Independant On-line, Failures blemish Mbeki's progress report, 29 August 2004

Christelle Terreblanche

Just 100 days after President Thabo Mbeki set more than 100 measurable targets, it seems his government has gone all out to deliver on time.

Yet we still don't know whether or not the 200 most notorious criminals are behind bars, and whether or not the promised antiretroviral drug (ARV) treatment for 53 000 HIV-positive people will take place by March next year.

These were among the most noted promises Mbeki made in his state of the nation address on May 21 - 100 days ago today - which was heralded as being the most comprehensive agenda a South African head of state had yet tabled.

Most of these promises were couched in concrete, measurable terms on which Mbeki's government could be held accountable, unlike previous addresses where he set a more philosophical agenda.

During the past week, ministers gave a public account of their progress over the previous three months, along with explanations of why they fell short of some targets.

Progress, however, was largely on target, despite initial questions about the state's capacity to deliver on the promises.

Mbeki's most publicised target was the aim to catch the country's 200 most wanted criminals within three months. This week Charles Nqakula, the safety and security minister, was somewhat vague on the matter, saying only that the police and the Scorpions would hand their report on the 200 to the cabinet this week.

"Meanwhile, some significant arrests have been effected, with respect to various categories of criminals, in the past three months," Nqakula said. "In the first half of 2004, 88 organised crime syndicates were neutralised, with 196 leaders and 490 members arrested."

On target, too, was the first draft of the profiles of the 63 most infamous crime areas, along with an integrated plan to clean them up.

Nqakula set the tone for his update with a warning that South Africa was not immune to international terrorism, but he played down recent reports of attacks planned in the country.

Anti-terrorism legislation would be passed soon, while Nqakula's efforts to appease trade unions' concerns over it continue.

He said the Foreign Military Assistance Act was being reviewed to clamp down on mercenary activities such as those allegedly connected to the foiled coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.

Among the significant targets already met are the AgriBEE framework, which has been published, and a comprehensive housing plan that is being finalised. Those lagging behind include the new immigration regulations aimed at attracting scarce skills. It is now due in three months time.

The reason for missing the target is apparently that the regulations could not be changed until the principle act was amended. The amendments were passed hastily by parliament this week.

Another main promise was that "113 health facilities (for HIV/Aids treatment) would be fully operational by March 2005, and 53 000 people will be on treatment by that time".

Speaking for the cabinet's social cluster, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the health minister, said this week that only about 8 000 people had taken up the offer of treatment.

Tshabalala-Msimang cast doubt on whether or not there were 53 000 people willing to take the treatment. Reluctance to do so was partly because of the stigma associated with HIV/Aids. A tender for sustained supplies of ARVs would, however, be finalised in the next month.

She said progress included the identification of 120 sites for ARV provision, most of which were already accredited.

Departments are also lagging slightly behind on some other targets in the health, education and social arenas, which Mbeki mostly grouped under the "second economy". These include the financing protocol for the 21 rural and urban development nodes, as well as the social health insurance framework and an implementation plan.

A number of studies is being done on poverty, while plans to tackle the root causes of socio-economic exclusion and deprivation are due to be completed in November.

Apartheid-victim communities are meanwhile being consulted about rehabilitation programmes, as recommended by the truth commission, while the government claims to have reached a broad agreement with the Business Trust to help make reparations.

Economic and fiscal targets in terms of the "first economy" made up the bulk of the more urgent tasks set by Mbeki, and most are on schedule, for instance this week's announcement of the launching of a second national telephone operator.

But many felt that while meeting that deadline, Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, the communications minister, pulled the wool over the public's eyes, as there is still an equity stake of 26 percent outstanding.

Speaking for the economic cluster, Mandisi Mphalwa, the trade and industry minister, gave a comprehensive report on measures taken to increase investment in public infrastructure and in the economy, to boost skills and black- and women- owned enterprises, to enhance the state-owned enterprises and to grow small businesses.

Still on schedule is next month's expected announcement of detailed investment plans in state-owned enterprises, and the submission to parliament of a bill on co-operatives before the end of the year.

Some targets have been adjusted slightly, for instance the first ship will dock at Eastern Cape's Coega port in October next year, a month later than the original target.

Progress on governance largely follows Mbeki's concern that local government, as the actual site of delivery, should get the lion's share of attention.

One of his priorities, a bill outlining relations between the three spheres of government, is still expected to be passed this year, although the draft is being revised.

A review of the state's contribution to ailing municipalities is still scheduled for completion this year, along with an audit of local government's capacity for implementation and credit control.

International relations targets were more open-ended and difficult to measure. A most urgent task in progress is the preparation of South Africa's submission to the new Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) peer review process, which is scheduled to be carried out early next year.

This article was originally published on page 5 of Sunday Independent on August 29, 2004




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