Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

25 June 2008

Date: Wednesday, 25 June 2008
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, Ground Floor, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town

Themba Maseko: The President will be answering questions tomorrow, so we didn’t want to overload you with too many good stories on the same day. So apologies for the delay nonetheless. If you are ready we can start. We’re making copies of the statement. We will start immediately.

Themba Maseko (reading Cabinet statement): Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town this morning, 25 June 2008.

Cabinet noted the latest developments in Zimbabwe. The South African Government is extremely concerned about the violence taking place in Zimbabwe and affirms its position in support of the United Nations Security Resolution which condemns violence.

The government will continue with its Southern African Development Community (SADC) mandate to facilitate the talks between the Zimbabwean government and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). The South African Government is working around the clock, in its capacity as facilitator, to get the parties to agree to a political settlement sooner rather than later. We remain optimistic that a political solution is the only route that will deliver a lasting solution. Government urges both parties to continue to engage in talks to find a political solution that will be in the best interest of all Zimbabweans. We appeal to everyone to give the facilitation process the space it requires, as government believes that only a political settlement will bring about a lasting and peaceful solution.

The meeting noted the recent decision of the German prosecutors not to proceed with the investigations of German companies for their alleged involvement in irregularities regarding the arms deal. Cabinet is concerned about continued speculation in some media which continues to insinuate that the decision of the German prosecutors was due to non-cooperation by the South African authorities. We reject this insinuation completely. A special media briefing will be held soon to present proof that at no stage did the South African Government refuse to cooperate with the Germans. The media will be advised of the time for such a briefing.

The meeting noted that President Mbeki had extended the employment contract of the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS) for twelve months, with effect from the 1 July 2008. The National Commissioner will remain on leave pending the finalisation and outcome of his court case. Mr Williams will continue to act as the National Commissioner of SAPS. This decision was based on the need to allow due process to be concluded before a final decision could be taken on the future of his employment contract with the state.

The cluster reports on the implementation of the government’s Programme of Action were considered and approved in preparation for the Ministerial media briefings scheduled to commence on 30 June 2008, in Pretoria with a video link to Cape Town.

The strategic review of the first phase, and proposal for the second phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) was considered and approved by Cabinet. The meeting noted that the programme had successfully created up to 950 000 work opportunities during the period 2004 to 2007, and was on track to create 1.3 million opportunities by 2009. Of the 950 000 opportunities already created, 48% of the beneficiaries were women and 37% were youth. During the second phase (2009-2014), the EPWP has a target to reach 1.5 million beneficiaries. The Ministers of Public Works and Labour, in consultation with other Ministries, will enhance and finalise the training framework to entrench training as an essential part of the programme.

The strategic framework for the July Cabinet Legkotla was approved. The primary objective of the Lekgotla will be to conduct a mid-year review of the implementation of the government’s Programme of Action and the adoption of a medium-term Strategic Framework. The discussions will also take into account the fact that a general election will be held in about 10 months, which will usher in a new Executive. Other topics for discussion will include: a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy; a comprehensive social security system; a National Human Resources Development Strategy; a framework for economic regulators; climate change and mitigation scenarios; a review of the system of provincial and local government; a review of the Criminal Justice System; and the SADC regional integration.

Cabinet noted that the Minister of Safety and Security will be releasing the next set of crime statistics on 30 June 2008 in Pretoria. A video link-up will be arranged for Cape Town-based media.

The Minister of Finance was given the mandate to exempt municipalities and Eskom from the provisions of the Municipalities Financial Management Act 56 of 2003, which requires that electricity tariff increases be tabled in Parliament by 15 March of each year for implementation on 1 July 2008. The Minister of Finance had granted the extension of the tabling of the tariff on 1 April 2008. However, this extension was not sufficient to allow for the completion of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) process. The new Eskom tariffs for the 2008/9 financial year will be tabled in Parliament on 30 June 2008, for implementation on 1 July 2008.

Cabinet noted and discussed Sentech’s funding requirements and resolved that the Presidency, National Treasury and the Department of Communication would meet urgently to consider the funding requirements with a view to expediting the roll-out of the wireless broadband infrastructure. This wireless broadband infrastructure is essential for improving broadband capability and access, particularly for rural communities and public facilities such as schools, clinics, courts, Thusong Service Centres and other government offices. South Africa’s co-hosting with Germany, of the 30th Session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU), to be held from 3 to 7 November 2008 in Cape Town, South Africa, was approved by Cabinet. The meeting also endorsed the hosting of the 3rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Parties to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC)), to be held from 17 to 22 November 2008 in Durban, South Africa.

The following appointments were approved...

[End of statement].

We’ll just take a few questions. First question at the back.

- Questions and Answers -

Journalist: Just on Sentech, why is there urgency now because this issue has been riding on for quite some time. And then why is The Presidency actually getting involved in this? Does this show that National Treasury and the Department of Communications (DOC) somehow have not been able to resolve this issue? And when do you think this meeting would take place?

Themba Maseko: Well, the decision was taken in the context of a desire from a number of ministries to say delivery of services to a number of communities, especially in the rural areas, was actually not taking place according to plan, largely due to access to broadband. It was felt that this had been a decision taken by Cabinet previously and there was a need to expedite it, and it was felt that the Presidency, National Treasury and the DOC should sit around and identify whatever blockages could be there to make sure that in fact implementation could take place sooner. No timeframe was given but it was agreed that it’s something that needs urgent attention from government to ensure the rollout of the wireless broadband. Thanks Paul for starting with that question. Okay, a question in front here.

Journalist: Yes, the violence taking place in Zimbabwe, does the government have a view or did the Cabinet have a view on whose violence it is? Who is organising or stimulating this violence? Do they sympathise with the President of Zimbabwe that it’s actually all being stirred up by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)? And secondly, a very small point, the meeting that you’re supposed to… will it be taking place. I have a question about the mechanism for tabling a report when Parliament is not sitting. Because Parliament rises this Friday, perhaps you could explain to me how it is that it can be tabled and implemented within 24 hours when Parliament is not sitting?

Themba Maseko: Okay, the violence, if you look at the United Nations (UN) resolutions, the view basically is that all forms of violence should be condemned, whether it’s coming from government forces or from whoever quarter. So the Cabinet meeting did not discuss the sources of violence. Generally the concern is about violence that’s taking place in Zimbabwe and it should be condemned where it’s coming from, government or whoever is perpetrating the violence. So it is not correct to suggest that government agrees with anybody that violence comes from only one particular quarter. Violence needs to be condemned, whether it’s coming from the government’s side or from the opposition side. Just violence is condemned in its totality. The tabling of the extension of the deadline for the tabling of the tariffs in Parliament, it’s a matter that the Leader of Government Business (Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka) will be discussing with the Speaker of the House (Baleka Mbete) to make sure that this tabling does take place. And I’m made to believe that in fact there is a mechanism for tabling the tariffs in Parliament by Friday. Okay. We’ll start here. Well, it needs to be done by the 30th. So if… I think it’s likely to happen by Friday.

Journalist: A follow-up on Zimbabwe, needless to say. After the Cabinet meeting did President Mbeki go to Swaziland or is he still in this country? And did Cabinet express any view at all as many African leaders have done on whether Friday’s run-off should in fact go ahead?

Themba Maseko: Just repeat your second question, sorry?

Journalist: Second one, did Cabinet express a view like many other African leaders have on whether the run-off on Friday should take place?

Themba Maseko: That matter was not specifically discussed. Basically our view is that as a facilitator what we say in public needs to be measured so that we’re not seen to be involved on the one hand in a facilitation process but at the same time commenting on the discussions that are taking place between ourselves and the various parties in Zimbabwe. So basically what I know there’ll be follow-up questions on Zimbabwe, I can just indicate at this stage that we will not be able to say more than what we have said in the statement, in the light of the fact that our facilitators are currently talking to both parties as we speak in Zimbabwe. So any statement that we make as government could actually jeopardise those talks. So we’ll try and say as less as we possibly can in this meeting.

Journalist: The first question?

Themba Maseko: Oh, the… your second question was about…

Journalist: Swaziland.

Themba Maseko: … where the President is. As far as I’m aware the President is still in the country. When he will be going to Zimbabwe unfortunately I can’t say at this stage. But he is (unclear)…

Journalist: The question was if he was going to Swaziland where the troika is meeting?

Themba Maseko: I’m not sure but I think he will be going, we can check on that. The matter was not discussed at the meeting, but we’ll check that and we’ll come back to you.

Journalist: A little bit more on this… on the facilitators meeting in Harare. Who are they meeting with? Who is it? Is it being led by Sydney Mufamadi? And what is… also what is the mandate? I mean, the election is on Friday, today’s Wednesday, it’s less than 48 hours. Are you people seriously optimistic as you say that you are going to get the resolution and… or a result before Friday? It just seems a bit far-fetched to be honest.

Themba Maseko: Well, the… as you know, Minister Mufamadi is facilitating the talks with all the parties in Zimbabwe and he’s in Zimbabwe as we speak. So he’s talking to both sides and the government is still optimistic that it is possible for parties to agree to some kind of a political settlement. Unfortunately as I said earlier on we can’t give more details about what the discussions are about at this stage and we remain optimistic that in fact a solution may still be found before Friday, some agreement can be reached.

Journalist: But Themba, surely mean, does this include… amongst the mandate does this include the likelihood or the possibility of calling off Friday’s election?

Themba Maseko: The facilitation talks between the various parties in Zimbabwe are looking at all aspects that will bring a possible settlement. So without going into the details, all options are being considered which would I suspect include the possibility of a postponement. But at this stage we’re not able to give details about the content of those facilitations.

Journalist: Thank you, also on Zimbabwe. We see here that the South African Government is working around the clock, evidently putting in the hours. Has it expressed itself at all on the success of its efforts?

Themba Maseko: Well, at this stage we’re aware of a number of commentators on this subject but we believe that our government is doing more than any other party at this stage to try and find a political settlement in Zimbabwe, we are fulfilling our mandate as given to us by Southern African Development Community (SADC) and that’s why we remain optimistic that these talks may still produce a political settlement which we, by the way, strongly believe that in fact the only possible solution for Zimbabwe is for an agreement by the leadership of Zimbabwe from all sides sitting around the table and saying this is the solution, this is the agreement we are reaching, as a political settlement. So we remain optimistic that in fact this facilitation process needs to be given the space to talk to all the parties and make sure that they talk to each other to find a solution. So we think that, ja, we are indeed making progress in that regard.

Journalist: Just moving on from Zimbabwe for a minute. The National Commissioner’s contract, has that been renewed at the same rate of scale of salary as it was previously? Or has he got an increase?

Themba Maseko: You clearly are giving me a tough time. You clearly are giving me a tough time this afternoon. As far as I’m aware the contract is being extended and the conditions of service that he had before the end of this contract will remain in place. Okay.

Journalist: Thank you. This press conference on the German company (Thyssenkruppp) and the arms deal, when is it going to take place?

Themba Maseko: Jan-Jan, we are pushing very hard. We think that in fact it will be a complete briefing on the arms deal thing and we are hoping that it will actually take place during the course of next week. We’re still trying to secure the relevant ministers to be part of the briefing. So during the course of next week it will be a link-up with Cape Town. It’s most likely to happen actually in Cape Town. So you can relax. Pardon? [Unclear] to Düsseldorf. Are there any follow-up questions on this one? Okay, new questions.

Journalist: Just with the Lekgotla, what’s government’s thinking about the next ten months, what has to be achieved and what kind of perspective is being brought to its activities in the light of the fact that there’s a general election next year? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: Well, clearly the government’s mandate continues until the end of term of government, so there will be again acceleration of the implementation of the Programme of Action. As we had stated previously the focus is going to be implementation of the Programme of Action with a greater emphasis on the apex of priorities that we were briefed about. In terms of the actual transition, managing the transition, between now and the new government the forum of Director Generals (DGs) is looking into that matter and I believe that in fact at the Lekgotla there will be a much more concrete discussion about how to manage the transition. But I can say clearly without any doubt that the emphasis is on implementation of government’s Programme of Action between now and end of term.

Journalist: That much elusive food report, multi-departmental food report led by agriculture has it appeared?

Themba Maseko: Cabinet received a progress report at the meeting this morning and it was agreed that in fact more work needs to be done, and a report will also be tabled at the last meeting before the Cabinet Lekgotla or at the Cabinet Lekgotla itself. But a lot of progress has been made already in that regard. So it’s just a question of finalising the report and making sure that we have something concrete to report on.

Journalist: Just a clarity on Jackie Selebi. His contract was renewed. When was it supposed to have expired?

Themba Maseko: It was meant to expire as far as I know, end of June 2008.

Journalist: Was there any discussion at all about whether or not the results of the election in Zimbabwe will be recognised?

Themba Maseko: Not at this meeting, no. Unfortunately, not at this meeting but I’m sure that a decision will be taken on that matter at a later stage, but not at this meeting.

Journalist: Was there any discussion about the implications of the High Court decision on the status of Chinese citizens and the complications that were highlighted yesterday by the Minister of Labour and do you have comments on his statement that have since been interpreted as racist?

Themba Maseko: No, the matter did not come up at the meeting so it wasn’t discussed. Not at this stage, no.

Journalist: (Inaudible)

Themba Maseko: The speculation is there. The only time we read about it is when we read about what commentators say, as reported in the media, but the fact of the matter is that there is concern about this insinuation that is being made which is not based on fact and we just want to clarify it at this special briefing that we are arranging, to just put everybody at ease, that the government was approached and we did respond to that approach and at no stage did government refuse to co-operate and in fact, indications are that the German prosecutors themselves have indicated that it is not true, that the decision was based on lack of co-operation on the part of government. But the details will be revealed at that briefing, hopefully in the next week or so.

Journalist: The leader of the Independent Democrats (ID) Patricia de Lille in the house this afternoon says that this is in fact the reason that the Germans are going no further. She stood up and she said it was the lack of co-operation by our own Justice Department. Was she lying, was she misleading the house?

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately I cannot comment on what the leaders of political parties say. It’s not my mandate to respond to what political parties say in parliament but all I can say is that government will have a special media briefing and will respond and comment on all issues raised by political parties, commentators and other people on the subject.

Journalist: You’re being very strong on insinuations. Have you spoken to the Germans at all?

Themba Maseko: Let’s leave it. Personally I haven’t spoken to the Germans but there has been interaction, there has been extensive interaction between the South African Government and the German authorities and those are the details that we will give at the briefing to just indicate to you, these were the dates, this is the time when we received the request, this was the South African Government’s response to those requests and this is what the German prosecutors said. So we’ll give that kind of breakdown so that you have a fuller sense. But if your question is whether, just before putting the statement together we spoke to the Germans, the answer is no.

Journalist: Perhaps insinuation is a very light word.

Themba Maseko: Let’s wait for the briefing so that we get all the details.

Journalist: Themba, I don’t understand why was Selebi’s contract extended? I mean, he’s appearing in court, why? I don’t understand why. Isn’t there anybody else who can do the job?

Themba Maseko: Well, as we say in the statement, the president who extended the contract, was of the view that due process must be allowed to take its course, so in not extending the contract government could be seen or be interpreted to be accepting that he is guilty and within that this due process must happen, let the investigation happen and if there is any wrongdoing on his part, let the court decide and then government will then take a position at the end of the due process and that’s essentially what we are saying here.

Journalist: Follow-up. Did he go through a performance appraisal process for that? I suppose most employees do?

Themba Maseko: Again, you are making my life difficult here. As far as I am aware, there’s not been such a performance contract. As far as I understand, if somebody is on leave or special leave or even is someone is on suspension, there would not necessarily be a performance appraisal during that period. But we can check on that and if I’m proved to be incorrect, we’ll clarify the matter but as far as I am aware, there was no performance appraisal before this decision was taken.

Journalist: Back to Zimbabwe, Themba. The facilitation team, who are they actually meeting with, given that the main MDC negotiator is currently up for treason? Have they been allowed to visit him and have negotiations with him and has Mugabe agreed to see them? And secondly, did Cabinet express any concern that South Africa is increasingly isolated, obviously from the west but also its been quite heavily criticised by its African brothers, including by the president of SADC?

Themba Maseko: I can’t give you details of who exactly the facilitators are meeting, but I can tell you that all the parties have their selected representatives who are speaking with authority to the facilitation team. So the larger part of the interaction is yes, with the representatives of parties but from time to time they do interact with the key decision makers and I know that at some point they’ve had discussions with the president of Zimbabwe, they’ve had discussions with the president of MDC and other players but during this particular period, I will not be in a position to say whether they have personally interacted with the MDC leader or the president of Zimbabwe but we’re talking to the people who have the mandate to participate in the facilitation process.

Journalist: Themba, the main guy of the MDC is behind bars for treason and the other one has sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy.

Themba Maseko: Well, I don’t think anybody can at this stage say that because the leader of the MDC is in the Dutch Embassy, one of the negotiators is in prison, I don’t think anyone can conclude that the MDC is refusing to talk. We are talking to people who have been mandated by the MDC to continue with the facilitation process. So we are talking to MDC representatives with the full knowledge of the leader of the MDC. We are talking to the representatives of Zanu or the government with the full knowledge of the Zimbabwean authorities. So the facilitation team is dealing with people who have the full mandate to interact with government. So, unfortunately at this point in time, I’m not in a position to give you names exactly but I know we are talking to people with a mandate to be part of the facilitation process.

Journalist: And the criticism…the African criticism?

Themba Maseko: Well, the South African Government has been criticised by a number of players but we still remain a facilitator appointed and working with the full mandate of SADC and we’ve always been criticised by a number of players in this process but as long as we have the mandate to manage the facilitation process the government will continue with the facilitation process.

Journalist: Did the President chair the Cabinet meeting?

Themba Maseko: Yes, the President chaired the meeting. This looks like the last question.

Journalist: Still on Zimbabwe. When SADC gave the President the mandate to facilitate, it was for him to facilitate a free and fair election, which we agreed took place and now it would seem to me, as if the mandate has shifted. What exactly is the mandate that the emissaries Sydney Mufamadi and Mojanku Gumbi are negotiating now with the parties?

Themba Maseko: Well, the facilitators are currently engaged in a process that is aimed at bringing the parties together to continue a dialogue which will bring about a lasting political solution in Zimbabwe. There is obviously concern about violence which is posing a major threat to the forthcoming elections and we think that our mandate still continues to make sure that both sides are able to sit around the table to find a political solution and our view still remains that the solution to the Zimbabwean question lies with the Zimbabwean people themselves through their leaders and for as long as there’s scope and space for facilitation the government will continue playing that role and continue to report to SADC on the steps that we are taking. We’ll take this question and I see the one that will be the very last question. We’ll take one.

Journalist: Not on Zimbabwe. It’s about Kgalema Motlanthe and when and if he’s going to be deployed to Cabinet and whether that was discussed or the President shared with his colleagues.

Themba Maseko: I don’t know when that will happen. It did not happen at this meeting, so unfortunately Kgalema Motlanthe’s position was not discussed at the meeting.

Journalist: Right, Themba, I just want to check whether there’s now consensus in Cabinet including with the President that there’s now a crisis in Zimbabwe.

Themba Maseko: Everyone agrees that the situation in Zimbabwe is indeed a serious situation and that is why we have deployed the facilitators to be there literally around the clock to talk to the parties to find a lasting solution. I think we have come to the end of the briefing.


Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)