Social dialogue will help address economy – Motlanthe

Social dialogue between labour, government and business would help mobilise all South Africans who are in a position to make a contribution to the economy, the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said on Wednesday.

Responding to questions by MPs in the National Assembly, Motlanthe said the country would only be able to address poverty through economic growth, pointing out that the New Growth Path – which aims to create five million jobs by 2020 – and the Presidential Infrastructural Co-ordinating Commission (PICC) would help drive growth.

“The reality is that unless we are able to create jobs in a manner that would absorb new entrants as well as reduce the number of people who end up dependent on social grants, the situation will only become worse…” he said.

Motlanthe said the government also needed to get roleplayers to speak more positively about the country, adding that through the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), the government had also appealed to editors to publicise more of the good things that are happening in South Africa.

South Africa, he said, had seen positive developments recently and pointed to the mother-to-child transmission of HIV which had been truncated and the increase in life expectancy.

Motlanthe agreed with MPs that the government’s food, travel and entertainment bill, which in 2011/12 totaled about R5 billion, was too high.

He believed much of the high cost could be attributed to the state having two centres of power – one in Pretoria where the seat of government is, and in Cape Town where Parliament is held.

He also assured MPs that the executive is committed to protecting the Constitution and ensuring the independence of the judiciary.

The planned separation of the Office of the Chief Justice, along with the courts, from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, would pave the way for the envisaged judicial governance framework, he said.

The Office of the Chief Justice was declared as a separate entity from the department by a proclamation by President Jacob Zuma in 2010.

He said the approval by Parliament of the Code of Judicial Conduct which was gazetted last week, will go a long way in ensuring that the judiciary is responsive to the needs and aspirations of a democratic South African society.

Addressing a question from an opposition MP on what he was doing to address the high number of unanswered questions from Parliament to MPs, Motlanthe said the power to impose any penalties on ministers not answering questions on time rests with Parliament.

Parliament should come up with measures to tackle those ministers who don’t answer questions from MPs within the 10 days stipulated by the House, he said.

As of Friday 332 parliamentary questions remained unanswered.

Motlanthe said ministers were well aware of their obligation to account to Parliament for the functions, and stressed that the issue of outstanding questions is a standing issue on every cabinet meeting and that these are read out at cabinet meetings.

He said he had looked into why ministers were not answering questions timeously and that appeared that late replies were down to those ministers who wanted more time to provide accurate answers to questions so that they don’t end up misleading Parliament.

He added that some of the questions involving sourcing information from the provinces, which took longer to obtain.

Cope’s Juli Kilian said at the end of last year 254 parliamentary questions remained unanswered, while between 2010 and 2011 there had been a decline in ministers replying to questions raised by MPs – with the number of unanswered questions rising by 47%. –