Government forgot the poor

Johann Kikillus, Soeteria Ministries

I write this letter knowing full well that, as a result, I probably will not get any Christmas presents from government or officials.

We are in the second week of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, and despite what the national ministers and provincial MECs of social development and education say, all is not well.

I have just come back from another court case where a mother and her daughter came off second best. This is a case that has dragged on for over a year for various reasons including incompetence and uncaring attitudes from officials. Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. There are many such cases that I am aware of – some going back years.

Back in 2012, I approached MEC of Social Development, Albert Fritz and Chief Whip of the DA, Mark Wiley and raised the issue of a failed social services.

At the time, the provincial government called a meeting that was attended by SAPS, the departments of justice, social development and others.

At that meeting I mentioned that unless a woman or child in the Far South has access to funds and private assistance, they have very little chance of getting fair justice.

MEC Fritz stood up and assured us that his office would give attention to the matter. To be fair, eventually some attention was given.

But in August this year, I went back to government and told MEC for Education, Debbie Schafer, Mr Wiley and the Head of Social Development,
Dr Robert Macdonald that the issues that we raised in 2012 still
need to be addressed as too many cases
were being poorly handled.

– Over the past five years, very little has changed for those women and children who have no means to get private social workers, lawyers or psychologists.

They did not agree with me, but I suspect that politicians are not quick to admit when they are wrong. I am of the opinion that our government has forgotten the poor. If these MECs and politicians disagree with me, I invite them to a public meeting in Ocean View and Masiphumelele where I will ask all women and men who have been let down by the system to come and personally share their stories.

I include education in this because 2017 has again seen many children being denied decent education. The number of school drop-outs that I have dealt with this year has been enormous. The number of cases I have dealt with where primary school pupils up to Grade 6 cannot read and write properly has also increased. I have taken these matters to the directorates of the relevant departments, but am told it will take years to fix.

In the meantime, these vulnerable kids walk the streets where they fall prey to drug dealers, gangsters and abuse.

Nowhere do I hear the Premier of the Western Cape or the Mayor of Cape Town make mention of these failed systems. Either they do not know or they do not want to admit to it.

We as civil society need to take note of the very little that has been done to help our most vulnerable women and children. We should not allow those who are voted in to sleep on the job. In exchange for the work, they get paid enormous salaries. We must also not fall for the false communication put out by government that they care. Those of us on the ground will quickly point out many instances proving that they do not.

For seven years I have brought all these matters to the attention of the powers that be and yet very little has changed for countless poor families. What I am asking for will not cost government anything. We simply want to be served by officials who care, take the time to listen and then do whatever they can to make sure their client gets the necessary help.

Let us hope and pray that 2018 will be the start of true justice – especially for women and children, and that many families will finally be able to get out of the vicious cycle of abuse and violence.

* Esther Lewis, head of communications for the Department of Social Development, responds:

The Department of Social Development acknowledges that there are huge social and safety challenges in the South Peninsula. Some areas have practically
become no-go zones even for the SAPS.

The writer is, however, wrong to claim that his concerns, and those of the community, are not being heeded by the provincial Department of Social Development. The department has been steadily increasing its capacity to deliver services in the area. It opened the Fish Hoek local office in September 2015 to serve the needs of the surrounding communities, and has continued to scale up funding for child protection and victim empowerment services rendered by NGOs in the area on an annual

In 2016 the department worked with the NGO sector to establish a proper safe house for victims of violence in the peninsula, and in 2018 the department has earmarked further budget allocations to significantly increase its support to organisations that provide social work services in the areas of Ocean View and Masiphumelele, with
a particular focus on child protection.

The department has established a professional child protection
forum that meets on a bi-monthly basis to coordinate services, and recently held a large stakeholder engagement in Ocean View following a spate of violent incidents involving children.

* Mark Wiley Chief Whip at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament did not respond to the Echo’s request to comment.