Con­sider the plight of the poor

Post - - Comment -

ASK most South Africans who they be­lieve are the most des­per­ate and vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety to­day and they will in­vari­ably point to the poor, the aged, lit­tle chil­dren and dis­abled peo­ple. And very few, if any, would ar­gue with them. But if this per­cep­tion is any­where near the truth, surely it is a se­ri­ous in­dict­ment on our lead­ers in gov­ern­ment that, af­ter 23 years of democ­racy in our coun­try, not enough is be­ing done to change the qual­ity of the lives of a large ma­jor­ity of South Africans.

As for­mer pres­i­dent Nel­son Man­dela warned af­ter a mere 10 years of demo­cratic rule in 2003, we can­not con­tinue blam­ing apartheid when we are “tardy” in solv­ing the prob­lems of poverty and other so­cial ills in our coun­try.

Three is­sues that have com­manded much promi­nence in the me­dia re­cently give cre­dence to the per­cep­tion that gov­ern­ment lead­ers are very of­ten in­sen­si­tive to the plight of the poor and most ne­glected.

The first con­cerns the des­per­ate plight of more than 10 mil­lion South Africans who rely on pen­sions and so­cial grants to eke out a mea­gre liv­ing each month.

They in­clude the aged, who have spent their life­times serv­ing the coun­try in one way or another; the in­firm and dis­abled, who can no longer sup­port them­selves; and young moth­ers re­ceiv­ing child sup­port grants.

While the Post Of­fice main­tains it has the ca­pac­ity to take over the pay­ment of grants and pen­sions to ben­e­fi­cia­ries, the con­tro­ver­sial Min­is­ter of So­cial De­vel­op­ment, Batha­bile Dlamini, is play­ing a dan­ger­ous game of pro­cras­ti­na­tion. If the im­passe can­not be re­solved by next March, it will be the poor and most vul­ner­a­ble who suf­fer the most. And de­spite mount­ing pres­sure for the dis­missal of the min­is­ter, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma re­mains adamant that noth­ing will change.

On another front, thou­sands of school­child­ren in KwaZulu-Natal go starv­ing each day be­cause of dis­rup­tions to the school nu­tri­tional pro­gramme.

The pro­gramme ground to a halt at many schools af­ter ser­vice providers stopped serv­ing daily meals, com­plain­ing they had not been paid by the gov­ern­ment, prompt­ing the Na­tional Teach­ers Union to ac­cuse the provin­cial Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion of be­ing “heart­less and in­sen­si­tive”.

The third is­sue re­lates to the re­lo­ca­tion of more than 3 000 Life Esidi­meni psy­chi­atric pa­tients to un­li­censed NGOs, which re­sulted in 141 of them dy­ing through star­va­tion and ne­glect.

And while th­ese crit­i­cal is­sues re­main un­re­solved, Pres­i­dent Zuma and his ad­min­is­tra­tion are look­ing for­ward to salary in­creases this year, which will be back­dated to April.

We rest our case.

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