Cablegate: Sag Services Falling Short in South Africa's

DE RUEHSA #2144/01 2731256
R 291256Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Challenges the SAG faces in extending social services to
the rural poor were evident on a recent visit to the tiny
township of Tigane, in the mostly rural Northwest Province,
to observe a community forum between local social workers and
government officials. Discussion centered on provision of
SAG monetary grants, health care, public services, job
creation, and schooling to the area's poor and underserved
black families, particularly farm workers historically
subject to abuse by employers and neglect by the SAG. The
'town hall' style workshop was organized by local NGO Hurisa
with USG funding. The event boosted public awareness of
rights and services, not just in theory but in actionable
practice, and it encouraged grass-roots dialogue to promote
take-up of SAG services. End Summary.

Background: DHRF Grant to Hurisa

2. On September 12 poloff attended one of nine USG-sponsored
workshops to be held in three underdeveloped provinces, led
by the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (Hurisa). The
latter local NGO is the recipient of a $27,000 USG grant to
improve awareness among rural communities of their
socio-economic rights and entitlements to basic government
services. This funding is from DRL's annual Democracy and
Human Rights Fund (DHRF). Hurisa is a rights advocacy NGO
focused since 1995 on the plight of women in poor and
underdeveloped rural areas. This project proposes to
increase women's awareness of their socio-economic rights,
mechanisms for redress, and government delivery of basic
services; to support advocacy to improve conditions in rural
areas; and to encourage dialogue on rights between government
and civil society. The project began with a
train-the-trainer workshop in Johannesburg to coach nine
community social workers from three of South Africa's poorest
and most neglected provinces (Northwest, Limpopo, and Eastern
Cape). Participants then lead workshops in their home areas
for a minumum of 15 local community workers.

--------------------------------------------- -
Northwest Province: Afrikaner Farms, and Mines
--------------------------------------------- -

3. The Northwest province was targeted for Hurisa's
workshops because government services often do not reach its
poor and dispersed rural population. The provincial license
plate -- depicting a cow, a sunflower, and an ear of corn --
illustrates that this is farming country, with a landscape
much like that of the U.S. Midwest. The license plate also
reflects the region's other major industry -- mining for
gold, platinum, and (lately) uranium -- with a picture of an
old-time shaft and the slogan "The Platinum Province."

4. The Northwest is a heavily Afrikaans-speaking area, a
core territory colonized by Boer settlers, and a former
heartland of support for the apartheid system. While
extremes of rich and poor exist throughout South Africa, they
are all the more striking in small towns, where a swanky golf
club is just around the bend from a field of shanty shacks.
Here where mines and farms are nearly the only sources of
jobs for poor blacks, there continue to be reports of abuse
of laborers by employers, as well as periodic incidents of
reprisal killings of white farm owners. Yet there are also
glimpses of gradual progress: a prosperous-looking school,
Qglimpses of gradual progress: a prosperous-looking school,
probably once segregated for whites only, was crowded at
recess with uniformed black children, suggesting brighter
prospects for the next generation.

Tiny Tigane Township: Off the Map

5. Poloff observed the third of Hurisa's workshops in the
Northwest, this one held in Tigane, a township too small to
appear even on detailed road maps. On a low rise overlooking
farmlands, we found Tigane, a cluster of standard two-room
homes. The settlement is just large enough to possess a town
hall, a high-ceilinged brick room with a stage. The two
dozen participants were mostly women, of all ages, both farm

PRETORIA 00002144 002 OF 003

worker representatives and social workers caring for orphans,
disabled persons, and HIV/AIDS patients. They opened the
meeting with enthusiastic singing of traditional hymns.
Discussion was then conducted partly in English, for the
benefit of Hurisa's project officer not from this region, and
partly in the local language of Sutswana.

Social Development Programs - and Hurdles

6. After an overview by Hurisa of human rights fundamentals,
SAG officials gave short presentations outlining public
services to which audience members were entitled. Officials
appeared to be knowledgeable in their fields, genuinely
dedicated to the community's welfare, and eager for the
audience to know what the SAG could offer them. The
Department of Social Development (DSD)'s Matilda Malefo
enumerated family and child care programs; SAG grants for
child support, disability, and old age; and specialized care
for HIV/AIDS and substance abuse. In these areas, DSD
outreach officers were assigned to visit Tigane twice a week,
she said. Job creation programs were targeting the local
agriculture, mining, and tourism sectors in activities like
livestock breeding and fish farming. A poverty alleviation
fund was accepting proposals for community cooperatives, such
as a brick making venture under consideration in Tigane.

7. The audience bombarded Malefo with problems. Foremost
was the hurdle of identity cards, which many rural people
lacked. Social workers were unable to assist unregistered
persons in obtaining grants. Mothers who lacked IDs could
not get birth certificates for babies. One old person had
waited six years for a home visit by DSD to become eligible
for old age grants. Malefo acknowledged that visits to
distant farms could indeed be infrequent. (One social worker
later told poloff, "They say they do all these things," she
said, "but in fact we never see them!") Asked whether Social
Development had sufficient resources to fulfill its mandates,
Malefo replied that DSD did have money but was hampered by
its shortage of social workers. Community workers complained
that the "jobs" created by DSD were unpaid volunteer roles in
HIV/AIDS home care and orphans' centers, with financial
support limited to transport and supplies. Transport to and
from the distant farms was an obstacle for all concerned.

Health Care Aspirations -- and Realities

8. A representative of the Department of Health (DoH)
announced that a new health center had been established
nearby, for access to HIV/AIDS antiretroviral (ARV) therapy
and tuberculosis medications, eliminating longer trips to the
more distant district hospital. Community representatives,
however, asserted that medicines at local clinics were
chronically in short supply. "Whatever you come for, all
they have is Panadol," said one vexed social worker. The DoH
officer attributed the hiccups to a shortage of staff, with
one of his two staff on maternity leave and the other having
to cover administrative, statutory, and court case duties as
well as tending to patients in the field.

Municipal Initiatives -- Stymied by Farmers

9. The role of the City Council was to allocate state land
Q9. The role of the City Council was to allocate state land
for public use, such as for schools or police stations, to
provide public sports and recreation facilities, and to
furnish public utility services such as water, electricity,
and refuse removal. Council member Mr. Fezile Canga admitted
that Matlosana was still struggling to fulfill the minimum
requirements of clean water, flush toilets, electricity, and
street lighting for all residents as specified in the SAG's
Rural Development Plan. But progress was being made,
including in the extension of piped water in lieu of failing

10. The municipality's economic development section was
working to acquire farm land for public use and to encourage
new business growth. A new uranium mine would soon generate
new jobs, population, housing, and ancillary businesses, and
the Mayor had further stipulated community development
commitments from business investors. Through a Black

PRETORIA 00002144 003 OF 003

Economic Empowerment (BEE) initiative, the mine would
establish a technical college in an old disused hostel
building, to teach area workers the skills to develop mine
inputs and materials locally. Matlosana was even hosting a
Global Investors Conference in Klerksdorp in late September,
in an effort to showcase regional businesses and attract
foreign investment.

11. The Executive Mayor had launched "people's forums" with
all government departments in attendance, available to assist
community petitioners. When the municipality held public
meetings, however, few citizens attended, and too often the
meetings degenerated into debates on national politics.
Canga appealed to the audience to attend those meetings, so
that one hundred residents would not make decisions for
thousands. Matlosana had newly received a development grant
of 210 million Rand (about $28 million), and Canga urged
community leaders to participate in the allocation of those
funds according to their local needs -- "not a Freedom Square
like Soweto, not a swimming pool, but practical things for

12. A participant raised the matter of poor school
attendance by farm workers' children, due to long travel
distances and lack of transport. This was not being detected
because of officials' infrequent visits to distant
properties. Canga responded that schools, including farm
schools, were the responsibility of the Department of
Education (DoE), which was also the provider of bus
transport. The municipality could, however, lobby the DoE on
its citizens' behalf. (Comment: Local governments' lack of
involvement in school issues, and in the effort to ensure
farm workers' rights are respected, is symptomatic of a
larger, structural problem. End comment.)

13. Canga candidly acknowledged that on area farms there
were still problems of beatings of laborers, of withholding
of electricity, and of denial by farmers of access to roads
crossing their property. In townships the municipality was
proceeding with implementation of public works like roads,
lighting, and plumbing, but on private farm land they
required farm owners' written consent, which was on some
occasions refused. Care of farm workers was historically and
legally considered to be the duty of the farm owner. The
Council could do "very little" for farm workers other than
urge farmers to sell the land. A land audit was being taken
to highlight parcels which were leased, rather than privately
owned, where the municipality could exert more influence.


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