Accompanied by her Deputy Minister, the Minister of Social Development Edna Molewa addressed the Portfolio Committee on the role of the Department of Social Development. She placed much emphasis on the fact that the Ministry was part of a greater cluster of ministries. In her briefing, she noted the importance of social grants, education and the relationship that the Ministry had with the Department of Human Settlements.
[Due to a venue change, the first part of this meeting was missed by some of the Committee members and the PMG monitor]
The Minister of Social Development committed herself and the Department to being accountable to the Committee. She spoke about the relationship of the Department and the Portfolio Committee, saying that they have a crucial role to play in the new government and in meeting the commitments made by the new administration.
She emphasised that unlike in the past, the Department of Social Development now had a greater role to play in society due to the recession which thus meant that many would become more dependent on the state for assistance after being retrenched. It was thus the Department which had a social assistance role to play in preventing vulnerability and destitution as a result of the loss of income.
Minister Molewa said that the Department could make a difference in the improvement of human capital. “Giving grants was not throwing away money”, as it was contributing to the lives of many South Africans who could not assist themselves.
The Minister said that their business as politicians should be informed by work done by the economic clusters. This was because if those clusters fail, she believed that they would all fail as a government. They needed to be mindful of the ministry cluster system as well. The Department fell within the human development sector and the Ministry of Education was especially important in the development of children and adults.
The key issues the Department should be involved in were: insuring comprehensive social security, facilitating integrated human settlement, social cohesion issues and matters of national identity. All these issues included programmes dealing with the war on poverty. The Comprehensive Social Security programme’s main purpose was to alleviate poverty, vulnerability, social exclusion and inequality through a comprehensive social protection system. Social cohesion issues were also very important in bringing South Africans together.
The Department co-chaired the Social Cluster with the Human Settlement Department. Poverty was reduced through integrated sustainable development and the rebuilding of families and communities through empowering young, old and the disabled people as well as women. It was important for the Department to co-ordinate and facilitate the delivery of integrated and sustainable development programmes that promoted the achievement of holistic community development through partnership with relevant stakeholders.
Having touched on the matter of clusters earlier, the Minister elaborated on this subject. This she did by giving more details about the role of the Social Cluster and its affiliation to social development.
The Minister stated that the role of the Justice and Crime Prevention Cluster was also crucial in South Africa. This was because the fight against crime was important in insuring that social development took place. The Criminal Justice System was designed to provide quality and professional services which would include the dispensation of swift, equitable and fair justice in criminal matters and, which, on a sustainable basis, would act as an effective deterrent to crime.
The Social Cluster focused on the second economy interventions and poverty alleviation. The cluster focused on the areas of Health, Human Settlement and Social Cohesion and the Basic Services of Water and Sanitation. Finally, the Minister pointed out that the work of the International Co-operation and Trade Cluster was also important for the Department to achieve its goals and aims.
Ms N November (ANC) asked the Minister whether soup kitchens, old age homes and children in conflict with the law fell within the Social Development portfolio.
The Minister replied that these issue were all matters that the Committee and the Minister would be covering at the following meeting on 23 June 2009.
Ms Adams (ANC) asked in Afrikaans why the Department was “giving away money”, and when would the Department start determining its own path.
The Minister replied that the Department was getting there with regards to beating its own drum. She pointed out that the Department was not throwing away money, it was investing in people. And that was something that they had done with success.
The Chairperson said that it would be appreciated if the Ministry assisted the Committee in understanding the relevant Acts as many of the Members were new in Parliament. Getting this assistance would help the Committee to do its work better.
The Minister responded that they would be willing to assist with this. They would invite people with expertise to assist the Committee with an in-house briefing.
This idea was supported by the Committee.
The Minister thanked the Committee for inviting her. She said that the issue of clusters was very important in terms of the spheres of government co-operating as the Constitution required them to do so. She stated that they had a “choirmaster” who was there to ensure co-operation amongst the various Departments.
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