Thank you, Madam Speaker, and thank you to the hon member for the question. The impact of climate change on water resources is a global issue that requires a commonly shared vision and concerted efforts among all nations of the world. If prediction by scientists is correct that the rate of climate change will be more rapid than previously expected, then droughts, floods and other extreme weather events will become more frequent and intense.
Extreme variation in South Africa's climate has been a reality for the country, with dramatic swings between drought and floods. Over the past few years, and this past year in particular, the extreme climatic conditions have been strongly accentuated.
Recent studies that we have conducted reveal that air temperatures in South Africa are rising; that rainfall patterns are changing causing less rain in some areas and floods in others, as we have seen here in some parts of the Western Cape, and that there is an increase in adverse climatic events such as hail.
The consequence of the warmer temperatures and the drier conditions has been that this year we have experienced the worst-recorded series of veld and forest fires. There are also implications for the growth of alien invasive species, which are thriving in the current climatic conditions and there are also implications for water quality.
In tackling global warming, the government encourages a more holistic and comprehensive approach that takes into account the impact of climate change on tourism, health, food security and the ecosystems since water is a cross- cutting commodity that is central to all developmental initiatives. Hence, our mitigation efforts should be coupled with adaptation measures to build resilience against climate change and its effects.
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has been focused on development and implementation of adaptation strategies to ensure sustainability of water resources.
What has been our response to climate change? Firstly, we have had to understand the problem by conducting research and improving our monitoring capacity. For example, if climate change alters the magnitude, the timing and the distribution of storms that produce floods, this would have implications for our existing water resource infrastructure.
Secondly, we are developing water resource management strategies that take into account the impact of climate change. Thirdly, we are participating in national and international structures, amongst other things, to ensure that water issues are adequately addressed during climate-change discussions. Fourthly, we are continually having a dialogue with internal and external stakeholders so that we can have a holistic response to climate change and the development of adaptation strategies by the water sector. It may therefore become necessary for us to update our national water resources strategy to accommodate the anticipated effects of climate change.
Possible adaptation strategies in response to climate change are that we are regularly and continually increasing the water-shortage capacity of our reservoirs and our dams by raising dam walls, by building new dams and reservoirs, and by increasing the width of the pipelines, amongst other things. This approach would be in addition to our existing bill strategy to cater for the millions of South Africans who still remain without access to clean water. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Hon Minister, it is true that according to scientific studies it is predicted that Africa will suffer the direct impact of extreme climatic changes. They say that South Africa, which has a stable economy as compared to most other African countries, could expect to be a shelter for people from other parts of Africa. We have this in mind and rising temperatures, drought-destroying crops, animal populations declining and the thought of obviously our having to be prepared for not perhaps just our South African population, but those countries surrounding us.
Has this been taken into consideration? Also, you have mentioned obviously some intersectoral work that has been done on the holistic approach. So my follow-up question was going to be: What kind of intersectoral approach has been taken and are the possible repercussions - water sanitation for migrants - broader than our South African population being taken into consideration? Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. As I said earlier on in my reply, as government we have decided that we should take a more holistic and comprehensive approach which takes into account the impact of climate change on all these areas that I've spoken about - food security, eco-systems, health and water.
What we are busy doing right now with regard to our water resources and planning is to try to reach a number of people in our country who do not have access to clean water and basic sanitation. As I stand here, my struggle is to reach those families.
If there are migrants or immigrants who are in the country, they will obviously benefit from whatever services that municipalities are providing. I think the challenge facing us right now is to ensure that those who don't have in our country get this clean water and sanitation. Moving from there entails looking at how we can encourage our people to use water for economic growth.
So, as far as the question you've asked, it can be addressed in that holistic and comprehensive approach in which all government departments are taking measures for adaptation and to mitigate climate change. Thank you.
Thank you, Chairperson and hon Minister. If one watched the Special Assignment programme in respect of global warming and climate change, one will have found that it was shock and gave cause for concern. Could you tell us if South Africa is really 20 years behind in preparing to face this sort of climate? Thank you.
Unfortunately I didn't see the programme the hon member is talking about, but I do not think South Africa is 20 years behind. I think South Africa would be on par with other developing countries and maybe much ahead of others in terms of preparing for adaptation and mitigation measures to deal with climate change.
What we always say is that we still have a duty to develop our society and our people, and we will have to balance the development that we are having with the mitigation factors. That is the balance we are trying to get. What is becoming very clear is that we, the developing countries, are expected to adapt and do a whole lot of other things that will have a negative impact on providing jobs and basic services we need for the people.
However, the countries in the world that have actually been responsible for the situation that we are in terms of major greenhouse emissions are not cutting back on consumption. So, whilst we are expected to cut back and stop our own development, they are not cutting back on consumption. I think that's where the message should be directed: that they must also cut back on their own consumption whilst we are trying to mitigate and adapt to the situation that we all find ourselves in.
So, I wouldn't agree with an assertion that says: we are behind. We are participating in quite a lot of international fora where we know that we are comparable with countries like us. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Hon Minister, I must take exception with what you said about asking other countries to do better instead of asking ourselves to do better, because all leaders are taking initiatives. Even people in America who are regarded as arch Republicans are taking initiatives to change the law.
So, one commends the holistic approach taken in this country. I wonder if you can't influence the local governments to encourage people to use the enviro loos because they are so much better for the health of the water services and yet are not popular. People have been offered piped sanitation instead of the enviro loos and it takes longer and is often more expensive. The other question: Is there any encouragement of the Department of Science and Technology to do work on desalination of water, because as the temperature increases the sea levels will go up? We could, if we do research on desalination of water, use the sea water if we can remove the salt and use it for piped water. Thank you.
Thank you, hon member. I want to repeat this and say it is clear as we engaged both in national and international debates that we must call more and more on the developed countries to play their part by coming on board with the commitments that were made. However, they also need to cut back on their own consumption. Consumption is going on and on.
So, they have to play their role. And that doesn't mean that I'm saying we are not taking responsibility for what we have to do here at home. We are taking responsibility. I didn't even mention most of the things that we are doing. However, there are many things we are doing to try and mitigate. Now, you are asking: shouldn't we be using enviro loos instead of using something else?
Alternative technology is something that we encourage in municipalities, who are the ones rolling out the sanitation programme. So, we are working with the Department of Science and Technology. We are suggesting what technology is appropriate for where and when. Yes, those who want to adopt the enviro loos will take it, others will take other things - urine diversion and dry sanitation. So there are different technologies. We haven't regulated that this is what needs to be done.
Having said that, I think every South African has a role to play. This is not just about what the government must do. I think you, your children, your neighbours, your friends and everybody have a role to play in terms of more efficient use of water in our country. I think as ordinary South Africans we do not realise that we are a water-stressed country, and if we could just use water more efficiently we would save it for other people.
With regard to the agricultural sector, I think farmers could be encouraged to give preference to those crops that are drought-resistant or to use more efficient irrigation methods as part of water-saving initiatives. The biggest initiatives are to ensure that we plug the leaks, to ensure that we repair water leaks, to try to use treated water or what they call grey water, and to refrain from doing things that will have a negative impact on the quality of water.
We plant trees. It is Arbour Week this week. All of us must take time to plant trees because you know trees help us with the cleaning of the atmosphere - the oxygen they give us - preventing soil erosion and all those things. We have to continually remove the alien plant species that take a lot of our water so that water is released to the dam. So, there are a whole lot of things that we have to do and we are doing them. Thank you, Madam Speaker.
Thank you, Comrade Speaker. Thank you, Comrade Minister, for the in-depth and lucid reply. Comrade Minister, I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say it is a recognised fact that global warming is a threat to our environment and thereby affects humanity. In view of this, would the Minister consider calling an extraordinary summit of all role-players in our country to address the social and economic impact of climate change? Thank you.
Thank you, hon member. Climate change as a concept itself is dealt with by the whole of government. However, I think it is important to say that the drive is led by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. We are dealing with climate change as far as it affects our water resources, moving into the future and all the things that I've said.
I am sure in consultation with the Minister we could consider the proposal from the hon member. I must say that after we went to the Stockholm Water Week, where 43 South Africans participated, at some stage we sat down and said we need to talk to one another at home. As part of that national conference that we are going to have in South Africa, a national conference looking at our water resources and the trends in terms of how water is being managed, would obviously be an issue of climate change and its negative impact on our country. Thank you.
Suspension of Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa
256. Mr V C Gore (ID) asked the Minister of Arts and Culture:
(1) (a)(i) When and (ii) why was the Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa (Tissa) suspended and (b) what has become of the 39 disabled interpreters who were employed by Tissa;
(2) whether Tissa will be resumed in the future; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details? NO1897E
Madam Speaker, the Tissa - the Telephone Interpreting Service for SA - project was not suspended, but the tenure of the consortium that won the pilot project which ended on 31 August 2006 was suspended. The consortium was suspended owing to mismanagement of funds, lack of reporting and the low-call volume based on poor marketing.
There were only 30 employees - not 39 - namely 15 males and 15 females. Interpreters were employed by the consortium and not by the Department of Arts and Culture. Hence your query of what happened to them should be directed at the employer who would know best.
Yes, the intention is that the Tissa project will be resumed in order to fulfil the initial objectives of government in promoting multilingualism in South Africa, subject to thorough evaluation. The department would want to see a shift of focus from a stakeholder acquisition drive to stakeholder management in order to increase the use of the service, the evaluation of the interpreter training material, content, delivery methodology and facilitation capacities in order to address the apathy of site officials towards other speakers of indigenous languages and the expansion of the service to include sign language. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Hon Minister, thank you very much for your answer. Tissa was launched as a very important service in dealing with the issues of providing language services to many of our citizens, particularly on health, police and court services, and you quite correctly identified the multilanguage environment in which South African operates and you quite correctly identified it as a constitutional right.
One of the other objectives of Tissa was to employ disabled people and it went a long way in creating employment for them. I would like to thank the hon Minister for his answer and for explaining that the service wasn't suspended but the service provider was. However, I would like to ask the hon Minister a follow-up question as to when and how he envisages these services being reintroduced. What are the timelines in that regard? Thank you.
Madam Speaker, as I indicated in my answer, after thorough evaluation we shall reintroduce the service. What happened is that our service provider did not market the service, so many people who needed the service were not aware of it, did not know how to access it and consequently the call volume was extremely low.
We have to learn lessons from all that, and after we have done that the service will be reintroduced because as government we are committed to multilingualism and to giving people access to government and its services.
Minister, in your own departmental report you claim quite rightly that the Telephone Interpreting Service for South Africa is "pivotal to the framework and the promotion of linguistic diversity in this country".
I would like to know, Minister, how it is that Tissa has collapsed so soon after you heralded the fact that 10 government departments and public entities had installed the Telephone Interpreting Service. Indeed, your attempt to reach a target of 100 government department sites has been a resounding failure, and yet the budget for the national language service programme was increased by nearly R20 million.
Minister Balfour impressed this House mightily yesterday saying that heads of those who had failed in his department would roll. I would like you please to assure us that those behind the hiring of this consortium, this latest debacle in your department, will be dealt with in the same manner that Minister Balfour will be dealing with members of his department. One wants to know why on earth a contract would be given to a body so obviously incapable of doing the very job for which they were paid.
Madam Speaker, I think the hon Kohler- Barnard, of course, has clairvoyant capacities. We in the department do not. You only find out that people cannot deliver a service when they fail you. Sometimes they succeed, but we didn't have that sort of clairvoyance. Thank you.
Steps to enable learners to catch up with lost learning
259. Mr R P Z van den Heever (ANC) asked the Minister of Education:
What progress has been made to enable learners to catch up with lost learning as a result of the recent national strike? NO1941E
Thank you, Madam Speaker, and thank you to the hon Van den Heever for the question. The reply is as follows. As hon members would be aware, there were different levels of disruption in education during the public-sector strike. The provincial education departments have thus developed plans that respond to their specific needs.
In some provinces we lost up to three weeks of teaching, while in others we lost no more than a day or two. Teaching time was not disrupted at all in one or two of the provinces and in others we had mid-year tests, which were the only form of learning disruption, as well as mid-year examinations. So we've had to develop plans that respond to this range of challenges. The plans that we have developed have been more successful in some provinces than in others. The majority of provinces are implementing the additional teaching programmes. In some we still have a difference of opinion as to levels of stipend to be paid for additional teaching, but I'm hopeful that this will be resolved.
Our part at the national level has been the provision and large-scale distribution of learning materials. Colleagues should be aware that, when we developed the intervention, we had no knowledge as to how long the strike would last and therefore had developed quite a detailed set of self- directed learning materials for young people across all grades in the system.
During the past two months we have used radio adverts; we continue to do so. We are continuing to distribute the self-directed learning material via newspapers and are providing lessons on the SABC learning channel. These have contributed to our overall strategy. Community radio stations are also assisting in this area.
We intend to have distributed 93,8 million copies of the learning materials by the end of October 2007. We have also purchased workbooks to assist learners in the higher grades at secondary school with revision in English and mathematics. We are using 89 distribution points throughout the country, and from those points books and material are delivered to schools.
Madame Speaker, I wish to thank the Minister for that reply in terms of the various plans that have been developed with regard to this matter. I note that she talked about difference of opinions between various role-players. I would like to ascertain whether we are able to say that, by and large, we have the co-operation of teachers and teacher unions generally with regard to this important matter. Thank you.
Madam Speaker, I would say in the majority of provinces we do. In the Western Cape there is still some discussion with the provincial education department as to the level of stipend that I have set out as the guide for provinces. However, in conversation with the MEC for education in this province, he informs me that, in fact, in several schools teaching has been going on. Saturday programmes are going on. In all nine provinces we anticipate that, in the spring break, there will be teaching on all the days of the holidays in our schools.
Thank you, Madam Speaker, and Minister. We have information that the MEC in Gauteng, for example, has essentially conceded to our spokesperson that in schools in poorer areas, it's not being implemented because teachers who belong to SA Democratic Teachers' Union are fundamentally unhappy, not only with the stipend, but also with what they say are some unresolved issues from the negotiations in the Bargaining Council in June. In KwaZulu-Natal it began pretty quickly and then seems to have slowed down, if not ground to a halt in certain parts. In fact, in five of the nine provinces this is not happening properly.
Now, I appreciate that this is a difficult matter but, at the end of the day, it's the management of the teaching in the classroom that needs to be tightly controlled. I wonder if the Minister could undertake to actually go into the stuff in detail because it's already September. Apparently, issues that are outstanding from the Bargaining Council in June include the amount of money teachers are being paid to work overtime. They are resisting doing this stuff in large parts of the country.
One accepts what the Minister says, but one doesn't just want to accept that everything is fine. The person at the top doesn't always know or necessarily get the right information about exactly what is going on classroom by classroom around South Africa. I wonder if the Minister could, firstly, comment on that and, secondly, just undertake to investigate this thing a bit more thoroughly because the information I have actually shows that there is quite a significant problem in many parts of South Africa.
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I would say the person at the bottom doesn't always get accurate information either! However, given that there are different features to the implementation I've referred to, yesterday I directed my department to send out a team for the next two weeks in order to investigate school to school, across the country, exactly what is happening.
However, I would be very wary of wanting to have a situation in which a demand is made that we retrieve enough finances to pay back the "no-work, no-pay" deduction. I would not agree to that. So we must be very clear that we cannot insist that we teach from Grade R to Grade 12 so that each one of us who went on strike recovers the money that we lost as a result of the "no-work, no-pay" rule. If we engage in strike action, it is standard practice that there is a "no-work, no-pay" rule.
The stipend we have put forward is merely to really recognise the effort that educators say they wish to make to support children to learn. My appeal nationally has been: Let us as parents and adults assist children to use the material we are providing because, as I said, we had no notion that the strike might end in three weeks or 30 days. Therefore we had said to the community and to the nation: Let us get our children learning. I still think it is incumbent on us to do so.
The notion that we will get every teacher in class is belied by some of what we see. However, while we note that there is someone not teaching, there are thousands whom we thank because they are actually going well beyond the call of duty. We recognise that there is an effort out there. So let us get our children learning; let us support the children in learning; and let us encourage those teachers who wish to continue doing what is necessary to assist South Africa to achieve and learn.
Timeframe for issuing of identity documents
270. Ms S Rajbally (MF) asked the Minister of Home Affairs:
(a) What is the timeframe for the issuing of identity documents upon application and (b) how does her department measure the consistency of this? NO1952E
Thank you, Chairperson. It is supposed to take 30 working days or six weeks from the date of application to issue an ID. The department measures this regularly and we are aware that in practice it takes even longer; even up to 100 days or more on average.
The department is therefore implementing some interventions which are intended to ensure an improved turnaround. One of those includes the introduction of an Identity Document Electronic Track and Trace System which will enable both the Department of Home Affairs as well as applicants to determine the status of any application at any given time through the various stages of processing.
It will, furthermore, serve to improve the management system of applications for identity documents. We are also reviewing courier services to improve the efficiency and turnaround times regarding the dispatching of applications to the department's head offices on time. We are also introducing a South African Post Office contract for the distribution of identity documents so that we are able to dispatch the applications of the people well on time back to the offices of source.
We have also established an Identity Document Project Team to review all processes in the production chain of identity documents so as to introduce new, efficient and faster processes. Thank you.
Thank you, Chairperson. Thank you, hon Deputy Minister. Minister, we want to thank you and the department because we can see some light at the end of the tunnel now. My question here is: Do you see the department having overcome its backlog by 2009? Thank you.
Thank you very much, hon Rajbally, for the comment and the question. Indeed, the Minister had appointed a turnaround team in the department comprising experts and members of the department.
As we have indicated, there is an ID project team within the department so that within the next 18 months we will be able to introduce more drastic changes. Therefore, I would say confidently that by 2009 there will be radical changes throughout the provinces in the country in dealing with this particular matter of the IDs.
We are quite aware that when people apply for IDs, they are not applying for something that they will hang up on their walls like posters, but that they are applying for documents that they need for real. We are taking the matter quite seriously; there is work taking place. We shall ensure that we are able to fulfil the needs and aspirations of our people.
Chairperson, the problem with the hon Deputy Minister's reply is that we have heard it all before. I really have to ask him what has changed to make us think that it is going to be any different in the future. The only bit of good news is yesterday's announcement by the director-general of the department when he actually admitted that there was a serious problem within the department. He admitted that the department continues to be sick when it comes to questions of IT and that it takes more than 100 days on average to produce an ID document.
Now, in the two months that I have covered this portfolio for the DA, I can tell you that all those things are true. From the numerous offices that I have visited - sometimes unannounced, Deputy Minister, which has caused fun and games of its own - to actually asking questions of the Minister. Now, the major problem with the department is that we have a dysfunctional department with a largely absentee Minister.
Once again, this afternoon is a case in point. Not only do you appear to be playing fast and loose with taxpayers' money, but you are also playing fast and loose with MPs' questions in this House. I would like to ask the hon Minister if she thought she should have to take responsibility. I ask her to resign but she is not here. So, I won't be able to do that. Thank you. [Time expired.]
Hon Chairperson, Mr Lowe, as he said, has been a member of this portfolio committee for two months, during which time he has missed virtually all the meetings of the portfolio committee.
With regard to the few offices that he has visited, I wish to assure you, hon member, that we have visited even more offices than you would have dreamed of visiting during the last two months that you have been an absentee member of the Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs.
The programmes of the Minister of Home Affairs are not determined by you, sir, and therefore the Minister is busy with other responsibilities. Fortunately, she has a Deputy Minister and that is why I am answering the questions on her behalf. [Applause.]
Hon Deputy Minister, the director-general also pointed out yesterday that there were some 600 000 applications outstanding and he seemed to imply that because Home Affairs was so slow, it encouraged people to try to obtain a document elsewhere which contributed to corruption. Now we understand that the electronic tracking system which has been introduced will contribute to cutting down on corruption. Is that so, and are sufficient funds being made available to cut down on corruption, which we all agree is a serious challenge in the department? Thank you very much.
Thank you very much, hon member. We are indeed paying urgent attention to the issues of corruption and the outstanding IDs. Some of the IDs are outstanding because applicants go to an office to apply and then change their addresses to other provinces, for example. They then go to those offices to apply for new identity documents in those different provinces.
The Electronic Track and Trace System will also allow us to be able to determine that you have applied for an ID within three months so that we are able to dispatch your ID from the previous office at which you had applied, to your new address. It will assist us to deal with those challenges. The issues of corruption are being addressed. There are resources that are being availed to deal with that.
We have instructed our officials, the provincial, regional and district managers, to ensure that the department's anticorruption strategy doesn't remain a document collecting dust at head office, but that they put it into their implementation plans so that they are able in their own respective areas to implement the anticorruption strategy and deal with the problems that we are facing. Thank you.
Thank you, Chairperson. Flowing from the answer of the Deputy Minister on the original question, during the recess the portfolio committee visited head office and we had a briefing by the turnaround team. That briefing session was only attended by the full complement of the ANC and one member from the UCDP. Now, Deputy Minister, the turnaround team indicated that one of their main tasks was to look at the processes in ensuring that the issuing of ID documents and other documents could be simplified. Are you satisfied that the current work of the turnaround team is bearing fruit already at this early stage?
We are indeed, hon Beukman, satisfied that it is already bearing fruit. We are simplifying the processes of application, production and distribution of IDs so that the process becomes seamless. We are also ensuring that in the offices where we are processing and producing the IDs, there is greater and stricter production so that corruption is dealt with at that level. We also need to improve the work that is taking place at that level - that will be at our offices at BVR in Pretoria. So we are satisfied that there is work taking place and that that work is already beginning to bear fruit. In the next 18 months it will begin to be felt by all South Africans. This is because, at the end of the day, it is not us who must be satisfied as the executive and officials in the department that our work is bearing fruit, it must be ordinary South African citizens who feel that there is real change taking place in terms of the work that we are doing and the promises we are making. Thank you.
Position regarding offering of choice voluntary termination of pregnancy to HIV-positive pregnant women
261. Mrs M M Madumise (ANC) asked the Minister of Health:
Whether, in light of the many challenges facing maternal health and the notable progress being made in this regard, particularly in terms of the offer of high quality antenatal and post-natal care to HIV- positive women, she will heed the recent call by the Health Systems Trust to routinely offer the choice of voluntary termination of pregnancy to HIV-positive pregnant women; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?