Deputy President’s reponse to Questions in the National Council of Provinces on Government to Address Challenges of Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality

9 March 2016

Honourable Members,

The South African government’s programmes to transform our society and economy are clearly set out in the National Development Plan.

This plan addresses poverty, unemployment and divisions of race, class and gender in a comprehensive manner.

It acknowledges that these divisions are perpetuated both by racist and sexist attitudes and practices and by unequal economic and social relations.

Government has taken concrete steps to eradicate the material basis of racism, sexism and class division in our country by working to ensure equal access to education, health care, housing, social grants and other basic services.

Government has introduced a number of measures to redress centuries of economic dispossession and exploitation. These measures include employment equity measures, land restitution and land reform, broad-based black economic empowerment, preferential procurement, small business development as well as the development of black industrialists.

On this issue of race, government has developed a draft national action plan to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and other related acts of intolerance.

All South Africans have been invited to comment on the draft plan before 30 June 2016.

The Department of Arts and Culture has undertaken initiatives like the Mzansi Golden Economy Programme to addresses the challenges of poverty and unemployment through the arts, culture and heritage sector.

It has organised community conversations and sectoral engagements across the country to address issues of social cohesion and nation building.

Through the Department of Arts and Culture, government has partnered with the Moral Regeneration Movement on a number of projects to build and enrich the moral and ethical substance of our nation.

Government is not planning a national summit to exclusively deal with racism.

Instead, government is supporting a range of initiatives that will address societal challenges.

The national summit on social cohesion planned for 2018 will take stock of progress made in promoting social cohesion, including ridding our country of racism, sexism, xenophobia and intolerance.

If we are to address the divisions of our society and build a united nation, we need to work together.

Social cohesion is a national effort for which all of us must take both collective action and personal responsibility as citizens of this great nation.

I thank you.


Honourable Members,

Wage inequality has its roots in the systematic dispossession, marginalisation and exploitation of black South Africans over many decades.

Since 1994, government has been working with its social partners to address economic inequality, unemployment and poverty.

It is for this reason that we have invested significantly in education and skills development, promoted employment equity and broad-based black economic empowerment, and it has sought to take a number of actions to protect vulnerable workers.

Among the mechanisms currently being pursued to address wage inequality is the introduction of a national minimum wage.

Deliberations are currently underway in NEDLAC, and they are beginning to focus on the structure and level of a national minimum wage for all South African workers.

The agreement by all social partners on the need to introduce a national minimum wage was a milestone.

Alongside other measures, the national minimum wage can contribute significantly to reducing wage inequality by raising the income of the lowest paid workers.

At the same time, if properly designed, it can stimulate greater economic activity by increasing demand for goods and services.

That is why the current deliberations among the social partners on the level at which to set the national minimum wage are so important.

While the national minimum wage needs to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the lowest paid workers, we need to ensure that economic growth and job creation are sustained.

All social partners have committed themselves to conclude these deliberations as soon as possible and without any delay.

I thank you.


Honourable Members,

The inter-governmental Technical Working Group was reconstituted in 2015 to develop a comprehensive National Food and Nutrition Security Plan for South Africa.

The Technical Working Group has utilised diverse mechanisms to consult with key stakeholders. It has received a whole lot of submissions.

The inputs received from a range of stakeholders have been incorporated into the draft plan.

Further consultations will be conducted with provincial government departments and key stakeholders prior to the finalisation of the plan.

This work is critical, particularly in light of the current drought that is having a severe impact it is having on food availability.

The development of this draft plan underscores government’s commitment to ensure food security for the most vulnerable and achieved good cooperation all round. We are hoping there will be further discussions and inputs as we have this plan implemented.

I thank you.


Honourable Members,

The Department of Health has not commenced with self-testing for HIV.

However, self-test kits have recently been approved by the South African Pharmacy Council and are available over the counter in retail pharmacies.

It is critical to highlight that these kits are to be used only for screening, and those who screen positive must go to a health facility to have the confirmatory test done.

A diagnosis of HIV can only be made once the second test analysed by the relevant laboratory is done and the result is positive.

The Pharmacy Council is currently finalising a standard operating procedure to ensure that pharmacies provide appropriate information for use of these kits.

We encourage members of the public to use the services of the Department of Health’s call centre should they have any questions about the use of the kits or interpretation of results.

Government continues to provide counselling services at all public HIV testing sites.

We urge all South Africans who are sexually active to test for HIV regularly.

I thank you.


Honourable Member,

The main challenge facing our country is the achievement of faster economic growth, greater job creation and the reduction of poverty and inequality.

Our state-owned entities have a critical role to play as catalysts and drivers of investment, growth and employment.

Many are well placed to perform this role.

However, some SOEs are facing operational and financial challenges or lack proper governance and management. Others are struggling to remain profitable in difficult and trading circumstances.

Working together with various Ministries and stakeholders, the Inter-Ministerial Committee that I chair, is seized with the task of strengthening the economic, social and developmental role of our SOEs.

The IMC is overseeing the implementation of the recommendations of the Presidential Review Committee – PRC – in a phased manner, focusing in the immediate term on stabilisation and consolidation.

As President Jacob Zuma indicated in his State of the Nation Address, this process involves streamlining and sharpening the mandates of SOEs, rationalising them where there is an overlap of mandates, and phasing-out those state owned enterprises that are no longer relevant to our development agenda.

The IMC is attending to this work as a matter of priority, understanding that it demands transparency, broad consultation and extensive research.

We are confident that we will achieve our objective of a strong, capable and efficient public sector that plays a leading role in growing our economy and developing our people.

I thank you.


Honourable Members,

While the findings and recommendations of the Marikana Commission of Inquiry are quite clear on this matter, a summons has been issued against me in my personal capacity arising out of the events at Marikana in August 2012.

As a consequence, and on the basis of legal advice, it is inappropriate for me to be involved in any way in the implementation of the recommendations of the Marikana Commission Report and any related processes.

Information on these matters should be sought from the relevant Ministers assigned by the President to implement the recommendations of the report.

I thank you.