Agenda 2012


Cabinet ministers and their senior officials will Tuesday hunker down at Bela Bela in Limpopo for their January lekgotla.

The meeting – described by many as the national executive’s most important strategic planning session – traditionally translates the ruling African National Congress’ “January 8” statement into state policy to be announced in the President’s state of the nation address (SONA) at the opening of Parliament, this year set for the evening of Thursday, February 9.
“Cabinet is expected to do a mid-term assessment of government’s performance on the five national priorities — job creation, health, education, crime eradication, rural development and land reform — with a view to enhancing performance in 2012,” government said in a statement. “It will also review progress made since the decision to establish the infrastructure coordination commission chaired by the president and the short term job creation commission chaired by the deputy president, at the July 2011 lekgotla,” the statement added.

The lekgotla was also expected to assess the global and domestic economic outlook with a view of identifying new opportunities and risks for South Africa and the continent as a whole. The statement said the global security context and an international relations programme for South Africa would also form part of Cabinet’s agenda. “The lekgotla will entail deliberations among ministers and deputy ministers on the first three days of the meeting and on the last day, premiers and representatives of the South African Local Government Association will participate, with directors general joining as observers.” President Jacob Zuma was expected to close the event on Friday.

This will be tempered by Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan’s annual national budget speech, arguably the most important event of the state year as the accompanying Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) allocates departmental budgets and sets priorities. If it is not in the ENE it is not going to happen. Gordhan’s address traditionally follows the Wednesday after SONA, this year February 15.

Gordhan’s speech will be followed by some tame debate in the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. Next comes the departmental budget votes during which ministers seek to highlight successes for the previous financial year and express their wishes for the next. This is generally followed by more “debate”, ruling party and opposition MPs talking past each other. The defence budget vote is expected in May, despite the budget coming into effect on April 1 – just another reminder of the power of Treasury and the poverty of Parliament.