Daily Archives: May 28, 2013

Motsoaledi outlines integrated health school plan

Durban: Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has launched an integrated health school policy in partnership with the Departments of Basic Education and Social Development to deal head-on with health problems confronting school-going youth.

Motsoaledi said it was a constitutional imperative to provide health care to all children, even those out of the school system. “We want all vulnerable children to develop their full potential.”

He was speaking at the opening of the South African Conference on Orphans, Children and Youth made vulnerable by HIV and Aids, which included the launch of Child Protection Week and Pledge, held at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.

“We have launched an integrated health school policy whose objectives will be achieved by means of the following key strategies: health promotion and health education; provision of an essential package of health services in schools; coordination and partnership; capacity building and community participation.”

The minister said the focus of the programme was on nutrition and exercise; personal and environmental hygiene; chronic illnesses (including HIV and TB); abuse (sexual, physical and emotional abuse, including bullying and violence); sexual and reproductive health; menstruation, contraception, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) ,including HIV/Aids and male circumcision, including male medical circumcision (MMC).

All school-going children will undergo health check-ups at schools to deal with barriers to learning, these will include eye screening, immunisation, HIV/Aids testing, TB screening, nutritional and oral hygiene education.

“We commit to increase life expectancy, decrease maternal and child mortality, combat HIV and Aids and decrease the burden of disease from TB, and strengthen health system effectiveness,” Motsoaledi said. All these measures were part of the “health revolution known as the National Health Insurance (NHI)”, he added.

Challenges facing school children

The minister said there were two enemies to good health, namely malnutrition and obesity. “According to recent statistics, 23 percent of school-going children are considered overweight or obese,” he said.

He blamed this problem on the mushrooming of fast-food outlets in South Africa. He also spoke strongly against the phenomenon of sugar daddies, backstreet abortion, teen pregnancies, smoking and alcohol use.

“I have no knowledge of responsible alcohol use. If you buy a bottle of alcohol, you must finish it. Smoking has never contributed anything to human development except diseases and death,” he said.

He revealed that some one million women fall pregnant in this country every year. Of these, 18 percent are teenagers. Unfortunately, 36 percent of them (teenagers) die during childbirth. On sugar daddies and backstreet abortions, he urged the youth to desist from these harmful practices.

“There is no quick backstreet abortion. It does not exist. If you follow that route, it leads to death. Say no backstreet abortion and sugar daddies,” he warned.

Vaccination programme

He also announced that in 2014, a new vaccine to deal with cervical cancer will be launched. This vaccination programme will at first target nine to 10-year-old girls. He revealed that at least 6 000 women get cervix cancer every year; of these 80 percent are African. Unfortunately, some 3 000 succumb to the disease, despite the best medical care available.

N Cape improves child protection

Pretoria: The Northern Cape Social Development Department has trained 141 service providers on child protection services as part of the department’s early intervention programmes on child abuse.

Social Development MEC Alvin Botes said the training, which incorporates the Children’s Act, is based on how to complete the necessary documentation when reporting child abuse cases. It also includes programmes on the prevention of and early intervention in child abuse cases.

Botes on Tuesday launched the provincial leg of Child Protection Week in Galeshewe, Kimberley, where he urged the community not to turn a blind eye to child abuse, irrespective of who the perpetrator is.

Child abuse can be reported to Childline South Africa on the toll-free number, 0800 05 55 55. Alternatively, individuals wishing to report cases can contact their nearest social worker or police station.

Botes said communities must partner with government to tackle the issues that undermine the rights of children. “No longer must we allow abuse and injustice against children to happen in our homes and communities. As government, we will partner with communities by educating and mobilising them to be at the forefront of caring for and protecting children.

“To rid our communities of the scourge of child abuse and violence against children is really everybody’s business. “Let us work together to save our communities of these heinous crimes in order for us to live in a community where every woman and child can feel safe,” said Botes.

Caring for all children

Botes encouraged the community to ensure that children know about the Children’s Act and the protection it affords them.

“It is our responsibility as government to educate the public who are generally unaware that the rights of children are protected by the Children’s Act. It is our shared responsibility to protect the rights of children and we must cultivate a culture of community involvement and caring for our children.

“Families and caregivers must be encouraged to care for their children, in line with the rights outlined in the Constitution and the Children’s Act. We call on civil society and other social partners to join us in protecting children’s rights and delivering social services and interventions.”

In a bid to address poverty and to make positive in roads in improving the lives of children, the department has allocated an amount of R137 million for the care and protection of children.

Turning to Early Childhood Development (ECD), Botes, who saluted the staff and volunteers running ECD centres, said the province was working to increase the number of ECD professionals.

These efforts, he said, will be complemented by the increase of government-subsidised ECD facilities from the current 387 ECD registered in the Northern Cape, 46 of which are in Galeshewe.

Sisulu gives conference an IT wish list

Cape Town: Come up with strategies to secure government information, deliver simpler services to citizens, and develop a vision of a more connected government are among a packet of challenges Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu gave a major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) summit on Tuesday.

Sisulu’s challenge was delivered on the first day of the third annual Government Chief Information Officers (GCIO). Owing to unforeseen circumstances, she was unable to deliver her challenge personally, but it was done on her behalf by Jerry Vilakazi, chairperson of the Board of the South African State Information Technology Agency (Sita).

He said Sisulu expected that when the conference ends on Thursday, it would come up with a clear set of proposals which would include a vision of a connected government and the role of ICT in support of its objectives.

Also wanted was a strategy on the re-engineering and streamlining of business processes which would contribute to government’s strategic objectives by giving citizens, business and other stakeholders more effective services.

The Sisulu wish list also asked for the development of immediate and interim measures to support and secure government’s ICT environment. Others include redefining the ICT model for a single public service, as well as institutional arrangements for an effective team for transformation and the beginning of a secure, cost effective and aligned ICT capability for the State.

Sisulu’s request for ICT security should be seen against the backdrop of recent reports of attacks on government information. Vilakazi said that during the past few days, there have been reports of “hackers attempting to obtain government information”.

These hacking attempts have put more emphasis on data. Vilakazi said the gathering had to align current strategies with the National Development Plan (NDP), which seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

The readiness of the public sector was also a key pointer to success. Therefore, the attention of the meeting should focus on the public sector ICT strategy, identify skills needed, the impact of governance, and how free and open source software would improve service delivery.

Improving the delivery of public services required appropriate infrastructure, skilled personnel, functional institutional structures and competent leadership. Sita was building a sustainable capacity in the local ICT industry, Vilakazi said.

If the goals of the NDP were to be achieved, ICT had to be used to execute the NDP vision cheaper and quicker.

ICT landscape in SA

Assessing the ICT landscape in South Africa, Vilakazi said the country had fallen behind in the sphere of e-government in the past 10 years. According to a United Nations survey, South Africa has dropped from the 45th position in 2003 to 101 in 2012.

“Yes, our neighbours have also declined, but we have to rise to the challenge and lead the way in the region and in Africa,” Vilakazi said.

E-government has been defined as the use of ICT to allow greater public access to information, facilitate more accessible government services, promote more and efficient government, and make government more accountable to citizens, business and other stakeholders.

Despite SA having slipped on the UN list, e-government still held great promise and strides have been made. Examples include the Department of Home Affairs’ cell phone tracking and notification of ID applications, SARS’ e-filing system, and electoral e-voting.

Of the future of Sita, Vilakzi said it will not be shut down, but will be fixed and will deliver on its mandate of giving a coherent national ICT agenda and implementation mandate.

He sent a “passionate plea accompanied by a strong call that we comply with the law” when it came to procurement. Sita would not hesitate if any deviation from the law occurred.

Govt to develop rescue plan for platinum, gold sectors

Pretoria: Minister of Mineral Resources, Susan Shabangu, says she has instructed officials in her department to develop a rescue plan for the platinum and gold sectors to ensure long-term sustainability.

Presenting the department’s Budget Vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, the minister said these sectors had been negatively affected by the persistent global economic market environment, which had an adverse bearing on their long-term viability.

“I have directed my officials to urgently explore all available avenues and develop a rescue plan, which will enable us to find appropriate government-wide measures for appropriate sector-wide responses, with particular focus on both supply and demand side interventions in order to position them along a recovery path and a trajectory of long-term sustainability through the well-established tripartite structure of Mining Growth, Development, and Employment Task Team (MIGDETT),”said Shabangu.

She said the platinum and gold sectors were amongst the largest sectors of South Africa’s mining industry in terms of employment, investment and revenue generation.

A bilateral cooperation agreement with Russia would contribute significantly to the creation of a suite of interventions necessary to stabilise the platinum industry.

Russia and South Africa signed an agreement during the BRICS Summit in Durban in March on cooperation in the development of Platinum Group Metals (PGM).

The agreement is premised on an understanding that parties will make every effort to achieve, among others, sustainable expansion of the PGM market, create value-adding enterprises closer to production and work towards realising the potential for developing other sectors of the economy.

“I invite PGM companies to work with my department to leverage relations we have established with the Russian Republic,” she said.

Business unusual

In January this year, Anglo American Platinum announced its intention to restructure its business. President Jacob Zuma and the chairman of Anglo American plc, John Parker, met in Pretoria and agreed to find sustainable interventions that will enable business continuity and sustainability, whilst preserving employment where possible.

Shabangu said she believed that by working together, a sustainable, discerning solution had been found – one she hoped the labour movement would consider favourably.

“This demonstrates and emphasises the importance of taking different stakeholders into confidence and opening to them a long-term window, which enables them to appreciate the dynamics of inherently cyclical nature of the mining industry.”

Unleash the power of positive speech

_: ‘Talking your book’ is an expression that is popular in financial circles. It describes advocating an investment position that, if true, would end up making money.

Business executives tend to use it at every available opportunity as they understand the power their words have on bolstering their company’s investments.

It could sometimes explain why a share price experiences a sudden meteoritic rise. The same principle holds true for countries; how they are reflected in conversations determine their value.

All of us, as a shareholder in South Africa Inc, have a vested interest in talking up country’s book to position it in a globally competitive environment.

When South Africa prospers we all stand to benefit, and therefore should rally behind the country in every conversation. Our words are currency for the country’s image and in growing a positive mind-set among South Africans and the world.

In this year’s State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma called on all South Africans to “put South Africa first”. He said: “All of us have a patriotic duty and responsibility to build and promote our country.”

It starts with how we speak about matters of national importance or comment on issues that could have an impact on our reputation.

Social media, in particular platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, instantly beam every word – good or bad – across the globe. It is not a call to adopt a head in the sand approach or for uncritical reflection. In fact no one can take away the right to criticise; it is protected under the right to freedom of expression in our Constitution.

It is about being conscious of how we articulate a particular view on national issues. It’s also a realisation that the rhetoric and grandstanding to score cheap points is a luxury our country cannot afford.

We need to constantly think how our words could be interpreted by investors or investment analysts sitting in major investment capitals.

Investment analysts look only at the factors that create risks and will seldom give a country the benefit of doubt. They seek consistency and cohesion when making their investment decisions.

Reflecting on the need for a common front President Zuma stated: “We should speak from the same script, saying that South Africa is open for business, and South Africa is the best destination for any investor who is serious about returns on their investment.”

That script can be further supported by the results of the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Survey, released earlier this year. It rated South Africa first out of more than 100 countries in respect of its legal rights; regulations of securities exchanges; and reporting and auditing standards.

South Africa was also ranked second in the availability of financial services, third in financing equity markets and 15th in quality of air transport infrastructure. These rankings highlight the sound business infrastructure for those who want to invest and are already invested in the economy.

Furthermore, when our gains over the last 19 years of democracy are deliberately ignored it damages our image. Over our short democratic journey we have already accomplished much as a country.

The 2011 census demonstrated how our social spending has helped change lives, More than 36 per cent of households have access to free clean water, 26 per cent have access to free basic electricity and 23 per cent have free sanitation.

Our dialogue needs to be fair, less acrimonious and more constructive, so that we can become part of the change we want to see. Moreover, criticism without solutions stagnate our growth as a country.

The government appreciates constructive criticism that assists in governance and improving people’s lives. We understand that as a young democracy there will always be contested areas that we need to deal with as part of a national dialogue that contributes to our development.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, in his address to Parliament’s standing committee on finance earlier this month, called for a new narrative.

He said: “We can speak a language that on the one hand allows us to debate our different views, but on the other hand projects a national positive narrative.”

In reply to the debate on his State of the Nation Address in February, President Zuma told the National Assembly: “We can disagree on as many issues as we want to, but we have to find issues where we put South Africa and our people first.”

It is indeed possible to do so, if we decide to put the country first and act in the national interest. South Africans are a proud people; the findings from the November’s Markinor Khayabus study indicated thatthe overwhelming majority (87 per cent) of respondents were proud to be South African.

It is time for every proud South African to make their voice heard and challenge those who would drag our country down in a negative narrative.

Our National Development Plan (NDP) offers an opportunity for united action because it has the support of South Africans across the political and cultural spectrum.

The plan allows every South African to rise above sectional interests and with maturity pull together to take our country forward. It offers us a new way of doing things and a new culture so that by 2030 we can say that we have arrived at the South Africa we all envisaged.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of freedom next year, we must instil a common thread of patriotism. It is time to avoid the easy road of trivialities and unnecessary criticism. Let us put our money where our mouth is by committing to support the NDP and talking up South Africa.