Vote 19: Social Development – NATIONAL ASSEMBLY TUESDAY, 25 MAY MINI PLENARIES (VIRTUAL) 10:00 – 12:15

Hon. LL van der Merwe


Honourable Chairperson –

The plans and funds we are debating today are a lifeline to millions of South Africans. They are the lifeline to many poor children surviving on a school meal alone. They are the lifeline to grandmothers providing for their families; and they are the lifeline to many NGOs assisting the vulnerable.

On the 5th of May 2020, the Mercury newspaper led with the headline, “KZN poor starve, food hampers sold, stolen by officials”. As South Africa found itself in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is a story that repeated itself in almost all provinces. Now, a year later, we have yet to see any official doing hard time in jail for stealing food parcels or any official being held to account for unlawfully collecting the R350 Covid Grant. Considering that this Department’s funds stand between life and death for many, this is simply unforgivable.

Chairperson, the reality is that when this Department fails, there are dire consequences for the most vulnerable.

These dire consequences were seen in my Constituency recently, when a family lost their grandmother due to Covid-19. Their sole source of income disappeared overnight. The children were left with a family member – an uncle who abused them – leading to one of the young women committing suicide. The family could not access a social worker.

While a war rages against the most vulnerable in our communities, 5 000 social workers trained by the State are sitting at home. This, despite a 2018 Cabinet Resolution that instructed Government Ministers to employ trained social workers.

We must ask ourselves why a so-called caring Government would not act on its own commitment? Knowing that these 5 000 social workers could have stood in defence of the children on the killing fields of gangster-ridden Cape Flats. These social workers are needed in the fight against substance abuse and they are needed to protect the many women and children affected by abuse and gender-based violence. Substance abuse, gender-based violence and gangsterism are critical areas of focus this Department is making little to zero progress on.

The dire consequences of the Department’s failures can be seen in the ECD sector, which is on the verge of collapse. It can be seen in the foster care crisis, which is coupled with an adoption crisis. It can be seen in acute malnutrition, which is now a leading cause of death amongst South Africa’s children. It can be seen in the budget cuts that are paralysing NGOs. As we speak, many NGOs remain unpaid.

Honourable Minister, the IFP acknowledges that your Department has many hardworking individuals. We thank you, together with your Deputy Minister, the ADG, the leadership of the two entities, and every official who seeks to serve our people.

However, we need you to do more in defense of the poor –

  • Firstly, resolve the non-payment, late payment and subsidy cuts to NPOs and NGOs who provide vital services on behalf of the State.
  • We urge you to finalise a budget allocation with Treasury for the Child Support Top-Up Grant.
  • We need you, Minister, to act urgently to ensure that the 2018 Cabinet Resolution on the employment of social workers is implemented without delay.
  • Minister, SASSA must clamp down on fraud and corruption, especially by its own officials. Those officials must rot in jail.
  • Shelters, which are vital in the fight against gender-based violence, remain underfunded and your Department must therefore finalise the intersectoral policy without further delay.
  • Officials that discourage or wilfully delay adoption processes within your Department must be held to account.

Honourable Chairperson, for the most vulnerable, our country is an unforgiving place to live in. South Africa is now a welfare state. Where 18.3 million South Africans have had their hopes and dreams replaced by a SASSA grant alone. For them, for the vulnerable, we must therefore support this Budget.