Dying diggers of Namaqualand need saving
Democratic Alliance Press Statement by
Dr Isak Fritz, MPL
DA Spokesperson on Social Development
Budget debate: Social Development
24 May 2016
Note to Editors: The following debate was delivered by DA Spokesperson on Social Development , Dr Isak Fritz MPL, during a sitting of the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in Kimberley today.
Leader of the Official Opposition
Members of the House
Guests in the gallery
Members of the media
Hon. Speaker, firstly I would like to start off by congratulating this department on maintaining astute financial management. Clean governance undoubtedly goes a long way towards beefing up performance on the ground, as it enables all available funds to be channeled to the core mandates of the department.
While the department has recently raised eyebrows with increasing levels of accruals, we nonetheless trust that this department will keep a firm hand on late payments and prevent them from getting out of control and in the way of service delivery.
Hon. Speaker, the Northern Cape Department of Social Services has a very important role to play.
Peter Borlaug says, and I quote: “You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery”.
These are very powerful words and speak to the core mandates of this department.
This, Hon. Speaker, brings me to the two main functions of this department:
Firstly, I want to speak on the provision of a safety net for the poor.
Young people in the Northern Cape are more likely to go hungry than their counterparts in other provinces. This is according to a report released by Statistician General, Dr Pali Lehohla, last month.
Hon. Speaker, we know that, given the current economic climate, food prices are set to escalate even more. In other words, even more of our people will go hungry.
In this regard we appreciate the department’s commitment to improving food provision to vulnerable groups such as zero income families, children, unemployed women, as well as victims of crime and violence.
What concerns us, however, is that no allocation was provided for transfers to NPO’s under the Food Bank category. Transfers to NPO’s for social relief services are also less than last financial year.
Furthermore, the target for the number of individuals receiving food security interventions is only 36 000 compared with an estimated performance of 57 243 last year. This means that more than 20 000 people will feel the effects of hunger due to a reduction in performance by this department.
Hon. Speaker, the department has also reduced its target for the number of beneficiaries who are to benefit from the department’s Social Relief programmes. In this regard, only 37 000 people will benefit from these programmes this financial year, as opposed to 55 220 in the previous financial year. Once again 20 000 people will suffer as a result hereof.
Hon. Speaker, at the core of the National Development Plan, which should be guiding the everyday actions of all government departments, is the aim to ensure the achievement of a “decent standard of living” for all South Africans by 2030. This includes “achieving a better future … where no one goes hungry”.
Just as treating the sick must be the first priority of the health department, so too must addressing hunger be the number one priority of the Department of Social Development.
While we do appreciate the social relief programmes on offer by the department, and we understand that rising costs also have a detrimental impact on services – as soup is obviously not free and does not make itself- we nonetheless cannot accept a situation whereby this department is shrinking its safety net instead of increasing it.
On this note, I want to encourage the department to do more to curb hunger, even if this means scaling down on less urgent needs and reshuffling funding towards ensuring that everyone suffering from hunger is assisted.
Let us ensure that heartbreaking images of skeletal children, desperately squatting above spilt breadcrumbs, which are so common in sub-Saharan Africa, never come to typify the level of hunger in the Northern Cape.
Secondly, Hon. Speaker, I want to speak about the department’s duty towards empowering vulnerable groupings of society, such as women and children.
Let me first deal with the latter.
There have been inroads made in the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes. However, the number of children receiving these services has just about hit a ceiling due to budgetary constraints and will only increase by 100 children each year over the MTEF. This is something that requires further consideration, interaction with other departments such as Education, as well as innovation through initiatives such as Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s).
Hon. Speaker, the department indicates that it is rendering psycho social services to 18 496 orphans and vulnerable children. However, when looking at the actual target, as set by the department, it only intends providing 2 373 orphans and vulnerable children with psycho social support services by the Home-Community Based Care organizations during the 2016/17 financial year.
What about the other 16 000 orphans and vulnerable children? Who will counsel them?
Given the huge number of AIDs orphans, and the reality of child-headed households in the province, it also worrying that the allocation towards the HIV & AIDs sub-programme has decreased from R30,478 million to R28,922 million in the current financial year.
Hon. Speaker, children in affected households have reduced opportunities for growth and development and increased vulnerability to disease and destitution. Once again, more needs to be done to ensure that these children also have a bright and hopeful future.
On the matter of women empowerment, I would like to voice my discontent on the lack of programmes towards this end.
Hon. Speaker, this is perhaps best embodied in the department’s lack luster response to domestic violence, despite the department acknowledgment that there has been an increase in gender-based violence.
There are also not adequate places of refuge across the Northern Cape for long-terms stays for women trying to escape abusive partners. At the same time, provision is not made for a high-quality basket of services, ranging from legal to financial aspects, for women in need of assistance to break the shackles of abuse.
We also do not see sufficiently coordinated programmes to promote women development through capacity building. I mentioned this in the committee meeting and would like to highlight it again, as I believe that this is a gap that the department must fill.
Last but not least, I would like address the increasing social ills within our society.
Hon. Speaker, the high level of unemployment, and approximately 48 000 zero income households in the province, affirm the high levels of poverty within the Northern Cape. I previously addressed the matter of food security but as we know, poverty is also often associated with range of social-ills such as substance abuse and crime.
In the Northern Cape in particular, we are exposed to high levels of violence and sexual crime that is exasperated by the abuse of alcohol and drugs.
In this regard, I want to voice my concern that restorative services, which are responsible for crime prevention and support, victim empowerment, as well as substance abuse prevention and rehabilitation, is also receiving less than last year’s appropriation.
Crime and substance abuse are on the rise, not on the decline!
In this regard, I also wish to call on the department to scale up its performance in terms of the establishment of a 40-bed in-patient treatment facility.
We are all aware that, with the second adjustment appropriation, the department lost R6 million of its R22 million allocation for 2015/2016, for the substance abuse rehabilitation centre, due to delays in spending the money.
Hon. Speaker, substance abuse in the Northern Cape is at intolerable levels, as is drug related crime.
The people of the Northern Cape therefore cannot afford for the construction of this centre to be delayed due to inefficiencies on the part of the department, or of the implementing agent.
We can also not afford for this centre to turn into a repeat of the new mental health hospital.
I call on MEC Gift Van Staden, to make the completion of this project, within the agreed budget and within the set time frame, his pet project. The addicts of this province are counting on you.
Hon. Speaker, I would like to close with a verse from the Bible, Luke Chapter 6, vs. 20-21, which reads as follows:
“…and Jesus lifted his eyes to his disciples and said:
• Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God;
• Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied;
• Blessed are you who weep, for you shall laugh.”
Dr Isak Fritz
Spokesperson on Social Development
083 395 2737
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387