How war on poverty is supposed to be waged
Social grants system was intended to be holistic, not just the paying out of money
The discussion on the social grants programme needs to go much farther than the current debate about who should pay them and who did wrong in contracting for those payments, says former cabinet minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi.
She was deputy minister of welfare and population development (1995–96), minister of welfare and population development (1996–99) and minister of public service and administration (1999–2008).
"In 1995, our intention was to have a multisectoral intervention that would involve several ministries — including health, education, social development and public works — to work together to maximise the social grants programme," she says.
"This way, the social grant programme is linked to other programmes where, for example, any child coming through this system automatically has the opportunity to receive a proper education and their schooling progress, together with their healthcare and nutrition, are monitored all the way through.
There is a lack of continuity in the implementation of policies that are adopted. in the end everyone opts out
"The matriculants who qualify for higher education then automatically receive funding and can be identified on the same tracking system. Likewise, their mothers or carers are tracked alongside them and hired for public works programmes or enrolled in skills-development programmes to elevate them from poverty."
Fraser-Moleketi says this is how one wages war on poverty, and this is how social grants and social development programmes can achieve a far deeper, long-term effect.
The president should, she says, report on the progress of these families in the annual state of the nation address.
She believes that part of the problem SA is facing is that "there is a lack of continuity in the implementation of policies that are adopted. In the end, everyone opts out and it is easier to just pay out grants.
"But it is not enough.
"As a country, we need to be far more creative and constructive about how we transform society and we need to be committed to long-term outcomes and profound change."
Women’s empowerment is key to this, not only in SA, but in the whole of Africa, Fraser-Moleketi says. This is not only about women holding top leadership positions in business but also being able to open and manage their own bank accounts, gain access to markets or get to a hospital to give birth.
She is a champion of the drive to ensure that African women are part of "inclusive development and transformation" and has held several senior positions from which she has been able to influence perceptions, policy and process.
She has fought for democracy and equality for almost four decades. For her contribution, she will receive an honorary doctorate from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University on Wednesday.
Her feisty resolve had already been developed by the age of 20 when, in 1980, during her second year at the University of the Western Cape, she joined the ANC and left SA to go into exile in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola. She received military training as a member of uMkhonto weSizwe in Angola and the Soviet Union.
She returned to SA in 1990 to help rebuild the legal structures of the South African Communist Party. In 1993, she was appointed national deputy elections co-ordinator to assist in preparing the ANC for the first democratic elections in 1994.
She served under Nelson Mandela in her first cabinet position and then under Thabo Mbeki — alongside her husband, Jabulani Moleketi, who was deputy finance minister from 2004 to 2008.
Despite the early interruption of her studies, she attained a master’s in administration from the University of Pretoria.
"When I look back to my twenties, I think I was absolutely bold and audacious and a bit of an idealist, but it was not misplaced idealism," she says. "I was determined to do difficult things, in this case to contribute to achieving freedom in SA. To this day, I remain determined to show that there is a way to make difficult things happen."
She demonstrated this in her most recent position as special envoy on gender at the African Development Bank, a pan-African development institution focused on economic growth and social progress.
"In 2014, the board of the African Development Bank adopted a gender equality strategy premised on a number of factors including legal and property rights for women in Africa, women’s education and economic empowerment," Fraser-Moleketi explains.
"What I also brought into this strategy that was not there before is that in order to assess gender quality, we needed to address the bank’s DNA across all its operations and financing projects. This included looking at major infrastructure development projects and major energy, water and sanitation projects across the African countries the bank serves and it was clear that the inclusion of women
"Towards finding suitable solutions, together with Siyenza, we co-hosted the African Indaba on Inclusive Infrastructure in Joburg. African indaba on inclusive infrastructure in Joburg. The intention was to ensure our road engineers take into account what makes a major infrastructure project — such as building a highway — inclusive."
One of the examples she shares is the construction of a highway that links Ghana and Burkina Faso. For it to be inclusively constructed, it needed to include arterial roads that would, for example, make it easier for women from more remote areas to get to hospitals.
"At present, it can take up to six hours to get to hospital, and arterial roads could cut this down to less than half the time."
The same principle applies to access to potable water in northern Ghana, where non-potable water carries Guinea worm disease, which causes blindness. Extending access to potable water resulted in a considerable reduction of the disease and freed up more time for women, who spent a large percentage of their time fetching and carrying water for their households.
During her time with the African Development Bank, Fraser-Moleketi was a driving force in the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa programme. This flagship programme of the bank was announced during the Action Plan for African Agricultural Transformation summit in Dakar in 2015, to support women in business, particularly in the agricultural sector.
I think I was absolutely bold and audacious and a bit of an idealist, but it was not misplaced idealism.
Fashion design and manufacture will also receive support.
"When you look at the creativity in Africa, it is amazing and it could be a multitrillion-dollar industry. To springboard this, we launched ‘Fashionomics’ in six African countries in 2016 including SA, to bring together designers, manufacturers, weavers, financiers and farmers," she says.
"Cotton, leather and wool are three key agricultural products used in the fashion industry.
"We also linked up with more than 1,500 women scientists across the African continent who are doing outstanding agricultural research and development work through a Nairobi-based network called African Women in Agricultural Research and Development.
"They are advancing agricultural technology and innovation in a wide range of agricultural and rural-focused sectors including renewable energy and how women can participate in the renewable energy sector."
Fraser-Moleketi acknowledges what has been achieved but remains resolute: "We still have a long way to go, not only with regard to women’s empowerment but also with our general understanding of society and democratic governance."