MANDY ROSSOUW AND VERASHNI PILLAY - Jul 23 2010 14:30
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Amid growing reports of an imminent Cabinet reshuffle, President Jacob Zuma plans to crack the whip at underperforming ministers and department heads -- and to ensure that government leaders do not point fingers at one another in cases of failure.
Speaking at a media briefing after a two-day Cabinet lekgotla (meeting) in Pretoria, Zuma told reporters at the Union Buildings that delivery agreements with government leaders will gauge their work.
He said: "Care is being taken that the collective agreement does not cloud the accountability of individual ministers and directors general. Once the delivery agreements are finalised, there will be strong monitoring of their implementation."
The Mail & Guardian understands that the vacancy left by the late deputy health minister, Molefi Sefularo, will be used as a catalyst for a reshuffle that Zuma has been considering since before the Soccer World Cup.
He refused to comment on the reshuffle, saying: "When it will happen, it will happen."
Union Buildings sources, however, confirmed that Zuma wanted to complete the lekgotla before making a final decision on who will go where and that a reshuffle can be expected within "the next week or two". He is likely to discuss Cabinet changes with the ANC's top brass before announcing them.
Zuma faltered at Thursday's media briefing when asked whether Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda might be a victim in a Cabinet reshuffle because of corruption allegations against him.
"These allegations have just been made; they are current. The allegations come from the newspapers and they have faceless sources. There are different ways of looking at allegations. There are many ways to start investigating allegations once they are there," he said.
He would not say whether he planned to act on the allegations.
Using the language of business management -- measurable deliverables, targets and timelines for departments, based on new key outcomes -- he said: "I know that the wheels of government can turn very slowly. I think we can change that."
In the education field he pledged that teachers would be in class on time and properly skilled. The relevant delivery agreement promises that 200 000 more children between the ages of seven and 15 will be at school before 2014.
On the health front he dwelt on the government's near-eradication of polio and measles, while admitting "performance problems in the public health system".
The department's delivery agreement will focus on this and on early treatment of HIV and other diseases.
In the fight against crime he emphasised the need to build on the successes of the World Cup. "The inspiration to do more and achieve more is the primary legacy of the World Cup," said Zuma.
He pledged that an anti-graft task team would be created to "fast-track the investigation and prosecution of corruption".
Zuma laughed at a reporter's claim that pressure on the government would ease now that Fifa was "off its back". He pledged that 400 000 households in informal settlements would be upgraded by 2014 .
In the area of rural development he referred to the Community Work Programme, which provides predictable income for the rural poor willing do community jobs such as maintenance and caring for the aged.
Expanding commercial farming
The government was also looking to expand commercial farming and agri-processing opportunities and to promote smallholder farming.
On the infrastructure front he said the government would forge ahead with the Medupi power station. The Gautrain would be completed next year, while the bus-rapid transit system would be expanded and the Komati power station recommissioned.
Announcing undefined "initiatives" to address youth unemployment and skills, Zuma was mum on the proposal of a youth wage subsidy, slated in his State of the Nation address.
Asked about the subsidy idea, he acknowledged that it had prompted an outcry, mainly from Cosatu. "But nobody has provided an alternative to our proposal, so it may be the only solution we have. We cannot let young people be added to the army of the unemployed," he said.
Zuma praised the gains made during the World Cup and promised an enduring economic legacy from the tournament. A document on developmental economic growth was being compiled to deal with job creation.