DA got it wrong on Skweyiya, says govt

The Democratic Alliance (DA) got it wrong when criticising Minister of Social Development Zola Skweyiya for travelling abroad, his department said on Wednesday.

Not only did the DA overcalculate the number of overseas visits he made, the number of days he was out of the country and the cost, but wrongly asserted that Skweyiya’s portfolio was “exclusively inward-looking”, it said in a statement in his defence.

“The DA said the minister had undertaken 19 visits and spent 109 days abroad at a cost of R1-million ...”

In fact, he had undertaken 12 foreign visits and spent less than 60 days outside the country, the department said.

“Some of the visits were on direction from the Presidency, or undertaken on behalf of the minister of foreign affairs.”

Skweyiya also had international leadership responsibilities as president of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s management of social transformation programme.

It sought to deepen and integrate global social transformation policies.

“The cost of foreign travel during the financial year was just over R600 000, and not R1-million as the DA stated,” the department said.

“Although it is difficult to quantify the benefits entirely in monetary terms, in conducting a cost/benefit analysis for the financial year, international engagements mobilised at least R329,4-million, with additional and invaluable contributions to the programming and policy arena,” the statement added.

It explained that the social development portfolio had grown considerably since 1994, leading to increased bilateral and multilateral interaction with almost all regions in the world

“South Africa’s successful social assistance programme, now reaching more than 12-million people, has generated interest internationally.”

Said director general Vusi Madonsela: “The development of solid, long-term partnerships based on trust with the developing countries will strengthen the prospects of intensifying our poverty-reduction programmes.”

Key activities in the past year had included the signing—by Skweyiya—of agreements with Mauritius and the Democratic Republic of Congo and his hosting of delegations from New York, Angola, Zimbabwe, Vietnam and Mexico.

“In the current financial year, we have focused on retirement reform and other comprehensive social-security processes, hence visits to Norway and Iceland to learn from their successful programmes,” said Madonsela.

“We have also signed a cooperation agreement with Cuba, which we expect will lead to successes in youth development and training.”

On the social security front, South Africa had been asked to host the World Social Security Forum in 2010, an acknowledgement of the country’s success in social-security reform.

“We have also made good progress in developing our social-policy programme through cooperation with institutions in the United Nations family and other international bodies.”

Madonsela said the department would continue with its international relations programme, in pursuit of the goal of an improved quality of life for all through international partnerships.—Sapa

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