House of Assembly: Vol2 - THURSDAY 7 MARCH 1985
Introductory Speech delivered at Joint Sitting on 4 March
Mr Speaker, I move:
In the financial year now drawing to a close the Post Office in the same way as all other Government and private institutions probably had to do, was forced to curb expenditure by cutting back on expansion programmes, while the weakening of the rand against other currencies also made heavy demands on available funds.
The ever-increasing demand for telecommunications services, particularly telephone and data services, exerted further pressure on funds. Despite substantial efforts to decrease the backlog in the provision of telephone and data services to a more acceptable level, the telephone waiting list remains high, while the extensive use of computers and remote terminals is also causing a great unsatisfied demand for data services. We are in the midst of a revolution in the very closely linked fields of electronics, computer applications and telecommunications, which make great and urgent demands upon us in the form of the essential phasing-in of new and the phasing-out of existing obsolete systems. An important example of this is the nationwide conversion of the existing analogue-type dialling and transmission systems into digital systems, which is already under way.
The demand for more and new services requires the creation on a continuous basis of an adequate and modern telecommunications infrastructure to try to meet the already known demand and needs on the one hand and, on the other hand, to provide the structural capacity that will undoubtedly be needed to cope with the sharp increase in demand that will go hand in hand with the next upturn in the economy.
Despite the limitations I have mentioned, I can report that great progress was made in virtually every field of service during the present financial year. We have also succeeded in reversing the upward trend of the telephone waiting-list, which continued for a long time, and to start reducing it.
On this positive side I also wish to refer to proof of success that the Post Office achieved in its efforts to increase productivity through improved work methods and the motivation of its staff. In order to obtain an objective report in this regard, the National Productivity Institute was requested to investigate the achievements in this field for us on a scientific basis.
The inquiry is still in progress, but we have already received the first report, the main finding of which is that during the four years from 1980 to 1984 covered by the investigation, the Post Office performed commendably in the field of productivity. During this period productivity growth was achieved despite the overall negative trend experienced with respect to the productivity of capital and labour in the domestic economy. I would like to quote the following remark from the report:
For these achievements the staff of the department deserve only praise. Under the difficult circumstances that prevailed they still continued with enthusiasm, diligence and perseverance to carry out their duty to render service. I should like to praise them for their excellent and unselfish service.
I should now like to give members a short review of how matters progressed during the present financial year in the various fields of the activities of the department and of what is being envisaged for the next financial year.
The waiting-list for telephones is expected to total 232 000 at the end of this month, compared with 245 729 at the end of March 1984. This represents a reduction of almost 5,6%.
It is estimated that the number of telephones, including extensions, payphones and miscellaneous services, will come to 3 902 000 at the end of March 1985, which is 255 000 more than at the end of the previous financial year. I should like to emphasize that this figure only represents the net increase in the number of telephones in the system and does not reflect the number involved in the installation task as a whole. At present, for every four telephones that are being installed, three are being dismantled, which means that only one is an addition to the system. The net increase of 255 000 telephones that I have mentioned therefore involves work on the installation of more than a million telephones as well as the dismantling of three-quarters of a million telephones. The dismantlements include permanent discontinuances as well as transfers of existing services. Our aim was to realize a net increase of 300 000 telephones during the present financial year. An impeding factor was the sporadic unrest in Black townships which delayed the installation of exchange equipment and cable works to such an extent that approximately 22 500 waiting applicants in this area can no longer be provided with service in time.
International telephone service
Service was introduced to a further two countries and is at present available to 204 destinations. The completion of extensions to the international telephone exchanges in Johannesburg and Cape Town towards the end of last year will enable us to extend the automatic telephone service to other countries considerably in the course of this year. Indications are that the traffic volumes for this financial year will increase by approximately 4,5%.
Automatic telephone system
It is expected that the number of lines by which the capacity of the automatic exchange system is being extended during the present financial year will total 295 000 on 31 March this year. This entails the establishment of 39 new automatic exchanges; the replacement of 42 manual exchanges by automatic exchanges; the extension of 144 existing automatic exchanges; the replacement of 28 automatic exchanges by larger units; and the rearrangement of the allocatable lines of 83 automatic exchanges.
In my Budget Speech last year I mentioned that the extension of the capacity of the automatic exchange system by approximately 300 000 lines was planned for 1984-85. I am glad to say that this planning has virtually been completely realized. A further extension of the automatic exchange capacity by about 350 000 lines is being envisaged for the 1985-86 financial year.
Further automation of the manual telephone system
Good progress has already been made with the automation of the republic’s telephone system. At this stage the number of telephones connected to automatic exchanges already exceeds 94% of the total.
The systems of all the urban areas and of most of the larger towns have practically been completely automated and it is now mainly the smaller towns and their surrounding areas that are still being served by manual systems. A large number of telephone exchanges and vast areas nevertheless remain to be attended to and a comprehensive program will have to be completed before all parts will have been provided with an automatic telephone service.
The cost of the automation of rural telephone services is mainly determined by the cost of lines and terminal equipment. Expensive reconstruction of large areas of existing rural overhead routes is required in order to satisfy the technical standards for the automation of these telephone services. At the same time expensive additional line construction has to be undertaken to meet the expected demand for services in ensuing years. The comparable average cost of providing a client with automatic service in a metropolitan area is R1 500 as against R3 800 in a rural area. In some cases the cost per client in rural districts can exceed R10 000 and this cost increases annually.
In 1973 the Post Office decided as a long-term objective on a program of rural automation whereby the entire system would have been automated by 1990. I must inform hon members that it is unfortunately no longer possible to keep up the rate of automation originally envisaged.
I wish to emphasize that the curtailment of expenditure on rural automation affects only the replacement of manual services by automatic services. The provision of additional telephone services in manual exchange as well as rural automatic exchange areas to meet the demand for new services will continue as usual. The major effect of the slowing down of the program is that some telephone subscribers in manual exchange areas will have to wait longer for automatic service.
However, I should like to inform hon members that the department is presently carrying out an extensive investigation into the possibility of providing telephone services in rural areas at a lower cost than at present by means of more modern technology. If substantially lower expenditure can result from this, I trust that we will be able to expedite the automation programme considerably.
There is still an active demand for telex services, the current growth rate being about 10% per annum.
During May and August 1984 the obsolete electromechanical exchanges in Pretoria and Johannesburg, respectively, were replaced with electronic exchanges. In the case of Johannesburg this supplemented the existing electronic telex exchange there. With the commissioning of these new exchanges the entire telex network became electronic. Telex concentrators have been installed at Isando, Bramley and Pietermaritzburg to meet the growing need for telex services in those areas.
The automatic international telex service has been extended and at the end of 1984 was available to 118 of the 196 destinations to which service exists. Traffic volumes for the current financial year are expected to increase by about 9% over that of the previous financial year.
The teletex network has been extended to four electronic telex exchanges and the majority of waiting applicants will be provided with service as soon as possible. In some cases special concentrators have to be installed to provide suitable transmission lines.
A direct international telex service to West Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway, the USA and Sweden was introduced during November 1984.
The demand for data services continues to grow at a rate of approximately 26% per annum. The provision by the department of certain data modems was ceased at the end of June 1984 and they are now being provided by the private sector. However, the demand for departmental data modems has not decreased and it is expected that some 50 000 of these modems will be in use on 31 March 1985.
Up to the end of December 1984 1 427 applications had been received for circuit-switching service on Saponet, the data communications network of the post office; 265 of these were received during 1984. There are 1 174 operational circuits at present.
Use of the packet-switching facility of Saponet, which is the most modern form of national and international data communication, has increased steadily over the past two years. By the end of 1984 applications for 312 packet-switching circuits had been received and at that time 225 circuits were operational.
Good progress has been made with the installation of asynchronous packet concentrators and it was possible to satisfy the majority of applications for this service.
The international packet-switching service to the USA, Europe and the Far East is very popular. At the end of 1984 information was being exchanged with foreign computers at a rate of approximately 1 024 megabits per month.
†Trunk Lines and Cables
Work on the provision of digital transmission links between all the major centres continues as a matter of urgency. This huge project, which entails the establishment of new digital trunk exchanges throughout the country and, ancillary thereto, long distance digital microwave and optical-fibre transmission systems, is extremely important to all telecommunications users. The project started in the current financial year and will extend over four financial years.
Satellite Communication Services
Extensions amounting to R4 million are being effected at the Hartebeesthoek Earth Station to provide for the latest techniques in satellite communication, which are already being applied by all major users. Further extensions are being planned for later this year. The satellite station provides 999 channels to foreign countries, which is 22% more than the previous year.
The commercial phase of the Beltel service was introduced on 1 October 1984 and almost 900 users have since been registered. Systems that will render terminals of Prestel, Cept or other standards compatible with the Beltel system, thereby allowing a user to utilize the terminal of the standard of his choice, will be delivered during 1985.
General staff position
The department is continuously endeavouring to make optimal use of the available staff and to limit staff-establishment expansion to the absolute minimum. Of late, special attention has been given to intensifying our efforts in this respect, and appreciable results had already been obtained by the end of 1984. However, the steady growth in the activities of the Department requires the staff complement to be supplemented from time to time to cope with the increasing work volumes and to maintain an acceptable standard of service to the public.
The total staff complement, permanent and temporary, increased by 4,3% during the year ended on 31 December 1984. During the same period 7 285 officials resigned from the Service, while 2 077 were reappointed, compared with 8 137 and 2 476, respectively, the previous year.
On account of the need to curb expenditure and in view of the prevailing economic position, a general adjustment of salaries cannot be considered favourably during 1985-86. I realize that, depending on tendencies in the labour market, our competitive position may weaken. However, if adjustments are found to be inevitable in respect of specific occupational groups, the necessary steps will be taken to protect the Department’s relative competitive position.
It was emphasized repeatedly in the past that good housing is one of the most important factors in establishing a satisfied and motivated staff complement as well as in ensuring a low staff turnover. Compared with the previous financial year the number of applications for departmental housing loans increased by more than 26% during the financial year now drawing to a close. However, as in the current financial year, provision is again being made for only R30 million for housing loans.
The accelerated program of the past few years for the provision of official housing has been extremely rewarding and is now making a valuable contribution to the supply and stability of staff, especially in the metropolitan areas of Johannesburg and Pretoria. During the current financial year expenditure on departmental housing will amount toR13 million, according to the latest estimate. The proposed appropriation for 1985-86 had to be reduced to R10 million.
The department is proceeding with arrangements to have the postal service functioning as fast and effectively as possible.
A compact letter-sorting machine that supplements the optical code reader and facilitates and expedites the processing of mail matter was put into use at the Cape Town sorting office during July 1984. An optical code reader, together with a high-speed sorting machine, was installed in the new sorting office at Pretoria, while it is expected that two video letter-sorting machines and an integrated internal letter tray and mailbag conveyor system will be commissioned in the same office during May and November this year respectively.
With the completion of the relevant projects, the extensive postal automation and mechanization program in respect of the four large sorting offices, viz Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria, which commenced in 1980, will be finalized.
Further improvements in transporting mail to and from the Operational Area have been introduced in order to render the best possible postal service to national servicemen. During a personal visit to the operational area accompanied by the Postmaster General, Mr Bester, and the Postmaster General designate, Mr Ridgard, it was evident that the revised measures which were introduced to expedite the delivery of mail and parcels there have been very successful.
Despite our continued efforts to limit capital works to essential services and our application of strict financial discipline to keep expenditure on services that are proceeded with as low as possible, the building program continues to grow in pace with the expansion of the telecommunications network.
Additional auxiliary buildings for office purposes, training establishments and engineering yards are also necessary to improve staff efficiency and productivity. In addition, more and better facilities are required at a number of places to create acceptable conditions for the staff as well as the public.
Altogether 57 major capital projects comprising 50 automatic exchanges, 4 post offices and 3 miscellaneous services are expected to be completed during the 1984-85 financial year at a cost of about R80 million.
An amount of R101 million is being requested for 1985-86 to finance contracts already in progress and to award essential new contracts that cannot be deferred without detriment to the department and the public interest.
Curbing of expenditure
I come now more specifically to financial matters, and should like, firstly, to discuss the question of where the Post Office stands with regard to the necessity to curb Government expenditure.
As hon members know from statements by my colleague, the Minister of Finance, the Government is determined to keep Government expenditure within limits. It is unsound for any country to expend more public funds and other resources on more and better facilities and services than the country can actually afford. One should, however, be very careful not to apply the same yardstick to general Government expenditure and expenditure on creating the essential infrastructure. I have been informed that the necessity of such a distinction was repeatedly stressed during the national congresses of the Federated Chambers of Industries and Assocom held recently.
I believe that hon members will also agree that investment in essential infrastructure ought not to be curbed arbitrarily. This applies particularly to telecommunications infrastructure that generates revenue throughout the entire spectrum of the economy and which may be one of the most important inhibiting factors during the next upturn of the economy if it does not meet the reasonable needs of the country.
Having said all this, it should be borne in mind that the Post Office is a state enterprise and, if only on account of the mere scope of its services and activities, also has a duty in the public interest to further national goals.
Especially in view of the claims it makes on sources of finance, it is necessary that Post Office expenditure should be realistic. If an excessive financial need has to be satisfied in the local capital market, it could counteract any downward trend in interest rates, in turn detrimentally affecting the economic recovery. On the other hand demands on the foreign capital market have also to be kept within limits as the needs of the Post Office form only part of the total funding requirement of the public sector that has to be satisfied by the foreign capital market. Similarly, for obvious reasons, there are limits to the extent to which revenue can be applied as an increased source of finance by increasing tariffs.
Bearing all these circumstances in mind, the Post Office has decided, as regards limiting its spending, to curb operating expenditure as much as possible by financial discipline and the application of such economy measures as are feasible without unrealistically curtailing the level of service. In respect of capital expenditure, our policy is to try to arrange matters in such a way that investment remains in balance with, on the one hand, the necessity of keeping expenditure as low as possible and, on the other, the need for the creation of an adequate infrastructure to satisfy the ever-growing demand for additional services.
In this regard the Post Office has arranged its telecommunications development programme—which has by far the greatest investment need—as follows: Firstly, preference is given to the nation-wide digitalization of the switching and transmission network to which I have already referred, an operation that is solely infrastructure-creating. Approximately 29% of total telecommunications capital spending will be applied for this purpose during the next financial year.
Secondly, the provision of service to waiting applicants and the expansion or establishment of exchanges and other infrastructure to cope with the demand for telephone services is continuing. This part of the programme will require approximately 58% of total telecommunications capital spending during 1985-86. The work will not be slowed down, but in order to stretch scarce capital as far as possible, it has been decided to build in smaller reserves. Expansions are normally planned to meet expected demand for five years. This period has now been reduced to two years.
Thirdly, the automation of manual exchange areas, to which I have also already referred, has been slowed down. At the current rate it will only be completed in the following decade. Expenditure on it will amount to 5,6% of the telecommunications total in 1985-86.
Expenditure on transport, test apparatus and aids on the telecommunications side will amount to 7,4% of the total telecommunications programme for 1985-86. No cut-back worth mentioning is possible here.
As far as capital expenditure in the other fields of the Department’s activities is concerned, the principle of curtailment as far as it is possible, without harming the creation of infrastructure to an unacceptable degree, is also being followed.
The current financial year
Operating expenditure for the current financial year is estimated at R2 475,6 million, which is R91 million more than the original appropriation. Capital expenditure has been reduced by R111,1 million and is now expected to amount to R1 165,3 million. Together with R125 million for appropriations such as loan redemption, funds for the staff housing scheme and an increase of standard stock capital, the total estimated expenditure for the current financial year amounts to R3 766 million, which is approximately R113 million less than the appropriation that was originally approved.
Revenue for 1984-85 is estimated at R2 630 million, which is R159 million more than the original estimate. The higher revenue is mainly due to higher interest earned on the reinvestment on short term of excess loan funds. After the operating expenditure and other applications have been defrayed from the expected revenue, the financial year will close with a surplus of R29,4 million as against the deficit of R131 million that was initially envisaged. This change is due to the extension of the maturities of a few foreign loans, the redemption of which is therefore no longer necessary in the current financial year but could be carried forward to years when the exchange rate of the rand against other currencies will hopefully be more favourable.
On account of the surplus realized and the lower capital expenditure, the degree of financing of capital expenditure from internal funds for the current financial year is now estimated at 28,6%.
*The coming financial year
It is estimated that an amount of R1 345 million will be required for the execution of the 1985-86 capital programme on the basis that I have set out. Although this is almost 15% higher in rand terms than the scaled-down capital expenditure for the current financial year, it is actually slightly lower in real terms on account of price increases of apparatus and other items.
The expected operating expenditure for 1985-86 amounts to R2 739,4 million, which is 10,7% higher than the estimated operating expenditure for the current financial year. This increase is required mainly to cover normal growth in the activities of the department and price increases.
Revenue for 1985-86 at present tariffs is estimated at R2 700,4 million—only R70 million higher than that for 1984-85. This represents an increase of only 2,67% as against an estimated increase of 9% without tariff adjustments in 1984-85. The estimated lower growth is attributed mainly to expected lower profit-sharing with the agreement suppliers manufacturing telecommunications apparatus, and to expected lower earnings on the reinvestment of loan funds.
It is estimated that considerably less surplus loan funds will be available for reinvestment.
If regard is had to the fact that estimated operating expenditure will amount to R2 739,4 million and that an estimated amount of R293 million will be needed for loan redemption, the staff housing scheme and increasing the standard stock capital, this very low increase in revenue would mean that the Post Office would incur an operating deficit of R332 million and no operating surplus would be available to contribute towards capital expenditure. The percentage of capital expenditure that could have been financed from internal funds would have fallen to 3,2% since only the portion of our provision for depreciation and the higher replacement cost of assets remaining after meeting such a deficit would have been available for the purpose.
As mentioned on previous occasions in Parliament the Franzsen Committee, which as far back as 1972 specially investigated Post Office financing, recommended as a guideline that not more than 50% of the capital expenditure of the Post Office should be financed from loan funds and the rest from internal funds.
Since the self-financing ratio has deteriorated over a number of years and only amounts to an estimated 28,6% for 1984-85, it will, without a tariff increase, fall to the figure of 3,2% that I have mentioned—this means that the contribution to capital expenditure from internal funds would be almost completely wiped out in 1985-86. In addition the debt burden of the Department would become that much heavier should additional loans have to be taken up in lieu of a tariff increase. I really feel that it would not be sound financial policy to maintain tariffs at the present level in these circumstances.
It is impossible, without a greater contribution from revenue, to undertake the creation of essential infrastructure and an adjustment to rapidly developing technology to the extent that the national interest requires from the Post Office. In these circumstances it has been decided to increase tariffs with effect from 1 April 1985 to an extent that will increase total Post Office revenue by an estimated R400 million. This matter was considered very carefully and I can assure honourable members that this increase is the minimum that is reasonably required.
I have already discussed in detail the steps we are taking to curtail capital expenditure. Should we have had to curtail this expenditure even further because a reasonable contribution from revenue was not possible, we would undoubtedly have seriously impaired the creation of the infrastructure which is so essential to our progress. I therefore trust that hon members, trade and industry and the general public will appreciate that the tariff increase is necessary in the national interest.
Details of the tariff adjustments will be published in the Gazette shortly and will also be made available to the Press now. Before I highlight some of the more important adjustments, I should like to say that we tried to make the burden for the ordinary user of postal and telecommunications services as light as possible. Regarding the effect of the tariff increases on the rate of inflation I wish to mention that reliable calculations show that a tariff increase of the extent proposed will have an immediate effect of only 0,15 percentage points on the rate of inflation, while the eventual effect, after the increases have worked through over several years, will only come to 0,2 percentage points. Surely this small effect on the rate of inflation should be acceptable if we consider the alternatives I have referred to.
The inland postage rate on standardized postal articles is being increased from the present 11c to 12c, while parcel tariffs are being increased slightly more, for example from 71c to 85c in the first mass step, because of the labour-intensiveness involved in handling parcels. Several service fees in respect of the postal service are also being adjusted, but COD fees remain unchanged. The present discount of 20% on postage in respect of bulk-posted unsorted letters is being decreased to 15%. The discount on postage in respect of bulk-posted presorted letters, which are usually posted by business concerns, remains unchanged at 30%.
The unit charge for automatically dialled local and trunk telephone calls is being increased from the present 8c to 10c. A similar increase applies to the unit charge for telex calls. The tariff for automatically dialled overseas telephone calls is being increased from the present R3,52 per minute to R4,00 per minute as far as the largest volume of traffic is concerned. Telephone rental is being increased throughout by R2,00 per month.
The estimated additional revenue of approximately R400 million expected from the tariff increases will increase total revenue for 1985-86 to R3 100,4 million, thereby turning the estimated operating deficit into an operating surplus of R68 million. External loan requirements are estimated at R560 million, provided an inflow of at least R100 million from savings services funds is realized.
The contribution of the operating surplus towards the financing of capital expenditure will result in an estimated self-financing ratio of capital expenditure of 32,9%. This will be an improvement on the present state of affairs but will still fall short of the guideline of 50% accepted for the Post Office. The high loan component of financing will continue to exert great pressure on the finances of the Post Office, while the risk factor involved in exchange-rate exposure on foreign loans will remain high. To ensure sound and efficient financial management in the years ahead, a further increase in the self-financing component of our capital expenditure is an aspect that requires serious consideration with a view to suitable and timeous action.
Despite the tariff increases it is expected that the postal service will still be operated at a loss of R103 million in 1985-86 and the public telegram service at a loss of R23 million. In view of the increasing demands on our finances, we cannot continue to absorb losses of this magnitude indefinitely. When tariffs are to be increased in future, therefore, serious consideration will have to be given to the extent of the adjustments necessary in respect of unprofitable services. I realize that losses cannot be brought within acceptable limits by one single adjustment, but bigger adjustments than those made up to now will obviously be necessary if we are to make progress in our endeavours to reduce the losses. The postal service must be placed on a sounder financial footing—this is an urgent priority.
I have in the past repeatedly referred to the Post Office as a business undertaking which should, as such, be managed on business lines. To be independent without subsidies from the State—we receive no subsidies of any nature whatsoever—it is essential to continuously pursue a sound financial and financing policy. The continual demand for services makes it essential to expand and to modernize in spite of curtailments. The amended tariffs as announced will increase the estimated revenue by approximately 14,8%.
Future tariff increases
In accordance with the undertaking that I gave two years ago to indicate during the budget speech whether any tariff increases are envisaged for the financial year following the coming financial year, I now give notice that it has been found that tariffs will probably have to be adjusted during 1986-87 as well, to an extent that will yield additional revenue of approximately 10%. The extent, and even the necessity, of the adjustment may, however, be influenced by various factors such as whether the economy as a whole improves and thus positively influences our revenue, or vice versa. Hon members may rest assured that any tariff adjustment in 1986-87 will be kept to a minimum and to what is essential.
In conclusion I should like to thank the Postmaster General, the management of the Department and the entire staff complement most sincerely for their co-operation and support during the past year.
To the Postmaster General, Mr Henry Bester, who will retire at the end of this month after exactly 45 years service, I wish to convey the Government’s and my own thanks and appreciation for the loyal services rendered by him over so many years and especially for the competent manner in which he has managed the department for the past five years. Mr Bester has been a pillar of strength to me in my task as Minister of this Department and his retirement will leave— and I believe also to his colleagues—a void which will not be easily filled. I believe I am speaking for everyone when I wish Mr and Mrs Bester prosperity, happiness and good health on the road ahead—they deserve it.
To Mr Willie Ridgard, who will succeed Mr Bester, I also wish to extend from this platform my heartiest congratulations on his appointment and wish him and Mrs Ridgard every success in their huge and difficult task.
It so happens that the Post Office has lost two members of it top management team due to retirement during the past year namely Deputy Postmasters-General, Messrs Rudie Raath and Barry De Klerk. To both of them my sincere thanks and appreciation for their unselfish service to the Post Office. I should also like to make use of this opportunity to convey my sincere thanks and congratulations to the new incumbents of the posts of Deputy Postmaster-General, Messrs Robbie Raath, Johan van Rensburg, Jimmy Taylor and Judge De Villiers on their appointments and to wish them pleasant and fruitful terms of office.
Mr Speaker, I now lay upon the Table:
Bill, budget speech and paper tabled referred to Standing Committee on Communications and Public Works in terms of Joint Rule 41.
Second Reading resumed
Mr Chairman, although I have had the opportunity on several previous occasions of discussing the Post Office Budget, I feel almost like Elizabeth Taylor’s seventh husband. I know what is expected of me but I am not quite sure that I can provide the interest! [Interjections.]
Allow me to state immediately, however, that I am shocked at the extent of the tariff increases and deeply disappointed at the fact that the hon the Minister has seen fit to impose these increased tariffs on the public of South Africa at this stage, and certainly at such short notice, while previous Ministers had promised that the public would be given at least three months’ advance notice of any further tariff increases to enable organized trade and industry to get their budgets in order.
Although the Post Office is a viable and independent body, it is nevertheless a State-owned body. It is a viable body and has been such since the Wiehahn Commission reported on the whole question of the financing of the Post Office, which was followed by the promulgation of the Post Office Readjustment Act in 1966. The Post Office accordingly became independent insofar as its finances were separated from the Exchequer.
Specific provision was made for the Post Office to be run in accordance with business principles in terms of which its profits could be used for the expansion of its own services. It was also empowered to negotiate loans from the Treasury to cover that part of its expansion programme for which its own funds were insufficient.
Furthermore, the recommendations of the Franszen Commission in 1972 led to the Post Office being granted statutory authority to negotiate external loans in order to embark on proper long-term planning. It was then that the Post Office was empowered to adjust tariffs in order to ensure that about 50% of its capital was financed from its own revenue. The Post Office was then also permitted an increased depreciation allowance in order to cover higher replacement costs. That is a matter, however, to which I will refer later.
In the final analysis it meant that long-term planning and expenditure on infrastructure could allow for Post Office and Telecommunications planning to be done far in advance. One must remember, however, that the hon the Minister of Communications is a member of the Cabinet of this Government. As such he must therefore be fully aware of the financial implications for the economy that will result from any tariff increases.
He must also be aware of the warnings sounded by the hon the Minister of Finance, by the Government and by economists on the current depressed economic situation facing South Africa. I cannot think of a period when such economic gloom has descended upon commerce and industry and upon the public in general as it has now. We are told that if 1985 is going to be a bad year, then 1986 is going to be even worse. The inflation rate is officially about 14%, but will probably increase to about 18%. In fact, Dr De Kock had something to say about that this morning. Furthermore, the gold price is low and the value of the rand is the worst it has been in living memory.
The public and the business world are really suffering under the weight of increases that have recently been announced in respect of food, petrol and coal prices and railway and air tariffs. We are told that within only one month 250 companies will probably be placed under liquidation and that approximately six cases of insolvency are being set down for a hearing before the courts every day. When an individual who has assets of R77 million has his estate sequestrated, I believe that that is a reflection of the economic times in which we are living at the moment. As Will Rogers said, when everybody has money, taxes are cut, but when they are broke, taxes are raised again. That is really statemanship of the highest order!
I wonder to what extent there has been consultation and agreement in the Cabinet in this regard between the hon the Minister of Finance and this hon Minister. The hon the Minister of Finance is on record as saying the following about his objectives for the March Budget, which is only 11 days away. He said there will be—I quote:
To what extent, therefore, does this Budget take into consideration the factors I have just mentioned or the present policy of Cabinet, particularly in view of the State President’s announcement regarding the 3% cut in salaries and that of 5,5% on the 13th cheque—which amounts to 2,8% on the wage bill. The Post Office salary bill of R705 million will thus be reduced by R18,2 million. That alone immediately causes the Budget to be out.
To what extent has the Post Office given an example to the public of South Africa that it will tighten its belt, limit expenditure and improve its productivity? I do not believe that it has done any of these things. What it did do, however, was to increase its tariffs by 14,8%, which included an increase of 11,1% on stamps, an increase that will affect practically everybody, and an increase of 25% per units in respect of telephone calls. The latter measure will affect trade, commerce and industry and everybody who has a telephone. They are being hit hardest where it hurts most. The public outcry about these measures is enormous and vociferous. We have messages voicing outrage from various people with regard to these tariff increases.
The Government has acted in a hamhanded manner, unlike John Baptiste Colbert, who said:
I believe there has been a large amount of hissing in this regard.
It seems as if these tariff increases have not taken into consideration the fact that the inflation rate should be kept to below 10%. The hon the Minister must know that these tariff increases will have a chain reaction and that they will bite deep into the economy as a whole. Or is he saying like Don Marquis:
The hon the Minister is abusing his powers and the privileges given to a department which has the monopoly on the kind of services it renders, while the public of South Africa is its obedient servant. Does the danger, therefore, not exist that this monopoly may develop into a rampant bureaucracy which from the very nature of the analogy should be guarded against? The Post Office has thus failed miserably to set an example to commerce and industry to tighten its belt and to curb expenditure.
Last year when tariff increases of 9% were announced across the board I said it was the worst Budget ever presented. The Budget for the very first time also provided for a deficit of R132 million. However, as far as these new announcements are concerned, I believe that this is the worst Budget ever presented.
Mr Chairman, on a point of order. I am sitting right next to this hon member and I am having difficulty in hearing him, because there is so much noise coming from that side of the House.
Thank you. I shall take particular notice of the hon member’s statement. The hon member for Hillbrow may continue.
This Budget has been presented at a time when the prevailing economic circumstances are far worse than they were last year. Although total expenditure, as originally appropriated, has been reduced by R113 million, operating expenditure has increased by R91 million. Against this, revenue in 1984-85 increased by R159 million, and a deficit of R131 million turned into a surplus of R29,4 million. The Post Office was therefore R160,4 million better off; in other words, the deficit before tariff increases would have been R174,6 million and not R335 million. Therefore the 9% increase yielded 51,9% more than necessary.
I am saying that a 4,5% increase would have been sufficient, but the hon the Minister raised tariffs by twice as much as should have been necessary. To make things worse, the operating expenditure is now being increased to 10,7% higher than last year, and this shows that the Post Office has not curbed expenditure.
The tariff increases of 14,8% will yield another R400 million in revenue. This will result in a surplus of R68 million. If the budget provided for a deficit of R132 million last year, why cannot it provide for a deficit this year? We may even be able to end up with a surplus. Taken at its worst, a 7,4% increase would have been enough to see us through any reasonable deficit. The hon the Minister should have borne this in mind.
To what extent has expenditure been curbed? Let us take a look at capital expenditure. It is R1 345 million or 15% higher than last year. Total expenditure is R4 377,4 million, which represents an increase of R496 million or 12,7%. If one calculates it on the reduced figure of R113 million, one finds that it actually is 13,17% higher.
Let us look at operating expenditure, which has risen from R2,4 billion to R2,7 billion, an increase of R264 million or 10% higher than the latest estimated revised figure. At the same time, however, let me hasten to point out that revenue is estimated to rise from R2,6 billion to R3,1 billion; in other words, an additional R470 million or an increase of 17,8% which I think hon members will agree is quite substantial.
A careful examination of the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure and the White Paper will show that there is hardly a single item that does not show an increase. I notice from page 4 that stock items are being written off or marked down from R5 million to R2,25 million. Is this the time to do it?
Let us look at the provision for depreciation of assets. This is increased by R47 million, an increase of 23,6%, to bring it to the total of R249 million, while provision for higher replacement costs is increased from R101 million to R124 million, an increase of 22,7%. The totals in this regard are R374 million and R70 million more than they were according to the revised figures for last year. What is more, these amounts are R42 million higher than the deficit had been before the tariffs were increased. In actual fact, these last two items of R374 million are merely book entries. Is it not possible to postpone replacement costs or is one simply applying the formula of 50% laid down by the Franzsen Committee and has the time not come to revise that formula in the light of present circumstances?
Tariff increases are being imposed specifically in order to improve revenue so that a higher percentage can be used for self-financing. The hon the Minister says he is concentrating on infrastructure, but the infrastructure is being increased by some 20% so that he can employ 30% of that surplus towards capital expenditure.
The hon the Minister is worried that the final deficit could be R332 million, but last year it was R335 million; so, what is new?
The hon the Minister now wants to achieve a contribution of 32,9% from the operating surplus towards financing capital expenditure. Why is this so important? The Franzsen Committee sat in 1972, but does it still have relevance to the financial position in which South Africa finds itself in 1985, 13 years later? I say it has no relevance. I say the time has come to revise the entire formula and to take a new look at the entire system of budgeting and financing of the Post Office. That report of the Franzsen Committee is neither a holy cow nor the law of the Medes and the Persians. We must adapt ourselves to the modern economy.
The postal side will show an operating loss of R103 million and the telegram service a loss of R23 million, but I believe that the substantial revenue earned by the telecommunications service should carry those services through. In fact, the telecommunications service showed a revenue of R2,1 billion and its revenue is now estimated at R2,6 billion, an increase of R511 million.
I must ask why the hon Minister, in considering adjustments in tariffs, did not treat the Post Office as a single entity and see fit to reduce the tariffs on the telecommunications side and raise the tariffs on the Post Office side to get some sort of balance. I am not suggesting that he do it, but this should be examined. Why does he have to have some formula to tell him what amount of cross-subsidization should exceed 10%?
Taking all these circumstances into account, I want to urge—and it is part of our amendment—that a financial study group be set up consisting of experts from outside and inside the Post Office. Its terms of reference would be as follows: Firstly, to examine the Franzsen Committee’s recommendations with regard to the 50:50 contribution of revenue towards capital and, in particular, to ascertain whether it is apposite in times of recession and in times of high inflation, and whether a more flexible formula should not be considered; secondly, to examine the relationship between the revenue generated by postal services as against that of telecommunications services, to devise a formula, if necessary, for cross-subsidization and to ascertain whether the loss on postal services should not be considered part and parcel of the entire telecommunications service; thirdly, in the light of the monopoly enjoyed by the Post Office, whether private enterprise could be used in any area such as delivery, transportation or even professional services; and fourthly, to go into the nomenclature of meaningless items reflected in the accounts of the Post Office, eg “other payments” which reflect something like R86 million which really means a 12% increase in salary. Another example is on page 8—the Savings Service—where there is an internal charge of R167 million which is not related directly to the Savings Service itself.
I want to recommend for consideration that the study group consist of a financial officer of the Post Office, two economists from two different universities, one member appointed by the Governor of the Reserve Bank, one by the National Consultative Committee, one by Assocom and one by the AHI.
The next matter I want to deal with is the provision of telephones. As I said last year, this is the most lucrative part of the service. I said then that each telephone should show a profit of R367 per annum. It should now be more.
However, we are still far behind in regard to the backlog. I want to ask the hon the Minister whether a backlog is still a backlog because on 15 February 1984 it was 231 000-odd, the year before it was 214 000 and as at 31 December 1984 it was 225 858. The hon Minister now says that the waiting list is expected to total 232 000 at the end of this month compared with the 245 729 at the end of March 1984. This means a decrease of 5,6%. I congratulate the hon Minister on this; I think he has now got the message.
Overall there is a total of 3,9 million telephones. The hon the Minister has given us the figure of 255 000 as at 31 March. There is a difference of 29 142. Have these been installed in the three months? The waiting list on the Witwatersrand is 82 000; Pretoria has 21 000; Durban 18 000; and Cape Town 16 000. All these people are waiting for telephones. What are we doing about it?
I want now to deal with the provisions of section 118(A) of the Post Office Act, 1958, not insofar as the interception of telephone conversations is concerned but the interception of post. I would like to deal with the case of Gwen Lister. The facts as I understand them are as follows:
Gwen Lister was the correspondent for the BBC stationed at Windhoek. She apparently received a registered slip asking her to pick up a registered letter. The envelope had been addressed to the Postmaster General at her box number and, thinking it was meant for her, she opened it in good faith.
She then handed it to her lawyer. Entered across the top of the envelope, which contained an application in terms of section 118(A) of the Post Office Act, were the words “Uiters Geheim”. The letter requested that from December 2 to June 3 all Miss Lister’s mail be intercepted. It was followed by a typed statement saying she was a reporter with The Windhoek Observer and liaised regularly with prominent leaders of Swapo etcetera. The letter was signed by Lt-Gen Zietsman.
A week prior to that Miss Lister had complained to Mr De Jager, the Assistant Postmaster, about the fact that her post was disappearing. Mr De Jager said he would look into the matter. When this letter arrived she thought it was the reply so she opened it in all innocence and there were three envelopes inside an outer one, a smaller one with red stars all over it and then the letter to the Postmaster General.
The Postmaster General, Mr H van Rensburg, said he was terribly surprised. He said that it seemed there had been a big mistake somewhere and that he would have to investigate the matter. As far as he knew the Post Office had not received any police applications to monitor Miss Lister’s mail in the past.
The chief of the Windhoek CID, Brig Fouché, his deputy, Col Badenhorst and an unidentified policewoman, arrived at Miss Lister’s house in Windhoek West at 15h45 on Friday, 14 December 1984. After being permitted to phone her lawyer, she was arrested and spent the weekend in jail. After having been released on R500 bail, with the stipulation that she had to report to the Windhoek Police twice a week, Mr Louw, Attorney General of South West Africa, refused to press charges in terms of the Official Secrets’ Act and the Post Office Act, and Miss Lister, who was scheduled to appear in court in a trial arising from the reports, was freed.
The incident was described as the security bungle of the decade. It had far-reaching repercussions as an American group of journalists sent telegrams to the State President, while the New York based committee to protect journalists complained. A telegram was also sent to Dr Chester Crocker.
Since the Postmaster General, Mr Van Rensburg, is quoted as saying, “I shall have to investigate the matter”, I would now ask the hon the Minister please to let the House have the result of that investigation. No doubt his colleague the Minister of Law and Order would like to give information which would enable him to deal more fully with the matter.
It has nothing to do with me at all. You are wasting your breath.
I have just told the hon the Minister that the Postmaster-General said that he would investigate the matter, and all I want the hon the Minister to do now, is to give us the result of that investigation. In addition, the hon the Minister might like to explain how it came about that the envelope was incorrectly addressed and sent to Miss Lister’s postbox. Lastly, I wish to know whether the hon the Minister was consulted by the functionary who made the request for the interception and whether the request was carried out in terms of the section I have quoted.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the PFP to express our thanks to Mr Bester, who is now attending his last Budget debate and will be retiring shortly. We wish him good health and a happy retirement and thank him for the services that he has rendered to the Post Office, and in turn, to South Africa. I want to thank him for the very fine annual report. He is a very dedicated and sincere person.
I would also like to welcome Mr Ridgard as Mr Bester’s successor as Postmaster General and to wish him good health and success in the onerous task that lies before him. I hope he has broad shoulders so that he will be able to cope with all his responsibilities. I now wish to move the following amendment:
- (1) to revise the tariffs announced on 4 March 1985 so as to relieve the intolerable burden which has been placed on the consumer;
- (2) to ensure that in future adequate notice will be given to the public before tariff increases come into effect; and
- (3) to appoint a financial study group to examine and revise the financial policy of the Department of Posts and Telecommunications in order to establish a basis that will—
- (a) generate sufficient funds;
- (b) eliminate inflationary and unnecessary tariff increases; and
- (c) increase efficiency and productivity,
Mr Chairman, to begin with I want to join the hon member for Hillbrow in expressing our gratitude to the Postmaster-General, who retires on pension at the end of this month, for the years of dedicated service he has given to this fine organization, the Post Office. We wish him a very long and happy retirement. At the same time, we also want to convey our best wishes to his successor, Mr Ridgard, for the task that awaits him.
Towards the end of his speech the hon member for Hillbrow told a long story which left one dumbstruck; to think that the chief spokesman of the Official Opposition in this House could get his facts so confused! He, of all people, ought to know that the Post Office has no say over the situation in the Post Office of South West Africa. The hon member could at least have checked on that. If he does not know this by now, he ought not to be here. That is the most elementary fact he could have established. Listening to the hon member for Hillbrow, one would say there was a crisis in the Post Office. If one listens to his attempt at exploiting the increase in postal and telephone rates for party-political purposes, one knows that there really is very little substance to his allegations. I am not going to reply to all the points he raised; instead I only want to refer to one example. He asked the hon Minister not to budget for a deficit again as was done last year. Last year, however, when the hon the Minister budgeted for a deficit of R131 million, the hon member said that it was the weakest budget ever to be introduced since the Post Office became independent. One concludes that the Post Office can do absolutely nothing right in that hon member’s eyes.
When we speak about this budget, we are speaking about a total budget of more than R4 billion. The surplus of R68 million budgeted for, represents 1,66% of the entire budget. If one bears in mind that in these times our exchange rates are behaving like a yo-yo and that that uncertainty looms over us at all times and that one is dealing here with an organization which has to import equipment and stock on a large scale and is, therefore, subject to exchange rate fluctuations, if one also takes into account that we are experiencing times of economic slackness and that there is a drop in savings because people have to use some of their savings and that the expected revenue of the Saving Bank will therefore be lower, if one takes into account that there is a possibility of more bad debts, as a result of the economic decline—we read about insolvencies all the time and the hon member himself referred to that—does he really want to suggest that a safety margin of 1,66% is unjustified? Even if this surplus of R68 million were to be realized, it is surely not surplus which would only look good in the books or exist in a vacuum, but a surplus for which there is a very specific purpose. We know that the capital programme of the Post Office has to be financed as far as possible up to a maximum of 50% from current revenue surpluses. An amount of R68 million represents 5% of the total capital budget of R1 345 million. The budgeted surplus is, therefore, only a drop in the ocean of the surplus which has to be found from operating revenue to finance the capital programme of the Post Office. Or does the hon member for Hillbrow want to suggest for a single moment that the Post Office should be bled dry as a result of tremendously heavy interest and amortization burdens? Or, alternatively, does the hon member suggest that the capital programme of the Post Office should come to a standstill and that the Post Office should fall behind with the provision of facilities? He surely cannot be suggesting anything of the kind. Why, then, does he question the fact that the hon the Minister is making provision for a surplus?
The hon member says the 50:50 basis of capital financing proposed by the Franzsen Commission should be reconsidered. This might well be possible or necessary within the foreseeable future, but then I wish to tell him that such an adjustment should aim at greater and not less self-financing because we are becoming an increasingly developed, rather than a developing, country. If the hon member is suggesting that the formula be readjusted to involve an increase in loan capital, I want to tell him that that would be the shortcut to bankruptcy for the Post Office.
Throughout his speech the hon member emphasized negative elements. He had nothing to say about most of the positive aspects spelt out by the Minister in his budget speech. If one looks at the fine achievements of the Post Office, one is inclined to reach the conclusion that nothing would ever satisfy the PFP.
Let us look at a few examples of this. One of the few positive aspects the hon member touched on is the fact that the telephone waiting list has been reduced by 5,6% this year. For years we have grown accustomed to this waiting list growing longer every year. Not only has this tendency now been reversed, with the hon the Minister being able to report that 255 000 new telephones have been provided; in fact that figure could have been higher had it not been for the unrest in Black residential areas, with which the Post Office surely had nothing to do.
A second positive aspect of the budget speech is the fact that the deficit of R131 million budgeted for for the past year was converted into a surplus of almost R30 million. This was achieved by reducing expenditure by an amount of R113 million—afterall, the hon member for Hillbrow asked what the Post Office was doing to cut its expenditure—and by increasing revenue by an amount of R159 million. In regard to this matter one has particular appreciation for the fact that the Post Office could succeed, in these times of exchange rate problems and a low Rand exchange rate in extending the term of our long-term loans to avoid our having to pay back these loans at the present unfavourable exchange rate.
Thanks to outstanding management it has also been possible in the past year to increase the self-financing component from a budgeted 27,2% to 28,5%, due to this turnabout in the monetary situation of the Post Office. In addition, this new budget makes provision for a further increase of up to 32,9% in the self-financing component, which is virtually one-third of the capital programme for the forthcoming year. Granted, this is still not enough and is still a long way from the ideal of 50% self-financing, but it represents substantial progress made in that direction.
The increase of 15% in the expenditure on the capital programme is another positive facet of this budget. I challenge the hon member for Hillbrow and his colleagues to say that an increase in our capital provision is unnecessary. The Post Office, in particular, is the kind of organization which, in times when there is an economic slump, has to prepare itself for the upswing which inevitably has to come. The Post Office is an organization which has to ensure that it has the infrastructure and facilities when the economy recovers, otherwise that recovery would be further delayed and we would all suffer as a consequence. That provision for an economic upturn can only be made if the capital programme shows sound growth.
We gathered from the budget speech of the hon the Minister that it was possible for him to paint this rosy picture of the Post Office in spite of a meagre increase of 4,3% in the personnel of the Post Office. That is an achievement if one takes into account that over the past five years the establishment of the Post Office has grown by 27,8%. In the course of five years, therefore, the establishment of the Post Office grew by, on average, 5,5% per annum. If one looks at the scope of the activities of the Post Office during this five-year period since 1980, one finds that, as against a growth of 27,5% in the personnel of the Post Office, the revenue of this organization increased by 140,6%, its running expenses increased by 181,5%, its capital expenditure, that is, expenditure in regard to buildings and facilities required by personnel, increased by 232%. The net growth of its fixed assets was 118% and of its cash turnover, 94,7%. This is an achievement which is linked to the most positive aspect of this entire budget, viz the fine achievement of the Post Office in regard to increased productivity.
The first report of the National Productivity Institute, an external body specializing in this particular field, sounds like a testimonial for the Post Office. This institute says:
The report describes the Post Office as a leader in productivity in the Republic, one which has brought about cost savings by partially absorbing price increases in labour, material and capital. Besides, the report quantifies what the department has achieved through increased productivity: It states that the Post Office was able to avoid tariff increases of no less than R24 million. The report goes on to mention that cost recoveries from the consumer account for only 17% of the increase in the profitability of the Post Office. In contrast, increased productivity was responsible for no less than 83% in the given instance. This is indeed a remarkable achievement.
I have now mentioned seven positive aspects of the Post Office budget. The price of all that is a moderate 14,8% rise in the tariffs of the Post Office.
Let us for once admit that our postal tariffs are too low. If one calls to mind the tremendous labour involved in the posting, forwarding, and delivery of a single postal article, it is understandable that the post and telegraph services are uneconomical. If one adds to that the fact that our postal articles have to be transported over long distances, it will be apparent why 11c is nowhere near adequate to cover the cost entailed by a postal article.
As far back as 1983—two years ago— while we were still paying 10c here, geographically small countries like Japan were charging 44c for the despatching of a domestic postal article; in the Netherlands it cost 37c and in Britain, 35c. Each of those countries could, as far as their geographical size is concerned, fit into one of our smaller provinces.
In spite of the increase of one cent in the postal tariff, the deficit on the postal service will still amount to R103 million; and the deficit on telegraph services will amount to R23 million. These deficits will have to be made good by the profitable leg, the telecommunications services.
Price subsidization is all very well, but it should not exceed 10%. In a postal service that costs more than R400 million, an expected deficit of R103 million means that the telecommunications services will have to subsidize the Post Office by 25%. In fact that is R60 million too much. In addition to that, the telecommunications services also have to ensure that the loan burden of the Post Office does not become intolerable. As I have already said, we shall be financing scarcely a third of our capital expenditure internally this year—even with the increase in the telephone tariff.
If we look at the positive aspects of this budget, and at the quality of the service we get from the Post Office, and if we have any appreciation for the wonderful achievement of our Post Office officials in terms of productivity, we shall have to acknowledge that these tariff increases are a small price to pay. We gladly support this budget.
Mr Chairman, I should like to make use of this opportunity to express my gratitude to Mr Henry Bester, the Postmaster-General, who retired at the end of this month. We have always found that he and his staff have always been willing to listen to problems, and we shall undoubtedly miss him. We hope that he will enjoy his retirement although it will probably be difficult for him really to retire after his busy career. However, he is still young and will probably keep himself occupied with other activities.
I also want to convey my congratulations to Mr Willie Ridgard who has recently been appointed to succeed Mr Bester. We hope that he will have a very pleasant term of office.
I should also like to express my gratitude to Mr Bester and the hon the Minister for their assistance in ensuring that the new Post Office at Heidelberg will hopefully be opened in June.
I want to tell the hon the Minister today that I am sorry that he is part of that team— and now I am being very honest with him.
I should like to pay tribute to the Post Office staff for the valuable service that they have rendered in the past and also over the past year. We fully agree with the good things the hon member for Umlazi had to say about the Post Office. We are not a negative party whose only aim is to emphasize weak points, and therefore we agree with the good points to which the hon member referred.
However, I move the following further amendment:
- (1) stop the integration process in all the ramifications of his Department;
- (2) see to it that the staff of the Department suffer no financial losses as a result of the Cabinet’s steps to reduce the income of officials; and
- (3) make a contribution in the Cabinet to combat the Government’s extravagance and wastefulness.”.
The Budget which has just been announced, caused a shockwave in South Africa as seldom before experienced, to such an extent that newspapers blazoned it forth: “Nationwide anger grows at bonus cuts”, and that is true. Everyone realized that increased tariffs would be announced because increases have in fact become the vogue, but we did not expect them to be so drastic. Could one ever have imagined that the following price rises would take place: 25% on automatically dialled calls; 13,6% on overseas calls; 28,5% on telephone rentals; 9% on postage; 20,9% on packet post, and so forth? These increases are a very great pity, and we note them with sadness.
A well-known economist, dr Johan Cloete, said recently:
The president of the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut expressed himself as follows:
Over the past three years Post Office tariffs—and when I speak of the Post Office I obviously include telecommunications services—rose by 50%. This is a very large increase. Every company or business undertaking affected thereby will have to try to pass them on to the consumer who will eventually have to pay for them. We object to that. We cannot do otherwise; our people are unhappy. Yesterday evening we heard from Dr De Kock, the President of the Reserve Bank, that the fruits of this will only be plucked in a year’s time. He did not say what sort of fruits they would be. I only hope that they will not be bitter fruits.
The television programme News Focus yesterday evening was simply shocking. We learned with dismay that senior public servants were going to be appearing on television for propaganda purposes. I want to quote from Die Burger of this morning:
Sir, I watched that programme, but do you know what the irony of it was? Nobody below the breadline was approached to take part in that programme. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, I should like to ask the hon member whether he is insinuating that those officials did not express their honest convictions.
That may have been the opinion of those people but my objection is—I want to reply to the hon the Minister immediately—that we did not also hear the opinions of those people living below the breadline. I know the hon the Minister is a fat cat and I also know that he will object if the people living below the breadline … [Interjections.] … I am talking to the hon the Minister and Leader of the NP in the Transvaal, [Interjections.] The opinion of those people was not asked. It was a onesided program, and I think it is high time that Minister Pik Botha took note of the fact that the people see through these things because they are absolutely transparent!
What is happening nowadays? It is true that Ministers are the bearers of bad tidings nowadays. When Ministers—and there are many of them—stand up these days to make statements that could mean either progress or retrogression, we know in advance that it will always be a report in regard to retrogression that we are given. Take for example the additional appropriation, take the Budget of the SATS, take the Post Office Budget, and on top of this the State President came along the other day and put a cherry on the dropped cake. I come now to the Edict of Cape Town. This Edict of Cape Town was issued on Tuesday 5 March 1985, and it will be known as such. The assault on the workers of South Africa was directed chiefly at the poorer people, at those who cannot afford it. The Edict or Decree of Cape Town will go down in history, and we must know that it was only issued to help the Government out of the problems which it had created for itself.
The Government of the State President has lost contact with the people outside. [Interjections.] It is also reported that the following was said: This should not be seen as steps emanating from a spirit of despair. Who is bluffing whom? It is easy for the State President to talk. Dr Joop de Loor said some months ago now that the country was technically bankrupt. The Government knew this. Why then did they hide it away from the people? Why did they not inform the people? No, they wanted to dispose of their pomp and circumstance matters first. We are still going to hear the footsteps of the unemployed in this country, but may we be spared that because this sort of thing is very sad. I want to mention just a few examples of extravagance and waste: Tuynhuys, R3,35 million; Union Buildings, R11 million, of which R9 million was requested before going to tender; Stalplein, R10 376 000; the extension of the Parliamentary Buildings, R23 million; Marks Buildings, R4,38 million; the President’s Council Building, R3,7 million; accommodation for Coloured members. R2,97 million.
Order! The hon member must come closer to Post Office matters. [Interjections.]
I am coming back to that, Sir. Accommodation for Indian members, R4,6 million and accommodation for Indian Ministers, R1,348 million. This is why we have no money and this is why the officials of the Post Office are also experiencing hardship. This is my great worry. The Government of State President Botha has become too expensive for South Africa. [Interjections.] It is high time that the Pomp and Circumstance Laws of Ryk Tulbagh should also be made applicable to this Government. [Interjections.]
In common with all the other officials, the officials of the Post Office are experiencing great hardship. We read in yesterday’s newspapers:
They go on to mention various important foodstuffs and how their prices have increased. It is terrible! I know that the officials of the Post Office are experiencing difficulty. There are officials living below the breadline. All the officials do not hold senior positions. All of us know the economic laws. We know for example that food is the most important item, and then on down the line. The last rand is usually for the man who receives the least and works hardest. What is the effect of all these factors on the people in our country today? For example, we read in Die Burger of yesterday that the day before yesterday a man committed suicide in Krugersdorp because he had a wife and seven children, as a result of the economic pressure. [Interjections.] Yesterday evening we also saw on television … [Interjections.] It is just as well that the House can hear the Nationalists laughing at that. [Interjections.] The hon Deputy Minister of Education and of Co-operation is also laughing about it. [Interjections.] They have completely lost touch with the people of South Africa. In the next election we will certainly deal with them. [Interjections.]
Within my constituency and the area of jurisdiction of my town council people are being evicted from their homes if they cannot pay their rent. If they cannot pay the electricity account then their power is also cut off. Our White people are being kicked out of their homes and their power is being cut off, but those other people can stay where they are. Just as this Government has done in the case of the officials of the Post Office, so it has distanced itself from the interests of the Whites in South Africa. Our people are hungry. Prices are shooting sky-high and people will be thrown onto the street. It is also true that the drought, the strength of the dollar and the gold price are not the only causes. The extravagance and wastage of money on the part of this Government is also a very important factor. [Interjections.]
The Government can bring about a great saving in respect of its Ministers. Own affairs have become a farce in this House. [Interjections.]
Order! The hon member must come closer to Post Office affairs.
We want to ask the hon the Minister of Communications—we have already put this question to the hon the Minister of Transport Affairs who admitted that he was unaware of the position when the State President made his shock announcement last Tuesday—whether he was informed in connection with this matter? If the hon the Minister did not know about it, this will merely further establish the fact that South Africa is governed on an ad hoc basis, as the hon member for Langlaagte also stated the other day was the position.
Just as in the case of all previous budgets so this Budget has broken our hearts even more. The people outside feel bitter because these actions of the Government have been forced upon them and they have been told half-truths. Is it not so that we were promised that if we voted “yes”, the heavens would fall on us and we would all be wearing little blue caps? Nothing but misery has come from that. As a result of this Budget the bitter waters of Mara have touched our lips. [Interjections.] In the stranglehold of this Government we have been cast back in history. At the next election we shall have to free ourselves or die. [Interjections.] The integration machine of State President Botha’s government lies very heavily on this country. The economic pressure is ripping the roofs off the homes of our people. The policy of conceding more and more has caused people to lose their respect for the Government. [Interjections.]
I want to conclude by making an appeal to hon members still sitting in those benches— and I believe there are some of them— whose hearts are secretly bleeding for their own people, to free themselves from the stranglehold of a merciless, despotic Government which has turned its back irrevocably upon the Whites. Shakespeare said, and I quote:
It is high tide in South Africa now, and those people must free themselves and regain White self-respect. Only then will others also have respect for them.
Mr Chairman, it would appear to me as though the CP has gone back so far into history that they have passed Jaap Marais and have come to Ryk Tulbagh. The poor hon member who has just sat down strayed very far this afternoon in this debate. He moved an amendment consisting of three parts. First of all, he is opposed to the integration that is apparently taking place in the Post Office; secondly, he alleges that there has been a great financial loss; and thirdly, the hon the Minister is extravagant. However, after he had moved his amendment he said nothing more about these three points. It was clear that he had no insight into the reports on the Post Office or had made any effort to read them. One wonders whether during the time that he spent on the standing committee he was also just sitting there and dreaming about what was going on like the hon member for Soutpansberg. [Interjections.] It is a pity that we should receive that sort of contribution from hon members at a time when South Africa does not need it. I want to leave the hon member at that and I want to come back to the hon member for Hillbrow.
Listening to the hon member for Hillbrow it was very clear that we were a long way from consensus in respect of how a department such as that of the Post Office should be managed. That hon member had every opportunity on the standing committee to raise there the sort of policy aspects that he mentioned here. [Interjections.]
Order! The hon member must be given an opportunity to complete his speech. The hon member may proceed.
Like the hon member for Umlazi, the hon member for Hillbrow also pointed out that we were now budgeting for a surplus of R30 million. However, he did not make any alternative proposal. He did not tell us what the tariff should be if we were to budget for a deficit. If he wants to make a contribution in a budget debate of this nature, particularly at the Second Reading when the principle of a budget is under discussion, I think that he should rather come forward with the suggestions which his party would rather see forming part of the budget. If one wants to make a positive contribution one does not just come along to this House and criticize. Criticism alone will bring us no nearer to consensus in regard to how a department like the Post Office should manage its affairs in the future. I read the speech of the hon the Minister, and the hon member did not even touch upon what the hon the Minister had said. He did not come anywhere near the speech; he came along here with puppets he had prepared himself and then he tried to knock them down. On that note I also want to leave him at that.
It is my view that the Second Reading debate on any Bill dealt with here should actually involve the approval in principle of the entire content of that Bill. That is what we have before us this afternoon. Therefore, if we have any reason to differ with this Budget or with the principles on which this Budget is based, we must have the courage of our convictions to come along here and submit those principles. Otherwise we should have mentioned them to the officials on the standing committee. If the policy applied by the hon the Minister and his team is unacceptable to us because certain tariff increases have been applied, we should have shown the courage to say how our policy would have reduced those increases. That was what I wanted to hear from the hon member for Hillbrow. For that reason I want to say here this afternoon that the standing committee system is to my mind a truly contributory factor which augurs well for the future in debates of this nature.
In each particular standing committee members of Parliament of all three Houses have the opportunity, as does the hon the Minister himself, to consider a budget very carefully and, while the officials, the top technicians and financial experts are present there, to deliberate and discuss matters with them in order to ascertain why certain amendments have been effected in the application of the policy. On that standing committee hon members of opposition parties can also make known the shortcomings in the policy being applied in order to arrive at the particular budget figures. They can even sketch the advantages of their policy—as they see it—to the officials. They are given every opportunity there to reach consensus with the officials and with the Government. Each one’s policy can be considered on that committee. Everyone participating in the proceedings there, every political party in this Parliament, can put its policy there and it will be considered.
Therefore, when hon members neglect to do these things on a standing committee, they should not come along here and express their dissatisfaction in regard to legislation which the hon the Minister has ultimately introduced into this House. That is also precisely what happened in the standing committee involved. Everyone who wanted to move amendments or who had an alternative to offer was given ample opportunity to test it there. We on this side of the House heard no proposals of this nature whatsoever on the standing committee.
It may of course now be argued that there are individual members who did not serve on the standing committee and who can therefore advance detailed arguments here this afternoon. However, it remains my contention that the political parties participating in the discussions on the standing committee could have explained there where they stood in principle.
Mr Chairman, will the hon member for Boksburg tell this House whether at any stage during the deliberations of the Standing Committee on the Accounts of Posts and Telecommunications the question of principle is discussed?
Mr Chairman, the hon member wants to know whether the principle is discussed there. I put it to the hon member that at no stage was he told that he could not argue points of principle. He was at liberty throughout to make other proposals there, proposals which in his opinion would lead to a better budget.
If then hon members of opposition parties wish to achieve and promote consensus, as they are always piously telling us, they have certainly not succeeded in that regard in this particular case. Now they simply come back to this House and continue to be destructive without making any constructive suggestion at all in regard to how a business undertaking of the nature of the Post Office can be further extended and expanded in the future.
We on this side of the House agree with the hon the Minister when he says that the Post Office with its multitudinous ramifications is a wonderful asset to the country. As was also said by the hon member for Umlazi, the Post Office consists of two main components—a telecommunications service and a postal service. In fact, I believe that just as the department itself has done we must consider these two components separately in order to ascertain what principles are involved and whether we agree with those principles, and also whether we agree with what has been done. We on this side of the House are in agreement with the hon the Minister that the entire system of telecommunications must be further extended so that it can serve everyone in Southern Africa. It is such a pity that one then has to hear arguments of the nature of those that we heard again today from the ranks of the Conservative Party. They complain about integration. Where is that so-called integration in the Post Office?
Here in Parliament!
In that standing committee that you were just talking about! [Interjections.]
Now there is integration in the standing committee, Mr Chairman. That threatens the poor hon member for Kuruman terribly. One really wonders why he feels so threatened. [Interjections.] Particularly the hon member for Kuruman …
Is it integration or not?
Of course it is not! [Interjections.]
Is a multiracial standing committee not integration? [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, we concede further that this component has to be extended at so swift a pace that we will be able to derive maximum benefit from it when the economic upswing occurs. [Interjections.]
Order! The hon member for Jeppe and the hon member for Hercules would do well to consider continuing their argument outside this House. The hon member for Boksburg may proceed.
In these lean years we must plough back as much capital as possible into the infrastructure because in the long run this will also be a cheaper way out for us. We are satisfied with the rate at which the infrastructure is being brought into being and extended. The fact that the department has based its capital expenditure this year on the demand for the next two years instead of the next five years is acceptable policy to us.
We dare not continue obstinately in times of crisis to strive for the same goals which we strove for in more favourable financial years. We agree that in these times it is sound policy rather to phase out manual exchanges over a longer period.
It is also important for us to revert to the guidelines laid down by the Franzsen Commission. As early as in 1972 this commission stated that we should aim at a ratio of 50:50 in respect of all generated capital as against loan capital. We must also take into consideration that since the time that commission made its investigation—in this respect I agree with the hon member for Hillbrow— this country has further developed and expanded. We have experienced a further 12 years of growth and development. That is why one should perhaps now look rather at a ratio of 60:40. If opposition parties are not in agreement they must tell us so this afternoon. However, then they must also tell us how they will apply the tariffs. The hon member for Nigel made certain statements here. He said that one could only succeed by incurring more loans. Then, however, our future generations will find themselves in debt. Is that what the CP wants? It does not seem to me as though they are going to reply in this regard. The hon members for Waterberg and Nigel will not tell their followers that a lower tariff will mean greater debt. Here in Parliament and on the standing committees where they are behind closed doors, they silently concede that this is so, they do not discuss it or murmur about it, but behind the mountains in the Bosveld they tell a different story.
Yes, among the White people there.
Up in Kuruman and behind the Soutpansberg they tell our people that we are providing the people in Soweto with automatic telephones.
What about all the things that Fanie Botha told them? [Interjections.]
Behind the mountains these hon members continue to tell their stories in respect of the telephones which the Black people are apparently receiving but which White people are not receiving. Up in their constituencies they are silent about the fact that a rural telephone can cost anything from R3 800 to R10 000 to install. As against this, the installation of an urban telephone costs about R1 500. However, both of these telephones generate the same revenue for this department. The sooner therefore one can recover that revenue in order to redeem the capital expenditure, the better for the whole system and the better for the platteland as well. Nevertheless we are grateful that in spite of these differences of opinion the hon the Minister will continue expanding the rural telephone system at the planned rate. We are prepared to wait longer for automatic exchanges but we want to tell the hon the Minister that he must continue with the expansion of the network in the rural areas. The farmers need this in order to place agriculture on a sound footing once again.
The opposition parties also made a great fuss about the tariff increases. I should like to examine one of those increases now. The telephone subscriber need not be so concerned about the tariff increases because if he uses his telephone judiciously, he is going to discover that during certain periods he is even going to pay less for telephone calls than is the case at present. I have taken out some figures and I find that the tariff for a call over a distance of 800 km between 07h00 and 21h00 will rise by 17 cents, but that from 21h00 to 07h00 the following morning the tariff is in actual fact 18 cents lower. Therefore, ways and means have been built into this Budget to save money if calls are made judiciously. One has merely to study the matter. We are also grateful to the hon the Minister and his team in this regard.
In regard to the postal service for which the department has once again budgeted for a large deficit, we also want to tell the hon the Minister that we have no fault to find with the policy that is being followed. To send a letter from Cape Town to Kuruman, Nigel or Messina is still, as the hon the Minister of Transport Affairs has said, a bargain, because the envelope plus the paper on which the letter has been written costs more than the stamp does. That is why we say that the consumer is paying more to write down his message than he is paying to have it delivered, and one cannot find fault with this.
In order to best serve the country with its many facets technology has also to be harnessed so as to save costs. The Department of Communications deals with information, and it does so very much more cheaply than we have ever been able to do so before. Our revenue per worker is R28 068, and this compares very favourably with the revenue per worker in the mining industry and in commerce and industry. It shows that we are not wanting to make money out of the consumer.
The hon member for Umlazi referred to the report of the NPI which stated that this Administration was one of the most productive divisions in the State machine.
The most productive.
The most productive, and I am grateful to the hon the Minister for putting me right.
One has therefore to highlight these matters and put them positively to the public when one discusses the question of tariff increases.
I say that we must use the new system to the fullest extent. We must cross-examine management on the standing committee and, if we either agree or disagree with them, we must say so when we come back to this House. If they have not erred we must also say so here.
We on this side of the House made our proposals and expressed our criticism on the standing committee, and we shall continue to bring our proposals and points of view to the attention of the hon the Minister. In regard to this Budget, however, we say that it is a pity that we have now to decelerate while we have certain hills to climb at the moment. Nevertheless, we want to tell the staff of the Department of Posts and Telecommunications: Carry on, keep your shoulders to the wheel; South Africa needs this strong telecommunications network.
Hartbeesthoek’s tracking screens which are directed at the skies, form part of this Budget, and certain improvements are going to be effected there. The tracking stations symbolize the goal of management, and the English expression “the sky is the limit” emphasizes this. If the Administration continues to pursue its aims in this way, we on this side of the House will always support it. I have pleasure in supporting the Second Reading.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Boksburg made a very interesting speech here this afternoon. He touched on many aspects of Post Office administration, and I think particularly his references to the Franzsen Committee are worth noting. I think that is something about which we must all think very seriously, but I do not for one moment believe that in the current economic climate we can hope to achieve the goals set by Dr Franzsen. Nevertheless, it is something at which we must look in the future.
When the hon the Minister first introduced this Budget, I described it as being a bad-news Budget for the simple reason that I do not believe that any budget which introduces any sort of tariff increases can ever be considered to be a good-news budget. I now think it is better to call it the “budget of the curate’s egg” because on examination I find that it is, like the curate’s egg, good in parts.
I believe there are three issues which emerge very clearly. Firstly, I think that we have to accept that the past year has seen a favourable result which is quite contrary to that which was anticipated. I do not think that when the hon the Minister set his figures last year he imagined in his wildest dreams that he could achieve the result that he did. The second point that we have to consider is that we are nonetheless once again faced with tariff increases. Thirdly, and I think most important of all, we must ask ourselves what the consequences of the actions of the hon the Minister are going to be.
Looking at the first issue, I want to say that the hon the Minister, the Post Office management, the top of the team, the middle management and the staff right down to the sweeper or the tea-maker, ought to be congratulated on an outstanding effort last year because—this is a fact which we have to face—a budgeted deficit was turned into a small surplus. This proves two things. It proves firstly that the Post Office has the ability, because it has demonstrated it, to rise to the challenge in times of need. Secondly, and I believe more importantly still, it proves that the need for greater productivity has been clearly recognized, that areas of concern have been identified and that general productivity levels have been improved. This to me is of cardinal importance. I urge that this trend continue to be followed through the economic peaks and troughs in the years ahead.
The second issue, that of the tariff increase, gives cause for concern in the sense that we on these benches question the wisdom of a 25% increase in charges in respect of the one service that produces the golden egg in the Budget each and every year. I am of course referring to the telephone service. I said in a statement issued on Budget Day that I welcome the fact that postage rates on standard items had been increased by a minimum amount, that is to say 1c on standard letters. I believe this is an area where the lower income group is going to feel increases the most.
I know it is said that hindsight is an exact science, but I truly regret that the hon the Minister saw fit to have tariff increases across the board over an average of 10%. I believe that had he through possibly reducing that increase in telephone charges, kept the average at or below 10%, we would have had extreme difficulty in opposing an increase at that level. However, because the increase is greater than that and has been brought about by this one particularly severe increase, I move as a further amendment:
The third and most important issue of all is, as I said earlier, an examination of the consequences. I want to say at the outset that I do not believe that the private subscriber or commerce and industry is going to do anything less than take immediate steps to curtail the use of the telephone. I am sure the hon the Minister has done that in his own home. I have not given my wife the bad news yet, but it is coming. This is going to be the immediate step that will follow—the homeowner and commerce and industry are going to curtail the use of this very necessary instrument.
An increase of 10% or even 12,5% in unit tariff charges may possibly have been met with a resigned shrug of the shoulders and an attitude of “well, let us accept it and try a little harder”. However, I submit that an increase of 25% is going to be met by determined resistance from all spheres of telephone users.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the hon the Minister achieves the results in respect of the income for which he is budgeting in this particular area. It must be remembered that unduly sharp increases in the cost of any commodity or any service will result in a fall-off of usage which will have a negative effect.
If an increase of any description whatsoever is unavoidable, the object of the exercise should always be to keep that increase at a level that will not affect usage or consumption of the commodity, thus improving both turnover and profitability. I believe that had this increase been kept at 10% or 12,5%, there would not have been such an appreciable drop as is going to be noted as a result of the 25% increase.
I would now like to look at postal services which present an entirely different picture. This has always been a very difficult aspect in that a good postal service is vital because of the high percentage of lesser privileged people in our community. I make no bones about the fact that I am talking about the Black population. It is incumbent upon us to maintain an efficient postal service at minimum cost and to subsidize it from the more profitable operations. I sincerely hope that the Post Office will continue with this policy, but I think that all of us in this House should know and appreciate that we do have in South Africa one of the cheapest postal services in the world. This is something we have to take into account when we think of the vast distances that have to be covered in order to deliver mail.
This brings me to that oft criticized matter of junk mail. It is resented by many, and I hear one of my colleagues muttering behind me, but I think that here too we must accept that junk mail is responsible for the sort of volumes we need in order to maintain the sophisticated sorting systems that have been installed in various centres so as to expedite delivery. We are in a bit of a Catch 22 situation here.
Having said that, I want to turn to one of the other services where I believe we have to act fairly speedily, namely the telegram or the Gentex service. This service has become completely uneconomical, and I suggest that, if it is to be maintained at all, the hon the Minister should ensure that it is done on the basis of self-sufficiency. That is going to mean tremendous increases in the cost of a telegram, and I appreciate that, but we must also accept that there are many other lines of communication available to us. I do not think that we can honestly afford to continue to subsidize an uneconomical and relatively little used service when one takes it in relation to all other postal services.
I am pleased to see that during the year under review it was decided to run Beltel in conjunction with the Cept system. I think the time has come for us to create a public awareness of this facility of the Beltel and Cept systems. This could be done cheaply through advertising leaflets which can be distributed with telephone accounts. I am confident that if more people become aware of the value of Beltel, they will avail themselves of it. Subsequent to that, it could become a valuable source of income, as well as meet the need for readily available information at a moderate cost. Beltel as an information provider is an exciting concept, but the problem with it is that we have not succeeded in getting the message through to the man in the street.
In closing, I want to assure the hon the Minister that I have a deep appreciation of the fact that we must never allow the provision of vital communication services to lag behind, as has happened in the past. I know that he has to perform a balancing act in order to avoid this. Communications and the availability thereof are vital to development, and development can be severely curtailed if the infrastructure is not available when it is needed. The errors of the past must not be repeated at any cost, and it is for this reason that I have not been overly critical of tariff adjustments other than the 25% increase in telephone unit charges and rentals. I sincerely believe that the hon the Minister could have achieved his balancing act without such a sharp increase in that particularly sensitive area. This party will support every effort that he has made to keep pace with and ahead of the game so that future developments will never be curtailed due to lack of services by the Department of Posts and Telecommunications.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to an old friend, the Postmaster-General, Mr Henry Bester. I have become a bit of a seasoned campaigner, because I am seeing the third Postmaster-General installed since I came to this place. Personally and on behalf of this party, I want to thank Mr Bester for his courtesy at all times and for a job well done. I know that when he had to fill Mr Louis Rive’s shoes, everybody wondered how on earth he would do it. He did it and he has acquitted himself nobly in the job. We on these benches wish him well and wish Mrs Bester every happiness with him.
To Mr Ridgard we can say no more than: Welcome! Good luck with your appointment. We trust and know that you will do well, because we have got to know you over the years; but, like your predecessor, you have a pair of shoes to fill and we are all going to be watching with great interest to see how you do it.
Also, our congratulations to other senior members who have been appointed to the position of Deputy Postmaster-General in the department. We wish them well, particularly in the coming year which is going to be a challenging one.
I should like to congratulate the hon member for Umhlanga on a good speech. The criticism he furnished was, in my opinion, balanced criticism and I trust the hon the Minister will take note of it. I believe the hon member had soundly based arguments regarding the aspects he was criticizing, because he advanced reasons for his arguments and provided solutions as well. I should also like to associate myself with his remarks on the Franzsen Commission and on certain cross-financing in the Post Office. I also want to join in his good wishes to the personnel and to the present Postmaster General, Mr Bester, in particular, and his best wishes to the Postmaster General-designate, Mr Ridgard. I shall refer to that again presently.
I do not believe that anyone in this House is in favour of any tariff increases. I believe that before a tariff increase is announced, it should really be put under a magnifying glass. The people involved in this are asking one another whether it is necessary. Tariff increases are not imposed or implemented simply because it is fashionable. But if, however, there have to be tariff increases, we should ask ourselves whether it is unavoidable, and if so, what the money is going to be used for. In regard to these two questions we have to ask ourselves today, I believe that the hon the Minister has already provided the answers by the introduction of the Post Office Appropriation Bill. He said:
The Post Office, the entire department, is involved in a process of development. We have to keep pace with modern technology. The hon the Minister continued by saying:
Provision is already being made for the future.
Today the Official Opposition came along with an amendment containing a number of points. The hon member for Hillbrow complained about the tariff increases. He also complained that we could at least have given the public and organized commerce advance notice. These people, however, are already aware that tariff increases cannot be ruled out.
That does not mean anything.
The hon member says that means nothing. But in every debate and budget speech over the past few years there were warnings, substantiated warnings, on tariff increases. The reasons for these increases were also given. Let me just refer the hon member to what the Postmaster General said in his annual report that was Tabled. Just for the benefit of the hon member for Hillbrow, I want to quote:
A warning was issued, not only in this annual report, but also in the annual report of last year and the year before that.
I can go on to refer to a fine publication, Posts and Telecommunications. I think the hon members of Hillbrow and Nigel do read this publication. An article titled “Finding the Money” appears in the July 1984 issue. At this point I also want to link up with the hon member for Umhlanga. I agree with what he was saying about the Franzsen Commission. I politely request the hon the Minister to make an intensive examination of cross-financing.
Is an economic section of the Post Office still in a position to carry an uneconomic section? The hon member for Hillbrow said “Hear, hear!” I do too. However, I hope he realizes the implications of his “Hear, hear!” Tariff adjustments will have to examined in depth in the future. I request the hon the Minister to look into this matter. An uneconomical section of the department cannot be financed by an economical section. Here we are in a somewhat dangerous spot. I realize there is inflation and I am aware of the present financial circumstances of the country. None the less, we must now even now lay the foundations for a thorough examination into relationships when the economic situation in our country justifies it.
I want to return to the article under the heading of “Finding the Money”. I quote from it:
This is part of the argument of the hon member for Umhlanga too.
Criticism is always levelled at the Post Office and its personnel, but as I see it we have an exceptionally loyal corps of workers in the Post Office. The State President made certain announcements this week and I thought fit to go and speak to certain individuals—not organized associations—in the Post Office. Their message to the hon the Minister was: Go ahead, we are prepared to make sacrifices for our country. We consider our fellow-man. [Interjections.] We are prepared to make sacrifices so that our fellow-man, who works with us, may still be employed, earn money and not lose his job. With such a positive spirit I believe we are on the right track as far as this matter is concerned.
We cannot speak only of a reduction in, or the relinquishing of, a certain percentage of our return. This personnel has already shown that it is careful in its use of the equipment of the Department. I am specifically referring to the motor vehicles of the Post Office. Let us look at certain statistics. The number of vehicles with which the Post Office fleet has been increased over the past three years is as follows: 1981-82, 399; 1982-83, 1 028; and in 1983-84, 1 012. What is important, however, is that these fitures represent growth after the obsolete vehicles have been written off. What is also important is the average milage recorded on withdrawal. The distance depends on the kind of vehicle involved, for example a motor cycle, a motorcar, a panel van, a truck, a bakkie, etc. In the case of motorcycles for example, the distance is 45 000 kilometres. In the case of heavy trucks it is as much as 200 000 kilometres. An average recorded mileage of 90 000 kilometres is achieved.
The fuel saving measures, and the results achieved by those measures, include the following. Firstly the most economical vehicle in regard to each work phase are purchased; secondly only diesel-powered trucks are purchased as they are more economical than petrol-driven machines; thirdly, a country-wide fuel saving competition was introduced with effect from January 1984, and it is going well; fourthly, an improvement of approximately 3,5% in fuel consumption has already been achieved in the present financial year. This represents a saving of R720 000 in comparison with the corresponding period of the previous financial year. Fifthly, attention is being given to further measures to enable us to improve on the present fuel-saving results.
The personnel in this Department are proud of being a part in these measures, of putting them into practice, and so I can say that the personnel on the outside are a particularly loyal corps of people. And so, when the time comes, they must be looked after, because they deserve it.
With those words I should also like to wish a very good friend, Mr Henry Bester, everything of the best. He was indeed a Postmaster General of stature. Knowing Mr Ridgard as I do, I am certain that he will be able to take firm hold of the reins. He is going to follow in Mr Bester’s footsteps by developing the Post Office and the Department to even greater heights.
Mr Chairman, the hon member for Overvaal was quite right when he said that nobody is in favour of tariff increases. He was also quite right when he said that the department is a developing department which must prepare for the upward swing in the economy. However, he tried to justify the tariff increases and, at the same time, support the hon member for Hillbrow by saying that his suggestion as regards the Franzsen Commission should be considered. For that I thank him.
However, I should like to deal with a minor error made by the hon member for Boksburg, who does not appear even to understand the rules of a standing committee. There are two types … I wish the hon member for Boksburg would pay attention. As I was saying, the hon member for Boksburg does not understand the rules which apply in respect of standing committees.
Consensus should be sought when an ordinary Bill comes before a standing committee. First of all, there is the informal consideration of the Bill. This is the stage at which one goes through the Bill. Afterwards a motion is passed to the effect that the legislation is desirable or undesirable. Then the members consider and vote on the particular Bill.
In the case of a money Bill, however, it is a completely different state of affairs. In the first instance, immediately after the Second Reading, Mr Speaker refers the Appropriation Bill concerned, the budget speech and the papers laid upon the Table by the Minister to the appropriate standing committee. The period for the deliberations on the appropriation bill and the papers referred to, shall be limited, in the case of the Standing Committee on Posts and Telecommunications, to a maximum of two consecutive days. The standing committee, if it wishes, can do two things. It can submit a report, but Rule 41(4) provides that—
In our standing committee no report was issued, and the purpose of a standing committee on any money matter is to ask questions and not to make Second Reading speeches or discuss policy. The purpose is to get information from the officials in regard to what has happened in order to make the debate in the House easier. The purpose is not to get consensus. When an ordinary bill is discussed, one tries to reach consensus. In this instance it is not necessary to reach consensus because one can move amendments and voice one’s opposition to a bill. I just want to make it absolutely clear that the hon member’s criticism of the hon member for Hillbrow in the standing committee on the money affairs of this particular Bill was quite unwarranted and showed a lack of knowledge.
Mr Chairman, may I put a question?
No, Mr Chairman, I do not have much time at my disposal.
I should like to deal with one facet of the Department of Posts and Telecommunications that really presents a great problem, and that is the postal services. Unfortunately, by the time we get the annual report, it is over a year old, and it is rather difficult to try to work out what is actually happening. The Commission for Administration’s report comes out on 31 December of the previous year, so that by the time the Vote is discussed in this House, we are able to have the information almost up to date. We realize that there is a problem as far as the date of the Budget is concerned. I am merely complaining about the problems with which members are confronted.
In my opinion the South African postal services have really become the scavenger of the delivery of written communication, and this is most unfortunate. It is true that we have priority and express delivery services for letters, and this has increased considerably in volume. In the case of express delivery, for instance, one posts a letter at the post office, it arrives at the post office at the other end and is then delivered by hand to the addressee. In this case one now pays R1,22 for a letter as against R1,72. In the case of priority mail, one actually goes to the post office and hands in the letter and then it is delivered to the other post office.
I believe this shows that the Post Office is lagging behind. I have in front of me a packet belonging to DHL Couriers. One has to pay a fair amount of money for this service, but I can put a letter or document in this packet; it will be called for at my home and it will be delivered the following day to, for instance, somebody in Cape Town. I must admit, however, that this service will cost approximately R9,00. If I am a businessman and require things to be delivered quickly, I can make use of this service.
However, the Post Office is not competing with these people at all. Therefore, when I went to the USA last year, I thought I should do some investigation into the way in which the post office in the USA operates. I should like to send this with my compliments to the Postmaster-General and to the hon the Minister who is not paying the slightest attention to what I am saying because he is more interested in the Whip than in the debate.
I have in my hand a letter that was addressed to me while I was in Los Angeles. I required a very important legal document that I had to sign the next day. It was posted at four o’clock in the afternoon and at nine o’clock the next morning, 4 000 miles away, there was a knock at the door of the house where I was staying and this particular letter was delivered to me. Since I had to send it back, I went straight down to the post office and got myself an envelope with the words “Express Mail Next Day Service” on it. This is quite a remarkable service. One can send a 2 lb pack anywhere in the United States and guarantee delivery the next day if one posts it before five o’clock, at a cost of $9,25. Just look at these figures. Last year, the first year, 100 000 of these packages were handled per day in the United States and there is no reason why a country like South Africa cannot handle 10 000 per day. The 2 lb package is quite a remarkable thing. On the back of the envelope it says:
They say they send 90 000 overnight. It is easy to use and no trouble at all. You can send “express mail service economy”. It is not only for parcels of 2 lbs, but the post office is prepared to carry parcels of up to 70 lbs. You pay extra for the postage but you still pay the flat fee of $9,25 for this particular parcel. In addition to that everything is insured. They give you insurance for loss or damage up to $500 and document reconstruction insurance of up to $50 000 per piece. They also ensure that if you take this to a post office before five o’clock in the evening in the town where you are, they will deliver it to the destination post office not later than ten o’clock the next morning and to the addressee at the latest by three o’clock the next afternoon. There is no reason why the South African Post Office cannot adopt this system.
I did a calculation that, if we handled 10 000 a day and charged R10 per parcel, it would give the Post Office an additional income of close to R30 million per annum. I am certain we shall find that, if such a service is provided and we have the benefit of branch offices all over South Africa as well as the staff who can deliver the parcel when it arrives, this is the service which the businessman and the legal people are waiting for the Post Office to introduce. However, they continue to be the scavengers with all the junk mail and such like which they carry around. It is true that they have to carry that around, but why go for the cheap end of the service? Go for the expensive end. Go for the thing which brings in the money and the Post Office will reduce its losses quite considerably.
Mr Chairman, I wonder how many Parliamentary sessions we shall be witnessing before the hon member for Bezuidenhout suggests we become one of the United States of America.
We are considering both the results of a business enterprise and its budget for the coming year. If one listened to the lamentations of Opposition parties in their review of the budget, one would not say this undertaking had budgeted for a deficit of R131 million for the current year which was converted into a surplus of R29,4 million, and that they were budgeting for a surplus of R68 million in the coming year. If one had listened to some of the Opposition speakers, one would have said this undertaking was bankrupt, not to use the terms of the hon the Minister of Transport Affairs.
Before I come to the hon member for Nigel, to whom I want to say a few words, I should like to extend a hearty word of thanks to the hon the Minister, the Postmaster-General and his department for the new post office in my constituency, Hercules. It meets a sorely felt need of many years standing. I can assure Hon members of the great joy as one brick was placed on another in the erection of that building.
The hon member for Nigel thought fit today to fling the greatest possible insult at the officials of this department. He could not have done worse. [Interjections.] To speak of the “Edict of Cape Town” and of the “bitter waters of Mara that have touched our lips”! Whose? Those of Post Office officials? [Interjections.] He speaks of “the extreme suffering of officials.” Which officials? In terms of the announcement and the appeal made by the State President, not a single official of this department has lost his job. Not a single official in this department has been refused food at the restaurant in the General Post Office building in Pretoria. Not a single official has been evicted from his house. [Interjections.] What has been asked of them? No man has been asked to sacrifice his salary—not a cent of it. [Interjections.] Of his service bonus, yes—of his thirteenth cheque, of that cheque for which he did not work. [Interjections.] One works for a salary. One receives a bonus to say thank you for service rendered; it is not payment for work done. Service bonuses are paid from the profits of business enterprises, not from the income State departments derive from taxes. It is a privilege; it is no right. It is not part of the service conditions of our officials. [Interjections.] Of course I say this, because it is so. It is a privilege. Have we not all, however, got into the habit of turning privileges into rights? [Interjections.]
Let us look at the position of the officials in the Post Office. If one looks at the Appropriation, one sees that R705 million has been appropriated for salaries and wages, R68 million for the payment of overtime, R59 million for service bonuses, R7 million for leave gratuities, R52 million for housing subsidies, R3 million for territorial allowances; and other payments, including mainly last year’s 12% increase, will amount to R86 million. The only portion to be affected by the announcement of the State President is an amount of R18,2 million from the service bonus figure of R59 million. The figure for salaries is not affected at all.
Neither are the pension benefits.
No. The Post Office, however, also has a social responsibility towards its officials. How does the Post Office meet its social responsibility towards its officials? It makes a contribution to their pension scheme. The amount it contributes in this respect is R185 million per year. In addition it contributes an amount of R37 million to the medical aid schemes. Besides that the Post Office contributes another R10 million for official housing for its officials and R30 million—for the umpteenth year now—to the housing scheme for Post Office officials. We have also spoken before about the restaurant facilities for Post Office officials. In addition the Post Office’s social responsibility towards its officials is such that it has even established a crèche for the small children of female officials. Then we are not even mentioning homes for the aged. No, the Post Office social does a proper job of meeting its social and financial obligation towards its officials.
The Post Office’s total expenditure on staff, in salaries, wages, gratifications and bonuses, amounts to R980 million. The amount contributed from this to the economy campaign for which the State President made an appeal, amounts to only 1,84% of the total remuneration package of employees of the Post Office. When the amount relevant to contributions to the medical aid schemes and the pension scheme is added to this, the contribution made by the officials in this connection is only 1,5% of the total remuneration package. This means that someone who earns R100 per month contributes only R1,50.
I believe this is indeed a dark day. It is the day on which the hon member for Nigel thought fit to deliver a tirade in this House about so-called unemployment…
About people who are ostensibly living under the breadline.
… about people who are ostensibly living under the breadline—he used that phrase repeatedly— about food shortages, about the bitter waters of Mara, about sorrow and suffering and who knows what else. [Interjections.] I want to put it to the hon member for Nigel that it was my privilege to get to know officials of the Post Office throughout the country. I can state categorically that no business enterprise or State Department in this country has a more loyal body of officials at its disposal than the Post Office. [Interjections.] They will not tolerate this insult the hon member for Nigel has flung in their teeth. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, since I came to this House for the first time in 1962, I have never seen, heard or experienced anything as shocking as I did today. [Interjections.] The hon member for Nigel referred here to a newspaper report about a certain Mr du Toit of Krugersdorp who, when he heard he had been retrenched as a result of the poor economic situation, hanged himself. When the hon member for Nigel said that, all the hon members of the National Party burst out laughing. [Interjections.] No, they cannot deny it, Mr Chairman. It will be recorded in Hansard. They burst out laughing about the cruel fate of that poor man!
You are talking absolute nonsense, man! [Interjections.]
Those hon members burst out laughing. [Interjections.] The poverty and misery of people in this country makes them roar with laughter! Everyone can die, and hon members of the National Party will keep on laughing about it.
You should be ashamed of yourself, Oom Jan!
No, that hon Minister should be ashamed of himself. [Interjections.] Mr Chairman, the public gallery was crammed with people who had to view that little scene. I could see how dismayed they were. [Interjections.]
Shame on you, Jan! Shame on you!
Shame on you!
No, I am not the one who should be ashamed; it is the hon member for Middelburg and his hon party associates who should be ashamed of themselves. [Interjections.] I am ashamed of them! I am ashamed of them! I am ashamed of the hon members of the National Party! [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, hon members of the Official Opposition sat motionless when hon members of the National Party were laughing such a lot. On behalf of the Conservative Party, however, I apologize to the family of Mr du Toit for the shocking behaviour of those hon members here today. [Interjections.] Yes, I apologize to them. I believe there are times when one can and should laugh. There are also times, however, when one should realize the gravity of life.
How scandalous of you! [Interjections.]
The hon the Minister is quite correct. It is scandalous that those hon members should act in such a way. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, on a point of order: May the hon the Minister of Agriculture and Water Supply, whilst walking across the floor of the House, tell a member who is making a speech that he is making a scandalous remark? [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, on a further point of order: The hon the Minister was speaking to himself. He was not speaking to that hon member at all. [Interjections.]
Order! I did not hear the remark made by the hon the Minister of Agriculture and Water Supply. The hon member for Sunnyside may proceed.
Mr Chairman, if that is true, I find it even more of a tragedy that an hon Minister can cross the floor of the House, walking and talking in his sleep. [Interjections.] I now come to the hon member for Hercules. Can one believe what the hon member said this afternoon about Post Office officials not deserving that thirteenth cheque because they did not work for it!
He did not say that.
His Hansard will prove it. He said that not a cent of their salaries was being taken away. Their thirteenth cheque was merely being diminished and they had not worked for it in any case. [Interjections.]
You must come along and let me syringe your ears, man.
Sir, this hon member for Rustenburg says I should have my ears injected. I shall obtain that Hansard to confirm it. After all, it is the hon member for Rustenburg who goes around threatening the staff and trying to find out from teachers whether they belong to the CP. [Interjections.] The hon member should rather have himself injected. [Interjections.]
Then he has the audacity to threaten them too!
Yes. I am saying now, however, that we in the CP acknowledge that every cent that these officials of the Post Office receive—including the thirteenth cheque—they have earned. They have worked for it and it is part of their remuneration package. How can the hon member for Hercules now say that they have not earned it? I do not care, whether that hon member earns his salary or not, but he must not tell the Post Office workers that they do not earn their money.
I want to associate myself with the people who have paid tribute to the Post Office officials. I have known Mr Bester, the Postmaster-General, for many years now and I thank him for his politeness at all times. He has been polite to all of us— no matter what side of the House we were on. He and his staff have always received us with courtesy and given us the necessary information. I want to wish Mr Ridgard good luck and prosperity, because he too has a difficult task. In fact, his task will become very much more onerous with this coalition Government we have now. [Interjections.]
The hon member for Nigel referred to the difficult conditions we are experiencing at the moment. Without this coalition Government, the hon the Minister would again be able to show a gigantic surplus this year. [Interjections.]
Stop being an embarrassment to your party.
The economy is deteriorating to such an extent as a result of the new dispensation and this coalition Government. [Interjections.] The hon the Minister of Communications and of Public Works is a member of a coalition Government. Does he then not know that? Apparently he does not. As a result of this coalition Government, of which the hon the Minister is a member, there is no confidence in this country and the economy is deteriorating.
We have no confidence in you, man.
When that hon Minister was still the Minister of Health and Welfare, he wanted the old people to live on R20 per month. Now it seems he wants the Post Office officials to make ends meet on R20 per month as well.
I still have the letter you wrote me. Do not forget that. [Interjections.]
Yes, I should like to have it. I call this House to witness—I want that letter back from the hon the Minister.
What do you want to do with it?
I want it, because I want to table it. [Interjections.]
You should rather table yourself!
We shall, however, pay tribute to the Post Office, because despite the Government and the political head of that department, the Post Office has fared magnificently during the past year. It is not their fault that an increase of 14,8% has been introduced in the tariffs. The economy has deteriorated and they have done their best. As a result of the fact that these officials have given good service and have reacted positively, they are now being punished by having 3% of their salaries taken away.
Their salaries are not affected.
That bonus is part of their salary. [Interjections.] I think it is necessary that we tell the hon the Minister that that thirteenth cheque is part of their salaries. If it is not remuneration, why does the hon the Minister not simply leave it and not take it away from them? Was a plea lodged beforehand in the Cabinet by the hon the Minister when the State President said that those bonuses should be diminished? Did the hon the Minister make a plea and say that it should not be taken away?
Make your own speech.
I am making my own speech, but the hon the Minister is ashamed to admit here in the House that he was too scared of the State President to lodge a plea for the officials.
I am not scared of you. I am not scared of anyone, and you can take that from me.
But did the hon the Minister lodge a plea? The hon the Minister does not want to tell me whether he lodged a plea for the officials.
I shall tell you on Monday whether I am afraid of you.
I know the hon the Minister is not scared of me, but he was too scared of the State President to lodge a plea, on behalf of the officials, not to have their salaries diminished.
Order! I do not believe that there are scared hon members in the House. The hon member must withdraw those remarks about hon members being scared.
Sir, I withdraw those words and in their place say “terribly nervous”.
Concerning this question, I want to tell the hon the Minister that over the years the officials have worked longer hours. There are no other departments that have done what the officials of the Post Office have done by working longer hours off their own bat. I say it is a sad day to think that those officials must now take cognizance of the fact that they are actually being punished by now having money taken away from them even though they worked harder and were more productive. This kind of thing is no encouragement. It is no incentive for anyone to work harder.
I said there were a few matters I wanted to bring to the attention of the hon the Minister, but before I come to them, I want to refer to the hon member for Boksburg. Had I told the people in rural areas that it would cost anything between R6 000 and R10 000 per telephone terminal on a rural line, would I have been talking nonsense? Is it untrue?
I say it is between R3 800 and R10 000.
I think I must repeat my question. If I were to say in public that it would cost up to R10 000, would that be untrue?
But it is in my Budget speech.
The hon member for Boksburg does not want to reply …
It is in the speech of the hon the Minister.
Oh, it is in the speech of the hon the Minister, but that is not what the hon member said. The hon member said we had told a pack of lies. I shall obtain the hon member’s Hansard and come back to him. What the hon the Minister said in his Budget speech is correct and I find no fault with it, but the hon member is trying to steal a march on someone and consequently makes statements like these. We cannot let him get away with it. He may criticize us, but then he must tell the truth.
There are a few other things that I want to tell the hon the Minister. What we allegedly said has been quoted, but in his Budget speech the hon the Minister said, amongst other things:
I am very pleased that the hon the Minister told us that. R80 million is an enormous amount and a lot is being done with it, but how many millions of rands are not being wasted as a result of this new dispensation?
Not by the Post Office.
No, by the Government.
But we are talking about the Post Office now.
I realize that, but I am referring to it to indicate, to the hon the Minister’s credit, that whereas the Government is wasting so many thousands of millions, the hon the Minister is doing a very good job. I want to support the hon the Minister in this connection. He must try to check the Government’s wastefulness. I am thinking, for example, of the amount of R11 million in respect of the Union Buildings. There is also R35 million for other matters.
But the Union Buildings have nothing to do with the new dispensation.
Then it is an even bigger scandal.
I want to tell the hon the Minister that in spite of everything, in spite of him, we in the CP appreciate the good service rendered by the Post Office officials. They have worked hard. I find it sad that there are some of these people who have been productive over the years—they have gone out of their way—who are having their salaries are being taken away. Those people have served South Africa well. I am not saying this to hide mistakes; indeed, I shall be the first to criticize mistakes. I shall join them in criticizing the hon the Minister. On behalf of the CP I want to tell the hon the Minister that we are paying tribute to the Post Office officials who have given good service over the years and have seen to it that this budget is the good budget that it is. If they had not worked so well, this hon the Minister would have stood before the House today with a dismal budget indeed. The hon the Minister will acknowledge this too.
I am proud of my officials.
The CP also wants to pay tribute to them today, and we convey this to the hon the Minister. We know the officials and we appreciate the service they render. We shall discuss other matters with the hon the Minister at a later stage.
Mr Chairman, I should like to react to the hon member. There is a certain fact I just wish to set straight. I am not one who laughs if a person has committed suicide. I do not think it is in the nature of any of the hon members on this side of the House to laugh about that. I think the hon member has made an unreasonable statement here. If the hon members consult Hansard they will see that the hon member’s choice of words was very poor, and it was because of that that the people laughed. It was not about killing or hanging anybody. I want to place it on record that we did not laugh about that. I am the last person who would laugh about that. I do not want our debating to be conducted along these lines.
With the holy ayatollah.
Who is the holy ayatollah?
You are the unholy ayatollah. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, on a point of order: Is the hon nominated member Dr Vilonel permitted to say I am an unholy ayatollah?
Order! The hon member must at least withdraw the word “unholy”.
Mr Chairman, I withdraw it, but I am an indirectly elected member, not a nominated member.
Order! The hon member must withdraw the whole phrase “unholy ayatollah”.
Sir, I withdraw it.
I should like to make a more positive contribution to the debate and not run people down. In the first place I want to say, because it has not yet been said, that thanks to a good Minister, a sound and purposeful policy, motivated staff, positive leadership and outstanding management ability, the Post Office has not only kept pace with the developments necessitated by the demands of modern technology it has in fact become a pacesetter. I want to refer briefly to some examples of this: The modern electronic exchanges; Telebank, which is already in use at 167 post offices; Beltel, the connection with banks, business enterprises, and so on; the Teletex service, an office machine that can transmit communication directly by means of letters or documents; Saponet, the electric switching network; and the sophisticated letter-sorting machines. I noticed there were inter alia the following: The optical character-reader, a machine that can almost read an address in the sorting process; the earth-satellite linkage system, Intelsat 5; and the Atlantic sea cable with by means of which one can dial 420 million automatic exchanges in approximately 50 countries. Then there is the use and future manufacture of optical fibre cables, which can carry approximately 2 000 calls simultaneously. The Disa telephone service has also been introduced and anyone who does not yet have a telephone like this should try to get one, because it is something special. This telephone was awarded the Shell Research Institute award for the best South African product design for the past 15 years. As a result of all these developments, the Post Office would be justified in having a new motto for their letter franking machines—it would be of value for those of us who collect stamps—viz: “Discover a new South Africa in the Post Office.”
They should put “Vote CP” on the stamps.
I mention some of these facets to indicate what the Post Office is doing at the moment.
On which side should one lick the stamp?
You can lick it the way one licks an Ohopoho. [Interjections.] If the hon member does not know what that means, he will not find it in the dictionary either. A description for it is still being sought, and it will probably not be flattering. If you are going to ask me to withdraw this, Mr Chairman, I shall do so in anticipation.
I have referred to some of the services provided by the Post Office. If a lack of funds should be an obstacle in this process of giving service and in further development, it will be a sad day for South Africa. Merely marking time by maintaining only what already exists is not good enough, because it means in fact that a backlog will be built up which or without high costs. Rate increases are not always popular, but now that I have examined the Budget for the Post Office I want to say that even with this Budget the funds will have to be spread very thinly in order to be able to fulfil demands and needs.
This Budget is the last one from Mr Henry Bester, who is retiring, and we want to thank him for all his years of good service. I want to join previous speakers in saying that he has really set a wonderful example of loyalty to the staff of the Post Office. We wish him and his spouse all the best for the years that lie ahead.
I should also like to welcome Mr Ridgard, the Postmaster General-designate. He was up till now the Deputy Postmaster General: Personnel and Postal Services, and I should like to say a few words about that. Although the Post Office does everything in its power to get approximately 2 billion postal articles to reach their destination safely and as quickly as possible every year, certain problems do crop up …
Are you prepared to accept an Indian as Postmaster in the Free State?
I do not think that is a very intelligent question. [Interjections.] The CP is so hidebound in its negativism that it sees a Black spectre behind every post box. They really must become more positive. We are dealing here with an important matter and with people who do great work for South Africa.
Approximately five million of the two billion postal articles that have to be delivered—in other words, one out of every four hundred—do not reach their destination. This will mean that a staff of about 30 people will have to open approximately 16 000 letters every day to find out who the sender is. I therefore want to ask the hon the Minister, although I know it is difficult, whether the time has not come to make the sender of such letters, too, pay extra for addressing letters incompletely. It is a large expenditure for the Post Office—and it is after all one of the departments showing a loss.
Once in a lifetime it happens that the fact that a letter has not been delivered is to the sender’s advantage, as in this case: A registered letter containing cheques to the value of R4 800 did not reach its destination. When the sender was notified that all attempts to trace the letter concerned had failed, he sent a bunch of flowers to the postmaster in gratitude. Incidentally, the letter concerned was addressed as follows: Tekaibos Kwekery, 119 Loop Street, Cape Town. [Interjections.] This letter appeared in Postel, the monthly paper of the Post Office, about which I want to say a few more words.
With reference to this publication of the Post Office, I should like to congratulate the editorial staff of Postel on one of the most superb publications any department could dream of having. It not only provides interesting information about people and events, it also has a wealth of articles about historical and cultural matters. [Interjections.] It also provides an in-depth insight into what the Post Office offers its staff of 92 000. In addition it provides interesting information regarding training, career guidance, bursaries available for degree and diploma courses, housing schemes, general working conditions, sport and sporting achievements.
As far as the latter is concerned, I should like to congratulate the Post Office on the growing list of people who wear the green and gold; men and women who distinguish themselves in such a way that they have been able to represent South Africa at the highest level. In the past these sportsmen and women had to bear the cost of participating in sport themselves, even internationally and abroad. Their colleagues sometimes contributed financially. We therefore want to thank the hon the Minister cordially for the R5 000 he has granted for this purpose, from this year onwards. We wish to thank him for this.
Postel also covers a wide range of the excellent services offered by the ATKB, which in my opinion performs a very big task. The CP may possibly be interested, since the ATKB is compiling a book of stories of all kinds, namely ghost stories and other stories that do not necessarily have to be true. Hon members can make much use of this opportunity. [Interjections.] It ought to be an interesting book, especially since it is not necessary for the author to reveal his name or source. [Interjections.]
With reference to other services offered, in 1984 Post Office officials gave an amount of R76 000 to registered charitable and welfare organizations. The officials themselves collected this amount out of their own pockets. The previous year R125 000 was contributed to the disaster emergency loan fund by Post Office officials. According to information I obtained from Postel, Post Office officials give help in a praiseworthy manner in the form of help to the sick and so on. I think these officials make an exceptional contribution to worthy causes.
The Post Office also has a nationwide Christian association with more than 5 000 members. They perform a particular task with regard to promoting mental preparedness by holding regular rallies and meetings.
Taking everything into consideration, I am convinced that this newspaper contributes a great deal towards the motivation, inspiration, and holding together of our Post Office staff. This is why I think that Postel, in its present unattractive form, does not do justice to its contents and its aim. My plea is for this newspaper to appear in a much more attractive format, and for paper of better quality to be used. Some colour photos can also be printed to portray deserving cases and social gatherings. The staff, who are, after all, the greatest asset of the Post Office, in my opinion deserve a first-rate publication. South Africa can be proud of the Post Office and its staff. We are happy to support the Budget.
Mr Chairman, the hon member Mr Vermeulen who has just sat down devoted a lot of his time to discussing the postal services, as indeed did my colleague, the hon member for Bezuidenhout. I want to deal with the telephone services.
Before doing so, however, I want to join with those who have wished Mr Bester a happy retirement. He has been most helpful to me in the time I have known him. I am grateful for that and wish him a long and happy retirement. I also hope that Mr Ridgard’s period as Postmaster-General is going to be a successful and happy one.
The telephone department, as we all know, is the most lucrative department of the Post Office. Telephones have become the modern method of communication. People write fewer and fewer letters these days and make use of the telephone in increasing numbers and with increasing frequency. As common as it is for people to pick up the telephone to contact their friends and family, so the same people use the telephone as a matter of course to contact business associates, doctors, dentists, stockbrokers, etc, to conduct their daily business.
Yet it seems that the Minister on the one hand has been unable to grasp the importance of this development and on the other hand regards the telephone service as a milch cow to be squeezed at will. I say that because the backlog in outstanding telephone applications amounted to almost a quarter of a million at the end of December 1984. Of these 141 000 were in the Transvaal, and of the 141 000 almost 21 000 were in Soweto.
With regard to Soweto I am pleased to note that the backlog has been reduced from just over 31 000 at the end of 1983 to the present shortage 20 891—that in spite of the unrest the hon member for Umlazi referred to a short while ago. The reduction in the backlog is an improvement and I happily acknowledge it.
In addition to all this, the Postmaster-General in his annual report notes that the number of outstanding telephone applications will increase in the coming year. This is a depressing state of affairs, as the backlog increases annually in spite of the thousands of new installations each year. That is why I say the Minister has failed to grasp the importance of the role of the telephone in modern society.
Not only is he not providing the vital and necessary service required by members of the public by not installing the telephones they require, but he is also losing out on revenue. If he installs more telephones, his revenue will increase. It is as simple as that. In the past we have pleaded for him to organize a special task force to wipe out the deferred applications, but he has unfortunately pooh-poohed the idea, although I cannot understand why. A previous Minister organized a blitz force to wipe out the backlog, but the present Minister refuses to do something similar. As I mentioned, there are 141 000 applications outstanding in Transvaal, most of them in the PWV area. Transvaal is at the heart of the commercial and industrial development of this country and should be given special attention with regard to the outstanding applications. The backlog persists and I hope the hon the Minister will explain to the House what he intends doing to sort out the problem.
The Post Office has made great strides in technological fields. One thinks of the development of the micro-chip industry and telephone instruments like the Protea and the Disa, but the Post Office also needs to pay attention to the provision of additional telephone services.
Now I would like to turn my attention to the cost of telephone services. The hon the Minister has seen fit in this Budget to raise the tariff in this respect by a staggering 25%. I agree wholeheartedly with the remarks made earlier this afternoon by the hon member for Umhlanga: The hon the Minister should have raised the tariff by a bit less than that. It really is quite staggering and it is going to have a great impact on the business community in particular. The tariff has been raised by 25% in respect of domestic telephone calls, and by 14% in respect of overseas telephone calls—this at a time when 19 343 members of the Post Office staff receive free telephones. That figure was supplied in an answer he gave to the hon member for Berea a few weeks ago.
Do you want me to take the telephones away from them?
The hon the Minister should listen to me, and I shall tell him what I think he should do. We have no objection to Post Office employees making free official calls but think it inappropriate, particularly in the current economic climate, for them to make private calls at the taxpayers’ expense. At some stage would the hon the Minister please advise us what the estimated loss of revenue is in respect of these telephones and whether any steps are being taken to limit the calls to official calls.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon member very specifically whether he wants me to take away the service package we give to the Post Office official by taking away his right to use his telephone for making private calls? I ask him that very directly. It is important because I shall have to reply to him at the end of this debate.
My answer to that is quite clearly, yes. We are quite happy that he should have the telephone for making official calls. However, we would like the hon the Minister to investigate the private calls that are being made, particularly in this economic climate. I said that quite clearly; I cannot make it any clearer.
Do you not want me to take it away from them?
No, we are quite happy about their having the telephones; but not for the making of private calls. [Interjections.]
When he announced the tariff increases, the hon the Minister did not mention any adjustment to the trunk-call metering periods. There are many ways in which one can increase tariff revenue. One of them is to adjust trunk-call metering periods. Previously when tariffs were increased as steeply as they have been this year, the periods were adjusted to cushion the effect of the increases. I hope he will give attention to this matter. For instance, in 1981-82 a call from Johannesburg to Cape Town cost 5 cents per seven-second unit. That was increased in 1983-84 to 7 cents per eight-second unit. So there was an adjustment of the time of the unit. However, the hon the Minister has not given any indication in his Budget this year that that has been attended to.
The other concern I have is the question of varying tariffs for after-hours overseas calls. I have raised this matter on previous occasions and explained how in the United Kingdom and in the United States cheaper rates apply to international calls at night and over weekends. In fact, in Whitehall and in large business organizations instructions are issued for long distance calls to be made in the afternoons rather than in the mornings when the rates are more expensive.
Last year the hon the Minister wrote to me to say that the equipment to allow this type of varying metering was not available. We have the equipment to allow differing charges to be made for calls within South Africa and to neighbouring territories. My question to the hon the Minister is: Why can we not use that equipment for international calls? For instance, during the day one pays the full rate; and during the early evening for a few hours there is a discount; and during the night one can telephone at half price. I ask that that type of metering be made available in respect of overseas calls.
I know of many businessmen who have a great deal of telephone contact with their colleagues and associates in the USA, the UK and particularly in Hong Kong. The increased tariffs are going to mean substantially higher telephone accounts for them. I hope, therefore, that the hon the Minister will announce when varying tariffs for international calls will be introduced.
It is my pleasure to support the amendment introduced by the hon member for Hillbrow.
Mr Chairman, I am pleased to be speaking after the hon member for Johannesburg North. I am sure the hon the Minister will deal with the point so pertinently stated by the hon member. He wished namely to break up the package granted the personnel of the Post and Telecommunication Services by depriving them of one of their most precious privileges—that of telephoning their families. As regards the PFP contribution to this debate, we shall remember that point. On looking at Ayatollah II who is walking out at the moment, I think the CP will be remembered for what the hon member for Nigel in effect said to the Government this afternoon: Hands off the preservation of the Union Buildings; hands off the preservation of the Tuynhuys. [Interjections.] The hon member attempted to make out a case today that the Government was busy squandering money because we not only wish to preserve the Union Buildings but also to improve their condition. [Interjections.]
Order! The hon member should be granted the opportunity of making his speech. The hon member may proceed.
Thank you, Mr Chairman.
I invite the hon member for Nigel to climb onto the roof of the Union Buildings with me to enable him to see the state of neglect of the tiles and how bad the leakage is. Does he want the Union Buildings, the pride of South Africa on Meintjieskop, to become such a ruin that people will hardly wish to take visitors there in order to show off the buildings? After all, that is the seat of the administrative part of our Government. That is what the hon member said here today and it applies to the Tuynhuys too. Meanwhile, when I read the utterances of the AV, the AWB, the CP, the “Kappiekommando”, the “Witkommando” and all those people, I gain the impression that they are intent upon preserving the cultural heritage of South Africa. Now we see, however, they have ulterior motives. [Interjections.]
I am very grateful this afternoon to be able to associate myself with the hon member for Boksburg who referred to the phenomenal services provided by the satellite tracking station at Hartbeeshoek. I shall return to that later, however. He also referred to what was being done by the optical-fibre cable section of the ATC factory at Brits and I should also like to say something about that.
Permit me, Sir, first to thank the hon the Minister this afternoon for what he has done personally since taking charge of this portfolio for the people of my electoral division. Mr Bester has also done a great deal for us since he became the Postmaster General. As an example, we have obtained five automatic exchanges within a period of three to five years. In addition a neighbouring electoral division which is being neglected has obtained two. The exchange at Koedoeskop has already been automated and that of Thabazimbi will follow suit within the next three months or so. I wish to point out that a large part of that electoral division formed part of Brits before delimitation took place in 1981.
I should further like to bring it to the attention of the new Postmaster General that we are very eager to have another exchange in our electoral division automated. I am referring to a telephone exchange with a very beautiful name, probably the most beautiful name in the country, that of Mooinooi. The most beautiful girls in the country come from that little place and we should very much like that exchange to be automated as well. Naturally I do not know whether the girls will then become automatic too but we want only the telephones in that area to be automated. [Interjections.]
I wish to refer briefly to a matter for which hon members should thank me. The TV satellite tracking station at Hartbeeshoek is on the crest of the Magaliesberg on the way from Pretoria to the Hartbeespoort Dam. Anyone travelling that way can see it. When one sees the masts on top of the mountain, one knows one is entering the electoral division of Brits where there is a very effective MP. All the television transmissions received by satellite and which hon members enjoy watching enter South Africa through Brits.
I should like to pay tribute to the personnel at that tracking station. The CP is welcome to joke about it; it merely shows what they think of the most highly qualified technologists in South Africa. While I am thanking these people for the service they render, the CP is cracking jokes. [Interjections.]
Ayatollah II is back in the House.
Order! the word “Ayatollah” is being used quite frequently in this House and there are persons—also outside this House—who value this name. Hon members should therefore consider being more circumspect in their choice of words. The hon member may proceed.
Sir, I shall not call the hon member for Jeppe, who previously shared my seat, Ayatollah II again. I withdraw it.
I was thanking the personnel at the TV satellite tracking station at Hartbeesthoek for what they are doing for South Africa and what they meant to it. I shall mention only a single figure to members. This year approximately 5 000 minutes’ more TV viewing time was televised than in the previous year when about 16 000 minutes’ TV viewing time was transmitted to and from abroad. We are looking forward avidly to a much more extensive use of this station to bring joy and pleasure to all viewers in South Africa.
To track Blits as well.
That hon member for Parktown is so confused one will never be able to track him.
I should very much like to return to what I said a while ago, namely that one of the most wonderful developments in the field of technology in South Africa in the past year has taken place at the ATC factory at Brits. I am referring specifically to a department we call the optical-fibre factory. Within a few months that part will be enlarged and what will be produced there will bring about a Copernican revolution in the telecommunication services of South Africa. Before going through that factory more than once, I did not have the vaguest notion of what was really being done at post and telecommunication level in South Africa. It is the most advanced technology one can imagine. I referred to Hartbeeshoek. If one visits the factory where the optical-fibre cables are manufactured and sees what exactly this comprises, one is amazed. This afternoon I should very much like to thank the entire management of that institution, the technicians, the men on the factory floor and all who work there with whom I came into contact when I was taken over the factory for what they are doing, not only for our neighbourhood but for the whole of South Africa.
The breakthrough made means that, with this optical fibre, not electricity but light is used in carrying messages and calls or in encoding. That is why I said it had brought about a Copernican revolution in the entire telecommunication industry. I also wish to predict that it will be the solution to the problem of making the best existing telephone services available to all people in densely populated metropolitan areas within a very short time in the future because there is an enormous number of advantages attached to this system. I wish to name a few advantages and the most important is, probably, firstly that as the optical fibres are so thin one may insert them in any existing conduit carrying a cable without affecting the optical fibre or the existing cable. Each of those tiny fibres can carry almost 2 000 conversations simultaneously. Whether the conduit carrying the cable is above or below ground, the optical-fibre cable can be added with equal facility and even joined inside the conduit. It is much more difficult to do this to a cable, comprising 1 400 or 1 600 interwoven small wires as to the fibre cable. A person will understand what wonderful technological progress this represents if one realizes that these optical fibres are as thin as a human hair. The technologists of Post and Telecommunications encode light impulses and transmit them by means of those optical fibres at a tempo of 140 million units per second, equal to the speed of light. It is incredible to think our people are capable of this and today I wish to pay tribute to them.
The most important advantage over the convential method of the use of wiring and posts and all the things we know is that one can insert these fibres into a subterranean cable where they are not subject to atmospheric conditions or sabotage and where lightning has no effect. This has brought about an entirely new situation in this industry.
Nevertheless it is not only Post and Telecommunications which will benefit from this. Escom has an incredible network of infrastructure throughout the country which reaches to Cahora Bassa and to the northern extremity of South West Africa. That means that they can simply insert those fibres into their cables and use them. The same applies to the SATS—just think of all the places where our electric trains run. They can merely incorporate this fibre and use those facilities to improve their systems.
This system is even better than the micro-wave system which we already have and which in itself represents wonderful technology. Because it is subject to atmospheric conditions, however, one can understand that, if one is transmitting telexes or whatever and there is atmospheric disturbance, the service one is using may be interrupted. One can imagine the distressing situation in which this places people on the receiving end.
Another advantage of the optical fibre is that in a year’s time it will require only one relay station every 30 to 40 kilometres to transfer the impulse onwards whereas under the present conventional method one requires a relay station every 1 800 metres to carry on the service. We shall ultimately see that, though it costs us a great deal today for its introduction and development, this new technology is an incredibly cheap way of providing services.
This new technology will also ensure more services to the new South African metropolitan areas with their numerous less affluent people, in direct consequence of this breakthrough by the Post Office. These optical fibres may be fed through electric cables laid in heavily populated areas. There is a cable through which such a fibre may be fed under every street in the cities of South Africa. I have a single figure here which I could hardly believe when I saw it. These cables buried under the streets in the cities and towns of South Africa are more or less 83 millimetres in diameter. Such a cable consists of 4 800 wires capable of handling approximately 2 400 conversations simultaneously.
This conventional cable is a miracle in itself because the wires are all of different colours and each colour indicates a different function. If we replace this cable with optical fibres fed into the conduit, 300 000 conversations can be handled simultaneously. That is why I said initially that we have to do here with a Copernican revolution as regards the post and telecommunication industry and in particular its technology. That is why I do not merely wish to boast today; I wish to brag about the services of the Post Office in South Africa. I am not dispirited and tired and just a bundle of complaints like hon members on the other side. I take my hat off to the hon the Minister, to the Postmaster General and his personnel and also to all my people at Brits who ensure that the fibre is available and that people of South Africa are able to view international telecasts.
Hon members of the other side should also thank me for being such a good MP for Brits from where all these good things come.
They no longer want you in Brits. [Interjections.]
Mr Chairman, I wish to refer briefly to one or two matters before moving the adjournment of the debate. On Monday I shall reply further to the debate. I believe hon members will understand that I have had to listen to such a diversity of matters here that it might be as well for me to cool off over the weekend as it were before reacting to some of them. [Interjections.]
There are certain hon members to whose speeches I shall reply fully on Monday. One important matter is naturally the fact that for two years I have attempted to keep this department outside politics in debates of this House. It is one of the departments which should not be politicized.
Why not? [Interjections.]
If that hon member— and perhaps more members of this House— chooses that the Post Office be politicized, I am ready for that. I am prepared for every possible battle. I have never in my life been afraid of a fight. I have, in fact, already told the hon member for Sunnyside that I fear him least of all. I shall get to him on Monday as regards all the tales he has bruited abroad here. [Interjections.] On Monday I shall also talk to the hon member for Nigel, someone I have always regarded as a very courteous and friendly man, but even he made statements here today which I cannot allow to pass unchallenged. I do not wish to deal with them immediately, however.
It was naturally Koos van der Merwe’s influence! [Interjections.]
†I do want, however, to refer briefly to the hon member for Johannesburg North. I understand he will not be able to be here on Monday, therefore I should like to reply right now to one or two of the points made by him.
I believe the hon member was not very kind in saying I did not grasp the need for telephones. He made that remark in spite of the fact that I stated very clearly in my Second Reading speech that we were aiming at installing 350 additional telephone lines next year. Where does the hon member think I must obtain the capital to achieve what he is asking for? The hon member wants his friends, his business associates, as well as doctors, parsons and everybody else to have telephones. He does not, however, show his willingness to allow the Post Office the necessary capital to carry out the job. Does he want the Government to make excessive demands on the taxpayers of the country, only to be saddled at a later stage with renewed requests and demands for extra subsidies?
The hon member for Johannesburg North is a man of very sound financial training. He has, however, been led up the wrong alley by some of his friends. [Interjections.] He has always shown a very objective approach to the affairs of the Post Office. He has in fact never been backward in coming forward when it comes to making good and positive suggestions in relation to the Post Office. This year, however, he has not put forward a single positive suggestion in this regard. He wanted to know from me what the new differentiated tariffs were going to be. I shall tell him that on Monday as I cannot deal with that now, unfortunately. They will be published in the Government Gazette tomorrow.
One point the hon member for Johannesburg North made, however, is a point to which I want to react forthwith. He objected to Post Office officials making private telephone calls at the expense of the Post Office. Is that correct?
From their homes, yes.
Good! That is all I want to know. Here we have hon members pleading for the Post Office staff and telling us how loyal they are and how efficiently they do their job. This privilege is part of their conditions of service. It is a privilege they were given at a time when their salaries were very low. As far as my record as Minister goes, I do not stand back for any previous Minister who was in charge of the affairs of the Post Office in the past. We enjoy the loyalty of all the officials of the Post Office and we allow them certain privileges. Now the hon member wants me to take those privileges away from them. That would amount to an abuse of the Post Office staff, as far as I am concerned. Nevertheless, I will bear in mind what the hon member for Johannesburg North suggested we should do. I think that needs to be publicized so that the public of South Africa can get to know about it. I will come back to this issue again on Monday, however. The reason why I am referring to it now is because I do not want to be accused later of saying things behind that hon member’s back. Be that as it may, however, I believe the hon member should not forget that we are dealing here with a very advanced type of technology. We are not backward at all in this respect. When I visited the USA last year I was told that it was either South Africa or Canada—experts in this field were not quite sure—that was the world leader in the field of telephone development. It is either South Africa or Canada that is the world leader in this field, Mr Chairman; certainly not the USA. We are world leaders in this field. I shall deal with the question of productivity on Monday. We asked for a survey on productivity after we had heard a lot of snide remarks and jibes last year about the productivity of the Post Office worker. However, we are the leading group in the country as far as productivity is concerned. Does that hon member accept that?
*I wish to say a few words further. When it comes to politicising this department, I think that we really should avoid this. I have no doubt whatsoever of the loyalty of the people of this department. Every official in this department knows what he can expect of me as his Minister. He also knows the calibre of his Postmaster General and top management. That is why I am happy that they were all here today—especially the four new members of the top management. They could see here today how the name of the post office worker was bandied about the House in the hope that one or two of their voices would be heard at some time or other. The CP has suddenly burgeoned as the party standing for the post office worker.
Who is politicising the post office worker now?
The post office worker knows which Minister saw to it that within two and a half years he received an appreciably improved salary and many other benefits which we continue planning to extend. We are also planning to erect a home for the aged for our people. [Interjections.] The post office worker knows that within the past two and a half years we opened a nursery school in Pretoria for his children.
They also know who took away their bonuses.
They also know who the troublemaker is, waiting in the wings. We are also planning to erect a home for the aged in Milnerton. During this period of office we have also included the retired post office worker in the benefit enjoyed by the present worker of making free calls. That man knows his Minister and top management. He can recognize the vultures and see the crows perched on the telephone wires.
Who is this wonderful Minister you are talking about?
I do not have to enlarge on that but it is not the hon member for Jeppe.
I wish to say further that not only can I always depend on the loyalty of the post office worker but also on his patriotism. The post office worker is a patriot to his fingertips. He knows that the drought has landed this country in an economic crisis. He knows the gold price and the decline in the value of the rand against the dollar have dealt our economy a telling blow. The post office worker knows that we are fighting at great cost on behalf of our country on the borders of South West Africa. The post office worker knows that all these factors have contributed to present economic conditions. In fact, the whole world finds itself in a period of economic crisis at present but the post office worker’s patriotism has not faltered.
There is dissatisfaction among 85 000 post office workers.
That hon member does not need to show me the Rand Daily Mail. I know the post office worker and I am aware of his loyalty to his Minister … [Interjections.]
Order! I do not think loud shouting across the floor becomes the dignity of this House. I wish to ask hon members to lower their voices. The hon the Minister may proceed.
Sir, I conclude. I shall deal later with other matters raised. I thank all hon members for their participation in this debate. Nevertheless I conclude in the spirit of my knowledge of where the loyalty of the post office worker lies. I know that his loyalty is to South Africa, especially at a time of crisis in the country.
I now move:
Mr Chairman, at the previous adjournment of this debate I was reacting to what the hon member Prof. Olivier had said. I had, in fact, just begun my reply to his speech and said inter alia that that hon member usually conveyed his point very clearly when he made a speech. When he has put his point of view, the House usually understands it. It happens however, that when he has no real point to make, one also deduces this from the clear way in which he states his case. In reality he merely aired the objections of the Official Opposition by way of three main points.
Firstly, he said that this Bill would actually promote racially segregated municipal authorities. That was the first objection. The second objection was that it occasioned an incredible implication, especially in that local authorities were already providing training, that the legislation centralised training, that local authorities, in fact, could provide this training on a decentralised basis and that there was also duplication or overlapping between the Training Committee and the Training Board. The third objection raised was that the Minister would be able to impose arbitrary levies—something not approved of by the hon members.
On looking at these three objections, as regards the first I asked the hon member whether they would support the Bill providing no racially segregated local government existed. His answer to me was: Wynand, do you still beat you wife? I think that is a brilliant answer to illustrate the very point I am attempting to make and that is that he would in such a case not have opposed this Bill in any way but if he were to agree, his argument would crumble. I therefore do not wish to take this any further.
The second objection was that of duplication. He said local government was already providing training but the Curry report deals with this on a continuous basis and, in fact, in it we are told of the training given. He said, however, that the training was inadequate and he made a considerable number of further points by saying, for example, that there were certain local governing bodies incapable of providing training. They were possibly too small or did not have the money. He said there were others where training could be co-ordinated and carried out more cheaply. These are all points discussed in the report.
The argument has been raised that they can carry it out themselves locally and that one does not have to centralize as regards a training programme. In recommendation No 3 on training they say specifically that no local authority is to assume that, in terms of the legislation envisaged, it will be relieved of the responsibility of carrying out its own training programme. Training must continue. The Bill aims at providing training which would otherwise not be given or which may be carried out more effectively by means of financing it through the fund and by co-ordination under the Co-ordinating Council.
The hon member’s next thought on his second objection, that of duplication, was that it was unnecessary to be saddled with a training board and a training committee. I know the hon member is aware that the Training Committee is a committee of the Co-ordinating Council and that the basis of co-operation of the Co-ordinating Council has always been: We should be pleased to further local government matters but we do not wish to assume executive powers; we wish to remain an advisory body. They therefore do not wish to make any decision which may be enforced; they wish to remain an advisory body to the authorities concerned who in their turn may make decisions.
The second point is their recommendation that a fund be established. A fund obviously has to be administered and controlled. The money to be applied has to be spent according to certain guidelines. The Bill envisages only the establishment of a board to control and manage the fund and approve courses on which money may be spent. If we speak of duplication in such a case, we should realize it is actually no such thing. The fact that a number of people serve on both the Training Committee and the Training Board makes it so much easier and more possible for the Training Boad to meet infrequently and manage the fund according to set guidelines.
The last objection was that the Minister could arbitrarily impose a levy on local authorities. The allegation that it could be done arbitrarily is not correct. The Minister is the person who finally has to impose the levy but he may do it only after consultation with the hon the Minister of Finance and the Training Board and municipalities have up to 50% representation on the Training Board. The Training Board offers its advice on the basis that the Training Committee in such a case at least contributes to the Training Board on behalf of local government. The levies imposed are therefore negotiated. The levies are actually recommended from the ranks of the local authorities themselves.
It remains that this thought does not arise from the Bill or from the central authority; it comes from the Co-ordinating Council itself and specifically from the Curry report in which it is stated that the authority should contribute to the training of municipal officials. That is why clause 10(2) was inserted.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon member whether clause 10 does not provide that “the Minister may, after consultation with …” and not “in consultation with”? It therefore in no way impairs the free discretion of the Minister. That is all I said.
Naturally he has the discretion, but the discretion does not result in his merely making arbitrary decisions. The hon member used the concept “arbitrary” as I recall. I did not look up his speech in Hansard again; I am referring to my notes here.
No, I said that but let it pass.
He said “arbitrary”.
“After consultation” does not remove discretion.
Naturally no discretion is removed. Nevertheless discretion is not necessarily an arbitrary exercise. Discretion is exactly something other than a mere arbitrary exercise.
It is not permitted to be done arbitrarily.
That is right. He should do it after consultation with these people. One cannot say “in consultation” as the Minister of Finance and the Training Board are involved. It has to be funded from the budget so there is no other way of dealing with it.
The point is that in the Curry report it is stated emphatically that local governing bodies should always contribute too. That was accepted by general consensus. If they have to contribute to a fund to finance training, how on earth is the hon Minister to do it except by creating a mechanism for it? At no stage, however, did the hon member discuss any other methods.
I do not wish to take up the time of the House any further; I think I have dealt with the argument. I think this is a very good piece of legislation about to be taken up in the Statute Book. In reality it makes the funding of local authorities for training purposes possible. In conjunction with that, it in no way provides for the structure of local government itself.
Mr Chairman, the hon member or Randburg spent most of his time criticizing the speech of the hon member Prof Olivier. In the process he contended that duplications do not really take place here. The standpoint of the CP in this regard is that a very considerable amount of duplication does take place. I shall refer to this again in the course of my speech.
How, for example, does the hon member distinguish this Bill from the Manpower Training Act? I shall come to that Act in a moment. This is an Act which, seen as a whole, deals with the whole issue of training and so on. The members of that Manpower Training Board include city council officials who deal with matters of this nature.
The hon member for Randburg goes on to say that the Minister may not act arbitrarily, and the hon the Minister agreed with that by way of interjection. That is quite correct; from an administrative and legal point of view he may not act arbitrarily. In the Bill the words “after consultation” appear, and this does not mean the same as “in consultation with”. The hon member states that it must be “after consultation with the Minister of Finance”, because the funding must come from the budget. That is precisely why it is necessary to say “in consultation” and not “after consultation”. If it is “after consultation” it means that he need only request the opinion of the Minister of Finance and of the Advisory Committee, and then still make his own decision.
Mr Chairman: Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon member whether the provision that it is necessary to act in consultation applies only to the Minister of Finance or to the Training Board as well?
No, it is both. If one states here “after consultation” then he can still take his own decision. If it is “in consultation” then the Minister of Finance and the Training Board have a say in the matter. Therefore the hon the Minister of Constitutional Development can exercise the dictatorial powers he is striving to acquire.
I want to begin by saying that in 1983, when we were discussing the Constitution, we told the hon the Minister that a farce had been made of own affairs or self-determination in the new Constitution. This clearly illustrates that self-determination is a farce. The Minister of Local Government, Housing and Works does not even serve on the board. The entire House of Assembly is represented on it, not by an official of the department of the Minister of Local Government, Housing and Works, but by the Director-General of the Administration of the House of Assembly. That, then, is self-determination! As far as own affairs are concerned, a special post has been created in the Ministers’ Council for Ministers of Local Government but they do not have a seat on this board. I wonder whether those Ministers were consulted in the drafting of the Bill? I wonder, for example, whether the hon the Minister of Manpower was consulted. In this board which is now to be established, about nine officials are going to serve, very busy officials and people who do not necessarily have expert knowledge of training matters.
I should like to refer to the annual report of the Department of Manpower for the financial year that ended on 31 December 1983. One finds in it an explanation of the various training facilities that exist in the South African governmental set-up. In the first place there is the National Training Board which was created by the Manpower Training Act and which performs certain functions. It performs those functions in respect of, inter alia, training that is defined as “… any training which has as its special aim the improvement of the proficiency of any person for any work performed in or in connection with any industry …”, and an industry is defined as “any class of undertaking or activity …”. In other words, municipalities are also covered by the Manpower Training Act. Representatives of municipalities serve on this training board. If the Manpower Training Act does not provide for this then surely it is no great problem to amend the Act to provide for the problem the hon the Minister has in connection with local authorities.
However, this is not the only board for which the Department of Manpower is responsible. The Act also makes provision for the establishment of committees. For example there is a committee for the training of artisans, a trade test committee, a committee for in-service training, manpower training committees, committees concerned with the training of apprentices, etc. The argument we advance in this regard, apart from all the other arguments, is that as a result of this measure tremendous duplication is going to occur in respect of the work done by the Department of Manpower. That is why we say that this Bill is unnecessary.
I should like to refer briefly to clause 10. The hon member for Randburg has already done so. Clause 10 contains an interesting provision. Subsection (1) reads:
Then it is further provided that a notice in terms of subsection (1) which is addressed to a local government body in general or to any category of local government bodies ”… shall not differentiate on the basis of sex, race or colour”. The hon the Minister must tell this House why the word “sex” has been introduced here, because it is not clear to me why it has been done.
In the annual reports of the Department of Constitutional Development and Planning of last year and earlier years we took note of the tremendous size of the empire over which the hon the Minister holds sway. The matter we are dealing with here is a so-called own affair, a so-called exercising of a function to do with a right to self-determination which still remains to the various groups. It is a further extension of the large empire that the hon the Minister is building for himself.
I wholeheartedly associate myself with the amendment of the hon member for Kuruman.
Mr Chairman, all that the standpoint of the CP—particularly as expressed by the hon member for Kuruman—amounts to is that they regard the measure as unnecessary and superfluous. I do not think there is much more one can say about their arguments. At this juncture I do not wish to emphasize the reasons why they think so, but basically, those are the grounds of their objection.
I, on the other hand, contend that this is by no means the case, and that I see a great deal of merit in the measure. Accordingly I wish to indicate briefly why I consider this to be the case. I wish to refer to a few aspects which, in my opinion, reflect the merit of the legislation.
There are certain facts that we must take into account and that determine the merits of the case. To begin with I want to say that it is indisputable that there is a need for people in the employ of local authorities to be trained. I do not think that any of the parties dispute this, but rather that fault is found with the details; they do not agree on everything. The need for training has been identified for some time and is acknowledged by anyone who has given the matter rational consideration. Local authorities have already done a great deal and made many praiseworthy efforts, as far as they have been able, to meet this demand. With the encouragement and assistance of the provincial administrations, individual local authorities have made such efforts.
I began by saying that I saw a great deal of merit in this, but I do want to point out to the hon the Minister that there is one aspect concerning which one will probably be forgiven a lack of enthusiasm, and even some degree of trepidation, viz the provision of guidance to members of local government bodies as well, not merely the officials. It is cause for gratitude that this provision did not come back from the standing committee in its original form. The concept of orientation has been dropped, and this, in my opinion, is an improvement. Now reference is only made to guidance. In this regard I just wish to make the remark that we must guard against a kind of kindergarten approach to this kind of matter. Moreover we must guard against the development of a kindergarten situation when it comes to guidance for people who have been elected members of a local government body. I want to say to the hon the Minister that there is reason to be very circumspect as regards the contents of the envisaged guidance. It is equally important that we be circumspect in presenting the guidance. I think that in this connection we must take the status of these people into account and the sensitivity of those who will be receiving that guidance. I think we must beware of causing embarrassment which may do more harm than good, so that the whole exercise becomes counter-productive. I just wish to put it to the hon the Minister that we should guard against this.
I want to come back to the merit I see in this measure. In the first instance I pointed out that the need has certainly been identified. Moreover, I wish to say that the need that already exists and has been identified will inevitably show a progressive increase as more local authorities are established—we know that this will be the case—as the local authorities achieve higher status and as more authority, greater powers and responsibilities are vested in them. It is also a recognized fact that a devolution of power is to take place. If all this is taken into account then in my opinion this proves the need for this measure.
A third given and indisputable fact is that that need is inadequately met at present. This is being undertaken sporadically and on an unco-ordinated basis. At present it is virtually everyone’s responsibility, and we know that in that case it is no one’s responsibility.
The hon member for Kuruman states that ample provision has been made for training. He says that there are academic and technical institutions at which the officials of local authorities can undergo training. This may be so. However we know that financially and otherwise this is beyond the reach of the vast majority of the people who require that training. The hon member has no knowledge of local authorities if he contends that sufficient provision has been made for this need.
Due to the inadequacy of the training it is inevitable that there should be intense competition among local authorities for the services of staff who have been properly trained and have appropriate qualifications. This is a disturbing fact that there is no getting away from. If we can prevent and eliminate this by way of better training then we must certainly do so.
There is also merit in the measure owing to the limited means of the lower levels of government. Their financial resources are limited, and they are also limited as far as their statutory powers are concerned. It helps a great deal, in perceiving the merits of this measure if one has knowledge and experience of the frustration that is often the lot of the lower levels of government owing to their limited financial resources and powers that they have to cope with. Fortunately the hon the Minister is a person with a great deal of knowledge of that situation. Therefore I think it is fortunate that with his knowledge, background and experience he has been able to handle this measure.
The major advantage of the Bill is that the central government is now stepping in and making it possible, financially and organizationally speaking, for the local authorities to meet this need we are discussing. In this way local authorities are being helped to help themselves, to do what is essential and to do what they know must be done but which is totally beyond their resources. By means of this measure a new era for local authorities is being introduced as far as the provision of staff is concerned. It holds considerable promise, and it deserves the support of everyone who is acquainted with the position and needs of local authorities and who really has their interest at heart. This is very briefly stated due to a lack of time, but I think that the points I have raised emphasize and prove that there really is a need for this measure. I see considerable advantage in this for our local authorities.
I just wish to come back once more to this aspect of frustration among people at lower levels of government. Frustration exists due to inadequate financial resources, and there is frustration due to a lack of power. This occurs, on the one hand, between local authorities and second-tier government, and also between second-tier government and the Central Government. I am pleased that we have here cut the Gordian knot for third-tier government so that, by virtue of the fact that the Government is not only making the first half of necessary funds available but is also making the organization—the machinery— available, they are being put in a position to meet this need. I take pleasure in supporting this measure.
Mr Chairman, I want to thank the hon members who participated in the debate for their participation. I want to say at once, however, that it was really an astonishing experience to listen to the arguments.
Is the hon the Minister referring to what was said yesterday?
It makes no difference now what was said yesterday; it is part of the same debate. [Interjections.]
It was an astonishing debate which we have conducted on this specific Bill. This Bill was assessed and condemned on the basis of things which were not stated in it, and which were therefore completely irrelevant. I shall identify these things in the course of my reply to the hon members’ contributions.
By way of introduction, however, let me say that there are in fact two basic criteria which have to be applied in assessing the legislation. In the first place, a need exists for the training of officials for local authorities. That is the essence of the question on which this House must hold itself accountable.
The second question is, if such a need exists, who should take the lead in respect of co-ordinating and financing these training requirements. The one question leads inevitably to the other.
But if we now consider the grounds on which this legislation is being opposed, we shall see that most of the arguments that were used here were totally irrelevant to the criteria which have to be applied to determine the necessity for the legislation. I shall try to identify this
The hon member Professor Oliver stated his standpoint in a reasonable way. He said quite correctly that he had to assess the advantages or disadvantages of the legislation and then, on the basis of that assessment, make a “balance decision”, if I may so formulate it. He said he based his judgment on the basis of these specific aspects of the legislation: That this legislation implies a specific ideological content, and that it is intended for development of own administrative systems for the respective population groups.
The speaker who followed him presented precisely the opposite argument. He said this legislation represented an implied integration in the local government system. Let us now consider the strangeness of the arguments put forward in this House. What was integration to the one was separation to the other. How one is therefore to reply to a debate of this nature in a sensible way I cannot understand.
After all, the standpoints of both hon members or parties cannot be correct. But when it comes to facts, both are wrong. In the first place the Bill is creating nothing but a specific mechanism for the training of personnel for local authorities. No distinction whatsoever is being drawn in respect of the contents of the financing of courses in connection with local government systems on the basis of specific groups for whom they are being introduced.
Will the hon the Minister concede that in the report of the Curry Commitee, as well as in the explanatory memorandum that was originally attached to the Bill, repeated reference was made to this Bill being related to the establishment of separate local authorities?
The answer is very simple. Distinctive local government systems exist at present for the separate population groups. Distinctive local government systems also exist for the same group, and the hon member knows it. Why try to suck political venom from a Bill which seeks to introduce a positive measure in respect of the improvement of the calibre of officials and in that way the calibre of administrative systems?
The hon member must please give me a chance now.
In the nature of things, this legislation deals with training of personnel for own local government systems. However, as is provided in the Bill, it also deals with joint local government systems. The hon member knows it; he is after all a jurist. Why is he prepared to apply one particular aspect of the Bill as an argument, on the basis of which he rejects the legislation? It is unworthy of the hon member.
Some own local government institutions, for example Black local authorities, already exist, and in exactly the same way as other local authorities, they also have a need for their own officials. What is more, although the hon member and his party rejected the legislation, in the first place on the basis of what were ideological considerations, they were accessories to and co-responsible, just like all other hon members, for the acceptance of legislation that makes provision for Black local authorities. In contrast with the conduct of the hon member at the time, when he voted directly for an own local institution for Black people, he is today rejecting legislation which must inter alia be instrumental in promoting the effectiveness of those Black local government systems—and in the past he supported their formation and creation. Only the hon member will be able to explain this logic to me, however. I do not understand it.
Let us now consider the second point. What did the United Municipal Executive—I need not tell hon members how that body is constituted—ask for on behalf of all local authorities? They asked for a co-ordinated strategy for this training, long before the Government came forward with a new constitutional initiative, and long before the Constitution was on the Statute Book. Training is necessary, whatever system is going to be applied in future. Some own institutions are of an historical nature, they are existing bodies which may even have been given statutory recognition through the laws of the old CRC, namely the rural councils referred to in this legislation. So is it not unreasonable, when the hon members themselves were part of the creation of own structures, and other groups in other legislative bodies were responsible for the structures of those communities, to oppose the legislation on the basis of that argument?
We come now to the argument which the hon member Prof Olivier and the hon member for Brakpan advanced a little while ago, namely the argument of duplication. I want to tell the hon member Prof Olivier that a large number of local authorities are already providing training and they are able to do so without this mechanism. That is true. There is a limited number of local authorities which are in fact providing training, but, with all due respect, that is only half of the story in this connection. There is a large number of local authorities, particularly the smaller and financially weaker ones, that are unable to provide training because they cannot afford it, because they do not have the facilities and because they do not have the necessary personnel to provide the training.
Of course it is true that Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town are in fact providing training. Quite rightly, however, they are not prepared to provide such training at their expense for officials of other local authorities. That is why provision is being made in clause 8(1)(a) that contributions may be allocated to a local authority to provide training for another local authority if it has the facilities and the ability.
As regards their allegations of duplication in respect of the advisory committee on training of the Co-ordinating Council and the Training Board, surely the hon member Prof Olivier is aware that in the one case we are dealing with an advisory committee and in the other with a board that has executive functions. Surely there is a clear difference in their functions. The training committee is constituted on a wider basis because it will have to make recommendations to the council on the existing needs and the use of the existing training facilities.
The other argument advanced by the hon member was that in connection with the arbitrary levies. Once again he had something in common with the hon member for Brakpan. He said the Bill gave the hon the Minister the right to impose arbitrary levies on local authorities. Let us be fair. The hon member will admit that the hon member for Randburg elucidated the question of discretionary as opposed to arbitrary levies very well, and I thank him for doing so. The representatives of local authorities asked to contribute to a fund on a 50/50 basis, however, and that local authorities must make a compulsory contribution. The Curry Report recommended compulsory funding, and I refer the hon member to page 34, paragraph 2 of the Report. I quote:
Sir, surely clause 10 does not grant arbitrary powers. I want to take the hon member for Brakpan to task about this.
He and the hon member Prof Olivier argued the point of “after consultation” and “in consultation”. Let us concede, for the sake of argument, that there is a material difference between these two concepts. If we insert “in consultation”, surely we are simply shifting the final decision from one person or Minister to another. Surely that does not affect the fundamental part of the legislation. Surely the hon member knows that administrative law states that whoever exercises a discretion may not do so arbitrarily, for then it is subject to review. On what grounds is the hon member therefore arguing that arbitrary powers exist here? in fact, clause 10(2) imposes a restriction on the levying power, apart from the others. Once again the hon member knows that this is the case. In fact, if I remember correctly, it was the Standing Committee which effected that amendment, which was found acceptable at the time. Obviously neither of the two members know how a country is administered. I can understand that, because they have never been responsible for the administration of a country.
Whenever legislation requires consultation between ministers, they arrive at a joint decision, and if they are unable to do so, the final decision rests with the Cabinet. Therefore the argument in this connection is completely unfounded.
†Now I come to the hon member for Sea Point. Let me say immediately that the hon member for Sea Point is less objective in his assessment and evaluation of the legislation before us. He refers to political objectives. May I remind him of the political blunders his party has made and is making in local government institutions, in the so-called liberal councils controlled by the PFP. I would refer to one instance in this regard, and that is the Cape Town City Council. Nobody disputes the fact that that is a PFP-oriented council. All the communities, through the National Liaison Committee on which members of the Cape Town City Council serve— as I said, it belongs to the party of the Official Opposition—have approved of the request that interim measures of co-operation between the local authorities for various racial groups should be promulgated. They decided on that unanimously and the measures were in fact promulgated. Then the Chairmen of the management committees within the purview of the areas of jurisdiction of this council discussed the issue with the city council, and they refused the request of these chairmen. In reaction, these Chairmen wrote a letter to the City Council of Cape Town. I would like to read part of it in a moment. When the enabling Bill providing for the promotion of local government affairs was debated in this House, referring to clause 17, which relates to the proclamation of regulations to provide for communication and co-operation, I warned that we would have to apply those regulations in the first place to the liberal councils. As regards those liberal councils, the only characteristic that outstrips their hypocrisy is their selfishness. This is not my evidence, but that of people affected by the decision taken by these councils—in this case the Cape Town Council—namely, Mr Stanley, the Rev Manikkam, both members of Parliament now, Mr Fairmead and Mr Ross who wrote the following in reply to a letter from the city council:
These are not my comments. They are the chairmen’s comments. The letter goes on to say:
*Allow me to say today that one is slowly becoming rather sick and tired of these double standards which are being applied.
†On the committee the hon member for Sea Point moved an amendment. If that amendment had been approved, the result would have been that the training fund would have consisted of State funds only, without any contribution from the local authorities. The partnership between the State and local government would then have fallen away, with the resultant centralization of the action in this regard. I said in my Second Reading speech:
Furthermore, I said:
That is the very reason why the training committee of the co-ordinating council will have regional and subregional subcommittees.
I want to conclude my comment on what the hon member for Sea Point said. He made several non-factual statements. He has a complete inability to relate to the facts and to discussion. Firstly, the hon member said, and I quote from his unedited Hansard (Hansard: Assembly, 4 March):
There is not a single clause to substantiate this statement of the hon member. There is no substance whatsoever in this statement. Secondly, he says (Hansard: Assembly, 4 March):
On training he said he had read the recommendations of the Curry Committee very carefully. So he read the report! Why did he not read page 1 where the terms of reference are clearly set out? These state, inter alia:
- (1) the recruitment, training, utilization and retention of personnel for local authorities; and
- (2) the orientation of municipal councillors and members of management committees, consultative and local affairs committees.
I also want to refer to page 5, para 4, where it is stated that the committee itself accepted certain guidelines within which they carried out their investigation. There is therefore no basis whatsoever for the conclusion of the hon member for Sea Point.
Thirdly, this statement of the hon member has no factual foundation at all (Hansard: Assembly, 4 March):
I challenge this hon member and any other hon member to prove to me in which clause of this Bill there is any justification for this assertion by the hon member.
*I think we owe it to one another when we debate matters—which we must do—to at least adhere to the facts.
†I come now to the hon member for Umbilo. I seriously considered not reacting to the hon member, but I decided against that.
We have a strange phenomenon in this House. We see the ex-leader of the NRP in the seat of the leader. Behind him we have the provincial leader. The party is in actual fact being led from outside Parliament. This explains the difficulties we have in this particular regard. I can understand that the hon member has to prove himself as leader. I have very sound advice for him: Abuse is no substitute for an argument.
Mr Chairman, may I ask a question?
No, I am busy now.
What leadership do I have to prove?
Order! The hon member must sit down.
This is not a new reaction from the hon member. We have become used to it.
I am the provincial leader and that is all I want.
I said he was the provincial leader, but apparently he did not listen. I want to tell him again: Abuse is no substitute for an argument.
You practise that too.
I want to take it further. Arrogance is no substitute for the quality of leadership either. I want to prove what I have just said because I think it is opportune and appropriate.
At the request of the councillors of the Provincial Council of Natal I addressed that council. The hon member made comments without having read the speech that I made to those councillors. He did not read this speech and he did not have the courtesy to establish what the facts were.
Did you invite me to attend?
No, I had no right as I was invited myself. [Interjections.] The hon. member is prepared to comment without referring to the speech that was made.
I thought we were talking about this Bill. You wanted everyone else to come back to it.
I am talking about the Bill. I want to come to the Bill in terms of what the hon member has done. He says that the scrapping of provincial councils is idiotic.
Scrapping them without replacing them with something else.
He says that only a fool will scrap the one thing without having worked out the details.
That shows my opinion of you, doesn’t it?
Order! We cannot have such a discussion going full-time. An interjection is one thing, but continual heckling is something else. The hon the Minister may continue.
The hon member went further and said that I want change for the sake of change. Let us check the hon member’s record in this regard. He and his party supported sections 14 to 18 of the Constitution. He further supported the schedules to the Constitution. In terms of those sections and schedules the most important functions of provincial councils, which he supported, are functions of the Ministers’ Councils. Furthermore, we accepted an amendment to the Constitution—I refer to section 98(3)—that the process of the adaptation of that system should be undertaken in consultation with the executives of those Provinces. In other words the hon member himself accepted two things: Firstly, a change in the provincial system and, secondly, that it had to be negotiated. The hon members know that no change has taken place in the system at all and that the process of consultation is going on continuously.
We still do not know what is going to happen.
That is for the very reason for which he has condemned me, namely that we are negotiating an alternative system before scrapping the other one. Is that too difficult to understand?
I want to take the matter further. He said it was impertinent of me to suggest that councillors may require training. Then he went further and said very impertinently that it could only of course apply to the non-Whites. That is in his Hansard. However, on Friday, 6 July, 1984, during the debate on the Remuneration of Town Clerks Bill, he indicated quite clearly that he was in favour of steps being taken for the tuition of councillors. I should like to read that to him, because the House must know the basis of his arguments. I said the following (Hansard, column 10753):
In July, Sir, we agreed on the necessity for some sort of training or tuition for the councillors, but today it is impertinent to suggest it! What notice can one take of people who in respect of an opinion vacillate from day to day? What an insult is it not to suggest that only non-Whites need tuition! [Interjections.]
Having rid himself of his abuse, he went further. He said: “Now I should like to come to the Bill.” He did say that rather late in his speech, but he came to the Bill. He was correct in saying that all he had said prior to that had nothing to do with the Bill. He continued:
Who produced this?
I do not know.
Now the hon member has again given us an indication of his ignorance. It is quite obviously because of his ignorance, and because he does not have access to the facts, that he makes these completely unfounded and unjustified statements.
Why “completely” if I have not got access to the facts?
The hon member had access to the facts; he knows what the constitution of the co-ordinating council is. He knows what the constitutions of the subcommittees are. He has, in fact, seen the reports. Now he tells me he does not know where they emanated from. [Interjections.] Yet, what did he say during this debate, in his response to the hon member for Randburg? He said all 60 members of the council were wrong, and that he was the only one who was right. [Interjections.]
Now he says: He did not know the facts, he did not have access to the report, he did not know where it emanated from and he did not know who was responsible for it. What absolute nonsense! (Interjections.]
The next meeting of the council is to take place at 11h00 on 26 March 1985 in the Chamber of the Cape Provincial Council. I extend an invitation to that hon member to attend this meeting and to tell those gentlemen, many of whom have spent a lifetime in local government, to their faces that they know nothing about this at all. I want him to tell that to Mr Frank Martin, the Leader of the Provincial Council of Natal.
I shall tell him that this Bill is nonsense, yes.
I want him to tell that to Mr Oberholzer of Johannesburg; I want him to tell that to Mr Steyn van der Spuy of Pretoria and to Mr McClenan of Durban, and Mr Friedlander of Cape Town.
I accept your invitation.
Order! I do not intend to allow hon members to ignore my request. I sincerely hope they will contain themselves, otherwise I shall be obliged to mention names and to take further steps if necessary. The hon the Minister may continue.
I shall leave it at that, Sir.
*I come now to the hon member for Kuruman. This hon member began by making an unimportant statement. Very little of what he said, however, was related to the legislation, but because he said it, I must reply to him on it. At the same time I am also replying to the hon member for Pietersburg, as far as it is relevant.
The hon member said the NP was a party which changed its policy every week, and he said this was reflected in this legislation. Now I want to remind the hon member of his conduct in 1982. Perhaps it has slipped his memory; or perhaps he has conveniently forgotten about it. He was chairman of a committee which also recommended an advisory council for the Minister of Environment Affairs. He said that that committee should be advisory and co-ordinating. These are also the functions of the Co-ordinating Council. In paragraph 6.4.6 his committee recommended—under his signature—that members of all population groups should be considered for appointment to this council.
As a result of the committee’s report, the Environment Conservation Act of 1982 was drawn up. This is the model which we used in drawing up the Co-ordinating Council Act of 1983, and these are the facts. However, there is something I find very interesting; the hon member knows that that Act was drawn up in 1983, but let us see what he did and how he vaccilated: He signed this report on 8 February 1982. However, we must bear in mind that there is another date which is also relevant, and that is 22 February. On 8 February the hon member said that representation for all groups in an advisory co-ordinating council was acceptable to him, and and he signed his name to that effect.
It was recommended. It was found acceptable. It was considered to be in the interests of everyone, and it was not regarded as the end of White preservation. It was not considered to be an assault by the Government on the Whites, and it was not rejected as political integration. Within 24 days or less, however, the hon member had made a complete about-face. Now the contents of what he had previously urged, is the surrender of White rights.
I want to go a little further. In his opening address the State President said it had been decided that certain things would happen. However, the State President’s address is a policy speech containing policy announcements to which Parliament shall give consideration if legislation for that purpose is necessary. For years how it has been a tradition that the State President makes announcements in his opening address in respect of legislation which will be considered. Now, suddenly, it is contempt of Parliament. He said we gave in to pressure. He said that we effected amendments on the standing committee under pressure from the Coloureds and the Asians. Surely it is not true and the hon member knows it. The fact of the matter is that the State President made an announcement in this connection during the Primrose by-election, long before this legislation was introduced. Surely the hon member knows this, and he used it against the NP during that by-election. Now he has very conveniently forgotten it.
What are the remaining facts? Before the legislation was considered by the standing committee, I wrote a letter to my colleague, the hon the Minister of Co-operation and Development on 25 January 1985 in which I confirmed that the amendments would be effected to make provision for the specific circumstances. To that hon member the facts make no difference, however. He then came forward with a wonderful statement. He said the CP maintained that White officials should be very well trained to render services which were of the utmost importance to White local authorities and that Coloured officials in the employ of Coloured local authorities should be very well trained to render service to the Coloured local authorities. Is he aware of the implications of this? They are that only White officials will be in the employ of White local authorities and only Coloureds in the employ of Coloured local authorities. I then considered the CP constituencies, from Louis Trichardt right down to Waterberg, including Postmasburg, and in not one of them are more White officials being employed than Black and Coloured officials. [Interjections.] Not one as far as I could ascertain. But the hon member dreams of an Orania in which White people will live in isolation, uncontaminated by other people. What a load of nonsense.
As far as the hon member for Pietersburg is concerned, I have reprimanded him before on account of his standpoint. In the first place he spoke about the costs. The fact of the matter is that the first recommendation of an official inquiry into local authorities was that of the Browne Committee. He was the person who investigated the finances of local authorities. One of his most important recommendations in respect of the finances of local authorities was that we should enhance the calibre of the officials, and that proper training facilities should be established. I said the same thing myself in my second reading speech, and the hon member will recall it. I said:
†To do that is penny wise and pound foolish.
*This need was identified by Browne, and he alleged that it was financially beneficial in respect of cost effectiveness if officials were properly trained.
The Institute of Town Clerks, the chief executive officers of all the local authorities, held a congress in 1981. They supported this recommendation and asked for its implementation. The UME, the President’s Council, the investigating committee of the Coordinating Council all did the same thing, but the hon member alleged that we were wasting money. He also came to me with a strange statement and said that the Coordinating Council, in terms of legislation, was intervening directly in the affairs of local authorities by imposing an obligation on them in respect of a training fund. He went even further. Just see how he is juggling with the facts. He said that the Coordinating Council was in fact becoming part of the control structure of local authorities, just as the President’s Council was part of the central legislative structure of this dispensation.
It creates the regional councils.
Surely that is not true. No, it does not create regional councils. The hon member is talking without any factual basis whatsoever. The allegation is untrue. The opposite is true.
Precisely because the co-ordinating council and its committees, such as the training committee, are merely advisory bodies, and precisely because no executive powers are being granted to the co-ordinating council, it is necessary to have a training council which is able to discharge that function. But the hon member said that we were assuming control over the local authorities by means of the co-ordinating council.
He then went on to talk about the costs to Parliament. He spoke in the past tense and said that the total amount this had already cost the tax-payer had been R64,6 million. Surely the hon member knows that that is not correct. Does the hon member want to tell me that his parliamentary buildings are not going to have any offices? Are his Ministers not going to have any offices? Are they not going to have any debating chambers? Next time, will he please tell me what costs are going to be involved?
He went further and quoted me—this is the last quotation I am going to make—as having stated on 9 July 1984 that we had no mandate to involve the Black people. Surely that is not true. What were we debating that day? Let us look at Hansard. We were discussing the Constitution Act and the composition of Parliament. The hon member had argued that we had first had three Parliaments, but that we now had one Parliament with three Houses all under one roof. You will remember it. It was the “under the same roof” story. My reply to him was that surely this was not a comparable case. But he wants to get the Black people under the same roof. Surely we subjected the central system to a referendum and I maintain that this is surely not a comparable case. Surely it was proved at the referendum that there shall be one Parliament, with three Chambers for Whites, Coloureds and Asians. Surely we did not ask for approval to make provision for Black people within the same institution. I am now referring to Parliament.
On what basis are we able to argue with one another if we do so in this way? I asked myself with what object the hon member made such statements.
Mr Chairman, may I ask the hon the Minister a question?
No, I am sorry, I have no time for that.
I want to thank the hon members for Parow, Randburg, Klip River, Witbank and Sundays River very sincerely for their contributions.
I want to conclude by saying that I believe a major portion of the solution to our problem lies in a maximum devolution of power to local authority systems, maximum community decision-making over their own destinies. This means that if we are to enforce that system, we must improve the calibre of councillors, as well as the officials who are going to serve them. It was not I who identified this need. It was identified by all the people who have devoted their lives to the service of local communities. That is why I say that instead of being prepared to accept this, we indulge in petty politicking here, while the needs are being neglected.
Question put: That the words “the Bill be” stand part of the Question,
Upon which the House divided:
Ayes—88: Alant, T G; Aronson, T; Badenhorst, P J; Ballot, G C; Botha, C J v R; Botha, J C G; Botma, M C; Breytenbach, W N; Clase, P J; Coetzer, H S; Conradie, F D; Cunningham, J H; De Beer, S J; Du Plessis, G C; Durr, K D S; Du Toit, J P; Fouché, A F; Fourie, A; Geldenhuys, B L; Golden, S G A; Grobler, J P; Hayward, S A S; Hefer, W J; Heunis, J C; Heyns, J H; Jordaan, A L; Kleynhans, J W; Landman, W J; Lemmer, W A; Le Roux, D E T; Ligthelm, N W; Louw, E v d M; Louw, M H; Malan, W C; Malherbe, G J; Marais, G; Marais, P G; Maré, P L; Maree, M D; Meiring, J W H; Meyer, W D; Miller, R B; Nothnagel, A E; Odendaal, W A; Olivier, P J S; Pretorius, N J; Rabie, J; Rencken, C R E; Schoeman, S J; Schoeman, W J; Schutte, D P A; Scott, D B; Simkin, C H W; Smit, H A; Steyn, D W; Swanepoel, K D; Tempel, H J; Terblanche, A J W P S; Terblanche, G P D; Thompson, A G; Ungerer, J H B; Van den Berg, J C; Van der Linde, G J; Van der Walt, A T; Van Eeden, D S; Van Niekerk, A I; Van Rensburg, H M J (Mossel Bay); Van Rensburg, H M J (Rosettenville); Van Vuuren, L M J; Van Wyk, J A; Van Zyl, J G; Veldman, M H; Venter, A A; Venter, E H; Vermeulen, J A J; Vilonel, J J; Volker, V A; Weeber, A; Welgemoed, P J; Wentzel, J J G; Wiley, J W E; Wright, A P.
Tellers: J P I Blanché, W J Cuyler, A Geldenhuys, W T Kritzinger, C J Ligthelm and L van der Watt.
Noes—16: Andrew, K M; Bamford, B R; Barnard, M S; Burrows, R; Moorcroft, E K; Myburgh, P A; Olivier, N J J; Schwarz, H H; Sive, R; Soal, P G; Suzman, H; Swart, R A F; Van der Merwe, S S; Van Rensburg, H E J.
Tellers: G B D McIntosh and A B Widman.
Question affirmed and amendment moved by Prof N J J Olivier dropped.
Question then put: That the word “now” stand part of the Question,
Upon which the House divided:
Ayes—88: Alant, T G; Aronson, T; Badenhorst, P J; Ballot, G C; Botha, C J v R; Botha, J C G; Botma, M C; Breytenbach, W N; Clase, P J; Coetsee, H J; Conradie, F D; Cunningham, J H; De Beer, S J; Du Plessis, G C; Durr, K D S; Du Toit, J P; Fouché, A F; Fourie, A; Geldenhuys, B L; Golden, S G A; Grobler, J P; Hayward, S A S; Hefer, W J; Heunis, J C; Heyns, J H; Jordaan, A L; Kleynhans, J W; Landman, W J; Lemmer, W A; Le Roux, D E T; Ligthelm, N W; Louw, E v d M; Louw, M H; Malan, W C; Malherbe, G J; Marais, G; Marais, P G; Maré, P L; Maree, M D; Meiring, J W H; Meyer, W D; Miller, R B; Nothnagel, A E; Odendaal, W A; Olivier, P J S; Pretorius, N J; Rabie, J; Rencken, C R E; Schoeman, S J; Schoeman, W J; Schutte, D P A; Scott, D B; Simkin, C H W; Smit, H A; Steyn, D W; Swanepoel, K D; Tempel, H J; Terblanche, A JWPS; Terblanche, G P D; Thompson, A G; Ungerer, J H B; Van den Berg, J C; Van der Linde, G J; Van der Walt, A T; Van Eeden, D S; Van Niekerk, A I; Van Rensburg, H M J (Mossel Bay); Van Rensburg, H M J (Rosettenville); Van Vuuren, L M J; Van Wyk, J A; Van Zyl, J G; Veldman, M H; Venter, A A; Venter, E H; Vermeulen, J A J; Vilonel, J J; Volker, V A; Weeber, A; Welgemoed, P J; Wentzel, J J G; Wiley, J W E; Wright, A P.
Tellers: J P I Blanché, W J Cuyler, A Geldenhuys, W T Kritzinger, C J Ligthelm and L van der Watt.
Noes—15: Hardingham, R W; Page, B W B; Raw, W V; Rogers, P R C; Scholtz, E M; Snyman, W J; Theunissen, L M; Treurnicht, A P; Van der Merwe, W L; Van Heerden, R F; Van Zyl, J J B; Visagie, J H; Watterson, D W.
Tellers: J H Hoon and F J le Roux.
Question affirmed and amendment moved by Mr J H Hoon dropped.
Bill read a second time.
Certified fair copy of Bill to be transmitted to the State President for his assent unless the House decides within three sitting days after the disposal thereof in all three Houses to refer the Bill to a committee.
In accordance with Standing Order No 19, the House adjourned at