The Committee Researcher and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Women's Commissioner briefed the Committee on preparation for the local government elections, the gender representation of women at political party and government levels, and the plans to establish Multi-Party Women's Caucuses in local government.
The Committee Researcher noted that in October 2015 there were 2 176 female representatives at local government, bolstered by eight further representatives by March 2016. However, women remained minority representatives at local government level, with the ratios of men to women in local government certainly not matching the ratios between men to women in the provincial population. The National Development Plan included actively supporting the role of women leaders in all sectors of society, but that remained a challenge. Three frameworks had been developed to try to promote this: the Medium Term Strategic Framework, the Local Government Gender Policy Framework, which was established in 2007 and which should be updated after the election process, and the SALGA framework that set out to develop multi party women's caucuses (MPWC) in all provinces and municipality.
The SALGA National Women's Commissioner outlined the establishment of the caucuses, and the requirement to hold meetings at least quarterly. The main aim was to bring women to a level where they would be able to fairly compete with men for high level positions, and to develop frameworks to support and strengthen corporations that supported women in government. One of the big challenges was that not al political parties had adopted the 50/50 goal, which remained optional. In some areas there had been regression. The Eastern Cape MPWCs were established but were beset by challenges of poor attendance and lack of political support. In addition municipalities were regarding the establishment of a MPWC, which were section 79 Portfolio Committees, as an option. The structure was not being taken seriously and sexism continued from male counterparts in executive positions. A lack of financial and human resources to run the programmes were further challenges. Political heads and Strategic Business Unit administrators were not supportive and the Chairperson of Women had showed a lack of commitment. There was no clear programme of action and the attendance at meetings had been extremely poor. She recommended that specific budget be given, and that MPWC programmes should be located in the offices of mayors.
Members appreciated the presentation but several made the point that patriarchy remained a burning issue that presented a very real barrier to ensuring 50/50 representation, in the upcoming local government elections as well as in filling leadership positions in general. Women had to be encouraged to change their own and their children's mindset, so that they did not defer to men, and encouraged independent thought and respect in both their girl and boy children. It was disappointing that women had still elected male representatives for the upcoming elections. A DA Member outlined the strength of the DA Women's Network but was disappointed that she, as federal representative, had not received an invitation to the lekgotla or the provincial makgotlas. The Members asked if there was development on the establishment of Women Forums in all municipalities, and enquired about the relationships of the SALGA Commission with the Department of Cooperative Governance, Department of Women, and the Commission for Gender Equality. Women were critical of the fact that even in the National Parliament, this Committee was not allocated an official time in the programme and Members were encouraged to go back to their own parties and ask them all to press for allocated time, as also to take the 50/50 representation very seriously in their own parties. A question was asked from SWEAT whether there was official representation of the LGBTI community in SALGA. Members also asked about the relationships with traditional leaders.
Municipal Multi-Party Women's Caucus launch: Plans to ensure 50/50 representation in upcoming local government elections: Committee Researcher & South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Women Commission briefing
The Committee Researcher gave a brief presentation on Women and the 2016 local government elections. Her purpose was to highlight the relevance of women’s participation at a local government level. It was important to improve women’s access to and influence in the decision making process. The points mentioned included women’s political representation and gender equality, which would be further elaborated upon by SALGA’s National Commissioner.
She highlighted the gender representation at local government as presented in October 2015 (see attached presentation). The table indicated that from all the provinces, there had been a total of 2 176 female representatives at local government. SALGA’s updated report indicated that the numbers had improved, as eight more women representatives at local government level had been observed by March 2016. Even though there had been such a significant improvement, women were still minority representatives at local government level. A comparison between the female proportion of the population and female representation at a local government level was made, and the discovery was that there were far more women proportionally in each province than the level of representation at local government level.
The National Development Plan (NDP) included actively supporting the role of women leaders in all sectors of society, and that had been a challenge to date. In order to overcome some of the highlighted challenges the Researcher mentioned the development of three frameworks. The Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) aimed to provide an efficient, effective and development orientated public service and targeted women’s participation, in relation to gender equality, in both public service and at local government level. The second framework was the Local Government Gender Policy Framework, which was established in 2007. A recommendation was made to update the Local Government Gender Policy Framework soon after the election process. The last policy framework involved South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the development of Multi Party Women's Caucuses (MPWC) in each province and municipality. The SALGA policy framework had been discussed at the 2015 SALGA Women’s Lekgotla where some commitments and resolutions had been made, which would further be elaborated by SALGA’s National Women's Commissioner.
Ms Sindiswa Gomba, National Women's Commissioner, SALGA, made a presentation on launching the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus (MPWC) and on plans to ensure that there is a 50/50 representation at the local government elections. Some of the most important roles for SALGA had been the establishment of MPWC by each Municipal Council and holding meetings held at least once a quarter. The main objective was to bring women to a level where they would be able to fairly compete with men for high level positions. Frameworks would need to be developed to support and strengthen corporations that support women in government. The MPWC needed to have a budget in order to do so.
She mentioned that not all political parties had adopted the 50/50 goal and so progress had been quite stagnant and in some areas it seemed as though the nation was regressing. The MPWC provincial status quo and progress to date indicated that the Eastern Cape Municipal MPWC were established and functional, but that there had been challenges due to poor attendance and lack of political support to get the Nelson Mandela Bay MPWC fully functional. The OR Tambo Municipal MPWC also had been launched and established, but had not been functional. Through training and informative roadshows the Limpopo and Free-State provinces were making progress. In the Kwa-Zulu Natal region, out of 11 Districts and Metropolitan Municipalities, only seven had been launched but were not fully functional. The Gauteng MPWC had not been functional as it seemed as though the municipalities were unaware of the purpose of the MPWC and so lots of work need to be done. MPWCs had been established in Nkangala District municipality and 11 local municipalities in Mpumalanga. SALGA had conducted workshops in seven municipalities. The status on the Northern Cape MPWC was yet to be produced as challenges had been experienced with receiving updated reports. The Western Cape currently did not have a functional MPWC. She indicated that a Commissioner had been present to report, but the aim moving forward was to formulate strategies and conduct workshops or roadshows.
Other challenges listed included municipalities regarding the establishment of a MPWC (Section 79 Portfolio Committees) as an option only. The Members of SALGA believed that the MPWC structure was not being taken seriously and sexism continued from male counterparts in executive positions. There had been a lack of finances and human resources to run the programmes. Political heads and Strategic Business Unit administrators were not supportive, and the Chairperson of Women had showed a lack of commitment. There was no clear programme of action and the attendance at meetings had been extremely poor.
Ms Gomba recommended that Women’s caucus programmes should be located in the Mayor’s office with a defined budget. SALGA Women Commissioners of metros and districts should submit Quarterly progress reports to the Council, to be held accountable for progress. Resolutions of the provincial makgotla and national lekgotla would have to be submitted to a number of relevant governance structures. It would be essential to have information sessions conducted through workshops for Women’s Caucus as well as facilitate skills development for women, to ensure meaningful involvement and participation. The idea was to campaign and lobby for gender mainstreaming, and women-responsive and sensitive budgets in the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs).
In summary she said that the organisation still had a long way to go in order to reach the 50/50 representation target.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Gomba for the presentation which had highlighted a number of critical issues, such as attendance. She felt that attendance at meetings had been a problem at a national level and was hoping there would be a way to resolve the issue.
Ms D Robinson (DA) thought the presentation was edifying, and personally felt that work being on the ground was of high importance. She was, however, surprised to hear that all parties had been invited to the national lekgotla. She mentioned that she had not received an invitation and requested that invitations be sent directly to her in the future, rather than through third parties. She felt there were numerous issues that women faced that had to be discussed and she would be honoured to contribute to the organisation.
Ms C Majeke (ANC) said that the Committee appreciated the work being done by SALGA and the commitment to ensuring that the challenges around women empowerment were addressed according to the Municipal Structures Act and the Gender Equality Act. She was also aware that things that had to do with women were not taken seriously, either in parliaments or in the municipalities. She asked whether any progress had been made towards the establishment of Women Forums in all Municipalities, in line with the MTSF.
Ms J Basson (ANC) said that the information in the presentation had been comprehensive and clear. She highlighted that there were many factors that caused women to fail. She said that women were not serious within their own organisations. She agreed with the importance of seeing the 50/50 rule actually adhered to in Council and Administration and mentioned that frequently men positioned themselves in senior administrative or municipal manager positions while women became clerks and occupied lower levels of administration. She asked how the wall of patriarchy could be infiltrated. The election process had begun but women within most of the parties had still appointed men to lead. She asked if the plans suggested by SALGA were yet to be followed or whether action had already begun taking place. She believed that the plans would be able to influence the party list to be submitted during the election process and enquired on the progress.
Ms X Tom (ANC) was pleased to hear that the Women's Caucus was being institutionalised, as it had not been in the past. The MPWC in the Eastern Cape had had to fight for the Women’s Caucus to have a platform and be able to serve its purpose. The challenges that Ms Gomba had mentioned were the same challenges women were facing in the national Parliament. She emphasised that the MPWC had no official time in the programme, and calling Members to discuss women’s issues in between meeting breaks had not been effective. This was despite the fact that the MPWC was actually institutionalised. She suggested that Members go back to their political parties and request one Thursday per month for a Women’s Caucus meeting. She also felt that it was an excellent move that the women’s caucus did not only focus on internal issues but was also looking to tackling challenges faces by women in the country. She emphasised the need for more time to discuss the problems faced, and to plan ahead or find ways to deal with the problems.
Ms S Gomba said that the invitations to the lekgotla had not been sent to Parliament. The invitations had been sent to the heads of political parties as the aim had been to attract the leaders of each party, but this had not actually happened. The people who had been asked to represent the parties had failed to attend and commit to the National Lekgotla. She also said that since the party lists had not yet been completed and registered with Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) there was still time to make a difference.
The main challenge with the 50/50 policy was that it had been optional. Apart from one political party that had reached the 50% requirement, the other political parties had not made it a priority. The 50/50 had to be implemented as a regulated requirement, as the excuse that positions were filled based on skills rather than recognising an overriding need to have women occupying high level positions was constantly subjecting women to unfair male practices. She felt that women empowerment would need to be accompanied by a mindset shift as well, as it was possible for many women to obtain the necessary skills.
The aim would also be to manage working relations between the Women’s Caucus and Women’s Commission part of the Gender Strategic Business Units (SBU), who were responsible for establishing the women’s forums at a municipal level. She agreed with Ms Basson on the factors, such as patriarchy, that hindered women. She strongly felt that women were socially raised to see men as leaders and thus failed to see themselves as leaders. She highlighted that men would deliberately appoint women that they knew were weak to indicate that a woman would be incapable of handling the position. Administration was a particularly difficult position for women, and where they did not have the qualifications or the experience, it would be difficult to fill higher levels of administration immediately. However, a policy must be created to allow ‘understudying’ where a woman would be given the opportunity to shadow her senior for a certain term, and then allow her to step into the senior management position. In that case, positions would need to be filled based on both qualifications and experience. She believed that women needed to stand firm and speak about their issues. It was important that the women raised their points on the agenda and made sure that these issues became just as relevant.
She agreed that working relations were important. She said that if the municipalities were to have a budget set aside, according to Section 79, to pay those who do the work on the ground, then people would have an incentive to keep the organisation going.
The Chairperson added that from 1994, the target had been reduced. Women were no longer making as many attempts to change men's mindsets an she was disappointed that despite women giving life to men, they would then turn around and undermine them.
Ms T Memela (ANC) encouraged Ms Gomba to keep the project growing, not to give up and to work hard to change the mindset of men who were indirectly undermining women. She questioned whether women were in fact grooming their children correctly and felt it was important to encourage young girls to speak up and to rise as leaders.
Ms D Robinson mentioned that she was the Federal leader of the DA Women’s Network (DAWN). DAWN was passionate about standing up and fighting for human rights, and women's voices were heard here. Women’s rights were human rights as well and she felt that patriarchy had been a huge stumbling block. She also agreed that as mothers, women needed to take the lead and teach young boys and girls in independent thinking, and teach their sons to respect women.
The Chairperson asked what type of relationship the MPWC had with the traditional local government.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) asked what the relationship was between the SALGA Women's Commission, and and the Commission for Gender Equality, as also the relationship with the Department of Women. She thought there was insufficiently strong legislation to support the 50/50 balance, and suggested that amendments be made to current policies instead. International laws and local laws had been drawn and there was a need to ensure proper implementation. There was also a need to hold political parties accountable to really consider women’s rights. It was the responsibility of women in all portfolio committees to advocate for and make sure the goals were met. She also encouraged Members to assist SALGA with the proposed programmes. She said that the meeting with Amatole District Municipality highlighted a number of challenges, including a lack of support from municipalities.
Ms N Khunou (ANC) felt that it was the duty of each Member in the Committee to ensure that every political party took the 50/50 seriously. The 50/50 mandate had come from the ANC Women’s League to ensure that 50% women were present and represented in Parliament. She was concerned that the programmes did not have target completion times, saying that without them, planning could go on for ever. She did believe there had been progress since 1994, but was curious to find out the cause of regression.
Ms Ayanda Denge, Chairperson, SWEAT, asked if it was possible to see people from the LGBTI community represented and functional in the SALGA organogram.
Ms Gomba said that there was a member of the LGBTI community who was fully functional within SALGA, but the perception was that many of the other members were shy and felt the need to remain in the background. They were of course welcome, and were recognised as a part of SALGA. She pointed out that there was no relationship between the SALGA Commission and local government. Although there had been interactions with the previous Minister for Local Government, SALGA had struggled to get into contact with the present Minister. Traditional leaders in the Eastern Cape were active and participated in SALGA programmes, but SALGA had not been invited to participate in any of the events held by the leaders, so it had been a challenge to establish an on-going relationship with these Eastern Cape traditional leaders. Fruitful debates had been held, that were informative but SALGA had no direct impact at such events.
She emphasised that the legislation was not forcing 50/50 on political parties and this was the cause of the regression.
Amatola had just started with its Women’s Caucus and she suggested that Amatola be considered when planning for municipal activities in the following financial year. Most of the plans had not begun to be implemented, but a foundation would be established soon after the elections. She agreed with Ms Memela that larger impact would be made through changing the young mind.
The meeting was adjourned.
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