Chairperson, hon Minister, hon Deputy Minister, hon chairperson of the select committee from Mpumalanga, hon members, in welcoming the Budget Vote speech made by the hon Minister, I would like to make an observation that I believe form part of the core functions of the Ministry; this being to translate into reality the rights of women, children and people with disabilities.
We are indeed proud of the countless measures that our government has put in place to advance our collective efforts to ensure the protection of women, children and people with disabilities. This Ministry serves as a reminder that we are committed to putting our shoulders to the wheel and mobilising every resource and muscle to ensure that the most vulnerable in society also enjoy the fruits of our freedom.
We can say with the utmost affirmation and without fear of contradiction that our nation is on course to dismantle the apartheid social relations and the social ills of our divided and atrocious past. However, we are worried about the continued violence perpetuated against women and children and the discrimination that many people with disabilities still experience. Hence, I want to join the Minister in congratulating the real men who do not abuse women and children and who continue to take part in the awareness campaigns against abuse.
We want to acknowledge the efforts of this Ministry to continue in our national quest to mobilise our society to join the fight against gender violence and the abuse of women and children in our society. We rise to acknowledge the tireless efforts of the Ministry to mobilise all our people to be the defenders and champions of the rights and dignity of people with disabilities.
We want to express our profound disappointment that, despite all these efforts, women and children continue to endure unprecedented levels of violence in our society. Whereas this Ministry has succeeded in mobilising various government departments and nongovernmental organisations to take up the fight to combat all forms of antisocial behaviour, especially gender- based violence and discrimination, our nation and many communities across South Africa continue to witness the most gruesome cases of gender-based violence and abuse. Women and children do not feel safe behind the closed doors of their homes.
We want to make an appeal to the Ministry to continue with its tireless efforts to stand on the shoulders of our society and to speak out against gender-based violence and abuse. It must continue to champion our national efforts and interventions to focus on what once was termed "the RDP of the soul" - the Reconstruction and Development Programme - in order for us to achieve our national objective of putting an end to gender-based violence and abuse.
The Minister has already outlined in her budget speech that the police are giving more resources to Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units and that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is increasing the number of children's courts. All of these efforts are appreciated and will surely go a long way towards assisting the victims of gender-based violence in our society, and ensure that those who dare touch a woman face the full might of the law.
My humble submission is that the root cause of this bad behaviour has to be addressed by all of us, starting with the basic unit of our society, the family. In coming to this House, members of this august House, we need to do more to teach our children to respect women and children. We need to ask ourselves, as government institutions and, most importantly, as communities, the difficult and uncomfortable question: What drives a group of young men to abuse a mentally challenged girl and make a recording of their deed, while not even one amongst them has the conscience to stop his friends? What has happened to a person's sense of right and wrong when they dump a newborn child, as happened in Soweto this week? Why are young children, particularly boys, joining gangs at such a young age? Ubuntu bethu buyekuphi? [What happened to our ubuntu?]
It is with those concerns in mind that I stand before you to welcome your announcement during the Budget Vote that Cabinet is going to establish a National Council Against Gender-Based Violence to be led by the Deputy President.
The second area that I wish to focus on is the shelters or institutions that house our children and people with disabilities and abused women. Of concern here is whether any work has been done or a plan is in place to monitor and promote the safety standards in these institutions by the Ministry. As we work to reaffirm the dignity of vulnerable groups, we must be concerned about their safety and comfort.
Whilst we understand that the approval of building plans is a municipal competence, it would be better to get a sense of the state of safety in these facilities so that we are seen to be proactive in this regard, rather than responding when a tragic incident has already occurred.
In conclusion, I wish to commend the Ministry, other government departments and all other stakeholders for their dedicated efforts to ensure that we build a caring South Africa that takes care of its vulnerable citizens through promoting their rights and ensuring their dignity. We need to measure up to this challenge. We are marching side by side with you towards a fully inclusive society, free from unfair discrimination, inequality, abuse and exploitation. We must all remember that umntwana wami ngumntwana wakho my child is your child. The ANC supports the Budget Vote. [Applause.]
The DEPUTY MINISTER OF WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Chairperson, hon Minister, hon members, "the greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives". This was said by one of the leaders of the philosophical movement in 1842, William James, and it is still relevant to this day.
People with disabilities are, more often than not, left on the periphery of society owing to discriminatory attitudes and stereotypes, as well as inhospitable and inaccessible environments. The level of ignorance we have come across in our work with government officials across all three spheres of government requires urgent political intervention.
This was also amplified by the lack of qualitative as well as quantitative data and information contained in the departmental, provincial and district submissions for the first country report on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Ministry, therefore, embarked on a provincial road show over the past three months to discuss with provincial executive councils the acceleration and understanding of the disability agenda and its priorities. The national disability agenda has been aligned with the priorities as reflected in the manifesto of the ANC.
On issues of education, we all agree that education remains a crucial weapon to liberate people from oppression. Taking into consideration that the Community Survey of 2007 projected that 467 000 children with disabilities of compulsory, schoolgoing age were not in school; that the 2002 National Audit of Special Schools revealed that 813 incidents of sexual abuse and a staggering 233 cases of suicide were reported over a three-year period in these special schools; and that the 2006 accessibility audit of more than 10 000 mainstream schools across all nine provinces indicated that less than 2% of the schools surveyed had basic access such as ramps and wheelchair-accessible toilets, we can begin to understand that it cannot be business as usual.
Hon members, you are therefore invited to join the national Education for All campaign that will be launched in September 2012, to encourage parents to enrol their disabled children in the school nearest to their home in support of our inclusive education policy that was passed in 1996. This will require collective action to monitor exclusions, and make these schools' curricula and buildings accessible to those children.
Regarding the creation of decent work, at the centre of the right to dignity is the right of people with disabilities to economic independence and their contribution to the ideals of a developmental state. As the Minister has already highlighted with regard to the 2% set target, let us reflect on the performance of our nine provinces.
The highest province in performance, at the moment, is the North West, at 0,40%; followed by Mpumalanga at 0,39%; the Eastern Cape at 0,38%; the Western Cape at 0,31%; Limpopo at 0,28%; the Free State at 0,21%; the Northern Cape at 0,19%; KwaZulu-Natal at 0,13%; and Gauteng at 0,12%. We can all agree that none of them is anywhere near the 2% which they are required to meet by 2012. I hope that the National Council of Provinces will assist us in delivering the 2% set target with their respective provinces by 2012.
Of particular concern is the fact that the Western Cape continues to discourage the employment of people with disabilities, with rapidly declining percentages. I walked into this Chamber without knowing the answer, but thank you so much, hon Worth, for actually giving me the answer as to why your numbers are declining so rapidly, namely that reasonable accommodation is very expensive.
We call on members, when engaging with the Expanded Public Works Programme, to ensure that the 2% target is also achieved in this programme across all sites. The Expanded Public Works Programme should also be used as a tool in redressing accessibility issues across all sectors in all communities.
On the issue of rural development, we acknowledge the progress rural development is making through the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme sites as well as the National Rural Youth Service Corps, Narysec, programme. Once again, we emphasise the need to ensure that rural infrastructure and work opportunities comply with the principles of equal and universal access.
On issues of health, the roll-out of the NHI in the 11 pilot districts holds significant hope for our rural communities, especially for people with disabilities. Members are requested to ensure that the improvement of services in these districts also improves access for people with disabilities, particularly as it pertains to access to rehabilitation services, assistive devices, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, PMTCT, and access to antiretrovirals, ARVs.
Particular attention should also be given to disabled people and their organisations in rendering community-based rehabilitation services. We can all learn from Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal, which have piloted this model.
On issues of safety, the recent exposure of incidents of child-on-child violence and the rape of young children with disabilities speaks to the mental state of our nation - albeit not a new phenomenon.
The protection of children and women with disabilities from exploitation and sexual abuse is a constitutional obligation placed on every South African, especially on us as Members of Parliament as we take our oaths and affirmations.
These incidents have once again brought to the attention of ordinary South Africans the realities disabled people and their families live with daily. The abuse often goes unreported, but even if they do speak out, they are unlikely to be believed. It is, however, regrettable that this ongoing abuse has to go viral on social media before South African society sits up and takes notice.
The media, regrettably, often unintentionally contributes to an environment in which abuse of people with disabilities occurs because of the manner in which they portray people with disabilities as powerless, helpless victims and objects of pity. It is the responsibility of the media to ensure that they use the power of words and images responsibly and that their reports promote a culture of respect, dignity and human rights with regard to people with disabilities.
We also realise that our work in this department will never be done unless South African men stand up and proclaim: "Not in our name". I would like to invite members to join me as we all plan for our future. There are very few people in this House who can with any certainty proclaim that disability will not directly affect them in their lifetime. We have all submitted our applications to become disabled. The only thing we are all waiting for is an authorisation. With our lifestyles, every morning when we wake up, that button that says "send" is ready.
We urge all members, through their oversight commitments, to ensure that any infrastructure development in their constituencies complies with the universal access design principles. In this way, we will all prepare to enjoy our golden years in the midst of our families and communities, and no one will be sent away to be cared for in isolation. I can assure you that everybody that reaches the age of 65 will experience one disability or another.
On issues of HIV and Aids, we remain committed to ensuring that the face of HIV and Aids changes from that of the burden of a black woman, to that of society in general. We will be monitoring the implementation of the national strategic plan, and we have made contributions to the operational plan as it affects women, children and people with disabilities, and as it is implemented by provinces. We call on members to familiarise themselves with these plans and to monitor the implementation thereof.
Our work in this department cannot be done unless we recognise that without partnerships and collective action across all sectors of society, spanning all three spheres of government, we will not succeed.
This week we convened the intergovernmental component of the National Disability Machinery as part of our commitment to strengthening our capacity to respond more effectively to the rights of people with disabilities.
We will, in keeping with advancing the principle of self-representation, convene the disability sector component of the National Disability Machinery on 14 and 15 June 2012. Members, please note that all provinces should be represented across all national disability formations and opinion- makers in the field of disability.
South Africa will be hosting the 11th World Down Syndrome Congress in Cape Town from 14 August to 17 August, and we extend an invitation to members, as this will be an opportunity for members to learn and understand what Down syndrome is.
Similarly, members are invited to join us at the launch of National Disability Month on 3 November this year, to be hosted in KwaZulu-Natal, and they are invited to the provincial and district Disability Month activities during the month of November, and to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, to be held in Mpumalanga.
Allow me to thank the Minister for her leadership, my family, the team in the office of the Deputy Minister, the disability unit and the department as a whole, and the director-general, who is still on sick leave, for their continued support in pursuing the disability agenda. I also want to thank the select committee for their ongoing support, together creating a caring, inclusive society that we can deliver as we have been given the responsibility. I thank you. [Applause.]