The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) started to brief the Committee on its performance and the challenges during the third quarter, but were brought to a halt when Members complained that the contents were very broad and it would be more relevant to discuss legislation that would help to improve the lives of women.
The Content Advisor advised the Committee that the report was a Parliamentary requirement, and that CGE had to present its report to the Committee every quarter. The Members then agreed to let the CGE summarise its report and return on 20 March with its findings on the Traditional Courts Bill and how it affected women.
The CGE agreed to change the way it would present its quarterly reports to the Committee in future, and was allowed to present its budgetary report. Of interest was that it had made a surplus in the last financial quarter which it intended to use to replenish its fleet of old motor vehicles and worn out furniture. Members of the Committee wanted to find out why the surplus funds were not being reserved, and the CGE raised their concern about unspent funds having to be returned to the Treasury. There was also discussion on the double payment of salaries, and what had been done to recover the money.
The CGE would present their submissions on the Traditional Courts Bill on 20 March and have a strategic meeting on 27 March involving the Department of Women and the Portfolio Committee to discuss the key issues they wanted to push for through legislation.
Commission for Gender Equality: Third quarter report
Ms Joan de Klerk, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) reported on activities that were undertaken during the period 1 October to December 2017 which largely comprised the following programmes:
- Implementing activities as outlined in the annual performance plan (APP);
- Current and newly appointed commissioners’ first engagements;
- 16 days of Activism in December 2017.
CGE was now in its last year of its five-year strategic plan and in the quarter reporting, 73.3% of planned targets had been attained. Reference was made to the annexed report, which showed the link between the APP, the National Development Plan (NDP) and the medium term strategic Framework (MTSF) programmes.
Some of the programmes implemented in the quarter were:
- Employment equity hearings on “one woman; one hectare” of land engagements with the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform;
- Gender barometer research, looking into mainstreaming gender within the economy;
- Advocacy work, legal clinics, radio programmes, media and communications work;
- Training on sexual harassment within the mining sector;
- Complaints handling and systemic investigations;
- Court monitoring and engagements with magistrates courts on matters raised in the judicial transformation report.
The CGE also recognised the support it received from the Danish Embassy, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), the Film and Publication Board (FPB), the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); UN Women and the Ipas Africa Alliance.
Some of the key issues emanating during the quarter included:
- Child marriages were on the rise in the country. The CGE, with the help of the Ipas Africa Alliance, had been able to get a young lady out of marriage in Eastern Cape.
- In respect of sexual harassment, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) office had reported that after engaging with Empangeni small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), it had become clear that as much as there were policies and programmes in place to deal with women’s economic empowerment, women were expected to give sexual favours to access them.
- In rural KZN, Members of Parliament’s engagements had revealed that the traditional leaders were not receptive of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people in their various communities.
- Various economic empowerment programmes seemed not to have had a proper monitoring and evaluation process which would allow for progress to be measured and to indicate what still needed to be done.
Some of the objectives in the APP included assistance in the creation and implementation of an enabling legislative framework, and in order to do this, the CGE had prepared submissions on sex work, and had also shared its court monitoring report with the Department of Justice.
Ms M Chueu (ANC) asked why the CGE had presented the report on issues affecting women to the Department of Justice, and not to the Committee. She found the report being presented vague and being presented for the purpose of formality. She was of the opinion that what was being reported would not assist in changing the lives of women. The Committee needed the CGE to present fleshy issues, and that the objectives needed to be enlarged and be specific on how to assist women. The Chairperson must impress on the Department of Women (DOW) and the CGE the need to present to the Committee in their APPs how to change the lives of women through legislation. She suggested that the Committee should forego the report and instead discuss other pressing issues. She gave an example of two issues – the Traditional Courts Bill and the Land Act -- which were more pressing. The Committee could instead use the remaining time to discuss how women would be given land.
The Chairperson agreed that there was general dissatisfaction among the Members. She referred to the case of a white man appearing in court for the abuse of children, and commented that the grounds for abuse, including sodomy, was widening and the Committee and CGE had to come up with procedures to pave the way, since every woman was a parent, whether of a boy or girl. She asked the CGE to work together with the Committee.
Ms K Abrahams, Parliamentary Researcher and Content Advisor: DoW, responded that the CGE’s third quarterly report was supposed be done in the previous year, and the Committee had kept on moving the meetings. The third quarterly report was part of the programme, and the CGE was required to report to the Committee quarterly. There were only two weeks left to the end of the term, and given Parliament’s busy programme, there was no more time left. She suggested that the court monitoring report be put on the agenda and the Committee could thereafter invite both the CGE and the Department of Justice to report on the report’s findings.
Ms Chueu responded that the CGE could still do the reporting, but should summarise the quarterly report so the bulk of time could be focussed on legislation. She insisted that Members of the Committee were legislators and that the Committee could not fulfil its core mandate when it had no idea what was being presented to the Department of Justice. The DoJ was going to overlook some things because it was looking at the law, but not at how the law affected women. She urged the Content Advisor to look at changing the programme so that the CGE could give their quarterly report and at the same meeting report on how to change legislation .
Ms T Stander (DA) agreed with Ms Chueu. She said that some of the presenters from the CGE had not been present at the Portfolio Committee meeting in November where it had been agreed that the discussion would be about broader issues and not sector by Sector. She said that there was a need for collaboration between the CGE and the office of the Content Advisor. She asked the CGE not to read out the report, but instead to give the Committee more time to interrogate the issues. She acknowledged that there was a challenge in programming, but that the Committee could negotiate more about it.
Ms Abrahams reminded Members that programming was done from the Speaker’s office. The Committee could confer with the Justice Committee on the Traditional Courts Bill, but the Committee Members would not have voting rights. The Committee could write to the Speaker’s office concerning programming and request that whenever there was legislation relating to women, the Gender Committee should be involved.
Ms Chueu argued that the Committee was not discussing democratic procedures, but rather intervention. Members of the Committee on Women could intervene in all legislation, be it formal or informal. When any bill was ready and a Member did not agree with the clauses, the Member could always stand up and object to it. The Committee could structure its agenda to look at bills more, and with the assistance of experts, the Gender Committee could also have an input on the Bills.
Ms Stander (DA) added that it was unacceptable that in the last year, only nine pieces of legislation had been passed, and there was generally a delay when it came to passing legislation. The Committee itself needed to set its agenda. It had initially set land and employment equity as the Committee’s areas of focus, and though there had been talk of gender-based violence (GBV), that was only a symptom of other things.
Ms C Majeke (UDM) gave the example of the Film and Publication Bill, which she had personally rejected because of the loopholes. She was not happy that such bills were not coming to the Committee for deliberation.
The Chairperson agreed with the Members, and warned that women were fighting a mountain of men looking at women as pawns who could not think for themselves. She gave the example of the Traditional Courts Bill, where no public meetings were being held and instead only a select number of people had been talked to, excluding the women chiefs. The Committee was not degrading the work that the CGE was doing, but she urged them to tighten up.
Ms P Bhengu-Kombe (ANC) concurred with other Members on the issue of legislation. She also asked those Members who attended more than one committee to inform this Committee about matters of legislation being deliberated in other meetings. She gave an example of the wage bill, where everyone was saying it was good, though not everyone had seen the bill, and yet the former Minister had thought the particular Bill outdated. She also gave the example of the Bill seeking to give the Auditor General more power to deal with wasteful expenditure, and warned that many women, being weak, would be prosecuted.
Mr K Ahirudhra, HOD: Parliamentary & International Policy, responded to some of the issues raised, and agreed with the proposals from the Members regarding legislation. He remembered what had been agreed on in November concerning the presentation of quarterly reports. The CGE had looked at the Traditional Courts Bill (TCB) and prepared its submissions. The traditional courts were an integral part of the judicial system and were recognised by the Constitution and could not be thrown away.
The Chairperson disagreed, saying that it was only men who were called to attend the said courts and that the people running those Courts had never been trained.
Mr K Ahirudhra agreed with the Chairperson on the competency of the presiding officers. He gave a scenario where there could be one court being presided over by a traditional leader with no legal background, and that court gave a different judgment from that of a magistrates court concerning the same issue, making it unconstitutional. He raised the issue of leadership, saying that the Bill would have only men presiding over the traditional courts. He confirmed that the Bill was flawed. The CGE was looking at other pieces of legislation, and cited the example of maternity benefits, where there was proof that some professional women were not getting them. There were also women who were fruit vendors who did not get maternity Benefits. He said the CGE could present its report on maternity benefits and on the Sex Workers bill to the Committee.
The Chairperson remarked that the Traditional Courts Bill would not go through, since it had been pushed back eight times before.
Ms Nthabiseng Moleko, Commissioner: CGE, said she was in support of the sentiments of the Chairperson, that the CGE and the Committee needed to be strategic. In order to make more impact, the CGE and the Committee could use the 80-20 technique so that they could hit where it mattered most. Both the CGE and the Committee could choose their areas of focus, be it land, judicial courts or human trafficking, and thereafter push for outcomes. She asked the Committee to wait for other members who had travelled to come back, and thereafter have a strategic meeting on 27 March 2018.
Ms Abrahams proposed that Mr K Ahirudhra should give the CGE’s findings on the Traditional Courts Bill on 20 March, and reminded Members that the public meetings on the TCB were on that day, the following day and the following week, and that there were only two weeks left before Parliament went on recess.
Ms Chueu requested the CGE to use its lawyers to present on legislation that protected women, and even to have the Committee’s own bill which the Committee could present through an individual Member’s Bill, noting that the CGE and the Committee had eight months to target the SONA.
Ms Abrahams confirmed that the CGE would give its submission on the TCB on 20 March 2018, and a strategic session between the CGE, the Committee and the ministry would be held on 27 March.
Ms Tamara Mathebula, Acting Chairperson: CGE, asked the Chairperson to allow the CGE to continue and give a summary of the report prepared for the third quarter. She assured Members it would be brief, as it would be incorporating the changes suggested.
CGE third quarter report: briefing resumed
Ms De Klerk apologised for the structure of her report, and committed to presenting a more summarised version for the fourth quarter. The CGE was still finalising its research report on sexual harassment in the mining areas. It had also discovered that there was lack of persons with disabilities in the mining sector. In its study on Correctional Services, it had been found that women were still being treated unfairly, that there was no privacy when searches were being conducted. The CGE’s report on this matter would be out on 31 March.
The CGE was having further engagements on maternal health, and it would be meeting with the Department of Health. She asked the Committee to refer to the annexed report for details of the complaints received. She acknowledged that the Commission’s radio campaign had been doing well, thanks to the support of the Danish Government . She also confirmed that the legal clinics were still running.
Finance management report
Mr Moshabi Putu, Chief Financial Officer: CGE, referred to the financial report and reported that there had been no major deviations. All the money had been received and spent as budgeted, and there had been a surplus. The surplus had been a consequence of CGE saving, as Commissioners had been appointed late in the year and they had been able to save on the money to be paid to them. The CGE was spending in accordance with its plan.
He recalled that in the 2017/2018 financial year, the CGE could not budget for capital expenditure, but with the general surplus it would be able to finance capital expenditure and replace the CGE’s old fleet of motor vehicles, as well as its old furniture. Money was usually allocated by Treasury for a financial cycle and in cases of under-spending, it may request the CGE to surrender the unspent money. He said that the motor vehicles were a current need and that the CGE had an opportunity to ensure operations were supported by making use of the surplus to plan ahead. Procurement would not be in the open market, since they would want to make the process cheaper. APP targets would be funded from the budget and the CGE now had risk management systems in place.
On regularising past expenditure, he informed the Committee that the CGE was still following up with Treasury. There was still a funding challenge in respect of filling vacancies, and four positions have been put on hold due to limited funding.
Ms Stander (DA) asked if the Commissioners had performance contracts. On the lack of funds to fill the vacancies, she urged the CGE to consider job training where they could identify black women and build their capacity, so that when a permanent position came up, the people in job training could be considered. She commented that she was glad the community radio was working well. She brought up the issue of pamphlets being handed over by the police in cases of gender-based violence. Women needed to be empowered and there was need to create a gender consciousness, so the CGE should look at its budget and see what it could print so that when a woman was facing an issue, she was aware of her rights and what steps to take.
Ms Majeke asked whether there was a plan by the CGE to implement the recommendations of the Auditor General.
Ms P Bhengu-Kombe (ANC) commended CGE on how it was dealing with sexual harassment, more so with the recent incident at Topex, where women were sexually harassed because of blood found in the toilets. She asked which positions at the CGE were vacant, and what the stage of recruitment was.
The Chairperson asked why the CGE was not reserving the funds available for a rainy day. Had the matter of double payment been resolved, and had the staff member responsible for the double payment been held accountable?
Ms Mathebula responded on the windfall, saying that the profits had not been anticipated. The CGE was currently experiencing challenges of budget reductions and less funding, and only a given percentage could be saved for a rainy day. Where the percentage was bigger, Treasury may cut off the budget allocation to the CGE on the assumption that it did not need the money. This was an opportunity for the CGE to strengthen its Information Technology (IT) systems and replace the old vehicles.
On the performance contracts, she asked the chairperson to respond. The CGE representatives present could also find out whether performance contracts had been signed by the Commissioners and thereafter come back to the Committee with their findings. On the vacancies, she confirmed that the CGE was prioritising women with disabilities and that it was also currently reviewing its human resources (HR) policy. She reiterated that they were grateful for the funding from donors and that they would approach more donors to assist so that there was more reach.
She agreed with Ms Stander that there was need for pamphlets that would be used to empower women. These pamphlets would contain the telephone numbers to call in cases of emergency and where they could go for help or for counselling.
Mr Putu said that the matter on the double payment had been resolved within the institution, and that a substantial number of people who had been double paid had voluntarily returned the money. The failure to return did not disempower the CGE from getting the money back. A few of people had refused to return the money and had taken the matter to the labour court, but the matter had been dismissed. Members of staff were being treated humanely and there had been no victimisation. On consequence management, he said the CGE was following through and that though it was a human error, the internal control systems had been heightened and that the system now ensured a segregation of roles.
On the Auditor Generals recommendations and findings, CGE’s long term strategic plan did not include risk assessments. However, for each APP, the CGE would compile associated risk plans and ensure assessment of risk was done. It had gone through the regulations and looked again into the register to ensure it complied. On procurement of insurance, the CGE had prepared full annual plans, with schedules. The weakness previously had been that there was no systematic plan. The CGE was actively working to fulfil the Auditor General’s recommendations.
Ms Mathebula said that it was for reasons such as the double payment experienced in the past that the CGE needed to use the surplus money to strengthen its systems. She reported that the CGE had had an investigative meeting last week concerning the messy incident where cleaners at Topex were instructed to physically search other women, and that it had been a case of women against women. A few of the women who had gone to the police had since been threatened to drop the case. The case was now in court and the CGE would make a follow up.
Ms Chueu said that the issue of women searching women went back to women’s consciousness, and that it was a vicious cycle. When one was oppressed, one would want to oppress others. Women needed to elevate and respect others in order to restore the dignity of the African woman.
Ms Majeke said that she needed to highlight something else to the Committee that would be dealt with by the Committee for Education, where she was also a Member. The faculty of Engineering at Walter Sisulu University, where there were a lot of women studying engineering, was going to be closed down because the University had not employed teachers. This was a perpetuation of unemployment, because when they were no skilled persons to fill the vacancies, the institutions would have to go and employ foreigners without first having tried to empower the students. She promised to give the information to CGE so that they could look into it.
Ms Bhengu-Kombe encouraged the CGE to work on getting a working relationship with the new Minister. She also asked them whether they had a plan as they were approaching the 2019 elections, since the CGE needed to look at encouraging political parties to put women and politicians with disabilities on their ticket. She said that in 2004 there had been 24 persons with disabilities in the House, and that the number had now reduced to six.
Ms Mathebula responded that the plan was there to develop a working relationship with the new Minister, and that they had written letters to other new ministers introducing themselves. The CGE was waiting for dates when the ministers would be available for them to meet up.
The meeting was adjourned.