The Commission for Gender Equality briefed the Committee on its Quarter 2 Annual Report. The Commission’s budgetary challenges were raised as a serious matter of concern, including the amalgamation. The Commission expressed its unhappiness about the processes involved in the attempts at amalgamation because it had its own brief which could and should not be combined with the Human Rights Commission. The Committee felt that the roles of Chapter 9 institutions should be clarified and the mystification which seemed to mar this process should be done away with. The two important issues which came from the report referred to women’s limited access to land and the overwhelming cases of Gender Based Violence emanating in the provinces.
Two special issues of concern were also reported. These were underage marriages, of which there were approximately 91 000, and the raping of young girls by policemen. Both of these areas involved collusion by families in the one instance and by the police and families in the other.
Members asked for clarity on the powers of the Commission; what had happened to the person involved in financial mismanagement; the nature of Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration cases held by the Commission for Gender Equality; the threat of the amalgamation of the Commission for Gender Equality; the Commissioners’ roles and responsibilities; national councils for gender based violence; progress on the Maiden Bursary issue; if victims of gender based violence were sufficiently supported and protected; the R33 million which was still outstanding; lack of capacity; and ‘One Woman, One Hectare.
Ms Lulama Nare, Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) said the full complement of Commissioners was 12 with four men and eight women. The only challenge was that Commissioners were concentrated mainly in Gauteng, with three from the Eastern Cape and no Commissioners from the Northern Cape, Free State and Limpopo. This led to budgetary challenges with the budget reduced by R2 million, which had placed more pressure on the Commission. The personnel at the Commission were also being reduced as there were positions that the Commission was unable to fill because of financial constraints.
The other risk the Commission was experiencing was related to the amalgamation issue. In the spirit of transparency, it had to be said that it was not dealt with as diligently as it should have been. The Commission was unsure as to whether it was Constitutional or not or how the Chapter 9 institutions should proceed, but generally it was a red flag issue for the Commission. The Human Rights Commission had to be reviewed to ensure that steps had not been taken back in the process. The experience of the Kader Asmal amalgamation at universities kind of put a damper on the Chapter 9 amalgamation programme. The Speakers Office had not provided any clarity on whether they had gone through the Constitutionality of the amalgamation. National Assembly had to provide an indication on whether amalgamation was Constitutional or not. The Commission was busy with its own research on the matter and would report to the Committee on the matter.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said she would willingly support any position the Committee took on the matter of amalgamation.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) said she was not sure how to take the discussion forward because it had been on the table with the Committee for some time, and from Parliament’s side there should be one or two Members from the Committee who served on the task team where one of the Chapter 9 institutions accounted directly to the Committee so that an informed opinion could be provided. Right from the start the Committee had not supported the view and had said that the Kader Asmal Report was outdated. Overall, she was not quite sure what the intention of this was and how to proceed.
She asked for more information on the CGE reporting that it wanted to reduce their personnel.
Ms P Bhengu (ANC) said that the amalgamation was not desired, even though pressure was coming from all over. A session was had with the Minister and the CGE to clarify the role of the CGE. A meeting with the Women’s Ministry discussed its difference to and with the CGE. There was a need for more discussion on the role of the CGE as it was a Chapter 9 institution and not a department like the Women’s Ministry. What was seen was a mixing up of mandates. There was a request from the Presidency to clarify the roles of the Women’s Ministry and the CGE. The speed at which this process had proceeded had actually mystified what was being attempted, which was why the CGE was uncertain. The minutes and notes from these meetings would be given to the Chairperson for distribution to assist with understanding the different positions. Good work has been done on the work of the CGE and previously it had an HOD (Head of Department) for Human resources. Due to insufficient funds that job description has been reworked to have a manager instead of the HOD.
Ms L Van der Merwe (IFP) said the Deputy Speaker had said that people were still in the consultation process, in fact a survey had been circulated which showed that there was agreement with Chapter 9 amalgamation. The Committee had not adopted a programme for the year yet so an urgent meeting had to be scheduled with the Deputy Speaker as firstly there were parallel processes which had not included Members as a Committee, and secondly there was motivation that amalgamation should happen because the CGE also worked on human rights issues. However, the Human Rights Commission worked on specialised issues like women and empowerment and inequality. The other reason given for amalgamation was for resources but the CGE was already underfunded so bringing it under the body of the Human Rights Commission would actually leave the CGE with less funds for what it was supposed to do.
Ms Tseke asked what the view was of other Chapter 9 institutions.
Ms Nare said the Human Rights Commission was the receiving Commission. At first there was broad agreement but there had since been too much pressure so it was not going to work. Subsequently, there was a plan to target the different Chapter 9 institutions and then there was also a time when the different Ministers were trying to provide a separate approach. Again, there was so much pressure to make a decision and the Public Protector was not affected at all. All parties felt that there was so much to do and very little time within which do it. The CGE did not want the amalgamation but there was pressure coming from all sides for the amalgamation to happen. The CGE was also feeling that because a Chairperson had not been appointed for the Commission for nine months it had felt sure it was going to be closed down because some of the Ministers had actually said that they were going to shut down the Commission. There was an informal meeting with the Women’s Ministry and a formal meeting was had where the Presidency was expected to clarify the position of the Women’s Ministry vis-à-vis the CGE. The point of conflict was around whether the Women’s Ministry was doing the same work as the CGE. In subsequent meetings it became clear that more discussion was needed about the role of the CGE because as was said Chapter 9 was not a department like the Women’s Ministry. There seemed to be a mixing up of mandates when the Women’s Ministry was formed and a diluting of positions, which was why the CGE had to raise these issues.
Commission for Gender Equality Quarter 2 Financial Year 2017/2018 briefing
Ms Keketso Mgema, Chairperson of the Executive Office (CEO) said the request from the Committee was to link the Annual Performance Plans (APP) and the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) outcomes. This quarter the Commission still yielded value from the well-functioning and structured partnerships that the Communications Unit had. The APP objectives were realised free of charge and/or at a low cost.
Two of the Key Issues emanating from quarter 2 implementation were:
- Limited access to land as an asset to women i.e. Women headed households still have limited access to land; Women still treated as children as they can only access through paternal lineage (patriarchal lineage) in the following predominately rural Provinces KwaZulu-Natal (KZN); Eastern Cape (EC); Mpumalanga (MP) and Limpopo. Women married under customary marriages still face problems with deceased estates; and
- The Commission is currently overwhelmed by cases emanating from Provinces relating to Gender Based Violence (GBV), for Q2 alone 42 complaints were opened.
- Strategic Objectives
1. To ensure the creation and implementation of an enabling legislative framework that promote the attainment of gender equality;
2. To protect and promote gender equality by engaging with relevant stakeholders to educate and raise awareness on issues of gender equality, challenge patriarchal perceptions and stereotypes and take action against infringements of gender rights through the implementation of appropriate redress; and
3. To protect and promote gender equality by engaging with relevant stakeholders to educate and raise awareness on issues of gender equality, challenge patriarchal perceptions and stereotypes and take action against infringements of gender rights through the implementation of appropriate redress.
Some of the highlights of work done for the period
- The Commission trained various sectors in ensuring that they complied with gender equality prescripts and mainstreaming;
- Invitations from various sectors that requested training and assistance in putting the correct policies in place in order to comply;
- The Community Radio programme which ensured that the Commission extended its reach on educational programmes;
- Outreach and legal clinics;
- Maintenance case where the CGE intervened and the complainant was able to get R200 000.00 maintenance after having experienced a delay of 12 months; and
- Death benefits – Commission assisted surviving spouses to access pension of deceased husbands.
Ms Ngema said that the above gave an indication of work undertaken against targets set in the APP for the first quarter of the financial year. The Commission was happy that there were continuous improvements on the work relating to the core mandate. As highlighted, there has been a steady increase in achieving the targets set.
From the work done, it can be seen that women’s rights were still not protected whether it was in granting decent work; sexual harassment in the work place and GBV violations. The Country still needed to raise the bar in ensuring that women's human rights were realised.
Special Issues of concern
Ms Nare said the country had about 91 000 underage marriages. By this was meant children from the age of 12 to 16 years old. The CGE had located the areas where these marriages were occurring as Ixopo and Umtata. So, it was in the Eastern Cape border area, East London and the border of KwaZulu-Natal areas. The parents handed the children over to a granny who was in another village. When the children arrived in the village the granny activated the abductors who then took the child to another village. In one instance a 14-year-old child walked back to the mother who then sent the child back to the village where the abduction had occurred. The CGE called the HAWKS and nine people were charged. Of the nine people about four were from the mother’s side, the father of the mother, with husband to be about 27 years old. Unfortunately, the persons charged were on suspension. The child had to wait for three months for the rape to happen so that cows could be sent to the mother. These issues were urgent, the HAWKS were monitoring the case and the CGE was providing assistance. In that particular village the child was now out of the mother’s care now and was taken to the paternal grandmother. Hence it was these very communities conspiring to defile these children. A network was being dealt with here with village communities and there was more than poverty at play here.
Another issue of concern was that of policemen raping 12 to 14-year-old girls. These men were out on bail. These men won over the parents by buying gifts and convincing them not to pursue the case. This was statutory rape with the parents conspiring with the police to not lay charges. The CGE needed to write a legal notice. Maybe a GBV council was needed to facilitate a more coherent approach to these crimes. The CGE has met with the Chief Justice and the Department of Constitutional Development has promised the CGE a meeting. This situation was tough on our women and girl children. The police were trying to play a cultural role and did not want conflict. The CGE was documenting this network of trafficking.
The CGE was also reaching out across racial boundaries to white and coloured women especially those who were experiencing issues regarding maintenance. An appeal was made to the Committee to reach out to other committees to assist the CGE because the GBV violations were out of control.
Mr Wallace Mgoqi, Commissioner, CGE, said the particular area of GBV violations was the Northern Cape. A survey was done over a 12-month period and it was found that men felt entitled to rape women if the women did not comply with their requests. A multi-prong approach was needed.
Mr Mashaba Putu, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) presented the Financial Report.
The CGE’s allocation was R78 million, the bulk of which was used for compensation of employees. The work of the CGE depended on human resources and fulfilling service delivery obligations. There were 10 offices and office running overheads consumed about R8 million; Composition of Employees (COE) R64 million, and other specific activities of the entity. For this particular planning period only R500 000 could be set aside for the capital expenditure budget. Items of a capital nature needed to be replaced over time, however the CGE did not have resources to continuously replace assets such as vehicles, and this inability to replace assets had serious future implications for funding. For the six-month period up to the end of the second quarter the CGE had received R39.1 million from National Treasury (NT). Of this the CGE had spent R33.9 million. This was in effect half of the allocated budget. Other income included mainly donations in kind. The CGE had innovated means to smart partner with other stakeholders, the SABC being one of them who made a contribution in kind to the tune of R2.3 million. Therefore, the overall income used to run the CGE operations was R41.7 million compared to the R36.3 million in the previous year. The CGE budget had been reduced again so it was heading towards a bumpy period of underfunding. Liabilities amounted to R8.3 million. The overall expenditure in this period was R39.9 million, leaving a net surplus of R1.7 million, due mainly to commissioner vacancies. The CGE reported a net surplus, this would not be a recurring situation.
Ms Van der Merwe asked for clarity on the powers of the CGE.
Ms Ngema responded that it had engaged an independent advocate that was looking into the matter. The opinion put forward was that the recommendations of Chapter 9 institutions were binding and one of the things being looked into was whether the CGE should just petition the Constitutional Court.
Ms Van der Merwe asked, in terms of financial mismanagement, what had happened to the person concerned.
Ms Ngema replied that during the process of the disciplinary hearing of the person concerned resigned.
Ms Van Merwe said legal fees had been spoken about and several CCMA cases. She asked how many such cases are or have been dealt with.
Ms Ngema said that there was one case where the person alleged that the KPA’s were changed without him being consulted. Many such cases were being dealt with.
Ms Van der Merwe said that the amalgamation story had really perturbed her as it seemed that there was a drive to lump all smaller Chapter 9 institutions with the bigger ones. When power had been spoken about, the CGE had said that their powers were binding but some smaller institutions did not share the same views and the CGE had said it would seek legal opinion in that regard. She asked if there was any feedback on to this.
Ms Van der Merwe also referred to relations with Women in the Presidency. Slide 12 spoke about a report which had been tabled. It was strange that Women in the Presidency did not discuss with the CGE about them presenting their own report, they let StatsSA engage on these issues. She felt that StatsSA was not sufficiently skilled in the area of concern. It should be made clear how this miscommunication arose. The CGE was not given the opportunity to engage on the report on which it had done very good work. It was a real concern that the relationship with Women in the Presidency seemed to be deteriorating.
Ms Van der Merwe said there was a need to unpack the issue of Commissioners not being represented in all provinces; the need to see what the main issues were flagged by Commissioners in specific provinces; what they were doing about them; what they envisaged they would do in the year ahead about those issues. More information was needed beyond issues like the number of meetings that took place. More detail was needed about what Commissioners were doing. Was there a standard formula for what Commissioners were doing and if could give an indication of what Commissioners were driving and doing in each of their provinces.
Mr Mgoqi replied that all Commissioners were very clear on their portfolios. For example, he was based in the Northern Cape and where gender violence occurred there he would ensure that the victim was offered protection. He also worked very closely with the office of the Premier who was a very dedicated individual whose relationship with the Commission was very strong. Gender mainstreaming was also a key area in the province and a substantial amount of time was spent with the heads of departments on this issue to ensure that they understood gender mainstreaming and more importantly that they could and did implement it.
The other area of work was liaising with political leaders, the legislature, the councillors and in particular the SALGA women’s coalition. Some training was done with SALGA on gender mainstreaming. They would also initiate meetings to provide updates on gender equality in the province. In the area of land reform, the Commissioner worked quite closely with the Foundation for Human Rights, which were actually an agent for the Department of Justice working for the protection of human rights.
Ms Tseke said she had continuously raised the reviewing of national councils for GBV but it seemed that there was no political will to review the council. It seemed that the gender machinery in this country was dead.
Ms Nare said the CGE had a report on the gender machinery in the country and it also had reports on what would help to elevate the status of women in provinces and what the gender focal points should be. The Minister had not as yet reviewed that report. Even if all Commissioners worked on gender machinery and gender focal points it would do little good because there was no coordination with national. The Minister has been given the National Gender Framework but has done nothing about it.
Ms Tseke asked if there were structures provincially to deal with gender-based violence.
She also asked for progress on the Maiden bursary issue.
Ms Ngema responded that substantial progress had been made with regard to the Maiden bursary issue as there was no a policy that opened it up to everyone. The only issue was the engagement with SALGA that still had to be finalised.
Ms Tseke asked if there were victim empowerment centres in the Eastern Cape to accommodate victims, because they could not be taken back to their families.
Ms Ngema said that the Department of Social Development had the mandate to ensure that girl children were taken to safe havens.
Ms Tseke asked what was being done about the R33 million that was still outstanding.
Ms Ngema said that everything had been done as was required for the condonation process.
Ms Tseke said there was a slide that referred to lack of capacity in terms of the renewal of the human resource plan. She asked why this was a problem. A consultant had even been outsourced for supply chain management. This meant that there was money. She asked why the CGE could not use its own staff instead of outsourcing service providers.
Ms Ngema said that there were some loopholes in the interim human resource strategy and the CGE just needed someone from outside to check that it was tight enough. So, this was not an issue of outsourcing, someone just had to assist with tightening up the human resource strategy in terms of the provinces. It should be remembered that the CGE currently had a junior employee doing human resource work because there was a moratorium on the position because there was no money for such an appointment. Hence the CGE had some facilitation from outside to ensure that it was covering all bases in terms of developing a solid strategy.
Ms Tseke asked Commissioner Mgoqi what the status was of the engagement with the Department of Rural development and Land reform with regard to ‘One woman, One Hectare.
Mr Mgoqi replied that this was a bit of a conundrum because the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) adopted a programme ‘One Household, One Hectare’. Because the focus was on public land which was in the hands of Traditional leaders, that effort was not politically palatable for the programme to be called ‘One Woman, One Hectare’. This would have been ideal because it would break the precarious relationship between women and land and illustrates the importance between women and land.
Ms Robinson was dismayed about the situation in the Eastern Cape of underage marriages and family complicity in this. The minds of society had to be changed about this. She asked what was the view of traditional leaders, and which areas in the Eastern Cape were involved. It seemed that there was conspiracy amongst police and they protected each other in this matter.
Ms Ngema said she could relate to Ms Robinson’s dismay and sadness at the situation. But when the CGE went to provinces it dealt with specific people on the ground like the police - who were not doing what they were supposed to be doing– so that there was awareness that the CGE was checking up on areas where violations had occurred. The Minister would of course be informed of the work that was done and the approaches adopted.
Ms Bhengu was appointed Acting Chairperson
Mr T Nkonzo (ANC) said he appreciated what the CGE was doing and asked whether the CGE met with traditional leaders to discuss a way forward.
The Acting Chairperson asked about the maintenance of offices in the Eastern Cape because when doing oversight there it was clear that those offices were not in good condition.
Mr Putu said that things had been moved to a more accessible office in August 2016, so the problem had been resolved.
The Acting Chairperson asked how the CGE was dealing with GBV in primary education as there were instances of teachers having relations with young girls.
The Acting Chairperson raised the issue of maintenance where men were getting away with not paying for maintenance for children conceived outside of marriage.
Ms Nare said that the CGE had engaged their advocates on the matter.
The Acting Chairperson said she was pleased that the CGE had not fallen prey to fruitless and wasteful expenditure. She asked for more information about the allegations of fraud in senior management.
Mr Putu said that the allegations were investigated independently by the audit committee. The outcome was that no senior manager was guilty of the allegations, so the allegations were unfounded.
The Acting Chairperson raised the issue of the police and their complicity in GBV as a serious matter of concern. This was however an issue for the courts and the CGE would support all efforts to assist women in this situation.
Ms Memela raised the issue of the trip to New York. In the last trip only a few officials attended the meetings and engaged in the discussions, others spent most of the time shopping. A letter should be written to the Speaker about this to ensure that a representative group attended, engaged in the discussions and presented a country report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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