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A new dawn for Social Development: Public expectations from Minister Sisisi Toloshe

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By Ragheema Mclean

After weeks of intense negotiations, deliberations, and even leaked correspondence, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his new cabinet for the seventh administration on Sunday (30 June).

One key portfolio that is of great interest to many South Africans, as it directly impacts the well-being of the most vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, and the disabled, is Social Development.

The new Minister of Social Development, Sisisi Toloshe, and her department face the monumental task of addressing these critical issues.

To gauge public sentiment, VOC News asked the public: “If you had the opportunity to ask the new Minister of Social Development one question, what would it be?”

The responses varied widely, reflecting the diverse concerns of South Africans.

Voices from the Community:

Geraldine Rodriguez from Hanover Park: 

“I plea and urge the new minister of social development to do something about gangsterism, especially in Hanover Park. Our children are being killed every day.”

Aziza Sasman from Grassy Park:

“My question to the minister would definitely be about the elderly in South Africa. Our elders have contributed so much to our society, yet many of them live in poor conditions with inadequate support from social grants. Most of the time, it is our pensioners that need to take care of the youth as well. So, Minister, how will you enhance programs that provide financial aid, healthcare, and social services to our senior citizens?”

An Anonymous Resident: 

“Minister, in 2024 our communities are still grappling with high levels of poverty and inequality. Many of the youth are unemployed, looking for work. It is time to find ways to provide comprehensive social assistance that not only provide immediate relief but also pave the way for sustainable opportunities where they are in positions to provide for their families. How do you plan to ensure that social grants are both sufficient and efficiently distributed?”

Candace Marques from Mitchells Plain:

“Jirre, die kinders in ons land het ‘n moeilike tyd, hulle sukkel met baie dinge, van ondervoeding tot access van education. Ons kort sterker child protection services en projekte wat focus op early childhood development. Ek wil weet wat die Minister se planne is om die welstand van ons kinders te verbeter en seker te maak hulle het ‘n beter toekoms? [sic]”

Janine Williams from Sea Winds: 

“With the rising cost of living and the financial strain many families are facing, we want to know if there are any plans to increase the child grants to better support the well-being and development of our children in South Africa? R530 is just not enough, and many families rely heavily on these grants.”

Another Concerned Resident: 

“People living with disabilities face lots of challenges in accessing services and especially work opportunities. We need more inclusive laws and better access to social services. So, I want to know how the new government will prioritize the needs of people with disabilities?”

The Role of NGOs, NPOs and Social Justice groups

In a country where socio-economic disparities loom large, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) and NPOs (Non-Profit Organizations) play a pivotal role in South Africa. These organizations provide crucial social assistance to communities, filling gaps where government services may fall short.

Speaking to VOC News, Crime Activist and Child & Human Rights Defender Zona Morton emphasized the importance of the Department of Social Development.

Morton stressed:

“Dear Minister Toloshe, the department you will be responsible for is of great importance to ensure a healthy South Africa,” Morton writes. “While our children are being slaughtered by violence, our elderly are being neglected. I wish for you to ensure that at least 10,000 more social workers are employed.”

Highlighting the need for early intervention in schools to combat gang recruitment, Morton called for a collaborative approach involving multiple departments.

“The Education Department needs social workers in schools for early intervention to prevent gangs from recruiting grade 1 and 2 boys and girls,” she stated.

Priorities for the New Minister

Meanwhile, Director of the Teddy Bear Clinic, Dr Shaheeda Omar welcomed the new minister but highlighted several key priorities.

“Some of these priorities include child protection, child welfare, early childhood development, child support services, foster care, and adoption.”

Dr Omar added,” Addressing and focusing on these challenges, the Minister of Social Development can contribute significantly to improving the welfare of children and families. Healthy children mean healthier families and a healthier society.”

Furthermore, national advocacy manager at Black Sash, Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker urged the new minister to address social relief in the country adequately.

“Black Sash works towards the realization of socio-economic rights that seek to reduce poverty and inequality. We keep a close eye on the work of the Department of Social Development. We work to ensure that the right to social assistance is delivered in an unhindered manner to all those who qualify for social grants.”

Abrahams-Fayker said that the organization implores the new minister to ensure that the challenges with the administration and payment of social grants are addressed as a matter of urgency.

“We also urge the new minister to honour the commitment to introduce basic income support by transitioning the social relief of distress grant into permanent social assistance for the unemployed in an improved and expanded manner to ensure that all unemployed receive the grant.”

VOC News

Photo: Unsplash

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