With Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana set to table his Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS) later today, civil organisations which advocate for the rights of all South Africans have identified; inequality, healthcare, access to food, social relief grants, non-communicable diseases, and problems in terms of school infrastructures as areas which need urgent attention.

MTBPS will set out government spending priorities over the next three years and any changes to this year’s budget. According to Rural Health Advocacy Project manager Russell Rensburg, the government needs to be made aware that it serves the interest of the entire population.

Interests of the people first

“This budget comes at a time when we need to reflect on our values, we need to start thinking and taking back our agencies and realise that politics are shaped by public discourse. We need to make the government aware that it serves the people’s interest,” stated Rensburg. 

He also said the legislature needs to be held accountable to ensure that the provision of all the policies that pass-through parliament are considered to the extent to which socio-economic rights are advanced or increased by policies put forward to them by the treasury. 

“We have to ask and to start questioning this constitutional and start thinking about how we give content to that progression, how do we achieve equality, how do we achieve the provision of section 9 subsection 3 of the constitution were it talks about the equal enjoyment of all rights when the enjoyment of the rights is limited by the extent to which the state can provide or the extent to which the state can extend. I think we need greater priority setting and better understanding in many ways of the different categories of healthcare needs,” said Rensburg.

Effects of poverty

Rensburg added the country needs increased socio-solidarity as there must be a way out of poverty.

“We need to ensure that we have enough money for food, be able to send our children to school and to live in safe communities. I think now more than ever we need to move beyond just the analysis of what the budget is and what it can and what it should be and start bringing in the conversation around what gets prioritised in the budget,” added Rensburg.

Access to social relief grants

Hoodah Fayker, National advocacy manager at Black Sash said that the issue of access to social relief grants should also be addressed. Many potential recipients are unable to access the relief due to administrative issues.

“The social relief or distress grant acknowledged that there is a poverty gap.  we welcome the extension of this grant because it was a stop-and-go when CVID-19 started. We are looking forward to seeing what picture the minister will present in terms of the way forward. Whether this grant will become permanent,” said Fayker.

There needs to be an urgent response to the shortcomings of access to this social relief grant. It has been difficult for some people who need the grant to access it.

Poor infrastructure in public schools

According to Equal Education, although the problems in basic education are complex, the lack of safe and proper school infrastructure remains one of the biggest hurdles to teaching and learning.

“South African schools still suffer from a lack of access to basic services such as water and sanitation, overcrowded classrooms. For instance, the latest department of basic education statistics show that 2 130 schools still have plain pit toilets as their only form of sanitation and 5 386 schools have an unreliable water supply,” stated Equal Education in a media statement.

The organisation said South African basic education is in crisis as learners across the country face harsh inequalities and indignities at schools, denying them their constitutional right to basic education.

“Equal Education demands that this MTBPS is not just business as usual, but that schools get the money needed to tackle the many challenges they experience,”.

Access to quality food.

The head of Healthy Living Alliance(HEALA), Lawrence Mbalati said access to quality food and nutrition security needs to be addressed urgently within this MTBS. Poor-quality foods contribute to the burden of non-communicable diseases.

“From our perspective, it is important that when we advance this agenda and look at turning the tide, particularly of non-communicable diseases, which are skyrocketing, that we can ensure that food and nutrition security is at the centre and that the rights of children and the rights of everyone in terms of access to food are realised in a broader scope of things,” said Mbalati. -Health-e News.