Hansard: Questions to the President of RSA : Jacob Zuma / Statement by the Minister of Health on pandemic influenza A (H1N1)

House: National Assembly

Date of Meeting: 25 Aug 2009


No summary available.




Wednesday, 26 August 2009




The House met at 14:01.

The Speaker took the Chair and requested members to observe a moment of silence for prayers or meditation.


Start of Day

Question 1:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, the achievement of quality education for all requires a renewed purpose and action from the Education department officials, school principals, teachers, learners, parents and communities. Government launched the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign in October 2008. Each of the role players – government, communities, the civil society, business, media and other sectors – are called upon to make a commitment to a code for quality education, which describes the responsibilities required of them.

On 7 August, I met with the two Education Ministers, Premiers, MECs and more than 1 500 school principals from all provinces to share our vision and hear their views on how we can revitalize education and improve results. We agreed on certain non-negotiables. Departmental officials are required to support schools and ensure that all teaching resources are provided on time. They should improve their own skills base to better assist schools and regularly monitor teacher and learner attendance and facilitate teacher development. Teachers are required to be on time, be well prepared for all their lessons, teach for at least seven hours every school day and improve their own skills and knowledge. Learners are required to attend school regularly, work hard in school, respect their teachers and adhere to the rules of their school. Parents are required to support schools and educators and also create a conducive home environment for their children to study. The community is required to ensure that every school-going child is in school and that schools are not vandalised. They are also supposed to report problems in schools to relevant authorities. They must also ensure that all role players carry out their responsibilities and that co-ordinating structures are being set up at national, provincial and regional levels.

We recognise that the improvement of learning and teaching has to be accompanied by strong support mechanisms and performance monitoring with clearly stipulated outcomes. The Ministry in the Presidency responsible for performance monitoring and evaluation, together with the Department of Basic Education, is developing a set of performance measures. These will form the basis of performance agreements between the President, the Minister of Basic Education and the respective MECs. The performance agreement will ensure that non-negotiables relating to the department are catered for.

For example, the department will develop an integrated plan to ensure that all schools have the necessary resources.

Government will intensify efforts to ensure that all schools have safe and supportive environments for all children. We urge all hon members to support us in this campaign to make education an Apex Priority for our country. I thank you. [Applause.]

Ms F I CHOHAN: Thank u very much for your detailed reply, hon President. I think it is very apt that the first time you respond to questions in this House as President it is about education.

Much has been said about our schooling system, particularly in the last few weeks. People have used the word "failure". This country has some outstanding schools and some dismal schools; it has outstanding teachers who are very committed and those who are underperforming. We have serious backlogs in terms of infrastructure in our rural schools and in some of our township schools - there is overcrowding – and some provinces suffer from bureaucratic problems. These are all issues that the principals raised with you in the imbizo a few Fridays ago. Do you therefore agree that our collective challenge is to rectify these inequalities fundamentally, and that it is unhelpful to assert - as some do - that our schooling system is a failure, particularly because every year we churn out numbers of students who are very successful despite the dysfunctionalities in some of our schools?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Certainly. I agree. I think the issues I have raised do cover the areas I believe need to be addressed - the joint effort that we must put in. There are serious issues with regard to education and challenges that we need to deal with. I think all of us need to commit ourselves to addressing these issues. They are not hidden, they are there. They need us to commit ourselves. I think the question of education must be taken by us, collectively, as one of the national challenges that we should agree upon because it is about educating our nation.

When I spoke to the principals, I did say that I will also be seeing and meeting with other sectors like unions. One of the issues we raised, for example, was that research indicates that there are schools where teaching is 3,5 hours only on a daily basis while there are others where schooling is 6,5 hours on a daily basis. Just look at this gap. If we do not correct this, no matter who we are, we will actually be perpetuating inequalities on a daily basis without realising it. So, this is a matter that all of us need to be serious about. So, certainly, as I talked about stakeholders, all of us ought to pull together. This is an essential challenge and task that all of us need to deal with. So, I totally agree. Thank you. [Applause.]


Mnr D C SMILES: Speaker, agb President, by die onlangse imbizo met skoolhoofde het u baie mooi aan die onderwysers gesê wat u van hulle verwag ten opsigte van ... [Tussenwerpsels.]

Die PRESIDENT VAN DIE REPUBLIEK: Wag 'n bietjie. Wag. [Gelag.]

Mnr D C SMILES: Goed, baie dankie. Kan ek maar voortgaan?

Die PRESIDENT VAN DIE REPUBLIEK: Ja, jy kan maar aangaan.

Mnr D C SMILES: Baie dankie vir die lekker Afrikaans ook, agb President.

By die onlangse imbizo met skoolhoofde het u baie mooi aan die onderwysers gesê wat van hulle verwag word ten opsigte van die uitvoering van hulle pligte teenoor die leerders wat aan hulle toevertrou is. Agb President, u het ook baie mooi verduidelik en aan die skoolhoofde gesê wat van hulle verwag word om goeie skoolbestuur uit te voer.

My vraag aan u is, agb President, wat sê u vandag aan die leerders en onderwysers van 4 820 skole waar daardie skoolhoofposte vakant is? Van hierdie gevalle van skoolhoofposte wat vakant is, is 1 783 in die Oos-Kaap en die ander groot groep is in Limpopo en KwaZulu-Natal. Ek wil dan vra, agb President, wat gaan u doen aangesien onderwys die nommer een prioriteit van die land is? Wat gaan u doen om hierdie totaal onaanvaarbare situasie reg te stel om sodoende die dissipline by skole reg te kry, maar ook om substansie te gee aan wat u gesê het? Baie dankie. [Applous.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, the meeting with the principals was the first thing we thought we needed to do so that the principals were firstly clear on what we believe needs to be done in terms of education. I think we did that because we knew there were a lot of difficulties, which include, among others, vacant posts, a high percentage of teachers who are not trained as teachers and need to be trained and our attitude and that of the principals and teachers towards education. This was an indication that if we wanted to correct things, we needed to deal with those who managed education at the lower or basic levels. I think this was very important. We have to deliver this message and also indicate the commitment of government to ensure that we change the manner in which education has been conducted so far, as well as the environment.

I think government has something to do from now onwards. This discussion is being held with the department, which includes creating a good environment at school level. The environment in some schools is not good at all, especially in the rural areas. But we also need to train the other teachers who are currently teaching but are not qualified teachers so that we can make them teachers. So, there are many things we need to do, which will involve the discussion. At this point, we are saying we firstly need to agree on the things we need to do - all of us. We couldn't just force things before people understood what it is that we are trying to do.

As you know, the three provinces that you mentioned are the ones that are identified as the most poverty-stricken provinces. This means we need to focus more on those provinces, particularly the rural schools. So, this is what we are going to be doing together with the department. We are saying it should not just be the government only. The community, parents and everybody must participate. I don't think we can do anything different from what I have just said when I was answering the question. [Applause.]

Dr P W A MULDER: Mr President, section 29(2) of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to receive education in the official language or languages of their choice in public education institutions where that education is practicable. Government has emphasised the importance of mother-tongue education in various statements. But in practice, little so far came from that. To learn English and other languages is very important – that is why I am speaking the language at the moment. But does the President agree that mother-tongue education to the highest possible level is one of the measures that will help us to improve the quality of schooling?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: That is absolutely correct. That is what the Constitution says. I don't think we are saying something different from what the Constitution says. I think the challenge we are faced with is on how to develop the languages -the Constitution refers to all of them - so that they are able to develop up to the level that the hon member is talking about. I think our concern should be: What do we do with our languages – all of them? I don't think we should pick and choose in terms of languages. I mean there is a debate, for example, that kids that start learning in their own languages understand better so that they can then be introduced to other languages at a certain level. So, this is correct. I think what all of us should be saying is what can be done to ensure that this happens.

The problem is that other languages are highly developed while others are not that developed. So, we need to state what can be done to develop all languages so that when you get to any school, you can have a child that can perform at the maximum. I think that is exactly what all of us need to do, particularly the House here which does oversight. It should be stating what should be done with the languages that are not taught at all and those that are not even looked at as one goes up the ladder in terms of education. I think we will agree on this one. [Applause.]

Ms C DUDLEY: Mr President, I am still here. It is good to see you again.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: I can see you. [Laughter.]

Ms C DUDLEY: What is your view with regard to helping teachers to restore discipline in our schools, which is a prerequisite for effective learning and teaching, particularly with the fact that there is an absence of corporal punishment in our schools? There is a serious situation in KwaZulu-Natal right now in Kenmont Junior Primary School, where a 13-year-old boy allegedly exhibiting violent and abusive behaviour has been put back in the school by the department over and above the wishes of the governing body and the parents. This left the children in that school - right here today - extremely vulnerable. So, are we going to need to look at policy and legislation changes in this regard? This is because we cannot have our children being that kind of vulnerable. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Well, I think once again this issue does not differ from the other issues we have just talked about. We need the effort of everyone to work together to ensure that we bring about discipline. I think if all sectors can work together – with no sector lagging behind – we can bring back discipline in schools. Children need to be brought up within an environment of discipline. I think parents in particular have to play a role in terms of ensuring that their children are disciplined. Once the teachers themselves - led by the principal of course - stick to discipline in schools in every respect, it is going to be very difficult for kids to misbehave all the time. So, I think we have to work together to ensure that discipline becomes the rule of every school. We have to state what we should do collectively if kids do not adhere to discipline so that we can help the children themselves, as well as the teachers.

We need to create an environment that lives within the discipline in schools. I think there are times when it is difficult to do so. There are anecdotes that people would give, wherein there would be no collective effort to deal with a matter. I was once at a school wherein kids were misbehaving and fighting, and the parents were divided on the issue. Others wanted to side with their kids and others did not. When I asked the principal about this he said the fact that the parents were divided on the issue was basically the problem, and that he did not know what to do. So, I am saying that we need a collective effort – all of us – to create the non-negotiable with the kids. Therefore, everybody should understand that we must do something about a child who does not behave in schools. In the past, as you say, teachers would ask you to open your hand, and they would do something to the hand. That is no longer done. Then we need to state what needs to be done in order to ensure that discipline comes back. I think if children do not find any favours anywhere, they will be in a position to behave. [Applause.]

The SPEAKER: Hon members, may I remind you that if you wish to ask a supplementary question, please press the talk button in front of you, then your name will pop up on the screen in front of me.



Question 2:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, in my address to the National Press Club on 6 August 2009, I announced my decision to nominate Justice Sandile Ngcobo as the new Chief Justice. I further said that the nomination was subject to advice from the Judicial Service Commission, JSC, and leaders of parties represented in the National Assembly.

Section 174(3) of the Constitution requires the President as head of the national executive, after consulting the JSC and the leaders of parties represented in the National Assembly, to appoint the Chief Justice.

The statement made to the National Press Club was based on the understanding that letters addressed to leaders of parties, which I signed on 5August, had been dispatched, as was the case with the letter to the JSC.

The constitutional provisions regarding the appointment process do not preclude the President from proposing a name, and thereafter soliciting the opinions of leaders of the parties represented in the National Assembly. In fact, the practice as followed in the past has generally been for the President to ask the parties to state their views on a particular name.

Let me reiterate that I have not appointed a new Chief Justice. I have merely nominated Justice Ngcobo for the position and reiterate that he remains my preferred candidate. In making my final decision, I will of course take into account the views of the JSC and the leaders of parties regarding whether or not Justice Ngcobo is fit and proper for the position. I thank you, hon Speaker. [Applause.]

The LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hon President, your explanation that you delivered your speech on 6 August to the Pretoria Press Club, under the assumption that your correspondence had gone to leaders of opposition parties informing them of your nomination of Adv Ngcobo, dated 5 August, is acceptable. However, the opposition parties only received this letter on 7 August after you had publicly announced that you had consulted opposition parties and the JSC.

The failure of your office and the Presidency to forward this letter to opposition parties on 5 August has resulted in the President's office undermining the constitutional requirement of the consultation process, great embarrassment to the Office of the President and opposition parties being highly offended by the lack of consultation.

Notwithstanding your personal explanation to me and to the media about your slip of the tongue and your response today, I would like to ask who in your office was responsible for compiling and sending the correspondence to opposition parties which, incidentally, also referred to an appointment and not a nomination. Secondly, I would like to ask whether any action has been taken against this person or persons for failing to send the appropriate correspondence at the appropriate time to opposition parties before you made the announcement about nominating Judge Ngcobo. Thank you. [Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Thank you, hon Speaker. Firstly, a communication that is sent after having being written depends on how it goes. [Interjections.] It does. While I was growing up we used to receive post written by hand. After you have written a letter, you don't know when it will arrive, really. [Laughter.] [Applause.] You can't say that if you were to act in the manner in which I did, you would then wait until you had a response to then say that indeed the letter had arrived. Once you have written a letter and it has been posted, you have written a letter. [Laughter.]

Now, I think if we said that we cannot move until a letter has been responded to, then it would be a new way of corresponding among ourselves. You write a letter and once you have posted it, you then act on matters that you need to act on, unless you are writing a note like here in Parliament which can be sent by a messenger who can see it being given and responded to, or you can see that, yes, it has been handed over to hon member So-and-So.

I am in Pretoria; you are in Cape Town. I write a letter and leave it in the office, and I don't necessarily follow who the particular person in the office is doing it. I think, again, that would be a new thing. If you are talking about the Office of the President, there are quite a number of people there. I have never followed each and every letter – who they were written by – and I don't see the reason why I should conduct an enquiry now as to who actually did it.

The fact of the matter is that the letters arrived; not so? [Applause.] And they arrived not over a week later but in a matter of three days, not so? The post was quick enough. I don't think we should pick up the issue. I could appreciate the issue if I had spoken when the opposition parties had not received the letter. But once an explanation was given, the matter to me, really, was not a matter to be pursued – because I had given an explanation publicly on what happened, and the letters were dated. By the time I spoke to the Pretoria Press Club, the letters had been written. For example, I had already sent the letter to the JSC. I had met with the chairperson of the JSC and had had the letter hand-delivered. So, really, I don't see why this should be a big issue. That is the explanation. I don't think I can explain it in another way. I also do not think that it needs some enquiry. I don't think so. [Applause.]

The SPEAKER: We thank the hon President.

I have on my list the following hon members who will be asking supplementary questions: the hon Meshoe, the hon L H Adams and hon Gungubele. Will you please move closer to the nearest microphone? Hon Meshoe?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: He's still around. I left him here; I still find him too. [Laughter.]

Rev K R J MESHOE: Still around, Sir.

I must be honest, Mr President, that I am disappointed by your response ... [Interjections.] [Applause.] ... because your office needs to be efficient. Your office must be efficient, Mr President. There will be important correspondence that will be expected wherever in the world. If that correspondence arrives in time, you cannot come up with an excuse like that, that "I know a letter was written". Those who work in your office must ensure that when you say a letter should be written and sent to opposition leaders, then it must be done on time.

Having said that, it appears from relevant legislation that should the President's nominee be appointed Chief Justice, he would only serve for a period of two years given that he has already been a judge for 13 years and that Constitutional Court judges normally serve for a maximum of 15 years. In view of this, we want to know why the President chose as Chief Justice someone who is so close to retirement. We also want to know what the President's response is to media speculation that Judge Sandile Ngcobo's appointment as Chief Justice is a ploy to hand over the post to Judge Hlophe in two years' time. Thank you. [Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Thank you, hon Speaker. Hon Meshoe, I think that this is absolutely unfair. You received the letter in three days – in three days – and not in three weeks or after a week. Really, unless there is a political motive, why should this be an issue? As I said, if on the day that I spoke to the press club you hadn't received the letter but received it a day thereafter, then it ought not to be a big issue. I made that clarification that it ought not to be a big issue. If you had said to me that you still had not received the letter after a week or after five days, I would understand.

I'm not saying that the Office of the President must not send out letters on time. But really where is the cutoff time here, and in what way was the letter sent? Now, the point is that you are sticking to a point which I don't think is a point to be stuck on because I have said that I gave an explanation. Absolutely. If you said to me, "Look, for a whole month we didn't receive any letter" - maybe we backdated these letters – there could be some room for speculation. The matter is straightforward, I think. I am even answering those who are still going to ask follow-up questions, so that they don't come back to this question. [Laughter.] [Applause.]

With regard to the time, the fact of the matter is that Judge Ngcobo is still a member of that institution. There's nothing in the Constitution that says that you cannot appoint a judge if a certain amount of years are left before his retirement. There is nothing out of order there. [Applause.]

Also, with regard to Judge Hlophe, I don't know where that comes from. I don't think I want to respond to speculation by the media. They speculate about everything under the sun. If I were to chase after those speculations, I am sure I would be speaking the whole day. So, that is not a matter of reality that needs my attention at this point in time. [Applause.]

Ms L H ADAMS: Hon President, seeing that seniority within the judiciary and the appointments in accordance thereof form part of the concept of the rule of law, do you hereby set the precedent that appointments for a Chief Justice and a Deputy Chief Justice would be at random according to your preferences?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, I don't really understand the question. I don't understand because I have followed the Constitution and the law. There is nothing that has been random here. So, I don't understand the question. What should I answer? [Applause.]

Mr M GUNGUBELE: Hon President, as the ANC's historic mission has always been to build from the ruins of the apartheid dictatorship a truly tolerant, diverse, democratic and united South Africa and nation and that this vision of our glorious movement lives in the spirit of our Constitution, also affirmed by your state of the nation address with the commitment made to work with the opposition, also with the engagements with all key stakeholders in our country and on several occasions your commitment to ensuring the independence of the judiciary, noting the aspersions cast on this commitment by various statements and noting also that nomination is an intended appointment, how does the President intend and plan to entrench these ANC-stated values, both in the ANC and the Constitution, going forward, regarding unity and ensuring tolerance and diversity in our country?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Well, as the speaker has just indicated, there are matters that are guided by the Constitution and the law, and we will certainly continue to ensure that those are entrenched and that they are followed. There is also the question of the principle of working together for the same country even if we are in different parties. We will continue to do that because we believe that for the good of the country, that should happen. So we will continue to ensure that those principles are followed and work for them as much as we have said in statements and in actual practice, and meet with colleagues to discuss things that we believe are national interests for all of us.

Some of us believe that even if we belong to different parties, we are one with one objective - we all want a prosperous and successful South Africa. We might differ about how we reach that. Those are the matters that I think we need to be talking about all the time. Therefore, even when we argue or disagree, to what extent do we do that on some of the issues that may be issues of common interest? So, we will continue to follow those principles. Thank you. [Applause.]



Question 3:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, let me state that this administration will not condone or tolerate any conduct by public officials that break the law or regulations that govern the public service. We view the report of the Auditor-General on public servants that do business with government without following proper procedures in a very serious light. I have instructed the Ministers in whose departments such officials are employed to investigate the alleged misconduct. I have made it clear that where wrongdoing is found to have been committed, they must take necessary corrective steps, including taking disciplinary measures against the officials concerned.

I have also asked the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, hon Richard Baloyi, to expedite the development of the conflict of interest framework and to send it to Cabinet in the next few weeks. The conflict of interest framework is meant to plug existing holes in Public Service regulations. Among other things, this should ensure that some of the problems raised by the Auditor-General can be prevented in future. The new framework will not, on its own, solve the problems. Most of the wrongdoing occurs when public officials do not comply with existing regulations.

I have requested Ministers to ensure that public officials comply with the relevant regulations and laws. We will not tolerate or condone the abuse of public trust and public resources by any public official. Our administration will co-operate with any institution of state that is legitimately enforcing the laws and regulations of the country. Thank you, hon Speaker. [Applause.]

Rev H M DANDALA: Mr President, I want to thank you for your response which, in a sense, is in line with your declared intention to fight corruption in this country. We would like to encourage you. I would like, though, to know further, in relation to the disciplinary measures that you have called for the various relevant people to take, how far the President would go? For instance, would you, Mr President, support harsher measures for noncompliance, such as criminal procedures, for instance, demand that the people pay back the embezzled funds and maybe even periodic bans on those public servants who have been found guilty of these practices?

There have also been suggestions from the SA Communist Party that conflict of interest in itself is wrong. I really am very interested to hear how the President will respond to this. This is because I think we would want to agree with you that this is important, but I would like to hear what you would say to this. Finally, would you, Mr President, permit anyone working in your office to have business dealings? Thank you, Sir.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Firstly, I have just outlined this matter in my answer and in what I have already done in my communication with the Ministers. We do things according to the law and the rules. What is required, for example, is that whoever is employed in government - this does not separate or exclude other offices - should declare their interest. If they have done so, they have then complied with the requirements of the law. If you heard that whilst a citizen had complied with the law, the President went further to say that because the citizen had now told him about their business deals and that he was then sacking them, I am sure this country would be up in arms. In other words, the President himself would not be complying with the law. So, I don't think I can say that if there is somebody who has declared their interest while working in my office, this should therefore serve as a reason for them not to get employment, etc. We have to keep it within the rules.

With regard to whether we support that harsher measures be taken if a person is found not complying, I can say yes, absolutely. This will depend on the degree of the infringement or on what was or wasn't done by that person. We cannot pre-empt whatever judgment that would be given, because it would be according specific cases, for the cases are going to differ. Procedures must be followed according to rules and the law. Once a harsher decision has been made, it is absolutely to be supported. I publicly said that we do not want to be tolerant to people who are doing wrong things. Whatever decision that is taken, it will be supported. What will not be supported is the lack of a serious decision on wrongdoers. That will not be accepted because that would be condoning wrongdoings. So, we are saying if you do wrong things, you will receive punishment for it, in whatever way, as prescribed by the law and the rules. [Applause.]

Mr N SINGH: Mr President, in response to an earlier question, you did say the challenge is to get the basics right. The basics with regard to officials doing business with government is for them, senior managers in particular, to disclose their financial interest. Unfortunately, the report of the Public Service Commission suggests that not all senior managers have declared their financial interest. I am glad, Mr President, that you have indicated that Ministers have been directed to ensure that their directors-general monitor the simple task of making sure that all senior managers disclose their financial interest.

Further to that, hon President, when the Auditor-General's report was discussed at the Select Committee on Public Accounts, Scopa, we find that Ministers are notorious for their absence or conspicuous by their absence, except for the hon Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries who was present at one of the briefings. None of the other Ministers attend Scopa briefings and hearings. I would like to know, Mr President, if you would direct the hon Ministers that whenever there is a briefing by the Office of the Auditor-General or hearings that are conducted with regard to any department, they have to, as a matter of course, attend those meetings and hearings so that they can have a hands-on approach. Thank you, Mr President. [Time expired.] [Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Generally, Ministers are encouraged to attend. But I don't know, in terms of their diaries and what they do, how the communication is between them and the committee. Certainly, it would be much appreciated if they were generally there in the meetings so that they could participate and be able to engage the kind of queries that come when that happens. It should either be them or their deputies. I think that is in order insofar as I am concerned. Of course, people who are always there are directors-general, who are basically the accounting officers. I think that we should encourage that, that if it is possible, they should be there at all material times. I don't think there is any problem with that.

Ms A M DREYER: The Western Cape Provincial Government is implementing measures to better regulate the conduct of public servants and to prevent corruption. Some of these measures are stopping the practice of transferring public servants who face disciplinary action to other departments to avoid such action, forbidding public servants from receiving gifts from outside parties for performing their official duties and amending legislation to prevent public servants from also serving as councillors. The question to the President is: What amendments to the Public Service handbook for public servants, at national level, will the President consider to enhance clean administration?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: We are interacting at the intergovernmental level. If there are very good practices that are emerging in the Western Cape, we will certainly hear and talk about those in the process of interaction. If they are indeed good, I don't think there will be any problem to adopt such simply because one is saying this is what the Western Cape is doing. It is not as if there has been a directive that all provinces must change things. It is in the manner in which the provincial government in the Western Cape is doing things. If it is a good practice, we will look at it. I am sure our colleague will also raise the matter. We are always together in the joint meetings. I am sure we will certainly engage that and see how it goes.

Mr S N SWART: Hon President, arising from your response, whistle-blowers are key in exposing fraud and corruption in the Public Service. However, we read time and again of whistle-blowers who are victimised by fellow workers or employees and even killed in certain circumstances. These whistle-blowers, in certain circumstances, are obliged by the law to report corrupt activities and are then victimised. In view of this, would you not agree that we need to strengthen the provisions that protect whistle-blowers or at the very least ensure that the present legislation is properly implemented to protect such whistle-blowers? I thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Certainly we need to strengthen the weaknesses that are there in the law, if there are any, and ensure that whistle-blowers are protected. So, I am sure that if the hon member has very good suggestions, he can make those suggestions so that they can be considered. We cannot say that we cannot strengthen the provisions that protect whistle-blowers. We do not want the kinds of action by the wrongdoers. Otherwise we will discourage people who would report matters to come forward. If there are any suggestions you can make that will strengthen the law, they will be received. I don't think there is any problem.



Question 4:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, it is premature to speak of a new economic international order. The current global crisis has exposed the deficiencies and imbalances of the prevailing economic dispensation and international corporate governance. It should urge us to pursue with greater urgency a stable, sustainable and more equitable global economic order.

We have noted before in this House that although it is not of our making, the crisis is having a profound effect on our economy and people. As a country, we have responded to this crisis with urgency and energy. There are two main elements to our response. The first is to undertake a series of measures within the framework agreed upon with our social partners to mitigate the effects of this. Through this framework agreement, we have managed to mobilise all sectors of the economy. These measures include a training layoff scheme as an alternative to retrenchment, which ensures that we develop the skills of our workforce while maintaining the capacity of business to respond when the economy recovers. It also includes provision by our development finance institutions working with the banking sector for financial support to qualifying companies in distress.

The second element of our response is to actively engage in international forums to promote global solutions. While this crisis is likely to reverse some of the gains made by developing countries in recent years, it does provide an unprecedented opportunity for greater co-operation between the developed and developing world in finding solutions. This includes the building of requisite infrastructure and systems for intra-Africa trade and South Africa's trade. Thank you. [Applause.]

Ms J L FUBBS: Mr President, we welcome the emphasis in your response to the retention of jobs through the training schemes, as well as the emphasis on international forums getting together and reaching a collective response in this matter.

Even more welcome is the pointing out to us of the opportunity to develop regional infrastructure in Africa and so encouraging investments, identifying resources and encouraging investment in that way.

My question, hon President, as I am sure you appreciate as well because it comes out here implicitly, is that the greatest victim in this economic crisis has been jobs. Indeed the current trading environment and challenges we are faced with had a very big negative impact on this for all countries. What would be very useful perhaps is to hear from you, Mr President, how you would encourage our business parties within South Africa or within our social compact, if you like, as well as encourage our investors and indeed the other partners and members in the World Trade Organisation, WTO, to actually come to the party in a collective response? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, we have certainly been encouraging business, that is why we have the framework agreement which has been discussed and agreed on - and I think we are in agreement on this. I think South Africa has been acknowledged as having taken leadership on how to respond to the crisis, and this is being discussed by the global community. Therefore, we are certainly engaging with them on our experiences. It has been reported that South Africa is actually number one of a few other countries that have been able to do so in terms of absorbing the impact, which speaks very highly of our economic policies and the manner in which we have been handling ourselves. Everybody is learning from this because this example was not even made by us. It was made by a global institution that actually said that South Africa is number one. Besides our engaging them, they are also learning from the reports that are coming from South Africa that has in fact fared very well. Even though we are affected, we have been able to receive the impact quite reasonably compared to other countries.

Mr D T GEORGE: Speaker, on 15 September 2009, it will be a year since Lehman Brothers collapsed and over two years since the international financial crisis began. The ANC government is only now working on implementing a response. This delay has already resulted in massive job losses.

During the debate on South Africa's response to the economic crisis last week, the DA pointed out the need to focus on liquidity, which news reports indicate that Minister Patel is now doing. Mr President, why did government not respond sooner to this crisis? Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, I don't know whether the hon member has been following developments on this matter. In early 2008, economies were saying that this was not going to affect the world that much and that it was going to be contained within the United States. There have been different views of the economies, as you said – it deepened. Other than South Africa, I don't think there could have been any other country where economies would have said anything to everybody and started responding then. What would we be responding to when economies and those who are able to focus on this matter were not able to say how much damage this crisis would make?

Then, at the end of 2008-09, everybody began to accept that this is a problem that is deepening. I think it was during the time when the hon Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe was the President of this country that the country then responded. I cannot say it was too late; I cannot say we could be accused of having responded too late. This crisis emanated from the developed world. Therefore, even their own response to it would not be like that of the developing countries.

We have responded timeously in as far as we are concerned, very clearly and decisively. That is why I have been saying in the response that even other countries have learnt from what South Africa is doing and are appreciating what South Africa has done. I don't think the question that suggests that we took a long time before responding is actually justified. I think you should be joining your country to say, "well done"! [Applause.]

Mr M G ORIANI-AMBROSINI: Mr President, a new economic order is being formed. It is clear to all of us that in this process there are going to be winners and losers. The response provided by government thus far has been one of preserving the status quo waiting for the recession to go by, and it is based on a three month perspective. The question is, where is the leadership? We heard about the government's response for the first time last week in a debate of about 40 minutes. We are now engaging in this debate for a few minutes in an answer to a parliamentary question. There is a need to consider the long-term implications of this recession.

We heard that there is a process of redrafting the trade policy and industrial policy from Minister Patel the other day. How is Parliament going to be involved, and why doesn't the country receive stronger leadership from the commander in chief, the President himself, announcing how we are going to go long-term because this is not going to last three months. At least we should make contingent arrangements in the eventuality that it does not only last three months. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, I am not sure whether the hon member said there is a new economic order. Did I hear him correctly? [Interjections.] Is there a new economic order? [Interjections.] Oh! Is that so? We haven't seen it.

I don't know. If the hon speaker only heard about this last week, it is unfortunate. We made an announcement many, many weeks ago about the response. It was not just its formulation, but also its announcement because it was formulated before the elections. That's when it was formulated, and it was announced. Many, many weeks ago we announced its implementation, and as a matter of fact, we had mobilised funds as social partners to deal with it. If the hon member did not hear that, it is unfortunate. Therefore, the question as to where the leadership is would not be rising, for the leadership has been there. Sorry that you didn't follow what happened then. The leadership has been there. [Applause.]

Ms C M P KOTSI: Mr President, in the statement made by the hon Minister last week on the recovery plan, he mentioned in part that there is going to be the retraining of workers. He mentioned the Setas, and, as we know, the Setas have failed dismally in terms of responding to our people's needs. [Applause.] Indeed, we all know this problem with the Setas. How then do we rely on the Setas in actually recovering the economy of this country when we all know that they have failed? What plans and other programmes do we have that will really be doing what you, the President, and the Minister have told the nation about? All we want is to keep jobs and possibly create even more jobs for South Africans. Thank you. [Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Setas are not the only element that is going to be working on this. They are part of many mechanisms that are going to be put in place. Of course Setas have been there. I don't think it is correct to say that they have been a dismal failure. I think there has been a contribution made by Setas. There may be criticisms in some aspects. But to say there has been a dismal failure does not represent a correct picture. In so far as this very specific programme is concerned, they will also play a part. We did not think that we only needed to create other mechanisms and not deal with the Seta that is there already. It can then be detailed as to what needs to be done. Thank you, hon Speaker.



Question 5:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, government remains committed to strengthening the institution of traditional leadership and appreciates the role it plays in our society. The reconfiguration of the former Department of Provincial and Local Government into the current Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs signifies the importance that this administration places on the role and place of traditional leaders in the lives of our people, especially in rural areas.

Our administration regards traditional leaders as partners in the implementation of the programmes of government. The success of the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform depends, to a large extent, on the partnership that government would foster with traditional leaders.

A number of departments have put in place legislation that clearly defines the role of traditional leaders in the areas of justice, in the establishment of traditional courts and the administration of tribal land. This is a demonstration of government's willingness to put into effect the power and recognition of traditional authorities and leadership.

We have also sought to demonstrate our commitment in a variety of ways. For example, we have passed numerous pieces of legislation and implemented a variety of programmes to ensure that the institution does not only live and thrive, but that it also makes an important contribution to the development of our society.

Changes that are suggested should not necessarily follow the route of amendments to the Constitution. We should rather explore other ways of effecting the role and powers of traditional leaders in the system of local government and communicate these to all stakeholders.

There are currently amendments to two principal laws on traditional leadership before Parliament. These are the Traditional Leadership and Governance Framework Amendment Bill and the National House of Traditional Leaders Bill. The amendments are based on lessons learnt during the implementation, which indicated a need for further emphasis.

We will do our best to ensure that the institution of traditional leadership is accorded the respect, dignity and role that it justifiably deserves. Thank you, hon Speaker. [Applause.]

Mr P F SMITH: Mr Speaker, I'd like to thank Mr President for his response, but I must say that I'm very disappointed in it. The issue has such a long history. I'd like to remind the House that this issue has been on our agenda since the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, Codesa, and culminated in negotiations between traditional leaders and the executive just before the 2000 local government elections. In terms of these negotiations, agreements were reached with the executive, but they have not been implemented yet.

To remind you, for example, your predecessor, President Mbeki, agreed that should the powers and functions of traditional leaders be diminished as a result of the municipal system being implemented, then the Constitution would be amended. And he repeated that statement in the NCOP.

There were negotiations with Minister Mufamadi, which failed. I remind the President that in his capacity as Deputy President in the past, he served on a Cabinet committee that had actually concluded an agreement with traditional leaders to the effect that the Constitution would be amended.

The problem we are having is that nothing has happened since then. I hear the President's response in terms of today's reply, and all those things are commendable. We agree with all of them, they are great. But the questions that I'm asking are: Is government going to stick to the agreement that it has reached already? Is it prepared to accept that there was an agreement reached that needs to be implemented? All the other things are peripheral for now; the real issue is that an agreement was reached. When is it going to be implemented?

I would also like to ask the President whether he is prepared to reconsider his position on this matter. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, well, I'm sure if there are agreements that were reached, they must be implemented. However, hon Smith, I'd just like to correct you on one aspect of the issue where you correctly say that I participated in the Cabinet committee. The subcommittee had recommended an amendment to the Constitution, but the government did not agree with it. So, that was not an agreement, because we had recommended an amendment to the Constitution. And I had led that grouping, which included traditional leaders. However, that recommendation was not accepted. So, there was no agreement in that regard. I just wanted to correct you on that point.

Regarding any other agreement that may have been reached, I see no reason why it should not be implemented. I think we should commit ourselves that where there have been agreements, those should be implemented.

I take that the Bills before Parliament, together with what I'm saying we are trying to do, will partly meet the necessary requirements and address the concerns that are there.

I think we should move forward with the agreements that have been reached. If there are specific agreements that have not been implemented, I think we need to be reminded about those so that we can look at them. [Applause.]

Mr W P DOMAN: Hon President, the DA's viewpoint with regard to this matter is that the Constitution and its principles must be upheld. Furthermore, the democratically elected public office bearers, in this case the councillors, must be respected and allowed to do their duty in the rural areas where traditional leaders operate.

We have a problem that sometimes some of these councillors abandon their duties, leaving them to be done by traditional leaders. Traditional leaders are not democratically elected to do municipal work at ward level.

So, Mr President, we just want to ask you: Will the government ensure that councillors are still held accountable to fulfil their constitutional role at the municipal level?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, I'm sure the councillors have not been asked to not do their work. As far as I know, they continue to do their work. The question, as the hon member indicated earlier, has been: How do you co-ordinate the work that is done by traditional leaders and their structures?

The argument has been that you cannot have the councillors working as if you do not have traditional leaders and their authorities, who are also recognised by the Constitution. The debate has been about how we make councillors and traditional leaders work together. I think that's what we should be looking at. You should not come here and say: "Look, I'm elected. So, whoever you are, I'm not worried about you; I'm doing what I'm doing", and therefore not recognise other people and their authority even if they are recognised by the Constitution despite the fact that they are not elected.

Really, the debate should be about how you make councillors and traditional leaders work together. Nobody disputes the fact that traditional leaders and their system do exist, are recognised and operate in a particular manner. Equally, there are councillors who are elected representatives. How do you make these two work together?

I don't think traditional leaders, for example, could operate in their areas as if there are no councillors that are legitimately elected. I also do not think that councillors should operate in such a way that they don't care whether there are traditional authorities around. I think that this House should be helping in creating harmony in this system so that councillors are able to exercise their democratic rights and that we are in a position to allow traditional leaders to do their work.

How do we describe this system? That is the reason why the hon Smith said that there are agreements. His statement in this regard hit the core of the following questions: How will councillors and traditional leaders complement each other? Are they able to work in such a way that the people they are meant to assist are assisted rather than experience tensions and fights? I think that is what we are trying to deal with here.

There have been difficulties in other areas, and in others no difficulties at all. Areas differ in the way councillors and traditional leaders work together. I've crisscrossed the country and have come across numerous areas where there are no problems. However, there are areas where there are problems. It may be related to the question: What have we learnt after 15 years of working together and co-ordination?

So, this is a matter that we need to look at from an angle that appreciates the fact that we have councillors and traditional leaders existing in the manner that they do. Thank you. [Applause.]


Nkosi S P HOLOMISA: Nokwindla, ndiyabulela kuNxamalala ngempendulo yakhe ecacisa ukuzibophelela kukarhulumente wakho ekuhlonipheni ubukhosi. Loo nto iza kunceda kakhulu kuba, sele i-ANC ide igqibe kwelokuba kufuneka kuphuhliswe amaphandle nje, kungenxa yokuba kule minyaka ili-15 igqithileyo abantu basemaphandleni khange basiwe so ngokufanelekileyo. Ukuze nayiphi na inkqubo iphumelele, kufuneka urhulumente okhoyo asebenzisane neenkosi. Siyayibulela ke loo nto.

Umbuzo nje omfutshane endinawo ngothi: Njengokuba ooMongameli abebengaphambi kwakho bebexelele ilizwe ukuba kukho isebe eliza kusekwa ukuze lijongane nemicimbi yobukhosi, ngaba lo wakho urhulumente uyazibophelela kuloo nto?

Okokugqibela, phambi kokuba ndihlale phantsi, iinkosi zithe zakuva ukuba ndiza kukhe ndithethe nawe ngolu hlobo, Nxamalala, zathi ze ndikhe ndikuxelele ukuba ziyakukhumbula. [Kwahlekwa.]

UMONGAMELI WERIPHABLIKI: Somlomo, ndiyabulela ukufumana lo mbuliso ovela ezinkosini zam, ngomlomo kaNkosi Holomisa. Ze azixelele ukuba nam ndiyazithanda. [Kwahlekwa.]

Ndiyacinga ukuba ngokubhekiselele koko bekutshiwo ngooMongameli bangaphambili, ukuba kuya kuba kho isebe elinjalo, xa ndinaba kwimpendulo yam, ndikungqinile oko. Nangoku, isebe eli libizwa ngokuba liSebe loRhulumento ngoBambiswano neMicimbi yezeMveli. Belikade lingabizwa ngoloo hlobo ngaphambili. Loo nto ithetha ukuba siyangcambaza ukulandela esa sithembiso esenziwa ngooMongameli bangaphambili.

Njengokuba besisebenzisana kakuhle lonke eli xesha, makhe sijonge ukuba izinto zihamba njani na. Ndiyaqonda ukuba iza kulunga le nto; soze ingalungi singabantu nje. Ndiyabulela. [Kwaqhwatywa.]


Prince M G BUTHELEZI: Hon Speaker, His Excellency the President, His Excellency the Deputy President, hon Ministers, hon members, my comment is just about a moral issue; I'm not going to quiz the President. In fact, the President, whilst Deputy President of this country, was requested by the President and all of us in the Cabinet – when I was in the Cabinet – to head this committee that Mr Smith referred to and to see to it that there was not obliteration of the powers and functions of traditional leaders as a result of the implementation of the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act and other related legislation.

Our former President, President Mbeki, promised that if there was any obliteration, he would amend the Constitution. On 30 November 2000, this committee, which was headed by His Excellency the Deputy President of this country who is now our President, and which included Ministers and some legal experts, addressed this question of preventing the obliteration of the powers and functions of traditional leaders. They came to the conclusion that in order to prevent that from happening, there needed to be amendments to Chapters 7 and 12.

Now, His Excellency our President has replied that this was merely a recommendation. In fact, just a day before the local government elections, some of the traditional leaders threatened that they would discourage their subjects from voting the following day.

The recommendation that was made by the committee that was headed by none other the current President, who was then the Deputy President of the country, was conveyed to us as traditional leaders. To say that, that was not an agreement but a recommendation that was rejected is something else. I was in the Cabinet too. I don't remember any meeting of the Cabinet where a recommendation was rejected by the same Cabinet that had made the recommendation. So, I say this is a moral issue. I'm not quizzing you, Your Excellency, but I feel that as a member of this House and also as a traditional leader – and also as an elder – [Laughter.] I would not want my country to be governed by deception. Thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, my recollection is that the committee made a recommendation very formally, and it was not accepted – that's my recollection. Otherwise, if it was accepted, it would have been implemented. And I'm sure there are other Ministers who were there at the time who could also attest to what I'm saying.

I remember very well because I headed that committee and I was one of those who gave a report on this matter. I think long thereafter, quite a number of people complained about the fact that, that recommendation was not accepted. That is my recollection, and we can go to the records. In fact, I wouldn't understand why the traditional leaders complained about the fact that government did not accept our recommendation. There are quite a few Ministers who were there, who could attest to that.


Nantsi impandla ka ...


The SPEAKER: No, not today, hon President.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: I'm just saying, ngelinye ilanga, on another day. The point I'm making is that on record, the recommendation of that subcommittee was not accepted. That I remember very well. Thank you, hon Speaker.



Question 6:

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: The amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament in 2008. The Presidency has received submissions from interested and affected parties citing the perceived unconstitutionality of certain provisions of the Bill. I am still considering the submissions and will make a decision soon thereafter. We are aware of the importance of the matter and will move with the necessary speed to finalise it. I thank you, hon Speaker.

Ms P DE LILLE: Thank you for your response, Mr President. I am sure that the submissions you have received from interested and affected parties do not include the poor. The same people were here before Parliament in public hearings and made the same points and they didn't want to listen to us.

I am also glad that you said that there are perceived constitutional differences. The fact of the matter is, Mr President, that there are two legal opinions - one for and one against. It is best to leave the adjudication of these matters to the courts – deciding which opinion is correct. We only want you to sign that now.

The hon Minister of Economic Development made a statement a week ago in this Parliament in which he said that the Competition Commission has been helped and measures have been stepped up to deal with the people in the food chain, and all the collusion taking place there.

Once you sign that Act, Mr President, it will become a criminal offence for company directors to continue fleecing the poor. That is what we are asking for. I think you will agree with me – this is my question – that, if you don't sign the Act now, and the Competition Commission proceeds with their investigations to prosecute, these company directors will get off scot-free because you can't apply the law retrospectively. That is why I feel that this is important because fines are not a proper deterrent to these directors. Therefore, it is vitally important that we need to get this Act as soon as possible in order to safeguard the poor against these unscrupulous, greedy companies that are fleecing the poor. Thank you. [Applause.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, I really appreciate the question and understand it all too well. But as a government, we are faced with some realities. We said that we want to maintain a position of being a responsive government. I don't think we could discriminate against other citizens if they have concerns regarding the status they occupy. I think it is important that if people have concerns, you should respond to those concerns and deal with the matter.

I just said that we are going to try and move as quickly as possible to ensure that we consider and respond to those who have issues. But we can't just stand in one place forever, particularly regarding the legal opinion of whether this is constitutional or not. It is very strong to say it is constitutional. But I think it would be unfair for the President not to consider what citizens say if they are unhappy with it, respond to that and then proceed. This is what we are trying to do at this point in time.

We made the point that we cannot waste time on this matter. To some it is about running a business, but to others it is about poverty that they are faced with. We take that into account.


Mnr S J F MARAIS: Speaker, meneer die President, ek gaan in Afrikaans vra, as u u gehoorstuk wil insit.

Die PRESIDENT VAN DIE REPUBLIEK: Wag so bietjie. [Gelag.] Goed, jy kan maar voortgaan.

Mnr S J F MARAIS: Baie dankie, meneer die President, soos u bewus is, ly gewone verbruikers baie swaar onder die huidige ekonomiese toestande. Vertroue is op 'n laagtepunt en word soveel moontlik kostes na hulle afgewentel sodat winste geoptimaliseer kan word en belasting aan die staat betaal kan word.

Die huidige vertraging in die tekening van die wysigingswetsontwerp veroorsaak dat ekonomiese ontwikkeling in groei nie gestimuleer kan word nie. Voorbeelde van waar verbruikers daagliks swaarkry is byvoorbeeld die prysvasstelling van brood, die hoë en relatief onmededingende selfoontariewe, die 100% korrelasie by al die banke en die vasstelling van byvoorbeeld prima koerse sodra die Reserwebank die tekokoers aangepas het.


Mr President, delays in the signing of this Bill have exacerbated the agony and perceptions amongst consumers that government has a hidden agenda or hidden interest in certain implicated sectors. Sir, are you prepared to institute investigations into implicated business and sectors? Failing to do so, are you then admitting that there are some sectors and/or organisations that are either of a too sensitive or strategic nature to do so? What is your message to the suffering consumers who cry out for decisive actions? I thank you.

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, I think I have just answered the hon member De Lille on the matter. There are citizens in this country who have raised issues about the Bill. If we were doing things in that way - that once we are convinced we don't care what other people are saying and we just proceed - there would be chaos in the country and unfairness to other citizens. I think it is important for every citizen who believes, whether as a result of their greediness or whatever, that what we are doing as government is not in line with the Constitution. You need to satisfy that.

It is not that we are unsympathetic to the poor, but just that we have to do things in a constitutional manner and according to the law. If we were to work on our gut feeling, I am sure we would have fixed many things. But those things would certainly have be found that that they were unconstitutional. Let us allow the constitutional process to take its course. As I have said, we are making considerations and moving quicker so that we can reach the point of signing the law. If we didn't do that and they took us to court, you would be the first to say: "What type of a government is this? When people say something is unconstitutional, they just move ahead without realising that they can be sued". It is important to satisfy everyone. But more than anything else, we need to satisfy ourselves that there are no new issues raised from the issues already raised, and then proceed. We will move quickly to sign the law. Thank you. [Applause.]

Mr M G ORIANI-AMBROSINI: Mr President, you are seized with an issue of constitutionality and you need to apply your mind to a constitutional issue. Somehow this debate is an unfortunate occurrence as you apply your mind, not a policy issue, but to a legal issue. One respects the limitations of the exercise you are involved in.

Nonetheless, we need to express a general concern throughout the discussions that have been held as parliamentarians – at least in the Trade and Industry committee. It has emerged how strongly South Africa as a country is ruled and governed by monopolies, and this curtails an agreement in restriction on trade. This is a small step in the right direction. One would hope that private enforcement would follow, because without private enforcement it is very difficult to bring about the liberalisation of the market.

The question beyond the issue you are considering is whether you will provide your personal leadership to ensure that the present system will become more effective. We were flabbergasted in learning that the Competition Commission is still withholding a report on the anticompetitive activities of the banking system for fear of stepping on the banks' feet. The banking system is one that exercises enormous power and influence … [Interjections.] [Time expired.]

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Speaker, I am not sure whether the hon member wants me to engage in theoretical economic issues. At the moment, we are responding to a very specific issue. He is extending this debate beyond that in so far as my views are and the type of leadership I will give on these economic issues. I think that would be going beyond the requirements of the question at hand. We could debate those issues at a different time. I don't think I would really want to respond to an issue raised outside of the question asked. [Applause.]

Mr P D DEXTER: Hon President, it is heartening to hear your commitment to the Constitution in this regard. We really hope that you will take the same approach when it come to the appointment of the Chief Justice.

Secondly, we know that you are very familiar with our legal system. The Constitutional Court is there for those who feel that the law has treated them unfairly. There are two opinions on this matter. Our question is: Why the delay? The longer the delay, the more opportunity there is for company directors to cover their tracks. So, can you give us a categorical assurance that the delay in the promulgation of this Act is not in any way as a result of further representations from the private sector or any organisations with vested interests and/or donors who may have possibly funded the ruling party at any time, particularly in this election year?

The PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC: Hon Speaker, I have always adhered to the Constitution. I have never deviated, even under extreme provocation. [Applause.] I can categorically state that there is no hidden agenda. The truth of the matter is that I am considering the submissions. In the submissions that I am considering, I have no consideration for which company is which. I look at the submissions, as made, and look for one thing only - whether they have a point on the unconstitutionality of the Bill and nothing else. I just look at that issue. So, be certain that I do apply my mind according to what the Constitution says. Thank you very much. [Applause.]




(Draft Resolution)

The CHIEF OF THE OPPOSITION: Madam Deputy Speaker, I move without notice:

That the House –

(1) notes that the 17-year-old Cape Junior Ballet School's Mlindi Kulashe from Nyanga has received a full scholarship to represent South Africa at the prestigious Genée International Ballet Competition in Singapore next week;

(2) further notes that the Genée International Ballet Competition, which is held yearly, is one of the leading ballet competitions in the world;

(3) extends to him our sincerest congratulations on this exceptional achievement;

(4) wishes him the best of luck in this competition; and

(5) trusts that he will do us proud.

Agreed to.




(Draft Resolution)

Prince M G BUTHELEZI: Hon President, hon Deputy President, hon Ministers and hon members, I move without notice:

That the House –

(1) notes with sadness that Senator Ted Kennedy has passed away;

(2) further notes that Senator Kennedy, who many in this House were proud to call a friend, cared deeply for this country and took up the liberation cause with aplomb and distinction in the American corridors of power and across the free world;

(3) further notes that Senator Kennedy gave expression to the liberal democratic credo, which transcends any political party, that all humans are made in the image of God, and that a 'tolerance of others', a 'generosity of spirit' and 'a love of freedom' are the cornerstones of the civilized society;

(4) recognises that because he knew, to borrow the elegant words of his late brother President John F Kennedy, 'the midnight as well as the high noon, because he understood the ordeal as well as the triumph of the human spirit', he gave people in South Africa, as well as the people of the United States, and many others across the world, strength

with which to overcome despair; and

(5) holds true that as the last journey of this faithful pilgrim took him beyond the sunset, and as heaven's morning broke, Senator Kennedy has left us a legacy of social justice to guide us as we continue to toil in the twilight.


Agreed to.



(Statement by the Minister of Health)

The MINISTER OF HEALTH: Deputy Speaker, hon President, hon Deputy President, Cabinet Ministers, hon Members of Parliament, ladies and gentlemen, as the Minister of Health, I would like to address you on the current situation faced by the country and the world at large because of the outbreak of influenza H1N1. It is necessary for me to take this step because I believe we are all concerned by the recent rise in deaths in the country, particularly the deaths of pregnant women. The death of any individual is extremely painful and particularly regrettable, more so if that individual is a mother to be, who forms part of the foundation of any family and society as a whole.

As I've indicated in my personal letters to all of you, which I hope you have received, I wish to reiterate my message of my intention to use this opportunity to give you information that will assist you personally to deal with this disease and to request your assistance and personal involvement in effectively communicating the messages of influenza A H1N1 2009 to our communities.

This is particularly important because whenever new diseases strike, rumours abound and take over the thinking process of citizens. These rumours will then inform the activities of the populace, which will usually be wrong activities. I'm happy that the letters I've written have reached all of you and hundreds of other people in all corners of this country. This is shown by the feedback we have been receiving on the letter. Among those who have responded to the letter very positively, I wish to acknowledge the response of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Shenge. Thank you for your kind words indeed. I also wish to acknowledge the response received from Dr Wilmot James of the DA. I want to assure him that I will follow up on the proposals that he made in his response. Of course the continuous feedback and encouragement I received from comrades in the ANC and my colleagues in the Cabinet have also been extremely helpful in shaping our response to this pandemic. I also wish to thank Minister Manuel for responding on our behalf during yesterday's statements. It is true that we have sent letters, not only to you, but to all members of the provincial legislatures, councillors, community development workers, principals of 30 000 schools, rectors of universities, ministers of religion, traditional healers and everybody who is a leader, including editors of newspapers in trying to communicate this matter. What these responses and reactions indicate is the willingness and readiness of South Africans to hold hands in confronting common challenges.

Developments around this pandemic have been changing every week. So, since last week when I sent your letters, statistics have changed, and I wish to update them. At the moment the disease has spread to 170 countries globally and to 25 countries on the African continent. Today as I'm standing here in front of you, the virus has affected 182 166 people. These are laboratory confirmed cases. Globally we have 1 799 confirmed deaths, and in South Africa to date we have 5 118 infections with 20 deaths. As health officials globally and locally, we are worried by these deaths that have so far occurred, calculated globally as 0,9% of those affected, and as 0,3% of those people who are affected in South Africa.

It is worth noting that this virus affects people in the younger age groups, particularly between the ages of 10 and 29 years. Most of these individuals are in schools and institutions of higher learning. This is a very serious departure from what influenzas generally do. As you know, seasonal influenza typically attacks the elderly and kills between 250 000 to 500 000 people every year. But the H1N1 influenza, while it has killed very few people so far, has only affected 3% of people over the age of 65 years. This has never happened in the history of influenzas; it's a new phenomenon.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has advised that countries must concentrate on mitigating the impact of the disease on their communities because containing it seems not to have happened. So, in mitigating, communication is the key. We have taken all the necessary steps to ensure that we are doing that. However, I want to mention to this House that more still needs to be done in the area of communication. That's why we are appealing for your assistance because you have constituencies and that is where communities are.

It is generally believed by experts, unfortunately, all over the world, including even those in the WHO, that at the end of this pandemic, 45% of humanity is definitely going to be affected. However, we wish to emphasise that while that is so, an overwhelming majority of people worldwide have mild symptoms and don't need any specialised attention and care. The figures we are quoting here are for those who have been tested. We still believe that there are thousands and thousands out there who were not even aware that they had caught this influenza because it was very mild. So, people with very mild symptoms must just be treated like they have any other common influenza which occurs on an annual basis, like I had last year and every other year in winter.

However, we are worried particularly about four categories of people: people with chronic heart or lung diseases seem to be succumbing; pregnant women, specifically; people living with HIV and Aids; and lastly, people with diabetes mellitus. We are particularly worried about these four groups of people.

We are emphasising once more that people who experience moderate and severe symptoms, which I've outlined in the letters and need not repeat here, must immediately seek medical attention. We are also saying that those who have mild symptoms, but fall within the categories that I've mentioned - chronic heart and lung diseases, pregnant women, HIV/Aids, and people with diabetes - must look for urgent attention, even if the symptoms are mild and seem like ordinary influenza

The distribution of letters in the provinces has changed since last week when I wrote you the letters. It indicates the following: the hardest hit province is Gauteng, with 49% of infected people; the Western Cape, with 21%; KwaZulu-Natal, with 12%; the Eastern Cape, with 6,4%; Limpopo, with 3,5%; Mpumalanga, with 2,5%; the North West with 2,3%; the Free State, with 2%; and the Northern Cape, with 1%. I wish to warn members that this has nothing to do with the way the disease is spreading. It has a lot to do with where the testing facilities are. People are testing everyday, even those who are not sick. The majority of laboratories are in Johannesburg. That is why 49% of the cases that are reported are there. It is followed by the Western Cape because of the same thing. The death rate up to so far is 9 in the Western Cape, 6 in Gauteng, 2 in the Eastern Cape, 2 in KwaZulu-Natal and 1 in the Free State.

We will thoroughly investigate each death. However, present information shows that 9 of the dead people were pregnant women, 4 had chronic heart diseases, 1 had diabetes and 2 had renal transplants. It is in keeping with all the risk areas that we have mentioned up to now. We are still trying our best to get more information on the other four.

Official testing is done by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. In other words, you can test in private laboratory, but if they reveal a death we will never communicate it until it has been confirmed by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. This is because it is the only laboratory in Africa that has been accredited by the WHO. The fact that many countries on the continent don't seem to have the disease is simply because they don't have testing facilities. Most of them depend on South Africa for testing.

We want to appeal again to people that waking up at your home in the morning and rushing to the nearest private laboratory demanding to be tested simply because you can afford to do so financially does not help anyone. In fact, what it does is clog up the health system as it is the case now. This practice has disadvantaged people who really deserved to be tested. Initially when the pandemic started, laboratories could produce results after 24 hours. Now it takes up to seven days to produce results because people are just queuing up not because they have any symptoms, but simply because they just feel the need to be on the safe side. We do not know how testing puts you on the safe side anyway. Really, as one caller to the SAFM said, there doesn't seem to be a breakdown of disease but a breakdown of testing, and we should not allow that.

The treatment of choice is Tamiflu, and we are only using it for moderate symptoms, severe symptoms and the categories of people that I've mentioned. Mass treatment with Tamiflu will lead to mass resistance. I want to warn members here today to be aware. We are not trying to hide treatment away from them. If you are attacked, hon Speaker, you defend yourself. Don't ever think viruses will also be attacked without defending themselves. They do so and in a cruel way. If you attack them continuously, even when it's unnecessary, they mutate. When they mutate, they become more dangerous. That's why we don't want to give every South African Tamiflu. If we start doing so, we'll be destroying ourselves. It's like that all over the world.

In line with the department's commitment to reducing maternal mortality, we have given instruction and a directive to all the doctors and health workers that whenever they come across a pregnant woman who shows any symptoms, they must give her Tamiflu immediately. They must not wait or try to do any testing, it's not necessary. They must just give her the treatment. It is saddening to see pregnant women in particular who are dying because of this influenza. Unfortunately this phenomenon of pregnant women dying is a global one. I wish to announce to this House that because of this, the department is busy increasing the stock of Tamiflu by R30 million so that as we get very busy we can be prepared.

The closure of institutions of learning, workplaces, shopping complexes and malls has not shown to be helping in the countries that have practiced that. We advise that if there are more people - learners or educators or even workers - absent from work or from school, institutions must consult the Department of Health and the Department of Education and we will take a joint decision on the correct course of action.

I wish to assure you and members of this House that everything is being done by scientists the world over, working together with the WHO to try and produce a vaccine for this disease, because that is the only thing that will save humanity. If things go well, such a vaccine might be available within a few months. Over the last weekend I attended an international conference on this pandemic influenza in Beijing, China. Most of the Ministers from the heavily affected countries were at that conference. The WHO briefed us that at the moment, 13 candidate vaccines have so far been collated and distributed to all vaccine manufacturers all over the world who must start the process of trials and production. However, producing a vaccine as it is going will not be completed in less than six months; that is not possible. So, it is estimated that if we are very lucky, the first acceptable vaccine from these candidates might be available by November 2009. If we are not very lucky, we might have to wait until April 2010.

Unfortunately, there is no capacity in developing countries to produce their own vaccines. At the moment, all vaccine production is being processed in Europe and America, with China also in the process of doing so. They are busy doing tests on 13 000 people within China. However, the disturbing feature about today's world and the manner in which the world is arranged has been expressed has by the Minister of Health for Cambodia in the conference, who noted that the developed world, after producing the vaccine, may prefer to cover their own population first before thinking about the developing world. China made it very clear in the conference that if they can produce a vaccine, they will first start with the 67 million people who are pregnant in that country.

I've spoken to my colleague, the Minister of Science and Technology, and we both think that ... [Interjections.]


The MINISTER OF HEALTH: Sixty-seven million people is only 4% of China's population. There's nothing funny about that, it is a fact. But for us it is obviously a very tall order.

I've spoken to my colleague, the Minister of Science and Technology, hon Minister Naledi Pandor, and we both think that South Africa has arrived at a situation where we have no option but to start developing our own vaccine capacity, not only for H1N1, but generally and for other diseases. [Applause.] I just want to disclose that the statement from Dr Wilmot is also about that. It's very important, that's why I want follow it up.

A special word of gratitude to the hon Speaker of the National Assembly, hon M V Sisulu, for acceding to our request to address the House this afternoon. Thank you very much, hon Speaker. We take advantage of your kind advice to keep on informing this House about this matter because it is a very important matter. I wish to thank you and all South Africans in anticipation of your active involvement in communicating and helping to mitigate the effects of this disease. Thank you. [Applause.]



Mr M WATERS: Deputy Speaker, hon President, Minister, may I on behalf of the DA convey our deepest sympathy to the families who have lost loved ones due to the H1N1 virus.

While the DA realises that we have seasonal flu and that there are unfortunately casualties every year, we still believe more could and should have been done to educate the public about H1N1 as well as the ways of reducing the spread of the virus.

We welcome the Minister's statement here today. The Minister knows that I have great respect for him, but honestly, Minister, it is a few months too late. Since 28 April 2009, that is four months ago, the DA has been calling on you to do what you have just done today; make a public announcement and take the public into your confidence. We have also been calling for an educational ... [Interjections.] We have, Minister. We have been calling for an educational programme to educate the general public on how best we can reduce the spread of the virus. This is because we wanted to prevent a huge spike at our health facilities which we are experiencing currently, and we cannot cope. By educating the public, you do not only reduce the spread of the virus, but you also spread it out over a longer period and thus enabling the health facilities to cope in a better manner.

It does seem, to some degree, that we are now closing the stable gate after the horse has actually bolted. But we do appreciate, Minister, the actions you are taking today and the public education programme that you have embarked on recently.

The purpose of educating the public on basic hygiene, as I have said, was to slow down spread of it. There are some questions, hon Minister, that we would have liked you to have elaborated on; maybe one of the ANC's speakers can elaborate on them. Is the staff at hospitals using N95 respirator masks as opposed to common surgical masks in order to reduce the risk of being infected with the virus? The N95 respirator masks are the only ones that have shown to reduce or alter the infection ability by 95% in order to help medical staff from contracting the virus.

Minister, you also mentioned that you would like vulnerable groups to receive Tamiflu at the first signs of flu or H1N1 infection. But on our recent trip to the Eastern Cape - and the portfolio committee members can attest to this - we saw queues at public health institutions where people couldn't even access ARVs. ARVs were at the dispensary, but people couldn't even get to the front of the queue in order to get that medication. In fact our bus driver's wife had been waiting a week for her ARVs and was sent to hospital because she fell ill. What steps are in place to ensure that vulnerable groups will receive Tamiflu timeously and not have to wait in long queues?

We would also like to know what strategies the government has for infection control at public health facilities. A sure way of ensuring the fast spread of H1N1 is to have people with those symptoms waiting in waiting rooms for hours on end, infecting everybody around them. So, what strategies do we have in place for people we suspect have the virus to receive medication other than them waiting in waiting rooms all the time?

We commend you for your comments with regard to creating our own capacity for vaccines. But what have we done in order to place orders, hon Minister? While we appreciate that Europe and America want to look after their own people first, have you taken any steps to order the vaccine and how do you envisage ensuring that vulnerable groups get the vaccine? [Interjections.] [Time expired.]



Mr D A KGANARE: Deputy Speaker, while we welcome the belated interventions with regard to the H1N1 virus, the strategy – assuming that there was a strategy – appeared to be to simply pull down the shutters and hope that it would go away; just like an ostrich that pushes its head into the ground believing that danger will pass.

At first, the country was told not to panic, that everything was under control and that this epidemic was something happening far, far away. Furthermore, the country was told that this must just be treated as normal influenza and that people must stay at home and it would go away. Then people began to die. Suddenly the department began to issue warnings to vulnerable people, the HIV positive, pregnant women, etc. The department admitted insufficient laboratory capacity and medicinal resources to protect the citizens of the country against this potentially lethal virus.

Given the dynamics of the very mobile population, it should have been expected that no country could escape the spread of this virus and others. It is therefore incumbent on a responsive government to ensure the timeous and efficient implementation of strategies to minimise the impact of such eventualities, and have transparent communication and education at the earliest possible opportunity.

We extend our sincerest condolences to the loved ones and the dependants of those who have succumbed to the dangerous virus. We wish all those who are currently fighting the virus a speedy recuperation and call on the Department of Health to take all steps necessary to prevent further spreading of the virus and ensure sufficient availability of personnel, laboratory capacity and vaccines. I thank you.



Ms H S MSWELI: Madam Deputy Speaker, hon President, hon members, the IFP has been made aware of the promotion of the rapid testing kits for the H1N1 virus, which are not endorsed by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the national Department of Health and the

WHO. The IFP wishes to caution against reliance on non-laboratory - based tests with low levels of sensitivity to test for the H1N1 virus.

We call on doctors who have high-risk patients to continue treatment for flu while they are waiting for the outcome of results. We support the hon Minister on his call for doctors to prescribe Tamiflu to high risk groups, including pregnant women. I thank you. [Applause.] [Time expired.]



Mr M H HOOSEN: Deputy Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the hon Minister for his honesty when he said that we have not done enough to deal with effective communication on this matter. When I raised it in the House yesterday, the hon Minister Manuel stood up and defended it. Obviously, today the hon Minister of Health has confirmed that we have not done enough.

I want to share with the hon Minister Manuel in his absence that my dad used to always say: "You must learn to shut your mouth when you don't know what you are talking about." So, I hope he takes that message with him.

Deputy Minister, I still believe that we are not effectively communicating the fact that symptoms differ slightly from adults to children and to pregnant women, the fact that HIV positive patients are more susceptible to contracting the virus because of low immune levels and that this has the potential for disaster in our country. The Minister called for an urgent administration of Tamiflu to pregnant women yesterday, but the manufactures of the product state on their website that this medication is not recommended for pregnant women as the effects on the unborn child are unknown.

Discouraging people from visiting their doctors or undergoing routine lab tests will only serve to further exacerbate the problem. [Interjections.] [Time expired.]



Mr S Z NTAPANE: Deputy Speaker, I prepared this statement first, but I feel it has been overtaken by events after the hon Minister presented his statement.

The Minister's statement today reiterates a message that should have perhaps been spoken sooner or more loudly. However, the UDM appreciates the statement by the Minister as it has allayed the fears that UDM had. The fears are as follows: avoiding the unnecessary cause of panic and potential detrimental rush for treatment; the balance that needs to be struck between general public awareness on the one hand and targeted treatment for those who actually need special medication and treatment on the other hand; and the identification of high risk potential patients by medical professionals, particularly pregnant women and HIV infected people and provide them with relevant medication. These have really been addressed by the Minister. That is why I say the Minister has allayed the fears that UDM had. Thank you, Deputy Speaker.



Ms C DUDLEY: Deputy Speaker, the ACDP extends their deepest sympathy to families and friends who have lost their loved ones due to this virus. The ACDP has also been calling on Minister Motsoaledi for some time now to address the nation regarding the increasing numbers of people being affected with the H1N1 virus and to detail measures put in place to ensure that public hospitals and clinics are on alert and prepared to handle patients as serious cases increase.

The public needs this reassurance as a lack of communication increases speculation and a panic reaction. So, we appreciate the Minister's efforts to address Parliament and the nation and to communicate broadly.

The need to sensitise the population regarding this virus and the need to treat all flu symptoms seriously has been and still is important. This is not just because H1N1 flu poses a threat, but also because all kinds of flu are becoming increasingly problematic and that simple health and hygiene education significantly reduces our vulnerability.

South Africa's susceptibility, due to the vast numbers of people living with HIV and Aids, has been of particular concern. The fact that pregnant women, children and young adults appear to be vulnerable adds to this concern. [Interjections.] [Time expired.] Okay. Thank you. [Applause.]




Ms M N MATLADI: Re le UCDP, re isa matshidiso go malapa a ba ba latlhegetsweng ka ntlha ya bolwetse jo.


As colleagues have already maintained, the virus is deadly. Precaution has to be taken through advocacy campaigns to register its symptoms, what to do when one has symptoms, when to seek emergency care, the medication available for the disease and who is at risk.

The UCDP supports the fact that should a significant number of learners or students or residents of an institution be affected by the spread of the influenza, an outbreak investigation should be made and decision-making should take place on how to asses and address the situation.

The number of death cases was reported as 20 this morning, and the Minister has already confirmed this. We are saying, as hon members and public representatives, let's join our hands together with the Department of Health and fight the virus. I thank you. [Applause.]



Mr M B GOQWANA: Madam Deputy Speaker, Mr President, Mr Deputy President, Ministers present, Members of Parliament, I am not going to be very long, but I want to start by making a positive statement. I don't think we can be defeated by a unicellular organism whilst we are multicellular organisms, including our brains.[Applause.]

Before I touch on the H1N1, let me digress a little. If someone confides in me about something, and I do investigations to find out what is actually going on, that person and I have a contract. If I go and blurt it out to the media, then I shall be breaching the confidentiality. This is with reference to our young lady, Caster Semenya, where health professionals did something that should not be done.

I was looking at most of our laws - I am not sure if I've missed it - trying to find a law on genetics. We need to look at whether we can't have a law on genetics in South Africa so that we can try and handle some of these things. Those health professionals need to explain why they breached the confidentiality. I was just digressing.

Let me come back to the H1N1. This is a virus, and it is unicellular. It is not only unicellular, it is a nucleus. It could be RNA or DNA. Because viruses are small and unicellular, they can mutate. All I'm trying to say is, let's not think this is the last of them. Next year we might get a new one that is going to mutate. All we need to do is to ensure that our researchers are on their toes searching for solutions to diseases that mutate and cause problems.

Most of us who are well and do not have any particular disease need not worry much. I am not saying that this does not cause death. People do not die as a result of viruses, but from other conditions associated with the viruses. If a person suspects that they have H1N1, they must protect themselves because there are opportunistic infections that can kill more than the virus itself. The only viruses that kill are those that affect the heart and cause it to stop suddenly. This happens when someone has cardiac arrest. That is where the problem is.

The Minister said very clearly that people who are vulnerable to this disease must be considered. For the 20 patients who have died, I wish I could get their post-mortems so that we could know what caused their deaths. There might have been something that was underlying that might have caused the deaths over the virus. I am trying to allay some of the anxiety. I am not saying this is not a serious topic, but we must know that it might be around for some time and that we might even get new viruses. This won't be killing everybody but only those who particularly have problems.

With regard to emergency institutions like hospitals, if somebody goes there displaying lethal conditions, they must be attended to before other patients. For example, if you are pregnant or have cardiac problems or lung problems, then you must be treated before other patients because you might be having this virus. You must be admitted before it causes problems. These are some of the things we need to do, and the department is capable of handling these things.

We must remember that our country has poor people. Poverty goes with malnutrition, and malnutrition goes with low immunity. Low immunity might cause problems in the rural areas. The department is aware of this and it is going to handle it.

This virus is transmitted through touching. It does not jump from person to person, but it is transmitted through touching or getting close to another person. The closeness does not involve sexual intercourse. It is just closeness to a particular person.

When we talk of low immune system, we must remember that stress and depression can lower your immunity. If you have stress from your parliamentary work, you must be aware that H1N1 virus might attack you.

In conclusion, I would like to say that we all need to get Tamiflu. I know that the department has it, but we must remember that if we use it before being infected, the virus is going to develop resistance because it mutates easily. Like I said, it is unicellular and mutates easily. In fact we might not have another drug that could be used on this.

As the ANC, we are confident that we cannot be defeated by a unicellular organism. In fact, the ANC, being a uniparty, defeated all multiparties since 1994 until today. So, we cannot be defeated by this virus. Thank you. [Applause.]

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Hon members, I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of His Royal Highness Prince Guduza Dlamini, the chairperson of the SADC parliamentary forum and his delegation. You're welcome to the National Assembly, even though it's at the tail end. [Applause.]

Mr M G BUTHELEZI: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: I am sorry that the hon doctor has finished. I wanted to ask him why he looked at the President and at me when he talked about vulnerable people [Laughter.]

Mr M B GOQWANA: I looked at you and not at the President. [Laughter.]

There are two reasons why I looked at you and the President. I looked at the President because as the President of the country, he carries all the stress of the country. That might lower his immune system. The reason I looked at you is because you said you are an elderly person. [Laughter.] The elderly might have problems. [Laughter.]

Debate concluded.

The House adjourned at 16:28.



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