Budget Vote Debate- Extended Public Committee
Vote 17: Social Development
Old Assembly Chamber
Hon LL van der Merwe, MP
Honourable House Chairperson,
This debate comes only a few days after South Africans commemorated Freedom Day. Twenty two years on, we are inundated with negative statistics. Life is hard, and it’s getting harder.
As we sit here, the children of Manenberg are living in fear of being shot or killed. Because of the gang violence in that community up to 70% of its children are not going to school. We have failed them!
The children of Manenberg are the next generation of young people whose stories will be written in our statistics, in years to come. StatsSA recently indicated that black youths, today, are less skilled than their parents. This former President Thabo Mbeki, labelled as a national emergency.
All social indicators therefore are pointing in the wrong direction. The needs of the most vulnerable people must always be urgent and critical, leaving no room for failure or politics.
But the Minister of Social Development is also the President of the ANC Women’s League, so politics is inevitable and its shortcomings are visible. So allow me to speak to some of the “small anayana skeletons”, as our Minister would say, in our Government’s closet.
Firstly, the IFP believes that not enough has been done to ensure the administrative integrity of the grant system. R19 million disappeared recently in fake foster care grants at just one SASSA office in KwaZulu Natal. Just one! That money was allocated to alleviate child poverty. Where is it now?
And where is the money that is deducted illegally, on a monthly basis, from SASSA grant recipients? The IFP recently pleaded with the President to establish a Commission of Enquiry as fraud syndicates are robbing our grandparents and vulnerable citizens.
No matter the size of the budget, these issues affect its credibility.
The money squandered can no longer be used where it is needed.
Thus we go without sufficient numbers of treatment centres across our country, leaving those who want help for substance abuse without anywhere to go to. This is the crisis that needs greater focus and effort.
We also have to make do without the requisite number of qualified social workers, because the Department does not have the funds to employ them upon graduation.
Those who are in the field face appalling conditions and inadequate pay, yet they are desperately needed. The one social worker per ward dream therefore, remains a dream deferred.
The question must also be asked whether our government has lost its way when they start labelling NGOs, the very organisations who provide services on behalf of the State, as enemies of the State? And why is it that we have made no progress in fighting gender based violence? And if this is a caring government why do millions of schoolgirls who cannot afford sanitary pads, go without them? If we can provide free condoms, we can surely provide free sanitary pads.
Colleagues in conclusion, our country deserves leadership that respects the rights of our citizens. What we don’t need is leadership that would allude to the use of violence, when faced by revolting citizens, as was the case recently in Port Elizabeth. What we don’t need are leaders who would offer food parcels in return for votes, which is like charging citizens for their votes. We don’t need leaders, who attack the Public Protector to deflect from their own shortcomings.
We need leaders who are prepared to take a tough stance in the face of an ever-growing social crisis in our country. We need leaders who will put politics aside and prioritize our people and the prosperity of all.
Honourable LL van der Merwe, MP
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IFP Media, Parliament