Category: Speeches & Statements

ACDP notes tight Parliament budget will offer little relief for Parliamentary support services

Parliament’s budget is expected to provide the support services required by Parliament to fulfil its constitutional functions, assist political parties represented in Parliament to secure administrative support, service constituents, and provide members of Parliament with the necessary facilities.

The ACDP welcomes the speakers’ recognition of the needs with regard to crucial support services that are under tremendous strain. The tight budget is sadly going to offer no real relief. Legal Services is a good example. This office provides an ongoing range of specialised services that includes oral and written advice to committees; advice to the Joint Tagging Mechanism on the classification of Bills, drafting Bills of exceptionally high quality, as well as drafting contracts and policies; amongst other ad hoc services.  Not to mention legal support when committees are conducting constitutionally mandated oversight of the Executive.

I have only realised recently, that this small team in legal services also manages all the litigation against Parliament and I can only imagine what a huge task this is. I was shocked to find out that all these services, which each one of the team always delivers in a professional and competent manner, are provided by only 8 legal advisers and 3 senior legal advisers under the stewardship of the Chief Legal Adviser.

Considering that there are approximately 54 portfolio committees and a single legal adviser can have up to ten Bills at any given time, the broad range of functions that this office provides with absolute proficiency is unthinkable and frankly unfair.  The unwanted thought is just how much longer this small team can survive the pressure let alone be expected to sustain the excellence that we have come to expect of them.

The ACDP urges management to support this office by increasing their capacity or we will all have to face the consequences. These men and women are at high risk of burnout. Our legal human resources are a scarce commodity. Not many want this stressful job and those that do probably won’t cut it as the demands and broad skills that have to be developed in a short space of time are almost too much to ask and we should not take this for granted.

The ACDP has been a source of additional stress in their lives in terms of the assistance I have had with drafting of private members bills over the years and yet I have always received the most professional and excellent service.  As my colleagues and I tend to participate on many committees apart from those we are a member of   when they are dealing with legislation which the ACDP has a special interest in, we are conscious of the never ending pressure on our law advisors.  The ACDP highly commends and respects these ‘super heros’ in our midst serving their country with humility, sacrifice and excellence.

We also want to thank all staff at Parliament and take a moment to commend our parliamentary researchers and content specialists – our experience through committee participation and working on detailed presentations has left us grateful for their talents and dedication.  Then there is our IT department that also appears to be stretched but doing a great job. I don’t envy them having to deal with MP’s anxiety and impatience when technology challenges occur.

Again, the ACDP appeals to management to support these offices and take care of our scarce resources.  We also call on Treasury to recognise the damage done to the country if the work of parliament is undermined by overly constrained budgets that lead to us ‘wearing out’ and losing valuable people.

Lastly the ACDP welcomes the speaker’s reference to constituency work and the less than adequate support due to budget constraints. This is unfortunate as the value of constituency involvement can be measured in people’s greater awareness of the importance of their participation in the processes of Parliament plus a growing respect for the institution of Parliament and the work members are doing.

The ACDP supports this budget which is not adequate to the job before us but we are committed to doing our part in:

– Strengthening oversight and accountability

– Enhancing public involvement

– Strengthening co-operative government and inter-governmental relations

– Deepening engagement in international participation

– and Improving the quality and impact of legislation.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 2: Parliament
22 May 2018

Correctional services budget cut of R605 million will worsen conditions of incarceration

The ACDP appreciates that there is government-wide fiscal consolidation and this has resulted in the Correctional Services budget being cut by R605 million for this financial year.

The department will be expected to do more with less. While all departments are affected by these reductions, the ACDP is concerned that funded posts will be reduced from 42,006 to 39,101 due to funding being withdrawn. This may well affect frontline service delivery and worsen safety and conditions of incarceration. The ANC-government must accept political responsibility for corruption and state capture and the R50 billion less collected by SARS. This has had a direct impact on all departments with a required R85 billion cut over the medium term.

This has partially resulted in non-compliance with the Saldanha Judgement relating to overcrowding in the prisons. While the Saldanha judgement relates to Pollsmoor, other inmates may bring similar court applications in other overcrowded centres. On a lighter note Pollsoor must be doing something right as four robbers who recently stole a vehicle in Cape Town fled into Pollsmoor in an attempt to escape. This is classic!  As if Pollsmoor was not already overcrowded.

We are also concerned about the recent escapes of inmates from Correctional Centres, including in Johannesburg and Pollsmoor. It appears that there are unconscionable wardens who assist with these escapes – with 34 officials charged for assisting escapees in 2014/15.  Thankfully, most of these escapees were re-arrested.

The reduced budget will also regrettably affect the Judicial Inspectorate (JICS) that investigates assaults, use of excessive force, unnatural deaths and torture.

The ACDP has long held the view that increased usage should be made of offender labour to deal with minor maintenance projects. We thus welcome the Minister’s commitment in this regard and commend the department on the productivity of its farms and factories that can result in self-sufficiency and generate revenue. We trust that revenue obtained is channelled to the department and not to the central fiscus.

We are concerned by the downward revision of a number of targets in the various programmes. There are also no performance indicators and targets for the Assurance Services despite the Committee’s recommendations in this regard.

The department has for several years been unable to meet its targets set to create additional bed-spaces. This has largely been due to the long delays in the completion of capital infrastructure projects. Regrettably, discussions between the Minister and the Minister of Public Works have borne little fruit.

The resulting overcrowding in our prisons remains a challenge, and is the root cause of health problems and the spread of diseases, particularly TB. We saw this for ourselves when we inspected prisons last year.

The ACDP believes that sections 63A and 62f of the Criminal Procedure Act must continually be applied to release those remand prisoners who are being detained at huge state expense, and who do not present a danger to society. There is also Section 49G of the Correctional Services Act, which seeks to limit the period of time that an accused is remanded in detention. The strict application of these provisions should result in a reduction in the number of remand prisoners and alleviate the overcrowded prison conditions.

The ultimate measure of this department’s success is whether it succeeds in preventing re-offending. Regrettably, attempts to reduce recidivism are adversely affected by overcrowding, vacancies, and the stigma attached to being a convicted criminal. The rehabilitation and social reintegration programmes, are then key in this regard.

We particularly support the increase in the number of restorative justice programs attended by victims, parolees and probationers.  Rehabilitation budgets cannot be underfunded as it will have a direct impact on the reintegration of offenders into society.

We also received a presentation from the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services. While we note that JICS is now a dedicated sub-programme, with an increased budget, we still believe it is not desirable that the Inspectorate is dependent on the department for its funding – it must be an independent inspectorate to operate effectively.

While this department is facing many challenges, the ACDP wishes to thank all those conscientious managers and staff members who under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions diligently do their work in trying to ensure that offenders are kept in safe, secure and humane custody, and undergo rehabilitation programmes.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 18: Correctional Services
17 May 2018

ACDP says Higher Education budget must move South Africa in direction of greater readiness to meet 21st century challenges

The ACDP supports the objective of this Higher Education budget in terms of not just expanding access and increasing student financial aid – but producing relevant mid- to high-level skills – which must move us in the direction of greater readiness to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.  We also welcome the attention being given to Africanisation and the decolonisation of curricula.

The ACDP notes that the bulk of the departments substantial increase from R31.6 billion to R45.1 billion will be spent on transfers and subsidies to universities – this includes the additional R11.3 billion that government has allocated for university subsidies – to cover the 8 percent tuition fee increase in the 2018 academic year for undergraduate students from families with a combined annual income of between R350,000 and R600,000 – and to ensure that university operating costs are adequately covered.

The ACDP also notes the National Student Financial Aid Scheme will increase from R10.1 billion to R35.3 billion for the phasing in – over the next few years – of fee-free higher education and training for the poor and working class.

The ACDP fully supports the NDP requirement that expanded access to skills programmes must address the labour market’s need for intermediate skills and include a practical component.

The ACDP calls on the Minister to ensure that work opportunities and work placements for artisans are priorities alongside the expanding of skills training.

Transfers and subsidies to TVET colleges, show an increase from R1.5 billion to R6.8 billion by 2020/21 and R4.4 billion of this will go to refurbishing campus buildings, purchasing workshop equipment and maintaining facilities. We also note that an estimated 4 200 learners and 4 200 workers are expected to benefit from the National Skills Fund over this period – a small but welcome extra source of help in equipping a skilled workforce.

The ACDP welcomes all efforts to improve the skills of the lecturers and the performance of students, aimed at increasing the number of artisan learners qualifying. We are calling on the department to prioritise the development and implementation of a teaching and learning support plan for TVET colleges. We are also calling for Public TVET college examination centres to be monitored and assessed without delay.

The provision of fully subsidised higher education and training for all current and future undergraduate university and TVET college students from poor and working class families will begin in 2018 for 1st year and extended to second, third and fourth year students in subsequent years.

Last but not least, community education and training colleges – which primarily target youths and adults who did not complete or attend school – will also see an increased budget.  The ACDP calls on the department to ensure previously developed regulations and policies for community education and training colleges are implemented without delay and for oversight reports to be produced in order to monitor and evaluate their performance.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 15: Higher Education and Training
17 May 2018

Remain committed to meaningful and positive engagement with all Middle East stakeholders

The ACDP notes the allocation of an increased budget. While this is good news,  we realise that foreign exchange fluctuations and unplanned activities are more than likely going to eat into it. We also note the Minister’s promises and commitment to correcting ongoing audit problems.

The ACDP takes this time to reflect on the National Development Plan (NDP) which states that the country’s foreign policy should be shaped by the interplay between diplomatic, political, security, environmental, economic and regional dynamics that define international relations.

This must, of course, take place while global trends increasingly influence the way countries of the world relate to each another and information and communications technology goes above and beyond sovereignty, international boundaries and regulatory systems. The accelerated massive flow of information on ideology, ideas and capital across the world make it impossible to expect international relations to be managed as they have been through the ages, and even in recent times.

Pressure is constantly put on South Africa to take sides in many conflicts. Government is more aware than most that all countries have their strengths and weaknesses and while we send peace missions and peace-keeping forces where needed, we respect the sovereignty of these countries. Erring on the side of tolerance in the hope of influencing them regarding a culture of human rights while providing practical assistance and encouragement with regard to ‘good governance’ and democracy.

Personally I have saluted South Africa’s cautious position regarding forced regime change and ‘democracy by force’, which we know delivers certain death and destruction. What we also know for certain is that negotiations are going to be necessary one way or another as all wars end with negotiated settlements. Surely it makes sense to support peace and negotiations and stay committed to this regardless of the frustrations.

Politics does, however, complicate matters and even the best policies can be overridden by agendas influencing majority opinion. Minister Pandor’s statement during the State of the Nation Address that “the majority party has agreed, that government must cut diplomatic ties with Israel…”, President Ramaphosa saying that diplomatic ties with Israel were to be downsized and now the withdrawal of our Ambassador to Israel, are examples of this kind of pressure.

The ACDP would like to encourage government that despite the pressure, they know the right thing to do is to remain committed to meaningful and positive engagement with all stake holders in the Middle East and to reconsider the value of resuscitating and empowering Middle East envoys, which we believe would do far more to move parties toward fruitful negotiations and a sustainable peace than does taking sides. It would also be far more in character for South Africa, whose values include both a culture of human rights, and democracy.  Pretending there are ‘good and bad guys’ in this or any situation is futile. We all see what we see, and everyone must take responsibility for the abuses suffered by people caught up in defense measures and intifadas under the notion that jihad is a religious duty. The ACDP regrets the loss of life and grieves with all those caught up in the Middle East conflict.

Hamas has been controlling Gaza since Israel withdrew in 2005. Although many, including South Africa, have provided help and resources to build Gaza, the metals imported into Gaza didn’t build industries. Instead, they were used to make rockets. The cement given to Gaza wasn’t used to build houses for those in need. Instead they build terror tunnels to reach and murder Israeli citizens. In the 13 years that Hamas has been ruling over Gaza, they could have turned the area into a heaven, but instead they chose to turn it into a hell.

The ACDP understands that South Africa’s foreign policy and the operations of the department (which are based on a combination of South Africa’s national interest, its values, the African Renaissance and the creation of a better world for all) are implemented within an unpredictable and challenging global environment that is often volatile and always complex.

The ACDP will support all government efforts to promote peace and sustainable development within South Africa, regionally and globally.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 6: International Relations and Cooperation
15 May 2018

Raise awareness around provisions of Minimum Wage Bill and the Labour Laws Amendment Bill

In considering the Labour budget, the ACDP would just like to highlight three areas of concern. 

Firstly, it is not clear how far the department is in terms of being ready with regulations and other necessary measures for the implementation of both the new Minimum Wage Bill and the Labour Laws Amendment Bill which provides for parental and adoption leave. The excitement generated around these laws have left many people hopeful and anxious to be able to benefit.

The second concern is linked to the first and the realisation that many more people will have no idea about their rights in terms of these pieces of legislation. Employers will also need to benefit from awareness campaigns.

The ACDP calls on the department to ensure that awareness campaigns, regulations and other measures necessary to deliver on the provisions of the bills are planned for and speedily executed so that there are no unnecessary delays in implementation once the Minimum Wage Bill and the Labour Laws Amendment Bill are signed into law.

The ACDP welcomes the progress made with regard to a minimum wage in South Africa, although we are troubled by the reality that the minimum wage is NOT a livable wage. We appeal to employers NOT to regard the minimum wage as a norm. It is only a worst-case scenario.

The ACDP is also encouraged by the support shown for the ACDP’s Labour Laws Amendment Bill that has taken cautious but definite steps in recognising the importance of family and the need for parents to bond with their children and share child care responsibilities.

Lastly, the ACDP would like to raise concerns about the lack of funds budgeted for labour inspectors, without which workers will be extremely vulnerable to the whims of unethical employers. How many lives would be spared if inspections were being more regularly and thoroughly carried out?  Farm workers are spread so far and wide that they are unlikely to see labour inspectors very often and this makes an even stronger argument for the need for awareness campaigns to target relevant sectors so that people know their rights and have, at least, some hope of standing up for themselves where budgets fail to do so.

The ACDP will support the department in all efforts to provide the support workers and families need in order to be productive and to build a stronger and more prosperous nation.

15 May 2018

Expropriation of land without compensation has historically destabilised economies and destroyed the hopes and dreams that freedom promises

The ACDP reflects with dismay and concern on a budget that instead of being increased in line with the obvious urgency of the land redistribution question, the land budget – which declined over the past few years – is now at the level it was in 2008 after the proposed 3% increase.

In speaking to the national budget for 2018/19, Minister Malusi Gigaba said: “The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform will accelerate the settling of restitution claims.

The progress of restitution of land has been very slow up until now with most rural claims not resolved, and poor implementation – and inadequate support – for resolved ones.  The limiting of restitution to dispossession after 19 June 1913 has also discriminated against KhoiSan people causing much uneasiness.

What we know is that at the end of Apartheid, about 80-million hectares of commercial farms were owned by 60,000 families, and 13-million black people were crowded into homelands or Bantustans. The new government promised people access to land on an equitable basis with legally secure tenure and the expectation was created that 30% of white owned land would be redistributed within five years.

By 2014, about 700 million hectares, amounting to 8% of white-owned agricultural land, had been redistributed. Although the Constitution allows for compensation that is “just and equitable,” government chose to redistribute land at market value on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ basis. Interestingly access to land on an equitable basis has not in more than 20 years been interpreted judicially.

I know personally what an uphill battle it was for me when I tried to convince an ACDP congress that supporting market value as opposed to an equitable basis as expressed in the Constitution, would increase the risk of the demand for far more drastic measures down the line.

The ACDP understands however that for socio-economic justice to be a reality, land redistribution is necessary and expropriation is inevitable. Expropriation of land without fair compensation, however, cannot be condoned.

As the Minister of Housing said yesterday, “the failure or success of our human settlements expansion programme depends on accessing and releasing optimally located land. Houses can only be built on land which is suitable and well located”.

People need rooves over their family’s heads and land is needed for this purpose.  Title deeds must, however, unconditionally be in the hands of the people of South Africa.

The ACDP calls on government to champion a pragmatic land redistribution drive guided by the principles of equity and justice. The Zimbabwean example having been shown to be socially and economically hazardous even if politically appealing in the short term is not an option.

Expropriation of land without compensation has historically destabilised economies and destroyed the hopes and dreams that freedom promises.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 39: Rural Development and Land Reform
11 May 2018

Declare former SABC board members in breach of their fiduciary duties delinquent directors

The ACDP, like many others, is particularly interested in the state of the SABC. This given the very important role the public broadcaster plays in providing information, news for viewers and listeners across the whole of South Africa.

It was also this reason the prompted us to participate in the ad hoc Committee on the SABC – which followed widespread concern from the public about the SABC’s ability to discharge its mandate as a public broadcaster, as well as the fitness of the remaining SABC Board members to discharge their duties. There was more than sufficient evidence at that stage that the SABC’s primary mandate as a national public broadcaster had been compromised by a lapse of governance and management within the SABC, which ultimately contributed to the Board’s inability to discharge its fiduciary responsibilities.

We welcomed the appointment of the interim and permanent Boards and have followed with interest the progress that the new Board has made in implementing the ad hoc committee’s recommendations.

Of particular interest to us is the progress that the Special Investigating Unit has made in investigating procurement, irregular, unauthorised or wasteful expenditure, maladministration and improper relationships with service providers.

While we welcome the progress report provided by the SIU as to its ongoing investigations into various controversial contracts including the Lornavision R62 million and Multichoice R460 million contracts, we are concerned that the SIU is not investigating the Gupta-related ANN7 contract. The reason given is that the Public Protector had indicated that she would be investigating this issue as part two of its state capture investigation. It appears however, that part two has not yet commenced – and may be severely compromised due to capacity constraints at the PP’s office.  We do however trust that the Zondo Commission of Inquiry, will also investigate the ANN7 contracts. This is important as the evidence was that the SABC came very close to being completely taken over or captured by ANN7.

We are also concerned about allegations that the NPA is reluctant to take the SIU’s referral cases to court for criminal prosecutions. We share the view expressed by committee members that individuals who looted public institutions should not be allowed to resign or be dismissed without further action being taken. I would urge the Minister and committee members to consider approaching the Justice Minister and Justice Committee should concerns persist that the NPA is not pursuing these cases with sufficient vigour.

In addition, the ACDP recommends those former board members who recklessly breached their fiduciary duties be declared delinquent directors in terms of section 162 of the Companies Act. This will act as a deterrent and prevent such former directors from moving from one SOE to the next and causing further damage.

It is also important to remember that the ad hoc committee found that “Parliament may have relinquished its constitutional duty to hold the Executive and consecutive SABC boards to account. This may have rendered Parliament complicit in the gradual decline of good governance, accountability and commitment to public broadcasting at the SABC.” It is crucial therefore that the Committee ensures as part of its oversight that all recommendations of the ad hoc committee are fully complied with.

Additionally, has the recommendation that MPs “should receive adequate training and support to enable them to exercise their oversight responsibility competently. Such capacity-building should include general training on legislative oversight and on ethics and corporate governance, and specific training to assist them in their respective portfolios.”

Also have any amendments been proposed to the Broadcasting Act and possibly to the Companies Act to strengthen laws governing the SABC? Members will also recall the perceived uncertainty as to whether the Broadcasting Act trumped the Companies Act. Has there been any need to clarify this through a possible amendment?

Whilst the ACDP welcomes the steps taken by the Board to address most of the recommendations of the ad hoc committee, one of the pressing recommendations related to “ensuring that an environment free of fear and intimidation or abuse of power prevails at the SABC.” This followed widespread allegations of victimisation at the broadcaster.

We remain concerned about these allegations. I even heard today that while Motsoeneng has been fired from the SABC, certain so-called enforcers are still there.  This is unacceptable. We would urge any staff members who feel threatened or intimidated in any manner to report such incidents to the SAPS, and should no action be taken, to report it to us in Parliament.

Let us not forget that a heavy price was paid in getting rid of the rot at the SABC. One of the SABC 8 senior journalists, Suna Venter, died in June last year as a direct result of the stress induced by continued intimidation, victimisation and death threats. We cannot fail her and other journalists who have taken a stand to ensure an independent and professional public broadcaster.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 3: Communications
10 May 2018

ACDP appeals to Human Settlements Minister to prioritise approval and implementation of Special Needs Housing Programme policy

There is an obligation created by the Housing Act that in the development of housing, the needs of certain vulnerable, marginalised and poor persons must be promoted. The Housing White Paper prescribes a duty on the State to reflect constant awareness of special needs in housing policies and subsidy programmes.

The ACDP has for many years been pleading with government to respond adequately to those Special Housing Needs for vulnerable people. Applicable policy has been waiting over 20 years for approval. Disasters like Esidimeni occur because of the failure to deliver on this mandate and this tragedy is as much the responsibility of this department as any other.

The vulnerable, marginalised and poor people affected by delays in this regard include the mentally ill; orphans and vulnerable children; older people; people with disabilities; victims of domestic violence; terminally ill, frail and totally destitute people; those receiving substance abuse rehabilitation services; parolees and people released on probation; and also victims of serious crime and human trafficking.

The ACDP and thousands of carers of vulnerable people urgently appeal to you Minister Mfeketho, and call on government to prioritise the approval and implementation of the Special Needs Housing Programme policy, (SNHP) that is just waiting for MINMEC approval and your signature.

The ACDP calls on Parliament’s Portfolio Committees to apply the necessary pressure on departments such as Social Development, Human Settlements and Health to work with Minister Mfeketho to get this Special Housing Needs Policy over its last hurdle.

The ACDP also calls on the new Human Settlements Ombudsman, Themba Mthethwa, to get involved in cutting through the red tape and pressuring for this vital SNHP policy approval on behalf of our most vulnerable South Africans.

Stakeholders have appealed to the Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). They sent the Minister a letter to request her to expedite and sign the policy and met with the DHS Portfolio Committee in November. The Department confirmed their support for this uncontentious approval. Yet, this policy is still not on the internal and MINMEC agenda for signature.

The SNH Policy requires no additional budget right now – just your signature, honourable Minister. The ACDP assumes ring fenced allocations for this purpose will need to be discussed with Treasury in terms of future budgets once the department develops the implementation guidelines and workshops the policy with all 9 provinces.

The ACDP finds the underspending and return of funds to Treasury the most disturbing aspect of this current budget. The reasons given for poor delivery include capacity constraints and this possibly explains the increases allocated for consultants which appear to be well above inflation, which is another concern. Sadly in the face of the country’s needs and expectations, these reasons simply sound like excuses and are not acceptable.

Minister Mfeketho, you clearly have a huge task ahead of you and the ACDP wishes you every success. Today’s outlined steps and plans that your department will take to overcome these challenges are crucial as the mood of the electorate grows increasingly impatient.

This time last year, former Minister Sisulu announced the launching of the Human Settlements Development Bank through the consolidation of the existing human settlements finance institutions, as well as the establishment of the National Rapid Response Task Team that, would employ youth to help document the challenges of communities. What progress has been made in this regard and is it taking the department forward in terms of delivery?

The ACDP will support this vote in the hope that we will be able to make a significant difference with it.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget 38: Human Settlements
10 May 2018

Justice Budget Vote: Approach Appropriations Committee for Legal Aid SA funding

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and several other institutions receive their allocation under the Justice and Constitutional Development Vote. These other institutions include the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA); Legal Aid South Africa; Special Investigating Unit (SIU); South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Public Protector South Africa (PPSA).

It is clear to us in the ACDP that the department, NPA, Legal Aid SA, SIU, SAHRC, and PP are suffering severe financial challenges which is impacting service delivery in the criminal and civil justice sphere. This is due to the constrained fiscal environment resulting in a R2 billion baseline cut to the department’s budget over the same period. The baseline reduction for the department for this year 2018/19 is as follows: R200 million from Court services; R43.7 million from the Administration programme; R49 million from State Legal Services; R200 million from the NPA; and R92.8 million from Legal Aid SA. How can we expect the department, NPA, Legal Aid Board and other entities to deliver services when they are not properly funded?

We must also ask how we landed in this constrained fiscal environment. It is partially due to additional funding required for unbudgeted items such as free higher education and training.

More importantly, it is because the Zuma administration allowed itself to be captured by the interests of a select few or family. This has resulted in billions of rands being siphoned off from departments and SOEs. If you don’t believe me, look at the evidence we have uncovered in the Eskom Inquiry. The level of state capture at this and other SOEs is indeed staggering and has cost the fiscus dearly.

In this regard, I wish to commend the NPA, and its Asset Forfeiture Unit for eventually obtaining a number of preservation orders pertaining to Gupta-related companies and state capture. How these people escaped justice for so long is a severe indictment on us all particularly given that the facts were made known in the Public Protector’s State Of Capture Report in 2016. But better late than never. Let’s prosecute those responsible and recover those ill-gotten gains. We don’t have to wait for the outcome of the Zondo Commission.
It is time to accept political responsibility for the fact that we as Parliament are not able to properly fund the department and various institutions reporting to us.

For example, the excellently-run Legal Aid SA has indicated that it will not be able to provide legal representation as required due to budget cuts in the medium term.

Before dealing with this issue, I would also like to thank Judge President Dunstan Mlambo for succeeding in making Legal Aid SA the internationally acclaimed state institution that it is. He has been at the helm since 2002. It is then very unfair that such a tightly-run ship should have its budget cut by R92.8 million.

The budget cuts will lead to understaffing at courts. This in turn will lead to further court delays. The same applies to the NPA.

The committee approached the Minister of Finance in October last year to obtain additional funding for various entities, including the OCJ for the new Mpumalanga High Court, the department, NPA, SAHRC, the PP, and Legal Aid SA.

We specifically recommended that “the funding presently allocated by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to a private firm of attorneys to provide representation in land-related matters be transferred to Legal Aid SA.”

The committee has been informed that R185 million was paid to a private legal firm by the Department of Rural and Land Affairs for legal assistance with land claims. Since 2016 a new firm of attorneys dealt with 1,434 cases (of which 227 were finalised) at a cost of R130 million. This contract will expire this July.  The Committee believes that a firm decision must be taken to transfer the function of providing legal assistance in land matters to Legal Aid SA before a new contract is awarded.

Legal Aid SA can also play a key role in finalising outstanding land claims. This delay has resulted in much frustration for land claimants and adds to tensions around the land issue.

The Minister responded that “due to the constrained fiscal outlook, the scope to provide additional funding is limited”.

So how do we resolve this issue urgently? It does not help to wring our hands and say so sorry – no additional funds – go away – do your work. But we will hold you accountable for not reaching targets.

Firstly, accept political responsibility for the damage that state capture, widespread fraud and corruption has resulted in the poor financial state of government finances.

Secondly, make use of the provisions of section 10 of the Money Bills Amendment Procedure and Related Matters Act, 2009. It is Parliament that appropriates funds and it is Parliament that can, within the fiscal framework, recommend adjustments.

In this regard, the ACDP recommended that the Committee approach the Appropriations Committee for funding for Legal Aid SA, and possibly other entities. We cannot sit back and allow our justice system to deteriorate due to underfunding. Let us stop wringing our hands in sympathy and take up our responsibility and do something to secure additional funding. Chairperson, I look forward to your feedback on your engagement with the appropriations committee after the committee accepted the ACDP’s proposal in this regard.

Lastly, the ACDP would like to thank all those magistrates, prosecutors, legal aid practitioners, court officials and Chapter 9 institutions who do their very best to uphold  justice on a daily basis under very challenging financial conditions.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 21: Justice and Constitutional Development
9 May 2018

ACDP supports inadequate Social Development Budget

The ACDP is aware of the critical role the Social Development department is expected to play in developing and implementing programmes for the eradication of poverty and social protection. While the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society must be our immediate priority, we appreciate that the longer term vision and goal is to facilitate a caring and self-reliant society.

The anxiety caused by a leadership at odds with each other in our Social Security Agency has been a costly exercise but on the upside it has resulted in a vastly improved combined oversight of SASSA and positive, far reaching initiatives to ensure that the provision of social security services not only operate strictly within the constitutional and legislative framework but are more user-friendly and not as vulnerable to abuse.

The ACDP has often asked the department to ‘up their game’ in terms of communication especially important messages easily conveyed via social media and we would like to congratulate them on doing just that. The messages relating to SASSA cards have been timely and relevant and have elicited a good response. Well done on a really good job!

The problem, however, is the reality on the ground expressed in responses to these messages. For example, the person who said: “Sitting at a local Pensions office is NO fun and I was quite frustrated and angry when I went there recently. Nothing appeared to be happening. Staff were half asleep, busy chewing apples and talking – not all but quite a few. They moved me from one queue (when I was already next in line) to another and sat waiting again. When this was questioned, I was told to just sit there. Nobody tells anybody  what is happening with any of the 3/4/5 different queues. I spoke to a few Gogos in the queue. They had been there from 5am and were very tired. Same place on the bench, same queue. This was now nearly midday. I really felt for them. Tiny babes and children – there for hours. Is this REALLY necessary, please tell me? Are the staff trained?”

And in response to telling people they can call the SASSA Call Centre on 0800 60 10 11, I got responses like this one: “Unfortunately that number and another number for KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) that I was given from the recording are not answered. After waiting and waiting the phone goes dead on both numbers.”

I know the committee raised concerns over long queues at local offices and the attitude of SASSA staff and that officials have alluded to the fact that the system has been offline and is causing the problems. This may be so but surely it is unacceptable that the problem has not been solved. Urgent attention must be given to ensuring systems are online and staff are trained to serve the public in a friendly, professional manner.

In 2017, Statistics South Africa released findings showing that the prevalence of stunting (the chronic malnutrition among children under five) was 27 percent, and that there has been no change in the risk of a child being malnourished since 1993.

Professor Julian May of the UWC Institute of Social Development points out that research internationally and in South Africa has shown that being stunted as a child affects physical and cognitive development, increasing the risk of illness as a child and in later life.

The most important cause of stunting is of course poverty. Poverty here means insufficient income to purchase nutritious food. The cost of securing a basic but nutritionally complete diet for a child between the ages of 3 to 9 years is estimated to be about R540 per month, raising concerns that the Child Support Grant is insufficient for a basic but nutritionally complete diet for a child.

The ACDP is of the opinion that the department should be putting up a stronger case for not only child grants but VAT exemptions. As Professor May points out the department did not do enough to ensure a zero rating for more food items known to be nutritious and bought by poor families; for example, shelf-stable products that use sorghum and are used to make healthy foods that have long been part of our South African cuisine such as mabhele and ting.

Early Childhood Development is another concern. The ACDP would like to remind the Minister that many ECD centres find it difficult to meet norms and standards due to infrastructural, health and safety problems such as  poor sanitation facilities – not enough or unsafe toilets, leaking roofs, unfenced or partially fenced centres, ventilation and lighting problems, food preparation accessible for children, space inadequacy, no provision for a sick bay, etc. Not being able to meet these norms and standards means that centres cannot be registered.  Not being able to register means that the ECD centre is unknown to the Department and not part of the ‘system.’

The existing ECD Maintenance Grant is a great blessing but it still leaves all unregistered centres out in the cold and all too often these are the only centres in a village or area. The grant is also inadequate for the maintenance needs of conditionally registered centres.

The ACDP calls on the Minister to call on government to support Municipalities in taking up their role as per the National Integrated ECD Policy and to provide additional ring fenced MIG funding to Municipalities for ECD Centre improvements to meet norms and standards required for registration.

If we are to attain the national goal of all children from 0-5 years having access to good quality ECD services by 2030, all ECDs must be registered and benefitting from departmental oversight, training and subsidies.

The ACDP would like to wish you honourable Minister, every success in this new and challenging task ahead.  We will support this budget which must eradicate poverty and provide protection for society’s most vulnerable under difficult circumstances.

NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Budget Vote 17: Social Development
9 May 2018