Office of the President: Report

Meeting Summary

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Meeting report


13 June 2003

Chairperson: Ms L M Xingwana (ANC)

Documents handed out:
The Presidency: Presentation

Office on the Status of the Disabled: Presentation

The Committee was briefed on the work of the Presidency, the Office on the Status of Women, the Office on the Status of Children, the Office on the Status of Disabled People and the Youth Commission. Key issues raised included inadequate departmental budgetary allocations for gender-mainstreaming, concerns around child safety and the welfare of children in the criminal justice system, and dwindling funding for programmes for disabled people.

The Chair explained that the meeting was in preparation for the debate on Budget Vote 1 for the Office of the Presidency, due to take place on 18 June.

Office of the Presidency
Mr L du Plooy briefed members on the mandate of the Office of the Presidency and its strategic input in respect of South Africa's, and the President's, role in the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), the African Union (AU) and peace initiatives in Africa and elsewhere. This had significantly increased the capacity requirements of the Presidency. The level of expertise necessary to enable the President and his principal assistants to respond appropriately to developments on these and other fronts presented an ongoing challenge.

Mr V Gore (DA) noted with concern that the Presidency drew heavily from donor funding yet this source seemed to be drying up. He asked whether the Presidency had contingent measures to respond to this development.

Mr Du Plooy confirmed that the Presidency received substantial programmatic donor funding, mainly in the area of capacity building. There were ongoing consultations with various donors, some of which were very positive. However, most donors insisted that there should be a proactive government initiative in place before being approached for support.

Ms F Mathibela (ANC) asked whether there were funds set aside to finance national women's days.

Mr Du Plooy replied that there were not, noting that this was one of the challenges facing the Presidency. The campaign on violence against women alone had accounted for almost the entire budget vote for women's activities.

The Chair underscored the key role played by the Presidency in coordinating the Gender Focal Point within various departments and expressed concern that the budgetary allocations were inadequate.

Office on the Status of Women
Ms S Nkomo explained that her office dealt with policy issues encompassing both women's development and the improvement of their status in society. Regrettably, only eight per cent of Government departments had people of sufficient status driving the gender-mainstreaming mandate outlined in the policy framework. The coordination of this mandate was critical and a great deal of work still needed to be done if the programme was to be a success. Regarding the Gender Focal Point, it operated at different levels and capacity building was a key issue. Provincial managers were being trained in gender management skills with this in mind.

Ms Nkomo said that her office worked with non-government organisations (NGOs) dealing with gender issues and that a huge gathering for rural women had been planned for the 1 August 2003.

Ms Mathibela asked with which NGOs the Office was working.

Ms Nkomo replied that her office dealt with numerous NGOs and that most had direct contact with different Government departments. There were some strong, well-organised NGOs working on women's issues, several of which were focussing on violence against women.

Ms Mathibela asked if the Office could be said to have been successful in fulfilling its mandate since its inception.

Ms Nkomo replied that the Office had made important strides and had gone a long way in popularising the policy framework. However, an independent evaluation would be able to provide an objective assessment.

Ms N Lamani (ANC) referred to the President's address, which underscored the importance of gender mainstreaming, and wanted to know whether departments had made budgetary provision for these programmes.

Ms Nkomo acknowledged the challenge that had been made by the President in his Parliamentary address. A departmental audit was needed to determine progress made.

Mr M Da Camara (DA) referred to the training offered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and wondered why the Office was required to pay for civil servants to attend when provincial departments had their own budgets for staff development.

Ms Nkomo said that, in fact, provincial departments were financing their own people in this regard. The Office had been responsible for coordinating the programme.

Office on the Status of Children
Ms X Sibeko said that the mandate of this Office was to co-ordinate policy around child welfare and to monitor implementation in respect of child-related welfare programmes. The Office also played an advocacy role. A national plan was in place encompassing all affected Government departments, donors and civil society. The Office was responsible for prioritising interventions in this regard and advising Cabinet accordingly. The aim of the plan was to ensure that South African policy and implementation mechanisms were in line with international trends.

Ms Sibeko said that the Office had set up special research committees at various academic institutions on the critical question of child safety. Advocacy focussed on the rights of the child. A report on the work of the Office had been due in June 2003 but an extension had been sought to allow for broader consultations on how best to present the information concerned in a user-friendly form. The budgetary allocation to the Office was not sufficient to cover all the programmes targeted and the funding relationship with Telkom was nearing its end. However, interest had already been expressed by several organisations in funding the work of the Office on the Status of Children.

The Chair said that the Committee would like the forthcoming report to be presented to the United Nations (UN) and that public hearings on its contents would be arranged.

Mr Da Camara expressed concern about the perceived chaos characterising the manner in which various departments handled child-related matters and singled out the Child Justice Bill, which he said had been stalled by lack of cooperation from some departments.

Ms Sibeko replied that, while the Office did the best it could, it might not have the necessary muscle to ensure cooperation from the departments concerned. Pressure needed to be brought to bear to bring about the passage of the Child Justice Bill, which was key to providing for the welfare of children in the criminal justice system.

Mr Da Camara raised the issue of backlogs in processing court cases and asked whether the Office was involved in the drive to create child-friendly courts.

Ms Sibeko said the Office would appreciate input from the Committee on this matter. The Department of Justice had tried to set up juvenile courts in some provinces, but with limited success. Provincial clusters on the issue had not been working well and the Office was now drafting a document to synchronize work around child justice.

Mr S Dithebe (ANC) wanted to know how appropriate international indicators were in monitoring South African conditions.

Ms Sibeko replied that this was an ongoing debate. Some international indicators might need to be modified to bring them in line with South African cultural practices and conditions.

Mr Dithebe asked whether children with disabilities were included in the scope of the training programmes handled by the Office.

Ms Sibeko said that the programme concerned was still in its pilot phase but that all relevant issues would be incorporated when it was ready for roll-out in the provinces.

Ms Mathibela complained that most workshops on child welfare were held in urban centres, appealing for the deep rural areas to be included in the programmes concerned.

Ms Sibeko acknowledged that the deep rural areas tended to present a challenge, although a workshop had recently been held in Thoyando, Limpopo province.

The Chair asked for comment on the Bill seeking to introduce compulsory HIV/aids testing for alleged rape offenders.

Ms Nkomo replied that this Bill had not yet been discussed by the Office.

Office on the Status of the Disabled People (OSDP)
Mr B Peline said that the OSDP's mandate was to integrate issues around disability into the mainstream of policy debate and implementation. In consultative partnership with a range of Government departments, OSDP's focus was on training, capacity building and advocacy. OSDP faced serious staff shortages, which made programme implementation difficult since, over and above its core functions, OSDP was also responsible for developing implementation and monitoring mechanisms for the African Decade for Disabled Persons.

Mr Gore observed that a greater emphasis on programmes and budgets in all the presentations would have helped members with their oversight work. He also commented that possible gaps in funding could negatively affect the sustainability of OSDP's programmes.

Mr Peline said that OSDP's main sponsor had been the Belgian government, focussing on empowerment projects. Support from the Swedish government was drawing to a close.

Mr Gore asked how the closure of the South African Federal Council for the Disabled would affect the plight of disabled people.

Mr Peline replied that, although the office itself had closed, member organisations continued to work with the OSDP.

Mr Dithebe said that local councils for the disabled claimed to be waiting for guidelines on the implementation of the disability policy and asked for OSDP's comments on this.

Mr Peline replied that the Office was in the process of finalising these guidelines, which would be piloted by the local councils.

Mr Dithebe expressed concern about the OSDP's funding situation, asking whether the Office had considered applying for conditional grants. It was no use appointing people to run inadequately funded programmes.

Mr Peline agreed that National Treasury might need to be approached in this regard.

The Youth Commission
Mr Mboyi said that Commission's focus was on capacity building and a coordinated approach among Government departments on youth development. The Commission also assisted in mobilising donor funding, for which there was an ongoing need since several international donors had withdrawn their support. A parliamentary liaison unit had been established to influence legislation impacting on the youth. Seventy-eight young people had participated in pilots of the proposed National Youth Service (NYS) programme, which focussed on skills development and community participation. In this regard, a policy document was before Cabinet and was expected to be finalised soon.

The Chair congratulated the Commission on its work.

Mr Da Camara noted that the allocations for Youth Day celebrations had seen a marked increase, asking why.

Mr Mboyi replied that the Commission has been made responsible for coordinating these celebrations nationally, which tended to involve programmes running throughout the month of June. An increased budgetary allocation had been sought and obtained with this in mind.

Mr Dithebe congratulated the Commission on work well done. He noted the importance of working with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

Mr Mboyi agreed that SALGA had an important role to play. However, the two bodies sometimes seemed to talk at cross-purposes. SALGA was represented on the Commission's steering committee.

Ms Lamani commended the Commission for its role in the launch of the African Union. He then asked what criteria were used in selecting youth to participate in the NYS programme.

Mr Mboyi replied that the Commission had used various approaches in selecting youth for the programme and was now including a community component. This aimed at ensuring that the skills acquired were passed on to the communities from which participants in the programme were drawn.

The Chair noted the impressive work being done with young offenders. However, she expressed disappointment that no mention was made of women-specific programmes.

Mr Mboyi assured the Committee that the Commission would intensify its work with the Department of Correctional Services. He said that the Commission was working hard at incorporating gender- and disability-related issues in its programmes, which were coordinated to cut across a broad range of matters affecting the youth.

The meeting was adjourned.


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