NEWS & ANALYSIS

Provincial govt not serious about social development – DA FState

David van Vuuren says for communities need to know leaders of crucial depts are in touch with their needs

Provincial Government not serious about social development in the Free State

9 July 2019

Madam Speaker,

July is a very special month for all of us in this country, and in this province. On the 18th of July we will celebrate the birthday of the late Hon. Nelson Mandela. It is only a pity that most of our people will not have the privilege of celebrating this month with the dignity that was envisioned for them by Madiba, the vision of a society that pursues social justice and embodies the social contract.

The Department of Social Development has a crucial mandate to fulfil. “To meet the human and social needs of the poor and vulnerable communities of the Free State through an inter-sectoral and integrated developmental social service.”

Madam Speaker,

These words are not my own, this is the mission statement of this Department. And as much as they are just words to the ANC, to the citizens of this province they represent a promise and more so, hope. Hope that one day they will live in thriving communities, free from drug dealers, gangsters, poverty, domestic violence and dependence on social grants. This department is supposed to be the guardian of the people. It is supposed be the mother of departments that nurtures and protects vulnerable men, women and children of all ages and skin colours, from the reality of their circumstances.

Madam Speaker,

The truth is that this Department has failed the people of the Free State, and at the helm, is its ANC leadership, seemingly oblivious to how fragile our communities have become. The most exposed are riddled by abuse, neglect, abandonment, exploitation and left with nowhere to turn.

Honourable Speaker,

What has the ANC government accomplished if, year on year more people are dependent on social grants in the Free State. The Free State has a total population of 2 867 000 individuals and 882 000 households. Social grant beneficiaries account for 50.3% of these households, which amounts to 33.9% of the population, or about one million people.

A Statistics South Africa household survey indicates that only 53.3% of households in the Free State indicate that salaries are their main sources of income while 24.2% indicate that their only source was social grants. Compared to the DA-governed Western Cape 73.8% of households cited salaries and only 9.4% grants as their main source of household income.

The DA acknowledges the importance of social grants, but it cannot be the primary source of income for many rural townships and communities.

Madam Speaker,

If more and more of our children drop out of school because of their circumstances at home and if money meant to aid in helping those most in need keeps being plundered from the public purse with an utter disregard for its purpose, we will never be able to turn around the poor social circumstances our communities are facing. The Auditor-Generals report on the 2017/18 financial year revealed irregular expenditure amounting to almost 29 Million Rand, which is 27 Million Rand more than the previous financial year. This display of disregard for financial accountability within the department are the reasons why non-profit institutions that provide social services in the province are, as indicated by the Auditor General, “operating under poor health and safety conditions”. The DA believes that social spending should be focussed on the disadvantaged and that such spending should improve the life chances of individuals born into poverty.

The ANC leadership of this department have failed to develop and successfully implement effective internal controls that will allow it to operate efficiently and provide it’s beneficiaries with an unprecedented social service.

The DA has tried and tested policies that will help to improve the livelihood of children in need, the youth and young job-seekers, youth at risk of being overcome by the cycle of their circumstances, poor adults, the elderly, people with disabilities our policies will expedite support to community based institutions which help improve conditions where they are most needed.

Madam Speaker,

In her State of the Province Address, the Honourable Premier made reference to older persons residing in our Old Age Homes and the funding of the Community Based Care Centres.

Why Madam Speaker, must the DA receive complaints from Provincial Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) who are battling for survival because the Free State Department of Social Development pays their subsidies late or not at all?

This results in these NGO’s struggling to pay for basic services such as electricity and water.

Social and staff members at NGO’s in the Free State, who remain dependent on the Department of Social Development’s subsidies are unsure whether they will receive their salaries as they struggle to assist indigent persons in our society.

Some NGO’s even have to borrow money to ensure a continuation of their programmes to meet the basic needs of people.

This has an extremely negative impact on the operations of these institutions in the delivery of the crucial services they provide to the most vulnerable in our society.

Madam Speaker,

The Premier also boasted in her State of the Province Address about the 469 social workers in the Province, adding that we still require an additional 65 workers.

The norms and standards requires a single social worker for a community of 10 000 people.

Let’s compare this to a DA governed Western Cape, there are in total 1 510 social work professionals across the province. Accordingly, this accounts for 3 social workers per community of 10 000 people.  That Madam Speaker, is a caring government.  Going the extra mile.

Madam Speaker,

During a visit to Thaba Nchu earlier this year, the DA made a horrendous discovery when we found thousands of applications and reports from the Department of Social Development strewn across a veld which included, amongst others:

- Transfer of child support grants;

- Cases of child abuse and deliberate negligence which should be considered by the children’s court;

- Social worker reports for relief of distress; and

- Affidavits by women seeking temporary shelter due to the abuse they experience at the hands of their spouses.

It is unacceptable that officials at the Department of Social Development can be so irresponsible with confidential information.

Copies of identity documents and full details of abused children must be kept under strict lock and key and definitely not dumped in the veld.  These activities constitute a gross violation of the Child Care and Protection Act.

The DA collected all the documents and handed it over to the then MEC of Social Development. Unfortunately, it seems to be the norm that there was no consequences for the criminal manner in which these documents were handled.

Madam Speaker,

For the communities in the Free State to feel safe and cared for they need to know that the government and especially the leaders of these very crucial departments are in touch with the needs of the people. Unfortunately the Democratic Alliance are very concerned that Honourable Qabathe will not be serious enough in turning around this Department to guarantee a social welfare system that the people of the Free State deserve.

As the old saying goes “the proof of the pudding is in the easting”, if we just look at the glooming legacy the honourable MEC left behind in her role as political head of the department of Agriculture. Under her watch the very controversial Vrede Dairy project was implemented.

We all know how this project is being criminally investigated and the fact that beneficiaries who were promised an opportunity and a better life never received a cent out of the project, in fact the R250 000 000 that was invested by the department enriched and paid for a Gupta wedding of more than R30 000 000.

Madam Speaker,

The question must be asked, what will now suddenly change from a legacy of not fulfilling a promise to the 80 beneficiaries and giving them dignity and an opportunity to prosper - to a promise to care for the people as newly appointed MEC of Social Development . Daar is ‘n afrikaanse spreekwoord wat se ‘n jakkels verander van haar maar nie van snaar. Die DA is bevrees dat die LUR net die belange van haarself en haar party sal beskerm en as gevolg van die nalatenskap van korrupsie wat onder haar leierskap plaasgevind het boesem sy geen vertrou in dat sy moreel die verantwoordelikheid aanvaar van die belangrike department.

Die lede van die Demokratiese Allianse in die wetgewer onderneem om deurentyd die belange van die inwoners van die Vrystaat eerste te stel en sal deur ons oorsigrol druk op die department en die LUR plaas om te verseker dat hulle, hulle grondwetlike verantwoordelikheid sal nakom.

Issued by David van Vuuren, DA MPL Free State Spokesperson on Social Development and Chief Whip, 9 July 2019