Chapter 9 Institutions amalgamation: OISD progress report; with the Minister

Women in The Presidency

05 June 2018
Chairperson: Ms T Memela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Members and representatives of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) met with officials from the Office of the Institute Supporting Democracy (OISD) on the progress report dealing with the amalgamation of Chapter 9 Institutions, with special reference to the CGE.

The OISD said that two task teams had been formed to compile a report and make recommendations to Parliament on the proposed amalgamation of the Chapter 9 Institutions. One task team had primarily focused on the shifting and de-linking of the Institutes Supporting Democracy (ISD) budgets. The other task team had dealt with the amalgamation aspects. It was reported that based on the views from the public and Institutions for Development (IFDs), there was a sentiment that there should not be an amalgamation. On the other hand, there were calls for a partial amalgamation and a third view was that there should be an amalgamation. The task teams were still synthesising the mixed views and compiling their own research. They would provide Parliament with recommendations by the end of June.

Members were disappointed by the Deputy Speaker’s absence from the meeting, as they felt that he was the only one who could provide them with answers relating to the proposed amalgamation. They raised concerns over the public consultation process, and particularly questioned whether women’s organisations and civil society had been consulted. They disapproved of the manner in which the entire proposed amalgamation process had unfolded, particularly because the Committee had been one of the last stakeholders to hear about this matter, when they should have been one of the first. They said that the Kader Asmal Report, which had been used to motivate the call for amalgamation, was an outdated document compiled in 2007 and its findings held very little significance in the current climate in South Africa.

The Committee expressed deep concern about the proposed amalgamation of the CGE, which was currently providing an invaluable service with respect to gender issues in the country. Members felt that despite being under-resourced, it was managing its finances optimally. There was still a vast amount of gender-related issues which needed to be resolved in the country, so there was no justification and substance for amalgamating the Commission.

Meeting report

Absence of Members

The Chairperson welcomed Members and asked if any apologies had been received.

Ms Neliswa Nobanta, Committee Secretary, said she had received apologies Ms M Chueu (ANC), Ms G Tseke (ANC) and Ms T Stander (DA). Furthermore, Mr Lechesa Tsenoli, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, had written a letter stating he would not be able to attend.

Ms Rosalia Morutoa, Chairperson: Joint Multi-Party Women's Caucus, requested the reasons given by the Members for the apologies.

Ms Nobanta responded that in the letter, the Deputy Speaker had not stated the reasons as to why he could not attend the meeting. Ms Chueu and Ms Stander had indicated that they could not attend the meeting due to constituency work. Ms Tseke said in her apology that there was a by-election in her constituency because one of the councillors had passed on from a car accident, and she also had to serve on the preparatory committee for the funeral.

The Chairperson asked if the Members accepted the apologies.

Ms D Robinson (DA) sought clarity as to why the Deputy Speaker could not make it.

The Chairperson said that the Members were not forced to accept the apologies.

Mr M Dirks (ANC) asked if the absent Members were aware of the very important item on the agenda. The agenda item was extremely crucial. One could not do constituency work when they should be dealing with government work.

The Chairperson said that Members were aware of the agenda.

Ms Morutoa said that after hearing the reasons behind Members’ absence, she was rather concerned because the subject member for the meeting was very important.

Amalgamation of Chapter 9 Institutions: Briefing by OISD

Mr Kaya Zweni, Head: Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy (OISD), said the OISD had attended the meeting to advise the Committee on the progress reports with regard to the amalgamation of the Chapter 9 Institutions with special reference to the Commission for Gender Equality. There was a report from the task team that had been established which was due to be submitted to the presiding officers by the end of June 2018. There would also be an official report before the presiding officers, and the Committee should consider re-inviting the Deputy Speaker and the OISD for the presentation of that report when it has been received.

He said he would discuss the context of the report that he was referring to. Following several engagements between the heads of the state Institutions Supporting Democracy (ISDs), presiding officers, relevant Portfolio Committee Chairpersons and some relevant Members of the executive, the conclusion from the last engagement -- which was in October 2017 -- was to establish a task team to process the recommendation by Prof Kader Asmal on the amalgamation and shifting of ISD budgets to Parliament’s vote.

The task team had been chaired by the Deputy Auditor-General (AG). The task team was made up of two working streams. The first stream dealt with the shifting and de-linking of ISD budgets, and was chaired by Prof Daniel Plaatjies of the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC). The second stream dealt with amalgamation, and was chaired by Commissioner Phumelele Nzimande from the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The task team on amalgamation was composed of affected ISDs, such as the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), the Human Rights Commission (HRC),  the Pan-South African Language Board (PanSALB) and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). The other stream on the financial aspects was composed of the Public Protector, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the Auditor General of South Africa (AGSA).

A lot of work had been done by these working streams. They have joint meetings and also met separately. The last meeting which he had attended was in April, and he had been told that there was a more recent one at which a draft report was being finalised, and would be submitted to Parliament at the end of June. He was reluctant to speak on issues related to the report. He was willing to respond to questions, but felt that the best time to engage with the report was after the official report had been submitted to Parliament.

Discussion

The Chairperson asked what the proposed timeframe to finalising the matter was.

Mr Zweni responded that it was 30 June. He could not say that the report would recommend an amalgamation. The task team was looking at a number of issues. Emerging from the views from the public and Institutions for Development (IFDs), there was a sentiment that there should not be an amalgamation. A second view was that there should be partial amalgamation and a third view was that there should be amalgamation. There were three different views emerging in the process, and the task team was still synthesising the information while still conducting their own research and looking at various issues, such as the unique situation of South Africa. The task team would make a recommendation to Parliament and provide reasons behind that recommendation.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Review of Chapter 9 and Associated Institutions, which was previously called the Kader Asmal Committee, had raised a number of issues. For instance, the Kader Asmal report had been produced in 2007, and the question the Ad Hoc Committee had asked was whether the reasons included in the Kader Asmal Report were still relevant today. A number of terms of reference had been were debated, agreed upon and adopted. The task team would be addressing all those issues, and come up with a recommendation to Parliament.

Ms L van der Mervwe (IFP) said that her concern was that they were working from a premise of the Kader Asmal Report, which was over a decade old. The situation in South Africa in terms of inequality and gender-based violence had changed. The Kader Asmal Report had never beendebated in the House, so no binding resolutions had been tabled and adopted. If they were moving from a report that was created a long time ago, then they were working with old data. With respect to finalising the report driven by the task teams, how were they engaging civil society? What was the feedback that had been received? How many organisations had been engaged?

Ms Bathabile Dlamini, Minister of Women in the Presidency, said that the Kader Asmal report had been compiled in 2007 and it was 2018 now. She was unhappy about the fact that Members were being given a general report by the delegation, when they were supposed to be hearing a report about the Commission for Gender Equality. She wanted to know more about the CGE. When there was an announcement about the report, there had been an outcry by civil society, so she had expected engagement with civil society.

The report was very relevant, seeing what was happening to women nowadays. Patriarchy was an institution -- it was not a scratch on the surface. In the report that dealt with financial matters, what had been the discussion of that committee? Why were chapter 9 institutions having a discussion without other chapter 9 institutions, such as the Public Protector, the IEC and AGSA?. Who was taking part in the discussions -- and did those people understand gender issues? She wanted Mr Zweni to be specific about the report and specifically it said about the CGE.

The Minister said she was not impressed with the concept of amalgamation. If someone stated that the CGE must be amalgamated, that was a message that said that the CGE could not do things on their own, which was a subjective opinion. Why was the South African society so violent, and more so towards women and towards the girl child? Amalgamation of such an important commission indicated that the commission could not be independent, it could not carry its agenda forward and therefore required outside assistance.

The CGE had many powers, but it had not been given tools of engagement. It had been given many powers but if one looks closely, some were impossible to execute. For instance, it could summon people, but needed extra help to nudge those persons summoned to actually come forward and make a presentation. There were many issues, such as the land issue, that were still coming and would require the Members and the CGE to work very hard. When other countries dealt with the land issue, they usually tended to look at customary law and at lineage. Lineage did not give land to women. Land was passed from the great-grandfather to the grandfather, to the father, to the son and so forth. Due the fact that land was not usually given directly to women, she expected the CGE to play a big role in that process.

Mr Dirks said he had a big concern regarding public consultation. He asked what kind of public participation had taken place relating to the report. Had they gone to different provinces to have open public participation? Were women’s organisations consulted? Even political parties had women’s organisations and they represented women in the country -- were they consulted? Although Mr Zweni had said that the report would be ready by the end of June and would be sent to Parliament, he wanted to clarify the process. When the report was finished, it should first be brought to the Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency and the Multi-party Women’s Caucus before being sent to Parliament. Based on the views of people on the streets and women themselves, it was very clear that the CGE could never be amalgamated. Based on the conversations he had had, he got the sense that the only consideration for amalgamation had been based on financial constraints, and had not been particularly driven by women’s issues and women’s needs in the country.

Ms C Majeke (UDM) said that CGE played a very important role within the constitution of the country. There may be some duplication within other chapter 9 institutions, but she thought that could be resolved through consultation and collaboration amongst the Chapter 9 institutions to avoid the duplication. South Africa was still a very divided society culturally, emotionally and according to standards of living. If the CGE was amalgamated with other institutions, its role of looking into gender inequality would not be taken into consideration. As a society, South Africans were still living in different areas -- whites and blacks were in separate areas. Society needed to be seen to be living together, and if the CGE was amalgamated it would not do justice to women’s issues.

Ms Morutoa said she was still having an internal debate with herself as to whether or not it had been necessary for the OISD to come and inform Members that they were still busy compiling the report. People from different provinces had woken up very early, and a whole meeting had been convened only to arrive and hear that the OISD could not divulge the report because it was incomplete. She did not want to use strong words, because people would say that women were very emotional, but it did indicate that as women they were not being taken seriously.

Since the process had started, it had not come to the attention of the Committee and the Multi-Party Women’s’ Caucus – which was where women in Parliament were – about what stage the process had reached. She recalled the first Caucus in Parliament, where the Deputy Speaker had given a synopsis of what the amalgamation was, and where the process was. The Multi-Party Women’s’ Caucus was a representative of  the public, and she concurred with other Members with respect to the concerns raised about public participation, in that it had not been the type of public participation that Parliament usually had. She agreed with the CGE, in that there had been a reason behind establishing the CGE in South Africa. Did South Africa complete the gender barometer, because no other organisation could do it? It was only the CGE that could do it.

Partial amalgamation or amalgamation should not be options, because the CGE had its own responsibilities, and if the CGE disagreed with the recommendation given by the report, she supported that decision. The CGE had its own specialist functions, and was there to protect the core rights of women against the legacy of patriarchy entrenched in society. What were the task teams saying about the CGEs input? The Multi-Party Women’s Caucus did not want the CGE to be amalgamated into anything because it had a very important function. There was an accumulation of gender femicide. Women were being killed left and right. How was the CGE going to exercise its responsibilities if they were amalgamated?

Ms D Robinson (DA) said she was disgusted about the disdain that this Committee had been held to and treated. The Committee should have been one of the first to hear about this matter, and not have to hear about it via the back door and indirectly. Hearing that the report was ready to be submitted was unacceptable. It showed that this Committee was not being taken seriously and this was just typical of the power relations in the country, and the patriarchal attitude. Members and civil society should have been involved, and women’s organisations should have heard about this matter.

The patriarchy and violence persists, and when looking at the news there were many women and children that were being killed. It was nauseating, yet on top of that people wanted to reduce the function of the CGE. There might be financial considerations in the matter but from her knowledge, the CGE’s books were in order and they were not in debt or arrears, like some of the other Chapter 9 institutions. So why penalise the CGE? In fact, they should be given a bigger budget so that they could do something useful. If the CGE was amalgamated it would dilute the effect, when in fact they needed energy put into them so that society recognised women and a human rights culture. According to the constitution and according to the human rights culture, everyone was equal and there were no second class citizens.

CGE’s response

Ms Lulama Nare, Chairperson: CGE, said that the CGE had been involved in the amalgamation discussion for the past five years. It was the only organisation where the commissioners were appointed for two years, while all the other Chapter 9 institutions get five years. There was no one to support the CGE. All those who wanted amalgamation did not support the CGE’s governance structure. In one of the meetings that had been held, she had made it clear that as the sitting commissioners of the CGE, they could not make the decision as to whether or not to amalgamate the CGE. If Parliament or the political parties wanted to amalgamate the CGE, they must do it but as sitting commissioners, they could not advise support for amalgamation.

The overlapping argument that had been used to justify amalgamation of the CGE was not unique to the CGE. The Public Protector had overlapped with the Department of Justice, and nobody was talking about that. The Cultural Rights Commission, which wanted to be partially amalgamated, was being linked with PanSALB, which was not a Chapter 9 institution. The Youth Commission was not in any of the constitutional imperatives -- it was not a Chapter 9 institution, nor a Chapter 10 institution.  

As much as she was hearing Members saying that they were hearing about the amalgamation discussion for the first time, it had been going on for the past five years. Six months into her entering her own position in the CGE, there had already been talks and consultations on amalgamation.

Regarding the budget, when Kader Asmal compiled the report in 2007, the CGE had been getting R39.7 million. At the moment, it was getting R79 million. The Public Protector was getting R290-something million and the Human Rights Commission was getting R286 million.

The appointments of the commissioners of CGE were left until they lapsed, and hence one found a Chairperson of the CGE running it for a year or two, which did not happen with other commissions. She had been in the gender space for over 20 years, and it was the most neglected space. The CGE was not supported by the OISD, and had to wait nine months to have a Chairperson. The CGE suffered with vacant governance positions. There had even been an illegal acting Chairperson at some point, because the CGE was not getting the support it needed from the OISD.

The only thing the OISD was concerned about was, “say yes or no to amalgamation”. At the last meeting that was held with the OISD, the CGE had been asked to say either yes or no to amalgamation, and if it did not want to amalgamate, it needed to provide the presiding officers with reasons. That was where the CGE was at, at the moment. It had written a response, and it was saying no to amalgamation.

The CGE had had a clean audit, so she did not understand the financial argument behind amalgamation. She had heard that Parliament was ready to adopt the Kader Asmal Report, so the option given to the CGE had been to report to presiding officers to explain as to why they did not want to close down the CGE.

Ms Nare referred to the findings by Kader Asmal which had been used to support amalgamation, and said the countries mentioned in the research, which had been in favour of a single human rights body, were themselves now visiting the CGE annually and asking them about how to re-establish gender commissions. The CGE had been visited by China, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Kenya. It was a strange anomaly.

The CGE knew its own mandate, but it had only R79 million to fulfil it. Many things that were prioritised had been shifted. The CGE had spoken to the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker to find out about the historical missions of the CGE during the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) discussions, and had even gone back into the archives to see if there was logic in separating the Human Rights Commission from the Gender Commission. The Human Rights Commission was not ready to take care of the Gender Commission and its mandate. If the Human Rights Commission amalgamated with the CGE, the R79 million that the Gender Commission had would end up being used for the Human Rights Commission’s mandate.

Ms Morutoa said that was it ironic that the OISD had only men -- there were no women.

The Chairperson said that women were self-sufficient. They had never relied on men even during the struggle, and had fought for their democracy. They were not going to allow patriarchy to destroy the treasure, which was democracy for future generations. She echoed the sentiment shared by Members and the CGE, and said that she was not going to support any amalgamation under any circumstances.

Mr Zweni noted the concerns raised and said that he would share the comments with the Deputy Speaker. Most of the comments that had been raised were relevant. He had taken note that the task team report should be shared with all relevant stakeholders in Parliament, including this Committee. The intention on embarking on this process had been in recognition of the fact that the Kader Asmal report was old, and the intention had been to have fresh information alongside the Kader Asmal report and to have ISDs themselves engage in the process.

The task teams had raised the issue of having public hearings, and in fact some of the issues raised by Members had also been raised within the task teams. The Deputy Speaker needed to speak on the political process once the task team report had been submitted. Although the task teams had two streams to deal with finance and amalgamation, the report that would be sent to Parliament would be one report dealing with all aspects.

Ms Van der Merwe said that if the Deputy Speaker were present, she would have asked him to scrap the whole process. There was a new Parliament coming in very soon, and the basics were non-existent. The process was based on an old report which did not reflect the current situation in the country. There was no motivation and substance to remove the CGE. She felt that Members were being addressed by the wrong people, because they needed to hear from the Deputy Speaker what the motivation was behind removing a body that was doing wonderful work. With the little money they had, the CGE was doing exemplary work. The discussions around the removal of the CGE should have started in the Committee and involved women’s organisations and civil society. Even if the process was taken to the Constitutional Court, the Constitutional Court would have thrown the case out because the basic principles that should have been followed had not been followed. Even when looking at the gender pay gap in the workplace, where women earned 27% less than men, and at the high levels of gender-based violence, people still felt that they could not spare less than R100 million of the state’s budget to fight women’s issues. It was an insult to women and the Members who had been fighting for women’s issues for the past five years. She wished the Deputy Speaker were present, since he was the one who had been driving this process.

Minister Dlamini said this trend of undermining women was persisting. Closing down the CGE would be disarming them so that they did not shout and tell women that they were being marginalised .The Committee must write a report and send it to the Deputy Speaker. If the task team report was taken to Parliament, Members of the Committee were also Members of Parliament and would oppose amalgamation. It was going to look bad, but a democratic institution could not undermine the democratic process. A two-thirds majority would be required to decide on the CGE’s fate. This amalgamation issue would divide Parliament around gender and women’s’ issues, which had never happened before. It was important that the Committee and CGE had a meeting with the Speaker, even if it was a side meeting, to discuss these issues with her, as she might think differently.

Regarding the budget of the CGE, she had looked at their reports and they had done well. Why was it when dealing with issues dealing with women, they could not find enough money? A nine-year-old girl could express issues about gender violence, and yet it was felt that the Gender Commission was not necessary.

She suggested that the officials of the OISD should attend a women’s multi-party parliamentary caucus, where the genuine views of women were expressed. Patriarchy was a political issue. If the OISD spoke to women’s organisations, civil society, domestic workers and women working on farms then they would understand the women’s predicament. It would be understood why the CGE had been formed. Without scratching the surface to fight gender inequality, one had not scratched the surface to fight poverty. Women were the face of poverty. In areas where the chapter 9 institutions felt that they were duplicating functions, they should collaborate on those issues.

The Chairperson asked why Mr Andile Mphunga, Senior Manager: ISD Oversight Support, OISD, had been laughing while Ms Dlamini was addressing Members. It was disgusting and was still undermining women. She requested an explanation.

Mr Mphunga said he understood that the chapter 9 institutions which were mandated under Section 181 of the Constitution were independent, and subject only to the Constitution. The reason why he cited Section 181 was to highlight that it was a policy discussion, which meant it was a discussion for Parliament and presiding officers to have. This was why the head of OISD had said that at best, during this meeting he could only take note of the comments made. The best that they could do as officials was take notes and take them to the Deputy Speaker. He apologised to the Minister, the Chairperson and to Members for being seen laughing when the Minister was talking. It was not his intention -- he had been exchanging a note, but he had not been laughing.

The Chairperson said that his behaviour would be documented in the Committee’s notes and the report that would be tabled to the Speaker. Even if one was over or under 30 years old, respect was demanded at all levels. Africans were taught to show respect.

Mr T Nkonzo (ANC) said that the Minister had covered what he was going to say. Before Parliament, there should be public hearings. It was unfortunate that Members had been addressed by the OISD officials who were present, as it was like talking to a receptionist when the actual decision-maker was not around.

Ms Morutoa said that the Minister had summed everything up, and they could not say anything further until the report was in front of them. She would like the Deputy Speaker to be invited, and also to address the Multi-Party Women's Caucus to explain all this confusion.

Adoption of minutes and oversight visit report

Ms Robinson moved to adopt the minutes of 8 May 2018.

Mr Dirk seconded the adoption of the minutes.

The minutes were adopted.

The Chairperson asked Members if they wished to adopt the Committee report on the oversight visit to North West Province.

Ms Majeke, Mr Nkonzo and Ms Robinson simultaneously agreed to adopt the Committee report.

The Committee report on the oversight visit to North West Province was adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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