Cabinet sheds light on minimum wage and drought

It is premature to declare the drought a national disaster, says Cabinet. (iStock)
It is premature to declare the drought a national disaster, says Cabinet. (iStock)

Cape Town - A delegation of Cabinet ministers, who briefed the media on the nine-point plan President Jacob Zuma announced in his State of the Nation address last month, touched on the proposed national minimum wage, the disastrous drought and President Jacob Zuma’s latest utterances on land claims.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, who was part of the delegation, was asked about the date at which the national minimum wage would be implemented.

"The national minimum wage will be finalised once the different stakeholders agree on the level at which the wage should be set,” Oliphant responded. “We can’t give a date for implementation yet. It depends on the social partners’ agreement among themselves.”
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week during a parliamentary questioning session that stakeholders are working “frantically” to reach agreement. He was upbeat about the fact that South Africa has made good strides in the past 18 months, unlike Brazil “where it had taken 11 years to implement it".

Zuma on land claims

In response to a separate question, Gugile Nkwinti, Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, who also heads up Cabinet’s economic cluster, said Zuma’s latest utterances that land claims should date back to the 1800s were nothing new.
At the opening of the National House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament last Thursday, Zuma mooted the possibility of changing the 1913 cut off-date for land claims to the 1800s. “It’s the third year in a row that the president made this statement,” said Nkwinti, “but it hasn’t come before Cabinet yet.”

Turning to the  prolonged drought in large parts of South Africa, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana said it is not yet necessary to proclaim it a national disaster.
He admitted that government lost some R16bn across the agricultural sector as a result of the drought, but in response it has allocated more than R528m to smallholder farmers and debt relief of at least R130m to commercial farmers through the Industrial Development Corporation and the Land Bank.
In addition, four million tonnes of maize will be imported “to meet domestic needs”.
During question time, Zokwana was, however, resolute that it is premature to declare the drought a national disaster. “We are looking at various ways to help struggling farmers through soft loans and Land Bank loans and we’re approaching Treasury for additional funding.
“If we were to declare the drought a national disaster, the banks will reduce their exposure to agriculture going forward. It’s important to take note that there are things we do to help struggling farmers. They have government’s ears.”
Zokwana added that agriculture outputs have improved in some areas. “We’ve harvested 7.2 tonnes of maize, for example.”

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