Presidency slams Zille for disclosing 'confidential info' after Zuma meeting

2016-02-03 17:57

Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has been accused of disclosing "confidential information" after a meeting with President Jacob Zuma and other premiers on the Budget and the State of the Nation Address.

But she has said she does not understand why she cannot share the president's concern about how much money the government needs to save so that it can pay for everything, including the university fee shortfall.

Zille was not immediately available for comment, but she tweeted: ''So, Pres Zuma told us to make big budget cuts. I HAD to tell the whole prov gov. Why can't I tell the public? Why is this so secret?"

It is the second time that the presidency has accused Zille of releasing information to the public without authorisation.

In a terse statement on Wednesday, Zuma's spokesperson said the Presidency was "disappointed" that she had again released confidential information to the public after Zuma convened a meeting in Pretoria with all premiers ahead of the State of the Nation Address on February 11 and the Budget speech on February 24.

"Previously, Ms Zille also released to the public confidential information from a meeting that President Zuma had convened between premiers and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) ahead of the 2014 National General Elections.

"The confidential contents of the consultation have been released to the public by Ms Zille without authorisation," said Bongani Majola.

Zille continued: "@PresidencyZA @GraemeRauby What confidential info? Without details, I merely wrote my newsletter on what you asked me to tell the Prov govt."

On Tuesday, in her Inside Government newsletter, Zille warned that tough times were ahead for the province for the next three years, with possible job freezes on the horizon.

"National Cabinet has resolved that money committed to National and Provinces for the new financial year will be substantially cut across the board, the detail of which will be shared in Minister Gordhan’s budget speech.

"For the Western Cape, this would require substantial budget cuts, running into hundreds of millions of rand, over the next three years in order to balance the budget.

"As a minimum, we will need to freeze appointments in vacant posts, and significantly scale down the number of new posts, including teachers, to serve our rapidly growing population."

She explained that the Western Cape government's fortunes suddenly changed to an anticipated shortfall of around R3bn because of an unmandated increase of 7.2% to public servants for 2016/17.

'Sleight of hand'

The provincial government had told the national government it could only afford a 5.5% increase, but the increase went ahead anyway.

"Which begs the question: how was it possible for the [Department of Public Service and Administration] negotiators to concede to the demands, knowing the full implications of their decision, which had been pointed out to them by us in writing prior to the commencement of the negotiations?"

The province had asked Treasury to foot the bill for the unbudgeted R1.249bn increase to its wage bill for 2016/17 alone and was told it would come from Treasury's contingency fund.

But at the recent meeting in Pretoria, Cabinet said it had no money to give them.

"In explanation of this 'about turn', we were informed that a new crisis had arisen due to national government’s chronic under-funding of Higher Education over many years, which, together with the general state of the economy, means that the money promised to us by National Treasury to cover at least a portion of the unbudgeted public sector wage increases must be reprioritised for payment elsewhere."

Zille was referring to a decision to freeze university fees and commit R6bn to funding poor students after massive countrywide #FeesMustFall student protests last year.

"My response was simple: If this is the case, we cannot afford the salary increase of 7.2% and must revert to 5.5%. Surely everyone employed in South Africa’s bloated (and well paid) public service will understand that there is really no viable alternative?"

In what she called a "sleight of hand", the government said it would still give them the money promised to cover the salary shortfall, but would withdraw a commensurate amount from other budgets.

"No matter what fancy words are used to describe the impact of the cabinet’s decision, the fact remains that prior to the wage agreement being signed, the Western Cape Government did not have a shortfall in its budget; after it was signed we had a shortfall of about R3bn over the next three years."

Read more on:    da  |  helen zille  |  jacob zuma  |  cape town  |  politics  |  state of the nation 2016

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