SA ‘must intensify war on poverty’

10 October 2011

South Africa will have to intensify its fight against poverty if the country is to meets its Millennium Development Goals, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said after a visit to Ga-Kgatla village in Limpopo province on the weekend.

“There is a consensus that we have to do more ground work in addressing this problem, because for us to realise our development goals as a country we ought to deal with the abject poverty first,” Motlanthe said.

The launch of the government’s War on Poverty campaign in 2008 led to the establishment of anti-poverty “war rooms” in all nine provinces with the aim of alleviating poverty in South Africa’s most deprived communities by 2014.

Ga-Kgatla village, situated about 150km from Polokwane, was chosen as a pilot site for the speedy implementation of household-based services to address poverty in the village. The village had some of the highest levels of unemployment and poverty in the country.

Service delivery

During his visit on Saturday, Motlanthe was told that services such as access to low-cost houses, electricity, water supply and access to health care had been successfully implemented in the area since 2008.

He also visited families who have since been rescued from poverty through initiatives such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) and state-funded community-driven projects.

Jeannet Morutho, a 37-year-old woman, was among those in the community identified as “change agents”. Before she was recruited to be part of the EPWP, there was no one with an income among the 11 members of her family. Moruthu is now an active community worker and a great resource in the village.

Another 21 youngsters from Ka-Kgatla have been sent for skills training, with some currently employed in the EPWP, working on the maintenance of roads.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has also assessed 13 youngsters from the village for possible recruitment into the army.

Motlanthe also discovered that all children of school-going age from the village had been taken back to school, although a few drop-outs had since been reported.

Youth migration

But as in many provinces, one of the major challenges facing the community of Ga-Kgatla is the migration of young and able-bodied community members to Gauteng province in search of economic opportunities.

This migration leaves only the very young, old and frail in the village.

Tebogo Mashamba is a 17-year-old matric pupil and already thinking of leaving the village after passing his exams. He said things are not always easy for young people in villages like Ga-Kgatla.

“I do want to gain skills and improve the conditions in my family and community, but for me to do that I need better education, which I don’t think we have here,” Mashamba said.

Officials said the migration of young people out of villages also made it difficult to identify suitable change agents to invest in. Those “left behind” tended to be poorly educated and skilled and thus required substantial skills investments before they could be gainfully employed.