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A Speech by Hon. Mr. E Makue (MP) on the Occasion of the Policy Debate on Social Development Budget Vote in the National Council of Provinces

19 June 2018

Honourable Chairperson
Honourable Deputy Chairperson
Honourable Deputy Minister Bogopane-Zulu
Honourable Members
Special Delegates
Ladies and gentlemen;

The chief aim of the African National Congress in developing and implementing the Reconstruction and Development Programme was to address the immense socio-economic problems that were caused by the long years of apartheid and neglect of our people.

We said this because, as we were preparing to take over the reins of power, we undertook one of the most comprehensive analyses of the ravaging impact of apartheid in our society.

In one of the first policy frameworks for our movement, which was titled "Ready to Govern: ANC Policy Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa", we acknowledged the immense impact of apartheid and the social exclusion of our people.

By 1994, our society was completely fractured by the legacy of apartheid which permeated almost every aspect of life in our communities. South Africa's economy was facing a variety of structural problems that left our people in some of the most disconcerting social conditions of poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, poor health and dysfunctional social support systems.

After the demise of apartheid in 1994, the ANC government proceeded with greater urgency and profound resilience to develop one of the most comprehensive social transformation agenda that was geared towards changing the material and social conditions of our people.

Armed with our new Constitution, which was inspired by the vision of the Freedom Charter, we proceeded to work with utmost resilience and determination to weave the threats that will see us celebrating a nation which is non-racial, non-sexiest and democratic, a nation that is dedicated to pushing back the frontiers of poverty.

In addressing poverty and inequality, the ANC government committed itself to providing basic rights to shelter, food, health, employment, education, healthcare, water and sanitation, and all aspects that promote the physical, social and emotional well-being of all in our society.

As a result of our knowledge of the lived experiences of our people and the brutal conditions that we faced under apartheid, we proceeded with fierce urgency to providing a social safety net to the most vulnerable sectors of our society, which include women, children, youth, families in need of care, and older persons.

Honourable Chairperson, the ANC position on social transformation seeks to "empower people to lift themselves out of poverty while creating adequate social nets to protect the most vulnerable in our society."

Following the ANC 2007 National Conference, a Comprehensive Social Security strategy was developed which included expanding the base of the poor through housing, land reform, retirement reform, unemployment and accident insurance among others.

As a result of the decisive interventions of the ANC, our programme of social grants has enormously reduced the poverty gap by 63%. We are aware that there are those among us who are always quick to accuse us of building a society that is dependent on social grants. Of course they will say so because unlike the majority of our people, their lives were made more privileged by the conditions that existed under apartheid rule.

As the ANC we have said creating a social protection network and strengthening of families should remain a cardinal feature of our national efforts to transform South Africa.

In advancing this perspective, we have said we need to move with utmost speed to build a caring society that treats its most vulnerable with utmost respect and dignity. It is for this reason that we committed ourselves to wage a concerted fight against household poverty in all its manifestation.

We take utmost pride that the Department of Social Development allocates the majority of its budget to social assistance to our people in line with our arch aim of ensuring that every South African, especially the poor experiences an improving quality of life.

As part of our collective efforts to protect the most vulnerable in our society, the ANC government has moved with profound speed to develop a number of programmes and interventions that aimed at pensioners, children and people with disabilities. Military veterans have access to social benefits and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) that protects workers who have lost employment. This has also been extended to include domestic workers and also increased the benefit payment period to 12 months.

The bulk of those that are protected by and benefit from government policies are largely women and children. We are proud that today almost a third of all social grants beneficiaries are children. A study, which was conducted by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) South Africa and carried out by the Economic
Policy Research Institute (EPRI) in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), as part of a larger project partnership including the Institute for Development Studies (IDS), Oxford Policy Management (OPM), Reform Development Consulting (RDC) and Take Note Trading (TNT) reaffirmed the enormous benefits of the Child Support Grant by stating that children who have access to the Children Support Grant early in their lives have performed better at school than those that did not. In many instances, these children have a guaranteed meal on their table, which effectively improves their health conditions and performance in school.

When compared to other countries in the continent and across the globe, South Africa has the largest and most comprehensive social safety net.

The Disability Grant and Care Dependency Grants also continue to make a meaningful impact in assisting among the vulnerable groups of our society. An important step towards advancing the rights of people with disabilities was Cabinet approving the White Paper on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in December 2015.

Honourable Chairperson, the ANC government has made positive efforts to improve the administration (the cost of the service and efficiency) and payments of Social Grants. SASSA has addressed several challenges that existed in the cash-based system that preceded it. Allow me, Honourable Chairperson, to congratulate the Department for the intervention to put an end to the illegal deductions and exploitation of grant beneficiaries by unscrupulous business people like those who sell airtime and short-term insurances. This intervention will go a long way in ensuring that grants reach their intended recipients and put more money in the pockets of our people.

Honourable Chairperson, in 2007 at our Polokwane Conference, as the ANC we took a decision to develop a comprehensive strategy on early childhood development. In 2012, taking its cue from the findings of the Planning Commission's Diagnostic Report, the ANC took a resolution in its 53rd National Conference to accelerate the implementation of the Comprehensive Early Childhood Development Programme. Further, and most important, the 53rd National Conference resolved that we must ensure the universal provision of essential services for the first 4 years of our young children's lives. The Department of Social Development was tasked to take the lead in this area of work. We are indeed humbled by the progress that the Department has made in this regard.

Pre-Grade R attendance in ECD has doubled since 2008, and we are on track for universal coverage. ECD contributes to accelerated development and that participation in ECD and Grade R is key to develop the basic skills for future successful learning.

Over the past twenty years, the ANC government has made meaningful progress in expanding access to ECD programmes. The ANC and now government recognises the importance of early childhood development. The number of children accessing ECD services has increased steadily over the years. The government has created a new Early Childhood Development conditional grant to help children from poor households to attend ECD centres.

Honourable Chairperson, as the ANC we support the budget vote of the Department of Social Development. It is at the centre of our decisive programmes and interventions to bring hope for a better life to our people. The interventions of this Department continue to ensure that the ANC government remains a bold beacon of hope and instrument for the continued liberation of our people from the trappings of the poverty, unemployment, poor health and underdevelopment.

I thank you!

     
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