Hon Chairperson, hon Minister and Deputy Minister, I am indeed grateful for the opportunity to participate in the debate on Budget Vote 8 of this department. I am not used to being the last speaker, but I am glad that today I have the opportunity. The only regret is I haven't been given the part of my friends like Bloem, and Liz van Lingen - although she is quiet today - and others. [Laughter.] I think that demonstrates the attitude of the DA and their friend Cope in relation to disability because what they offered here today was very immaterial.
Before 1994 the ANC assisted the disability rights movement of South Africa to have a voice at the United Nations, in which the UN standard rules on equalisation of opportunities needed to be supported. When the ANC demonstrated this from the ushering in of democracy in 1994 and continued to do so, it made it imperative and clear to everybody that the ANC was resolute in promoting and advancing the cause of those in our society who are vulnerable. The commitment has been demonstrated in various ways. The policy frameworks, the legislative environment and even the legislation itself reflect this. Hence, we are thankful to the department now that part of the work that they are committing themselves to do entails adding value in reviewing the effectiveness of these policies, and the effectiveness of implementing and designing programmes to enhance the cause of promoting equity and equality.
Indeed, we are thankful and resolute as the ANC that affirmative action has remained the core of government service delivery in order to close the gap between the poor and those that are better off. This is because, for the majority, those who are poor are women and children and people with disabilities.
Therefore, this clear demonstration speaks to why we are supporting this budget today. As we all agree, it is small but it adds value because it is going to assist and enhance government's work in various areas. I will highlight those areas because they are of concern to me as observations.
One of the areas that worry me, hon Minister - and I am glad because you and the Deputy Minister mentioned education - is that the material for the Annual National Assessments, Ana, for blind children is still not accessible. If we are serious about what we want to achieve with the Annual National Assessments then this is an urgent matter that requires an urgent intervention in that a mechanism must be created in government to develop accessible material for visually impaired children, let alone accessibility, or just material to learn. And the Annual National Assessments is one of those programmes that seek to ensure that we develop, from a young age, learners who will be good readers and good counters. Therefore, I really put the matter before this Ministry in that we need to pay urgent attention to this matter.
Government has worked tirelessly in ensuring that it positions itself better than it was before to respond to issues of children and people with disabilities. As the ANC, we have committed ourselves not only to South Africans, but to Africa and to the world. South Africa is indeed a leader, and the ANC has been leading in ensuring that government takes part in the international arena and in the continental arena.
Hon Minister, we are aware that Africa is currently trying to find solutions in terms of responding to disabilities, starting with its platform of dialogue around the issue of the African disability protocol. We want to place before the Ministry that this work is important because it will get Africa working, talking and planning around its response to disability issues in Africa and, therefore, being able to create programmes and actions that respond positively to the citizens of Africa who are disabled.
Secondly to that we know the process of the continental plan - that is on progress - and we hope that the department will lead and release members in the disability sector and experts from South Africa that will assist the African Union to develop the continental plan of action for this decade of disabled persons that was declared for Africa. The Europe-Africa partnership has a chapter on disability, and we are still to realise the benefits of the outcomes that are set out in this Europe- Africa partnership in relation to disabilities. I raise this as a pointer to what concerns civil society organisations dealing with persons with disabilities, which is the depletion of funding, that hampers the work of empowering disabled persons and capacitating their organisations, and thus being able to generate the kind of leadership in society that would be formed from engagements of persons with disabilities themselves.
Therefore we place this as part of the work that requires attention, and that must be led by the Ministry and the department to ensure that the disability sector accesses funds. We know there are problems around the lottery. We are really thankful that we have heard here today that the Minister is engaging the disability sector.