Transcript of the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster Programme of Action (PoA) media briefing by Minister of Public Works G Doidge, Imbizo Media Centre, Cape Town
9 November 2009
Panel: Public Works Minister, Geoff Doidge, Vusimuzi Madonsela, Director-General for the Department of Social Development, Kgabi Mogajane, Acting Director-General the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the media
Welcome to this, the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster’s first media briefing since its inception in May 2009. The briefing will focus mainly on progress made in the implementation of Government’s Programme of Action for the financial year 2009/10. In this regard, the briefing aims to give an update on the priorities approved by the May 2009 Cabinet Lekgotla and further articulated in the President’s State of the Nation Address in June 2009. We are fully confident, as a cluster that the progress we have made thus far contributes significantly towards providing protection to our people against vulnerability, especially in the precarious economic situation.
In his State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma directed all of us to act together in order to mitigate the impact of this economic downturn on the most vulnerable in our society. The President’s directive resonates with the fundamental mandate of our cluster: Social Protection and Community Development to coordinate across government all programme activities aimed at providing a protective shield against various contingencies of life.
The Social Protection and Community Development Cluster comprises the Departments of Social Development (Chair), Public Works (Deputy Chair), Human Settlements, Arts and Culture, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Environmental and Water Affairs, Labour, Rural Development and Land Reform, Transport and Women, Youth, Children and People with Disability.
The report traverses progress achieved in the following strategic priority, based on the work undertaken by Interdepartmental Task Teams headed by various lead departments:
* Comprehensive social security
* Sustainable and affordable human settlements
* Promotion of basic services
* Implementation of Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme (ISRDP)/Urban Renewal Programme (URP)
* Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)
* Promotion of social cohesion
* Comprehensive anti-poverty interventions
* Improved food security
Comprehensive social security
On the issue of comprehensive social security, we are happy to report that the interdepartmental technical task team on comprehensive social security has met its deadline. The cluster has completed the drafting of the consolidated government document on comprehensive social security, containing a package of strategic reform proposals. The document will be released as a basis for public consultations once it has been considered and approved by Cabinet.
As government, we are determined is to create a comprehensive social security system that is built on the fundamental principle of solidarity. The reform proposals advocate for a system that ensures that the majority of South Africa’s poor benefit from expanded non-contributory or social assistance measures. Similarly, the proposals advocate for the introduction of reforms that lay a foundation for an inclusive retirement system that is consistent will international trends, which will protect the majority of South Africa’s working population against income reversals during job losses and income replacement upon retirement. The consolidated government document also covers proposals on the expansion of coverage of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the introduction of a no-fault system of Road Accident Insurance as well as National Health Insurance, etc.
In a related development, we are happy to report that we are making steady progress with phasing-in the equalisation of eligibility for the old age pension. As of the end of September 2009, there were 17 800 men aged 61 to 64 years receiving the old age pension. The Social Assistance Act provides for men of 60 years to qualify as from April 2010 and the National Treasury has made the necessary budget allocation for this final phase.
We have equally made considerable progress in respect of the extension of coverage of the Child Support Grant. Since the beginning of this financial year, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) has registered in excess of 442 000 children up to the 15th birthday. As you are aware, Cabinet has approved the gradual extension of coverage of the Child Support Grant, over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF), to eligible children from their 15th to 18th birthday. This extension will benefit approximately 2 million children from poor households. The total cost, over the MTEF, will be R1.3 billion, R2.6 billion and R3.5 billion respectively.
As government, we strongly reject any notion that suggests that poverty is the fault of the poor. Accordingly, we will spare no effort in tackling child poverty. We believe that the primary responsibility to provide for the wellbeing of the child rests with the family and that government can only do so much to protect such a child against the risk of falling into abject poverty. Accordingly, it is the responsibility of the caregivers to ensure that children receiving social grants remain in school. Education is a weapon by means of which we can stem the tide of the inter-generational transmission of poverty a true means by which children can extricate from the family cycle of poverty.
Promotion of national identity and social cohesion
Government is deeply conscious of the need to promote national identity and social cohesion. It is our firm belief that this process cannot be meaningfully pursued without the active involvement of our communities. To this end, government has introduced campaigns to popularise national symbols. Period under review, a total of 30 000 hand-held flags were distributed during the commemoration of various national days. In addition 18 500 national symbols leaflets were distributed to schools and to different stakeholders.
The national conference on social cohesion was postponed to a later date in 2010. This postponement creates the time and space for more community mobilisation activities to be held as an active build-up to the conference, in addition to activities already in October 2009.
At end of September 2009, the Cluster had profiled 23 447 households out of a target of 150 000 households. The profiled households received immediate services, e.g. social relief of distress, food parcels, other grants, Early Childhood Development services, health screening, school transport, food gardens and seed packs, and water tanks, etc.
We have developed a five year roll out plan for the War on Poverty which has been submitted to Cabinet for approval.
Ensure sustainable and affordable human settlements
Ladies and gentlemen, housing is a basic need. It is therefore our government’s intention to improve the quality of life of our people and pursue those activities which make for stronger, better planned and sustainable human settlements.
Government is committed to helping our citizens secure a roof over their heads. In this regard, the Housing Development Agency (HDA) has been established to assist provinces and municipalities with the acquisition of appropriate land for human settlements development. To date the HDA has received the land acquisition and assembly plans for six provinces and three metropolitan municipalities. The HDA is currently developing the macro coordination and alignment framework to ensure that existing and new human settlements development are delivered in a coordinated and integrated manner by government departments and spheres of government.
Improve food security
The issue of food security is also one of the cluster priorities. The high price of food and basic commodities has affected the purchasing power of poor households. As government, we believe that we must work with poor households to help to be better able to respond to the challenges of food insecurity and to protect the poor from the adverse effects of spiralling food prices. With this in mind, government has introduced various measures to enhance households and community food production, primarily for consumption and to generate income from the sale of surplus food. The households are provided with agricultural starter packs such as implements, vegetable seedlings and fertilisers. To date, the programme has been rolled out to 8 234 households country wide. As an immediate intervention to mitigate vulnerability, the cluster has spent R113 million on social relief of distress programme to households across all nine provinces.
To complement the comprehensive rural development programme the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are implementing the Tele-Food Fund to finance grass roots micro projects. To date the fund has assisted eight projects which have been approved by FAO for implementation in South Africa.
In support of all the foregoing programme activities, the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs has initiated a Rainwater Harvesting programme aimed at ensuring that clean water for consumption and household food production is made available through low cost water harvesting techniques.
Working together with civil society and the corporate sector, government has successfully established the South African Forum for Food Security which culminated in the launch of Food Bank South Africa. While in other countries the focus is on the acquisition and distribution of surplus food, we have incorporated the element of food production and trade by producer corporative of the poor themselves in this approach. This initiative is consistent with our intention to stimulate the rural economy to provide livelihoods for people in rural areas.
To date four food banks have been established in four provinces namely, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. I must say, and do so with considerable pride that taken together, these food banks distributed between 400 and 600 tons of food via 900 agencies to more than 100 000 people who are desperately in need of emergency food relief. The national target of establishing two food banks by March 2010 was achieved earlier.
Our intention is to ensure that there is at least one food bank in each province complemented by a network of village food banks in the rural areas. We are grateful to the civil society and the corporate sector for their cooperation in setting up the South African Food Bank and the Community Food Bank Networks. This is the kind of partnership that our country needs during these hard economic times. It is our conviction that the national food bank system and community food bank networks can lead the charge in the war against food insecurity and poverty.
Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)
The provision and expansion of remunerative employment opportunities which include the disadvantaged groups and individuals are included in our government's thrusts to reduce poverty and improve income. In this respect a key element of our programme, in this time of economic turmoil, is to intensify the implementation of the social sector Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
The goal of this programme in the cluster is threefold: fast tracking the provision of public services, skills development and creating work opportunities. In the Social Sector Cluster the focus is mainly on two key programmes, namely Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Home Community Based Care (HCBC).
The Cluster has registered 688 ECD sites as at end of September 2009. About 8 014 new children are being subsidised as at end of September 2009. This brings the total number of children receiving subsidy to 419 217. This number will increase as we continue to register new facilities.
Following the successful implementation and remarkable achievements of the first phase, work has begun in earnest to implement the second phase of this programme. To accelerate the pace of delivery a number of key interventions have been initiated.
One of the challenges experienced in this programme is the unavailability of accredited training service providers. Where such service providers exist, they are largely based in urban centres. To address this, the Department of Social Development and Department of Health are working jointly with the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) to expedite the accreditation process. To date 98 service providers have received full accreditation and 44 received provisional accreditation.
The Department of Public Works’ EPWP Training support unit, in collaboration with sector Departments and the HWSETA have responded to the shortage of accredited service providers in the sector by piloting an emerging training provider’s capacity building model in 2008/09 financial year. This is a comprehensive Model which ensures mentoring of the emerging providers by advanced lead providers and facilitating emerging providers as small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), including access to the Small Enterprise Dveelopment Agency (SEDA) Funding Support. Four of the five Emerging Providers received full accreditation and two of those have been linked to SEDA and are currently undergoing SMME Development with support. EPWP Training Support Unit is rolling out the Emerging Training Providers Capacity Building Model in all 9 provinces. Twenty emerging providers are undergoing training on accreditation procedures and processes in this current financial year.
The sector is facilitating access to the EPWP Incentive Grant of the two initial programmes, viz., ECD and HCBC. This intends to address sector budget shortages for purposes of job creation. A draft MTEF 2010/11 proposal indicating a request of R235,839,869 for the creation of 10 377 additional work opportunities was submitted to the National Treasury’s MTEC. The Draft Proposal is being refined for final submission to the National Treasury by the end of November 2009.
With regard to the standardisation of working conditions for community caregivers, the Department of Health is leading the finalisation of the community caregiver policy framework. Consultations have taken place with key stakeholders in the sector and the process is nearing completion. One of the criticisms of this programme is the discrepancies in the payment of stipends. Once completed, the policy framework will also bring uniformity in terms of payment of stipends to community caregivers across all nine provinces. We will therefore move swiftly and decisively to finalise this process.
The Department of Public Works (DPW) EPWP, in collaboration with the Departments of Social Development, Health and Education are engaging with National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) and the Department of Labour in the revision of the minimum basic conditions of employment for EPWP workers to ensure a fair code of practice in dealing with these workers.
As of September 2009, a total of 42 827 community caregivers receive stipends. Of this number, 30 932 receive a stipend of R1 000 while 11 895 receive a stipend below. As a cluster we endeavour to make better use of this programme by specifically targeting individuals and households affected by job losses and preventing such families from sliding into deep poverty.
In pursuance of Vision 2014 and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), our government is committed to delivering a package of poverty reduction programmes and safety nets that protect the poor and vulnerable among us.
Taken together, this report shows that the cluster has made considerable progress towards the implementation of Government’s Plan of Action for 2009/10. The primary reason for our achievements has been the hard work and cooperation by all the cluster departments. I am truly thankful to all my colleagues in the cluster all of whom have made very valuable contributions to the implementation of the cluster priorities.
The introduction of the Community Works Programme (CWP) as part of the EPWP has added an additional dimension to the improvement of the lives of poor people. For the first two quarters this programme has reported the creation of more than 11 000 work opportunities.
I thank you.
Minister Doidge (reading off statement)
I would also like to give you the employment figures under the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). You will recall that President Jacob Zuma mentioned in his State of the Nation Address that government plans to create 500 000 work opportunities by December 2009 forming the basis for the four and a half million work opportunities to be created by 2014 through the EPWP. The EPWP phase two is divided into four sectors with each sector falling within a particular line function department or municipality and each with each own work opportunities and targets until 2014. Sectors are social, environmental, infrastructure and non state. These sectors target particular unemployed youth, women and disabled people who will form part of the public employment programmes directed at activities including a I have mentioned home base care, crèches, school cleaning, renovation, community gardens, removal of alien vegetation, tree planting, school feeding and various other aspects under the infrastructure budget.
The Department of Public Works plays the following roles in terms of the EPWP, coordinating and supporting the implementation of the EPWP, developing the funding frameworks, conditions and mechanisms for the EPWP. Providing technical support to participating public bodies within the Province, monitoring the implementation of the EPWP against its targets and evaluating the impact of the EPWP. As we previously reported we visited all the nine provinces, protocol agreements have been signed with these provinces. And all nine provinces have committed themselves to the 500 000 jobs by December and four and a half million by 2014. In the first quarter which was from April until May, the figures reported stood at 83 914 and we are happy to report that from June to August which is the second quarter our figures currently stand at a total of 223 568 and there are approximately 80 000 more reported work opportunities still to be verified. We are cautious about how we deal with verification because these are subject to audits. So if all 80 000 are verified to be EPWP work opportunities, you will see that we have exceeded the 300 000 mark as at the end of August. The figures for the final month outstanding will be released mid January because that’s when the figures will be verified. We have the breakdown of these figures should anybody be interested.
Questions and answers:
Journalist: Just on the R235 million that you have asked for, what will that be used for? How are you going to allocate that and also the revision of the basic conditions of employment upward or downward? What effect will that have on the programme going forward and the achievement of your goal?
Journalist: On the creation of jobs the EPWP jobs the Minister is talking about one are you confident that the 500 000 jobs will have been created by December. And then two, when you talk work opportunities; this question has been asked over and over again in terms of clarity are we talking about if a person gets a job for three days to collect something along the side of the street and that ends in three days, do you see that as a job or a work opportunity? What exactly is a work opportunity and do you know what is the duration and everything.
Geoff Doidge: Linda, where did you pick up that figure of R235 million? Can I have a look at page eight just to refresh my memory? The specifics here are if you look at that paragraph we are reporting on, we are looking at more growth in this particular sector around home based care, early childhood development. If [we] go back to EPWP phase one you will find although there was significant progress, we felt that this sector, given the economic crisis we are in and other challenges we have across the cluster, that this would be an area for impact for us, therefore we made an additional request to Treasury through MTEC and that is the R235 million we are talking about. We are convinced from our figures and research there is enormous potential for growth in terms of work opportunities given the vulnerability of those particular sectors and therefore the proposal was made to MTEC and we will see if we are successful, but we are convinced we have a very convincing case and I’m quite sure we will get the R235 million.
The second question was that the revision should be upwards. Our experience in the EPWP Phase 1 when we concluded that we came up with our final report and we were convinced there is room for improvement so it will certainly be upwards and we have already taken that upward movement into account in terms of our budgets going forward in the MTEF period as well as beyond. So it won’t affect it negatively, we won’t go up at the cost of work opportunity, they will run concurrently and we are quite confident that that will work out.
The second one; are we confident about the 500 000, Keifus I will tell you for the third time yes we are. Remember we are looking at 223 000 verified, which means audited up until the end of August. To be exact the figures are close to 79 000, 500 needs to be verified but as we speak almost 60 000 of those were because of capacity problems within our data capturers. You know we have increased our data capturers across all nine provinces across all three spheres to 90. But still there was a bit as you can imagine, we went from 82 000 to 223 000, you can imaging the data capturing that had to happen and therefore 60 000 of the 80 000 is subject to that particular process. The other balance of 23 000 we are not too concerned about; we are quite sure that they will be able to be verified. So if all goes well with the data capturing, we will then have achieved 300 000 by the end of August and if you look at the next quarter which is August, September, October, November and December, four months, we are quite confident come middle of January when we release the figures that have been verified we will be on target. Thank you.
Journalist: The definition of a work opportunity?
Geoff Doidge: Oh yes there is a definition; we will let you have it in detail it's quite a complex definition. It's defined by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations (UN), but we will let you have it in writing. I don’t want to misquote from there but I will let you have it in black and white. But there is a definition we work according to and that will help you to understand what a work opportunity is. There is a set formula and it’s not two or three days don’t worry.
Journalist: My question is aimed at Mr Madonsela. Last year you were having a lot of problems with people taking up the social relief distress benefit has that situation changed this year given the fact that people have lost their jobs?
Audio signal lost.
Vusimuzi Madonsela: Thank you for that question on social relieve of distress. Towards the end of last year we had an increased uptake of the social relief of distress and that has everything to do with the spiraling food prices. We are continuing to get sizable number of people asking for social relief of distress, but as you know this are an interim intervention, and not a permanent intervention, an intervention that last for three months. Many households have continued on that intervention for a period of 3 months. This year we have an allocation far less than we have last year; we spent about R130 million already from our current budget which is R136 million. But it looks like we are coping fairly well with the budget we have but we do anticipate that there will be increased need for social relief. We have submitted a further request to the National Treasury for an allocation of an estimated R200 million. To enable us to cope with demands we expect will come our way. So that should set us on a good path in terms of meeting the needs of those who are faced with serious challenges.
This country is moving towards a mandatory scheme of retirement provisions; this is a scheme that will include a sizable number of the working population who earn income beyond a certain threshold. These proposals are still being presented to Cabinet for it to approve so that we can start engaging with social partners and the public in general on that. But the fundamental principal is that which allows the working population to participate in retirement in order to enable them to save for their retirement to prevent the possibility of poverty in old age. People should be encouraged to save, at the moment you are away that people largely save purely on the basis of collective bargaining arrangements. There is no compulsion to save and in a sense there is a great risk that many people even those in employment would pin their hopes on the possibility of getting an old age grant which is hardly enough to replace income levels that they would have been at, at the point of retirement. So the idea is to help people help themselves by a way of saving for retirement. And as I have said we are proposing a mandatory scheme, this is a framework that has already been approved by Cabinet in 2003. We are just working out the details of exactly how that system would work.
The consolidated government document has been completed and has in fact been submitted to Cabinet in its last cycle. So we expect Cabinet at its next meeting will consider the document. Once the document has been approved it will then be published for comment. The first stop would be NEDLAC where we will have all our social partners handy, community groups, labour business and the like.
Geoff Doidge: The figures speak for themselves; the first quarter straddled an election so over that period there was a bit of settling in that needed to happen over the first quarter. When we released the first quarter figures we did say we were aware there were work opportunities being created but that there was no reporting and in some cases poor reporting. Our visit to the provinces certainly addressed exactly that. And hence you have seen this huge leap from eighty odd thousand to 223. The signing of the protocol agreement certainly assisted provincial governments. We didn’t just go there with a protocol agreement to sign; we went there with a report and the analysis of the first quarter figures. And clearly it has shown big zeros all over the show, everybody was saying it can’t be true. We said that the figures were verified with the heads of departments that were present in that meeting.
We then said this is what we have done to improve the data capturing system, there is a web based reporting system which is live with ourselves and that has taken us forward in leaps and bounds. When it comes to the uptake the various programmes in Local Government, remember that not all two local governments have the functions or competency to deal with early childhood development or home base care. That’s maybe the bigger municipalities and metros, but certainly across the board there has been a huge leap forward in terms of how local government has responded. I think our address to the Local Government Indaba in Johannesburg recently also took us another step forward. We are inundated with requests to come and speak to different local governments. Even the metros are very keen to talk to us. I think there was a perception out there that we sit with the Expanded Public Works budget when in fact we don’t. We use their money we got the model and we make it happen.
In the last few weeks, even in very small municipalities, the food for waste programme is really taking off. And that has created a couple of 100 jobs per municipality. So we are happy that the support we are giving is bearing fruit and that we are changing the mindset from the way we used to do service delivery to what we need to do now using labour intensive methods. I am happy that we are making progress.
Journalist: When you say that the comprehensive social security will aim to benefit the majority of the poor are you talking about introducing a basic income grant and where is that debate at in terms of your document. On the work opportunities you say we can have a breakdown - do you think it’s possible to get that today?
Journalist: Just in terms of the fiscal constraints do you expect to get less and how is the recession impacting on your area of your work with regard to employment creation and on the other side the use of government buildings and cutting that costs and trying to save the other side of the Public Works Department’s activities. Can you maybe comment on what’s being done there to save?
Vusimuzi Madonsela: The comprehensive social security system that you are talking about when you talk about the non contributory measures or social assistance measures that are expanded we are talking about the expansion of the child support grant amongst others. But we are also talking about the equalisation of the age of eligibility for the old aged grant at the same time we are also talking about measures that are being considered to universalise old age grant. Which means whilst currently its means tested serious consideration has been given and the contents of that is in the consolidated government document I am talking about which would consider removing the means test for the Old age grant in that way expanding the reach of the old aged grant to more people and then in fact the Old Age Grant becomes part of the basic pillar of your social security system.
Which means every person who reaches the age of eligibility or if you like pensionable age will be entitled to an old aged grant and over and above that, if they participated in contributory schemes of retirement, that will come in as a top up to what they have received as a basic minimum cover.
With regard to the basic income grant that is not official policy of government as the matter is currently not being debated. What we are doing is exactly what Minister Doidge is talking about: looking for work opportunities through Expanded Public Works and a range of other measures to get people into active employment.
Geoff Doidge: Linda I think your question was will we have enough resources? The figures we are looking currently are what have been improved in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and as long as that remains where it is we will have sufficient funding for that particular period. Of cause one needs to revise as you know the budgets will then come back to Parliament on an annual basis. But clearly in terms of the Medium Term Framework and the estimates of national expenditure resources are there. What is worrying personally is whether we are going to spend all the money because as you know there was an election period everyone was a bit slow off the starting blocks we have to make sure we catch up quickly and make sure we spent that money because it’s the work opportunities that will impact on the people’s lives we are trying to target so that is very crucial.
As far as Public Works itself in all our construction programmes we are doing exactly the same: trying to lead by example, making sure we create labour intensive work opportunities within all our programmes in public works. There are other cost saving programmes that we have like retrofitting of buildings I do have some figures in my office upstairs we can give you a sense of where we are in terms of retrofitting and saving and a number of other initiatives we have initiated just how much it cost around the building that we can certainly with you but there are a number of those initiatives in place and we have been given money to do that.
So those are ongoing but certainly in terms of the work opportunities and the funding for it we did get an assurance from the previous Minister of Finance and then again the new Minister of Finance that certainly this is a flagship programme and they will find the money to assist us. That is why the numbers are important to us because we need to have very tight deadlines have targets work hard at them so that we can show we can achieve in this particular are and bring relief to those that need it most.
Journalist: About the reports on excessive expenditure by the department. Maybe you would like to comment on that? Maybe you’re predecessor?
Geoff Doidge: Well Keifus lumped us all together in his article because he took the department and he took the Ministry and there were two Ministers in one department; he put us all in one pot and said well there you are, there’s the picture. Well I can’t answer for my predecessor and what happened at that particular time but certainly I think the question as it was couched from Parliament might have caused some confusion but if anyone wants clarity on the details we could provide that. But certainly it’s not true you can’t take a programme like Expanded Public Works programme, we are the coordinating national department, our people have to travel, they have to stay in hotels.
When you do launches of these projects with communities you have to provide catering so it’s not like we are all fat cats and sitting in restaurants eating that amount of money. So I think there wasn’t a clear, the question didn’t ask for details and we didn’t provide them, but really you can’t look at the department that coordinates the creation of 1.6 million work opportunities in that particular five year period and say therefore your travel budget we lump together with what the Minister does. These are two separate budgets. The Ministry has its own budget and the department has its own budget and they are both in line with the budget figures and the estimates of national expenditure and nobody broke the law.
Journalist: On questions around the food security issue. Can you explain a bit more on the Tele-Food Fund and maybe some of the projects what exactly what sort of foods are being produced here. And maybe something about the low-cost harvesting techniques what are these techniques exactly towards harvesting water and how important is this in terms of the discussion around South Africa’s declining water quality. And then just something about the food banks how does a food bank function?
Journalist: To the Director-General on the question of social relief emergency there has been a longstanding problem particularly around election time where parties have been using this particular programme to actually give people who are supposedly supporting their political parties. So I am looking at the figures and the number of people that are being assisted by this programme. I am trying to find out how rife is this problem of councillors particularly at local level and politicians generally at provincial level where they would basically use this programme to give people social relief emergency to those who support them and those who are not supporting them basically falls off the system.
Journalist: Just a sidetrack on the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). What’s happing with the CEO who has been suspended? What is the case against the CEO, has there been a disciplinary hearing? Where are we with that case?
Vusimuzi Madonsela: I will defer all questions related to food security to my colleague from agriculture. Let me talk about social relief of distress and the issue of the SASSA CEO. SASSA’s CEO is not on suspension but has been placed on special leave by mutual agreements between himself and the Minister of Social Development. That special leave will last for a period of four months. At this point in time I am not aware of any disciplinary action being taken against the CEO, there is an investigation continuing at SASSA. Whether or not they have reached a point of disciplinary action I don’t know. The CEO is not under suspension.
With regard to social relief and distress and the use by political parties, I think there is a perception that political parties use social relief of distress. We need to draw a distinction between social relief of distress as a programme of Government and the distribution of food parcels which political parties may undertake to do. If they do that out of their own budgets, no own can prevent them to do so. Social relief of distress is a programme of government which people get on application. You don’t get it simply because you are poor; you have to apply for social relief of distress because it’s governed by the provisions of the Social Assistance Act of 2004. Once you have applied for it a social worker dispensed to the relevant household from whence you come to establish whether in fact you do qualify for social relief. Once there is confirmation that the conditions exist that will make you eligible for social relief of distress you will get it. It has nothing to do with what arty you belong to or who you are going to vote for. So that is the official position from the Department of Social Development and South African Social Security Agency. I cannot speak for those political parties that distribute food.
Kgabi Mogajane: On the question on food security, the technology we are speaking about is the one that assist communities to be able to conserve water, we have what we call veggie towers which have been erected particularly in dry areas where they don’t have adequate water. You find that in some households they utilise what we call the veggie towers and they utilise the water which is being used for the household to water the vegetable towers. So far it’s been erected in 10 households and it’s spreading towards more dry areas like Rufusmak and in the Inkantla and some areas where there is no adequate water. In those communities we are giving them starter packs where we give them fertilisers and ensuring that we give them some sidles which are mainly for vegetables for household production.
With regard to the issue of Tele-Food which is a UN programme that was initiated some 10 to 15 years ago by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. What has occurred over the years is that some countries have come up with some events which assisted in raising funds to fight hunger. This particular programme for South Africa we managed to get about 23 000 US dollars to assist us. It assisted in establishing some of the programmes projects in the country particularly around coal production and they are situated in different provinces.
Journalist: You said the CEO has been placed on special leave and not suspended. I just want to know what the difference is between the two. Is it just government speak or is there really a difference?
Vusimuzi Madonsela: Once we heard that there was an investigation underway on the basis of which a preliminary report was presented to the Minister. He in fact requested that he be placed on special leave in order to allow the investigation to continue. I’m not aware of anybody who has asked to be suspended. In fact you do get people who can act benevolently in order to allow a process of investigation to continue. If there is an indication that an investigation is underway, I’m requesting that I’ll be allowed to stay away in order to allow this process of investigation to happen so that there is a free rain by those who do the investigation. So it’s not government speak these things are regulated in terms of law. If you place somebody under suspension you have to follow certain provisions of labour law. If you place someone on special leave that’s a different case all together especially in this instance where the CEO of SASSA in fact is the one who requested it, it could be that there are other instances where people speak differently about whether there is a difference between suspension and special leave. But this is a classical case where you can demonstrate it.
Journalist: It’s not a question it’s just a breakdown about the employment figures Minister Doidge mentioned as well as the definition of the work opportunity whether we can have that.
Geoff Doidge: We’ve got the work figures in a document but we will give you the definition as well because I think it’s important. Why I’m opting not to give it over here because it’s based on fulltime equivalents and there is a calculation how you arrive at the fulltime equivalent so I don’t want us to lose each other let’s give you something that is in black and white and you can work from there. But we will get you the information no problem.
Issued by: Department of Public Works
9 November 2009