Post-Cabinet briefing by Government Spokesperson, Themba Maseko

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cabinet held its ordinary meeting in Cape Town yesterday, 21 October 2009.

Cabinet is pleased to announce the approval of the extension of the Child Support Grant (CSG) to eligible children between the ages of 15-17 years. This decision only applies to children from poor households and is part of Government's commitment to reduce incidence of poverty amongst children. Caregivers of the beneficiaries will have the responsibility to ensure that the beneficiaries remain in school.

The Child Support Grant for 15-year-olds will start on 1 January 2010; 16-year-olds on 1 January 2011 and 17-year-olds on 1 January 2012. These grants will benefit approximately 2 million children from poor households. The total cost will be R1.3 billion, R2.6 billion and R3.5 billion respectively over the three-year period.

Cabinet expressed strong displeasure with Professor Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor of the University of the Free State, decision to drop the internal charges that the university had instituted against the students who humiliated the workers at the institution. The process that led to the dropping of the charges was flawed in that it did not follow the established norm of getting the perpetrators to admit guilt, to apologise to the victims before any charges could be dropped and to initiate a reconciliation process.

Cabinet would be the first among those who promote reconciliation in order to take our country forward. However, reconciliation involves both parties moving towards one another and must include some indication of remorse on the part of the perpetrators. The manner in which this matter was handled suggests that the rights of the perpetrators have been given preference over the dignity and rights of the victims. The meeting supported the Minister of Higher Education and Training's call for the university to initiate an inclusive and consultative process to deal with this matter and to address racism at the institution.

Cabinet approved the establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Committee to oversee the final preparations for the award of the bid for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Radio Telescope. The decision follows a discussion of the progress on South Africa's bid to host the SKA Telescope. South Africa has developed a partnership with eight other African countries to locate a SKA stations in each country. The countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. The report indicated that the only two remaining bidding countries are South Africa and Australia. The SKA initiative will benefit ICT infrastructure development and post graduate student training in engineering, ICT and astronomy in the continent. The bid will cost R1.6 billion over a three year period.

Cabinet welcomed the initiatives by the Department of Communications and ICASA to reduce the telecommunication cost.

The Minister of Home Affairs briefed Cabinet on the progress the Department of Home Affairs was making to improve service delivery. The meeting supported the policy and strategic direction the department was taking regarding the following: the birth registration and the acquisition of identity documents will be made compulsory for all citizens; extension of late registration of births by one year to 2010; engaging the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other relevant countries with a view to developing and implementing strategies to manage migrants and refugees within the respective countries in order to enhance security and development. The Department will also interact with business, labour and other stakeholders to discuss policy approaches to economic migrants.

The hosting of the Extra-ordinary African Union Conference of Ministers on Communications and Information Technologies in South Africa was approved. The conference will take place at the Emperor's Palace in Johannesburg from 2-5 November 2009.

President Jacob Zuma paid a moving tribute to Mr Joel Netshitenze, the Director-General of the Policy and Coordination Services (PCAS) in The Presidency, who has resigned to pursue other interests. Mr Netshitenzhe will leave The Presidency at the end of December 2009, and will during this period continue performing his functions and assisting with the handover process. He has previously served under Presidents Mandela, Mbeki and Motlanthe. President Zuma said Netshitenzhe has been a great innovator in Government.

Cabinet noted and welcomed President Jacob Zuma's initiatives to meet with the various sectors in government to address the service delivery challenges facing government. These initiatives include the meeting with the commissioners of the South African Police Service and Tuesday's meeting with the executive mayors and municipal managers.

The meeting noted that the Deputy President, Mr Kgalema Motlantle, will launch Football Friday initiative for government in support of the country's hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The launch will take place on the 30 October 2009 at the Union Buildings and would coincide with the meeting of the 2010 Inter-Ministerial Committee.

Cabinet also expressed the hope that the soccer authorities will do their best to ensure that a new coach is appointed sooner rather than later to continue the process of preparing a competitive Bafana Bafana team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup finals.

The 2011 stamp programme was ratified following the consideration of 62 submissions from the public to the Stamp Advisory Committee. The possibility of including the Sumbandila satellite in the 2011 stamp programme will be explored.

The following appointments were approved:

Ms Jodi-Lynne Scholtz was appointed as Chief Operating Officer (DDG level) at the Department of Trade and Industry.
Mr Jabu Moleketi was appointed as a non-executive director to the Board of the Vodacom Group Ltd for a period of three years.
Mr JN Hope was appointed as non-Executive Director to the Board of Telkom for a period of three years.
Ms LP Nobanda and Ms Mohau Pheko were appointed to the Board of the South African Post Office for a three year period.

The following Bills were approved:

Social Assistance Amendment Bill was approved and will be submitted to Parliament for finalisation.
The Community Scheme Ombud Bill will be gazetted for public comment.
The Sectional Titles Management Bill will be gazetted for public comment.
The South African Postbank Bill for tabling in Parliament.
Protection from Harassment Bill for tabling in Parliament.

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Journalist: Deputy President Motlanthe yesterday in the National Assembly spoke about this Task Team appointed by the Cabinet to look at cost cutting measures at Government spending level, also looking at the possibility of relocating Parliament. Any idea or indication if that was discussed at yesterday's meeting? Are there any deadlines set for this Task Team?

Themba Maseko: There was a brief discussion in Cabinet about cost cutting measures that need to be implemented and that the Task Team that was set up to look at this matter needs to expedite its work and report back to Cabinet as soon as possible. In the context of that discussion one of the issues that came up was the cost to the State or to the public of running a Government in Pretoria and a Parliament in Cape Town. The fact that hundreds of staff have to move between the two cities and that Ministers also have houses in Cape Town and houses in Pretoria and that the State needed to provide transport, cars in both Pretoria and Cape Town at a great cost to the State.

As the Deputy President indicated in Parliament, this differs from what use to happen before 1994 where the previous Government would operate for six months in Pretoria and then relocate for another six months of the year and be based in Cape Town and that may have been a much better and more cost effective way of operation. Where in the current system you have Ministers, their staff and senior officials commuting between the two cities on a weekly basis at great cost to the State in terms of flight and accommodation so in the context of discussing costs the issue of moving Parliament was considered but no decision has been taken

Government acknowledges that this is not an easy matter and before any decision could be taken about moving Parliament a lot of preparatory work needs to be done. What Government is looking at this particular stage is basically to look at how much it costs the State to run a Government from Pretoria and Parliament in Cape Town. It's just an exploratory discussion at this stage. Time frames for the Task Team, it's an urgent matter being considered by Government and it will report to Cabinet as soon it has concrete recommendations. You need to remember this is a matter that looks at cost cutting measures across the different spheres of Government so it's taking longer than anticipated and that's why it's taking a bit of time.

Journalist: Do you know then whether Parliament's plans to build new buildings across the roads? They have been buying, there are massive plans to put structures here as part of Parliament has those been suspended or shelved pending this decision?

Themba Maseko: Nothing has been shelved, Parliament remains in Cape Town there is no decision to move Parliament to Pretoria so all the planning that is taking place will continue. What the Deputy President said is just an exploratory discussion at this stage to understand the cost implications of running a Government in Pretoria and Parliament in Cape Town.

Journalist: Is the costing of relocating Parliament also part of this Task Team's mandate?

Themba Maseko: The Task Team's mandate is to look at immediate steps to cut costs so the issue of moving of Parliament emerged in the discussion very briefly. The view of the meeting was to understand how much it's costing to run a Government in Pretoria and Parliament in Cape Town but there is no decision to relocate Parliament to Gauteng.

Journalist: If this Task Team comes back and says these are enormous costs and costs can be saved by having Government and Parliament in Pretoria on the basis of that recommendation will a decision be taken?

Themba Maseko: Government would know that even if the Task Team was to make that recommendation that decision is going to require extensive consultation with a number of stakeholders so it's not an easy decision and my expectation is that even if the Task Team was to come and say this is a possible saving that could be made, Government is not going to take a decision based on that recommendation it will fully understand it's a tough decision that has been considered by previous Cabinets and previous Cabinets felt it was not a practical decision to take. So it's not going to be an easy decision based merely on the recommendation of the Task Team. But it's absolutely essential for Government to understand how much it's costing us to run these arms of Government in two different cities.

Journalist: Is there any sort of timeframe on that kind of decision, when will Parliament move in your estimation?

Themba Maseko: I can't answer that question, no decision has been taken. Again, it is essential to note there is no discussion. These are just exploratory discussions at this stage to have a better understanding of the costs so it would be improper for me to even speculate when that decision will be taken because you understand it's a difficult matter that can't be decided upon quite easily.

Journalist: With regard to Professor Jansen, is it just a question of noting Cabinet's view or are further steps going to be taken calling him to maybe have a discussion. Also I understand that the Harassment Bill includes clauses against stalking, like paparazzi, that kind of harassment or maybe you can explain what those bills involve.

Themba Maseko: I think stalking is included in the Bill but I haven't studied the Bill in great detail so I won't venture into it, the Bill will be published very shortly so we can look at it and see if those kinds of issues are considered so let me not venture into that one at this stage.

On the question of the Professor's decision, what Cabinet was informed of is that the Minister of Higher Education and Training has written to the Professor to ask for an explanation on how the decision was taken but also to suggest that a more inclusive process needs to be invested to bring all the stakeholders to discuss this matter and to deal with issues of racism that are facing the institution. Cabinet is saying at this particular point in time it's not happy with the manner this decision was taken and therefore some kind of explanation is to be given so the Minister has written to the Professor and I'm sure the Professor will respond and explain how the decision was taken.

Journalist: In the view that Government wants to save costs is it acceptable for Minister Nathi Mthethwa to spend R800 000 on five star accommodation in five star luxury hotels?

Themba Maseko: One of the decisions taken at yesterday's meeting was the importance for Government to explain the current provisions of the Ministerial Handbook and in that regard the Minister of Public Works has been given the mandate to brief the media as soon as possible. So there will be a detailed explanation of how the system currently works what are the guidelines given to the Ministers and what steps need to be considered to make sure that Ministers spend within a particular limit. At this particular point in time the system is if the Minister is on official duties and they are travelling in Cape Town or other cities they are allowed by the Handbook to book accommodation in hotels around the country and that matter is handled by the staff of the Ministers. Ministers do not personally make bookings or sign off the bills coming from the various hotels. It's something that is done by the offices of the Ministers so at this particular point in time the Ministers are clearly operating within the framework of the Handbook they are not personally involved in making bookings and authorising the amount of bills paid by Departments. But the Minister will explain in greater deal the provisions of the Handbook so that the country understands what is happening because it's wrong to create the impression that the Ministers are wasteful or breaking the rules. The rules are there and they are clearly stipulated and this is something that needs to be explained. In the same vain, the Minister of Public Service and Administration will also brief on the Handbook on the cars on the hotel accommodation so that we explain what the current provisions and what Government is planning to do as far as the Handbook is concerned.

Journalist: You said they are going to extend the grants to children between the ages of 15 and 18 years, 15-year-olds already get it as far as I understand it, its 16 to 18 years is that correct?

Themba Maseko: What we are trying to capture here is that those who are 15- years-old are suppose to be out of the system as soon as they turn 15 years. So what we are trying to achieve here is to make sure there is a smooth transition from those who are turning 15 years, that they will be captured and continue until they turn 18 years so that is the provision. So the current rule says when you turn 15 years you are out. So this rule says if you turn 15 years you will continue to benefit.

Journalist: But you say 16 years from the 1st of January next year so 15 years immediately?

Themba Maseko: The rule says when you turn 15 years you leave the system so what this provision now says if you turn 15 years you don't leave the system you continue until you turn 18 year old. That is part of what we are trying to achieve by this transitional period the decision was taken yesterday so it's possible that there may be kids who turned 15 years and they are already out of the system. So they may be lost in the process but the current rule and regulation will be put in place within in a matter of weeks to make sure that they are captured in the system.

Journalist: What was the provision made in the budget? What is the size of that grant per person?

Themba Maseko: The grant per person we can check that, I don't know I'm sure that information can be available from somewhere. As far as the budget is concerned this money is approved so it will be used for the extension of the grant. We are aware there is a technicality here. There may be kids who will turn 15 years who will leave the system and who may come back to the system from the 1st of January next year so that is why we are saying this policy applies to kids between the ages of 15 and 18 years. There is going to be a gap because the decision was made yesterday. But there will be an attempt that we don't have to many kids dropping out and coming back into the system.

Journalist: How will this compulsory school attendance work? How will it be implemented?

Themba Maseko: The way the system work the caregivers receive the amounts for the kids and the discussion was made in Cabinet whether it should be made compulsory that for a child who receives a grant that they must be at school and as soon as they leave school they move out of the system. It was felt that was too punitive and that we needed to put the responsibility on the caregivers so that kids who are receiving the grants attend school and if they require some form of social assistance the caregivers take responsibility to make sure the kids are supported and encouraged to go to school. But at this particular point in time it would not be punitive for those kids who are not at school not to get grants.

Journalist: So it's not compulsory?

Themba Maseko: It's not compulsory at this stage.

Journalist: Was there any mention of the Airbus A400 in military aircraft discussed at Cabinet and the escalation of costs?

Themba Maseko: The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans did brief Cabinet on the matter and decisions will be taken. We will make an announcement soon about what is going to happen on that particular matter.

Journalist: So you are saying Cabinet or the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans will make a decision either yea or nay to whether or not the Government is still going to continue with the purchase within the next few days, is that correct?

Themba Maseko: The Minister will make an announcement on what's going to happen with that contract soon.

Journalist: The announcement could be that she is making up her mind or they are putting a Task Team in place to examine the contract?

Themba Maseko: It's a decision about what's going to happen with the contract.

Journalist: Are you saying that the decision has been taken by Cabinet and what we are discussing here is the announcement of the decision. Cabinet decided yesterday what will happen and the Minister is going to announce that decision?

Themba Maseko: The matter was discussed in Cabinet and the Minister of Defence will make an announcement on the matter. Cabinet has taken a view on the matter.

Journalist: The Minister of Defence and Military Veterans was also supposed to get a report on the Deputy President's plane landing in the DRC on Friday. Did she say anything about that?

Themba Maseko: Not at this meeting.

Journalist: The President said in his speech to Mayors that the matter of the mandate of the Economic Development Department and other Economic Departments was being discussed and will be finalized in the next few weeks. Can you explain at what event and what process is this going to be finalized? What will we be receiving in the next few weeks that will clarify this issue?

Themba Maseko: As you know there are a lot of discussions especially in the media about who is responsible for Economic Policy in the country so that decision will essentially be a prerogative of the President to just clarify who exactly will take full responsibility for this particular matter. So the President is considering the matter and he will say what the best possible location of that function in Government. The matter is receiving serious attention at the highest level of Government. And I think the President is very clear on this matter and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Journalist: So it's just an ordinary announcement that we are expecting?

Themba Maseko: It will be an announcement of a decision, but it will then have to be formalized. I will have to check what the formal process of formalisation is.

Journalist: On the Child Support Grant, is it only for 16- year-olds from the 1st of January or is it 16 to 18- year-olds?

Themba Maseko: It's going to be phased in over the next three years. So the 1st of January 2010, 16-year-olds, 1st of January 2011, 17-year-olds, etc... So that is how the policy will be implemented, over a 3-year period. When you reach 18 you leave the system, so you won't be registering.

Journalist: Do you have any figures for the number of single mothers that will benefit from this?

Themba Maseko: We will give you those numbers now.

Journalist: It says Joel Netshitenzhe is leaving to pursue other interests. Do we know what those other interests are? And why did he leave? Who did he upset? Who upset him?

Themba Maseko: I have no clue what he is going to do, that matter has not been discussed. It will be up to Joel to decide what he wants to do. Whether he upset anyone in Government, at this stage I can tell you for certain that I am not aware of anybody that Joel has upset that could have made him to take the decision not to stay in Government.

Journalist: Was Joel there to hear the moving tribute?

Themba Maseko: He was sitting next to me, yes.

Journalist: Was he moved?

Themba Maseko: I'm sure he was emotionally moved.

Journalist: So the Policy and Coordination Services (PCAS) is going to be collapsed and the staff distributed or dispersed, summoned to Mr. Chabane's Ministry. If you could just explain how that works?

Themba Maseko: The Presidency is currently finalising its structures, in line with the reconfigured structure of Government. So the future of the Policy Unit will be finalised once the new structure will be decided upon for the Presidency. So people who are currently working in the Policy Unit will be accommodated in the new structure that's been put in place for the Presidency. That announcement will be made as soon as those structures have been finalised.

Journalist: The advisor to the Minister of Health says that the National Health Insurance (NHI) document was submitted to Cabinet. Was it discussed in Cabinet?

Themba Maseko: The NHI document did not serve at the meeting yesterday. If it was submitted in Cabinet, it's probably in the Cabinet Committee processes. It has not yet formally served in the Cabinet meeting.

Journalist: Can you give an official Cabinet response to a report that appeared in Sake 24 saying that Government had planned to freeze the Rand. It's been announced by the Economic Development Ministry?

Themba Maseko: Unfortunately I can't give you an official Cabinet response because the matter was not discussed in the Cabinet meeting. As soon as the matter comes up for discussion in Cabinet we will make an announcement.

Journalist: Can you explain more about Football Friday?

Themba Maseko: The Football Friday initiative is basically a campaign to mobilize South Africans to support Bafana Bafana but also to mobilize them in preparation for 2010 FIFA World Cup. As you know the campaign is essential about encouraging South Africans to wear their Bafana Bafana jerseys every Friday to work. It's an initiative coming from the private sector, supported by the 2010 and adopted formally by Cabinet. So this initiative is essentially meant to mobilize South Africans. On the 30th the Deputy President will announce what will be happening within Government to mobilise people within Government to support the campaign for this initiative.

Journalist: How concerned is Cabinet about Bafana's performance?

Themba Maseko: Cabinet is aware that it is absolutely essential for the national Team to perform well during the World Cup finals because history has proved that if the host country's National Team performs well that tends to mobilise citizens of that country to attend the games and to be excited about the Tournament. Should we be knocked out in the early stages of the tournament it may serve to damper the spirits of South Africans. So that is why Cabinet is of the view that the appointment of a coach as quickly as possible is important to make sure that the process of developing the team starts now. As I was saying it's going to be essential that the team performs fairly well at the tournament. Our hope is that as a host nation we should win the World Cup and become the 1st African Nation to win the World Cup.

Journalist: About the Square Kilometre Array. How is it arranged that there are stations? What are those stations doing in other countries quite widely spread across Africa? And will the actual inclusion of these countries in the bid involved and contributing to the R1.6bn?

Themba Maseko: The square kilometre telescope is a combination of hundreds of telescopes spread across huge geographic areas. The view was that we don't have necessarily enough location for this particular telescope in one part of the country. So the view was to try and include the African countries in this initiative to spread skills and make sure that the development of the skills is not just limited to South Africa. We will station some of those telescopes in the different countries to make sure that other countries can also benefit from this initiative.

I have the document on the numbers. Year one an estimated number of 423 253 children will be eligible in year one. The next number 360 755 children and the next estimate for year three is 272 354 children will be eligible.

Journalist: Will the 16-year-olds continue to be in the system until they leave at age 18? So why will additional children come into it? You have 423 253 children going onto the system additional to the numbers that are present on January the 1st. How do you calculate that? Is that the number of children who go onto the system from being born or from 1st qualifying for the grant? And if this is just extra children because they are turning this age, why does it not continue all the way through until they turn 18? Why are there additional children the year after?

Themba Maseko: Because there are other kids turning that age who were not in the system. It's a combination of new children and the continuation of those who have been in the system and others will be leaving the system. That is why the number changes from year to year.

Journalist: There won't be 17-year-olds next year that is why it increases like that.

Journalist: Themba your numbers don't add up to 2 million, your statement says it will benefit 2 million children but yours adds up to 1.2m?

Themba Maseko: These are estimated numbers as you can imagine so we are budgeting and expecting that up to 2 million people will benefit ultimately but in terms of our current statistics and data available it's estimated that in addition to the numbers that we are saying there could be other kids joining the program at a later stage. What I may undertake to do is that when we do the Ministerial briefing at the end of the month we will get the Social Department to give the actual numbers to clarify all of these questions.

Journalist: If provision was made for this in the Budget why has it taken so long to implement why didn't it say from the 1st of April? Did 15-year-olds not get immediately included?

Themba Maseko: There has been a lot of planning and discussion within in Government and one of the risks that we are experiencing that if you announce a decision of this nature and you don't allow yourself enough time to plan to avoid researchers exceeding the numbers you are hoping to get in the system this could present a budget challenge for you in the budgeting process so Government needed a lot of time to make sure we are ready. As you can see from the numbers we are working on the best possible estimates and that is why we needed enough time to plan for this, there is also other policy discussions that are taking place. For instance the question that was asked earlier on should it be made compulsory for whoever is receiving a grant must also go to school there has been a lot of discussion and debate around that matter. Cabinet is of the view that these discussions could take forever and yet there are kids who need urgent assistance as we speak and that is why we decided to take this decision now for implementation as of the 1st of January 2010 so it's been a planning process really that's why the delay.

Journalist: As I recall it was not in the budget it was in the Polokwane resolution it was decided in the budget that it was not affordable to do this extension. And now we are in a situation where we are facing a R70bn shortfall in revenue and Government has decided that now its affordable to extend the Child Support Grant, can you explain that?

Themba Maseko: The budgetary implications of this decision has been considered extensively over a long period of time and Cabinet has decided because of the issue of poverty that the country is facing it's an opportunity to take this decision at this point in time. The budgetary explanation will be given when the Minister in Finance delivers his Medium Term Budget Policy speech in Parliament in a week's time so provision has been made for this policy change and we are ready to implement it as of the 1st of January 2010.

Journalist: Did Cabinet get briefed on the MTEF figures or does that only happen at a later stage?

Themba Maseko: Cabinet was briefed on the MTEF and the financial situation at its meeting which took place last week Wednesday so what the Minister of Finance will be presenting will be a budget that he had presented and received formal approval and support of Cabinet so Cabinet was indeed briefed.

Themba Maseko: Thank you very much.

22 October 2009

Issued by Government Communications (GCIS)
Enquiries: Themba Maseko (Government Spokesperson)
Contact : 083 645 0810
www.gcis.gov.za; www.info.gov.za

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