Cablegate: Expanding Public Services to South Africa's Rural

DE RUEHSA #2219/01 2831348
R 091348Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. In a continuing series of USG-funded dialogues between
rural communities and local government representatives
(reftel), SAG officials briefed poor rural women of Limpopo
Province on their rights to SAG assistance and on the
mechanisms for accessing public services. Officials listed
an array of available monetary and food grants and noted the
SAG was working to adjust them to discourage dependency on
high numbers of children as a sole source of income. SAG
offered loans to start up small business cooperatives, with
project advisors to help communities of low literacy
formulate plans. Speakers said public housing was expanding
with help from the EU, although they acknowledged the
waitlist was still over a decade long. End Summary.

Background: DHRF Grant to Hurisa

2. On October 3 poloff attended a second of nine
USG-sponsored forums led by the Human Rights Institute of
South Africa (Hurisa) to improve awareness among rural women
of their socio-economic rights and entitlements to basic
government services. The workshops are funded by a $27,000
grant from DRL's annual Democracy and Human Rights Fund
(DHRF). The project began with a train-the-trainer workshop
in Johannesburg to coach nine social workers from three of
South Africa's poorest and most neglected provinces --
Northwest (reftel), Limpopo, and Eastern Cape. Participants
will then lead workshops in their home areas for a minumum of
15 local community members.

Limpopo: Hardscrabble Subsistence

3. Limpopo Province, in South Africa's far northeast
bordering Zimbabwe and Botswana, is one of the country's
poorest regions of small rural villages and little
infrastructure. Its Capricorn District is reminiscent of the
American Southwest -- arid, rocky, and red-soiled, where
cattle graze on sparse scrub brush amid spiky aloe and
candelabra cactii. In many of these villages the population
live off livestock and subsistence crops, with water supplied
weekly by tanker trucks. Hurisa's workshop was held in the
town of Haenertsberg, the center of a timber industry amid
pine forests sewn two generations ago in low foothills fed by
dammed streams. The lumber mill is the main local employer
and also a prominent sponsor of many community programs.

Community Needs for SAG Help

4. The day began with a brainstorming session, inviting the
community's suggestions of problems it wanted government
officials to address. (Hurisa later explained offline that
while participants in the Northwest Province were versed on
their rights and ready to challenge the SAG on non-delivery,
in Limpopo the awareness of SAG programs was so low that
dialogue had to begin on far more basic terms.) As their
main concerns the audience listed HIV/AIDS education, the
impact of HIV/AIDS on children and orphan-led households,
illiteracy and adult education, unemployment, alcohol abuse,
livestock theft, access to electricity and water, and
financial grants. Each SAG speaker then related his or her
department's programs to this list of community priorities.

Grants -- and Dependency

5. The Department of Social Development (DSD)'s Charles
Q5. The Department of Social Development (DSD)'s Charles
Chuene outlined DSD programs. These included counseling by
social workers for dispute resolution within families and
villages, and by probation officers assigned to protect and
supervise minors charged with crimes. DSD's main offer,
however, was its menu of monetary grants, such as for child
support, care of relatives, disability, and old age. Early
child development (ECD) initiatives supplied nutritious meals
through preschools, while a "relief of social distress" (RSD)

PRETORIA 00002219 002 OF 002

grant delivered food parcels to struggling families. The
latter RSD grants required referral by village chiefs.
Acknowledging the prevalent pattern in Limpopo of couples
having more children as a source of grant income, Chuene
noted DSD had proposed an alternative 'minimum income grant'
to avert dependency on child grants.

Incentives to Entrepreneurs

6. Yvonne Ledwaba of the Department of Economic Development,
Environment, and Tourism (DEDET) explained the workings of
SAG loans to encourage formation of small business
cooperatives. Advisors were available to help develop
proposals for funding. An annual entrepreneurship
competition offered a prize of 200,000 Rand ($25,000) to the
winning business plan, such as for a bakery or beauty salon.
A previous winner for a business building pit toilets was now
expanding into the molding manufacture of component parts.
In anticipation of the wave of FIFA World Cup tourism in
2010, Ledwaba urged her audience to study their grandmothers'
skills in sewing and beadwork to make crafts for sale to
foreign visitors. "That family education is free," she said,
"And you can even charge tourists to watch you work!"

7. Hurisa's program officer Elvis Fokala challenged Ledwaba
to adjust DEDET initiatives to Limpopo realities. While
business plans might be fine for urban entrepreneurs, women
in Limpopo had more basic worries like food security,
obtaining seeds to grow vegetables, and access to water. Low
literacy meant many could not even write a business plan.
How, asked Fokala, could small villages mobilize to assert
their urgent needs to the SAG? Ledwaba responded that SAG
had in 2003 created a corps of provincial Community
Development Workers (CDWs) assigned to visit villages, audit
the needs of communities and households, and coordinate
assistance across SAG departments. A CDW could help a
village form a cooperative, enlist DEDET skills to draft a
project plan, and tap into DSD for funding.

New Public Housing; Corruption Hotline

8. The Department of Local Government and Housing's
representative spoke about public housing, commonly referred
to as 'RDP' housing (after the Reconstruction and Development
Plan). These were funded by the SAG and donated to
municipalities, lately with greater oversight from onsite
project coordinators to ensure proper fulfilment after some
projects reported as complete were discovered to have never
been built. An injection of European Union funding had
boosted the housing program in Limpopo. One group of local
women had formed a construction cooperative to build their
own housing. The latest RDP model, formerly just two rooms,
had expanded to two bedrooms, a dining area, and an indoor
toilet. All new homes had electricity and running water,
which were gradually being added on to older projects.

9. The subject of allocation of RDP housing generated lively
interest. The waitlist for RDP homes dated back to 1994, and
quirks in the system meant that later applicants sometimes
received housing sooner. One participant alleged there were
cases of municipal officials selling RDP houses for bribes.
Such complaints were common, admitted the Housing rep, so SAG
had created a confidential telephone hotline to report
fraudsters. The audience grew animated at this news and
Qfraudsters. The audience grew animated at this news and
avidly noted the number. When Hurisa's Fokala asked for a
show of hands of participants living in RDP houses, none were
raised. Participants said they still lived under the
authority of tribal chiefs. For this reason, said the SAG
speaker, the Department of Housing had been merged with that
of Traditional Affairs in some other provinces.


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