29 July 2020

 

 

Honourable House Chair, Ministers, Deputy Ministers

Honourable Members

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

The African National Congress supports the Adjustment Appropriation Bill [B10-2020].

 

House Chairperson, allow me to extend my gratitude to everyone who engaged with this process of appropriations adjustment, Honourable Members of SCoA, Members of the Select Committee on Appropriations, the Minister of Finance, Deputy Minister, the Director General and the whole of team Treasury,Also, support staff of both Committees and members of the public who took time to enrich the understanding of issues we are dealing with from their perspective.

 

Honourable members this being the month of tata Nelson Mandela, and next month is the month of Women, celebrating their heroism. President Nelson Mandela and the recently departed Isithalandwe , tata Mlangeni were among the first people who were prepared to realize that the apartheid regime was not prepared to listen to any reasoning. They were responding to peaceful protest with brute force, and therefore it was necessary to meet reactionary force with revolutionary force, in defence of the peace -loving people of our country. I am therefore dedicating my debate today to the women who joined Umkhonto Wesizwe and Azanian People’s Liberation Army, the living and departed, some of them in this House.

 

Madiba understood that before the end of triple oppression of women, our freedom would not be complete. Covid 19 has proven this point beyond any doubt: It was this understanding which prompted him to observe:

The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure”.

 

Honourable Members, the black swan event of COVID-19 pandemic caught everyone by surprise. This one is a catastrophe which has challenged the health and economies of the entire world, challenging the very existence of humanity.

 

No amount of statistical and econometric forecasting, about 5 months ago would have predicted the economic situation we are finding ourselves in today. Honourable Members, the Budget presented by the Minister of Finance, in February, had to be changed. The government is showing its elasticity by mobilizing all resources to face the enemy which is invading our country and the world.

 

The Committee voted for Amendment of Section 6 of appropriations. This is the section which allows the Minister to use funds for unforeseen events. In all appropriations it is always there. The DA said they won’t support it because it will be used to save SAA. Kanti kuchaza ukuthini ukuthi unforeseen? Kahleni bakithi.

 

When this Budget was formulated, hard choices and trade-offs had to be made. So, what characterizes this Bill?

  • mobilizations of resources towards health

  • reprioritisation from programmes and projects which can be postponed without big impact on the economy

  • cut in programs that have over the years underspent

  • reduction in programs where there was going to be obvious savings because of lockdown

 

I know as I step down from here, some of the Members will be coming here, saying how can you cut on infrastructure. The question is from infrastructure to where? It is from infrastructure to infrastructure. But infrastructure relevant to fighting the immediate sly enemy, COVID-19.

 

House Chairperson, let me from the beginning share with this House and South Africans what this Bill is about, and what it is not.

  1. This is an adjustment Bill which was necessitated by COVID-19. Since this was not planned for, government has to respond with a Budget to the new challenges.

  2. If I were to borrow from the Minister of Finance, this is a bridge to MTBPS.

  3. This is an adjustment appropriations mainly dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic, be they social, health and economic.

  4. It is not a substitute to the Medium - Term Budget Policy Statement.

Manje ke lalelani malunga ahloniphekileyo, please don’t bring all clutter which does not belong to what we are busy with here. Yibani amanono. Kusele izinyanga ezintathu kuphela, sifike kuyi MTBPS. Bambani amatomu, ningabi yinhlakanhlaka. Uyeza u- October.

 

 

Honourable Members, government’s intervention has been massive, firstly to provide safety net for its citizens, especially the poorest of the poor, and then assist businesses. These include the following:

 

  1. The R200 billion Credit Guarantee that National Treasury and SARB have provided to business, with very favorable credit conditions. We are concerned by the slow pace of disbursement. We are calling on the MOF to also look at using other agencies like DFIs and provincial development agencies.

  2. R350 grant to millions of unemployed South Africans

  3. COVID-19 Temporary Employment Relief Scheme. To date more than 7 million workers have benefitted, and more than R34 billion disbursed. The ANC welcomes the extension of this very important assistance to workers to 15 August.

  4. R70 billion tax relief has been provided to businesses. This is the combination of an increase in the expanded employment tax incentive amount; fast tracking of VAT refunds; a deferral for the payment of excise taxes on alcoholic and tobacco products; skills development levy, etc.

 

Honourable members we agree with COSATU that this cannot be a blank cheque. The least we expect from businesses is to protect jobs, especially under these trying times. It will be very unfortunate if workers are retrenched. Honourable members we urge all those involved with SABC to do everything to save 600 jobs which are under threat. It is the time when everyone should come to the party. Employers should stop being trigger happy!

 

As we fight this pandemic, let us not forget that we want this adjusted Appropriations Bill to contribute towards re-igniting the economy, we want it to help us face the trilemma of inequality, poverty and unemployment. This appropriations must be part of the building blocks of economic inclusion in our country.

 

The Committee noted with concern that despite a R2 trillion budget, we are unable to use this tool to industrialize and transform the economy. When we interacted with the departments and raising the issue of domestic production, of goods that are used by government, they raised their frustrations about some of the legislation(s) which impede this objective. Importing consumables, Honourable Members, contributes negatively to GDP. But even more worrying, importing things that we can manufacture here is like exporting jobs. We are creating jobs for other people and denying our people these jobs. We are therefore calling on the executive to bring any law which makes localization and economic transformation difficult to this House for Amendment. We make laws and therefore we cannot be prisoners to our own laws.

 

We are very much thrilled that the MOF has allocated R3 billion to the Land Bank. Honourable Minister, we are requesting you to ensure that black and emerging farmers are also funded. We should also look at better lending conditions for these emerging farmers. Positive discriminatory lending criteria should be considered. The importance of agriculture was captured by President of AFDB, Adesina, when he said, “What Africa does with food will determine the future of food, given that 65% of the arable land left to feed the world is here”.

 

As we said, the answer out of the socio-economic condition we find ourselves in is growth, growth, growth! We therefore agree with the President when he opined, “Infrastructure Investments provide both short and long term economic benefits. In the short term, it creates jobs and economic activity as roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, power plants and much else are built”. He continued to say, “We will use this program to support black infrastructure service providers in much the same way as we have supported the emergence of black industrialists”.

 

House Chairperson, we therefore welcome the lightning speed with which 50 strategic infrastructure and 12 special projects worth R340 billion, with massive positive multiplier effects have been gazetted. It is estimated that these will create about 290 000 jobs, with massive opportunities for localization and revival of some of our industries like steel.

 

The intervention meant the government should borrow more, as evidenced by the deficit of R709. 7 billion. Resources should be effectively and efficiently utilized, with maximum impact. The oversight responsibility of Parliament is very very important. We are therefore saying we need to be proactive, let us put mitigating strategies upfront, so that we do not become historical in our approach.

 

Honourable Members, COVID-19 intervention by our government is amongst the biggest in the world. It is important that the money is used effectively and efficiently used for what it is appropriated for. We have learned with the gravest of concerns that the following is happening:

  1. Corruption and misuse of funds

  2. Companies are colluding and overcharging government; in this regard we are heartened by the swift intervention of the Competition Commission. However, we feel that this must be criminalized. These companies get away with murder, they defraud the state, and all what they do, is to pay their way out.

 

Fellow South Africans, this massive intervention in the economy to save lives, companies and jobs should not be an opportunity to defraud the State. The Committee has noted with grave concern that there are companies and individuals who have seen an opportunity to defraud our people of much needed services. Uyabona uma utshotsha noma kufiwe, abadala bathi uyodlula. Ilento eyenzekayo ke manje.

  • abantu nezinkampani badayisela uhulumeni izinsiza ze COVID ngamanani aphezulu;

  • abanye badayisela uhulumeni izimpahla ezingekho ezingeni, ezibeka encupheni labo abazisebenzisayo njengamanesi, abafundi, othisha no Dokotela encupheni

Honourable Members, what is even more disconcerting are the companies who claim from UIF on behalf of their employees, but never transfer the money to them. There are also companies who have been deducting UIF money from their employees over the years but never paid the money to the Department of Labour.

This cancer should be stopped, and stopped now. It is very clear that moral suasion is failing, let the law enforcement agencies do their work without fear or favour. Corruption has no colour or gender. The people of South Africa need to know that all those involved must not just be brought to the book, but must also be blacklisted from doing business with government, its agencies and SOC’s.

 

THE ANC SUPPORTS THE ADJUSTMENT APPROPRIATIONS BILL