Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa: Reply to questions in the National Assembly on 7 December 2016

7 Dec 2016

Question 1: On the national minimum wage in relation to foreign nationals working in South Africa

Our labour laws cover all employees in South Africa, regardless of nationality.

When an employment relationship exists, all the rights and obligations enjoyed by South Africans in terms of our labour laws also apply to foreign nationals working in the country.

There are currently sectoral determinations prescribing conditions of employment and minimum wages for the hospitality and agricultural sectors respectively.

Should any employer pay wages below what is prescribed in the sectoral determinations, such an employer will be flouting our labour laws.

Before a foreign national can be employed in South Africa, an employer needs to secure a work permit for a foreign national employee.

However, an employer can only apply for a work permit for a foreign national in instances where the prospective employee possesses a critical or scarce skill not available in our labour market.

The social partners in NEDLAC are currently engaged in deliberations on the recommendations of an advisory panel on the national minimum wage. 

Once agreement has been reached on the level at which the minimum wage will be set, it will cover all employees regardless of their nationality.

Employers who do not comply – whether their employees are South Africans or foreign nationals – will face penalties.

The national minimum wage is not a recommended wage.  It is a floor below which no employee may be paid.

Once implemented, the national minimum wage will significantly improve the position of the lowest paid workers. 

Currently, about 47% of workers earn less than R3,500 a month.  This will make a big difference in their lives. It will assist in reducing poverty and go some way to reducing income inequality.

I thank you.

Question 3: On the national minimum wage in relation to private and corporate entities

Deliberations are currently underway among social partners at NEDLAC to determine the design, application and level of a national minimum wage for South Africa.

The constituencies, which meet together as a Committee of Principals, are now considering the recommendations of an expert advisory panel on, among other things, an appropriate figure for the national minimum wage.  

The panel considered proposals, research and evidence from the social partners and interested parties.

After much deliberation it unanimously agreed that the level of R20 per hour, which works out to a monthly wage of approximately R3 500, was an appropriate starting level for the national minimum wage.

This level, it argued, would maximise benefits to the poor and minimise any negative effects on employment.

While the recommendation of the panel of experts does not differentiate between private persons and corporate entities, the panel recommended that an exemption mechanism be built into the system.

This means that employers who can effectively motivate why they are unable to meet the minimum wage level would be granted an exemption.

The panel proposed that own-account workers and paid or unpaid family workers in informal enterprises are permanently excluded from the national minimum wage. 

The report also recommended that employers who employ 10 or less employees be given an additional 12 months to adjust to the new level.

These recommendations are all currently under consideration, and we are confident that agreement will soon be reached between the partners.

I thank you.

Question 2: On the promotion of investor confidence by government, labour and business

Government is working with its social partners on a range of measures to grow the economy, create jobs and promote investor confidence. 

 South Africa’s economic fortunes are inextricably linked to those of the global economy.

That is why Government actively participates in platforms such as the G20, IMF, WTO, BRICS and World Economic Forum to seek solutions to weak global growth.

Government has worked tirelessly to reduce the domestic constraints to faster growth through implementation of the Nine Point Plan.

The Plan prioritises the stabilisation of South Africa’s electricity supply, improving the labour relations environment, and unblocking regulatory barriers to investment.

The Industrial Policy Action Plan seeks to re-industrialise the South African economy to create decent jobs, localise technology development and boost exports.

It is also promoting transformation through the Black Industrialists Programme.

Since it was launched earlier this year, Government has approved financial and non-financial assistance to 22 black industrialists to the value of approximately R1.5 billion.

Revitalising the agriculture and agro-processing value chain is a critical intervention to create a large numbers of jobs, expand South Africa’s production of high-value horticultural crops and assist smallholder and black farmers to compete in this sector.

Government is working across a number of mineral value chains to develop beneficiation plans which leverage off South Africa’s mineral wealth to create investment opportunities.

Through the initiative led by the Minister of Finance and Business Unity South Africa President, Mr Jabu Mabuza, government, business and labour are taking practical steps to increase investment, support small enterprise development, address youth unemployment and maintain South Africa’s investment grade status.

To streamline the investment process and accelerate investment, Government has created an investment one-stop-shop known as Invest SA.

Invest SA is providing investor facilitation services to foreign and domestic investors from offices at the Department of Trade and Industry.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment, which is chaired by the President, has identified 40 priority investment projects which can be operationalised within a relatively short space of time. 

With our strong democratic institutions, advanced infrastructure and a diverse and sophisticated economy, South Africa continues to be an attractive destination for productive investments that create jobs, promote inclusive growth and raise exports.

Through the measures we are now undertaking, we are confident that we will be able to significantly improve the investment climate and attract far greater interest in our economy.

I thank you.

Question 4: On Shipbuilding study opportunities for South African students in Vietnman

During my recent visit to Vietnam, I visited the city of Hai Phong and had the opportunity to inspect the Pha Rung Shipbuilding Corporation. Hai Phong has been long viewed as a cradle of the Vietnamese ship building industry.

The Vietnamese have made significant progress in building their oceans economy, in particular ship building and aquaculture.

Currently, there are six South African students studying Maritime Economy at the Maritime University in Hai Phong on scholarships from the Vietnamese government.

In my discussions with the Vietnamese President and Vice President, I asked Vietnam to consider the possibility of increasing the basket of courses offered within the maritime discipline and also to increase the number of South Africans studying at the Maritime University of Vietnam and other maritime institutes.

The response from the Vietnamese was positive.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation has already been informed that two additional scholarships will be offered to South African students next year. 

It is important to note that UNISA’s School of Governance, which accompanied me to Vietnam, signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation with the Ho Chi Minh Political Academy.

It is expected that collaboration between these two institutions will further facilitate our efforts to secure the training of South African students in Vietnam. 

Our two countries established a Partnership Forum in 2004 to facilitate cooperation in areas of mutual interest.

The next Partnership Forum, scheduled to take place early next year, will look at strategies for Vietnam to assist South Africa in the development of its oceans economy by sharing its expertise.

I thank you.

Question 5: On the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature

As I have stated in this House on previous occasions, Members of the Executive are collectively and individually accountable to Parliament, both in terms of the Constitution and in terms of the rules of the National Assembly.

In my regular reports to Cabinet on the status of questions submitted to members of the Executive, I have noted the significant improvement in responses by members of the Executive to both oral and written questions.

This is part of Cabinet’s collective commitment to ensure that members of the executive fulfil their responsibility to account to Parliament. 

The Executive’s relationship with the Legislature is strengthened by constructive exchanges between the two in the course of the fulfilment of their respective Constitutional responsibilities.

Members of the Executive are acutely aware of the importance of Parliament’s oversight of the exercise of national executive authority and of any organ of State, and the role that tools such as Parliamentary Questions play in such oversight.

This is a matter that is consistently raised and discussed in Cabinet meetings.  Ministers are encouraged to ensure that efficient systems and processes exist within their Departments to respond timeously and fully to matters raised in Parliament.

Parliamentary records show that in oral question sessions in 2016, for example, in 77% of cases the Minister was present to answer questions, in 22% of cases either the Deputy Minister or Acting Minister was present, and in only 3% of cases neither was present.

It is important to note that while the number of questions put to Ministers has increased significantly, the overall rate of reply has remained high. 

In 2009, over 2,000 written questions were put to Ministers, while by the end of 2015, the total number exceeded 4,000. The proportion of written questions answered each year has exceeded 95%.

Government welcomes provisions in the new rules of the National Assembly to monitor replies to questions and take steps to attend to problems. 

Should Parliament determine that Members of the Executive are not responding sufficiently promptly to matters raised in Parliament, Parliament may wish to consider taking appropriate action against Ministers.

I thank you.

Question 6: On HIV/AIDS and no violence against women and children

While we have made great progress over the last few years in prevention, treatment care and support, new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women remain persistently high.

As government, we are dedicating a lot of attention to this age group through a number of programmes.

In addition, government and development partners provide resources for a wide range of NGOs with expertise and experience in working with girls and young women.

In June this year, we launched a government-wide and society-wide campaign known as She Conquers. She Conquers seeks to reduce new HIV infections, reduce teenage pregnancy, keep girls in school until matric, stop gender-based violence and increase economic opportunities for young people.

This multi-sectoral campaign brings together interventions by government, civil society, the private sector and development partners under a coherent framework to holistically address the various factors that place young people at risk of contracting HIV

Through this initiative, adolescent girls and young women will receive an integrated comprehensive package of biomedical, behavioural change and structural interventions.

Prevention programmes are aimed at shifting attitudes and behaviour in communities.

Post-violence care interventions include support provided by Thuthuzela Care Centres that support victims of gender-based and sexual violence as well as victims of intimate partner violence at domestic violence courts.

As part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, the Department of Women, supported by other government departments, is currently conducting national dialogues to raise awareness of the seriousness of violence among South Africans.

These dialogues provide a platform for women and men across the country to share their stories and deliberate on ways to uproot the scourge of violence in our society.

On the whole, it is evident there is a lot that government, supported by its partners, is doing in the area of tackling the challenges of HIV infections and gender-based violence.

The programmes will only have an impact if we, as society, take responsibility for the well-being of all the young girls and women in our country.

Any investment in programmes that ensure that they attain their full potential will secure a future full of opportunities for them and for the country.

I thank you.

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