Bathabile Dlamini.    Picture: GCIS
Bathabile Dlamini. Picture: GCIS

The Department of Social Development has spent a total of R106m on blankets for the poor over the past three years, from 2014-15 to 2016-17.

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini said in a written reply to a parliamentary question by DA social development spokesperson Bridget Masango that the blankets were issued to "deserving beneficiaries" under the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) social relief in distress programme, and "as part of promotional items within communications and marketing".

Expenditure on blankets in the latter category amounted to R25m over the past three years.

"When blankets are issued as promotional items, they are targeted towards older persons," the minister said.

The social relief of distress may be issued in the form of food vouchers, food parcels, school uniforms or cash.

Replying to a question by IFP spokeswoman on social development Liezl van der Merwe, the minister revealed that the total amount spent on the social relief of distress in 2016-17 was R587m, with KwaZulu-Natal getting the biggest amount of R124m, followed by the Eastern Cape (R94m) and the Western Cape (R76m).

Between March 2016 and July 2017, 444,208 food parcels were distributed, with 103,801 being provided in the Eastern Cape, 74,263 in Limpopo and 69,310 in KwaZulu-Natal.

Masango has slammed what she says is the slow turnaround time in the distribution of food parcels in the Eastern Cape, where DA councillors have reported that those living in extreme poverty have to wait between three and four months to receive Sassa food parcels once they have submitted an application for assistance.

She said the turnaround time was meant to be between 24 and 48 hours.

"This crisis stems from the ill-fated decision by the Department of Social Development to award tenders to dubious companies based in KwaZulu-Natal, rather than procuring these services from local producers who are near to crises points," Masango said.

"These KwaZulu-Natal companies supply food parcels to recipients in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Western Cape, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.

"This essentially means that due to the vast distances service providers have to travel, food parcels take longer to get to other provinces, and additionally, these companies are not prepared to deliver fewer than 50 food parcels at a time.

"This means that our people are left to starve for months on end."

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