Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa Replies to Questions in the National Council of Provinces, Cape Town, 09 November 2016
QUESTION 1: ON PROGRESS IN THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV AND AIDS
The global struggle to end AIDS has recently been given a major boost with the start this month of a ground-breaking HIV vaccine trial in South Africa. It is significant that this vaccine trial, regarded as the most important scientific study in the world of HIV, is led by South African scientists in almost all aspects of the research.
The trial will enrol 5,400 HIV negative South Africans aged 18 to 35 years in 18 sites across the country under the strictest ethical standards for scientific research over 20 months. Half the subjects will receive five doses of the vaccine and half a placebo.
The subjects will be followed up for three years to assess the efficacy of the vaccine. The estimated cost of the trial is R135 million and is a partnership between the public and private sectors. The partners in this trial are the South African Medical Research Council, the US National Insitutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Sanofi Pasteur, GlaxoSmithKline and the HIV Trials Network.
The first vaccine trial, using a similar vaccine, was completed in Thailand seven years ago and reduced HIV transmission by 39%. In our trial, scientists expect the vaccine to be at least 50% effective but hope that it will be much higher.
The leading role that South Africa is playing in vaccine research is the result of ongoing investment in HIV vaccine development over many years. In 1999, a programme called the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative was established through funding from the departments of Health and Science and Technology.
With the support of development partners and the private sector, this initiative has done much to lay the groundwork for the current trial. Today, all government funding for HIV vaccine research is channelled through the South African Medical Research Council.
These include earmarked funds from Treasury and funds from the Department of Science and Technology.
The total investments in the AIDS Vaccine Research project are R35 million for 2014/2015 and R31 million for 2015/2016.
In addition to support from the private sector, the US National Institutes of Health is contributing more than R1 billion towards this research. While such a vaccine would become the most effective prevention method to reduce new HIV infections, the results of the trial will only starting coming through in 2022.
Given the current rate of new HIV infections, particularly among adolescent girls and young women, South Africa cannot afford to wait for the results of the trial. We need to intensify our prevention efforts and expand our treatment programmes.
We need to act with urgency to change high-risk behaviour and encourage condom use, monogamous relationships, pre-exposure prophylaxis and male medical circumcision. The start of this HIV vaccine trial gives us great hope, but it should not make us complacent.
We have no choice but to massively increase our global investment in HIV treatment and prevention so that we can end AIDS by 2030. All these ground-breaking developments, Honourable Members, are done under the auspices of the South African AIDS Vaccine Initiative, which was established in 1999 to coordinate and support the development and testing of HIV vaccines in South Africa.
The account I have given is testament to the progress we have made against the benchmarks set by the Vaccine Initiative.
I thank you.
QUESTION 2: ON SOUTH AFRICA'S COMMITMENT TO HUMAN RIGHTS
Since the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa has been resolute in its efforts to promote the peaceful resolution of conflict.
It has been active in peace efforts in several African countries and in other parts of the world.
Our approach to the issue of the International Criminal Court is therefore informed by extensive experience of the demands and challenges of actually achieving peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.
For the South African government, this is not about theory.
It is about practice.
South Africa is committed to the protection of human rights and the fight against impunity - a commitment that was forged in the struggle for liberation.
We condemn in the strongest terms human rights violations and international crimes wherever they may occur and we call for those responsible to be held accountable.
We will continue to do so.
But we must be certain that the prosecution of perpetrators is not pursued at the expense of peace.
South Africa played a significant role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court and was one of the first signatories to the Rome Statute.
While we remain firmly committed to the objectives of the ICC, we have publicly and repeatedly expressed concern about the manner in which it functions.
Most recently, South Africa used the mechanism of consultation available under Article 97 of the Rome Statute to raise the difficulty it has in reconciling its obligations in terms of the statute and its obligations as a member of the African Union committed to the resolution of conflict through dialogue and negotiation.
Despite these engagements, the principal issues we raised have not been addressed.
It has therefore become apparent that to continue to be a State Party to the Rome Statute would undermine South Africa's efforts to promote the peaceful resolution of conflict, both on the African continent and further afield.
The withdrawal from the ICC should be understood as a critique of the manner in which the institution has functioned, rather than a rejection of the underlying values of that institution.
For the record, South Africa continues to enjoy beneficial and cordial bilateral relations with its international partners and participates without hindrance in all multilateral processes.
South Africa will continue to work for peace, stability and the equal protection of human rights.
I thank you.
QUESTION 3: ON DEVELOPING SOUTH AFRICA'S HUMAN POTENTIAL.
The Human Resource Development Council is one of the most remarkable instances of social partnership and collaboration in the democratic era.
It brings together a diversity of expert knowledge and industry insight to forge a coordinated, integrated response to a critical national challenge. The HRDC looks at the country's human development system as a whole and seeks to ensure that it meets the needs of the economy. Through its deliberations, it has helped to influence the allocation of resources and effort to where they are most needed.
Since its formation, the HRDC has made important progress in identifying some of the key obstacles to the development of the skills and capabilities our economy needs. Through the work of its nine Technical Task Teams, the HRDC has developed recommendations to address these obstacles.
These recommendations are being implemented through the relevant departments and other entities.
Due to time constraints, I will highlight only a few of the key areas of progress. We do have the HRDC Annual Report to share with the Honourable Member for further information. The HRDC task team on Foundational Learning has focused on the delivery of quality basic education.
Central to the success of our schools is the capacity of our teachers. The departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training have therefore developed an Integrated Strategic Planning Framework for Teacher Education and Development.
Understanding the vital importance of maths and science, and recognising our deficiencies in this area, the HRDC set up a Standing Committee on Maths and Science, which started its work in September 2016.
Recognising the disastrous effect of the apartheid education system on the majority of our people, the HRDC has played close attention to worker education. The HRDC has adopted a worker education framework and is currently developing a worker education funding model.
Building on the work of the task team on strengthening TVET colleges, the Department of Higher Education and Training is implementing a TVET turnaround strategy.
Among other things, this strategy addresses the training of Council members at TVET colleges, promotes partnerships between TVET colleges and SETAs, and uses support from the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants to improve financial management.
The HRDC has developed a TVET college adoption programme. To date, more than 30 colleges have created partnerships with companies like Standard Bank, General Electric, Continental Tyres and Sasol. There is also a concerted effort to integrate the teaching of entrepreneurship at all stages of the education process.
As part of the Centres of Entrepreneurship Programme, there are currently three centres - at the Ekurhuleni, False Bay and Gert Sibande TVET colleges - dedicated to building entrepreneurial capacity among our youth.
Another major area of attention is the development of a new cohort of academics and scientists with the skills, experience and resources to significantly expand the research and teaching output of our institutions of higher learning.
To ensure that South Africa grows a diverse, representative and quality pool of academics and industry researchers, 125 lecturing posts have been allocated to universities for the 2015/16 financial year as part of the New Generation Academic Programme (nGAP).
To ensure that the country's skills development programmes are better aligned to the needs of the economy, the Department of Higher Education and Training is in a process of establishing a skills planning unit. All of this work is taking place across a range of state institutions and non-government entities, supported by teams of people, accessing all types of resources.
What binds all of these different processes and organisations together is the Human Resource Development Council and the commitment of all its members to strive together to innovatively develop South Africa's human potential.
I thank you.
QUESTION 4: on Enhancing South Africa's attractiveness for investment
At the centre of the partnership between government, business and labour is a shared understanding that the overriding task of the moment is the creation of jobs, particularly among the youth.
There is an appreciation among all social partners of the urgency of the challenge and the critical need, particularly at a time like this, for collaboration and engagement.
Through the initiative led by the Minister of Finance and Business Unity South Africa President, Mr Jabu Mabuza, government, business and labour are taking practical steps to increase investment, support small enterprise development, address youth unemployment and maintain South Africa's investment grade status.
While some are doing all they can to talk down South Africa's prospects, the country's leading CEOs and labour leaders are working closely with government on measures that will strengthen the economy and promote investor confidence.
This is a significant, if not unprecedented, development that underscores the critical challenges we face as a nation and the determination of everyone to make a meaningful contribution.
As part of its efforts to address youth unemployment, this initiative is developing a programme that aims to place one million young people in paid internships in the private sector over the next three years.
By giving young people work experience, this programme will significantly increase their ability to find employment.
There is also agreement on the establishment of a fund that will make equity investments in small enterprises with growth potential. The private sector has already committed R1.5 billion to the fund.
Government appreciates the support it continues to receive from business and labour in its engagements with national and international investors. It has also received important support from business in establishing Invest SA as a one-stop-shop to streamline and accelerate the investment process.
Invest South Africa has an investment pipeline of R90 billion for the 2015/2016 financial year and R38 billion for the first and second quarter of the current financial year, 2016/2017.
Announcements on new investments are taking place almost every month from the likes of Nestle, Unilever, 3M, Sumitomo Rubber, Goodyear, Ford, Toyota, CIPLA and BAIC amongst others.
Invest SA also provides support to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Investment, chaired by the President, which has identified 40 priority investment projects which can be operationalised in the short- to medium-term.
Maximising the benefits of these developments for the economy depends on decisive action to restore confidence. We are seeing important progress in strengthening the governance, financial position and operational performance of key state owned enterprises.
In addition to interventions in specific entities, Cabinet has recently adopted guidelines for the remuneration of directors and executives of state owned enterprises, and endorsed the broad thrust of a guide for the appointment of boards and executive.
Cabinet has also endorsed a framework for private-sector participation in infrastructure projects, which will broaden the sources of funding for critical economic infrastructure.
Work is underway to address legislative and regulatory uncertainties that hold back investment in mining, agriculture and key technology sectors.
We are close to reaching agreement with social partners on far-reaching measures to improve labour stability and the implementation of a national minimum wage.
Government remains firmly committed to working with its partners to implement these measures to stimulate growth and create jobs.
With strong democratic institutions, advanced infrastructure and a diverse and sophisticated economy, South Africa continues to be an attractive destination for productive investment that creates jobs, increases exports and drives inclusive growth.
Through the measures we are now undertaking, we are confident that we will be able to significantly improve the investment climate and attract far greater interest in our economy.
I thank you.
QUESTION 5: LEVERAGING THE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAMME FOR TRANSFORMATION
As the Honourable Member would be aware, the establishment of this high level panel of eminent South Africans was an initiative of Parliament, not the Executive.
I will nevertheless share whatever information I have on the matter.
In June 2015, after a process of multi-party consultation, both Houses of Parliament adopted the Strategic Plan of Parliament, which highlighted the importance of reviewing the impact of legislation.
As a result, in December 2015, the Speaker's Forum established an independent high level panel of 17 eminent South Africans - chaired by former President Kgalema Motlanthe - to assess the implementation of legislation passed since 1994.
The panel was mandated to investigate the impact of legislation in relation to:
- the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality,
- the creation and equitable distribution of wealth,
- land reform, restitution and redistribution and security of tenure,
- nation building and social cohesion.
This assessment will entail the identification of existing legislation that enables the transformational goals of the developmental state, as well as laws that impede these goals.
This initiative should be widely welcomed because it offers an opportunity to reflect on the extent to which we have collectively pursued a transformational agenda over the last two decades.
It will enable us to identify achievements and shortcomings.
It will inform the approach we take to our legislative programme going forward and ultimately contribute to making Parliament a more effective agent of the South African people.
It is expected that the Panel will make recommendations and submit its final report to the Speaker's Forum in August 2017.
Further information about the panel can be obtained from Parliament.
I thank you.
QUESTION 6: ON MATCHING SKILLS TO THE ECONOMY
According to the National Development Plan, the achievement of a capable developmental state is central to the achievement of our vision for 2030. Sector Education and Training Authorities - or SETAs - play a critical role in developing the skills of the public service and the capabilities of the state.
Indeed, SETAs play an important role in identifying the skills needs of every economic sector in the country. They have been particularly successful at identifying scarce and critical skills needs in the labour market and facilitating practical workplace experience for learners from universities and TVET colleges.
Between 2012 and 2015, nearly 70,000 artisans qualified through workplace training opportunities facilitated by SETAs. In the same period, SETAs found work-based learning opportunities for over 186,000 learners.
They provided bursaries for nearly 60,000 learners across all economic sectors in almost all institutions in the country. They have provided training to over 13,000 adults workers through adult education and training programmes.
Because SETAs have such a significant impact on the development of our country's human capital, it is important that sufficient attention be given to their design, mandate and operations.
The Minister for Higher Education and Training is responsible for making a determination as to the viability, number and economic classification of SETAs. The SETA landscape is currently being reviewed by the Department of Higher Education and Training. This review will take into account the potential impact of a single public service.
In doing so, consideration will need to be given not only to the sheer size of the public service in all spheres of government, but also to the variety of functions, responsibilities and skills requirements. It must be remembered that SETAs are expected to keep a close link to those enterprises that contribute to their levy income and whose training needs they are meant to serve.
If this constituency base is too large or diverse, there is a great possibility that it will neglect some while seeking to serve others. Against this backdrop, the regulating department has indicated that it does not immediately intend to merge these two SETAs.
However, there is every intention to increase cooperation between them. With respect to the National School of Government, formerly known as PALAMA, it should be remembered that it is a provider of training for the public service.
The role of the Local Government SETA and the Public Service SETA is to quality assure and accredit providers of training. The Public Service SETA has accredited and is responsible for monitoring the National School of Government as a provider of training.
In our efforts to promote quality learning, and in terms of good practice, the role of a provider of training should be kept separate from that of an accrediting and monitoring body. As government undertakes its review of the SETA landscape, we need to ensure that these institutions continue to fulfil the essential role they play in promoting skills development, economic growth and job creation.
I thank you.
Issued by GCIS on behalf of The Presidency
09 November 2016