Social Relief of Distress

Masizole Mnqasela MPP

DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Local Government

(Subject for discussion: The support for the destitute and poor in the programme called Social Relief of Distress)

Honourable Speaker, Members and guests

Social relief of distress is a temporary provision of assistance intended for persons in such dire material need, when they are unable to meet their most basic need together with their families.

The social services are continuously reviewed in order to meet the changing developmental needs of our citizens, especially the vulnerable groups, including children and youth, older persons, and people living with disabilities.  We need to recognise the need to build partnerships with all sectors of society specifically for the advancement of development of all our communities.

Serious concerns have been raised regarding the Social Relief of Distress grants by various organisations. These grants, intended to relieve the dire circumstances of our people, are just not reaching those who really need it:

In a recent first-hand research conducted by UNICEF these concerns were highlighted. The research confirmed that the child support grants are not reaching those who find themselves on the outskirts of the urban areas and in informal settlements of the Western Cape. One could say that social workers and pastors have not reached these areas as they may be newly established or not within accessible reach.

More than a third of our children – a gigantic 36% should be receiving these grants. Somehow, they are excluded.

Madame Speaker, child-headed households are on the rise in our communities due to disease and other social ills. This grant should intervene in these situations. Quite often the children are abused by neighbouring adults who take gross advantage of their precarious situation.

The truth remains that there are not enough social and other workers to access these areas and ascertain the true extent of the problem. Hon Minister, through you speaker, it is not a normal situation for children to start being adults, by taking care of themselves and their siblings, at a very young age, but this is the harsh reality.

Through the various outreach programmes it should however be possible to uncover the many developmental problems in communities that contribute to the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality.

We need to ensure that the children who need relief grants are reached through schools, clinics and hospitals, churches, NGOs and other entities where the children’s needs may be assessed and reported. These entities should have the necessary Distress Relief Forms and the personnel should be able to help these children to finalise these forms in order for their situations to be addressed.

Another area of serious concern is that young children, who are themselves still in need of care and guidance, become parents. They cannot care for themselves, and an addition to the already destitute family, literally drags everybody further into distress.

Research conducted by the Human Research Council and the University of Cape Town has stressed that 50% of all children younger than 5 years are malnourished. Most alarming is that 21% of children, or almost half of those children who are malnourished, are suffering from growth retardation.

There is a need to ensure that those in need are reached. Therefore one needs to ensure that those who are in dire need are alerted to the fact that there is help and that they need to reach out to receive that help. One needs to ensure that those who are able to facilitate help are not biased in any manner.

Madame Speaker, this is a very important point to make. ANC councillors in many communities in this province, uses this grant as a weapon to punish those that did not vote for them in elections, and this needs to be condemned by all of us seating here. This tendency of using food-parcels to garner election support during elections by the ANC needs to come to an end. This is a programme that does not need political bias, but strictly to support the most vulnerable, the poor and downtrodden.

The Bill of Rights in chapter 2 of the Constitution, section 9 (3), states that, the State may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

The Mikondzo project – or footprint project – was initiated by the national Department of Social Development to step into the divide where the various service delivery entities have failed. It had to ensure that all citizens – especially children – are able to access these services.

Mikondzo was launched to focus on services delivery improvement interventions in five priority areas of early childhood development: child youth development, substance abuse, gender based violence and the strengthening of the non-profit organisation sector.

Mikondzo’s prime objective was to identify challenges and other service delivery challenges which would have given Social Development the opportunity to strengthen and improve the impact of its policies and programmes. The project should have engaged with provincial and municipal authorities, councillors, ward committees, social workers and community development workers to provide first-hand information about the situation on the ground in their various areas.

However, Mikondzo has become just another tool of the ANC and its supporters. Through proper, unbiased, non-politicised outreach programmes the many developmental problems in communities that contribute to the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality should be uncovered and appropriately dealt with.

One has to question the reach of social grants in the Western Cape. The Western Cape’s population currently stands at 6,016,900 – that constitutes 11.4% of the total population figure of South Africa. It is quite disturbing then that this province receives only 8.3% of the national amount:

  • Old Age Grants reach a mere 9.3% in the Western Cape;
  • Only 5,6% of the grants payable to Foster Children are paid out to children in the Western Cape;
  • And 7, 8% of the national amount for Child Support gets paid to our children.

These figures show a marked discrepancy in grants payable to those who desperately need support in the Western Cape.

In its presentation to the Sanding Committee on Community Development on July 29, 2014, SASSA – South African Social Security Agency – reports the following on the Government’s safety net response to Poverty: It is the Government’s priority to drastically reduce poverty through accelerated economic growth and the strengthening of the social security safety net. … The Social Assistance Act came into effect on April 1, 2006 …

Yet, honourable Speaker, since 2006 the national ANC government have had major and criminal wastage of resources. In the light of this information I have given this House, it is very disturbing that the ANC remains bent on spending money every elsewhere: swimming pools, chicken runs, tuck shops and underground elevators…

A super-cow farm in the Free State was financed to the tune of R570- million. The contract was awarded to a company that has NO agricultural experience…  And a “feasibility study” was done only after the contract was signed.

  • The “loosely drafted” contract was drawn up by premier of the Free State’s legal adviser. The contract commits the department to dish out R342-million in favour of Estina and the company would be billed for the remaining R228-million only “if necessary”.
  1. R570-million equals 3,167 houses – buying the land for the houses, building roads, infrastructure and everything else. It would have roughly housed 13 000 people and given work to 2 000 people.
  2. R570-million it could have retrained 7 000 trainees or re-qualified workers with much needed skills in a 3-year-skill development programme.

Frivolous spending is criminal because it perpetuates poverty. The majority of South Africans are kept impoverished and at the same time the ANC is forever promising the poorest of the poor the impossible.

On R250-million Nkandla project: the President has failed to take appropriate action – as much on everything else that is happening or has happened in this country. By failing to take action on Nkandla, he knowingly undermined the office of the Public Protector and the Constitution. By of ignoring the Public Prosecutor, the president is contributing to further negligence towards the People of South Africa. He is also wasting the money that taxpayers paid towards the upkeep of the Public Prosecutor and her entire office and staff component.

Furthermore, the President’s actions or in-actions, caused others to believe that their acts would go unpunished. The president is thereby perpetuating untold economic and social harm to South Africa and its people.

The DA realises that, despite the many achievements since 1994, much more still needs to be done to improve the quality of lives of all our citizens.

Through proper monitoring, evaluation and direct interaction with municipalities and local stakeholders, service delivery will continuously improve the quality of life of all our people – not only the Western Cape, but that of the whole country.