South Africans hit the ground running in the first few weeks of 2023. A month into the new year, you’re forgiven if you feel you already need another holiday.  Despite the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference in December, the country still flounders in a sea of turmoil and uncertainty, with politicians entrenched in factionalism and egotistical fuelled wrangling that damages service delivery and leaves citizens fatigued and desperate to find solutions.

There is no escaping the systemic cause of our collective plight as a nation. Our national situation of loadshedding, crumbling roads, failing rail systems, poor water infrastructure, unemployment, and general economic woes, are the result of a political system and structure that alienated the people in power from those whom they (are supposed to) serve. Not because they openly chose to do so, but because of a deeply ingrained self-serving (party and me-myself-first) culture, which deliberately deploys people into positions of power that feeds back into the political system and personal interests. 

The ruling party has become drunk on its own power. They deliriously make irrational decisions and statements to disguise or justify their poor policies and wasteful (often corrupt) use of taxpayers’ funds. 

Against this backdrop, there is a rising call for greater active citizenry, be it at an individual or corporate level. The mantra of ‘people-powered’ solutions is being chanted in many initiatives and actions being taken across the country. And while these are mostly good and constructive efforts that we support, our view is that this approach is limited and generally short lived as people and business soon run out of time and money to do government’s work.  At OUTA we believe that long term change only takes place when we focus on who to hold accountable within municipalities or government departments for work not being done, and also how to go about changing that situation.  

The art of seeking and driving accountability means doing the hard yards to address the systemic and underlying cause of the problems that impede on growth for the entire nation. This is where our conversations and narratives are driven: to seek meaningful pressure and long terms change in South Africa. 

In the past week or so we had another missed e-toll resolution deadline and public outrage about an ill-conceived tourism marketing deal with a UK-based soccer club. In the coming days and weeks, we will hear more promises of change and maybe even new sets of actions stemming from the President’s SONA speech and possible cabinet shake-up. Something that may or may not convince us of having the right people to take SA forward, since the current lot has failed across most fronts. Later in the month, we will hear the finance minister’s (budget) plan to balance the books, and shortly thereafter, we may get to know who will take the reins as Eskom’s new CEO.  

The attempted murder of the Eskom CEO through cyanide poisoning in December 2022, along with the lack of public support by the President and others for the challenges this SOE faces, adds layers of tragedy to the energy crisis our country finds itself in. It is OUTA’s view that Minister Mantashe should bear a significant amount of blame for our current crisis, largely due to an outdated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and the resultant misinformed strategy for new generation capacity. Minister Mantashe has been nothing short of dismal in both the mining and energy sectors and hopefully will be one of the cabinet casualties in the President’s forthcoming cabinet reshuffle.

OUTA believes that South Africa needs pressure to be applied for robust implementation of clear plans and the strategies proposed by the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM). Having said that, we will be watching Government’s probable (but unnecessary) plan to introduce a state of disaster on energy.  The country can rest assured that OUTA will continue with legal action against government’s irrational and extremely costly Karpowership project – read more about the latest developments elsewhere in this newsletter. While Mantashe and others are punting the Karpowership issue as a quick-fix solution to end loadshedding, our research suggests that it is grossly irresponsible to propose a 10 to 20-year overpriced contract for what is deemed to be a strained situation for the next three years. 

On the electoral reform front: this matter has the potential to have the biggest impact on change in our future, and yet Parliament has deliberately failed to address this issue timeously. The time taken to review and amend Parliament’s current amendments to the electoral act has made it almost impossible to find a meaningful solution in time for the 2024 elections. The current bill, if signed into law, will not achieve the necessary reform that was proposed by several civil society organisations, including OUTA. (Read more about OUTA’s work in this regard elsewhere in the newsletter.)  

OUTA has recently undergone its own strategic review, with our focus areas for the next year being

A continued application of our tried and tested methodology that seeks accountability for maladministration and corruption, the likes of which have led to the criminal charges laid against Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, Anoj Singh, Mosebenzi Zwane, David Mabuza, and others.

We will place more emphasis on the reporting of Parliament’s (in)effectiveness and mismanagement of their oversight efforts, along with political meddling and lack of performance within many Government departments.

We will grow our social innovative initiatives (CAN, WaterCAN, and the LINK App) that empower and drive more accountability through local communities, and in turn, we will increase our focus on projects in the local government space.

We will continue to remain vigilant and react to poor decisions and policy-making to effect change, from which many (short and long-term) projects emanate. 

We will work on growing OUTA’s supporter base and funding initiatives.  

We will keep our supporters informed on these developments. Since 2023 is going to be an extremely important year for civil society, we will have to remain ever-vigilant to circumvent the abuse of power, especially by a ruling party that is destined to drop below the 50% threshold during the 2024 elections. This on its own could be a catalyst to many dubious decisions and possible long-term contracts in search of channeling tax revenues into the pockets of a desperate and largely broke political party. 

The demands on OUTA’s team continue to mount and our situation of having to decide on what we should tackle and what should be parked due to our inability to grow the size of our team, is causing us much angst and strain Our resources are stretched, as we imagine is the case with so many of our supporters and businesses. 

However, what perplexes the executive committee team at OUTA, is the fact that there are millions of taxpayers who still don’t know what OUTA does or stands for. Among many of the millions who do know, many don’t understand our reliance on and need for donations to keep us going. We will continue to find ways to get this message out there, to drive greater awareness of this reality, and we ask you as a valued supporter to also tell your friends, colleagues, and communities about our work. Better yet – forward this newsletter to them!

We also want to remind you that OUTA is Section 18A registered, which means all donations made to OUTA are fully deductible through your annual income tax submission. However, if you would like to receive a section 18A certificate at the end of the tax year, it is very important to ensure that all your information is correct and complete on OUTA’s system.  You can check and update your information by clicking here.

Kind regards, and wishing you the best for the year ahead. 

Wayne and team.

OUTA fights for YOU!

We are currently in court with Government on AARTO and the Karpowership deal. Please donate to us and spread the word about our work.