President Jacob Zuma: Questions for oral reply in the National Assembly

17 Mar 2016

Question NO625E

Ms M C C Pilane-Majake (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

1. What is the role of the Government’s economic diplomacy in the promotion of (a) peace and stability and (b) regional (i) development and (ii) economic integration on the African continent?                        

REPLY:

Honourable Speaker,

The fundamental tenet of our country’s foreign policy is to contribute to building a better Africa that is strong and growing economically, that is stable, and which is at peace with itself. We are committed to a global political and economic order that is fair, equitable and interdependent.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994 we have worked tirelessly with our sister countries to bring about peace, stability, democracy and development in the African continent. We have been involved in every major initiative to bring about peace, stability and economic development in the continent.

Economic diplomacy is an important instrument that we use to pursue our foreign policy goal of building a better Africa in a better world.

Critical to our economic diplomatic efforts has been strengthening of bilateral relations with most countries in the African continent.

In our recent State Visit to Nigeria for instance, we elevated the Bi-national Commission between the two countries to the Heads of State level.  Nigeria is just a latest of countries in the continent in which bilateral relations are at the highest level.

These economic diplomatic efforts have borne results. Intra-continental trade has been increasing over the past two decades.

A large number of South African companies are active in many countries of the African continent. More African countries are conducting trade with one another.

Honourable Speaker,

We are taking additional steps that will ensure that there is closer economic integration and development in the African continent.

These steps include the building of infrastructure in the continent to facilitate movement of people and goods between countries. In this regard, the African Union appointed me to champion a continent-wide initiative of building infrastructure in the continent.

We have taken these important steps towards closer economic integration because African markets are small by global standards, which necessitate the need to build larger markets. Regional integration is therefore not only a political vision, but also makes business sense. Creating larger markets with greater critical mass of people will not only enhance the African investment proposition; it is also the only way Africa will effectively compete in the global economy.

For South Africa, SADC and SACU are important vehicles to drive regional economic integration. But our focus now is broadening integration beyond existing Regional Economic Communities in accordance with the African Union’s Vision 2063.

The key building blocks to this are processes leading to the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the envisaged Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA).

South Africa’s future remains inextricably linked to the future of its neighbours in the region, as well as that of the entire continent of Africa. The growth of our economy, the creation of jobs for our people, and our prosperity hinge on the success of these efforts to build a peaceful, stable, and prosperous continent.

I thank you.

Question NO622E

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

Whether he consulted any person before the (a) appointment of Mr David van Rooyen as Minister of Finance on 9 December 2015 and (b) removal of Mr van Rooyen as Minister of Finance three days later; if not, in each specified case, why not; if so, (i) what is the (aa) name and (bb) designation of each specified person consulted and (ii) why was each specified person consulted?           

REPLY:

Honourable Speaker,

The appointment and removal of Cabinet members are dealt with in terms of section 91(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

Section 91(2) of the Constitution provides that “the President appoints the Deputy President and Ministers, assigns their power and functions, and may dismiss them.”

Section 93 (1) of the Constitution states that “The President may appoint any number of Deputy Ministers from among the members of the National Assembly… to assist the members of the Cabinet, and may dismiss them”.

The Constitution does not require me to consult anyone before I appoint or remove a Minister or a Deputy Minister. 

I thank you.

Question NO626E

4.  Mr N E Gcwabaza (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

The National Development Plan provides that a more dynamic growth requires South Africans to work together to implement measures that can create a united society and an inclusive economy that is characterised by equality and creates more sustainable employment and equitably shares the wealth produced.

As the black industrialists’ strategy is one of the mechanisms for realising an inclusive economy and equitable shared wealth, how can South Africans work together to ensure the success of this strategy?                                                     

REPLY:  

Honourable Speaker,

As I stated in the State of the Nation Address in February this year, economic transformation and black economic empowerment are critical components of government’s economic programmes.

The purpose of the Black Industrialists Policy is to expand the industrial base through the targeted participation of black entrepreneurs in manufacturing and other industrial sectors.

We are pleased that the private sector has responded warmly to this initiative.

Government has already taken practical steps to implement the Black Industrialist Programme.

Financial support to the tune of R30 billion has been pledged by the development finance institutions to provide funding to black entrepreneurs who will participate in the Black Industrialist Programme.

For a company or business to participate and receive support from the Programme, more than 50% of that company must be owned, managed and controlled by black people.

Black businesses that seek support should operate in the manufacturing sectors of the economy, create jobs, and increase the localisation of production activities.

Moreover, the manufacturing projects should have a minimum value of at least R30 million to qualify for support.

The following manufacturing sectors among others have been prioritised for support from the Programme:

  • The Ocean economy including ship building and repair
  • Mineral beneficiation
  • Agro processing
  • Information Communication Technologies
  • Clothing, Textiles, leather and footware
  • Pulp, paper and furniture
  • Industrial infrastructure
  • Clean technology and energy
  • Aerospace, rail and automotive components, as well as
  • Oil and gas, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and plastics

Government will also provide non-financial support such as training, match-making and information sharing; research and innovation support; quality standards and productivity support; and economic infrastructure such as Special Economic Zones, Industrial Parks and Clusters.

Other forms of support will include facilitating access to contracts and markets.

I thank you.

Question NO628E

5. Ms L L van der Merwe (IFP) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1)  Whether he will consider establishing a commission of inquiry in accordance with section 84(2)(f) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, into illegal deductions from the accounts of SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant beneficiaries considering that reports of such deductions are on the increase and that the ministerial task team has been unable to resolve the ongoing concerns;

(2)  whether the terms of reference will focus on and include (a) the scope and scale of the illegal deductions from the accounts of SASSA grant beneficiaries and (b) identifying the (i) responsible parties to be held accountable for the on-going illegal SASSA grant deductions and grant fraud in general and (ii) appropriate remedial action that should be taken;

(3)  whether he will table the report of the commission, once released, in the National Assembly for consideration?                                                                           

REPLY

Honourable Speaker,

1. Yes, the illegal deductions from the accounts of South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant beneficiaries are on the increase. In response to this increase the Minister of Social Development established a Ministerial Task Team on Deductions comprising representatives from civil society, officials from the Department of Social Development and SASSA to address the matter of deductions in general and to assist the social grants beneficiaries to report whenever there have been deductions from their accounts and to assist them find recourse. As a result, social grant beneficiaries do not have to seek recourse alone; they have the Ministerial Task Team to help them.

The Ministerial Task Team on Deductions has made much progress in a short period of time since it was established. Over thirteen thousand cases of deductions have been reported to it. It has assisted in the resolution of ten and a half thousand of those cases and is busy addressing the approximately two thousand cases that are outstanding.

Other achievements include the development and implementation of the recourse mechanism; the publishing of the amended regulations in February 2016 for public comment; and the amendments to the Social Assistance Act which will be going to Cabinet in April 2016 and Parliament thereafter.

Other achievements include the support received from civil society in two major court cases with the insurance industry, with a third pending, and the tireless effort of committee members and their organisations to support grant beneficiaries on the ground to find recourse.

Establishing a new commission may therefore be a step backward because the Ministerial Task Team is already addressing these issues adequately.

(2) The terms of reference of the Ministerial Task Team   focus on and include the scope and scale of the deductions from the accounts of grant beneficiaries and to identify the responsible parties to be held accountable for the illegal SASSA grant deductions.

I will also be promulgating establishment of the Inspectorate for Social Assistance as provided for in Section 24 of the Social Assistance Act No.13 of 2004.

The Inspectorate will be responsible for investigating and acting against illegal and fraudulent activity in the social assistance system as a whole.

The work of the Inspectorate will support what the Ministerial Task Team is already doing, which is focused on the issue of deductions while the Inspectorate will address broader issues of fraud and corruption.

(3)  The Portfolio Committee on Social Development is welcomed to engage with the task team and to request regular progress reports from them, through the Minister of Social Development.

Question NO727E

6.  Prof N M Khubisa (NFP) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1) Whether, with reference to his announcement in the State of the Nation Address on 11 February 2016 that there will be no increases in university fees for 2016, he can provide relevant details on what exact amount has been allocated to ensure the aforementioned;

(2) Whether he will extend the terms of reference of the Presidential Task Team on the Funding Challenges at Universities to include (a) reports of the mismanagement of National Student Financial Aid Scheme funds, in order to ensure that the funds allocated to bring about no increases in university fees, will not be subjected to corruption and any other form of mismanagement, (b) student accommodation and (c) free basic and tertiary education?   

REPLY:

Honourable Speaker,

1.The decision not to increase university fees this year left universities with a shortfall of slightly over two point three billion rand (R2.3 billion).

After some extensive collaborative work between government and university Vice-Chancellors, it was decided that government would contribute 83% to cover the shortfall, while universities would cover the remaining seventeen percent.

The 83% that government has committed to contribute has been obtained from various sources, including the Historically Disadvantaged Universities Development Grant and from surplus funds from the Sector Education and Training Authorities.

As the Minister of Finance announced in the 2016 Budget Speech government has budgeted over R16 billion for the higher education sector in order to ensure that access to higher education is extended to as many of our students as possible.

One of the decisions that was taken following the meeting in October last year with university managers and leaders of the Students Representative Councils   was for a commission of enquiry to be appointed to look into the funding of higher education.

I have now appointed a Commission of Inquiry in terms of Section 84(2) (f) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The Commission is chaired by Honourable Justice Jonathan Arthur Heher, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Appeal.

Judge Heher is assisted by Adv. Gregory Ally and Ms Leah Thabisile Khumalo as Commissioners.

Although the terms of the Commission do not specifically focus on alleged corruption at the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), I am confident that when it looks at the funding of the higher education sector it will also look at NSFAS.

One of the issues the Commission will have to report and make recommendations on is the feasibility of free higher education and training in South Africa.

I am confident that these matters will be extensively discussed once the Commission has submitted its report.

I thank you.

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