12 February 2015 President Jacob Zuma, tonight you will present the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) to a joint sitting of Parliament. Below are some questions we wish to pose to you:
Honorable President Zuma, you told us this time last year that government’s monitoring and evaluation efforts indicate “an improvement in services”. You also referred to the Social Assistance programme having improved turnaround times of social grants and identity documents, reaching about 16 million people, especially vulnerable children. You said that “many in cities will gain a foothold due to government grants, as job opportunities are scarce in a time of a non-performing economy” (translated from isiZulu). You announced that the South Africa we live in today is so much better than the times we lived in pre-1994.
Whilst significant gains have been made since 1994, the lived reality of people today tells a different story and so we have to question some of your assertions. 20 years into our constitutional democratic dispensation, we have seen an erosion, and in places, a regression of socio economic rights.
Honourable President, the Black Sash calls on you to answer the concerns of the most vulnerable citizens by prioritizing solutions to improve government programmes in social assistance, health insurance, and maternal health:
- President Zuma, when a gogo (grandmother) receives only R1.25 of her R1350 state pension, and does not know how she is going to survive for the rest of month, government has failed its people. Government, Chapter 9 Institutions and our Courts must take strong action against corporations who benefit from public tenders and in their quest to maximize profits, dilute and violate the human rights and dignity of the poor. We demand that this be stopped. A case in point is the current tender for the national payment of social grants between Cash Paymaster Services and SASSA, declared invalid by the Constitutional Court. Vulture creditors are looting the bank accounts of grant beneficiaries. What action are you taking to resolve these unlawful, often fraudulent and immoral deductions by financial service providers from these accounts?
- The rights of approximately 1 million vulnerable children on Foster Care grants, as well as the rights of their caregivers, are being diminished due to government’s failure to speedily resolve the systemic bottlenecks (Department of Social Development and the Courts) and settle the value of the grant. Why has government failed to address these systemic issues crippling the development of our children? Will you reinstate the Caregivers grant to provide security to those who can best improve our children’s development?
- In 1999, approximately 1.1 million people were on a Disability grant. 16 years later this figure has remained the same despite a growing population. Something is seriously amiss. Why are so many people blocked from gaining access to the disability provision? Furthermore, why has government made so little progress on the establishment of the health insurance fund?
- Finally President Zuma, against the MDGs, South Africa’s maternal health and infant mortality is at unacceptably high levels. Too many mothers and children still lack the food security necessary to ensure their good health. How is South Africa progressing towards reducing food scarcity to the poor in order to achieve these goals?
The Black Sash in its 60th year of existence will continue to work tirelessly to ensure government honours and realises its Constitutional promises to the people of South Africa. We demand that a better story be told.