Chairperson, allow me firstly to acknowledge with appreciation the inputs made by hon members in this debate. This is indeed a very important House and a very important debate. I also appreciate the fact that all hon members have actually voiced support for this Budget Vote. It is indeed important for our people's lives.
I want to start by also acknowledging the good work that is being done in provinces. I stated in the main speech that we are indeed working very closely with our provinces to deliver services. I think it is evident from the inputs made on behalf of MECs and by MECs who are here, that, indeed, a lot is happening and a lot is being done. I think we have to express our appreciation to all of you. We really appreciate that from the bottom of our hearts.
Having said that, I also want to say that we appreciate all the comments made that are intended to strengthen the functionality of the department as well as the work that we do because, indeed, we understand this debate to be about strengthening the services we render and the functions we perform.
I would like, however, to get into some of the details of issues raised. I hope that, within the allotted time, I will do justice to the majority of the issues raised. I want to start by just reminding hon members that we are still in a situation where the world financial crisis has not actually left us. It is still here until such time that all of us can say with confidence, yes, indeed, we are out of it. We can never even think that we have actually begun making a dent in poverty, because the more we act, the more situations of that nature affect our people. Just to illustrate: Only last year, almost 900 000 people in South Africa lost formal jobs. We are not undermining this figure as the Department of Social Development or indeed as government; we understand the magnitude of the problem that we face.
As we move, we need to ensure that we do two things: firstly, support those of our people who are most vulnerable by giving grants and any form of support they need; and, secondly, at the same time, implement programmes and projects that we have identified for ourselves. This is the second area of our work. The President has alluded to some of the measures that have been introduced to cushion the impact of the financial crisis. Yes, an impact has been made in cushioning that problem, but it is still not eradicated completely.
Having said that, I want to just now move into... and I thought that I should remind those hon members among us who keep on raising this matter of impact not happening. On issues related to the programmes and projects, as hon Meyer said, we have to develop entrepreneurship. We are not under the illusion that that will take a short period of time, the reason being that, indeed, we have come a whole long way as South Africans. We know that skills are not overabundant in our communities. We know that many of our people are still illiterate and poor. So, it will take us time, and it is for that reason that we are glad that we can point to some of the statistics that show where the success stories are in the country and where an impact has been made.
I want to cite just a few of those areas. I have indicated some of them - just two projects - in the main speech, as I spoke earlier on, but I think that it is also important to indicate that we also have success stories that have happened elsewhere, which we may not necessarily be able to talk about here today. It is incumbent upon us that, as we engage, we really look at these success stories.
Within the National Development Agency, NDA, itself for instance, there are success stories. For instance, in an area of the Northern Cape, there is project called Tshwaraganang Hydroponics, which is quite a success story. In Mpumalanga, there is a project that actually exports flowers. The Marang Women in Agriculture in the North West province produces honey. They actually add value to that honey and then generate income by selling it to various outlets throughout the country. The Gijima project in Gauteng, that the hon member spoke about, produced 70 000 pairs of shoes for the Gauteng department of education.
There are many, many success stories we can talk about. The reality is that those success stories may not be felt in the context of the challenges we continue to face, especially in the context of the financial crisis.
I now want to move to an issue that I think is quite important, namely the issue of how Sassa functions. Many hon members raised this matter. We have said it before, and we are saying it again here today: Our duty is to ensure that we respond to the clarion call made by President Zuma, here in Parliament as well as throughout this country, when he said that this is the year of action. Regarding Sassa, many of us may think that, yes, as we are looking at a particular problem somewhere in a corner, it is actually doom and gloom all over. It is not like that. At Sassa we know that, in processing our grants, there is a movement towards ensuring that we authorise an application for a grant in one day. That is our target. Currently, in some areas, we are standing at 21 days; in some areas, we are standing at 70 days, and so on.
However, we are mindful of the fact that, even as we want to process and authorise in one day, the law in this country says you are to respond within 90 days. So, there is no claim or application at Sassa - even the 27 000 that we are talking about that are delayed - that is beyond the 90 days referred to. Legally, we are still correct. However, we want to be fast and help our people to move fast.
The same applies to the implementation of the law or especially the register, the Children's Act, which, we hear said, is not fully operational, maybe because of a lack of political will. If there is anything that I need to say, standing here before you, hon members, it is the fact that the ANC is the organisation that actually invented this law. Therefore we can't sit back and not implement it. We want to implement it faster.
However, as hon members, we should also take note that there are certain prescriptions in the same law, and one of the prescriptions with regard to that register is that there should be a register of children within 18 months of the implementation of the Act's promulgation. Promulgation happened now, on 1 April. Eighteen months have not yet passed, so that register will definitely be here. We will work day and night with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to ensure that that register is available. So, again, we are still within the law. However, we want to move fast.
There are issues that are raised about the foster care cases. I think we must acknowledge that, in that regard, yes, there are challenges with which we have to deal.
Regarding corruption and fraud, I think, hon members, all we can say is that we require your full and undivided support. This is something that you know very well we are moving on.
The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, though, as well as the Special Investigating Unit, SIU, are the sole determinants of who is to be prosecuted, when and how. Within this particular instance of cases that are being referred to, where the allegation is that there has not been any action, the reality of the matter is that there are indeed people who are actually benefiting from that grant who were not necessarily defrauding the state. Somehow, their status, their environment and their lives changed for the better, so they were not removed from the grant. This is one of the things that we want to address via the improved grants application process, Igap, and by cleaning the system - even this Nexus - and all other systems that we are introducing as we speak now. We want to clean all the systems so that people who are not supposed to be on the grant system, but who are there fraudulently, should actually be removed. So, I really hope that hon members will be with us at all times as we move to implement these measures.
This brings me to entrepreneurship and the issue of the self-help programme. Whilst we appreciate that that programme is very important, the slight challenge we have is that we think that it is necessary that, as a society, we not only focus on individuals but also on communities and society. We have a societal problem. Yes, uplifting one person is good, but it may not be quite as impactful as uplifting a society. It is for that reason therefore that we have these programmes affecting or dealing with communities in general.
I agree with you, hon member, that there is a need to, let me say, emphasise the implementation of safety standards that already exist. Remember, the Department of Labour has to take care of every building and every structure in the country. The safety standards are there. All we have to do is ensure that they are upheld.
An hon member raised the issue about the role of local government in social development. Indeed, I think this is something that we have to talk about. It has been raised at our Minmec meeting. It is a constitutional issue because, in the schedules of the Constitution, where you have exclusive functions of provinces and national government, this is not one of the functions that have been allocated to a municipality, per se. However, we know the discussion about the future of provinces, the future of functions, the sharing of functions, the redistribution of functions and the location of functions is taking place in the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs right now, as we speak, and that will help us a great deal.
We appreciate the issue raised about social workers and, indeed, all hon members without exception indicated that this is a challenge. We know it is a challenge but we are also, in the same vein, very appreciative that you are actually accepting or agreeing that, indeed, the steps you are taking are steps in the right direction.
The model of the Western Cape may help us. Again, we will share it at the right time on the right platform, which is Minmec. There is certainly an element of teamwork within the family of the Department of Social Development. We are sharing. The hon member was already in two provinces with us, and he was quite impressed with the work that is done in both KwaZulu-Natal and I can't remember what the other province was but, yes, we are going to North West next time around. We are going there to learn from them. So, we learn from one another. We will look at those as well.
I think that we really need to appreciate the work and the issues that were raised. Hon member Nahara from KwaZulu-Natal, we appreciate the work that is being done in that area in that province of ours. We really need to indicate that we are very serious and committed to dealing with the issue of the backlog on appeals. We have allocated staff, and we have allocated resources to wipe out that backlog. We believe that, as you say, it will indeed be a thing of the past.
Hon member Plaatjie, I don't know where these statistics come from. Are they official or unofficial? Are they official or unofficial statistics? Let's not just create things as we are moving towards the podium, so that we sound nice. There is no such statistical report in the... Is it from Cope? [Interjections.] It must have been manufactured from the provincial executive committee last week or the national executive committee last week; I don't know. We don't have such statistics. Indeed, we acknowledge that the rate of unemployment in our country is quite high. We are doing something about it, as government. That's why the President of this country is so serious about actually wanting all of us to account - even on a daily basis - for what we are doing. We hope that the Western Cape will join us in that accounting as well.
We really want to express appreciation, and with 27 seconds to go, I want to thank hon members very much for the wonderful and lively debates. We hope that we will meet again as we do our constituency work out there, and we hope that you will be there exercising oversight at all times. We appreciate your visits to provinces. Thank you. Debate concluded.