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SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
20 January 2005
CHILDREN’S BILL: JOINT PRESENTATION BY DEPARTMENTS ON THE INTERDEPARTMENTAL STEERING COMMITTEE
Children’s Bill and related legislation: Implications for State Departments and other institutions Volume 2
The Committee received answers to issues that were raised in an intersectoral workshop which took place in Johannesburg in December 2004. The Departments urged people to report fraud in respect of the applications for the child support grant and the misuse of the grant. It was still unclear which powers would be extended to a child head of a family. It was not desirable to extend all powers of a major to a child because this could lead to abuse of children. Children who needed to apply for identity documents could use reports compiled by social workers or affidavits signed by relatives proving that they were South African citizens.
Officials from the Departments of Labour, Correctional Services, Justice, South African Police Services, Provincial and Local Government, Home Affairs and Social Development attended the meeting. The Chairperson welcomed members and officials from different Departments and asked the Department of Home Affairs to give answers to questions that were raised in a previous meeting.
The Chairperson has asked if the Department was aware of instances where identity documents were fraudulently issued to people in the Levubu area in Limpopo province. Applicants had to pay R60.00. She had also asked if the Department was aware that there were instances were different people were claiming child support grants in respect of one child.
Mr E Kritzinger (Director: Citizenship, Travel Documents and Population Register) replied that the Department was aware of various cases of irregularities in the Limpopo province. The provincial Department acted on available information and found that there was an official involved in the fraudulent acts. However, it was not aware of cases were people had to pay R60.00 before being issued with identity documents. He requested people to furnish the Department with further information that could assist in addressing the issue.
With regard to fraudulent claims for the child support grant, he said that the Department was aware that there were problems. The Departments of Social Development and Home Affairs were working jointly to address this issue. The Department of Home Affairs was working towards creating links with hospitals. This would ensure that all births were registered in time and different forms of irregularities would be eliminated in the process. 69 hospitals were linked to the Department as from October 2004.
The Chairperson asked how the Department intended creating links with deep rural communities.
Mr Kritzinger replied that Home Affairs officers should be as close to the communities as possible. The Department had planned to extend its services particularly to deep rural communities. It would use mobile facilities and containers as offices to ensure that people in deep rural communities had access to services it offered.
Mr M Masutha (ANC) had asked how the Department dealt with the problem of issuing birth certificates and identity documents to unaccompanied minors. There were also cases where people had no documents to prove South African citizenship. He had recommended the issuing of an interim form of identification to such people.
With regard to unaccompanied minors, Mr Kritzinger replied that all that was needed was a Social Worker’s report stating all the information required by the Department of Home Affairs for the purposes of issuing of identity documents.
Mr Masutha said that the use of a Social Worker’s report was a very innovative and useful solution to the problem. He asked if this had been fully institutionalised and if Social Workers knew that they had the power to investigate and present a report that would be recognised for the purposes of issuing identity documents.
Mr Kritzinger replied that it was not institutionalised in the sense that it was found in legislation. However, this procedure had been followed for years to cater for abandoned children and later on street kids.
Mr Masutha said that the fact that there was no law providing for this procedure meant that no one could force a Social Worker to conduct the investigation. Hence people had to rely on the kindness of the social Workers. This gave rise to the problem of how to ensure that Social Workers did what was expected from them. He drew attention to the fact that in order to receive certain labour benefits people had to submit certain documents issued by the Department of Social Development. At the same time there was no obligation on the Department of Social Development to issue such documents.
Ms R Van Zyl (South Africa Law Reform Commission: Researcher) agreed that there were gaps in the Bill. The Bill would be amended to address different gaps. Cooperation between Department involved in the Bill would be very crucial.
Mr Kritzinger added that members of the public were not well informed of the procedures that they had to follow in order to access various services. They were also not aware of the rights they were entitled to. The Minister of Home Affairs had interested the Department to issue a booklet containing all services people were entitled to receive from the Department of Home Affairs. It was very important for people to produce the necessary documents when applying for identity documents. Affidavits from family members sufficed in cases where the required documents were not available.
Mr Masutha asked if it was possible for multiple birth certificates to be issued in respect of the same person. If this were possible, it would explain why it was possible for different people to claim child support grant in respect of the same child. He asked if the Department had investigated the use of fingerprints even for babies.
Mr Kritzinger replied that some protection was built into the system but it was not yet fully operational. Every child was linked to its mother and if a mother was to register another birth within nine months of the birth of the first child the system would pick that up. The use of fingerprints could be a solution but no political decision on this had been taken.
Dr M Mabetoa (Department of Social Development: Chief Director: Child, Youth and Families) added that the Department had a fraud hotline. She encouraged people to report any case of fraud to the Department. The French Embassy used the Iris system through which a person’s pupil was used a form of identification.
Mr Kritzinger agreed that the Iris system was very sophisticated. Unfortunately it was acceptable to the Department of Home Affairs a form of identification. The Department had one of the biggest fingerprints databases in the world and it worked properly. The introduction of a new system would be very expensive.
Briefing on Children’s Bill and related legislation: Implications for State Departments and other institutions
Ms R van Zyl read through the Departments‘ response to issues that came up during an intersectoral workshop that took place in Johannesburg in December 2004 (see document attached).
Ms I Ludwabe (ANC) noted that the Department of Home Affairs would use mobile units so as to ensure that people got access to services it offered. She requested the Department to deploy the mobile units before the local government elections.
Mr Kritzinger noted the request. He promised to take the request to the top management of the Department.
Ms S Rajbally (MF) was unaware that the government offered adoption grants. She asked how the various Departments planned to accommodate street children.
Ms A van Zyl (Department of Labour: Executive Manager: Employment Standards) confirmed that the Department of Labour paid adoption benefits. The adoption had to be legal and the applicant was required to submit, amongst others, an identity document and four payslips. The Department would be engaged in campaigns to raise awareness around benefits this year.
With regard to the accommodation of street children Dr Mabetoa replied that the Department of Social Development would meet with the Department of Housing to address the issue.
Mr M Waters (DA) said that only 4% of rape cases taken to court ended up with a conviction. He felt that the conviction rate should be improved if the National Child Protection Register was to be effective.
Mrs C Kok (Department of Justice: Deputy Director: Child and Family Law) said that statistics on conviction rate were worrying. The reporting of false accusations contributed to the low conviction rate.
Mr T Geldenhuys (South Africa Police Services: Assistant Commissioner) agreed the conviction rate was not necessarily 4%.
Dr Mabetoa added that the Register would cover sexual offences and other forms of abuse. The Department intended to engage in discussions with the Department of Justice with a view of merging the register to be established in terms of the Children’s Bill with the one to be established in terms of the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill.
Mr Masutha asked how the Departments intended to assist children in a child headed households to access services. He also asked what legal capacities they intended to extend to a child head of a family. He drew attention to the common law concept of emancipation and wondered if the Departments were trying to develop something like emancipation. The difficulty with such a concept would be that children would have to approach the High Court and prove that they were emancipated. Access to the High Court remained a problem to some areas.
Dr Mabetoa noted comments and issues raised by Mr Masutha. The Department would further investigate the issues.
Mr Geldenhuys added that the concept of emancipation would give rise to problem of its own. A decision was taken that a person became a major at the age of 21 years and there were very good reasons for that. People under the age of 21 were incapable of managing their affairs properly. A child head of a family could be given certain powers but not all powers of a major. There could be problems if, for instance, a child was given the power to alienate immovable property. Some people might trick the child into selling the property to the child’s detriment. The child would not be protected because he or she was emancipated.
Mr Masutha said that it was unclear what roles the Department of Housing would play. Clarity was important given the Constitutional Court judgement in the Grootboom case. The problem around property rights especially in child headed households would probably be solved once it was clear how children would attain majority status.
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) asked what the legal position was in respect of children who washed cars and do other chores in order to earn pocket money.
Ms A van Zyl replied that the law covered employer and employee relationships. The law prohibited children to be employed in any field. However, certain exemptions existed.
Mr D Dkgwacwi (ANC) said that there were people who received the child support grant but misused the funds. He asked how the Departments intended to deal with such people.
Ms Dudley added that children in shelters would confirm the misuse of the child support grant. Some of them ended up in the streets because those who were supposed to take care of them did not do so.
Ms Mabetoa agreed that there was a need of a strategy to monitor the use of grants. Social workers and community workers could help in monitoring how grants were used. This was important given that grants had significantly reduced the level of poverty in some areas.
Mr Masutha said that there were a number of children who bunked classes. He asked who was responsible for ensuring that children were at school during school hours. This issue should be addressed in the Bill. The powers of teachers did not extend beyond schools. It was left to the police and Social Workers to ensure that children were at school.
Ms Mabetoa replied that the issued raised would be addressed in the section 76 Bill.
Mr Geldenhuys added that the Bill should be linked with the Schools Act. A legal duty to ensure that children were at school should be placed on teachers and other persons.
The Chairperson asked at what age children would qualify to get houses.
Ms R van Zyl suggested 15 years as the minimum age.
The meeting was adjourned.