Transcript: Post Cabinet by Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson

03 June 2010

Presenter: Themba Maseko, Government Spokesperson
Date: 03 June 2010
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town


Journalist: I’m sorry it’s not about the World Cup; can you give me a burst on what the Financial Action Task force is about, where it originates and what it intends to do?

Themba Maseko: The Financial Task force is basically a task team that has been put together by the international bodies to come up with measures to deal with financing of terror activities in particular but money laundering in general to ensure that we can develop financial systems throughout the world to deal with this phenomenon. So it is a global task force consisting of all countries around the world. That’s what the meeting is about: to ensure that rules and regulations are put in place; that countries sign agreements about what is the best way to make sure we can deal with this challenge, globally.

Journalist: The Communications Minister indicated on Tuesday that he was conducting a review of the standard for the top boxes, I don’t know whether this was raised in Cabinet and whether Cabinet has given the go ahead for that review and whether there was any debate or concern about that? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately that matter has not yet been served before Cabinet. The Minister hasn’t tabled a report.

Journalist: This xenophobia, is there any intelligence from police that suggests that the concern about xenophobia exploding after the World Cup - that there’s a basis to it or are you only going on media reports?

Themba Maseko: At this stage we are going on reports especially the study that was conducted by some non-governmental organisation (NGO) but also with the trend of protests taking place in various communities. We do suspect that as these service delivery protests spread to other parts of the country there is a basis or suspicion that those protests could actually lead to some attacks on foreign nationals in parts of the country. At the Cabinet meeting the Intelligence Minister didn’t present a specific report confirming these reports. So at this particular point in time we are going with the reports that have been given and I’m sure the Intelligence Ministry will present a report at a later stage. But at this particular point in time no concrete evidence has been presented to Cabinet. There were some reports of certain communities in parts of the country already beginning to make noises that there will be these attacks after the World Cup but as I say at this particular point in time no concrete intelligence report has been presented to Government, confirming this.

Journalist: This issue of service delivery protest, I know before every big event like in China during the Olympics they had the Tibet thing which grabbed international headlines and now we have in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, where people are protesting, police are firing at people. Do you fear that this toilet thing in Khayelitsha might blow up nationally and then we spark more service delivery protests and it becomes one big public relations nightmare for Government during the World Cup?

Themba Maseko: I think that any protest that takes place just on the eve of the World Cup would be something that is of great concern to us at this stage. There is no evidence to suggest that this will blow up to all parts of the country but we are indeed monitoring the situation and we will continue to make the appeal to communities around the country. Yes, it is their right to protest but those protests must be peaceful. We would be concerned about the violence that is associated with these protests but at the end we would respect people’s rights to protest and the law enforcement authorities are monitoring the situation quite closely. Obviously as government we do not want see this protest taking place at the time when the world is focussing its eyes on South Africa hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup. So that is something that is of concern obviously to Government.

Journalist: Given the past xenophobic attacks and the inability of Government to act, I mean it was a reaction to something that happened, basically there was no intelligence or anything coming through. How confident are you that the reactivation of this Inter-Ministerial Committee MC is actually going to forestall those sorts of attacks?

Themba Maseko: That is precisely the reason why Cabinet decided to re-establish the Inter-Ministerial Committee because we need to start gathering information and begin to interact with various players especially civil society organisations that have been doing a lot of work around this issue of xenophobic attacks. The Intelligence Ministry obviously will provide the Inter-Ministerial Committee with the relevant intelligence so that Government can respond to this. We think that the move to establish the ministerial committee is a proactive step to try and anticipate and deal with all the factors that we think could lead to xenophobic attacks taking place. So we are confident that if Government begins to put its act together around these attacks, chances are that we will be able to deal with any eventuality that could arise after the World Cup.

Journalist: In April we were told that the Green Paper on Government’s new approach to rural development and land reform will be ready by the end of that month and then we were told it would serve before Cabinet during May, and it will be made available at the end of May. Has it been served before Cabinet and is it available yet?

Themba Maseko: No, it has not been served before Cabinet so I’m not sure where it is at this particular point in time; no progress report was given at this meeting.

Journalist: I see the Skills Development Levies Amendment Bill has been approved for submission to Parliament. Now as far as I understand the committee or at least the Department has submitted four Bills - all the labour relations laws they have submitted. Is there any reason why the other three didn’t make it on the list?

Themba Maseko: The other Bills are in the drafting phase. The Bills were discussed in the Cabinet committee last week and more work still needs to be done before it can be ready for submission to Parliament. So yes, the drafting is at an advance stage and my expectation is that they will be tabled at the next Cabinet meeting, but they are still in the Cabinet committee process now.

Journalist: Has Omar al-Bashir accepted an invitation to attend the World Cup?

Themba Maseko: I know that a number of Heads of States are in the process of confirming their attendance. At this meeting we didn’t get a list of which Heads of States have accepted so I can’t answer that question definitively.

Journalist: Does Cabinet have a response to calls by the Dulah Omar ANCYL branch for people to vandalise the city and for them to boycott the World Cup and the city?

Themba Maseko: That specific call was not discussed at the meeting but I can assure you that there is no way that Cabinet will support or approve any calls or measures aimed at encouraging citizens to break the law. Vandalising the city is breaking the law and that will not be supported by this Government. Any call by anybody for people to boycott the World Cup will clearly fall on deaf ears. We don’t see any South African actually supporting such a call and we would consider such a call to be totally irresponsible.

Journalist: What was the discussion about the Israeli attack on the flotilla of ships headed for Palestine and the issue of the young Cape Town journalist who was held for about three days without communication from anybody and even the ANCYL has called for Government to kick the Israeli ambassador out of the country. Are you going to be doing that? Thanks.

Themba Maseko: The matter was not discussed specifically at this meeting and that’s because the Department of International Relations and Cooperation had already issued a statement expressing Government’s condemnation of the attack of a ship on international waters. So as Government our position is very clear, undoubtedly we condemn those attacks. Our Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation has already summoned the Israeli ambassador to come and account for their conduct but at this particular point in time there is no decision to expel the Israeli ambassador. We are obviously as Government excited to learn that the journalist has been released and is on her way back home and we welcome the decision by the Israelis to release the journalist.

Journalist: Did Cabinet express an opinion about Benni McCarthy being left out of the national team and also could you explain what the South African Citizenship Amendment Bill is about?

Themba Maseko: Cabinet didn’t discuss Benni McCarthy or any other player that was not excluded. We believe that the coach has actually looked at the players’ performance over the past few weeks and has selected the best possible team for the World Cup. That is why in our Statement, Cabinet supports the decision by the coach to select the 23 best players in his opinion and we think the nation is already supporting the coach for selecting a team that we think will represent South Africa very well. So there was no need for Cabinet to look at the individual players who were excluded from the team.
The South African Citizenship Bill - my team has drafted a summary of what that Bill is about and I took it out because the statement was too long. We will send you a summary but basically it refines the definition of what constitutes a citizenship. What are the steps to follow for somebody to become a citizen of this country but we will give you a paragraph within an hour after this briefing.

Journalist: Can Cabinet therefore deny that Benni McCarthy’s de-selection have anything to do with the recent by-election results in the Western Cape?

Themba Maseko: I think that as far as the Western Cape is concerned my call would be for Capetonians to begin to show their excitement about the World Cup. I have been driving around Cape Town for the past few days and I have seen very few flags flying from cars. I have seen very few citizens of the City of Cape Town wearing their Bafana shirts. The call is for Capetonians to realise that the Cup is just around the corner. Other than seeing the stadium we would like to see ordinary Capetonians wearing their Bafana shirts and also flying the flags from their cars. It’s a complete difference from what we are seeing in Gauteng and other provinces.

Journalist: Was that sentiment discussed in Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: No that sentiment was not expressed in Cabinet but the expectation is that all South Africans should show their excitement about the World Cup. In cities such as Johannesburg, in the past we used to count the number of cars with flags, now we are beginning to count the number of cars without flags. We expect that sprit to also reach Cape Town soon.

Journalist: Just going back to the xenophobic attacks, is there a change of heart by Cabinet? Previously the Cabinet and Government had said specifically that the xenophobic attacks were linked, were also driven by criminal elements who had piggy backed on service delivery protests. Now you seem to be saying that the xenophobic attacks are directly linked to service delivery protests. Is that the sense of Government now that this service delivery, unhappiness with services in communities, is sort of morphing into xenophobic attacks?

Themba Maseko: Let me just clarify the point, I said in some of the service delivery protests some of the protestors have said that they will resort to attacking foreign nationals. This is not suggesting that Government is saying all service delivery protests are linked to xenophobia because that’s clearly not true. So that’s not what I am saying. I am saying in some of the protests some of the protestors have said they will resort to xenophobic attacks. But Government’s position is quite clear on this matter. Whatever reason is used to justify these attacks we are saying its totally unacceptable to attack foreign nationals in any part of the country whether there are service delivery protests or not. We will not tolerate it and we will do everything we can to address sit and deal with xenophobic attacks.

Journalist: It was maintained during the past attacks that it was driven by a criminal element within the communities, now you seem to be changing it slightly, it’s not so much the criminal element but it's more 'people who are unhappy with their lot in life [who] are now attacking foreigners who they believe are rightly or wrongly taking their jobs, homes etc. Is my understanding correct?

Themba Maseko: The issue of xenophobic attacks can be linked to a variety of factors. I don’t think there is a single factor that contributes to it. But anybody who suspects or thinks that there is no service delivery in their communities because of the existence or presence of foreign nationals is totally and completely wrong. We have to understand that foreign nationals are not responsible for delivering services. But in the context of poverty in this country we do understand that as competition for limited resources takes place in many parts of our country some of our citizens tend to suggest or believe that the presence of feign nationals is contributing to them not having access to jobs and resources. But there is no way that we as Government would suggest that the lack of service, the lack of resources in communities is the primary cause of xenophobic attacks. So it will become clearer as the IMC does its work. In fact you will find that different reasons are used in different communities for some of these attacks and I think that a more holistic understanding will have to be developed as a country. You have to understand that as poverty grips any parts of the world as citizens especially poor citizens from many parts of the world migrate to other countries in search of a better life they encounter resistance from citizens of those countries. And those citizens of those countries tend to blame foreign nationals for their own poverty and I think we need to just develop a better understanding that xenophobia is not just a South African phenomena. It’s a global phenomena and the world has to have a focused attention on addressing poverty to make sure that poor people in all parts of the globe can feel that they have a stake in their own countries and that their lives will get better with time.  But to blame foreign nationals for poverty, for lack of resources, for lack of jobs, it is indeed a short-sighted view of this phenomenon.

Journalist: I just want to make a follow up on that. I wanted to ask that same question with regard to the issue of protests; there are these sporadic protests all over, the other ones here in Khayelitsha just yesterday. Is Government of a view that these protests are directly linked to next year’s Local Government elections or these are genuine or legitimate protests by people who are not getting the services they are supposed to be getting?

Themba Maseko: What you will find with these protests is that a number of factors contribute to it. Government is not going to stand up and say people do not have basis on which to complain about service delivery. We know that a family does not have access to water, electricity. When a breadwinner is not able to put food on the table, that constitutes a basis for someone to say I will protest, I will go to the streets to raise my concerns. So there are genuine issues on the ground that Government is attending to which are contributing to the service delivery protests. But we would not want to come out and begin to suggest some conspiracy theories to say there is either Local Government elections are responsible for the protest or foreign existence or foreign nationals or all those factors, it’s a combination of factors. And the fact of the matter is we are saying yes, as Government there are service delivery challenges and we are admitting that in many parts of our communities and everything is being done to make sure that we increase Government’s capacity to deal with those delivery challenges that we are facing. But analysts and commentators will start linking these protests to Local Government elections but as you know these protests have been going on now for more than a yearlong before ordinary citizens started to think about Local Government Elections. So the Local Government elections maybe a factor but we think that it’s not a single contributing factor to the protests taking place.

Journalist: I don’t know whether Government is aware of plans by foreigners to migrate en masse ahead of the World Cup and, don’t you think it’s going to be a bit of an embarrassment to Government as it welcomes the world, the world leaves South Africa to go back because they are not welcome.

Themba Maseko: We are not aware of any plans by any of the foreign nationals to migrate but we just need to remember that with every international event be it sporting or economics or whatever topic. Whenever members of the globe converge at a conference or sporting event that becomes a special focus because of the focus of the media and many people with all kinds of causes tend to want to use those fore to raise their issues be it genuine or not, and the World Cup is no different. We do expect that there will be various groups who want to raise their issues and these groups may not necessarily be even South African based groups. It could be individuals coming from other parts of the world who want to raise their own causes during the World Cup so we are expecting a lot of these. We will deal with them as and when it starts to happen, but we are not aware of any specific plan that you are talking about.

Journalist: Is it just a short term measure for Cabinet to do basically prevent these service delivery protests from happening around the country if you like.

Themba Maseko: Government’s response to the protests is to begin to deal with issues of service delivery that communities are facing on the ground. That is why we have been talking for months now about a Local Government Turnaround Strategy that we are implementing which is essentially aimed at increasing the capacity of Local Government to address these challenges facing our communities. You can’t deny a community, if a community say they don’t have access to clean running water, to toilets, roads, no schools in communities, we have to deal with those kinds of challenges that we are facing and that is our response. So the focus is not so much to contain the protest the focus is so much on making sure that we address the genuine concerns and needs of our citizens. The only thing that worries us and we take exception to is the violence that is associated with these protests that is what Government is taking exception to. As far as addressing the concerns of communities they are genuine and we will address them.

Journalist:  Who is going to be the next chief of Eskom?

Themba Maseko: The next chief of Eskom is going to be the person recommended by the Board. The Board met last week Friday. They are in the process of sending a recommendation through to the Department; it will come to Cabinet so hopefully an appointment will be made in the next few days or weeks. We don’t know who that person is, I don’t know if the Minister has formally received the recommendation but that’s the process. The Board makes the recommendation, Minister then take the recommendation to Cabinet for finalisation, so it’s imminent I would say based on the comments made by the Acting Chairman.
The next Cabinet meeting will be in a fortnight. This meeting was initially planned to be the last Cabinet meeting but Cabinet has decided to continue its business so there will be another meeting in two weeks time.

Journalist: Was there a reason for this decision?

Themba Maseko: The business of Government has to continue during the World Cup, so based on the issues that are before the Cabinet Committees as we speak Cabinet felt that there is a need for a meeting to take place in two weeks' time to finalise a lot of those matters because we believe that some of them cannot wait too long.

Journalist: (speaking off the mic)

Themba Maseko: All I am talking about at this particular point is based on the comments made by the Acting Chairman of Eskom who has announced that the Board has made a recommendation and the Board meeting took place on Friday and all I am explaining is the process. The Eskom Board makes the recommendation to the Minister, Minister brings it to Cabinet, Cabinet finalises it and at this stage the next Cabinet meeting is in two weeks time. Nothing prevents the Minister from calling the President and saying a particular appointment is urgent, we don’t think we should wait for Cabinet. So, that’s even possible, I don’t want to see headlines tomorrow saying that Cabinet will approve the appointment next week, that’s still not confirmed.

Journalist: In addition to the long paragraph, would it be possible for us to get a list of the Heads of States that have accepted?

Themba Maseko: We will talk to the communicators. We have set up a room; we are expecting that we will hold media briefings almost on a daily basis. FIFA will be doing media briefings on a daily basis, we are expecting that we may have to do briefings on a regular basis, so, as soon as the list is completed and on the advice from the International Affairs Department we may be able to do a special briefing to tell you who are the VIP’s that have been invited by Government. Other VIPs will be invited by FIFA and some Heads of States will come as and when their teams progress in the tournament so they won’t necessarily come as per our invitation but we will try and give out as much information as possible.

Journalist: I was wondering if you have sort of forecast or estimate that you are working on of possible economic migration from the rest of Africa as a result of the World Cup. Was there some diplomatic whisper to Khartoum that it might not be wise to accept the invitation?

Themba Maseko: Difficult questions there, I am not able to answer both of them. I think that any comments in that regard would be mere speculation. We have not done a detailed analysis and I think we can only comment as and when that analysis is done. But we are not in a position to say if there is going to be any major migration during and after the World Cup.

Journalist: Whether Cabinet discussed but even if they didn’t, whether there is any concern at all in Government that given that this is supposed to be the year of finding savings of curbing expenditure all over SABC spent R3.3 million on tickets for the World Cup to give to their friends and stakeholders. Are other Departments doing it, has there been a suggestion look I don’t go overboard spending State money to buy yourself and friends tickets to the World Cup.

Themba Maseko: As far as I am aware advice has been been given to Government Departments not to purchase tickets but we are aware that some State agencies are maybe acquiring tickets for a variety of reasons, so, at this particular point in time I am not able to comment on the SABC decision or decisions of any other State agencies about purchasing tickets. There may just be an exception for the Department of International Affairs because we are inviting Heads of States and other VIP guests. The Department of Sport may also be in a special category because for a variety of reasons we might invite other VIP guests but generally you will not find whole scale purchasing of tickets by government Departments.

Journalist: (speaking off the mic)

Themba Maseko: You are saying us and you mention GCIS - are you part of GCIS? GCIS will not be purchasing tickets for the World Cup. However the International Marketing Council Board is considering the possibility of acquiring tickets and inviting members of the media and other agencies that can be important in saying good things about the World Cup so that is going to be happening.

Journalist: The invites that were sent to the Heads of States, do we pay for their stay in this country, hotels etc?

Themba Maseko: As far as I understand the protocol, if you are inviting a Head of State you have the responsibility of taking care of their logistical arrangements, including accommodation, travel arrangements, VIP tickets at the boxes and all kinds of things, so, there will be quite an expense associated with it but you have to understand that in winning the bid for the World Cup we made it very clear that this is an African World Cup. We find it quite logical that the President has invited Heads of States from the African continent to attend this World Cup because we think it’s a spectacle that needs to be enjoy and watched by the whole African continent. And that’s why Cabinet fully endorse the decision to invite Heads of States to come.

Journalist: Seeing that we are told that Leeukop prison has got good television sets will the President of Sudan be accommodated there?

Themba Maseko: You sound very familiar about what’s happening in Leeukop, I don’t know if they have TV sets there, we will see. I have never been there so I wouldn’t know.

Journalist: Does this mean that African Heads of States will be given preference over Heads of States from other countries and how many of these Heads of States can we actually accommodate with their entourage? May I ask a question that’s not related to the World Cup? The Minister of International Relations yesterday indicated that former President Jean Bertrand Aristide will remain a guest of the South African Government until conditions in Haiti improve. I just want to know what sort of conditions is Government waiting for and given that the current President Rene Preval has indicated in 2006 already extended an invitation to Mr Aristide to return with his inauguration. Has Cabinet congratulated President on becoming a father for the 21st time?

Themba Maseko: The decision to continue offering him accommodation as a guest of the State still stands. Government will consider whether to continue with this decision based on improvement in conditions. Now that is not defined what exactly does this mean but it’s a subjective decision that will be made by particularly the President on the advice of the Minister of International Relations, so, they will assess the situation in Haiti and if they feel the condition has improved and he can be allowed to go back that decision will be taken but unfortunately it’s a decision that will be taken by the President on the advice of the Minister of International Relations.
Invitation to the Heads of State, yes, primarily the focus of our invitation is to African Heads of States. As far as I’m aware no invitation will be send to other Heads of States outside of the African continent but as we get closer to the World Cup this may change. So we undertake to do a briefing as we get closer to the World Cup to tell you which Heads of States and other dignitaries have been invited as part of the decision. In terms of logistics everything is in place the Department of International Relations together with the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and FIFA have plans in place to accommodate all the guests, all the VIPs that will be invited to attend the World Cup. So the reports that we have not made any plans for any Heads of State were totally untrue and misleading in the extreme. So there is a plan there is a place to ensure that all of the Heads of States who come will be invited. I don’t have the details of where they will be accommodated.

Journalist: Do you share the sentiments of the police chief who hopes the United States (US) gets kicked out early because if they do make it through to the next round the chances that Barack Obama could come through to South Africa would be higher and the security nightmare around that?

Themba Maseko: The comment of the General was a joke; he didn’t mean that as a firm Government position on the matter. It’s entirely up to the Heads of States of those countries to decide to attend the World Cup and it’s not for Government to decide which team or which Heads of States comes to the World Cup. This is a global spectacle and the more visitors come will bring focus to our country during the World Cup the better for the nation so we would welcome that.

Journalist: You didn’t answer the question about the 21st child?
Themba Maseko: I thought she had withdrawn that question because she knows Cabinet doesn’t discuss those kinds of issues.

Journalist: You mentioned the Global Forum and that some Ministers will attend that; Bill Clinton the former US President will be there. Do you think there will be some facilitation between him and Jean Bertrand Aristide meeting, with the help of the Minister of Foreign Affairs? Has that been discussed? And then also did the Cabinet meeting discuss the President’s visit to India will the President perhaps be lobbying with the Indian Government for a spot on the United Nations (UN) Security Council?

Themba Maseko: Well, we are in conversation with the Indian Government and the President is there and we will do a briefing on that one but yes we are talking to a number of countries to support our nomination to the UN Security Council, so that is on the agenda in India and as soon as the President come back with the delegation there will be a briefing to tell you about the content of those discussions. So I’m not in a position to say more about that and Cabinet didn’t talk about it at the meeting yesterday.
Meetings between Clinton and Aristide and other Heads of States, we can’t tell you that at this particular point in time but do expect as and when Heads of States and other global leaders converge in South Africa during the World Cup and during the forum. You should expect that there will be interaction between all of them and among all of them during that period. At this particular point in time we are not in a position to say who will meet who but there will be plenty meetings I’m sure.

Journalist: Who is the top soccer star in the Cabinet? Is it the Co-operation and Traditional Affairs Minister? I mean the one that is the best soccer player?

Themba Maseko: You know, I wanted to be part of it but they said I’m not Cabinet, I would have been the best player but I’m not the Minister. I can’t say ,but a lot of them have actually said they will be able to display their skills because they were soccer players in their previous lives, I can’t say I believe some of them but yes they said they will display their skills. It may just be the Deputy President, but I can’t say.

Journalist: Did Ministers Nyanda and Shiceka express any displeasure that Zwelinzima Vavi referred to them as corrupt and what was the discussion about that? Did they say to Cabinet that you know we want the African National Congress (ANC) to charge Mr Vavi?

Themba Maseko: No, Mr Vavi’s comments and this and any other comments were not discussed at the meeting and that whole saga is a party political issue but as Government we will be concerned about leaders making statements that could be considered to be inflammatory in public and my expectation is that leaders will think twice before they make such serious statements in public, but the matter was not discussed in Cabinet.
That brings us to the end of this briefing, thank you very much.

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)