Statement on Cabinet lekgotla meeting of 25 July 2002


25 July 2002

Overview

The Cabinet held its mid-year lekgotla from 21 to 23 July 2002 to review progress in the implementation of the programme for the year, plan for the next Medium-term Expenditure Framework period, and reflect on long-term challenges.

The meeting was conducted in the spirit of the theme for 2002, Lend a hand to push back the frontiers of poverty and broaden access to a better life for all. Critical in achieving this objective is improving the capacity of government to implement programmes of accelerated change.

The meeting welcomed the growing spirit of partnership among all sectors of society as reflected in the campaign of volunteerism among communities: such as mobilisation for the registration of all citizens who are eligible for the child and other social grants; the growing number of volunteers and reservists in the fight against crime; the activities of the youth during Youth Month in June; and the tens of thousands of young volunteers for the WSSD.

Entrenching good governance

Cabinet welcomed the progress being made in improving integrated planning and implementation in government. This is reflected in the work of the Presidential co-ordinating Council, bringing together the Presidency, Premiers and SALGA, better functioning of Clusters of Ministers and Directors-General, co-operation across all spheres to strengthen local government and so on. It also requires the strengthening of the oversight and supervisory capacity of the Presidency.

With regard to local government in particular, it was agreed that further work would be done to improve the Integrated Development Plans prepared by municipalities. Financial allocations to local government will be increased, to provide especially for provision of free basic services and infrastructure development. Further, a study has been commissioned to examine the feasibility of introducing a uniform public service system across all spheres.

A critical element of good governance is the strengthening of the national statistical system. All clusters are finalising a set of standard indicators and, assisted by Statistics South Africa, departments will improve their information base.

Lessons were drawn from the strategic interventions of national government in areas where weaknesses of implementation manifest themselves, as happened in the Eastern Cape in areas of health and social security. Also critical has been the programme of Imbizo and the setting up of Multi-purpose Community Centres, with One-stop Government Centres.

Cabinet decided that the National Anti-Corruption Forum, bringing together public and private sectors, should be revitalised. It also noted progress in the processing of anti-corruption legislation and the setting up of hotlines to assist whistle-blowers. The Moral Regeneration Movement has been set up, and processing of applicants for its Secretariat has started.

Integrated poverty eradication - social services

The primary purpose in improving governance is to ensure that government enhances its capacity to lead in pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

The Integrated Rural and Urban Renewal Programmes form a critical part of this campaign. It was noted that all the anchor projects in the ISRDP nodes are being implemented, and the meeting agreed that Ministerial supervision of each node should be improved. New nodes are being identified for integrated projects to be launched. While progress is also being made in the Urban Renewal nodes, it was noted that this was much slower than had originally been envisaged. In these areas, only 50% of the anchor projects are up and running. Cabinet urged that this weakness should be rectified.

Across all areas of service provision, there is steady progress in reducing the number of citizens without access to basic services. For instance, 9,3m South Africans have been given access to running water since 1994 - and 300 000 of these since April this year. 65% of land claims have been validated, and the target for completion of this process has been reduced from 5 to 3 years. Cabinet further agreed that urgent work needs to be done to improve delivery mechanisms both in the Land Restitution Commission and the Land Claims Court.

Work is continuing to complete statistics on the health profile of the nation, in particular on the major causes of mortality, to assist with comprehensive responses in terms of health and socio-economic interventions. The greatest challenge in implementing our health programme is to improve service and infrastructure in primary health centres and hospitals. Cabinet agreed that more resources would need to be allocated for this purpose.

Good progress has been made on the prevention of communicable diseases. The fight against malaria is gaining ground as revealed by the June survey in Northern KwaZulu/Natal; and there are signs that TB is being contained. More intensive and integrated work needs to be done to ensure that we eliminate cholera outbreaks that still occur in areas of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu/Natal. The meeting noted progress in implementing the Cabinet decisions of 17 April on the campaign against AIDS, in line with government policies as outlined in the country's comprehensive strategy.

The meeting welcomed indications from the antenatal surveys that the awareness campaign could be starting to make a positive impact as reflected in the reduction of prevalence among some age groups. However, much work needs to be done, in a partnership among all sectors of society.

Integrated poverty eradication - a comprehensive approach

Cabinet emphasised that the programme to push back the frontiers of poverty includes not only urban and rural development and provision of services; but that this also requires medium-term interventions which address such issues as opportunities, asset base, income and food security for the poorest of the poor.

The starting point in government's approach to this issue is to ensure that as many of our citizens as possible enjoy the opportunity, the dignity and the rewards of work. Further, creative ways have to be found to ensure that those in dire need are provided for through a comprehensive social security system and service provision.

It is in this context that Cabinet discussed a comprehensive employment-creation strategy, whose implementation requires co-operation among all sectors of society, particularly business. Such a strategy addresses issues such as trends in the restructuring of the economy, the performance of labour-intensive industries, the skills requirements in tertiary sectors that are expanding and how to ensure that these are acquired by the unemployed, the performance of Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), the employment subsidy and assistance to SMMEs including the vexed issue of micro-finance.

The following specific decisions were taken:
 

  • it was agreed that a further discussion would be held on a comprehensive employment-creation strategy during August, so that firm decisions could be taken on those issues which require improvement;
  • detailed proposals should be finalised on a massive expanded public works programme which will include partnership with the private sector - for finalisation in January; and
  • better assistance to SMMEs including micro-credit and Black Economic Empowerment will be effected (detailed below in the section on the economy).

Some of these issues will form part of government's input in the preparations for the Growth and Development Summit, which, it is proposed, should be held during the first quarter of 2003.

Cabinet welcomed progress in the implementation of the Human Resources Development Strategy. For instance, from the 25 Sector Skills Plans submitted by SETAs dealing specifically with 'scarce skills', R22m will be disbursed to 1 000 undergraduate students and R17m for 450 post-graduate bursaries. The target for 3 000 young learners by March 2002 was exceeded, and at the end of May 7 700 were enrolled in learnerships.

It is in this context of a comprehensive approach to poverty eradication that Cabinet examined the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Comprehensive Social Security and comments from the public. In addition to these issues, further work is being done to examine the efficacy of increasing the age of child grant beneficiaries as well as massive expansion and improvement in the efficiency of the school nutrition programme. All these and other matters will be dealt with in January. In the meantime, the campaign to register all who are eligible for the child and other social grants will be intensified.

Challenges of economic growth and development

Cabinet noted that the outlook for economic growth in the coming period was positive, as reflected among other indicators, in growing Business and Consumer Confidence, the slowdown in the rate of increase in inflation, relative stability of the currency and real interests rates which have effectively decreased.

Indeed, according to conclusions of the IMF Executive Board following Article IV consultations with our country:

"Economic performance [in SA] has been underpinned by sound fiscal policy. The national budget deficit was reduced from 2,0% of GDP in 2000/01 to 1,5% in 2001/02…

"Provincial government's budgets also over-performed, contributing to a narrowing in the consolidated government deficit from 1,7% of GDP in 2000/01 to an estimated 1,3% in 2001/02…

"Executive Directors welcomed the increased resilience of the economy to external shocks which has helped South Africa weather the impact of the recent global economic downturn. This resilience reflects an improved macro-economic policy environment, gains in international competitiveness and export diversification, and a further reduction in the Central Bank's short-term foreign currency exposure".

It was noted, however, that increases in the price of food had placed a heavy burden particularly on the poor; and Cabinet urged that the investigation into the totality of the causes of this should be completed as soon as possible.

As a small open economy, South Africa is subjected to the vagaries of the global economy. This impacts on volatility of the currency, export opportunities, foreign direct investments, and the quirks in the flows of portfolio capital.

Critical in withstanding these difficulties (and exploiting the opportunities) is a sturdy real economy - based on skills development, expansion of manufacturing, increased public and private investment in critical sectors including infrastructure, improvement in local aggregate demand and restructuring of state assets - as well as expansion of opportunities such as reflected in NEPAD, WTO negotiations, restructuring of the global financial architecture and WSSD proposals.

Cabinet noted increased employment opportunities in the electronic and service sectors such as transport and financial services which reflect the changing structure of the economy. It also noted the cyclical growth in manufacturing.

While noting progress in the implementation of the micro-economic programme, the meeting observed that urgent work needed to be done to address matters such as telecommunications rates, port congestion, and measures further to lower electricity costs to producers and consumers.

The meeting confirmed the critical importance of efficient and systematic assistance to small enterprises, which contribute 40% to the country's GDP and employ 26% of the employed labour force. Measures to be beefed up in this regard include training, technological support, the formation of a Small Business Advisory Board, the setting up of a micro-finance institution and infrastructure that takes into account the location and needs of these entrepreneurs.

Cabinet adopted in principle the policy statement on Black Economic Empowerment as an instrument and objective of policy. Among the issues examined was consultation to set a target for effective participation of black people in the economy, in terms of ownership, control and skilled occupations by 2014 - a target for all economic role-players, including government. A framework for a BEE Bill as well as guidelines to inform codes of practice and incentives by government as a major procurement and regulatory agency have also been accepted in principle. Consultations will start on these issues and on the actual constitution of the BEE Advisory Council.

SA and Africa in globalising world

The starting point in the discussion on international relations was that South Africa's growth and development are intimately linked to those of the rest of the African continent. For us as South Africans, the success of NEPAD and the AU is therefore not a matter merely of morality or passion for the continent, but one of profound political, social and economic self-interest.

Cabinet expressed its deep-felt gratitude to all South Africans, in the public and private sectors, for the part they played in the successful launch of the African Union on South African soil. The challenge now is to ensure that the AU (and its development programme, NEPAD) succeeds in meeting the objectives it has set itself.

For government, this includes beefing up the infrastructure in the Presidency and across government to implement decisions on both the structures of the AU and the concrete projects that NEPAD envisages (and further to address the obligations deriving from hosting the WCAR last year and the WSSD later this year). A critical element of this is speeding up the pace of restructuring of SADC so it could play its role not only in the region, but in the work of the AU as well. It was emphasised that government should view its role on the continent not as an add-on to "normal work", but as an integral part of its programmes to improve the quality of life of South Africans.

On the part of society as a whole, it is critical that we not only inform ourselves of these developments, but also take active part in shaping them. This will require community outreach programmes and active participation by structures of civil society in the various institutions that have been established for this purpose. Cabinet welcomed particularly the unanimous support for the AU and NEPAD among elected representatives of the people of Africa in various political formations, the African trade union movement, intellectuals, business associations, religious bodies and youth organisations.

The meeting was briefed on relief work to deal with the drought challenge in southern Africa, and decided to investigate further material support that South Africa could render. A special appeal was made to increase humanitarian aid to the people of Angola.

Cabinet also reviewed other global engagements aimed at improving the environment for South Africa's and Africa's rapid development, as well as the objective of building a better world. These include the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, the recent G8 Summit, preparations for the WSSD and the challenge of imaging and branding of South Africa led by the International Marketing Council.

The meeting reaffirmed government policy on such matters as the conflict in the Middle East, the danger of terrorism as well as the challenges of unilateralism and protectionism among some industrialised countries.

A safe and secure South Africa

Cabinet noted progress across the board in the fight against crime. Related to this is growing public confidence in the security agencies and a commitment by South Africans to partner these agencies to build a safe and secure environment.

One of the urgent programmes in this area is to set up sector policing units during the current financial year. 5 000 out of 7 100 new recruits will form the nucleus of these units. This will be combined with integration of Municipal Police in the implementation of sector policing, to ensure visible, highly mobile and proactive units especially in high crime areas. The SANDF will continue to provide support to SAPS, including in border patrol, and any scaling down in this regard will be done in such a way that it does not compromise citizen's security.

Consultations will be undertaken between the security agencies and the Central Drug Authority to fast-track the Drug Master Plan to reduce drug demand in our country. This will complement the successes that are being made in disrupting the drug supply and manufacturing chain in all parts of the country.

The security agencies have identified 128 police station areas where 50% of the total of reported cases of rape incidents occur. Special Projects will be introduced in these areas, jointly with the Social Sector Cluster, including an increase in the number of Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units, as well as victim support programmes, public awareness campaigns and an improvement in overall socio-economic conditions.

The Firearms Control Act has come into operation, and certain places in the country will be declared Firearm Free Zones, a special co-ordinating mechanism will be set up to manage destruction of redundant state-owned and confiscated firearms, and special operations will be launched to track and seize illegal firearms.

Within the justice system, a court support services model and boundary rationalisation will be introduced to ensure efficiency, and manage down case backlogs and case loads. This will be complemented by special projects to reduce average case-cycle time and improve co-ordination and integration of court activities.

While progress is being made, much work needs to be done fully to transform the Correctional Services system. Government is closely monitoring the Jali Commission hearings so as to introduce urgent measures to deal with problems identified. This is pending the final report of the Commission, which we expect to proffer comprehensive proposals on further transformation of this sector. While elements of the evidence at the Commission on experiences in some of our prisons are unpleasant and revolting, they are a necessary part of the process required to cleanse the administration of prisons. This is precisely why the Jali Commission was set up in the first place.

The measures to improve management of the court system should help reduce overcrowding in our prisons, one of the major causes of the problems in these institutions. Further, special mechanisms have been put in place to root out corruption in the system. These include a Hotline for Whistle Blowing at Correctional Services and the setting up of a Special Investigation Unit whose work targets criminal behaviour among both officials and offenders.

Broad assessment

Overall, Cabinet noted that government was on track to implement programmes that it had set itself, many of which were announced in the State of the Nation Address last February. We are steadily pushing back the frontiers of poverty, and we welcome the fact that a new spirit of letsema and vuk'uzenzele has infused public engagement with the programme of change.

While the progress is welcome, government is under no illusion that the challenges are massive. Cabinet is of the firm view that to address these challenges requires a cadre of public representatives and public servants firmly focussed on the task of implementation.

Overall, the central message from the lekgotla is that we are on course; and if all of us lend a hand, we can achieve even better results, faster.

Enquiries
Joel Netshitenzhe
Cell: 082 900 0083

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)

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Year: 
2002
Media Statement date: 
Thursday, July 25, 2002