Daily Archives: May 13, 2013

Help for children with autism

_: Children born with autism – a neurological disorder characterised by impaired social interaction and communication, as well as restricted and repetitive behaviour – are often dismissed in black communities as bewitched or demon possessed or even mentally disabled. As a result of these misconceptions, children with autism are not cared for in a way that meets their specific needs.

This is the theme that emerged today in a dialogue meeting between the Department of Social Development and parents of children with autism, held in Gugulethu, Cape Town.

The challenge in providing proper care for children with autism is exacerbated by the fact that there are not enough doctors in the country trained to diagnose the condition. This was the sentiment of Ms Siphokazi Mtshotshisa – a parent of a child with autism.

“My child was diagnosed with autism at the age of four by an American doctor who was visiting South Africa. Before that I had consulted with many doctors who could not pinpoint the problem,” said Mtshotshisa.

As a result of her experiences, Mtshotshisa has started the Moonlight Foundation for Autism to help parents of children with autism provide proper care for their children. If autism is diagnosed early and proper care given to a child, its effects can be minimised.

While the Department of Social Development does not have a specific programme for assisting autistic children, it has prioritised early childhood development in its key programmes. Minister for Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini says her department wants to see an early childhood development centre in every ward.

“Early childhood development is important because the first one thousand days (from conception) of a child, as well as the first two years of their lives, are when most of the child’s development in terms of cognitive capabilities and emotional wellbeing take place. This is also the period when any challenge with a child, including conditions like autism, can be identified and managed in time,” says Minister Dlamini.

The Department of Social Development hosted this engagement to try and dispel the misconceptions in black communities around children with autism. The Department is also trying to learn more about the condition from parents caring for autistic children in order that effective educational campaigns can be crafted, and the best possible assistance be provided to those caring for autistic children.

Autism is categorised as a disability in South Africa. A government process is underway to define and determine all conditions that must be categorised as disabilities.

The department is in Gugulethu conducting a series of dialogue meetings with various special groups in an effort to gain a better understanding of their challenges and aspirations in order to assist them improve their lives. On May 11, the department will engage youths with albinism at the Gugulethu Sports Complex.

Media enquiries to:
Lumka Oliphant
Cell: 083 484 8067

Youth with albinism make passionate plea for equal opportunity

_: Youth with albinism have pleaded with Minister for Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, and her department to help dispel myths around albinism and help them access equal opportunities in education and work. This was during a dialogue meeting for youth with albinism hosted by the Department of Social Development in Gugulethu, Cape Town.

Speaking through their representative, Mr Maxwell Thabethe from KwaZulu-Natal, the youth lamented that myths about albinism still find an ear in communities. “Many children with albinism are still prejudiced and marginalised in our communities because of the myths that persist about albinism,” said Thabethe.

“The school drop-out rate for young people with albinism is very high because of the torment they are subjected to in schools by ignorant learners and teachers. There are not enough medical practitioners adequately trained to deal with our condition and many times we do not receive adequate medical care when we require it.

“We are also discriminated against in the workplace. Finding a job for a youth with albinism is difficult because potential employers look at what you cannot do instead of what you can do. If you’re lucky to get a job, the chances of promotion are slim because you are seen as inadequate,” explained Thabethe.

Among the proposals the youth requested the department to consider were the standardisation of the criteria used to determine eligibility to receive a government grant for people with albinism, a child care dependency grant for children born with albinism up to the age of 18 – this would give poor families the means to buy things such as sunscreen and provide adequate eye care for children with albinism and labour policy reform to address perceived unfair labour practices against people with albinism.

Ms Nomasonto Mazibuko from the Albinism Society of South Africa also appealed to the government to train more social workers on albinism. Said Mazibuko, “It is a very disturbing situation when a person who is supposed to counsel and give facts to a mother who has given birth to a child with albinism begins to ask inappropriate questions about the child. The department must look at training more people with albinism as social workers to address these issues.”

Responding on behalf of the department, Mr Wiseman Magasela, Deputy Director-General for Social Policy, said the government’s response to the issues raised needs to be two-pronged.

“We need you to work with us,” said Magasela, “firstly to craft an awareness strategy on albinism to dispel myths and ensure that we eliminate discrimination and prejudice so that people with albinism enjoy the full advantage of the Bill of Rights as outlined in the Constitution.”

Magasela also added that government will have to consider a multi-governmental approach to provide direct assistance to people with albinism. “We have to look into the definition of albinism as it relates to disability grants. Currently, albinism is defined as a disability in South Africa, but having the condition does not automatically qualify one for a disability grant. We need, together, to come up with a concrete proposal on this matter,” said Magasela.

The department also promised to look at the expansion of the “dignity pack” programme – packs containing such things as lip balm, sunscreen, sun hats, etc.

The department has been in Gugulethu since May 8 conducting a series of dialogue meetings with various special groups from around the country in an effort to gain a better understanding of their challenges and aspirations in order to assist them improve their lives.

Media enquiries:
Lumka Oliphant
Cell: 083 484 8067

Statement by Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Alan Winde on Western Cape Government aims to reach 1.5 million entrepreneurs through Red Tape Reduction awareness campaign

_: The Western Cape Government aims to reach over 1.5 million potential and existing business people through its biggest ever Red Tape reduction awareness campaign.

Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Finance, Alan Winde said today, 13 May 2013 marked the start of an extensive radio campaign to raise awareness about the Red Tape Reduction programme. The information ads will be aired on the biggest broadcasters and community stations across the province to reach more than 1.5 million listeners.

Minister Winde added that through the campaign, 15 000 e-mail and sms messages would be sent to various business sectors and targeted government officials about the assistance the Western Cape Government is providing to reduce red tape.

Minister Winde said the Western Cape Government was constantly looking at ways of cutting down red tape and supporting existing and potential entrepreneurs to aid economic growth and job creation.

“The Red Tape to Red Carpet programme seeks to eliminate unnecessarily burdensome processes and help entrepreneurs and businesspeople to overcome obstacles that are preventing growth. In this financial year over R7 million is allocated to this programme,” said Minister Winde.

Later this month Minister Winde plans to visit local businesses the programme has recently assisted.

Minister Winde said: “Since the launch of the campaign in July 2011 to the end of March this year, 1 114 red tape cases have been logged with the unit’s Red Tape Call Centre. Testament to the strong levels of entrepreneurship in the province, the most common query is from people wanting information on starting businesses. Many calls are received for help with “cumbersome processes”.
These burdens suppress economic growth, with one study estimating that red tape costs the national economy R79 billion a year. That is why reducing red tape is one of my top priorities.”

Minister Winde said the Red Tape unit plans to launch an online portal later this year where users can gain easy access to information on red tape matters and starting a business.

The province also has a task team investigating the institutionalisation of Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIA). RIA is a tool to test the feasibility and practicality of regulatory proposals such as Acts, regulations and bylaws. RIA assesses their economic, social and environmental impact, and whether it is necessary to write and implement a new regulation.

“The provincial Cabinet resolved in October last year that the institutionalisation of RIA must be investigated by a task team consisting of officials from the Red Tape Reduction unit, Provincial Treasury and Legal Services. The task team will submit its findings and recommendations to Cabinet around mid-May,” said Minister Winde.

For any red tape related queries, please call the Western Cape Government Red Tape Call Centre on 086 188 8126 or visit the Red Tape Walk-in centre at eG4C, 142 Long Street, Cape Town.

For media queries, please contact:
Bronwynne Jooste, Spokesperson for Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism
Tel: 021 483 3550
Cell: 082 454 4365

Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim to brief media on international developments 13 May 2013

_: The Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Ebrahim I Ebrahim, will address the media on international developments, including Syria/Turkey situation and developments on the Continent.

The press briefing is scheduled as follows:
Date: Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Time: 11h00
Venue: Media Room, OR Tambo Building, 460 Soutpansberg Road, Pretoria

RSVP:
Curtis Singo
E-mail: Singoc@dirco.gov.za
Cell: 072 625 7060

Minister Joemat-Pettersson puts citrus industry on top of bilateral agenda

_: During last week’s meeting between the South African Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and her counterpart, the German Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Minister Joemat-Pettersson raised numerous issues pertaining to the South African citrus industry, including the citrus black spot.

The European Commission Services introduced a threshold of five (5) interceptions of citrus black spot (CBS) for South African citrus in 2013. Once this threshold has been reached, South African citrus could be banned from the European Union (EU) market. This decision could have a substantial negative impact on South Africa’s citrus industry, South Africa’s exports to the EU and on the country’s economy.

The South African citrus industry stands to lose R3 billion worth of exports to the EU if market access is revoked. Close to 40% of fresh citrus fruit is exported to the region, annually. Germany is one of the major markets for South African citrus during the EU producers’ off-season. Spain, Italy and Greece are the primary exporters of citrus during the peak season.

As an additional part of the trade partnership between South Africa and Germany, the former is looking at an agreement for the protection of Geographical Indications (GIs) with regard to agricultural products such as cheese, meat products, olive oil, etc. The EU has a well-developed GI protection system. South Africa has just started with products like rooibos and honeybush tea.

“The bilateral meeting was aimed at deepening relations between Germany and South Africa. I would like to commend the German Minister for being supportive of South African agriculture. Minister Aigner has been an ally and a friend to our country and we are grateful for her unwavering support and assistance to our programmes. Threats to the European citrus market are a huge worry for us, notwithstanding the potential job losses in the sector. So far, the agriculture sector has worked extremely hard to retain employment, even growing jobs in provinces like the Eastern Cape and Free State, we are working with different stakeholders on this issue,” said Minister Joemat-Pettersson.