PRETORIA, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says according to the recent Poverty Trends Report it is clear that education must be at the centre of the fight against poverty.
According to the report released by Statistics South Africa, South Africans with little or no education make up an overwhelming majority of those living below the poverty line. The report shows that more than half of South Africans live in poverty.
We must be deeply concerned that children aged 17 and younger are disproportionately affected by poverty. They are mainly African, female and from our rural areas, he said.
The Deputy President was addressing the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) during the Taking Parliament to the People Programme held on Friday at Boshabelo in Mangaung, Free State.
He said while the report explores poverty in general, the Deputy President said it also offers a guide on where public representatives need to focus their efforts, when implementing interventions and programmes aimed at alleviating poverty.
Ramaphosa warned that policies that are not working need to be changed to serve the interests of the people.
We have to act, starting now, to reaffirm their trust in the promise of freedom and democracy. We have to unite South Africans around a shared vision of a society that is fundamentally different. Everyone must make a contribution [and] everyone must have a stake, the Deputy President said.
The Deputy President said the report highlights the importance of creating an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning, one that is free of intimidation and violence.
He warned that while the country is now in a better position than it was 10 years ago, when it was estimated that close to two-thirds of South Africans were living below the poverty line, there is a danger that, without decisive action, the country's progress may start to be reversed.
Behind the poverty statistics, are the individual stories of disillusioned young people who go to bed on an empty stomach. Behind the numbers are the stories of young women who are forced into transactional sex in order to live for a day.
There are the stories of bright young people who have sought refuge in crime, drugs and alcohol abuse. There are the stories of the elderly and the infirm who live wretched lives without access to health care or social support.
These are the stories that must remind Honourable Members that our task is enormous, our work is critical and our freedom far from complete. Where there is despair, it is our responsibility to give people hope. We need to do so not with fine words or lofty promises, the Deputy President said.
He also reminded NCOP members that the people they represent expect more from them than political bickering and brinkmanship, and they demand that they tell no lies and hide no faults.
They demand that we are honest and hardworking. They expect us to lead the fundamental transformation of our economy. They expect us to enact legislation and adopt budgets that contribute to economic growth and social change, he said.
The Constitution, he said, remains a living document representing the highest aspirations of ordinary South Africans.
The Deputy President said while government has responded to people's needs for housing, electricity, water, health care, education and social security, it still needs to do more.
We continue, inspired by our Constitution, to advance the goal of quality universal health care through the implementation of the National Health Insurance (NHI). We continue to promote the right to education to make sure that children of the poor and working class have a better chance than their parents to break the cycle of poverty and deprivation in their families, he said.
However, he said there is still much more that government needs to do to meet people's needs and fulfil the shared Constitutional obligations, as the NCOP's visit to Boshabelo has confirmed.
Taking Parliament to the People is aimed at deepening oversight between the executive and the legislature to strengthen and ensure quality service delivery to communities.
The theme of this year's programme is Deepening Parliamentary Oversight for the Delivery of Quality Services to the People.
It coincides with Parliament's annual theme: "Celebrating 20 years of the Constitution and 20 years since the establishment of the NCOP".
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK