Thousands of people abandoned as the Gauteng Social Development Department implodes

Vulnerable people are being failed by an inefficient and corrupt department

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The Gauteng Department of Social Development is in crisis, leaving thousands of people who depend on it in the lurch. Archive photo: Ihsaan Haffejee

After years of mismanagement, the Gauteng Department of Social Development is imploding. Organisations that depend on the department’s subsidies to help poor people, elderly people, people with disabilities, children and women are suffering, while audits into irregularities at the department drag on.

Led by social development MEC Mbali Hlophe, who is also the MEC for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, the department, which has a budget of R5.46-billion, is facing one crisis after another.

  • Organisations which serve more than 30,000 people and employ at least 285 people, and which have received subsidies for years, are not receiving their funding. The budget for transfers to non-profit organisations is R223-million less this year than last year.
  • Beside the budget cuts, there have been catastrophic delays in the adjudication of funding applications. This means some organisations have had to close or retrench staff and downscale services. Shelters for women who have survived violence have had to close their doors. Food banks that distribute parcels to thousands of people are facing challenges and at least one food bank has closed, with thousands of undistributed parcels still inside.
  • Meanwhile, money seems to be going in strange directions. GroundUp reported earlier this year that The Beauty Hub, which offers hair and beauty treatment training, received almost R64-million in grants from the department in the 2022/23 and 2023/24 financial years.
  • And even as the department is imploding and its budget is cut, it has moved to take over child adoption services from organisations that have been providing this service. Yet National Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu recently told News24 that the government does not have the capacity to process adoptions alone and needs to continue to support organisations; starkly contrasting with the view of the Gauteng government.
  • Forensic audits of several of the programmes, following an announcement by Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi in February 2023 that a “full forensic audit” will be done to eradicate corruption from the department’s funding, were led by Matilda Gasela, who is herself facing corruption allegations dating back to her time at the agriculture department and also before then when she was at human settlements. An SIU investigation by the Special Investigations Unit had already recommended criminal prosecution.

One of the auditors Gasela appointed is Vernon Naidoo, a former senior partner of Grant Thornton who left that company after being accused of sexual harassment. At least 13 DSD officials have been suspended as a result of the audits, but very little is known about their suspensions or the allegations they faced.

As GroundUp reported earlier this month, Gasela has now left the department after her contract expired. She faces fresh allegations related to deviations from the budget that are under investigation, according to Gauteng Finance MEC Jacob Mamabolo.

But Lesufi has failed to make public the SIU report implicating Gasela, despite promising to do so in the Gauteng legislature on 16 April.

The department claims that the forensic audits are in the interest of transparency, yet it has refused our PAIA requests for funding records.

Last week, members of sewing co-operatives occupied the department’s boardroom, demanding payment for hundreds of school uniforms they have made and delivered to schools. The department’s response was to disown them and claim that rogue officials had appointed the co-ops.

Tens of thousands of people, some of them in desperate need, are being failed by the Gauteng Department of Social Development, and neither the Premier nor his cabinet seem to be tackling the crisis with any sense of urgency.

TOPICS:  Social Development mismanagement

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I run a non-profit training academy. Why are we surprised that funds have been diverted to companies and not NGO/CBOs that work with communities? We have not received funding for the past 5 years to continue our work. The next government coming must make sure that all people who stole the money must pay it first and then do jail time.

Dear Editor

It's an absolute disgrace that people who are accused of corruption are employed in a position of authority before they are proven to be "not guilty". It is also very sad that money is given to organisations or people who do not qualify for any financial assistance.

This should be stopped and investigated so that the money can be refunded and redistributed to those in need.

Dear Editor

We are now facing a bleak future after DSD suspended funding to our shelter that has been dealing with GBV/Domestic violence since October 2023.

We were forced to close our doors and staff went to sit at home because of no funding. DSD is saying our NGO is non-compliant but they have been funding us for more than 10 years.

This is really sad. We have families and children we were taking care of.

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