President Cyril Ramaphosa has answered questions on a number of key issues facing the country right now – including corruption allegations that have been levelled against government officials, lifestyle audits and the availability of doctors in the country.
Responding to a series of written parliamentary questions this week, the president was also again questioned on cabinet ministers who have appeared to breach both ethical and governmental rules.
Lifestyle audits for cabinet members
Ramaphosa confirmed that consultations on a lifestyle audits framework are ongoing and being finalised.
“In the meantime, all members of the cabinet and deputy ministers have submitted the declarations of their financial interests to the registrar of executive interests, the secretary of the cabinet, in line with the executive members’ ethics act and the executive ethics code,” he said.
Ramaphosa pledged to conduct lifestyle audits of all ANC leaders and public representatives as part of a clampdown on corruption in August 2020.
South Africa’s government ministers have long been criticised by opposition parties for the governmental benefits they received under the ministerial handbook – including free flights, vehicles and other perks.
These perks have been revised under Ramaphosa’s presidency with a new ministerial handbook published in June 2019.
Some of the benefits included in the 2019 handbook include:
- The cost of vehicles – including any security upgrades – will be determined by the minister of finance;
- In the event that an official vehicle is not procured for a member, they may be reimbursed for using their own private vehicle;
- Members and their spouses (or an adult family member accompanying the Member in an official capacity) are entitled to travel for official purposes at the expense of the relevant department;
- This trip must be business class travel using the cheapest of three quotations for the most cost-effective and convenient route;
- Rentals for phones (as well as the costs of official calls), the installation and maintenance of fax, internet/Wi-Fi and DStv facilities will be paid for by the department;
- Members may occupy a state-owned residence in the seat of office free of charge;
- The state will contribute up to R250,000 in security upgrades, with this amount to be revised annually.
Ministerial flight to Zimbabwe
Ramaphosa was once again called on to account for minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, who had her pay for docked three months for taking an ANC delegation to Zimbabwe on a state plane.
The president said that the trip was approved verbally on 8 September 2020 and the relevant documentation was signed as soon as possible thereafter.
“While the request did not comply with the requirement in the guide for members of the Executive that requests should be made at least two weeks prior to departure, this is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence due to the pressures of state work,” he said.
“I do not intend to take any further action. I deem the reprimand given to the Minister, the directive that three months’ salary be donated to the Solidarity Fund, and the obligation to ensure that the costs of the trip are reimbursed by the political party (which has been done) sufficient sanction.”
Ramaphosa said that he was also not in a position to sanction the ANC and that decisions made within the political party are for the political party to communicate.
“The Constitution provides that ministers serve at the pleasure of the head of the executive. Section 91(2) of the Constitution empowers the president to appoint and dismiss them. Assignments to ministers and decisions on their performance are within the president’s discretion.
“I made clear that I disapproved of the Minister’s decision and actions, and therefore I applied the sanction in a manner that I deemed fit for her error in judgment,” he said.
Demand for doctors
“There is a high demand for skilled medical professionals in South Africa, as there is in most countries globally, Ramaphosa said.
“To address this problem, government has, among other interventions, ensured the expansion of the training platform in South African medical schools and has increased the number of doctors graduating from South African universities.”
Ramaphosa said that the government has also increased the intake of students studying medicine within the Nelson Mandela-Fidel Castro Programme (NMFC), through an agreement between the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Cuba.
The programme has since added a total of 2,498 medical doctors to our health workforce in the public health sector, and is expected to add a further 649 by January 2021, he said.
He said that the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has also approved an additional pathway to assist medical graduates to get clinical exposure and to complete training as interns
Ramaphosa is set to brief the nation on South Africa’s lockdown strategy around the coronavirus pandemic next week.
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu said on Thursday (5 November) that the briefing will be based on a cabinet meeting and suggestions provided by the National Coronavirus Command Council which are to be held later this week.
Mthembu added that the cabinet was concerned that South Africans have grown increasingly indifferent in their response to the pandemic and are no longer following lockdown regulations.
“Cabinet is concerned that some people are behaving recklessly and irresponsibly as if Covid-19 no longer exists,” he said.
“Cabinet calls on all people in South Africa to continue adhering to the health protocols of practising social distancing, wearing masks in public and washing our hands with water and soap or an alcohol-based sanitiser, and avoid large gatherings.”