House Chair, hon Minister Bathabile Dlamini, hon chairperson, hon members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, as the Bible says:
As each has received a gift, employ it in serving one another, as good managers of the grace of God in its various forms ...
For even the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.
President Zuma, in the state of the nation address delivered on 25 May 2014, committed this term of office to radical socioeconomic transformation to push back the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment, which continue to affect the lives of many of our people.
This reminded me of the words of the former Minister of Social Development, Mr Zola Skweyiya, when he reflected as follows: The paradigm shift from a welfarist to a social development perspective is premised on the notion that people are the masters of their own destiny and, instead of helping the poor in the traditional way with handouts, it moves on to the development and empowerment of individuals, groups and communities, teaching them to be self-reliant.
In the 10 years following the release of the Social Development Integrated Service Delivery Model, in the words of Paulo Freire, we need to ask ourselves whether we have simply walked over the words, or whether we indeed managed to grasp the soul of the words of the former Minister of Social Development.
Radical socioeconomic transformation requires that we, individually and collectively, grasp the soul of the social development perspective if we are to break the chains of poverty, inequality and unemployment. It requires of each and every one of us to interrogate the manner in which we deliver services, the manner in which we "care", how we target interventions, who we partner with, and how we advocate for the rights of children, young people, people with disabilities, women and older persons.
Allow me to extend a special word of welcome to my mother, who is with us in the House today. Not only did she have to contend with being a black rural woman in apartheid South Africa, but she also had to survive eking out a living as an unemployed woman in a rural village in the then Bophuthatswana Bantustan. Added to this was giving birth, in 1971, to a baby girl with a disability, at a time when there was neither information nor services available on how to parent a disabled child in Phokeng, where disability was linked to witchcraft, sin and many other superstitious beliefs.
This dictated the community response to and interaction with our family henceforth. However, thanks to your dedication, Ma, your I-don't-give-up attitude and your willingness to sacrifice, you actioned the soul of Ellen Goodman's words when she said: "The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears."
I also wish to pay tribute to my father, who stood by his family in the early years, and I challenge all fathers to remain active in their children's lives, whether they have disabilities or not. Ma, I can only imagine the extent of your anguish on your journey back home after you left me alone as a young, eight-year-old girl at a special school far away from home. For that, I am very grateful, as it afforded me the opportunity to stand here today, with education as the backbone of who I am. I want say thank you, Ma, and thank you once more. [Applause.] In 1990, when I gave birth to Kealeboga, my first daughter, who was also born blind, I was a single, teenaged mother, forced to drop out of school. Like my mother, I still had no information or support services to guide me in bringing up my daughter in Phokeng. Still, I had self-knowledge of growing up as a blind child, which enabled me to seek information and resources, albeit it at a high cost at times.
By 2003, almost 10 years into democracy, I gave birth to Zanele, my 10-year- old. Zanele was also born with the same disability because our disability is genetic. There was not just a visible change in the attitude of nurses, neighbours and family, but also in the rest of South Africa as a whole. Zanele was celebrated. I was now married, and a Member of Parliament, and we lived in an urban setting. Service-related information was available at the click of a button through the Internet, but this, of course, required computer access and literacy. I suddenly had choices of whether to enrol Zanele in an inclusive or special early childhood development programme or school.
This right to choice for what I deemed to be in the best interest of my child was as a direct result of the policies of the ANC-led government, which took decisions in 1994 that persons with disabilities belonged in the communities where their families lived, and not far away from them. [Applause.] I have taken some time to illustrate my personal journey, as it depicts the progress made over the past 20 years of democracy. It also points us in the direction of the action required to accelerate the radical socioeconomic transformation agenda.
The economic benefits of investing in children have been extensively documented. Investing fully in children today will ensure the wellbeing and productivity of future generations for decades to come. This will break the vicious cycle of poverty, inequality and unemployment, and declare a demographic dividend in the future.
Our government has acknowledged this reality and has committed to shifting significant resources to early childhood development services. Our challenge, firstly, is to guarantee access by putting mechanisms in place to ensure that these services reach every child equally, irrespective of geographic location, disability, health or socioeconomic status and/or gender - and that is a promise we are willing to keep.
Our second challenge is to ensure that we place the empowerment of our children at the centre of these programmes. This should include providing them with platforms through which they can represent themselves, thereby giving effect to meaningful child participation. Together, in this House, let's listen to the voices of our children. Empowerment of children is about more than stimulation programmes. It is also about attitudes and relationships, as well as life skills, which start with parenting in the home.
Allow me to pay tribute to my Grade 1 teacher, Mme MmaShebe, whose guidance, and the respect she afforded me, made an indelible imprint on my future. Public servants such as Mme MmaShebe, who believe in the potential of all children, irrespective of their disability, creed, gender, religion or health status, provide us with the platform through which we can achieve the vision of the 2030 National Development Plan. I call on all those who work with children to unlock their potential by tapping into their hopes, creativity and abilities through active engagement.
Our third challenge is to ensure that early childhood development programmes invest in parent empowerment and support, as well as information services for parents.
In the words of Eva Feder Kittay in her book, Love's Labor: In a just society, mothers of children with disabilities can mother, and they, their children, and other needed caregivers will be adequately supported. That is the 10 000 Evas we are talking about.
The purpose of developmental social services is, among other purposes, to enhance social functioning and human capacity, and to promote social inclusion through the empowerment of those who are socially and economically excluded from mainstream society. This places a particular responsibility on the shoulders of every stakeholder involved in community development to ensure that programmes do not unintentionally discriminate in the extent to which all our citizens have access and are able to participate. It requires of every duty bearer across the service-delivery value chain to acknowledge the factors that contribute to exclusion and inequality of outcome, such as the stairs that are unnecessary in front of buildings; to put in place measures that remove barriers and strengthen equitable access and participation; to ensure that these measures are budgeted for and implemented; and, at the end of the day, to report on the extent to which programme outcomes are equitable for everyone. Then people with disabilities will be fully included.
Developmental social services also require that we put our individual egos aside and that we compromise for the attainment of our 2030 vision of reducing inequality, alleviating poverty, creating jobs and fighting unemployment. This requires that we work together as units, as departments, as spheres of government, as social partners, as disability organisations, as parent organisations, as young persons, as women and men, as persons living with HIV and Aids, as communities, as the LGBTI community - that is the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community - and, in this House, collectively, as leaders.
Allow me to thank the corporate sector partners who have, over the years, never failed to heed the call to contribute to the socioeconomic development agenda. These are partnerships we value, as they focus on empowering communities, not polishing the egos and lining the pockets of individuals. On behalf of those communities that all these partners have assisted, vho livhuwa, thank you very much, re a leboga, le ka moso.
In conclusion, sustainable and radical socioeconomic transformation requires that we focus on breaking access and participation barriers; reducing compounded vulnerabilities; empowering children, young people, women and men, and persons with disabilities; supporting sustainable, independent living in the community for persons with disabilities and older persons; strengthening the representative voices of children, young people, persons with disabilities, women and older persons; and building a women, child, youth and disability rights-responsive Public Service towards the building of a caring, inclusive South African society for all who live in it.
Our Constitution, together with the international human rights treaties ratified by South Africa, provides the guiding words. However, it is now up to us, individually and collectively, to ensure that we do not walk over the words contained in these instruments, but that we give effect to the soul of them. In the words of former President, the late Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, "It always seems impossible until it is done."
Allow me to thank my husband and children for their unwavering support; my family for creating and giving me the support and space to enable me to serve; the Minister for her leadership in steering this ship forward and the very warm welcome we received; the team in my office, led by Mathuto Motumi; Director-General Ntate Coceko and his team; the National Development Agency team; the Sassa team, led by their respective CEOs; the rest of the government; and the Social Development family.
Working together, we are committed to moving South Africa forward and building a fully inclusive society, free from unfair discrimination, inequality, abuse and exploitation. As we present this Budget Vote with the hope that you will support it, because it is all about the poor and the vulnerable of this country, let us celebrate the life and times of Maya Angelou with her words:
Let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer. And let faith be the bridge you build to overcome evil and welcome good.
She will forever remind us of the commitments we have.
Once again, I call on all parties to partner with us to walk the road together, as we continue to tell the good story in changing the lives of South Africans. I thank you. [Applause.]