Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan clearly did not want to rock the boat in the rather conservative 2012/13 budget. The highlights in a nutshell include: Budget deficit The deficit is estimated higher, at 5.2% of GDP (gross domestic product) in 2012/13 (shortfall of R16.3bn). It is budgeted to come down to 4.6% in 2013/14 and 3.1% in 2015/16. Growth and inflation Economic growth has been adjusted slightly downward from last year's budget with estimated figures of 2.7% in 2013, 3.5% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015. Consumer inflation is expected to be stable at 5.7% in 2013, slowing to 5.5% in 2015. Debt and loan service costs Net loan debt is projected to reach 38.6% in 2013/14, and stabilise at just higher than 40% towards 2016.

Debt service costs are expected to stabilise at 2.8% of GDP in 2012/13. Revenue and spending Total spending in 2013/14 is seen at R1 149.4 billion or 32.6% of GDP, and total revenue at R985.7billion, or 28% of GDP. Personal tax Individual tax payers will start paying tax at an annual income of R67 111 (R63 556 last year) for people below 65, R104 611 (R99 056) for persons 65 to 74 and R117 111 (R110 889) for persons over 75. Individuals whose taxable income is only from a single employer and does not exceed R250 000 for the 2012/13 tax year are not required to submit tax returns. Sin taxes Excise duties on alcohol and tobacco products will go up between 5% and 10%.

  • Tax on malt beer increases by 7.5c, to R1.08 per 340ml can
  • Tax on unfortified wine increases by 15c per 750ml bottle.
  • Tax on ciders and alcoholic fruit beverages increases by 7.3c per 330ml bottle.
  • Tax on spirits increases by R3.60, to R39.60 per 750ml bottle.
  • Tax on cigarettes increases by 60c, to R10.92 per packet of 20. Fuel and environmental taxes

The general fuel levy will rise by 15c per litre to R2.13 on April 3 2013, and the Road Accident Fund levy by 8c/l to 96c/l of petrol. The levy on plastic shopping bags will rise from 4c to 6c per bag from April 1 2013. Social grants The most important grants have all been raised by between 4% and 5%. The old age grant will now be R1 260 per month and R1 280 for people over 75. The disability grant will now be R1 260, foster care R800, care dependency R1 260 and child support R290. Medical schemes Monthly tax credits for medical scheme contributions (reduction of tax payable) will be increased from R230 to R242 for the first two beneficiaries on a medical scheme, and from R154 to R162 for each additional beneficiary on the medical scheme for R2013/14. Pension fund money Proposals are considered which would require retirement funds to transfer members' balances into a preservation fund when they change their employer. Youth employment A youth employment tax incentive aimed at encouraging firms to employ young workers will be tabled for consideration by parliament. Infrastucture Government will over the next three years invest R827 billion into building new and upgrading existing infrastructure.

UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The United Nation Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) reaffirms disabled people's human rights and signals a further major step in disabled people's journey to becoming full and equal citizens. The Convention reaffirms that disabled people have human rights and that they should be able to enjoy them on an equal basis with non-disabled people. It recognises that disabled people continue to face a wide range of barriers to realising their human rights in practice and sets out the measures governments are expected to take to remove them and to ensure the rights of disabled people are protected.

The Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane–Zulu, briefed the Committees on the Country Report of the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which would be presented to the United Nations (UN) in 2014. The briefing was a detailed summary of the actual document to be handed to the UN; it highlighted many issues and areas of frustration, and the Deputy Minister also referred to “What to Celebrate”, which highlighted some positive achievements by the Department, government and disabled people as individuals. ¨The main concerns from the Committee Members and a question that kept coming up during the discussion was the lack of interest showed by certain departments and local governments that did not make submissions to the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). Some of them were essential to the Department’s report as most of the areas of concern touched directly on them; these departments included the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Public Works.

Barriers

There were many barriers that were highlighted by the report. Areas that needed urgent attention included early childhood development between 0 and 4 years, and also dealing with the “non-visible” disabilities, which included mental disorders. Another major issue was that of inaccessible and expensive public transport.
There total number of government positions was 11 027; 427 (3.9%) of those were filled by people with disabilities. By March 2012, eight national and provincial departments met their 2% target. There was a continued increase in the numbers of disabled people employed in government which had increased the practice of decent work. The Department aimed to increase learnerships and training programmes. The focus would also be on educating disabled children by improving resources and accessible schools. The Department highlighted that even though there were legislative commitments, there were still many challenges, most of which were in basic education. However, adult basic education had done exceptionally well.


Disabled people in rural areas were getting a raw deal, as there were still stigmas attached to being a disabled individual. Rural development had to be a focus area as well and awareness campaigns targeting traditional beliefs are needed; also there was a lack of professional expertise as trained professionals were not interested in moving to those areas even with the incentives offered. The Deputy Minister commented that South Africa was a nation in disarray, as women and children were under attack and it got worse with those who were disabled. The United Nations has pledged its support for South Africa on the ventures to make improvements on the rights of disabled people and the implementation of the UN Convention resolutions.

Positives

The Department and the Committee had a few things to celebrate. These included self-representation of people with disabilities in Parliament, different commissions, forums and state boards. Taxpayers could claim tax benefits for all disability-related costs incurred; those with disabled children from their school fees to medical expenses. In the work with the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) to establish bursaries specifically for the assistance of disabled students in higher education institutions, there was money set aside for assistive devices to help with their education. The Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SSETA) had set up a grant to enrol disabled people in learnerships. There were educational road shows on the new bank notes by the Governor of the South African Reserve Bank.

Also visually impaired voters could vote in privacy without assistance. South Africa had one of the best Paralympics teams, and that had trickled down to the development of sports in school programmes. Lastly, unemployment was a huge issue for all, but there were overall improvements for disabled people.¨

Nicky’s Drive – First taste of success

Anyone with a physical disability will agree that one of our greatest challenges to independence is transport! Nicky's Drive is a non-profit organisation that was founded to address this very need - to help people with disabilities become mobile and independent.

I was born with Phocomelia (I have no arms and shortened legs). However, with a supportive family and a determined personality, I attended mainstream schooling. Through hard work and perseverance, I received a bursary to study Psychology at Stellenbosch University.

During my university years, a woman who was driving with a similar disability in the UK knew about her dream to drive and kindly donated her '95 Honda Civic to Nicky. “I raised funds to travel to the UK to assess if I had the physical capacity to drive, and have necessary adjustments made to the car and bring it back to South Africa. That was 11 years ago and words cannot describe the positive impact driving has had on my life and career – it’s priceless.”

One of the shortcomings of my car is that I'm not able to transport my motorised wheelchair, which I use for walking distances. As my car will not last forever, I needed to start raising funds for a replacement vehicle in the future. The joystick steering technology I use to drive is still not available in South Africa and unaffordable for many with the UK exchange rate.

While friends started a Facebook Page to raise awareness of the project, I decided that I wanted to help more than one person, so I started "Nicky’s Drive," which was registered as a non-profit organisation in 2011. The main aim of Nicky’s Drive is to fund car adaptations for people with disabilities within South Africa. Our primary means of fundraising is through my motivational speaking. Due to limited resources, we do not fund the purchase of vehicles, but currently fund adaptations to the maximum value of R10 000. The Nicky’s Drive Committee meet quarterly to select applications for funding based on available resources and needs.
In December 2012, Nicky’s Drive funded our first project. Morris Mbete, from Olifantsfontein in Gauteng, he was referred to Nicky’s Drive by Occupational Therapist, Caroline Rule.

Morris had completed his driving assessment through Rolling Rehab in Pretoria and was investigating funding options for the car adaptations that were necessary for him to drive. Morris was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2009 which left him a C5/6 (Incomplete) Quadriplegic. One of his greatest obstacles has been transportation and he had been depending mostly on costly metered taxis. The hand controls were done by Etienne van Tonder from EZ-Drive in Pretoria. Fittingly, Morris’s vehicle was adapted on 3 December 2012 – International Day for People with Disabilities!

As a parallel project, Nicky's Drive has collaborated with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) to bring the sophisticated technology that I use to drive to South Africa. I am the “guinea pig” for the project and I am working with the Design and Mechanical Engineering students to adapt a replacement vehicle for my use. We have decided on the VW Caddy for the motorised wheelchair access. This pioneering project has the potential to change many lives as it will make joystick steering technology more affordable and accessible to people with disabilities within South Africa.

On 7 March, Nicky’s Drive hosted an Expo at CPUT showcasing the prototype and simulator for our car project. Caroline Rule attended as a special guest sharing her expert knowledge on driving assessments. The Expo was open to the public and inspired and empowered people with disabilities for driving opportunities.

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