Replies to oral questions by President Jacob Zuma in the National Assembly

24 March 2010

1.             Mr H T Magama (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

 

(a) What were the important outcomes of his engagements with the British government and other stakeholders during his official visit to the United Kingdom from 2 to 6 March 2010 and (b) how has the visit strengthened bilateral relations with the United Kingdom?                                                                                                                NO761E                                                                                            

 

REPLY:

 

On the question of our visit to the United Kingdom, the most important outcome was the consolidation and further strengthening of the excellent relations that already exist between the two countries. 

 

There was specific emphasis on cooperation on our priorities such as education, health, the fight against crime and creating decent jobs.

 

The visit expressed unequivocally, our readiness to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and allayed fears regarding security around the World Cup event.

 

In this regard, South Africa and the UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Police and other Co-operation during the World Cup.

 

We took more than 200 business people along to strengthen economic ties, and underline the importance of this relationship.

 

They met with British companies to discuss opportunities in various sectors.

 

Total trade between the two countries in 2008 was valued at 74 billion rand and the United Kingdom is South Africa’s largest foreign investor.

 

The meeting with the South Africa-UK Business Forum and other public engagements provided an opportunity to reiterate Government’s position on nationalisation.

 

We reiterated that South Africa remains an attractive destination for investment.

 

On education, the two countries will develop links between Further Education and Training Colleges.

 

This will help South Africa to tackle unemployment through skills development.

 

We are also going to establish a South Africa-UK Next Generation Forum to deepen links between young people.

 

We resolved to work with FIFA and the Global Campaign for Education in their 1 Goal campaign, aimed at harnessing the power of the 2010 FIFA World Cup for the benefit of education for all.

 

This should be one of the greatest spin offs of the World Cup on African soil.

 

I urge members of this House to support this worthwhile campaign.

 

The UK re-affirmed its commitment to support the fight against HIV/AIDS in South Africa and is supporting our public health system in a new 25 million pound programme.

 

This is to enable the achievement of key targets such as cutting mother to child transmission and halving new infections.

 

With regard to multilateral relations, we concurred that the UK and South Africa will work together towards the reform of the international financial institutions, to make them more effective, accountable and legitimate.

 

We also welcomed UK support for permanent African representation on the United Nations Security Council.

 

This will enable the UN Security Council to better address issues of peace and security across the globe.

 

The UK and South Africa agreed to work together through the G20 and UN to make 2010 the year of action on combating poverty.

 

This would include agreement on a global action plan on the Millennium Development Goals at the UN Summit in September 2010.

 

Both the UK and South Africa welcome the new High Level Advisory Group on Climate Finance and call for developed countries to provide finance from 2013.

 

The State Visit has shown that ties between South Africa and the UK are getting stronger and we will continue to explore areas of cooperation that will help us achieve our developmental goals.

 

2.             The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the President of the

Republic:

 

(1)           Whether the review of state-owned entities which he had announced recently will look at the impact of Government’s propensity to appoint only persons of a certain political organisation on public entities; if not, why not; if so, what are the further relevant details;

(2)           Whether the findings will be tabled in Parliament; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

(3)           Whether the review will involve an assessment of each individual state-owned entity; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

(4)           Why was the review of all state-owned entities not announced in his State of the Nation Address?       NO605E                                                                                

 

REPLY:

 

As Members would recall, the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) which we released last year, states that we should integrate State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) into our planning processes and improve the monitoring and evaluation of their performance.

 

With that in mind, we have decided to set up a two-pronged review of SOEs that will culminate in a united government position on the role of SOEs in supporting government’s developmental agenda in the period ahead.

 

The two processes are complementary and will culminate in a single synthesised report for consideration and decision–making by Cabinet.

 

The first part of the review will be undertaken internally in government under the leadership and oversight of the Inter-Ministerial Committee that is co-chaired by Ministers Barbara Hogan and Pravin Gordhan.

 

Broadly, this part of the review should make recommendations on a number of issues, including:

 

1.     How government can strengthen alignment between its development objectives and the strategic role to be played by SOEs in the economy in the period ahead;

 

2.     Coordination of infrastructure investment by SOEs to ensure that the country has the capacity ahead of demand and ensuring that it is coordinated with the rollout of the required infrastructure;

3.     How to ensure an effective and transparent regulatory process for SOEs;

 

4.     Strategies for utilising SOE investment as a means for localisation and industrial development.

 

5.       Revival of the role of state owned enterprises in skills development and training.

 

The second part of the process will be undertaken by an independent panel of experts assisting the Presidency and the Inter-Ministerial task team.

 

The terms of reference are still being finalised.

 

It is however envisaged that this process will focus on amongst other issues:

 

·       Reviewing current governance arrangements relating to SOEs in South Africa.

 

·       Undertaking an audit of current practices regarding planning and decision making within SOEs, as well as between SOEs and government.

 

·       Undertaking a critical assessment of the role SOEs have played in supporting government’s development objectives

 

The two complementary streams of work will be overseen and coordinated by the Presidency.

 

Once completed, the work will be submitted to the Presidency for synthesis into a final report that will serve in Cabinet before its recommendations are adopted and implemented as government policy.

In answering some of the specific questions raised by the Honourable Leader of the Opposition, executives at state owned enterprises are appointed on merit.

 

We have not yet considered the issue of the tabling of the review in Parliament, but will do so once our initial processes have been completed.

 

The main thrust of the State of the Nation Address was to communicate the new outcomes approach and the new way of doing things in government in order to speed up service delivery and to change the way government works.

 

We did indicate as well that most of the detail of the work would be in Departmental budget votes.

 

3.             Ms A Mda (Cope) to ask the President of the Republic:

 

(1)           Whether, in view of problems surrounding service delivery by local government, he has called for an investigation into allegations that several municipalities in Limpopo province awarded contracts exceeding R140 million to a certain company (name furnished); if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

(2)           Whether he has been informed that building projects awarded to the said company by the province and certain local governments of Limpopo were not completed or collapsed; if so, what are the relevant details;

(3)           Whether he will instruct the inter-ministerial committee on corruption to take urgent steps to ensure transparency of the tender process so that communities can know who applied for a tender, who had been appointed and why the tender was awarded to a specific company; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?                               NO720E

                                                                   

REPLY:

 

One of the key priorities of this Government is to fight crime and corruption.

 

Since the fourth democratic administration took office in May last year, there have been numerous examples of action taken in pursuance of this priority.

 

It is essential that all cases are dealt with swiftly, thoroughly and impartially.

 

Honourable members will appreciate that it is not appropriate for the relevant agencies to announce the details of any cases before investigations are completed.

 

It is important not to prejudice the cases, or to undermine the rights of people concerned.

 

If any member of this House, or indeed any member of the public, has information that would assist in the investigation of any alleged corrupt activity, they are urged to provide that information to the relevant authorities.

 

I have not been informed of the said building projects relating to the company referred to.

 

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Corruption will, as part of its mandate, look at ways and means of improving tender processes where necessary.

 

It will consider the work flowing from the Multi-Agency Initiative on Supply Chain Management which is led by the National Treasury.

 

Should there be areas that are identified that suggest a lack of transparency in the procurement processes in Government; the matter will surely be attended to.

 

It must be noted, however, that the problem with tender fraud does not generally arise out of lack of transparency, but from non-compliance with otherwise transparent policies.

 

All the recommendations from the team lead by the National Treasury will be considered and decided upon.

 

4.             Ms Z S Dubazana (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

 

To what extent did the measures contained in the Framework Agreement that was announced in 2009 succeed in providing a safety net for citizens who were worst affected by the impact of the global economic crisis?                                                            NO762E                  

 

REPLY:

 

Honourable Member, the Framework Agreement that was concluded a year ago between government and our social partners has provided relief to many citizens that are affected by the global economic crisis.

 

The measures that have been undertaken include the following:

 

In February 2009 government announced a 787 billion rand infrastructure programme.

 

This was increased to 846 billion rand in the 2010 budget speech.

 

Through the expanded public works programme and other associated measures, many have been able to obtain work opportunities.

 

You would be aware that South Africa introduced its first ever training layoff scheme with  2,9 billion rand being made available for its implementation.

 

The scheme is aimed at providing companies with an alternative to retrenching workers during a period of industrial slack caused by recession thereby enabling employees to have continued income, employment security and skills acquisition.

 

This scheme has been actively promoted as an alternative to retrenchments.

 

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) incorporated the training lay-offs into a holistic approach to preventing job losses.

 

In total, 15 000 jobs have been saved since the scheme was introduced.

 

Another key intervention includes the 6, 1 billion rand set aside by the Industrial Development Corporation as special loans for firms in distress, and 2 billion rand allocated by the Unemployment Insurance Fund to the IDC to be loaned to firms in distress.

 

The partners also approved development sector packages through NEDLAC for industries in distress, such as the automobile, clothing and textiles, capital equipment, transport equipment and metal fabrication sectors.

 

The framework agreement leadership group also agreed on strict conditions for businesses that use state funding to prevent abuse.

 

The conditions include restraint in relation to executive pay, restrictions on retrenchment, commitment to local procurement and social dialogue between labour and business at the workplace.

 

In a move to save jobs further, the South African Revenue Service seized 750 tons of clothing and textile products that had been smuggled into the country from raids on 88 premises conducted in a nationwide enforcement initiative.

 

An estimated 1 400 jobs have been saved as a result of these actions.

 

As a key poverty alleviation measure, the child support grant is now being extended to children up to the age of 18.

 

Children who receive the child support grant over the age of 15 years are expected to be at school or college, and measures will be taken to monitor this.

 

5.             Mr J H van der Merwe (IFP) to ask the President of the Republic:

 

(1)    In respect of his refusal of 230 applications for pardon and 154 pending outcomes of the 384 applications that were made to him in terms of Section 84(2) (j) of the Constitution, what are the reasons for the refusal of each of the applications;

(2)    whether he has called for any additional information and/or documents other than the information contained in the applications themselves to assist him to exercise his powers to grant or refuse pardon; if not, why did he refuse the offer of additional information by the applicants’ attorney; if so, what information and documents were placed before him to enable him to exercise his power in each of the applications?                 NO758E                                                                                         

 

REPLY:

 

As the Honourable van der Merwe, correctly stated, Section 84(2)(j) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa  provides that the President is “responsible for pardoning or reprieving offenders and remitting any fines, penalties of forfeitures”.

 

This is a power that has its origins in the prerogative powers of the English monarch, but are powers exercised by the Presidents of many countries – the United States of America, the Russian Federation, France, Italy and Ireland are just some examples.

 

As the Honourable van der Merwe is aware, this is a power exercised by the President as Head of State and not as Head of the Executive. 

 

The Constitutional Court has held that this is a power that flows directly from the Constitution itself and unlike the other powers of the President “they do not derive their authority from and are not dependent on legislative enactments”. 

 

The Constitutional Court has also found that “the pardoning power is not a private act of grace in the sense that the pardoning power in a monarchy may be.  It is a recognition…that a power should be granted to the President to determine when, in his view, the public welfare will be better served by granting a remission of sentence or some other form of pardon.”

 

Lastly whilst this power is not constrained by any legislation, the Constitutional Court has made it clear that any conduct by the President in exercising his or her pardoning powers that undermine any provision of the Constitution is reviewable.

 

With regard to the applications that the Honourable Van der Merwe refers to, I considered each of the applications individually on its merits. 

 

I also took into account all the information and documentation supplied by each of the applicants, many of whom were represented by the Honourable Van der Merwe’s law firm.

 

I also considered all other relevant factors and information including advice and recommendations from my advisors and other relevant officials.

 

I concluded that 230 of the applications for pardons should not be granted. 

 

I do not, at this stage, intend to supply reasons for my decisions.

 

I shall do so, at a later stage, should it become necessary.

 

I will consider the remaining 154 applications at the same time that I work on the applications considered by the Multi-Party Reference Group set up by former President Mbeki.

 

6.             Mrs P de Lille (ID) to ask the President of the Republic:

 

Whether the national debate on morality (details furnished) that he called for will include the morality of persons in and connected to the Government benefiting financially from tenders; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?                                                                                                                                       NO750E

 

REPLY:

 

Our Constitution promotes the concept of unity in diversity and encourages us to be tolerant and to respect each other’s cultures, languages, religions and other distinctions.

 

I intend to initiate a national debate on morality so that we can better appreciate the values that are shared across the diversity of our cultures.

 

It is an opportunity also to understand those practices and values that are peculiar to certain cultures.

 

The content of the debate, and the matters that will be raised during the course of the debate, will depend on what is important to the people of this country.

 

In my view, any discussion on a nation’s morality should also promote a culture of adherence to the rule of law, and should strongly condemn the abuse of power in any form, something which, as government, we promote.

 

We should also promote a culture of honesty and integrity in all spheres of society.

 

Therefore, the principle that we should establish is that no person should be able to derive undue financial benefit from the State, by virtue of the public position they occupy.

 

This applies to elected public representatives and members of the public service.

 

This has been the principle that has guided our efforts over the last 16 years, through legislation and regulations, to prevent the abuse of public funds.

 

We continually examine these measures, and, where there are shortcomings, we take steps to address them.

 

We should be cautious, however, that our efforts to strengthen these provisions do not inadvertently undermine the rights of any citizen to engage in legitimate business activity, including with the state.

 

We must also be careful not to make sweeping statements that place legitimate business activities in the same basket as those that may be unlawful or unethical.

 

I am certain that in the course of this debate, such distinctions will become clearer, and we will be better equipped as a nation to promote behaviour that we can all agree is ethical and proper.

 

What has been the problem is that some people seem to regard their cultural belief as the only one that is correct, and tend to use this to judge others and impose their value system on them.

 

Where do they get this authority to judge others?

 

We therefore need a common conversation to arrive at a commonly shared determination.

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