Children safety under siege as 1339 child abuse cases reported in Gauteng

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is appalled that 1339 cases of child abuse have been reported in the province, yet the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) constantly underspends and underperforms on programmes meant to strengthen families, as well as child and protection services.

The safety and future of our children are under severe threat as the department tasked with the responsibility to ensure their safety has failed as evident from these reported cases.

This information was revealed by the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Morakane Mosupyoe, in a written reply to my questions tabled in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

According to MEC Mosupyoe, these 1339 cases of child abuse were reported to the department between January 2020 and April 2021.

Of these cases reported, 656 were sexual abuse, 287 were physical abuse, deliberate neglect cases totaled at 220, 160 were emotional abuse, 13 were abandonment cases, while there was one child labour and one child trafficking case.

These numbers are sad and worrying considering that the department had underspent by R300 million on Programme Three: Children and Families for the 2020/21 financial year.

This money could have been used on child abuse awareness campaigns and conscientizing people across the province on child abuse and its impact on the future of children.

The department had also underperformed and failed to meet its target on Programme Three: Children and Families for the fourth quarter for the 2020/21 financial year. The following targets were not fully achieved; families participating in parenting programmes, reunification programmes, families receiving crisis intervention services, reuniting family members with their families, providing psychosocial support services to children in need of care and protection, and foster care placement.

The DA will write to the GPL’s Social Development Committee Chairperson, Refilwe Kekana to summon the MEC and the Head of Department to account to the committee for these failures.

We will demand that the MEC should explain in detail what happened to the perpetrators of these child abuse cases, and whether they have been arrested or convicted. We will also demand that the names of the perpetrators be entered into the national child protection register and be declared unsuitable to work with children.

Furthermore, the MEC will be requested to explain measures that her department is putting in place to ensure that these numbers are not repeated.

Child abuse can lead to a wide range of adverse consequences for children and the DA will continue the fight to protect children from such evil acts.

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A rapid vaccination of teachers and support staff will ensure stability of teaching for students

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is urging all teachers and support staff across the province to get vaccinated to avoid any further disruption of schooling and risking the future of our children.

The DA shares the concerns of parents and different stakeholders that the Covid-19 pandemic is severely affecting the education sector. However, we do not support the idea to shut down schools. 

We demand that both the Gauteng Department of Education and the Department of Health should prioritise the vaccination of teachers and support staff and ensure that there are enough vaccines to avoid any further unnecessary delays in the school curriculum since the start of the academic year.

Since schools have adopted the rotational system due to the Covid-19 pandemic, learners have fallen behind in the curriculum, yet some organisations are advocating for the schools to be shut down.

We cannot allow anyone to gamble with the future of our children as the pandemic is something we all have to learn to live with.

The Covid-19 pandemic should be viewed as an opportunity to focus on innovative education and fight inequality gaps by creating more opportunities for all.

 We have noticed that children whose parents have access to resources will continue to attend school online while those who do not have will fall behind.  The total closing of schools will only make the inequality gap bigger.

The DA is appealing to all teachers and support staff across the province to get vaccinated, maintain health protocols standards and wear their protective personal equipment. We believe that all education stakeholders must do their best to ensure that we protect the interests of learners and teachers. 

A rapid vaccination of teachers and support staff will ensure a faster return to conducive teaching, where children will be at less risk of falling behind in learning. 

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DA intervention gets George Mukhari hospital sub-contractor one step closer to payment

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is pleased that a meeting arranged by the DA between a sub-contractor and the MEC for Infrastructure Development, Tasneem Motara to discuss the delays in payments to small businesses by the main contractors, has resulted in one step closer to the sub-contractor rightfully getting payment for their services rendered.

This meeting comes after a recent budget vote debate in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL), where the DA highlighted complaints received from an SMME sub-contractor at the George Mukhari Hospital, where the contractor unilaterally changed the rates it pays to sub-contractors without first discussing these proposed changes with the affected parties. During the meeting with the sub-contractor, the MEC stated that the contractor made a mistake in the contract and the contract allows for errors to be corrected.

The sub-contractor has waited months before they receive payment for work done for the Department of Infrastructure Development.  While this meeting is a step in the right direction, the department has to do more to protect sub-contractors from unscrupulous contractors.

The DA has scrutinized the contract, which is binding and also states that rates cannot be changed. The unilateral changes of rates is an illegal and despicable act that can negatively affect the economic sustainability of another small business entrepreneur. This has resulted in the sub-contractor, a young black female, not being paid for three months for work already done. This not only put the SMME at risk of bankruptcy, but could lead to further job losses and ever-increasing unemployment levels, especially in the context of the Covid 19 pandemic.

The DA will continue to monitor speedy payment levels of invoices to protect small businesses. It is only when all political parties work together to protect contractors and small businesses from any behavior that puts businesses at risk, especially sub-contractors, that we will build trust and relationships that will make SMMEs feel secure and free from bullying tactics by unscrupulous contractors. SMMEs needs the support to grow and become competitive role players in the construction sector.

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Bitter blow to patients as Joburg hospital opening delayed yet again

Patients at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) have been dealt a bitter blow by yet another delay in reopening the cancer unit and other badly needed beds as Covid-19 cases surge.

According to the Gauteng Infrastructure Development Department, the cancer unit will only reopen next month on 5 July.

This is despite the announcement last week by Acting Health Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane that the cancer unit would open this week. Previously, it was promised that it would be opened early this month.

The delay is blamed on outstanding requirements to receive an occupation certificate from the city of Johannesburg. This includes missing building plans and fire doors that need to be replaced.

The big question is this – why did the Johannesburg council not insist on the building plans and fire doors in previous fire safety inspections?

They didn’t do their job previously, and now they throw technical obstacles that are preventing the use of desperately needed hospital beds.

The balance of risks surely favours a temporary exemption from technical requirements and reopening those sections of the hospital that are structurally safe.

I get calls every day from cancer patients worried about their treatment. It is a matter of life or death for them.

We also need the 120 ICU beds at the hospital to save the lives of Covid-19 patients as other hospitals struggle to cope with the tsunami of Covid-19 patients.

Premier David Makhura should invoke emergency and state of disaster measures to ensure that the hospital is functioning as soon as possible.

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Gauteng hospital staff shortages endanger lives as Covid cases surge

As Covid-19 cases rise rapidly, Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi claims that hospitals are “still able to cope with the pressure at this stage”.

This is misleading as many of the newly built beds cannot be used because there is no staff for them.

The reported deployment of medical staff from the SA National Defence Force also shows up the lack of preparedness in Gauteng.

West Rand hospitals are already full, but there are no patients at the R500 million Anglo Ashanti Hospital which was recently refurbished with great fanfare but has no staff.

Only 100 of the newly-built 500 beds at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital are currently being used because of a lack of staff as well.

Meanwhile, the continued closure of the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital (CMJH) is crowding other hospitals with patients, which increases the risk of Covid infection in casualty units.

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At the Helen Joseph Hospital casualty unit some Covid patients sit two days on a chair waiting for a bed to be admitted.

The 120 ICU beds at CMJH are desperately needed as ambulances struggle to find ICU beds for seriously ill patients.

Emergency powers should be used to reopen the safe parts of the Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, and nurses from agencies used to ensure that all available beds in the province are properly staffed.

This will save lives as Gauteng’s health system faces the tsunami of new cases.

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Another potential Life Esidimeni with one special needs patient still missing from Kairos Centre

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is appalled to learn about the terrible living conditions at the Kairos Centre in Cullinan, Tshwane, where patients with special needs are being neglected, with monitoring of whether they are taking their medication, and rooms being left in a filthy state. The centre is also plagued with the leaking of raw sewerage.

These terrible living conditions were revealed after one of the mentally impaired patients, Shane Jordaan (30) went missing earlier this month.

According to the mother of the missing patient, the centre never bothered to inform her that her son had gone missing and only learnt of her son’s disappearance from the police five days later.

It is cruel and unacceptable for Kairos Centre to not inform parents or guardians immediately after the disappearance of their child, spouse, or relative.

Jordaan’s mother was further informed by the police that the conditions of the room her son and other male patients shared was left filthy, with unused medicine all over the floor, and blood and semen on the bedding.

Jordaan’s mother states that she was never allowed to go inside her son’s room – a clear indication that the centre was hiding something. Whenever her son came home to visit, he was often drugged and unable to engage coherently with the family.

Furthermore, the Cullinan CPF states that while searching for the missing patient, they found 20kg of discarded medication inside a black plastic container right next to the centre. The CPF also confirmed that the police were refused entry inside the premises but after legal action was threatened, the dog unit was granted admission.

Kairos Centre is an NGO that is licensed in terms of the Mental Health Care Act, 2002 as an adult psychiatry residential care facility for both females and males, as well as a residential care facility for geriatric patients. It is deeply worrying that this facility is failing to ensure the safety and security of its patients, especially considering it is funded by public money through the Gauteng Department of Health and looks after 125 patients.

The DA has already informed the Gauteng MEC for Health, Nomathemba Mokgethi about the circumstances of this centre and requested an urgent and immediate investigation into conditions, and the lack of security that provided the opportunity for Shane Jordaan to disappear.

The Health Department has a responsibility to conduct regular monitoring and evaluation of all the centres that are funded by the state to ensure that vulnerable people are taken care of and receive the best care that they deserve. It is evident that they have failed miserably in this regard, with patients not being given the treatment and care they are entitled to.

The disappearance of Shane Jordaan immediately brings up memories of the Life Esidimeni tragedy, where 144 patients died due to the provincial Department of Health’s negligence.

The DA will continue to hound MEC Mokgethi to ensure an investigation is conducted, and will further request the reasons as to why the department did not know of the conditions at Kairos Centre. This is not a matter that the DA will allow to be swept under the rug, and the department will need to come clean about this case of negligence on their part.

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DA calls for emergency action to save lives by reopening Charlotte Maxeke hospital

Note to Editors: Please find an English soundbite from Jack Bloom, DA Shadow MEC for Health in Gauteng here

The Speaker of the Gauteng Legislature Ntombi Mekgwe granted my request for an urgent debate on Friday 18 June on the failure to reopen the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital.

In my speech (see attached) I call for the use of emergency powers to resolve the technical issues that are delaying the reopening of the hospital. The replacement fire doors should either be speedily installed, or an exemption obtained so that the hospital can be used while outstanding technical issues are resolved.

I am puzzled as to why the Johannesburg Metro Council is now insisting on measures that it did not insist on before when they supposedly did fire safety checks.

Why were the fire doors not upgraded long ago?

This is what happens with years of poor maintenance and non-compliance with basic safety standards, and this same incompetence is delaying the re-opening of the hospital.

We still do not have a firm date when sections of the hospital will open for patients.

Many cancer patients have had their treatment disrupted, and kidney patients have to travel to Helen Joseph Hospital for dialysis in the evening.

Meanwhile, hospitals around the province are crowded with Charlotte Maxeke patients even as Covid-19 cases flood in.

We cannot fight this epidemic with 1000 beds out of action at a major hospital, including 124 ICU beds.

This year has been proclaimed as the year of Charlotte Maxeke, a truly worthy woman.

It is a disgrace that the hospital that bears her name is abandoned as we speak.

The wards are empty, equipment is lying idle, and the staff are dispersed all over the province.

Doctors are pleading for the hospital to reopen as they worry about the lives of their suffering patients. This provincial government can surely do better than this.

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Gauteng residents need a government that will invest in infrastructure projects to improve service delivery

In the DA’s Vision, the government enables an economy that creates jobs, elevates people out of poverty and provides opportunity for all South Africans. A government can do this by investing heavily in infrastructure projects that improve service delivery, thereby uplifting the lives of our people through better schools, better health services and better transport systems.  

That’s why WesGro in the Western Cape has succeeded in raising more than R5billion in foreign direct investment through which 3000 new jobs were secured, far exceeding its targets.  

But if we compare this performance to that of the GIFA, the funding agency that is kept alive by part of budget vote 14, you can only but feel disappointed.  

Each year, the GIFA provides a list of its projects. Some disappear from one year to the next. Some projects re-appear a year or two later. Very seldom do projects reach the point where construction work begins, bringing hope of jobs and more capacity for service delivery. 

In our quarterly and annual reports, not only do we see missed targets but also losses like R4.69m due to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.  

The wage bill of this entity has skyrocketed and increased by R4 059 000 to R30 625 000.  

The Finance Committee recently engaged with clients of the agency. We heard about delays upon delays and the supportive voices could point out R5-6 million of sponsorship of feasibility studies here and there and the tabling of the odd spreadsheet every now and again.  

My impression was that those clients were grateful for the money, believing at some stage that there would be public-private partnerships that would give the headache of infrastructure financing and construction to someone else. But very little has been seen of these much-anticipated partnerships. GIFA ascribes this failure to “lack of appetite in the market”.   

Thus, they invariably turn to DBSA. Colleagues, the client departments could have just picked up the phone to DBSA themselves. Frankly, the GIFA’s resources could be better applied elsewhere.  

But where Gauteng fails Western Cape succeeds. I strongly urge that we follow their example and see that our people get jobs, better schools, health facilities, roads and housing.  

I thank you.  

Gauteng residents live in fear due to a lack of police visibility

Madame Speaker,

Two weeks ago, the body of a dead man was found at an open field in Ga-Rankuwa Zone 1. Domestic workers were held up at gunpoint and robbed in Centurion. A young woman was kidnapped and murdered in Ekurhuleni. The list is endless, and our people are victims of crime daily, pointing towards of a lack of police visibility as one of the reasons. What happened to the new vehicles that were purchased to assist with visible policing?

The residents of Gauteng are fearing for their lives due to too little to no police visibility in their communities. Community members are mugged, murdered, and raped daily. These crimes could have been prevented if the police were indeed visible. Our people have now lost hope in police to ensure their safety and security due to the increasing rate of crime and a lack of police visibility.

There is a large number of police vehicles that are currently standing at the workshops waiting for repairs. Why are we not fixing these vehicles first before we even consider purchasing additional vehicles? 

Ga-Rankuwa Police Station has more than 21 vehicles that are not in use, and they are limited to sometimes only two vehicles per shift to not only attend to visible policing, but also monitoring of the local court, hospitals, and other important institutions that requires policing.

The sad part is that this not only the case in Garankuwa, but all across the province, where vehicles are not maintained or repaired regularly. Surely the purchasing of 55 vehicles for visible policing, although it is welcomed, could have provided for the repairs of hundreds of broken vehicles across the province?

The DA has already called on the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Faith Mazibuko to ensure police visibility in all our communities to ensure the safety and security of our residents. We also proposed that the department should consider fixing the broken vehicles before purchasing the new ones, however, our suggestions have fallen onto deaf ears.

We can change this ongoing continuous challenge by voting the DA in power. The DA has already established a policy on safety, crime, and justice. The DA will ensure that the police service is properly equipped, well trained, and able to both recognize and respond rapidly and effectively to any threat to our people.

Even though the department speaks about prioritizing visible policing, this is not the reality on the ground or in practice. Instead of communities feeling safe, criminals are feeling safe to continue with their criminal acts.  It is for these reasons the DA will not be supporting this budget.

Gauteng Health Department fails to deliver adequate health services for people as budget is spent inefficiently and ineffectively

Madam Speaker, this is the 28th Health Budget that I have spoken on.

I regret that yet again I cannot support a budget that is likely to be spent inefficiently and ineffectively, instead of providing the best health services for people in our province.

I am reminded daily by desperate people who call me because they have been failed by the public health system.

Here is one story that is truly tragic on many levels.

I received a call in the evening that an ambulance was urgently needed in a poor area of Tshwane to pick up a middle-aged woman with Covid-19 symptoms.

They had phoned the number for a provincial ambulance and were told that no ambulance was available. Then they were told that an ambulance would arrive but an hour later it still had not arrived.

At this stage I tried to get them an ambulance from the Tshwane Metro Council, which was on its way when the provincial ambulance finally came.

The sick woman was taken to Kalafong hospital and admitted at 11pm. At 4am the next morning they phoned to say she should be picked up. 

A Good Samaritan neighbour used his car to pick her and he said she looked in a bad way way.

Two days later the hospital called and said they were sending an ambulance to pick her up as her Coronavirus test had come back positive.

A few days later she died in the hospital.

The failures in this tragic story include the following:

Firstly, a poor ambulance service, which has been worsened by the botched provincialisation process. Two of the three metro cities, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, have ambulances and staff doing nothing in the middle of the Covid-19 epidemic. Only Tshwane is trying to keep their local ambulances with an extended temporary operating licence.

Secondly, the criminal irresponsibility of sending a sick woman with Covid symptoms back to her family, putting everyone at risk, including her husband and the Good Samaritan who gave her a lift home.

Thirdly, the slow testing for Covid which should ideally be less than 24 hours.

But there is more tragedy in this story.

I helped the family to lay a complaint with the CEO of the hospital and he promised to attend to it.

The hospital did contact the family some days later, just after the funeral of the woman. They asked how she was doing. Can you believe it?

I don’t think this type of story is uncommon. I can give other stories where ordinary people are let down by the health system in this province.

The health budget this year is R55.7 billion. It’s the largest budget item, even though it is only 1.4% higher than last year’s unadjusted budget.

I remember previous Health MECs who thought that the annual budget could be adequate for a quality health service, but there is no costing tool to determine where the money should best be spent.

This is why we need an integrated health information system which every single Health MEC since 1994 has promised, but never delivered. 

The biggest problem, however, is poor spending controls.

According to the Auditor-General, R12 billion was spent irregularly by the Gauteng health department in the past five years.

This is a stupendous figure, and the situation does not seem to be improving.

Last year we saw several hundred million rand lost because of the PPE corruption. The real figure of stolen money is probably more than R1 billion a year.

We also have incredibly poor spending decisions like R500 million spent on the Anglo Ashanti hospital in the far west rand which will not treat a single Covid-19 patient.

Then there is the NASREC field hospital which cost about R250 million for mostly empty beds.

We are still waiting for the 300 extra beds at the Kopanong Hospital which should have been completed last year.

Why is it that the worst contractors are chosen for building jobs who never finish on time, and often a new contractor is needed to finish the job that is way over budget.

The biggest gap in this budget is for refurbishment of hospitals to make them compliant with occupational health and safety standards.

There isn’t a single hospital that meets the required standard. This is because of years of poor maintenance.

About R8 billion is need to fix our existing hospitals, and a similar amount is needed for desperately needed new hospitals such as Kempton Park.

All we get this year is R2.276 billion which will probably be misspent with the usual failing contractors.

It has been estimated that about R400 million was needed to ensure that Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Hospital met safety standards, but this hospital wasn’t even on the budget priority list for this last year.

Here we are, in the middle of a severe epidemic, and this hospital is still closed two months after a fire that should have been prevented or properly contained.

It’s a disastrous failure that will cost lives and increase the suffering of hundreds of patients.

There have been four hospital fires in the last six years, which surely shows that there is negligence in this area.

I am not going to go through an exhaustive list of failures in this department.

All you have to do is to read the latest Auditor-General’s report to be thoroughly depressed about the poor management in this department.

I do wish to single out the extra R200 million on bursaries for medical training in Cuba. This is a slap in the face for our local medical schools which train better doctors at lower cost. The medical students in Cuba have to spend a year learning Spanish, and a year at our own medical schools to finish off their training. Does this make any sense at all?

The only hope is what I see in the dedication of medical staff who do their best in the circumstances, including power cuts and water shortages.

We really do have wonderful people and organisations like Gift of the Givers who have dug boreholes while the department failed to maintain the old boreholes.

We need to have more private/public partnerships such as the proposal for Netcare to treat state cancer patients. 

The Honourable MEC is a dedicated and caring person. My advice to her is to weed out the non-performers in her department and put in the systems that will improve management in all critical areas.

The old saying is that Rome was not built in a day. But it is also true that every day a brick was being laid, and this is what needs to be done to ensure a decent health service for everyone in Gauteng.

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