David van Vuuren
DA Chief Whip in the Free State Provincial Legislature:
The below speech was delivered by David van Vuuren (MPL) during the debate on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill 2015/16 in the Free State Provincial Legislature today.
The Democratic Alliance would like to congratulate MEC Ntombela again in receiving an audit opinion that is unqualified with findings.
What is disconcerting is the fact that the department has stagnated. There was no improvement on the performance information and compliance with laws and regulations for the last 5 financial years, and these are the only two findings that are preventing the department from attaining a totally unqualified audit.
Honourable MEC Ntombela you need to put pressure on the department to improve these on these findings, otherwise the department will regress over time.
The department recently appeared before the PROPAC and Finance committee to report on their second and third quarter expenditure for the year, we can also congratulate your department on militating against the accruals of R8 million that accumulated in the first quarter.
The notion of social development has been with us for a long time. The first emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus, initiated the ‘congiaria’ or the grain dole for citizens who could not afford to buy food.
Emperor Agustus did this knowing that there are families who struggle to make ends meet and that it would be inhumane to ignore their suffering. He assisted the poor in their basic needs, as any a good leader should.
The same responsibility lies with us as leaders. We are mandated by the spirit of the Constitution to assist those that have little and to address the terrible legacy of Apartheid.
Social support for all citizens who need it is the primary goal of the Department of Social Development.
It is worrying that twenty one years into democracy we still struggle with high levels of unemployment and poverty in the Free State.
A government that cares would not only dole out social assistance, which only serves to alleviate suffering temporarily, but would also implement programmes that would see economic development and growth, which will economically empower our people.
The people of the Free State deserve to live productive and successful lives and government has a responsibility to ensure that this environment which promotes opportunities conducive to economic growth is established.
Social Development without economic development is not sustainable.
We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the poor rate of economic development in the Free State. It is time that this government starts to take economic development seriously.
In the meantime, to assist those most in need, we need to address the shortage of social workers in the province.
We also need to address the working conditions of social workers.
At the department’s Koffiefontein offices, staff are demoralised on account that they have to work 10 to 12 workers in a single room, making it impossible to keep the ethics of confidentiality. These social workers also have to share toilets with hundreds of students.
To work in such conditions can be demoralising and difficult.
The department should also ensure that funds allocated to NGOs are spend appropriately. Delays in the disbursement of funds to NGOs negatively impact on their ability to assist the department in providing social assistance.
The DA without question supports the tasks entrusted upon the Department of Social Development to, and I quote
“… Develop and monitor the implementation of social policy that both creates an enabling environment for and leads to the reduction in poverty. We ensure the provision of social protection and social welfare services to all people who live in our land.”
With this in mind, in order to reduce the impact of poverty, the need for economic growth is the main way to do so.
The Honourable MEC of Finance, Elzabe Rockman, pointed out in her budget speech how the official unemployment rate for the Free State was recorded at 32.2% by the fourth quarter in 2014, down from 34.6%. Irrespective of the 2.5% growth, the Free State province still has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
This in turn creates dependency on social grants as a means of making ends meet. We need to bring these unemployment figures down drastically.
No social grant can replace the dignity and pride that comes with being employed and earning a decent salary.
We need to create jobs.
It is unfair to only try and attend to people’s needs only when it suits a political agenda. It should be a consistent practise that ensures our people’s needs are met all the time.
We cannot help our children by simply preaching to have them to get off the streets, but we can help them by keeping children occupied with education, sport and other cultural and development programmes.
Education is the only tool that can drive back poverty. We need to ensure that children stay in school until matric.
As the late former president Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
The elderly should not be forgotten. Fraud and corruption has been found to be prevalent inside and outside SASSA points. The department needs to take steps that would protect our elderly from exploitation.
It is evident that the department still has a lot of work to be done in order to build a caring society. The task before this department in the Free State is enormous.
We need to keep in mind that this is all for the good of our people, and no one else. We need to live in a society where we understand the concept of putting people and their needs first.
Thank you, Speaker.