11 March 2010
|Presenters:||Pravin Gordhan, Minister of Finance, Rob Davies, Minister of Trade and Industry|
|Date:||11 March 2010|
|Venue:||Imbizo Media Centre|
Statement by Government spokesperson Themba Maseko
Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, 10 March 2010.
Cabinet welcomed and approved the implementation plan to scale up the HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment programme that was presented by the Minister of Health. This approval follows President Jacob Zuma’s announcement on World AIDS Day on 1 December 2009 that the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic would be scaled up in partnership with all stakeholders in the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC).
The objectives of the new scaled up plan are to reduce the rate of infection by 50% by 2011 and to provide ARV treatment to 80% of those who need the treatment. More emphasis will be placed on prevention through information, education, widespread distribution of condoms and mobilisation of millions of South Africans to know their status. The highlights of the new implementation plan will include voluntary and public HIV/AIDS testing which will be led by members of Cabinet and other leaders from broader society; and a move from voluntary counselling and testing (VCT) to HIV Counselling and Testing (HCT), a service delivery model that offers testing to all patients at the entry points in all health institutions.
The target of the HCT campaign is to test up to 15 million people by June 2011. The campaign will also promote healthy lifestyles and increase access to treatment, care and support. All public health facilities, fixed and mobile, will be equipped to offer HIV Testing and to provide ARTs.
Retired and non-practising medical staff such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists will be requested to make themselves available to the health system to support this initiative. The Minister of Health has already written letters to all retired and non-practicing practitioners appealing to them to support the campaign. Cabinet appeals to the professionals to respond positively to the Minister’s call in the country’s hour of need.
The new HIV and AIDS implementation plan will be launched on 15 April 2010 in Gauteng with provincial launches taking place in all the provinces on 19 April 2010. The public testing will also take place during the launches.
Cabinet calls on South Africans to be part of this initiative by making themselves available for testing in order to know their status, live healthy lifestyles and help the nation to defeat the scourge of HIV and AIDS.
The Radio Frequency Spectrum Policy was approved. The policy seeks to, among other things, ensure the efficient use and management of the radio frequency spectrum; facilitates the achievement of key socio-economic objectives such as increasing access to information and communications technologies (ICT); the creation of an information society via wireless technologies, and ensure access to broadband services and public service broadcasting content. A popular version of the policy will be issued to make the policy more accessible.
The Draft National Broadband Policy for South Africa was tabled and discussed. The Policy seeks to, among other things, address availability, accessibility and affordability of Broadband, the building of an information society as well as to promote uptake and usage of Broadband. Cabinet decided that an Inter-Ministerial Committee, convened by the Minister of Communication and consisting of the Ministers of Science and Technology, Public Enterprises, Rural Development and Land Affairs, Economic Development and Public Service and Administration, will be established to finalise the policy.
Cabinet discussed President Jacob Zuma’s recent State visit to the United Kingdom, which took place on 3-5 March 2010. The visit was successful in cementing the strong economic and bilateral relations between the two nations. However, Cabinet expressed its displeasure about the negative attitude of some elements of the British media that sought to do everything in their power to undermine the visit. Nonetheless, the meeting welcomed the warm reception President Zuma received from the British government and business leaders. The Ministers Pravin Gordhan (Finance) and Rob Davies (Trade and Industry) will elaborate further on other aspects of the visit during this briefing.
The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) were approved and will be submitted to Parliament for ratification.
Cabinet noted the outcomes of the Extra-ordinary Conference of African Union Ministers in charge of Communications and Information Technologies (AY CIT) held in Ekurhuleni, on 2-5 November 2009. The outcomes of the conference include commitments to promote ICT Research and Development in the continent, regional integration, harmonisation and mainstreaming of ICT policies and the protection of African geographic and heritage names.
The meeting expressed concern about the ill-advised move by some business establishments to increase their prices ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in anticipation of making mega profits. These moves must be discouraged at all costs as they have the potential to discourage many soccer lovers from attending the tournament and could have a negative impact on future tourism in the country. Government calls on all South African businesses to resist the temptation to unduly inflate their prizes during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The Minister of Tourism has commissioned a survey to look at the pricing structure in the tourism sector ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. This study will identify the extent of the problem and make recommendations about possible steps that could be taken in this regard. A report will be submitted to Cabinet shortly.
Cabinet discussed the plans for the celebration of Human Rights Day, which is scheduled for 21 March 2010. The meeting noted that preparations were at an advanced stage for the celebration, which will take place in Sharpeville. This year’s celebrations will include the acknowledgment of the progress the country was making to restore the dignity and rights of all South Africans. These include: 2.8 million houses have been completed under the subsidy scheme; the percentage of households with access to portable water increased from 61% to 91.8 % between 1994 and March 2009. By March 2009, more than 10 million households had access to sanitation compared to 5 million in 1994 and households with access to electricity increased from 4.5 to 9.1 million during the same period.
In this context, President Zuma urged Cabinet Ministers to ensure that future celebrations of national days must assume a truly national character by making sure that these events are organised on a non-partisan basis. The modalities of implementing this approach will be worked out in due course.
The following appointments were approved:
- The following were appointed to the Board of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA): New members - Ms Solani Victoria Bvuma; Mr Peter Kgame; Ms Koekie Mdlulwa; Prof Maredi Mphahlele; Ms Nontobeko Ntsinde; Ms Jacqueline Shibambu; Ms Febe C Potgieter-Gqubule. Existing members: Ms Zodwa Manase (Chairperson); Mr AM Luthuli; Ms R Sekese; Ms M Makhekhe-Mokhuane; Mr C Kruger and Ms C Clark. The following were appointed as alternate Board members of SITA: Mr Ronnie Mabena; Ms BM Malongete; Ms Nomvuyo Memory Mhlakaza; Ms Tumelo Moloko; Mr David Niddrie; Mr Geeva Pillay and Kgomotso Mthimunye.
- Ms K Moloto was appointed as non executive Directors to the board of the South African Post Office (SAPO) for a period of three (3) years with effect from 1 April 2010
- The following members were appointed to the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS) for a period of five years with effect from 1 March 2010: Justice TC Ndita (Chairperson); Justice HJ Lacock; Justice A Ledwaba; Mr A Bekker; Adv S Mzinyathi; Mr Motseki; Ms Jolingana; Mr P Lesese; Ms C Nxumalo; Prof C Cilliers; Prof V Notshulwana; Dr KJ Kometsi; Ms LU Zisiwe; Dr M Mako; Ms B Ngobeni; Ms L Smit; Dr MF Randera; Dr H Hargovan and Mr S Nkanunu
- Dr M Guam; Ms B Rodman and Mr T Dumbutshena were appointed Task Team members to audit certain categories of inmates for a period of six months.
Statement by Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan
As you know, the President was accompanied by quite a big delegation of Ministers particularly in the economic environment and a number of them had various interactions with both British Government counterparts and in some instances the British opposition party counterparts and meetings with the private sector, analysts and economists. Mr Davies will give you information from his point but let me share with you some of the experiences that I had during this particular state visit.
Apart from meeting the queen and apart from being cold in London it was a good set of meetings. It demonstrated firstly that South Africa from a number of vantage points is held in very high regard by different role players in Britain. Whether it’s Government, the private sector or the investor community, it’s held in high regard, partly because of its capacity to contribute to developments in Africa, the recognition that as the biggest economy in South Africa we have a lot of potential to work with overseas role-players - both Government and the private sector - in order to promote economic development and other developments on the African continent. When you sit inside the country you don’t get this view but from the external point of view there’s consensus that we have handled this recession, despite the fact that we have lost a million jobs, very well and if you look at our growth figures, they are much higher than growth that can be expected in many European countries for a start.
Secondly there was a lot of recognition for the kind of fiscal path we have mapped out in the Budget and the fact that we have a sustainable approach to both expenditure and borrowing and our capacity to borrow more but also to ensure that we reprioritise our expenditure and engage in better savings. This confidence was confirmed because by coincidence the Treasury on behalf of Government went on to a fundraising exercise. We normally do very extensive road shows - this time it was done from the Pretoria offices together with overseas partners and we were looking for $1.5 billion for next year’s fiscal requirements. We eventually had offers of almost $7 billion and eventually took $2 billion which will be the final oversees borrowing that we will do for the 2010/2011 fiscal year. I’m sure Minister Davies will join me in this. We gave all the role players insight into our efforts to tackle the problem of job creation in South Africa. We have shared with them our thoughts on what we meant by restructuring our economy and increasing its potential to absorb labour, but also opportunities for people overseas to share with us in investing this. There is more understanding as a result of our interaction - the challenges that we face rising from our historical inequalities and an understanding that our unemployment is not something that happened recently but as a result of the kind of history that we’ve had in our country. Equally importantly we shared our understanding of the role of education and training in our economy and in our economic growth plans.
There was a lot of interest in the concept of gateway to Africa. Lots of businesses are looking for sophisticated physical, financial and social infrastructure which will enable them to engage in business in Africa. I think Minister Davies will confirm this, that there’s interest not only in investing in Africa but using [South] Africa as a base from which their businesses can extend operations onto the African continent. We explained for example our relaxation of exchange control provisions which will enable overseas businesses to bring money to South Africa.
As [far as] exchanges with Government in Britain is concerned we reached consensus that the global economy is indeed beginning to pick up. In Britain itself it is still pretty gloomy but there’s optimism around the corner, but there is also agreement as you’ve heard many times that optimism comes with an understanding that growth will be very sluggish and that job creation will be very sluggish in many parts of the world except those that are growing at 7% and 10%.
What is remarkable about this overview of the world is that the rest of the world sees the African economy as having done very well in respect of the recession as well. If you look at the numbers that is quite true that whilst there was a setback from 6% down to about 1.5% growth in Africa, many African countries have rebounded quite well after the recession and have been quite resilient although they have many historical and legacy challenges that they have to overcome.
Finally we had discussions on the G20 processes both in respect of further work that is being done in trying to get the regulatory environment for the financial sector advanced and implemented, but also in respect of giving content to what it means to develop a framework for sustained and balanced growth. That is the new project if you like for the next 18 months or so. How does the world rebalance itself, firstly in the sense of the United States (US) and China but more importantly there’s a growing consensus that rebalancing between the US and China is not enough. We require a framework which incorporates developing countries as key players for demand creation and as future sources of growth which could in fact be the saviour of the world economic system if attitudes change and there’s the appropriate investment in our environment. So all in all these meeting with various sectors of the British economy that we had interactions with, confirmed we are doing well in this country despite all our challenges, there’s recognition that we are managing our economy well but also that we have quite determined plans in order to restructure the economy as well.
Lastly the fact that we still live in a troubled world but there’s interesting prospects for reshaping the world if we can get agreement amongst G20 leaders later in the year. Thank you.
Statement by Trade and Industry Minister, Rob Davies
I was deployed to the business forums so I am going to talk about the outcomes of the meetings between South African and United Kingdom (UK) business people. We had a delegation consisting of around 216 business people from South Africa which was the largest business delegation that’s ever accompanied a State visit and we had exceptional cooperation from United Kingdom Trade Investment (UKTI) which put together a very strong matching delegation for our people. In fact I think there were at times twice as many UK business people in the meetings as the South African business delegation and I think that was a sign of the interest that there was. We have circulated a short report on the business meetings as well as the statement or the joint outcomes which was presented at the end. I think some of the highlights to just underscore were that first of all we agreed that there was a need to work towards doubling our two-way trade. Just to put that into context between 2000-2008 our two-way trade did in fact double and reached a total by 2008 of around R79 billion but it has been badly hit by the recession. So in 2009 it in fact fell back to around about R40 billion. So doubling our trade is definitely a very attainable target and both sides agreed on that.
From our point of view we expressed the ambition to change the composition of that trade because we still export principally primary products - mainly mineral products - to the United Kingdom and we want to increase the percentage of products which are value added. In terms of the broad outcomes, the first point to make is that you will see even on the first page, the first cross-cutting issue which the business leaders themselves agreed with was fundamental was the point referred to by Minister Gordhan, that both countries are in some sense a gateway into the respective regions. Certainly the British delegation that was there is looking to South Africa as a gateway into the Southern African Development Community (SADC). We were also indicating to them and there was great interest around this, the next stage of the project of regional integration is the work which is going on to establish a free trade area between SADC, the common market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African community and this, when it’s completed, will establish a free trade area from Cape to Cairo with about 700 million people and there was great interests in those.
We also took the opportunity to inform them of some of the priorities under the Industrial Policy Action plan (IPAP) and I believe that a number of important synergies were identified in terms of the interest and capabilities of British investors and some of the priorities in the IPAP. I think those were reflected in particular sectoral engagements that took place. I think we need to just say that by the nature of these engagements at a stage like this, which is just a few days after the visit, we can’t report that there is this or that concrete investment taking place. Contacts were established and I think the beginnings of processes were established. The joint outcome was that there was a great interest in investing in infrastructure programmes and also in industries in South Africa - located in South Africa - that would produce inputs into the infrastructure investment programmes which is one of the main priorities identified in the IPAP.
In particular there was a great interest expressed in the 20 year programme to renew all the 8 600 railway carriages in South Africa by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa and a number of British companies are interested. I think they realise that the way this is going to work is that these will have to be manufactured in South Africa or at least a significant part of that manufacture would have to take place in South Africa and I think that they are looking seriously at investing in engineering opportunities in South Africa to feed it into that programme. But I think they also realize that there are many other opportunities arising from the infrastructure programme. There is a recognition that there is a skills training problem in this country and that they endorsed a closer cooperation between South Africa and British businesses and particular those who are investing here to address that. They are also pushing there to be further cooperation between institutions, higher education institutions and training institutions and my colleague the Minister of Higher Education was also on the delegation and he did have a number of important engagements on that.
In energy, Britain, like many European countries, is making a big shift towards renewable [energy] and there are a number of companies that are involved in the production of renewable [energy] and they are interested in the way in which renewable [energy] will fit into our energy policy through the refit tariff. In addition to that I think there are a number of companies which are interested in things like new coal carbon clean-up technologies and so again that was a major area.
In natural resources there are many British companies that have invested already in mining ventures, but new opportunities were highlighted for investments in areas like mine ventilation and cooling, health and safety, dust control, treatment of waste water and so on, and those were identified in these areas of further cooperation.
There was discussion about ICT, and with ICT we want to link this to business process outsourcing (BPO) (Business Process Outsourcing and Off shoring which is in the first instance call centres but also is broadening beyond that through ICT back office operations.) Twenty-six of the 27 currently operating in South Africa ARE British and there is an interest in particular in legal services outsourcing. Some of the back office functions into South Africa and a British delegation will be visiting in that regard.
Financial services is of course a very important strength of Britain and there was a lot of interest expressed in the sort of operation which Minister Gordhan spoke about now of British financial institutions raising capital and playing a role in financing. The Lord Mayor of London who is the representative of the City of London, which is the financial centre of the country, will be visiting South Africa shortly and will be putting these issues further forward. Then there is a significant South African investment by Netcare in the British healthcare, I think there was a presentation of this. Out of this I think there is an exploration of a number of other possible partnerships including the other way around and particularly the establishment of the private public partnerships around the supply of medical equipment.
Finally I think I should say that there was a lot of interest in the economic opportunities arising from our hosting of the FIFA 2010 World Cup, bearing in mind that Britain is hosting the Olympics in 2012 and is also bidding for the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
So there was a lot of discussion around that. These were some of the highlights and we thought that it was important that you were aware of some of the highlights because we believe that there were productive outcomes from those business engagements that took place in London.
Questions and answers
Journalist: I don’t know whether it’s true that Mauritius is emerging as a strong competition to South Africa as a gateway to Africa and whether this is of any concern and what Mauritius might offer. Then also the question of the constitutionality of the point matching, if you wouldn’t mind talking about that dispute with Treasury. Thanks.
Journalist: Minister Davies can I ask you an unrelated question which is in the public domain at the moment, the steel dispute: have you had meetings with the parties concerned? What have you told them and do you see a resolution to this?
Journalist: Minister Davies can you go into a few details about what you mean by new opportunities with regards to British expertise in treatment of waste water? Are you talking about maybe bringing in the British multi-national water companies?
Minister Rob Davies: Well first of all I think that whether or not anybody sees us as a gateway to the rest of Africa is really their choice. We do have certain facilities and existing trading relations with the continent. We do have financial services, we do have companies that are already involved in various investments in Africa and therefore that is a potential route into Africa. I don’t think we are trying to set ourselves up as any kind of exclusive gateway into Africa and I think anybody tring to pretend that are probably fooling themselves. So there can be number of ways in which foreign companies come into Africa. We believe we have some facilities and that our agreements that we have with neighbouring countries, the FTA and SADC and the potential FTA between COMESA and East Africa community, does mean that there are opportunities to come through South Africa.
On the question of the constitutionality of price matching on that, I mean I read of this in Business Day this morning for the first time. It’s something that we will definitely have to be exploring and discussing among ourselves. We have said that is one of the proposals in the IPAP. It’s not the only one about procurement, there are many other issues in procurement but you can rest assured that whatever particular problems you might confront in one area or another, we are determined that the procurement system will generate more local production for industries contributing to the infrastructure programme.
On the question which is unrelated to anything we discuss today, the issue of Kumba and Mittal Steel, I don’t know where this idea came that I was going to be calling in both companies to some sort of mediation. I don’t know where this idea came from. We issued a statement saying that fundamentally we regard this as a commercial dispute between two companies. We are, however, monitoring the implications of that dispute for the broader economy. We are not coming in to take sides between the two companies or to seek some sort of resolution between the two. We are concerned if this has any implication on the steel price in this country and on the availability of our resource for local beneficiation into steel products, we are concerned about those matters. We are monitoring this process and the engagements which our officials are having with both companies; I may or may not get involved depending on the reports which emerge from them. We are also engaging with our colleagues in the Department of Mineral Resources on this matter, so at this point of time, this is a dispute between two companies and we are no trying to take sides in that particular dispute.
On the question about what are the opportunities around waste water management, this is a possibility which is being investigated. It’s something which I think the business people have identified themselves. It doesn’t mean anything about we are going to hand over water supply or water treatment to private companies. It’s just that they are saying they have expertise in waste water management which is an area of importance to us and that we will be exploring what possibilities they have to contribute to this. Maybe there are possibilities, maybe there aren’t, but this is what the business people themselves see as a possibility, thanks.
Journalist: The idea of trying to shift South Africa’s export industry from resources to manufactured and the idea of trying to make South Africa a gateway to Africa, are both things that the Government has been talking about consistently since 1996 or 1994? Did anything emerge on your visit to explain why that has been so difficult in the past and therefore makes it possible to take this in a new direction? What will break the lock-jam?
For the Finance Minister, can you update us at all on the World Bank loan? It seems to emerge that Britain is indeed one of the countries that was suggesting that the World Bank loan should be directed towards renewable energy. Is there anything you can tell us, who is for it and who is against it?
Minister Pravin Gordhan: There is nothing that happened there that tells us how we need to do things differently here. It is about what we are doing here and here in South Africa we are all as Government saying that we are of a single mind on the question of the necessity to restructure our economy. The necessity on the one hand to sell our commodities but on the other hand to find ways of benefitting them, but thirdly for some time we have been saying that we need to get the tradable sector going. IPAP that Minister Davies has put on the table begins to take us concretely in that direction. We now need to get the right partnerships with private sector and others to make that a reality. The gateway phenomenon has been happening without Government for a long time. You can come to the Johannesburg area you will find any number of companies that are using South Africa as a base from which they can operate. The big change now is that the emerging market so to speak are the future sources of growth in the world economy and that means the African continent and its 1 billion people are being looked at a slightly different way from even a year and a half ago because this is where new possibilities are, this is where new opportunities for growth and expansion of businesses are. South Africa therefore offers some advantages for companies to come in and use South Africa as a base and expand their businesses.
On the World Bank loan perhaps one should clarify there are two parts to it. There is the clean technology fund called the CTF and that is designed to support projects that will, as the name suggests, promote and build clean technology and there is a small loan that we are asking for about R215 million from the CTF. Then there’s the normal loan that goes to what is called the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) of the World Bank which is looking at support for the coal powered station. It is true that certain countries had both pressure and doubts about the fact that they should not support such a loan but since we last spoke about this issue we have got more positive signs than the loans will be approved and I can confirm that in my discussions with Government leaders from the UK that they will certainly consider supporting the loan as well. So I suppose the bureaucrats must finish their work now.
Minister Rob Davies: Just to add to that and say I agree absolutely with my colleague that our solving of the problems that were identified by Brendon Boyle, of beneficiation and so on, will happen through our own efforts here in South Africa. But just to indicate that there was a recognition by both South African and British business that this was something that had to occur in the medium term and this was out in the form of one of the points made in the declaration on page four where it said that bulk transport provides considerable challenges but can be obviated in the medium term through greater beneficiation of raw products. I think this is a recognition that having bulk transport taking unprocessed products, including basically the dirt out of the ground, across the world is no longer either cost effective nor environmentally effective way of operating and that in the medium term there is therefore a need to move towards higher levels of beneficiation at source and I think that both these delegations realised that and it obviously fits in very nicely with our own objectives and approaches.
Journalist: Also for the Minister of Finance, before you went across to Britain there was a lot of debate and noise about the nationalisation of mines and the President spoke about it at length in Britain. In your conversations with people over there, did the message go through to business people and others in Britain that it’s not Government policy?
Minister Pravin Gordhan: The President as you correctly said spoke openly about this particular matter. In fact in my introductions it wasn’t even an issue with the kind of people I met. So I think that Britain got a clear message from the South African Government.
Journalist: Minister Davies you mentioned about Netcare having investments in the UK and it could work the other way as well. Did you talk at all about the national health insurance (NHI) and possible investments in this in the future, maybe directly or indirectly via our own medical aid schemes?
Journalist: Minister just carrying on with Peter’s question regarding nationalisation and the concern about the indigenisation law in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Was that an issue among the delegates from the British side?
Journalist: Mr Maseko, you mentioned the finalisation of the draft national broadband policy, is there any deadline set as to when it will be finalised? I see that you mentioned various Ministers involved in finalising that policy but the Minister of Communications is not mentioned, any reason why he is not part of that Inter-Ministerial Committee to finalise this policy? One would think that it should be falling into his domain.
Themba Maseko: He is convening the Ministerial team. The time frame was not finalised at the meeting but it’s expected that in about a month because a draft framework is actually in place. It’s just a question of making sure that the policy takes into account other requirements and needs of other departments.
Minister Rob Davies: I think the Netcare presentation, while this is fundamentally a private healthcare initiative in Britain and is working with private healthcare partners and in fact I think it’s becoming a very large investment. They are also doing work for the National Health Service as well and what they did present this as a possibility kind of working together with a national health insurance scheme when such is established in South Africa. I don’t have the details of that discussion in that particular group but that was the sort of gist of what was being said. Maybe just to add my voice on the nationalisation and the indigenisation thing, I think there were more questions to me about nationalisation from the press then they were from potential investors and so on. In Britain I think most people understood the message very clearly from the President. There were a number of discussions, mostly at the level of the President, on the question of Zimbabwe. From my side I told the people that I was meeting the importance that we attached to the investment protection agreement which we signed last year and which we will be putting through Cabinet and hopefully through Parliament in the very near future. The approach which we are adopting, we believe the more there is an economic recovery in Zimbabwe and the more they agree to measures of this sort the more we think there will be progress on the number of the other matters. I am aware that the indigenisation law is contested within the Zimbabwean Government; I think we need to follow up on that.
Journalist: Somewhat curious with regards to the 2010 pricing issue. I don’t know what unduly inflated means, does it mean it's better that just inflated or is it better than inflation based increase? To the ministers in a free market should you want to try and control it, what on earth can you do?
Minister Pravin Gordhan: Will you pay those prices yourself? All we are saying to South Africans is be reasonable, be sensitive to the visitors that are coming to this country, don’t try and do what the rest of the world has done, which is engage in short-term gain and you have long-term losses. That’s the usual business practices in the banking sector and elsewhere that gets us into trouble. So if we want it to be a greater success than it's already going to be, can we be clear that all South Africans will be friendly, welcoming people, hospitable and charge a fair price for these things because sending a signal which says we are trying to exploit people is not the right signal at this particular point in time when you want foreigners to actually come to this country, it’s a simple message.
Minister Rob Davies: One of the things is that what will happen - and this did come over a little bit in England - is that the prices will be so inflated that people will start saying they won’t come and then what will happen is that the prices will go down eventually but it might be too late. So we are just trying to warn people not to get us into that sort of scenario, it did happen in Germany where prices went up round about 2010. The most important benefits that we would see economically coming from 2010 apart from the direct benefits themselves are that we can establish our country as a tourism and investment destination of choice. This is a longer term thing and we are asking people to think long term. If there are cases of price collusion by groups that are contrary to the Competition Act, rest assured we will be following up on those.
Journalist: Themba, can you tell us whether President Zuma will participate in the public HIV testing during the launch? If so when, how and where this will take place? Can you define truly national character for the celebration of national days? How would you describe that?
Themba Maseko: Cabinet agreed at the meeting yesterday that members of Cabinet, including President and Deputy President, will participate. The issues of dates and places where all Cabinet Ministers will be participating including the President have not been finalised. The Minister of Health is still working on the details. Ministers, including the President and Deputy President, agreed to look at their diaries because there is a very strong commitment that we as Government lead by example so the Minister of Health will give details about the actual launch.
On the national character of national days, essentially the understanding at the meeting yesterday was that in some cases there has been a tendency to conduct this celebrations in a manner that suggest it’s only the ruling party that is participating in this activities and Cabinet was basically saying that in the future we need to make sure when these events are organised they become truly national in the sense that it’s not for one political party, unless political parties organise their own separate events. If it’s a Government function all political parties and stakeholders need to be given an opportunity to participate in one form or the other so that is essentially what the President was saying yesterday, supported by Cabinet obviously.
Journalist: The testing campaign which will be launched in April - it doesn’t give us much time to halve infection rates by next year if we are going to focus on testing at clinics and health facilities where a lot of rural people don’t have access to. What is the plan for the rural communities to get the infections rates lowered?
Themba Maseko: What the statement talks about here are just highlights. There is a very intensive programme that will be announced by the Minister of Health which will give greater details about how this will be achieved. That plan was presented in quite some detail at the Cabinet meeting and there is confidence that the goals of this campaign will be attained by the Minister of Health. I think he will be at the briefing so he can give more details about this massive roll-out. The idea is that we move from two million people that we are testing per annum to 15 million and they are convinced in terms of the plan they have put in place this is indeed an achievable goal but he will more details later on today.
Journalist: I know agriculture was not one of the sectors included in the business forum but was it discussed at all during any of the meetings? If it was can you elaborate on what was said?
Journalist: On the recruitment of retired health professionals - what incentives are there to recruit them? Is there a budget to pay them in case they come in? To the Minister of Finance, correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I’m aware your meeting that you spoke about with the banks has not taken place, when is that going to happen and what do you think should happen to the spread between the repo and the prime rate?
Journalist: Themba, just a short question, the Draft National Broadband Policy, does this mean it was rejected because it was send through for approval. Was anything about digital television or migrations spoken about in Cabinet, we were told some policies were also being sent through for approval? A popular version of the policy of the radio frequency, what does that mean? Is it going to be different from the official version or what?
Minister Rob Davies: Agriculture would have been covered in the trade discussion. In fact the third largest import into South Africa from Britain is an agro-industrial product, which is whisky. So that would be covered by the trade. There is a very significant part of our exports of agricultural products and agro-industrial products into the European Union (EU) that goes to the UK. So it would be covered by that. However, the terms of access, the duties and things like that, are determined at the level of the EU and of course a number of our more competitive products are disadvantaged by tariffs. I don’t think there was a big discussion about possible investments by the UK in South African agro-industries.
Minister Pravin Gordhan: The meeting of the banks - we are looking for a date so it will happen soon. Your other question arises from an answer we gave to a question in Parliament and the answer says there will be a committee which will report shortly. So we will wait for that.
Themba Maseko: The question whether broadband policy was rejected at the meeting, no, it was not rejected. It was discussed and the meeting was of the view that there needs to be inputs from other departments so that it becomes a truly multi-sectoral approach to broadband policy. So it’s finalising it and making sure it’s all inclusive, meeting the needs of the different sectors. Digital migration was not discussed at the meeting yesterday and I’m sure the progress report may be given to Cabinet at a later stage, but it was not on the agenda yesterday. The spectrum policy popular version, what we mean, it’s a simplified version of the policy so that everybody can understand what it is. The current policy is a very technical document and the idea is that it’s such an important policy that it needs to be made more accessible so popular version means a simplified version of the policy.
Journalist: In terms of the ranks within the South African Police Service (SAPS), Commissioner Cele is soon to be called the general, was there a discussion over when this is going to happen? What does it all mean?
Themba Maseko: Apologies, I didn’t answer Thabo’s question and the reason for that is that I don’t have the specific answer to your question whether the retired professionals will be remunerated. Can you hold that question to the Minister of Health?
The issue of ranks in the Police Service is the matter served before Cabinet and enjoys support and the Minister of Police will make an announcement on how it will be implemented. What the Department is proposing is a changing of ranks in the Police Service so there will be a briefing about how this will be implemented.
Journalist: The doubling of trade to the UK - that is one country in the EU which is the biggest trading partner with South Africa. Isn’t there a fear that the depressed economies in the EU could actually offset this doubling target? How concerned are you that depressed economies could affect our growth forecast? For the Minister of Finance: if you could flesh out the thing about the challenges remain ing with regards to the regulation of JSE listed companies and foreign exchange control. If you can tell me what challenges are being referred to, how do you see the way forward?
Journalist: As the Minister of Finance and the custodian of financial proper behaviour so to speak, did you take a dim view of the President's late declaration of his financial assets? To Minister Davies, are you planning to meet with African National Congress (ANC) MP, who won the contract to manufacture Zakumi but outsourced it to a Chinese sweatshop that was derecognised on Monday? COSATU has voiced their outrage about the loss of jobs that resulted from this outsourcing.
Journalist: In the overseas visit did businessmen raise any points where policies needed to be changed? Concerns where South African investment environment is not optimum. Secondly is Government concerned about the low take up of tickets and flights for the World Cup, I mean it’s below expectations.
Minister Pravin Gordhan: The bit about the challenges with regard to regulation of JSE listed companies and foreign exchange restriction, these are properly peculiar issues that pertain in respect of particular business that want particular dispensation so it’s not a generalised issue and if you remember I mention earlier that on exchange control we are in fact changing the regime in order to facilitate companies coming into South Africa and operating from here.
On President Zuma's declaration, that is an issue of Parliament and himself, I think you are misdirecting your question, that’s a good try.
On the question of investment environment, you know I think there are more positives going for South Africa - and that’s what we are trying to communicate to you - than negatives. There might be the odd concern about X and Y but we met hundreds of people during this visit and overall the message to all of you and hopefully you convey this, there are more things going for us then against us and as a country we need to able to capitalise on that and receive whatever we do in a way we can optimise our growth and optimise job creation in South Africa.
On tickets and flights we keep hearing this like in places such as Germany it also all happened at the last minute. It is not only a South African trait, it happened to others as well. They hope they can get better deals which often happens in respective flights. From what we hear there is no need to panic but to rather to start selling South Africa more vigorously and welcome more people here.
Minister Rob Davies: Well it is the recession that had the impact on trade with Europe, and Britain is one of the country that has been affected by the recession so actually when I told my counterpart that we expecting growth of 2.3%, 3.2% and 3.7% he said we’ll take that cause their forecast is much lower than that. We are saying this target of doubling our trade is only realisable if we take account of the fact that we did achieve that in the year 2000 and 2008 and also we operating on a lower base because of the impact of the recession. I gave the figures earlier. We hid 79 billion to a trade in 2008 and then fell back to 40 billion in 2009. We think it is a realisable and attainable target which nevertheless we need to work on because it has fallen back. Well that we didn’t say very precisely but we could properly say that in the next five years we could anticipate that we could double that again and push it further forward.
Then as far as the question of Zakumi – it is it a project of FIFA so the tender and whatever was taken out by FIFA. Our own policy as Government is that we want to support local manufacturing of Zakumi and so we have been pushy where we can and try and even used our influence to try to get even FIFA contracts to go to local suppliers. In this particular case, well something different happened, something which we regret but there is nothing particular we can do about that.
Then also to reinforce the point, Mr Gordhan said the information that was given by Mr Danny Jordaan indicated that the tickets to be taken up - in number of countries they have already taken up their quotas. I think the US, UK are among those that have taken up their quotas up to now. I don’t think there is any real indication that ticket sales are falling off. As we said earlier we want to suggest to business people in South Africa not to rip people off because they won’t in the end buy from you, that will be the reality, we will lose out on business opportunity and we will damage our reputation.
Themba Maseko: Minister Rob Davies, Minister Pravin Gordhan, thank you very much for joining us, journalists thank you for coming.
Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Contact: 083 645 0810
Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)