Commission for Gender Equality on its Quarter 3 performance

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

28 February 2017
Chairperson: Ms T Memela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Key issues across provinces related to the rights of cohabitees with regard to deceased estates; delays with maintenance cases; and the use of child grants to buy liquor. Programmes were dedicated to the 16 Days of Activism against Women and Child Abuse. A strategic objective was to ensure the creation of a legislative framework to promote gender equality. Submissions for legislative enhancement were drafted. Challenging patriarchal perceptions and stereotypes was a strategic objective. The Department of Women in the Presidency conducted outreach and legal clinics. A paper on the decriminalisation of sex work by the Department of Justice was awaited. Media slots in community radio stations were implemented. There were cash-flow management problems due to budgetary reductions. Internal control weaknesses were substantially resolved. The R55 million budget was exceeded by R3 million, as at 31 December 2016.

Members had remarks and questions about unnecessary travel expenses; communication strategy; engagement with Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs; participation of Commissioners in legal clinics; the insufficient budget; financial control weaknesses; visibility; the 16 Days of Activism; challenges facing the disabled; Commission’s coordination of gender sector sentiments regarding legislation; Commission’s presence in the UN; the need for the Portfolio Committee to be involved with legislation; decriminalisation of sex work; and democratic rights versus morality.

Meeting report

Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) Third Quarterly Report
The report was presented by Ms Keketso Maema: Chief Executive Officer, and Mr Moshabi Putu: Chief Financial Officer.
Key issues across provinces related to the rights of cohabitees with regard to deceased estates; delays with maintenance cases, and the use of child grants to buy liquor. Programmes for the quarter focused on matters related to the 16 Days of Activism against Women and Child Abuse. A primary strategic objective was to ensure the creation of an enabling legislative framework to promote gender equality. 5 submissions made for legislative and policy enhancement were drafted. There was auditing of implementation of the Victims Charter, and a gender barometer report. Equality and sexual offences courts were duly monitored. There were hearings on the Gender Transformation Investigation report. Challenging patriarchal perceptions and stereotypes was a strategic objective. The Department conducted 32 outreach and legal clinics. The Department of Justice (DoJ) was waited on to put a paper on the decriminalisation of sex work out for comments. 7 provinces implemented workshops on gender mainstreaming. 24 media slots in community radio stations were implemented. Statements on financial performance as at 31 December 2016 were given, and an overview of income and expenditure. There were cash-flow management pressures due to budgetary reductions. A clean audit opinion was received. Internal control weaknesses were substantially resolved. Total spending exceeded the R55 million budget by R3 million, as at 31 December 2016.

Ms T Stander (DA) had a number of recommendations and only a few questions, which she would pose at the end. She referred to financial implications of unnecessary travel expenditure. The CGE could travel less, and have smaller delegations. With regard to stationery, the focus had to be on essential items like pamphlets, not on inessential ones like notebooks. CGE spending on communication strategy amounted to 220 percent of the available budget. It was said that there was an increase of 90 followers on social media. The current total was 1150, as compared to 150000 for the Public Protector.   There were measures available like polls and hashtags, and cooperation with sister- or like-minded organisations like the Black Sash and Helen Suzman, and pamphlets at clinics. The CGE logo and contact details could be attached, in case someone wanted to contact the CGE.  She asked about contact with radio stations like uMhlobo Wenene and SAFM. Many times, journalists were interested in educating the community. The PR had to set up appointments with various Commissioners. The CGE could not establish links between the Annual Performance Plan (APP), the National Development Plan (NDP) and the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) if action steps were not taken.  An overview was not helpful if it were not told what was actually being done. There had to be reporting on specifics of the Budget Review and Recommendations Report (BRRR) and on HR vacancies. The third quarter had to have targets. When statistics were reported, it had to be shown how they fitted into the South African context. Deadlines had to be met. She referred to places visited for meetings and conferences. If it were mentioned that there were seven meetings, it had to be explained what they were for, and whether they were essential. Value for travel money had to be ensured. There also had to be reporting on what was learnt, and what the objectives were. The legal case summary had to show the number of cases. She recommended that in future case numbers with summaries be supplied, and the reasons why the case was brought. She asked how the CGE proposed to deal with the 200 cases it had to deal with in the following quarter. There had to be fewer excuses. The Committee needed more than mere reporting. It wanted to know how the CGE stopped gender oppression and worked for gender equality. The Department of Women in the Presidency wanted stakeholder engagement. It had to be known if there was overlap between the Department and the CGE.

The Chairperson reminded Ms Stander that she had only just joined the Committee. The Committee had cleared hurdles with the CGE. In time Ms Stander would be exposed to oversight. The Committee moved around with the CGE. Areas were visited where there were legal issues, and information was obtained about how people dealt with cases. Victims were allowed to speak for themselves. It was unreasonable to demand case numbers. People in charge of cases supplied information. It was not right to come up with stringent rules, as the Committee worked together with the CGE and the picture was clear. Ms Robinson (DA) could speak to Ms Stander about how the Committee operated. Delicate cases were dealt with. If a case was sub judice, one could not cross certain boundaries. The CGE had to be granted time to do things. Ms Robinson had to helpMs Stander understand how the Committee operated. She herself was not on anybody’s side. She called on Members to listen to whoever was in front of the Committee, to understand how that entity operated.

Ms Stander replied that she heard the Chairperson, but the only issue that the Chairperson found was that of case numbers.

The Chairperson said that it was not necessarily so.

Ms Stander continued that she was allowed to make recommendations. The CGE raised cases as a challenge. Cases could be numbered. Challenges could be HR related. There were court backlogs. Documentation had to be obtained from clients. Challenges had to be pointed out, so that the Committee could understand them.

Ms Robinson advised that procedural issues be discussed after the meeting, between herself and the Chairperson and Ms Stander, else there would be deviation.

Ms P Bhengu (ANC) commended the CGE for the presentation. She asked how many suppliers were paid after 30 days. She asked about engagement with the National Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA). CoGTA was having problems to access information it needed at local and municipal level. She asked how Commissioners received complaints from provincial departments. Commissioners had to go to police stations for follow-up. She asked who did the content work in CGE, and about the role of Commissioners when there were legal clinics. She asked if Commissioners were participating when there was engagement with the National Department. She asked about the outcome and impact of legal clinics attended. The Department of Women in the Presidency was doing its own community dialogue, were Commissioners attending some of those?

Ms Majake (ANC), Member of the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee, remarked that she was seeing too many males in the CGE line-up. Historically the entity was created to advance the status of women. It had to be a visible platform for women. She assured the CGE that it was just an observation. Performance stood at 72 percent. She asked where the missing 28 percent was. The general overview had to look at the performance of Commissioners. The CGE budget was not sufficient at R55 million. She asked what inputs were made when the CGE consulted with National Treasury about the MTEF. The CGE mandate was cross-cutting, and it needed more money. She asked what the NGOs were saying, what the links with them were and who they were. She asked if the Gender Commission was still working, and about major financial control weaknesses of the CGE. She asked how reports were utilised, and about irregular expenditure condoned by National Treasury. It was good that a clean audit was obtained. She asked if the CGE website still existed. A wealth of information was produced by the CGE, and had to be made available.

Ms M Chueu (ANC) asked if Students’ Representative Councils (SRCs) were included when the CGE met with universities, to give another angle of the university. The issue of the Exxaro report was approaching. She asked how many women owned such companies, and how many held shares. She asked what kind of HOD policy was adopted. The Department of Health (DoH) was no longer cooperating on maternal health at hospitals. She asked if it could be subpoenaed. She referred to the visibility of the CGE. It had a small budget and therefore had to target certain areas. There were nine provincial offices. The CGEcould work in Tzaneen for a certain period, or some district of Mpumalanga. Resources had to be localised, as it could not be dispersed throughout the provinces. It would then be possible to know the impact made, and pressure could be placed on the Department, so that other areas in the province could be focused on. The Committee wanted to see visibility on the ground.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) gave her input in Zulu.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) translated for her that the 16 Days of Activism Against Abuse of Women and Children were fruitless if there was no yield for people on the ground. The money could be used for wheelchairs and shoes for disabled children. The CGE, Department of Social Development (DSD) and Department of Human Settlements had to attend to the issue of the disabled and multi-faceted challenges facing them. They were living under horrifying conditions, without access to housing, and with poor social development services. There was inefficiency of services, especially with regard to wheelchairs. Ms Khawula had asked if the CGE knew about the woman who had given birth to quadruplets, or had given any assistance to the woman. She had asked about the role of the Commission with regard to private relationships. It happened that two young people would agree to have a relationship, and then the man would be accused of raping the girl. She had asked if there was assistance to the mother of the son who was being accused of rape.   

The Chairperson remarked that councillors had a role to play in communities, with reference to all questions raised. It was brought up in a seminar. She asked Ms Khawula what she had done as councillor before coming to Parliament. The Committee sat with the Departments of Education, and questions were raised afterwards. Communities had to contribute to curbing ills. The matter Ms Khawula had referred to was the concern of every parent.

Ms Chueu said the living conditions of women on farms had to be looked at. The conditions of workers and farm schools had to be attended to. There were girls who were staying in those institutions. She had raised the matter of transport with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). Farm schools had to be looked at to see if the budget had impact.

Ms Majake referred to bills being submitted to Parliament, especially the Traditional Courts Bill (TC Bill). She asked if the CGE coordinated the opinion of the gender sector. There were sentiments around the fact that traditional courts existed outside of the legal framework. The TC Bill could help allow those courts to operate within the legal system. The gender sector was saying that aspects of the Bill could be misleading. The CGE had to lead such processes. Currently the CoGTA legislation framework was transforming traditional leadership. The quota for traditional leaders was 30 percent. When the Bill was finalised it would be utilised by structures that were fully representative. She advised that the CGE get a seat on the UN Council for Human Rights. It was controlled by the SA Human Rights Commission. The ideal was that it would be voluntarily shared among chapter 9 institutions. The CGE had to put its name on it. The UN operated from country to country but it could come in via South Africa, so that the CGE would not have to wait for a Ministry to invite it as part of a technical team.

Ms Chueu remarked that the Committee had to discuss legislation. As a Committee that processed bills that affected women, the Committee could not leave it to the DoJ. Traditional leaders had lost confidence in courts because the DoJ went against them. The Department of Justice accounted to nobody. There was infringement of women’s rights. Legislation passed by the Committee had to favour women so that it could be able to defend them.

The Chairperson noted that the Committee had pushed the TC Bill through four times. The Committee had made sure to call the wives of traditional leaders to be part of the people represented. The Bill had to return to the Committee. It had been lost and was currently being brought back in through the back door.

Ms Robinson commended what Ms Chueu had said about legislation. The Committee had to be involved with legislation. The DoJ smuggled the TC Bill back in with ulterior motives, which could not be allowed. The DoJ had to come to the Committee; the Committee’s input was not to be ignored.

Ms Majake noted that two Committees could not deal with a bill at the same time. Members could follow submissions as it went to the Justice and Correctional Services Portfolio Committee.

Ms Robinson insisted that the DoJ had to come to the Committee, so that there could be full participation. Committee input was not to be ignored. It was not practical for her to attend other committees, although she sometimes did so.

Ms Bhengu agreed that the DoJ had to be involved. There was a paper on the decriminalisation of prostitution, but it was not finalised. The Committee had to engage with the study group or the DoJ. Impact on the lives of women had to be known before legislation was adopted.

Ms Robinson said she and Ms Bhengu had attended a workshop on human trafficking and prostitution. There were alternatives to full decriminalisation. There had to be engagement with the NGOs who drove the issues.

The Chairperson noted that there had been an invitation which some Members had turned down. Dignity had to be embraced. She did not want to be drawn into discussion with the partnerships. She had said to the media who wanted an interview that she was not around, she was in Natal. It had to be defined to her what was meant when sex workers were said to be workers. She asked where the protection of young boys and girls was, in that. Sex workers wanted exemption from criminality, as they complained of being abused by the police. There was a high rate of trafficking of children into brothels. Another layer was being groomed. She did not want any part of that. She was not singing the same song.

Ms Robinson noted that Sex Worker Education Advocacy and Taskforce (SWEAT) supported the rights of sex workers. Those who had exited from prostitution were saying that it had to be prevented, and advocated against. Young boys and girls had to be protected.

Ms Majake remarked that democracy was based on human rights, not morality. The CGE had to again take the lead. It was not coming across clearly on moral issues. She asked why the discussion of ten years before had slowed down. There had been discussions about whether people had to be allowed to make choices like becoming a sex worker/prostitutes. Difficult as it was, if that was what people wanted, they had to be allowed to make those choices. The right to choose was a complex issue. In the termination of pregnancy debate it was conceded that it might not be right to terminate life, but then choice was placed at the centre. If a woman chose to terminate a pregnancy according to who she was in terms of religion and culture, she had to be allowed to make that decision about her own body. There were moral and religious objections to gay rights, for instance, but human rights had to be put first in a democracy.
Ms Thoko Mpumlwana, CGE Deputy Chairperson, replied that there had to be sessions other than quarterly reports to talk about cardinal issues. The CGE had a limited mandate, which was not so much to implement as to oversee and unlock what was not working well. Issues were raised to promote gender equality. When the law obstructed that, the CGE came in. Moral issues could not be prioritised. She herself did not drink, but she could not tell others not to. When it came to sex workers or sex orientations, others had to be allowed to choose what they did with their own bodies. A person might be against prostitution and wake up one day to find that their child had chosen it. The courts could not arrest unless there was a law. The new hate speech laws would be hard to enforce. People called each other monkeys in the social media. Things had to be done within the framework of the Constitution. There was a lot of partner support. There were some things that the CGE could not do with its own money. There were attempts to reduce travel costs but there had to be engagement. The CGE was a small team. Provincial offices had to be introduced. People were called by partners from other provinces to give information. There was not enough money.

With regard to media, the CGE worked with UMhlobo Wenene, SAFM and other community radio stations. On lessons learned, she noted that cases were put into categories. Gender based violence topped the list. Some had to go to the Human Rights Commission. The question was how the State dealt with gender based violence. The CGE worked with the Department of Women in the Presidency and supported it with networks and infrastructure. There was reporting on the performance of Commissioners. Issues had to be defined. Partners were saying that the CGE was limping a bit. The issue of gender was not taken seriously.  Cabinet had to be approached with a call for a gender focus. NGOs were dying. The CGE invited NGOs to bring their people, and the CGE would bring theirs. The question was how everyone was to be brought together. It might be necessary to work on weekends. The 16 Days of Gender Activism had rightly to be 365 days, but its purpose was to highlight gender issues, so that people could ask how they could be peacemakers. It was not a waste of money. A service was provided. The CGE went to community radio stations during the activism period to only talk about that. Issues had to be identified. The CGE teamed up with the Department of Social Development to work with the disabled. The Deputy Minister had to pronounce about the TC Bill. It was reported to have been enhanced. Women were saying that they did not want two legal systems. If women wanted out of the traditional system, they had to be accommodated.
Ms Maema added that there was engagement with CoGTA, and also with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA). An MOU was signed with SALGA.

Ms Bhengu told the CGE on behalf of the Chairperson, who had to leave some minutes before, that further replies would have to be in writing, as it was already 13h20. Minutes would be adopted in a following meeting.

Ms Bhengu adjourned the meeting.


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