Question 1: On South Sudan
On 13 September 2016, the First Vice President of South Sudan, Mr Taban Deng Gai, briefed me on recent developments in the country, including the fighting that took place in July 2016 resulting in the death of many soldiers and the subsequent flight of Dr Riek Machar, the former First Vice President.
Vice President Deng Gai briefed us on the process that led to his appointment as the First Vice President, a position he holds pending the return of Dr Riek Machar.
It was instructive to learn that the Transitional Government was working not only to implement the Peace Agreement, but also to implement the Government programme. Security sector reform and the need for economic development are priorities.
The First Vice President furthermore conveyed the continued commitment of the Government of South Sudan to supporting the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission chaired by former President Festus Mogae.
In spite of recent challenges, such as the clashes that took place on 8 July 2016 and the subsequent split in the SPLM-In Opposition, all factions of the SPLM still believe that the Arusha Agreement remains an important tool in the resolution of conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.
The members that were expelled from the SPLM after the outbreak of war on 15 December 2013 have been reinstated to their previous positions. On 7 January 2016, the first Extra-Ordinary National Convention was held, in which all three SPLM factions participated.
South Africa will continue to pursue its involvement in South Sudan through its participation in the IGAD Plus Peace process and the inter-party process as led by the African National Congress and Chama Cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania.
I thank you.
Question 2: On NEDLAC processes to address low and unequal wages, the promotion of labour stability and the introduction of the national minimum wage
In response to the call by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation Address in June 2014 for social partners to deliberate on the violent nature and duration of the strikes, extensive deliberations have been underway in NEDLAC on measures to improve labour market stability and collective bargaining.
This work has been undertaken by a technical task team that reports to a Committee of Principals chaired by the Deputy President. A separate technical task team has been discussing wage inequality and the introduction of a national minimum wage.
The deliberations on labour stability are nearing completion. A meeting of the Committee of Principals on 22 October found common ground on most of the areas negotiated in the task team. These include a draft Code of Good Practice on Collective Bargaining, Industrial Action and Picketing.
The code aims to strengthen and promote orderly collective bargaining and provide clear guidelines to both employers and employees during industrial action. It includes a code on picketing, which, among other things, provides generic picketing rules.
The social partners are also close to finalising an accord in which all parties represented in NEDLAC commit themselves to promote the constitutional rights of all, collective bargaining and peaceful industrial action.
The draft accord contains a declaration that violence, intimidation and damage to property is unacceptable during industrial action.
It also deals with issues such as the conduct of the South African Police Service and private security during industrial action, the role of the CCMA in facilitation and mediation, and the training of negotiators through the Department of Higher Education and Training and the SETAs.
The social partners have also had extensive deliberations on proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act. These aim to strengthen the dispute resolution process and give effect to some of the measures contained in the Code of Good Practice.
The work done by the technical task team to date is remarkable. It has tackled some of the most challenging and contentious issues in our labour market environment and developed sustainable solutions that have the support of all social partners.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend all the social partners for their commitment and cooperation. The Committee of Principals intends to meet before the end of the month to resolve the few areas on which agreement has not yet been reached.
I thank you.
Question 3: On government coherence
In my address at the NEDLAC Annual Summit on 9 September 2016, I suggested that all social partners have a responsibility to contribute to a stable economic and social environment.
I said that all social partners should be prepared to acknowledge where they may be falling short in meeting that responsibility.
As a representative of government at that summit, I acknowledged the concerns raised by our social partners about the appearance of a lack of coherence within government and a perception that different institutions of state were in open conflict with each other.
While there is a very concerted effort by some in our country to accentuate even the slightest hint of disagreement between state institutions, we must acknowledge that certain events understandably give rise to concern.
We have witnessed public statements on policy that appear contradictory. Cabinet has since clarified government's position. We have witnessed in the public arena seemingly heated disagreements between state institutions, including between state owned entities and government departments.
Where they have arisen, steps have been taken to resolve them, and, in most instances, they have been resolved.
Another matter that has caused concern in many quarters is the investigation of the Minister of Finance and specifically the manner in which it has been conducted. The withdrawal of the charges against Minister Gordhan provides us with an opportunity to rebuild confidence in our economy and political institutions.
Despite the concern that this matter has understandably caused, government retains its confidence in the country's criminal justice system and the fair and just judicial processes which have defined our democratic era.
The situation requires of all South Africans to demonstrate unity in defence of constitutional values, the integrity of our legal system and the objective of setting South Africa on a path of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
I thank you.
Question 4: On challenges at the South African Post Office
I have been advised by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services that the South African Post Office is addressing the Special Investigating Unit and Public Protector findings on irregular expenditure relating to the renting of buildings by the SA Post Office.
The recommendations relating to the current and former employees are being implemented. Internal disciplinary proceedings have been instituted against two current senior employees.
Criminal complaints have been laid against former senior employees with the South African Police Service and National Prosecuting Authority.
In the case of the Eco Point Park lease agreement, two former senior employees are being investigated by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, one of whom is the subject of an Asset Forfeiture Unit process.
Since these legal processes are still in progress, no amount of money has been recovered as yet.
I thank you!
Question 5: On the electoral system and role in promoting social cohesion
The current electoral system of proportional representation was adopted during the multi-party talks that preceded the 1993 Interim Constitution and subsequently enshrined in the 1996 Constitution with the express intention of ensuring representivity and inclusivity.
As a country emerging from a divided past, it was important that South Africans of all political persuasions be represented in Parliament, provincial legislatures and in municipal councils.
Proportional representation has served our country well. With no threshold to participation in institutions like the National Assembly, the current electoral system has ensured that several of the smaller parties are able to participate in the legislative processes and in holding the Executive to account.
Political parties like Azapo, the PAC and the APC have been part of shaping our democracy thanks to this proportional representation system. Many other smaller parties have participated in provincial legislatures and municipalities, a testament to our commitment to build an inclusive democracy.
Proportional representation has helped forge institutions that reflect the diversity of our country while affirming the principles of representative democracy. This has contributed significantly to social cohesion and nation building.
While there will always be debate about the respective merits and disadvantages of different electoral systems, we should always be mindful of the past from which we have come and the society we are still trying to build.
As we engage in such debate, we should consider also the important contribution that our current electoral system makes to national unity and inclusivity.
I thank you.
Question 6: On what lessons regarding nation building and social cohesion has government learnt from the tertiary institutions protest actions
Recent protests at universities have challenged us to not only grapple with the funding of higher education, but have also provided lessons for our efforts to promote social cohesion and nation building.
The right to peaceful protest and to freedom of expression and association are fundamental Constitutional principles that contribute to the promotion of social cohesion. We will not be able to build a united nation unless all our people have the opportunity to freely express themselves and unless we develop mechanisms to resolve differences.
The struggle for access to higher education for the poor is fundamental to the transformation of our society.
It is for this reason that government has prioritised its achievement, through the establishment by President Jacob Zuma of a judicial commission of inquiry into the feasibility of free higher education and through the massive expansion of state funding for poor students.
Genuine social cohesion is premised on social justice, economic inclusion and equity. Unless poor people have equal access to educational and other opportunities, then we will never be able to build a cohesive society.
The Fees Must Fall movement therefore has a significant contribution to make to the promotion of social cohesion. It has the potential to contribute to a fairer society in which the vast economic and social disparities in our country are progressively reduced and eradicated.
There are other lessons that we need to draw from these protests. The inability of some of the role players to find common ground and resolve their differences demonstrates that we need as a society to improve our capacity to mediate conflict.
We need to ensure that legitimate protest does not degenerate into violence, destruction of property and the disruption of the academic programme.
It is clear that most stakeholders in our universities are committed to the resolution of these issues and to work together with government to address the funding of higher education in a sustainable manner.
We must do everything we can to support the efforts of those who are genuinely and constructively demanding free higher education for the poor.
As government, we are committed to work with all stakeholders to ensure that this objective is achieved and that social cohesion is thereby advanced and deepened.
I thank you!