Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

29 May 2008

Date: Wednesday, 29 May 2008
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, 120 Plein Street, Cape Town

Themba Maseko: Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, 28 May 2008.

Cabinet received a report from the Inter-Ministerial Task Team on the violence against foreign nationals in some parts of the country. The task team has now been constituted as a Joint Task Team with the Gauteng Provincial Government.

Cabinet once again condemns the violence against foreign nationals, in the strongest possible terms. The meeting noted that genuine concerns about access to services such as water, roads and economic opportunities, are being exploited and misused to manipulate communities to attack our parents, brothers, sisters and children from South Africa, the African continent, and some parts of the world.

On Monday 26 May 2008, President Thabo Mbeki convened a meeting of the Joint Task Team and the Premiers of the affected provinces, to discuss strategies to address the violence that is totally unacceptable and disgraceful. The main outcome of that meeting was a firm instruction by the President to all the Premiers of the affected provinces, and the task team, to accelerate relief efforts and to ensure that the security forces deal decisively with the violence against foreign nationals and other South Africans.

Cabinet noted that the task team was making progress in fulfilling its mandate to investigate the causes of the violence, and develop a comprehensive government response. The violence could not be attributed to a single cause but is a result of a complex set of factors. The task team will continue with the investigation.

Although the most-recent violent attacks started in Alexandra and spread to parts of the East Rand, northern parts of Johannesburg, and to a limited extent to other provinces, it is too early to conclude that a ‘third force’ is necessarily behind the violence. In some cases, there is some evidence of copy-cat activities in which criminals took advantage of the news story to conduct criminal acts. The Security Cluster will continue to investigate, with a view to ensuring that the State is better prepared to handle such developments in future.

The government’s response to the violence has the following five key elements:

Firstly, to deal decisively with the perpetrators of the violence and all those who participate in the criminal and violent acts. Our primary objective in this regard is to ensure that everyone, including foreign nationals, is protected from any criminal acts, to restore peace and stability, and to ensure that justice is meted out to all law-breakers in the shortest possible time. Special Courts will be set up to speed up the prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence. The South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force will remain on alert for as long as it is necessary to deal decisively with any outbreak of violence. The message to our security forces is clear: no violence will be tolerated.

South Africa is a signatory to the Geneva Protocol on Refugees which enjoins us to protect the human rights of citizens from other countries. Government calls on our citizens to expose and report all those who are instigating violence against foreign nationals and those South Africans who speak a different South African language.

Secondly, we are working with organs of civil society to ensure that secure and decent temporary shelter is provided to those who have been displaced by the violence. The cold and wet winter makes this task even more urgent. The task team and all the affected provinces are already working with local government structures to ensure that suitable land or facilities are found urgently. The Gauteng and Western Cape Provincial Governments are at an advanced stage of setting up these temporary shelters with the support of civil society organisations.

Thirdly, to co-ordinate relief efforts and ensure that the victims of the violence are provided with all necessary support in the form of medical treatment and care, food, blankets and clothing. The inspiring initiatives from South Africans and civil society in this regard is most welcome and will go a long way towards reducing the burden that is carried by the victims of this senseless violence.

Although the events of the past few weeks have been disturbing, it has been encouraging to witness thousands of South Africans uniting to assist the victims of the violence either in their individual capacity or as part of community structures and religious groups. These actions give us much hope that South Africans are steadfast in their fight for the values that are contained in our Constitution.

Fourthly, government will work very closely with all affected communities, towards the re-integration of foreign nationals back into communities as soon as possible. Some of the so-called foreign nationals have already obtained South African resident status or citizenship. Many of the so-called foreigners are married to, or living with South African partners and have children who are South African citizens by birth. For these new South Africans and many other foreign nationals, leaving the country is not an option as they have made the choice that this is their country of choice. The government, together with the majority of South Africans, will protect this right and ensure that they can live in harmony in the country that prides itself on respecting human rights for all.

Fifthly, government will continue to accelerate the provision of services in line with the ‘Business Unusual’ theme, as outlined by the President in his State of the Nation Address during the opening of Parliament. Government accepts that the pace of service delivery needs to be expedited, as per the Apex of Priorities that were announced by the President, to address the developmental needs of our communities. However, blaming and attacking foreign nationals is an unacceptable way of highlighting community concerns.

Whilst acknowledging the urgent need to accelerate its programmes for alleviating poverty, unemployment and other forms of socio-economic deprivation, government appeals to all our communities to reject any agitation from those who wish to reduce this country into a lawless country, thereby dashing the hopes of millions of our citizens.

It is against this background that Cabinet also calls on the media in general, and South African media in particular, to ensure that the whole story of the violence is being told. Some reports continue to present a picture or tell a story that creates the impression that the majority of South Africans are xenophobic. In other reports, an impression is created that foreigners are being attacked in every corner of the country and that foreigners are not safe in every part of country. The truth is that the attacks are happening only in certain parts of the country, and that even in those areas that are affected by the violence, it is a small minority that is involved in the attacks.

Stories not being told include the fact that the security forces have dealt decisively with the violence; that in many of the affected communities, a number of citizens have stood up to prevent the attacks on foreign nationals; and that many South Africans are launching different anti-xenophobic initiatives and campaigns. Having said that, Cabinet welcomes the initiatives from some of the media houses that have sought to cover some of the positive stories alongside the very brutal and shocking stories that have characterised this unfortunate episode in our young democracy.

Finally, Cabinet expressed appreciation to the many South African and civil society organisations that have demonstrated selfless compassion towards the victims of the violence. Many, including school children, have stood up to be counted among those who refused to allow some parts of the country to be dragged into the dark ages by a tiny minority. Like many democracies, ours will face many challenges now and in the future, that will test our resilience as a nation, but we must never give up on the ideals that are expressed in our Constitution; if anything, for the sake of our children and their children.

Cabinet received and noted the progress report on the development of the Anti-Poverty Strategy, and the War on Poverty Campaign.

The meeting noted that South Africa will be hosting the 6th Africa Conference of Ministers of Public Services, in 2008. The venue will be finalised in due course. The theme of the conference will be ’Capacity Development for the Future Capability of the African Public Service’.

Cabinet noted that Mr Y Adua, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will address a Joint Sitting of Parliament on 3 June 2008 at 14h00.

The following appointments were approved...

The following bills were approved...

[End of statement].

- Questions and Answers -

Themba Maseko: We’ll take questions. I think we’ll break with tradition and start at the back.

Journalist: Themba, thank you. Cabinet’s phenomenal foresight as reflected in the first four pages of the statement have clearly discussed things that have been widely reported in the media over the last two weeks already, but one of the major issues that commentators believe has led to the situation is contained in two sentences here that says Cabinet received the note to the progress report on the development of anti-poverty strategy and the war on poverty campaign. Is that as much as Cabinet could say about that, I mean could we get a copy of this report or at least some feedback on what the progress is?

Themba Maseko: We got a brief report which was also a subject of a workshop that was also taking place at the same time, a workshop of DGs which was looking into the details and finalising the implementation plan, so as Cabinet was sitting, DGs were also sitting to finalise the strategy on poverty, so you should expect that Cabinet will receive a report on its next sitting coming out of the workshop - the DG workshop which took place yesterday.

Journalist: Thank you, Chair, I guess we should launch into the issue at hand, which is the xenophobic attacks. I just wanted to know for clarity’s sake which Premiers were there on Monday and perhaps whether we have actual plans, now let’s not… we just spent an hour listening to the Minister of Home Affairs blaming everybody and taking no responsibility, like literally taking no responsibility, so therefore let’s not blame now, does government have any actual plans on how the situation is going to be handled - which we can quantify and tell our readership this is what you’re doing?

Themba Maseko: Which premiers are present? Gauteng, KZN, Mpumalanga, I think those were, there could be one or two but we can check on that. Ja, Western Cape as well. But we can check on that, I wasn’t at the meeting so I can’t confirm that. But at least those were present. Does government have an actual plan to deal with this situation? Definitely, there is a plan. We have a task team consisting of senior members of the JCPS cluster and that meeting is chaired by the Minister of Safety and Security, meeting every second day to make sure that we… what that task team does is to firstly receive a security report, a status review, what’s happening in which part of the country. Violence, acts of violence, action by the police, the defence force, all of that kind of situation. And then secondly a major part of the meeting then focuses on what actually is being done in every part of the country that is being affected by the violence. So your provinces will come and give detailed plans of how many victims of violence we are assisting, where the camps [are] currently positioned, what steps will be put in place to make sure that temporary shelters are found and established within… as quickly as possible. You then have your Defence Force coming in to say this is the actual support we are providing, so many soldiers, so many tents are being provided. You have your Police Services coming with details of what steps they’re actually putting in place. You have your Social Development departments providing detailed support that is being given to victims of the violence… you have your health authorities coming in to say this is exactly what we are doing to make sure that we meet the needs of the victims in all these centres. So unfortunately we haven’t packaged that to present to you today, but there is definitely a plan dealing with the situation, and if you want exact values of how much it’s costing we can get that information and make it available. Is there a follow-up to that? Okay. And then we’ll come to…

Journalist: Is there any plans afoot to try to get to the root cause of the problem? Perhaps something like having a forum or something, a consultation forum with the actual victims of this violence and actually speaking to the people that… or the South Africans that live in these communities that the violence… the perpetrators of the violence. So are there any plans to get to the root cause of it, you know, to try to actually speak to the victims and all that?

Themba Maseko: Well, the approach adopted by government thus far was to interact firstly with the victims of the violence to make sure that we address all their urgent issues, and I’m aware that a lot of the victims have raised a number of concerns already with government, so we are interacting with them to make sure that we address those issues. but secondly meeting with those communities, either their representatives or convening community meetings to understand what their issues are, and what’s becoming very clear is a number of issues have come up in the different parts of the country as the causes of the violence. And that’s what our… the task team is actually looking at to try and unpack the causes of this violence. So these meetings are taking place, we have officials visiting communities on a daily basis, we have members of the executives in the form of mayors, members of parliament, councillors, ministers talking to communities almost on a daily basis to make sure that we have a better understanding of what is the cause of this violence. So a number of factors have come up as causes of the violence. And that’s why in the statement we say you can’t say a single factor is responsible or is the main cause of the violence. Do you still have a question? And then we’ll come to the [unclear] in front.

Journalist: Can you just give us the latest updated figure on the number of people who have been registered as being displaced? And secondly on the secure and [unclear] temporary shelter, can you elaborate a little bit on that in the context of the ongoing debate in the Western Cape between province and city with province being very, very critical of the refugee camps which are being set up. I mean does Cabinet support what the Mayor of Cape Town is actually doing in setting up these big shelters, you know, of 3 000-plus people in fairly outlying locations?

Journalist: You (Themba) went out of your way yesterday to issue a denial of a BBC website story that the government was considering setting up refugee camps and you promised a statement today on the subject, and I just wondered what you have to say about refugee camps.

Themba Maseko: Okay, follow-up.

Journalist: The Minister of Home Affairs just gave a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs and she made it very clear that government is not going for refugee camps, these are temporary shelters and that’s about not sending a message that the attacks are condoned or the people can’t live together. So maybe that’s the statement that was referred to. But just to follow on that, I mean you’ve told us what’s happening in terms of the daily briefings and so on, that’s dealing with the crisis now, but I think we’re looking at more of a… it’s a longer term thing. This is not going to get sorted out in the next week or even in the next two weeks. In fact it might not get sorted out over the next month or two. And there’re long term issues around… you know, strategy to deal with thousands of displaced people, education of children, a whole range of issues. And I think what we’re asking for is a sense about the big plan, thanks.

Themba Maseko: Okay, at this stage the estimate of displaced people is between 35 and 40 000. What is complicating the factor is that a lot of those people who went to the shelters, some of them have already left to Mozambique and different parts of the country. So the task team is meeting this evening and we’ll get the latest figures of how many exactly are displaced as we speak. As I said the task team meets on almost on a daily basis and because we are in Cape Town I do not have the exact final number of how many people are displaced as we speak. But it will range between 35 and 40 000 but we’ll get the final figure this evening. The government position on shelters and commenting on what’s happening in the Western Cape, the task team’s position is that this intervention must be done in partnership between national, provincial and local government, and that in the last meeting of the task team that I attended for instance there was a view that we should try and avoid setting up large camps that consist of… or shelters that consist of thousands of people, because then you will start having major issues pertaining to security, health issues etcetera, etcetera. So the preference was for a number of smaller shelters provided to the displaced people, but however in the Western Cape situation what is complicating the situation is that you have provincial and local government actually not seeing eye to eye about what is the best way forward, but the matter will come to the task team and I’m sure the task team will give a view on what is the best way forward on the size of shelters. So we could come back to you on that particular issue. So Cabinet did not express a specific view about the Western Cape situation, but the task team is of the view that preference should be given to creating smaller shelters that are more… will be more manageable, better manageable. The issue of refugee camps I think as we clarified in the statement this is a matter that has been discussed with the UNHCR and the view is that we should not opt for the creation of refugee camps. But prefer to create temporary shelters because the view of government or government policy is that every attempt must be made to make sure that the foreign nationals are integrated to communities as much as possible. Now there’re obviously challenges, Gaye, you’re right. There are challenges in a number of communities so a lot of work still needs to be done to make sure that this policy of integration is actually implementable, but that is the current position of government. because refugee camps implies that you actually take people and [unclear] in a particular spot and you secure that centre, and many of the foreign nationals have jobs, have families, have kids going to school. So to uproot them from particular communities and put them in a refugee camp is something that government does not prefer at this particular point in time. Whether there’s a strategy moving forward, I think the strategy is indeed evolving, the task team is investigating and as we say part of what the mandate of the task team is to make sure that we develop a comprehensive response to the situation, and we have already acknowledged that in fact we were caught off guard by the nature and extent of this violence, but we are doing everything possible to make sure that we address the crisis in the short term and then develop a long term strategy to deal with the underlying causes of the violence. Okay.

Journalist: What will the expected time line for shelter be [unclear] ?

Themba Maseko: I can tell you that the preference of the task team in the last meeting that I attended was that it should be anything up to a month. But that is going to depend on the extent to which enough groundwork is done to deal with the underlying causes, to communicate and interact with communities so that a better understanding is reached by communities on this particular issue. Because the view is that if you keep them longer than a month you then start running into all kinds of difficulties and you then create expectations and it could cause many other problems, for instance the fact that you then have to invest huge resources into those shelters instead of addressing some of the urgent needs that communities could be experiencing. So rather than putting too many resources into these shelters the view is that greater effort needs to be put into those communities to make sure that you address the concerns that exist in the communities. Okay, we’ll go back to…

Journalist: Is there any figure for the number of people who have actually left South Africa, and is there any coordination or South African participation in what’s happening outside our borders?

Themba Maseko: I’ve seen different figures in the media about the number of people who have left the country, 15 000 Mozambique etcetera, etcetera, but I don’t have the actual figures. But it’s a matter that we can put on the agenda of the task team so that we can also monitor and see what’s happening there. But at this stage I’m not aware of any involvement by the South African government in any of the countries where the victims have left to. There was a hand there, yes.

Journalist: The… going back to the poverty report, I assume this is not the same team that’s dealing with the rocketing food prices report, and when are we finding out what’s in that secret report of that task team?

Themba Maseko: I’m not aware of any secret report. The workshop that I’m referring to is a workshop of all the key directors general in government, looking at the anti-poverty strategy and the war on poverty campaign that the president announced. The team dealing with the food price is a totally different team, that’s focusing on just the rising cost of food prices, and that report is due… my sense is that at the next Cabinet meeting we will get a report on that. Okay.

Journalist: The government spends millions and millions every year on Izimbizo and spends a hell of a lot of time in these communities. The few that I have attended exactly these questions which are supposed to lie at the heart of this problem have been expressed to government any number of times. How can you… how can government say they were caught off guard?

Themba Maseko: We have a programme, a programme of action as government to deal with the development challenges that our country is experiencing, and you’re correct in saying that a lot of these issues come up in the Izimbizo that is held by government, and we always make the point to communities that this is our plan, these are our timeframes to implement our program of action, and at no stage did those communities say if you don’t deliver on these kinds of things we will embark on a campaign to assault or to attack foreign nationals. So the issue of attacking foreign nationals we think that is a very unfortunate development. Because the issue of meeting the needs of our community’s developmental challenges is an important debate, it needs to be put on the table, and we always interact with communities on that particular issue. The unfortunate aspect is the extent to which people resorted to violent attacks on foreign nationals. Because in my view it does not make sense to start blaming foreign nationals for the development challenges that we are facing as a nation. There are clear channels that we have provided to communities to raise a lot of these concerns and issues, and we deal with a lot of them. And if you go back to the President’s State of the Nation address there was a clear commitment to accelerate service delivery, to make sure that we become what we term business unusual in the way we deliver services to our communities. So you are correct, yes, issues come up in Izimbizo and this is how we have responded thus far, but the issue of violence was something that I don’t think anybody sitting here would have anticipated, to take the turn it did.

Journalist: Did Cabinet reject the brothers Pahad third force theory?

Themba Maseko: Okay. Cabinet did receive a report from the task team on the causes of the violence, and a number of factors have been put on the table for further investigation by the security establishment, particularly the intelligence services, and Cabinet is of the view that that investigation still needs to continue because as we say in the statement it’s not a single factor that can be attributed to the violence. Okay, I think we are moving towards the close.

Journalist: Just on the South African National Defence Force, is their deployment still limited to Gauteng? Are there any plans to maybe respond to the… to Mayor Zille’s call for them to be deployed also in Cape Town? Can you just give an idea of the location and the numbers involved as well?

Themba Maseko: Well, unfortunately I can’t give you numbers at this stage. The decision is that the defence force is on standby, the police must say the situation is getting out of hand and we require the support of the defence forces, and the forces will then be deployed to any part of the country. The approval by the President was to… for the army to support the police in every part of the country, so if the Western Cape police said to the task team that we require defence force deployment I’m sure the response will be immediate to that.

Journalist: Obviously the focus now is very much on, you know, meeting the needs of the displaced people, but at the same time I would imagine that government also has to try and look at the longer term, and I was wondering are there any… were any immediate concerns expressed about dealing with the problem of illegal migration, you know, what to do about it right now? And when it comes to accelerating delivery, those particular communities that seem to have been very much affected, let’s say hostel communities and one or two informal settlements, are there any plans to actually accelerate development now? And related to the hostels, I mean, government did you know I think 14 years ago say they were going to upgrade hostels, but I think only four hostels have been upgraded. Can you comment on that please?

Themba Maseko: On the issue of illegal immigrants the task team is seized with that issue, and an announcement will be made soon about what is going to be done, so at this stage one is not at liberty to announce. But I know that the task team is dealing with it, an announcement will be made very shortly. Accelerating delivery it’s something that’s happening, it’s ongoing all the time. I would invite members of the media to for instance to go to the place where the violence started, in Alex. If you look at Alexandra as a township there are so many developments that have taken place there. It is one of the lead presidential projects, literally hundreds of houses have been built there, but part of the difficulty is that you are dealing with the serious challenge of migration, so as you provide housing and because historically a lot of these areas are actually midway points, so people come from different parts of the continent, from rural areas, they go and settle initially in Alex and then move onto different parts of the country. So as you implement your development initiatives in Alex literally thousands of people keep on coming in there. So it’s a challenge. You look at fir instance a lot of the informal settlements that are affected by violence in the East Rand for instance, communities just arrive in a place from rural areas, from other parts of the continent, they just arrive, set up camp there. So government tries and comes in, you try and put in your movable toilets and do all those kinds of things, you build houses, some people move from the informal settlements to the new houses, but literally as you do that thousands of people arrive to settle in those informal settlements. So the challenge of dealing with the problem of migration in this country is a huge task that we’ve got to have to find a way of getting on top of as government. But it is indeed a serious challenge that we are dealing with on a day to day basis. You talk to education departments in the provinces, especially the most urbanised provinces in this country, you will find that the problem of overcrowding continues all the time, they do an assessment of a township, they build a certain number of classrooms, they think they’ve met the demand. Come the following year literally thousands of kids arrive in the schools looking for school accommodation. So the bigger part of the challenge we are also dealing with is the migration that we are experiencing largely because of the fact that economic development is centralised in a few cities in this country and it’s a major challenge that we face. Upgrading hostels, I think it’s something that yes the question is a legitimate question, it needs to be asked, because this was, you’re correct, a Cabinet decision that was taken years ago that these hostels must be upgraded and transformed into family units. The fact that so many of them still continue to be single sex hostels is a major problem that I think government is going to have to address, and be able to give an explanation why this has not happened. You will also be aware that in some of the violence that has taken place in parts of the country, the hostels have featured quite prominently. Largely because some of the immigrants have actually sought to move into those hostels and there was total rejection by those communities, and also reports that you know certain individuals in those communities see the hostels as their own, belonging to them and not belonging to anybody else. So the issue of hostels I think will… I think feature prominently, quite prominently in the report of the task team about what needs to be done as part of the long term strategy to deal with the causes of the violence. Do you have a neck problem? I see you shaking your head. No, okay. Okay, those two hands, okay.

Journalist: Thank you for your little extra brief on the national strategic amendment bill and so on. I was wondering about the other bills. Two questions. One is, are you expecting to pass this legislation by the time the house rises in November? And secondly have you got any details on for example the Public Finance Management Bill or any of these quite interesting looking bills?

Themba Maseko: Quick answer, the deadline set by Parliament is that all bills must be tabled in Parliament by the second of June to guarantee that they are passed by the end of this short term or short session of Parliament. So Government is working quite hard to make sure that we meet that deadline, and as soon as the bills are tabled in Parliament, Parliament has assured Cabinet that in fact all these bills will be passed. Contents of the bill, they’re right here in this file Michael so I can have a session with you and just give you the brief outline on those. Oh, I said I’ll start with the lady at the top.

Journalist: I just wanted to ask with regards to a report that was released last year by the peer review which said that xenophobia was one of the key challenges in the country and government denied that, was anything done about that and has government changed its stance on that?

Themba Maseko: I don’t know if we denied it, but it was not true, okay. Look, I’ll have to look at that issue, but what is important for us is just to note that this has become a major problem, and it has become something that needs to be dealt with as a matter of absolute priority as government, so that’s all I can say at this stage on that particular issue.

Journalist: Ja, this would tie into that. The suppliers of information to Cabinet. Are you happy with the intelligence you received in the time preceding these attacks from the intelligence agencies. Then I would also want to ask regarding what the minister of home affairs just told us, because she’s part of your Cabinet that you’re speaking for, she was actually answering the question that you said the task team was seized with. She made the point that although we have a policy of repatriation in this country, we would not want to repatriate those who are in need at the moment. She said, and this is the example she used, in areas which are not affected by violence this policy will continue, you will be repatriated to your country of origin, but in these areas which are affected by violence you will not be repatriated which to me makes very little sense, you know, I mean if you’re lucky enough to live in a violent area you’re fine to stay here then, anyway but I would say this is a golden opportunity to enforce the legislation we have with all these people concentrated of their own will. I just want you to comment on that, and finally the President has yet again left the country this time to Japan. Would it not be best if he stayed here and sorted out this by setting the example of reconciliation with these foreigners?

Themba Maseko: First question on intelligence is Cabinet happy with the intelligence that it is getting, under the circumstances government’s view is that the intelligence services are doing the best. The fact that they were not able to tell precisely when the violence was going to start does not necessarily amount to a major intelligence failure, but at this stage we think that the intelligence services are doing the best they can under the circumstances to provide as much information as they possibly can to government. Jan-Jan, unfortunately I’m unable to comment on what the minister said. We… ja, so I can’t comment on…

Journalist: Let me rephrase it then. Let’s just ask the basic question. These people are of their own accord now in central areas. One of the major problems we have which you have admitted to is this whole matter of migration, of controlling it. We have laws, we have policies, why don’t we enforce them on the people who are currently in these central areas?

Journalist: And document those. You know, many of these immigrants are undocumented. Surely now that they are in a central location there’s an opportunity for Home Affairs to set up offices, mobile offices in those areas and start documenting these citizens so that you know.

Themba Maseko: Your questions are similar to what Carol asked earlier on. It’s a matter that the Task Team is sitting with and an announcement will be made as soon as a final decision is taken on that matter.

Journalist: And the President? His absence?

Themba Maseko: I can just confirm that he is in regular contact with the Task Team. He is briefed in detail about what is happening and if there are major decisions that need to be taken by the Task Team he is briefed, despite the fact that he is out of the country. So at this stage government is content that the President is indeed providing the leadership that is necessary to make sure that the Task Team can move speedily with all of the issues that need to be dealt with. At this stage the Task Team has been given full authority to take decisions without having to wait for a cabinet meeting and that’s likely because the President has given them such a mandate. Whether he needs to be here all the time, unfortunately I’m not responsible for the President’s programme, but I can tell you that, in fact he is briefed of all the developments in this regard.

Journalist: Themba, can you just give us a sense of the mood in Cabinet at the moment? Is there any tension or anger or frustration and if so, where is that directed?

Themba Maseko: Is it related to the mood (a follow up question)?

Journalist: Because Cosatu says that most South Africans have lost any confidence in their President and that most ministers also concur. Was that discussed and is anything going to be done about it?

Themba Maseko: There’s no truth in that statement. Cabinet remains absolutely committed to its work and fully behind the President of the country. So there is absolutely no truth in the statement that the Ministers have lost confidence in the President. As far as the mood in Cabinet is concerned, unfortunately I didn’t bring my mood gauge to the meeting but I can tell you that the mood is exactly as it was when the term of this government started. Ministers still have the determination and commitment to make sure that the mandate of this government is fulfilled, so there is no indication whatsoever, so suggest that in fact, that there is a decline in the mood in Cabinet. Absolutely not! Okay, final question.

Journalist: Just on the legal aspects, Themba. Is the government prepared for any possible legal action taken by foreigners or by their governments?

Themba Maseko: The Task Team has received some indication that some of the victims are planning to take legal action and government will look at those issues as and when they are tabled, but we are already preparing ourselves in case such legal action is brought against government. Did you have a final question?

Journalist: I just wanted to know, does Cabinet think that the SAPS is ready to take full control of the border lines from the South African National Defence Force? You will remember this was a Cabinet decision that those functions be transferred to the South African Police Services and that it should be complete by 2009, but yesterday it appeared in the Safety and Security Committee that the police are not yet ready to take over those functions. In fact, what I heard was that South Africa does not even have borders. It does not even know where some of its border lines are.

Themba Maseko: That can’t be true.

Journalist: In some areas they’re not sure exactly where the border lies.

Journalist: If you are my friend, and I’m on this side of the border, if I have to visit, you have to go to the next country. You know, I have to cross from this border to the other border but there are no fences. But what I want to know is, does Cabinet think the South African Police Service is ready to take over completely from the South African National Defence Force, because there’s a concern and it looks like they are not ready. They talked about capacity; they themselves yesterday said it appeared that they are not ready yet. And that’s why they say there is this influx of immigrants, people moving up and down because we don’t even have fences, we don’t have border lines.

Themba Maseko: I was not aware of the situation or the report that was given by police. And such a report has not been tabled in Cabinet as yet, but it’s something that I will bring to the attention of the Task Team and I’m sure it will receive urgent attention by the JCPS cluster. So, I can’t answer definitely, because the matter has not yet been discussed in cabinet.

Journalist: But also, whether they are ready or not. That’s why I just wanted to know if Cabinet thinks they are ready. It was a Cabinet decision.

Themba Maseko: Well, it was a Cabinet decision, but whether they are ready or not, that matter has not been served before Cabinet. But I’ll assume that when Cabinet takes a decision to say the police must take charge, they will take charge and make sure that they put the necessary resources to it.

Journalist: And let me also just tell you what was said in the committee meeting.

Themba Maseko: Why don’t you tell me after this?

Journalist: Okay, maybe just a last one. I just wanted to say there was a call yesterday in that meeting that Cabinet should actually reverse this decision and allow the SANDF to continue. That is also what I want to bring to your attention.

Themba Maseko: Okay. Each time there is a recommendation it will be brought to the JCPS cluster and it will come to Cabinet for a decision. At this stage there is no new decision on that matter. Thank you very much.


Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)