“Painting over Old Cracks” was the first report presented by the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE).They explained that since the National Council on Gender Based Violence (NCGBV) had stopped functioning in 2014, the Department of Social Development (DSD) had been the department coordinating matters related to GBV. However, the status of the NCGBV had to be clarified, because not knowing its legal standing had hampered the implementation and review of mechanisms meant to combat GBV. The CGE was dismayed that not only had the non-functioning of the NCGBV led to a vacuum in the coordination of programmes, but the CGE, along with other departments, did not think that the DSD was an apt choice to be the leader of such a sensitive issue because it already had a host of structural and operational problems.
In the report entitled “Ship without a Captain,” the CGE talked about how the Department of Justice (DoJ) was not performing its duties with regard to coordinating the Victims Charter. Without coordination coming from the DoJ, the six other departments involved in the implementation of the Charter had not been performing this task, and victims of GBV might be subjected to secondary victimisation due to this vacuum. The CGE cited the lack of funding, inadequate training of officials, as well as the unwillingness of some authorities to provide information on GBV, as obstacles which they faced in ensuring that the Victims Charter was implemented.
“Struggling to Meet the Ends of Justice” was the last report presented by the CGE, and this shed light on the inability of the DoJ to take a leading role in the implementation of the Victims Charter and the inefficiency of other departments, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS). While the CGE acknowledged that the Sexual Offences courts had done some good work in preventing secondary victimisation, they did not have sufficient materials and training in order to carry out their functions in an optimal manner.
The Members were unanimous that the Deputy President should be contacted about all these issues in order to highlight the inefficiency of mechanisms and structures meant to combat GBV. They also suggested that a summit be organised, in collaboration with other departments, to find solutions to the increasing scourge of GBV in South Africa.
Commission for Gender Equity -- Painting Over Old Cracks
Dr Nondumiso Maphazi, Chairperson: Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) outlined the role of the CGE and expressed her gratitude for the opportunity afforded to the CGE to present at a time when Gender Based Violence (GBV) was on the rise in South Africa. Although documents such as the Victims Charter existed, GBV was on the rise and something different needed to be done in the hope that the recommendations could lead to a new strategy which would entail the responsibility of all in this domain.
Dr Thabo Rapoo, Head of Research: CGE, gave an overview of the reports to be presented and commenced with two reports for 2015/16. The Commission had compiled a number of reports related to GBV, and when the National Council on Gender Based Violence (NCGBV) stopped functioning, it had evaluated the strategies in place to address GBV. The Department of Social Development (DSD) had become the central institution in coordinating GBV-related programmes, and the CGE wished to identify the challenges faced by the DSD by doing an evaluation of the national initiatives and presenting a report to Parliament.
He described some of the national initiatives on GBV, and commented that the NCGBV had been supposed to do a review of the 365 Day National Action Plan after a five-year cycle, with the expectation of the programme being renewed. This renewal had not occurred, because the Council no longer functioned. After discussions with stakeholders, it had been established that some of the challenges faced in coordinating the GBV national initiatives were that limited resources were being allocated at the provincial level, and officials were refusing to provide critical information.
Dr Raboo said there had been a vacuum in the implementation of GBV policies since the demise of the NCGBV in May 2014. The legal status of the institution was not known, and the CGE believed another structure needed to exist if the Council had ceased to exist, because there was no institution in place to implement the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). While the DSD was coordinating GBV-related programmes, the CGE was against this scenario because the “informal” position of the DSD had created confusion and a lack of direction, as well fragmentation in its’ approach to GBV. Furthermore, at the inter-ministerial level, a territorial rivalry appeared to exist between departments, as they were not keen on taking orders from the DSD. This had hampered coordination, with the North West Province being an example of how fragmentation had led to inconsistency in policy implementation. This scenario had never existed when the NCGBV existed, as it had involved multiple stakeholders and was good at coordination.
Dr Rapoo stated with dismay that most of the GBV initiatives had been undermined by the decline of the NCGBV, in particular the 365 Day National Action Plan, and while the DSD had established the Istanbul Programme of Action (IPOA), but they had been poor at coordinating it. Lack of expertise at the provincial level to deal with GBV from other stakeholders such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), and inefficiency from the Sexual Offences Court, had led to fears of secondary victimisation. National coordination was an issue which had earlier been raised, and he cited the example of the Eastern Cape which had started its own programmes related to GBV because of the lack of direction emanating from the national structures. This was problematic, because activities at the provincial level were informed by national policy and the aforementioned case created a disjuncture between policy and practice.
Recommendations made by the CGE to remedy the issues mentioned in the in the report included solving the institutional uncertainty surrounding the NCGBV, making a decision about which organisation would take over the duties and responsibilities from the NCGBV, ensuring a National Strategy Plan was developed as well as improving communication between national, provincial and civil society stakeholders. This would allow the sustainable implementation of GBV-related programmes.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) was shocked by the report, because the Minister had been asked about the NCGBV and the report made it seem the Committee had not been doing their job, although they had tried to hold the Minister to account on the issue. She suggested that an urgent meeting needed to be held with regard to the rise in GBV, because it seemed the Department of Justice and the SAPS did not have a strategy to deal with it, and the Ministry of Women had also been silent on the issue.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) was of the opinion that having no national strategic plan (NSP) meant there was a problem. The lack of coordination at the national level had led to the Eastern Cape taking action into its own hands, and as a result GBV was increasing. The DSD had a lot of issues and could not be in charge of leading the campaign against GBV-related problems, as the Ministry had structural and operational challenges which was reflected in their unwillingness to curb the scourge of GBV, and had created a lack of direction in this domain.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) asserted that the issues being raised were not new and had been talked about in the past, especially the state of the NCGBV. She said the CGE did not even have a budget, and due to the nature of GBV at present, a summit needed to be organised with all the relevant stakeholders because the Minister would not help, and therefore the Committee had to take charge. She suggested that a written request be made to the Deputy President in that regard. She also asked the CGE to provide the names of the provincial officials who had refused to provide information related to GBV.
The Chairperson expressed doubts about the Eastern Cape developing its own strategy, and asked that it be looked into.
Ms Lieketseng Motopi, Researcher: CGE, stated that due to the high incidence of GBV, provincial legislatures had asked to establish their own structures and lobbied other departments on this, due to the vacuum at national level. The Eastern Cape was still developing a strategy, and the Commission was yet to hear from them. She explained that a disjuncture did exist at the level of coordination. The inter-ministerial committee had been established within the NCGBV and was funded by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA). At the Inter-ministerial committee, the review of the 365 Day National Action Plan had been submitted but had never been acted upon, along with other programmes.
Ms Keketso Maema, Chief Executive Officer (CEO): CGE, intervened by suggesting that the recommendations provided should be taken seriously. The Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) had also provided recommendations and in this case, the DPME needed to be asked if it was ready to take a lead in matters relating to GBV.
Ms Bhengu inquired if the CGE had alerted the Minister about the situation.
Ms Maema said that the UNFPA and Swedish Embassy had helped them on the review and it had been presented to the DSD, but it would be much easier if Parliament approached the Minister on their behalf.
Dr Rapoo commented that some fundamental problems were discovered after every study, and the CGE had realised that they were repeating recommendations.
Ms Tseke suggested that the CGE should stop producing reports until the government reacted. She asked why the recommendations of the CGE were not binding, like those of the Public Protector.
Ms Bhengu was in agreement that the Deputy President must be approached because the Minister was not cooperating, and also because the Deputy President’s Office had not announced if the NCGBV’s mandate was over.
Ms Majeke suggested the Department meet more frequently with the CGE.
The Chairperson said things needed to change, and she would call the Minister after speaking to the Deputy President on this matter. She asked Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Content Adviser for the Portfolio Committee, to provide advice on the various issues.
Ms Abrahams thought the idea of a summit was easier, because it would forge inter-ministerial and Committee collaboration, but there might be a problem with coordination because getting three committees together was already hard -- and it would be even harder if one had to assemble seven. High offices would need to be lobbied in order for this initiative to work.
Ms Pinkie Sobahle, Commissioner: CGE, expressed her concern that resources allocated towards improving policing in relation to GBV were not being well used and so issues were repeating themselves.
The Chairperson said she appreciated the presentation, because the Committee had not known the extent of the problem -- for example, police not being able to take proper statements and becoming angry when women brought cases to them.
Ms Bhengu was of the opinion that the SAPS’s problem was serious, but it would be good if all the concerned committees could come together.
Commission for Gender Equity: Ship without a Captain
Dr Rapoo asserted that the Department of Justice had abandoned its role as the coordinator of the Victims Charter. From 2009-2012, the CGE had done an assessment of the seven rights of victims of crime, as outlined in the Charter. He provided the Committee with a brief overview of the Victims Charter.
The Victims Charter had been initiated in 2004 and was launched in 2005, when there were six departments which were key implementers of the Charter. The Department of Justice was the lead department to oversee its implementation and prevent secondary victimisation. However, he highlighted the challenges associated with applying the Charter at the national and provincial levels. Some key officials were unwilling to be interviewed, and knowledge of the Charter was extremely limited in some departments. The fact that the Department of Justice was no longer playing the role of the lead department in applying the Victims Charter was also a concern.
An overview of the findings by the CGE indicated that the DSD had implemented some of the recommendations made in previous reports, but there was still a lack of clarity between the Victims Charter and the Victim Empowerment Programme (VEP), according to DSD officials. The DSD had also not developed a proper funding model to ensure it protected victims of crime, and as a result some shelters had been closed or were not receiving funding. Dr Rapoo said the staff at the different shelters lacked adequate training to deal with victims, and it had also been discovered the shelters were understaffed. In addition when resources for training were allocated, it was done disproportionately, to the disadvantage of poor and underprivileged areas.
Dr Rapoo concluded that these problems had arisen because there was no department taking the lead to coordinate the duties related to the Victims Charter.
Ms Bhengu said that the Department of Correctional Services (DCS)seemed to be insensitive to GBV. She asked if the Committee could have copies of the Victims Charter so that they could approach the Department of Justice (DoJ). The challenge was not only with the DoJ, but also the SAPS, as they did not seem to understand the gravity of domestic violence.
Ms Majeke felt the DSD and DCS should get their act together so that people would not be affected. Inconsistency in the provision of services to victims was occurring across regions, so people were not doing their jobs and it boiled down to leadership. She reiterated the importance of hosting a summit.
Ms Motopi stressed that due to migration, tracking victims was difficult for the DCS. It had appointed an organisation called Foundation for Victims of Crime (FOVOC) to track all victims, but FOVOC did not have resources and had finished its work in 2015, so if a report existed, it was with the DCS.
Dr Rapoo added that organisations like FOVOC were not found in all the provinces, and thus there was inconsistency in tracking victims.
Commission for Gender Equity: Struggling to Meet the Ends of Justice
Dr Rapoo said this was a report for the 2016/17 year, and did not have any recommendations. The CGE team had visited police stations in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), the Western Cape and the Northern Cape, and magistrates’ courts in KZN and Limpopo, as well as National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) centres. The Department of Justice had refused to speak to the CGE at the national level. The report outlined some of the challenges, which included the Department of Justice abandoning its coordination role. Although the Sexual Offences courts had been established, these institutions lacked the proper material and officials were not trained well enough on the Victims Charter to enable it to achieve its objectives.
The Chairperson asked the CGE what would be done if the Traditional Courts Bill was passed. How would traditional leaders deal with issues related to GBV, as they were not trained on such matters? She stated emphatically that there was no justice if you were a woman in South Africa.
Ms Tseke repeated her desire to have all the recommendations from the CGE reports to become binding, like they were with Chapter Nine institutions, otherwise they would keep going round in circles.
Ms Bhengu was of the opinion that the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation was not doing its job, and that the Minister of Women in the Presidency was not doing anything. She hoped that this matter would be discussed at the ANC policy conference.
Ms Tseke said that Parliament should use its power to hold back money unless work was done.
Ms Sobahle noted that an alternative strategy had to be sought if the lead departments were not working.
Ms Abrahams said hosting a summit with the different stakeholders in the area of GBV would be ideal in August or September, and requested a list of all the relevant departments and institutions which could take part.
Ms Motopi added that as researchers, they faced struggles in obtaining data, and needed to know from which departments they could obtain specific data, as this would ease their workload.
The Chairperson recommended that Statistics SA should be consulted, since they had data concerning all departments.
Ms Bhengu reminded the Committee of the need to meet the Minister as soon as possible.
Ms Majeke believed that meeting the Minister would not make any difference.
Ms Tseke was not sure whether meeting the Minister was the best idea, but suggested meeting the Chief Whip on the matter would be a good idea.
The meeting was adjourned.