Cabinet lekgotla starts in Pretoria

President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are at the Cabinet lekgotla to decide on the government's priorities for the year ahead. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe are at the Cabinet lekgotla to decide on the government's priorities for the year ahead. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The first day of the Cabinet lekgotla has started in Pretoria, where ministers will discuss the upcoming year's priorities.

Cabinet held the first day of its lekgotla at President Jacob Zuma's presidential guest house in Pretoria on Tuesday. 

The meeting allows the government to discuss the upcoming year and decide on a way forward. Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said Cabinet would discuss the youth wage subsidy, as well as the ANC's intention to have education declared an essential service, if these topics were raised.

"Part of the priorities we will be discussing is unemployment. It [the youth subsidy] would then fall within that context," Chabane told reporters. "It is not a separate agenda. It is part of the issues we may be discussing."

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Monday that the party supported the youth wage subsidy proposal. The scheme seeks to pay incentives to companies that employ young people. He said the ANC would also ensure education was declared an essential service.

Both topics were discussed at the party's national executive committee lekgotla in Irene, south of Pretoria, last week.

Chabane said the ANC had not told Cabinet what had been discussed at its lekgotla. "We heard the ANC made that decision, but those of us in government have not heard from the ANC that these are the issues we need to deal with," he said.

"Nevertheless, given the challenges we face and the fact that education is a priority, we are looking at all the options to be able to improve ... the profile of our educational system."

He said Cabinet would discuss investor confidence in the country as well as its downgrading by ratings agencies.

"The minister of finance from time to time has indicated that these downgrades have not been doing us [any] good," Chabane said. "We as South Africa need to take steps to ensure that we don't slide down again, and improve the situation as we move forward."

He said Cabinet would also discuss the implementation of the national development plan.

In the banquet hall at the Sefako M Makgatho guest house, Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe sat next to each other at the main table. The ministers and their deputies sat at parallel tables near the two.

Friendly banter
When journalists were brought into the hall for a photo opportunity, Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor joked with Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu about Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel. "I think Trevor was wearing the same shirt last year," Pandor said.

Zuma and Motlanthe also shared a few chuckles over a private joke. The ministers and their deputies mingled during a tea break, sharing a few laughs amid animated conversation. Some went outside to sneak a quick cigarette before the lekgotla continued.

It is scheduled to conclude on Friday. – Sapa

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