Budget Cuts Force Closure of Shelters for Abused Women in Gauteng

On April 23, a 23-year-old pregnant woman, days away from her due date, was forced to leave a shelter provided by People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) as the organisation shut its doors due to budget cuts. This closure is a direct consequence of the Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD) slashing its budget.

This is the second year GDSD has run short of funding for the 767 non-profit organisations (NPOs) in Gauteng it supports. In mid-May, Premier Panyaza Lesufi said the 2024/25 budget, which was cut to R1.8-billion, will be increased to R2.4-billion. At least 100 NPOs across the province are affected.

Thoko Budaza, the executive director of POWA, expressed deep concern over the impact of these budget cuts. “The young woman had no place to go. She was raped, and her family sided with the rapist. It was heartbreaking to see her leave just before her due date. She was the last person to leave our shelter, and we had no resources to help her. We’ve had to retrench staff and cut salaries because of the lack of funding,” says Budaza.

POWA operates two shelters that can accommodate about 157 women and their children. The organization also serves around 17,000 beneficiaries through its gender-based violence prevention and awareness programs. 

“Our shelters are empty, and abused women and children have nowhere to go. Some staff members are now forced to walk to work because they haven’t been paid. We can’t even afford utilities, and we may have to close our offices soon,” Budaza says. 

David Barrows, from Mahalia Feeding Scheme (MFS) NPO in Eldorado Park, Soweto, shares similar frustrations. “We’ve been operating for 11 years, providing for 200 children, most of whom are orphans or come from homes with drug or alcohol abuse. These past months, we’ve relied on community donations for food,” he said.

Epworth Children’s Home, which has served children and families for 105 years, announced its closure effective May 31 due to the funding shortfall. Director Penny Lundie explains, “We’ve had to retrench staff and relocate children. We were assisted by a donor, but without the provincial support, we can’t continue. We hope that promised payments will allow us to stop retrenchments and bring the children back.”

The Gauteng Care Crisis Committee (GCCC) took the provincial social department to court demanding payment of funds and subsidies to the NPOs. The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg handed down an order on 22 May compelling the province to conclude the adjudication of applications submitted by Social Work Organisations (‘SWOs’) for funding in terms of the advertisement issued by the respondent on 01 November 2023 and accordingly inform all SWOs who applied for funding as to the outcome of their applications for funding, by 24 May 2024.

Judge Ingrid Opperman ruled that the department should conclude its funding adjudications by 24 May for all social work organisations that had submitted applications. The department has to issue service level agreements to all successful organisations by 30 May and pay all monies due to organisations within seven days of the service level agreements (SLA) being signed. The department also has to provide a report by 7 June with a list of all organisations that have been approved for funding. 

Lisa Vetten, chairperson of the GCCC told Health-e News the department missed its payment deadline but issued interim service level agreements (SLA) over the weekend. “It’s concerning that residential facilities are not prioritised. They are running out of food and can’t afford utilities. Only three NPOs have been paid so far,” she said. 

Budaza confirmed she received an SLA. 

Gauteng social development spokesperson Themba Gadebe says that payments are in progress. “Some organisations have already been paid,” he told Health-e News.-Health-e News

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