Mr Deputy Speaker, for a long time women have taken on the role and responsibilities of both parents in many households in South Africa. The Western Cape is no different.
According to a 2011 South African Institute of Race Relations study, an estimated 9 million children are growing up in South Africa without fathers. From 1996 to 2009, the proportion of living fathers who are absent from their children’s lives increased from 42% to 48%. Mr Deputy Speaker, these statistics only reflect reported cases and have surely increased since 2011.
Absent fathers place an extra weight on women and far too often hinder them from accessing opportunities and realising their own dreams. Mr Deputy Speaker, adding further injury to our women and children is the considerable amount of maintenance defaulters. The financial support of children is the legal and moral duty of both parents. However, this is not always the case and the financial parental responsibility often falls solely on the mother, which in effect is a form of economic abuse against her and by default women in general.
Mr Deputy Speaker, as a man and not simply biologically, but one who adheres to his parental and moral obligation to his children, I commend these women who, through all the adversities with which they are faced, prioritize the well-being of their children. I also challenge every other man in and outside of this House today, to not only pay their papgeld, but to be present and active stakeholders in their children’s lives. I congratulate the active fathers in the Western Cape, but then also extend the challenge to absent maintenance defaulters they may be aware of.
Mr Deputy Speaker, finding employment to support her family can prove to be cumbersome for the single mother, especially with increased red tape. Adding to this difficulty and burdens of the single mother is having to use an ineffective public transport system to either find a job or get her to and from her place of work to support her family. Mr Deputy Speaker, Metrorail has not only caused our mother’s further hardship in cancelling particular routes in the Western Cape but also impeded on their moral duty to work their full hours in order to support their children so that they can live lives they value. Mr. Deputy Speaker a couple of weeks ago I was travelling with Metrorail as I sometimes do, the train got stuck between two stations. I, with others, literally had to help women off the train, the indignity and embarrassment these women must have suffered is beyond comprehension.
The DA has already implemented proactive engagements with stakeholders in redressing maintenance defaulters, working better together with the Department of Trade and Industry to have defaulters blacklisted. Following our engagements with the National Credit Regulator over the last month, new “affordability assessment” guidelines have been gazetted for the credit industry. Amongst others, these stipulate that maintenance payments will be included in all affordability assessments completed when applying for new credit. Mr Deputy Speaker, through co-operative governance, this is what can be achieved. This means that for the first time, maintenance defaulters will now have their credit records impaired. This will stop defaulters accessing new credit while ignoring their maintenance responsibilities. The Department of Justice has also subsequently drafted a Bill to amend the Maintenance Act to make this a reality.
I call on every member in this House to join us in contributing to a self-reliant society in which our women and children are empowered in the Western Cape. Mr Deputy Speaker, when it comes to improving the livelihoods of our sisters, mothers, grandmothers and children, no party affiliation should surface but rather a common goal of upholding the rights of women, fought for in 1956.