by Isak Fritz, MPL – DA Spokesperson of Social Development
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Date: 07 June 2018
Note to Editors: The following is an extract from a speech presented by Isak Fritz MPL at the annual Budget Vote Debate for the Northern Cape Department of Social Development at the Frances Baard District Municipality chambers in Kimberley today.
Honourable Speaker, the Department of Social Development was established with a noble cause in mind – it is the job of this department to serve as a safety net for all vulnerable people of society; and it is the task of this department to see to it that the most basic rights of our people are met.
The mission of the Department of Social Development is to enable the poor, the vulnerable and the excluded within South African society, to secure a better life for themselves, in partnership with them and with those who are committed to building a caring society.
Honourable Speaker, at the core of the National Development Plan, which should guide the everyday actions of all government departments, it 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”.
Honourable Speaker, these are very serious tasks indeed. They not only improve lives, but they also sustain life.
The department does have programmes to address all of these social ills, and more. But, given the economic crisis and unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty that we are facing as a country, the work of this department is becoming increasingly more important and more challenging.
Yesterday, as the clock struck 12, signaling yet another petrol increase, it also sounded a death knell for more than half of the citizens of the Northern Cape, who suffer in poverty.
The fuel increase comes on top of other fuel increases, on top of inflation and on top of the 1% VAT increase.
Food has become unaffordable and thousands of households in the Northern Cape are struggling to put a meal on the table.
This, Honourable Speaker, is where we would expect the Department of Social Development to come in, to provide a safety net for the growing number of people who are experiencing hunger.
And so, when there is no money to put food on the table, this department must be in a position to provide food packages and operate soup kitchens.
When the aged are left alone and neglected, this department must put a roof over their heads.
And when women become victims of domestic violence, this department must help facilitate their escape from the cycle of abuse.
Honourable Speaker, having said the above, I would like to quote a scripture out of Proverbs, and it reads as follows:
“Speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the rights of the poor and the needy. Those who give to the poor will lack nothing but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.”
Earlier this year, the Health Department reported that the incidence of violent crimes perpetrated against the vulnerable groups in society is significantly on the increase in the Northern Cape. It was also stated that more and more violent deaths of women and children are reported in the Northern Cape. At the same time, this department’s reports indicate far more victims of crime than was bargained for, are coming forward to receive psycho-social support.
Honourable Speaker, violence against children and women should have no place in our society. We must condemn these incidents, however, government cannot do it alone. Parents, family, friends and the whole community continue to play the most important role in ensuring children and women are safe and protected.
Some of the shocking statistics that illustrate the extent of violence against women in South Africa are:
• One in every four women is physically abused by her intimate partner; and
• Every six hours a woman is killed by a current or former intimate partner.
While intimate partner violence is triggered by many factors, alcohol use and abuse have often been found to be a risk factor.
Verbal and emotional abuse also has severe consequences for victims. Women who experience intimate partner violence have an increased probability of suffering from mental disorder. This can lead to depression, poor coping abilities and even suicidal tendencies.
A study that was done found that 36,8% of boys and 33,9% of girls reported some form of sexual abuse. It also showed that more than 784 967 young people aged fifteen to seventeen in South Africa had been sexually abused. 26% of children who were interviewed at home said they experienced sexual abuse.
We are dealing with a fragmented, inadequate system which is failing our children daily. Perpetrators aren’t brought to justice and children don’t receive crucial therapeutic support services that are vital to their recovery and long term wellbeing.
The Children’s Institute found that children are most at risk in their own homes. Younger children especially were most likely to be abused by a relative or someone they knew. 80% of under four-year olds were related to their abusers.
Honourable Speaker, the problem is that there are not enough counsellors and social workers in our country. That is why not a lot of children have access to crucial services.
Honourable Speaker, research indicates that in 2016, nearly a third of South African children under the age of 5 years, were stunted due to them not getting the necessary nutrition.
Without good nutrition, a young child can suffer serious and often permanent damage to their developing brains and bodies.
The effects of stunting not only lasts a lifetime, but can also be passed on from one generation to another. Beyond the individual impacts of this problem, which include impaired brain development, lower IQ, weakened immune systems and greater risk of serious diseases like diabetes and cancer later in life, stunting can also an enormous drain on economic productivity and growth.
Honourable Speaker, this department has a responsibility to do much more to address the basic needs of our poor people and to stem hunger. Already, the Northern Cape has lost a generation of young people to Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which long ago reached epidemic proportions in the Northern Cape. South Africa cannot afford to lose yet another generation, and their children, to malnutrition as a result of out-of-control tax.
Aside from FAS and malnutrition, we have lost and also continue losing a generation to substance abuse.
The last National Youth Risk Behaviour Survey of 2008, which is outdated and I suspect presents a more conservative view compared to the reality of what we are truly facing ten years on, showed that the Northern Cape had the highest proportion of learners who have used alcohol on school property in school time. It also had the highest prevalence of learners who used dagga before the age of 13, cocaine, heroin, club drugs and tik.
Once again, we cannot stress the importance of getting the new substance abuse centre up and running as a matter of urgency.
However, for substance abuse treatment to really have the required impact, services also need to be devolved to the districts, to places like Kuruman, where drug abuse is out of control.
I want to use this opportunity to highlight a service delivery gap that exists amongst one of our vulnerable groups.
While there are programmes to address treatment and prevention of substance abuse, Honourable Speaker, there is little, if anything, that addresses the empowerment of people living with FAS.
FAS means a child will also suffer stunted growth and facial deformities, attention and behavior problems, and, in some cases, mental retardation. Worst of all, it’s a diagnosis that’s never outgrown and adults with FAS will never function normally.
Just as the department provides workshops for people living with physical disabilities, so too must it cater for workshops for people living with FAS. They too deserve hope for a better life.
Honourable Speaker, there are many vulnerable people depending on this department to help them survive, to help them move forward and to help them live and die with dignity.
I would be failing the elderly if I also did not mention the pitiful services being delivered at old age homes across this province, two of which were recently flagged as being amongst the very worst in the entire country. Our older people deserve so much better. Many have no one left to look out for them but the state.
Surely this department can do more to ensure compliance of NPO’s and to ensure that facilities receive payment on time. NPO’s must be funded fairly and transparently.
In closing, I therefore wish to remind this department that NPO’s are providing services that the department itself is obliged to provide in terms of the Constitution and various laws.
Isak Fritz, MPL
DA Spokesperson of Social Development
083 395 2737
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387