Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez at the launch of a safe house for vulnerable women and children in the Garden Route area earlier in the year. Photo: WCG.
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez at the launch of a safe house for vulnerable women and children in the Garden Route area earlier in the year. Photo: WCG.

The Covid-19 pandemic brought disturbingly high levels of GBV, says Cape MEC

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Nov 23, 2021

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Cape Town - Social development MEC Sharna Fernandez has said that Covid-19 led to a shadow pandemic that saw “disturbingly high levels of gender-based violence (GBV) in many Western Cape communities” that affected the department's work.

Briefing the Social Development standing committee on her department’s Annual Report for the 2020/21 financial year, Fernandez said the first and second waves of the pandemic required the province to combat the consequences of Covid-19 in the social sector.

“The department appointed 30 GBV social workers to strengthen the regional response to GBV, and provided specialised GBV prevention and support to the communities with the greatest need in the province.

“Six additional GBV shelter sites were made available in the province (in the Bergrivier, Swartland, Hessequa and Central Karoo district municipalities), bringing the total number of such shelters to 25.

"The first of these GBV shelters was launched in the Central Karoo district municipality on March 26 this year,” Fernandez said..

Departmental accounting officer Robert Macdonald said violence, particularly against women and children, was often fuelled by substance abuse.

“Although access to Substance Use Disorder (SUD) prevention and treatment services was limited by lockdown regulations, the department continued to provide SUD services that focused on the needs of the client.

“These included prevention and early intervention and treatment at community-based or inpatient level, as well as after-care services to ensure effective reintegration into society,” Macdonald said.

Responding to a question from committee member Nosipho Makamba-Botya (EFF) on how budget cuts during the year affected the department’s work, Macdonald said that while there had been a few challenges, the bigger budget cuts for the department were still to come, and these would be very challenging.

Committee chairperson Gillion Bosman (DA) said: “The briefing sent a clear message that throughout the pandemic, the department and its NPO partners successfully reduced residents’ sole reliance on the inefficient Sassa, run by the national government.

“Whilst Sassa too often shut its doors to the most vulnerable, the provincial government and its partners afforded residents the lifelines so desperately needed,” said Bosman.

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