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

27 August 2009

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Panellist: Deputy Minister of Transport, Jeremy Cronin
Date: 27 August 2009
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town


Statement read by Themba Maseko

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, 26 August 2009.

Cabinet re-affirmed its commitment to implement the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system in partnership with all the stakeholders, particularly the taxi industry. The BRT initiative is aimed at improving and changing the way commuters can travel in our major cities. Improving public transport for South Africans is not negotiable as it has the potential to improve the quality of life of our citizens and to increase productivity across the board.

Government is firmly committed to making sure that all affected stakeholders are consulted and are part of the initiative. It is for this reason that government agreed to the establishment of the National Joint Working Group on Public Transport. This Working Group will lay the basis for a stronger partnership between Government and the Taxi industry.  Government is firmly committed to working with the taxi industry to address all their legitimate interests, concerns, and anxieties as the industry goes through this transformation.

At the same time the contractual agreements to implement the BRT will be signed between the respective cities and the relevant taxi associations. As national government we are committed to support and safeguard the integrity of the city-led negotiation process.
Government fully appreciates the contribution made by the taxi industry over many decades in moving South Africans around the country. Hence our commitment to work with the industry to ensure that it is not marginalised. In actual fact, Government sees the taxi industry as forming part of this initiative. The Joint Working Group was established to address all concerns and reservations of the industry including but not limited to the BRT.

All the cities that are implementing the BRT system have made unequivocal commitments to ensure that the affected operators are consulted and become an integral part of the BRT.

Having said that, government condemns all threats of violence against the implementation of the BRT. Such threats of violence and actual violent conduct are viewed in a very serious light and will not be tolerated. The law enforcement agencies will not hesitate to take strong action against those who either threaten or perpetrate any form of violence. Whilst the right to protest by those who are unhappy about the BRT is respected, this right cannot be exercised at the expense of law abiding citizens who have an equal right to a safe, punctual and efficient ride between home and work.

Cabinet condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the illegal and violent protest at the Union Buildings by members of the South African National Defence Union (SANDU). Defying a court order, engaging in unnecessary violent behaviour, causing damage to private and public property, and attempting to invade the seat of government is totally unacceptable, especially from people who have the responsibility of being the true defenders of the constitution. All those who were involved in this unruly behaviour must expect no sympathy from the state, as the law will take its course.

The time is fast approaching where the State cannot be expected to stand by while the laws of the land are being trampled upon, public and private property is being destroyed, untold damage is being caused to the country’s reputation as a stable and emerging democracy, and most importantly, the rights of law abiding citizens are being infringed upon in the name of protesting.

Cabinet congratulated all the athletes for participating in the 12th International Association of Athletics Federations IAAF, held in Berlin on 12-23 August 2009 and for winning two gold medals and a silver in 800 meters race and the long jump respectively.  Caster Semenya, Khotso Mokoena and Mbulaeni Mulaudzi made all South Africans very proud.  They lifted South Africa to the top 10 on the medals table at the conclusion of the championships. A special word of congratulations goes to Caster Semenya, whom President Zuma referred to as the ‘golden girl’ for silencing her critics by winning gold against all odds. Her achievement, especially during Women’s’ month, will serve to inspire millions of women, young and old, in South African and the rest of the developing world, to reach for the skies against all odds.

The Human Resources Development Strategy for South Africa (HRD-SA) 2010-2030 was discussed. The meeting decided that further work needs to be done to achieve greater alignment between the strategy and the electoral mandate; to take the current economic conditions into account; to include a stronger vision for the SETAS as well as the location of the FET Colleges; and the need to reflect on the unintended consequences of the merger of some of the Universities and other institutions of higher learning, particularly the Medical University of South Africa (MEDUNSA).

The Ministerial Task Team on cost cutting measures in government that is led by the Minister of Finance, Minister Pravin Gordhan, indicated that it would be tabling its report shortly. President Zuma will announce these cost cutting measures as soon as Cabinet has discussed and approved the report.

The document on the development indicators was approved and will be published shortly. The 2009 edition contains 76 indicators that are clustered into 10 themes. These indicators are an important evaluation tool that will be used to measure the impact of the various Government policies and service delivery initiatives, and add value to the efficient planning and implementation of government programmes.

The Green Paper on National Strategic Planning was approved. The Green Paper provides for, among other things, the establishment of the Planning Commission.  The Green Paper will be submitted to Parliament together with the Green Paper on Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation shortly.

The Department of Health’s interventions and messages on the H1N1 pandemic were discussed and the meeting noted that the Minister of Health was scheduled to make a statement in Parliament on the government response to the pandemic.

South Africa’s participation at the 2nd Africa-South America summit was approved. This summit will serve to strengthen South-South cooperation and the consolidation of the African agenda. The Summit will take place in Caracas, Venezuela from 22-27 September 2009.

The meeting noted that the next Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit was scheduled to take place on the 7-8 September 2009 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The DRC will take over the chairpersonship of SADC for the next year.

Cabinet decided that the number of persons who are appointed into the Boards and Councils of State and State controlled bodies should be broadened to give more South Africans the opportunity to serve the nation. The appointment of Chairpersons of Boards should be contingent on appropriate experience and qualifications. The Minister of Public Enterprises is compiling a database of persons who could be considered for appointment to these boards.

A 10.5% cost of living salary adjustment for the office bearers of the South African Human Rights Commission was noted and approved. The Ministers of Justice and Constitutional Development and of Public Service and Administration were mandated to investigate the salary structure of office bearers of all Chapter 9 institutions and to make recommendations in this regard. The two ministers were also asked to expedite all outstanding matters regarding the Report of the Ad hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 Institutions.  

Ms Mamodopi Mohlala was appointed to the post of Director General in the Department of Communication. She is the current Pension Fund Adjudicator. Her previous positions include the following: Councillor of ICASA; Managing Director of Mohlala Attorneys and lecturer at UNISA. Her qualifications include a BA in law, an LLB, and LLM.

Mr Jimmy Manyi was appointed to the post of Director General in the Department of Labour. Mr Manyi is currently the Group Executive of Corporate Affairs at Tiger Brands. His previous positions include Director of BEE and Corporate Affairs at IBM; Director of Corporate Affairs and Public Policy at Barclays Bank PLC and Executive Director of Business Banking and Marketing at Nedcor-Peoples Bank. His qualifications include: Chartered Marketer Programme; Senior Executive Programme; National Higher Diploma in Economic Geology and a National Diploma in Geology.

Ms Jesse Duarte was appointed to the post Chief Operations Officer in the Presidency. She is currently the Spokesperson of the African National Congress and her work experience includes: Deputy Director General and Chief Director in the former Department of Foreign Affairs; and South Africa’s High Commissioner to Mozambique.

The following appointments were also approved

  • Ms Lusanda Mxenge was appointed to the post of Deputy Director General in charge of the Cabinet Office in the Presidency.
  • Mr Mkhuseni Apleni was appointed to the post of Deputy Director General in charge of Finance and Supply Chain Management in the Department of Home Affairs.
  • Concurred with the recommendation to appoint of Dr B Mehlomakhulu as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).
  • Mr CB Sibisi (Chairperson); Dr T Demana; Dr MJ Ellman; Mr WK Masvikwa; Mr ME Mkhanazi; Ms B Mosako; Ms WIJ Poulton; Ms DIM Sekonyela and Dr B Mehlomakhulu (ex officio) were appointed to the Board of the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)
  • Ms C Da Silva; Mr MA Samie; Ms JRK Du Preez; Ms M Lehutso-Phooko; Mr H DU Toit and Ms B Njenje were appointed to the Board of the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (SASRIA) for a period of three years. Mr G Matthee was re-appointed as the Executive Director of SASRIA for three years and Mr C Ramaphosa was re-appointed as Chairperson of the Board.
  • Concurred with the re-appointment of Mr. M Mcdonald; Ms T Eboka and Ms T van Meelis to the part-time posts of commissioners at the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) at the Department of trade and Industry for a three year term.
  • Mr Z Fihlani and Mr J Lesejane were appointed to the Board of the Export Credit Insurance Corporation (ECIC) for a three-year period. Mr T Ditshego and Ms L Mvanana’s terms in the Board were extended for a year. Mr I Sharma’s term was extended to coincide with his employment contract, which expires on 28 February 2012.

The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill was approved and will be submitted to Parliament.

Journalist: A small point. I wondered what gave rise to the statement that the Cabinet decided the number of persons who’re appointed to the councils of state and state-controlled bodies should be broadened. What’s that about? It’s sort of stands out without any explanation as to what caused it. And I just wanted to express my feeling about the about the athletics. I had an idea that it was the long jump rather than the high jump that we got a silver medal in.

Themba Maseko: High jump, long jump, we’ll correct it. We’ll check. I’ll get my team to check on that, we’ll correct it in the statement. Thank you. Is it correct? Okay. Thank you, thank you. Thank you for correcting that. Why the decision to broaden the number of people participating in board- essentially what this Cabinet is trying to do is to make sure that we give more South Africans the opportunity to participate in these structures. The view was that we’re starting to see a trend where fewer people were appointed into more structures, boards and councils, and therefore this Cabinet is of the view that we need to give other South Africans an opportunity to also make a contribution to their nation, so that’s why we’re trying to broaden participation in this regard. No particular individual, it’s just an issue of principle that we need to broaden and make sure that more people participate. Yes, Sir?

Journalist: Minister Cronin, are you prepared to concede that negotiations have not progressed very well with regards to the taxi situation? Is there a fear that the potential exists for the 2010 World Cup to be disrupted and that SANTACO or the government recognised negotiating body, are negotiating mala fide?

Deputy Minister Cronin: On the contrary, we think that the negotiations process has gone quite well, and indeed there’s been progress just in this past week as well in regard to engaging with SANTACO in the context of the national joint working group. We anticipate SANTACO making an announcement today if not tomorrow, and certainly generally the wind has gone out of the sails of the threat to have a major indefinite taxi strike. But of course one’s dealing with a sector that is complicated and volatile, very difficult for us to find interlocutors, certainly as a national government, and it’s very hard for our counterparts in SANTACO for instance to effectively represent a very dispersed and complicated sector. The key point that we’re wanting to make in the Cabinet statement and to really emphasise is that the negotiations at the local level, and obviously one in the first instance is speaking about Johannesburg, the City of Johannesburg, where the planned launch of a starter service will begin on Monday the 31st, this coming Monday. On Sunday there will be a public launch of the Rea Vaya. The local level negotiations, which is really where the key negotiations belong, because one’s dealing with the affected operators, those whose businesses will be affected by the implementation of the BRT system, those negotiations generally have been going extremely well, in the city of Jo'burg, also now increasingly in Nelson Mandela Bay and also in Cape Town.

Journalist: [Off mic]

Deputy Minister Cronin: Well, I mean SANTACO should release its statement, but essentially the provisional agreement is that we will sign a memorandum of agreement as national government, as SANTACO, and the City of Jo'burg about how to approach the coming three months as we begin to roll out moving from a starter service in which for the moment the affected operators won’t be operating the bus company themselves, they will continue to operate their taxis as usual. But we will introduce a starter service using the BRT lanes, the BRT stations and so on. But as I say, that is under discussion currently, and we expect some kind of signing of a memorandum of agreement tomorrow, Friday.

Themba Maseko: Okay, let’s take all the BRT related questions so that we don’t need to move the mic too many times.  

Journalist: Deputy Minister, there were media reports this morning that some organisations, operators have launched an application in the Jo'burg North courts. Is government aware of it? Will it stop the process? Because that is what the application is intended to do. Will they still go ahead no matter what, on Monday?

Deputy Minister Cronin: Okay, well yes we are aware of this application by an entity called UTAH which is a relatively recent alliance of some taxi associations in the Johannesburg area. It’s an alliance that has been formed in order to oppose the BRT. It doesn’t have majority support in Johannesburg and it doesn’t have majority support anywhere else. But we are aware of this application that they’ve brought to the court. We think that it’s an application that won’t succeed in the court. Obviously if there is a court order ordering government to stop or to delay the implementation, then obviously we would have to listen to what the court says and we would do so. But we are optimistic that this will not succeed - this particular application. And certainly the message we’re sending out is that we cannot delay the implementation of these important transformations to public transport. It’s not about government getting its way, it’s about sending a clear message that we can’t be held hostage to delivering better effective public transport. Public interest is the overriding issue in this matter.

Journalist: Also on BRT. In the negotiations, those who were in the taxi industry now, what would government assume that they should be able to achieve, would their current income, their current revenue, be guaranteed in some way or do they need to accept that some of them are going to have to get out of the taxi business and into something else. And can you actually protect their full revenue flow? And the other question is, just in the concept of BRT, is it designed to serve the people who currently use taxis or is it designed to draw people out of cars and onto the BRT system?

Deputy Minister Cronin: Okay, let me begin with the second leg of your question first. Absolutely yes, it’s about broadening the base of public transport users. It’s very important. I mean, cities like Johannesburg, Cape Town and a number of other cities are facing huge congestion problems. We anticipate that the oil price will continue to rise, and therefore the challenges of, in terms of congestion, pollution, loss of productivity, all of these things are really important strategic considerations and we need to broaden the base of public transport users. One of the reasons why a house at a very low level of household income, people migrate very quickly to cars in South Africa, exceptionally quickly, the figure we’ve got is something like R3 000 once a household begins to earn R3 000 rand he typically migrates into a car, is because that and the fact that public transport is very costly, it’s not very dignified and generally people are getting a bad deal out of public transport. We’ve got to begin to transform it. BRT is not the total solution, it’s not the silver bullet, but it’s one element of introducing integrated, affordable, accessible and modern, First World, public transport, which hopefully will attract middle classes. The first leg of your question was the earnings, the income, and the livelihoods. There are probably about 200 000 people in the minibus sector in South Africa, employed as drivers, owners, a whole range of things. We can’t be insensitive to that reality. The approach with the BRT in Johannesburg and other cities that are moving towards implementation is to negotiate with the affected operators, those who, once the system becomes fully operational, will be asked to move or be compelled to move their taxis off that particular route. And government has indicated that we will guarantee no loss of legitimate business and no net loss of jobs on those routes. And that’s very important. But to guarantee that we may well need to look at some element of operating subsidy, public transport is subsidised around the world in developed countries, you know, and not just here in South Africa. But in order to also guarantee the sustainability at the local level on the affected routes it means that we cannot allow non-affected operators to try to barge in and achieve a slice of business action for them, and much of the current protest around the BRTs is coming, in our view, from those quarters. Those who are trying to elbow out the affected operators with whom we are negotiating in order to dilute their shareholding and get a slice of action. And we can’t allow that, and which is why the statement from Cabinet indicates the importance of preserving the integrity of the city led local level negotiations, while at the same time engaging the industry around the broad principles of the approach to BRT and integrated public transport in general.

Journalist: New jobs in BRT are part of that sum?

Deputy Minister Cronin: Yes, absolutely, so there will be jobs as drivers and people say well if you’re reducing the number of taxis and having fewer buses which you will of course. How does that work? Well, there’ll be three shifts, for instance, in the Johannesburg BRT as opposed to the 17 hour poorly paid, if paid at all, experiences of drivers currently on those routes. There will also be jobs in station maintenance, cleaning and a range of other jobs like that. We say no net loss of jobs because what we’ve discovered in the Johannesburg case for instance is that some of the drivers don’t have driver’s licenses, are illegal non-South Africa- illegal residents in South Africa. And we can’t necessarily unfortunately guarantee that every one of them will necessarily get a job in the new BRT system, but certainly we you know, job creation is a really important criteria as well and we need to make sure that there’s not a net loss of jobs on these routes, and that obviously is a great improvement in the conditions of work for those who are now working at these modern public transport systems.

Themba Maseko: I omitted to welcome Vusi Mona, the Head of Communication in The Presidency. Welcome chief.

Journalist: Can we get more info on the National Joint Working Group on public transport? Who will lead it, how is it going to operate? How long will it remain in operation and so on?

Deputy Minister Cronin: he National Joint Working Group, you will remember that on the edge of elections, on the eve of elections, the taxi industry demanded to see ANC president then Jacob Zuma. There was a large meeting at Gallagher Estate in April and basically there was mobilisation against the implementation of BRT. President Zuma at that point indicated to the taxi industry that they should hold their horses and their threats against the elections, and to disrupt the elections were not appreciated. But at the same time we would return to their concerns, but they shouldn’t disrupt democracy in South Africa. Following that in the State of the Nation address, President Zuma, his first State of the Nation address here in Parliament, indicated that the process that he had indicated would ensue after elections would now be handled by the minister of transport, who by the way apologises he’s not here, because he’s ill today, that the minister of transport would then be taking up these issues. On June 11th at Gallagher, a large meeting that seemed to have about and I’m not good on figures, but about three, four, five thousand taxi operators from all over the country attended this meeting. And it was at that meeting that we agreed as government to set up with the taxis operators, a national joint working group to look at a range of issues. The BRT, yes, and their concerns around it, but also taxi subsidies. We subsidise other modes of transport but we don’t subsidise taxis. How do we subsidise taxis if they’re formless and shapeless? Very difficult and would be irresponsible simply to hand out public money by way of subsidisation. But it’s also unfair that they are not subsidising, we want to subsidise public transport and not modes and many other issues of concern to the taxi industry. So a National Joint Working Group has been set up. It took a bit of time to form, not from the side of government but from the taxi sector, but given the challenges of being representative. That National Joint Working Group has now met, and its first area of discussion is the BRT.

Journalist: Just further on the subsidy issue. I mean, we’re coming close to the medium term budget in October. If you want to introduce something like that I’m sure it has to be in this budget then. Is this a concrete proposal or just something…? I mean, what amounts are we talking about? What more can you tell us about this? A bit more detail. And just one a wider scale, it seems this country is looking pretty rough probably to outside investors at the moment. We’ve had this almost storm on the Union Buildings, we’ve had taxi drivers saying that they might protest next week. I mean, what is this doing for investor confidence in the country, as a bit broader as a Cabinet minister?

Deputy Minister Cronin: Okay, well, I should stick to transport; I haven’t got a mandate to speak for Cabinet in general. But on the subsidy matter, there is some possibility. Essentially there is a bus subsidy allocation which is in the current budget. There are concerns around the quantum there. There’s a change in formula essentially, which has to do with the fact that it’s no longer dispensed through the national department. But it goes directly through a division of revenue act to provinces. And some of the provinces are already looking at the possibility of including taxis in the current subsidy thing, in other words, including taxis within the broader bus subsidy. That does present some challenges and whether that will be possible in this budget year or even in a future budget year all at once is I think extremely uncertain. The better chance of taxis benefiting from subsidy would lie in becoming part and parcel of integrated public transport networks. That’s the route to travel and in which case one subsidises the network and not this or that mode. And that’s where we’re trying to move in the medium term, and the BRT is a small beginning in that direction, so Rea Vaya to be launched you know in a couple of days basically will I think mark the beginning. I’m quite hopeful and optimistic that the message we will send to international investors on Sunday and then again on Monday is that we are beginning to introduce finally wonderful First World modern public transport. And certainly as government the message we’re sending from Cabinet is that we’re not going to allow apart from a court order which might come, but I don’t think so, but we’re not going to allow disruptive elements who are seeking narrow personal gain to prevent this from happening. So that’s going to a very firm signal, and that’s certainly what we’re sending. You would have noticed also that yesterday in Gauteng province the ANC, the Communist Party, COSATU, the South African Commuter Organisation, the South African National Civic Organisation, all joined in also supporting very fully his launch of the BRT. So that’s the signal hopefully we’re sending not just to international investors, but above all to local people who are dependent on public transport. We’re not going to buckle, we’re not going to be held over a barrel, our doors are open for negotiation of course, but at the same time public interest must prevail.

Journalist: Deputy minister, if you can put a percentage on it, what would you say is the percentage of taxi organisations that supports the BRT?

Deputy Minister Cronin: Okay, the only way in which one can do a percentage is by looking at the local level negotiations, okay? And in Johannesburg there are ten associations operating currently on the route from Regina Mundi basically into the CBD of Johannesburg. And of those ten, nine for the last three years have been fully participant and are fully supporting the process. Here in Cape Town where the actual launch of a BRT leg I think is still in the medium term future, but nonetheless there’s infrastructure spending and planning that is beginning to happen, and negotiations, and there too the majority of affected taxi operators on the first route, which will go from the Cape Town CBD out along the north towards Atlantis. There too the majority of taxi associations, it’s basically the Peninsula Taxi Association, is fully supporting, and in fact as I understand there is only one small association that for the moment is not fully supporting this. So the overwhelming majority of affected operators and Nelson Mandela Bay it seems like the entire taxi… all of the taxi associations are very much involved in the negotiations. And they announced earlier this week that they were not supporting at all SANTACO’s national call for an indefinite stay-away against the BRT.

Journalist: Clarification, you said there are concerns about the quantum of subsidy, that it is too high or that it is too low?

Deputy Minister Cronin: That currently what is allocated in budget, and we’ve had discussions with Treasury and there’s an agreement that the current allocation is not sufficient. We had a problem, you will remember at the beginning of this year, but in the course of the last budget cycle, with the budget allocation to bus subsidies. And we are certainly alive to the challenge and we are looking at how to sort the matter out. So obviously we’re looking at the appropriation in the coming months, expropriation in that direction.

Journalist: No, it’s just a follow-up to my earlier question, Minister; I asked who will lead this joint working group. You did not tell us. Is it yourself? Is it Minister Ndebele? Is it Philip Taaibosch? Who’s it?

Deputy Minister Cronin: It’s jointly, okay? So that suggests that it’s not one person. The Minister of Transport, Minister Ndebele, is leading it from the government’s side. And SANTACO is leading it from the side of… and their national office bearers are leading the process from their side.

Deputy Minister Cronin: Minister, two issues, the Western Cape want to introduce a system where the subsidy would form part of a ticketing system so the subsidy would be paid to users and not to operators. Do you have plans to do a similar thing? Because it seems to me that it’s internationally accepted way of doing it, and that there’s a lot of abuse in the subsidy going to operators. And secondly, if most of the affected operators and their associations are behind this thing, why don’t you just tell the other guys to get lost? Govern. They are holding you over a barrel.

Deputy Minister Cronin: Well, in regard to your last question, we are not telling them to get lost. We are not going to behave like another neighbouring government in our area in regard to the informal sector. Okay? We need to recognise that these are livelihoods, they’re the livelihoods of large numbers of poor people and therefore we cannot simply say get lost. But on the other hand obviously we need to move forward. And that’s what we’re saying today. We are saying that we are going to move forward with the Rea Vaya in Johannesburg, our doors remain open. But we’re going to move forward with we think overwhelming support from a large majority… from South African citizens in general, from organisations around the country, and also ironically from many taxi operators. In fact, what has changed in the last couple of weeks as a result of our engagement with… is not a single entity… taxi entity that I’m hearing is saying that it’s anti-BRT. They’re all saying no, no we’re not opposed to BRT but… and the but usually includes, you know, we want to know more but the know more means they want to get some kind of slice of action, typically for themselves. So we are going to govern, but we’re going to govern as a democratic state, determined to uphold the public interest. I can’t remember the first leg of your question.  I answered your second leg and then forgot the first leg was… oh, about… about subsidies. Subsidies are about passengers, okay? How you subsidise public transport… the whole purpose of subsidising public transport is, one, to ensure that we increase public transport usage, but secondly also that we make it affordable and accessible and therefore it is directed at public interest and therefore users and potential users of the system. The formula for doing that varies from country to country. But fundamentally our approach is to subsidise the operations through the operating entities, to regulate that and there might be questions around that, we are shifting from currently for instance here in Cape Town, Golden Arrow operates on a passenger head system, so the number of clip cards that they sell, then we subsidise according to a formula on that. We’re moving towards a kilometre based approach, which is the international norm. In other words, the contracting authority, the public authority, it might be a city, it might be a province or a national entity, contracts with operators… operating hopefully a network increasingly, to provide schedule services through the day and into the night, and to run X number of scheduled kilometres per day, and then you regulate and monitor the performance on that route and therefore allocate out of a fare collection on a weekly basis typically, payback to the operators according to performance, contractually, you know, what is contracted. So that’s the approach. So I’ve heard an argument which comes from one opposition party in particular, which says that there’s something wrong with this and so on. This is the international norm, and that’s the direction we’re moving.

Journalist: Is there not a problem over the representativity of the taxi organisations? That some of these organisations have no democratic credential at all as far as I gather, and in fact run on a sort of mafia basis. Is this not a concern when you’re in this kind of negotiation?

Deputy Minister Cronin: You used those words, I didn’t. I’m not going to behave like a neighbouring country. But there are huge challenges obviously in a sector that has been much marginalized, and we know from the Dumisa Ntsebeza investigation for instance here in the Western Cape that there are very, very serious problems of warlord-ism. One doesn’t want to allege that large numbers of operators are honest and hard working. But there certainly are problems of patriarchal domination and control in the sector as well. The SANTACO… and therefore over several years now going back to the time in which Dullah Omar was the Minister of Transport, there has been an attempt to assist them to democratise, and so indeed we’ve got now elected… democratically elected local, provincial and national structures, taxi council SANTACO and there’s the national structure, and then there are provincial and local structures. So those are the entities that we formally recognise as government and we seek to deal with, hence also in the national joint working group, our key interlocutor is SANTACO at the national level. However, there are challenges on that front for them, because it’s one thing to be elected in a conference, it’s another thing to continue to effectively represent a very volatile industry. You know, even in the Chamber of Mines when there’s a strike on the mines individual mining houses often break ranks with the Chamber of Mines in the negotiations process. But in the taxi industry you’re dealing with… well, we don’t really know, perhaps 100 000 robustly independent entrepreneurs, and hundreds and hundreds of taxi associations and mother bodies and so forth. And therefore it is a challenge, and it’s a reality that we have to work with the reality we’ve got and not the reality we would like, but we’ve got to make progress. And what blocks progress in terms of the delivery of public transport are the fears and concerns and vested interests of perhaps 150 000 perhaps 200 000 minibuses operating out there. So it’s a big challenge. But we are determined to move ahead and we have to.

Journalist: On the topic of errant neighbouring countries, was President Zuma’s trip to Zimbabwe discussed at all in the light of government’s views perhaps on what he should achieve there, considering problems still being experienced by the unity government with the collapse of another Cabinet meeting last weekend. And also is government by any chance aware of any illness of the Zimbabwean president?

Themba Maseko: The President’s visit to Zim was not discussed, but obviously Cabinet is aware that the President is undertaking a visit and its part of government’s commitment to play a key role in making sure that stability is achieved in Zimbabwe. So that is part of what the President is going to be trying to do in Zimbabwe but the visit itself, its objectives were not discussed at the meeting yesterday. The health of the president of Zimbabwe was not discussed in Cabinet and I’m also not aware of the details of that so we can’t comment on that one.

Journalist: Two other points – the comment that you made after the issue of the Defence Force protest, the time is fast approaching... that paragraph, and you end up saying ‘rights of citizens have been infringed on in the name of protesting’, does that apply to the kind of wave of protests we’ve seen on a whole number of issues or is that referring only to the SANDF issue?

Themba Maseko: This is applicable to all the types of protests that we have seen over the past few months in the country, which is bordering on basically, hooliganism and government is beginning to say ‘you know, we have a situation where the rights of law-abiding individuals and citizens are being trampled upon and as government we can’t stand by and watch people causing serious damage to property – both private and public property – injury costs to innocent citizens by people who may in many, many cases may be having very legitimate concerns. But it is the nature and form of protest that government finds totally unacceptable and strong action is indeed going to be taken. So that statement is applicable to all forms of violent protests that are taking place. There are laws in this country. If people want to protest they must apply for permission and the permission must be properly issued and if there’s no permit those marches can’t be allowed to take place and even when the permit has been given we find it totally unacceptable that people resort to violence during the protest because that diverts the country’s attention and focus from addressing legitimate concerns and focuses on the violence that is taking place so we’re saying that is totally unacceptable and we’re going to do all that is necessary to make sure that the laws of the country are respected and applied.

Journalist: My other question, is tyre burning and stone-throwing in that category of violent protest? And then the other one is, on the issues of the members of boards and various bodies, the minister is going to draw up a list – the Minister of Public Enterprise is compiling a database of persons to be considered, on what basis? How do you get up? Does the minister just say ‘I like your face; we’ll put you on the list’? What would be the foundation of that?

Themba Maseko: An attempt to try and regularise it? We are beginning to have a better sense of the kind of skills, the types of individuals required to sit on these boards so that we can begin to address the serious governance challenges that a lot of these state entities are experiencing so if you have a sense of skills that are required we’ll then begin to identify and we may even possibly invite who we want to participate on these boards to say ‘I’m available, these are my skills and those will be considered to make sure we actually have a much more thorough rigorous process of selecting people – people that we know will add value in terms of improving governance but most importantly improving the performance of all of these institutions. So that’s the process we’re moving towards through this database so yes, we’ll look at skills, people’s backgrounds, experience in participating in such councils and boards and those people will be added to the database.

Journalist: Including civil society which is not much represented in many of these Boards at the moment.

Themba Maseko: Well, a lot of these Boards are not representative boards so you’re looking for individuals. So a lot of them yes, would be involved in civil society but its essentially saying what does the pool set require and where can we find the South Africans? Collate them, put them in a database so that when a minister says we’ve got vacancies in this council or board, he or she will know that there’s a database – they’ll start there to make sure that we have more and more South Africans because you have to agree that it is actually a bit of a problem to see the same names appearing in too many state bodies, state boards and councils. So we need to actually broaden the skills base.

Journalist: Just another question on your statement that the state is going to take strong action. Can you say exactly what you will do? And then also, are you saying that there should be no protesting without permits? In that case what do you expect of people like the soldiers who didn’t get a permit to protest? Did they just sit back and wait for government to address their grievances? And do you not think that people have been sitting back for the past 15 years and waiting for government and now if they choose to protest, I mean it would be a better strategy to actually go and address their problems than talking about stronger action to take against them.

Themba Maseko: Deputy Minister, you can come in if you wish. Strong action – firstly we’ve got to understand that we are a constitutional democracy. There are laws that need to be obeyed by all citizens. There are laws that govern protests and marches in this country. So if you want to organise a march which causes untold inconvenience to other law-abiding citizens who are not part of that action – disrupts commerce and industry, disrupts functioning of municipalities and every aspect of life, so there has to be a permit that is applied for and that permit must be granted to agree on even the route that needs to be followed so that the law enforcement authorities know how to divert transport etc So there are practical steps that need to be followed, so we are basically saying all South Africans, all organs of civil society must abide by the laws of the country. Strong action, what do we mean by that? Yes, the police services will be mandated to make sure that there’s strict compliance with the laws of the land. So if people break the law then the necessary steps will be taken including arresting those who are participating and involved in the violence and those who are threatening to embark on violent activities, all those kinds of stuff. So the normal laws of the country will be implemented by the law enforcement agencies. Now, you obviously do not expect me to sit and say the police will fire rubber bullets, the police will shoot teargas – those are operational decisions that are taken by cops on the ground. But they are done within the framework of the law.

Journalist: Just a follow-up – but then how is this different to the status quo, because the police, there are already laws and the police are already authorised to police protests but what you’re talking about here is the time that is fast approaching where something new would happen.

Themba Maseko: The action that we will be taking is that those who organise these marches, those who openly perpetuate and promote violent action, the state will start acting against those individuals. Those who actively participate in burning and destroying property both public and private must expect to be arrested by the police. Not enough of that has been happening and you should expect to see a stronger hand on the part of the police to actually make sure that people are held to account for breaking the laws of this country. That’s as far as I can say on that one.

Journalist: Just a question on the appointment. Was the matter of the Transnet CEO to be discussed at Cabinet and was it rescheduled? Can you give us an update on that please?

Themba Maseko: The issue of the Transnet CEO is one of the appointments that are due to serve before Cabinet but it has not yet served before Cabinet and as soon as the minister is ready with the recommendation it will be brought to Cabinet. But at this meeting no decision was taken on the Transnet CEO matter.

Journalist: The return of our athletes from overseas – there’s been a debate around that and it’s been elevated into a racial issue with all sorts of public figures condemning parts of society not supporting our athletes etc. Does Cabinet hold a view around that? Was it discussed at all?

Themba Maseko: Well, Cabinet focused at this particular meeting on congratulating the athletes for performing extremely well and we obviously did expect all South Africans to stand firmly behind South African athletes who are out there carrying the South African flag up high, so that’s what was discussed at this particular meeting. Nothing else was discussed.

Journalist: Jessie Duarte, do you feel she’s fully qualified to run the Presidency as a Chief Operating Officer?

Themba Maseko: As you can see in the statement with you that Jessie Duarte is fully qualified to become the COO in the Presidency. She has all the relevant experience. She’s worked in government before at both provincial and national level. She’s been representing the country in Mozambique so I would think that she’s suitable qualified and that’s why Cabinet fully endorsed her appointment.

Journalist: Similar question – on the DG for Communications.  I mean Mamodopi Mohlala has extensive legal experience, running her own firm, studied legal and her only exposure at communications appears to have been at a greater level as a councillor at ICASA. What do you believe prepared her for the DG of Communications job? She doesn’t appear to have other exposure to the technical side of the communications industry, so what prepares her for this role of DG of Communications?

Themba Maseko: She’s a qualified and experienced manager and leader. As DG you are required to manage a department which also includes managing and making sure that we employ the right experts to provide the technical support for you as head of that department so although technical skills, technical competence, [Unclear] in departments is an important element of a DG’s job the DG himself does not necessarily have to be a technocrat. Their role is to be the Chief Executive Officer of a department and Cabinet was of the view that this particular candidate possessed the right experience and skills to run a department such as Communications and the government is confident that there is sufficient capacity in that department that she can actually work with to make sure that a strong leadership is provided so the candidate enjoys the full support of Cabinet.

Journalist: The ministerial task team on cost-cutting measures is going to give its report shortly. When? How shortly and when is it to be discussed by Cabinet will that be at the next cabinet meeting in a fortnight’s time or is it going to have to wait until much later in the year?

Themba Maseko: No firm date has been established yet but my expectation is that the matter is indeed urgent and it may be finalised at the next Cabinet meeting. One of the outstanding things that they’re focusing on at this particular point in time is to also get a sense of what cost-cutting measures are being implemented by government departments and state entities as we speak, because following statements that were made by Cabinet over the past two Cabinet meetings a lot of ministers and departments have already started introducing and implementing cost-cutting measures so a lot of those are still being consolidated and my expectation Michael, is that next Cabinet meeting we may actually have this report finalised.

Journalist: The Boards that you want to extend, would that include the Chapter Nine institutions? For instance, yesterday the Committee on Justice said they wanted to re-advertise because they want more commissioners. In other words, is there a kind of statement of intent that all institutions should be strengthened?

Themba Maseko: All institutions should be strengthened and the people who participate must be broadened so it will include every aspect. Obviously, when this matter is being finalised, there will be discussions with parliament to also ensure that as they appoint members as parliament to some of those bodies, they also take this factor into account, so it will cover all institutions.

Journalist: I just want to know, let’s get back to the marches and the protests. If the state plans stronger action, does this mean the people who cause damage or the unions involved in these marches, that they will be held accountable for the damages caused?

Themba Maseko: Well, that detail has not been worked out. At this stage all we are talking about is just making sure that the laws of the land are actually being implemented. So if somebody is caught destroying property and causing damage to either public or private property, action will be taken against those individuals so whether that person is a member of a union or not, it will be immaterial. So action will be taken against those individuals. We are aware that other countries have gone to the other, shall I call it extreme, where if a union or a civil society body organises a march and that march leads to destruction of property or death, that organisation itself is held responsible. I don’t think we’re there yet. But it’s something that might have to be looked into at a later stage. At this particular point in time all we’re talking about is the application and implementation of existing laws.

Journalist: On the cost-cutting measures Themba, would that involve by any chance a review of the national budget tabled in February?

Themba Maseko: The cost-cutting measures are intended to basically change the way in which government does business across the board. So the initial task team’s work is just to identify measures that can be implemented immediately but as you will recall, in the previous statement we did indicate that there’s going to be an overall expenditure review that is being conducted by the policy unit in government. So that work will continue and will eventually filter down into all aspects of budgeting at a later stage, but that’s more a medium to long term strategy that will be implemented. At this stage we’re just trying to identify measures that can be implemented immediately for short to medium term interventions as far as cost management is concerned within government.

Journalist: Human Resources Development Strategy - You talk in rather vague terms about a stronger vision for the SETAS. What does that mean? And the location of the FET Colleges, that surely doesn’t mean the physical location or does it or does it mean which minister it should answer to?

Themba Maseko: It’s more which ministry they may be accountable to. A stronger vision for SETAS – this is essentially about spending a bit of time thinking about the role and function of the SETAS but more importantly what needs to be done to strengthen the SETAS so that they can begin to have an even greater impact on the skills shortages in this country. So it’s about saying yes we set the instructions, these are the objectives but there have been witnesses. What steps need to be put in place to make sure that the SETAS are strengthened to play the role of developing skills in this country so that’s what that discussion will be about.

Thank you very much.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)