The Multiparty Women’s Caucus met with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), which provided a breakdown of the various political parties’ viewpoints regarding the introduction of regulation to enforce a 50/50 quota for gender representation.
Members expressed differing views on the desirability of regulation. It was said that even though members of the caucus represented different political parties, jointly they were a women’s caucus with a common vision to fight for the rights of women. The caucus should avoid focusing on political parties, but instead focus on supporting all women and improving the conditions that women found themselves in. Members should not try to dissuade each other by raising concerns over constitutional issues. Another view was that the regulation of the 50/50 quota would force political parties that were still undermining women’s issues to make sure that they complied with the regulations. It was proposed that the matter should be looked into by the respective women caucuses from each political party so that when the multiparty women’s caucus met, there could be one voice.
The National Treasury briefed the Caucus on the issue of gender-sensitive budgeting. It said the South African budgeting system strives to ensure gender redress by financing government programmes across all departments. Gender responsive budgeting was broader than mere tallying the expenditure on women and girls in country budgets. Currently it was widely acknowledged that gender responsive budgeting was to be planned into the country’s budgeting process. A Member commented that since it was women who were representing the National Treasury and sat in on business, it was their responsibility to ensure the business plans empowered women. Another Member suggested the lack of growth and the inequality of the South African economy was not the fault of government, as government was actually empowering the economy. It was the private sector that was not contributing. The Caucus should try to see how it could influence the private sector to also be conscious of women’s empowerment.
The National Treasury briefed the Caucus on measures put in place to ensure implementation of the provision of free sanitary products. Some of the issues raised during the discussion included how government would make sure that indigent girls and adults were supported, and whether all girls would be covered; whether there would be a conditional grant to provinces for sanitary products that would take care of the girl-child at school; whether support would be provide to all women who were indigent; and whether the price of sanitary towels would be regulated for indigent women or if there would be some kind of subsidy. A Member asked if the small business sector had ever thought of ensuring that some South African women were trained in producing sanitary towels, which was something that could also reduce the costs.
Independent Electoral Commission: Gender representation
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) told the Committee that a proposal by the Joint Multiparty Women’s Caucus in Parliament to introduce a 50/50 split for gender representation on submission of candidates by political parties had been discussed. The African Independent Congress (AIC) was in support of the 50/50 gender split, as women must be empowered. The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) said a general quota on candidates may not be practical when it came to different political parties in terms of their capabilities. It argued that there were limiting factors in implementing this aspect upon parties. The smaller parties and newly registered parties would be disadvantaged. The ACDP also believed that the focus should not be only on gender -- what about youth and persons with disabilities? The focus should be categorized into three groups. For group one, with an electoral performance of over 20% of voter support, the quota must be 50/50. For group two, with voter support below 19.9%, the quota must be 40/60. For group three, there must be a 70/30 split.
It should be taken into consideration that some parties may be able to contest all elections while others could contest only some. The African National Congress (ANC) indicated that they were currently implementing the 50/50 quota to ensure women’s empowerment, but the party was adamant that this should not be regulated and legislation should not be introduced that obligated parties to do so.
The United Democratic Front (UDM) indicated that it would just be a formality, and that some parties would just be doing it to satisfy the Act.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) indicated that a 50/50 quota should be a matter that the voters needed to decide on, so if the electorate believed that this was exactly what they wanted, then it should basically vote for a party that advocated 50/50 representation. It was also opposed to amendments to the legislation.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) had indicated that currently they were implementing a particular gender quota which they called the ‘Zebra Stripe’ approach, and also indicated that they did not want to over-regulate and did not support any legislative amendments regarding the matter.
The Freedom Front Plus (FF+) indicated that they supported the 50/50 quota and had confidence in the IEC.
The Congress of the People (COPE) was very clear and adamant that the 50/50 quota should not be regulated.
Ms M Cheue (ANC) said it was clear that political parties did not want to uplift women. The idea was that women were not qualified enough to be board members or chairpersons, and this idea existed all over the world. That was the reason why the Minister of Finance had instituted a law that allowed companies to be deregistered from the stock exchange if they did not have women as chairpersons of boards. She said that perhaps that needed to be adopted, and that was why people had to be forced to legislate so that women left the kitchen and fully participated in the running of the country. She thought they should just amend the legislation. The party had a majority, but there was no way parties were going to support the ANC. The zebra stripe approach had been introduced by the ANC in 2000 at the municipal level -- the EFF had not come up with it. She added that one can see that the EFF did not support women, and this was evident from the lack of women’s representation in powerful positions.
Ms L Zwane (ANC) said she was puzzled by the response of the ANC to the comments presented by the IEC where it said the party had already implemented the 50/50 quota, and asked for clarity on the idea that it was not necessary to regulate the 50/50 quota.
Ms Naledi Pandor, Minister of Science and Technology, said she thought it important to step in and speak to the matter which had been discussed at length by the National Executive Committee (NEC). The NEC realised that it was a complex matter, because this was not just a matter of regulation but also a matter of what the Constitution said about ‘freedom of association,’ and that was something that should have been explained at the beginning of deliberations on the matter. In terms of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution and the clause on the Freedom of Association, it was impossible to compel a political party, because one was dealing with voluntary association. The fact that the ANC had achieved 50/50 gender representation distinguished the party from all the other political parties, so why did the ANC now want to hand over its advantage? For instance there might be a party which said it preferred to have 50% gay people and not women -- how did one weigh that aspect of equality? The matter at hand was an extremely complex one. ANC members must continue to argue for gender equality and see whether they can pass the legislation.
She agreed with Ms Cheue that the party was committed to equality and non-sexism, but as public representatives one needed to be aware of what constraints they were confronted with in terms of the objective. What needed to be looked at was that were there remedies available that would allow a Constitutional approach to the quest so as to not offend the Constitution.
She said she did not appreciate the shaking of the head of one Member, as it was unfair for the Member to do so to her. When the caucus was having a debate, Members should be able to deliberate frankly on the issues openly and not think that one had it right and the other had it wrong. The issue of constitutionality was something that needed to be looked into further, and should be looked at both in terms of the equality of women as well as the representivity of the entire framework of society.
Ms B Dlulane (ANC) said it would have been better if the issue had been discussed by the parties beforehand so that when the caucus met, there could be one understanding. It was clear that there were political parties that still undermined women, given that they said women warmed benches, but one found that there were men who were also benchwarmers. Regulation of the 50/50 quota would force political parties that were still undermining women’s issues to make sure that they complied with the regulations. She proposed that the matter should be looked into by the respective women’s caucuses from each political party so that when the multiparty women’s caucus met, there could be one voice.
An ANC Member said that even though members of the caucus represented different political parties, jointly they were a women’s caucus with a common vision to fight for the rights of women. The multiparty women’s caucus should do away with focusing on political parties, but instead focus on supporting all women and improving the conditions that women found themselves in. Members should try by all means not to dissuade each other by bringing up the constitution. If the constitution was the problem, then that should be discussed. She added that the constitution had been amended many times already, and this had been the case in other countries as well. If other issues could not be attended to because of the Constitution, then the women in Parliament would have failed the women in South Africa.
Ms C Pilane-Majake (UDM) thanked the IEC for the presentation. As the caucus of women in Parliament, what they were advocating for was for political parties to have equal representation of women and men, and the IEC had to assist the caucus to realise that equal representation. The caucus of women in Parliament was already speaking with one voice and the joint fight needed to continue in order to see to it that the dream was realised.
The Chairperson explained that the document presented by the IEC had not been created by the Commission, but it was an interview of the National Parties Liaison Committee (NPLC).
Ms C Dudley (ACDP) assured the caucus that the ACDP did value the idea of 50/50 representation of women in the sense that the party was conscious of it. The party had started off with the majority being women. What the party did not want to see was quotas. She agreed with Minister Pandor on the issues around constitutionality, and further added that it undermined democracy in the sense that one could not force women into what they did not yet want. She personally valued the example of the ANC in terms of the quotas it had, and congratulated the party for leading by example.
An ANC Member said the caucus should not lose sight of the history and the road travelled by women. The country at some point used to have a Women’s Coalition which had had an impact on what happened in Parliament. She suggested that the handholding that took place before needed to be adopted again. The report brought forward by the IEC was not of good quality -- it lacked background information and seemed like a summary, and this was a report that would still be used in 30 years to come.
An ANC Member said she appreciated the report of the IEC, but given the magnitude of the Commission, the IEC could have done better. She agreed with the idea of not offending the Constitution, but there was also a need for a legal opinion, even if it meant the constitution had to be reviewed and changed.
Mr Terry Tselane, Vice Chairperson: IEC, explained that the document presented by the IEC was an extract of the minutes of the meeting of the National Parties Liaison Committee. The IEC had met with the Multiparty Women’s caucus on 31 May 2017 and had made a presentation. The IEC then assumed it was not necessary to go through the process of compiling a full report, since the matter at hand had already been discussed and was one that the caucus was aware of. If the caucus was not happy with the quality of the input of political parties, it was not a reflection of the IEC but a reflection of the input of political parties and the representatives within the national parties’ liaison level. The minutes or report brought forward by the IEC had already been endorsed by the National Liaison Committee. The IEC could not change what they had been informed.
An ANC member said that the caucus was not asking the IEC to change the contents of the report but to follow the standards of writing a qualitative report. She added that Mr Tselane should respect the caucus.
Mr Tselane said the IEC did take the caucus seriously, as well as the idea of the emancipation of women. The IEC had performed research and brought information forward to the committees, but the Commission did not do legislation. Even in areas where issues were identified, the Commission brought the issues for amendments to the Committee, and would continue to do so.
The Chairperson said the reason the IEC had been invited to the meeting was to inform the caucus on the progress made, starting from the last meeting that was held, and the request that the caucus had made. The members of the caucus were public representatives and sat in different committees, and carried the mandate of their organisations. The pursuit of women’s emancipation was on-going, and the 50/50 representation pursuit formed part of the work of the women in Parliament. She said the caucus members would go back to their different organisations and discuss the issue of gender representation even further, but the 50/50 gender representation would be achieved.
She thanked the IEC for the report, and excused the Commission representatives.
National Treasury: Gender-sensitive budgeting
Ms Yanga Mputa, Chief Director: Tax Policy, National Treasury introduced the delegation from the Treasury and handed over to Ms Marie van Niekerk, Director: Tax Policy Unit, to give the presentation.
The South African budgeting system strives to ensure gender redress by financing government programmes across all departments. Gender responsive budgeting was broader than mere tallying the expenditure on women and girls in country budgets. Currently it was widely acknowledged that gender responsive budgeting was to be planned into the country’s budgeting process. In the 1990s, civil society organisations worked on the Women’s Budget initiative, supported by the joint budget committee in Parliament. Many countries had used various gender responsive budgeting tools over time, often linked to donor financing. These initiatives had since been abandoned, as they had generally not attained the desired outcomes. However, it was encouraging that in India, gender responsive budgeting continued to be practiced. Key lessons for success must be learned from many country experiences.
Ms Van Niekerk said gender mainstreaming identified gender patterns in society, and aligned policies and expenditure to address prevailing gender-based inequalities such as interventions for women and men, girls and boys. Gender awareness performance planning upfront was vital, before gender responsive budgeting could have any impact -- the gender dimension to be funded must be explicit. A lack of gender disaggregated data regarding programmes implemented, hindered gender responsive budgeting. There was also no practiced coherent gender responsive budgeting policy framework. Data collection and management was costly, and hence every effort needed to be made to ensure that as data was disaggregated by gender, this was done for the data that was significant and could demonstrate the gender effectiveness of programmes.
Data on gender-based spending was not readily available, and was mainly included as sub-categories within existing budget allocations. A general query run on the 2017/18 financial year, using keywords such as “gender, violence, women, prevention, victims,” provided the data. The data was not gender specific in its presentation, as it provided for the full funding of identified programmes. It mainly included the social crime prevention programmes in the SA Police Service (SAPS) and provincial security departments, and the victim empowerment programmes in national and provincial social development departments. Transfers were made to non-profit institutions for crime prevention and victim support. The bulk of spending by programmes was for the compensation of employees.
In terms of gender responsive budgeting for the future, the Department of Women was leading National Treasury in further consultation processes. National Treasury would implement the government-endorsed gender responsive budgeting policy framework that was developed. Initially, government programmes which would have the greatest gender impact should be targeted, in terms of gender performance planning preceding its budgeting. Gender responsive programmes were undertaken across government departments and would be assessed for funding alongside all other programmes.
Support for all government programmes was limited by the fiscal space and was subject to budget adjudication. Funding allocations in the budget process were guided by priorities started in the NDP 2030, the Nine Point Plan for economic growth, the Industrial Policy Action Plan and other plans of government. These plans were expressed in the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) plans and linked to departmental planning documents, including programmes with gendered impacts. Costed policies were submitted to the budget process, and were considered by various budget adjudication committees. In terms of gender mainstreaming, significant progress had been made for women in business, but challenges remained which required continuous efforts to improve.
Ms Cheue said since it was women who were representing the National Treasury and sat in on business, it was their responsibility to ensure the business plans empowered women. How did they ensure that women were taken out of poverty when the budget was not challenged for women? It was the same National Treasury that forced government to channel money where it was supposed to go to. The women representing the National Treasury were in their current positions because women fought for them to be in executive positions, because there used to be only men in the National Treasury. The women in the National Treasury represented all women, and the Committee wanted to take the women of South Africa out of poverty, and this could be achieved if they all worked together.
Ms D Raphuti (ANC) suggested that the Caucus should perhaps approach the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) and the Human Science Research Council (HSRC) and have them design a paper for the Women’s Caucus to see how the Committee and Department could try to budget for women’s empowerment, and report on the effects of budgeting for women’s empowerment from 1994 to date. That document should always be in the handbag of every Member of Parliament so that when departments came to give input, the first question would be on the progress on women’s empowerment endeavours. The lack of growth and the inequality of the South African economy was not the fault of government, as government was actually empowering the economy. It was the private sector that was not contributing. The Committee should try to see how it could influence the private sector to also be conscious of women’s empowerment.
Ms Van Niekerk apologised for having created the impression that the National Treasury was not doing any gender sensitive analysis when they looked at costing, and assured the Committee that it did. However, it was something that needed to be sharpened to ensure it was done to the best of the National Treasury’s ability. The National Treasury certainly looked at business plans, what their impacts were and how to positively boost the influence of the impact.
She agreed there was a lot of work that the National Treasury could do with both the PBO and the HSRC, but the bottom-line was that the budgeting system in South Africa was not in any way going to hinder gender responsive budgeting, and gender responsive budgeting could be deepened using the country’s current system. The issue would just be about which would be the best way to do so, and that guidance would have to come from the Department of Women and other line departments.
Sanitary products: Treasury input
Ms Mputa said National Treasury last briefed the Multiparty Women’s Caucus on 23 November 2016, during which it advised the Committee that there was an interdepartmental task team which was led by the Department of Women. The National Treasury was part of this task team. The Department of Women (DoW) was coordinating the task team and the intended policy response. Broad agreement in the task team was to focus on indigent women and children in the immediate phase. The DoW had hosted a stakeholder meeting on 13 July 2017 with representatives from national departments, some provinces, non-government organisations (NGOs) and businesses, with the aim of having a consultative approach to the development of the policy. The DoW had also hosted a workshop with provincial departments and provincial treasuries on 28 July 2017. It had developed a policy framework for government’s policy response. Cabinet had approved the publishing of a policy framework for public comment on 18 October 2017.
Regarding the proposed funding of sanitary products, the government was responsible for this through the expenditure side. National and provincial departments would have to provide the necessary funding through the reprioritisation of budget allocations. The normal budget processes would apply to these programmes, therefore implementing departments and provinces would have to develop fiscally sound budget bids. Eight provinces were already implementing programmes related to the provision of sanitary products, using reprioritised funds and/or entering into partnerships with their stakeholders. The Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Free State, Kwa-Zulu Natal and North West had provided information on some of the initiatives on sanitary dignity, often in conjunction with other social relief programmes.
Ms Zwane said she had heard that National Treasury would deal with the issue of sanitary towels forever, and it appeared that there was going to be a conditional grant to provinces for sanitary products that was going to take care of the girl-child at school. What about the women who were indigent? Would the price of sanitary towels be regulated for indigent women, or would there be some kind of subsidy?
An ANC Member asked if the removal of VAT on sanitary towels applied to all women or just simply school children, and if elderly women were included.
What were the National Treasury’s criteria for the allocation of budgets to the provinces?
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) said Treasury had indicated eight provinces were already implementing the programmes, but only five provinces were listed in its presentation. She asked about the status of the other three provinces. She said it was important for the Committee to have a look at the policy before it was approved so that if there was an issue, it could be dealt with in time rather than a policy arriving in Parliament after it had been endorsed.
An ANC Member asked whether the small business sector had ever thought of ensuring that some South African women were trained in producing sanitary towels, which was something that could also reduce the costs. How would government make sure that indigent girls and adults were supported, and would all the girls be covered?
Ms Mputa said that after the 23 November 2016 meeting, the issues raised by the Committee regarding indigent women had been raised at the interdepartmental task team. The Department of Social Development was part of the task team, and the matter was being looked into.
The five provinces mentioned in the presentation were the only ones that were able to give the National Treasury information, and the other provinces had had difficulty specifying the amounts.
Regarding the distribution of sanitary products, it was widely accepted that they could be distributed regularly and easily.
Ms Zwane said she was not sure whether the policy framework had been circulated for public input, because the National Treasury should be in a position to brief the Committee on the policy framework. However, if it was a secret, then it was understandable.
Ms Mputa said due to fiscal constraints, the immediate focus was to distribute products for free to girls through the budgeting process, and at this stage the price regulation of products could not be done. The products would be subsidised.
The criteria used for the distribution of products were determined by each province, and the suggestion in the policy framework was to have national criteria, and in the case of children, they would focus on quintile one and quintile two schools. Provinces had taken the initiative to provide sanitary towels themselves without the involvement of the National Treasury.
The Chairperson thanked the delegation, and said the remaining item on the agenda which dealt with gender-based violence had been deferred for another meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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