Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

20 November 2008

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: Thursday, 20 November 2008
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town (video-link to Room 153, Union Buildings, Pretoria)

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, 19 November 2008.

Cabinet is extremely concerned about the political impasse that is creating a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe. The reported outbreak of cholera in parts of that country is a clear indication that ordinary Zimbabweans are the true victims of their leaders’ lack of political will and failure to demonstrate seriousness to resolve the political impasse. The Government is disappointed to note that political interests have taken priority at the expense of the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.

South Africa calls on the leaders of Zimbabwe to take urgent steps to finalise the amendments to their constitution, the allocation of the remaining Cabinet posts and the formation of a representative Government without any further delay and before the situation of ordinary Zimbabweans degenerates any further. No amount of political disagreement can ever justify the suffering that ordinary Zimbabweans are being subjected to at the moment. Like Southern African Development Community (SADC), South Africa would like to see a political settlement sooner rather than later so that the region could start focussing on the most urgent measures needed to rebuild Zimbabwe’s economy.

Cabinet decided that South Africa should immediately assist the people of Zimbabwe to address the cholera outbreak as well as scaling up malaria control activities in the cross border area. South Africa is already in discussions with multilateral agencies such as SADC and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in this regard. A strategy will be put in place on an urgent basis to provide assistance to the people of Zimbabwe and to provide support to our health authorities in the Limpopo province to enable them to cope with the serious situation.

An Interdepartmental Task Team will be set up urgently to identify and implement measures to ensure that the reported service delivery crisis in Zimbabwe does not lead to increased cross-border movement to the health facilities in the Limpopo province that are already over-stretched. The team will be led by the Department of Health and will include the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Water Affairs and Forestry, Provincial and Local Government. Other departments will be joining the team on a needs basis.

The meeting noted that the window of opportunity for South Africa to provide assistance to the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe had passed due to the failure of Zimbabwean political leaders to form a representative government. Cabinet decided that the approved R300 million will be retained for agricultural assistance to Zimbabwe. However, this money will be only disbursed once a representative government was in place and in time for the next planting season in April 2009. The Minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs will prepare a proposal on South Africa’s contribution to address the immediate humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe.

World AIDS Day will be observed on 1 December 2008, marking its 20th anniversary, under the theme “Stop Aids: Leadership and Unity”. The national event will be held at the Sahara Stadium in Durban and will be addressed by the Deputy President Ms Baleka Mbete. Events will also be held in other provinces to observe the day. Government, in partnership with the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), calls on South Africans to participate in activities that are aimed at raising awareness about HIV and AIDS. HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis (TB) remain national priorities requiring urgent action by all sectors of society.

Government programmes are already in full swing to implement the national strategic plan including: measures to ensure that all mothers with HIV remain healthy; all babies are born free of HIV; increasing access to antiretrovirals (ARV’s); promoting healthy lifestyles through reducing sexual partners and using condoms; knowing your status and ensuring that children from households that are affected by HIV and AIDS are protected and supported to complete their schooling and are protected from all forms of abuse and neglect. HIV, AIDS and TB have impacted negatively on communities, especially the poor. Through strengthening our partnership under the leadership of SANAC, we can ensure that our health system works better in responding to all illnesses caused by HIV, AIDS and TB.

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children takes place from 25 November – 10 December 2008. The campaign was formally launched this past Monday and the launch ceremony will be held on 22 November 2008 in Beaufort West in the Western Cape. This ceremony will be addressed by the Deputy President. During this period, the Victims Charter and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development will also be promoted. Government once again calls on all South Africans to support the campaign by participating in activities to raise awareness against women and child abuse. This is the time for everyone to take a stand.

The Electricity Pricing Policy was approved. The objectives of policy include setting a clear framework on the determination of electricity prices; ensures cost reflective tariffs while protecting the poor; sets an appropriate balance between meeting social equity and economic growth; creates certainty and predictability; and seeks to ensure the long term sustainability of the electricity industry. The adoption of the policy follows extensive consultation with stakeholders, including a discussion at National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and at the Energy Summit held on 14 May 2008. The policy will be submitted to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) for consideration.

The holiday season is once again upon us and it presents challenges of safety and risky behaviour among many of our citizens. Government is implementing a number of campaigns that are aimed at making sure that all South Africans can enjoy safer and well-deserved holidays. These campaigns include Arrive Alive and the 16 Days of Activism against the abuse of women and children. However, all South Africans have a responsibility to ensure that these holidays are safer for all by taken steps such as making sure that children are not left unsupervised in streets, beaches, swimming pools and at home; road users must obey the rules of the road, especially observing speed limits and not to drink and drive; reporting violent behaviour at home and in communities and cooperating with law enforcement agencies.

The budget allocations for the 2009/11 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) were approved. President Kgalema Motlanthe will convene the President’s Coordinating Council (PCC) to discuss ways to ensure that provincial spending complies with the national priorities as set out in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the government programme of action.

Reports on preparations for the FIFA Confederations’ Cup and 2010 FIFA World Cup finals were noted. Whilst the programme for the construction of the stadia was on track, cost overruns remain a major concern. National government will allocate an additional R1.4 billion to contribute towards the cost over-runs for the construction of the 2010 stadia. National Treasury is looking into this matter to ensure that cost management measures are put in place by the host cities to prevent any further cost overruns. The report also indicated that plans were in place and being implemented in the areas of transport, safety and security, energy, social legacy and arts and culture.

The meeting noted that the draw for the FIFA Confederations Cup will take place on Saturday, 22 November 2008 in Sandton. The Confederations Cup tournament itself, also known as the ‘Champions of Champions’, will take place in South Africa on 14-28 June 2009. This tournament is the precursor to the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals and will provide South Africa with the opportunity to demonstrate our readiness and ability to host world class events as we say ‘Ke nako-celebrate Africa’s humanity’.

Cabinet noted the outcome of the Summit of the Leaders Group of Twenty (G20) countries which was held in the US last weekend. This summit was preceded by the meeting of African Ministers of Finance and Planning and governors of central banks which was held in Tunis. In welcoming South Africa’s participation at this gathering of global leaders, Cabinet also reiterated the need to increase the African voice at these meetings. South Africa welcomes the outcome of the summit but hopes that the summit will encourage leaders of the developed nations to support the move to conclude the Doha Development Round of Negotiations as soon as possible.

Cabinet noted the progress report on the establishment of a National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). The Minister in the Presidency was mandated to address all matters pertaining to timeframes, transitional arrangements and the finalisation of the NYDA legislation.

Measures and Guidelines for the coordination of South Africa’s international engagements were approved. A Consultative Forum on International Relations (CFIR) will be established (under the steward ship of the Department of Foreign Affairs) to ensure better coordination between departments and across the different spheres; ensure that information on international engagements is shared and provide foreign policy guidance for international trips.

Cabinet approved the Agreement on Mutual Acceptance of Oenological Practices and the World Wine Trade Group’s Agreement on Requirements for Wine Labelling. The agreements introduce global standards, simplified labelling requirements and will open export markets that were previously not accessible due to elaborate, costly certification and labelling processes. The agreements will be submitted to Parliament for ratification.

The meeting concurred with the revised White Paper on South Africa’s participation in International Peace Missions. The revised White Paper underpins South Africa’s foreign policy doctrine of promoting peaceful resolution of conflicts, the creation of an environment that is conducive for sustainable development and commitment to rules-based multilateralism in a just and equitable world. South Africa’s involvement in peace missions will be guided by the principles of a clear mandate; consent; impartiality; minimum use of force; credibility; legitimacy; promotion of National and local ownership; entry, transition and exit strategy and transparency.

Cabinet noted the country report that will be tabled at the World Congress against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescence, in Brazil from 25 to 28 November 2008.

The meeting noted and supported South Africa’s hosting of the 68th International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) plenary meeting in September or October 2009, in Cape Town.

Government would like to congratulate Bafana Bafana for their heart-warming victory against the indomitable lions of the Cameroon. This victory is a sign that the process of rebuilding the team is on course as we get ready to play against the best teams in the world in the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


  • Reverend Frank Chikane has signed a flexible service contract that allows him to continue to serve government by performing a limited number of functions that will be assigned to him by the President until the elections in 2009.
  • Mr Thabo Masebe, the Head of Communications in the Gauteng Premier’s office, has been seconded to the post of Presidential Spokesperson until the General elections in 2009. He is a former Chief Director in GCIS. He can be reached at +27 82 410 8087 from today.

The following appointments were approved:

  • The term of office for the current Board of Directors of Khula Enterprise Finance Limited (Khula) was extended for twelve (12) months. Ms Nomgando Matyumza was appointed as a new member of the Board
  • The extension of term of office for a one (1) year period for the Chairperson and five (5) remaining National Lotteries Board (NLB) members.

[End of statement].

- Questions and Answers -

Journalist: Just a number of questions arising out of the statement. On Zimbabwe, why has it taken so long to act in terms of the health crisis that we’re now sort of dealing with, the spill-over up in Mussina? You know, why wasn’t it foreseen? And is there a likelihood that the (SA National) Defence Force would be going in, in terms of response teams to provide refugees with pit latrines and so on? I mean, just… you know, from watching conditions under which people are living there. I’ll leave it at that for now but I have got more questions.

Themba Maseko: Okay, we’ll come back to you. Look, the health authorities in Limpopo province have been monitoring the situation very closely but it’s very clear that over the past few weeks the situation has shown signs of deteriorating. That’s why national government is coming in because the matter has now become more serious than a matter that can be handled by the provincial and local authority in that area. And that’s why national government is now stepping in. The increase in the number of cholera cases has also indicated the seriousness of the situation and that’s why we’re acting now. The task team that we’re talking about is focusing primarily on the health requirements in the Limpopo province, is interacting with the international bodies to try and address the situation. And in this regard the key players are SADC and the World Health Organisation. But government will work with any NGO that is also available to provide whatever assistance that is possible. If there is a need for support from any government department we’ll call upon that department to come in, including the defence force and other departments. Okay.

Journalist: Is government discussing at all playing a stronger hand against the government of President Mugabe? This has been a situation that’s been carrying on forever. Thabo Mbeki is busy with mediation efforts and they don’t seem to head anywhere. And now we’re sitting with a humanitarian crisis. Is government discussing using a stronger hand against President Mugabe in the forms of for example sanctions or whatever?

Themba Maseko: Are you following up on that question?

Journalist: On the issue of, you know, of Zimbabwe, does Cabinet agree with the SADC proposition of having MDC and ZANU share the Home Affairs ministry? Does government share that SADC proposal?

Themba Maseko: The question about stronger action, I mean, the South African position is guided by the position of the SADC leaders as per the SADC summit which was held in South Africa. In the first instance its making sure that the mediation role played by South Africa is supported and that parties are called upon to participate in these talks to make sure that a solution is found. But we have also indicated that we have funds available to support the agricultural sector, but those funds will not be released until such time that a deal is struck and a new representative government is set up. And we’re going to make sure that everything is done to force the parties to go back to the negotiating table.

Our information at this stage is that a proposal for amendments to the constitution has been submitted, it’s received by all the parties. Now the parties are dragging their feet as far as sitting around the table, looking at these amendments, so that they can be tabled in Parliament for finalisation. So we will continue with the mediation effort to put pressure on all the sides to get them to get to the table. Because we just think it’s unacceptable that the lives of people can be put at risk while political parties are bickering about positions in Cabinet. So this is something that we consider totally unjustified.

Government does support the SADC position. As you are aware we’re the convenors of the SADC summit, we participated in that decision-making process, and our view is that at this stage the situation is so desperate that we need to find a solution even if that solution includes the sharing of one or two Cabinet positions for as long as that could lead to the establishment of a new and representative government so that attention could focus on rebuilding the economy instead of bickering around issues that we believe can be resolved around the table.

Journalist: My question does not deal with Zimbabwe but just deals with safety and security in general. We had a report that the Minister of Safety and Security (Nathi Mthethwa) went against advice to take Mosiuoa Lekota’s bodyguards away. Does the Ministry have such power? Does the Minister have such power to actually take the bodyguards away from Mr. Lekota just like that?

Themba Maseko: Well, if your question is whether the Minister has power, the answer is simply yes. He has the authority to decide on these matters. The only people who are entitled to security protection beyond their jobs in government are the President and Deputy President. The Ministers are allowed a leverage, I think it’s about three months after leaving their posts, and beyond that it’s at the discretion of the Minister of Safety and Security. So it’s a matter that he is fully authorised to handle.

Journalist: Can you confirm that the Minister has acted against the advice of the acting national Police Commissioner, Tim Williams, who’s understood to have indicated to the Minister that it would not be wise to withdraw the security from Lekota until such time as a fresh threat analysis had been concluded?

Themba Maseko: At this stage I’m not privy to the details of the request, who received it and who submitted it to and what the acting national commissioner has recommended. But all I am aware of is that a request was sent to the Minister (Mthethwa) and the Minister according to reports this morning has decided not to extend the security. But unfortunately I can’t confirm if that was against or supporting the acting national commissioner.

Journalist: Does Jacob Zuma also have the right also to have presidential security also around him following around because apparently yesterday there were reports of him driving with a huge presidential motorcade in Limpopo province.

Themba Maseko: As I said earlier on which people are entitled to security protection, (they are) the President and Deputy President. So if anybody becomes Deputy President and leave that post they will be entitled to protection beyond their posts.

Journalist: Yeah, but I think what the question was what about the President of the ANC, in terms of his protection? Because there were 32 cars in the cavalcade and 20 of them were police vehicles.

Themba Maseko: Look, I can’t comment on the number and the form of the protection, but I can just confirm that the leader of the ANC is a former Deputy President of the country and that entitles him to protection. What form, the number of security guards, I’m not able to say how that is done.

Journalist: Themba, another issue, the FIFA World Cup 2010. Yesterday there was a meeting between the sports portfolio committee and the host cities of the World Cup, and Mr. or Dr. Mike Sutcliffe from Ethekwini explained his city’s position. Among the things that he said was that there’s an increasing notion that government is shifting responsibility towards the cities, and he said that this is a problem that’s experienced by all host cities and concurred by the cities as well, including Mangaung, Tshwane Metro Council etcetera, saying that there are a number of communication problems between the cities and national government I suppose in the 2010 unit. Whereas they are unclear about budget allocations, how the budget is derived at etcetera. How much money will they get in the next couple of years? And I see now that government has allocated R1.4 billion I think for the completion of stadiums, they say they requested R3.2 billion. And if they don’t get that amount the stadiums will not be finished or they won’t finish on time. Sutcliffe also said that they’ve called for a meeting between the host cities, the LOC and government to sort out the issues in between them but they haven’t received any feedback from government, from the Department of Sport or the 2010 unit. I’d just like to get your comment on that.

Themba Maseko: Well, as we say in the statement, National Treasury will be interacting with the cities to deal with this matter, but the fact of the matter is that budgets were determined and government indicated to the host cities that this was the amount available for the construction of stadia and the cities had to go and plan on the basis of the budgets that were allocated. And these were approved. Now as they are implementing the stadia, it’s very clear that in fact something is definitely going wrong as far as the construction process is concerned. There are cost overruns and as we say in the statement, we are extremely concerned about it. But to simply point a finger at national government at this stage I don’t think is necessarily accurate. But I agree that the matter needs to be dealt with between national government and the cities because our view is that if you allocate somebody a budget and say go and build a stadium they go and build and halfway through the construction they come back and say we need more money, they can’t then complain that they were not allocated enough money. They were allocated money, there were cost overruns largely maybe due to the way the contracts were structured, maybe due to the rising construction costs, due to inflation and other pressures, and those matters need to be dealt with. And that’s why in the statement we’re saying National Treasury will interact with them to make sure that these matters are attended to.

Journalist: On the issue of the demarcation, the new Minister of Provincial and Local Government, Sicelo Shiceka, has been making comments to the effect that, you know, he’s supportive of a review of the decision to incorporate municipalities such as Merafong and Khutsong, you know, into the North West etcetera. Has such an issue ever been discussed by Cabinet and has there been a view that perhaps the original demarcation process perhaps was not done correctly and should be looked at? You know, especially concerning Khutsong, Matatiele, and etcetera?

Themba Maseko: Well, there is a Cabinet decision on this matter, on the demarcation. The matter went to the Constitutional Court, and the court did rule that in fact correct procedures were indeed followed, so as far as process is concerned I think that even the court has expressed an opinion on the matter to say correct procedures were followed, there was consultation etcetera, etcetera. What the Minister is basically doing is that after his appointment to the post he has interacted with those communities and is saying that in his view there is a need to review that decision, and I’m sure it’s a matter that will come to Cabinet at some stage. But at this stage he’s engaging in consultation with those communities. There are other departments that need to be part of the process, for instance a number of houses are in Merafong as an example, are built in unsafe pieces of land. The Department of Housing is actually planning to construct a number of houses and the plan was to build those houses within the borders of the other province. So it’s a matter that needs to be looked at. It will come to Cabinet at some stage, but you are correct, the Minister has indicated very clearly that he thinks that decision needs to be reversed and it’s a matter that will serve before Cabinet at some stage.

Journalist: Can you tell us more about the progress report on the National Youth Development Agency? What are the timeframes? What are the budget implications? Has there been planning over the next two coming financial years, and what does it mean because the ad hoc committee is still sitting on the legislation.

Themba Maseko: Those are issues that the Minister in The Presidency has been mandated to look at, to look at the timeframes. Because the concern is precisely that, that the timeframes are not clear, there isn’t a very clear implementation plan, there isn’t a clear plan that says how assets will be transferred from the existing agencies to the new body, what will happen to the warm bodies that are in these bodies. So what Cabinet is suggesting is that a plan needs to be presented which deals with a lot of those issues. So at this stage unfortunately we can’t say what these timeframes are, because as you see in the statement the Minister was given the task to go and look at all of those issues.

Journalist: I wonder if you could indicate to us now with reference to the Ginwala report, it’s not mentioned in the statement. I imagine whether it was discussed during the Cabinet meeting. Can you give us an indication by when exactly the suspended NPA chief, Vusi Pikoli, is expected to respond to President Motlanthe to that report?

Themba Maseko: The process is as follows, unfortunately there are no clear timeframes at this stage. The President did receive the report as we reported last time, he has now given a copy of the report to Advocate Pikoli and his attorneys, and he gave them a week to respond to the report, and express their views. And the lawyers then came back and said a week is not enough they needed two weeks. And those two weeks will take us to the end of next week. So as soon as Advocate Pikoli’s lawyers have responded, the President will then look at what they’ve said, will look at the report, and decide what course of action he will take. So he’ll then decide whether to reinstate Advocate Pikoli and then to release the report to the public. But we’re looking at another week or two before a final decision is made.

Journalist: Sorry, Themba, just a quick follow-up. So you’re saying that the report will be released to the public?

Themba Maseko: In my discussion with the President, he has indicated that he’s got no problem in releasing the report to the public. Yes [unclear].

Journalist: Themba, there are reports and talk of the nation going into an early election. Did the issue arise at the Cabinet meeting? And back to the Zimbabwean question, the withholding of the R300 million, can we view that as a form of sanctioning against the Zimbabwean leaders or the Mugabe government?

Themba Maseko: Okay, election date, no the matter was not discussed. Let me just explain the process. The normal procedure is that the President enters into discussions with the IEC and the two then agree on the most appropriate date for an election and then the President makes an announcement. So it’s not a matter that even serves before Cabinet. And unfortunately I can’t tell you when that discussion will take place and when the election date will be announced. So at this stage it’s only the President who can make that determination.

As far as the R300 million is concerned, it’s not sanctions. All we are saying is that we have aid that will be made available to the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. However this aid will not be transferred until such time that a representative government is in place. Part of what you also need to understand is that when we have your money, the taxpayers’ money available we need to make sure that it will be used properly, that no party will use it against the other party, and that we have a minister that we can enter into discussions with. So at this stage as you’re aware we don’t know who the minister is, so it will be difficult for us to simply transfer your money, the taxpayers’ money, to a non-existing government. So we are just taking precautionary measures here to make sure that the money is used properly.

Journalist: Cabinet has said many times that it’s concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe and the two parties failing to reach agreements. You said that you are concerned, but my question is what sort of action are you contemplating to take in order to ensure that those parties reach an agreement? And my second question will be related to what we have seen recently in the country after the launch of the new political party. We have seen both members of COPE and African National Congress almost clashing in areas including KZN and in areas including Orange Farm. Has Cabinet said something about the so-called political intolerance that we are currently witnessing in the country?

Themba Maseko: The political developments in the country - as far as party politics are concerned - is not a matter that will normally be discussed by Cabinet, so Cabinet did not discuss the specifics. However, I am at liberty to say that political intolerance is something that this government would discourage at all costs. We believe that we are a young, new, vibrant democratic nation, and that violence cannot be seen as a solution to solving whatever problems. So we will discourage anybody who’s participating in violent activities which demonstrate a level of intolerance. But also government will be pleased by the fact that all political parties, all of them without exception, have expressed themselves on this matter to say they reject any forms of violence and that disruption of any political meeting is unacceptable in this country, so as government we will welcome the call. We have welcomed the calls that have been made by political parties.

As far as Zimbabwe is concerned, as I’ve said, no country has done more than South Africa to try and ensure that a political settlement is reached. We have mediated. We are one country that with the support of SADC that has made it possible that a political agreement was signed. Now we are at a stage where the ball is in the court of the political parties in Zimbabwe, they have to grab the bull by the horns and make sure that they stop digging in their heels, and reach agreement on matters that we think are minor compared to the issues that they’ve already resolved. And we believe that no country welcomes an unstable neighbour. So we are finding it totally unacceptable that at this stage we have this impasse on one or two outstanding matters that in our view are matters that could be resolved by mature leadership around the table.

Journalist: Is that the end of quiet diplomacy?

Themba Maseko: Quiet diplomacy… all diplomacy is quiet. I’m not aware of any diplomacy that is managed from the podium. So every country that engages in diplomacy does so quietly behind doors, so I don’t think that it’s something that needs to be seen to be unique and relevant to Zimbabwe only.

Journalist: Themba, you say here that Minister Xingwana is going to be preparing a proposal on South Africa’s contribution to address the immediate humanitarian situation in Zim. Does that involve food aid? I mean what does that involve exactly? And just the other thing is just on the health issue, with regard to HIV/AIDS and ARVs. Were the health budget overspending and the impact that’s having on health provision in particularly KwaZulu-Natal but also other provinces with the moratorium on public health sector spending? Was that discussed at Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: No, we did not discuss the details of the budget expenditure. So I can’t answer that one. On the humanitarian effort, as we say in the statement our major concern is that we missed the planting season, we made money available and said we’ll spend R300 million to provide grain, to provide pesticides, provide diesels, to make sure that we don’t miss the rainy seasons for planting to start, and we have missed that opportunity. And all indications are that in fact we are likely to experience food shortages in Zimbabwe. International agencies have already indicated that there may be serious food shortages so part of this proposal will look at ways in which South Africa can make a contribution in that regard.

Journalist: (What is government’s) plan to support our own poor because indications here there’re issues around food security and that people are going to be in need.

Themba Maseko: Well, government has probably one of the largest social assistance programs in the world. We are already providing grants to more than 12 million people on a daily basis and what you will also see is announcements that in the next financial year we will be increasing the amount of money that is spent on providing meals to kids in our schools. So we will be spending additional billions of rands to provide food to our children to make sure that they can have a decent meal during school hours so that they can learn. So the government assistance to Zimbabwe does not in any way impact on our programme as a government to support our people. Our priority obviously has been to support our people. But at the same time supporting our people cannot be seen to be to the exclusion of making a contribution in Zimbabwe because failure to do so will continue to put pressure on our own resources as a nation. So a contribution is unavoidable in this regard. Okay, this brings us to the end of the briefing. Thank you.


Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)