Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

4 February 2009

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: 4 February 2009
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting this morning, the 4th February 2009 in Cape Town. The meeting discussed the anti-Semitic statement made by Ms Fatima Hajaig, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs at a Palestinian solidarity rally which was held in Lenasia on 14 January 2009.

Cabinet expressed concern about the statement as is was contrary to the stated policies of this Government regarding anti-Semitic sentiments. Subsequent to the Cabinet meeting, the President held discussions with the Deputy Minister to discuss her statement. The Deputy Minister expressed her deep regret to the President for making the statement. She accepted that the comments were contrary to stated Government policy. She subsequently apologised unreservedly and unequivocally for the comments and agreed to withdraw them unconditionally.

Further, she assured the President that she does not harbour any anti-Semitic feelings or views and that in her statement issued yesterday, she had stated that ‘she condemns, without equivocation, all forms of racism including anti-Semitism in all its manifestations’. The President has accepted her withdrawal of the comments and her unqualified apology and trusts that the matter has been concluded satisfactorily.

So in short Government is indeed apologising for the comment and note that she has also apologised and withdrawn these comments. And the fact that the President was able to convene a meeting with her at such short notice clearly indicates that this Government takes these comments quite seriously and hopes that they will not be made by any member of this Government again in future.

The 8th Annual Report of the Commission for Employment Equity (CEE) was noted. This report reflects, inter alia, the slow progress in the implementation of the Employment Equity Act by the designated employers; the gross under-representation of the designated groups that still exist in the labour market, particularly that of African and Coloured women and people with disabilities and the drop of the Black group in the professionally qualified and middle management level. The meeting resolved that the Commission should conduct research and formulate strategies to address these challenges in the various industries.

The following initiatives from the Department of Transport (DoT) were approved: The Taxi Subsidy Framework and Funding Strategy for the Taxi Recapitalization Programme (TRP); The Strategy for Lifting of the Moratorium and Turnaround Strategy for Operating Licensing Boards; The Regulatory Framework for the Taxi Industry and the Taxi Recapitalisation Project Policy. The DoT will hold consultative discussions with the relevant stakeholders on these documents before they are finalised.

The establishment of the Cooperatives Banks Development Agency was approved.

The proposed design changes for various coins were approved. The new designs will be gazetted shortly.

The draft National Framework for Implementation of Ward Funding Model was approved and will be published for public comment before it is finalised.

The Division of Revenue Bill was noted and approved and will be tabled in Parliament when the Minister of Finance delivers the Budget Speech on the 11th February 2009.

The updated Child Labour Programme of Action was approved.

The following appointments were approved:

  • Mr SIS Ntombela was appointed as Chief Operating Officer in the department of Agriculture.
  • Ms P Mabasa was appointed as the Executive Director of the Board of Directors of the South African Special Risk Insurance Association (SASRIA). The appointment will be effective from 1 December 2008 to 30 November 2011.
  • Ms S Naidoo was appointed as the Managing Director of the newly established Co-operative Banks Development Agency.
  • Mr A Sithole and Ms H Wilton were appointed as the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson (respectively) of the Financial Services Board (FSB) for a three year period.

[End of statement].

- Questions and Answers -

Journalist:Well thank you, Sir. I have two questions. Firstly on Deputy Minister Hajaig, does she love Jewish South Africans and would she let her child marry one? And just secondly on these coins, can you tell us a bit more about these designs. Will they become even smaller? Is it possible and just anything that you can basically tell us on your coin redesign?

Themba Maseko: I’ve looked at the coin designs. They’re quite exciting and hip. I can’t tell you about whether they will be smaller or bigger, but I can tell you that they will be very modern coins. The one that I’ve seen for instance will also be commemorating the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosting in the country. A whole list of them will be gazetted so you’ll see the details there.

Let’s go back to the anti-Semitic comments made by the Deputy Minister. I can state after also having a session with her after she met with the President, she’s made it very clear that in fact she as a person will never harbour anti-Semitic views. She indicated to me that in fact she herself is married to a Semite, and her kids are also half Semite. So it’s actually unfortunate that she ended up making these comments, she profusely apologises, and they were unfortunate. And the reason why she has come out publicly to apologise is a clear indication that in fact it’s something that may have been an error of judgement on her part and that’s why she has come out not to deny or even claim that she’s been misquoted, she has said she’s made the comments, she apologises and she withdraws them without any qualifications whatsoever.

Journalist: Themba, are you in a position to tell us what the President said in perhaps hauling the minister over the coals?

Themba Maseko: Well, look, I can’t unfortunately divulge the details of a conversation between the President and the Deputy Minister, safe to say that the President would have reiterated Government policy that in fact anti-Semitism we equate to racism in this country. And this Government and even in our constitution it is very clear that this country will not support any form of racism. So I would imagine that those are some of the issues that would have been made very clear and the statement enjoys the full support of the President who said we must make it very clear what the Government position is.

Journalist: I have two questions. The subsidy framework and funding strategy for the taxi recapitalisation, is this new funding in addition to the allocated seven billion rands and did Cabinet take into account the difficulties that DoT has run into with regards to bus subsidy before approving this strategy? And then secondly can you tell us a bit more about this Cooperative Banks Development Agency to which Ms Naidoo has been appointed MD (Managing Director).

Themba Maseko: Well, on the taxi recap subsidy framework, basically what has been happening is that Government has been implementing this taxi recap program without a very clear policy framework, without any norms and standards and so there’s been lack of clarity on the part of the industry in this regard. So this framework is an attempt to bring greater certainty about where we are going with this policy. So it was looked at in that context. The current taxi or bus subsidy issue was not discussed in detail largely because Government is satisfied that the DoT and the National Treasury, together with the provinces, are actually on top of the situation to make sure that the current challenges are addressed as a matter of absolute urgency.

So as far as the Co-ops Banks Development Agency is concerned, there are quite a number of co-op banks that are in place. But a lot of them have not been properly monitored, properly regulated to make sure that they fulfil their mandates. So what this agency will basically do is to try and make sure that in fact a framework is set up and that all of them can fulfil the mandate that they’re set up to establish.

Journalist: According to the Jewish Board of Deputies the Deputy Minister did not withdraw her comments and only apologised for them. Is this the end of the matter now or is there still going to be any dialogue between the Board of Deputies and Cabinet? And does it mean that the Deputy Minister merely got a slap on the wrist or a tongue-lashing from the President?

Themba Maseko: If needs be Government will interact with the Jewish Board of Deputies to just clarify firstly the Government position on the matter and secondly to confirm that the Deputy Minister has not only apologised but has withdrawn these comments unreservedly. So that’s what needs to happen. So if needs be Government will indeed communicate with the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.

Journalist: Does this just mean that the Deputy Minister received a slap on the wrist from the President, or is there any other form of censure from the executive on the Deputy Minister?

Themba Maseko: Well, the statement makes it very clear that after the discussion at Cabinet where the position was made very clear the matter was taken up by the President and discussed with the Deputy Minister in some detail, and there is an apology, there is a withdrawal. And as far as we’re concerned this should be the end of this matter because if Cabinet and the President was sitting here and denying that statements were made, it will be something totally different. But in this case we are saying yes, a mistake has been committed, there’s been an acknowledgement, there’s an apology, there is a withdrawal. And the Deputy Minister owns up to the mistake that she has committed and Government is satisfied that this should be the end of the matter.


Themba Maseko   
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)