JOHN CUPIDO: SPEECH IN RESPONSE TO BUDGET AND POLICY VOTE: DIRECTORATE FOR YOUTH, GENDER AND DISABILITY, OFFICE OF THEN PREMIER

Last week, the Portfolio committee for Youth, gender and Disability adopted the report that has been tabled today. I pointed out the excellent work done by the committee and the quality of the report.

Since then I have learned via the legislature grapevine that I am expected to give a happy-go-lucky speech today.

Unfortunately I cannot do so.

The committee report on Youth Gender and Disability is a gloomy document and an even gloomier reflection on the Office of the Premier. For years this legislature has listened to the same complaints about the fact that this section of the provincial administration just cannot get itself going. I think any representative of the youth and women, and the disabled community will agree with me that they remain marginalised and are mentioned in the Legislature as a necessary nuisance. It is with sadness that the Democratic Alliance has to say that it has no choice but to fully support this cheerless report.

I would suggest that this House insists that all MEC’s, Heads of Departments and Programme Managers read this report from beginning to end and with the necessary seriousness it deserves.

Let’s have a look at a few issues contained in the report, which should be a wake-up call for this legislature and its mandate of oversight:

• While the government spends thousand to pursue private companies who do not adhere to equity measures, we find that the employment equity target for the province itself is currently 34,2 %.

• The employment equity target for people with disabilities currently stands at 0.24% Government buildings in this province are yet to be accessible to people with disabilities. Having a wheelchair ramp does not alone make the building accessible to people with disabilities. There are for more corrective measures that need to be taken. We read in newspapers daily how angry protestors are taking out their frustrations in their communities through violence and protest, they remain disenfranchised because they are not afforded enough and well thought through opportunities. How can we affort more opportunites, when it remains a fact that in most departments in this province, bursary policies cater for internal staff members only. What is the reason for SPUs then?

The DA believes in expanding choice, not contracting it. In an opportunity society that values individual freedom, the state’s role must be to facilitate, not direct the activity of citizens; if it provides services, it must seek to expand choice, not determine choices. In other words, the free, independent and active individual is at the heart of the opportunity society, both in determining the opportunities required and in taking advantage of them.

On this point I would like to highlight the reality in this report that this entire directorate is not doing its job. The report makes the point that “there are no clear lines of communication between the Special Programmes Units in the Office of the Premier and the SPUs in departments. This is nothing new. It has been a complaint for years. It is time that the whole SPU system is reworked so that they can do more than hand out pamphlets, caps and T-shits. SPUs are not event-planners, they have been specifically mandated to address the specific issues affecting youth, gender and the disabled. It these sections of our communities were not deemed important, I cannot imagine why they are granted their own directorates.

In this report we are again bombarded with the legacy of the Youth Commission and the establishment of the Youth Desk in the Premier’s Office. The fact is that this unit has not managed the simple task of organising Youth Day. Surely, with the expertise of a Youth Desk and the former members of the Youth Commission, such a task should not be a hard one.

R5, 8 million for the compensation of the Eastern Cape Youth Commission and what do we have to show for it? Nothing.

Last year a billion rand was budgeted nationally for the National Youth Development Agency. We are yet to see any positive reports of their projects that are supposed to benefit the youth of our province.

The committee found that the provincial strategy on child trafficking has not been finalised. What does this mean for you and me?

Other than the expected threats of abduction in cost cities like Port Elizabeth, there is a very real chance that because organised groups of human and child traffickers are aware the security in host cities are significantly increased, with extra policing, extra cameras etc., they will be targeting smaller towns like East London, King William’s Town Mthatha and the like. Think about it, Port Elizabeth will have an increased police presence. Where will there extra officers come from? Not having a finalised strategy means only one thing…we are not prepared.

This all points back to the ongoing problems not only with this directorate and with the Office of the Premier, but of the provincial administration as a whole: that the time for “strategising” can no longer be used as an excuse. The time has come that drastic action is taken to get officials to either do their jobs, or get out. The main calling of a civil servant is service – to his community and fellow citizens.

The DA supports the report.

I thank you.