DA: Statement by Helen Zille, Democratic Alliance Leader, on the Presidential Hotline (02/10/2009)

2nd October 2009


As it undertook to do when President Jacob Zuma first launched the initiative, the Democratic Alliance has tried to use the Presidential hotline to register a series of complaints with the Presidency.

The results of the DA's attempts are:

• In three weeks we have been able to register four complaints. We do not yet have a reference number for any of them, despite repeated promises that they will be sent through to us. As the complaint is registered on a system, and the system generates the reference number, the lack of reference number suggests the complaint has not been properly registered and thus cannot be tracked and the response to it gauged.
• Outside of those four complaints, the DA has phoned the hotline a total of 42 times, over the course of 13 days, without once being able to get through. For the first week we would be put on hold for 16 minutes before the call would disconnect. In the second week the time dropped to 6 minutes before we were disconnected. In the third week it again returned to 16 minutes.
• These 42 calls translate into 572 minutes on hold; or 9 hours, 32 minutes.
• For the last two weeks, the DA has not been able to register a single complaint because not once has our call been answered.

A full summary of all the DA's calls, to date, follows below this statement.

When President Zuma launched the hotline, he said he wanted to create an "ethos of accountability". During his State of the Nation address he undertook to treat every complaint as if it were the only one. As every day passes, that commitment rings increasingly hollow.

The President announced the hotline in his State of the Nation address, on 3 June. It was launched three and a half months later, on 14 September. At the end of the first week, it was clear the Presidency had designed a system that could meet the requirements of the undertaking. By the second week, things had not improved. And, by the third week the situation is completely inadequate and, at least in practical terms, dysfunctional.

Increasingly Jacob Zuma's administration seems to be defined by this kind of problem. A big promise is made, amid much fanfare and publicity, but then nothing follows. It is ordinary South Africans who are let down as a result and lose faith in government's ability to deliver.

In this particular case, it says much about the President's commitment to good governance and the fight against corruption. Unless the problems at the hotline are addressed urgently, this endeavor will be remembered as nothing more than window dressing, designed give the impression that the government cares but, in actual fact, another illustration of its inability to deliver on its word.

In undertaking these cases on valid issues, the DA has played an oversight role, well aware that the majority of callers are likely to be impoverished people using airtime on their cell phones.

We will continue to report back on the situation.