The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) told the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency that it had achieved 87% of its annual strategic outcomes. It reported that many women had lodged complaints about maintenance, gender discrimination, estates and gender-based violence. The highest number of estate-related complaints was from Mpumalanga, while gender-based violence was a predominant factor in the Western Cape, followed by the Eastern Cape.
The CGE had undertaken three systemic investigations. These were the transformation of the judiciary, the decriminalisation of sex work, for which the process had not yet been finalised, and investigations on maternal health. A coordinated programme on gender discrimination had highlighted the key challenges faced by women. A human rights and gender equality campaign had been held. Concept papers had been developed, to guide provinces on how to implement the campaigns. The CGE had implemented radio slots in partnership with the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) Education and National Community Radio Forum (NCRF). The communications unit had ensured that it was represented in social debates on the radio, as well as at television stations and different press/media channels. This had been beneficial for the CGE’s branding campaign for Human Rights Month.
The CGE would hold employment equity hearings with companies within the private sector. Questionnaires had been sent to various companies to ensure that they are prepared for meetings with the Commission. The Department had also drafted questionnaires and sent them to four universities to assess the gender equality within those institutions, and all had responded. A new procedure seemed to have improved the CGE’s efficiency when conducting outreach clinics. Systemic investigations undertaken included the Uthukela Maiden bursary matter. The Public Education and Information (PEI) unit had provided technical assistance and training on gender mainstreaming in Gauteng Province, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Other issues discussed had included the elections, women’s political representation, gender-based violence as well as the Oscar Pistorius’s sentence.
The Commission was committed to remaining relevant and making use of social media to respond to the public’s concerns. In general, the quality of service delivery, network performance and internet access had improved, which had kept critical business operations active at all times. Provincial offices had formed partnerships in order to promote gender equality.
Members were concerned about the Commission’s over-expenditure in the first quarter of the 2016-17 financial year, and felt that it had to put in place strict corrective measures in order to manage the budget that was currently available. They drew attention to the growing backlog of pending cases, and asked what progress had been made with the gender equality assessments at male-dominated mines. Was the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act still relevant? What measures could be implemented to protect vulnerable elderly women from abuse? They expressed alarm at the rise in teenage pregnancies, and called for action to be taken against abortion clinics, which were increasing in number.
Election for Acting Chairperson
Due to the absence of the Chairperson, the Committee elected Ms P Bhengu (ANC) to chair the meeting.
The Portfolio Committee quickly moved onto the apologies, which were received from the Chairperson who had been sick as well as Ms L Vand der Merwe (IFP) who had to attend another Portfolio Committee meeting and Ms N Tarabella-Marchesi (ANC) who had family matters to attend to.
In addition, Mr M Dirks (ANC) indicated that he had another meeting to attend shortly and apologised for having to depart early.
Briefing by Committee Researcher
The Committee received an internal briefing by the Portfolio Committee researcher on the expected presentation by the CGE. She pointed out areas for clarification in the financial report as well as information regarding progress on the strategic objectives that had been previously highlighted.
Briefing by Commission for Gender Equality on its 4th Quarter 2015/2016
Mr Mfanozwelwe Shozi, Chairperson of the CGE, introduced his colleagues and handed over to the Commissioner to go through the role and duties of Commissioners, as well as to highlight some of the first quarter strategic objectives.
Ms Keketso Maema, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), CGE, emphasised the need to have completed most of the Annual Performance Plan (APP) targets. The Commission had achieved 87% of the year’s strategic outcomes. This had been due to the systems improvements put in place to deal with weaknesses previously highlighted by the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA).
The progress made by the CGE had exceeded the annual target that had been set for submissions. For the reporting period, three submissions had been finalised. During the fourth quarter, it had engaged with provincial legislatures in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal on the Witchcraft Suppression Act of 1957. It had finalised all consultations held with stakeholders on the provincial employment equity hearings. The gender transformation investigations hearing held in the third quarter had been finalised. The CGE had also prioritised the representation of women in political parties.
There had been 180 different legal complaints which had been dealt with. The Department had managed to exceed the yearly target by opening a total of 1 143 files. 26 legal outreach clinics had been held, in collaboration with public education and information. For the fourth quarter, 26 legal clinics had been held, which brought the total outreach and legal clinics for the financial year to 154. The Eastern Cape had the most files opened, with about 188 files being opened, and 200 files being closed. Limpopo had 176 files opened and 156 files closed. In total, 1 235 files had been closed at the end of the financial year. For each province, a table was provided stating the number as well as the nature of each complaint. Most women seemed to complain about maintenance, gender discrimination -- which was dominant in the Western Cape -- as well as about estates and gender-based violence. The highest number of estate-related complaints was from Mpumalanga. Gender-based violence was also predominantly complained about in the Western Cape, followed by the Eastern Cape.
The CGE had undertaken three systemic investigations. These were the transformation of the judiciary, the decriminalisation of sex work, for which the process had not yet been finalised, as well as investigations on maternal health. A coordinated programme on gender discrimination had been highlighted, with the key challenges faced by women. A human rights and gender equality campaign had been held. Concept papers had been developed, to guide provinces on how to implement the campaigns.
The CGE had implemented 54 radio slots in partnership with the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) Education and National Community Radio Forum (NCRF). The communications unit had ensured that CGE was present in social debates on the radio, as well as at television stations and different press/media channels. This was beneficial for the CGE’s branding campaign for Human Rights Month. The campaign was part of the communications unit’s planned APP activities, which were focussed on educating the public about gender rights. The CGE had also represented the country at the 60th Annual Commission on the Status of Women Conference.
Among stories that had received wide coverage were the controversial statements about the virginity testing that took place in KZN, which resulted in bursary awards for girls who appeared to be virgins. The Commission reported that gender discrimination, teenage pregnancy, gender-based violence in schools, registration of marriages for foreign nationals and customary marriages, were still huge challenges facing the different provinces.
In the first quarter, the CGE had completed 60.35% of its planned strategic objectives. 81.25% of the first strategic objective had been achieved, 77.78% of the second strategic objective, and 85.35% (14 out of 17 tasks) of the fourth, but it had failed to carry out the third strategic objective. It would also be holding employment equity hearings with companies within the private sector. Questionnaires had been sent to various companies to ensure that they were prepared for meetings with the Commission. The Department had also drafted questionnaires and sent them to Rhodes University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Wits University and the University of Cape Town (UCT) to assess the gender equality within those institutions. All the universities had responded.
Ms Maema said that the 365 Day National Action Plan (NAP) on gender-based violence and supporting structures would focus on the South African Police Service (SAPS) and assessing the programmes which they had put in place to deal with gender-based violence. The most files brought forward had been from KZN, followed by Gauteng and the Western Cape. However Limpopo had the most files (38) closed by the end of the first quarter, followed by the Eastern Cape with 30 closed files. Although the maintenance complaints remained relatively high, the report indicated a reduced number of complaints for gender discrimination, gender-based violence and estates, compared to those reported in the fourth quarter. The ‘others’ category for the complaints analysis remained high, as it included walk-ins or telephonic complaints, where members of the public received advice or the issue required intervention.
22 out of 27 targeted outreach clinics had been held within the first quarter. 53 files had been opened in the first quarter during legal and outreach clinics. The new procedure seemed to have improved the CGE’s efficiency when conducting outreach clinics. Systemic investigations undertaken had included the Uthukela Maiden bursary matter. The Public Education and Information (PEI) unit provided technical assistance and training at Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga on gender mainstreaming. Training manuals had been developed and education officers trained on the local government programme. The PEI unit had also carried out a number of APP activities, where various issues such as sexual harassment and bullying in schools as well as property rights for royal women, were addressed.
During the first quarter, the CGE had contributed to public debates on issues such as virginity testing, where bursaries were awarded to virgins. Other issues discussed had included the elections, women’s political representation; gender-based violence, as well as the Oscar Pistorius sentence.
The Commission was committed to remaining relevant and making use of social media to respond to the public’s concerns. In general, the quality of service delivery, network performance and internet access had improved, which had kept critical business operations active at all times. Provincial offices had formed partnerships in order to promote gender equality. The Northern Cape had taken the initiative to enforce proactive measures to fight gender-based violence. The Commission’s collaboration with ESKOM was acknowledged, for assisting gender mainstreaming in science and technology. The CGE was waiting for the state Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to finalise the assessment reports. The final report on the African Gender Development Index status had been submitted to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the CGE was waiting for confirmation for final printing. The Women’s Ministry had been given a questionnaire by UNECA.
The first quarter report indicated improvements on major control issues, and also highlighted that all previous audit matters had been dealt with. This would further be highlighted when the AGSA presented the audit outcomes for the Commission.
Briefing by Commission for Gender Equality on its 1st Quarter 2016/2017 Performance
Mr Moshabi Putu, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), CGE, presented the brief on the financial management of the CGE for the period. He stressed that financial constraints were anticipated for the 2016/2017 period. Cost containment strategies included inserting control measures to manage funds, seeking fund raisers, reducing expenditure and avoiding travel costs.
National Treasury had granted the Commission R16.9 million during the 2015-16 fourth quarter. A further R4.4 million had been donated and noted as a special grant. In total, the Commission had spent R20 million, which was R3 million above the average quarterly expenditure. The CGE had increased its expenditure on service delivery to ensure that the Annual Performance Plan target was met. The Commission had received R67.7 million from National Treasury and spent R71.5 million, which meant that the annual budget had been exceeded by R3.8 million. An additional R8 million had been recorded from conditional grants and donations, which was able to cover additional expenses. The Commission reported a R2.1 million surplus from the fourth quarter which was attributed to book entries made in line with Generally Recognised Accounting Practices (GRAP)23, to account for conditional grants made by National Treasury for asset purchases. The cash flow statement indicated that inflows and outflows from operating activities remained constant between comparative financial periods. The Commission had invested R4 million into plant property and equipment over the previous 12-month period. He highlighted the fact that the Commission’s liquidity was decreasing.
He also gave a financial analysis for the first quarter of the 2016-17 financial year. National Treasury had transferred R17.5 million, which was 25% of the annual allocated income of R69.9 million. The Commission had exceeded its budget, as expenditure had been R19.9 million. Some of the added expenses had included travel costs, which had added R1.6 million, as well as professional services, computer servicing, internet and website. The SABC had donated R751 230 in free income for free airtime on the Public Service Association’s (PSA’s) broadcasts on various radio stations.
The CGE had awarded a total of two tenders in the fourth quarter for printing and copy editing services. Three formal quotations had been cancelled due to the lack of responses. Among these three were the CGE 20-year review bid, which had been reissued and would be finalised towards the end of the first quarter. The Eastern Cape and Pretoria provincial offices were relocating. The Eastern Cape office had moved to new premises on April 19 2016, while the Pretoria office would relocate on 31 August 2016.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) commended the work done by the CGE, and hoped that the following year’s financial report would have a clean audit. There had been a lot of progress. She was concerned about the chairperson’s term of office, which would be ending in January 2017. She asked the chairperson to highlight which members of the CGE had contracts which would end soon, as the Department of Women in the Presidency would have to begin advertising the vacancies as soon as possible, so that recommendations could be made by November 2016. Even though the chairperson had highlighted that he had written a letter to the Parliamentary Speaker at the beginning of the year, the Committee had not yet received the letter. She asked why the CGE 20-year assessment review had not been completed, if it had been budgeted for in the previous financial year. The CFO had also confirmed that the tender contract had not yet been finalised. Why was that the case? The financial report stated that the CGE had exceeded the first quarter budget by R1.5 million -- surely that amount would have a large impact on the year’s financial stability? What containment strategies had the CGE put in place to ensure that they did not run out of funds before the end of the year? The Portfolio Committee was aware that the CGE had financial constraints, but she felt that R1.5 million was way above budget. During the first quarter alone, 46% of the information communication technology (ICT) budget had already been used for computer servicing, internet and the website. She was concerned that this was almost half of the annual allocated amount, and asked how the Commission was planning to move forward. She also highlighted the 128% budget expenditure on media outreach. She asked what kind of media outreach initiatives had taken place. CGE had also used 79% of the printing and stationery budget. She asked what the money had been used for. Travel expenses had reached 35% of the allocated amount. How was the Commission going to deal with the lack of financial control? She also asked what the rent for the new offices in the Eastern Cape and Tshwane was. Finally, she asked for an update on the progress of the disciplinary case against the former chairperson of the CGE. She asked the CFO to clarify what the financial impact was for carrying pending cases from the fourth quarter in the previous financial year through to the first quarter of the new financial year. It had been stated that the number of cases pending were 92, and she asked why the pending cases had reached 375 within the first quarter. It seemed as though there had been no progress, as there were more cases pending than there were closed cases.
Ms M Chueu (ANC) asked what progress had been made on the gender income gap initiative, and with the gender equality assessment in the mining industry. She asked for a summary of what was happening in the mining industry -- how many women were in senior management positions, as well as creating ways to encourage women to become a part of the mining sector, as it had been male dominated. If there had been no progress, she requested that the CGE inform the Committee of the challenges faced. She asked what criteria were used to assess the different universities. She was curious about the progress made, since gender equality was prioritised within the universities. How many women had graduated since 1994, and how many women had been appointed within male dominated faculties? She asked whether the 1957 Witchcraft Suppression Act was still relevant. Was it still necessary to have the Act, considering the present Constitution? She was also concerned about the lack of progress made in the Limpopo province, as more files had been opened than closed. She mentioned the table stating each province and the nature of the complaints in each file, and asked the CGE to highlight areas such as townships or suburbs where gender discrimination, gender-based violence and domestic violence predominantly took place. She asked about the cases on restitution -- what was happening to the widows who had had their land taken away? Would they be getting it back? The Committee also wanted to know what issues had been raised about the controversial Traditional Courts Bill, as women were subject to discrimination. What challenges did women face when collecting maintenance, or when the partner refused to pay child maintenance? She asked for clarity about the printing and stationary budget. It had been stated that 79% was spent on printing and stationery, and then it was later mentioned that 1% had been spent on report writing, printing and publishing. What was the difference between the two printing costs?
Ms M Khawula (EFF) asked what had happened to the legal officer in Kwa-Zulu Natal. A large number of women had been rape victims, and she asked what the Commission was dong about the safety of women in areas such as Verulam, where elderly women were living in homes with no doors and constantly being the subject of rape. She commended the bursaries that the girls from Tugela received for being virgins, but felt that it had been unfortunate that many people had not been aware that there were bursaries to begin with. How had the Commission reached the conclusion to award these bursaries? She asked whether the two tenders awarded for printing and copy editing services within the last quarter ending on March 31 2016 had been awarded to businesses run by women, and what the nature of each business was.
Ms D Robinson (DA) also asked about the Witchcraft Suppression Act. She mentioned that the elderly were often targeted owing to their changed behaviour as they became senile. How was the Act protecting these women? She also mentioned that widows usually lost land because in some traditions, the husband’s family repossessed the land once the husband had died. She asked what plans the Commission had in order to support women facing such challenges. She asked for a summary of the issues covered in each gender equity clinic, and emphasised the need to ensure adequate training was provided to deal with the challenges faced.
Ms M Matshoba (ANC) asked the CGE to outline the exact address of the offices in the Eastern Cape and Tshwane. When would the programmes on human rights and gender equity going to begin? She also asked how the CGE would prevent the unauthorised sterilization of HIV positive women. What were the sterilization markers the CGE had mentioned, and how would this be implemented?
Ms Tseke asked what the outcome of the meeting with National Treasury about the CGE’s R33 million excess expenses in the previous financial year had been. She asked that in the following financial year, the University of Stellenbosch, Free State University and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) be at the top of the list for gender equality assessments. The Portfolio Committee appreciated the CGE’s engagement with the mining industry. The Committee was overseeing mining industries which were still male dominated, and so the intervention was required. Ms Tseke asked what criteria were used to identify mining companies. She was also concerned about the action plan for violence against women and children -- how would the CGE’s approach be different from that of the Department of Social Development? The fourth quarter report had indicated 69 new files with complaints classified under ‘others,’ and she asked what these ‘other’ complaints were.
Ms Chueu said that teenage pregnancies had become a large problem. In one area alone, 3 000 young women were pregnant. She asked if the Committee and the CGE could develop a plan to deal with the problem. A plan to eradicate poverty and create jobs would also be necessary. She identified the Pretoria Girls High as an institution where women were oppressing other women. She asked the CGE to look into how many more cases were similar to those highlighted. There were schools making students pay for not speaking English. She was concerned about the racism taking place within South African schools.
The Chairperson thanked the CGE for the presentation. She asked how the Commission would be collaborating with other departments to achieve the same goals. She asked for an update on the meeting held with Treasury regarding the R33 million, as well as an update on the 2015 State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Ms Khawula asked about the illegal abortion clinics that seemed to be increasing in number. There were many public displays for these clinics everywhere -- what was being done to resolve this issue? She referred to the unorthodox disposal of foetuses in open areas around KZN, as well as to the flats in Durban that dealt with these abortions. Finally, she asked what was being done about the “#Kwezi” hashtag situation, which kept resurfacing. She felt that it was important to address these issues, as the public wanted to know.
The Chairperson asked the CGE summarise the responses to the questions raised by the Members of the Committee.
The CGE Chairperson said he would ensure that detailed answers were submitted to the Portfolio Committee as soon as possible. However he felt the need to address some of the political matters raised by the Members. The CGE believed that the #Kwezi situation had been dealt with in court and therefore settled, and the Commission supported all decisions made by the law. If anyone felt the need to oppose the decision made, that person would have to take it up with the court.
He briefly mentioned that the letter on the vacancies, as addressed by Ms Tseke, had been sent to the Parliamentary Speaker. He would be sending a second letter to follow up on the procedure. He said that his term, as well as the Commissioner’s, would be ending soon. The legal officer in KZN had recently moved, but the issue would be dealt with.
Mr W Mgoqi, CGE Commissioner said that the illegal abortion clinics had to be dealt with, as justice was necessary.
Mr Putu responded briefly to the questions based on the financial report. The Commission was paying R27 000 per month for 350m2 office space in East London. He could not go into detail about what would happen with regard to the R33 million, as the Commission was still waiting to hear from National Treasury. There had not been irregular spending during the 2015/2016 financial year. The indicated 1% for report writing, printing and publishing was for daily internal administrative duties. The CGE would try its best to cut costs where possible. This would include travelling costs, as the risk of depleting funds by the third quarter was real. The only other plan the CGE had to try and cover the R1.5 million over-expenditure during the first quarter included coming up with fund-raising strategies and ideas.
The meeting was adjourned.
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