Not quite the last word

By Babongile Zulu

Every year brings new tidings and for our very own government, 2009 is no exception. For example, the sudden creation of a new ministry strikingly called ‘Ministry for Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities’. Oh, and what about ‘Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs’. There are actually more than I can write about in this column, but please do Google it, you would be amazed at the changes befalling our country as we speak. Good changes? Bad changes? Well, I don’t know, let us assess the situation shall we?

Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities? Last time I checked, women were women and children were children and they do not necessarily share the same problems within society. But hey, now they get to be looked after by one minister. How is that for efficiency and tending to everyone’s problems? And people with disabilities? Again, their problems, needs and worries are far more varied, but the powers that be have decided the route to take is to solve these diverse problems in the same formulaic manner. Tsk, tsk.

According to an article in The Times on 12 May, the response from the government was that this new ministry will “emphasise the need for equity and access to development opportunities for the vulnerable groups in our society.” Equity they say. Amongst women, yes. Amongst children, yes. But equity among women and children? I beg to differ. My five year old niece will certainly not be fighting for the same rights as I would, nor would she want her voice to be heard on exactly the same issues.

We move onto Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs. That’s a laugh. What does it even mean? Will the traditional encompass Xhosa, Zulu and Muslim traditions as well as every single unique tradition in South Africa?

Tutu did not coin us the Rainbow Nation for nothing, folks. I would love to get a clearer sense of what traditional affairs are. It’s a fancy term and all, but I think it would make matters easier if everyone was on the same page about what the newest ministries meant. I don’t know, it’s a mere suggestion, Mr President.

Previous ministries didn’t necessarily deserve gold stars on their foreheads, but at least they had been going for years, infrastructure was in place and whatever was being implemented had the necessary structures in place. Before these new ministries can even reach out to the public, they will need to set up new partnerships, implement new projects and initiatives that will benefit the intended individuals in equal ways.

So, from catering to different groupings within society under one portfolio, to lumping all traditions under one umbrella, the new direction will have to play itself out in order for its true worth to be seen. Let us give these new ministries a chance at least, let them face the teething problems, and that perhaps criticise or praise in a few years time. The best of luck, South Africa.

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