Minister Bathabile Dlamini: Social Development Dept Budget Vote Speech 2016/17

4 May 2016

Honourable Chairperson,
Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu,
Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Mrs Zoleka Capa,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Distinguished Guests,
Partners and members of the community here present,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Twenty two years have passed since South Africans from different walks of life voted for the very first time, to usher in a democratic and inclusive South Africa. Two years later, in 1996, South Africa cast in stone its intention to build a society that does not, as was the case under the apartheid regime, tolerate and normalize racism, sexism and other forms of institutionalized discrimination and systemic economic exclusion.  Lest we forget, the South African constitution not only provides for important civil and political rights, but also makes provision for socio-economic rights inclusive of social security.

We therefore dedicate Budget Vote 17 to the memory of those who paid the supreme price in pursuit of our hard earned Constitutional democracy.  Among them were millions of women who dedicated their lives to “Towards Advancing Peoples Power in Every Community”.  This theme, is a stark reminder that our freedom was not free and should not be taken for granted.

Honourable Members;

Today, as I stand in this august house we must acknowledge the important role that was paved by our forebears of the women’s struggle that started more than 98 years ago under the leadership of gallant Charlotte Maxeke. Let me further salute the heroic women who marched to the Union Building on 9 August 1956 to protest against the unjust pass laws. This year we will be commemorating 60 years of that historic march. They demonstrated fortitude in confronting the most difficult conditions of organising women under severe patriarchal and apartheid repression.  May their spirit live on!                                    

As was then, the struggle of women remain significant to the development of our society. It was President Nelson Mandela who then said “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression”.

Honourable Members;

Allow us to salute our brave daughters at Rhodes University and elsewhere, who recently stood up to assert the rights of women, and especially, to make their voices heard against institutions that serve to normalise and perpetuate rape culture in South Africa. This is the cardinal theme of our constitution, which establishes a “society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights”. Women’s rights are human rights!

The despicable acts of gender based violence, are at odds with our Constitutional values and the ideals of the ANC led government.  These values and ideals are aimed at creating a society where no person is subjected to violence and discrimination.

We must act against patriarchal homophobes, who rape and kill black lesbians, those who seek to stop the building of mosques as is the case in Valhalla, Pretoria because of racism and Islamophobia.  We condemn those who seek to weaken workers’ rights to advance the interest of big business.

These Constitutional values embody the historical struggle of the ANC, and are fundamental to the ANC. The ANC will never put to a referendum critical issues that derive from the Bill of Rights, such as the prohibition of the death penalty and the rights of same sex couples to marry, as was once suggested by the DA leader.  We are not selective in the protection and respect for Constitutional values.

Honourable Members;

The Department of Social Development received a budget of 148 Billion Rand this financial year. Of this amount, 140 Billion Rand goes directly to poor households to support the elderly, people with disabilities and children. Budget vote 17 remains faithful to the vision and ideals as expressed in our Constitution. 

The commitment of the ANC led government towards the progressive realisation of these constitutional rights is expressed through the expansion of our social assistance programme to almost 17 million South Africans. Our commitment is expressed through legislation such as the Older Persons Act, the Children’s Act and the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

During our address to this house a year ago, we reported on progress made by the Ministerial Committee appointed to review the White Paper for Social Welfare.  The Committee completed its report with specific findings and proposals that we will table to Cabinet before the end of this month. 

Honourable Chairperson;

The NDP calls for 55 thousand social service professionals for the sector.  We will galvanise resources to ensure that the Sector has the required capacity for personnel and programmes.  We acknowledge the challenges we are facing regarding the recruitment and employment of social work graduates.  These challenges arise out of the restrictive fiscal environment that South Africa is facing. 

Rest assured that as the Social Development Sector we are working tirelessly towards finding a lasting solution to these challenges. To date, we have absorbed 7291 social workers.

Through creative ways we have employed an additional 248 social workers for specific programmes such as family finders for both Child Support Grant and Foster Care Grant. Through our collaboration with other partners we have been able to employ an additional 94 social workers to strengthen child protection services.

Honourable Members;

We are dedicating this Budget Vote to the struggle of women, and we are utilising the Constitution as the shield by which their protection is guaranteed.  We have noted that our communities and families continue to be torn apart by the scourge of violence, abuse and discrimination. 

To address these challenges, we are going to table the Victim Support Services Bill, which will strengthen the protection, care and support services for victims of crime and violence.

Honourable Members;

Our Command Centre on gender based violence is an example of utilising technology to improve public services.  The Command Centre provides valuable counseling services to address all forms of trauma. Between January 2015 and March 2016, the dedicated staff at the Command Centre attended to more than 55 thousand calls.

The Command Centre has received several international accolades including international awards in London and in Las Vegas, for being the Best Technology Innovation Small Centre in the world. Building on the success of the Command Centre we will be main-streaming services to people with disabilities so as to make these services more inclusive and accessible in line with our Constitutional mandate.  Our next step is to consolidate the Command Centre through the inclusion of Child Line and SASSA.

Key to our interventions on gender based violence is the need to empower unemployed women who are trapped in violent relationships and dependent on their abusive partners. 

Working with NDA, we will provide them with the necessary skills through our capacity building initiatives. In the end, every voice counts in ending gender based violence.

Honourable Chairperson;

Current trends indicate that South Africa is a source, transit, and destination country for men and women subjected to trafficking for forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation.  The analysis of the trends highlight that forced commercial sexual exploitation is the most common reason for trafficking of humans. 

To combat the trafficking of persons, the department will be implementing the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act with the Justice Cluster. 

Honourable Members;

The implementation of the Children’s Act continues as part of giving meaning to the principles of protection, prevention and early intervention. 

We must continue to put children first. The patriarchal practice of forced child marriage, ukuthwalwa, and initiation deaths which all constitute harmful cultural practices should be abolished.

Early Childhood Development forms part of our goal of investing in the development of children as one of the primary means of building human capital and reducing inter-generational poverty. In line with resolutions of the ANC’s 52nd Congress in Mangaung that declared ECD as a public good, we take pride in announcing that cabinet approved the ECD policy in December 2015. 

The policy presents 15 strategic objectives to ensure universal access to ECD services by 2030. This policy will give our children the best possible start in life.  To achieve this goal, 810 Million Rand has been allocated as a conditional grant. This allocation will enable us to expand ECD services in line with ECD policy over the MTSF period.  We encourage parents and primary caregivers to take their children to ECD centres so that their minds are stimulated early in life. Ligotshwa lisemanzi!

We applaud the recent steps taken by the Department of Higher Education and Training to gazette the Draft Policy on minimum requirements for programmes leading to qualifications for practitioners and educators in Early Childhood Care and Education. 

Allow me to salute and congratulate the finalists of the South African ECD Awards who are seated in the public gallery.

Honourable Members;

In order to provide quality services to child and youth headed households, the Department has developed a register of child and youth headed households so that we are able to design and provide developmental interventions that are informed by the needs of these children.

We continue with our psycho-social interventions for children, to implement our Isibindi programme, strengthen our child care and child protection programmes as well as our social assistance programme for vulnerable children.

We undertake all these initiatives because we care and we are committed to our obligations under Section 28 of the Constitution.  

Honourable Members;

As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the June 16 student uprising of 1976, we call upon all young people to play their part in nurturing our Constitutional democracy under the theme HASHTAG 40YearsOn, recommitting our youth to active citizenry and to building an integrated society.

The Department will bring together over 250 youth development activists and change agents through a commemoration tour which entails a walk through the historical and memorial sites in honour and remembrance of the Class of ‘76. It is incumbent on today’s generation to emulate the actions and calls of that generation. Each One Teach One. Each one must care for another. Ubuntu lobo.

Honourable Chair;

All of our work in the social development sector is informed by the evidence we get from our Mikondzo programme. We interface with ordinary people and obtain deeper understanding of their plight. Mikondzo provides us with an opportunity to develop, strengthen and implement responsive social development initiatives.

We will continue to increase our physical footprint in order to remain closer to the people we serve. We will massify all our programmes by institutionalising the Mikondzo programme in the Social Development Sector.  

CBOs, FBOs and NGOs remain important partners of Government in the delivery of services.   We remain committed to strengthening partnership with civil society organisations.

This year we will be amending the NPO Act to ensure that our NPOs are better placed to deliver services without any obstacles.  The NPO Bill will be introduced to parliament before the end of the current financial year.

The NDA and Provincial Departments in collaboration with the private sector will be embarking on an intensive capacity building and mentoring drive for NPOs.

Honourable Members

With this budget the Department recommits itself to the implementation of the Household Food and Nutrition Security Strategy.  Together with NPOs, we have created a network of 166 Community Nutrition and Development Centres in targeted poor communities, that are affected by high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.  These centres have also created over 600 jobs. We will increase these centres to at least 200 this financial year.

In line with government’s pronouncement on preferential procurement, the Department has introduced programmes to plug the outflow of resources including social assistance out of poor communities.

Consequently, the Department working closely with SASSA and NDA, have linked over 200 cooperatives to economic opportunities through programmes such as the Social Relief of Distress and Community Nutrition Development Centres. In addition, we will facilitate the signing of MOUs between the implementing agencies and cooperatives providing food. 

In our first year of implementation, we have procured over a 100 million Rand worth of goods from local cooperatives inclusive of school uniforms, nutritious food, blankets and dignity packs. 

The purchase of food from these cooperatives will also motivate communities to grow their own nutritious food and assist in the mitigation of the impact of high food prices. Sixosha indlala!!

I am also pleased to announce reforms to the social assistance programme which aims to better the lives of poor South Africans, particularly children. We are all aware that the country is presently faced with an increasing number of orphans and vulnerable children, child neglect and poverty.

As such, the Department has sought an intervention that strengthens and supports the safety net of poor children, who are orphaned and living in child headed households by increasing the value of the CSG for these children.

The policy for this was approved by Cabinet in December last year, and we will be introducing legislation for this to Parliament within the current financial year.

Going forward, the Department aims to introduce proposals to amend the Social Assistance Act to remove the current internal reconsideration mechanism within SASSA. This will ensure easy accessibility for appellants to internal remedies by approaching the Tribunal directly without resorting to expensive legal costs and receiving appropriate and accessible services.

Honourable Members;

The Minister of Finance in his budget speech, committed us to releasing the discussion paper on comprehensive social security reforms by mid-year. In this regard, we have examined many international good practices, with a view to move to a new social security dispensation in our country.  This will ensure that we achieve adequate social security coverage for all within reasonable cost constraints. 

However, international evidence suggests that South Africa is out of sync with other developing countries due to our lack of mandatory cover for retirement and risk benefits.

Improvements have also been made over the course of last year. The Independent Tribunal for Social Assistance Appeals has also significantly improved the speed at which it adjudicates appeals. Over the last 12 months the 90-day turnaround time for the finalisation of social assistance appeals has improved from 49% to 82%. This ensures that our social grant applicants and beneficiaries have exercised their right to administrative justice.

The ANC led government has thus consistently delivered on government’s most effective anti-poverty programme. Our Social Assistance Programme now reaches almost 17 million South Africans. 

More than two thirds of all social grant recipients are children who receive the Child Support Grant.  Over 3 million older persons receive the Old Age Grant while a million people receive the disability grant. For this, we pay tribute to Dr Zola Skweyiya the former Minister of Social Development for laying a solid foundation for social security.

The investment that the government is making in the lives of the poor and vulnerable learners is showing positive results.  Children in our Isibindi Programme and the CSG are performing well in schools. Last year, out of the four hundred and fifty five thousand nine hundred and twenty two learners (455 922) who passed their matric examinations, three hundred and four thousand nine hundred and thirteen (304 913) learners, received a social grant.

Indeed social assistance has proven to be an important tool for human capital investment and the biggest contributor to reducing poverty and inequality.

In order to ensure that the education of these learners continues without interruption, the department is in negotiation with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme to ensure that learners that had qualified for grants are not subjected to a means test to qualify for financial support to further their studies.

Honourable Members

We face a huge challenge with deductions on social grants. These deductions are eroding the value and impact of social grants in addressing the deep levels of poverty and inequality in our society.

We have witnessed high levels of unacceptable practice of illegal, immoral and unauthorised deductions of money from all grant types for services ranging from airtime, water, loans and funeral policies.

We published revised Regulations to the Social Assistance Act for public comment in February this year, which will deal with this practice. The department has considered all the comments and made some revisions to the Regulations.

These revisions will be published this week. The Ministerial Task Team on Deductions will continue to monitor these practices and ensure that deductions are ultimately brought to an end. Phansi ngomashonisa!!!

The absence of a funeral benefit has opened our social grant beneficiaries to exploitation by private insurance companies. The lack of government action to protect them has led very loud outcry by our beneficiaries and various civil society organisations

We intend to introduce legislation into Parliament during this current financial year, for the establishment of a funeral benefits fund.

This year marks 10 years since the establishment of SASSA. The agency has earned world recognition for transforming a fragmented social assistance payment system into a single and effective grant payment system.  Since its inception in April 2006, the agency has been at the forefront of our efforts to provide a safety net to the most vulnerable members of our society.

Alongside transforming the payment system, the agency has extended its footprint in each municipality.  With such a footprint and high levels of efficiency, the agency has lived up to its slogan, “Paying the Right Social Grant, to the Right Person, at the Right Time and Place. Njalo!

As reaffirmed by the Ministerial Advisory Committee, SASSA is taking over the management and control of the payment process that is currently performed by a third party, from 1 April 2017. The intention is to have a single payment platform, which will facilitate the payment of Social Assistance through multiple channels. 

Insourcing the payment processes will ensure that SASSA is in control of the entire operational value chain. This will further improve the delivery of our services.

The achievements of the agency in the past five years were made possible by the dedicated leadership of its energetic and tireless CEO, Dr Virginia Petersen, who after years of dedication to the public service is retiring.  Her professionalism turned the agency into a stable efficient organisation which delivered on its mandate with admirable levels of efficiency. 

Honourable members, I invite you to join me in wishing Dr. Petersen well in her future endeavors. “Siyabonga siyanconcoza sithi okuhle kodwa, uyibekile induku ebandla!”

In conclusion, I would like to thank my comrade and colleague, Deputy Minister Hendrieta Bogopane–Zulu, and all MECs for their support and contribution in moving forward the social development agenda.

I extend my thanks to the Acting Director General, Mr. Thokozani Magwaza, my special advisors, Mr. Sipho Shezi and Mr. Zane Dangor as well as the dedicated staff of the DSD family. 

Honourable Members also allow me to extend my gratitude to the former CEO of NDA Dr Vuyelwa Nhlapo for her contribution. I also invite you to welcome the new Board members of NDA and wish them well in repositioning Agency. I also wish to thank the Acting CEO of the NDA, Ms Nelisiwe Vilakazi who has kept the NDA boat afloat.

I now table Budget Vote 17 for your consideration and support.

Ngiyabonga!!