April 25, 2003

Govt defends development record

The South African government has rejected a report [http://www.sahrc.org.za/esr_report_2000_2002.htm]by the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) that alleged it was not honouring its commitments to improve the lives of the poor. The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), quoting a Statistics SA report, said there had been an upward trend in the delivery of services in various sectors, the SAPA news agency reported. About 65.8 percent of households were in formal housing in 1995, rising to 72.6 percent in 2000, the GCIS said. The proportion of households having access to clean water increased from 78.5 percent to 84.3 percent over the same period. There was also a slight rise in the proportion of households using public health facilities from 67.8 percent in 1995 to 69.4 percent in 1998.

But the SAHRC's fourth annual economic and social rights report, released this week, said the government must immediately carry out a Constitutional Court ruling to provide antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant women, and that a plan for universal access to AIDS drugs at all state hospitals should be a top priority. "The urgency of reducing new infections and treating people living with HIV/AIDS requires not only political will but additional funding to tackle the pandemic," the report noted.- The SAHRC report was based on information provided by government departments.

While commending the government for trying to rise to the challenge of food security for South Africans, the survey pointed to serious shortcomings in tackling a housing backlog, access to social security grants and the slow pace of land reform. These problems were not always due to lack of funds, but rather under-spending, misadministration and incompetence. SAHRC said the housing department's failure to spend its allocated budget in the past financial year was contributing to a housing backlog. "The department's under-expenditure was about R100 million (US $14 million) in the period and no reasons were provided for this." The trend of under-spending was evident in most provincial housing departments.

In the Eastern Cape, applications for social assistance were often lost without trace and pensioners waited more than a year before they could receive financial assistance from the government, the report said. (IRIN)

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