This past year, with the national hard lockdown, precipitated a shock to the economy and heightened the impact of the many social ills affecting our communities causing additional loss of income, deepening poverty, unemployment, and resulting in increasing reports of domestic violence, hunger, and social injustice.
Our formal unemployment rate is 34.9% with a broad unemployment rate of 46,6%. This means, almost half of our people are unemployed.
This could have been the time for this department to shine and fulfil its core mandate to break the cycle of poverty. Sadly, it will forever be known as the department that underperforms and underspends its budget by R438 million.
Our people had nowhere to go and needed shelters, yet the department only achieved 30% of its target for shelters and despite receiving R88 million from the Treasury that they cannot account for. The department also wants to reduce 42 shelters to 24 when our municipalities are crying out for additional funding to upgrade existing infrastructure for additional homeless shelters.
The department also underperformed in Early Childhood Development centres (ECD) by 27%, while we have many centres across the province that are not registered or receiving regular maintenance.
The NPOs that have selflessly been caring and looking after our most vulnerable members of society have also experienced financial challenges as the subsidy payments were often received late and with donations having been dried up. This resulted in caregivers not being paid their salaries on time, where some could not afford transport to and from work, leaving patients and paraplegics stranded and without hygienic care.
In the East Rand, Old age homes were closed leaving beneficiaries out in the cold to fend for themselves. Safe houses for children were also experiencing financial constraints as children suffered from starvation.
I intervened in facilitating a meeting between the department officials and an NGO that has been battling for more than five years to get additional funding. The meeting was a success, something that the department could have done a long time ago without any external interventions.
Instead of being able to hold its head high and assist its needy residents, the department should be ashamed for failure to assist during this difficult period because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The department has underperformed dismally in fulfilling its mandate. It has shown that it has no desire to break the cycle of poverty or change the future of our most deserving people.