Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

15 May 2008

Date: Thursday, 15 May 2008
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town

Themba Maseko: Good morning and thank you for making it. Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, and a number of issues were discussed. Firstly, the meeting discussed the recent spate of violent attacks against foreign nationals in Alexandra and other parts of the country and, as expected, Cabinet condemns these acts of violence in the strongest terms possible, and calls on communities to be vigilant and not to allow themselves to be manipulated by provocateurs who seek to exploit people’s fears and concerns.

These attacks represent a dangerous tendency that is foreign to South African history and consciousness. For many decades South Africans in Alexandra and many parts of the country have lived side by side with foreign nationals, with no acts of violence, and we therefore find it totally unacceptable that at this point in our history as a country, South Africans would deem it fit and necessary to attack citizens of our continent. South Africa, everyone needs to be reminded, is a signatory to the Geneva Protocol on Refugees, and we will fulfil our obligations as outlined in that protocol. South African laws protect all foreign nationals, whether they are here legally or otherwise, and any violent behaviour towards these foreign nationals must be rejected by all South Africans.

The majority of South Africans are peace-loving people, who seek peaceful means of resolving their problems. South Africa’s transition was one of the world’s best testimonies of tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and we cannot allow a situation where individuals… where individuals reverse and undermine our historical achievements. It is too soon to forget the hospitality that was offered and given to South Africans who were in exile during the dark days of apartheid. The support of the frontline states in Southern Africa, was critical to the achievement of democracy we are all enjoying today. These attacks also appear to be instigated by elements bent on taking advantage of the genuine fears of communities, for narrow political ends.

However, no amount of economic hardship and discontent can ever justify criminal activity and bigotry that these attacks represent. And any suggestion that poor service delivery and rising cost of living is to blame for these attacks, must be rejected with the contempt it deserves. Equally, any suggestion that high crime levels in our country is due to foreigners alone, is totally misplaced and detracts from the fact that many South Africans themselves are also involved in criminal activity.

So, government calls on community organisations, church leaders, political organisations, business, civil society, youth organisations, to stand up and be counted among those who’ll actively work towards discouraging these tendencies and to use every available opportunity to educate South Africans about the need to coexist with all foreign nationals.

An inter-departmental task team will be set up on an urgent basis to investigate all the causes of these attacks, and to make recommendations about action that needs to be taken to prevent a recurrence of this negative tendency. This task team will be convened by the Department of Home Affairs, and will include Departments of Safety and Security, Social Development, Health, Education, and The Presidency.

In the meantime, law enforcement agencies will use the full force of the law to ensure that no further violence takes place, and those who engage in and actively encourage and incite communities to attack foreign nationals, must and will be brought to justice as soon as possible.

The Minister of Home Affairs will lead a government delegation today to visit Alex, where they will be meeting residents and affected foreign nationals, with a view to addressing the causes of these recent tensions, and to make sure that we offer as much support as we can to those who have been victims of this unacceptable violence.

With regard to the electricity emergency, Cabinet approved a proposal to set up a national electricity emergency Programme Management Office, with immediate effect. This office will be responsible for co-ordinating all efforts to deal with the emergency, tracking and reporting on initiatives, providing technical support, and ensuring that the decisions of the national electricity response team on electricity emergency, are implemented. The PMO will be set up under the auspices of the Department of Minerals and Energy, and will include industry experts as well as officials seconded from government departments.

- I’m using a bigger font, so I can’t tell you where I am on the statement. I’m reading on a different, bigger font here, so I can’t tell you which page you should rush to. Ja. -

The electricity pricing policy was approved. The policy seeks to ensure the following:

  • that the electricity value chain contributes to economic growth;
  • universal access to electricity;
  • creates an investor-friendly pricing structure, that promotes efficient cost-recovery measures and a reasonable return on investment;
  • environmentally-friendly usage of resources;
  • open and non-discriminatory access to the transmission system; and
  • greater levels of transparency on electricity prices, to the users.

The details of the policy will be announced, and discussed tomorrow with stakeholders at the NEDLAC-convened National Stakeholders Summit on Electricity.

The meeting noted that preparations for the National Stakeholder Summit on Electricity to be held tomorrow at the Sandton Convention Centre, were at an advanced stage. Preliminary discussions between government and all the stakeholders were taking place to ensure that consensus is reached at the summit on all the key decisions that need to be taken there. Government is confident that the summit will be an important milestone in the process of building a strong partnership to manage the electricity emergency.

The report on the Joint Presidential Working Group on National Electricity Emergency, was noted.

Cabinet also approved the Policy and Procedures on the Revolving-Door Enablers for the public sector. The primary objective of this policy is to create knowledge and development opportunities for members of the Senior Management Service, by allowing movement between the public service and other sectors. Reciprocal relationships will be established between the public and private sectors, higher education institutions and other sectors in society, to give effect to this open-door policy. The essence of this policy is to allow and encourage secondments of senior managers between… senior managers in the public sector to move around in other sectors as well. And also provides for the granting of sabbatical leave.

This benchmarking initiative will strengthen the interface between theory and practice, whilst infusing fresh, current, inspirational learning and innovative ideas, towards improved public service performance. The secondment policy will be for a maximum period of 12 months and a member of the senior management service will qualify for the secondment after six years of continuous service, whilst a head of department will qualify after only three years of continuous service in the public sector.

The report on the signing of Performance Agreements by senior managers in the public sector, and the filling of vacant positions of DGs and DDGs and CFOs, was tabled and approved. The meeting decided amongst other things, that all performance agreements for senior managers must be signed by the 31st of March each year, that vacant posts must be filled as soon as they become vacant, and that the performance assessments of these senior managers must be completed by end of June each year.

The meeting also welcomed the decision of the director… Board of Directors of the FIFA local organising committee, to the effect that all the stadia that were originally designated to host the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009 will be retained, including the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. This decision is to be welcomed, as it amounts to further testimony that South Africa is indeed on course to host one of the most successful World Cup tournaments ever.

Government remains confident that the LOC or soccer authorities in all our host cities will be ready to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and exceed expectations of the soccer-loving community in 2010. The successful launch of the Schools World Cup by the Department of Education was noted as a program that will excite our youth about South Africa’s hosting of some of the world’s best soccer stars, on our shores during the 2009 FIFA Confed Cup, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The report on climate change entitled ‘Climate Change – Long-term Mitigation Scenarios, was tabled and noted. The meeting noted that the challenges that developing nations are facing regarding climate change, including the need to find a balance between economic growth on the one hand, and emissions-reduction was noted. However, the meeting agreed that climate change challenges must be incorporated into all future planning and policy decisions of government, and that the minister will elaborate further on this report when he delivers his budget vote in Parliament shortly. A detailed climate change strategy will be tabled at the July Cabinet Lekgotla for finalisation.

The African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance was endorsed, and will be submitted to Parliament for ratification.

The extension of the deployment of 15 South African National Defence Force members, to provide close protection to the Central African Republic President was also approved. The deployment of 11 members of SANDF in the DRC, to assist with the capacity-building of the DRC Defence Force for a year, was also approved.

Cabinet also noted that a number of high-profile events will be taking place over the next few months, which will give us the opportunity to promote and showcase South Africa and the continent to the world. The first major event will be the 13th meeting of the Presidential International Investment Council, which will be talking place in KZN over this coming weekend. There will also be the Africa Day celebration on the 25th of May which marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the OAU, which is now known as the African Union.

Cabinet also noted the hosting of the Tourism Indaba in Durban with the theme ‘Boundless Southern Africa’, where this theme was actually launched. The Indaba succeeded in showcasing South Africa as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations. The city, SA Tourism and the people of KZN, have once again demonstrated ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup through the Indaba, that we’re more than capable of hosting world-class events as South Africa.

The World Economic Forum [on Africa] will be held on the 4th to 6th June in Cape Town.

The Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism will be hosting the 12th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment. That’s on the 7th to the 12th of June.

And the following appointments were approved...

The following Bills were also approved...

Michael. End of statement. Thank you, we’ll take questions.

- Questions and Answers -

Journalist: Hi, Themba. Just a couple of things. One was… was Zimbabwe discussed at all at Cabinet? The possibility of a credible run-off given the kind of intimidation that’s taking place in the country ahead of it. And secondly, aren’t we… I mean, I want to know more about where this belief that these criminal elements are responsible for this violence in Alex comes from. Because we’re hearing that from, you know, all over the place now. What are the narrow political ends that these elements are sort of bent on exploiting people’s fears to achieve? Who are they? I mean, do we have the intelligence agencies, you know, coming forward. Is that where this comes from, you know, the sense that… and what… because… and the reason I ask this is because you know with the attacks against Somali people in the Western Cape the police consistently refuse to acknowledge that it was in any way xenophobic. They simply labelled it as purely criminal when it was patently obvious that these people were being targeted because they were Somalis. And I just wonder if there isn’t a bit of scapegoating going on, if we’re not… you know, if we’re not be less than willing to actually face up to the fact that we are xenophobic, and we need to deal with it. Instead of blaming this on faceless criminal elements?

Themba Maseko: Okay, your first question easier: Zimbabwe was not discussed at this particular meeting.

Your second question about these narrow elements: what is unfolding, Gaye, in the country, is that you know we’re going through a period of heightened urbanisation which is also coupled with high levels of unemployment and also an increase in the number of foreign nationals coming to live in many parts of the country, and it’s very clear that these kinds of conditions create a fertile environment for people who are bent on creating havoc and chaos, and they’re taking advantage of this situation now.

We’re doing an investigation, including an investigation and also checking, by all the security services (including your intelligence services), to just understand this phenomenon. We will accept that in fact some South Africans have, yes, xenophobic tendencies, but our sense is that the majority of South Africans do not possess these tendencies.

As we say in the statement, there is ample evidence that in areas - particularly such as Alexandra, the South African citizens have been living side-by-side, next door to each other, with foreign nationals for decades. So there must be an explanation why all of a sudden there’s this mushrooming of a tendency that creates the impression that South Africans are generally xenophobic. We don’t share that view. But we do accept that in fact, a certain section of our population may be xenophobic and that there are elements who want to take advantage of that situation to create whatever chaotic conditions that they are experiencing. But I would not agree that South Africans are generally xenophobic people. Gaye? You’d like to have a follow-up and… we’ll take questions on this matter.

Journalist: I just wanted to follow up. Ja, I mean, look it’s not saying.. But I mean accepting that there’s latent xenophobia in most people, I mean is a different thing to just labelling everybody as xenophobic, and that when you do have the influx of people that we’ve seen over the recent years, and that that pressure on jobs and living space becomes more and more intense, it’s surely reasonable to understand this outbreak of violence within that context, but it kind of reaches a critical mass and tips over into violence which then develops its own momentum. But that still doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got organised criminal elements stoking it for their own ends.

Themba Maseko: Let’s not conclude on that matter. Let’s investigate and find out what exactly is indeed happening, and that is why we’re going the route of setting up a task team to look at this. Because you’ve got to remember that we’ve got young kids, our youth in this country, who must never be given the impression that foreign nationals are not welcome in this country. We’ve got literally thousands of youngsters going to schools, sharing desks, sharing books with foreign nationals. If they see adults attacking foreign nationals purely for the simple reasons that they are foreign nationals, we find that totally unacceptable, and as a country we need to be able to stand up and raise this issue, and that is why we’re saying as government, we’re taking a very firm position on the matter, but we are calling on religious leaders, on civic organisations, teachers, schools, to stand up and say it is wrong to attack anybody to start with, but secondly it is wrong to attack foreign nationals who happen to be in this part of the world for a variety of reasons. And that is the message that needs to be sent out. To say yes, well, xenophobia does exist, but it is unacceptable and all of us must act against it.

Journalist: The Home Affairs Minister… the Home Affairs Minister mentioned at one of the committee meetings that she was going to call in an indaba and present this idea to Cabinet. Did Cabinet decide against that idea or wasn’t it discussed?

Themba Maseko: Well it was… Cabinet was informed and discussed the matter at a previous meeting, but at this meeting the matter was not specifically discussed, but the idea of an indaba enjoys the full blessing of Cabinet, and as GCIS we are working with [the] Home Affairs Department to make sure that such a forum needs to be held. Because we firmly believe that it is about time that we have a conversation as South Africans about these kinds of issues, so that we can begin to agree on what is the best way to move forward. So the indaba will be held. I see five hands on the xenophobia, so let’s start and move that way. We’ll start there, we’ll come to you.

Journalist: Ja, Themba I just wanted to know, these incidents are now spreading to Diepsloot. Are there any security… extra security measures that have been contemplated to contain this spread of this thing? And the narrow political ends that the statement is talking to, you haven’t told us what are these narrow political ends, can we elaborate on that? And the Home Affairs Minister is going there only today when this thing broke out on Sunday. Why is she only going now? What difference will her visit there make?

Themba Maseko: I spoke to members of the security establishment last night, and I was assured that we are monitoring the situation in Diepsloot quite closely. The police were there until, I think actually for the rest of the night, to just monitor the situation. But in the setting of this task team we are trying to just have a better understanding [of] why is this violence mushrooming in certain places and not in others, and which are the most likely places that could be affected in the near future, and then planning to deal with that kind of situation. But our sense is that in fact we are not likely to see a widespread… a widespread attack on foreign nationals in many parts of the country, because I think South Africans are beginning to wake up to the reality that this is actually a very dangerous development, that needs to be nipped in the bud sooner, rather than later. So the security establishment is looking to that matter.

What are these narrow political ends? Again the team will investigate and give us a much more informed response on… to your question. But clearly, if there are elements that are bent on destabilising society, [of] discrediting government, [of] creating mayhem in parts of our country, those could be political ends, and here we’re not necessarily talking party political ends, but simply you know, political objectives that could be held by individuals in parts of our communities. But it’s a phenomenon that we think needs to be understood better.

At this stage, we’re accepting that, in fact, we are responding to the situation as it’s unfolding. But the task team is going to get into the details of what could actually be contributing to this, and as soon as the task team has completed their report, we will come back and give you a much, much more informed and much deeper analysis of what could be causing these things.

Why is the minister only going now? The matter only served in Cabinet for the first time yesterday. And it was a decision of Cabinet that government needs to be visible and go and visit these communities, talk to communities, but also show solidarity to the foreign nationals who have been victims of these attacks. And we are hoping that in fact we are not going to be seeing more of these attacks in other parts of the country.

Yeah, go ahead.

Journalist: Okay. I think Thabo has asked one of the questions I wanted to ask, but another question that still relates to xenophobia is about the statement that the Minister of Home Affairs made and in National Assembly I think… on Tuesday I think, that parts of the problem is related to poor service-delivery and the discontent that people are facing regarding that. Now I see in the statement that Cabinet rejects that no amount of economic hardships that people are facing could justify these kinds of attacks. I mean, does the Cabinet share the minister’s perspective, that I mean poor service-delivery and equal socio-economic difficulties people are facing could be part of the problem? And if Cabinet shares that sentiment, what are the possible solutions?

Themba Maseko: Well, as we’ve just said, we are putting out a task team that’s going to be led by Home Affairs, to have a better understanding of what really is going on there. But Cabinet’s view is that even if there are genuine concerns about service delivery, foreign nationals are not responsible for service delivery. So it makes absolutely no sense that you could… because you’re concerned about service delivery, you attack your neighbour because they come from Chile or China, it doesn’t make sense. So that’s why we’re putting together this team to just make sure that we develop a much more comprehensive response to what is becoming a real problem that is tarnishing our image as a nation. So that’s basically what we are doing. Okay, you’re covered and then we’ll come to you after…

Journalist: Sorry, Themba. The influx of illegal immigrants into South Africa, would you say it’s exacerbating the problem? You say that South Africans have always lived with foreigners, but you know, this time with the influx with the Zimbabwean problems, and the influx of illegal immigrants, people are living with… you know, a larger number of foreigners than they used to. Would you say that is sort of exacerbating this problem?

Themba Maseko: Well, I think that I’d rather look at the report of the task team on this matter, because you must remember that if you take for instance one industry, mining, we’ve always had foreign nationals working in the mines, literally thousands of them, coming from all parts of the continent. So the coming of foreign nationals is nothing new at all. Maybe there could be a point, the task team could come back and tell us that, yes, the increase over the past couple of months could have led to the increase in the number of foreign nationals in certain parts of the country, and could have contributed to it, but at this stage I think that it will be a bit premature to conclude that because of the increase, that is why we have the violence. Okay, she’s had her hand up for quite a while, we’re still on this topic. We’ll come to all of you.

Journalist: Okay, hi Themba. I just want to know in the view of the appointment of this task team, does Cabinet view this xenophobia as a threat to national security at this stage? And when can we expect the report back from the task team - when exactly?

Themba Maseko: Is it a threat to national security? I think it’s a… it is indeed a problem. But at this stage I’m not sure if I would necessarily use that description - to say it’s a threat to national security. These are indeed isolated incidents at this stage. But again we’ve got to get into the details of it and the task team could come back, because of the participation of the security departments and the task team, they could come back and say yes, indeed these attacks can constitute a threat to national security. But at this stage, I would not consider myself qualified to make that point now. Timeframe for the team: what… as you see in the statement, Cabinet’s view is that this task team must be set up as a matter of absolute urgency. We don’t know the amount of work and investigation that has already gone into it, because we have to assume that security, including intelligence forces, has already done initial studies, and they can be able to make sure that the work of the task team is completed sooner rather than later, but we shall see. No timeframe has been set for the task team to come back. Okay, let’s go this way and then we’ll come to you. Jan-Jan.

Journalist: Themba, I’m just a bit frustrated by this setting up of a task team which is so wide, it includes education and all these other departments. I’m just wondering whether you’re not sort of really asking the Nobel Prize winners to reinvent the wheel here. I mean point… the point made by Caiphus should be the obvious one. I mean, I don’t want to sound like Blade Nzimande, but I mean there are the means of production, and the competition for it. And obviously, you’ve now got more people in an economic downturn moving into economically-vulnerable areas, and then, yes, competing for scarce resources. So why [has] this whole rigmarole, when basically, quite frankly, it’s seems as though the answer is obvious.

Themba Maseko: Well, maybe the answer is obvious to some, but as government we’ve got to make sure that we develop a very comprehensive response to the challenge. We’ve got to now say, it’s not just the violence that we have to worry about, but also all the social kind of challenges that emanate from this. If it becomes very clear that for instance the kids of foreign nationals will not be able to go to school because of the violence, it means that mothers are not able to take care of their children because there’s sleeping in a big hall. You’ve got to bring all of these departments together to say this is our contribution, this is our analysis, this is our contribution. Because the message we’re trying to communicate here is that this is an abnormal situation that is foreign to the consciousness of South Africans, and therefore let’s develop a comprehensive response so that it doesn’t just become a knee-jerk reaction to what is happening in Alex, and something else happens somewhere else, and then you just have a knee-jerk reaction. Let’s develop a comprehensive approach to make sure that we nip this thing in the bud, forever.

Journalist: Themba, on… two issues, on a lighter note. So, you said there was never xenophobia, but the Zulu-Boer wars in the 1800s, you know, they got nailed a bit. But are we looking at dusting off the Caspirs and doing township patrols again, in the short-term, for security at night?

Themba Maseko: Well, I’m not sure if the Caspirs have been gathering dust outside. I suppose they’ve been working. Look, we’ve got to, as government, ensure that South Africans and foreign nationals can feel free and safe. Now, tomorrow, during the 2010 World Cup. That’s got to happen. Now, if it means that we deploy your police services in all townships for monitoring and policing purposes, let’s just do it, because the maiming and killing, those visuals of seeing fellow Africans bleeding because they’ve been hit, even youngsters hit by adults, in Alexandra township, is something that we all have to say is totally unacceptable by any standards. And government has got to do whatever it needs to do to make sure that we secure all South Africans, but also foreign nationals, whether they come from the African continent or Europe, or from anywhere else. It cannot be acceptable that foreign nationals who come from the continent are unwelcome in the country, and foreign nationals who come from other continents can live peacefully; it cannot be. All foreign nationals have to enjoy the sun that we are able to provide in this country. And we have a responsibility to provide security to them as well. Still on the xenophobia, I’m sure you’re interested in other issues. Michael, you had your hand up on xenophobia? Chief, we’re still on xenophobia? No? Okay. This is the final xenophobia question. Oh, it’s not. Okay. The floor is open, you can take the floor. We’ll come to you, Chief.

Journalist: Two questions. The electricity pricing - is it clear now, that there is not going to be a sudden spike in the electricity price, but it is going to be smoothed over a number of years? And secondly, what can you tell me about the criminal… about the Companies Bill?

Themba Maseko: Okay, price hikes: I think the view that the price hikes must be smooth over a period of time is indeed gathering momentum. I think that it’s more than likely that at the summit, some kind of view might emerge about what is the best way forward on this particular matter. However, irrespective of the views of the various stakeholders, the reality still is that the final decision, Michael, on the matter, is actually in terms of the law the national regulator. So even if the summit and the various stakeholders were to have a view on whether the new price hikes need to be phased in over a period of time, the final decision still needs to come from… from NERSA.

Your second question about the Companies Act, the Bill. Well, I think it’s an update of the Companies Act, with some amendments that are aimed at modernising the Companies Act. I know that the Bill is for instance, proposing a regime where there are only two forms of companies. It describes now companies… divides them between for-profit companies and non-profit companies. And therefore your close corporations type companies will actually be phased out and, ja, so those kinds of technical amendments. But Michael, we can talk offline on the details of this and other bills.

Journalist: Themba, just one question. Alec Erwin’s backtrack yesterday on smoothing in the tariff hikes for Eskom. Cabinet pressurised by the ANC in any way, to do that?

Themba Maseko: I’m not aware of any pressure from the ruling party on government. Cabinet has made it very clear that this emergency must be managed in partnership with all key stakeholders, and there have been a lot of consultations between government and stakeholders, including the ruling party, business, labour and the presidential working group have also given some input on the way forward. So the decision that comes would be a product of extensive consultation, extensive discussions, between government [and] all stakeholders. And when parties reach consensus on a matter we may not call that bowing to pressure, but it’s simply an agreement that’s been reached with the various stakeholders. Okay. I recognise this hand and then we’ll take all the new hands, come to the old hands.

Journalist: Just following up on the electricity questions, what will this Programme Management Office be able to achieve that hasn’t been achieved? What will its role be? And given the problem of various views emanating from the Ministry of Public Enterprises and Energy over the pricing, which has led to all sorts of confusion, will this be one of its roles in smoothing out the communication flow over price hikes?

Themba Maseko: The Programme Management Office’s role is basically to make sure that we manage the emergency as a true emergency, because what you are seeing now is that we only get people focusing on the electricity situation, if we have another phase of load shedding, or there’s been power cuts, or there’s issues about the rate hikes, etcetera, etcetera. So, what this proposal is.. that you have a team of dedicated officials and experts who will make sure that we manage this situation as a true emergency, including making sure that there’s coordinated communication around the emergency, and developments around it. It’s also to provide technical support to the inter-ministerial committee on the emergency, but also the national electricity response team. Because what you’re finding is, that whenever there’s an issue, business, labour, we all come together, talk. As soon as the situation stabilises we all go back to our normal day jobs. So what government is saying [is], if this is a true emergency, let’s put together a structure that will make sure that there’s ongoing co-ordination, ongoing implementation of decisions and clear messages… communication messages, on what needs to happen as far as the emergency is concerned. At this stage, no person has been appointed to head it, but the Minerals and Energy Department has a responsibility of funding it and also appointing the relevant people to head it. On this side. Okay.

Journalist: I was just wondering with regard to the electricity pricing policy, do you envision legislative changes to the mandate of NERSA? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: At this stage no, not exactly. But as the policy unfolds, as you see the details of the policy which will be revealed on Friday, there may be a need for changes, but at this stage I don’t think that… or I’m not aware of any contemplated legislative changes.

Journalist: What I don’t understand about the smoothing of the prices - the Public Enterprises Minister has in the past said that we could have a 100% increase now, or we could take 60% now and smooth the increases over time. So I’m not quite sure whether the smoothing in means a smoothing in of the 60(%) or is it… is the 60(%) already the smoothing in?

Themba Maseko: Okay. No, it’s not complicated at all. It’s essentially about reviewing and considering whether it is prudent to implement a 60% increase now and then smoothing beyond, or whether you should have a much lower increase now and finance the… allowing the fiscus to finance the difference now, and then instead of implementing the hikes over three years, doing it over five years. But again, let’s be clear, no decision has been taken on this matter. It’s still discussions; it’s a matter that’s going to be on the table at the summit. And as government we do not want to pre-empt what may come out of the summit. But that’s the idea that’s on the table. No, there’s a new hand at the back and then we’ll come to… oh, there’s another new hand. And then we’ll come back to the old hands later.

Journalist: My question is about the lawsuit brought forward by South African organisations representing victims of violence under apartheid against multinational corporations that are accused of aiding and abetting the apartheid regime. This week the US Supreme Court decided to allow the Appeals Court decision to allow the case to be heard. There have in the past been efforts by the South African government to try and block, or at least discourage, this case from being heard. My question would be, why is the South African government not wanting this case to be heard and will they pursue or will they try and continue to try and block this case from being heard, given the decision by the Supreme Court this week?

Themba Maseko: Well, firstly they’ve… the Department of Justice has [been] given the mandate to study the judgement in detail, to come back with a clear recommendation on the way forward. But the main reason why we have not supported the court action is that if the South African legal framework and the political settlement that was achieved in this country did make provision for all kinds of reparations, for all kinds of issues to be dealt with by South Africans, and our primary view is that South Africans must take charge of their destiny without allowing, you know, foreign courts to take decisions on what transpired in South Africa here. And our view is that if it happens in the US, somebody else could take a court case to another country or continent and this situation could just end up defocusing South Africa’s attention to really transform our society and make sure that we deal with the injustices of the past as South Africans, without necessarily allowing for intervention of courts or governments from other countries. So South Africans essentially must take charge of their destinies, and that is why we’ve not supported the court action. But in terms of the exact details of the judgement, the Justice Department will come back to Cabinet with a clear recommendation on what further steps need to be taken.

Themba Maseko: Well, there was a process which unfolded arising out of the Truth Commission in this country, and although there were shortcomings, the process was generally supported by all the key stakeholders in this country, and we don’t see a need for some of these matters to be taken to another court.

Journalist: On Zimbabwe: I’m a little bit puzzled that the Cabinet has time to discuss all these things like the high-profile events upcoming, and no time to discuss an equally high-profile event which is unravelling next door. But anyway, as government spokesman, what is your reaction to the new delay in the run-off elections. It looks like it's going to be the beginning of August. What’s your reaction on that? The generals' report, is that going to remain confidential or is that going to become a public document? And also, you mentioned in passing, in relation to the xenophobia, that there’s been an increase over the past couple of months in illegal immigrants. Are there any statistics on this and are they Zimbabweans?

Themba Maseko: On the Zim question it’s not a problem at all. The fact that Cabinet did not discuss it, as you know, the president is the lead SADC facilitator and there’s a team that deals with this matter and as we’ve said before the team often comes back to Cabinet whenever there’s been a major milestone. Now over the past couple of weeks, in fact the past week, the government team has been in Zimbabwe. It’s still facilitating discussions between the various parties to make sure that a solution is found sooner rather than later. So the team was not in a position to report to Cabinet yet, on the developments there, so the matter as not discussed. Whether the generals' report will be published, I am not aware of any decision by the presidency to publish the report, so I cannot comment on that one. Illegal immigrants, the numbers – we’re going to have to try and get the figures from the Department of Home Affairs. I do not have any figures at this stage on the number of illegal immigrants. It’s something that we can look at.

Journalist: But just a follow-up. Even though it wasn’t discussed in Cabinet, what is your reaction as government spokesperson to the delay in the run-off?

Themba Maseko: Well, our government position is that the sooner a run-off is held with the two parties participating in the run-off, the better. The preference would have been that the run-off is held within the stipulated period, but if the parties sit and have a discussion and agree that the date needs to be shifted and if the parties agree that it is in the interest of long-term stability in Zimbabwe to have the run-off at a different date, government will not have any difficulty with that, because as we’ve said, it is Zimbabweans themselves who hold the key to stabilisation of the future, and if Zimbabweans decide that there should be a different date, I think all of us should respect it. When there were negotiations in this country about an election date, parties even in South Africa did have disagreements about when elections should be held, and the South Africans themselves did decide who must participate in the elections and who must…whatever. So we think that the decisions of the Zimbabweans must be respected in this regard, and as government we will not take a position to oppose the views of political parties that will participate in the run-off.

Journalist: I’m sorry. This is a political party, not political parties. You know, it’s a unilateral decision by Zanu-PF with no involvement, no input whatsoever from the MDC.

Themba Maseko: As I said, we’ve got our facilitators who spent more than a week on the ground to try and make sure that an agreement is reached on this matter sooner rather than later. Now we will have to get a team to give a report back to say what is their assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe, but if Zimbabweans as we’ve said, believe that it is the right way to go to have elections at a later date, it is Zimbabweans themselves who must decide. And obviously, the government position is that you get all the parties to facilitate discussions and debates between the two parties in Zimbabwe and get them to agree on the best way forward, and as we’ve said, we would rather not reveal the details of those negotiations at this stage, in public, until some key milestones have been reached. So can I ask you to give us an opportunity to get a report from the team, and then allow the team to have a press briefing on the latest developments in Zimbabwe?

Journalist: Just a little question on this Policy and Procedures on Revolving-Door Enablers for the Public Service – a very domestic question. Does this include people who leave the public service and then go into the very sectors that they were legislating for or is this merely an internal arrangement?

Themba Maseko: No. This is for people who are stealing the employ of the public service and there are also clear guidelines just regulated to make sure there are no issues of conflict of interest between individuals and the companies or universities they are going into. But it is essentially a plan to current employees of the public sector, who would be allowed to leave the service on secondment for a period of twelve months and then come back to apply the skills to the public sector. So the person remains an employee of the state and also private sector people will be allowed to come into the public sector to spend some time, share their skills and then go back to their jobs. But there are regulations, which will regulate how this situation will be managed to make sure that issues of conflict of interest are managed and attended to.

Journalist: Sorry, just to follow up. There have been many questions asked. Government has said that it will work on a policy regarding people who leave the public sector and then become very wealthy in the very sectors they were legislating for. What springs to mind is the former DG for Communications. So does this entail that sort of situation as well? And when is that coming then?

Themba Maseko: This is not that policy at all. There is no final decision on this matter. It’s a matter that’s been debated within government, in the cluster and also at the level of the ruling party, but there’s no decision on that matter as yet. But this one is simply applying to people who are still in the public service, will be given sabbatical seconded to another company, then allowed to come back after acquiring skills, hopefully.

Journalist: What is the reason for the differential between service periods? The differential between service requirements, three and six years, before you get your sabbatical.

Themba Maseko: It’s three years for Heads of Departments, because all of them are employed on three-year contracts, or most of them are employed on much shorter terms. D-G’s for instance, sign three-year contracts and therefore this policy is aimed at making sure that even D-G’s who are on a three-year contract like myself, can also take advantage of this arrangement, whereas the other senior managers from DDG below, are employed as permanent employees. So it’s reasonable to expect a much longer period from them before they benefit from this. I’m sure we’re taking the final questions now.

Journalist: Themba, the Alliance Summits call for suggestions to have VAT removed from various food sources, as a response to the escalating food prices. Was that discussed at all by Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: It was discussed, not at this Cabinet meeting, but at the previous Cabinet meeting when the IMC tabled its report on the rising food prices. So it’s one of the options that is contained in their report to Cabinet. More work is being done on it and I suspect that a report will come back with clear recommendations of which food prices will be exempted. But the IMC, the ministerial committee was actually saying it should actually be one of the options being considered to exempt a few food prices from the list. So the issue of which foods, and what will be the impact on the fiscus if this decision were to be implemented, so there’s technical work that is still being done. But I think the principle enjoys support, even within government.

Journalist: Has the President shared with his Cabinet colleagues, his thinking around the location of the ANC Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe in Cabinet, and what’s happened to the other Bill that’s going to be necessary to amend legislation to enable the creation of the new Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, the National Amendments to the National Prosecuting Authority? The National Prosecuting Authority Amendment Bill? We’ve got the General Law Amendment Bill but we haven’t got the other one, and nothing can be done without the other one, so where is it and what’s the hold-up?

Themba Maseko: Would the President share his thoughts on the position of the Deputy President of the ruling party?

Journalist: Yes, who we understand is headed for Cabinet but we’re not sure in what capacity.

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately, that was not reported at the Cabinet meeting, but if and when a decision is taken in that matter, the media will be the first to know. You’ll probably know before I do, but we will let you know.

Your other question was what happened to that NPA Bill? Let’s check. I think that in the last Cabinet statement we announced the approval of both bills, as far as I can recall. But let’s check the statement – I’ll get my team to check on that one. But you may not have seen it yet. But let’s check on the details. You see, they needed to make sure that the General Laws Amendment Bill was in line with the policy decisions that were taken by Cabinet and then the NPA Bill would have followed on that, because the NPA Bill then does the technical amendments, removes the DSO from the functions of the NPA and would also I’m sure, regulate or suggest ways in which the transfer of staff will be managed from the NPA to the new unit in SAPS. My gut feeling is that we did announce it at the last statement, but we will check on it just now. Final question.

Journalist: The economic cluster last week reported that the Competition Amendment Bill would be approved. This would mean yesterday. What happened to it? What stalled it?

Themba Maseko: Well, the Bill is still in the committee process and my expectation is that it will be tabled at the next Cabinet meeting. But it's not one of those that we approved yesterday. So they must have been still working on some detail issues before it comes back to Cabinet. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.


Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communication (GCIS)