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Inside OUTA March 2017

Dear OUTA Members and followers

It’s March 2017 and OUTA is now five years old.

The first four years of OUTA’s existence (since March 2012), was focused on the Gauteng e-Toll debacle and these years saw the OUTA team mired in expensive court cases, as the small team of four operated on a low budget to challenge SANRAL’s propaganda and keep society’s moral courage high.

The past year however has seen the organisation transcend well beyond e-tolls, combining effective communications with a funding model that has injected significant energy behind OUTA. We call it people power, with tens of thousands of people donating toward OUTA’s work and a heightened sense of hope and prosperity for South Africa.

2017 is well underway and true to expectations, the political landscape has been mired in controversy and questionable conduct on numerous fronts. OUTA certainly has a mountain of work cut out for it, as we continue to build a team that is focussed on tackling the myriad of issues related to maladministration, corruption and questionable conduct by many in positions of authority.

I’m often asked if there is hope for South Africa. Hope in the sense of good governance, for the people, with improved growth in jobs, investment, GDP, good governance and general national prosperity. My honest response is yes. Absolutely yes. While the volume of wrongdoing and plunder of state coffers continues almost unabated, we are far from a failed state and the signs of change are on the horizon. However, there is a lot of work to be done, and I for one sincerely believe our country has enough good people, legal structures and a range of robust avenues available to society, to halt the brazen conduct of the few in power who have no regard for the people and the future of this country.

Aside from the work of political parties, we believe it is civil activism and principled leadership emerging from our society that is driving a new dynamic of change within South Africa. One that is giving rise to a heightened civil courage, significant enough to develop a schism within the ruling party which is now turning in on itself and is set to break up as a result of sheer greed. When this happens, the gates will open wider for civil society to hold those who perpetrate the past and current wrongdoings to account. This is the journey of OUTA and we’re in it for the long haul.

As we wrap up our fifth financial year end – February 2017 – we briefly pause to acknowledge what a significant year of growth it has been for OUTA. Our annual report is due out next month. It will provide our followers with a comprehensive summary and overview of the projects undertaken by OUTA throughout the past year. Our new era and a broader mandate has taken us well beyond e-Tolls, and along with it, phenomenal growth which has enabled our staff compliment to grow from 11 to 32. OUTA’s new structure includes competencies such as litigation, research, analysis, investigations, communication, administration and leadership (see Table 1). Our manpower growth has been structured to ensure focussed capacity building to tackle the challenges we take on (see table 2).

Hand in hand with the SAA Pilots Association, this month has also seen OUTA’s latest legal action against the Chairperson of SAA, Ms Dudu Myeni to have the High Court declare her to be a “delinquent director”. This charge comes on the back of several incidents under her watch, including the fraudulent BnP Capital transaction which OUTA halted in mid-2016.

Our listed projects are at various stages and take time to bring to closure, with many in the pipeline and yet to get off the ground. What is constant however, is the motivation and determination of our passionate teams who take this job seriously and without whom, OUTA is nothing.

Thank you for playing your part in supporting OUTA and helping to make South Africa great again.

Wayne

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OUTA has been watching the decisions and actions of the SAA Board of Directors under Dudu Myeni’s leadership with increasing dismay, as this once proud airline has spiralled into a death dive due to dubious action and conduct taken by the board under her chairmanship.

In the first week of March 2017, OUTA and the SA Airways Pilots Association lodged legal action requesting the court to find Ms Myeni to be a “delinquent director”, as provided for by the Companies Act (Section 162).  Even though her term of office expires in September this year, (before the Court will decide on the matter), the effect of a successful outcome will mean that she cannot serve on any other board or fulfil an executive role for a minimum of seven years.

So why shut a stable door after the horse will have departed?

Because in simple terms, we need to ensure the horse doesn’t move on to churn up other green pastures and turn them into wastelands. In addition, it is not only about Dudu Myeni, but about deterring other directors of SOE’s who fail in their fiduciary duties and responsibilities to the State and its people.

The waste and corruption by the leadership at SAA is similar to that of other State Owned Entities (SOEs) such as ESKOM, PRASA, SASSA, SABC and others. Pravin Gordhan said in his 2017 Budget Speech he expects “the highest standards of ethical leadership and understanding” from our State Owned Entities. We suspect that neither he nor the taxpayers believe this level of leadership to be possible.

Has Dudu Myeni shown the requisite abilities and integrity?

OUTA and SAAPA will argue that under her watch, there have been unfair suspensions and dismissals of key senior managers, the mismanagement of finances and the misrepresentation of board resolutions to the Minister and Parliament. The airline has been plunged into turmoil and South African taxpayers are forced to fund the rot.

It appears that Ms Myeni has become intoxicated by power. Her close personal links to the President appear to have given her immunity thus far, but we are confident the application to the High Court, to declare her a delinquent director, will stop the incineration of our tax Rands as if they are a constant source of renewable energy.

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As analysis shows, the dire state of financial mismanagement by the SABC is triggering resistance from society toward paying for their TV Licenses and possibly South Africa’s next focussed Tax Revolt (the e-toll revolt was the first).

The Financial Mail has written extensively about the appalling conduct of the Acting CEO – Mr James Aguma, as well as the Minister of Communications and others on the SABC Board. See “SABC broke and broken: How billions in TV licence fees go up in smoke”

While paying one’s TV licence is ‘the right thing to do’, as the jingle goes, this presupposes a moral social contract between the SABC and society which also means the Board will strive to ‘do the right thing’ with the money its licensees pay.

The only good thing that has come out the shocking conduct of SABC’s leadership over the past few years, is that all political parties represented in parliament have been unified as never before, in subjecting the Board and Minister of Communications Faith Mathumbi to relentless scrutiny, and, with ANC members in agreement, are now calling for the President to fire her.

Yet, instead of going out of its way to re-establishing its legitimacy and inspire the public to WANT to start paying their TV licenses, the SABC’s management and its debt collection contractors seem intent on making more enemies by taking a leaf out of SANRAL’s book by antagonising their proper source of revenue by resorting to threats of listings and summonses against them.

OUTA’s research has found that SABC’s debt collectors – Pritchard and Associates was not registered with the Debt Council prior to 23 December 2016 – long after they had started their work with the SABC. This is a direct transgression of the Council of Debt Collectors and OUTA contends that one of the first actions of the new interim board should be to instruct the SABC executive management to take Pritchard and Associates to task for unacceptable conduct.

For any authority to enjoy legitimacy the first rule is to lead by example.

 

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Ten years ago the SA public were generally welcoming of the promise of a system that would use modern computer systems to ensure vehicle registration and records of traffic violations were efficiently managed.

We hoped to see the culture of shockingly bad driving habits change, and a consequent decline in the astronomical rate of road accidents and fatalities, and the rooting out of corruption in the vehicle licensing system.

After a decade of ‘testing’, the system it is still not serving its intended purpose. The change in regulations throughout 2017 were the final attempt to divvy up the system to make it user friendly, and effective. Alas, after endless injections of tax Rands to fix the system OUTA has come to suspect that there is an agenda at work that does not actually WANT AARTO to function, because it would put some corrupting elements out of work if it did. The actual priority seems not to build a functional system, but simply to keep tax money flowing into a bottomless pit, and keep a space open for more illicit tendering.

A recent court challenge by Cornelia van Niekerk of Fines-4-U, has produced a court ruling that has found the AARTO system chronically defective, which will now require the Metro’s of Johannesburg & Tshwane write off virtually all the revenue they would have received for outstanding traffic fines, if the public collectively challenge the legality of enforcement orders set up to block their vehicle or driver license renewals.

 

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Our fight to challenge the nuclear deal continues as we support SAFCEI in their court challenge on the deal which Government prematurely signed with Rosatom – Russia’s Nuclear Energy Agency. OUTA is challenging Eskom’s plans to introduce the Nuclear energy new build program, not in as far as the technology is concerned, but rather, due to its high cost and lack of ability to be financed, more so in the absence of a credible Integrated Resource Plan for Electricity, as well as Eskom’s conduct to keep already approved Independent Power Producers from entering the energy supply grid to the country.

 

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The long running N2 Wild Coast Toll Road saga has become a tax-abuse scenario that is particularly odious because it affects one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged regions of our country.

OUTA has teamed up with Sustaining the Wild Coast and the Amadiba community on the Wild Coast to stop another mega tax abuse: two mega bridges over the Mtentu and Msikaba river gorges priced at around R2 Billion each. These bridges will form an integral part of a new 95 km “green fields” highway that will reduce the distance and time spent travelling the N2 route between the Port Shepstone on the KZN South Coast and Mthatha.

While it is not our intention to halt the need for road infrastructure, especially to rural communities, this specific road’s location and cost is extremely excessive and out of line with far cheaper options that could service the area and not devastate the micro economic hubs along the existing route. At the same time, a realignment of the planned route would make economic sense and probably not require the need to be tolled.

OUTA contributed to the cost of two independent transport economists, Professor Gavin Maasdorp and Mr Allen Jorgensen, to do a reassessment of the economic feasibility of the road. The recommendation from their input indicated that SANRAL should shelve the project given the worsening economic conditions since the original economic studies were done in 2007/8.

Meanwhile Cullinan and Associates, the attorneys representing the Amadiba community are currently preparing court papers to obtain an interdict to stop SANRAL from commencing with the construction of the mega bridges, until the High Court review (which was launched in 2012 but has yet to be heard because of SANRAL’s delay tactics) has been completed.

Many believe that SANRAL’s has a bad case against the Amadiba community’s objections, which may be driving SANRAL to bulldoze ahead to present the court with a fait accompli before it gets to rule on the lawfulness of the scheme. As happened in the Gauteng E-tolls case, the judiciary is generally averse to setting aside an Executive decision, especially if significant ‘sunk costs’ have accumulated.

Moreover, SANRAL have acknowledged that they do not yet have the funds to construct the new 95 km ‘green-fields’ section of the N2 that will connect the mega bridges. So besides manipulating the Judiciary, Cullinan and Associates believes SANRAL is setting things up to also manipulate the Treasury to approve another R8 billion injection of tax revenues, so as to avoid the mega bridges becoming “stranded assets” on the Wild Coast.

 

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In February, OUTA laid a complaint with the Competition Commission to have the dominant position of this state owned entity challenged as a clear abuse of power.

OUTA believes that a separation of control over the two arms of electricity generation and transmission will break Eskom’s stranglehold over the grid (transmission), thereby ensuring that open competition for energy generation at the lowest cost of production will benefit the consumer.

Critics of Eskom have long argued that Eskom has become a generator of money for politically well-connected interests by the monopolistic control of energy generation and distribution, rather than a national public utility with a long term, ecologically sustainable vision and purpose for the common good.

Furthermore, in the light of the unwarranted, corrupt and poor leadership conduct by Eskom Executives that has been highlighted in the Public Protector’s “State of Capture Report” and the “Dentons Report”, OUTA will challenge any further hint of political meddling.

 

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