Transcript: Post-Cabinet media briefing

7 August 2008

Date: Thursday, 7 August 2008
Venue: Room 153, Union Buildings, Pretoria
Time: 10:00

Themba Maseko (CEO of Government Communications): Firstly, welcome two members of Cabinet, Minister of Communication, Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri and Deputy Minister of Education Enver Surty. They'll be doing a presentation on the two issues that will be covered in my statement here.

- (Statement read by Themba Maseko) -

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Tshwane yesterday, 6 August 2008.

The meeting received a progress report on the "Kha ri gude" (Let us learn) mass literacy campaign. Government will spend R6,1 billion over five-years to enable 4,7 million South Africans to achieve literacy by 2012. Progress thus far includes the enrolment of 360 000 learners, recruitment and training of 24 000 volunteer educators, 2 800 supervisors and 150 co-ordinators. The Deputy Minister of Education will join me to elaborate further on the achievements of the campaign.

The meeting noted that preparations for the launch of the 'War on Poverty' campaign were at an advanced stage. The Deputy President will launch the campaign in the Xhariep District in the Free State. The Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) on rising food prices, also tabled a progress report on possible interventions to mitigate the impact of the rising prices.

Short-term interventions considered by the IMC include:

  • the possible expansion of the school feeding scheme to reach more learners;
  • increasing the value of starter packs;
  • increasing the number of households receiving starter packs from 70 000 to 140 000; and
  • the possible increase and extension of social grants.

The IMC will table concrete proposals to the Ministers' Budget Committee to determine the cost implications of the proposed interventions.

The meeting noted that existing government interventions are already reaching millions of people in need of a social net. For instance, over 12 million people are receiving social grants, while expenditure on social assistance will be over R75,3 billion by 2009.

One of the key challenges is to ensure that that (those) in need can access the available government services, and for government to ensure that its support is better co-ordinated and organised to reach those in need on an ongoing basis.

The rising food prices also present a window for the development of a vibrant and sustainable agricultural programme to meet the country's food requirements and to make South Africa a net exporter of food. The medium- to long-term strategies to deal with rising food prices include measures to increase the country's food production capabilities through, inter alia:

  • support and strengthening of small and emerging farmers and co-operatives;
  • development of agricultural trade and tariff policies;
  • enhancing freight rail infrastructure to support the movement of agricultural products;
  • implementation of the Llima/Letsema campaign; and
  • the creation of food gardens by communities and households.

These are some of the measures needed to increase food-production and strengthen the value chain, with a view to reducing reliance on food imports.

Cabinet also clarified the role of the proposed National Food Control Agency that was announced by President Thabo Mbeki at the post-Lekgotla media briefing. This Agency will not regulate food prices. It will deal with issues such as strengthening the agro-processing industry, food safety, sanitary and phyto-sanitary certification, and promotion of industry exports. The legislative framework will be finalised by the end of March 2009, after consultation with the relevant stakeholders. The name of the agency may have to be re-considered as it is (a) complete misnomer.

The Digital Migration Policy for South Africa was approved. This policy provides a framework for South Africa to migrate from analogue to digital broadcasting. The digital signal will be switched on at the beginning of November 2008 and the analogue signal will be switched off in November 2011.

The meeting noted that the technical specifications for the digital terrestrial Set-Top-Boxes (STBs) have been developed and submitted to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) for finalisation. In addition to receiving the digital signal, the set-top boxes will be designed to enable the delivery of e-government services directly to the citizens. The Department of Communications will develop a strategy for the disposal of existing television sets in preparation for the analogue switch-off.

The Scheme-for-Ownership-Support (SOS) of the set-top boxes for poor households, was approved. In terms of the proposed scheme, government would provide a 70% incentive for the set-top-box to the five million poorest TV-owning households, at a cost of R2,45 billion during the three years' of dual illumination.

The Minister of Communications is here to elaborate further on these initiatives.

The theme for this year's Women's Day celebration is "Business Unusual: All power to women". President Thabo Mbeki will lead the country in celebrating women's achievements when he addresses the national event which will takes place on 9 August 2008, at Ga Motlatla Village in the North West province.

The meeting noted that the deadline for the closure of shelters for the displaced foreign nationals was approaching and that the two provinces that have the shelters, viz. Gauteng and the Western Cape, were making progress in implementing the re-integration policy. Although some challenges are being experienced in this regard, we remain optimistic that re-integration will succeed. Government takes the opportunity to thank communities for welcoming back the victims of the xenophobic violence, and appeals once again to all communities, civil society, and community and religious organisations to work with government to achieve the goal of re-integration. In the Western Cape province, about 4 000 of the original 20 000 displaced persons remain in the shelters and in the Gauteng province, the number is plus/minus 3 000 out of the original 9 000, (who) are still in the shelters.

The meeting approved the proposal to retain 22 402 hectares (ha) of the original 44 763 ha of plantation forest that was destined for exit, and conversion to other land uses in the Western Cape province (Boland and Southern Cape). This retention will make this land available for forestry purposes to address the shortage of timber supply in the country. The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) will develop a model to ensure that forestry contributes to socio-economic development in the Western Cape.

South Africa will host the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit of Heads of State and Government from 16 to 17 August 2008. During the Summit, South Africa will assume the position of Chair of the Community. Government welcomes the opportunity to assume the Chair of SADC as it gives us the opportunity to play a key role in the strengthening of regional socio-economic and political integration. One of the key highlights of this Summit will be the launch of the Free Trade Area (FTA), which will be a stepping stone towards a SADC common market.

Cabinet took the opportunity to wish Team South Africa success in their search for gold medals as they represent the country at the Beijing Olympics. A total of 131 athletes will participate in 19 sports codes at the games. These Olympics also present an opportunity to profile our readiness to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup and for this reason, a number of exhibitions, cultural performances and media events will be held in China to showcase our country and its readiness to welcome the world in 2010.

Cabinet also congratulated the Proteas for the spectacular series win against England last week. Once again, our team demonstrated that South African sportsmen and women are indeed amongst the best in the world.

The hosting of the 2009 Committee Meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministers responsible for Employment and Labour and Social Partners, was approved. The meeting will take place in February 2009, in Cape Town.

The following appointments were approved:

  • The following were appointed to the Board of the State Information and Technology Agency (SITA):
    • Ms Zodwa Manase (re-appointed as Chairperson);
    • Ms Dhevcharran;
    • Mr CCW Kruger;
    • Mr G Rothschild (new); and
    • Ms A van der Merwe (new).
  • Mr ME Nhlapo was appointed Deputy Director-General for the National Commission on Information Society and Development (ISAD), in the Department of Communications.
  • Mr C Hickling (Chairperson), Dr Y Muthien and Mr T Mashigo were appointed as non-Executive Directors to the Board of Sentech. Dr L Konar and Mr T Leeuw were re-appointed as non-Executive Directors to the Board.
  • Ms T Dingaan, Ms TT Ngcobo and Mr HC du Toit were appointed to the Board of the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa Limited (ECIC). Ms AJ Lapan's term in the Board was extended for a one-year period.

- (End of statement) -

- Questions and answers -

Journalist: I wondered if you could tell me what kind of animal the free trade area is going to be, what it's expected to do, what it will do, what are the bones of it and some of the flesh. Oh, and one small question, what does Kha Ri Gude mean? I know what it means, but what language is it in?

Themba Maseko: Initially I thought it was Venda but I've just been corrected. It's Pedi. Oh, I've just been corrected again, by the Deputy Minister of Education, it is Venda indeed. The Free Trade Area, the economic cluster will do a special briefing to elaborate further on the free trade agreement, but essentially the free trade area will create easy movement of goods and trade between the countries in the SADC region, so it will look at issues of customs union, the fees that are being paid and the distribution of revenue, generated by the custom… the free trade area between the various countries in the SADC region. But the details will be explained further when we do a special briefing on that one.

Journalist: When will that be?

Themba Maseko: The briefing will take place on Monday.

Journalist: With the Free Trade Agreement, how does that affect Zimbabwe first of all, and was Cabinet given a briefing on developments in Zimbabwe? And thirdly, did Cabinet discuss the latest allegations against the President which people tried to put out the flames yesterday?

Themba Maseko: The free trade agreement will affect all countries in the SADC region including Zimbabwe, and as far as I'm aware Zimbabwe is going to be participating as a full member of SADC. The meeting was indeed briefed about the progress that is taking place but as we indicated previously, government as the mediator will not be giving any details about the details of those talks, except to say that they're progressing extremely well at this stage. Allegations made against the President by one of the newspapers - the matter was discussed very briefly, but the ministers did a briefing of what steps will be taken in that regard.

Journalist: Also - it's relating to the allegations against President Mbeki - the court case of the ANC president Jacob Zuma this week, was this discussed in Cabinet? I'm referring especially to the new allegations - the new threats by his supporters to make the country ungovernable should he not succeed in court. Is this a concern to Cabinet and was this discussed?

Themba Maseko: Well, the case and statements made by the president of the ruling party and some of the speakers outside the court were not discussed specifically, except to say that as government we are extremely concerned about a lot of the statements being made, particularly against the judiciary, which basically seems to be suggesting that our judiciary is not independent. Our concern is just to make sure that as people express their views on a lot of issues, in the country we retain the integrity of our institutions intact, because Cabinet is of the view that if we begin to do things and say things and behave in a manner that suggests that we do not respect the integrity of our constitutional structures, that could actually send a very wrong signal to our citizens and therefore it becomes important for all of us in government and outside government to make sure that we say and conduct ourselves in a manner that does not necessarily lead to the undermining of our constitutional structures. So the integrity of our institutions needs to remain intact despite the many debates that are taking place in the country.

Journalist: On that note, will anybody from the Cabinet or The Presidency be engaging the ANC on these matters? - because whatever you might say the statements seem to be getting more vicious by the day.

Themba Maseko: Look, let me just draw your attention to the statements made by the Human Rights Commission which is basically alerting the country to be aware that we are entering an election phase where a lot of statements will be made, but at the same time having said that, we are of the view as government that it's absolutely essential that we retain the integrity and reputation of our constitutional structures, because those are pillars on which our democracy rests, and as far as I'm aware there is interaction and regular contact between government and the ruling party to make sure that all issues of concern are discussed by the ruling party and government, and those processes in my view will continue.

Journalist: I'd like to just pose a question to the Communications Minister please. Apart from the set top boxes, what else does the migration policy deal with?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Good morning everyone. Well, as already announced we're happy that the Cabinet approved this policy. It's a policy that provides a framework for us to migrate from the analogue to digital. Cabinet approved also the manufacturing of the set-top boxes and also provision of these boxes as a tool for bridging the digital divide. Cabinet also approved the technical specifications; those are special specifications that we demanded for us as government to be able to use to reach people but also for people to reach us. The process of converting the signal from analogue to digital is made necessary by the developments in telecommunications technologies which enable a more efficient use of radio frequency spectrum, as well as better quality pictures as well as sound. So this is the… the framework we have then set out in this policy allows us to do a number of these things.

The benefits of the digital migration is considered for us as part of our developmental agenda and setting the priorities that we have set for ourselves in order to really begin e-government services for all citizens, especially those who had a limited or low access. It also provides then, for the development of local content or creative industries, development of the electronics industries, job creation, social cohesion and national identity, and serving the needs of persons with disabilities, as well as universal access in terms of upgrading of our broadcasting infrastructure, as most of the spectrum will be freed by the digital transmission. So digital broadcasting also enables the provision of services in a multiplicity of languages, because as you know when you have analogue you cannot have many languages on these frequencies. So this way we are able to increase access to information in indigenous languages which is very essential in giving information that will help us to meet the essentials to reduce poverty in our country.

The set-top boxes that we have as a tool to bridge the digital divide, convert the digital signal into analogue. Most people will have television sets that are in analogue. So the boxes convert the digital signal into the analogue to get into the television. But at the same time there'll be remote controls' possibilities for people to be able to view whatever programs are coming. For example, if you have students who would want to look at education programs, they would say what is relevant for me because I'm not a high school student, or I'm not a primary school student. So it will be able the boxes will be able to give such information back to people. It will also help us to be able to have people fill in forms that are necessary for them to transmit to government. So that facility in the set-top box will now be able to bring things that would have demanded that people must travel long distances to be able to do, and so on. And this called the return-path capability; it's a feature within the set top box. And this enables the public to be able to send messages back.

Then what we said was also to develop a scheme for ownership support for poor households. Many poor households may not be able to afford the set-top boxes and therefore about we have allowed for (probably to use) an incentive for people to make sure that they can buy the set-top boxes, that for those households that they would not pay for the whole cost of the box but perhaps we can cover them up to about 70% but they would have to raise the 30% on their own. This support will be based on an anti-poverty strategy as well the conditionality that that anti-poverty strategy sets. So funding for this support we need to source from somewhere and we are also looking at the universal service and access fund as a possible way in which we can fund this.

What the production of the set-top boxes does for South Africa, because they will be manufactured in South Africa, is that it will help boost the development of the local electronics manufacturing sector because they'll be manufactured in high volumes. And the potential of 5,6 million per year of these set-top boxes when they're running in full capacity. And this creates an opportunity to build a globally-competitive sector which is an objective of our industrial policy action plan. It will spur job creation resulting from total digital migration value chain, for example the installation of the boxes, the repairs or the and so on, of these boxes, but also the selling of these boxes. So this is the advantages that we have. Now I'd have to go back to the question that I was asked and I forgot what the question was.

Journalist: Sorry, I just wanted to find out what other things the policy covers apart from set-top boxes? What else is included in that framework?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Well, the framework says how we must actually use better use the the frequencies that we have, and also suggests that with regards to issues of high-definition television that will obviously come onboard, how this should be done, and a specific policy with regard to DVBH should also then be issued so that we can have that happen. The other things that I have mentioned already in my speech are also included in the migration policy.

Journalist: Just a couple of questions - the three-year or so timeline for migration from analogue to digital is probably the smallest and most optimistic in the world. If we look at some of the problems that very developed economies have had in terms of migration from analogue to digital, what makes you confident that we're going to get it right here in South Africa? Why the rush? Why the three-year timeframe? Even the United States and the United Kingdom (UK) have given up to seven years.

And then quickly a second question, the obvious one, how many extra channels are South Africans going to get through these set-top boxes?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Well, first of all, let us take the question of why did we rush. During the migration there has to be… there has to be signal, both the analogue as well as the digital must run together. So you really pay twice, the costs are double. The longer you do this the longer you then have to fund that dual-illumination period. And we decided it would be cheaper for us as a country to go the shorter route, because if you go to the shorter route then you don't pay so much money over a very long period.

But secondly that it gives is the opportunity to do what in many other countries was not necessarily the policy perspective, of saying access. We have access to a very limited number of South Africans, which was not the case in England, in the United States and elsewhere. If we want to make sure that our access to the rest of the South Africans that have been excluded comes on faster and bridges the digital divide. It is better than to use this opportunity of migration to be able to do the things that I have mentioned, and this is where the set-top box manufacturing… because we realise we can't expect people to be buying digital television, but if at all we can have the set-top box that can actually change the digital signal into an analogue signal for the current televisions, then we do this process much faster. But also get people as I say to get into the newer technologies and be able to use them.

Journalist: Conditional access and if the issue was resolved?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Well, there'll be several channels that are free. For example, the SABC channel one will be able to run four more in other words four other channels - up to eight other channels could run just on what was on the analogue signal of SABC One, which would then as you say, all the stuff that SABC is doing now on three or four different channels would actually now be covered in just one and plus other things.

Perhaps if I could just give an indication of what some of those… for example, we said we wanted to do education and maybe have a channel for education. You'd be able to put an extra channel on that same spectrum, an extra channel for education, an extra channel for health, an extra channel for small, medium enterprises, etcetera. So several as I say. Let's say you wanted to have a youth channel, you could all run youth, education, health, government, small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) in addition to the SABC channels. And then of course when you take for example the channel that I mean, the spectrum that would have been used by, that itself could then be used, for example broadband, wi-max and things like that. So it really does free us up to do quite a number of things.

Journalist: One, I need clarification: here it says that the Department of Communications (DoC) will develop a strategy for the disposal of existing television sets, I wasn't aware that TV sets would have to be disposed. I thought, you know, a set-top box you just add it on so that it enables you to receive content digitally, that's one.

And also why does it say up to 70% and not exactly 70%?

And secondly… and thirdly, it says five million poorest of South Africans, how was that figure derived at?

And also what happens if people can't afford to pay the outstanding figure of the 30%?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Okay, the television sets, when I read it this morning I thought, you know, this gives some confusion. We have to think ahead. At some stage in the future the analogue television sets that people have may - many of you might know that you have had television sets for many, many years. When they grow old and can no longer be repaired or something like that they have to be disposed of. So we have to start thinking now already, about what it is that must happen with those television sets. So we have to work with the Department of Environmental Affairs to make sure that that getting rid of old televisions which probably might now happen, where people say if I have to buy a new television I may just as well get rid of this one. So we should anticipate that. And that is what we are planning for. You don't need… if your television is working you don't need to get rid of it now, not at all. The boxes will work on the television sets that you currently have, so there must be no confusion about those two. I hope that answers your first question.

Well, yes, because we have to work out in details now with the department of Treasury as well as the other departments in the economic cluster, what is going to be exactly the support that we can give people. Now some people may be poor but can afford 500 (rand). Some people may be poor and can afford 300. Others may afford 700 or whatever it is. So we have to look at (this) and we say up to about 700 (rand), and the conditionality we have looked at what is in the anti-poverty strategy that moves away already from saying we give every poor household something but we get nothing in return.

So for example, when a poor household has for example a person who is working but working for money that is less, children, what is it that we demand for example. Let me just give you one example. Our concern has been as we give child grants we are not asking that the child for whom you are getting (a) grant must be in school.

So those are some of the conditionality that the anti-poverty strategy is beginning to work at. To say there must be something that people then can do or can actually be expected to do from their side, to ensure that certain things can happen. So that it is not just giving free, because we eventually have to make sure that poor households move out of poverty, because we cannot perpetually keep them in a state of poverty and just say we will give them grants.

What is it that is going to be done? So this strategy will be combined with that strategy to say how we will then give set-top boxes to the poorest of the poor so that the others who can afford to buy or can afford to be… I mean, can afford to be assisted at less money than others, can be done.

Journalist: Minister, has the tender been awarded for the production of the set-top boxes and if so, to whom?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Well, one of the reasons that we also took a… you know, was a much greater delay in coming out with this policy was because we wanted to make sure that there are two main… two or three main companies that manufacture set-top boxes. Emerging set-top manufacturers.

And what we did was to have a dialogue between all the set-top box manufacturers, so that there is a common standard that was then set so that once that standard is set specifically for South Africa, then everyone who then manufactures, manufactures according to that. And of course when you have to get industry together it takes a little longer, but we've gotten the consensus of everybody. There are… as I say… seven or eight companies that will be manufacturing.

So there's no question of having to say the tender will be awarded. That specification has been given now to the SA… the Bureau of Standards. And every box that will be sold in South Africa will have to be sold according to that standard.

Journalist: How much will Sentech be getting when this migration is working?

And how much did it cost government as a whole - not the subsidies - government as a whole, in migrating from analogue to digital?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: I'm not so sure I'll be able to work out all the figures. Let me take an example to give you. Sentech has already been getting money over the years and I can't be expected to remember how much money there has been but it's in the public eye.

Sentech has already been given money for (the) last three or four years already, to move to digital terrestrial television. SABC was also given money to be able to change its equipment over the last couple of years, I think it's about three or four years already. So if you want me to make a totality of that I don't think I'll be able to do it immediately. But that process is going to continue.

Sentech - when you talk about them freeing some of the spectrum, that we have also put our policy for Sentech to be the broadband wireless provider for particularly our government institutions, starting off with focus areas around the Dinaledi schools, was in that context. And the funding for Sentech for that, the first 500 million (rand), is the one that we said had been given to Sentech already.

But that is likely to cost anywhere up to three billion (rand) to be able to get into all the schools in the country. But we are starting first with the Dinaledi schools. But the Dinaledi schools are just the focal point.

Within that area in which you'll have this wireless broadband we are also looking at what Post Office will be there, that would be able to get services online. What clinics are there which will therefore come online? What e-government office or multipurpose or Thusong centres are in those areas? What Home Affairs offices are in those areas, libraries in those areas etcetera, to make sure that we will maximise the use of that wireless broadband within those areas.

The most disadvantaged areas of course, are the ones that have our greatest attention, because they have traditionally sort of been excluded because of the expense, and that is why we thought it would be better to make sure that the coverage, the topography, has been done to see what schools are surrounded by what kind of other institutions etcetera, that has been done.

Themba Maseko: Okay, friends, just to announce that the Minister and the department will do a further briefing on the migration policy on Monday. So we'll just take the final round from Cape Town of questions to the Minister, and then move onto the mass literacy campaign. Cape Town?

Journalist: Just when we will see the first production set-top boxes appearing for the public and have any prototypes been developed?

And then secondly, have any prototypes been developed of these set-top boxes?

And then the issue of conditional access has that been resolved with the broadcasters and the manufacturers? In other words people have to do certain things to get conditional access or else they'll be cut off from the broadcast? Thank you.

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: I'm not so sure I understand the question around conditional access. If in 2011 you do not have a set-top box, we cut you off, we've warned you three years' ahead of time. So I'm not so sure what the conditional access would then be. If you have a set-top box, you will not get cut off in 2011, but if you don't have a set-top box in 2011 then you will not be able to access because by then the signal will only be digital, there won't be any analogue signal anymore. I hope that answers the conditional…

Journalist: Maybe I should rephrase the question. Conditional access, for instance if somebody hasn't paid their SABC license fee then the SABC can remotely turn off their set top box such as MNet does with their pay TV service.

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: I'll have to look into… I'm not so sure that we would have asked the SABC to do that and what relation it would have. But it is a matter that I can check on.

Oh, the production is… there is already as I say worked with the Bureau of Standards the conditions under which those set-top boxes will be produced and what they should be like. So in a sense that prototype as to what must come out, is something that has been decided on, so you will not get a set-top box which goes outside of the specifications that we have set.

Journalist: is there any indication how much one of these set top boxes will cost so that we can start saving? Thanks.

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Well, I'm not so sure what the value of your rand will be then. But hopefully if it is coming down or going up as it is now, we have estimated it was going to be anything from 400 (rand) to about seven… we started off with the 400 (rand) and as we added all these other specifications onto the standards it is likely to up to about 700 (rand).

Journalist: I see MNet is already advertising high-definition TV to begin this month. What's the relationship between high-definition television and the digital signal? How can we… what is the relationship? Can you have one without the other; can you have the other without one?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Well, MNet is working on a digital platform already. So when it goes high-definition, the high-definition has to deal with the quality of the picture that you receive, and that quality will definitely be much better than the quality that you receive on current television sets. So what it will do is that the picture quality and intensity will be much, much better under digital. So because many of MNet's people are already as you say, having a digital platform from where they can.. it means when they - because they use satellite - the likelihood is that… but we must make a distinction between for example, sometimes we see people have LCDs - flat screens - and everyone is just.. it doesn't necessarily mean it is digital. You have to check as to whether it is indeed a digital TV. So… but as I say, when the TV is digital it means the set itself has been already set to receive the digital. But the digital transmission then as I say makes, as I say, the use of your spectrum better, but the quality of your programs also becomes better.

Journalist: Thanks, can I just have clarification on just two things and just one last question. My colleague here asked you about the tender and you mentioned seven to eight companies. What does that mean? Are seven to eight companies to produce a prototype before you decide on one manufacturer, or will you have seven to eight local manufacturers?
That's one.

And on the issue of digital broadcasting, will that also cover the issue of mobile television which is where Multichoice wants to move into, and if so is it true that you… ICASA or you are looking into just awarding one licence for that? And to Sentech, that is?

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Okay, let me take the first question. There're about eight companies now, they are known to most of you I suppose. Altech, RC&C, Sabi Tech [ph], they'll all be producing these and there'll be new players.

What we want to do is to make sure the new players are not kept outside in the cold if they also wish to come on. So it is not one company, it will be all of these companies that are currently there, but also new players that want to come into the picture.

DVBA is one of the things that I didn't mention earlier on. What moving to digital… I mean, doing the migration also allows us now to be able to go transmission, not only on fixed television but also on mobile, so you can have it on buses, you can have it in cars, and you can have it on hand-held devices etcetera. So that is one of the advantages of going digital, is how you'll be able to use your spectrum in this particular…

Journalist: ICASA (Unclear).

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: Yes, we are developing the policy. We had to make sure that we do not have differences between ourselves and ICASA and therefore had to ask ICASA what would be your expectations to come from the policy, and the way we construct it in terms of also… and remember that we have under certain laws under the Electronic Communications Act certain specifications. But if you look at the issues under the broadcasting act which deal also with cross-ownership, in other words we cannot have one part of our law contradicted by another part of the law. So we must make sure that the policies we produce or the directives we give make sure that these two things have been taken into consideration.

Journalist: Licence (unclear)

Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri: No, we are not giving… looking into giving one licence only.

Themba Maseko: We now move to Deputy Minister of Education on the literacy campaign.

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: Thanks, Themba. Well, good morning. Indeed this is an exciting announcement. What we, what Cabinet has approved yesterday, had actually started some time ago in 2007 already. Cabinet had allocated 20 million rands for the preparatory work for the mass literacy campaign.

The intention of the mass literacy campaign is to halve illiteracy - in other words there are functionally-illiterate and illiterate persons in our country, and there're more than nine million of them, but to halve it by 2012 in terms of the millennium development goals. So the process had started in 2007 (and) this year saw the beginning of the pilot. The target population was 300 000.

We… because of the massive interest and certainly we would like to thank the media, both electronic and print media, for really highlighting the importance of this particular endeavour. We were overwhelmed by the great interest that was shown throughout the country and we have 360 000 adults who have joined the programme. The programme has already commenced in April this year - has started already. Co-ordinators have been appointed.

W e have original, high-class, world-class materials. And this is just perhaps an indication of the quality of the materials. We have a book on numeracy, we have books in all 11 languages, and perhaps the first in the world: we have literacy and numeracy in Braille for those that are visually-impaired. We have literacy and numeracy for the deaf.

About 8%… slightly more indeed, of the cohort of learners already in this year are disabled persons. Particular attention has been given to this.

What this has also done (is), it's provided (an) opportunity for many youth to, by virtue of their volunteerism, receive a stipend of more than 1 200 rands for doing this service. And youth are really participating in a very big way. Women are also participating in all areas. What make this unique is that the adults do not have to come to a particular venue; the campaign goes to the different venues. So in the churches, in the homes, at schools, at the workplace, in shacks, in correctional facilities, literacy is taking place.

And we're certainly delighted with the huge interest that has been shown, the organisation of this, and more particularly we've dealt with this in a very integrated way to ensure that all departments coordinate with the Department of Education, that we monitor and evaluate the impact of this campaign, because it's not only about numbers, it's qualitatively what do you do. And therefore we have a special assessment book to be completed by the learner to ensure that she or he understands or is able to measure their progress, and (the assessment) is also evidence of the progress. So all learners will indeed be assessed.

UNESCO has taken great interest in this endeavour in terms of the quality of the materials as well as the program, and would like to be part of the external assessment of this particular process.

So as we speak right now, there're 24 000 volunteer educators that are in the field across the country. There are 2 800 supervisors. There are 150 co-ordinators - in other words who co-ordinate the supervisors. All the books have been published in the 11 indigenous languages, so that is 'mother tongue' teaching. But because of the functionality of English, there is an additional book on simple English. So that whilst you may learn through an indigenous 'mother tongue' language, you would also have the opportunity to develop skills in English for communication.

The content of the book and the material really contributes to civic knowledge, ability to complete forms, matters that relate to the life experiences of the people. What is also interesting and what is controlled in this environment is that you do not have more than 15 learners to an educator - because they require particular attention.

From the results, from the visits that we've made and the results that we've seen, it's quite remarkable, firstly the enthusiasm and passion with which this has been received by the adult population, and secondly the effectiveness of the learning material, and the enthusiasm and the commitment of the educators to contribute to this massive campaign. So certainly it is very, very exciting, I don't want to elaborate on the finer details, but you are at liberty to ask whatever questions you feel appropriate. Thank you very much.

Journalist: But how long does it take somebody to become functionally literate during this course? Is this like a rough time period?

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: Well, you know, it could occur over three months, a period of three to four months, depending on the ability. Because the abilities… the cognitive abilities of various learners vary. But it could occur within two months, but we generally say that optimally, maximum would be six months for a person to be functionally literate and numerate, to be able to read through.

But we've seen… we've had good examples of people who within a month have been able to read, to be able to count, to be able to write, and to do so with comprehension, and it's quite remarkable. So really the learner will have to be motivated.

But what we do is we assess them, we ensure that the attendance is very, very regular. I think the approach is very, very professional. We're not paying attention to numbers enrolling, I think it's the qualitative difference we could make in the lives of the people and that is why the element of monitoring and evaluation and assessment becomes very, very critical, and we've invited… in fact we invite the media to say we'll provide you with the sites, you visit the sites and see if indeed what we are saying is actually happening on the ground. I think you'll be quite excited about this experience. We indeed were when we visited the various sites.

Journalist: Isn't it coming late or rather maybe the question should be why is it coming late, after '94, when we all know that many South Africans are illiterate or were disadvantaged?

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: Well, indeed, you know certainly we should have started much earlier, you know, and we must apologise for having started a little later. Although there was an initiative at an earlier stage, and I think we've learnt from the lessons of the past, that the way it was managed, the quality of the products, the lack of monitoring and evaluation and assessment of the progress of the learners, meant that whilst such programs have existed in the past they were not as effective.

In fact as we speak right now there's a wonderful initiative in KwaZulu-Natal, and we don't feel that it should be excluded from what we're doing, in fact we're working quite collaboratively in terms of ensuring that we reach as many people as possible because it is really to give everybody an opportunity, and well, you know, we're going to intensify and we hope by 2015 that South Africa would have no illiterate or functionally-illiterate people.

So up to 2012 (the goal) is to halve the illiteracy, and we don't want to talk about saying intensifying it when we can't possibly do it. We must have the capacity and the ability to do it, and to do it well. And that is why we're phasing our programme. Next year for example, we're looking at a target of slightly above 1.2 million, given the fact that we have the infrastructure, we have the database, we have the co-ordinators, the educators, the volunteers all in place, and this huge, enormous, massive enthusiasm amongst adult learners.

Journalist: I wonder if you could please give us an idea of the number of the estimate… estimated number of people who are literate in the country, thank you.

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: Slightly more than nine million illiterate and functionally- illiterate. You could actually say 9,4 I think, that would be in that vicinity there, million.

Journalist: Illiterate or…

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: Illiterate… illiterate or functionally illiterate.

Themba Maseko: Okay, Deputy Minister, thank you very much.

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: I have a video clip of this as well. You see this old man, he's over 70 years' of age, and within six weeks he was able to read - and read quite fluently. It's just quite remarkable, and you know so this is something that has been long overdue and thank you for that. I think we just have to basically ensure that we make it happen as soon as possible to all our people.

Journalist: … [unclear] has an impact study been made on how this could affect long-term [unclear]

Deputy Minister Enver Surty: No, thank you very much. In fact one of the suggestions - and it has been raised in the context of our discussions in Cabinet - because what we are doing as I speak right now is also reviewing the adult basic education and training, and to say how could we use this as a platform to integrate it as an opportunity for skills-development so that people have the fundamental literacy and numeracy skills. Now linked to this campaign is a review of the adult basic education and training system because there are certainly deficits or deficiencies in that, and a green paper will be issued before the end of this year regarding a particular process and methodology, but certainly there will be a correlation between this exercise and what you are referring to. Thank you.

Themba Maseko: Okay, Deputy Minister, thank you very much. We'll try and put the video clip as a pod cast on our website. Okay, ladies and gentlemen, unless there's any further questions for me, I can release you to go and [unclear]. Thank you very much.

Journalist: I just want to know, is there a new deadline for the closure of shelters for foreigners displaced, national please.

Themba Maseko: The two provinces have set their deadline… there're two provinces that have set deadlines and as far as I can recall the deadlines for the closure of the shelters is mid-August, so those dates have not been revised yet.


Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)