Speech Notes: Social Development Portfolio Committee Report and Budget 2020/2021

Issued by Kobus Botha, MPL
DA Member of the EC Legislature

Hon Speaker, protocol observed, I greet all present here today.

During the past few months with COVID-19 sweeping into our country and affecting the lives of every single South African, we have seen the true importance of the Department of Social Development and everything that it stands for.

We have never been blind to the fact that we have millions of residents in the Eastern Cape, ranging across all races, ages, sand gender, who rely on the important services that are offered and who these individuals rely on, by the department of Social Development.

With this being said, I am of the view that this government has not always done everything in its power to ensure that these critical services are rendered  by a well-oiled engine that safeguards that these services are delivered ON TIME and with the utmost professionalism.

Although the department has stated that due to only being able to return 30% of its workforce as a compliance measure to Covid-19 regulations, it has had a negative impact on the timeous payment of NGOs and NPOs.

I am certain that this has had a negative impact on service delivery, but COVID did not exist in 2019, or 2018, or 2017 or at any time during the past 2 decades. This is how long the late payments of subsidies to NPO’s have endured within the Eastern Cape.

There seems to be an inability, for the past 20 years at least, from the department to ensure that subsidy payments and yearly service level agreements are delivered to NPO’s on which the department is highly reliant on to deliver critical support services to millions in our province.

The lack of rectifying a persistent problem with timeous payment of subsidies cannot continue to be blamed on a system that is being development or a new system that has been implemented. This excuse has been used for decades, and I can show you the proof from the various parliamentary questions that have been submitted to several MEC’s.

This CANNOT continue. The ripple effect of not paying subsidies on time are felt by NPO’s who employ social workers to deliver services to the most vulnerable and destitute as they cannot be paid a salary; and by those who are recipients of these services such as the elderly, the abuse and vulnerable women and children, and those faced with disabilities.

The department should hand its head in shame as it has been unable to rectify the same recurring issue year after year after year. You are letting down those in need in this province. You must do better.

It is of great concern that the department has not yet implemented the Social Relief of Distress programme despite a government directive to ensure that food parcels are distributed to individuals that are experiencing hardships during the lockdown. And to top this off, the budget for this has been decreased.

It is of great concern that fund have not been paid to ECD centers during their closure during the national lockdown. The funds for ECD centres do not only cover the cost for learners but also for ECD practitioners. This means that thousands of ECD practitioners have been left stranded with no stipends during the past few months. This is, plainly put, grossly irresponsible and careless.

We have also seen a decrease in targets relating to ECD practitioners although there is an increased need for practitioners and, yet the budget allocations remain the same. A department of this nature should strive to increase its performance output.

During various oversight visits to homeless shelters and old age homes in the province, it was discovered that most of these institutions are in great need.

This government took an oath to support those in need in the province. Amongst the most needy are people who have no homes, who don’t know where their next meal will come from and those who are forgotten along the side of the road.

Although the department must be commended for finally deciding that there is a great need for homeless shelters in the Eastern Cape, it is sad to see that these shelters only opened as a result of the department being forced to do so. What is of great concern is that these shelters are only temporary refuge for the homeless.

There has been no clear plan forthcoming from the department in what is being done now to ensure that these people do not have to return to the street upon the inevitable closure of these shelters.  It is commendable that many of the homeless have been reunited with their families, but there are still hundreds that are left to rely on the goodwill of others or a life of crime to be able to eat.

In speaking to some of the homeless in the temporary shelters in the province, I was told that the two meals a day that are supplied by the department, is not enough and it lacks nutrition. All the shelters have had to rely on donations in order to provide sufficient food for the residents. Many communities and donors have donated food, but it is not a constant source of food.

Honourable Speaker, the Democratic Alliance does not support this budget. On a basis of principal, we cannot support a decision where not enough funds are made available for social relief of distress which will negatively impact the lives of millions of people.