Commission for Gender Equality on 2015/16 3rd Quarter performance

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

23 February 2016
Chairperson: Ms T Memela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee's Content Advisor and Researcher briefly outlined some points that the Committee may wish to discuss from the 3rd quarter 2015 performance reports of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). Members wondered why there was so little evidence of racial diversity or consideration from the issues raised, and why violence seemed to be over-emphasised with insufficient attention perhaps being given to other issues that were a challenge to women. The importance of recognising cultural diversity was emphasised, with reference particularly to a statement made in Parliament which, whilst seemingly innocuous to those of one culture was in fact highly offensive to others. It was suggested that Members may wish the CGE to expand upon specific and innovative strategies to address cultural barriers and to ask about the roles of the Commissioners.

The CGE highlighted the targets achieved as defined at the beginning of the financial year. The CGE felt that it had completed 73% of planned activities although the Committee's calculation was that it had achieved closer to 76%. The CGE highlighted some new developments, such as the “green and red card initiative” where it would be closely monitoring activities of entities that were aimed to increase women's participation and representation throughout all sectors, including the areas of governance and policy making. It would be issuing green and red cards on compliance and those failing to comply would be referred through other methods, perhaps including media reports. The Victim’s Charter was almost finalised. CGE had found the best reports could be concluded where there was open engagement and attendance at the legal clinic meetings where information was shared. There were still some challenges with getting engagement from different groups. In order for court monitoring to take place the CGE had decided to engage with court managers to follow up on incomplete files, and was meeting with the Department of Justice to try to unblock files. It was hiring some policy makers to help it to create new policies. Gender transformation meetings had been held in the education sector. The CGE was aware of large numbers of complaints from Limpopo. It was concentrating on trying to raise the profile of the Maintenance Act. Matters where it was not getting as much engagement as it would have liked included harassment of sex workers and maternal health.

The CGE outlined some of the main points and their impact upon the CGE, from the State of the Nation address.  It would like to see detailed evidence of policies and specific programmes as well as strategies to bring about women empowerment, and would like government to focus on women's contribution to the country economy, taking into account also their care work and agricultural efforts, although it was also concerned that women were still marginalised from land reform. Important points for women included the White Paper on the National Health Insurance, the comprehensive Social Security plan, national minimum wage, particularly given that women were in general lower paid than men and supported the social grant policy which impacted positively on women. It would like to see more effort from development finance institutions, but felt that the SONA announcement on the SA National Aids Council should have placed more emphasis on women's reproductive rights. 

Members seemed initially to have some misunderstanding on the social grants, but it was later clarified that they were noting that the grants were not only benefiting women. Members were appreciative of the points but several would have liked more detail and more highlighting of the problems faced in the different provinces. Members said that they would have liked to have heard about the impact of the Maintenance Act and the position of women in terms of the Marriages Act, as well as what was being done for the disabled, sex workers and women on farms, and how the CGE was addressing cases on child marriages. They asked for more detail on the meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women  and asked that it follow up on cases in Eastern Cape where people were being targeted by loan sharks when they visited SASSA offices. They asked if CGE would refer cases to court and to the Sexual Abuse Call Centre. They asked that information be provided on the roles and how to measure performance of commissioners, and the CGE promised to provide the Commissioner Manual as background. 

Meeting report

Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Third quarter 2015 Performance Report: Parliamentary Committee Section briefing
Ms Crystal Levendale, Parliamentary Researcher began by giving a short overview of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE or the Commission) performance in the third quarter as against the budget. The table indicated 73% of the actual activities achieved, but she had managed to calculate close to 76%. She addressed the Committee on the number of files opened, closed and pending. The main problems identified were those pertaining to maintenance and gender based violence but more information would be required to find out what the other challenges identified by the CGE were. The provinces with the highest number of complaints had been Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

The CGE had received R17.7 million allocation. According to the financial report, 20% of the budget went to activities and the bulk of the expenses were due to the services provided. The Commission seems to be on track with their expenditure. The team, according to Ms Kashiefa Abrahams, Content Advisor to the Committee, had been very responsive, given the plan of action. She took Members through pages 2, 3 and 4 analysing each issue that needed to be addressed. She suggested that the Committee would need clarity on the outcome of the meeting on the pending legislation, as well as the lists that were duplicated on page 2.

It was noted that questions that the Committee may wish to ask was on the delay in the process and how the CGE was intending to deal with pending files during the fourth quarter. It was noted that the complaints in Kwa-Zulu Natal were low and that there was no legal officer in the Free-State. She further suggested that the Committee might wish to find out how the issues brought up on early child marriage were being dealt with and what the Provincial Commissioner was doing to engage with local South African Police Services (SAPS), as also how the CGE is dealing with current issues.

Ms Levendale noted that a long term strategy is to be developed to interact with other departmental programmes in the Department of Justice, Health and Education. It had been noted that when the Department was present, the number of complaints dropped and when the legal clinic held a meeting with the community the number of complaints had increased. Surely the legal clinic could look into the implications of such patterns.

Ms Abrahams raised the point that people may not know what their roles were. It was mentioned in the report that sensitive issues such as child marriage were not discussed by community members from the fear of being persecuted. Safe platforms needed to be created for women and girls to openly speak about the challenges it were facing in order to obtain relevant information. The Committee had previously questioned what the difference was between a Commissioner and Provincial Commissioner and said it would have liked to see a more uniform approach across all the provinces so the performance can be measured. The role of a Commissioner at the Legal Clinic would also need to be clarified, as the Committee needed more tangible information to understand the purpose of the report as well as the list of  outcomes which had been achieved by CGE.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (DA) was a bit confused about the meaning of “all Africans” in the presentation. She asked if it was inclusive of all cultures.

Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) suggested that the Commission should report regularly on gender based violence (GBV) as not much oversight had been given in the past. It also should focus on the activities of the Commissioners as the Committee needs to play a role in regulating their activities and keeping track of their achievements. She also mentioned that the Department of Social Development (DSD) was boasting about a call centre for victims of gender based violence and was wondering what the progress was from that end.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi asked if the CGE funds could be transferred to the preceding financial term if there were still funds outstanding. She also mentioned that there were still 50 files open and that the CGE should play a role in finalising these cases.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) said that violence surely was not the only issue affecting women and wanted to know why other issues were not being mentioned. She mentioned that South African was a culturally diverse country and that women may be experiencing other challenges besides violence yet the reports were targeted apparently at a specific group of individuals. She said that issues pertaining to cultural differences were not being discussed. She cited an instance where one person had said that another was speaking “rubbish” and mentioned that this was seen in some cultures as highly provocative. She wanted to know what racial barriers there were and how it could be addressed, so that women from all races could come forward and discuss their challenges. The CGE legal clinics do not seem to be attracting other racial groups and she wanted to know what could be done to get them to speak.

Ms van der Merwe pointed out that in most cases like the ones dealt with by the CGE, white women would tend to retreat. Some of her happiest moments were when she was engaging with other women as an IFP member. She noticed that even though the preceding generation was different, the challenges of accessing the court, justice and protecting women from the abusive treatment it received from their partners still prevailed today. Gender based violence was an important issue, but she agreed that there were other challenges like those pertaining to home security that needed to be communicated. Women needed to be educated. She said that Ms Chueu had raised a valid point.

Ms D Robinson (DA) said that the point raised on cultural differences by Ms Chueu had been a revelation to her because she, as a white person, understood “rubbish” to be merely another way of suggesting that a person was speaking nonsense, but she now understood why it caused such outrage. She is not sure how that understanding of different culture concepts can be brought about but it would be an important tool for the CGE as well.
Ms Robinson agreed with Ms van der Merwe that whites tend to be more private with their problems. She had interacted with some of the women from Atlantis (Western Cape) and it would talk freely about their husbands being in jail or being abusive, whereas white women would prefer to cover this up. She had been passionate about the needs of women in the rural areas or living in farmland but the people in those areas usually do not know about legal clinics. She also mentioned that the maintenance courts are far too often inaccessible and the staff tended to be largely unfriendly or unapproachable. She asked if it was possible to ask the CGE to go out to some of the maintenance courts and pay attention to the behaviour of the staff to get victim friendly court environments.

The Chairperson noted that the “rubbish” statement was seen as a calculated insult and the attitude and character of the Member making this statement made it appear “as though he was declaring war”. He had shown little respect for others.

Ms Robinson said that she would try to speak to that Member in private.

Commission for Gender Equality briefing
Ms Keketso Maema, Chief Executive Officer, CGE said that she would speak to performance aspects whilst Mr Moshabi Putu, Chief Financial Officer, would speak to the financial aspects. CGE was looking towards achieving the ‘Agenda 2030’ by contributing largely in terms of research and awareness movements. So far it had used an average of 70% of their full financial year budget and were on the right track in terms of expenditure. All Annual Performance Plan (APP) targets had been met thus far and CGE was looking forward to starting their ‘green and red card campaign.’ Organisations would be given recommendations to comply with Gender Equity and reports would be used to engage with the parties involved. If the CGE found that the recommendations were not being enforced  the matter would be forwarded to a third party, media or the community. The CGE would then decide whether the non-compliant organisation can continue (receive a green card) or whether it be suspended (red card). The process of how the system would work is still under discussion but the CGE was looking forward to this new form of regulation.  It planned to give out a letter of recommendation to all its entities within the fourth quarter.

It was reported that the Victim’s Charter was almost finalised and the CGE would engage with the government on various portfolios to illuminate the lengthy process of dealing with compliance issues.
It had found that the best reports were easily conducted when everyone engaged openly, where people attended the legal clinic meetings and shared information. It had challenges with engagement from different groups.

In order for court monitoring to take place the CGE had decided to engage with court managers to follow up on incomplete files. It also planned to meet with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to highlight some of the issues of concern and to help it unblock case files. CGE planned to engage with policy makers to help it with creating policies for the challenges it faced.
In the past quarter, the CGE had held Gender Transformation meetings with various Universities and was analysing the information, in order to be able to get appropriate recommendations. It was aware of the large number of complaints from Limpopo province and had concentrated on the Maintenance Act. This had increased the number of successful cases. It was hoping that in the future the media will give a broad report on all activities and not only concentrate on specific dates. CGE also noticed that people would not openly speak on early child marriages out of fear of being ostracised.  Other challenges included the harassment of sex workers as well as maternal health.
Response to State of Nation Address (SONA)
CGE accepted the President’s statement that economic transformation had remained a key priority for government and that transformation should be inclusive of women. The CGE, however, stated that it would like to see detailed evidence of policies and specific programmes as well as strategies to bring about women empowerment. It emphasised the need for government to focus its attention on women’s contribution to the country’s GDP, including women’s care work,and it should also take into account the impact the depreciation of the economy (weakened rand) has had on women.
The President stated that the government intended to restructure agriculture, coupled with the land reform programme. However, women remained marginalised from land reform.

The SONA also identified important socio-economic policy measures such as the release of the National Health Insurance (NHI) White Paper, the government’s Comprehensive Social Security Plan and the national minimum wages public policy. CGE believed that the wages public policy is particularly important as women tend to be over-represented in the low paid employment sector. The CGE also expressed support for the government’s continued provision of social grants as part of its social policy measures which are said to potentially have a large impact on the lives of women.
CGE believed that Development Finance Institutions such as DBSA and IDC should provide financing support that placed women entrepreneurs in a position where they too could access private sector financial services products. The CGE also felt that the President’s announcement on the South African National Aids Council (SANAC) should have placed emphasis on women’s reproductive rights, including a focus on young women between the ages of 19 and 24 who are known to be at greater risk.

Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi was quite impressed with the presentation. However, her main concern was the lack of representation of other races in the report. She asked what would be done about this and how the CGE planned on finding out information about the experiences of Gender based violence from other women with different racial backgrounds. She did not agree with the CGE’s point of view when it came to the SA Social Security Agency (SASSA) grant. In her opinion, the grant does not only improve the lives of women, but is also based on securing the lives of the children, which therefore benefits the entire household. She also asked if there was anything being done to measure the percentage of women in informal work, women who are unemployed, the ratio between men and women in the formal workplace as well the rates of pay received by males and females. Finally, she mentioned that the CGE seemed to have reached 76% and not 73% planned activity targets

Ms Chueu  congratulated the CGE for the hard work it had done, and agreed that the presentation was well put together, although it was quite hard to understand. She started off clarifying the point made about the SASSA grant. Perhaps Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi should look at it from a different point of view. She cited the example of women in the rural areas who had to fetch water from a stream. Making taps available in the village would definitely be beneficial to the community, most importantly the women, as they would not have to walk themselves such long distances to fetch water to continue with daily chores. The grant alleviated the position of women who might otherwise have had to borrow money in order to provide food for the children. She felt that the presentation was not putting across the point clearly and in simple terms, and not enough detail was provided to enable Members to understand the exact challenges  that women faced and what Members had to do to assist them. She would have liked this presentation to expand on topics like the Maintenance Act, the Marriages Act, and to say what were the sensitive issues that the women on the ground needed to have changed – for instance, women married prior to 1994 were invariably married in community of property. She thought the legislation had to be amended in order to protect women. She asked about ongoing investigations and how these different from others conducted, and reiterated that she would have liked to see more detail.

Ms Robinson said that there had been a lot of improvement shown by the CGE. She agreed with other Members that the presentation needed more detail. Members needed to know what could be done to empower the CGE as well as women. She wanted to know what the CGE could do to help the Portfolio Committee for Women approach the right people to deal with women whose were not getting help. She asked what it was doing about individual cases that weren’t being closed and how exactly it was responding to the cases brought on child marriages.

The Chairperson asked what the outcome was of CGE’s meeting with the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (SRVAW, what had been achieved and what benefit this particular engagement had had to South Africa?

Ms C Majeke (UDM)  asked that the CGE make a follow up on Eastern Cape East London where the SASA cards had not been issued to the people throughout the month, and those requesting them were asked to go to the Gonubie Police Station, which had been closed and only reopened at 10:00. One elderly lady had died while waiting in a queue at the police station, and this was an example of them being taken advantage of.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi said the Sexual Offences Court in the Western Cape was very effective. She wondered how often the CGE referred cases to court if it was overloaded or unable to solve the problem through the legal clinics. She asked if it referred cases to the Sexual Abuse Call Centre as well.

The Chairperson mentioned that in some provinces, SASSA was sharing its space with those that took advantage of the elderly, and in Maponya Mall, Johannesburg, loan sharks would grant loans to the poor knowing that they would not be able to get out debt. Many people found that their grant money was all taken up in repaying the loan sharks.

Ms Chueu felt that there were not enough reports on disabled women and that this should be included in every presentation.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) requested that the CGE should try to provide information on the specific roles played by each Commissioner and all the issues that it addressed throughout its interaction with different parties. She asked that it provide a clear account of what it had done and achieved thus far. She also mentioned that it would be hard to measure the performance of each Commissioner without a uniform approach to evaluate the work that it had done. She thanked the CGE for its transparency and honesty and suggested that the Commissioners be held accountable through performance reports on a quarterly basis.

Mr Mfanozelwi Shozi, Commissioner, CGE, began providing clarity on the roles of the Commissioners board. He mentioned some of their objectives and outlined the key role that these Commissioners play in providing support to provinces in South Africa. This includes maintaining proper corporate governance procedures within the Commission and identifying key issues of gender equality coming from the work of each province, as well as putting together strategies to solve those issues.  He referred Members to the report for more detail. He also said that they did their best to apprise Parliament on issues raised.

CGE had used the opportunity to give an annual performance report as a method of indicating what it had done from the objectives it had set at the beginning of the year. The report was essentially indicating what it had done. The cases on sex workers were still being researched and so it was hard to give detailed reports on these. Challenges pertaining to education were much easier to report as the statistics and information were readily made available. The Commissioners did not want to go into too much detail about cases not yet concluded. CGE had picked up that in most provinces women were complaining about issues of maintenance. The CGE also wanted to include information on non-physical harassment such as stalking in its next report. He pointed out that the internal analysis of all the complaints it had received would be found on page 19 of the third Quarter ‘Presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Women in Presidency’ document.

He said that issues of investigation and systematic complaints were being fully analysed but the lack of cooperation from other parties involved was inhibiting the CGE's progress. The Ministry of Women had requesting CGE to organise a meeting with other commissioners and committees to address specific issues and a special report on that would be released at the end of March. The meeting with the SRVAW had gone well. The Special Rapporteur also met privately with the Minister. Finally, he noted that the CGE had carefully analysed the SONA, considering each topic from the viewpoint of the CGE and debated each point.

The Chairperson asked if the Forum of Constitutional Bodies still was in place, in line with Chapter 9 of the Constitution

Mr Shozi confirmed that both he and the Deputy Chairperson of the CGE, Ms Thoko Mpumlwana sit  on that Committee.

Ms Mpumlwana, Deputy Chairperson, mentioned the importance of having reports that are rich in diversity. She said that CGE was thinly spread and so to help the Commissioners gather the relevant information CGE would target organisations in different areas to help them reach a more diverse group of individuals. CGE did refer some cases to court. It did not work alone when trying to solve backlogged cases. It used the Call Centre and also had another number to which it would refer women and victims. When it received calls, the CGE would try to unblock cases as well as speak to SASSA on behalf of the women.
CGE's next plan of action would be to link its work to the National Goals, as it wanted to ensure that its work added to the security of women, in line with the socio-economic obligation set out in section 27 of its Act.

Ms Mpumlwana commented that this meeting was not nearly long enough for her to go into detail about everything the CGE had done, or go into detail about the specific challenges the women faced or highlighted. A meeting once in six months would be ideal, where it could give a presentation in the first half of the day and then have workshops afterwards.

Ms Tarabella-Marchesi wanted to clarify her point about the grants as mentioned in the SONA and said that she had been trying to say that the grants did not only benefit women, but also the men and children in the household.

Mr Shozi said that the feminism of poverty idea depended on how one looked at it.

Mr Wallace Mgoqi, CGE Commissioner, said that there was a bit of a gap, and suggested that it would be useful for the Members to see the Commissioners’ Manual and the Security Commissioners’ handbook. He also mentioned that the Commissioners’ job description actually came from Parliament.

Mr Shozi said that the Commissioners would put the CGE Act to work and that a new system needed to be developed to keep them accountable. Parliament needed to use the system to keep up with what is being done by Commissioners in the offices, provincial as well as on a national level.

Ms Chueu reiterated that the main problem was that the presentation by the CGE only essentially provided very short descriptions. She needed to know more detail. She asked that the presentation be put up again and the CGE should then detail more.

Ms Chueu commented on pages 28-29 of the third quarter report and argued that the dropout rate in schools was not caused by the lack of education programmes, but due to a language barrier. She mentioned that most students entered high school not having learned proper sentence construction and so she wanted to know which programmes CGE was talking about.  She asked what the challenges faced by sex workers were, and needed more information to then feed back to various channels as there were many important points being raised.

Ms Maema responded to the queries by admitting that CGE had taken for granted the importance of detailed reports as it had thought that the quarterly reports would merely be to highlight the issues that still needed to be ironed out. She said that CGE did not point out the challenges that had been discussed in previous meetings, as it was under the assumption that all members were aware of, and did not need a repetition of issues raised earlier. However, in the next meeting the CGE would be giving a detailed list of challenges faced with the main areas of focus, to make the presentation clearer.

The Chairperson concluded by acknowledging the CGE’s hard work again. She was impressed with the clarity of the presentation and she appreciated the transparency. She asked that the CGE reflect on the issues raised by Members before the next meeting.

The meeting was adjourned.

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