Article takes cheap shots

2012-03-24 09:44

Cornelius Tanana Monama
Spokesperson for the department of women, children and people with disabilities

Mandy Rossouw’s article “Women’s ministry a mouthful – now chew” and the editorial “Shut down the women’s ministry” (City Press, February 26) are a case in point.

The articles display an inadequate understanding of the mandate of the department. At best, they contain nothing more than cuts-and-pastes from the Democratic Alliance’s media statements with no attempt by either Rossouw or the editor to get the other side of the story.

The harsh reality for the majority of South African women, children and people with disabilities is that they continue to bear the burden of inequality, poverty, inadequate access to services and opportunities brought by our democracy, and abuse.

The public expects our department to deal with these and many other societal ills that disproportionately affect vulnerable sectors.

Our department works through other government agencies to influence, monitor and evaluate how they are responding to the needs of these sectors.

The constituency we serve is predominantly poor and rural. Our work entails advocacy and consultations with various structures, departments and agencies that serve or represent the interests of women, children and people with disabilities.

Convening these meetings has financial implications. Since we serve poor constituencies, this imposes an obligation on our part to assist them with transport as well as catering to enable them to participate meaningfully in our meetings and programmes to influence government policies and strategies on matters affecting the three sectors.

As a department with no regional offices, it means our officials also have to travel to provinces as part of implementing our programmes and engaging with stakeholders. If we were only serving the rich, perhaps there would be no need to spend on catering and transport.

Your failure to contextualise our expenditure on catering and the impression that it is about departmental officials feeding themselves is irresponsible journalism by City Press and cheap politicking by the opposition.

Much has been made about the department’s international travels. With regard to the much-talked about New York trip, we have explained that out of a delegation of 49 officials, only eight were from our department.

Our international commitments mean that the department will have to travel to the United Nations, Geneva and Southern African Development Community countries to report on the progress we are making in advancing the goals reflected in the various conventions and protocols to which we are signatories.

Failure to do so amounts to a dereliction of duty.

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