Transcript: Post-Cabinet briefing by Government Spokesperson, Themba Maseko

18 November 2009

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: 18 November 2009
Venue: Media Room, Union Buildings, Pretoria (with video-link to Cape Town)

Statement read by Themba Maseko

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Pretoria today, 18 November 2009.

Cabinet decided to set up an Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee to effectively deal with all incidence of corruption in the public service. This Inter-Ministerial Committee will study the report and recommendations on corruption issued by the Public Service Commission and other reports. The Inter-Ministerial Committee will ensure that action is taken against all persons who are involved in corrupt practices involving public finances. The South African Government takes strong exception to corrupt practices and regards the matter very seriously because of the potential damage that this could cause to the country's reputation globally.

In this regard, Government condemns all private sector companies that are involved in corrupt practices including paying bribes to public officials. Government warns all state employees that strong action will be taken against anyone involved in corrupt practices.

The Anti-Corruption Inter-Ministerial Committee will be chaired by Mr Collins Chabane, Minister in the Presidency, and it will include the Ministers of Public Service and Administration, Finance, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Social Development and representatives from the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster. The committee will present its report and action plan at the Cabinet Lekgotla in January 2010.

Cabinet approved the request to deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to render borderline control and protection. The deployment of the SANDF will be incorporated into the border control strategy being finalised by the JCPS Cluster.

Cabinet was shocked and unhappy about the disrespect that was meted out of the national flag during the international rugby game between South Africa and France last Friday. The national anthem and the flag are national symbols that must be respected and protected by everyone especially our national sports associations and other cultural bodies during the international events. The Minister of Sports has written to the rugby authorities requesting them to provide an explanation of what happened and to ensure that steps are taken to prevent a recurrence of the incident in France.

The Road Accident Fund's draft No-Fault policy was approved for publication and public comment. The draft proposes a shift from a blame and fault based policy to universal coverage. The policy will be published shortly for public comment.

The draft Trade Policy and Strategy Framework was approved for public comment. The document will be published shortly.

Cabinet decided that all future court judgements against the State sounding in money will be complied with within 30 days. All outstanding court judgements sounding in money against the state will be complied with immediately. This decision follows the Constitutional Court Judgement (Nyathi vs MEC for Health, Gauteng and Another) which declared section 3 of the State Liability Act 20 of 1957 invalid. State Departments will now be required to settle such debts within 30 days to prevent the attachment of the State's immovable property.

South Africa's election to the executive council of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) was welcomed.

While Government will support working people and communities against unfair and illegal practices by employers that circumvent labour or immigration laws, we will not tolerate the violent targeting of refugee communities or any resurgence of the events of last year.

The Department of Home Affairs, Department of Health and Statistics SA will meet urgently to look at the statistics of mortality rates. However, Government wants to discourage the debate on numbers which could distract us from the real challenges of taking urgent steps to deal with the causes of death, especially the impact of HIV and AIDS.

Cabinet approved the following appointments:

  • " Ms NT Msomi was appointed Director-General in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
  • " Ms MJ Mxakato-Diseko was appointed as Deputy Director-General in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
  • " Ms TS January-Mclean was appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of South African Tourism (SAT).
  • " Advocate MB Mkhize as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Nuclear Regulator of SA (NNRSA).
  • " Ms C Khuzwayo (Chairperson), Mr J Lesejane (Deputy Chairperson), Mr N Nyoka, Ms GN Banda and Ms KR Mthimunye were appointed as candidates to serve as board members of the National Energy Regulator of SA (NERSA) with effect from 1 January 2010 until 31 January 2013.
  • " Dr T Cohen (Chairperson), Mr T Mofokeng (Deputy Chairperson), Ms D Kgomo, Ms J Yawitch, Mr WN Lesufi, Dr DG Van der Merwe, Mr D Elbrecht, Mr J Leaver, Ms M Liefferink and Mr B Nemagovhani (alternate member) were appointed to serve as members of the board of the National Nuclear Regulator of SA (NNRSA)."


Journalist: You referred to Government wants to deal with the perception that corruption is on the rise. Does Government accept that corruption is on the rise or does it merely feel that it's a problem and that it's not actually rising? On this issue that members of the public would be able to attach Government property, could they choose what to attach? Could somebody attach the President's plane?

Themba Maseko: On the corruption matter, Government is basically noting that there are quite a number of reports that are being published which are indicating that there are incidents of corruption in certain parts of the Public Service and wants to make sure that concrete action is taken to deal firstly with the corruption incidents and make sure that those are responsible for corruption are brought to book. Secondly these reports are also creating this perception about incidents of corruption being on the rise. So we want to deal decisively with the reports of corruption and make sure that those who are found guilty of corruption are dealt with very decisively. Secondly then manage and give confidence to the public and the global community that Government will deal decisively with any incident of corruption in all the spheres of Government. As far as the attachment of State assets is concerned, there are guidelines that have been drawn by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. So essentially as soon as a judgement is delivered against the State, the State will be given 30 days to settle the claim. If they don't settle the claim the officer of the court will identify those assets that could be attached. So in this particular point in time there is no indication which assets can be attached except to say that the court judgement says any immovable property can be attached. But the commitment that Cabinet is giving today is to make sure the decision of the court are implemented within 30 days and make sure Government Departments settle those claims within 30 days of a court decision.

Journalist: On the No Fault Policy, has there been any sort of implementation plan? When are we likely to see that implemented and what the process is? Were there any possible courses of action that Government could take to act against corruption which hasn't been taken before with Departments individually?

Themba Maseko: Dealing with your last question first, the incidents of corruption and dealing with those, this Inter-Ministerial Committee is going to look at all the reports that has been issued and published and make sure that concrete action are taken. Because Government is off the view that a lot of these reports end up just being reports that are tabled with no evidence of concrete action actually being taken. So what this Inter-Ministerial Committee is going to do is look at reports that have been issued previously, what steps that have been taken and then come up with a clear proposal about what needs to happen as soon as corrupt practices are identified. That report will then be tabled and discussed at the Cabinet Lekgotla in January 2010. Then announcements will be made later and most probably during the State of the Nation Address to say in addition to what has been done in the past. These are the concrete steps that Government will be taking to make sure we address the scourge of corruption in the country. So the major focus is likely to be if incidents of corruption are identified what steps need to be taken and how quickly those steps should be taken to make sure that those who are involved are brought to book as quickly as possible. So that we don't end up with reports that end up unattended with no action being taken against a particular individual.

The No Fault Policy, basically the document will be published within a week or two. It will give details about what are the proposed changes and will then invite the public to give us comments about whether they think this proposed policy is workable or not. At this particular meeting no discussions was taken on the timeframes and the plan of action for that. But when the paper is published it will also give clear timeframes about when the document will be finalised into a concrete policy.

Journalist: The deployment of SANDF personnel along the border line. That seems to be a reversal of a previous policy where the police were taking over that role? Could you just say if Cabinet was aware that maybe the police couldn't handle the situation, they didn't have enough members? Secondly which areas will see the first deployments and how many troops do you expect to deploy?

Themba Maseko: You are right this does constitute a change in policy. The previous Government has decided that the SANDF for instance don't have arresting powers and secondly the deployment of the Defence Force in the past was essentially meant to deal with the coming in of trained members of the liberation movements and that is why the SANDF was deployed in the past. A policy decision was taken that it should be a police matter to deal with the protection of our borders. What this decision says is yes that decision was taken but we seem to have had many problems with regard to the protection of our borders. So what this policy basically says is that we will change the policy of the previous Government. Deploy members of the SANDF to make sure that we deal with the cross border especially the crime that is taking place in some of our borders where cars are stolen from South Africa and taken to neighbouring countries etc. It was felt the SANDF may have the capability to deal with especially organised crime that is taking place in our border post so that is what basically motivated this particular policy. As I was saying earlier on this decision will be incorporated into the border control strategy that the JCPS Cluster is currently finalising. No figures were given at this particular meeting about how many soldiers will be required to perform this function. No timeframes were agreed to and no timeframes was set for the first deployment of the SANDF. So there is going to be planning particularly by the SANDF but in the short term; SAPS will continue to perform this role until such time that the SANDF is ready to deploy and perform this particular function.

Journalist: You talked about the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) investigation into alleged corruption of Correctional Services. What did Cabinet say should happen to Mr Ngconde Balfour who was the Minister of Correctional Services during that period?

Themba Maseko: If you followed the report the SIU said they had identified the people who are implicated in the report about corruption and that concrete action will be taken against individuals implicated in this report. So Cabinet didn't discuss specifically the question of individuals implicated but the SIU did indicate that charges will be laid against the individuals who are implicated in the report.

Journalist: Just a follow up to Anna's question because it goes to the heart to what the Inter-Ministerial task team is all about. Does it supersede; what is it mandate exactly? Does it powers supersede those of criminal justice agencies investigation corruption? Will it have a specific mandate which says if the SIU doesn't lay charges against for example Ngconde Balfour? We then give them political direction to do that, I mean what exactly is this all about?

Themba Maseko: The Inter-Ministerial Committee is going to look at all the reports about corruption or incidents of corruption and make sure that a concrete strategy is designed to make sure that when such reports are published concrete action is being taken. So if needs be the strategy will indicate that in this particular case there was corruption and that the relevant agencies must conduct investigations to make sure that concrete action is being taken. So you will see much greater political direction being given to all State agencies to make sure all incidents of corruption are investigated and that action is being taken. Because Government's view is that if Government does not provide leadership on this scourge of corruption the chances are that it will continue and affect each and every aspect of South African life. So this strategy is aimed at making sure we identify concrete steps that need to be taken firstly by Government and then secondly by the law enforcement agencies to make sure we nip this corruption scourge in the butt.

Journalist: A point of clarity. So this means there is legislation then mandating this Inter-Ministerial taskforce? Otherwise on what basis are they operating on?

Themba Maseko: The Inter-Ministerial Committee will operate on the basis of a mandate that they will be given by Cabinet to say (for example) that the committee will look at all the reports that have been issued. (They) would look at all the action taken or not taken in individual cases; will then direct and make sure that in the strategy actions and procedures are clarified and to make sure incidents of corruption are dealt with decisively. If the Inter-Ministerial team is of the view there needs to be a review of legislation, then that will definitely be considered by Cabinet. The most important message here is that Government wants to make sure that we deal with corruption in all its manifestations in all spheres of Government as a major priority. So the report will be presented at the Cabinet Lekgotla. There will be extensive discussions and announcements will then be made about what additional steps need to be taken by Government to deal with corruption.

Journalist: Will there be consideration given to establish a permanent corruption busting force in some way?

Themba Maseko: It will be premature to pre-empt what exactly the Inter-Ministerial Committee will recommend. But I am sure they will look at all steps that need to be taken. And one of the suggestions that will be considered by the Committee as proposed by Cabinet is to also do case studies of how other countries that were experiencing incidents of corruption have dealt with corruption in their own countries and what lessons could be learned from those particular countries. We want to develop a comprehensive strategy and approach to deal with the incidents of corruption in the country. And if it requires the setting up of special agencies then that will be considered but the committee has a wide mandate to look at this matter globally and then come up with a concrete strategy about what needs to be done to deal with corruption.

Journalist: Was the question of a specialised force discussed in Cabinet?
Themba Maseko: No not specifically.

Journalist: Can you give us more details on the structure of the committee?

Themba Maseko: At this stage this is just an Inter-Ministerial Committee. It is not a permanent committee. It's just a committee to investigate the issue of corruption. It will then make recommendations to the Cabinet Lekgotla in January. If Minister Chabane require some kind of support to perform this particular task that will be made available to him; but it's not a permanent structure it's just an inter-ministerial committee to investigate and make recommendations about what additional steps need to be taken to deal with corruption.

Journalist: Mathews Phosa (ANC Treasurer General) suggested the possibility of an anti-corruption commissioner, was that discussed? There are a lot of the inter-Ministerial Committees and one wonders about the capacity of Minister like Minister Chabane who has a great deal on his plate to carry out this work. Also it's emerged that The Hawks, who are the country's premium organised crime fighting unity, has a much weaker capacity then they could be. That extends to Department of Correctional Services as well where vetting is not being concluded and is a key player in the whole corruption saga. Was that discussed and what's going to happen about beefing up that capacity?

Themba Maseko: Mr. Phosa's idea was not discussed in this meeting and the committee was not given any specific things to investigate. The mandate is broad to say come up with a proposal to say what steps Government need, extra ordinary steps I might add, to deal with corruption in the public service. The ideas that have been mentioned by Mr. Phosa and others were not discussed at this particular meeting. However the Inter-Ministerial Committee in making these recommendations may take some of those ideas on board as recommendations to cabinet, but those issues were not deal with specifically. Your question about lots of IMC's, that's basically how Government basically functions. It's an attempt to ensure that when we develop those strategies we have an integrated approach to all of this and because there are usually more than one department involved in performing particular functions. So Government is beginning to say for some of these things you need an integrated approach where more than one department or more than one Minister is involved in addressing a particular problem. So the number of Inter-Ministerial Committees may increase, but you must remember that IMC's are set up for a particular purpose. They are given a mandate, they report back and they disband, that's how they function. They are not permanent structures within Government.

The issue of vetting was not discussed specifically at this meeting but surely it is becoming very clear that there is a need for Government to address the issue of vetting of people participating in various structures. So the minister of State Security is going to have to address the issue of vetting.

Journalist: Has there been anything in particular which has prompted Cabinet to take this action because there have been reports of corruption escalating for many years. You talked about the SANDF on the borders, they won't be replacing the police, they will be in addition, is that correct? This proposal about the corruption committee, did it emerge from the tripartite alliance summit on the weekend?

Themba Maseko: You will recall that in his first State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma, mentioned the need to deal with corruption in a decisive manner as one of his priorities. Following the State of the Nation Address a number of Ministers especially in the JCPS Cluster sat down and started saying we need a strategy to deal with the issue of corruption. At this particular meeting a report by the Public Service Commission on corruption became one of the talking points that said, maybe we have to respond to this report and many other reports on corruption. That is why Cabinet felt maybe this is the right time especially as we are preparing for the Lekgotla and the President's second State of the Nation Address. It was felt that maybe we need to give something very concrete back to the nation about what Government is planning to do with the scourge of corruption, and that is why the decision was taken at today's meeting. Today's meeting was also discussing planning for the January Lekgotla which will in a sense come up with Government's Programme of Action for the next MTEF period. Wherever deployment of SANDF in the borders replaces the police, at this particular point in time, no specific decision has been taken. But as the Defence Force prepares its deployment strategy, it may come and say we can actually take over this function immediately and replace the police from this particular function. But in the foreseeable future, my sense is that we are going to have an intermediary phase where certain parts of the border are guarded by the police and certain parts guarded by the SANDF until such time that the SANDF can take over this function completely. The objective is that this function must be given to the SANDF but in the intermediary period there may just be a joint operation by both the police and the Defence Force.

Cabinet deals with its own agenda as issues are presented on the agenda. At no stage did the meeting say this matter is coming from the tripartite-alliance and we are there for taking a decision on that particular matter. I don't even know that this matter was dealt with by alliance. This is just a product of a discussion and a debate within Cabinet.

Journalist: Will the SANDF be deployed on the border line as well as on the border post?

Themba Maseko: I think it's going to be at both places.

Journalist: On the Aids figures, was there a conclusion that there was confusion and something not right about the figures of the deaths in South Africa that has been disputed by people working with them? The Eskom tariff hike request of 45% over the next three was endorsed by Cabinet but is now encountering significant political opposition. Has Cabinet revised its opinion on that?

Themba Maseko: On the figures, there was an acknowledgment that it appeared that the different state bodies had different mortality figure and it was agreed that in fact this is matter that needs to be looked at very closely because the Home Affairs Department had figures for 2008 but Stats South Africa has not yet finalised its final figures for 2008. So a number of experts have commented on this figures so Cabinet is basically saying let Health, Home Affairs, StatsSA compare their numbers with a view to bring in greater clarity at a later stage. So it's an acknowledgement that there are figures that could be existing out there. We want to bring finality on the numbers story because Government is of the view that the greater focus of our attention must be on dealing or addressing the causes of deaths in our country because whether its 600 00 people who died in 2008, or its 500 000, it's still a huge number that we need to think about. So what steps need to be taking to deal and address the causes of death, so that's where the focus should be? These Departments will just look at confirming the figures without diverting the country's attention from addressing the causes of death and coming up with measures to address the causes of death.

On the Eskom figure, if you check our statement from the last Cabinet meeting, Cabinet has already acknowledged that the 45% increment requested by Eskom may have drastic implications for both the economy at macro and micro level and may also have a number of social consequences for the country. An Inter-Ministerial team was put together to develop possible options that will be considered by Cabinet that could lead to Eskom revising its figures downwards as far as the tariff hike is concerned. The Inter-Ministerial team is meeting and is looking at this matter. My expectation is that at the next Cabinet meeting, this IMC may make recommendations about how Eskom could be assisted to reduce the tariff hikes while at the same time not affecting its building programme. Eskom still needs to put up more power stations to address the energy requirements of our economy.

Journalist: Was Cabinet informed or take note of Communication Minister Siphiwe Nyanda's Christmas present to the nation of lowering interconnection costs with cellphone operators?

Themba Maseko: Yes, can I refer you to our statement last week. We dealt with that issue in the Cabinet statement. But basically Cabinet has welcomed the steps taken by the Minister of Communications in this regard and welcomes the decision to reduce the costs of telephony in the country. So that was covered in our previous Cabinet statement.

Journalist: When is the next Cabinet meeting, Themba?

Themba Maseko: Cabinet meets fortnightly but the next Cabinet meeting might be the last one for the year but we will check that.

Journalist: Was Eskom's board, chair and CEO discussed at all?

Themba Maseko: No not discussed at all, thank you very much.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Contact: 083 645 0810

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)