Gauteng government pays millions for Esidimeni accused

The Gauteng Provincial Government is footing the legal bill for all current and former officials who have been subpoenaed to give evidence at the Life Esidimeni Inquest to determine the cause of death of 144 mental health patients who died after they were sent to unsuitable NGOs.

This disturbing information is disclosed by Gauteng Premier David Makhura in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

Makhura says this is being done according to a legal opinion that “Government has an obligation to provide legal representation as a basic principle and standard practice.”

The State Attorney has therefore been instructed to appoint legal representatives for these officials, including state attorneys and attorneys from the following law firms:

  • Werksmans Attorneys
  • Ramsay Webber Attorneys
  • Robert H Kanarek Attorneys

It is unfortunate that these legal costs for officials who are implicated in the deaths will amount to millions of rand as these are expensive law firms,.

It is unclear whether former Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu also qualifies for state-funded legal aid. I will ask further questions on this as she is wealthy enough to pay for her own legal costs.

The DA has repeatedly requested Premier David Makhura to use the Apportionment of Damages Act to ensure that Mahlangu and her top officials pay from their own pockets towards the more than R300 million paid out to the Esidimeni victims. This is even more justified now that the provincial government is paying millions more in legal expenses.

Meanwhile, the inquest into the deaths has been delayed by the legal representation issues, and families of those who died still have to wait for justice to be done.

I acknowledge that the government is following a legal opinion in this matter, but all these extra costs at the taxpayers’ expense would have been avoided if the Esidimeni tragedy did not happen in the first place.


Poor and vulnerable people left without much-needed resources due to the DSD’s failure to spend R438.1 million

The poor and vulnerable people of this province who are solely dependent on NGOs and NPOs for survival are now suffering and are at risk of starvation as the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) fails to spend R438.1 million of its annual budget.

The constant failure by the department to spend on its allocated budget will see many of our vulnerable people with nowhere to go to find food and shelter.

This information was revealed in the department’s annual report for the 2020/21 financial year.

According to the department’s annual report, most of the department’s programmes were severely affected by under expenditure; The Social Welfare Services Programme underspent by R17.9 million which is mainly attributed to unspent funds on Antiretroviral (ART) food parcels, and the allocated budget for HIV social behaviour change not fully spent at the end of the financial year.

The department also underspent by R305 million on the Children and Families Programme, this was due to the Presidential ECD Employment Stimulus Relief Fund not spent as a result of the verification process for qualifying NPOs only being finalised late in the financial year.

The department also underspent by R13.2 million on Restorative Services Programme due to delays in the implementation of substance abuse-related mobile services as the department only contracted NPOs from the third quarter onwards.

There was also R63.8 million under expenditure on the Development and Research Programme. The expenditure for the programme was also affected by underspending of the allocated budget for NPOs.

In the past four years, the Gauteng Department of Social Development has underspent over R1 billion rand. The R438.1 million is a new under-expenditure.

It is concerning that all the continuing under expenditure by this department severely affects the rendering of services to the poor and vulnerable residents of this province. It is high time that this department prioritises spending its entire budget for the benefit of our people.

The DA has initiated a petition on behalf of NGOs to petition the Gauteng Provincial Legislature Social Development Oversight Committee, demanding the establishment of the dispute resolution committee: its objectives is to address disputes from the welfare sector and to investigate them with the Department of Social Development, ranging from late payments, cancellations of subsidies due to non-compliance and other matters with the NGO sector, while also developing a recommendation on the disputes.

We will continue to put pressure on the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Morakane Mosupyoe to ensure that her department spends on its allocated budget as many lives are dependent on that money for their day-to-day survival.

Vulnerable children left in the cold without safe homes due to the department’s failure to pay NGOs subsidies

Vulnerable children in Tshwane and surrounding areas are at risk of starvation due to delays of their placement to safe homes through adoptions as a result of the department’s failure to pay subsidies timeously to Christelike Maatskaplike Raad (CMR) in Tshwane.

CMR is among the list of NGOs in the social welfare sector that have not yet received their first tranche of the subsidy payment from the Gauteng Department of Social Development.

The CMR in Pretoria has three divisions that amongst others, provides food, clothing and shelter to destitute families. It also provides child protection services which include assessments and evaluations, protection of physically and mentally abused and neglected children, and also unites children with their families. The other division focuses on the adoptions and assessments processes.

This is just one of the many NGOs that fulfil such an important role in our fractured society, relying on every cent that they get from the department.

Failure by the Gauteng Department of Social Development to fulfil its mandate would see our vulnerable children being thrown under the bus with nowhere to go to find food and shelter.

The vulnerable children of Gauteng have been left out in the cold as the department delays the subsidy payment of several NGOs. This means these essential services for our orphaned, homeless, and victimised children and families cannot continue.

The DA has engaged with the affected NGO, and we will be writing to the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Morakane Mosupyoe and the Head of Department (HOD) to ask for their intervention and to expedite the payments.

We will continue to put pressure on the MEC to speed up the process of making payments and ensure that this never happens again as many lives are dependent on that money for their day-to-day survival.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit to check your voter registration status.


Delays in payment of NGOs subsidies impact negatively on rendering of social welfare services to needy people

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has written to the Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Morakane Mosupyoe requesting her department to speed-up the process of making subsidy payments to the social welfare Non-Profit Organization (NGOs) in the province. She needs to urgently investigate what is causing the delays and to provide us with an exact date as to when these payments will be made.

The NGOs assist government in taking care of the most vulnerable members of the society ; the elderly, persons with disabilities, orphans and vulnerable children, victims of abuse and substance abuse , feeds the poor and empower the youth and women to be independent.

I have received numerous phone calls and text messages from various NGOs across the province complaining that they have not yet received their first tranche of the subsidy payment from the department.

The Gauteng Department of Social Development has not yet paid NGOs subsidy for the first quarter of the new financial year, despite the fact that they signed the Service Level Agreements (SLA) on the 15th of April 2021.

The NGOs claim that they were promised that the subsidy will be paid 15 days after the signing of the SLA but to date they have not yet received any payment. They have also written to the department officials who promised them that the payment will be expedited, however, to date the payments have not yet been paid to their bank accounts.

Considering the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sustainability of NGOs is solely dependent on the department subsidy.

Delays in processing subsidy payments has a negative impact on NGOs in terms of rendering much needed social welfare services to our people who are in dire need of such services.

Furthermore, NGOs are dependent on this subsidy to pay salaries of their employees.

Late payment of NGO subsidies is a result of poor planning from the department because the new financial year began in April. The SLAs should have been signed a long time ago as payments can only be done two weeks after signing.

We will continue to put pressure on the MEC to speed-up the process of making payments as many lives are dependent on that money for their day-to-day survival.

The DA will also be tabling a motion in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL)to resolve the late payment of NGO subsidies by the department and to enforce that all SLAs are signed by last working day of February each year to avoid late payments.

MEC Lesufi succumbs to the DA’s pressure to withdraw guidelines on food donations and distribution by NGOs

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng welcomes the decision by the Acting Gauteng MEC for Social Development, Panyaza Lesufi to withdraw the guidelines on food donations and distribution by NGOs in the province.

In a media statement released by his department, he indicates that the withdrawal of these guidelines comes after an extensive engagement with the Premier’s Office on challenges raised by organisations who found the guidelines difficult to follow for the distribution of food to our communities. However, the department has indicated that the fact that the guidelines have been withdrawn does not stop anybody from working with the department to distribute food.

For far too long the DA has been calling on MEC Lesufi to remove this unnecessary red tape regarding food donations and distributions by NGOs as they are crippling the operations of NGOs who are assisting our people who are in desperate need of food.

These guidelines were set to monopolise all food distribution and assistance to the vulnerable, while our people in Gauteng suffer from starvation.

Should the MEC have listened to our call these guidelines would have been withdrawn without the DA having to report the department to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and having to take the matter to the High Court where the interim judgement was in favour of the DA.

If the acting MEC and his department had listened to NGOs and civil society, the DA would not have taken the legal route. This should be a lesson to government not to use their power to impose unnecessary red tape against any organisation helping to fight hunger.

This is a victory for our people who are hungry for food and solely dependent on cooked meals provided by the NGOs. Government alone cannot render this service.

The DA will continue to monitor the distribution and donations of food by the NGOs to ensure that no one prohibits them from distributing cooked meals to the hungry in this province.

DA calls government to work with NGOs and not against them to prevent hunger

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is deeply concerned that there is a lack of proper coordination between the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) and the NGOs in terms of feeding the hungry people in the province.

The DA has been reliably informed that NGOs are being blocked from distributing cooked meals and that there are too many procedures to be followed when NGOs wants to distribute food parcels to those in need.

According to regulations being enforced by the department, but which the DA is fighting in court, NGOs who wish to distribute food parcels to the needy must apply for a permit from the department. The permit prohibits the distribution of cooked food and only allows them to distribute non-perishable food parcels. This unnecessary red tape makes it difficult for NGOs who wish to distribute food.

According to Acting Gauteng Social Development MEC, Panyaza Lesufi, the department is not blocking the NGOs but requesting proper coordination with NGOs to ensure that they adhere to the COVID-19 regulations such as social distancing when distributing food parcels. The department is coordinating all the donations to NGOs to ensure that there is no duplication and that the rightful beneficiaries who qualify for food relief receive food parcels.

MEC Lesufi revealed this information while responding to the DA’s oral questions at a virtual sitting of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature.

MEC Lesufi said they are prohibiting the distribution of cooked meals by the NGOs because it is explicitly states in the regulations that cooked food is not allowed to be sold hence, they could not allow NGOs to distribute cooked food.

Furthermore, the MEC indicates that Mahlasedi Foundation, an NGO had distributed 30 000 food parcels to the needy residents of Olivenhout and that the food parcels were three times bigger than those provided by government.

This clearly indicates that the NGOs can do a better job than the government in feeding hungry people. The department should partner with them, and remove red tape, in order to better ensure South Africans have food.

DSD prohibits NGOs from distributing cooked meals while our people are starving

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has been reliably informed by NGOs from all regions in the province that the permits that were issued by the Gauteng Department of Social Development (DSD) regional directors are only for the distribution of non-perishable foods.

They are therefore prohibited to prepare and distribute any cooked food with their DSD permits.

It is worrying that many shelters, drop-in centres and soup kitchens, where NGO’s cater for the most vulnerable and destitute are now forced to stop these feeding schemes funded by the private sector in fear of being arrested.

NGOs are further forced by the DSD to obtain a permit on a daily basis for that specific day and in some instances where home-cooked meals are delivered to various places by one specific NGO, they will require a permit per address that they wish to serve food at.

It is appalling, how the DSD has brought in yet more red tape to cripple the operations of the NGOs and their assistance to the most vulnerable.

The only beneficiaries of the constant moving of the goal posts is the DSD itself. It cannot continue to monopolise all distribution pertaining to food or assistance to the vulnerable, while our people in Gauteng die of starvation.

It also appears that our calls for more support for NGOs from the DSD are falling on deaf ears during this critical period of suffering.

The DSD needs to realise that it cannot fight poverty alone. It requires the experience, knowledge and support of the NGOs, but cannot expect it either if it alienates NGOs through red tape and the constant moving of goal posts.

The DA calls for these stringent measures for NGOs to be scrapped once and for all, and for the DSD to allow NGOs to assist the most vulnerable where the department has failed to do so.

Gauteng Department of Social Development underspends by R400 million

The Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD) has once again underspent on its budget for the fourth quarter.

According to the department’s quarterly report for 2018/19 financial year, they have underspent by R400 million and have failed to reach their set targets.

The under-expenditure occurred in Development and Research, Children and Families and Restorative Services.

In Development and Research, the department underspent by R116.7 million, in the Children and Families category by R240.9 million and in Restorative Services by R39.3 million.

This money could have been used to fund NGOs and NPOs who do much needed upliftment work in our communities, to employ more social workers and to purchase more resources like vehicles to aid department officials with their work.

This is not the first time that the department has underspent its budget. Last year the department surrendered R347 million to the department, while NGOs and NPOs were struggling to stay afloat.

I will be tabling questions to the MEC for Social Development in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature to ascertain what measures are being put in place to deal with the under-expenditure of the department so as to ensure that our people get the services they deserve.

Gauteng Health defies court order to pay mental health NGO

The Gauteng Health Department has failed to comply with a court order to pay subsidies to a NGO that was described by the Health Ombudsman as an example of good care.

San Michele Home in Brakpan got a court order last week on Friday to compel the Department to pay R2 098 421 by close of business that day, but this was still not paid by yesterday. The home is filing further papers today requesting that the court find the Department in contempt.

San Michele looks after 200 people, some of whom are mentally ill and many who do not have any family to care for them.

Gauteng Health MEC Gwen Ramokgopa disclosed yesterday in reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature that 149 NGOs had not received payment because they were not compliant with new licensing requirements.

She said that by the end of this month agreements should be signed with most of them, and those that were not fully compliant would be given six months to comply.

I think it is disgraceful that the Department stopped the monthly payments of R3400 per patient to so many NGOs providing care to vulnerable people.

This was heartless and legally wrong as proved by the court case.

Proper notice should have been given in the first place rather summarily stopping payments.

The NGOs look after more than 6000 mental health and other patients. Their staff have had to go without payment since March and some have struggled to get food for their residents. In some cases, those with family have been sent home.

According to DA Ekurhuleni Councillor Stefanie Ueckermann, the following NGOs have run out of funds and depend on donations to feed their residents – House Talita in Primrose, Vista Nova in Springs and Kgaugele Stimulation Centre in Tembisa.

The department’s uncaring attitude and disregard of a court order shows that they have not fully learned the lessons of the tragic Esidimeni saga where more than 100 mentally ill patients died.

Another Esidimeni? Gauteng Health cuts funding to 160 NGOs

The welfare of thousands of mental health and other patients in 160 NGOs is at risk because the Gauteng Health Department has withdrawn funds since March this year after giving unreasonable notice to meet stringent new licensing requirements.

Staff at the NGOs are going unpaid, and some are battling to feed their residents. Underprivileged children, orphans and people who have been severely traumatised are all suffering.

I know of at least three NGOs who have had to send patients away.

One NGO took the department to court last week and won its case to force payment of the monthly subsidy of R3400 per patient. Other NGOs are also considering court action.

Following the report of the Health Ombudsman on deaths of former Esidimeni patients, nine additional requirements were added for licensing of NGOs. This includes. zoning or rezoning certificates which can take several months to obtain.

The department is being unreasonable in not giving sufficient time for the NGOs to meet the new requirements.

The withholding of funds to the NGOs is creating a crisis that could lead to another Esidimeni as many helpless people are dependent on these NGOs which are struggling now to assist them.