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BUDGET VOTES Vote 19: Social Development

Hon. LL Van der Merwe, MP
24 July 2020

Chairperson –

A few weeks back, many of us were brought to tears when we heard the story of a father, who had no food to feed his family. As his children cried, he boiled water to give them hope that food was coming.

In our constituencies, it is a story that has repeated itself time and time again. In May, I assisted one young man who contemplated poisoning his family because the R350 Grant didn’t arrive before his family’s food ran out. He felt that ending their lives would be the only way to solve their problems.

As many people cried out that food parcels and the R350 Grant were not reaching them, it was ordinary South Africans and NGOs who stepped up to help. The IFP thanks every South African, every NPO, and every social worker that provided much-needed help to the most vulnerable during these trying times.

Chairperson, we are asked today to consider the additional billions allocated to the Department of Social Development and its entities. So allow me therefore to put some concerns on record:

The theft of food parcels and the KZN DSD’s blanket and sanitary towel corruption scandals, have exposed what I can only describe as a morally bankrupt ruling class. The fact that no one has been held accountable for these crimes to date, also tells a story of a country that is pro-elite, where the lives of CADRES are more important than the lives of the poor. And might add, that President Ramaphosa’s undertakings of last night, although welcomed, will ring hollow until we see arrests.

What is equally unforgivable is the fact that while desperate citizens were sleeping in front of closed SASSA offices during the lockdown period, in the cold and rain, the much-publicised call centre numbers for DSD and SASSA went unanswered or were simply not operational.

It has also come to light that only R700 out of R1 200 government food parcel cost is actually being spent on food. The rest of the money goes to packing, transport, security and other non-essentials.

This is not good enough. And we need to move to a food voucher system without further delay.

Given our socio-economic crisis, services provided by many NPOs on behalf of the State, which are subsidised by this Department, are obviously desperately needed.

Yet, three-and-a-half months into the financial year, the Eastern Cape’s DSD has yet to pay the majority of their NPOs. Some payments remain outstanding in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West. Organisations in these provinces are also reporting cuts made to their subsidies. These cuts affect services for older persons, people with disabilities, people living with HIV/AIDS, shelters, and ECDs.

This too is unforgivable. 

It must also be noted that while the IFP supports the R350 Grant, it has become a nightmare – not a relief – for many. Mr Dick, Mrs Naidoo, Mr Koekemoer, to name but a few South Africans, had their grants approved in May of this year already, but are still waiting to be paid. While many others have been rejected for no sensible reason and without any reasonable measure to correct their rejection.

Chairperson, no caring government closes feeding schemes during a pandemic. With schools having been closed, nine million children were deprived of their only meal each day. This Department, with Basic Education, should have ensured that schemes remained operational. Yet it took a Court to correct this injustice.

Chairperson, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed deep fault lines in our country. It has once more shone the light on the war being waged against women and children in their homes and the failure of this Department to prioritise GBV. While this war is being waged, thousands of social workers trained by the State are sitting at home.

Post Covid-19, the manner in which we support the poor and vulnerable must change. The IFP believes we need a system that promotes self-help and self-reliance. Linking grants to opportunities. And a social worker in every ward. As a start. A system that favours the poor.

I thank you.

Hon. LL Van der Merwe, MP
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