Eastern Cape’s social development department has unreservedly apologised for its decision to slash the budgets of several non-profit welfare organisations in Buffalo City (BCM) and Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (NMBM).
The department has also committed to a review the budget cuts as early as tomorrow.
Some of the non-profit organisations’ (NPO) budgets had been cut by more than 1000% compared to the past financial year.
Addressing the media in King William’s Town yesterday, acting head of department Ntombi Baart said: “We are sorry for the inconvenience caused to all the NPOs by the subsidy reductions and we are committing to revise the budget and see how we reallocate the funds looking at the services offered by the different NPOs.”
Baart said the U-turn on the earlier decision to force the NPOs to adjust to the new allocations was as a result of pressure from MEC Nancy Sihlwayi and portfolio committee head Christian Martins, who both insisted that she had to review the massive cuts.
“We admit that there was lack of communication from the department and maybe we should have introduced the reductions in phases, but we are making a commitment to revisit these subsidies,” said Baart.
Tomorrow senior departmental officials including Baart will meet with affected NPOs to find ways to mend problems caused by the cuts, which saw centres such as East London Child Welfare closing temporarily last week, and retrenching all 12 social workers.
Baart said the cuts were influenced by the need to resource the department and capacitate it to a position that it could reach a wider population.
She also defended Sihlwayi, saying the cuts had been an administrative decision which should have been in introduced in phases.
“I want to place on record that the MEC had no influence on how the subsidies were reduced,” said Baart.
In BCM, which was hardest hit by the cuts, the organisations affected included CMR King William’s Town, Childline, Child Welfare East London and SA National Council on Alcoholism (Sanca) EL.
Childline has been left with two social workers after retrenching a third full-time social worker. Sanca had to decrease the 28 areas they reached around the East London region in attempts to accommodate the cuts.
Reacting to the department’s apology yesterday, CMR director Magdalena von Solms said it was unfortunate that the commitment from the department came two months later and after many social workers had already lost their jobs.
“We appreciate the hand that has been extended to us by the department, however it is a pity that it came after a lot of harm had already been done.
“We are looking forward to the deliberations that we are going to have and we are appreciative to the department for the commitment that they are making to us and to our beneficiaries,” said Von Solms.
Convener of the provincial Non-Profit Organisations’ Forum Vuyiswa Duma said NPOs had made the mistake of approaching the department directly instead of reporting the problem to the forum.
“If organisations came to the provincial structure this could have been sorted out before it went to the papers – we could have devised means to address the reductions internally,” said Duma.