Media briefing by Minister Chabane on the macro structure of government (transcript)


21 May 2009

Chairperson: Themba Maseko, Government spokesperson
Date: 21 May 2009
Venue: Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town

[statement read by Minister Ohm Collins Chabane]:

Thank you very much and good morning everybody. I have been requested to do a briefing on the changes which are taking place in government. And I will gladly take questions at a later stage. Firstly, the changes which are taking place within government have been started, you would recall that the African National Congress (ANC) before going to Polokwane went to a policy conference in Gallagher Estate. There were lots of debates which took place around a number of issues involving the state and what should be the priorities of the ANC government going forward. Those discussions were taken to be concluded in Polokwane at the end of 1997 at the national conference, which as you would know is the highest decision making body of the ruling party. And further deliberations took place in what I think you know at an alliance summit which worked on some other details related to the changes which are necessary.

Later on just before the beginning of the election campaign the ruling party went through a manifesto which identified priorities, which need to be implemented by the ruling party should it win the elections.

Clearly, looking at the priorities, it became clear too that the state is not positioned in a manner which we'll be able to deliver efficiently on the priorities which have been identified.

Secondly, that in the earlier discussions there was an agreement that there is lack of coordinating planning capacity within the state and across the spheres of government, and therefore a proposal to establish a planning commission was adopted. You would also know that within the Presidency there is a unit which we call Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services (PCAS), the policy unit, which has been assisting government in coordinating planning and also to monitor the first services which are being delivered. But it was felt that PCAS is not at a level where you can be able to do long term planning as envisaged by the conferences which took place, and the resolutions. And therefore there was a need for us to establish a planning commission.

The second element attached to that was whilst the ruling party has good policies as people say, but there is a problem with implementation of those policies. And the critical factor there was our inability to monitor, to be able to get the early warning system on issues which relate to delivery, and only discover them at a later stage, and in most cases we are not able to respond adequately to remedy the situation should we identify those problems. The monitoring mechanisms as you would know, and the performance management, you would know that there are quite a number of institutions which performed that function. The Public Service Commission (PSC) will deal with the public service, the Auditor General deals with the financial issues, the are performance management instruments in Treasury. You have Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) which measures the outcomes of what is the impact of the programmes which government has, so there're quite a number of instruments which are there, but they are not collated and formatted in a manner which will make it easier and simpler for government to take urgent steps to remedy the situation should there be a need and therefore it was felt that you need a monitoring capacity.

The other issue which has been identified is the fact that we have as South Africa a shortage of capacity to provide adequate energy in all its aspect to the economy, and if we have grow the economy we have to attend to that question. Your fuel supplies, your electricity. There's a greater need now to implement renewable energy sources. And we felt that the manner in which the Department of Minerals of Energy is structured there's too much focus on the mining areas. Whilst mining is one of the critical contributors to the economy, it is important for us to begin to focus and to get involved in the energy politics of the world to ensure that going forward we are able to supply the economy with sufficient energy which will be affordable. And that led to the separation of the Minerals and Energy Department into two ministries, which is the Mineral Resources and the Ministry of Energy.

The other area which has been identified as an area which we may need to look at is the fact that we especially after the food crisis clearly South Africa as one of the food producing countries we should not suffer the consequence of any downturn or upturn in terms of our food production and affordability of our food, particularly with regard to food security. And that will then be linked to fighting poverty, particularly in developing rural areas. We thought we need to take a special focus in developing rural areas, because though in almost all our programmes we continue to say rural areas becomes our priority, but we have not made significant impact in developing rural economies which will then prevent migration from rural areas to urban areas which cause other social problems in the urban centres. To that extent we thought it may be reasonable for us to establish a Department of Rural Development, but then remove Land Affairs from Agriculture and Land Affairs, to establish a new ministry and department which will be Rural Development and Land Reform. Part of the elements of that is for all the land restitution programmes which were done there have never been serious effort by us to try and make sure that those land which is returned to its original owners does not deteriorate and because that has not happened a number of very viable commercial farms found themselves deteriorating in the hands of ordinary people in the villages. And we think the state needs to play a greater role to ensure the sustainability of these agricultural assets which we have, not only to maintain food security but also to ensure that agriculture remains a major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP).

Having done that we then said what are the things which we need to do to ensure that our agricultural production at least increases, or there is a bit of a focus on them. As you would know that agriculture is responsible for aquaculture and that we have one of the longest coastlines in the African continent as a nation. And we are at the southern tip of the African continent, towards Antarctica. It may be important for us as a nation to begin to appreciate the natural resources which we have in our fishing industry, and therefore begin to try and profile our fishing capacity in a manner which would create more jobs and make a significant contribution to the economy, especially for the economy of the communities in the coasts. And therefore decided to move Fisheries from Environmental Affairs to Agriculture. We also looked at the forestry industry, and we decided to move Forestry from Water Affairs to Agriculture. As you would generally know, that the forestry section of our economy of Water Affairs is the largest consumer of underground water. We think it will be better managed in Agriculture especially if Water Affairs itself which is supposed to be responsible for sustainable supply of clean water to communities, will be separate from it. We then moved Environmental Affairs to Water Affairs and split Tourism from it. That has been because we are one of the nations which have got very, very little water reserves and therefore the shortage of water both for commercial and domestic use will become one of the critical factors going forward, especially in the current climate where we have got global warming which affects the supply of water and our climatic patterns. We therefore thought it's important for Water Affairs and Environmental Affairs to be together. Initially we thought it should be called natural resources, but water and environment are not only the natural resources which we have. But nevertheless we moved that and created a Department of Water Affairs and Environment.

We Tourism is one of the critical contributor to the economy and is sustainable and it's growing. And we thought it's important for us to try and emphasise and build capacity in our tourism sector, because it's one of the largest employers in our economy. And therefore we left tourism on its own with the hope that going forward we will be able to provide resources which would make tourism one of the most viable economic sector of the economy.

Now those changes have got a significant bearing on how we think we are going to deliver on the mandates which have been assigned to us by the electorate after elections. Other changes which took place apart from splitting departments and moving one area to the other would include the change of names of departments. There are a number of them whose names have been changed into something else new.

Amongst others is what used to be called the Department of Foreign Affairs. At the request of foreign affairs and people working in that area, they requested that they think it will be much better for them if the name foreign affairs should be changed to international relations. But part of the reason is that we'll have to put more emphasis on building cooperative relationships with our partners and the states across the world. And particularly focusing on the African continent, which is our immediate client or partner in diplomatic relations.

The other one which saw a significant change of a name is the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. You would know that before elections there was a process which was undertaken by the Department of Provincial and Local Government (dplg) at that time, to establish a Department of Traditional Affairs within dplg. But we thought given the new approach of the new government of trying to strengthen cooperative relations between the three spheres of government, that we should not be seen as a prefect of other spheres of government as a national government. We need to build a cooperative relationship as enshrined in our Constitution, and empower the other spheres of government to be able to deliver efficiently on the services which they are required to do so. And we thought changing the name it actually send a signal and changes the posture of the department not to be every time there is a problem we think of section 100, but it is to assist and build capacity in those spheres of government where it does not exist, and provide for cooperative relationship to exist between the three spheres of government across the country.

During the deliberations on the changes there was three areas which were raised also. The other one was to say, look, the programmes which we have on women are not sufficient to address the poverty and the underdevelopment which affect women throughout the country. And therefore there was a proposal to establish a ministry responsible for women affairs, and that's what we did, we established a ministry responsible for women affairs, but because those programmes were run jointly with other aspects we established a ministry to look at that.

The other one, it was a complaint from the veterans, not only those coming from the non-statutory armies in the past but also those who were coming from the statutory arms of service. That they feel that their issue as veterans, military veterans, are not attended to significantly, and therefore requested that there should be a ministry responsible for veterans. You do find it in other countries, but we thought for our purpose it's not one of the priorities which we have to deal with, and therefore we need to establish a significant presence and restructure the Department of Defence to ensure that it caters for military veterans. As you know the Department of Defence is basically an oversight, a civilian oversight mechanism over the defence force which is under the secretary. And therefore you need to establish and remove the military veterans from where it is located within the defence force now and put it properly within the department of defence to be able to attend to the issues which have been raised.

The other area which has been identified is the fact that South Africa with the economy which we run is a huge economy, entirely linked to the whole world, we play a significant role in all international organisations and regional bodies on the economic front. And given the initiatives which are being undertaken by Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) and also our participation in the other markets like Europe, the Americas and Asia, the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) spent a significant part of its time attending to these issues. And therefore the domestic small business operations and assistance tend to lag behind, and we believe that if we can be able to initiate and invigorate the domestic economy, especially the small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), we have got a better chance of creating more jobs than we do if we focus on the investments in the stock exchange. And therefore it was necessary for us to split the two aspects of the Department of Trade and Industry and create Trade and Industry and also the Economic Development portfolio. In the course of the debate it was felt that why don't you leave trade on its own and get industry together with your SMME developments, your [unclear] affairs, and so on. But clearly any model could be possibly be implemented, but we felt that our trade policy impact directly on an industrial posture, and therefore it is important for those to be coordinated very closely to each other. We then after having done those assessment and made those proposals, but those proposals are nothing else until the President decide as to how the President would like to form his government.

And obviously on Sunday the 10th of May the President did announce what would be the new government and structure, and fortunately it coincides with what I just related now. The next step probably would be what then do we do to address the challenges which are facing us.

One of the issues which we had to look at is that the changes which are going to take place should not be too disruptive for government to deliver the services to the people. To that we need to find ways of mitigating against the costs for this transition. Thirdly, that we need to try and make the transition or the changes, the implementation of the changes as short as possible, the period. Though we know that the organisation continue to change and re-engineer themselves as the situation changes, you can't afford a situation where there's a perpetual merger, changes taking place in government departments or state departments. The government then put mechanisms in place to ensure that the changes takes place at least as smoothest as we can. We know there's nothing which can be called smooth in the circumstances, but we thought we need to do it that way.

If you look at the changes which have been proposed, basically we are taking sections of departments which were standing on their own with their own programmes, moving it to another department or moving it to a new department completely.

So there is budget, there is a structure which exists, except for those which are new. And that will then minimise the disruptions which are going to take place. So there is no programme which has been budgeted for, which will be significantly affected by these changes, because the units are not cut in such a way that it will render them ineffective or non-functional. The second point is that when you separate two departments we have got what we call shared services. To mitigate against that is to ensure in the transfers of the functions and the transfers of personnel from one section to the other, you'll retain the capacity to manage the two portfolios of those aspects in the smoothest way, using the same capacity which we have. Obviously in separations like those we'll have to go into an exercise of verifying the assets, making sure that we close the books for those sections which need to be transferred. That is technical work which needs to be done between government departments, the Auditor General's office, the department of finance and treasury.

While the Department of Public Works will be providing office space and accommodation and facilities required for departments to function optimally. One may ask why did you go into this process without ascertaining that there're buildings available. But I'm sure we'll appreciate that you can't look for a building until you know what you are going to use it for and the only time we knew is when the President pronounced on the 10th of May when he was appointing Cabinet, that it is true that you will have a Department of Economic Development, and therefore from that point you then begin to say what are the resources which we need to be able to accommodate these new responsibilities. In some of the areas it may take a bit of time to even to get office space, because in order to get office space you need to know what is the personnel which we'll need so that they are able to calculate and know what they are going to do.

And thirdly that in order to get to that point you'll need to have policies in place and programmes which will tell you what type of structure you need, so for those departments which are completely new you'll have to get into the first phase where you have to develop policy, develop these, and arrive at the point when you say this is what we are going to do and therefore we need these type of personnel, which will then tell you what type of facilities and type of resources you need, including the budget to be able to do that.

The other area is that we have currently set up task teams in state departments involving departments which are affected, backed up by the executive to ensure that we provide the support which is necessary for the administration to carry out its task in accomplishing that. We estimate that if we work flat out, at least by the beginning of November we should be very close to completion. Most of them will be done earlier. But we think the major issues should be concluded by the end of October.

We hope we'll meet that target but obviously this is a subjective. It's the desire, it's our aim to do that. But obviously we might have miscalculated as to whether it may take longer or shorter. But we think by that time we should significantly have moved to make sure that there's stability because at that point in time we need to be certain about the budget processes for the next financial year, specially for areas which might not have been catered for in this current financial year. I think let me stop there. I would respond to questions.

[End of statement]:

Questions and answers

Journalist: Morning Mr Chabane. You just left out the Department of Police. Can you just explain why the need to change the name?

Themba Maseko: Okay, we'll take four questions in this round.

Journalist: Two questions actually. Firstly, does that mean or do I understand you correctly, indicating that the Department of Economic Development is in fact a department for SMME's, is it a small industry department? And second question, you haven't described your own department, your own commission or whatever we were to call it. How do you define its functions?

Journalist: Hi Minister. Could you just also please talk a bit about the Ministry for Human Settlement? Does the change of name from Housing indicate a more people-friendly approach towards building communities?

Journalist: You said you had policies to develop first. Can you give us some kind of idea what size entities we're looking at in terms of the Planning Commission and the Department of Economic Development - a few hundred people, a few thousand people?

Journalist: Was there a preliminary costing of the changes, how much they're going to cost, because there were reports that its going to cost R1 billion. Is that close to any figure that you have come up with?

Themba Maseko: Please can you make sure which organisation you are with?

Journalist: Hi Minister. My question is to your ministry and you come into this ministry having run a provincial department. How are you, I mean when you do your monitoring evaluation you may invariably come across a minister that will say to you 'you have never run a national ministry'. 'You can't possibly know what it takes to deal with a problem nationally, so you cannot come and say to me, your monitoring evaluation.I want to bring in someone like Minister Mpahlwa who has been in national ministry for longer. How are you going to [Unclear] against that possibility?

Journalist: Minister, Two issues - firstly one of the biggest obstacles to rural development is the issue of freehold title. People don't invest unless they can control where they build their properties. Do you envisage any changes to title, particularly in tribal areas and secondly, you speak very nicely about co-operative governance but there's a 17th Constitutional Amendment Bill before Parliament at the moment which gives national government power to intervene willy-nilly with local government. Could you explain the contradiction please?

Journalist: If I could just be so bold as to veer off the tracks a bit here. You were talking about the importance of the South African economy on the international stage. What is the presidency's response and comment and view on this sparring match between Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and Vodacom? Surely with a lot of trade unionists in government now, there must have been tensions somewhere down the line because it sends out the wrong message to the international community when we see this developing, sort of mixed signals?

Minister Collins Chabane: I wish that my answers don't generate more questions. The Department of Police, the change of the name - you'd know that one of our priorities is to fight crime and in the discussions it was felt that the police must be respected by all of us as society for them to be able to carry out their job. They must police and therefore their posture must be in such a way that they're not going to tolerate any criminal activity. On the roll of the Department of Economic Development I think you'll recall if you were at the press briefing when the President announced the Cabinet that the Department of Economic Development, apart from these issues which I've raised, will play a significant role in co-ordinating policies related to economic development in the country. With regards to the functions of my portfolio, obviously as I said, there's never been an institution like this in the history of the evolution of this South African state. It's a new element altogether, together with the Planning Commission and therefore, what we are going to do and how we are going to do it is an issue which needs to be developed in terms of policies which must be approved by Cabinet as the Executive Authority responsible for running the State. But however, as we understand in the mandate, one is assured that you monitor performance of government and evaluate, but evaluate with regard to the outputs and also to ensure that in instances where you detect, because I listed a number of institutions which do monitoring or evaluation of one kind or another. In most cases most of those would then produce a report at the end of the financial year.

Let's take the PSC. We'll do an audit after the end of the financial year, present the report to Parliament - that will be six months or so after the fact - and by the time Parliament discusses it, even people who were responsible for these positions already left the department, so you have to start from scratch. So you have this recurring problem. Whereas I said, we are going to pool together all these reports and make sure that we put systems in place which create an early warning system to government and to departments to say there are problems in these areas, these problems need to be fixed and hopefully that will help our capacity to deliver and ensure that we are able to meet the expectations of the electorate. With regard to the size of the department and that of the Planning Commission I think it would be improper for us to say this will be the size, this is the number of people we need, because firstly you need to understand what will be the scope of the work, define it properly is actually a way to say these are the expertise I need from people who are supposed to serve us. And from that basis then we'll define what the size of the structures will be. Would you be utilising more of outsourced services or do you want to build capacities? Those things are what we think we'll have to iron out before the end of October when it's the time that the budget is supposed to be finalised by the National Treasury. On the costing, we have involved from the beginning, Treasury. You will recall that the government itself had identified the need of changes to take place and Treasury has been part of the process of these changes. We can't at this point in time say exactly this is the figure which we think it will cost. I think to do so we would be doing injustice both to you and ourselves because that figure might completely be not correct. But Treasury has always been assuring us that they think there is money available for us to be able to continue with the changes which we are making. And I think as we begin to understand the intensity and the depth of the programmes which we are being set in place and the task teams I talked about earlier, we'll be able to get a very close estimate as to how much it will cost us. I think it will be unfair for me on my part, to speculate on that aspect.

On the question of experience, I suppose there was nobody who was born a minister so there's no issue that somebody will say I've got no experience to do the work. There's nobody who is born a minister, otherwise we'll never get new ministers altogether because some of them have never been in government in the first place so that for us is not much of a problem. But I think the experience which we have gained in the past 15 years across the spheres of government, in local government, provincial government and national government make a collective capacity or experience of the executive as a whole to be ready to tackle any challenge which it may face, so the issue of whether I ran a provincial department is not much different. I'm sure you know how the laws work. We use the same Act, we use the same procedures to do budgets. We use the same procedures to employ staff so there's no difference. It may be difference of scale and level and probably the exposure which people may have but there's not much difference between a national and provincial department.

On the issue of rural development we are quite conscious in a way of the fact of the constraints and the limitations we are going to have. We think, there's much of a good mood now between government and traditional leaders and hopefully we'll be able to maintain a good relationship between traditional leaders and our municipal councils, but however, in our endeavour to develop rural areas, we should not work in the manner which will finally destroy the fabric of our rural societies and therefore we need to find a balance between the two. For example you have got quite a significant amount of shopping malls which have sprung up in rural areas in the past few years in spite of those problems we have identified as the issues related to land issues. As a matter of fact I think if you go to other countries, you don't even have a title deed to tell whether you are in the area or somewhere else so [Unclear] so we think its do-able, we think irrespective of these constraints we think its do-able for us to improve the livelihoods of our rural people. With regards to constitutional amendment and the opposition and local governments and other spheres of government which we want to emphasise collective governments, obviously you would know that in the past 15 years that experiences which have been gained as to how we provide services and we co-ordinate between the three spheres of government, and in the course of that the Cabinet or the executive at that time identified there were problems which we face from time to time and try to address and that relationship and hopefully in that context then decided to do an amendment to make that co-operation of the work between the three spheres of government more efficient. But however, let me point out that if you say the Bill is in Parliament, it's correct. Parliament will have to decide - Parliament is where the voice of the people is. Parliament may as well come back and say to us 'look, the executive, we think you are taking us back too far, it's against the spirit' its for Parliament to determine once the executive has put the Bill and if the Bill affects other spheres of government, obviously it will have to go through the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and it must be voted in the NCOP by about six provinces if I recall. So there are mechanisms, checks and balances to make sure that any laws we pass does not necessarily intrude significantly into the powers and functions of the rest of the spheres of government.

On the Vodacom issue, obviously the question was, I think the [Unclear] should help you, South Africa has consistent and a reliable regime of laws and regulations to protect and ensure that the investments which come into the country are not negatively affected and I think that point has been proven because the Cabinet agreed for the sale of the shares and we must also recognise the rights of any citizen, both individuals and also organisations to exercise their right in the normal course as permitted by law. And I think COSATU did exactly what it did - they went to court to oppose the sale but the court decided in the manner in which it decided and the matter is still continuing but there's no reason for anybody to panic, because if we say we have got the responsibility to protect the interests of all who participate in our economy, we should also acknowledge that we have to protect the rights of other people who have got different views in the process, as long as those views are not illegal, they're not disruptive to the economy but nevertheless - I think the chief executive officer (CEO) of Vodacom has proposed a meeting between themselves and COSATU. Hopefully they will be able to sit down and resolve those issues themselves.

Journalist: Sorry, just my question on housing, please.

Minister Collins Chabane: On human settlement. You will recall that when we started the Housing Department way back in 1994, we were saying we are going to build homes, habitable dwellings so our housing approach should not be just the provision of the structure, should also include other elements, the habitat where people reside, where these things are found and secondly we felt there was little co-ordination between state departments with regard to the provision of the housing portfolio and therefore housing, as we see it, as it was implemented, should not only relate to doing these structures but is to look at the planning of the whole settlement to ensure that if you find many of the areas where we have built houses - these are specially-run areas - establish this new settlement, the next thing there's no school, the next thing there's no water, Water Affairs has not provided water, you don't have proper sanitation and so on. We want to overcome those problems to build settlements in a more co-ordinated way and that is why I think we do that and part of the changes which are going to take place is the migration of the sanitation problems from Water Affairs to the Human Settlement portfolio.

Themba Maseko: Okay ladies and gentlemen. We'll take a final round.

Journalist: Minister, just a question, you mentioned that there are a number of oversight groups that already do that work like the Auditor General and all of those. Does this mean that they will also be reporting to the Presidency or how will you be gathering your information to find out how these government departments are being run. And also there's a lot of. or seems to be a lot of focus on setting up the machine and I just want to know what level of focus is there on the worker bees, the people inside, their competence levels? Making sure that you don't just have this big structure and the people inside it are either not equipped or not able to do the work they're meant to do?

Journalist: Minister, just on the question of the 2009 /10 strategic plans and the split departments, I'm just interested to know how it's going to be done in this financial year and how they are going to account to Parliament. Are there mechanisms in place to deal with those technicalities?

Journalist: Minister, just some further information on the department of economic development. If it's going to be responsible for SMMEs is it or does that mean that Small Enterprise Development Agency (seda) and the small, you know, business development agency stuff is going to go from dti to that department? And secondly, there's still a bit of confusion as to amongst all these economic ministries as to who exactly is going to have the final say on economic policy, on macroeconomic policy, on fiscal policy, those sorts of things. Whether it would be the treasury, whether it's going to be made in this new department of economic development which is what the President said when he told us about it. So just who will have the final say on economic policy, please? Thanks.

Journalist: First question, Minister, with regards to the planning commission, the earlier proposal was that it would have been or it would be composed of certain types of ministers who hold certain portfolios that are strategic in government. Is that still the idea now or is it going to be staffed by technocrats? And the second question, perhaps related to Carol's question, President Zuma has said that the economic development department will be.an arena for debate for economic policy. At the present moment, let's take monetary policy, it's said by treasury, [unclear] inflation targeting, and then the Reserve Bank takes its mandate of inflation targeting from that department. Would the Reserve Bank now take its mandate from economic development or would it still reside with national treasury?

Journalist: Minister, just a follow on question. When restructuring and reconfiguring departments you would have the problem of capacity, you know, how do you deal with that, and secondly with the department of human settlements especially, the previous minister of housing had complained that one of the reasons why houses could not be built faster was because of, you know, the budget was just too little. Now that you're giving human settlements more functions, have you put emphasis on, you know, supporting these new departments, these new entities? You know, giving them financial support?

Journalist: Minister, just to add to my colleagues. What would the planning commission's exact mandate be? Has that been determined yet? And if you can explain it to us, please?

Journalist: Minister, can you just explain, when setting up your department, or when you monitor and evaluate, will you set certain targets or minimum standards to the departments, one, and secondly if you find that a department is not performing with regards to service delivery or according to these targets you set, what kind of action will be taken if any against ministers or Director-Generals (DGs)? How will that work?

Journalist: Hi Minister, I'm just wondering in the process of establishing this machinery for all the functions that you've talked about, is there not a risk of eyes being taken off the ball, especially with the recessionary sort of climate we're in, a lot of job losses, we're reading about it all the time. Seemingly no rescue plan for certain industries. What are your thoughts regarding this? Is there any early warning mechanism in this time that you're setting up these structures to look at these very important issues?

Journalist: Right in the beginning, minister, you said that much of the restructuring was done to ensure implementation of policies. While the policies are fine, you also said that your department will do monitoring of the implementation. Will you just be there to do technical fixes or will you also have the power to say this or that policy isn't working, we need to go back to the drawing board? Where will that happen?

Themba Maseko: Final question.

Journalist: Following on that question, my question is to your ministry, how does it relate to provinces? Do you have any powers over provinces whether to dictate or to assist with their programs when they are not on track or not? Secondly, on the cooperative governance department when it was local government, like you said earlier, the first idea when a municipality was dysfunctional was to invoke the section 100 rule. That minister shortly before elections took over Numa [ph] municipality area and appointed an administrator. The first thing that [unclear] passed he said was taken to court to say that that decision was unilateral. How does then the thinking come in. the change of thinking when you're talking about cooperative governance, and the previous relationship that existed?

Themba Maseko: Okay, thank you. Minister.

Minister Collins Chabane: Let me start by saying we should look at government as a unit. The executive authority of the state is vested in the President who will then delegate to ministers or whoever he deems necessary. So we should look at the executive authority of the state as one. But in order for it to be performed and executed properly you need a division of labour and give other people responsibilities to do that. Now if that is the intention of the Constitution then you need to look at the state as one, we have to look at Cabinet as one institution which need to work as a collective. And obviously you would know that the ruling party has been very consistent in ensuring that you have collective leadership and collective responsibility of people who are in executive positions. And you would know that Cabinet accounts to Parliament, or Cabinet ministers, both in their individual capacities and also as part of the executive. So you have a collective responsibility or co-responsibility over the actions and activities of cabinet as a whole. From that concept clearly it will be very clear for us that any Cabinet member or member of the executive executing the functions of the executive will have to work in the context of this collective responsibility. It is important for us to understand that point because sometimes. maybe we say, let's say it's my portfolio, this is what I'm going to do, I have to it within the context of Cabinet. Now the policies as implemented in government and the ruling party has been saying the ANC sets policy and we implement. Now any policy of any kind which must be implemented in government would have to be agreed or within the framework of the policy dictates of the ruling party, and therefore anything which happens in government it happens within that context.

Now that led me to the next question, that given the economic cluster or what we call the economic portfolios, who generally will be responsible for what? I thought there was not much confusion. I think a number of ministers have spoken on this question. Minister Gordon has spoken, Minister Patel has spoken, Minister Manuel has spoken. I'm not sure, I haven't heard Minister Davis, what he said. But I think it will be important for us to leave it at a point where they said it, because those are the people who are responsible for all these issues we are talking about. With regard to the capacity of the state departments now, to execute this program. Obviously from time to time we say. the state departments do not have capacity, the public servants are not well trained, but interestingly the private sector find them very valuable because they come and poach, and then I think if the situation was so desperate many public servants will find it difficult to find a job in private sector. But I think we believe that we have capacity. We need to give them support, we need to ensure that we give them the necessary support for them to execute their tasks. They have been employed to do it, so we have to find a way to. where there are weaknesses. I'm not saying everybody is okay, there are areas where there are weaknesses, we'll have to clean those up, get them trained, relevant training when necessary.

With regard to the budgets, the budget was tabled early in the year, in a manner which is not configured in the same way as these current institutions are configured. And in spite of those we were quite clear that changes will have to be made and in the manner in which they are going to be made. In considering the budgets, also the implementation of the programs of the 2009, 2010 financial year, they will continue like that. We are making interim arrangements both for the debates and the consideration of the budgets, and also for the accountability in terms of the accounting for officers, how they are going to account for these pockets of budgets which are lying in the various areas. We have put up an administrative mechanism to ensure that happens. So we think we will be able to manage that process including the standing committees in Parliament. Parliament will be looking at the restructured departments, restructure themselves, Parliament portfolio committees to be able to respond to the changes which have taken place there. But that won't be sufficient because you'll still have this interim period, so Parliament will then have to work on an interim mechanism for the consideration of the budget and the debates, of the current financial year's budget.

On the agencies, one of the processes which is currently underway as the departments are splitting, every department will have to look what are the institutions which falls under that department, the Special Operations Executives(SOEs), the regulatory bodies, so that they are able to delineate to say we think seda will go this way, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will go this way. We think this element will go this way. And we think that process should be the easiest to do so that quite shortly it will be very clear which institutions falls in which area. So that is part of the work which is being done, I think it will be unfair for me to say seda will go to IDC. to dti or go to economic development, but departments are supposed to advise Cabinet that this is how we think and once Cabinet approves then we get moving. With regard to the composition of the commission, obviously we did say in the earlier stages of the discussions on this issue, not today but earlier, I think the one who raised the question it's because he was aware that there were debates which were taking place. There were various permutations which were raised with regard to the planning commission. Whether it should be composed of ministers, whether it should be just a small unit, whether it should be an SOE. There were a lot of permutations, looking at models from across the world. But we opted for the one which says you appoint a minister in the Presidency because basically it's the President's responsibility to set up the planning commission, and the President has appointed the minister. And the next step is to appoint the commissioners, and the President has taken a view that it's better to get people from outside with expertise in the planning area. Not as bureaucrats. You must separate between the commissioners, the actual people who must take the decisions of evaluating the reports or the plans which comes from the technocrats which may be presented to Cabinet. So that is the model which has been adopted.

On the question of putting more money for housing, obviously if you can. for human settlement, if you go to any department, any department will always want more money. I haven't seen a department which has said no we've had enough, please take it away. Everybody would like to. for that portfolio they would like to have more money, but the resources are limited. We have got limited resources, so we can't satisfy all the needs at the same time. But however we need to put resources where our priorities stand, and if it Cabinet says in terms of our manifesto, in terms of our approach, housing, it's one of our priorities, and then we need to add more resources there, we have to take resources from this and put it there, that will be done. But obviously as I said there's a scramble for resources as you know that we don't have enough to satisfy all their needs all the time, and therefore if new responsibilities are added to any portfolio they say functions must be followed by funding. That is the saying in the public service that if you give me a function at least you need to. that function will need to be followed by [unclear], so if we add more responsibilities to any section of the department we'll have to try and find resources for it to be able to perform its function. With regard to the planning commission, I think quite soon Minister Manuel will be able to elaborate on what are the plans and what they think they need to do, but in general the planning commission is supposed to coordinate the planning framework for the entire country, wall to wall, including municipalities or provinces which might seem now they think it can happen. That brings me to the next issue about our relations with provinces and local municipalities.

South Africa is not the combination of municipalities or a combination of provinces. So we're not a federal state, we are a unitary state. It's one country which for governance purposes has been divided into three spheres, that province, national province and local. And further for governance purposes those spheres themselves have been divided in specific geographic areas for purposes of management. And therefore if a decision has been made by the national government to act in a particular way as long as we don't encroach on the Constitutional responsibility of the other sphere of government, we think there should be no problem. But we need to take into account that the planning commission and the monitoring department are not established in terms of legislation, meaning their operations obviously in terms of their establishment, in terms of the law, the proclamation by the President, but in terms of their activities, unlike you find the Auditor General, the Public Service Commission and those areas, they've got specific laws which looks at that, which give them certain responsibilities, powers, access to information, access to this.

Now as we put together these institutions and as I said it's the first of this kind in the history of our country, as we put these institutions together we'll have to look as to what instruments do you need to make these institutions function properly, so that it doesn't get inhibited in its work, you don't end up in court all the time, you say no but we think there's a problem here. Somebody jumped to court and you find that you have got no instruments to deal with that. So those are some of the issues which we are going to address in these next few months going forward, we are going to make it a priority, that we look at all those areas. If there's a need for legislation, that legislation must be put in place so that we are able to function properly. Because our view, we are not taking a short term view, we are looking beyond the horizon, we have to look far ahead in terms of what type of state and what type of society we want to build and that is what will be guiding what we are trying to do. Now with regard to the recession, you would recall that when the [Unclear] which took decisions with regard to the changes took place it was long before the economic crunch. And as we begin to do this work we had to look as to what will be the impact, and obviously we are quite aware of the constraints which we'll have with regard to the implementation of these programs. But we believe that the benefits of more focused sectors, particularly with regard to try and make every aspect of our work in order to make a significant contribution to the economy of the country, we think the benefits in the long term are enough. As long as we can make sure that in the short term it's sustainable, we are able to keep it going, but we believe that once the economic turndown has been resolved or is beginning to ease out we are likely to see more of the benefits for what we have decided to do.
 

Thank you.

Enquiries:

Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Cell: 083 645 0810

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)


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Year: 
2009
Media Statement date: 
Thursday, May 21, 2009