work and the image of the government. On being given a clean bill of health or proven innocent, then comrades can resume their duties.

Concluding observations

Even when we finally intervene, the opposition forces take credit for having been responsible for our eventual, if delayed, reaction. These perceptions, cumulatively, may become internalized in the collective psyche of our nation - unless we fundamentally change our approach and strategy on these matters. This too, has given a bad name to a well-intentioned strategic cadre deployment which has now been interpreted as some kind of patronage-client network. Comrades, it is necessary to correct these cancerous weaknesses in our system. If we don't, we open ourselves to the risk of being engulfed by counter-revolutionary tendencies from the right and from the pseudo-left.

Comrades, corruption is killing us:

  • It sets comrades against each other
  • It demoralises honest cadres and officials
  • It is the common denominator across labour unions experiencing internal divisions - a phenomenon we have called 'business unionism'. Comrades, if you are an elected leader, in the unions, or in other structures, or a public servant - step away from those tenders. You have no business being involved in business.

As part of our preparations for local elections in 2016, as the ANC, we have to conduct a comprehensive audit of the performance of our representatives - local councillors. It is about service delivery, but it is also about identifying fraud and corruption and taking the necessary action to remove cadres who do not measure up to the standards of revolutionary morality that we set for ourselves.

Viewpoint by Edna Molewa

VIEWPOINT: EDNA MOLEWA

Cde Edna Molewa is a member of the ANC NEC and Minister of Environmental Affairs

 

Climate Justice is a Political Issue

When the drafters of our Constitution located environmental rights within the context of the Bill of Rights, they evidenced not only foresight, but also an unwavering commitment to recognizing the rights of future generations.

South Africa is one of the few countries around the globe where environmental rights are constitutionally protected – thanks to the policy instruments put in place  by the African National Congress (ANC).

In characterizing the National Democratic Society, the amended Strategy and Tactics document of the ANC, as adopted by the 53rd National Conference in Mangaung, defines a developmental state as one defined by, inter alia “sustainable utilization of natural endowments and the protection and regeneration of the environment as an inheritance of current and future generations.”

This is because, we as a progressive organization, recognize that this country’s rich endowment of natural resources and mineral deposits, if used responsibly, can serve the current and the future generations in creating a more diverse and inclusive economy, at the same time addressing job creation, poverty eradication and inequality elimination as well as advancing radical socio-economic transformation.

The ANC is by its very nature a party wherein environmental rights and environmental justice have long been recognized as cornerstones for building an inclusive, sustainable society and future.

Further to this, sustainable development for the benefit of the country and all who live in it: is a constitutionally protected principle.

Climate change threatens to severely undermine the development gains made by our young democracy in the past twenty years. Developing countries such as ours are at greater risk because of resource extraction, reliance on fossil fuels and the vulnerability of indigent communities.

To this end, policy instruments put in place by the ANC government address developmental challenges in a sustainable manner; meaning that in every development, the three pillars of sustainable development are being considered, namely, the people (social aspects), the economy (prosperity) and environmental (ecology) factors.

The ANC has in all its National Conference resolutions, repeatedly underscored the call for the country to contribute towards the global shift to a low-carbon development path. As a result, we have in place a National Climate Change Response Policy that charts the course for actions that are both developmental and transformational.

Through our Green Economy strategy we continue to work towards promoting equitable, inclusive, sustained and environmentally sound economic growth and social development: to the benefit of all.

To ensure that our country’s food, water, energy security and infrastructure are not negatively impacted by climate change we have developed Long Term Adaptation Scenarios to inform adaptation planning and implementation.

Our priority focus areas are communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, particularly the indigent, the rural dwellers, and women.

Furthermore, as outlined in the Integrated Resource Plan, by 2030 we aim to have decreased our fossil energy demand significantly, and creating alternative renewables through new technological innovation, good behavioral practices and a public commitment to more efficient, sustainable and equitable energy use.

However, because South Africa is a developing country the ANC  has opted to be guided by the overarching principle of sustainability, and of a ‘Just Transition.” We will thus over a reasonable time continue to argue for our development space without being pressured to faster emission reduction and/or faster transit into all other environmental transformation regimes.

As we noted in the 2012 Economic Transformation Policy Discussion Document, in the light of our carbon-intensive economy and export sectors, “South Africa remains particularly vulnerable to climate change response measures taken by developed economies under the banner of mitigation commitments.”

Such response measures, as the policy document notes, “could have serious economic and social consequences for the SA economy and population.”

This week South Africa participated in a high-level event on climate change at UN, where we advanced our country’s position on how we can mobilize political momentum on ambitious mitigation, adaptation and importantly, means of implementation in addressing climate change.

The consideration of this topic by the UN comes at an opportune moment when the international community is pursuing another milestone in global climate Agreement-to be concluded in Paris later this year.

South Africa reaffirmed our position; namely a commitment to reaching an Agreement in Paris that is fair, rule-based, binding and applicable to all, and ensures that collectively we can limit temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century.

We once again committed Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) by the set dateline of beginning October 2015. We are currently engaged in an intensive public consultation process to finalize these INDCs, which will cover mitigation, adaptation and means of implementation.

We will continue to forcefully argue that the increasing adaptation burden should be a global responsibility and not be shouldered by  the developing countries alone.

The reality is that less mitigation means more adaptation. We strongly believe as we will continue to argue, that adaptation is a global responsibility that must be treated with the same priority as mitigation. This is the basis of the Africa Group’s proposal for the Paris agreement to outline a global adaptation goal, which is reciprocally linked to the mitigation goal and be linked to the Long term goal.

As the Group of 77 plus China, we help be that Principles of the Convection must still apply, in particular the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and respective Capabilities (CBDR).

It is a fact that though climate change is a global problem, its effects are not being evenly felt.  Countries such as ours will bear the brunt, especially in Africa where 95 per cent of agriculture is rainfall dependent.

At issue, fundamentally, is the matter of how developing countries’ contributions to the global effort to combat climate change will be supported, and whether the obligation to provide this support should be legally binding on developed countries.

In light of the fact that the developed expects more commitments from developing countries, despite their ongoing poverty and developmental challenges, it is concerning to note that there are currently no indications of the scale of support to be provided for post-2020 action from developing countries. This has the potential to undermine confidence in the Paris process. As a minimum, developed countries should communicate their support undertakings for the period 2020 to 2030, even if only at indicative levels at this stage.

Provision can then be made in the Paris agreement for a process to communicate more concrete support provisions in line with donor country budget appropriation processes.

As developing countries we are seeking an equitable regime that reinforces multilateralism and offers hope, confidence and trust for those vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

At the Paris conference we have within our grasp the will to set the development of a fair, ambitious, rules-based and legally binding multilateral global climate change system that supports the transition to lower carbon and climate resilient economies.

Viewpoint by Busani Ngcaweni

VIEWPOINT: BUSANI NGCAWENI

Cde Busani Ngcaweni is a member of the ANC and Civil Servant

 

Tunnel Vision Takes its Toll on OUTA

Scintillating or dumbfounding? That is the dilemma I faced after putting myself through the 331 pages of Wayne Duvenage's book, "The E-Tolls Saga". Was it three and a half hours well spent on a chilly Wednesday morning, especially for a miserably slow reader like myself, I wondered.

Appreciating the daunting task of putting together a book with demanding publishers like Pan Macmillan, the first adjective rang true. One is always fascinated by the idea of another South African book hitting the bookshelves. Even more so when the author is someone you know and better still, when the subject in question is as familiar as the "E-Tolls Saga" which Duvenage writes about.

As one thinks hard of the contents and conclusions of the book, the switch to dumbfounding looms larger than the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. How did Wayne arrive at this point, downplaying all the facts and science before him?

Let us look at two major conclusions in the book to test its rigour. Hopefully, in the end, readers will make up their own minds about whether to treat the book as an intellectual canon on public policy or just a collection of thoughts and media statements meant to amplify a narrow ideological standpoint.

The book concludes that sustaining the electronic mode of payment to charge users of the Gauteng freeway network is illegitimate because the public was not adequately consulted and where they were, they overwhelmingly "rejected the e-tolls".

Yet it is a matter of public record that for more than two years prior to the adoption of the new e-toll dispensation, government listened to the public's concerns and responded to legitimate perceptions about the costs of transport associated with e-tolling.

In addition, following another round of consultations, the new dispensation offers reduced maximum limits for all users and a simplified system which will allow infrequent users of the e-tolled roads defined free passage.

During these consultations on the future of e-tolling on the Gauteng freeways, a multitude of factors were taken into account, one of which was how to best look after the interests of poor and marginalised communities.

One of the notable dynamics of the opposition to open road tolling has been the way in which the interests of disparate groupings in society converged into common opposition to a system designed to find a long-term solution to the legacy of apartheid spatial planning.

Middle-class interests, predictably, took a populist approach to build an anti-government narrative. The most vocal opponents of e-tolling shared a common agenda with opposition political parties and received ready funding and logistical support for their campaigns.

The book documents some of these marriages of convenience crowned by the DA's funding of OUTA, thus making it difficult to believe that OUTA is not the party's civil society proxy.

Political expediency took precedence over a purely infrastructural matter. In what has since become a theatre of the liberal offensive, we saw a manifestation of what Mahatma Gandhi identified as one of the seven social sins: politics without principle. Look no further than the Western Cape where the tolling of Chapman's Peak is embraced, but maybe only just, and no further.

Even as we have referred to recent consultation processes which build on the work that started around 2007, we fail to understand why Duvenage would come to the dishonest conclusion that there had been no consultation and if there was, it was just "a farce".

In Gauteng Premier Makhura's review panel processes, records show that many submissions called for the retention of e-tolls, albeit with lower caps and administrative simplicity. As asserted in this article, that has been taken care of in the new dispensation and compliance is expected to rise over the next two years.

The second dumbfounding and perhaps most ideologically pointed conclusion in the book regards the fuel levy as an alternative to e-tolls.

Rehashing hundreds of his press statements on the matter, the author sees higher fuel levies as a panacea to pay for an improved freeway system without explaining to the public the downstream impact on transport costs, inflation and the prices of all consumer goods.

Fuel levy lobbyists have often expressed the view that e-tolling would place an additional burden on the poor who pay an inordinate percentage of their income on transport-related costs.

The reality is that research by various scholars shows in great detail why the user-pay principle is the most effective method to pay for vital economic infrastructure and restrict the burden on the poor.

The fuel levy is not a user pay mechanism because it is indiscriminatine. So, for example, a car owner and or taxi operator confined to Tembisa, let's say, can't be exempted even though he does not use the GFIP network. Taking science into account, the Premier's panel advised against the fuel levy.

Compared to a fuel levy, e-tolling is a flexible system which can be easily adapted to provide relief for commuters who make use of public transport or who plan their journeys to take place outside peak hours. This is exactly what Government has done, through the National Department of Transport, with its decision to exempt registered public transport from e-tolling in Gauteng.

Given the fact that close to 69% of the population of Gauteng use taxis to commute, the exemptions make e-tolling the most pro-poor alternative for the funding of the freeway system.

Other methods such as fuel taxes and a hike in licence fees will have a direct impact on public transport operators and immediately get passed on to the commuters in the form of higher fares. Yet we all agree that much and urgent integrated public transit sytem in Gauteng is overdue.

The reality is that Government's decision -- made almost a decade ago -- to improve the Gauteng freeway network and to finance it through an open-road tolling system, was not taken in a huff. Public policy making is much more conscientious than suggested.

It grew out of a clear recognition that well-planned and well-maintained roads are only some elements of a broader approach to undo the spatial legacy of apartheid, reduce the "commuting burden" - as described by the National Development Plan - and create a more equitable transport system.

The new dispensation continues to recognise poor communities and has introduced changes which will benefit the poor. The majority of low-income earners use public transport to commute to their places of work. Under the new deal public transport - registered buses and taxis - continue to be exempt from e-tolls.

Imagine Sipho from Soweto who only travels twice a year to Soshanguve to make peace with his in-laws: with new 30 free gantry passes, he does not have to bother about e-tolls. Isn't that a material response to public concerns and reduction of administrative burden on road users?

Finally, the new dispensation ensures that a well-designed and well-maintained national and provincial road network will contribute to government's developmental objectives to address the triple threats of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The thing about writing a book, Mr Duvenage, is that once it is published, you loose your innocence, your privacy and all the privileges that goes with being a normal person. In other words, writing a book is like being elected into political office. You subject yourself to scrutiny, to praise, to a dipper measuring stick. You literately become a subject in the world of literature.

As a book writer myself (and Mr Duvenage has contributed a chapter on e-tolls in one my of my books), I wish to congratulate Wayne for this achievement.

It takes courage to condense one's story in book form especially in South Africa where publishers always think of money first and the story later. Whilst I vehemently disagree with the main storyline in this book (especially the suggestion that e-tolls are threatening the Constitutional order), I commiserate with the nervous condition he experienced throughout the publishing process and understand why close to a quarter of the book is tautologous.

Again, I empathize: book writing is a punishing enterprise especially if you collaborate with a journalist who is emotionally attached to the subject you are writing about.

Truth be told, the book should have ended in the dying paragraphs of page 299. It surprising doesn't and adds further politically charged sections which include another ideological let-out where a subtle call is made for a coalition of regime change led by the "Club of Active South African Citizens" modeled along the 1970s "Club of Rome".

In all honesty, although the book fails to declare this, Wayne has scored victories for his constituency. Only if the tunnel can be removed to see this road to success. Facts are: people are now paying less to drive on GFIP. The administration burden has been reduced with measures like 30 free gantry passes. The system is simpler especially when you update your car details - now a FICA requirement. Public transport users and taxis are exempted. The e-tag is not a requirement for registration and compliance. Not paying e-tolls is now a traffic and no longer a criminal offence. Every struggle has minimum and maximum victories. If his was a struggle to reduce the burden on the poor (as often claimed), then isn't maximum victor that OUTA has scored? If it is an ideological stance against the ruling party, then they live to fight another day.

I particularly wish Mr Duvenage well as he contemplates exiting OUTA and embarking on another more difficult road of management consulting.

*Ngcaweni edited "Liberation Diaries: Reflections on 20 Years of Democracy" (Jacana Media, 2014) which featured chapters on E-Tolls and constitutional democracy by Wayne Duvenage and Nazir Alli

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