Minister Zulu, do the honourable thing and vacate your office

The following remarks were delivered in response to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu’s Executive Statement before Parliament today.

Honourable Chairperson,

For some reason, I looked forward to Minister Lindiwe Zulu’s statement today. Firstly, because I hoped Minister Zulu would take the opportunity to ensure all the challenges with the payment of the special Covid-19 social relief of distress grant of R350 were sorted without court intervention. Having listened to the Minister, I am sadly disappointed yet again.

I am disappointed because South Africans have been understanding and patient in the face of ferocious hunger and starvation. I am disappointed because at every meeting the portfolio committee expressed itself clearly and categorically to the Minister and her Department that they should ensure the system works better and that millions of people actually receive that money to buy food.

I am disappointed because when the announcement of the special grant was made on the 21st of April, millions of people had their hopes high that they would at least get R350. For many of them, those hopes have yet to be fulfilled over three months later.

I am still receiving complaints and queries every day from desperate people who have not been paid their grant due to Post Offices telling them there is not sufficient money to pay them. I received complaints this morning from Cape Town, Witbank, and other places.

Honourable Chairperson, when you receive calls, emails, and WhatsApp messages asking you if you know what it is like to go hungry yourself while you have to face your starving children, asking you if tomorrow there will be something to eat – knowing that I don’t have an answer for these people, and being incredibly grateful that I have yet to be in such terrible circumstances – has left me with a deep sense of concern. Messages from people who wake up every single day hoping for a promised outcome that might never come if we have to wait for Minister Zulu to implement solutions. The messages my colleagues and I have received are a drop in the ocean. Countless people don’t even have the means of contacting us.

It is clear to me that in South Africa we don’t have a resource problem; we have an incapable state problem. A state with no capacity, a state that has no respect for constitutional rights and a state that is clearly far removed from the lived experiences of its people. That state, Honourable Chairperson and Honourable Minister, is the ANC-led state.

The Minister’s Executive statement, today, is yet another installment in a series of excuses from a cadre in a position of power that has done nothing to alleviate the scourge of hunger that has gripped millions of people.

Why is it that, to Minister Zulu, the lives and livelihoods of the poor and vulnerable are not important? Why is it, Chairperson, that we have to sit here and listen to a statement about why things have still not happened when they should have been addressed a long time ago?

Honourable Chairperson, statistics are painting a grim picture for the poor people in South Africa. For example, predicted levels of poverty will have almost doubled after the Covid-19 lockdown has been lifted. This prediction calls for planning by the Department of Social Development. It should be at the forefront of looking after the poor and vulnerable. I doubt that this Department has that plan.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has used all avenues available to it to exercise oversight on the Department. We called for SASSA offices to be prioritized for PPE and open to provide the services many people needed when the special grant was announced. We called for the Minister to hold to account all those within the Department and its agencies to account for delays in payment of the special grant and the long queues on payment dates. All our reasonable and caring calls fell on deaf ears.

Honourable Chairperson, in the absence of a clear plan of action and given the Minster and her Department’s recent abysmal track record, the DA would put to the Minister that she should offer an unconditional apology to the millions of South Africans who have been victims of her lack of leadership, her being removed from the lived reality of the people she has the privilege of serving. After the apology, the honourable Minister must do the honourable thing and vacate her position as the Minister of Social Development.

Thank you

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