Hon Chairperson, hon Deputy Minister Ms M Ntuli, MECs for Social Development here present, hon Members of Parliament, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is with great humility that I rise to present Budget Vote No 19 in this august House. The budget I present today builds on the strong foundation we have laid to date towards a fully democratic and an inclusive society, envisioned in the Freedom Charter.
This budget, which is the last in the current administration before the next general elections in 2014, focuses on the journey we have traversed since 2009 and on the work we will be undertaking over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, period. The budget takes its cue from the state of the nation address and the ANC's 53rd National Conference held in Mangaung in 2012. It is presented under the theme: Protecting and optimising development outcomes for South Africa's children. In line with this theme, we have invited caregivers from Khayelitsha and a group of children from child-headed households, who are seated in the public gallery. I would like to extend a very warm welcome to them, and I look forward to meeting and engaging with them this afternoon and in the coming days. [Applause.]
This budget is presented against the backdrop of landmark developments that have given fresh impetus to the work of the social sector and the government as a whole.
In December 2012, the 53rd National Conference of the ANC adopted the National Development Plan, NDP, to guide united action by all South Africans. The ANC sees the NDP as a common planning framework that will enable us to consolidate our democratic gains and continue to build an inclusive society.
Since 1994, we have embarked on an extensive programme to attack poverty on all fronts. Numerous institutions, amongst them the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, acknowledged the notable progress we have made. Today, unlike under the apartheid regime, all our children - black and white - from the young girl in Muyexe, Limpopo, to the teenage girl in Umsinga, KwaZulu-Natal, have access to educational opportunities and a safety net. The social assistance programme now reaches over 16 million beneficiaries. I must emphasise that 11 million of these beneficiaries are children. The programme started from a very low base of about 30 000 in 1998, when the child support grant was introduced.
These considerable achievements can be attributed to the extension of the social security cover rate to the previously excluded and marginalised groups in line with the Constitution. We have put money directly in the hands of the poor, particularly women, to empower them to make positive life choices that have improved the lives of South African children, particularly on important matters such as improved nutrition, better educational outcomes, health care and the activation of job-seeking behaviour.
These solidarity-based policies ensure that the impact of the ongoing global economic meltdown and the financial crisis become less severe in South Africa.
While more work remains to be done, particularly to address inequality in our society, I am confident that the measures and plans in this Budget Vote represent a solid foundation upon which to consolidate further momentum and success. This year, the department received a budget of R120 billion, and of this amount R113 billion is allocated for the payment of social assistance grants, which comprise 93% of the total budget allocation.
At the beginning of our term of office in 2009, President Jacob Zuma said, and I quote, "For as long as there are children who do not have the means nor the opportunity to receive a decent education; we shall not rest, and we dare not falter, in our drive to eradicate poverty."
Pursuant to this commitment and as part of our quest to fight the root causes of poverty, in particular intergenerational poverty, we identified the provision of early childhood development, ECD, as key to our success towards achieving Vision 2030.
The adoption of the first 100 days campaign by the ANC demonstrates a serious political commitment to optimise the development outcomes for millions of our children. This will ensure that we focus on the most critical period of a child's life, beginning with the mother's pregnancy to the age of two years.
In 2010, we committed ourselves to expand the coverage of ECD services. Many of the changes we promised have since been implemented. To date, over 900 000 children benefit from this programme, and we are on course to deliver on our mandate to provide universal ECD services by 2014.
Following the diagnostic report and the resolutions of the ECD conference held in 2012, we have approved a five-year integrated programme of action, which identified the urgent need to improve rural infrastructure, human resource capacity, a new comprehensive funding model and amendments to the Children's Act. Accordingly, we will finalise a national policy that will define the ECD service package and make it a public good.
Consistent with the theme of this budget, I am pleased to inform this House about the new partnership with the Department of Communications to roll out the information communication technology strategy, targeting 40 ECD sites in rural areas this year. In line with our target of 10 000 child and youth care workers over five years, I am pleased to announce that we have recruited 3 150 child and youth care workers from local communities ... [Applause.] ... and have begun with the training programme for the roll-out of the Isibindi model of care in 260 sites.
In May last year, I outlined plans to roll out the new biometric-based payment solution for social grants. As part of the transition to the system, we embarked on a national campaign to reregister all grant beneficiaries. Today, I am pleased to report that a total of 20,7 million beneficiaries have been successfully reregistered into the new system. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all beneficiaries who headed our call for their co-operation in ensuring a seamless transition to the new system. The SA Social Security Agency, Sassa, will implement this programme in accordance with the provisions of the promotion of access to administrative justice.
I would like to assure all South Africans that no qualifying beneficiaries will have their grants cancelled. To assist us in this regard, I urge all beneficiaries who have not reregistered to visit their local Sassa offices in response to the letters we have sent to them. I also want to ask you, hon members, to please help in spreading the message in your constituencies.
Just a year after the implementation of the biometric payment solution, we are already witnessing its positive spin-offs. For example, through beneficiaries having approached Sassa, over 130 000 social grants were cancelled, and this has led to a saving of R150 million per annum.
In 2010, I promised to root out fraud and corruption in the social security system. We are delivering on this promise. During the 2012-13 financial year, we have registered about 7 700 cases of fraud. More than 55% of these cases have been finalised and closed. [Applause.]
In an effort to clamp down on unscrupulous microlenders who exploit social grant beneficiaries, and in line with the regulations, Sassa will not be processing any other deductions except for funeral deductions that do not exceed 10% of the value of the grant. Once again, I would like to appeal to all social grant beneficiaries that they must not give their Sassa cards and pin codes to microlenders.
It is worth pointing out that the Supreme Court of Appeal, the SCA, in a unanimous decision, overruled the decision of the North Gauteng High Court, which found that the awarding of the social grants payment tender to Cash Paymaster Services was illegal and invalid. The SCA dismissed the highly publicised allegations of corruption and irregularities which were granted prominence by an all-too-negative segment of the media. The losing bidder has now made an application to the Constitutional Court to set aside the ruling of the SCA. We are opposing this application as there is no merit to their case. We remain determined in our resolve to ensure that no vulnerable persons are denied access to their grants due to unnecessary legal challenges.
While celebrating these successes, we cannot be complacent and think that our job is done. Hon members, inde le ndlela esiyihambayo. [... this journey we are undertaking is long.] I will be appointing a ministerial advisory committee that will investigate and advise me on the best payment options for social security.
Another important task in this regard will be to address the identified policy gaps in relation to the old age grant. The administration of the means test for the old age grant in its current form has the unintended consequences of penalising senior citizens who had saved for their retirement.
Let me take this opportunity to convey my profound regret and dismay on the tragic loss of life of Ms Elimina Mbhele, who lost her life during the attack at a Sassa payout point at Lindelani in KwaZulu-Natal.
We attach great importance to the contributions of older persons to national development, particularly in the context of nation building, promoting social cohesion, strengthening families, and caring for orphans and vulnerable children. For this reason we welcome the recent ruling of the South Gauteng High Court, which gave clarity that grandparents who care for their grandchildren are eligible for foster care grants. This will go a long way to providing them with the much needed financial support to undertake their caregiving role. In turn, this will facilitate educational access and achievements for orphans and vulnerable children, as well as improved health outcomes for children under the care of older persons.
Research shows us that families are the building blocks of a strong, stable and cohesive society. The White Paper on Families aims to bring a seamless approach in the provision of services to families, with particular focus on early intervention and family support services. We recognise that without strong and resilient families our goal to build safer and nonviolent communities will come to nothing.
We will not rest until we succeed in our mission to ensure that all people in South Africa are and feel safe. We must in particular eradicate violence against women and children in our country. To address this scourge, we have established an interministerial committee on violence against women and children. A programme of action on the elimination of violence against women and children anchored on prevention and protection, response, care and support will be presented to Cabinet this year.
Working together with the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence, civil society organisations and the business sector, the interministerial committee is mobilising all sections of the South African society to join hands in combating this social ill. In this regard, I wish to commend the recent men's dialogue convened by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, which pledged to mobilise millions of men to fight violence against women and girls.
There is a recognised link between violence against women and children and alcohol and substance abuse. Last year, when I addressed this House, I informed you that the work of the interministerial committee on antisubstance abuse is going on. The interministerial committee approved the draft control of the marketing of alcoholic beverages Bill early in February this year. One of the key aims of the Bill is to restrict the marketing and promotion of alcoholic beverages and it will be presented to Cabinet this year, before public consultations.
Other matters that the interministerial committee will finalise this year include measures to enhance law enforcement, such as the reduction of the hours of selling alcohol, substance abuse workplace interventions and the proposal to completely prohibit a person who has consumed alcohol from driving a vehicle.
We have appointed new members to the board of the central draft authority to ensure implementation of the national draft master plan 2013-17, which will be presented to Cabinet for approval before the end of this month. Hon members, each one of these measures is a step towards reducing the heavy health, social and economic burden of alcohol and substance abuse in our country.
Hon members, former President Nelson Mandela said, and I quote, "Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity, but an act of justice." In response to this call, the 53rd National Conference of the ANC resolved that we must move with speed in implementing the household nutrition and food security strategy this year. We have made significant progress since the launch of the Food for All campaign in 2011. In partnership with FoodBank SA, we have today distributed food supplies to over 370 000 beneficiaries every month. We have set up 33 community nutrition and development centres in all nine provinces. This includes revitalising centres that were previously closed down by the DA in the Western Cape. [Interjections.]