Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

18 September 2008

Presenter: Themba Maseko, CEO: Government Communications
Venue: Room 153, Union Buildings, Pretoria (with video-link to Cape Town

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Pretoria yesterday, 17 September 2008.

The meeting discussed the recent judgment in the court case between the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Mr Jacob Zuma. Cabinet respects the judiciary and its decisions. However, Cabinet does not accept the suggestion that either the President or the Executive interfered with the prosecuting decisions of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regarding the prosecution of any person or persons. The untested inference that there was political interference with the prosecuting decisions of the NPA in this or any other case is untrue, unfounded and does not hold water.

The Constitution and the NPA Act give the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development political oversight over the National Prosecuting Authority. However, the Minister does not participate in decisions about individual prosecutions. Therefore, the suggestion that the interaction between the Minister of Justice and the National Director of Public Prosecutions constitutes interference is incorrect.

Cabinet has decided to seek legal advice on the inferences made by Judge Nicholson that President Thabo Mbeki and the Executive interfered with the NPA regarding the decision to prosecute Mr Jacob Zuma. Government will continue to work hard to defend the integrity of all our constitutional structures and the country's reputation as a constitutional state.

Cabinet welcomed the signing of the power sharing agreement by the leaders of political parties in Zimbabwe. The agreement marks the first step towards rebuilding that country and the South African government takes this opportunity to commend the people of Zimbabwe on this historic milestone. This agreement is clear evidence that it is possible for Africans to find solutions to African problems. The South African Government recognises the critical role played by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) facilitation mission under the leadership of President Thabo Mbeki and congratulates him and the mediation team for fulfilling the mandate of the SADC Heads of State. All South Africans can be proud of the role played by the team in facilitating the talks that led to the signing of the agreement. The mediation team will remain engaged with the leadership of Zimbabwe to ensure that the agreement is implemented.

The agreement represents the beginning of a process of restoring peace and stability for the people of Zimbabwe, the SADC region and the entire continent. The next steps include addressing the challenge of beginning with the enormous task of rebuilding the economy of Zimbabwe. The immediate tasks include doing everything that will be necessary to resuscitate the agricultural industry ahead of the summer rains. In this regard, a Task Team led by the departments of Agriculture, Foreign Affairs and , National Treasury will work with other SADC countries to develop an emergency intervention plan.

The meeting noted and congratulated Team South Africa for their sterling performance at the Beijing Paralympics Games. The athletes demonstrated character, hard work, commitment and pride as they represented South Africa. Their 'gold run' became a daily occurrence which made many South Africans to look forward to each and every day of the Paralympics. Millions of youngsters in South Africa and all over the world will forever be inspired by these magnificent athletes. Team South Africa won a total of 30 medals (21 gold medals, three silver and six bronze.) These stars have eclipsed the 15 medals they won in Athens. All South Africans should be proud of this achievement. The President will host the athletes at a function that will be held to celebrate their achievements.

The revised remuneration dispensation for the Senior Management Service (SMS) was approved. The revised dispensation provides, among other things, for members of the SMS to be paid 75% of the market median and the introduction of a variable pay system that will take scope, size and responsibility of departments into account in the determination of SMS remuneration. The dispensation does away with the merit awards for SMS members and requires that the performance assessment of managers should be linked to the overall performance of departments.

These initiatives are aimed at improving government's ability to attract, recruit and retain high calibre professionals into the Public Service, and to improve performance and productivity. The resolutions of the Third National Anti-Corruption Summit were noted and endorsed. The resolutions include the following: a clear articulation of the national integrity system; implementation of anti-corruption legislation; regulating and managing conflict of interests; legislative measures to ensure that companies involved in price fixing, market allocation and collusive tendering are prohibited from state tenders; ethical conduct and the need to expedite regulations for political party funding to encourage transparency. The leader of Government Business was given a mandate to expedite the drafting regulations on political party funding.

South Africa will host the African Union (AU) Diaspora Summit from 7 to 11 October 2008, at the Sandton Convention Centre. The Summit forms part of the AU's ongoing efforts to actively engage the African Diaspora in the development of the continent.

The theme of the Summit is: "Towards a United and Integrated Africa and its Diaspora". The adoption of the Declaration, Programme of Action and its implementation mechanisms will be significant for the developmental imperatives of our continent as it will strengthen and deepen political and economic cooperation between Africa and its Diaspora.

South Africa's Report on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) for the period 1998 to 2008 was approved and will be submitted to the United Nations CEDAW Committee. This report assesses the status of women in society and the extent to which the implementation of gender mainstreaming has been achieved. The report will be published at the end of the year.

The proposed South African Schools Football World Cup Competition (SASFWCC) was noted and approved. This competition will, inter alia, promote knowledge of: the 2010 FIFA World Cup values of integrity, excellence, non-racism and anti-xenophobia, unity and tolerance. The symbols, flags and national anthems of participating countries will also be promoted.

Ambassador AS Minty's candidature to the post of Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was noted and supported.

The meeting noted that the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA63) will be held from 23 September to 1 October 2008. The theme for this year's Assembly Debate is: "The Impact of the global food crisis on poverty and hunger in the world; the need to democratise the United Nations."

The agenda will include the following matters; strengthening the mandate of the UN; reaffirming the role of multilateralism; global governance; consolidation of the African agenda; and the promotion of South-South co-operation.
The Handbook for the appointment of persons to boards of state and state controlled institutions was approved with amendments.

The following appointments were approved:

  • Mr RB Maluleke was appointed as a Deputy Director-General in Statistics South Africa (StatsSA)
  • Members to the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) Board of Directors: Ms W Luhabe (Chairperson), Ms B Njobe, Mr M Nkuhlu, Ms M Hlahla, Mr S Moloko, Mr J Mtshali, Ms L Dlamini, Ms L Bethlehem, Mr S Mapetla and Mr R Pitot.
  • Concurred with the re-appointment of Ms TE Nwedamutsu as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Independent Development Trust IDT, for a further five years.

Questions and answer session

Journalist: Themba, good morning. We know there were a Cabinet meeting here this morning. Why was there a Cabinet meeting yesterday and then a Cabinet meeting here this morning? Was it to discuss the decision by the NPA to apply for leave to appeal Friday's judgment?

Themba Maseko: Absolutely not. The Cabinet did not discuss what the NPA's planning to do or is going to do. So that matter was not discussed at all. Cabinet had a lengthy meeting yesterday and could not complete its business and decided to reconvene this morning to complete its business. But the NPA matter was not dealt with at all.

Journalist: On the Cabinet's rejection of the judgment, if you look back at the Ginwala Commission before those allegations, what happened, which culminated with the charging of Selebi, and which later was confirmed by the judge, but on what basis is Cabinet rejecting a judgment by the judge of the High Court? I just wanted to know as to whether Cabinet just accepted the present wait that this is incorrect or was there a basis to say, yes, we did ABC to make that kind of call?

Themba Maseko: Okay, first point is that Cabinet is not saying it is rejecting the judgment, so the judgment stands. The judgment stands and as we are saying we are clearly respecting the courts, the judiciary and their decisions. However, the judge in his comments did make some inferences suggesting that there has been political interference by both President and Cabinet in this particular case, and Cabinet says this is completely untrue and that is why we are seeking legal advice on how that inference, that misconception could actually be corrected.

So the legal opinion that we are seeking is not going to be looking at the heart of the judgment by Judge Nicholson, but it's going to be focusing only on those inferences made that Cabinet did interfere with the NPA decisions.

Journalist: May I follow up? Okay, let me rephrase my question and put it this way. On what basis does the Cabinet agree that those inferences were incorrect?

Themba Maseko: Well, it's purely because at no stage did Cabinet or any member of the Executive discuss this particular case and tried to influence the NPA on whether they should prosecute the President of the ANC or not. So it's purely saying it is untrue because if that were to be true it would mean that in fact the Executive have actually breached the Constitution. So what the legal opinion will seek to do is what steps can be taken by the Executive to actually clarify the inference that has been made by the judge that in fact there was political interference in the decision as to whether or not to prosecute Mr Jacob Zuma.

Journalist: I just want to find out if Cabinet spoke about calls for President Mbeki to step down. If they didn't, what are your thoughts on that call? And then another thing that came up yesterday, Julius Malema coming out again saying that the reason the NPA decided to prosecute or to appeal Friday's court judgment is because President Thabo Mbeki is back in the country and he's told them to do so, again insinuating that there's political interference. What's your response to that?

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately I can't comment on what Malema said, all I can tell you is that the Cabinet meeting did not discuss any calls. It did note that there have been lots of calls for the President to step down, but at the same time Cabinet is of the view that in fact it's a matter that needs to be tackled at a political level. So it's up to the ruling party to make a decision and communicate that decision to Cabinet. But it's not for Cabinet to decide whether or not the President should actually step down.

Journalist: Themba. I just wanted to know, a lot has been said about the judge's inference or suggestion that there may have been political meddling in the Zuma case. Did Cabinet at all look at one of the other significant comments by the judge in that he feels a commission of inquiry, a judicial commission is needed to clear the air with regards to the arms deal, was that discussed at all?

Themba Maseko: Well, the Cabinet meeting did note that the judge had made a call for a commission, but no decision has been taken about whether or not such a commission will be established. So the matter was noted as some of the comments that were made by the judge, but I would imagine that Cabinet's view would be that it's not actually for the courts to decide on whether or not a commission should be set up. That's a policy matter that needs to be dealt with at the level of the Executive, and the Judiciary needs to adjudicate on matters before them, and setting up of a commission is a policy issue and it's not for the judge in our view to rule on that particular matter.

Journalist: Themba, given the urgency of the matter and the critical importance for the country, etcetera, etcetera, is it not a bit of a fob-off and a bit of a delaying tactic to say that the Cabinet is going to seek legal advice? I mean, we had before the President is going to be seeking legal advice over the Sunday Times allegations, which we've never heard anything more about it. You know one would think that by Thursday, a week later, that legal advice would have been taken and that Cabinet would be ready to move. Could you respond to that, please?

Themba Maseko: Well, the point is that yesterday was the first Cabinet meeting after the court judgment, so it's not unreasonable for Cabinet to decide at its first meeting after the court judgment to decide to seek legal advice. So I would agree with you that the matter is indeed urgent, but at the same time the first Cabinet meeting was yesterday. So that decision could not have been taken at any other time! On The Presidency seeking legal advice on the Sunday Times matter; unfortunately, I'm not able to comment on that one at this stage. I would agree that this is indeed an urgent matter, and I'm sure that the legal advice is being sought on an urgent basis.

Journalist: Themba, I thought your previous comment extraordinary. Are Cabinet and therefore the President going to take instruction from the ANC on whether he should remain in office?

Themba Maseko: Jan-Jan, all I'm saying is that there is no Cabinet decision that the President must either stand down or not stand down. That's a discussion that will take place at a political level, and that's a discussion that needs to take place within the confines of the ruling party. It's not a Cabinet decision. That's all I'm saying.

Journalist: Is it correct that the President met with Mr Zuma last night, and if so did he enlighten Cabinet on what they discussed?

Themba Maseko: No such report was tabled at Cabinet. I'm not aware of any meeting. The only time I got to know that there was such a meeting was when I got inquiries from the media if such a meeting had taken place. The short answer to your question, no report of such a meeting was tabled at the meeting.

Journalist: It's a follow-up on the same question as well. When you say that Cabinet noted the calls for the President to step down, and it just said that's a political matter, it has to be handled at that level. But wasn't there discussion about what's going to happen, because you're talking about a government here? So say if that call indeed is going to be made given the fact that there will be an National Executive Council (NEC) meeting this weekend, what's going to happen? I'm not talking about the fact that those discussions about whether it's going to happen are going to take place at a partisan level. I'm talking about if they're going to happen, didn't Cabinet discuss about what's going to happen then?

Themba Maseko: Well, [unclear], at this stage I can say that the pending decision by the ruling party is mere speculation. The statement of the NWC of the ruling party did make it very clear that no decision has been made. The only decision that will be made will be by the correct constitutional structure which is the NEC and that is happening this coming weekend. So the Cabinet could not take a decision based on speculation at this stage. The business of government will and does continue as things stand. And if a decision or any decision is taken then Cabinet is going to have to reconvene and see what steps need to be taken to make sure that the work of government continues.

Our primary objective at this stage is that the work and business of government must continue, and that all South Africans must go to bed at night with the full knowledge that we have a government that continues to run the country. So if a different decision is taken, Cabinet is going to have to reconvene and decide what needs to happen. But at this stage it will be absolutely premature for government to take any decisions or take discussions about the removal of the President, because no decision has been formally communicated to us.

Journalist: Just to come back to the legal advice, the legal advice I've sought but haven't paid for is that if you're not a respondent in a case you can't apply for leave to appeal or anything like that, all you can do is lodge a complaint at the Judicial Service Commission. Is that something Cabinet and government would be prepared to do? I ask that because the concept of government going to the people that deal with complaints against the judges, the judges' regulator, is quite an extraordinary step.

Themba Maseko: My limited understanding of the law tells me that there're various options. One option is for the government to lodge an appeal to either the Constitutional Court or Court of Appeals, and actually make an application regarding those comments by the judge which said that Cabinet had actually interfered with the NPA decisions. The other option could be to take the matter for review, where another court could actually consider the comments made by the judge, because the primary issue here is that the judge made his comments but at that stage there was no concrete evidence that was presented to the court.

And the state was not able to actually present its side of the story during the proceedings. So our view is that a lot of facts may need to be put in front of a court to say what the judge said is basically not true, and the legal advice will actually advise Cabinet on what is the best route to take. Is it Judicial Service Commission, go straight to the Constitutional Court or call for a review? But let's wait for that legal advice to come.

Journalist: Just on the comments from the judge on the then Deputy President Jacob Zuma - then Deputy President of the country. He said that that decision was unfair and unjust, but not unlawful. Did you discuss that and the implications of that comment?

Themba Maseko: No, they didn't go into that particular issue. So the matter was not discussed. May I just remind the media there were other issues in the statement. You'll come to them?

Journalist: One other issue which you referred to which we have not discussed is the Diaspora conference. I wondered what the point of a Diaspora conference is. What will we gain from it? What is there to be gained? What is the Diaspora? How is it defined? And is it simply African Americans?

Themba Maseko: The Diaspora initiative is basically an initiative of the African Union, which seeks to establish links between Africans in all parts of the world to try and establish links between those Africans in our parts of the world with the African continent, and to find ways of making sure that opportunities are created for all Africans or all those who consider themselves as Africans, be they African Americans or British Africans or even Chinese Africans for that matter.

So it's all of those Africans outside of the continent, who live there for various reasons, be it political, asylum, economic reasons, to establish contact with the continent and find ways of giving them opportunities to participate in the process of strengthening and rebuilding this continent. So this conference essentially brings together heads of states, academics, professionals, civil society, and individual Africans in many parts of the world to come together and say what can we do all of us together to try and assist the continent on its way to recovery. So that's what the Diaspora is essentially about.

Journalist: Themba, since it's not the case that the Minister of Justice gets involved in individual decisions about individual prosecutions, did the Cabinet think of explaining why it was that Penuell Maduna was present at a press conference with Bulelani Ngcuka where they made a decision on the individual case of Jacob Zuma? Secondly, could you say, whether the Cabinet expressed their confidence in the President at this point? Thank you.

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately, Carol, Judge Nicholson referred to a number of issues including that matter that the former Minister of Justice was present when the announcement was made by Mr Ngcuka, but unfortunately the Cabinet did not get into those individual issues that were raised by the judge, and it may be one of the issues that may be discussed when we receive a report from the lawyers about the legal advice on the route. Essentially a lot of statements were made and government wants to challenge a lot of the assertions that were made by the judge. But it did not discuss that particular incident of the presence of a Minister when a Director of Public Prosecutions issues a statement. That issue was not discussed specifically.

And whether here was a specific resolution expressing full confidence in the President, no specific discussion of that nature except that everybody who was at the Cabinet meeting was of the view that the Cabinet as a collective has worked together to put the country where it is today. And that it would be unfortunate if the President were to be asked to depart, but there was no specific resolution that says we express confidence. But I would imagine that, listening to the discussions, Cabinet does have full confidence in the President.

Journalist: Just to follow up on Carol, how would you best describe the sentiment at Cabinet? Is it demoralised, indignant, angry? Just to give us a feeling as to you know the mood of the various ministers and in particular the President.

Themba Maseko: Well, obviously everyone is concerned about a lot of the statements that are made in the media by various personalities and individuals, but our primary concern as government is to make sure that the business of government governance does continue. That as a country we've worked very hard, sacrificed a lot of things to be where we are today in that everything must actually be done to ensure that all the achievements, the gains that we've made as a nation continue into the future. But the mood of Ministers is that the business of government must and does continue until a decision is taken about what needs to happen. So there is still commitment to making sure that government continues to function.

Journalist: Just to follow up, I mean, indignant? Demoralised?

Themba Maseko: I don't have a sense that there's any demoralisation and indignation on the part of the ministers at this stage, no.

Journalist: Themba, just getting back to your comments with regards to the ANC not having taken a decision yet, the Constitution makes no reference to political parties having any say with regards to the employment or deployment in government. Does this then effectively mean that the President or the Cabinet will be asked to vacate their offices on the whims of the ruling party?

Themba Maseko: Pieter, let me say again I'm not in a position to speak on behalf of the ruling party. All I was saying earlier on was that there has been lots of speculation especially in the media that a decision has been taken or no decision has been taken until this coming weekend, etcetera, etcetera. So I'm not in a position to comment on the behalf of the ruling party, that's not what I'm paid to do. (Except to say that) All members of Cabinet consider themselves as deployed members of the ruling party working in government.

So if there's a decision about the ruling party that those who are deployed in Cabinet need to be recalled, that will be their decision. That will be the decision of the ruling party. But as a government spokesperson I'm not in a position to comment too much on what the ruling party has or has not decided or what they will decide. All I'm saying is that members of the Executive consider themselves and they are deployed by the ruling party, so that's the long and short of it.

Journalist: On another issue of the pay dispensation, is there going to be a band within which departments work or is it completely free market related and at their discretion. If you could just explain how that will work, thank you.

Themba Maseko: A lot of work has been done. Let me just say researchers were appointed to do some studies comparing the pay of senior civil servants, comparing them to similar organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private sector, and it came with some kind of a band that says people working in this particular a department.

They then started classifying departments to say you look at the scope of the work of the department, its size, its budget and all of those kinds of things, and then departments were then classified into different groups and it then says those who are working this particular department, because of the size and scope of responsibility and the number of employees, for instance size of their budgets, there were then groups.

So people working in a particular department will then be paid based on the responsibility that they have because at this stage somebody could be running a department with a budget of eight billion rands, and somebody else will be running a very important but small department like Government Communications (GCIS) with a budget of about 300 million rands. But a Director-General in GCIS and a DG in for instance Education and Health and South African Police Service (SAPS) will be paid the same amount of money. Deputy Directors-General (DDGs), directors, chief directors will be paid the same amount of money. So this system is beginning to say let's take into account the size and nature of the responsibility that each individual has, and begin to pay them, recognising that they actually carry a larger responsibility in terms of fulfilling their tasks.

But we will get to the Governance and Administration (G&A) cluster to unpack this to you in greater detail, there's a detail briefing that we are planning to organise so that we can explain the system much better. Thank you very much for that question.

Journalist: Back to the judgment. Judge Nicholson went at length about the role of the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), and his perceived vulnerability to executive manipulation, suggesting that in future the role of the NDPP should be redefined. Did Cabinet discuss this issue and was there disagreement or agreement with the judge on this particular issue?

Themba Maseko: Not specifically, but let me just give you an example of the nature of issues we're dealing with. We have a Constitution that gives the Minister of Justice oversight over the NPA. You have the NPA act that says the director of the NPA must report to the Minister of Justice. Now that's how the system has unfolded over 15 years, and remember we are still a new democracy indeed. So that's how the system has actually worked, that there isn't a solid wall between the national director and the Minister of Justice.

Now the judge is expressing an opinion that in fact in future the system needs to be changed. Now if that is a proposal or an idea coming from the judge it's something that needs to be explored, because it's a new model in a sense. The judge also went on to say, for instance, that the National Director of Public Prosecutions must be appointed in the same manner that judges are appointed. Now that is an opinion. That's not how the system has worked in this country. The director is appointed like any other DG because it's understood that in fact the National Director is actually accountable to the Minister of Justice.

So this is a big policy issue that needs to be considered either by this government or the future government, but it is improper to say the way it's been done is necessarily unlawful. It's not unlawful. It's a model that was chosen for all situations in the country. But it's something that… of a policy nature that will have to be considered in future.

Journalist: I just want to know, will the President be in the country next week, or does he have any international engagements?

Themba Maseko: Please call Mukoni (Ratshitanga) on that one. I'm not very sure of the President's movement. But we can check for you and give you that.

Journalist: Just to go to the issue of Zimbabwe. You were talking about an Emergency Intervention Plan. I just wanted to find out what exactly is the formulation of that intervention plan? What precisely did Cabinet decide to do to help Zimbabwe?

Themba Maseko: Well, if you were listening to the address that the President (Mbeki) gave during the signing ceremony, he made it very clear that in fact, we are fast approaching the rainy seasons in Zimbabwe. The Commercial Farmers Unions have also come forth to say if the planting of seeds is not done within the next few weeks, chances are that we'll miss the whole season in terms of planting and with food shortages already being experienced in Zimbabwe, this becomes a very urgent matter, so what this task team is going to do, is basically identify immediate and urgent supplies that need to be provided to make sure the industry can start preparing for the rainy season.

So, making sure that seeds are provided, that petrol and gas is provided to the farmers that pesticides are provided, so that by the time the rains start, the seeds will be below ground. So that is what the task team is going to do. It's to devise a plan, identify specific interventions that need to be put in place, talk to other countries in the region and say what contribution the SADC region in its totality can make, to make sure that we don't miss out on the planting season.

Journalist: Cost [inaudible]

Themba Maseko: Well, at this stage no figure has been prepared because as I'm saying, we first need to come up with a plan to say what interventions you are going to be making, how much is it going to cost, because we want to contribute to it. But it's very clear that in fact, South Africa and other SADC countries are going to have to make a financial contribution to the plan. But at this stage no figure has been mentioned.

Journalist: Firstly, on the party funding regulations, did Cabinet give any content to that discussion at all? Can we expect really robust regulations that will spare us another chance in the house and another Oilgate? And then secondly, the statement is very clear, saying that it's untrue that there was political interference in this or any other case, but of course it was tested quite thoroughly in the Ginwala Commission whether there was political interference and not much evidence has been put up yet that there wasn't. So what Cabinet is saying that there was interference but it didn't succeed and stopping the prosecution of Jackie Selebi or that they interfered with the investigation, but not the prosecuting decision? Could you just clarify? Thanks

Themba Maseko: It's as clear as water, Nick. There is no political interference in either the investigations or the prosecutions. That's what Cabinet is saying. But at the same time I don't want to get into the space of pre-empting what the Ginwala Commission will say. That report as you know, will be finalised and given to the President. Let's not jump to conclusions there. Let's give the (Ginwala) Commission the opportunity to consider because with the Commission, evidence was presented by Mr Pikoli, the NPA and the State. So let's wait for the Commission to make its findings. But our statement says there was no political interference.

As far as party funding is concerned, it's one of the resolutions coming out of the Summit as we indicated in the statement there, and it's basically a resolution that says we need to move towards a greater level of transparency, so what the Summit is recommending is that government must expedite the process of drafting regulations, that will ensure that a higher level of transparency is achieved. But the resolutions of the Summit should be public information at this stage and if not, we'll talk to the Minister of Public Service and Administration to make sure that those resolutions are made public, because this was a multi-stakeholder conference which made these recommendations and what government is saying, we are accepting these recommendations, we'll then translate them into legislation in the form of regulations and they will be published I'm sure for comments before they are finalised.

Journalist: Themba, on the regulating and monetary conflict of interest, what are you doing about that and secondly just a silly question on the judgment? When you are saying that The Presidency was not part of the proceedings but the judge made that inference, didn't Cabinet remind him to say he did fire Jacob Zuma, also on the basis of a judgment in which he was not part of.

Themba Maseko: Your latter one is an easy one. The issue was not discussed, but the discussion was essentially that the judge made comments suggesting that there was political interference by the President and Cabinet, and the President and Cabinet were not party to this particular judgment. So the judge may not have had all the facts in front of him before he actually reached that conclusion, but whether the same measure applies to the previous case, the matter was not considered.

The cooling-off period – the recommendations from that Anti-Corruption Summit essentially, is attempting to deal with those issues of cooling-off periods, but also the formats of declaration by politicians and senior civil servants, are these current mechanisms in government adequate enough to make sure that in fact the issue of conflict of interests is actually properly monitored and managed in the government. So those are all the issues that will be clearer when we get those resolutions of the summit.

Journalist: Sorry if this was brought while I was outside. Just the SMS issue. It's on the front page of Independent Newspapers. It's in 702 Eyewitness News, this SMS going round reportedly from a Cabinet Minister or someone close to a Cabinet Minister. Was that discussed? Do you have any knowledge about this SMS?

Themba Maseko: I have knowledge of the SMS. The matter was not discussed at all but obviously we as government, are extremely concerned about all kinds of SMS' and speculations and rumour-mongering that's taking place in the country as a whole and the appeal would be for all of us to be cautious, because matters of the nature covered in the SMS have the potential of dampening the mood of our people out there. And the appeal is for people to just be cautious because we do not want to do things that we may regret as a nation in the future. But the SMS was not discussed.

Journalist: I think perhaps something that we might ask, which came up last year and which the Minister of Justice has to some extent, physically been running from, is what this breakdown of trust between her and the former NDPP – there are so many of them these days – advocate Pikoli was exactly, because I think this cuts to the heart of the matter. Why is a breakdown of trust between a Minister of Justice and the National Director grounds for dismissal if, as Cabinet claims, it is so trivial?

Themba Maseko: Jan-Jan, important as your question may be, that matter was the subject of the Ginwala Commission and the Ginwala Commission is going to give its findings on this matter, so I would humbly suggest that we hold on to that question until the Commission gives its findings, because that was as you remember, the substance of what was discussed in the Commission, so I would not want to give comments that would be seen to be trying to pre-empt what the Ginwala Commission may say, so let me apologise there. I cannot answer your question.

Journalist: Themba, could you just educate me here. As you've said Cabinet is seeking legal advice. Having obtained that legal advice what would Cabinet be hoping for? What would be the ideal recourse? Will they be hoping for a different finding moving forward or the withdrawal of the offensive inferences by the judge?

Themba Maseko: Well, we will get the legal advice and the legal advice will essentially do that, advice us on what steps to take. But what I would imagine Cabinet will be hoping for, is that all the comments made by the judge, implying that there was political interference, may be removed from that judgment because that judgment constitutes an important public record. So in making this appeal or hope, is that legal advice will say yes, you must follow this route with the object of trying to remove those comments from the judgment.

Journalist: Just for clarity, the legal advice that Cabinet is seeking, from whom are they seeking this advice and you know names would be nice in that regard. And then just to get to the issue of the drafting of regulations, the ANC has been promising now for six or seven years that they're going to tighten up the regulations of party funding, so did Cabinet put any time frames in place of when they want this done or is this something that's going to be left over to the next administration. And did members of the Cabinet all note the irony of putting the man in charge of this process who, as the administrative head of his party, took the ANC from a bankrupt organisation to a multi-billion rand institution?

Themba Maseko: We can spend the whole day Deon, discussing ironies, but at the end of the day Cabinet has identified this as an important resolution coming from the Summit and believes that its an important issue, supports it and has allocated it to a senior member of cabinet and that's where I would like to leave it for now.

The regulations no time frame was given but it was clearly stated that it needs to be done as a matter of urgency, so the leader of government business will come back and say I'll need X amount of time to come up with these regulations.' So it is an urgent matter. The decision says the matter must be expedited.

Legal advice from whom? The legal advice is being sought from lawyers. I'm sure you suspected that. Unfortunately I can't give you the name of the law firm because I don't know the name of the law firm.

Journalist: State lawyers or private lawyers?

Themba Maseko: These will be private lawyers. I can't give you the name. I think we've covered most of the issues. Okay?

Journalist: Themba, you said that in the Zuma case there were facts presented before the judge on whom he made judgment on which may influence Mr Zuma and then that in this case, you said there were no facts. But I find that difficult to accept because it is the very same state that wanted Zuma's argument that there was a political motivation behind him being charged. With the state being the one that wants it, that thing struck off his affidavit, and that gave the judge time to rule on that. So I don't know what you mean you say there were no facts presented before the judge.

Themba Maseko: Okay, let me just say it again, what Cabinet is basically saying is that the comments that were made by the judge were untrue in many respects, and that is why we are seeking legal opinion with a view to try and present the facts as the Cabinet now. Because the judgment made inferences about Cabinet and its role, and Cabinet did not present any facts. You do know that Cabinet was not a party at this particular case, and Cabinet therefore could not have presented any facts to the court. So simply put, we want an opportunity to test these inferences which are made by the judge, simply put.

Journalist: There's one last important one before the students. I just want to check whether it's Cabinet's view that as a matter of general principle courts or judges shouldn't make inferences or comments on people or institutions which are not party to those cases? Or does it just want to make exceptional a case for… in this case for… because it affects government? Is it a matter of… is there a feeling in general that courts shouldn't make inferences when… on people who are not part of the court proceedings? Or who were not.

Themba Maseko: Mpumelelo, I'm sure courts make inferences all the time about all kinds of things and people. What we are discussing is this particular case, the ones that were made by this particular judge, referring to the role of Cabinet, suggesting that the Cabinet and the President may have interfered with the NPA in its decisions to prosecute the President of the ANC. So that's what we are seeking to clarify, that those inferences are not true. We're not necessarily saying that at no stage should a judge or a court making any inferences, but we're saying the inferences made by this judge in this case about Cabinet are untrue and they need to be tested. That's what we're saying. Final question, any of the students who want to

Caroline Mead (a journalism student from Stellenbosch University): Hi Themba. My name is Caroline Meads. Since I think every possible question about Judge Nicholson has been asked I'd like to ask something different. Concerning the African Diaspora, how exactly are Africans defined? Is it just a race thing?

Themba Maseko: I thought a student was going to ask a lighter question and I will leave the stage with a smile. No, no, Africans broadly defined, Africans not as in African like me, but people who have allegiance, loyalty to the continent, people who were born in this continent. So yourself, for instance, if you were to go and study or get a job in China, you still have loyalty to the African continent, you consider yourself as a South African and an African, you will be part of the Diaspora. And that is why there are many campaigns that government is waging to try and encourage South Africans for example to see themselves as South Africans. As far as government is concerned there is nothing like a former South African living in… overseas or an ex-South African living overseas. South Africans are South Africans, period. So you would be included in this Diaspora, because you'd have been born in the continent. You would have had an emotional and sentimental attachment to the continent and therefore you would be part of the Diaspora. So it's not just a narrow race thing, it's a much broader thing than just race.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)