Minister Zulu’s silence on ECDs is ripping families apart

The Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, is set to be challenged in the North Gauteng Division of the High Court yet again for violating the South African Constitution and the rights of children as per the Children’s Act in denying them access to basic nutrition (food and water), social services and the right to appropriate public administration.

Founding affidavits by SA Childcare give damning accounts of nonpayment of subsidies by the Department of Social Development; intimidation by Departmental officials; and a Department completely out of touch with the reality on the ground.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes this legal challenge to compel the Minister into action.

Judge Hans Fabricus on 6 July 2020 expressed that Minister Zulu acted with the utmost bad faith to the detriment of approximately 2.7 million vulnerable children by actively keep Early Childhood Development (ECD) and partial care facilities closed. It was also said that the Minister acted unlawfully by prohibiting ECDs to operate and withholding subsidies.

One would imagine that after this damning judgement, Minister Zulu would ensure that she respected the judiciary arm of South Africa and put the best interest of children first. Unfortunately, this has not happened yet again, and South Africa should be outraged.

Why must taxpayers continue to pay legal fees of a Minister and Department who deliberately ignores the Constitution and court rulings?

ECDs and NGOs are struggling to feed hungry children, with many having to turn them away, since they have not received their contractual Government subsidies used to feed children and pay salaries of employees – many who earn below the minimum wage as subsidies are only R15 to R17 per child. This anti-poor ANC government is quite literary taking food out of the mouths of thousands of children and depriving them of their basic human rights by nonpayment, partial payment or late payment of subsidies.

Many children have since gone to live with relatives, many in different provinces, so that they do not starve. Families are being ripped apart. Siblings are being separated, parents are left behind all while Minister Zulu and her department remain silent. This matter was brought to the attention of the Minister in early July 2020. To date, the Minister and ANC MECs have not responded, and where response were received, it was grossly inadequate in correcting this injustice.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development is the only province who has continued to pay ECD and NGO subsidies throughout the Covid-19 lockdown.

To add insult to injury, Minister Zulu and the eight ANC MECs failed to meet the deadline to file an Answering Affidavit by 17 August 2020 after the Notice of Motion was filed on 11 August 2020. This urgent matter was further delayed as the presiding judge indicated that the case was ‘not ripe for hearing’ as the State Attorney’s office is still grossly unprepared. The matter will only be heard on 7 and 8 October 2020 which means ECDs and NGOs are left out in the cold for a further nine days.

We remember Minister Zulu’s previous delay tactics when she tried to prohibit NGOs from serving hot meals to vulnerable South Africans where she amended government directives in an attempt to have the matter dismissed or the plaintiff’s argument diluted.

The Department of Social Development level 2 lockdown directives remain outstanding as Minister Zulu indicated it would only be signed next week.

South Africa and the judiciary should take Minister Zulu and her ANC MEC’s silence and incompetence on this matter for what it is: an unashamed disdain for the ECD and NGO sector and the vulnerable children and communities they serve.

Click here to contribute to the DA’s legal action challenging irrational and dangerous elements of the hard lockdown in court