Social Protection, Community and Human Development Post - SONA Cluster Media Briefing


28 Feb 2017

The Social Protection, Community and Human Development Cluster held a post State of the Nation Address media briefing to provide insight on the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector, which has a strategic role in social and economic development.  The sector has the potential to contribute to job creation, reduction of poverty and the eradication of inequality.

The National Development Plan emphasises that South Africa needs to build a more equitable society where opportunity is not defined by race, gender, class or religion. The shared love for Sport continues to unite all South Africans and hoist the country’s flag high internationally. Sport and Recreation South Africa will continue to present the Big Walk and National Recreation Day scheduled for October as one of its flagship programmes to encourage South Africans to lead active and healthy lifestyles. In efforts to move South Africa towards Universal Health Coverage, The Department of Health is leading the implementation of National Health Insurance, which seeks to ensure that all, irrespective of their socio-economic status, have access to healthcare.

Education is a key priority identified by government towards addressing poverty and inequality as envisioned in the National Development Plan 2030. The National Development Plan thus put a special focus on access to quality education outcomes.

The briefing was attended by cluster Ministers: Minister of Public Works, Mr Thulas Nxesi; the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Fikile Mabalula; Minister of Health, Mr Aaron Motsoaledi; Minister of Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini; Deputy Ministers, Director-Generals, Senior Managers, and Members of the Media.
Questions and Answers:

Journalist: Minister could you give us an update on the South African Social Services Agency (SASSA) CEO, is he suspended, is he on sick leave? Also, Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) was expecting you to attend its meeting this morning, many Members of the Committee were disappointed that you were not there, what are your reasons for not attending the meeting this morning.

Journalist: In SCOPA just now one of the SASSA officials commented that at this moment there is no programme for 1 April 2017 grants payments. They also indicated that Cash Payment Services (CPS) and Net 1 negotiation will only start tomorrow, which gives you exactly 31 days. What is your contingency plan in case things cannot go ahead or CPS and Net 1 play hard ball?

Journalist: In a follow up on the previous question that part of the negotiation of a contract declared invalid. My understanding is that SASSA is going to negotiate with people who might not negotiate in good faith. The second point to how are you going to ensure National Treasury’s (NT) buy-in to a contract that was declared invalid.

The second question is to Minister Nxesi, can you indicate since the EFF is introducing constitutional changes debate on the expropriation of land without compensation this afternoon. The President did indicate that in terms of the land reform programme there might be constitutional changes needed for the Expropriation Act. How is that going to play out?

Journalist: Minister Mbalula, in one of your responses to written questions you suggested that Durban was considering hosting 2022 Commonwealth Games, can you give me an update, because there is a sense that they might be pulling out.

Journalist: Minister Motsoaledi, a year ago, you indicated that you were negotiating with Roush to reduce the price of breast cancer drug in South Africa which was very expensive, could you give us an update, are we closer in reaching an agreement with them on the price of that drug?

Journalist: Minister Dlamini could you explain to us how we got to this point where 3 years after the constitutional court judgment there is still no plan in place for the 1 April.

Minister Nxesi: I think colleagues must understand that addressing the land question, it is seen as one of the fundamental issues in dealing with radical economic transformation. And if you look at the Expropriation Bill which has been returned back to us by the President, it is meant to standardise processes in terms of the law of general application, of course as required by the Constitution. And that bill also brings in line these processes to that Constitution and the norms of what are called administrative justice, how that process is supposed to be followed and to be fed into everybody. It also allows expropriation, which can even be below the market value. And I want to emphasise that is why I think the President has expressed a frustration of the slow process which has been delayed by what I call exorbitant prices of the land. And if you look at the Constitution chapter 2, paragraph 25, and in particular subsection 3 talks about the amount of compensation must be just and equitable, reflecting the equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those who are affected. It lists 5 factors which must be taken into consideration: the current use of the property; the history of the acquisition of the property; and the subsidy in the acquisition because some of the people might have had that property free or through forced removals of some other people.

All they did was just to develop and put little inputs, and then come and sell it at a market price which became little bit unfair. But at least there are a number of factors that must be considered. The frustration has been only the emphasis on all the transactions that have taken place thus far, it is only the transactions that determine the market price and disregarding all the other things. Therefore, the debate is within that particular context. And the Expropriation Bill which we have come up with in Public Works is not undermining the Constitution, it just standardises the process. One thing which is very crucial is that the emphasis in the previous section was that the land question must emphasise the issue of productive capacity, the issues of what we call the extension officers, irrigation, fencing, markets for those small-scale farmers and so on. It is not just about transfer, but also land is not just about rural land it is also an urban issue, which is the link in this particular statement and the previous one because if truth be told the property sector is still an old boys club.

Minister Mbalula: With regard to the Commonwealth Games, there is a possibility that the games will be out of the window for South Africa because we have been in negotiation with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) with regard to the hosting of the games and have not been in agreement going back and forth in relation to the costs of the games. And given our economic situation we are unable to move away from what we agreed initially when we decided to host the games. But nonetheless it does not seem like we will find each other. Now we do not want to pre-empt anything, we are waiting for the final results. Our teams have been called back from London and we are waiting for the final decision on the matter, which will probably be available by the end of this month.

Cabinet has endorsed our bid, National Treasury endorsed our bid, and we went to Durban and consolidated our approach with the City of eThekwini with regard to financial implications. And given the situation we cannot go beyond what South Africa can afford at the present moment, unfortunately. But there is no final decision on that, the decision is coming and it does not look good in a sense that we could find each other on the financial commitments.

Minister Motsoaledi: I think it is common knowledge that cancer drugs are now priced out of the reach of millions of citizens, not only in South Africa but around the whole world. I know your preoccupation is with the breast cancer drug which for every woman with breast cancer must popup R5000 for treatment. But we still have colorectal cancers which cost about R9000 and so on. So, we are looking at the whole spectrum in terms of reducing prices because they are simply unaffordable, even for rich people, even for people with medical aid. So, we are looking at several options like the Medicine Patent Pool (MPP) which is already working very well for TB drugs. We are also looking at the issue of generics and Bio-similes.

It is true that, 2 years ago, at the World Economic Forum in Davos I did start discussions with the CEO of Rouge about the price of a breast cancer drugs. Now it is very difficult for me to negotiate and go to a conference and broadcast our strategies and what is going and how far we are, because I am really restricted. I will leave it there, but we are negotiating and we want the prices to be affordable.

Minister Dlamini: Firstly, on CPS we are going to have a press conference to address the issues that are related to the negotiations and the issues of National Treasury, and the Constitutional Court. Secondly, I have not seen a letter suspending a CEO, maybe some have seen it but I’ve not seen it. I just know that the CEO is on sick leave. Thirdly, I attended SCOPA last year and we had to go back there to report our programme of action and that whole thing turned to be a discussion on grants.
I do not know how we arrived on grants because what I know is that at SCOPA you discuss issues of unauthorised expenditure and other things. Last week we went to the Portfolio Committee to account there, and I feel that is the place where we are going to account.

Journalist: A question for Minister Motsoaledi, is there any update about the eSidimeni situation, how are you making progress in this regard.

Minister Motsoaledi: The progress is that we have established an operation centre at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg. The centre is handled by 21 professionals. There are psychiatrists there, there are discologists, lawyers, and emergency services personnel, environmental care practitioners, physiotherapies, social workers, etc. And they are going to review patient by patient, institution by institution, and even work towards the movement of reallocating them when it becomes possible to do so. So, at the moment they are still reviewing each individual patient and visiting the areas where they are supposed to move them because this has already been identified. There is a very high chance that the first group of patients might actually be moved this week if there are no complications in terms of individual patients.

We have met with the families last week to discuss recommendation 17 of the Ombudsman report. Recommendation 17 is where we have to meet families for the healing session. And that has already taken place the other weekend where we spent a half a day with the families. The other thing on recommendation 17 is to look for a prominent credible South African to carry the process of mediation towards redress. We have discussed with the families about that and they have given a few proposals in terms of who they would like to lead such mediation. We are negotiating with all those people and an announcement and date will be made soon about that.

Journalist: Minister Mbalula with the negotiations with the federation what will be some of the details, will it be limited to still host the games or limited to the games not been host at all and South Africa expected to pay some guarantees, what is the basis is of that negotiation.

Minister Mbalula: The negotiations, as you know if you are a host country you look at the guarantees, and negotiate for the budget and costs. And where we are locking horns is at the operational costs. The negotiations with the GCF are complete and we cannot find each other on the figures. We are just waiting for the final decision on whether we host or not, and the odds are against us.

The briefing adjourned.