Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

17 April 2008

Date: Thursday, 17 April 2008
Venue: Union Buildings, Room 153 (Media Centre)

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Tshwane yesterday morning, 16 April 2008.

Cabinet discussed the recent developments in Zimbabwe following the elections that took place on the 29 March 2008. The meeting acknowledged and welcomed the role played by President Thabo Mbeki in facilitating the talks between the ruling party and the opposition. These talks laid a firm foundation for Zimbabweans to elect leaders of their choice in a process that was transparent. South Africa, like the rest of the world, is concerned about the delay in the release of results and the anxiety that this is generating. We are keen to see a speedy release of the election results as soon as possible.

To that end, Cabinet endorsed Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s call for the verification and release of all the results as soon as possible. In line with the mandate accorded to President Mbeki by SADC, the South African government will do all it can to interact impartially with all the relevant players in Zimbabwe to ensure that the election process is concluded speedily and in a manner that enjoys the confidence and reflects the will of the people of Zimbabwe. This will set the stage for political stability and economic recovery that Zimbabweans and, indeed, their neighbours yearn for.

Cabinet decided to deploy a national team to assist the Eastern Cape Department of Housing after receiving a report which indicated that the department was failing to fulfill its mandate to deliver houses to the people of the Eastern Cape Province. The delivery of houses in the province has declined from 37 000 units per annum in 2004/05 to 11 750 in the 2007/08 financial year. The deployment of the team will be in terms of section 3 (2) (d) of the Housing Act 107 of 1997 to ensure that housing delivery is accelerated in the province. Should the situation not improve within 12 months, consideration will be given to invoking section 100 (1) (b) of the Constitution which provides for the National Minister to take over the administration of the provincial housing department.

The meeting discussed the rising food and fuel prices and the global economic situation. The global rise in food prices was largely due to the combined impact of production shortfalls in major supply regions, rising consumption in developing economies and some diversion of feedstock to bio-fuel producers. South Africa has also been affected by the rising prices, although our food prices have not increased at the same pace as in many countries across the globe.

Higher food prices impact more severely on the poor. The budget contributes to supporting the income of poor households through the social grant system and the school feeding scheme. Food security also depends on expansion and development of the rural economy, investment in agricultural capacity and technology and broader participation of emerging farmers in commercial agriculture. Nepad’s Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) will also contribute towards achieving greater food security in the continent.

Collusive behavior in some sectors of the economy, particularly in the food industry, is a matter of concern to many South Africans. Government is confident that the competition authorities will continue to be vigilant and to take strong action to curb these negative practices that have also contributed to higher food prices. The economic and social cluster Ministers were mandated to develop a strategy to address this challenge and to report back to Cabinet in the near future.

Cabinet approved the design change for the 2008 Five Rand coin which will be designed to honour and celebrate President Nelson R Mandela 90th birthday. The transfer of the current international airport status of Pilanesberg Airport to Mafikeng Airport was approved, following a request from the Northwest Provincial Government and the recommendation from the Airport Coordinating Committee (ACC). This transfer will facilitate regional market integration within the planned Industrial Development Zone which is located next to the Mafikeng Airport.

The cancellation of the R926.8 million debt owed by Cuba to South Africa was approved. This debt arose out of the insurance cover which was provided to Cuba by the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa Limited (ECIC) for the export of diesel engines and pesticides in 1996. Given the assessment of Cuba’s debt position, government is of the view that Cuba was not in a position to meet its obligation in the foreseeable future. The Cuba’s debt position had the potential to undermine the bilateral economic relations and detracts the two countries from the pursuit of mutually beneficial relations in areas such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and the eradication of Tuberculosis (TB) and malaria in Africa, and the strengthening of South-South relations.

The following appointments were approved and the follwing eleven Bills were also approved...

End of statement. We will take questions starting in Pretoria. Okay. Questions, Pretoria.


Journalist: Just a point of clarification Themba. You talk about the acknowledging and welcoming role played by President Thabo Mbeki in facilitating the talks, you’re talking about the talks before the election not after the election, is that right?

Themba Maseko: Throughout. The facilitation process in our view will continue until such time that political stability is achieved in Zimbabwe.

Journalist: So you’re talking about both before the election and after the election.

Themba Maseko: Ja.

Journalist: Thanks.

Themba Maseko: Okay, next question.

Journalist: The question relating to the possible redeployment of Deputy President of the ANC, Kgalema, to government was that discussed? What is the state of discussion if there is any? And the other issue relating to the filling of positions that are vacant with regard to ANC Member of Parliament (MPs).

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately those issues never arose. My understanding is that there is interaction between the leadership of the ruling party and the President, and until such time that a decision is taken at that level, the matter will not serve before Cabinet. So the matter did not arise. Secondly, vacant posts in Parliament, that is a matter for the ruling party to sort out and finalise, so it will not be the responsibility of Cabinet to deal with that issue.

Journalist: Themba, we spoke about it earlier but light-heartedly, but with regards to the President’s comments last week about Zimbabwe, was he misquoted, was it saying that there is no crisis in Zimbabwe? Was he misquoted, was it discussed at all and was he at Cabinet meeting yesterday?

Themba Maseko: No, unfortunately the President was not at Cabinet. As members of the media are aware the President is currently in New York, the United Nations Security Council meetings. The focus of the discussions at the meeting yesterday was essentially about how to make sure that everything is being done to facilitate the talks between the ruling party and the opposition, and secondly to ensure that in fact everything is being done to release the results as soon as possible. So our view is that in fact it’s not helpful at this stage to engage in a debate about whether or not there is a crisis in Zimbabwe, the focus is on what do we need to do to make sure that the results are released as soon as possible. And to ensure that the situation in Zimbabwe can return to normality as soon as possible. [Unclear]

Journalist: Thanks, apparently in New York the President said that he would be approaching the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in Zimbabwe to get them to allow the various parties to verify the results. Now this would be a major step forward, when is this likely to happen?

Themba Maseko: Well, as far as I am aware the facilitators are in contact with the ruling party in Zimbabwe. Whether they have made contact with the ZEC I am not aware, but as I said in the statement we will do everything in our power as government to make sure that the results are released as soon as possible. If that means interacting as the President said with the ZEC that is what we will do, because we think that it is in everybody’s interests that the results are released as soon as is possible. We will take one last question in Pretoria and then go to Cape Town.

Journalist: I wonder if you could just talk to the issue of food prices and in the context of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) this week's meeting in Geneva to try and accelerate the farm talks and other elements, as well as the ministerial meeting that is coming up in June, how South Africa sees the relationship between higher food prices and potential liberalisation, whether it’s going to change our position at all in terms of scheduling, given that there could be an up-tick in food prices should the liberalisation take place. Secondly was there any update on the energy crisis, one the letter to Alec Erwin with regard to whether there shouldn’t be a consultation with the African National Congress (ANC) on the tariffs, but also whether there should be load shedding over the public holidays.

Themba Maseko: Okay, let us start with the… your last question, energy crisis. Cabinet does get a briefing on the latest developments as far as the energy situation is concerned - the emergency. So Cabinet was indeed briefed. There will be ongoing discussions with all the relevant stakeholders. Ministers are meeting on a regular basis with key stakeholders. At this stage I am not aware if those meetings will necessarily include a meeting in the short term with the ruling party, but my sense is that there is a willingness on the part of government to interact with every stakeholder to make sure that the emergency is managed as collaboratively as possible. So that briefing did take place.

Whether there will be load shedding during the holidays, I have not looked at the latest schedule from Eskom, but there is obviously still concern within government that load shedding still continues in the manner that it does, especially affecting the economic hub of the country, which is the major cities around the country. But the view of Cabinet is that the matter needs to be managed, collectively, with all the key stakeholders, and our sense is that at this stage we are getting better and better as far as communication is concerned. The release of schedules, load shedding schedules is getting better by the day and we will hope that in fact if there is any planned load shedding during holidays Eskom must make sure that the public is informed in good time.

Unfortunately there was no briefing on the WTA… WTO talks at both ministerial level and other levels, but what we can undertake to do is to get the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to actually arrange a special briefing to see what position South Africa will be taking to those meetings. Cape Town?

Journalist: Thank you, Themba. Three questions if I could. Firstly, the ship in the Durban Harbour, with ammunition and guns headed for Zimbabwe, was it discussed by Cabinet and even if not does Cabinet hold any position on it? Secondly, the Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Mrs Shabangu, is in the Cape now and spreading her gospel of shoot them dead and hang them high, she spoke in the Helderberg yesterday and speaking in Mitchells Plain this afternoon. We’re wondering whether Cabinet takes a view on anything she said - and thirdly on the Eastern Cape issue, the President appoints the Premier, obviously the Member of Executive Committe (MEC) for Housing cannot be seen to have succeeded in the mandate of their department, can Cabinet do anything to get us a new MEC for Housing in the Eastern Cape.

Themba Maseko: The question of the shipment in the Durban Harbour, the matter was not discussed, but I am aware that the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster is seized with the matter, they’re dealing with it. My understanding at this stage is that this is a deal struck between two countries, and all South Africa is involved in is with regard to the fact that the shipment would have had to go through South Africa because as you all know Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, but it’s an agreement between those two countries. Now what we are looking at is the extent to which all the proper administrative processes have been followed before the ship can be allowed to dock - and at this stage I am not aware of any embargo that has been placed on Zimbabwe by either the South African Government, Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU) or even the United Nations (UN). So the cluster will look at the matter and if there is a more deliberate statement to be issued by government we will issue that statement at a later stage. But the matter was not discussed in the Cabinet meeting yesterday.

The issue of Deputy Minister Shabangu’s statements, unfortunately the matter also did not arise at the Cabinet meeting yesterday, but my view is that what the Deputy Minister is trying to communicate is to make sure that there is greater clarity given to policemen on what circumstances… under what circumstances the police will be allowed to use lethal force, but government position is that every action taken by the police must happen within the regulatory framework, so there is no possibility that the police can be expected to operate outside the law and if there are cases that come up where police operated outside the law in using lethal force, there is the Directorate of… the Directorate… ja, whatever. The Complaints Directorate, which will investigate any complaints that any citizen may have against the police, but my view is that the police must operate within the framework of the law.

Eastern Cape situation, the Minister of Housing has met with the Premier, they have discussed this matter, and Cabinet has approved that the National Department of Housing must deploy this special team to actually look at the situation, but there was no discussion about what should happen to the MEC in that particular province and as we say in the statement, government is giving that housing department 12 months to get its act together. There will be support from national department, but if there is no progress within 12 months, then we will invoke Section 100 of the Constitution where national government will take over the administration of the housing department, but at this stage no decision or discussions that have been held about what role if any did the MEC play and what action should be taken against them. Next question, Cape Town.

Journalist: The statement says that the South African Government will do all it can to interact impartially with all the relevant players in Zimbabwe, does that mean that the South African Government is offering to mediate between the two parties at this point to reach some kind of resolution? And secondly you say that you will do everything in your power to release the results, what… what did Cabinet… I mean, Cabinet must have discussed what it could do. What suggestions were made as to what it could to get the results released? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: Okay, we are already engaged in a process to facilitate talks between the ruling party and the opposition to make sure that there is a peaceful resolution of the Zimbabwean question. Now if that facilitation requires us to interact once more with the opposition and the ruling party and if it means having direct contact with the ZEC we will do. So that is essentially what we are saying, Cabinet was of the view that in fact the situation is indeed dire and requires some kind of further facilitation because our expectation was that if we facilitate talks conditions are then created for peaceful elections to be held and then results would have been released soon after the elections - and that the situation would have returned to normal if the results had been released much earlier. So it is clear that in fact our mandate still has to continue to make sure that the election matter is finalised sooner rather than later. So facilitation will continue, the President and the team will interact with the opposition, with the ruling party and if need be the ZEC to make sure that in fact the issue of the release of results is resolved sooner rather than later. So what… all we can do at this stage is to facilitate and to make sure that the parties agree on a way forward. Beyond that there is very little we can do at this stage as a country.

Journalist: Themba, I just want to find out… you know you just said that the situation is obviously dire according to Cabinet, when did it become dire if it was not dire to the President, Saturday, Sunday?

Themba Maseko: Jan-Jan, when elections are held and results are not released two weeks after voting took place the situation is obviously something of great concern to this government, including the President. So we have been involved in facilitating the talks. We also need to just remind everyone that in fact South African has been seized with this matter more than any other country in the world, we believe that we have contributed substantially to the peaceful environment that was created for elections to take place. You must remember that in fact the fact that election results were posted outside each and every polling station is a direct result of the negotiations that was facilitated by the President and the team. So we think that in fact we have gone much further than most parties would have anticipated to create this climate that is existing… or that existed for elections to actually take place. Now that we find ourselves in a situation where results have not been released, is obviously something of great concern to this government and that is why we are saying even in the statement that we will continue to do everything that is necessary, everything that is within our power, to make sure that these results are released as speedily as possible. Okay, we will come back to you, Pretoria.

Journalist: Thanks very much. The issue of collusive behaviour, have there been further examples of this in the food sector? And secondly does this mean that Cabinet is of the view that current competition legislation and/or competition authorities are not doing their jobs properly?

Themba Maseko: Definitely not, Wyndham. Responding to your last question. If you see our statement we are making it very clear that we are satisfied with the role that the competition authorities are handling this matter properly, and we commend them for their vigilance in dealing with this matter. Whether there is any example of any collusion in the food sector at this stage no new examples have come up - but we are still concerned that in fact there was even collusion that took place around, example, the issue of bread prices. Which is a staple food of most poor families in the country, but note at this stage there is no decision to revise legislation, we think that the current framework is indeed working sufficiently to deal with all those parties who are involved in collusion, so at this stage there is no talk of legislation until such time that government gets information which will suggest that we need to change our laws.

Journalist: My question relating to that one, although you have partially answered it, but there have been calls that this issue relating to price fixing must not be left to penalties, people calling that it should be criminalised, what is the view of Cabinet with regards to that? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: We agree that it is indeed a serious matter. The fact that… one example I can give… the fact that no value added tax (VAT) has been charged on brown bread, and yet if you look at the price of brown bread in the country, one gets a sense that in fact that is not being passed on to the consumers, so it is something that is of great concern. Now if there is evidence of anybody breaking the law, the first port of call would obviously be the competition authorities, who actually have demonstrated that they will penalise all those parties that are involved in this and at this stage the vehicle that has been chosen by the competition authorities is to impose fines on all those who are breaking the rules as far this is concerned. So at this stage no firm view is taken by Cabinet that criminal action needs to be taken against those who break the rules of the competition, however if the situation does degenerate and more evidence is found, there may be a need to review what further action needs to be taken against those who are breaking the rules. But we think that the rules are all clear and there for everyone to see. Part of the problem is that historically this is not something that has received urgent attention as it is receiving now. So we’re satisfied that in fact the current rules and the current statutory bodies are sufficiently dealing with the situation.

Journalist: Themba, two questions please, on the Zimbabwe elections again you said that the posting of the results outside the various stations are a direct result of President Thabo Mbeki’s influence. Now as far as I am aware that is also a part of the SADC rules around free and fair elections. Are you saying that without Mbeki, Robert Mugabe would not have adhered to those SADC requirements for a free and fair election, which he is a signatory of? And secondly as far as biofuels and the production of maize, last year I think that the government said that it was keen on producing maize crops or related crops in the former homelands, trust areas, to provide resources for biofuel. Is that now going to be changed considering the outcry around this? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: The issue of posting of election results in every polling station is something that did not exist in Zimbabwe, despite all the protocols by SADC and the point we are trying to make here is that if anything the country must acknowledge the role that our President as facilitator played in trying to create conditions that were conducive to the holding of peaceful and democratic elections in Zimbabwe. So the rules were not there, we went in we facilitated and that rule was agreed to and implemented. In fact it amounted to… it led to a constitutional amendment in Zimbabwe, so we think that in fact if anything there needs to be an acknowledgement that we have played quite a significant role in making sure that Zimbabwe complies and gets close to the existing protocols, SADC protocols. But Zimbabwe is a signatory as far as I know to the SADC protocols, but whether all the rules in the protocol were being applied in Zimbabwe it is something that we identified and facilitated. And I was… I was traveling abroad and I was pleased to see the spokesperson of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) publicly acknowledging that in fact the South African facilitators played a key role, particularly the President played a key role in making sure that this stipulation was incorporated into the constitution and it became part of the deal that was struck by the ruling party and the opposition, so that is the point we are trying to highlight there.

On biofuels, we support the policy and we think that in fact biofuels is indeed a player in the field of the production of energy, but at the same time we are aware that it has an impact on the rising prices and that is why in our situation our government decided to exclude maize as one of the products that need to be used for the production of biofuels. At this stage there is no need… no decision… no need to change that decision taken by government [unclear].

Journalist: Themba, sorry again on Zimbabwe, if government contends that the process, the election process in Zimbabwe was transparent, would Cabinet then agree that afterwards, after the election it has been anything but transparent? And if you can… is it possible to explain to us has the government of President Mugabe and the ruling party, have they been playing a positive and constructive role in reaching an agreement? Because it is now been two weeks and every day we…you know, you open the newspapers and nothing has happened yet. So is it possible that you can explain to us the role that that government and the ruling party have been playing in trying to reach an agreement?

Themba Maseko: Well, our view is that the election process was indeed transparent. We saw all parties participating in the elections actually observing the counting and everything that took place there. So we are confident that in fact there has been transparency. Now the SADC heads of state summit on Saturday also suggested that in fact all the participating parties in the elections should also be observers in the ZEC process of verifying and counting of results. So the SADC heads of states are therefore calling for transparency to go through until the end of the process to make sure that everybody is content with the process that is unfolding. But our view as government is that to date the election that took place in Zimbabwe was indeed transparent and that the opposition party, the parties, and the ruling party did observe the voting and the election, and my sense is that in fact all parties at this stage are agreed that in fact the process was indeed transparent.

The role of the Zimbabwe government or the ruling party, without saying too much on it, but we are agreed that in fact the ruling party has been a willing party in the facilitation that has taken place. We have been able to meet both the ruling party and the opposition party, to make sure that in fact there is agreement on the way forward, and that is essentially what facilitation has been about and at this stage I am not aware of any indication that in fact Zanu-PF or the government has been unwilling to participate in the facilitated talks that is taking place thus far.

Journalist: And the process since the 29th, you know waiting for the election results, surely is there… does the Cabinet hold a view on the transparency of that time that has since elapsed and everything that has happened since the 29th? Has the process since the election also been transparent?

Themba Maseko: Well, at this stage all indications are that when the voting took place, when it was concluded, the counting then went into the field of the ZEC which was responsible for the final count, the verification and announcement of results - and my sense is that in fact we are going to have to rely on existing protocols, understandings and agreements which do allow for trade to happen between two countries. With the use of our harbours it is simply a conduit from point A to point B, but it is not suggesting in any way that South Africa is actively encouraging the purchase of weapons by Zimbabwe or any other country. Okay, final round in Cape Town.

Journalist: Two questions. Firstly, on this shipment, are you no being a bit disingenuous here? We can decide whether this goes through our country or not. Perhaps you can help me here. I cannot understand how the process of peace in Zimbabwe, can in any way be assisted by bringing all these guns and ammunition into Zimbabwe. If you could explain that, that would be nice and the second thing is just, whether Cabinet is at all worried that its own rather growing perception of the President’s role is at variance with what the leader of one of those parties Morgan Tsvangirai, said in our own country when he visited here and which that party has reiterated many times, that perhaps they are not quite as happy with the presidential as Cabinet is.

Themba Maseko: Let us start with the last question. Cabinet is satisfied, in fact not just Cabinet, but the SADC Heads of States are satisfied that South Africa played a fundamental role in creating conditions for peaceful elections in Zimbabwe. That is the first point. The second point is that we have been interacting with all the participating parties in Zimbabwe and in those discussions all those parties made it very clear that in fact they were satisfied with the role that we have played as a country. Now as I say during my travels, in a press conference a spokesperson of MDC – unfortunately this does not seem to have reached the South African media – a spokesperson of MDC did say to the world that MDC was satisfied and very happy with the facilitation role played by our President. Now, it is also true that after the media coverage of what the President is reported to have said, the MDC leader did express some concerns about what the President said and he said he would want to have an urgent discussion with the President to clarify what he meant when he made those comments. But at no stage am I aware of the MDC making a categoric statement saying that they are unhappy with our role as a facilitator of the task.

Your second question about the shipment. At this stage, the point I am making is that we are not in a position to act unilaterally to interfere in a trade deal between two countries. But I have said the matter is being looked at and there is no way that South Africa can simply start implementing an embargo or sanctions against Zimbabwe because there is no decision to that effect at this stage. The situation may change in the future but at this stage, there is no an embargo that we are compelled to comply with as a country and therefore we will be guided by the existing, as I said, regulations, protocols, frameworks, understanding within the SADC community. We can not just take unilateral decisions as South Africa on this matter, but if needs be, as more information becomes available there may be a need for a further statement to be issued on this particular matter.

Journalist: Could you tell us whether Cabinet was informed of the President’s meeting with Robert Mugabe? And also, what did Mugabe tell the President which led him to conclude that the election process was not in crisis?

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately as I said, the President was not in the meeting so we were not privy to the details of their discussions. It would be impossible for me at this stage to comment on the details of those discussions if we are not briefed. Next question?

Journalist: This is a Chinese ship, by all reports carrying 77 tons of anti-personnel armaments, destined for the Ministry of Defence in Harare. You talk about contracts between two different countries, but these are weapons. You talk about existing regulations. What are the existing regulations? What is South Africa’s legal position and policy with regard to weapons destined for a third party country passing through our territory, particularly if there is a potential for destabilisation in that country?

Themba Maseko: As I said earlier, the regulations for instance, are that if there is a deal of this nature between two countries, the South African authorities are informed of such a deal and informed that there is a shipment coming through a harbour or border post and we then get documentation, there is a long process that needs to be followed to make sure that in fact, proper procedures are followed. The next step is for that shipment to be sealed and make sure that none of those weapons find their way into any part of South Africa. So that is our responsibility. We then make sure that we clear the way for the ammunition or whatever shipment, that is going from one country to the next.

The point I am making here is that if there is such a situation, our responsibility is to make sure the correct procedures are followed, there are rules that need to be complied with, and at this stage, unless there is an embargo that has been placed either by the South African Government, SADC countries, the AU or even the UN, we have got no authority as a country to simply say ‘we will not allow this shipment to go through our border post.’ However, as I say, when we get into this matter and we may actually issue a further statement after looking at all the facts. At this stage I do not know whether all the procedures were followed, whether there is been any approval from any of the authorities in South Africa for the shipment to go through and that is why that ship is still stuck in the harbour because we have to make sure that all the correct procedures have been followed, but if all procedures are followed, as I said, the rule is as I said, South Africa will facilitate the transit of the shipment through our borders. Unless there is a regulatory provision that says we should not do so.

Journalist: On the question of transparency that you were talking about earlier. I think everyone would agree that the election itself was okay, it is the process afterwards. Now on Saturday the recount is happening, the recount of the 23 constituencies is going to happen. That recount could actually change the outcome of the election in the House of Assembly. All the party agencies, as you say, all party agents will be allowed in to watch the recount, but the ballot boxes have been stored in a military barracks ever since the election. Now, do you not see a problem there with the lack of transparency? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: I would agree that, that is a very important matter but as South Africa again, bearing in mind that we are the facilitators for these talks, we will not comment on the details of the storage of the boxes, what could have happened when the boxes were stored, what could have happened when the ZEC was stationed in a remote area, etc, because we just do not know what happened. All we can comment on is, the fact that, when there is a recount, when there is a verification, when the results are announced, we have got to make sure that there are observers especially from the participating parties in the elections.

Unfortunately I’m not in a position to make comments that could be interpreted to mean that we are passing judgement on the ZEC and the process that unfolded during these past two-and-a-half weeks. So the appeal is, let the recounting happen, let us make sure that there are observers observing the process and most importantly, let us get the election results announced as a matter of absolute urgency.

Journalist: There was a newspaper report this morning that Chinese troops have been spotted in Mutare. Any comment on that?

Themba Maseko: I am sure people spot a lot of things that get reported in the media, but this is the first time I hear of that and I am not aware of any Chinese or Chinese troops spotted anywhere in Zimbabwe. So unfortunately I cannot comment at this stage on that matter.

Journalist: Would we allow nuclear weapons to cross our territory?

Themba Maseko: Again, I am sure there will be a framework that governs what type of weapons goes through our territory, but as I said, before any weapons goes through our borders, there is a process that needs to be followed and we take a wary judgement as a country, on the conditions under which those weapons should go through our borders, so if there were to be a request for nuclear weapons to go through our borders, I am sure its something that government is going to have to look at first before a decision is taken. The impression we must leave this briefing with, is that it is not just a question of saying anything goes through our borders. If something has to go through, there is a procedure that needs to be followed and when that procedure is followed and the South African Government is satisfied that there is nothing illegal or improper for that to happen, then we take a decision based on those matters.

Journalist: One final question. Something completely different. You talk about spotting things and I am just looking at this list that you gave us. Right at the end here, the directors of the Board of Armscor. This Mr RP Meyer, is this the former minister who is now an ANC supporter?

Themba Maseko: I have no clue who those people are. No clue at all. Okay. This brings us to an end. Thank you very much.

Journalist: Just a final question. On Eskom and the proposed 60% hike. The ANC had expressed reservations about it, and said it would engage government on this issue, so that government could engage Eskom. Has any of this happened? What is government’s position on accommodating ANC concerns around the proposed hike?

Themba Maseko: Well, I can not say whether there has been a specific meeting between the ruling party and government on this particular issue. So I can not comment on that. All I can say is that the understanding within government at this stage is that there will be public hearings. All stakeholders will be invited to express their opinions and communicate those to National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) before a final decision has been taken, but the view of the Public Enterprises, Department and Minerals and Energy, is that the request for the price hikes is justified, but it is up to the regulator to decide on that one. So the ANC and other parties will be welcome to express their opinions to the regulator.

Okay. Thank you very much. This brings us to a close.


Issued by: Government Communication (GCIS)