NEWS & ANALYSIS

Zuma on constitution, SADTU and the arms deal inquiry

Prepared text of President's answers to questions in parliament, March 15

Oral replies to the National Assembly as delivered by President Jacob Zuma

15 Mar 2012

1.  Ms B M Dambuza (African National Congress (ANC)) to ask the President of the republic:

(1)  What is the extent of the concern regarding illicit capital outflows from (a) South Africa and (b) Africa as identified by the recently established UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA)?

(2)  how does the government intend to work with the UNECA panel in investigating the illicit flows of money from Africa?

Reply:

Honourable members, at the recent high level meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), it was estimated that an amount of 50 billion US dollars is exported out of the African continent illegally every year. This is done through tax evasion, incorrect invoicing, import over-pricing and the under pricing of exports.

According to information given to the African Union, countries most affected are South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria. The flow of illicit finance severely undermines the possibilities for socio-economic development across the continent. 

It reduces tax collection, cancels investment, and undermines free trade as it removes resources that could otherwise be used for poverty alleviation and economic growth. Government has measures in place to address this challenge.

The Financial Surveillance Department of the South African Reserve Bank (SARS), responsible for the administration of exchange control, continues to detect and deal with unlawful financial outflows by people who bypass restrictions placed on the movement of funds exceeding certain thresholds.

In addition, the Financial Intelligence Centre processes information from a range of financial institutions such as banks, in order to prevent money laundering and terror financing. In the previous financial year, the centre referred cases to the value of 66.1 billion rand to law enforcement agencies and the South African Revenue Service for investigation.

The South African Revenue Service has also achieved significant success in identifying, seizing where appropriate, and prosecuting those involved in illegal imports, the under- and over-invoicing of imports and exports as well as Value Added Tax fraud. 

During the current financial year, SARS has already confiscated 3, 4 million articles of clothing and footwear valued at almost 580 million rand.  It has seized drugs worth R139 million and 683 million sticks of cigarettes valued at R180 million. In addition, the South African Revenue Service has offered amnesty to encourage culprits to come forward.

Government will work with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to contribute to stemming the tide of the illicit financial outflows from South Africa.

I thank you. 

ê2.  The Leader of the Opposition (DA) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1).  Whether he intends releasing the full and unexpurgated final report to be produced by the Commission of Inquiry into the Arms Deal, if not, why not, if so, what are the relevant details.

(2).  whether steps will be taken against the persons that would be implicated in the report; if not, why not, if so, what steps? 

Reply:

Honourable members, when I announced the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into allegations of fraud, corruption, impropriety or irregularity in the strategic defence procurement package in September 2011, I reiterated the importance of dealing decisively with a matter which is no doubt, of public interest. 

Consistent with this announcement, I will, on receipt of the commission's final report, deal with the said report in a manner which acknowledges both the public interest, as well as the principles to which I am enjoined to constitutionally give effect to.

Out of respect for the commission and the responsibility which attaches to their work and deliberations, I will not predict or prejudge the future.

I will be guided by the recommendations of the report, including whether it should be made public or not. To do otherwise would unfairly prescribe to the commission the manner in which its recommendations should be framed.

I thank you.

ê3.  Mrs J D Kilian (Cope) to ask the President of the Republic:

With reference to his state of the nation address, what steps he intends taking to ensure that all stakeholders and their affiliates in the Eastern Cape commit themselves to providing learners with access to quality education? 

Reply:

Honourable Speaker, a lot of progress has been made to stabilise the situation in the Eastern Cape Education Department. Government has gone out of its way to ensure that all the issues of concern raised by our stakeholders are seriously considered in our quest to improve the standard of education in the province.

In this regard, and through our quality learning and teaching campaign, we have a social compact with teacher unions and school governing bodies, to ensure that teachers are in class, on time with a textbook, and teaching. Likewise, learners must arrive at schools on time, disciplined, and ready to learn. 

School governing bodies must ensure that their governance practices support schools to function properly, and that a conducive environment for teaching and learning is created.  We are working closely with all stakeholders to improve these outcomes and we are making progress.

For example, the Eastern Cape Provincial Government and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) signed an agreement which covers a number of aspects that seek to normalise the situation. The agreement, signed on 8 February this year, was reached following a meeting between the Premier of the Eastern Cape, members of her executive council and Cosatu leadership. One of the critical areas that all parties agreed on is the reinstatement of temporary teachers by the provincial Education Department.

SADTU agreed to end the go slow and pickets that they had embarked on in the effort to voice and demonstrate their concerns. This decision was communicated to all the provincial structures of the union in order to ensure that the strike action was halted and teaching resumed. All parties were accordingly in harmony with the view that relations needed to be urgently normalised so that the commitments in the agreement could be achieved.

Therefore, the continued and active participation of all stakeholders, including teacher unions, school governing bodies, communities and others with a vested interest in the provision of quality education remains absolutely critical. Working together, we will ensure that the right of children to quality education is protected at all times. 

I thank you.

4.  Ms W Ngwenya (ANC) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1)  How far has the process of establishing a transformed, integrated, modernised, resourced and well managed criminal justice system progressed?

(2)  whether he has set any time frames for specific projects in this process, if not, why not; if so, (a) what are the time frames in each case and (b) are the relevant details in each case?

Reply: 

Honourable Speaker, the transformation of the criminal justice system has progressed substantially. It is, however, not a singular event, but a continuing process to enhance service delivery. The criminal justice system review was completed in 2008, and the implementation of the review's recommendations through a seven-point Implementation Plan began in earnest in 2009.

The seven-point plan focus areas now form part of the justice, crime prevention and security cluster's service delivery agreement signed by all security cluster ministers with the President. The objective is to ensure that "All People in South Africa are and feel safe". 

Simply put, we are working towards a system in which there is improved coordination between the police, prosecution authorities, courts and correctional services to bring improved results in the fight against crime and corruption as well as enhanced access to fair, equitable justice to all South Africans.

Actions emanating from the 7 point plan and the delivery agreement have also been made part of the strategic frameworks and agendas of all departments and agencies. 

Tangible progress has been made on many fronts. For example, successive reports have indicated a decrease in serious crime. The detection rate for crimes such as house and business robberies as well as vehicle hijacking has also significantly increased.

We are improving the integrity of the national population register. We have deployed the South Aafrican National Defence Force (SANDF) on the borders and ports of entry and are seeing progress in containing the entry of counterfeit goods and illegal persons through the country's borders.

Our courts have registered improved case finalisation rates, for example the High Court with an average conviction rate of 84%. In addition to these measures, the Office of the Chief Justice has initiated case flow management and a process to set uniform norms and standards for the judiciary. Progress has been made to establish 26 additional Thuthuzela Care Centres and victim support rooms at police stations.

In order to strengthen partnerships between government and communities in fighting crime, a Community Safety Forum Policy has been put in place with phased implementation scheduled to start in 2012. These are just a few examples  that indicate that integrated and coordinated interventions across the criminal justice system have had a very positive impact.

The transformation programme spans several planning cycles. As a full scale transformation programme that is based upon continuous improvement practices, there are no exact end-dates for the programme as a whole. 

Time frames and targets have, however, been set and are reported on in relation to the various focus areas, through the reporting cycles of the Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Delivery Agreement reports to Cabinet on a quarterly basis. The cluster reviews its delivery agreement and thus reviews the targets for each element of the project.

The JCPS Cluster is currently in the process of refining the delivery agreement which sets out milestones, timelines and deliverables. This process is being guided by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency, and the refined delivery agreement shall come into effect at the beginning of April this year.

I thank you.

5.  Mr J H van der Merwe (IFP) to ask the President of the Republic:

(1).  Whether he envisages an amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, in order to amend the power of the Constitutional Court, if not, what is the position in this regard, if so, what are the relevant details.

(2).  (a) who will be tasked with assessing the Constitutional Court and (b) what measures will be put in place to ensure that the process does not impact on the independence of the judiciary? 

Reply:

Honourable Speaker, as you should be aware there is already a Constitutional Amendment before Parliament which amends the powers of the Constitutional Court.  

This is the Constitution 17th Amendment Bill which was introduced last year. Far from limiting the powers of the Constitutional Court, the Bill in fact extends its jurisdiction. One of the provisions of the Constitution 17th Amendment Bill concerns which cases can be taken on appeal from the Supreme Court of Appeal to the Constitutional Court. 

Currently the Constitutional Court may consider appeals from the Supreme Court of Appeal that are constitutional matters as well as issues connected with decisions on constitutional matters. The amendment will allow the Constitutional Court to consider any appeal on the grounds that the interests of justice require that the matter be decided by the Constitutional Court.

I am informed that deliberations on the bill are proceeding well in the Justice and Constitutional Development Portfolio Committee, and that all parties are approaching the discussions with a view to arriving at the best conclusion for the administration of justice in our country.

Honourable Speaker, I must state that I am a bit surprised by the concerns that have been raised regarding amendments to the Constitution. The Constitution is a living document. As I pointed out in my reply to the State of the Nation debate, it is meant to be reviewed annually by a committee of Parliament. The Constitution has already been amended 16 times since it was adopted in 1996. It is a perfectly normal exercise.

As stated during the State of the Nation Address, we reaffirm our commitment to advance the ideals of our country's Constitution. We have alluded to the fact that the kind of assessment we are to embark upon is not unusual. For example, universities and research institutions undertake research at times to evaluate the impact of jurisprudence on the lives of people. This year marks 17 years of our constitutional democracy and 15th anniversary of the Constitution. 

It is an opportune time to review the capacity of the three branches of the state in carrying out their respective constitutional mandates and how their efforts have contributed to the establishment of a truly free, equal, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. Continuous assessments, done in an open and transparent manner cannot possibly do any harm, especially given the legacy of colonial oppression and apartheid that we must eradicate.

The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development has released a discussion document on the transformation and role of the judicial system in the developmental South African State. We invite all stakeholders to participate actively to enhance and strengthen our democratic institutions.

I thank you.

ê6.  Mr P J Groenewald (FF Plus) to ask the President of the Republic:

What progress has been made in finalising presidential pardons of persons to whom he referred to in October 2010?  NO659E

Reply:

Honourable members, following the decision of the Constitutional Court in 2010 relating to this case, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development launched a media campaign inviting victims and interested parties to make representations in respect of 149 cases. The response has been positive.

Victims and interested parties have responded, requesting information including actual applications for pardon in respect of certain applicants. The victims and interested parties were requested to respond to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development within 30 days.

The secretariat recently received a letter requesting a 60 day extension from the Legal Resources Centre (LRC) acting on behalf of the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice, which consists of the South African History Archive (SAHA), the Centre for Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the Khulumani Support Group (KSG). The applicants will also have 60 days to submit their replies.

Once all has been processed, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will submit the applications to me for my final decision.

I thank you.

Issued by The Presidency, March 15 2012

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