Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Country Report

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

20 February 2013
Chairperson: Ms D Ramodibe (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, 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 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 two main ones such as the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Public Works.

Meeting report

First Country Report to the United Nations on the Implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
Ms Hendrietta Bogopane–Zulu, Deputy Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, briefed the Committees on the Country Report of the United Nations on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The first report was supposed to have been submitted in 2009; the second was due in 2014. The Convention required the development of a base line report which would be very detailed; then for the following five years there would just be reports on progress made in various areas. In 2009 to 2011 the inter-parliamentary working group received submissions and compiled the first draft, which was then submitted to the disability machinery and the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) for comments. Unfortunately, the analysis of the first draft brought forth huge gaps between qualitative and quantitative information. Also the UN was invited to evaluate the draft and also noted the gaps in the report.

Phase two consisted of rewriting the first draft, as the initial one was not useful. The Department called for submissions from all spheres of government and from Parliament; also Committees had public hearings to get a feel of what the public wanted. This draft was submitted to Cabinet and was also published for public comment.

Phase 3 came after 25 January 2013. The Department started compiling the final draft with the assistance of a professional editor. On 6 March 2013 the Department would be meeting with Cabinet, the Ministers and Deputy Ministers to present the final draft, and hopefully Cabinet would approve the report by 13 March 2013 in order to meet the 31 March 2013 deadline given by the UN.

The report was put on the Government website, as normal practice, also on the Disability Rights portal which had 2 190 subscribers and was also publicised through media campaigns to encourage the public to look at the report and give input.

Ministers and Directors-General of all government departments which had failed to submit information for consideration for the draft report were personally consulted. In total there were 54 submissions – ten from national disability organisations, nine from general civil society, and others from the South African Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Commission.

There were a number of areas of disagreement on what was actually in the report and what was submitted – the main ones included inter-sectoral correlation on disability, poverty and inequality. There was not much agreement as they were informed by individual experiences. Also, another issue of contention was violence against women and girls with disabilities and failure of the justice system to ensure social justice for victims. This was also informed by individual experiences from how their cases were dealt with to the individual getting justice.

There were many barriers that were highlighted by the report. Areas that needed work done included early childhood development between 0 and 4 years, and also dealing with the “non-visible” disabilities which were mental disorders. Another issue was that of inaccessible and expensive public transport. With the writing of the actual report the Department encountered problems with the submissions from government institutions. Submissions were not signed off by the Ministers and Directors-General as required, and also did not meet the requirements. These were submissions from the Department of Public Works, Department of Transport, Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO), Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Water Affairs. Furthermore, no submissions were received from the Department of Higher Education and Training (and that was a serious concern), Department of Economic Development and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. All provinces had made their submission, with Mpumalanga submitting on 11 February 2013. No submissions were received from any municipalities, except for those in Northern Cape. There were no comments from local government during the public hearings as well and that left a gap in the input of spheres of government.

The Stats SA census data did not provide the information required. The challenge was with the definition of disability. The information confused impairments and disability. The Department was working with Stats SA to conduct a new disability specific study to readjust the data and information.

Another area of concern was that of effective and efficient public service, lack of responsibility and no ownership of who was responsible for what. Very few government departments, provinces and municipalities had internalised the implications of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and actually sat down and planned according to the outcomes of the conventions. There had to be a joint awareness campaign and advocacy strategy that would cut through all three spheres of government. The issue was rectified by the Department and it had to educate public services on the outcomes of the conventions which impacted day to day life on government. It was of concern that departments and spheres of government did not consider their international obligations when they were formulating their strategic plans.

The Department had resolved to consolidate and communicate the national disability rights agenda better, and had started with provincial road shows. It was also restructuring the national disability machinery; the process would be finished by the end of the current financial year, and the new machinery included all spheres of government. Also, it would finalise the disability policy and implementation guidelines by May 2014. Currently the Department was doing an audit on legislative gaps and upgrading disability strategies. In the period between April 2013 and April 2014, the Department would use the feedback on the report to draft the second country report and also set relevant targets for the country.

In drafting the report the Department encountered lack of reliable and credible information from public service; most submissions lacked both quality and qualitative information and data on work done over the last three to five years - too many targets set not met and budgets not spent. However, with the intervention of the Department and the Committee there had been some change; for instance regarding the 2% quota, there has been an improvement from 0.16% in December 2005 to 0.36% in 2011. There was a total number of positions of 11 027 in government; 427 of those were filled by people with disabilities - that was 3.9% vacancies filled by disabled people. The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) would finalise the figures for 2012. Five people were employed in senior management positions in government. 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.

Health and rehabilitation was also a priority moving forward. One occupational therapist in the public sector had to see 53 000 people– which was impossible, and in the private sector one occupational therapist dealt with only 800 people. There was no functioning referral system in place between the Department of Health, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), the Department of Social Development and the Department of Basic Education. Disabled learners were unable to access assistive devices as they had to be evaluated to receive them; this was a result of personnel disparities. However, the Department of Health was on board to implement measures to improve these situations.

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 have awareness campaigns targeting traditional beliefs; 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 that 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 implementation of the Convention resolutions.

The Department and 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 improvements for disabled people.


The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for sharing the achievements of the Department. When looking at the report the information was discouraging considering how some Departments were responding - they were not doing what were supposed to do, almost as though the DWCDP was not a priority Department. The Chairperson asked what the Department would do to force Departments to deliver their reports, to ensure that DWCDP had sufficient information and data for their report.

The Deputy Minister said they went to the Cabinet last year with the first draft of the report and there were many departments that had not made their submissions; the President did not take that too kindly and issued clear instruction to ensure that during the opening period the relevant departments were to make inputs; public comments were from 20 November to 25 January. The outstanding Departments would be reported to the Cabinet as the Department was meeting with Cabinet again on 6 March 2013. They had already raised the issued to the respective ministers and now the Department would hand it over to the President. She acknowledged that the presentation to Cabinet was the first time Cabinet engaged with disability; they requested a disability workshop run by Cabinet as the issue was a new area and in most meetings with the Department it had been mostly a learning experience for the other party. There would be a workshop for Cabinet and for the Ministers and Deputy Ministers, and this would be done before presenting the Department’s five-year plan.

Mr D Worth (Free State, DA) thanked the Deputy Minister and the Department for delivering the overview of the report to be presented to the United Nations. He said that the Department of Public Works, as one of the most important departments in giving access to buildings for disabled people had not given reports on how many building were now accessible. Also, the Department of Higher Education and Training had made no submission and yet it was mentioned in some of the key areas. He asked for a list of the institutions that had submitted reports.

The Department distributed a list of the parties that had submitted and what they had submitted.

Ms G Tseke (ANC) thanked the Deputy Minister for the celebratory points she highlighted. She said the presentation noted that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) was creating opportunities for people with disabilities, which was great as the Committee had previously come down on it as to why it did not have opportunities for the disabled. She asked if the Department of Trade and Industry had responded to the questionnaire from the DWCDP. Also were there any community-based projects run by disabled persons for the disabled? She also asked how the Committee and the Department must interact with different political parties to encourage them to be inclusive of people with disabilities; for instance the African National Congress (ANC) had representatives who were disabled – however, other parties did not seem to.

The Deputy Minister said, making an example about the DTI, that one of the obstacles in compiling a country report was that though the Department might know certain things that were happening in the country, unless the departments reported on them it was difficult for them to be reported on by DWCDP. For instance, there were a number of disabled magistrates; however, they were not noted in the concerned department's report [DTI's report], so the Department could not put them in its report as they were not formally noted, though it knew and interacted with disabled magistrates on a daily basis.

The Deputy Minister noted there were gaps on reporting and under reporting by departments. Like other Departments, the DTI, after being asked to compile its report, was actually forced to look into its systems; hence there had been change within the Department. Organisations run by disabled people had been very successful; however like government they also did not always document their work but they had been very successful. Also, there has been training by the University of York for disabled organisations in South Africa. She added that disabled people needed to be active politicians themselves and hold their political parties accountable on disability issues and to ensure that their political parties had policies on disability to bring to government. The ANC, as the example given, might have been more successful as it had many active disabled members.

Mr G Mokgoro (Northern Cape, ANC) congratulated the province of the Northern Cape for being the only province that had made the submissions for the report as required. He asked what the Department would be doing regarding the other provinces that had not submitted reports. Also a report from the Committee Researcher mentioned a number of issues, including Article 4 of which the requirements were binding. He asked the Department to pay attention to that.

The Deputy Minister said all the provinces had made submissions, the last one being Mpumalanga. However, only the Northern Cape municipalities had made submissions. She noted that the province produced one the best reports and its report had often been given to other provinces to share what the Northern Cape had done. Lastly the Department would get feedback from the Committee Researcher and incorporate it into the report and respond to it.

Ms I Ditshetelo (UCDP) raised concerns and questioned the reasons given by the departments that had failed to make submissions, if there were any. Also, she asked if there were steps taken to eliminate unskilled staff - as unskilled members of staff, disabled or not, were not contributing. How would skilled people get trained and deployed to the rural areas? And finally, why did disabled people not get bursaries - was it due to their disabilities or an issue of not meeting academic requirements?

The Deputy Minister said that no department had refused to submit its reports; however, some never actually delivered them or kept postponing delivery dates. Cabinet would provide direction on what would be done about the issue and make necessary decisions. Unskilled staff members were mostly in education and public service and the issue had already been raised with respective ministers. The Minister of Basic Education had already come up with strategies on how to address the issues and had set time frames to deliver on them. The DWCPD was monitoring the Department on what it needed to do, its achievements and system to be put in place to train teachers.

Ms H Lamoela (DA) agreed with the Deputy Minister that we were a nation in disarray that had failed to look after the vulnerable. She asked about the means test on the parents of disabled children under 18. She said disabled children had a triple challenge and were more expensive to raise, so the means test should be different or not be required for their parents. She said students wanting to study sign language did get bursaries but were prevented by huge registration fees at academic institutions. No district councils and councils had made submissions and that was a great concern as implementation needed to be done in the districts, municipalities and provinces levels. She also asked if there were timeframes set to meet the challenges of the report. She sought clarity on where the road shows had been. She had not noticed any. She also enquired where the 900 jobs that had been created through the Woodcutters' Initiative were and in what sectors.

The Deputy Minister admitted that there was a means test for the care dependency grant and had raised it with the Minister of Social Development and it was also incorporated in the Social Security Review as a challenge; the tax rebate dealt with that issue. When earning R60 000 and above per annum, as a taxpayer with a disabled child one would receive one's rebate. Regarding registration at institutions, the Department of Higher Education and Training had failed to submit a report. The Minister of Higher Education and Training was calling for more control over universities to deal with such issues; as an NSFAS recipient one should not be burdened with registration fees. However that had something to do with the autonomy of universities; the Deputy Minister called on Members to support Minister Blade Nzimande’s call as it would minimise these issues. The road shows had been in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape. The provincial cabinets allocated a full day with the Department to go through disability etiquette, gaps in their service delivery, their budgets, feedback, how many people were disabled, shared strategies, and the Department’s disability agenda and priorities. In the provinces that the Department had visited there had been visible change and progress noted in their reports. The Deputy Minister said that sometimes it was not that institutions were unwilling to participate but, rather, it was a case that they did not know what to do and how. The Department could not set time frames; the UN set the challenge and the report did have recommendations on how to make them a reality. The 900 jobs were created across all sectors, from technical to administration to procurement; the Department of Labour had provided the figures. The Department would conduct disability economic research to examine the impact of disability on poverty, report on the financial burden of a disabled child in families, and would make informed recommendation to government. She said that the Department set targets relevant to it, but the targets were often determined by how other departments performed; it was therefore difficult to set time frames.

Ms L van de Merwe (IFP) asked what would be done with the Departments and local government offices that had not been compliant and were not submitting - how they would be held accountable, as they were key components in the process (for instance the Department of Basic Education)? She suggested there might not be much that the Department of Social Department could report on as millions of rands of what they were supposed to use to make buildings accessible had gone unspent. She asked how far along was the legislation that would hold Departments accountable on disability issues.

The Deputy Minister stated that there had been an increase in spending by the Department of Social Development as it had developed a policy on disability but the Department could not include any information on progress as the Department of Social Development had not submitted a report. Internationally, countries dealt with disability differently. South Africa had opted for inclusion – in a number of jurisdictions there was a disability clause. What the Convention required was an audit of the legislation against the articles and obligations in order to fill any gaps in legislation and the yearlong process had already started. She emphasised that disabled South Africans needed to guide disability legislation in government – set minimum norms and standards and take a punitive approach to compliance to hold government accountable.

Ms E More (DA) expressed concern over the information given regarding impairments and disabilities as noted by the Deputy Minister. She asked if the Department would wait for Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) to conduct the disability specific census, in order to get more accurate information. She suggested that one should make sure that there were consequences for departments that did not submit as they presented a barrier to accurate information. The 2% target had proved almost impossible for departments; it was not, however, that they did not comply. She said other departments had a great influence on the work of the DWCPD. Therefore, as a way forward, she suggested that the Committee write a letter to the Presidency or to the Speaker to ensure that departments made their submissions.

The Deputy Minister said the impairment versus disability issue had no significant impact on the credibility of the data; however the Stats SA census would make the distinction clearer with qualifying questions of whether the respondents inability (to walk or see) was permanent or temporary. It had proved difficult for all countries to have precise numbers of their disabled citizens; it had been a struggle for all – however, Stats SA would be making estimates based on the data that it collected. She said that the Department would be focusing on rural development as a challenge and an area of concern. Most municipalities had not submitted reports because they had nothing to report on; they had not dealt with disability yet. The process has started with Tshwane, which now had a disability unit and forums thanks to the Department’s intervention and interaction with the relevant mayors. The Department also had decided to focus on rural areas without ignoring urban areas and their challenges.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) applauded the Department, though there was still so much to be done; however, the Department had proved to be a strong and well-trained army. He highlighted the importance of the role of local government as it worked closely with the people. He proposed that the Deputy Minister approach the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) as the closest body to the people, and to have a disability desk in SALGA that would be monitored by the Department and the Committee which would compel local government to submit reports. He mentioned that the Department of Public Works was struggling with the registration of assets; however, it should submit its report nonetheless. He asked if there were reasons why the Northern Cape, being a rural province, had managed to outshine all the other provinces and how it did it, so other provinces could copy it. He was happy that the Deputy Minister’s presentation linked training and job opportunities in order to meet the quota. Disabled people would not be employed for charity; they would be employed for capacity and capabilities. Should they not be trained they would be at a disadvantage - no employer would offer them opportunities just to meet a quota. He proposed a report on tertiary level and Further Education and Training (FET) colleges to see how many disabled persons were successes in higher education.

The Deputy Minister said that the Department had engaged SALGA, which did not have a disability desk and the Department had raised the issue and had continued to do so. The Department of Co-operative Government disbanded its disability desk that and that was a problem that had been raised as a concern to the Minister.

The Chairperson enquired about a vacant post in rehabilitations of rural areas - how to ensure the post was filled, as it was one of the most important areas? As to bursary support from the Presidency - how would it be monitored to ensure that it would be established? The Chairperson proposed developing a referral system in the departments mentioned to avoid duplication.

The Deputy Minister said that when Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, launched the district health committees, what the Department of Health ensured was the development of referral systems. Bursaries for disabled pupils were not with the Presidency but were incorporated in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), allocated as a fund specifically for disabled students, and there had been progress and a report on the progress NSFAS had made since the intervention from the Department and with academic institutions – through road shows and interventions with universities engaging the Senate, the councils and University management.

Ms Lamoela asked how the report that would be circulated and made more accessible - would it be available in Braille to ensure no one was excluded as might be the case if there were issues of funding.

The Deputy Minister said that the report had no charts, graphs or pictures. This was deliberate to ensure that the report would be accessible to the visually impaired, the report would be in Braille, translated to all languages and the report was in simple English.

Ms Van de Merwe asked what the process would be henceforth. How long would it take to finalise the report and would it be submitted to Cabinet and when would it be submitted to the United Nations and who would be submitting the report and representing South Africa?

The Deputy Minister replied that slide 36 gave step by step what happened from now. After 6 March, any recommendations and changes proposed by Cabinet would be made, and the Deputy Minister assured the Committee that the Department was on schedule to meet its dead line. After the report was completed it would be handed over to DIRCO as its custodian and to present it to the UN.

Ms B Mabe (Gauteng, ANC) commented on the intergovernmental relations and asked what ideas the Deputy Minister had on how to assist the Department. She said the Committee had the power to specifically agree on a strategy to ensure other departments come to the party and deliver on their obligations, and the Department needed the Committee’s assistance. She proposed that Committee Members raise motions in both Houses and in any other platform to encourage better intergovernmental relations.

The Deputy Minister encouraged intergovernmental relations as they could only help to improve things.

Commission for Gender Equality Amendment Bill [B36-2012]
The Chairperson said that the Committee had received legal advice from the Women's Legal Centre on whether to have public hearings on the Bill. According to the Constitution there must be public hearings; however the question was whether they would be written or oral submissions.

The Committee Secretary, Ms Neliswa Nobatana, read through the proposed advertisement, which highlighted both written submissions and a public hearings on 16 and 17 April 2013 at Parliament and that written submissions were due on 22 March 2013.

Ms Ditshetelo proposed a change of date to the 17 and 18 April for maximum attendance by Committee Members.

The Chairperson said that one tried to avoid having hearings on a Thursday as Members usually had a sitting in the house. However, the Committee Secretary will follow up and investigate if that Thursday would be available.

Ms Van der Merve said that the Committee could possibly have all the oral submissions in one day, 17 April 2013. As previously there had only been two requests to make submissions and she did not foresee an influx of them this time around either because as it was a technical Bill.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Van der Merve that they did not envisage many submissions and one day would be enough for the public hearing.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Content advisor of the Portfolio Committee said the Department would bring a report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child to the Committee The report was 13 years late and therefore will be combined with the second, third and fourth Country report. As with the disability hearings there would be public hearings on the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The proposed time period would be towards the end of May 2013 during Child Protection Week. Also there would be a special session focus on sexual violence, tied in with Child Protection Week, which would involve justice and police.

Ms More asked where the hearings would be and suggested that the Committee travel out to the most needy provinces (like the Eastern Cape) to increase participation. She added that having hearings in Parliament was limiting and targeted one province.

Ms Lamoela agreed with Ms More. She said the Committee needed to accommodate areas that were really needy by going to them, as they struggled to come to Parliament.

The Chairperson said that this concerned all provinces; as a national issue, Parliament was central. In choosing provinces that were considered needy on a national issue, the Committee could be viewed as being biased.

Ms Lamoela asked who paid for the people in the provinces to come to public hearings.

The Committee Secretary said should there be people who had indicated they wanted to attend the public hearing the Committee would pay for them.

The Chairperson added that one targeted people that could not afford to attend.

Ms Lamoela proposed that the advertisement be placed in local newspapers for maximum exposure.

United Nations Commission on the Status of Women 56th Session Report: readoption
The Committee Advisor brought the report back to the Committee; it was previously adopted by the Committee but there had been an amendment in the report so the Committee had to readopt it. She went through the inserted paragraph (paragraph three on page one)

Ms Lamoela said she was concerned that three people went to New York to represent Parliament and they were all from the ANC. Her view was that other political parties never had insight on matters on the status of issues concerning women in the country. She asked if other political parties in Parliament were taken into consideration to represent Parliament.

The Chairperson noted the concern, as it was not the first time the Member had raised it.

Ms Tseke moved for the adoption of the report as it was previously adopted on 12 September 2012 and the inserted paragraph was merely procedural, and Ms C Diemu (COPE) seconded the proposal.

Committee minutes
Adoption of the Committee minutes dated 30 January 2013 was postponed for next week as some Members had not received copies of them.

The Chairperson asked Members to go through the minutes before the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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