Media Releases

Inside OUTA Oct/Nov 2017

Dear OUTA supporters and followers

As with many organisations, the rush to get things done before the end of the year gives the impression of time lost – due to increasing productivity demands. Our role in civil activism is no exception to the general rule of “so much to do – so little time”, as we jockey the priorities of many cases (projects) undertaken by our growing team of professional activists.

There are clear indications of desperation and growing depression within the psyche of society, as the news of state looting continues unabated against the backdrop of the ruling party’s inability to exercise strong leadership.  The “good guys” (whoever they are these days) seem unable to hold the rogue elements within the state to account. Add to this the rising racial tensions, security concerns and a looming junk status downgrade, who can blame anyone for feeling helpless and frustrated at the status quo. Especially when we needn’t be in this situation.

However, the signs of change are here. Never fast enough, but the tide is turning and we must work harder to ease the grip of state capture and steer the nation’s performance in the right direction.  We need to remind ourselves of the successes achieved by civil society, a few of which are:

  • The removal from office of Berning Ntlemeza, Nomgcobo Jiba and others, due to pressure from civil society organisations.
  • The halting of the Nuclear deal earlier this year, following a two-year long legal challenge.
  • The removal of Brian Molefe, Anoj Singh and other Eskom Board members saga along with criminal charges laid against numerous board members of SOE’s and ministers.
  • Hlaudi Motsoeneng was eventually been dealt with and is facing criminal charges, along with the cancellation of many contracts such as TV Licenses collections by Lorna Vision and others.
  • Dudu Myeni has finally left SAA and our legal case to have her declared a Delinquent Director continues to unfold.
  • Eskom’s tariff hikes are being aggressively challenged at this month’s NERSA hearings and they will be hard pressed to get the 20% increase sought by them.
  • Bell Pottinger is dead and buried.
  • The audit industry is undergoing a substantive review of their conduct, following the exposures of unacceptable conduct within the ranks of KPMG and McKenzies, with still more to come in this regard.
  • Billions of rand of corrupt contracts at Prasa and other SOE’s have been cancelled or facing cancellation.

There are many more good stories I could list, and yes, there are as many shockers we have to contend with, but giving up is not an option. We have to simply fight harder for our country and ALL the people who live herein.

We are convinced that corruption can be beaten. We are convinced that good people will eventually rule, with the best interests of the citizens close to their core decision making.

OUTA’s Exco conducted a review of its strategy in October and we are excited about our future and role as an effective civil intervention organisation.  Our manpower needs and skills required have been identified and aside from some churn (a necessary factor when keeping pace with growing demands of our staff and management), our structures are effective and scalable for growth. Governance and ongoing development of our procedures and policies, plus the need to introduce additional Non-Executive and Executive Board members is receiving attention and we will have some exciting announcements to make in due course in this regard.

In this month’s newsletter, you will read about new initiatives and some of our project updates.  OUTA is poised to expand its efforts into the areas of Local Government initiatives and the necessary growth to meet the demands requested of us will be challenging, but exciting.

Once again, I remind our supporters that without you, we are powerless. Never underestimate the impact of your monthly donation to OUTA.  Now imagine if you could convince a few of your friends and family to join you in contributing a small amount to OUTA every month, we would be able to double our size and along with that, a heightened ability to take on more cases.

Please share this message with those whom you believe share your passion and desire to become active citizens, and fight for a better South Africa. By contributing to OUTA, you DO make a difference.

Wayne.

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OUTA’s Internal People Energy – The Wolf Pack

Recently, OUTA’s leadership undertook to measure the internal energy levels of the organisation, to determine if its team is in sync with the demands placed on themselves, as well as the direction the leadership team is taking the organisation in.

We outsourced this work to a professional company that specialises in measuring and developing team energy and the results we received were outstandingly positive, more so than we had ever expected, including that of the specialist team who conducted the process.  The exercise confirmed that the OUTA team has every reason to stand tall and proud. This is a team who is passionate about what work it does and who believes that the work they do is both good and with high impact.  The assessment was done anonymously, so that each person’s input was true to their own belief of how they felt and experienced the purpose and effectiveness of OUTA.

There is no doubting that the quality of work and effectiveness thereof is determined by the energy of the organisation. And Organisational energy is determined by the leadership, through its people. OUTA’s passionate team has proven that their energy is powerful enough to ensure sustained success. Everything we involve ourselves in, is a result of the energy each member contributes to the whole.  How we contribute to our professional environment is as important as what we contribute.

The OUTA management team understands the importance of a positive organisational energy and the decision to measure every staff member’s input in this regard has been extremely reassuring, and it shows in the hundred’s of comments we receive everyday from our supporters.

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OUTA Launches its Parliament Engagement Office in Cape Town

As part of OUTA’s strategy to protect citizens’ rights, influencing government policy and engaging with those in leadership is integral to the process of challenging the abuse and waste of government resources.

While OUTA has focussed largely on adopting a challenging and hard line approach to those accused of usurping and abusing their powers, then need for effectiveness in the work we do, often gives rise to the need for more proactive engagement with Members of Parliament, to learn about the dynamics of regulatory changes, whilst also empowering those in authority with our findings, concerns and research input.

This office will also work with and alongside other civil society organisations and NPO’s to strengthen our collective efforts when engaging with Parliament and promoting accountable governance.

In the first two months of operation, the Parliamentary Engagement office has been extremely fruitful in providing valuable information and feedback to the Portfolio managers operating out our Gauteng Head Office.  We firmly believe the Cape Town office will be extremely valuable to the success of OUTA’s work going forward.

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OUTA opposes Eskom’s 20% tariff increase application

OUTA has submitted its paper to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) in October, to strongly oppose the proposed 19.9% tariff increased sought by ESKOM.

OUTA believes that Eskom should be unbundled and restructured before it drags the South African economy down with it. This should be done by splitting the State Owned Entity into a generation business and a transmission business.

Eskom wants a 19.9% price increase for 2018 to fund an effective 7% revenue increase. OUTA’s submission has argued that Eskom should not be entitled to any increase, as we firmly believe that Eskom has demonstrated itself as an inefficient power producer and has not planned its new power station projects within original budgeted targets of R93 billion. Had it done so, the need for the high tariff increases to cover their asset base would be much lower and the effective price of electricity should not exceed 40c/kWh, which is well below what they are currently charging.

We have indicated in our submission that Eskom’s inefficiency, along with ongoing corruption and mismanagement, has given rise to rising costs which are spiralling out of control. When one combines these rising costs, with lower output and the consumers reducing demand for electricity, Eskom has no option but to take another approach.

Aside from new build project over-runs, Eskom cannot possibly be seen to be an efficient operator and hence is not legally entitled to any additional cost recovery. Eskom’s application to NERSA is tantamount to an attempt to defraud NERSA and the electricity consumers in its revenue application.

Eskom claims more than R6 billion for Independent Power Producer (IPP) expenses, which it knows will not be incurred during 2018/2019, the year in which this application applies. OUTA believes that this may be fraudulent in that firstly, Eskom is refusing to sign for the commencement of the IPP projects and, secondly, even if these are signed, almost none, if any, will be commissioned in time to impact this revenue application time period.

Eskom also claims in its application for more than R25 billion for generation projects, which we as OUTA believe do not exist. Eskom is claiming R45 billion for generation new build in 2018/19 of which Medupi and Kusile makes up about R20 billion. However, we are not aware of other projects under construction.

Transparency is not negotiable. Eskom’s revenue application is also flawed by its lack of transparency. This is a problem on two levels. Firstly, Eskom hasn’t been honest about the cost of corruption or irregular expenditure – including the widely publicised R1.6 billion paid to McKinsey and Trillian for which there was no clear benefit. Similarly, they have failed to remove these costs in future projections. By endorsing this application, NERSA will be granting Eskom a 20% increase in revenue, which will be open to the same levels of abuse and theft as n the past. Secondly, the application process itself is flawed because NERSA published Eskom’s application with sections of information blacked out, contrary to a published decision on this in July earlier this year.

OUTA is adamant that South Africa’s economy can no longer afford tariff hikes by monopolies whose leadership are either part of, or unable to tackle fraudulent conduct, gross inefficiencies and who then deliberately over-forecast their revenue expectations which require a guarantee in a massive price increase by the embattled public.

During NERSA’s public comment period in October, OUTA asked its supporters to e-mail NERSA with their comments on Eskom’s application. This resulted in members of the public who made use of OUTA’s link to provide NERSA with an unprecedented 23,000 comments.

Click on this link to see OUTA’s opposing submission to NERSA.

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Dudu Myeni’s exit from SAA is not the end of our challenge against her

Bitter sweet was the news that Dudu Myeni was eventually exited as the Chairman of South African Airways (SAA). The evidence of her nine year tenure on the board (the past five as its chair) has shown that she was relatively central to SAA’s plight and insurmountable problems that unfolded on her watch. We firmly believe that Ms Myeni is reckless when it comes to fulfilling her duties as director and thus OUTA’s case to have her declared a delinquent director, thereby removing her ability to sit on any board, continues.

Since 2008 when Myeni was appointed to the SAA board, the government has bailed out the national carrier with a staggering R23.8 billion. This year alone, SAA received R2.2 billion rand to repay Citibank. The Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, has announced that a further R3 billion will be made available from the fiscus for SAA.

We trust the new board at SAA will encourage their recently appointed CEO (Mr Vuyani Jarana) to lead the national carrier to greater heights, and that an investigation into Myeni’s conduct will be lodged.

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OUTA’s Criminal Complaints and Charges are Effective

Anyone who visits and contributes to our Facebook and Twitter pages will know that one of the most common questions asked is “why does OUTA even bother with the laying of criminal charges with the law enforcement authorities, knowing they will in all likelihood not act on them?”

Over the past few years, OUTA has built a team of highly professional investigators, researchers, lawyers and advocates who meticulously build our cases. Similar to the Hawks and the NPA, we investigate the allegations and gather ourselves, all the evidence which enables us to build solid cases. It is only after we have built the case with compelling evidence of wrongdoing and substantive transgressions of the law, that we actually lay complaints with the relevant authorities.

By doing this work ourselves, we know that these cases carry weight in merit. However, the South African legal system is no “Wade van Niekerk” and in fact, similar to legal systems around the globe, it is like swimming through treacle. Set out below are the steps to be taken in a criminal case, with guesstimates of how long each phase does/could take. It doesn’t make easy reading if you want quick justice!

Step 1: Building a case includes investigations, research and PAIA applications. This can take weeks and even Months: depending on the complexity. OUTA gathers the evidence and builds the case to ensure quality.

Step 2: Laying the complaint. No delays. It is important to obtain a case number.

Step 3:An investigating officer is appointed by the SAPS. There should be no delays.

Step 4: The investigating officer will investigate the matter and will obtain all the necessary evidence to prove the crime. This part of the process could take months – even years: depending on the complexity and amount of investigations/evidence needed. OUTA continuously follows up with the investigator/s to determine progress and ensure priority.

Step 5:  Prosecution: Once the matter is investigated, the investigating officer submits the docket to the NPA. The NPA, represented by a prosecutor, will decide whether to prosecute the matter or not. Anything between 1 – 6 months, sometimes longer due to workload.  This step is often hampered by a lack of willingness, in the case of high profile and connected political people implicated. Therefore OUTA continues to apply pressure through following up on these matters.

Step 6: Prosecution: If the NPA decides to prosecute, the accused person will be brought to the appropriate court. Once that happens, a whole set of rights kick in and the trial is dealt with according to legislation. Again this element can stretch from months to years: depending on the complexity of the matter and sadly, political will.

If the prosecutor decides not to prosecute, and there is sufficient merit to pursue the case, OUTA can apply for a nolle prosequi (this means that a decision was made not to prosecute) certificate which will enable us to determine the feasibility of a Private Prosecution.

Thus, as can be seen from above there is no set time period that a case should take. The OUTA team is as frustrated as our supporters are in these long delays, but we do know that what we are doing is right and constructive for South Africa in the medium to long term, in that:-

  • Our charges help to obtain a mandamus rulings (a court order to force the authorities to do their jobs). They also enable the possibility of Anton Piller search warrants (private search and seizure orders).
  • Then there are the opportunities of private asset freezing orders, both locally and abroad, that arise from our charges. (OUTA recently launched an interim interdict to freeze R1.75 billion in the Gupta-owned Optimum and Koornfontein coal mines rehabilitation trust fund accounts, related to our earlier charges against the Guptas)
  • Private prosecutions. This is the last resort, but OUTA is geared to do private prosecutions and will do so when required of us.
  • Statutory reporting of suspected crimes can also be registered in foreign territories since most corruption, tax evasion and money laundering crimes are considered extra-territorial in execution. This means that other countries’ law enforcement agencies may well be able to act when our own choose not to.

The cases that OUTA has filed do not disappear once registered, they are on record and remain within the policing systems.  And while we are aware that many barriers are placed within the policing and prosecuting processes to slow some of our cases down, the truth does prevail in time. We also know that the current people that get in the way of justice will not always be there to stop the law from taking its eventual course. In time, the perpetrators will be held to account – of that we are sure, which is why it is very important to ensure that the work OUTA does in building the cases contain the facts and that the authorities are given an opportunity to add to them and test their authenticity at any time.

The corrupt and unethical deals being signed now within state-owned entities like Eskom and Prasa will haunt us for decades, which is why our work done now, might  only be appreciated in years to come. Doing nothing to halt the looting and state plunder as we speak, is not an option for us at OUTA and we cannot stand by and watch this potentially prosperous country deteriorate at the hands of criminals.

OUTA is here for the long run, and whilst it is frustrating to watch the legal processes taking far too long to unfold, we need to exercise patience and adopt a professional approach to ensuring all due processes are followed and that the risk of mistakes is limited. This is also our children’s Country we are all protecting – if it means we have to grit our teeth for them – then so be it – but stepping back is not in OUTA’s dictionary.

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SANRAL’s E-Toll Summonses and Lawfare Strategy continues unabated

SANRAL has recently launched a new salvo of summonses against thousands of e-Toll defaulters, as they continue to adopt a lawfare strategy against those who are defiant and stand resolute against payment for the irrational scheme.

In addition, thousands of cellphone messages and e-mails are currently being sent sent to the public, causing OUTA’s Facebook and Twitter pages to light up with expressions of concern and anxiety by many, due to the ongoing inaccuracy of the billing system, whereby people who did not even own cars were receiving messages. Similarly, people who had sold their cars were incorrectly targeted, as were people from other towns and cities who had never travelled to Gauteng.  Many continue to receive Sanral invoices with pictures of taxi’s, large trucks and motorcycles instead of their actual vehicle make.  As we have shown in the past and aim to do so in court, the e-toll system is inaccurate, irrational, untrustworthy and ultimately unlawful.

One of the most asked questions we receive on our Social Media platforms is: “has SANRAL ever won a defended e Toll default case in Court?” The simple answer is no, they have not. Although they have tried to claim two past legal cases as being successful to their cause, these involved a default judgement against a liquidated Company and a charge against someone who drove his vehicle with an illegal license plate.  Neither of these have been a precedent case against a defaulter, who has stood their ground with a string of arguments against the merits and constitutionality of the scheme.

As a result of the Public anxiety, OUTA has put together a quick summary of what to do if SANRAL decides to go as far as summonsing the public whether they be OUTA supporters or not In brief.

Empower your friends against e-Toll Summons

If you or your businesses are served a summons or letter of demand for the non-payment of e-tolls, the  input below provides guidance and steps to be taken.

https://www.outa.co.za/e-tolls-campaign/summons/

SANRAL’s E-Toll Summonses and Lawfare Strategy continues unabated.  

Empower your friends against e-Toll Summons by sharing this email.

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