The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus met for a briefing on the Women’s Month Parliamentary Programme (which PMG was not able to cover), to discuss and endorse the composition of the Steering Committee which would be reporting to the Caucus and to discuss issues for the strategic planning session.
Members interacted with Parliamentary officials presenting on the Women’s Month programme, which would not be limited to the month of August only but would offer activities and events for the rest of the financial year. It was pointed out that there was a need to interact with women in other forums, as many were representatives of other Parliament. Interaction was not always easy, and Members stressed the need for patience, pointing out that taking people out of the mindset of oppression, which they sometimes even perpetuated themselves, was not an easy task, and it must be remembered that oppression for many years brought with it difficulties in understanding the problems or seeking solutions. They also noted that a male-dominated Parliament was not always sufficiently appreciative of the women’s concerns, and it was very important that all Members correlate their input and ideas to assist each other in moving forward. In the past, there had not been sufficient synergy between committees, and this would have to be addressed, to avoid overlaps. A review of how Parliament had impacted on the lives of women over the last twenty years would be conducted. A steering committee was to be set up to deal with issues pertaining to the 20 Years of Democracy campaigns.
The names proposed for that Steering Committee were read out; it consisted of five ANC representatives, with one from the IFP and one from the UDM. The Chair was an ANC representative and the Deputy Chair from the IFP. The DA and EFF representatives queried the composition of the Steering Committee and the process, with the DA suggesting that the official opposition ought to have at least one representative, and both the DA and the EFF asserting that, as a result of insufficient communication, they had not been invited to certain meetings. The Committee Secretary explained that the opposition parties had been asked to meet to put forward two names to represent all opposition parties. It was pointed out that it made little different which opposition parties were represented on that Steering Committee, since it would have to refer all recommendations to the full Caucus, on which all opposition parties were represented, for endorsement.
The Steering Committee was also mandated to present a framework, within the next two weeks, so that the Caucus could finalise its strategy, and Members were asked to raise any issues that they considered should be prioritised. SADC matters would also be dealt with by the Steering Committee and recommendations made to this Caucus.
Briefing on Women’s Month Parliamentary Programme
NB: Due to a venue change, PMG was not present to capture the briefing session
Ms Mogopane said that that the Committee needed to create the ability to develop women in the environment and space, in line with the expectations of women in general, and the Steering Committee should look at the extent to which it could make that space exciting.
She commented that she was not sure how there was interaction with other women from other Parliaments outside of South Africa. Some of them participated in those forums as Parliamentarians, and some subscribed in their individual capacity. There was a very strong movement of women office bearers, and this, she felt, was a space the Steering Committee needed to look at when it finalised its plan of action, noting how it could become part of those global activities and strengthen the voice of women Parliamentarians in the international platforms.
Another Member agreed with suggestions that there should be different programmes. However, the predicament was that when people were oppressed, they did not necessarily know how to speak to issues, or even how to identify them and decide how they could make something different. Therefore, she would like women to be patient with each other and exchange ideas. She noted that one author had said that when people had been dispossessed of land, this amounted to a physical and tangible battle. However, after that had been sorted out, it came down to a battle of words, and it was found that words and ideas could be equally oppressive of people, and similar problems were faced in Europe, Africa and the rest of the world, where women had been oppressed, with very little opportunity given to them to participate and speak, from at least 1913 up to 1955.
She further made the point that this was an extremely complex issue; people had to be taken out of oppression yet some might themselves play a role in that oppression persisting. The issue of achieving sisterhood was not easy, as it needed to address a certain socialisation trend that had been going on for forty years, when many women were told that women could not better themselves. There was a need to get ideas, to stop criticising but to actively seek opportunities to uplift women, bearing in mind also that it was often their menfolk who tried to push them back. She suggested that these ideas must be conveyed to the steering committee.
She said that there was little time to come up with programmes in the institution of Parliament because all MPs fitted themselves in programmes that were male dominated. Even the programmes of Committees were currently male orientated, and that in itself was oppression, yet it had been accepted for the last twenty years. Women MPs needed to assist each other with ideas that they would engage upon for the next five years.
The Chairperson appreciated the input from Members but made the point that some of the issues raised should be dealt with by the incoming steering committee, and commended the input that would help to make progress. She pointed out that Members were in agreement with the question of the 20-year celebration.
Ms J Fubbs (ANC) suggested that the steering committee should take its position and this Committee needed to communicate directly with it. Ongoing celebrations seemed to make sense.
Another Member of the Committee said that the issue of structures should be addressed by the steering committee. Past experience demonstrated lack of synergy between, for instance, the Multi-Party Caucus, the Portfolio Committee on Women, Children and People with Disabilities, and the Commonwealth Women’s Parliament, and this had been a problem. The steering committee now needed to consider how all the structures could best relate to one another, and what their terms of reference would be, to avoid serious challenges in the future.
The Chairperson agreed, saying that it was this kind of overlap that Members had been speaking of.
Ms Baby Tyawa, Deputy Secretary, Parliamentary Administration, said that the first question that should be answered was whether there would be an overview of the role of Parliament, and how it had impacted on women and their conditions in South Africa over the last 20 years. There would indeed be such as review, and it would take place over the next year. She noted that the advantage to not trying to locate all of women-related activities in the month of August was that it would not be possible to do matters in Parliament and in fact attending to women in Cape Town only would not necessarily fulfil the purpose of the activities and give the right results. Officials in Parliament had started to draft some mandates which they would present to the relevant parliamentary committees and the Multi Party Steering Committee on 20 Years of Democracy. There was already a proposed programme that would be shared with the Committee. Both achievements and challenges would need to be debated. The idea was to collate impressions from South African women about Parliament and its work, and how women had benefited through the legislation.
Ms Tyawa added that when the 20 Years of Democracy campaigns had been launched, it was decided that this would run from 1 April, but this had not taken into account the elections, and there would be some additional time that could be added. However, the Fifth Parliament Strategic Plan noted that there were likely to be inputs from sectoral parliaments, which might influence the 20 Years of Democracy programme, and the priorities may change, but any shifts would be accounted for in the programme.
Ms Tyawa noted that the Parliamentary officials were envisaging, when reconstitute the 20 Years of Democracy under the Multi-Party Steering Committee, the Women’s Caucus should be clearly represented, and be able to present a clear mandate on how it wanted the programme to unfold, and to note the areas of emphasis that Members wanted to see. Once all the political governance structures had been settled, further presentations would be made.
The Chairperson said that it had been a concern of Members for quite some time that officials had been tasked, by the Speaker and Deputy Speaker, with the work around the August Month Celebrations, and that Members perhaps did not have enough information. The recommendation made by Ms Tyawa would respond to that concern, and she noted that the officials would be working with political leaders so as to advance what women would like to see. However, the Members here wanted to write to the Office of the Speaker and indicate their concerns. She thanked Ms Tyawa for her presence, looked forward to working with her and appreciated the work facing the officials.
Endorsement of the Steering Committee
The Chairperson reminded Members that at a previous meeting, at which only the EFF Members were present, the previous Chairperson had briefed the Committee in a “handover” presentation, which had been quite useful in informing the new Caucus what had been done in the last Parliament. In another meeting, representatives from the DA, UDM, IFP, and the ANC had been present, and there was quite some contestation about the Steering Committee. The Members had also requested the NCOP to provide the Caucus with a venue, but it had not responded to that request.
The Chairperson said it would be important to explain what transpired in that meeting. It seemed that there may have been a breakdown in communication; a male member had been sent, and she had subsequently learned that it was a male leading that particular committee. The steering committee had been established in the meantime, and would be supplemented by another name of a member who would join at a later stage.
She read out the names of the Members of the Steering Committee as follows: Ms R Morutoa (ANC), Ms N Khunou (ANC), Ms P Chueu (ANC), Ms G Tseke (ANC), Ms R Semenya (ANC), Ms S Nkomo (IFP), Ms C Majeke (UDM). At that meeting, Members had elected Ms Morutoa as the Chairperson of the Committee and Ms Nkomo as Deputy Chairperson.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said that the whole process of the election of the Steering Committee was badly managed. As mentioned already, communication was poor and there was a lot of cross-communication, with letters not reaching Members, with the result that they had not attended when they should have done so. There was mention of a letter from the Chairperson to the DA’s Chief Whip, but that had not been received, and this was the reason why the DA had not consulted with the other parties, and the reason behind that, which the DA was not happy with, was the chaotic communication.. She had understood that the Acting Secretary had said that the whole process would be reviewed and started afresh. The DA did not support and would not endorse that process. Perhaps the Committee might consider co-opting an extra person. The DA felt that in a truly democratic multi-party women caucus, there should be at least one member of the “official” opposition party.
Ms V Van Dyk (DA) emphasised that the DA needed to be represented on that Steering Committee.
Ms P Ntobongwana (EFF) asked when the meeting was held, when the new Steering Committee was elected, and said that the EFF also did not receive any communication about it.
A Member from the ANC said that the first meeting was convened by the Parliamentary officials, who had been told to assist the Chairperson in calling together the opposition parties to agree on names for the Deputy Chairperson. In that meeting, only one opposition party was in attendance – the EFF – and then the officials were told to inform all the other opposition parties of the need to convene a meeting to elect the representatives. This was not a reversal of the process, but was moving it forward.
Ms T Memela (ANC) said that she had personally approached Ms Robinson from the DA, after the first meeting was unable to proceed in the absence of any DA members. She felt that the reference to chaotic communication was not quite correct and proper, and furthermore was suggesting that the women were not pulling together, which was something that women must do. A change of mindset was needed; everyone needed to agree that all the work to be done was for the benefit of every woman, irrespective of which political party she represented.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had in fact done what the Members wanted, and she had explained to Ms Robinson that there was a need to convene a meeting of the opposition parties to elect the representative that would be a Deputy Chairperson in the Steering Committee.
The Chairperson asked the Committee Secretary to explain how the process of electing a Steering Committee transpired.
Mr Bryn Mantyi, Committee Secretary, said that two representatives were needed from the opposition parties for the Steering Committee. Letters were sent to the Chief Whip offices of all the opposition parties. The response received from the IFP and the DA indicated that they would forward the two names needed. That was done, and a Steering Committee was convened, at which all ANC members of the Steering Committee were present. Also present in that meeting was a DA Member, who indicated that she was not happy with the process. The Steering Committee underwent a process where the names of the two members were forwarded to the Steering Committee, and agreed upon. The Steering Committee decided that it was not necessary, because it was not in the Rules, that the official opposition representative should be the Deputy Chairperson of the Steering Committee.
A Member from the EFF said that she was present in the first meeting but that meeting was postponed because the other opposition parties were not present. However, there was a problem thereafter, because the EFF was not consulted or told of the next meeting, when the Steering Committee was elected, and the EFF did not have a Member to represent it in that Steering Committee.
A Member suggested that this meeting should note the concerns of opposition parties, and request them to send their representatives, so as to move forward with the process.
The Chairperson reminded Members that only a certain number was allowed on the Steering Committee, and so it was not possible to simply request all parties to send representatives, which was the reason why the opposition parties had been asked to meet together, to come up, between themselves, with two opposition representatives on the Steering Committee.
Ms M Lesoma (ANC) said that the Committee Secretary had outlined the administrative process and this meeting could not resolve the issue. She suggested that the Caucus support the proposed Steering Committee read out earlier.
Ms Simenya made the point that, for the purposes of moving forward, it did not really matter which opposition parties were represented on the Steering Committee, but it must be able to implement whatever programmes it was supposed to work on. At the end of the day, all members on this Committee would be meeting to ratify whatever the Steering Committee had decided; the Steering Committee had to come to this larger forum and ask for a mandate to move forward. Members of parties who did not have representation on the Steering Committee could always make their input in the meetings of the Multi-Party Caucus, to allow it to move forward with the programmes.
Another Member agreed that certain processes and procedures had been followed, and it was not possible to hold everything back because opposition parties were not part of the meeting. She suggested that the Steering Committee names be endorsed.
This comment was supported by Ms F Memela (ANC) and Ms G Tseke (ANC).
Strategic Planning Session
The Chairperson asked Members should give input into how the Strategic Planning Session should run. The Caucus was expected to come up with business plans, and a budget, and there were issues of the Steering Committee that must be prioritised.
Ms Mogopane proposed that the Steering Committee should come up with the framework that would be presented in this Committee so that members could make inputs, elaborate and finalise the strategy.
Ms P Ngwenya-Mabila (ANC) asked whether there was to be a strategic planning session, where Members were going to consider the framework, and have a women’s caucus session.
The Chairperson said that this would happen, but whilst talking of the strategic planning session there were other meetings that were ongoing. Ms Mogopane had made the point that other people would come and address the meeting on some of the issues, including members of the SADC region who had been asked to present on certain issues not clear to the Caucus, particularly since it had missed the SADC Plenary. The strategic planning session would deal with some of the concerns raised by Members, and that was why she wanted to hear their views on its format.
A Committee Member said that since the Caucus was already behind schedule, on other matters, the easiest solution would be as proposed by Ms Semenya; that the SADC matters be dealt with by the Steering Committee. She also agreed that draft suggestions for the strategic planning session were needed, to isolate the essential issues. She suggested that a timeframe be given to the Steering Committee, for the templates or proposals that it would present.
Ms Fubbs said that the last few inputs from Members had already given the Caucus suggestions on the way forward. She proposed that the Steering Committee should have two weeks to come up with the framework. It was important for all women in Parliament to get that framework, so that when they returned they could make the inputs that will take the matters forward. She suggested that something like a five-page (not a longer) document was needed. The Chairperson should give guidance and leadership on that.
The Chairperson confirmed that all Members agreed that they should defer that issue to the Steering Committee, with the recommendations to come back to this Caucus for further discussion. The Parliamentary programme provided that the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus would meet once a month, and, prior to that meeting, the Steering Committee would also meet, once per month, for two hours on a Wednesday. She said that the male-dominated Parliament was not always alive to the specific concerns of women, but the Caucus had to find a way to deal with that. The Caucus would try to hasten the work of the Steering Committee.
The meeting was adjourned.
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