Progress made in restoring water supply to KZN

Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu, says the department has made progress in restoring water supply to areas that were severely impacted by the recent devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal.

Mchunu said this when he tabled his maiden budget vote to a mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Friday.

“Good progress has been made with regards to the restoration of water supply but there has been immense damage to water and sanitation infrastructure.

“Together with the municipalities, we completed the costing of this damage and submitted an application to the Department of Cooperative Governance for national disaster funding.

Once funding is allocated, we will continue to be involved in the planning and monitoring of implementation of the reconstruction projects, with a stern focus of building back better,” he said.

Mchunu also used his budget vote speech to convey his sincere condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the floods.

“We would also like to express empathy for all those who are still without water and sanitation services due to the floods, and to assure them that we are working as fast as possible to restore these services.

Mchunu said immediately after the floods, the department established a water and sanitation war room, together with the worst affected municipalities.

“Our department quickly hired water tankers to supplement those available in the municipalities and we seconded a team of engineers and other specialists to the war room to assist with the implementation of emergency repair work and to assess and quantify the damage,” he said.

Phase 2 Lesotho Highlands Water Project to start delivering water by 2027

Mchunu said, meanwhile, that the R36 billion Phase 2 Lesotho Highlands Water Project is aimed at ensuring an adequate long-term water supply for Gauteng and the Vaal River System.

The project is funded through finance raised by the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority and is being implemented jointly by the governments of Lesotho and South Africa, through the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority. “To date, 14% of the budget has been spent and the project is due to start delivering water to Gauteng in November 2027,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za

Operation Vulindlela turning the economic tide

South Africa’s economic reforms are beginning to set the country’s economy on a growth trajectory, an Operation Vulindlela (OV) progress report has revealed.

OV was established in October 2020 as a joint initiative of the Presidency and National Treasury to accelerate the implementation of structural reforms.

It is a government‐wide approach through which Ministers, departments and entities implement structural reforms and a Vulindlela Unit in the Presidency and National Treasury monitors progress, addresses challenges and actively supports implementation.

OV sought to accelerate structural reforms in five key areas:

  • Stabilize the supply of electricity and noting how critical this is for economic growth and development.
  • Reducing the cost and increasing the quality of digital communications.
  • Ensure a sustainable water supply that meets demand in the short and long terms.
  • Ensure a competitive and efficient freight transport regime.
  • Ensure a visa regime that attracts skills and grows the tourism sector.

In the first quarter of 2022, OV recorded progress in various areas.

These, said Guma, included the conclusion of the spectrum auction.

She said: “There was some concern that pending litigation from one of the players in the market would stymie the result and that would have been negatively impact that result. However, we've seen the settlement between industry players and the regulator reaching finality and bringing finality to the auction outcome. We're expecting a further flurry of investment to support this allocation in that sector”.

Renewable energy program

In the energy sector, OV in the quarter opened bid window six of the renewable energy program.

“Preferred bidders [from bid window five] have been announced and expected to reach financial close soon,” she said.

In the same period, there was publication of the draft electricity regulation amendment bill that open for public comments.

“The aim here is to ensure a more competitive electricity market. This reform is occurring alongside the unbundling of Eskom, which is proceeding according to schedule,” she said.

This period also saw the white paper National Rail policy approved by Cabinet, providing clear policy direction on critical third party access and the devolution of passenger rail.

Water progress

On water progress, Guma said OV had revived various water quality monitoring systems.

“We've had the green draft report published recently for the first time since 2014. This allows for better monitoring of water and wastewater treatment quality and allows for greater accountability and allows for government to assess where municipalities may need support in implementing and improving water quality,” she said.

During this quarter, the revised critical skills list was published for the first time since 2014, allowing for government to reflect the current skills shortages in the economy, and where necessary, allows businesses to attract the skills from outside the country in the short term.

Achievement and progress

Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said the achievement were examples of the commitment of the sixth administration to overcome inertia and drive progress on the economic reform agenda.

He said OV was playing an important role in providing a clear policy direction and ensure policy certainty in several areas.

“Departments and entities themselves remain responsible for the implementation of the reforms. Operation Vulindlela does not replace their role but rather provides active support for implementation, especially where capacity is lacking,” he said.

One of the most important roles of the operation is to ensure effective coordination of the reform agenda across government, especially where there are multiple departments involved in the single reform, said the Minister.

He added that government had significant progress since OV was established to accelerate the implementation of reforms that are needed to lift economic growth.

However, he said, there was still much work to be done and not “sugarcoat the challenges”.

Job creation

Finance Minister, Enoch Godongwana, said well implemented reform programs could raise confidence levels supporting a market easing of sovereign risk and borrowing cost.

This, he said, could free-up much needed fiscal space.

“In this way with the net it enables greater job creation, support fiscal sustainability and spare the economy, even in the short term. We can raise economic growth significantly beyond this anaemic levels and create over 1 million jobs relative to a scenario without reforms.”

Structural reforms

A total of 26 structural reforms were prioritised to modernise and transform network industries including electricity, water, transport and digital communications and to attract key skills and promote growth in tourism through reforms in the visa regime.

Of the 26, eight reforms had been completed while another 11 progressing.

The Minister said some reforms were already bearing fruit in digital communication.

“In rail, estimates suggest that the industry will invest over R50 billion. In transport, the successful implementation of third party access to the rail network can spend an additional investment of R8 billion.

In electricity, were government and the private sector were working together to unblock the remaining challenges to free-up embedded generation, R54 billion investment could be realised, he said.

He said: "While we welcome the progress of OV, this has seemingly been misinterpreted as premature for ignoring the very real frustrations on the ground that are not progressing well. In the case of restoring Eskom's energy availability to 70% seem completely unattainable.

"We're mindful of these reforms, and over the coming months, we'll redouble our efforts to resolve the energy crisis and ensure that reforms facing implementation challenges access the support they need to progress. Because we're committed to unlocking the dynamism of this economy, and placing our growth on a permanently high and trajectory.” – SAnews.gov.za

ECD Census report released

The Department of Basic Education has released the 2021 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Census results which comprise data on all ECD Programmes in order to get a better understanding of the early learning and development landscape in South Africa.

The ECD Census 2021, commissioned by the Department of Basic Education and funded by the LEGO Foundation is aimed at gathering reliable data and information in order to move towards a centralised information system to improve resource allocation and oversight management of ECD centres across the country.

Delivering the keynote address at the launch of the ECD Census results in Fourways, Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, said that the occasion to release the 2021 Census results is important to the Basic Education sector.

Motshekga emphasised that without reliable data on children accessing ECD services in their target age cohort, and the number of practitioners providing those services, the department’s planning and funding systems will likely fail to reach the poorest children most in need of public assistance.

“These results will further assist us to monitor trends in the ECD sector over time and contribute towards the development of the children at an early age so they can thrive as they grow older in the education system,” she said.

According to data collected starting in August 2021, 42 420 Early Learning Programmes (ELPs) were counted that collectively had 1 660 316 children enrolled.

The Minister said that some of the most outstanding findings included that on average, there are 6.2 ECD programmes per 1000 children between 0-5 years nationwide.

The province with the highest total number of ELPs is Gauteng at 25%, followed by KwaZulu-Natal at 19%, the Eastern Cape and Limpopo both at 13%.

“Six out ten ELPs are located in urban areas, which is an almost perfect match compared to the proportion of urban enumeration areas at 59% according to national census demarcations used by StatsSA,” she said.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern Cape, and Northern Cape, the majority of centres operate for less than eight hours per day, while centres in the Western Cape and Gauteng stay open for longer, averaging more than 10 hours.

Motshekga said that this is consistent with expectations and could be linked to employment patterns.

The data also revealed that at 55% of ELPs, two languages are commonly spoken among children.

While at 80%, English is one of the spoken languages. Meanwhile at the ELPs where English is not spoken, isiZulu at 29%, isiXhosa at 19% and Afrikaans at 19% are the most spoken languages.

Data further showed that 34% of children aged 3 - 5 are enrolled in a ELP, 62% in urban areas and 38% in rural areas.

“Virtually all (99%) ELPs incorporate at least one meal time into the daily programme, usually lunch (94%), breakfast (88%) or snacks between meals (81%). The great majority (81%) of ELPs have three or less classrooms for the children, and the average number of children per classroom is 17,” the data revealed.

Learning through Play

The findings with regards to Learning through Play have indicated that by and large, South African ECD practitioners believe that the initiative for learning through play lies primarily with the practitioners, not the children themselves.

“Relatively little time is allocated for free play, and materials and equipment that lend themselves to free play, such as fantasy toys and sand pits, are less common than other types of toys.”

The Census further shows that higher quintile ECD programmes dedicate more time to free play as part of the daily programme than lower quintile ECD programmes.

The Minister emphasised that government has to deliberately put in place policies and programmes intended to prioritize ECD as a critical component of overcoming the negative impact of poverty on young children especially in poor communities.

“We wish for our children to have space and more time to learn through play, to teach our children to make sense of the world around them at an early age, to develop their social and cognitive skills, to assist them to mature emotionally and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments through play,” she said.

Funding

In terms of funding, the census has found that 33% of ELPs receive a subsidy from the Department of Social Development.

More than two thirds (68%) of ELPs are registered as a non-profit organisation (NPO), and just under a third (31%) are part of a larger network or organisation comprising multiple ELPs, such as a regional ECD Forum.

“An extremely critical element of growth and development in young children is learning through play. This research has proved that our children do spend more time on free play outdoors, with 44% of respondents saying that children spend up to an hour on free play outside compared to 33% for free play as part of the daily programme,” Motshekga said.

According to the findings, the Minister said that only 61% have at least 10 children’s books to play with and only 56% have age-appropriate books for different age groups.

The Minister extended her gratitude to the LEGO Foundation as a key partner through the support they have given the department in funding this Census.

She said this is one example of how the private sector can play a role in the provision of better education for children.

“As Government, we are committed to working with and strengthening the Inter-Sectoral Forum, which coordinates the ECD sector. The Department of Basic Education is committed to working closely with other arms of the state, NGOs, civil society, private sector to ensure that all children, including those with disabilities, are provided with access to quality ECD,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za

Gender-Based Violence and Femicide can be curbed together

Justice and Constitutional Development Deputy Minister, John Jeffery, says government has several legislative, criminal and law enforcement interventions in place to curb gender-based violence, femicide and sexual offences in South Africa.

Jeffery was speaking during the Justice Service Delivery Imbizo on Gender Based Violence, held at Delft in Cape Town, on Friday.

“These [interventions] include, amongst others, SAPS’…Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units. These units focus on sexual offences against children, person-directed crimes where the family is involved, illegal removal of children under the age of 12 and crime facilitated through the electronic media.

“From the side of the police, earlier this year the Minister of Police [Bheki Cele] said that dedicated GBV desks are now available at 381 police stations across the country and more than 91 000 police officers have been trained in Victim Empowerment, Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences related programs. This will ensure that a victim-centered service is provided by officers at police stations,” he said.

According to the Deputy Minister, there are at least 185 Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units in the police, including some nine Serial Electronic Crime Investigation units with detectives “focusing their efforts and expertise in investigating crimes against women and children”.

He said work done in the FCS units has contributed to at least 272 life sentences being imposed on perpetrators for crimes committed against women and children, since April last year to February this year.

The Deputy Minister said legislatively, the enactment of the Domestic Violence Amendment Act and Sexual Offences Act go a long way to making sure that perpetrators do not escape the long arm of the law.

“The enactment of legislation that protects victims of abuse and makes it more difficult for perpetrators to escape justice, is a major step forward in our efforts against this scourge and in placing the rights and needs of victims at the centre of our interventions.

“In addition to the new laws, we are currently working on a number of Pillar 3 interventions – meaning Pillar 3 of the NSP [Gender-Based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Plan]. Some of these interventions include GBV Service Delivery Training and support to be provided to all service providers such as police, prosecutors, magistrates, intermediaries, court preparation officers, court clerks, health care providers and policy makers to strengthen victim-centric survivor-focused services and prevent any forms of secondary victimisation.

The Minister said with these interventions, government is doing its part but it can do more with the help of the public.

“We have to change the way we treat women in our homes and workplaces and how we raise our boys. Each one of us must teach our boys that they are because women are. It is necessary to challenge social attitudes, which make the rights and needs of women subject to the will of men.

“The rights of women to equality, to freedom and security need to be asserted and defended and all of us have a role to play here,” Jeffery said. – SAnews.gov.za

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