Transcript: Post Cabinet briefing by Themba Mseko, Government Spokesperson

14 October 2010

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: 13 October 2010
Venue: Room 153, Union Buildings and video link-up to Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town


Journalist: Why did you change if getting ready to embark on one of the largest censuses when this says the largest? Have you discovered that it’s for some reason not the largest census?

Themba Maseko: Where is that? It is the largest if we are saying to embark on the largest it is the largest. The census will take place in October next year. So now we are employing the people we are training all the trial runs that need to be conducted, thinking about issue of security of the people who are conducting the census and how South Africans will be allowing them into their houses and all those kind of things. So it is a planning phase.

Journalist: Just a follow up on the census in a committee meeting before the recess there seem to be some discussion on whether it will be a public holiday on National Census Day. Have you had any of those discussions at a higher level?

Themba Maseko: Not yet, no decision has been taken on that one. If there’s a view of that nature, I’m sure it will have to come to Cabinet for a decision at this stage no decision was taken on that.

Journalist: On the briefing by the Auditor General was there any specific mention made about certain problem Departments and what’s going to be happening to clean those Departments up.

Themba Maseko: Well the Auditor General basically gave a detailed report of each and every Department. So each and every Department and Provinces, all the problems were actually highlighted in that particular report but those reports will be tabled in Parliament for you to view. It was basically identifying all the steps that have been taken and I’m pleased to tell you that GCIS is one of those that received another unqualified audit, fifth in the row so we are one of the good boys in town as far as that is concerned. But yes, Ministers were briefed about the performance of their own Departments and Ministers were actually made aware that they need to take responsibility for what is taking place in those Departments to deal with those challenges. The Auditor General made a commitment to have regular meetings with Members of the Executives, Ministers and MEC’s to make sure that they are fully aware of the risks and challenges that their own Departments are experiencing with a view to improving the overall audit outcomes for Government.

Journalist: Speaking off the microphone.

Themba Maseko: No Cabinet didn’t discuss that. (Laughing)

Journalist: Was there any discussion on the wage negotiations with the unions and have you had any kind of official response from the unions as to whether they will sign the offer.

Themba Maseko: Well the 21 days expired effectively yesterday and the unions we are made to believe they are meeting again this evening at 18:00 to consider their position after which they would come back formally with a response. But as of yesterday the 21 days have expired. We are now in a period where Government must then decide whether to implement the settlement offer that was signed and we just welcome the announcement by the unions saying that they have officially called off the strike which is good news for all South Africans. Unions will formerly come back after this evening to tell us what they are deciding.

Journalist: As I understand it the Government is not bound if the unions don’t come back and sign? Government is not bound to implement its end of this offer. Is it?

Themba Maseko: Well the current framework in the public service bargaining chamber is that as soon as the settlement offer is signed by the State then it will be up to Government to decide whether to implement the final settlement offer or even to go back to the original offer but at this stage I don’t see any possibility of the State actually not implementing the 7.5% and the R800 housing allowance. All other aspects of that agreement because remember part of the agreement was to say we are implementing 7.5% general increment, R800 housing allowance but the unions had also put other issues on the table including that the no work no pay principle not be implement immiadately but it must be spread over time. So it will be up to Government to actually decide whether we are implementing the settlement offer with all those issues on the table or whether we implement some aspects of that offer and not others. But it will be up to the Minister and the mandating committee to decide what is finally implemented.

Journalist: Was this actually discussed at Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: Not the exact scope of it what needs to be agreed but the Minister briefed Cabinet that the 21 days have expired and we are now waiting for the unions to come back. They have requested more time, they are meeting tonight and they will come back to Government. So yes the Minister of Public Service and Administration briefed Cabinet about those latest developments.

Journalist: What was the view of Cabinet regarding the relationship now with the public sector unions generally and Government considering that there are going to be fresh rounds of talks quite soon?

Themba Maseko: Government’s view is that the current phase needs to be concluded, you can’t continue negotiating forever. We believe that this current phase needs to be concluded so that we can begin to discuss all the other outstanding issues that were on the table and contrary to what is out there in the public arena. We believe relations between Government and the unions have not totally broken down there is still scope for sober discussions to take place between the State and union negotiators. So this phase must end with the signing of finalisation of the settlement offer so that we can begin a process of dealing with all the outstanding issues that are still on the table. At this stage we don’t think there is any complete breakdown of relations between Government and the unions.

Journalist: Point of clarity when Minister Baloyi was here I think it was more than 21 days ago, he indicated that at the expiration of the 21 days, Government would implement unilaterally. Is that not the case? That’s what he said when he was sitting in the chair there.

Themba Maseko: Was he sitting in this chair? Or one of them?

Journalist: One of the two seats, I’m not quite sure. So he said a unilateral implementation of the deal would come into effect because that was in terms of the constitution of the Bargaining Council.  Are you saying that is not so?

Themba Maseko: I’m saying in terms of the constitution as soon as the 21 days expires then it is up to Government to actually implement so what the unions have requested is additional time because they are meeting tonight to see if they can actually change any of their views on the settlement offer. We will wait to hear what the union say but as of yesterday it is now up to Government to actually decide to implement the settlement offer but we just want to hear what the unions want to tell us after their caucus this evening.

Journalist: What sort of leeway does Government intend giving the unions to ensure that this matter doesn’t drag on?

Themba Maseko: What’s going to happen is that we will hear what the unions say after their meeting tonight and the mandating committee of Ministers will then convene to decide what further action needs to be taken but as of today it is now up to Government to decide to implement the settlement offer.

Journalist: When does that mandate committee have to meet given the fact That for example that the Finance Minister is on that mandating committee, his in Parliament the entire day, I mean tomorrow, I hear. When does the mandating committee meet and will that meeting be the final procedural step in the finalisation of this thing?

Themba Maseko: Prior to implementation of the settlement offer the unions have requested for time so they are meeting tonight and as soon as they meet they will give the Minister feedback and that feedback could happen either tonight or tomorrow morning but as soon as we get the feedback the Ministers will meet to consider what the unions are saying. We expect the implementation of the offer will happen within in a matter of days now, basically but I can’t tell you when the mandating committee will meet.

Journalist: Speaking off the microphone

Themba Maseko: We are looking at 21st of October however we are still experiencing a challenge because some of the Ministers are battling with their diaries particular the Minister of Finance who now following the IMF meetings over the weekend has to travel to a Ministers of Finance Meeting taking place in Korea around the same time. So what the President said before he finalises the date he just wants to make sure all the key Ministers are available for the meeting. If there wasn’t any IMF meeting the meeting would have taken place on the 21st but the date will be sorted out between today and tomorrow. I think the idea was to actually have the meeting by next week however it’s a scheduling issue that the President’s Office is sorting out now.

Journalist: On Linda’s question what was the main message that Minister Gordhan send to all the Cabinet, Provincial members at your meeting? Tighten up guys; I’m not a witchdoctor, things like that?

Themba Maseko: He had quite a very good and strong message but he will tell you when he makes the announcement on the 27th. Good and optimistic but tough as well. Last question?

Journalist: Did the issue come up that many Departments are under budgeted for the wage increases. And that a lot of this could be reflected as unauthorised expenditure?

Themba Maseko: For the salary increases? That’s usually accommodated in the Medium Term Budget Statement so it does make provision for that so salary incraments are implemented by all Departments and then in their adjustment estimate taht money is allocated to all the Departments. So it doesn’t lead to any over expenditure. Thank you very much end of briefing.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)