As former president Nelson Mandela warned after a mere 10 years of democratic rule in 2003, we cannot continue blaming apartheid when we are “tardy” in solving the problems of poverty and other social ills in our country. Picture: IOL

Opinion - Ask most South Africans who they believe are the most desperate and vulnerable in our society today and they will invariably point to the poor, the aged, little children and disabled people.

And very few, if any, would argue with them.

But if this perception is anywhere near the truth, surely it is a serious indictment on our leaders in government that, after 23 years of democracy in our country, not enough is being done to change the quality of the lives of a large majority of South Africans.

As former president Nelson Mandela warned after a mere 10 years of democratic rule in 2003, we cannot continue blaming apartheid when we are “tardy” in solving the problems of poverty and other social ills in our country.

Three issues that have commanded much prominence in the media recently give credence to the perception that government leaders are very often insensitive to the plight of the poor and most neglected.

The first concerns the desperate plight of more than 10million South Africans who rely on pensions and social grants to eke out a meagre living each month.

They include the aged, who have spent their lifetimes serving the country in one way or another; the infirm and disabled, who can no longer support themselves; and young mothers receiving child support grants.

While the Post Office maintains it has the capacity to take over the payment of grants and pensions to beneficiaries, the controversial Minister of Social Development, Bathabile Dlamini, is playing a dangerous game of procrastination. 

If the impasse cannot be resolved by next March, it will be the poor and most vulnerable who suffer the most. 

And despite mounting pressure for the dismissal of the minister, President Jacob Zuma remains adamant that nothing will change.

On another front, thousands of schoolchildren in KwaZulu-Natal go starving each day because of disruptions to the school nutritional programme.

The programme ground to a halt at many schools after service providers stopped serving daily meals, complaining they had not been paid by the government, prompting the National Teachers Union to accuse the provincial Department of Education of being “heartless and insensitive”.

The third issue relates to the relocation of more than 3000 Life Esidimeni psychiatric patients to unlicensed NGOs, which resulted in 141 of them dying through starvation and neglect.

And while these critical issues remain unresolved, President Zuma and his administration are looking forward to salary increases this year, which will be backdated to April.

We rest our case.

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