Deputy President's reply to oral questions in the National Assembly
1. Mr T Makondo (ANC) to ask the Deputy President:
Having consideration for the fact that the deepening of any democratic transition makes progress based on the balance of forces at a given time and the objective conditions that prevail, that the construction of a national democratic society presupposes non-racialism as a pillar in the transformation of that society, that non-racialism is not a metaphysical state of existence but rather a concrete expression of a democratic society engaging with itself over key and strategic issues affecting the nation and that the mobilisation of a nation around the essence of living out the value of non-racialism remains the responsibility of all progressive democrats, he can outline in concrete terms and in view of his responsibility for social cohesion the nature and characteristics of the government's position on non-racism and the responsibilities that arise from and during its implementation as a value underpinning society, given the flaws in a number of current debates with regard to race and racism?
The Freedom Charter and Constitution enjoins us to subscribe to the high values of our constitution. These include non-racialism, equality and tolerance.
If we are to build a truly non-racial society, then all South Africans - black and white - need to unite in tackling racial prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. Racism is embedded in attitudes, beliefs and behaviour to one another. Racism is at the heart of the economic disparities in this country.
If we are to build a non-racial society, we need to tackle degrading and dehumanising racist attitudes and practices, and rid our country of demeaning practices, while ensuring equal economic and social opportunities for all South Africans. Since 1994, the ANC-led government has used its capacity and resources to work towards a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
We have removed racist laws from the statute books. We have introduced and passed legislation and allocated resources to deracialise the economy and create an inclusive society. The Department of Arts and Culture is leading efforts together with a number of role players to develop a comprehensive national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
If we are to be successful, we must acknowledge that racism in our country has its roots in a deliberate effort to keep black South Africans out of the mainstream of the economy, deny them the opportunity to run businesses, and prevent them from gaining the skills, assets and experience. It is therefore imperative that we radically transform our economy to overcome poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Government has taken concrete steps to rid our country of racism. We need to mobilising the people of this country. We must learn from the words of our icon, Nelson Mandela, when he said that just as racism and hatred can be learned, we can also teach people to love. Social cohesion is a national effort for which all of us must take both collective and personal responsibility.
I thank you.
2. The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the Deputy President:
Whether, in light of the country's current dire economic conditions and its effect on the jobs crisis, any plans have been put in place by the Inter-Ministerial Committee chaired by him to fast-track the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Review Committee on State-Owned Entities (SOEs), particularly relating to the identification of SOEs to be sold off; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?
The central challenge facing South Africa today is the achievement of faster economic growth, greater job creation and the reduction of poverty and inequality. Our state-owned enterprises - or SOEs - have a critical role to play as catalysts for investment, growth and employment.
Many are well placed to perform this role and indeed are doing so. However, some SOEs are facing operational and financial challenges or instability at a governance and managerial level. Others are struggling to remain profitable in very difficult and challenging trading circumstances.
Working together with various Ministries and stakeholders, the Inter-Ministerial Committee I have been tasked to chair is seized with the task of strengthening the economic, social and developmental role of our SOEs. The IMC is overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Review Committee - PRC - in a phased manner, focusing in the immediate term on stabilisation and consolidation.
One of the 31 recommendations of the PRC report calls for the rationalising of the state's holdings by focusing on those SOEs that provide public goods and those that are strategic to the economy of our country.
Work is underway within the IMC to ensure that this process is guided by a clear framework, credible evidence and, most of all, our national interest. As President Jacob Zuma indicated in his State of the Nation Address, this process involves streamlining and sharpening the mandates of SOEs, rationalising them where there is an overlap of mandates, and phasing-out those state owned enterprises that are no longer relevant to our development agenda.
In some instances, this will involve strengthening SOEs through consolidation, such as the merger being contemplated between SAA and SA Express. In others, it could involve the inclusion of minority equity partners leaving government as the majority shareholder.
The IMC is attending to this work as a matter of priority, understanding that it demands transparency and broad consultation. Government remains confident that these interventions will lead to the long-term sustainability of these SOEs with good corporate governance structures in place and a leadership committed to the advancement of the country's goals as set out in the National Development Plan.
I thank you.
3. Mr N F Shivambu (EFF) to ask the Deputy President:
Whether, in view of accusations by labour representatives at the National Minimum Wage Symposium held at Wits University on 2 and 3 February 2016, that the Government is frustrating the progress on the implementation of the national minimum wage at the National Economic Development and Labour Council and mounting international evidence of the positive role a national minimum wage can play in a country's economy, the government is siding with the business sector by delaying the implementation of the national minimum wage to the detriment of workers; if not, when will the Government implement the national minimum wage?
We have received no indication from any of the NEDLAC constituencies that government is frustrating progress on the implementation of the national minimum wage. Representatives of labour, business and the community sector have had ample opportunity to raise any concerns they may have.
Since November last year, I have convened three meetings of the Committee of Principals. I have held two rounds of bilateral meetings with each of the constituencies. Where concerns have been raised, they have been addressed.
As indicated by the President in the State of the Nation, deliberations are currently underway between the social partners on the level at which the national minimum wage must be set. These deliberations are both complex and crucial. A numbers of other countries have taken much longer to arrive at a national minimum wage.
The national minimum wage needs to be set at a level that makes a meaningful difference in the lives of the lowest paid workers, while ensuring that economic growth and job creation can be sustained. There is general agreement that the level agreed upon should be based on the best available evidence.
All social partners have committed themselves to conclude these deliberations without any delay. The national minimum wage negotiations are forging ahead. They have agreed that this process requires careful management and execution. A number of experts are advising the process.
In the coming months we will be making significant announcements in this regard. There have been no delays caused by government.
I thank you.
4. Ms M T Kubayi (ANC) to ask the Deputy President:
(1) In view of the President, Mr Jacob G Zuma, delegating him to intervene in the SA Post Office (SAPO) to assist in ensuring that the situation at SAPO is stabilised, what (a) is the current status of SAPO and (b) interventions have been implemented at SAPO;
(2) has he found any signs that the situation at SAPO is stabilising; if not, why is the situation not stabilising;
(3) What further steps does he intend to take to ensure that SAPO becomes a viable and sustainable business?
There is a new leadership in place at the South African Post Office. A new Board has been appointed, comprised of people with the requisite skills and experience to oversee the implementation the turnaround of an institution we are seeking to modernise. Key executive management positions, including the CEO, have been filled.
The CFO position is soon to be filled. In 2015, a Strategic Turnaround Plan was put in place to improve the performance at the Post Office.
The company has been successful in reducing costs, but less successful in boosting revenues. Taking this experience into account, the company has reviewed and refined the turnaround strategy to ensure that a business model suited to the changing postal services environment is put in place.
It is envisaged that the company's financial performance will improve and stabilise over the next financial year. The relevant ministers are working together to find workable solutions to address the Post Office's funding challenges. In this regard, R650 million has been allocated to the Post Office as part of the 2016/2017 MTEF allocation.
The company is currently in the process of raising the funding it requires to pay outstanding debtors and meet its liquidity requirements while executing the turnaround plan. The Inter-Ministerial Committee on state-owned entities, working together with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and National Treasury, will continue to monitor the implementation of this plan.
The Post Office has great potential to become a leading, innovative and profitable state-owned enterprise.
I thank you.
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