Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

4 September 2008

Date: Thursday, 4 September 2008
Venue: Room 153, Union Buildings, Pretoria
Time: 10:00

Statement read by Themba Maseko (CEO of Government Communications) -

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Pretoria yesterday, 3 September 2008.

Cabinet approved the new Automotive Production and Development Programme (APDP) which will replace the Motor Industry Development Programme (MIDP). The Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Mandisi Mpahlwa will join me at the end of this briefing to present the details of the new programme.

Cabinet noted that the deadline for the closure of temporary shelters for the victims of violence against foreign nationals was fast approaching. Government once again calls on communities, community organisations, religious formations and civil society in general, to continue to work with the displacees to ensure their re-integration into communities.

The broad thrust of the document entitled ‘Towards a fifteen-year review’ was approved. The fifteen-year review and information on the draft South Africa Scenarios 2025, will be published within a month. Members of the public and civil society will be encouraged to participate in public meetings and workshops to discuss these documents. These discussions will be about the progress the country has made towards improving the lives of all South Africans over the past fifteen years, identification of challenges that still lie ahead, and considerations for policy options for the future. All members of the public, irrespective of race, gender, colour or creed will be invited to be part of what will be constructive discussions about the country and its future.

Cabinet received and noted the progress regarding the implementation of Joint Initiative Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). JIPSA has been successful, not in eliminating the skills shortage, but in promoting several strong interventions to ensure that the shortage is less severe than it would have been. JIPSA has prioritised the skills development process, has mobilised and aligned the efforts of major public and private sector role-players behind mutually-agreed priorities, and has unblocked various obstacles to speeding up skills acquisition. The Government has full confidence that the JIPSA mandate has been and will continue to be delivered by all the key stakeholders and the JIPSA structures such as the Joint Task Team, the Technical Working Group and the Secretariat.

JIPSA will continue until March 2010, thereafter its work will be incorporated into the recently-approved Human Resources Development Strategy for South Africa (HRDS-SA) which will be launched in March 2009. However, the JIPSA secretariat will operate parallel to HRDS-SA for about a year, and will wind down its activities when its stakeholders are satisfied that the HRDS-SA has the capacity to carry out all the relevant activities that JIPSA was responsible for.

Cabinet wishes Team South Africa well as they prepare to participate in the forthcoming Beijing Paralympics Games, which will take place from 6-17 September 2008. Team South Africa will comprise 60 sportsmen and women. We call on all South Africans to support Team South Africa throughout the Games.

The meeting resolved that the Minister of Sports and Recreation should submit a report to Cabinet on the performance of Team South Africa at the recent Beijing Olympics Games. This report will be submitted as soon as a proper analysis has been conducted by the department and the relevant sports authorities.

The deployment of an additional seventy-five members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) in Darfur, Sudan, was approved. These SAPS members will be part of the United Nations- Africa Union hybrid peace-keeping force.

Cabinet noted that the state visit by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela was a success and that the visit served to strengthen the economic and political ties between the two countries. Tangible outcomes of the visit include:

  • a Framework Agreement;
  • the Energy Co-operation Agreement; and
  • the Memorandum of Agreement between PetroSA and the Venezuelan government.

The visit also served to strengthen South Africa’s ties with the Latin American region.  South Africa is looking forward to participating in the Africa - South America Summit which will be hosted by Venezuela in November 2008.

President Thabo Mbeki will be holding a Presidential Imbizo in the Eastern Cape in September 2008. The President’s interaction with the public will be followed by the Imbizo week which will take place from 20-26 October 2008, under the theme ‘Ke nako: make a difference’. The Imbizo week will profile the 2010 legacy and infrastructure projects.

The World Customs Organisation’s Strategic Policy document entitled ‘Customs in the 21st Century: Enhancing Growth and Development through Trade Facilitation and Border Security’ was adopted. The Ministers of Public Enterprises and Transport will work with the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to oversee the implementation of the policy.

The SARS was also authorised to enter into discussions with the United States to explore South Africa’s participation in the Mega-Ports Initiative (MPI). The MPI is a United States government initiative which aims to create a bilateral co-operation network to prevent the illicit movement of nuclear materials and other radioactive isotopes that might be used for weapons of mass destruction. In this regard, an Interdepartmental Task Team will be set up to consider the implications of South Africa’s possible participation in the initiative. The Task Team will consist of the departments of Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs, National Intelligence Agency, Transport, Public Enterprises, and Science and Technology.

Cabinet wishes the Muslim community well during the month of Ramadan. We look forward to celebrating a well-deserved and happy Eid with our Muslim community at the end of the month.

The Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry distributed trees to all members of Cabinet to mark the beginning of Arbor Week, and she made a call for all South Africans to plant a tree and contribute towards greening the country. Cabinet endorsed the call for the planting of trees by all South Africans.

The following appointments were approved:

  • The following were appointed to the Boards and Councils of the under-mentioned Six Playhouses;
    • The State Theatre – Pretoria: Mr W Mosetlhi (Chairperson), Mr T Baloyi, Ms B D’Arrigo, Ms N Dyani, Ms P Klotz, Ms M Mogomotsi, Mr ZT Morabe, Mr KF Netshiombo and Mr TA Simelane.
    • The Market Theatre – Johannesburg: Ms S Mokone-Matabane (Chairperson), Ms N Cloete, Mr K Gumbi, Ms M Letoaba, Ms K Moroka, Ms N Ntanjana and Mr B Spector.
    • Performing Arts Centre of Free State (PACOFS) – Bloemfontein: Ms T Kgosidintsi (Chairperson), Ms S Brink, Mr N Luwes, Ms T Nogabe, Ms J Sapieka, Ms E Van Wyk and Mr MJ Vinger.
    • ArtsCape – Cape Town: Ms N Mthethwa (Chairperson), Mr NE Basson, Ms H Dudley, Mr B Figaji, Mr B Khan, Ms RB Swales, Ms L Mazwi-Tanga, Ms S Ngaba and Mr T Tshukudu.
    • Windybrow Centre for Arts – Johannesburg: Ms AM Makwetla (Chairperson), Mr M Dada, Ms M Letoaba, Mr M Molepo, Mr KB Motshabi, Mr B Snow and Ms E Loubser.
    • The Playhouse Company – Durban: Ms M Lesoma (Chairperson), Ms M Khoza, Mr R Mahmoud, Mr T Ngcobo, Mr J Shabalala, Ms T Shezi, Ms J Thabethe, Ms L Theron and Mr P Mnisi.
  • Mr E Godongwana, Mr G Cruywagen, Ms NH Maliza and Ms D Vallabh were appointed non-Executive Directors to the Board of Denel, for a three-year period.
  • Members of the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s (SEDA) Board were appointed:
    • Mr L Mngomezulu (Chairperson), till June 2009; and
    • the following Board members for a three-year period: Ms D Mokhobo (Deputy Chairperson), Ms P Lugayeni, Ms B Calvin, Ms F Mayimele-Hashatse, Mr D Thabaneng, Ms S Zinn and Ms N Galeni.

[End of statement].

- Questions and Answers -

Journalist: With the Sports Minister being asked to present a report to Cabinet if we have won more than one medal, is it as a result of our performance that they have asked for this report?

Themba Maseko: I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we only won one medal this Olympics, which was to the disappointment of many South Africans. This report will be aimed at identifying all the factors that could have contributed to the poor performance of our athletes at the Beijing Olympics.  

Journalist: Just a follow-up on whether the report on the Olympics will include looking at the Department’s capacity.

Themba Maseko: We need to look at all aspects that could have contributed to the performance of the team at the Olympics and if it emerges that the capacity of the Department needs to be enhanced, I am sure it is a matter that will be considered by Cabinet. No more questions in Pretoria? We will go down to Cape Town.  

Journalist: I think I am pretty covered, but could you please elaborate on what kind of reasons were put forward to Cabinet on the disappointing performance of the team and did they discuss any possibility that they will consult more with scientists next time?

Themba Maseko: This will not just be a political report, it will be a scientific, detailed report which will also go into the details about the training methods that we engage in as a country, because if you look at the performance of our athletes, it is very clear that they broke a lot of their records from the previous Olympics, but their performance has not been good enough compared to athletes from other parts of the world. So clearly there seems to be some shortcoming in the way in which we are preparing our athletes for Olympic Games. So we look at all other aspects and in fact if there are new training methods that we are not aware of as a country, that will go into the report to make sure that we use the next four years to prepare our athletes to make sure that they can perform better at the next Olympics.

Journalist: Themba, two issues. On JIPSA, Cabinet noted the progress on JIPSA.  Will we get some kind of public report on what JIPSA has actually achieved? And on the meeting with Chavez and oil agreement signed with PetroSA …can you tell us anything about whatever price structure was built into that, because President Chavez told OPEC that he thinks oil should never trade below $200. Are we getting a knock-down price, or are we committing to paying a particularly high price, is there anything built into that or will it just be market prices of the day?

Themba Maseko: My understanding is these were very broad agreements, I am not aware if they went into details of pricing, but if this is an issue of interest to the media we can get the relevant Department to do a proper briefing on that one. As far at the JIPSA report is concerned, yes, we are planning a publication which will give details on the achievements that have been made by JIPSA. So the Deputy President at some stage will authorise the publication of that report and we may explore the possibility of doing a media briefing to just give details on the progress that was made, because there are a lot of things that have been done extremely well by JIPSA.  A lot of lessons that have been learned, including the need for a much tighter and stronger partnership between the private sector and the public sector to make sure that all the educational programmes are totally aligned to the needs of the economy and the needs of the country in general, so we will arrange a special briefing for that  

Journalist: A couple of things. Was the Minister of Sport and Recreation given a hard time at the cabinet meeting? And secondly, I was wondering if you could give us a little more information on the Mega Ports Initiative.  Is it only to deal with nuclear matters? Does it have any other implications for South Africa?

Themba Maseko: Mike, starting with your second question, the Mega Ports Initiative, it is essentially an initiative to find ways of tightening security measures in all the ports in the country, but also in countries that are trading with the US. So obviously the US’s primary focus is on security-related issues about the materials that can be used for the production of weapons of mass destruction. But it is also including issues such as implementing or introducing a programme to improve the quality of all the security equipment that are used in the ports. The issue of scanner[s], the quality of scanners that need to be put in place, what sort of other additional security measures need to be implemented. So it is about the general security arrangements in our ports. So we think that if we participate in this initiative it will actually assist us in beefing up security in our ports.

Whether the Minister of Sports was given a tough time at the meeting - the matter was discussed. But as you are aware, the Minister of Sport is not an Olympian, so he did not participate in the Olympics, so there was no need to give him a tough time. But the issue is that the Department of Sport needs to work with sport authorities to identify weaknesses in our athletics programmes, be it training, be it support and be it the need to beef up sport programmes in schools and in communities. So it is basically saying what we need to do as a country. Obviously the key players in that regard, in our view, are the sport authorities with the support and policy directives of the Department of Sport. So in short, the Minister was definitely not given a tough time.

Journalist: Themba, just following up on your answer to Michael’s question on the Mega Ports. If South Africa does not sign up, would we be put at a disadvantage as we are on ordinary goods? If we don’t meet American standards for packing containers and all that, you then when you export into America get put in a much more difficult process to get your stuff into the country. Is this another step where America is going to set standard[s] for the rest of the world, and if you don’t play by America’s rules you can’t get your exports as easily into their ports and that kind of thing?

Themba Maseko: Well, the US government is basically introducing this initiative as a way of tightening security for goods that are coming to the US. So if you don’t participate in the initiative, chances are that you will have limited access to their ports. But at this stage, the way the initiative is structured, bilateral agreements are signed with each and every country and the benefit we see for this initiative for us. If we participate in this initiative it will actually assist us to beef up security in our ports. So the immediate benefit, we think, is actually to us as South Africans to make sure we have good quality security in our ports.  

Journalist: I wonder if we could just talk about the JIPSA thing again. It seems that everyone agrees it is a logical progression for JIPSA, but it doesn’t seem to be very well canvassed. Is there going to be some consultation process now, with those involved? The second thing – the one thing about the Deputy President’s housing initiative, is that the public-private dimension is very strong. Is there any way to make sure that that public-private dimension is not diluted?  

Themba Maseko: When the Human Resource Development Strategy for South Africa (HRDS-SA) was approved by the Cabinet lekgotla and subsequently by Cabinet, it was made very clear that all the lessons we learned from JIPSA be incorporated into the HRD strategy. So in the announcement of the HRD strategy, we did indicate that there will be extensive consultations with stakeholders. There will be conferences, there will be workshops and there will be structures to make sure that there is proper alignment between public and private sector. We believe that if we were to really make a dent in the skills shortage in the country, these partnerships are unavoidable. So all of those lessons will be incorporated, including partnership with industry. Whether there was proper canvassing of this approach – the thing about consultation is that you can never do enough consultation, but all the participants in JIPSA had been aware that government was developing and moving towards developing a macro human resource development strategy for the country.  A lot of the players have participated in the processes, so they were informed.  What could have happened is that maybe there wasn’t proper communication about the transition in JIPSA to the HRDS-SA approach, so we will be going back to all the stakeholders to explain what we are talking about. Part of the difficulties is that when this condition was explained by the Presidency in Parliament, the impression was created that in fact JIPSA was going to come to an end, and immediately was a failure. So it is basically a function of miscommunication more than anything. But there is a commitment to work with all the stakeholders.

Journalist: Is it just coincidental, history repeating itself, that just before the elections we have another oil deal going down, and has it been pre-agreed how much it is going to fund the ANC election campaign?  

Themba Maseko: I am sure I don’t have to answer that question. There is no relation at all between a bilateral relationship between an oil-producing country and South Africa. We sign bilateral (agreements) and interact with other countries throughout the term of any government, so it is probably a coincidence in this case that there is an election coming here. This is an arrangement between government and the Venezuelan government. There is no participation by any other stakeholder, including the ruling party. So you can rest assured that this is a deal between two governments for the benefit of South Africans, and nothing else.

Journalist: Is there any connection between what is happening with JIPSA and the perceived future of the Deputy President? I say that because she has been leading it.

Themba Maseko: Absolutely not.  The Cabinet view is that the HRD strategy needs to be located within a Ministry whose responsibility it is to manage human resource development. Historically it is a function that has been located between the Department of Labour and Education, but the view is now that the function now needs to be correctly located with the Minister of Education being the lead player. During the JIPSA process, the initial objective was to just establish a strong partnership between government and the private sector, and that was achieved extremely well. So we do believe we need to move to another level, which is to actually incorporate JIPSA into a macro human resource development strategy. So it has nothing to do with the role of a person in the Deputy President’s office.  

Journalist: My questions follow on the JIPSA questions. How are you planning, in terms of the human resource development strategy, how much more different is it going to be from JIPSA and how are you ensuring that people in office like Home Affairs are aware of the national skills list, because I have heard of people who said they have the skills, but they are having problems in terms of it being implemented in terms of Home Affairs.  

Themba Maseko: You have to remember that JIPSA was focusing quite narrowly on the issue of scarce skills. So that was the primary focus of JIPSA, and one of the initiatives of JIPSA was to identify the blockages to us getting skills from other countries.  The matter was taken to Parliament as a result of the recommendation of JIPSA, and there was a policy change. Home Affairs was then instructed to loosen up their requirements for importation of skills to the country, so regulations were changed, so it was made easier to import skills from other countries. Unfortunately there has not been such a huge take-up of those skills.

We have invited all companies that require skills, all departments that require skills to just make contact with Home Affairs, and those skills would be allowed to come into the country in a much quicker process. But the take-up I am told is only around 1500 requests from companies when in fact we have opened up the gates and said we will allow up to 30 000 people to come and work. But in terms of the HRD strategy, it is much bigger than scarce skills. It is saying what is it we need to do to improve the teaching and training of youngsters, the improvement of teaching of maths and science, the training and development of teachers, incorporating the need for other basic education.  So it is looking at the whole spectrum of training and development.   Can we take final round of questions?  I am told the Minister is here.  I saw somebody from DTI.  He is on his way.  

Journalist: Did Cabinet say that all the displaced people who don’t re-integrate by the time the camps close because their communities are still too dangerous, did they say that those displaced people will be deported? Or what will be done about them?  

Themba Maseko: Let us just clarify the issue of the people who were displaced. The number of people who were in these shelters are people with documentation. So those people are not going to be deported, they are here in the country legally. So the issue is to work with communities, work with religious bodies, work with community organisations, to make sure that they are either reintegrated in communities where they were staying before the violence erupted, or alternative community or they go to alternative accommodation places around the country. The issue of deportation will only apply to those displaced who were in the country illegally. Remember there was a special dispensation that said all those people who were in the shelters would not be deported during the period where we are seeking to re-integrate them back into communities. Special permits were given to those people, to give them enough time to sort out their documentation. If at the end of this period there are people still in the country without documentation, yes, the normal process of deportation will kick in.  

Journalist: I wonder if you could employ the skills of your department to devise a better acronym for the Human Resource Development Strategy.  HRDS-SA doesn’t trip off the tongue.  

Themba Maseko: We will look at that. It is something that was approved by the social and economy cluster, but if there is a way of coming up with a much more sexier name, we will consider it.  

Journalist: I was just wondering. The Education Department is battling as it is to do its core function of educating and schooling people in universities and schools.  I’m only wondering if there is any concern that adding a substantial new wing to its functions is a good idea and if there are concerns around that? Is it going to be a pre-curser to the education department splitting in two, with two Ministers looking after it?  

Themba Maseko: No, unfortunately it is not for this government to comment on that one. The HRD strategy is basically a way of re-looking at how education and training is provided. So it is looking at the existing model of proving education and training to communities, looking at the way schools are operating. For instance, a large chunk of the education system is the schooling system, and that system is implemented by provincial government, so there would not be a need to increase capacity of the national department. The national department is responsible for further and higher education and we believe capacity exist there to improve the way in which the further and higher education system[s] are managed. However, if the new government after elections is of the view that in order to implement the strategy more effectively we might have to split the departments, it will be the decision of the new government.  But at this stage, the view of this government is that the current structure is sufficient to fulfil this mandate.  
Journalist: Just a quick follow up, Themba, did you say the HRD is a review of the entire education schooling system? Does that mean they would look again at outcomes-based education and all of that? Is this a grassroots review of the whole system?

Themba Maseko: It is not a review, it is basically a way of saying as we provide these kinds of services, and this is the overall framework within which everything that is happening needs to take place. So for instance, as far as the schooling system is concerned, what the HRD strategy talks about is the need to enhance the teaching of maths and science in schools, so what sort of additional training programmes need to be put in place to enhance the capacity of our educators to provide much better education and training to our youngsters. It is saying if you want to make sure that there is a dynamic link between what the further education system is providing, it is linked to the needs of industry. So your technical colleges, whatever they are teaching at the institutions, must be directly linked to the requirements and needs of industry.  So it is that kind of broader alignment that needs to take place in the system. So the overall strategy says as we do all these things, this is the overall goal. Okay, is the Minister (of Trade and Industry) here? Let’s take a final question.  

Journalist: Again, is it just coincidental that, you said the education department, the education Ministry is going to be heading this HRD programme, which sounds like it is going to be education at the top, but filtering down to industry policy at the bottom with skills and everything, and that Blade Nzimande is largely touted to be the new Education Minister?  

Themba Maseko: No, that is serous speculation. I cannot comment on that, on who is going to be the next Education Minister. I don’t think anybody knows at this stage. But yes, the lead Ministry is Education, and I can assure you it has nothing to do with who is the current or future minister of that department. I can assure you of that. Let’s take a few minutes break. The Minister (of Trade and Industry) wants to do a PowerPoint presentation, so we will take a few minutes break. Thank you very much, members of the media.


Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)