Transcript: Post Cabinet briefing by Themba Mseko, Government Spokesperson

16 September 2010

Presenter:  Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: 16 September 2010
Venue: Room 153, Union Buildings and video link-up to Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town


Journalist: Seeing that the majority of Cabinet members are also African National Congress (ANC) members, are those members who will be attending the African National Congress' National General Council, taking annual leave?

Themba Maseko: A very interesting question. As far as I understand it, when Ministers perform their duties even in the political space that is seen as part of their official duties and responsibilities, so as far as I’m aware they will not be taking leave because they will be doing their work in the political space.

Journalist: We have the issue of schools and matric protests around the country. What’s Cabinet’s view on that and do you see the preliminary exams being suspended or the matric exams being halted if these protests continue?

Themba Maseko: Well the protests taking place in parts of the country by learners, disruption of classes, disruption of exams, we consider to be totally unfortunate and we condemn it in the strongest possible terms. That is why we are appealing to student bodies to make sure that they raise their concerns because it appears there may be some justified concerns where for instance in some cases the students didn’t know the timetables; they were not informed whether the exams are taking place at that particular point or not. So we will be making a call to provincial education departments to make sure they jack up communication with schools, particularly focussing on principals, learners and teachers to make sure that everybody knows what is happening and what the plans that have been put in place are. Disrupting examinations is totally unacceptable and should not be allowed to take place. As far as Cabinet is concerned we are not aware of any plans to cancel or postpone preliminary exams or final exams but as we said in the statement the Minister is meeting with the MECs and meeting with the unions to make sure we stabilise the situation as quickly as possible. If there are genuine concerns by learners or by teachers we will attend to those but disrupting schools is not an acceptable way of addressing those concerns.  

Journalist: What about this recovery programme where matrics will not take the September holidays but that they will go to school. We did a quick survey in Gugulethu yesterday and none of the matrics knew about it and others said it’s not going to work for them because they have to look after younger siblings in the holidays. So how much thought has gone into this? I mean does Government feel that it has communicated the recovery programme properly to all the matrics?

Themba Maseko: Well, that is exactly what the national Minister is doing; meeting with the MECs; finding out what are the plans and making sure that these plans are properly communicated to the learners. At this particular point in time there is no national decision to cancel the school holidays but various provinces are putting plans in place to make sure that learners are supported. The primary focus at this particular point in time is to make sure that everything possible is done to support the learners. Some provinces may consider cancelling the holidays, others may not, but we believe that in fact a lot has to be done to make sure these learners are supported. Some schools have indicated that they didn’t experience too many disruptions so they don’t support the cancellation of the school holidays and that is why it may not be possible to take a national decision for all the provinces. It is a matter that’s being discussed with the provinces and its left entirely to provincial departments and schools to take decisions as what is going to happen as far as the recovery programme is concerned.

Journalist: Does the ANC Government accept the responsibility in any way for the actions of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS)? There seems to be a historical precedent for this, making schools ungovernable, passing over of students and all that. This happened in the previous regime, I mean the seeds were laid previously for this sort of disruptive behaviour. Does the ANC Government accept the responsibility?

Themba Maseko: There is no way Government can accept responsibility for the irresponsible behaviour of either learners or teachers in any part of the country. So there may have been different types of protests in the past but we are now a democratic state and that is why in the statement we are making the point that if student bodies have major concerns, be it preliminary examinations or recovery programmes or even the matric exams themselves, disrupting education can never be an acceptable way of protest especially in a democratic state such as ours. So we will not take responsibility; the perpetrators of the violence must take responsibility and they must be held accountable for their actions.

Journalist: If you could respond to the Upington Energy Plan for the Solar park - the nature of that park or the geographical area, the sort of technologies that could be included, whether it includes the 100 megawatts Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) Project of Eskom. Also the nature of the investor confidence that you spoke about and when that could be? And then finally, when the integrated resources plan - because all these investments hinge on that plan - will go before Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: The feasibility study looked at various possibilities for the location. It looked at the technologies that need to be put in place for that particular plant and whether all existing initiatives, including Eskom's, will be incorporated into that solar park. At this point in time the recommendations and we must say the feasibility study is not yet complete but all indications are that in fact a site has been identified in Upington, largely because of its geographical location, the amount of sun that is available, the nature of the land, flat surface available in that part of the country. So all of those factors were taken into account and the idea is that the park will include a variety of technologies that are available for the sector. Obviously the feasibility study is also looking at the cost implications of various technologies and that is why it is suggested that as soon as the feasibility study is completed, various technologies will be identified. Those will be presented to an investors conference to test the flavour or the appetite of the investors to actually support an initiative of this nature. Initial indications are that the initiative could cost up to R150 billion so in making the final decision, Government has to look at all the various possibilities, but it’s very clear that it’s going to have to include a huge chunk of investment from the private sector. It will be a park that includes the plant itself but also a lot of support industries are expected to set up in the facility of the solar park. The possibilities for massive job creation in that area is something that is of great interest to Government but at this particular point in time we are still talking about a report that’s being finalised and at the end of September we may be able to give you more details about the proposal from the feasibility study. So that’s all we can say for now at this point. When will the final IRP report be presented to Cabinet - I can’t give you an exact date but I know that extensive work has been done in that regard and it should be finalised fairly soon.

Journalist: I want to check the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC) report - are you referring to the annual report or the quarterly report? And has Cabinet discussed the lack of capacity and backlogs that are still hampering work?

Themba Maseko: I will check. My suspicion is that this could be the annual report but we can check and confirm that. At this meeting we didn’t discuss capacity issues in the NCACC, it just looked at the report of all the arms and ammunition procurement that were approved during the course of the period but we didn’t look at capacity issues in that unit.

Journalist: Themba, yesterday the Basic Education Minister indicated that 26 000 teachers have had their pay docked already. Have the same happened in other sectors affected by the strike? And do we know how many civil servants will have their pay docked?

Themba Maseko: We will do a briefing shortly about the docking of pay. At this stage no specific figures were given at the meeting. It is clear that the only province that has started the docking process is the Western Cape. Unions have raised the issue in the talks that have taken place over the past week or so and the proposal emanating from unions, especially teachers who were involved in the strike for up to about 17 days, the proposal is that instead of taking off the money in a once-off deduction it will be spread over a few months. I have heard the period of three months have been mentioned as a possible period for the deductions but at this meeting we did not get the exact numbers. But teachers and members of NEHAWU that are workers in departments and in hospitals and some nurses are likely to be the ones most affected through the implementation of the no work no pay, unfortunately we did not get the numbers at yesterday’s meeting.

Journalist: What sorts of weapons were involved in which countries in the NCACC?

Themba Maseko: It’s a long report, it involves all kinds of stuff and I gazed through it very quickly but I think it would be wise to wait for the report to be tabled in Parliament; it will be a public report. The report will indicate and give you a list of all the countries that we sold stuff to, it will also indicate the value of the sales, the type of sales that were affected. At this stage we will not be able to release that information until the report has been tabled in Parliament. We are looking at literally days before the submission.

Journalist: Is there an indication on when the new report on South Africa’s growth path will be published or go before Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: At this stage we are expecting that it will take place sometime in October, the Ministers are actually finalising that report, so I think somewhere around mid October the report will be tabled before Cabinet.

Journalist: You are talking about the NCACC report coming soon but there is a problem with this; are they not supposed to be done quarterly, is it now going to be normalised that they are done as frequently as required by law? It would be the first one this year that is coming.

Themba Maseko: No, I don’t think it’s the first one this year but we can check on that one. The submission of these reports is done strictly in terms of the legislation so the only thing I will check for you is whether this one is a quarterly report or an annual one. But these reports are submitted on a regular basis as required by legislation so in the next 30 minutes we will let you know whether it’s an annual or quarterly report. I just didn’t check that part.

Journalist: The South Africa-European Union Summit: was there any discussion about what kinds of issues are going to be raised, will the IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa) topic comes up, and maybe you can give us some sort of scenario of what South Africa is taking to that.

Themba Maseko: This is a follow up session; you will recall that we held one - I think about a year ago in the southern Cape - so this is a follow up session. It will deal with a variety of issues. I suspect that maybe the IBSA may be on the agenda but could I request that we ask the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) to do a special briefing on it. The details were not discussed at the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Journalist: The Criminal Procedure Act: is it only Section 49 that it amends?

Themba Maseko: That is the primary amendment of this legislation but what they normally do is that if there are other technical changes that need to be put in place they will look at that. But the primary objective of this amendment is to deal with Section 49 and related issues so when you look at the Bill you may find that it deals with some other minor technical changes, it may deal with that but primary objective of this Bill is actually to deal with Section 49.

Journalist: When will it be tabled in Parliament?

Themba Maseko: It was approved yesterday so the next step is the technical thing, State law advisors have to look at it to make sure that it its constitutional and proper, then it’s submitted to Parliament. Usually that process takes a week or two. Short answer, very eminent.

Journalist: How is it going with documenting the undocumented Zimbabwean nationals? Last week the Department of Home Affairs wasn’t aware that the Cape Town Consulate has been abandoned and occupied by the homeless for about the past year and then they issued an e-mail address, I think it is zimbabwe.enquiries@dha but when one writes to that it just bounces back and says address not found. So was there a feeling in Cabinet that there is progress being made or were these problems kind of recognised?

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately the report was not tabled in Cabinet about how the policy was going. The decision was taken only two weeks ago so naturally you would expect the department to use the time to see how the policy will be implemented and if there are any major problems and difficulties that will be brought to the attention of Cabinet. At the meeting yesterday no feedback was given about how the policy was being implemented.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)