17 November 2004
Cabinet was today briefed on parliamentary matters in the context of the conclusion of the current parliamentary session. It was noted that the deadline for the completion of the process of answering all remaining parliamentary questions was 3 December, and all Departments have been urged to ensure that this deadline is met. With regard to the sittings for early next year, the President is expected to present the State of the Nation Address on 11 February 2005, and the Budget Speech will be delivered on 23 February.
The meeting noted the process that has been entered into to ensure that Telkom shares previously held by Thintana revert to South Africans. In this regard, the decision by the Public Investment Commissioners (PIC) to buy these shares and warehouse them pending further discussions with the Elephant Consortium has been welcomed. The understanding in this regard is that Elephant Consortium was the successful bidder, in private and commercial negotiations with Thintana.
In approving the principle of this transaction, government was guided by the following considerations: broad-based BEE; compliance with requirements of the Johannesburg Securities Exchange, ICASA and the Competitions Commission; and Telkom's long-term ability to deliver value to society and its shareholders.
Judgement regarding the broad-based nature of Elephant Consortium will need to be made when details of the composition of the consortium have been released. On the issue of a "cooling-off period" for senior state employees and office bearers, government is still processing the matter. And consideration in this regard will be taken of issues of conflict of interest, the expertise that such functionaries can provide to society and the cost to the state if such regulations were too prohibitive.
Cabinet noted the positive evolution of relations between South Africa and the European Union, reflected among others, in the current visit by President Thabo Mbeki to Brussels. Next week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is expected to co-chair the first full meeting of the SA-EU Joint Cooperation Council in which EU Foreign Ministers will take part. It was noted that these initiatives form part of the programme of strengthening relations with developed and developing countries. South Africa's approach in all these initiatives is informed by the imperative to promote not only our interests as a country; but also the interests of Africa as well as Caribbean and Pacific countries.
The following appointments were approved:
- Dr VM Mkosana as DG of the Department of Labour;
- A Deputy DG in the Department of Communications;
- Members of the Films and Publications Board (Chief Examiners and Examiners);
- Mr CM Ramaphosa as a member of the Board of South African Tourism;
- Board of the SA National Biodiversity Institute (which replaces the National Botanical Institute in accordance with new legislation);
- Additional members of the Board of the Council for Geosciences (representing the Chamber of Mines); and
- Additional members of the Board of Minerals and Technology (Mintek).
Cabinet was briefed on work being done by the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which is co-chaired by South Africa and includes the EU, Japan and the USA. This initiative will vastly improve global data and ensure certainty on such matters as estimation of crop yields, monitoring of water and air quality, prediction of the weather and disaster management. A Ten Year Implementation Plan is being finalised for a Ministerial Third Earth Observation Summit which will be held in Brussels in February next year.
The meeting noted the progress that has been made in ensuring the merger of higher education institutions, five of which were meant to take place in January 2005. However, due to insufficient preparations, one of these mergers - of UNITRA, Border Technikon and Eastern Cape Technikon to form the Walter Sisulu University of Science and Technology - will have to be postponed by about 6 months.
Cabinet approved South Africa's first Report on the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which will be submitted to the UN Secretary-General for consideration by the relevant UN Committee. It also approved South Africa's Periodic Report on the African Charter on Human and People's Rights which will be submitted to the AU Commission for consideration.
The meeting approved the publication of the report of the SA Law Commission on the Black Administration Act, which makes proposals on dealing with provisions of the Act which are redundant, obsolete or in conflict with Constitutional imperatives. It also approved the submission of the Electricity Regulation Bill to Parliament.
The meeting noted the various activities by South Africans to pay their respects to the late President Yasser Arafat, in recognition of his contribution to the struggle for freedom in Palestine and the greater struggle for peace and development across the globe. In this regard, government will host an Official Memorial Service in Pretoria on Thursday, 18 November, which will be addressed by Acting President, JG Zuma.
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Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)