Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing Q&A

30 July 2009

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: 30 July 2009
Venue: Union Buildings (with video-link to Cape Town)

Statement read by Minister Chabane

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Pretoria yesterday, 29 July 2009.

Cabinet condemns the violence, destruction to property, vandalism and intimidation of innocent citizens that characterised some of the recent community protests and strikes that took place in some parts of the country. Government reiterates its commitment to guarantee the right to protest as guaranteed in the constitution, as long as such protest is conducted peacefully and within the framework of the law.

While Government acknowledges the service delivery challenges and other genuine concerns raised by communities and their right to protest as a means of highlighting grievances, thrashing of our cities, destruction of property and the infringement of the rights of others is an unacceptable way of highlighting grievances. Cabinet appeals to all leaders of these demonstrations to discourage communities and their members from such unbecoming behaviour. The law enforcement agencies have been instructed to act against those who break the law.

The community grievances and protests must be understood in the context of rapid migration that many of our cities are experiencing. This migration is also contributing to and placing tremendous pressure on the limited infrastructure in the urban areas. This will require special measures to enhance the capacity of municipalities.

The meeting noted that the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs had already taken steps to address community concerns. These measures include the establishment of a task team to visit all municipalities with a view to developing a turnaround strategy for these structures. He will also convene a multi-stakeholder service delivery summit to develop a partnership with stakeholders to address factors that contribute to community discontent. The meeting noted and welcomed the offer by musicians and soccer players to actively support the campaign against criminal elements that are seeking to exploit genuine community concerns to sow xenophobic seeds in some communities.

Government will continue to hold meetings with public sector union leaders to discuss ways of reducing tensions between the State and the unions in the different spheres of government. These meetings will also provide an opportunity for discussions on the state of the economy so that both sides can understand each other’s respective positions.

Cabinet would like to clarify its position regarding the purchase of official vehicles for Political Office Bearers (POBs). The Political Office Bearers have not broken any rules and are not at fault for following the rules. The official vehicles, which belong to the state, have been acquired for them by their departments in strict compliance with the regulations as contained in the Ministerial handbook.

The handbook provides that the state shall provide POBs with vehicles in Cape Town and Pretoria. The price of the vehicles must not be greater than 70 % of the member’s annual salary. It should be noted that the re-basing of the salary packages of Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MPs and MPLs – developed by the Moseneke Commission and adopted (earlier this year) – has affected the categories of cars that all these political leaders can acquire.

In most instances, the state sources the vehicles from service providers on a full maintenance lease and the vehicles are used at a pre-determined rate. This rate includes financing of the vehicle, insurance, extras and maintenance costs. Once the contract expires, at 120 000 km or 5 years, the service provider is responsible for the disposal of the vehicle and carries the risk for any losses. Thus, the state receives the benefit of flexibility of choice of vehicle in terms of acquisition and disposal of these official vehicles.

Having said that and recognising the sensitivity of this matter, Cabinet has established a Ministerial Task Team to look at government expenditure in the context of the economic meltdown. The Task Team comprising of Minister of Finance, Minister for Performance Management and Evaluation in The Presidency, and Minister of Public Service and Administration, will advise Cabinet on how matters of this nature can be handled. The work of the task team forms part of the comprehensive expenditure review that government announced a few weeks ago; and the outcome of its work will help inform preparation of the medium-term expenditure framework.

Cabinet wishes to put it on the record that, as elaborated in the Medium Term Strategic Framework released a few weeks ago, its Strategic Priorities, including growing the economy and creating jobs, alleviating poverty and create sustainable livelihoods for all our people remains the central focus of our work.

The draft Policy Papers on the Government-wide Monitoring and Evaluation System and on National Strategic Planning were tabled and noted. These draft papers will be considered at the next Cabinet meeting before submission to Parliament and publication for public comment.

Cabinet condemned illegal mining which has claimed more than 90 lives and welcomed the arrest of more than 300 alleged illegal miners. Cabinet further welcomed the establishment of a Stakeholder Forum led by the Department of Mineral Resources to address this issue. The Inter-Ministerial Security Committee was mandated to develop a coordinated response to this illegal activity.

The meeting noted the report on the South Africa’s participation at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial meetings, held in Geneva, Switzerland to resume the next Doha Round of WTO Trade Negotiations. South Africa will participate in these talks and assess their impact on our economy. South Africa will also work closely with other emerging and developing nations to ensure that the development agenda is advanced and achieve proper balance between the demand for industrial tariff reduction and agricultural negotiations. The Department of Trade and Industry will coordinate all departments to ensure a common South African position during these talks.

The draft Local Government Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill was approved and will be published for public comment. The Bill seeks to extend the transitional period for a further period of two years in order to allow the 17 municipalities to continue to levy rates based on the Old Act as they did not compile valuation rolls by the deadline of 1 July 2009. The bill will be submitted to Parliament shortly.

The South African National Defence Force Specialist Contingent (SANDFSPECC), which was deployed as part of the AU Special Task Force in Burundi, will be formally withdrawing its troops and lowering its flag with effect from 08 August 2009. The primary function of this military force was to provide VIP protection to the returning leaders participating in the Burundi Transitional Government. The signing of a number of ceasefire agreements between the belligerents involved provided a new momentum for the implementation of the peace process in Burundi. The withdrawal of troops will be completed in September 2009. The withdrawal signifies a proud moment in South Africa’s and Africa’s history as we move towards resolution of this long-standing and violent conflict.

Government would like to thank all those who were also involved in facilitating the peace talks in Burundi. These include the Mr. Jacob Zuma when he was the Deputy President of the Republic, Mr Charles Nqakula and all those who provided support to the negotiations process.

The proposal for coordinated participation of Ministers and Deputy Ministers at National Day celebrations hosted by accredited Foreign Missions was approved. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation will distribute a schedule of these days to all Ministries to facilitate their participation at these celebrations.

Cabinet congratulated the Springbok Rugby Team for regaining the number one spot in the rugby rankings following their excellent performance over the past few weeks. The meeting took the opportunity to wish the Springboks well in their forthcoming game against New Zealand at the weekend. Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs were also congratulated for their performance against Manchester City during the Vodacom Challenge. Their performance will serve to inspire young South Africans to do better in sports.

The performance of our athletes at the World Athletics Championships currently taking place in Monaco was also noted and welcomed. LJ van Zyl, Khotso Mokoena and Rueben Molefe excelled in the 400m race, long jump and steeplechaser respectively.

The performance of our swimmers at the FINA World Championships in Rome was noted. The latest gold won by Cameron van den Bergh has placed South Africa in position 9 on the medals table.

Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba’s employment contract as Director General in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation was extended for a further three years. Cabinet expressed its full support and confidence in the Dr Ntsaluba.

Mr GNV Magashula was appointed as the new Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS). Mr Magashula holds a BSc degree in oceanography and chemistry from the University of Cape Town. He served as Chief Officer for Corporate Services and headed the Business enablement and Delivery Services at SARS. He was appointed acting Commissioner of SARS following Mr P Gordhan’s appointment as Minister of Finance.

Cabinet endorsed the appointment of Major General DD Mdutyana of the South African National Defence Force as Deputy Force Commander in the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). This appointment follows a request from the UN to South Africa. This represents a vote of confidence in South Africa’s role as a reliable and strong partner in the creation of stability on the Continent.

The following appointments were also approved:

  • Ms Lakela Kaunda was appointed Deputy Director General in the Private Office of the President in The Presidency.
  • Mr Vusi Mona was appointed Deputy Director General in charge of Communications in The Presidency.
  • Mr TB Maqubela was appointed Deputy Director General in the Department of Energy.
  • The following were appointed to the Board of the Export Credit Insurance of South Africa limited: Mr T Ditshego; Mr. I Sharma; Ms L Mvanana; Mr Z Fihlani; and Mr J Lesejane.

Questions and answers

Journalist: You mention that the limited infrastructure in urban areas is under great pressure, which will require special measures to enhance the capacity of municipalities. What special measures might they be?

Journalist: I was going to ask the same question but just another one. You know you say the ministers have not done anything wrong for buying these expensive cars, but I mean what then was Cabinet’s take on the fact that the Communications Minister (Gen Siphiwe Nyanda) spent, you know, over R1.2 million on one of his cars whereas the Finance Minister (Pravin Gordhan) , you know, spent about just R557 000? I mean, the Communications Minister was, you know, completely unrestrained. He bought entertainment systems and ambient interior lighting whereas the Finance Minister didn’t really buy any extras at all. I mean was there any discussion about encouraging ministers to be much more restrained in what they buy?

Journalist: I just want to know what is the duration of (Police) Commissioner Bheki Cele’s employment contract, and is it performance based. If so, what are the key indicators relating to his performance as National Police Commissioner? If his contract has performance indicators what are those? How are you going to measure whether he’s going to be a good Police Commissioner or not?

Minister Chabane: Okay, thank you very much. With regard to the issue of infrastructure, the steps which we are going to be taking, within the context of the reprioritisation of the budget we would have to re-deploy more resources to especially those municipalities which are under stress to ensure that we are able to attend to those services which are affecting communities directly.

The task teams which have been established by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Sicelo Shiceko) will then advise as to what are the special measures which need to be taken in the various municipalities. You would know that the DBSA is already deployed in terms of this partnership with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. A number of engineers and specialists in the various municipalities were mainly to re-determine their deployment to address those municipalities which are completely under stress.

On the second issue regarding the extras or whatever the case may be with regard to ministerial vehicles, the choice of what you need is the Department’s choice as long as it’s within the law. And what we’ll be examining as we go forward and the discussion which will ensue in Cabinet is to look as to what special measures we need to take in respect of releasing resources to address some of the problems which are afflicting our communities, to reprioritise the budget.

With regard to the issue of the Commissioner of Police, that question could have been asked yesterday in the press conference (as) it doesn’t form part of our press release. But nevertheless I think it’s an issue which will alert the minister of police to be able to attend to. But obviously in a general form everybody will be required to have a performance agreement with the department, with the appointing authority, to ensure that we are able to meet the targets and we’re able to manage the performance of senior officers deployed in the various parts of the state.

Journalist: In your statement you say Government will continue to hold meetings with public sector union leaders to discuss ways of reducing tensions, what kind of new strategies are you looking at and how is this not going to be in conflict with the routes of the bargaining chambers and obviously is this not a parallel initiative to that of NEDLAC?

Journalist: As you might be aware that he’s (Dr Ayanda Ntsaluba’s) some charges from [UNCLEAR], with the department, were any of those considered? You know, when this appointment was made? And what is Cabinet’s view of those allegations that have been made against him?

Journalist: Just with regards to strike season, what steps is Cabinet or government going to take to ensure that this similar situation doesn’t take place next year when the World Cup’s going to be here? I’m sure you don’t want striking workers trashing the streets. And then secondly in terms of the Police Commissioner, why was a police officer not chosen for that position?

Minister Chabane: Thank you very much. The meetings with unions are not meant to be a negotiating forum. The negotiations will continue wherever they are being held in the various bargaining chambers. The discussion will mainly be centring on how we manage the relationship and how do we manage and understand the current economic conditions in which we are. So that as we continue in the bargaining chamber at least there’s a proper understanding of the responsibilities and the contributions which all of us need to make to ensure that we have a stable society and a stable governance system.

With regard to the Director General in the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dr. Ntsaluba) the State has not charged him of any wrongdoing. He has been charged by NEHAWU now and getting its own processes to ensure that they deal with that matter. But at the moment as where we stand there’s no charge which has been preferred against him, and that’s why Cabinet extended its full confidence in his ability to lead the Department and to transform our operations as determined in terms of our medium term expenditure framework.

With regard to the issue of the strike season, we should understand that the government recognises the right of workers of unions to strike. It’s a right which has been enshrined in the Constitution. And most of the strikes if you’d know they go through the normal legal channels which are provided by the Constitution and by the law as to how and when workers could go on strike. This is a bargaining season, we expect that as employers and employees battle it out in the boardrooms it might end up in the streets if they don’t agree. What we don’t accept is the fact that in doing so, in going to the streets people should not abuse other people’s rights and they should not disrupt other people’s lives. They should participate in the pickets, in the demonstrations and the strike as peacefully as they can. We believe that these current negotiations may give us a breather. We provide a framework around which next year there won’t be many disruptions. So we believe next year will be much peaceful, if proper agreements are reached during the current phase of negotiations.

With regard to the issue of the Police Commissioner, the appointment of a Police Commissioner I think is lawful to the extent that it does not require that you must be a brigadier general, you must be having so many stars on your shoulders in order to be a Police Commissioner. So it’s fairly legal, and to that extent we think the appointment of Mr. Cele is proper and appropriate and we think he’s going to do a good job, and we appeal to all South Africans to give him support, to ensure that we fight the crime in all parts of our country.

Journalist: The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Sicelo Shiceko) was quoted as saying that those who are behind these service delivery protests is this Third Force. Is this a view that is being shared by Cabinet? And also on the issue of the alleged use of excessive power by the police in curbing those tensions, do you… the President said those who should be arrested but the manner in which that [UNCLEAR]… what’s Cabinet’s view on those? Thanks.

Journalist: Another question, but I would just like to get an indication of which municipalities are still exempt from implementing the property rates act?

Themba Maseko: We don’t have a list on that one. We can get somebody from that department to share that information. We don’t have it with us here.

Minister Chabane: On the first one, with regard to the theory of a third force, the statement is very clear that we believe that there are genuine concerns in the various parts of the country but also that there are people who may take advantage of these genuine concerns for their own internal purposes. But Cabinet has not gone as far as taking a view that there is a Third Force, because for that you need advice from those who are dealing with matters of detecting a Third Force and so on. And we wouldn’t like to stretch it to that level, otherwise we might actually miss the point in dealing with the problems and believing that everything which springs out. Obviously there will be people who will take advantage of that situation but they might not necessarily be a Third Force. And I think Cabinet wouldn’t like to get into that area because the manner in which we address it we may actually miss the point. On the use of excessive force, obviously if you demonstrate, you march in the street with proper permits, without disrupting anybody’s life the police will have no reason to act on anybody. You can march the whole day, you can march for 100 kilometres and there will be no problem. But the moment you begin to threaten lives and property of other people then the police have got an obligation to act to protect property and the lives of other people. Now the response of the police we believe that they should try to respond in a restrained manner, but if the situation gets out of hand the police will then be authorised to take necessary steps to protect those properties, and that is the situation.

The issue of the municipalities I think has been addressed, that we’ll try to get the list from the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Themba Maseko: Okay, Minister, the two questions from Cape Town are: in the last Cabinet meeting we talked about an appeal to teachers and nurses and calling on them to exercise restraint as far as their demands for higher salaries are concerned, and yet ministers are spending millions on buying cars. Is there any plan to ask ministers to exercise restraint in terms of purchasing of cars and are there any performance indicators that have been set for the newly appointed Police Commissioner?

Minister Chabane: With regard to the first question related to the issue of restraint, I had emphasised that the salary determinations or the remuneration determination as determined by Moseneke Commission, gives political officer bearers a car allowance. That is the starting point. So it’s part of the package which has been determined by the Moseneke Commission. And all of us would know that it has got tax implications. The allowance which you get as an office bearer has got tax implications. So the restraint, if we talk about the restraint it doesn’t matter for example if somebody is earning R10 000 per minute and you say I’m only going to spend one rand because the fact of the matter is that you earned that money. Now obviously we are calling on everybody including the State, and that is why the State and the Cabinet established a team to look as to what is it that we need to spend on in this current crisis and also what is it that we need to spend on as priorities. And those issues will be determined in the next Cabinet meeting. Once Cabinet explored all the possibilities in all the areas where we think as Cabinet they need to be corrected, we’ll need to do that. As to whether that will fall within that [UNCLEAR] is Cabinet’s decision to make.

With regard to the performance indicators for the Commissioner of Police as he (Commissioner Cele) signs the contract between himself and the Minister of Police (Nathi Mthethwa)) and the President I think those things will be indicated and hopefully the Minister responsible will be able to indicate at the appropriate time what are the performance indicators which have been given to the Police Commissioner. Thank you.

Themba Maseko: Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. That brings us to the end of the briefing.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)   
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)