Category Archives: CSSS

We’re not asking for handouts

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17 February 2007 11:59

We’re not asking for handouts

by Niren Tolsi

A three year old boy, naked from the navel down, squats and defecates outside the ramshackle crèche at Jadu Place, a shack settlement housing more than 3 000 people near the suburb of Puntans Hill in eThekwini (Durban).

His is a tiny contribution to the malodorous thickness where the pit latrines are found and around which snotty-nosed kids run. The municipality has provided the community with two flush toilets for women, and one for men, but they are down a steep slope at the very bottom of the settlement. Not easily found in the dark or if you are old. This is, undoubtedly, a shitty existence.

The inhabitants of Jadu Place are the excluded, to whom Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya, was refering during the debate on President Thabo Mbeki’s State of the Nation address, when he said: “The social security system fails … the vulnerable groups who face risks such as poverty, ill health, disability, unemployment, injury on duty, et cetera.”

The lives of Jadu Place’s residents are uncertain and their expectations are never high. The situation in this community is one of many that the government hopes to alleviate through its Comprehensive System of Social Security in South Africa (CSSS).

One of the CSSS’s imperatives is the introduction of a wage subsidy for low-wage employees, which could possibly be directed at first-time entrants into the job market.

Daphne Ngcobo (49), who shares her one-room mjondolo (shack) with her two daughters and her 11-month-old twin grandchildren, feels this will bring little economic respite: “Both my daughters work as shop assistants and for Sthembile, who is 26, this is the first job she has managed to get. But she gets R50 a day, cash in hand. The government doesn’t know she has a job,” says Ngcobo.

Ngcobo is uncertain about her own job as a domestic worker for which she earns R900 a month: earlier this month she fell and needed a pin put in her hip and will now need to recuperate for two and a half months. She says she never earned enough to think about health insurance or compensation for injuries on duty: “I sent a replacement to where I work, but if she does a very good job, I’m scared I won’t have one when I am better,” she says.

While Skweyiya believes the anti-poverty strategy should address income and asset and social poverty, and that it is important to “explore the possibilities of using the local government sphere”, activists and residents in the area believe it is the one sphere of government that has continuously let them down.

Paul Rajoo (65), a concerned resident of Puntans Hill and part of the non-profit organisation, Spring Youth Movement, which runs the Jadu Place crèche, said there was “always poor comeback from the municipality whenever we tried to get them here to look at the conditions, or even to tell us who we should be communicating with to get better delivery of services — we’re not asking for handouts”.

Considered a more precise social welfare intervention, the CSSS is balanced on three pillars: continued government assistance to the most vulnerable through grants such as childcare and disability and; a compulsory social-security tax on the employed population to finance basic retirement savings as well as death, disability and unemployment benefits. The final pillar is the further regulation of private pension funds and health insurance.