National Population Unit: briefing

Social Development

07 May 2002
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Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


8 May 2002

Documents handed out:
Briefing by the National Population Unit
The following documents are available on the Department website:
Population Policy for SA
State of SA Population Report 2000

Acting Chairperson:
Ms Kasienyane (ANC)

The Committee was briefed by the National Population Unit. With the restructuring of the Department of Social Welfare, the National Population Unit had become known as the Social Development Unit. The presentation showed that HIV/AIDS would have a serious impact on the South African population. The State of SA Population Report 2000, written by academics and officials of the key Departments, had been an attempt to deal with, describe and give direction, to the various population issues currently in debate. The result was that priority areas had been established.

Ms Kasinenyene (ANC) extended an apology from the Chairperson Mr E Saloojee, who was attending a UNICEF special cession on children. The team from the Department of Welfare and Social Development had been invited to brief the Committee on issues regarding population development. A new directorate, namely the Chief Directorate on Population and Development, had been formed. The representatives from the Department, Mr Jacques Van Zuydam: Chief Director Population and Development and Ms Mavis Gijima were introduced to the Committee.

Mr Van Zuydam stated that at the last formal interface with the Committee in 1999 they were known as the National Population Unit. However, with the restructuring of the Department of Social Welfare, they had become known as the Social Development Unit. This had occurred because they felt that they would be more productive if they worked in an integral manner with the Department. He was sure that after hearing his presentation, the Committee would agree that they had made a good move.

Mr Van Zuydam turned to the overview of the presentation. He explained that in terms of the introduction, the topics he intended to illustrate and deliberate on were in response to their understanding of the request received from the Portfolio Committee. With regards to the population trends and priorities, he referred the Committee to the State of SA Population Report 2000. This had been circulated to the Committee Members in 2001, and he hoped to reflect on it with the Members at a later stage. The report had been written by academics and officials of the key Departments, in an attempt to deal with, describe and give direction, to the various population issues currently in debate. The result was that priority areas had been established. He noted that population policy was generally weak with reference to HIV and AIDS.

Mr Van Zuydam referred to the projected population structure for South Africa for 2009, which served to illustrate what the SA population structure had the potential to look like in light of the continuation of present trends. The bar diagram gave a significant indication of where the country's priorities had to lie. The impact of HIV/AIDS was very serious.

Mr Van Zuydam explained that the key government strategies were those identified in the 1998 population policy. He noted that there were a number of them, and that they virtually covered all areas covered by the RDP a few years back. In essence, by looking at the ten key strategies, he explained that they had to infuse the analysis on the demographic implications of HIV.

At this stage, and by way of example, he showed one of the early linkages, (areas where inter-departmental work had been done) that had been prioritised by the focus on HIV and AIDS, policy planning, and activities on gender, fertility and migration. He emphasised that they had definitely identified a vast scope for inter-departmental co-operation around HIV issues. He noted that the activities on gender, fertility and migration were conducted on an ad hoc basis because they often required collaborative integration.

Having identified the linkages, he explained that they found it necessary to gain clarity on the role of the Department of Social Development and that of the Chief Directorate on Population and Development. He stated that their role was identified as organised around the three themes, and that this had led to the initiation of a fair number of activities.

Mr Van Zuydam dealt with the activities that had been undertaken between 1999 and 2002. Although he noted that he had given the Committee a broad overview of activities, he stated that the information was contained in the annual reports of the Department. He cautioned that he was not saying that as a result of this he would not compile a report for the Committee. This was only to indicate that more in-depth information was currently contained elsewhere.

Mr Van Zuydam stated that he thought that it would be useful if he indicated the main highlights of their work over the last two to three years. He referred to the United Nations Conference on Population and Development, and explained that by way of resolutions, they had managed to mainstream HIV and AIDS in the work carried out by the conference. This was very significant because there was a strong tendency, especially from the Northern Hemisphere, to see the problem as isolated to Africa. Regarding the publication of the State of SA Population Report of 2000, he stated that through it they had set the agenda and priorities. He noted that it was reflecting something of an emerging national consensus.

Mr Van Zuydam referred to Population and Development and explained that although each province contained the functions for P&D, they had all organised them differently. Minmec had reviewed this and had recommended, as a result thereof, both practical changes and the systematic division of roles. It had also been discovered that the problem was that the policy did not focus on the work that had to be done. Thus they recommended that the policy be revisited, with the aim of focusing it more on HIV and AIDS issues.

Mr Van Zuydam explained that there had been information surveys in all three spheres of government. He moved on to the United Nations Country Fund Programme and stated that the focus had been strongly built into it to focus on HIV and AIDS as a population challenge. Concerning the primary HIV/AIDS capacity building course, he explained that the process involved nine universities, and that the work carried out was impacting on all three spheres of government. He noted that the research programme was aimed at looking at social development issues surrounding HIV.

Mr Van Zuydam stated that the Applied Population Studies Training and Research programme was the focal point for P&D training in a tertiary institution, linked with other strategies in the universities. He explained that this created both an academic base, and a link between the government and academic bases. He ended by mentioning the conferences that had taken place in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Mr Van Zuydam concluded by making a few evaluatory remarks on the activities that had been undertaken post the policy finalisation period.

Mr Mbadi (UDM) expressed concern with the number of inaccuracies regarding the issue. He wanted to know how accurate the population HIV figures were because of the fact that deep rural areas, in particular, were not accessible. The result would be that some instances would never be reported.

Ms Kalyan (DP) referred the speaker to page 66 on the State of SA Population Report 2000, and asked how the figures quoting the lifespan of children living with HIV were arrived at.

Mr Van Zuydam stated that the Members were correct in their assessment regarding reliable figures, and stressed that this was one of their major challenges and shortcomings. He explained that the calculation of mortality figures had been handed over to Statistics South Africa by the government. He noted that system weaknesses had been identified, and that they were simultaneously working with the Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs in that regard. Nevertheless, he was able to conclude that the impact of HIV and AIDS was great, and that it varied between age groups. He added that knowing this, they had sufficient information to show that a serious reorientation would have to occur.

Ms Kalyan (DP) stated that, in view of the fact that South Africa's fertility rates were declining in comparison to the high poverty rates, she wanted clarification regarding the correlation between the two variables.

Mr Van Zuydam stated that this was an area that they were attempting to grapple with. He said that poverty decline was generally seen as a prerequisite to fertility decline, especially in relation to the empowerment of women. He noted that the State of SA Population Report 2000 indicated some of the arguments. Gender equality probably fed HIV in Sub Saharan Africa, and that this definitely indicated something. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that there was inconsistency between the fertility pattern and how society was objectively seen to be.

Ms Kalyan (DP) turned to page 70 of the same report and asked whether the efforts concerned were integrated, and how successful they were.

Mr Van Zuydam emphasised that the efforts were very limited by time constraints. He explained that the report was written in 2000, and that it offered recommendations to the readers of thereof. He noted that at that stage, some work was carried out relating to the recommendations. However, the Committee had to understand that the programmes of action were not their own.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) was concerned with the number of immigrants in SA. She stated that amongst these people, who were obviously depleting SA resources and most of whom were unemployed, could be where the issue of HIV arises.

Mr Van Zuydam agreed that the figures were not accurate in this regard. However, he noted that there were various sectors existed in our economy where immigrants were indeed valuable. As a result, the report introduced a rights approach in the migration debate. He explained that the aim was for migration regimes to be supportive of the new economic arena. Nevertheless, he stated that they did not have a mandate over this area, and thus the only attempts that they could make would be through contributions.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) wanted to know how effective the figures conveyed were, in light of the strategies that had been adopted to arrive at the figures.

Mr Van Zuydam responded that they were not mandated to deal with the figures in that area. He suggested that the responsibility lay with Statistics South Africa and the Department of Home Affairs. He explained that both bodies would work with them only on an ad hoc basis. Nevertheless, he noted that in terms of their functions, they had decided to prioritise.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) wanted to know how often the reports were compiled.

Mr Van Zuydam explained that it was intended that the publications occur annually, beginning with the 1999 report. However, the 2000 report was only able to come out in 2001 due to a number of problems. Nevertheless, he stressed that the intention was to produce good reports that had the ability to provided adequate assistance. It would not always be possible, therefore, to produce reports in the targeted years. He wanted the committee to be aware that as a result thereof, yearly dates would not necessarily result.

Ms Southgate (ACDP) noted that she felt that they were facing a crisis in the matter.

Mr Van Zuydam argued rather that if the report were ignored, they would indeed find themselves facing a crisis one-day. He emphasised that now was the time to work in an attempt to prevent such long-term effects. They had the tools to better anticipate such outcomes, and as a result of that, an outright crisis could be prevented.

Ms Ghandi (ANC) noted that Departmental co-ordination had occurred. However, she wanted to know whether population development was involved in the department of Trade and Industry research studies.

Mr Van Zuydam responded that the Department of Trade and Industry report was a thorny issue. They had failed to work successfully with the Department of Trade and Industry. He stated that AIDS was killing off human resources, and that the question then turned on how to replace the lost skills. He noted that the first phase of HIV was with Health. The second phase was with Social Development, and the third phase would be the core business of the Department of Trade and Industry. He suggested that the Committee repeat his sentiments to the Department.

Ms Ghandi (ANC) referred to the problem of refugees, and stated that she was concerned with their position. She was worried with the fact that the effect of refugees had not been included in the population figures.

Mr Van Zuydam explained that refugees did not provide any major demographic trends, and that they were typically overlooked as the result thereof. Nevertheless, with specific reference to the Department of Social Development, much research had been conducted, thereby indicating that they did not overlook refugees.

Ms Ghandi (ANC) added that drug trafficking was another issue.

Mr Van Zuydam responded that they did not have statistics on child trafficking, and that they would probably have to look into that area.

Ms Rajbally (MF) wanted to know how the services were utilised. Particularly, she asked for clarification as to whether they were extended to rural areas, and what were the results thereof.

Mr Van Zuydam responded that the Department was actively involved in training programmes, and that the training would be particularly relevant to the work that had to be done.

Ms Rajbally (MF) enquired whether the Department had any projects in place to deal with the moral regeneration of society.

Mr Van Zuydam said that the Department was active in work surrounding moral regeneration. However, they were not doing this alone.

Ms Kasienyane (ANC) interrupted the discussion to welcome visitors from the University of Stellenbosch to the meeting. She noted that unfortunately arrived just before the completion of the meeting, and she hoped that they would enjoy the remaining few minutes.

Mr Solo (ANC) wanted to know whether there was any interaction with other Departments, in light of the fact that natural disasters had an effect on the population.

Mr Van Zuydam explained that natural disasters typically did not have countrywide effects. Nevertheless, linking had to occur, and noted that not much had systematically been carried out.

Mr Solo (ANC) referred to the problems surrounding the devaluation of the Rand, and the fact that a preference to export had arisen. He asked if there was a contingency plan for food security.

Mr Van Zuydam responded that food security fell within the domain of the Department of Health.

Mr Solo (ANC) mentioned that Mr Van Zuydam had indicated that they did not have the leverage to enforce some of their programmes. He wanted to know what was being done about this problem.

Mr Van Zuydam stated that this issue would have to fall within the review of the population policy itself. He added that they as a body attempted to convey their priorities, given the infrastructural leverage that they did have.

Ms Kasienyane (ANC) said that more interventions would probably be necessary in the future, because today's meeting had shown that they were unable to cover all the material in two hours. Interaction would be necessary between this Committee and the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry regarding HIV matters. Interaction would be necessary between the Committee and the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs regarding the issue of immigration. In light of this, it would be necessary to determine the role that was being played in the matter. She suggested determining the role of the Department of Agriculture in so far as farming matters were concerned.
The relevance of the Population and Development policy would have to be established. She noted that the situation had changed since 1998 and that the Committee had to be aware of this.

The meeting was adjourned.


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