Firearms Control Bill; Women Representation in Local Govt; Banks Amendment Bill; Beijing 5 Conference

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


4 October 2000

Chairperson : Ms P Govender

Relevant Documents:
Beijing + 5 Conference Report [see Appendix 1]
Department of Justice and Constitutional Development: Report on the Implementation of Legislation, the Status of Discussion Papers and Bills

The Chair indicated that the Committee was awaiting a response from the Department of Safety and Security's drafters with regards to potential changes to the Firearms Control Bill. These would be based on submissions by various NGOs, particularly with reference to the clauses on "Application for Competency Certificate" and "Declaration by Registrar of Person to be unfit to Possess a Firearm"

The Chair called for the Committee to table a report on the Banks Amendment Bill and approach the Speaker and NCOP Parliamentary Officers in order to bring a report to Parliament before Friday. This is necessary to ensure that the Bill is amended so that it can be gender sensitive. This is especially urgent since the Bill has now been passed by both Committees and forwarded to the NCOP for debate.

There was substantial discussion around efforts to increase the number of women participating in local government elections. The Chair called for all members to raise the issue with their parties and for all parties to issue a statement as regards their position on the matter.

Firearms Control Bill
The Chair indicated that a number of organisations had provided input on women's issues with regard to the Firearms Control Bill. These organisations had made submissions to the Department of Safety and Security. These important concerns were originally not addressed by the Department of Safety and Security by way of amendments to the Bill;
· After a meeting between the relevant organisations and the Joint Monitoring Committee (see meeting of 20/09/00), these concerns were then taken back to the parties;
· The parties responded with substantial support for necessary amendments of the Bill;
· The Joint Monitoring Committee is now waiting for the Department of Safety and Security's Law Drafters to come back to the Committee with the proposed changes worked into the Bill;
· There had been good support from the Department of Safety and Security around these issues, especially with regard to amendments in the "Application for Competency Certificate" and Clause 105 "Declaration by Registrar of Person to be unfit to Possess a Firearm"

Banks Amendment Bill
The Joint Monitoring Committee, after seeking legal opinion had previously recommended that the Banks Amendment Bill be altered so that it was gender sensitive;
· It was reported that the Bill has been passed by the NCOP Select Committee on Finance ( Tuesday 3 October) in its unamended, gender-insensitive form. The Bill will appear before the NCOP plenary on Friday 6 October, unless the Committee is able to rescind the Bill before this time;
· The Chair was supported in a suggestion that the Committee raise the issue with the Speaker that day and that a report based on the legal opinion be tabled for discussion in Parliament on Thursday 5 October, so that the matter be brought to the attention of the whole of Parliament;
· The Chair and others emphasised that since all legislation had to be written in a gender sensitive way since the adoption of the South African Constitution, there was no reason why this finance Bill should be any exception.

Increasing Women Participation as Councillors in Local Elections
Ms Verwoerd explained the current situation with regard to the participation of women in local elections and highlighted the following points :
· Women are represented quite well at a National and Provincial level;
· The numbers of women at local government level are far less (approx. 19%)
· The National and Provincial proportional voting systems enables far more respresentivity of women;
· At a local level, the mixed "ward -- proportional voting" system is one factor which contributes to the lack of women participating at a local level;
· Women face numerous hurdles at the local level: nomination, winning the ward, performing at Council level and finally having to retain their seat within the ward.
· Currently, the voting system stipulates that the voting will be based 60% on ward and 40% on proportional representation. While it has been indicated that it is not constitutionally viable to structure the voting to insist on 50% women on lists, it is still preferable that parties try and ensure that 50% of individuals on party lists are women.
· Even if the system was structured so that it provided for 50% ward and 50% proportional representation, the ward votes have preferential status so that in effect ward votes are counted first, followed by a "topping-up" of proportional representation votes - which can mean that no proportional representation votes are ever represented. This is especially a problem if men work the wards.
· For this reason , Ms Verwoerd stated that it was imperative to try and get as many women onto the wards as possible, to identify key women in communities and build a team of people around these women who can provide the necessary support and encouragement;
· Ms Verwoerd also highlighted some of the difficulties for women trying to participate in local government elections such as day care facilities, the lack of support once elected onto council and the treatment of women candidates by the media;
· It was also indicated that the Independent Electoral Commission has not responded to requests for their position on whether certain categories of women (especially teachers & nurses) would not be able to run as candidates in local elections. The current position does not prevent this from happening. The Department for Constitutional Development will present a paper to Parliament on this issue.
· There was a suggestion that South Africa should legislate for a women's quota but this was met by strong opposition. It was accepted that the Joint Monitoring Committee would debate this at another time.
The Chair indicated that each party should make a clear statement as to its position on increasing women leadership at local level, and that the members of the Joint Monitoring Committee should raise this with their political parties.

Feedback on other gender relevant legislation
Sexual Offences Act
After discussions in various provinces with NGOs and the Department of Justice and SAPS, the following points were raised :
· Currently, complainants must complete lengthy and complicated forms
· SAPS sometimes send complainants to the Magistrate instead of handling the issue themselves;
· Once women have reported an offence, there is no shelter available for them to use

Maintenance Act
The following difficulties were highlighted :
· Women in rural areas in many instances do not have addresses;
· S7(2b) is too vague, the term "personal property" must be properly defined so that the SAPS are able to collect "personal property".
· There is a need for improved training for the SAPS
· There is an indication in some rural areas that Chiefs do not want interference from the law with regards to the taking of wives;
· Social workers are not present for consultations with complainants;
· There is also evidence in some areas that magistrates do not want to work with NGOs;
· There is a need for interpreters to be trained in rural areas

It was highlighted that:
· the report for Port Elizabeth was too urban based and that there is a need to return to more rural areas around Port Elizabeth in order to get more information
· A complaint should be forwarded to the Magistrates Commission with regards to a specific instance in Humansdorp

Procedurally, the Chair suggested that
· The Committee must consider how to follow up these investigations with other provinces (logistically);
· All outstanding meetings should be finished by early next year;
· The report on these hearings must then be completed (once all investigations are complete)
· Ministers from various departments should be called before the Joint Monitoring Committee to provide an opportunity for them to show what changes have occurred since the last set of hearings;
· Only once all meetings have been completed should the report be tabled in Parliament

Report Backs
A report from the SADC meeting in Dar Es Salaam must still be compiled;
· The Outcomes Document from the Beijing + 5 Conference will be circulated next week. The Chair recommended that after consideration by the Committee, the Committee should only utilise recommendations from the conference which will take the Committee forward in its objectives.
· The Chair stressed that the Report from South Africa was late in arriving at the Conference in time for circulation and this prevented the South African delegation from participating effectively in the conference. Furthermore, the report should have been tabled in Parliament before being forwarded to an International body, as happened in this case.

Next Meeting : 11th October 2000

Appendix 1:
NEW YORK 2-9 JUNE 2000

Ms Baleka Mbete : Deputy Speaker NA
Ms Lulu Xingwana: MP ANC
Ms Pregs Govender: MP ANC
Ms Sandra Botha: MP DP
Prof Harriet Ngubane: MP IFP
Ms Nomonde Skitasi: Staff

Sent by an Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)
Ms Bertha Gxowa: MP
Ms Bathabile Dlamini: MP

The Beijing + 5 Conference in New York was held from 5-9 June 2000. The South African delegation left on the 3rd June 2000 and arrived on the 4th June 2000. However Ms Xingwana and Prof Ngubane left earlier to attend the UNDP workshop on Engendering Constitution Making within the African Context held on the 2nd June 2000 in New York. The paper presented on "Women in Politics and Decision Making' by South Africa and the resolutions from the workshop are attached. (Annexure A&B)

They also attended the Global Dialogue on "Women Claim their Right to Land: The Africa Story" held on the 3rd June 2000.

The two parliamentarians who arrived earlier participated in the general briefing of the OAU at United Nations. The report of the African countries was tabled in this briefing.

The Parliamentary delegation had breakfast meetings on the 5th and 6th June.
The two MPs sent by an NGO were invited and attended these meetings.
The delegates looked at issues thought to be of interest to Parliamentarians
relating to the programme of the UN special session the other special events
and NGO Forums. They decided on activities that individuals would participate in. They also discussed some perspectives on the themes and issues on those programmes.

In a document sent to parliaments in preparation for the Beijing + 5
Conference, the IPU shared information gathered since the 1995 Beijing
Conference. The IPU survey presents data that needs analysis and response
by the world's parliaments or parliamentary forums.

"Women's participation in parliament and in the executive has undergone extremely little change since 1995 and has even decreased slightly in certain instances. According to the IPU survey, between September 1995 and August 1999.

-The overall number of women Heads of State or Government declined from 6.4% to 5.3%;
-The overall percentage of women in parliament showed only a slight increase from 11.3% (both houses) to 12.9%;
-The overall number of women presiding officers of a chamber of parliament decreased slightly from 10.5% to 10.2%;
- A similar pattern is discernible for the number of women deputy presiding officers of parliament and women committee chairpersons and vice-chairpersons.

By contrast, the IPU survey reveals that parliamentary awareness of gender issues has increased substantially. A majority of respondent parliaments felt that more attention was paid to women's needs when bills or the budget were debated. The Beijing Platform for Action seems to have inspired a variety of legislative measures. A number of specialised parliamentary committees on gender equality or the status of women have been established.

The survey reveals a strong correlation between the proportion of women in parliament and the attention to gender issues. It also reveals that half of the parliaments that focused more particularly on women's needs in their Iegislative debates and decisions had women presiding officers,. deputy presiding officers or members of their governing body"


The whole South African delegation and any other South Africans around the conference met on the evenings of the 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th These meetings ensured that information was given, clarified and discussed on the programme. The three main forums of activities were:
1. The plenary of the special session in the General Assembly Hall. Minister Fraser-Moleketi addressed this session on the 5th The statement is attached. (Annexure C)
2. The special events and forums organised - around the special session - by numerous UN and other bodies, as well as many other NGOs activities.
3. The negotiations on provisions of the Outcomes Document which was supposed to be adopted at the end of the conference.

MPs tried their best to spread themselves and ensure participation by each of them in all three areas. Negotiations needed a lot of understanding of the background and detail of the issues. The negotiations were often scattered in. smaller groups focusing and trying to unblock deadlocks on specific issues.


1. Panel on peace building and peacekeeping
The following were some of the issues raised:

- The forum focused on the increase of the participation of women in peacemaking and peace building as decision makers.
- Strengthen the protection and representation of refugee and displaced women.
- End impunity for crimes committed against women and ensure redress.
- Giving women's organisations the support and resources they need.

2. Panel: Monitoring of continued Implementation of Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights at a Regional and Global Level
- Some progress was also noted in the collection of health statistics disaggregated by sex and age and the awareness of the need for the development of gender specific indicators on health.
- The focus on the role of men and the importance of partnership specifically, reproductive health.
- There was a need for gender sensitivity. It must be pointed out that the issue of sexual rights is still proving to be very contentious. South Africa, happily, long passed this hurdle in our constitution.

3. Panel on the dialogue between NGOs and Governments: for a gender sensitive citizenship
- It was been pointed out that non-governmental organizations NGOs) contributed to the entry of women into the policy-making process because NGOs conduct activities in a variety of fields, including politics and national administration.
Ways to cooperate with NGOs would have to be considered.

4. Panel on mainstreaming a gender perspective in peacekeeping operations
It was agreed that it was important to address specific needs of women affected by armed conflict.
Increasing the participation of women in peacekeeping, peace building, pre-and post conflict decision-making and reconstruction.

5. Panel on Women and Armed conflict
- Inclusion of more women in security and monitoring missions
- Develop an instrument devoted to women in armed conflict containing language that not only prohibits rape but explicitly criminalizes all forms of sexual violence.
- Ensure equal participation of women in peace and related decision-making processes.
- It was critical to create economic opportunities for women in post conflict reconstruction.

6. Panel on Gender and information and communications technologies
- Gender statistics are compiled based on awareness that such information may help ascertain and rectify the gender gap.

7. Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU)
- The parliamentarians attended the IPU meeting of women MPs. This was a large gathering of a few hundred women. South African MPs submitted their inputs to the IPU Secretariat, as there was no tune to make their presentations. Ms Xingwana made a brief input and submitted a report on "Women in Politics and Decision Making". Honourable Pregs Govender also prepared a brief input which she also handed in.

- The IPU President congratulated South Africa as a good example because both Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Chairperson of the NCOP, our Second House, are women. Many references were also made to the South African Women's Budget Initiative and high representation of women in our Parliament.

8. Panel with authors of the World Bank's policy research report on gender and development
- The document focuses on the fight against poverty. The Research indicates that greater gender sensitivity and greater women's participation has benefit to both men and women. It results in greater political voice by all, better governance and less violence.

9. Women's Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO)
- The focus of the forum was Women's Leadership: Strategies to attain 50-50 representations by 2005.
The Deputy Speaker made a presentation which was well received to the forum. The presentation concentrated on how South African women struggled for involvement from the days of CODESA to now. Sweden France. the Philippines also shared on their strategies to ensure women's leadership.

10. Panel on Older Women Workers
The Deputy Speaker also participated in the panel on Older Women Workers, organised by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Countries were urged to look at how women are affected by policies that force them to retirement even when they could still offer their services.
This, especially in the least developed countries, often throws them into a sea of unemployed struggling for survival, with no proper planning for the rest of their lives. In Africa it is them who are increasingly looking after AIDS orphans or sick relatives. They themselves don't have medical aids to look after their health needs.

- Panel on Optional protocol. This is a mechanism enabling women to directly approach structures in the UN system if necessary.
- Special event: "Launch of Progress of the World's Women".
- Special event: "Skills demonstration workshop on approaches that work in involving men as partners in AIDS prevention and care".
- Special event: 'Workshop on Women and Armed Conflict in the Asian Pacific Region".
- DESA/statistics division with UNDP Panel on 'Paid and unpaid work: role of time use surveys".
- Panel: 'Environmental Issues Five years after Beijing Panel: on the role of men and boys in gender based violence.

Commonwealth of Learning (COL) launch of the good practices ~ gender mainstreaming and implementing the Beijing PFA collection and the gender training materials database.

Best practices in gender, population and development.
- Dialogue between representatives of Women and Armed Conflict Caucus and representatives of Relevant UN Agencies on Actions to implement and achieve the objectives of chapter E of the platform of action.
- Women go global
- Workshop on Best practices in mainstreaming gender into government Budgets.
- Panel: "Sexualities and human rights: - sexual rights are human rights".
- Panel on "Women in conflict situations and post conflict development and the role of the Security Council".
- Presentation of film of Hopscotch and little girls followed by short panel discussion.
- Panel on emergencies impacting on women - women impacting on emergencies.
- Presentation of CD-ROM ON "Status of Women in Africa"
- Building new partnerships.
- Presentation of study on Women's participation in the Electoral Process.
- Panel on 'Challenges for promoting and protecting women's human rights.
- Women's World Banking International Coalition on Women and Credit.
- Workshop. networks of. for and by poor women entrepreneurs.
- Panel on women in power.
Panel: Globalisation. Governance and women

It was unfortunate that the South African report was too late to be integrated into the document which was the centre of negotiations. Officials from government were in New York weeks before the conference. They were more involved m the negotiations with political guidance from Minister Geraldine Fraser - Moleketi who led the delegation. The report of the South African Government and the final outcomes document are attached. (Annexures D&E)

a. South African preparations started very late. The report of South Africa was finalised the week before departure. We need to improve on this in future. We need to ensure members of the delegation are familiar with the issues of the conference. Members must see, read and understand background documents from previous conferences e.g. Beijing, ICPD etc. Parliament needs to be more proactive and alert itself and play a role in ensuring that the country processes are on time and thorough.

b. The delegates discussed the composition of the parliamentary delegation with specific reference to gender. They agreed that the matter presented a challenge to our Parliament and needs the attention of both women and men. The lack of interest by most male MPs in gender issues and structures was highlighted. It was pointed out that before male parliamentarians are nominated to attend international conferences on gender issues they have to participate first here at home. It was acknowledged that a few male MPs are members of the Parliamentary Committee on The Improvement of The Quality of Life and Status of Women.

c. The draft report from government designates the Women's Budget as an NGO project. This is incorrect. The idea of having a South African Women's Budget was first proposed by an ANC MP, Pregs Govender, in the Budget Debate in Parliament in 1994. Govender and other members of Parliament worked through the JSCOF and presently the Joint Committee on the Quality of Life and Status of Women with NGO's (particularly CASE and IDASA), to develop the Women's Budget Initiate - a set of research reports on engendering budgets which have subsequently been published. However it was the work of these committees of Parliament, in their oversight role, that ensured that Government committed itself to engendering the budget and macro-economic policy. This was reflected in the Budget Review 1999, which apart from stating Government's clear commitment to the Women's Budget, went further to reflect a gender analysis in several programmes of different government departments. This initiative has been well received internationally and South Africa is held up as a good example. The country report should have acknowledged this and raised any difficulties that might be found in implementation by Government departments, if there are any.

d. For future purposes a country report should be tabled to Parliament before it is submitted to an international forum. This way we can ensure that it is enhanced from a parliamentary perspective. This way it can also be "owned" more broadly as Parliamentarians, the representatives of the electorate, will have processed and adopted it. That way it can truly be a Country Report as opposed to a Government Report.


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