COVID-19 Citizen Engagement

Adhoc Committee on Covid-19 (WCPP)

09 September 2020
Chairperson: Ms M Wenger (DA)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Ad Hoc Committee heard from various organisations and citizens in response to a call for comment by the Committee to solicit views and experiences on government’s response to COVID19.

The Centre for Early Childhood Development spoke to the failure of national government by not setting a date by which Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres could open until it was forced to do so by a court order. It said the consequences of the lockdown on children, parents and ECD workers across all provinces is significant. It also spoke to the possible severe and detrimental impact of the pandemic on ECD providers. It provided suggestions on how the ECD sector can be supported. 

The Detention Justice Forum provided experiences and thoughts on government’s response to COVID19 in relation to the effects on members of the police and correctional services staff. It noted government's reluctance to disseminate information speedily and regularly, not only to people in detention but also to civil society, despite numerous requests for information from organisations. When the DCS eventually made public its Strategic Operational Plan, it was almost exclusively concerned with health issues and did not touch on human rights issues that are not health related, but similarly critical--such as those of safety, justice, and effective oversight

Ilitha Labantu spoke to the effect of the pandemic in relation to food security and increased violence against women and children throughout various areas in the Western Cape. It said the emergence of the corona virus pandemic in South Africa has exacerbated pre-existing social disparities and inequities in South Africa, this meant that those living in poorer communities were more disproportionately affected than those living in affluent communities. Since the beginning of the lockdown period, the organisation has received over 30 child abuse related cases from these communities alone further highlighting the effects the lockdown has had on children and call for the need to further prioritise the protection of children during this period and beyond

Freedom of Religion SA (FOR SA) was concerned that government’s response has been unequal, unreasonable and unfairly discriminatory against the religious sector. Furthermore, despite frequent requests for clarity, government’s regulations and directions as they pertain to, and affect, the religious sector, remained opaque. Its submission focused on how the religious community has been impacted by the lockdown regulations and directions. The submission touched on unfair discrimination, procedural aspects and difficulty in engaging with government and the organisation’s recommendations. 

The Africa Criminal Justice Reform, as part of the Dullah Omar Institute, spoke to its monitoring tool to access the performance of the National Preventive Mechanism to fulfil domestic obligations under the Convention against Torture.  It was of the view a fundamental failure in the drafting of the regulations that the Independent Correctional Centre Visitors of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) was not included as an essential service and that monitoring consequently stopped. It is also apparent that the monitoring of other places of detention (e.g. police cells) also fell through the cracks. It was also the observation that JICS tried as best it could to engage in monitoring as best it could but that the situation only started to change by mid-June 2020. However, it remains unknown to this day who is or was monitoring other places of detentions such as child and youth care centres as is required under international law

A Covid-19 survivor gave an account of the financial hardship she suffered due to the lockdown over the past few months, especially as a self employed artist.

Members asked if she considered applying for relief funding; which relief funds she applied for, and why she believed her application was turned down. It is a fact support is given to artists by national and provincial levels of government.

In other questions, Members asked about statistics and research in relation to funding needed for social development; if there is a database on ECD Centres which are not accredited; what Ilitha Labantu thinks about the universal Basic Income Grant as one of the ways to contribute towards food security; how the ECD Centres are impacted by the lack of funding and insufficient resources for personal protective equipment; thoughts on the National Minister of Social Development’s proposal for ECD Centres Compliance Monitors; the impact of the temporary social grants on food security, and if it helps; how many ECD Centres did not reopen, and how many children are impacted

Meeting report

Centre for Early Childhood Development (CECD), Cape Town
Prof Eric Atmore, CECD Director, delivered the submission. He said government’s national Department of Social Development (DSD) failed our children and our parents. This happened across the country during the Covid-19 lockdown, by government not setting a date for Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) to open, until forced to do so by the Gauteng High Court.  This, despite numerous calls, letters, and requests to the Department from ECD centres, ECD non-profit service providers, and a petition signed by 4 500 ECD activists. It was submitted to the national Department of Social Development by the Centre for Early Childhood Development, in Cape Town. Nothing was forthcoming except a harsh instruction to ECD centres not to open under any circumstances.

This all changed on 6 July 2020, when the Gauteng High Court ruled ECD centres may open, provided ECD centres comply with health and safety protocols to combat Covid-19. The lockdown has significant consequences on children, parents, and ECD workers, across all provinces. Children were required to stay at home, often in dangerous environments where the children are still at considerable risk. In the Western Cape, some 270 000 vulnerable children depend on attendance at an ECD Centre for the main meal each day. This has not been available for four months now, and resulted in an increase in child hunger and malnutrition, as indicated by leading medical doctors.

A rapid survey was conducted in April, under the auspices of BRIDGE, to understand the possible severe and detrimental impact the COVID-19 pandemic might have on ECD providers. Responses were received from 8 500 ECD centres nationally, and it was found:

99% of ECD centre heads reported parents stopped paying fees owing to the lockdown
83% of ECD centres are not able to pay the full salaries of staff over the lockdown period
96% of ECD centres reported the ECD centre income is not sufficient to pay for operating costs, and 
68% of ECD centres are concerned it will not be able to re-open after the lockdown

There are some 4 500 ECD centres across the Western Cape. They employ about 22 500 ECD teachers and provides early education and care for about 270 000 children each day. In these ECD centres, children and staff are adversely affected. Teachers are not getting paid and working parents need a secure and safe environment for children, while 95% of the workforce can go to work under advanced level three of the lockdown.

The impact is, about 500 to 800 ECD centres in the province will close, some 4 000 to 6 000 jobs in the provincial ECD sector will be lost, and 50 000 vulnerable young children will not get the important early learning opportunities and a nutritious meal, each day.

The ECD sector contributes about R3 billion to the Western Cape economy this year. The results of national DSD delaying opening ECD centres will be felt for years to come, as children miss out on early learning opportunities, on a nutritious main meal, are placed in circumstances of possible neglect and abuse, and are not ready for Grade R and formal schooling.

CECD suggests Provincial Treasury make an allocation to the provincial Department of Social Development to support 2 000 ECD centres as it opens. This will ensure Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is available for staff and children at ECD centres, through a once-off grant of R20 000 to every ECD centre across the Western Cape. It will enable ECD centres to be ready to receive children. It should be paid directly to the ECD Centre, which centre will be required to procure the PPE, and show evidence of having done so. The present allocation of PPE to ECD centres is R10.2 million. This is unacceptable, and totally inadequate. It is not even new funding, but is a transfer from the infrastructure budget provision.

Provincial Treasury should support 2 000 of the poorest ECD centres to function optimally, by making the current ECD subsidy of R17 per qualifying child available to these ECD centres, for an initial period of six months.

The cost of this proposal will be R40 million for the once-off grant, and R450 million for the ECD subsidy, making a total of about R490 million. This is a small cost to secure the jobs of 6 000 ECD teachers, and to ensure meals and early learning to 270 000 vulnerable children. It is also less than one tenth of one percent of the national government’s Covid-19 recovery package announced by the President.

The late Mr Oliver Tambo said a country which does not value its children, does not deserve its future. The Western Cape government and officials must, at this time, ask the question: Do we deserve our future? 

COVID-19 Survivor: Impact of the Pandemic
Ms Leigh-Anne Hellaby, Covid-19 survivor and artist, said she is affected by the pandemic since March 2020, she has not had an income since then. She contracted the virus worse than some others. It took her around three months to be officially cleared as recovered, while in quarantine. The biggest impact was the loss of income. She lacked the finances to be able to pay for medical bills and had no medical aid. Her concern, as an artist, is she had no income or relief funding to support her family. She is extremely grateful she applied for the Medical Relief Fund, which covered the costs of her Pathcare and medical bills.

What she wants to know is how one applies for relief funding, when there are constant excuses of the criteria not being met, or there not being enough donations. People are just being put in a line and left in the dark, with no feedback. The reality is her family, along with so many others, could not afford to live. She received letters of demand to move out and vacate residential premises, along with letters from lawyers explaining the family’s cars will be repossessed. Her fear is, even if one receives relief funding, the amount will not be able to cover half of the basic essential living debt which accumulated during the pandemic period since March.

As an artist and someone who is considered self-employed, she wondered where her family would go or move to, if evicted. She wondered how her family will be able to apply for a smaller, or even be able to afford a smaller place, in the current situation. Many of her colleagues, who are even married, or who even have children, are moving back home to parents, or with family members, due to not being able to afford rent, pay mortgage, or even afford basic essentials. While the country is in Level Two and slowly opening up, the damage has already been done, and many people are left in situations which people cannot recover from.

For full submission, see attached document.

Freedom of Religion South Africa: COVID-19 Regulations and the Impact on the Sector
Adv Nadene Badenhorst, Legal Counsel, Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA), said the FOR SA is a Non-Profit Company (NPC) and a legal advocacy organisation working to protect and promote the constitutional right to religious freedom and related rights in South Africa.

On this particular issue, FOR SA represents religious leaders and organisations representing 18.5 million people in South Africa. This includes over 10 million from African indigenous and spiritual churches, from a cross-spectrum of denominations, churches, and faith groups. The constitutional right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion, as entrenched in section 15, and the rights of religious communities as entrenched in section 31, are directly affected by the national and provincial government’s response to COVID-19. FOR SA’s constituency has a direct interest in this matter. Its submission will focus on how the religious community is impacted by the lockdown regulations and directions.

FOR SA has not, and is not, specifically advocating for the religious community to be allowed to re-open at 100% capacity at this point. The religious community’s constitutional rights to religious freedom must be fully restored at the earliest opportunity the pandemic allows. FOR SA’s concern is, government’s response is unequal, unreasonable, and unfairly discriminatory against the religious sector. Despite frequent requests for clarity, government’s regulations and directions as it pertains to, and affects, the religious sector, remains opaque.

Comments relating to the substance of government’s response
The stated and sole purpose of the lockdown, its regulations, and directions, is to reduce the rate of COVID-19 infections to flatten the curve. No other reason exists for the promulgation of the current regulations and directions which patently interfere with various constitutional rights guaranteed by our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. No matter how compelling the reason for the interference with fundamental rights is, each of these infringements must nonetheless comply with the requirements of section 36 in the Constitution (the limitations clause), including, it must be rational and proportional.

Unfairly discriminatory:
When government takes steps to systematically re-open our society, it must ensure it treats all sectors of society fairly. As the saying goes, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The regulations and directions to limit the spread of COVID- 19 must treat, and be seen to be treating, the religious community equitably when compared to its treatment of the other sectors of our society and the economy. This is especially so, given the religious community has certain specific constitutional rights and freedoms, such as those contained in section 15 and section 31, expressly granted to it in the Bill of Rights. Other sectors of the economy do not have this level of constitutional protection. The perception of a religious community as less important to government than other sectors of society is unfortunately exacerbated by the inequitable and irrational treatment of the religious community. Members see this happening in the communities in which it lives, works, and serves daily. This has contributed to a growing sense of frustration amongst the religious community across South Africa, including in the Western Cape. The concern is the religious sector is being unfairly discriminated against by the state, and being treated inequitably and unreasonably in comparison to other sectors of society.

What the religious leaders are asking for is for equal rights and equal treatment to be extended to the religious community. The religious community has, from the outset of this pandemic, endeavoured to assist government in serving and caring for South Africa’s people by making sure food, masks, and other necessities reach the most vulnerable in our society.

FOR SA is in no way suggesting the religious community should re-open its corporate services and gatherings. FOR SA is simply saying where other sectors of society are being treated differently, the same parameters should logically and fairly be applied to the religious community.

FOR SA’s recommendations to the Western Cape Provincial Parliament
Conduct an evaluation of the various restrictions the national government placed across sectors to ensure some sectors are not getting preferential treatment over other sectors, or to put it differently, some sectors are not being unfairly discriminated against, when there is no rational basis for doing so
Bring to the national government’s attention any instances of irrationality, ambiguity and/or unfair discrimination, and recommend immediate steps to rectify this; and
Consider easing restrictions on the religious community in the Western Cape Province to reflect the less onerous restrictions placed on other economic sectors, for example by expressly allowing drive-in religious gatherings.

For the full presentation, see document attached.

Detention Justice Forum (DJF) on the COVID-19 Regulations
Ms Doreen Gaura, Programme Officer, Just Detention International-SA, said the Detention Justice Forum (DJF) is a civil society coalition of non-governmental organisations, and individuals working to ensure the rights and well-being of those who are detained are respected and upheld.  This is enshrined under the South African Constitution, laws, and regional and international human rights norms and standards. Its membership includes community organisations, lawyers, social workers, former inmates, and academics with varied foci and degrees of engagement in the detention and human-rights sectors. It spans direct service provision, former and current detainee support, and empowerment, advocacy, and policy development.

Ever since South Africa entered into a national State of Disaster as a result of the novel corona virus (Covid-19) pandemic, DJF is concerned about the devastating effect the spread of Covid-19, as well as the government’s response thereof, may have on people in places of detention. As such, the forum has vigilantly monitored the government’s response to the pandemic as far as detention institutions and facilities are concerned.

Not only has the DJF made numerous attempts to engage with the relevant government departments to get information regarding its plans vis-a-vis the situation in detention facilities, but it also made recommendations to assist the government in controlling the spread of the virus in detention facilities, while at the same time remaining committed to the mandate to ensure rights, safety, and well-being of people in detention are upheld.

To date, over 7 000 South African Police Service (SAPS) members tested positive for the virus and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) reported over 5 500 positive cases among inmates and staff.

It noted the government's reluctance to disseminate information speedily and regularly, not only to people in detention but also to civil society, despite numerous requests for information from organisations.

At the beginning of the lock-down, information on COVID-19 protocols pertaining to the operation of courts was gazetted. Besides the immediate cessation of visits to detention facilities, nothing else was immediately available in the public domain on the operation of detention facilities. There has been a failure and lack of transparency on the part of some government institutions responsible for the detention of such persons, with no effort being made to immediately make publicly available its directives, or standing operating procedures on managing the spread of COVID-19.

The Department, along with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), South African Police Services (SAPS), and the judiciary, should be more committed to significantly decrease prison and immigration detention populations during this period. The intake of offenders into correctional and immigration detention centres should be reduced through consideration of alternative measures for those who qualify. Detention should be used as a last resort, beyond the pandemic as well.

The cessation of visits as a result of gazetted regulations at all other places where people are deprived of liberty is concerning, particularly because there is very limited information available on the status of monitoring at immigration detention facilities, police cells, and child and youth care facilities.

For the full presentation, see attached document.

Submission by Africa Criminal Justice Reform (ACJR); Dullah Omar Institute
Prof Lukas Mutingh, DOI, said South Africa is a party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and is required to designate a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) to fulfil the domestic obligations under OPCAT. To this end, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) was designated as NPM. Shortly before the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa the UN Sub-committee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) issued a public advice to all NPMs regarding monitoring of places of detention during lockdown.

In essence it advised, monitoring should not stop and the lockdown should not serve as an excuse for rights violations in places of detention. In response Africa Criminal Justice Reform (ACJR) used the public advice and developed a monitoring tool to assess the performance of the NPM.

The Independent Correctional Centre Visitors of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) is not included as an essential service and monitoring consequently stopped. It is also apparent the monitoring of other places of detention, such as police cells, also fell through the cracks. In ACJRs view, this is a fundamental failure in the drafting of the regulations.

JICS tried as best it could to engage in monitoring, but the situation only started to change by mid-June 2020. It remains unknown to this day who is or was monitoring other places of detentions such as Child and Youth Care Centres, as is required under international law.

The question is if the NPM is exercising its visiting mandate during the coronavirus pandemic, subject to the necessary restrictions with reference to social contact.

The answer is no. The Independent Correctional Centre Visitors (ICCV) of the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) stopped visits to correctional and remand facilities when the lockdown began. The regulations (29 April 2020) do not explicitly enable visits and leaves to the Ministers to specify how. JICS personnel (including ICCVs) remain excluded from essential services, which still make provision only for DCS officials and as a statutory body, it is not a constitutional oversight body (Chapter Nine institution) which is listed as an essential service under Level Four of the lockdown provisions.

In response to when ICCVs will resume its visiting mandate, the Inspecting Judge said JICS is urgently addressing the matter.

The question is if the NPM is engaging with families of prisoners and legal representatives to verify conditions of detention and treatment.

This is not known. It could be the case that there is an effort to verify this amongst complaints received directly by JICS from family members, NGOs, and members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

For the full presentation, see attached document.

Submission by Ilitha Labantu
Mr S Monakali, Ilitha Labantu, said the Covid-19 pandemic hit South Africa and affected many people in the country. Even those who are not susceptible to the outbreak had to endure the quarantine measures. This led to a massive increase in violence against women and children, poverty, and food insecurity. In regards to food insecurity there are organisations and corporate partners which seek to diminish the overall scourge this virus caused. The need far surpasses the support. With each milestone Ilitha Labantu seeks to alleviate the social and economic scale by which Covid-19 affected communities.

Covid-19 and Violence against Women & Children / Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
The emergence of the corona virus pandemic in South Africa exacerbated pre-existing social disparities and inequities in South Africa. This means those living in poorer communities were more disproportionately affected than those living in affluent communities. Women in the rural areas and township communities were adversely affected as a result of poor economic status. These women could not leave partners, and at the same time there was increased difficulty in accessing support services, the courts, and even the police. Abusers exploited the inability of women to call for help or escape.

This placed many survivors in the predicament of having to choose between two evils; the Covid-19 pandemic, or endure continued abuse and torment at the hands of the oppressor. Ilitha Labantu embarked on a public awareness campaign to help raise awareness about the Corona virus, and the need for people to adhere to the lockdown regulation imposed by government. It also raised awareness on practicing social distancing, and maintaining good health and hygiene during this period. The public awareness campaign which fundamentally focused on raising awareness about the emergence of the pandemic, also recognised the need to focus on the issues gender based violence.

Ilitha Labantu’s public awareness campaign visited various communities in the Cape Flats region namely Philippi, Nyanga, Gugulethu, Langa, Athlone/Bridgetown, Khayelitsha, Elsies River, Delft, Mfuleni and Mitchells Plein. These areas of the Cape Flats are notorious for having high levels of crime and violence, and in conjunction to this, are also notorious for having high incident rates of violence perpetrated against women and children.

Since the beginning of the lockdown period the organisation received over 30 child abuse related cases from these communities alone. This highlights the effects the lockdown on children, and calls for the need to further prioritise the protection of children during this period and beyond.

Ilitha Labantu was at the forefront of addressing cases of violence against women and children. One of the most noticeable cases Ilitha Labantu was directly involved in, is the Sibongiseni Gabada case.

36- year old Sibongiseni Gabada from Khayelitsha went missing for weeks until her decomposing body was discovered stuffed in a bag on the 29 May 2020. The case against her boyfriend, who was in custody for allegedly being linked to her death, has been dropped because of inconclusive evidence. This, in spite of the fact he confessed he discovered her lifeless body, proceeded to put her body in bag, and placed it behind his shack for no one to see, until which it was discovered by neighbours two weeks later.

Ilitha Labantu took it upon itself to challenge the immoral decision taken by the South African justice system to drop the case in light of the seriousness of the crime. What was particularly worrying is the precedent set. The actions taken by the justice system will set a precedent in the fight against the scourge of violence against women and children. This decision was premature and ill-informed, considering not all legal avenues were considered. Ilitha Labantu used all available platforms to help bring light to the injustice. It approached media outlets about the incident and circulated a press statement which expresses the shock in the manner in which the case was handled. This press statement was published in major Independent Media newspapers (Cape Times, Cape Argus, and local community newspapers, Vukani, and City Vision).

The organisation wrote a letter to the National Prosecuting Authority, urging it to reconsider its decision and to look into the merits of the case. This was followed by an online petition titled #JusticeForSibongiseni which was shared on all social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It helped to direct social media users to the website provided in the link, to this date the petition received over 21 762 signatures.

For the full presentation, see attached document.

Mr A Van der Westhuizen (DA) asked Ms Hellaby if she considered applying for relief funding, which relief funds she applied for, and why she believed her applications were turned down. He said he knows support is given to artists by national and provincial levels of government.

Mr R Mackenzie (DA) asked about statistics and research in relation to funding needed for social development.

Mr R Allen (DA) said from the news he received, he knows the pool for Covid-19 relief funding is closed, but he wanted information from the procedural officers on organisations and other possible funding.

Mr C Dugmore (ANC) referred to the survey conducted in April 2020, and said the statistics regarding the ECD Centres are extremely alarming. He wanted to know if there are more recent statistics which emerged. He wanted to know if it can be supplied to the Committee to assess if those statistics improved. He asked if there was a database on ECD Centres which are not accredited. Lastly, he wanted to know what Ilitha Labantu thought about the universal Basic Income Grant as one of the ways to contribute towards food security.

Mr B Herron (GOOD) said it is devastating to hear the comments made about ECD Centres. He believes as a Committee and Parliament, these concerns must be addressed. Regarding the Restart Subsidy, he wanted to know the approximate amount of the estimation needed. He asked how the ECD Centres are impacted by the lack of funding and insufficient resources for personal protective equipment.

Mr F Christians (ACDP) wanted to know if FOR SA, who represents over 18.5 million people in South Africa, engaged with the Premier and Western Cape government on the issues it raised. He agreed it is not only bizarre, but also irrational, when looking at how other sectors are allowed to utilise 50% of its space, while the biggest religious institutions, which can occupy 2 000 to 5 000 people, are limited to 50 people.

Prof Atmore said his presentation was sent to the Committee however, he can forward the full report from which those statistics are taken. He is more than happy to send the September update to the Committee once it becomes available.

There is a database of registered ECD centres and unregistered ECD centres, which the Provincial Department keeps. The Western Cape database is by far the most comprehensive and correct one across the country, and can be obtained from officials in the Department. The Restart Subsidy was suggested on the basis of affordability. It is based on what is needed to get the centre up and running, but is also cognisant of budget constraints.

In his professional opinion, R20 000 will see a centre able to open, purchase PPE and have sufficient cash flow to buy those first meals for children. According to its survey, 50% of its ECD centres did not open. The Western Cape Department of Social Development made R10.2 million available for PPE. If this is divided by the number of centres, it equates to R4 000 per centre. The average for a head temperature scanner is around R600-R900, and the bulk of it goes to PPE. The rest is spent on sanitisers. The Western Cape is the leader in making PPE funding available.

Ms Hellaby replied by saying she is not sure about everything which was advertised. However, she stumbled upon a few, including the Medical Relief Fund, which paid out her medical bills. The organisation applied for various relief funds however, it has yet to receive any response.

Her concern going forward is, its debt will only increase, and rent must be paid. The realities of life are only increasing, and nobody mentioned the way forward. It received confirmation its applications are received, but no further response after this. It Google’s daily to find updates, and consistently applies for it. The reality is, all those musicians have residencies at various hotels and restaurants, and earn a consistent income. All of the income was taken away, and people are really desperate to find work.

Prof Muntingh said the key issue is, it is looking to the future years. It needs to ensure those facilities not currently covered through a monitoring institution, is covered by the Human Rights Commission.
Secondly, it needs to ensure the monitoring continues. The problem must be fixed to ensure monitoring or places of detention are defined as an essential service. It must not be restricted to a correctional facility, but also monitored in the case of judicial inspection.

Thirdly, there needs to be effective communication with the detainees and detainees’ families. It received numerous complaints about issues from people who do not know what is going on. Complaints and issues relate to what is happening inside prisons and what is or is not allowed. Regarding facilitation visits, one needs to seriously look at alternative ways of communication. Since 26 March 2020, prisons are starting these visits again. Transparency is needed to report on what occurs in the various detention facilities. It is extremely difficult to manage a disaster in the dark, and it needs more information with regard to policy and law reform positions.

Mr Monakali replied regarding the Basic Income Grant. He said it will create potential within the economy and livelihoods of many South Africans. The Basic Income Grant will allow for better financial freedom to make choices. The Universal Income Grant will give a sense of financial freedom which will allow people to make better savings, and be able to ensure financial versatility with money. This then goes back into ensuring there are a lot more opportunities for people in the job sector. The broad system will ensure neighbours have better job opportunities, and people can gain access to a financial service it never had before.

The R350 social assistance was greatly received where it worked. However, it did not reach all the hands it needed to reach. People still need access to all forms of government assistance. Food security remains a major issue. The R350 allows many families to pay electricity, water, rates, and get basic amenities, but when it comes to the issue of food security, food had to take a back burner. People do not want to lose their home because they cannot eat. Sacrifices had to be made in many homes. The issue of food security remains, and will remain relevant within society for quite some time.

Mr G Bosman (DA) asked Prof Atmore to share his thoughts on the national Minister of Social Developments proposal for ECD centres compliance monitors. He asked what the impact of the temporary social grants is on food security, and if it helps.

Mr Mackenzie told Prof Atmore he received his presentation, and thanked him very much. Replying to Ms Hellaby, he said the National Lottery was of assistance to artists, particularly in the Western Cape.

Mr Dugmore wanted to know if Prof Atmore is aware of any discussions for support for the sector at national level. There are currently discussions at national level around measures to boost economic growth and employment.

Mr Herron wanted to know if the Prof knew how many ECD centres did not reopen, and how many children were impacted.

Prof Atmore said the national Department of Social Development Minister acquired R1.3 billion. It was designated to employ 36 000 young people to ensure the compliance of ECD centres. The proposal was vigorously and wholly rejected by the sector, in what he describes as nothing he has seen in two decades of working at the centres.

He had never seen a sector in such singular opposition to a proposal of the national Minister. There was a week-long protest across the country, with tens of thousands of people protesting. There were two petitions which wholly rejected the proposal.  It is not rejecting compliance, but rather saying compliance needs to be put on the back burner when 180 000 jobs are at stake.

It is wholly inappropriate to do it at the stage when the aim is to save jobs and get the centres up and running. He reminded Members that the national Minister refused to open ECD centres, and had to comply with the High Court ruling which forced the Minister to open ECD centres, provided the centres had all safety protocols in place.

The problem with the registration of the ECD is its financial burdens. One needs to get building plans, re-zoning plans, and zoning approval. It can easily accumulate over R60 000 worth of documentation alone. There is a misconception about ECD centres not wanting to be registered. The reality could not be further from the truth. It is a financial obstacle. The R20 000 proposal made to national was not for infrastructure, but was simply operational costs. It excluded the ECD centres restart infrastructure capital costs needed, which would cost many more billions.

It is sufficiently realistic to know the current time is not the time or place to be asking for infrastructure funding. The first thing is to get the infrastructure up and running. The R20 000 which he suggests, is a once off restart funding amount.

He is not aware of any discussions taking place at national level. This does not mean there were not any discussions taking place, but simply meant he had is not aware or privy to those discussions if it is taking place.  The paper he submitted to the Committee includes all the details, including the R40 million of the R490 million for PPE.

The Chairperson thanked the delegation and Committee for attending the meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.



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