Ministerial Briefing on 2009 plans & Parliamentary Researchers’ Five Year Review

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

09 June 2009
Chairperson: Ms B Thompson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities, Hon Noluthando Mayenda-Sibiya, who noted that the process of establishing the new Department was under way, but at present her new Ministry was still operating under the budget of the Presidency, which had been stretched to accommodate the issues. It would have its own vote in the new budget allocation. The branches of Women, Disability, Children and Youth would continue to engage with the Committee, present their strategic plan and their budget. There was an indication that the youth component may be falling under the auspices of the Youth Development Agency, and that special attention would be focused on older persons. However, youth was a cross cutting issue and this Committee would still be considering them under other categories. The Minister noted that it would be useful to have representation of Members in a consultation process around pertinent issues on how to move forward in the next five years. Members asked for clarity on the budget and the strategic plan process of the Department, on the National Youth Development Agency, It was suggested that there were risks in the temporary situation but there were also opportunities. The oversight role of the Committee was emphasised, and it was urged that Members must take the initiative to the proactive.

The Parliamentary Research Unit then presented a Five-Year Review document, giving a synopsis of some of the issues dealt with by the former Joint Monitoring Committees on the Improvement of quality of life and Status of Women and on Children, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. This Committee was to close the business of the two previous committees as well as take on new issues. The researchers isolated important issues. In relation to women, they highlighted the legislation where monitoring and evaluation was needed, as well as the need to attend to the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill. The international conventions and obligations were set out.  Vital issues affecting women were listed as violence against women, economic empowerment and skills development, access to services, poverty eradication and HIV/AIDS. In relation to children the proposed Trafficking Bill would be important, and other legislation requiring finalisation or monitoring and oversight was listed. In relation to the disabled, South Africa’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were set out. Child issues included the high incidence of gender based violence, abuse and neglect, child pornography, trafficking, missing children and school based violence. They suggested possible focus areas for consideration by the Committee over the next five years.

Members agreed to hold another follow up meeting once the proposals had been considered. They commented that some of the statistics in the reports needed improvement, noting that there were other health risks not mentioned in the document, asked at what stage this Committee could be able to influence budget allocations, and again stressed the need to be proactive. Other issues requiring attention were the homeless, and access to wheelchairs and walking frames. Many of the issues were ongoing and must be dealt with whilst also planning for future. They supported the idea of workshops, of making input into the Strategic Plan process, and reading reports of the past Joint Monitoring Committees' work.

Meeting report

Ministerial briefing by Hon Noluthando Mayenda-Sibiya
The Chairperson welcomed Hon Noluthando Mayenda-Sibiya, Minister of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities, to the first meeting of the Committee. Since this Committee still fell under the Presidency, and there was no budget as yet, she asked the Minister to explain how the Committee would be working.

Minister Noluthando Mayenda-Sibiya said the process of establishing the new Department was under way through the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and the Presidency. At present the new Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities (the Ministry) was still operating under the budget of the Presidency, which meant that the Presidency had been asked to stretch the budget to accommodate it. The new Ministry did expect to have a budget vote in the next budget allocation. The Committee would have to submit its strategic document and working plan. The budget vote on 25 June would still fall under that of the Presidency.

Mr Sandi Mbatsha, Special Advisor, advised that the Presidency fell under the same budget presented by former Minister of Finance Trevor Manuel in February, under the previous Parliament.

The Chairperson expressed her understanding that currently the Presidency was accountable.

Ms D Robinson (DA) asked whether there was any interaction from the Committee in relation to what the Department was going to put forward at this stage.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) asked when the strategic plan would be available.

Ms H Malgas (ANC) congratulated the Chairperson and the Minister on their appointments. She asked for more clarity on the budget within the Presidency, and asked which programme the vulnerable groups would fall under. She noted her interest in the operational plan, as she thought there should be something separate for these vulnerable groupings within the Presidency.

Ms P Duncan (DA) noted that the Minister had made mention that funds would be “stretched” and requested clarity in which financial year this would apply, and whether it was applicable for all four sectors.

The Minister responded that the stretched budget was for the current period. The problem pertained only to a short few months. The Department was expected to have its own budget for the next financial year 2010 to 2011. There would be interaction with the Department in a number of areas, and after new structures had been established, there would be more clarity on the programmes and the processes were.

Ms Mbangi Dzivhani, Head: Programmes, current Departmental structure, responded that the branches of Women, Disability, Children and Youth would continue to engage with the Committee, and to present their strategic plan and their budget. The Committee would continue to present these units operational plans, as they would have done under the previous dispensation, based on the stretched budget.

Mr Mbatsha said the Department was working on the strategic plan for the Ministry and the Department as a whole.

The Chairperson asked that Members be kept informed of developments around the stretched budget.

Mr Mbatsha explained that all the relevant departments would be informed. The new Department should take care of all the financial requirements and would do the allocations. In September, in terms of the usual budget process, National Treasury could do adjustments to the correct classification. The setting up of the new Department, the whole structure and the employment of staff would be stretched under the Presidency. Labour relations issues meant that it was not possible to transfer people to a department that was not legally in existence, but when this aspect had been sorted out the transfers of all the relevant staff would happen. In the meantime the programmes would continue to run.

Ms Malgas queried the position of the Youth Development Agency (YDA).

Minister Mayenda-Sibiya informed the Committee that there was an indication that the youth component may be falling out of the Department, instead falling under the auspices of the Youth Development Agency. Even if that were to occur, young girls and young people would still be defined as children, so the Department would not lose sight of issues regarding young people. There would need to be a mechanism found to define relationship between the YDA, the Department and young people. There would still be indirect involvement with young people, women, children, people with disabilities and older people.
The Chairperson expressed that she would not be entirely comfortable with youth falling under the Presidency, but was consoled by the statement made by the President the previous day that there would not be any “super” ministers.

Mr X Mabaso (ANC) felt the Committee should recognise this was a temporary status, with some inherent risks, but there were also opportunities. Whatever might be lost in the transitional stages would be compensated by a greater ability to focus on others. He suggested that during this transitional stage it could be important to undertake more visits to various interest groups and to focus on identifying issues. Much work would be needed.

The Chairperson thought that made a lot of sense. Although there might be some difficulties, she agreed that it would be important to identify areas on which to work. She said that she would speak to the Department to get a sense and when and how the Committee could be involved in the strategic plan.

The Minister said it would help to have representation of Members in a consultation process, so that pertinent issues could be raised on how to move forward in the next five years. Although youth may move away from the Department, they were still an important sector. The new Ministry was set up and would see to the interests and want interaction. The Ministry belonged to the people, and would need to ensure that the issue and the voices of women and youth remained prime issues. She would like to see a fully-fledged Ministry serving the interests of all.

Mr Mbatsha said that a first draft of the strategic plan would be presented to the Committee, comments would be received and then he would return with revisions to that draft.

Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang (ANC) cautioned it was very important that this Committee should not ask questions in the form of “how do we do…” because she felt that this did not emphasise the oversight role. Initiatives for visits must come from the Committee, not the Ministry, to ensure that the oversight role was enhanced.

The Chairperson emphasised that of course the Committee Members and Ministry remained separate.

Mr Kekana said to the Minister that the nature of this Committee’s work was cross-cutting and that it would be consulting with and taking the Department on board whilst also concentrating on the various sectors.

The Chairperson agreed that this was very important. The Committee could, for instance, ensure that Departments such as Agriculture or Health were complying with the relevant issues.

Ms Robinson said there would be substantial overlapping, and the Committee must be alert and constantly define where it was going. Members should explore and know more about the people it was serving. She urged the need for good organisation, and asked that all documentation for Members should arrive at least a day prior to the meeting, so Members had time to study and absorb the details. She also asked that the names and contact details of researchers be communicated to all Members. Finally, she made the point that the acoustics in the current venue were difficult, the room was very small and confined, and she asked for a larger venue to accommodate everyone comfortably, as well as having water on the tables.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Robinson’s points. 

Dr Tshabalala-Msimang cautioned that the Ministry as related to other departments should be carefully defined to avoid confusion.

The Chairperson noted that all Members must have a common understanding of accountability, of the expectations of the Department and of their role and function, including spending.

Mr Mbatsha said that the strength of engagement was an important part of oversight.

Mr Mabaso urged that the Department should take heed of the comments made by the Auditor-General’s Office, and that it should learn from and avoid a repeat of the lessons from the past.

The Department was excused from the meeting at this stage.

Five-Year Review: Presentation by Parliamentary Research Unit
Ms Joy Watson, Senior Parliamentary Researcher, noted that the purpose of the presentation was to give the current Committee an overview of some of the issues dealt with by the former Joint Monitoring Committees on Women and on Children, Youth and Disabled Persons. This Committee must close the business of the two previous committees whose functions it had now taken over, and look at their priority issues identified for discussion in the new Parliament, as well as take on new issues.

She noted that both of the former Joint Monitoring Committees (JMCs) had come with a history, and both experienced various administrative impediments that had seriously hampered their ability to be fully productive and to deliver on their mandates. The JMCs were allocated less money than other committees, partly because they had not been as active as other committees. Both JMCs had also only been allowed to meet on Fridays, when many members had already left for home the previous evening, and so had struggled to get a quorum and take final decisions.

The amount of legislation passed seemed to indicate that South Africa had made significant strides, yet in practice poverty levels remained high and there were many challenges.

Ms Watson said that In the past, the committees had started their work by considering the budget vote. The relevant departments would then table the strategic plan, which the research and analysis team would comment upon. When the relevant Annual Reports were tabled, the process of mid-term review would commence. The JMCs, however, had not had a clear role in this cycle. The role of this new Committee was larger and clearer. It would deal with departments such as Health and Justice. However, given that there were now four groups of children, youth, women and people with disabilities, it was important to prioritise. She suggested that, for instance, budgets and annual reports could form the focus one year, and issues such as violence, social development, or social grants in following years. There was need for a coordinated decision on what approach to take.

Ms Watson suggested that one of the first matters needing consideration should be the Gender Equality Report to the Gender Committee. Now that the dispensation had changed, this Committee would need to think through what its relationship would be with the different components. It would also need to consider the implications for this Committee should youth be taken out.

Ms Crystal Levendale, Parliamentary Researcher, noted that the delivery priorities for the Committee were to monitor and ensure that all policies and programmes were implemented in all ministries and departments; to monitor all legislation, including the budget for compliance with international commitments, and to ensure that ministries and departments mainstreamed gender, children, disability and youth in all programmes and budgets. The oversight, monitoring and evaluation role of the Committee was important. It must ensure that the rights of socially vulnerable groups were considered and prioritised in all legislation, policies and programmes. In addition, it would need to ensure that appropriate budgets were allocated for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of legislation, policies and programmes, and generally to improve the quality of life and status of socially vulnerable groups across the social and racial spectrum in South Africa.

Ms Levendale then drew the Committee’s attention to the key challenges facing women, and the implications for the Committee (see attached document). She noted that in many cases there was no budget allocation.

She then noted that the Department had not passed legislation needing to be followed through. However, that passed by other departments, where there must be monitoring and evaluation, included the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act, 32 of 2007, and the Domestic Violence Act, No 116 of 1998, where there was still lack of knowledge of the legislation. Bills still to be considered included the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, which was highlighted because of the dangers that trafficking posed around the World Cup in 2010. She also said that South Africa was a signatory to a number of international tools promoting gender equality and the protection of women’s rights. The most important were the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the SADC Protocol on Gender Development, both of which were to be ratified by the fourth Parliament.

Ms Levendale said that key issues that needed to be considered during the fourth Parliament, which affected women, were violence against women, their economic empowerment and skills development; access to services; poverty eradication and HIV/AIDS.

Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Parliamentary Researcher, noted that over the past two years the JMC had done work with the youth around the YDA. She agreed that this Committee would be concerned with the implementation of the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill, and noted that the Film and Publication Bill, the Social Assistance Amendment Bill; and the Refugees Amendment Bill were in process. Legislation passed during the previous years, where oversight on implementation was crucial, included the Children’s Act, Child Justice Act, Sexual Offenders Act, and National Youth Development Agency Act. She noted that since South Africa was a signatory to international agreements in regard to persons with disabilities, there was some debate whether South Africa needed a Disabilities Act.

Ms Abrahams then tabled other treaties and international commitments. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was an urgent matter; the report was already late. The African Charter of the Rights Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) needed to be dealt with. With regard to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Optional Protocol (Convention on Disabilities), South Africa was elected as the pilot country for implementation and would need to compile a report to the United Nations (UN). All would require oversight, reporting and follow up on recommendations.

There remained an unacceptably high incidence of gender-based violence, abuse and neglect, child pornography, trafficking, missing children and school based violence. Other issues included child survival and maternal mortality, social security, education, children in conflict with the law, and provision of basic services. Access to data, a comprehensive budget and monitoring and evaluation were needed.

In relation to youth, the main issues were economic empowerment, education, gender based violence, health, poverty alleviation, and youth in conflict with the law. Once again, a specialised budget, data and monitoring and evaluation were required.

The same needs pertained to persons with disabilities, but the special considerations were health care, accessibility to and forms of transport, social security, education, the lack of achievement of employment equity targets, economic empowerment, access to basic services and accessible media (such as sign language)

Ms Abrahams thought that the Committee needed to set its priorities, hold workshops where there could be engagements around rights, mainstreaming of issues and budget. There was also a need, perhaps by way of a special group, to consider the Joint Rules. The Committee would also need to confer with other committees, engage with the media and civil society and follow up on resolutions of the sectoral Parliament in relation to children, youth, disability and women issues.

The Research Team tabled their proposals for themes for 2009 to 2013 (see attached document). For 2009, the Committee could tackle the issues of violence and socially vulnerable groups, ranging from abuse and neglect, through school based violence, chid abuse through pornography, trafficking, shelters and child and youth centres, children in conflict with the law, access to appropriate services, and the relevant legislation.

Ms Robinson supported the suggestion that a follow up meeting be held once Members had a chance to consider the proposals.

Dr Tshabalala-Msimang felt the documents should be improved, pointing out that many of the statistics for women were missing. She pointed out that HIV/AIDS was not the only health risk; preventative measures were also needed for pneumonia and diarrhoea, paraffin poisoning and accidents. She again cautioned that this Committee should not take on the oversight responsibilities of others.

Mr Mabaso noted that generally those areas were under-funded. He asked at what stage this Committee would be able to influence budget allocations, and he urged the need to look at all obligations, so that it could be more proactive.

The Chairperson agreed, saying the same argument was raised with regard to the strategic plan. She asked the Department for guidance.

Ms Robinson raised the issue of wheel chairs and walking frames being in the budget, noting that in various institutions there was a chronic shortage of such equipment. She felt the Committee needed more information on the funding needed.

The Chairperson proposed targeting the homeless.

Mr Kekana agreed that Members needed time to familiarise themselves with the documents. He noted that although oversight of legislation was mentioned, site visits had not been mentioned.

Mr Kekana asked for clarity on the proposed themes.

Ms Levendale clarified that the Committee must consider and prioritise the proposals put forward by the Researchers.

Mr Kekana noted that some of the issues were ongoing, such as HIV/AIDS and food security, so some measure of creativity was required to prioritise these.

Ms Malgas suggested interaction with the Department to look at key priorities.

Ms S Rwexana (COPE) cautioned that this Committee should not re-do work already done by the JMCs.

The Chairperson replied that there were outstanding issues of the JMCs that needed to be taken forward.

Ms Watson agreed, saying this Committee would need to take on these and make a decision on what further work it could do.

Ms Rwexana suggested a workshop to monitor the budget.

Ms Duncan thanked the Researchers for their suggestion. She suggested that the Committee should be involved in input into the Department’s strategic plan, and noted that some of the areas falling under the new Ministry were similar to those of the Department of Social Development.

Ms Robinson asked for reports from the JMCs, if they were available. She agreed that although new legislation was important, it was more important to ensure implementation of existing legislation. She said that she would like to see audits of clinics, particularly in regard to wheelchairs and walking frames. The Committee must consider what difference it was making to the lives of ordinary people.

Dr Tshabalala-Msimang agreed that the researchers be asked to look into some of the issues, so that this Committee would be able to address them fully when meeting with the Ministry. She would support the idea of a workshop, which could take place even before the Strategic Plan was drawn and presented.

The Chairperson proposed the setting up of study groups.

Ms Watson noted that the researchers had documentation and could make it available. She asked Members to comment upon the issues in the light of the State of the Nation address.

Mr Mabaso suggested that Members adopt a practical approach. The Committee should not repeat what had been done before. He suggested that the researchers and Committee Secretaries could study the reports to find out areas that might not have been dealt with fully, those commented upon by the Auditor-General, and to pick up comments from non-government organisations (NGO) so that these could be taken on board in the oversight plans.

Dr Tshabalala-Msimang had suggested that the Committee should be dealing with current issues whilst developing its plans. She noted that the orientation of this Committee should also look at the rural context. She also asked the research team to look at interim reports on families, and on children living and working on the streets, who often were not dealt with properly.

The Chairperson agreed and asked the research team to bring these reports to the Committee.

The meeting was adjourned.


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