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The Department of Social Development (DSD) has still not reopened its East London local or district offices, despite MEC Bukiswa Fanta being made aware that thousands of beneficiaries in Buffalo City and surrounds have not been able to access support from her department for more than a year.
People in desperate need of assistance with grant applications, applying for food parcels to feed their starving children, pension assistance and others, have been thrown to the wolves in a province where poverty is rife and the cost-of-living crisis is hitting hardest in the country.
Despite the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) recently releasing a report declaring child malnutrition in the province as a disaster, the department cannot even keep the doors of its offices open. All the while starving children who should be beneficiaries of grants are not receiving these lifesaving funds.
Social workers and DSD officials allegedly abandoned the local and district offices in Fleet Street, in BCM, due to a mysterious itch last year, and still no action has been taken.
Two weeks ago, the Department was awarded an additional R25 million through the adjustments budget to pay for salaries, but not one additional cent was given to assist starving children.
Among the beneficiaries of these funds are the same DSD employees who have remained absent from their offices for more than a year. It is highly unlikely that these individuals have been maintaining their caseload, as the documents they would require to do so, are lying in boxes in the passageways of the abandoned buildings.
Today, 5 December 2023, we hosted a picket in East London and I handed over a memorandum of demands to the department. These demands include:
We want the Environmental Contamination report to be released within seven working days.
All offices must be open and functional on or before 15 December 2023.
A detailed report must be presented on why there was a two-year delay by DSD management in addressing the fears of staff regarding the alleged contamination of the offices.
A report as to why no attempts were made to provide mobile offices, or any other plans to ensure public accessibility to social services.
MEC Fanta must provide a concrete return-to-work plan for her deployed cadres in the BCM local and district DSD offices. Should she fail to do so, we will report her to the Public Service Commission and request a full investigation into the closure of these offices.
While residents suffer a cost-of-living crisis, with many dependent on the social safety net provided by the government to survive, we have officials and social workers, who are meant to be assisting them in their time of need, staying at home and not providing services. It is simply unacceptable!
The DA will continue to fight to rescue the Eastern Cape and its people from such an uncaring, callous ANC government.
Issued by Kobus Botha MPL - DA EC Shadow MEC for Social Development