Statement on Cabinet meeting of 19 March 2008


20 March 2008

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday morning, 19 March 2008.

Cabinet noted the proposed electricity tariffs that were submitted by Eskom to the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). The proposed tariffs were due to the rising operational costs, in particular, the rise of price of coal and diesel. Government will monitor very closely the negotiations between Eskom and the regulator with a view to making sure that the proposed tariff increase does not have an adverse effect on the poor, low-income households and small to medium enterprises.

Government will ensure that a differentiated tariff structure is put in place to protect the poor, low-income households and small enterprises. The possibility of introducing time-based tariffs will also be explored. A regulatory framework will be introduced to penalise those users who do not comply with electricity-saving measures.

Although the response to the proposed tariff is fully understandable, it is important to note that such responses are premature at this stage because the new tariff is still a proposal that is subject to consideration by the regulator. We should all take comfort in the fact that there will be an opportunity for all stakeholders and the public to comment on the Eskom proposals through public hearings. However, South Africans must also come to terms with the reality that it would be difficult for Eskom to continue providing the cheapest electricity rate in the world.

Government once again reminds all South Africans that we are still in an emergency situation which requires behaviour change and deliberate efforts to save electricity usage by at least 10%. Efforts are underway to ensure that each industry agrees to targets for reduction of electricity usage in the various sectors. Initial indications are that many households and businesses are still not heeding the call to save electricity, and this is contributing to the current wave of load-shedding experienced in many parts of the country.

Government and Eskom are of the view that we cannot afford a situation in which only large industries, such as mining, are made to bear the brunt of power cuts and saving electricity, while the rest of society fails to heed the call to become more energy-efficient.

Government fully appreciates the inconvenience experienced by everyone and reiterates the apology for the inconvenience and discomfort that we are all going through at this time. We therefore appeal to all South Africans to exercise patience and resilience as everything is being done by Eskom, and the private sector, including Government, to address the emergency. Once again, Government expresses its sincere appreciation to those households and businesses that are already implementing electricity-saving measures.

The meeting noted the recent media reports regarding the investigation by German authorities into the allegations of corruption in the South African arms deal. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will issue a statement later this morning which will demonstrate our willingness to cooperate with the German authorities and to address the suggestion that the South African Government was not responding positively to the request for assistance. The government is particularly concerned about attempts to cast aspersions to the person and office The Presidency. The allegations against The Presidency are accordingly dismissed as baseless, mere speculation and gross mischief as they bear no relation to the truth.

The winding down of the DIABO Share Trust and vesting of all outstanding benefits was approved. This trust was established to facilitate the transfer of benefits to Telkom employees during the listing of the company in February 2003. A total of 12 477 beneficiaries have not yet submitted their claims and the unclaimed amount at this stage is R 68.8million. A service provider will be appointed to trace these beneficiaries. A joint steering committee consisting of National Treasury and the Department of Communications, will be established shortly to manage the winding down of the Trust.

The meeting approved the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocols which provide the legal framework for member countries to cooperate in working towards achieving the objectives of SADC. This approval is subject to SADC addressing South Africa’s reservations regarding the proposed tax exemptions for officials and employees of SADC.

The ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Trade, Development and Cooperation Agreement (TDCA) between South Africa and the European Union was approved and will be submitted to Parliament for ratification.

Cabinet noted that the United Nations Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) will be visiting a number of countries to assess their legislation, enforcement capacity, and national systems to implement anti-terror obligations in terms of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and other international conventions. The CTED team will be in South Africa in June 2008. The visit will be coordinated by the Justice Crime, Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster.

Cabinet approved the deployment of members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in Northern Uganda, as part of the African Union (AU) mission. Further, the meeting approved the extension of deployment of the SANDF to the Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC, DRC), Nepal (UNMIN), DAFUR (UNMID), Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE and OLMEE). The deployment of our forces in these countries is part of South Africa’s fulfillment of international obligations and a contribution to peace and stability in the continent and other parts of the world.

As announced yesterday, Cabinet approved the proposal to declare 2 May 2008 a public holiday to compensate workers and other employees for losing a public holiday as a result of Human Rights Day and Good Friday being on the same day. This decision follows consultations with and proposals from a number of stakeholders including trade unions. This decision seeks to ensure compliance with legislation and does not amount to the creation of an extra public holiday.

The President will shortly publish a Proclamation in the Government Gazette formally declaring 2 May 2008 as a Public Holiday. This Proclamation will be issued in terms of the Public Holidays Act 36 of 1994 which provides for 12 public holidays every calendar year.

The upcoming Easter holidays coincide with school holidays and often lead to high accident levels and unnecessary loss of lives due to high traffic volumes on our roads. This period is often associated with an increase in irresponsible and risky behavior which includes drug and alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and unprotected sexual behaviour. Government calls on all South Africans to refrain from these and other activities which contribute to unnecessary loss of life in our communities and on our roads. The Arrive Alive campaign is already under way and stringent law enforcement measures will be implemented throughout the country. The key message is that everyone must observe the laws, be sensitive to other road users and cooperate with the law enforcement agencies.

The meeting noted that the Zimbabwe general elections will be held on 29 March 2008. South Africa is sending 55 observers, who will be part of a total of the 150 election observers from SADC countries. The SA contingent will comprise representatives from civil society, business, religious leaders, members of parliament and government officials. The observer mission will be led by Angola, the current chair of the SADC committee on Peace, Security and Development.

The South African Government appeals to all Zimbabweans to do everything in their power to create conditions that would ensure free and fair elections.

The following appointments were approved:
 

  • Ms Pam M Yako, the former Director-General in the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, (DEAT) was appointed as the Director General in the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry
  • Mr NS Malebye was appointed Chief Operating Officer (Deputy Director-General level) in the Department of Public Works
  • Ms U Fikelephi was appointed Deputy Director-General in the Department of Public Enterprises
  • Captain C Jordaan was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the South African Civil Aviation Authority and Commissioner for Civil Aviation
  • Mr R Khan was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the Ports Authority
  • The term of the SENTECH Board was extended for a further two months.

The following Bills were approved:
 

  • Air Services Licensing Bill
  • The Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill.

Enquiries
Themba Maseko - Government Spokesperson
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)

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Year: 
2008
Media Statement date: 
Thursday, March 20, 2008