South Africa faces shocking shortage of thousands of social workers

Please find an attached soundbite by Gizella Opperman MP.

The Department of Social Development (DSD) revealed, in answer to a question from the DA during deliberations on the Children’s Amendment Bill (CAB), that South Africa has a shortage of at least 52 500 social workers. The country currently has 17 500 social workers who provide services, but we need 70 000 to implement the CAB alone.

In 2003, social work was already declared a scarce skill and critical profession by government. It was the insufficient number of magistrates and social workers to process applications that caused the backlog of processing foster grant applications in 2006.

It is unacceptable that while the current pool of suitably qualified social workers are insufficient to meet the demand in South Africa, more than 9 000 qualified social workers are unemployed due to due to funding constraints, lack of capacity and a lack of adequate tools of the trade within the DSD.

According to government, about 5 000 social workers need to employed to implement substance abuse legislation, and a further 3 000 to implement the Older Person’s Act. The costing of social workers to implement gender-based violence (GBV) legislation, as well as the Social Development Bill currently under development, still needs to be done. And while the demand for new psychosocial services increased over the past decade, the number of social workers to address the issue never increased.

Unmet demand for social workers are resulting in unavoidable negligence due to high caseloads and under-implementation of the State’s welfare services.

The DA recommends that all social worker vacancies be funded as a matter of urgency; an increase to the number of auxiliary social workers; improved general working conditions; increased student registration into social work; and raising the image, salaries, and status of the social work profession.

Without the necessary social workers, government would never be able to fulfil its welfare obligations to the poor and vulnerable.

Reduce fuel levy to prevent a cost-of-living crisis, Mr President

South Africans face a cost-of-living crisis that could destroy the country as we know it. With petrol and food prices already high and set to skyrocket in the coming months, a poverty emergency is building in South Africa the likes of which we have never seen before. It will plunge millions more into hunger and risks massive social instability.

Government should immediately reduce the fuel levy for six months. This will bring down the petrol price by up to 20%, take pressure off rising food and transport prices and bring immediate relief to the poor.

The fuel levy is R3,93 per litre. Cutting it will bring the petrol price down from about R21 to as low as R17 per litre. Petrol is around R16-R17 a litre in Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Tanzania, Namibia and Kenya, so it’s not an unreasonable price to aim for.

In this time of a looming humanitarian catastrophe, government needs to pull out all the stops to protect the value of social grants, which is fast eroding. About 18 million grant recipients in rural and township communities, and their families, rely on these monthly grants for survival. That means well over half the nation – well over 30 million people – are already struggling to make it through the month and now face steep rises to the cost of living.

Suspending the fuel levy will make people’s rands go a lot further. It is the most effective way for government to put out the flames of malnutrition and social unrest before they become a runaway fire.

Many , including government, may say we can’t afford to cut levies. After all, fuel levies contribute 6% to South Africa’s revenue. But the truth is, we can’t afford not to.

Grants are set to go up by 4.5% in April. But electricity and fuel prices are set to go up by more than double that in April. Electricity prices by 9.6%, and fuel prices by 11%. Food prices have increased by 5.7% in the past year, according to Statistics SA. This is before the strong upward pressure that global fuel and food price shocks will have on South African food, fuel and electricity prices.

These will all have a devastating impact on people’s ability to survive. Then we also need to consider the deadly effect that steeply rising fuel prices has on jobs and the economy. This week, Statistics SA announced the highest jobless rate ever recorded in South Africa, at almost half the working population – 46%.

Cutting the fuel levy will create fiscal pressure that can be alleviated in many ways. The root cause of our dire fiscal situation is bad policy, incompetence and corruption. There are much better ways to deal with these than taxing the poor.

South Africa can no longer delay tackling our problems at their root. We need to grow tax revenue and jobs by rapidly reforming our economy to be open and competitive. We need to make better use of tax revenue by appointing public officials on merit and jailing corrupt officials. The benefits would accrue rapidly.

There is no other way to attract the investment needed to right our dire financial situation. There is no other way to avoid a runaway fire.

Make no mistake: we can have lower fuel prices if President Ramaphosa and his cabinet put country before party. Surging global costs are aggravating factors, but this crisis is largely self-made and preventable.

Over 60 000 ECD staff members remain unpaid by uncaring ANC government

Please find attached soundbite by Alexandra Abrahams MP.

Early Childhood Development (ECD) employees are still left unpaid and unanswered with regards to the Presidential Employment Stimulus Relief Fund due to them, with only a day left until the ECD function shifts from the Department of Social Development (DSD) to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

In a written reply to the DA, DSD indicated that 13 268 ECD programmes consisting of 61 798 staff members have still not been paid. This was before the responsibility for the verification of ECDs and the payment process was hastily shifted to provincial departments in a desperate attempt to administer this fund before the end of the financial year.

This fund should have been devolved to provinces at the onset in 2020. Yet again, centralization of certain powers and functions at national level failed.

In the space of two months provinces were able to pay 14 547 ECD programmes with 54 661 staff members, exceeding the national department payments completed. This is commendable, but still far too few from the initial target of 108 833 ECD employees and 116 578 applications originally received.

10 446 ECD employees are still awaiting payment. The number could, however, rise as the verification process is still ongoing.

The Minister for Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, has shifted the blame on numerous occasions to the ECD sector as the cause for delay citing challenges with ECD employee information details as well as site and CSD-Bank verifications.

Minister Zulu ignores the fact that the root of the delays was in fact the extremely complicated online only, centralized application process, which allowed only 14 days to apply. This was later extended by a mere 7 days.

Minister Zulu, who repeatedly claims to Leave No One Behind, expected informal settlement and rural ECDs who have limited, if any, access to internet, data, smartphones or laptops to apply online.

Throughout the provincial public hearing on the Children’s Amendment Bill, the parliamentary portfolio committee on social development heard complaints in volume from ECD principals and employees. Many ECDs were forced to pay third parties just to assist them with the online application. The DA raised these concerns with the Minister to no avail.

To make matters worse, the initial parliamentary written reply was riddled with incorrect figures reportedly allocated to provinces.

DSD subsequently sent through an amended reply. Every single allocation to provinces had been changed. It is unfathomable, that a national department entrusted with billions of taxpayers’ money, does not know the correct amounts paid to provinces.

Incompetence at this level creates an environment of distrust between the stakeholders and raises concerns about the quality of written responses to parliamentary questions.

Confusion further lies in the 2% administration fees deducted by DSD to administer the fund.

One parliamentary reply from DSD indicated an administration fee was deducted from an amount of R380 million and “provision was made in the framework that each province may use a maximum of 2% of their total allocation received under the unemployment risk support for administration which includes capacity to manage this initiative.”

This contradicts information provided in the recent reply which indicates 2% was deducted from R496 million.

It is a disgrace that even with millions of Rands in administration fees, the fund was still not paid timeously and efficiently, operating without transparency and accountability.

To get to the bottom of the confusion created by the DSD, the DA has submitted further written questions to both DSD and National Treasury to obtain clarity.

Furthermore, we await responses from Treasury regarding why the full R458 million, which was underspent in 2020/21, was not approved for 2021/22 and instead only R351 million was approved.

DSD also revealed during a committee meeting 9 March 2022, and confirmed in a written reply, that public servants again illegally applied for this fund.

The management of this fund in the hands of Minister Zulu and her department is nothing less than shameful and speaks of a Minister who has already absolved herself of all responsibility pertaining to the ECD sector ahead of the function shift.

If the ANC government is serious about improving education outcomes at foundation phase, they would stop treating the ECD sector with such disdain and start treating ECDs and the children in the care as a top priority.

DG Tlhakudi refuses to provide details of SAA/Takatso deal

Please find an attached soundbite by Alf Lees MP

The DA has written to Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), to request that Pravin Gordhan, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Enoch Godongwana, the Minister of Finance, and the respective Director Generals be called to appear before the portfolio committee in order to provide details and clarity on the agreement entered into with the Takatso consortium to take over 51% of the SAA shares.

Of importance must be to obtain clarity on whether or not National Treasury were excluded from participation in the process to identify Takatso as the chosen beneficiary as well as the terms and conditions contained in the agreement.

Not surprisingly Kgathatso Tlhakudi, the Director General of the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has refused the PAIA application for a copy of the Takatso SAA deal (see letter here).

Tlhakudi claims that the information is commercially sensitive. This claim seems patently false as the details of the agreement to dispose of 51% of the SAA shares, a 100% owned State-Owned Entity, to the Takatso consortium must at some stage be reported to Parliament and cannot be kept a secret.

The refusal by DPE Director General, Kgathatso Tlhakudi, to provide a copy of the SAA/Takatso agreement is a clear delaying tactic to ensure that the SAA/Takatso deal is finalised before there is any opportunity for Parliament to exercise its oversight obligations.

Parliament must be given a copy of the SAA/Takatso agreement in order to ensure that the process followed to establish Takatso as the Strategic Equity Partner as well as that the terms and conditions contained in the agreement are in the best interests of all South Africans and not just a few ANC cadres.

The SAA/Takatso agreement was apparently entered into without any substantive participation of National Treasury despite National Treasury having concerns about some of the terms and conditions in the agreement already entered into between the DPE and Takatso.

DA Speeches: Motion of No Confidence

Note to Editors: The following speeches have been delivered today during the debate on the Motion of No Confidence.  

Natasha Mazzone MP – Parliament: The no good, the bad and the ugly 
Chief Whip of the Official Opposition
083 282 0668

Siviwe Gwarube MP – MONC an opportunity to put South Africa first
DA National Spokesperson
068 113 0835

Dr Leon Schreiber MP – A performance assessment of the ANC Poverty Cabinet
DA Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration
078 395 6374

Save South Africa. Fire this Poverty Cabinet

The following speech was delivered in Parliament today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP.

Madam Speaker

Honourable President

Honourable Members

Today, from the DA speakers in this debate, you will hear a compelling case for why we cannot afford to persist with this Cabinet for one day longer, and why this House must, for once, stand up and be counted.

You will hear of the litany of failures of individual ministers, as well as the collective failure of the Cabinet as a whole.

And you will then be asked to look beyond your party, to recall your oath of office, and to serve the people of South Africa by voting in support of this motion.

Today is about restoring the most sacred and fundamental tenet of any democracy: The principle of accountability.

In almost every speech by the president we are told that we are entering a new era of accountability. Over the past four years we must have entered this era a dozen times.

But despite it being the bedrock of a functional democratic society, this word – accountability – has become entirely meaningless.

It gets uttered and then immediately forgotten, without changing a single action or behaviour. The result is that no one in this government fears consequences.

People have become so safely ensconced in their positions – and so protected by their party – they are confident that no failure or scandal can ever dislodge them.

One of the oldest jokes around is that the letters “ANC” stand for Absolutely No Consequences. And this would’ve been funny had it not been so devastatingly true.

The results of this impunity can be seen everywhere.

When oil refineries, manufacturing plants and mines shut their doors and take their operations to another country, it is not because there is something inherently wrong with the South African people or the quality of our commodities.

It is because our government – this Cabinet – has failed to make South Africa a viable place in which to operate a business and employ people.

They have failed to protect lives and property, they have failed to supply electricity and basic services, and they have failed to reform labour and regulatory legislation.

The result is that our extreme poverty, unemployment and inequality are now global outliers.

And yet we still persist with this: one of the largest, most inefficient and most corrupt cabinets in the entire world.

Consider that Brazil has 23 ministries. China has 21 ministries. South Korea has 18 ministries. Argentina has 16 ministries. The US has 15 federal government departments. And Europe’s biggest economy, Germany, has a 16 member cabinet.

But here in South Africa we have 38 ministries, each with a deputy minister, and sometimes even more than one. And for what? For the sole purpose of rewarding otherwise unemployable cadres with jobs.

Not one of these ministers here would last a day in the private sector, where results matter and accountability is still a thing.

But in the ANC’s sheltered employment scheme it’s happy days forever. Just one big merry-go-round of reshuffles, and when you finally run out of carnival rides in this cabinet, then it’s off to a cushy diplomatic post.

Absolutely No Consequences.

Even when a string of independent reports name your names and list your shames, Absolutely No Consequences.

When the Zondo Report directly implicates Minister Gwede Mantashe in corrupt activities, you’d expect him to step down or be suspended. But not in this ANC Cabinet. Absolutely No Consequences.

When the report into the riots and looting of last July finds that the Executive should shoulder part of the blame, elsewhere heads would roll. But in this ANC Cabinet, ministers simply get reshuffled or redeployed. Absolutely No Consequences.

When targets in the President’s performance agreement for ministers are missed by a country mile, you’d think there would be “strong action”, as he pledged when he announced these agreements all the way back in 2019. But not in this ANC Cabinet.

Three years after promising regular evaluations, nothing has happened. Absolutely No Consequences.

The long-awaited lifestyle audits for ministers? Nothing.

Action against those mentioned in the High Level Panel Report into the State Security Agency? Nothing.

Repercussions for being linked to Bosasa, Digital Vibes and Gupta corruption? Nothing.

Absolutely No Consequences for a single cabinet minister.

But there are grave consequences for the tens of millions of South Africans who live below the poverty line or have to get by on a tiny social grant. The failures of this cabinet wreak havoc in the real world – a world that pampered ministers know nothing about.

In this real world, the cost of basic food items far outstrips any increases in social grants.

In this real world, over 46% of working-age South Africans can’t find jobs.

And in this real world, thousands of South African children die each year from severe acute malnutrition.

It is simply unforgivable that we have children literally starving to death while ministers are buying themselves luxury vehicles.

This real world is a long way away from lavish ministerial vehicle allowances, state-sponsored petrol and VIP security detail.

But because not one of these ministers has ever been held accountable, they just carry on wiping out jobs, destroying lives, and then living it up on taxpayer money.

Every single sufferance or misery of our citizens can be traced back directly to an indifferent minister.

They are South Africa’s Poverty Cabinet.

If our sole mission is to end poverty – and that has to be our mission – we must start by firing the Poverty Cabinet. Because we cannot win the war under the same generals that got us into the mess in the first place.

South Africa needs a fresh start, and that is what we’re offering here today: The opportunity to open the trapdoor in one go, and then start afresh with a slimmed-down, fit-for-purpose cabinet who are up to the task.

This could be our clean slate. The president can reimagine his whole cabinet – he can make it smaller, he can look beyond the ANC and he can even appoint members from outside Parliament.

I know he’s in a tough bind here. His own position is tenuous, and he’s under constant threat from his party’s factional warfare. He simply does not have the political clout to move against his ministers.

That’s why we’re offering an alternative way out here. A reset button that can be pressed by this House, so he doesn’t have to.

Our Constitution and the rules of Parliament make provision for this very eventuality. All that is now required is for enough of you to choose to put country ahead of party.

As we head into this winter of discontent, this cabinet is not going to cut it.

Support this motion and fire this Poverty Cabinet.

Thank you.

If President Ramaphosa won’t fire any of his crooks and freeloaders in Cabinet, we will take that burden off his hands and do it for him. Co-sign our motion for Parliament to remove Cabinet:

Government’s climb-down on State of Disaster should have come much earlier

Please find attached a soundbite by Cilliers Brink MP.

The South African government has finally yielded to months of public and political pressure, and it is now clear that the national state of disaster will be ended.

For months now Covid-19 has failed to conform to any legal definition of “a national disaster”, and so there has been no constitutional basis for the repeated extensions of the national state of disaster.

The decision reached by the government apparently follows an emergency cabinet meeting. And as welcome as it is, it could have been reached months ago, and this could have saved the economy serious harm.

The DA regards the government’s climb-down on the continuous rolling over the national state of disaster as a victory, but we will not be celebrating yet.

We are deeply concerned that this is only a tactical concession, and that the government intends to hang onto lockdown powers by using national health regulations.

We also can not help but wonder if Minister Dlamini-Zuma’s announcement today was not a last-ditch attempt to paint the incompetent, poverty Cabinet in a better light on the eve of the DA’s Motion of No Confidence in the Cabinet that will be debated in Parliament tomorrow.

If so, it certainly did not work.

Today’s announcement came much too late and at an enormous cost to millions of South Africans.

If President Ramaphosa won’t fire any of his crooks and freeloaders in Cabinet, we will take that burden off his hands and do it for him. Co-sign our motion for Parliament to remove Cabinet:

Prasa’s shocking decline exposed in Scopa meeting

Please find an attached soundbite by Benedicta van Minnen MP

It is clear that PRASA, as the implementation arm of the Department of Transport is not fulfilling its objectives to “ensure that rail commuter services are providing within, to and from the Republic, and to provide long haul passenger rail and bus services within, to and from the Republic” and its shocking audit history over the last few years would indicate that nothing is likely to change going forward.

At the Scopa meeting held today to examine the latest audit results, neither the Board nor the Minister inspired any confidence nor any clear explanation as to why their audits have declined from qualified audits in 2016/17 and 2017/18 to the last three consecutive disclaimers up until 2020/21.

Corruption and ineptitude have consequences, and nowhere is this clearer than in the decline in rail and rail usage in South Africa, and the cost of this failure is being borne on the shoulders of the poor.

Prasa has declined so badly since its inception that the majority of working-class South Africans who use the affordable service for transport have had to turn to more expensive modes of transport, usually in the private sphere.

Recent studies show that 80% of South African train commuters – about 550 000 people- have abandoned rail in the last decade, and Prasa admits to losing millions of Rands of income in the last few years of utter chaos at the entity.

In fact, Prasa told Scopa today that it relies on State grants in order to operate with its income from commuter use having sharply declined. And that does not even take into account the billions lost in vandalised and stolen stock, infrastructure and buildings.

The wholesale destruction and theft of the rail infrastructure has been going on for years.  But during lockdown, with no security personnel around due to bungled contracts, perpetrators escalated their efforts. The extent of the looting of the country’s rail network has been highlighted in various media outlets over recent months. The figures given to Scopa today were that 454 people have been arrested over the last 8 months with 118 court cases seeing 765 years of combined prison sentence for perpetrators.  There are still 186 suspects awaiting trial in 85 pending court cases.

However as long as government entities and departments do not work together to curb metal theft and the trade in stolen scrap metal this theft and vandalism is unlikely to decline.

I have submitted Parliamentary questions on the declining passenger numbers and income as well as the amount of state grants awarded to Prasa over the last five years. The submission today in Scopa already provides an indication of what the answers to these questions will reveal, namely that this entity will need to be declared insolvent. That would mean that the only way to save South Africa’s collapsed rail system, would be to assign various lines to the relevant municipalities – as the DA has called for in the City of Cape Town.

If President Ramaphosa won’t fire any of his crooks and freeloaders in Cabinet, we will take that burden off his hands and do it for him. Co-sign our motion for Parliament to remove Cabinet:

QLFS shocker: DA to submit proposals to Presidency Red Tape Unit on job creation

South Africa has recorded its highest ever official unemployment rate, of 35.3 %, according to the results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the 4th quarter of 2021. The jobs bloodbath continues apace while the government sits on its hands. The DA is therefore offering solutions to President Cyril Rampahosa.

Last month, President Ramaphosa acknowledged that the private sector is the engine room of job creation. He also announced the establishment of a red tape-reduction unit in his Presidency.

In light of the shocking statistics revealed by the QLFS, the DA will approach the Red Tape Unit to adopt several key proposals to unlock the potential of the SMME sector and grow jobs.

Freeing up the small- and medium sized businesses to create jobs is a matter of great urgency given that there are nearly 12 million South Africans without a job.

The DA will write to the head of the Red Tape Unit in the Presidency, Sipho Nkosi, with the following proposals:

  • Remove onerous BBBEE requirements for SMMEs – B-BEE legislation has ensnared SMMEs in a costly web of red tape. These regulations must be scrapped in their entirety to give SMMEs the flexibility to compete fairly and grow their business.
  • Impose penalties for the failure to pay SMMEs within the 30 day period – According to recent parliamentary replies to DA questions, most government departments and entities are still struggling to pay SMMEs within the prescribed 30 day period. This is constraining their growth and ability to remain in business. The DA will propose that penalties be levied against departments that fail to SMMEs on time.
  • Establish an SMME ombudsman – SMMEs in South Africa have little to no recourse whenever they become embroiled in a business dispute. The SMME ombudsman will act as an arbiter to resolve any disputes lodged by an SMME during the course of doing business.
  • Implement exemptions from the Skills Development Levy – The Skills Development Levy is nothing more than an additional tax on SMME operators trying to keep their heads above water. Based on an enterprise’s size and annual turnover, SMMEs should be exempt from the Skills Development Levy to give them room to invest and grow.

Ramaphosa’s Cabinet cannot continue to bury its head in the sand hoping the unemployment problem will go away. At the rate at which the SMME sector is being neglected, the National Development Plan’s stated objective of having 90% of all new jobs in the sector by 2030, will remain a pipe dream.

While the performance agreements signed between the President and his Cabinet in 2020 placed job creation at the centre of the executive’s delivery objectives, last week the DA exposed how Ministers have not only failed to meet their targets, they have all failed to deliver on the promised job targets.

SMMEs are economic multipliers with a capacity to begin moving the jobs needle positively. For this to happen, it is imperative that the Red Tape Unit in the Presidency urgently provides an SMME ease of doing business guideline based on the red tape reduction proposals submitted by the DA.

If President Ramaphosa won’t fire any of his crooks and freeloaders in Cabinet, we will take that burden off his hands and do it for him. Co-sign our motion for Parliament to remove Cabinet:

DA condemns ANC’s Cuban court action

Note to Editors: Please find attached soundbite by Bridget Masango MP.

The DA condemns the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s (DIRCO) decision to continue with court action after the Gauteng High Court granted AfriForum’s interdict of a R50 million payment to Cuba.

It is utterly infuriating that the ANC government would choose to spend money that South Africa does not have on the purported woes of their Cuban comrades while caring not one iota about the very serious issues plaguing our shores.

While its own party owes the South African Revenue Service (SARS) R102 million rand in tax and has struggled to pay staff salaries last year, the ANC government still thinks it a good idea to donate critical funds to Cuba and further engage in a costly court battle. How does this make sense?

The plight of hungry Cuban children apparently weighs heavy on the ANC government’s mind, but it pays no thought to children dying of hunger in this country.

Seven children died of starvation in the Eastern Cape since January. Another six have been hospitalized with severe acute malnutrition. Are these children mere statistics to the ANC government? Do they merely form part of the estimated 27% of children that suffer from stunted growth due to malnutrition countrywide?

The ANC government once again shows the absolute callousness they feel for South Africans in their eagerness to score points with their Cuban friends. They do not care about our children – only about historic alliances. And while donations to starving countries might seem admirable on paper, in practice it is simply another means of government withholding life-giving aid to its own people.

In the 27 years of the ANC’s reign, this country has gone from the brink of greatness to a broken nation ruled over by a morally corrupt government that intentionally blinds itself to the adversity of South Africans.

Had the ANC truly cared about starving, hopeless people – starving children – they would not have facilitated and partook in the corruption that has seeped into the core of its government.

It would have ensured that families had the dignity of work to provide for their families by building and maintaining infrastructure, by fostering local and foreign investment, by ensuring quality education, and by rooting out corruption. It would have protected its most vulnerable citizens instead of exploiting them. The death of seven children by starvation would have outraged them, and would have propelled them to action. Instead, they ignore the cries on their doorstep to help their comrades.

The ANC government must prioritise food security for the people of South Africa. Spending money on their friends while their children are starving to death is obscene.

If President Ramaphosa won’t fire any of his crooks and freeloaders in Cabinet, we will take that burden off his hands and do it for him. Co-sign our motion for Parliament to remove Cabinet: