Statement by Ministers of Social Development and Public Works, Edna Molewa and Geoff Doidge on the occasion of Social Protection and Community Development Cluster media briefing

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cape Town, Parliament

23 February 2010

Colleagues
Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the media

Good morning

Thank you and welcome to this, the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster media briefing session. In the short life of our new political administration, we have all been encouraged by the enormous support and cooperation amongst the cluster departments. If this spirit of teamwork continues, and I have no reason to doubt that it will not, then together we can do more to position our country to its proud place in the family of nations.
On 11 February President Jacob Zuma delivered his State-of-the-Nation Address in Parliament, outlining the direction in which government was to proceed in 2010 in pursuit of the objective of building a better future for all South Africans. In this presentation, I will endeavour to give an overview of the contributions of the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster towards this year of action as we all work together for a better future for our people.

The President's State of the Nation has set the tone for the pace with which we must work this year. As the Social Protection and Community Development Cluster we certainly have our work cut out for us. The efficient and timeous roll-out of our programmes and interventions is crucial to ensure a safety cushion for the poor, particularly during these hard economic times. Our cluster is up to the challenge

Ladies and gentlemen
This year and this month in particular, mark the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from Victor Verster prison. Many of you will have no difficulty in recalling that historic moment which marked a significant point in the struggle against apartheid and set us on an irreversible path to freedom. This historic moment presents us with an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and to identify what more we need to do to achieve a fairer society, and in so doing promote and secure a democratic society which Mandela fought for.

The challenges facing our society are many and varied, but Mandela's lifelong campaign for social justice, liberty, equality and fraternity continues to inspire not only South Africans but the rest of humanity throughout the world. So, as we strive to build a caring society and to wage a concerted struggle against poverty, we draw inspiration from his legacy which continues to ignite our imaginations and dreams for a better future.

The Budget Speech by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Mr Pravin Gordhan was once again, a sobering reminder of the realities and challenges associated with the global financial crisis, and its impact on our programmes. While we are all very much aware of these challenges, we are also all aware of the need to work together to weather this storm.

We remain cautiously hopeful that we can continue to insulate poor South Africans from the full frontal assault of these hard economic times. We have acted to protect the poor as we also worked to protect our nation. While our efforts have been reasonably successful, we realise with each passing day that we have to work harder to respond quickly to changing circumstances. This briefing will focus and elaborate on the following priorities as they relate to the work of the cluster:

Expanded Public Works Programme
Human settlements
Comprehensive rural development strategy
Youth Development
Social cohesion
Comprehensive social security
Expanded Public Works Programme
One of our top priorities in the cluster is skills development and the creation of job opportunities. That is why we are continuing to invest in the Expanded Public Works Programme.

The concerted effort by this government to protect the poor against the adverse effects of poverty and unemployment have been further bolstered by the announcement in President Jacob Zuma's address that EPWP has, between April and December 2009, created 482 742 work opportunities which constitute 97 percent of the targeted 500 000 job opportunities as outlined in the President's State of the Nation Address last year.

As I speak on this matter, I can see the cynics and our detractors, with their standard fare of negativism and pessimism ready to question this remarkable achievement. Let me therefore hasten to add that job opportunities under the EPWP are defined as any period of paid employment. From its inception, this programme was designed as a strategy to bridge the skills gap, provide remunerative employment opportunities for the disadvantaged groups and to fast track the provision of public services.

EPWP remains a continuous and sustainable strategic programme that addresses our country's skills deficit and creates employment opportunities. For a rural woman in Mutale village, and to the majority of unemployed men and women whose dream is to provide for the education of their children, EPWP offers them hope and the skills that can secure them a decent job.
An analysis of the figures clearly demonstrate that EPWP is an effective intervention designed to address joblessness amongst the most vulnerable and under-qualified sectors of our population. It is thus a key aspect of addressing the challenges of poverty, which has and still remains the centrepiece of this cluster's agenda.

The Expanded Public Works Programme is divided into four sectors, namely infrastructure, environment, social and non-state sector. In the Social Sector Cluster EPWP focuses mainly on ongoing programmes such as the Home Community Based Care, Early Childhood Development as well as Community and Tourism Safety projects and programmes that employ coaches to encourage mass based participation in sports.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is important to emphasise that wages earned by the vulnerable people who are employed through EPWP, complement the existing social welfare programme of government. It does so by often providing income through wages to those that do not qualify for other social grants. The programme also aims to restore the dignity of the unemployed by creating opportunities for them to be exposed to a working environment while at the same time fast tracking the provision of government services.

Over the 2009-2014 period, the second phase of this programme aims to create 4.5 million short-term job opportunities. An estimated total of R52 billion has been allocated for various expanded public works projects over the next three years. This includes an additional R2.5 billion in the MTEF allocations that will support labour-intensive projects in the social and environmental sectors, largely targeting rural areas.

We are conscious that to achieve government's goal of job creation, all spheres of government must work together to increase labour intensive and infrastructural budgets to provide work and income to the poor and unemployed. My colleague and the Honourable Minister of Public Works, Mr Geoff Doidge will give a more detailed outline on this matter in the forthcoming Budget Vote speech.
Human settlements
Our endeavour to build a democratic and prosperous society cannot be fully realized unless we invest adequately in the creation of sustainable and decent human settlements. Notwithstanding our government's commendable progress in successfully providing some 2, 8 million housing opportunities to an estimated 14 million South Africans, the demand for housing has remained high and has far outstripped the pace of delivery.

Because of this, there is no doubt that the biggest and most urgent challenge facing our government is the development of sustainable and integrated human settlement. To this end, the Department of Human Settlement has undertaken a number of key initiatives:

(i) Upgrading of informal settlements
Currently there are less than 2 700 informal settlements across South Africa which accommodate more than 1.2 million households. As directed by the President our aim is to upgrade 500 000 informal settlement sites by providing basic services and land tenure rights by 2014. This number represents 125 000 informal settlement units to be upgraded annually across the country over a four-year period. This will facilitate the formalisation and upgrading of informal settlements which are already on well located state land. This will be done through the National Upgrading Support Programme.

(ii) Affordable rental housing
Since the introduction of the Social Housing Programme in 1998, 42 000 rental units have been developed using the Institutional Subsidy Programme. The Affordable Rental Housing Programme is one of government's initiatives address the housing backlogs. The objective of this programme, which has an urban focus, is to increase the rate of affordable rental housing delivery to 300 000 units per year by 2014. The National Rental Housing Strategy which was approved in 2008 sets the delivery target of 100 000 rental housing units by 2012. This will comprise of 75 000 social housing and 25 000 community residential units.

(iii) Affordable housing finance
Ladies and gentlemen, housing is a basic need. Our government is committed to helping our citizens secure a roof over their heads. To help those who "earn too much" to qualify for government housing subsidy, yet "earn too little" to access bank home loans, the Department of Human Settlements together with the National Treasury will set up the Housing Guarantee Fund by November this year.

An amount of R1 billion has been allocated for this purpose. The strategic objective underpinning this approach is two-fold, to provide incentives for the private sector to supply housing units at lower prices, whilst simultaneously encouraging low income earners to build their own houses.
(iv) Land Assembly for Human Settlements

Our intervention in this regard is to ensure that we build low cost housing in well-located areas nearer to city centres. We are not doing this without due regard to the needs of our people. These initiatives are consistent with the Manifesto of the African National Congress of building sustainable and decent human settlements, and dismantling the legacy of apartheid which confined our people to the periphery of economic activities

The objective of this programme is to set aside 6 000 hectares of well located land for low income and affordable housing. Considerable progress has been made in this respect. The implementation Protocols for first right of refusal and state land acquisitions are ready for conclusion with the Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform, Public Works as well with Public Enterprises.

In a related development, the Housing Development Agency has commenced with the process of analysing the non-core land and property portfolio of Transnet, for release of the land to provinces and municipalities. The strategic land parcels for acquisition of land from Denel are in place including Swartklip, Western Cape, Pretoria West and Irene in Gauteng province. Further land acquisitions are also planned for KwaZulu-Natal in conjunction with Ethekwini Metropolitan municipality.

Comprehensive rural development strategy

Without any concerted effort and targeted intervention, the rapid increase in food prices is likely to have adverse impact on poverty, and threatens many poor household's access to food. As is common knowledge, poor households spend more of their household income on food.

Therefore the immediate challenge is to get food to those most in need. In this regard, our response has been impressive. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is currently implementing the Comprehensive Rural Development Strategy in 21 wards and will gradually expanding to 160 wards by 2014, positively affecting at least 1.9 million people in rural areas.

As part of this strategy, the Department will oversee the management and implementation of the Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme which was previously under the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The Department is in the process of finalising the Comprehensive Rural Development Green Paper.

To cushion the burden of rising food prices on poor households, the cluster will continue with the implementation of the Household Food Production Programme. To date, 30 024 households have been reached through this programme. As part of the programme, about 60 vegi-tunnels were established in three learning sites in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West province respectively.

In support of the foregoing activities, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) will implement telefood projects.

Telefood refers to small scale farming projects designed to provide vulnerable households and communities with the tools necessary to increase the quantity and variety of their production. Projects categories range from crop production to fish and animal production, including support to school food garden initiatives. Some of the telefood projects also generate income, since excess crops can be sold in local markets. As you know our government is of the view that small scale farmers can contribute significantly to the reduction of food insecurity and our country's massive food import.

Comprehensive social security
In relation to this objective, a number of activities have been undertaken. While other processes have been completed, others have just started and others will only commence in the new financial year. One of the cluster's key outcomes is the finalisation of the work on comprehensive social security system. As you are aware, the cluster has completed the drafting of the Consolidated Government Document on Comprehensive Social Security, containing a package of strategic reform proposals.

As part of the comprehensive social security reform proposals, the cluster has also completed a draft No-Fault Policy on Road Accident Fund. In a related development, and as part of our government's continued effort to protect our people against vulnerability and other contingencies of life, the cluster, led by the Department of Social Development will fast track the development of a coherent policy on Social Relief of Distress.
All these documents will be released as a basis for public consultations once it has been considered and approved by the Cabinet. It is our view, and that of our government, that the consultation process will greatly add to our understanding of the issues and the implications of various approaches. The public submissions and views will be distilled into an overall report and this will be an important resource in helping the cluster to decide on the way forward.
We will urge all South Africans to participate in this process because the decisions and approaches we will take on this matter will affect both us and our future generations. Ultimately, we all want a social security system that is financially, socially and economically sustainable as we face the future.

Youth Development
Ladies and gentlemen, it is without question that an active and vibrant youth is an essential element of any truly democratic society. Our government has pursued social integration and economic empowerment of young people by seeking to put appropriate policies in place and to implement programmes and services to support these policies.
In this regard, we will continue with the implementation of the Masupatsela Youth Pioneer Programme as part of the National Youth Service. To complement these interventions, the National Youth Development Agency will set up provincial structures and Advisory Boards in all 9 provinces, with a special focus on rural areas. This include support to 86 youth cooperatives
Social cohesion

Ladies and gentlemen, arts and culture constitute one of our nation's most powerful natural resources. It is also an important economic empowerment and poverty alleviation. It is our belief that funding arts and culture activities is neither charity nor philanthropy, but rather an investment in the future of our country and promoting national identity. For this reason the Department of Arts and Culture will continue with our national efforts of skills development in the sector and promoting local content through funding the National Film and Video Foundation.

As you are aware, arts and culture can be an active commercial industry on its own. With the hosting of FIFA 2010 World Cup, a window of opportunity is opening for us to showcase and express our identity through this sector and exploring the economic potential of cultural tourism. As a government we strongly believe that our country's artistic culture could really make genuine and sustainable contribution to job opportunities. Through the Investing in Culture programme, we will continue to provide empowerment opportunities for unemployed people through skills development, training and job creation in the arts, culture and heritage sector by generating opportunities for establishing viable small and medium enterprises.

In a related development, the Department of Arts and Culture is developing a framework that will encompass funding and grading system for statutory heritage institutions. The planned museum policy will ensure that funding of heritage institutions is geared toward enhancing our cultural and infrastructure towards strengthening our cultural distinctiveness and excellence.

We understand the difficulties confronting the local arts and we are committed to sustaining the arts sector, particularly during this economic downturn by maintaining our level of funding support.

In conclusion, we believe that the cluster's Programme of Action will yield positive outcomes that will benefit poor South Africans- not only in the short term, but for many years to come.

We plan to continue to monitor implementation of our programmes and consider further adjustments as necessary.
We know, however, we cannot do this alone.

That is why we are working together with our social partners to address the challenges confronting our nation.

I thank you.

Most Read