Gender-Based Violence & Gender Transformation at Higher Learning Institutions: CGE briefing

Higher Education, Science and Technology

14 August 2018
Chairperson: Ms C September (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee for Higher Education and Training was briefed by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on gender-based violence and gender transformation at institutions of higher learning. Officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) were also present. The meeting arose out of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training engagement with the Human Rights Commission (HRC). As gender was one of the aspects discussed in the engagement, it was important to bring in the CGE to discuss gender and transformation.

It was noted that there were several problems at institutions of higher learning. Notably the CGE had to subpoena institutions in order to gather information on incidents related to GBV. Transformation, particularly in relation to gender has not progressed well despite legislative backing. During the transformation hearings it was found that sexual harassment is prevalent in institutions of higher learning. Furthermore, many marginalised groups felt that institutions did not adequately protect them. Whilst all the institutions were focused on, Rhodes University was paid particular attention due to various incidents of sexual violence. More specifically, the suicide of Khensani Maseko has caused shockwaves throughout Rhodes University and the public at large. Based on the CGEs report there seemed to be a disconnection between what students, lecturers and vice chancellors knew about policies and information relevant to GBV and transformation.

The main issues that concerned members were the lack of an existing policy, the CGE spending too much time on monitoring and evaluating and the poor responses from institutions with regards to issues of GBV and transformation. Furthermore, there was need to improve education on these issues as well figuring out how to implement policies that work more effectively. There was also a need for a quota system in institutions with regard to women in higher academic ranks.

Some Members expressed concern at the CGE for not properly explaining the contributing factors to their conclusions on certain issues. It was stressed that the CGE and DHET needed to go further. Members recognised the enormity of the task and that progress had to be made as the situation of rampant sexual violence toward women is unacceptable. Concern was raised at the small budget the CGE had. Ultimately it was decided by Members that both the DHET and the CGE would take the recommendations made by the Committee and improve them by continuing to work at this issue.

Meeting report

The Chairperson welcomed everyone to the meeting. The meeting arose out of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training engagement with the Human Rights Commission (HRC). There was a need to call the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) as gender was one of the aspects discussed during the engagement with the Human Rights Commission (HRC). Transformation without gender equity and balance was not meaningful transformation. The second part of the meeting will discuss the gender-based violence (GBV) experience at institutions of higher learning. Thereafter, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) will do a briefing. The meeting programme for the week was mentioned. It included the quarterly report from DHET on Wednesday as well as the community colleges. On Thursday as was agreed in the last meeting, the meeting will revolve around student funding in which the student organisations from universities, colleges, NSFAS and DHET will be present. The Chairperson stated that many Members were absent. Some apologised whilst others were either sick or overseas. However, names were not specified as to who sent apologies or were sick.  There was no quorum so no decisions will be taken in this meeting.

Ms Vuyokazi Mafilika, Project Manager, Ms Slindile Shabalala, Assistant Director: Transformation, Ms Fundiswa Sotenjwa, Acting Director ISSL.

The Chairperson asked DHET whether they had a presentation.

They did not have one due to miscommunication as the Department thought they were attending to support the CGE.

The Chairperson expressed disappointment as the Department ought to have attempted to find out more information regarding their role. This was unacceptable.

Mr C Kekana (ANC) stated that presentations must be in writing, but DHET can contribute to the discussion.

Gender Based Violence within Institutions Higher Learning: Higher Education and Training Committee

Ms Lulama Nare, Chairperson, CGE, said the purpose of the CGE was to promote equality for women in all spheres of life.

Ms Keketso Maema, CEO, CGE, said Section 187 of the Constitution and the CGE ACT required the CGE to promote respect for, and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality. The CGE vision was a society free is a society free from gender oppression and all forms of inequality.

The CGE mandate was to monitor and evaluate legislation, policies and practices of the State, statutory bodies and private businesses, as well as indigenous and customary laws and practices; research and make recommendations to Parliament:

Gender was the blind spot that many of South Africa’s leaders seem to act on by default rather than intentionally. There have been complaints from learners, lecturers and workers due to incidents of gender discrimination. For example, there have been students raped in institutions of higher learning and LGBTQI students have committed suicide. Notably, responses by institutions have been very poor when the CGE has investigated incidents. Therefore, the mandate included to receive and investigate complaints of gender discrimination; and conduct public awareness and education on gender equality. CGE has powers to subpoena and to institute litigation. So far 14 institutions have been called. There are high ranking institutions and amalgamated universities like TUT. The vice chancellors were not very forthcoming to investigations, so the CGE subpoenaed them to get the correct information. The Employment Equity Act was used as a primary source of information on gender transformation. The CGE was raising a red flag on universities led by the advanced detachment in society in that they are not doing justice to the advancement of society. It was important that this happened for the advancement of the country and to comply with the Constitution.

Legal Framework

Article 1 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Woman (CEDAW) stated that:

“For the purposes of the present Convention, the term “discrimination against women” shall mean any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. “

The Convention in Article 1 therefore provided a definition of discrimination against women. The definition of discrimination included GBV, i.e. violence that was directed against a woman because she was a woman or that affected women disproportionately. It included acts that inflicted physical, mental or sexual harm or suffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty. GBV may breach specific positions of the Convention, regardless of whether those provisions expressly mention violence.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)

Article 2 of the UDHRC states that: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

Vienna Declaration 1993 and South African National Action Plan for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Article 8 highlighted the importance of working towards the elimination of violence against women in public and private life, the elimination of all forms of sexual harassment, exploitation and trafficking in women, the elimination of gender bias in the administration of justice and the eradication of any conflicts which may arise between the rights of women and the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism.

The Beijing Platform for Action (BPA)

The BPA requires governments, international communities and civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector to take strategic action to address twelve critical areas of concern. These areas include but are not limited to violence against women; the burden of poverty on women; and inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision making at all levels.

Addendum to 1997 Declaration on Gender and Development by SADC Heads of State or Government

The Addendum expresses concern at physical and sexual violence occurring in the family, including traditional practices harmful to women. It commits States to eradicate traditional norms and practices which legitimize and exacerbate the persistence and tolerance of violence against women and children.

South African Constitution, 1996

The right to equality (Section 9)

Section 9 (1) states that everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Section 9 (3) further states that the State may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.

The right to dignity (Section 10)

Section 10 of the Constitution guarantees everyone a right to dignity.

Freedom of movement (Section 21)

Everyone has the right to freedom of movement

Freedom and security of the persons (Section 12)

Everyone has the right to freedom and security of the person which includes the right- To be free from all forms of violence from public or private sources.

Transformation Hearings

The CGE has conducted transformation hearings at institutions of higher learning since 2011. There have been consultations with DHET. Furthermore, a total of 13 universities have been called to appear before the Commission and account on compliance with the EEA and other related legislations. The universities were requested to complete a questionnaire which was analysed and interrogated by the Commission. Both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies were applied during the assessment of information.  

The CGE was concerned with the lack of a proper understanding of gender dynamics in the workplace accompanied by a slow pace of transformation. The aforementioned is symptomatic of the low-level compliance with relevant labour legislation aimed at transformation more especially, the EEA, Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA), Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA) and also applicable common law developments. The CGE’s decision to place special focus on institutions of higher learning was precipitated by disturbing media reports, as well as complaints reported to the Commission by both employees in the sector and students.

These included:

-Media reports of “sex-for marks” scandals

-Allegations of sexual harassment at institutions of higher learning.

-Slow transformation around lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTQI) issues.

-The placement of women and persons with disabilities (PWDs) in senior management, as well as the adoption of gender policies.

The primary objectives of the hearings were to aspect the impact of the employment equity legislation and to hold institutions of higher learning accountable for non-compliance. To probe current internal policies, systems, programmes and relevant strategies put in place by the selected institutions to ensure effective gender transformation, including the challenges faced in achieving the transformation goals. Furthermore, the hearings are used as a platform to bring to light the discrimination and risks experienced by women, people with disabilities and LGBTI persons across various sectors; and levels in the workplace as well students.

The following institutions appeared before the Commission;

University of Cape Town, University of the Free State, University of Johannesburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Limpopo, North West University, University of Pretoria, Rhodes University and Stellenbosch University, University of South Africa, University of Venda, University of Venda, University of Witwatersrand, Tshwane University of Pretoria, Department of Higher Education and Training.

University of Mpumalanga, University of Zululand, Sol Plaatjie University and Nelson Mandela University are to appear before the Commission during October 2018.

Process of the Hearing

Universities are served with a questionnaire which they complete and send the information requested to the CGE and the information is then analysed. A hearing is then convened at a later stage. The university is then given a chance to appear before the Commission and do an oral presentation. After the presentation questions are asked and recommendations are made to institutions. The CGE then follow up on the implementation of the recommendations through consultative meetings to track progress and identify challenges that impedes the implementation.

Overall finding

Sexual harassment was prevalent at institutions of higher learning. Sexual harassment predominately comes in a form of sex-for- marks. Sexual harassment policies are not communicated with students and general staff members. Policies are largely placed on the intranet. The Commission found that during orientation of first year learners, most universities do not induct first year learners on sexual harassment policies. Similarly, during induction of new staff members minimal time was invested of sexual harassment policies. It was found that generally sexual harassment policies were largely focused on employees to the exclusion of learners.

It was found that the uncertainty around sexual harassment policy framework at universities has contributed to students and staff members not reporting such matters at universities out of fear of victimization. In some instances, students reported sexual harassment after a long period. Not all universities provide counselling services of victims of sexual harassment. The students often rely on the Department of Social Development (DSD) for this service. It was found that some universities have introduced a helpline for people to report incidences of discrimination and violence against LGBTQI persons as anonymous; whilst other universities have no measures put in place to eradicate GBV among students, staff and suppliers. It was noted by the Commission that consumption of alcohol and drugs by students contributed to a high number of sexual violence incidences.

The Commission noted that institutions of higher learning are failing to create environments of zero tolerance to GBV, to assess GBV threats within campuses, and to support victims or respond timeously and appropriately. Universities have no specific policies that dealt with safety of students and the processes that must be followed. Students who reside outside university residences are more susceptible to gender-based violence. Universities often neglected to put safety measures outside campuses.

Interventions by the Commission

The Commission has compelled universities to conduct sexual harassment campaigns during orientation. The Commission has additionally delivered sexual harassment lectures to various universities (students and staff members were targeted). The Commission has recommended that sexual harassment and grievance policies be shared with Student Representative Councils (SRCs) and management needs to create a safe reporting space for students. The CGE has attended induction processes at various universities to ensure that sexual harassment and grievance policies are adequately outline to staff members.

It was recommended that refresher sessions on sexual harassment and grievance policies be conducted with staff members and students. Sexual harassment policies needed to be regularly reviewed and updated. The CGE has assisted universities to review gender related policies. The Commission recommended that universities must build strong relationships with SAPS to address GBV within and outside campus areas. Against these recommendations, some universities have invested in building more university residence to minimize the number of the students who reside outside the campus.

Some universities have introduced CCTV footages on campus as part of their safety mechanisms. Sexual harassment policies have been extended to protect even independent contractors who enter campus. Whistle blower lines have been established in some universities to report gender-based violence. 

Rhodes

The issue of sexual violence at Rhodes University is not a recent one. In an academic study published in 2007, titled “The Habitus of the Dominant: Addressing Rape and Sexual Assault at Rhodes University”, it was noted that sexual violence as a distinct and an incurring problem. Within the study, reference is made to a 1991 SRC report which claimed that over half the student population found campus unsafe at night, and 12% did not walk alone after dark. CGE took cognizance of students’ calls to eradicate the scourge of rape at the institutions during 2016 student protests culminating into a multi prolonged investigation.

High delegation meetings with the SRC, SAPS, the Office of the Vice Chancellor and upper echelons of staff, the RU reference group and Task Team Committee. Onsite surprise inspection of campus and the harassment office, including random questioning of students as to their knowledge of sexual offences and the options available to report.  RU was included in the sampling for the Commission’s holistic, systematic investigation into gender transformation at institutions of higher learning, wherein the Vice Chancellor appeared twice before the Commission to account.

The Commission continues to monitor reported sexual offences at the university and is provided all outcomes of disciplinary sitting and/or court appeals. Rhodes has reviewed its policies surrounding sexual offences, including the restructuring of the harassment office, the manner in which they prosecute such cases (disciplinary hearings) and installation of CCTV cameras. Moreover, there have been increased education campaigns, establishment of a 24-hour counselling support system and firm dedication to the struggle by the office of the Vice Chancellor.

The Commission is deeply saddened by the tragic loss of student Khensani Maseko and reaffirms its finding that there is great disconnection between policy and the implementation thereof. The culture and threat of gross GBV is present in every step of a women’s path through life. Despite the initiatives taken by Rhodes, Ms Maseko bore the pain of the rape and the associated horrors for an anguishing two month before reporting it to Rhodes on the 30th July 2018. The Commission is investigating the actions taken by Rhodes to date after the report, including the possible inquest into Ms Maseko’s death. The poignant statement of Ms Maseko “No one deserves to be raped” needs to be a call of uprising to South Africa as a whole, a country which is plagued by the rampant culture of rape and gender-based violence.

It should be noted that the hearings of transformation within the institutions of higher learning are still ongoing with four universities expected to appear before the Commission around October 2018. The Commission will continue to recommend to universities to sensitise their communities on sexual harassment and other GBV related policies. The Commission will ensure that it monitor implementation of recommendations at all universities that appeared before it. The scope of the investigation will be extended in the future to include Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges. 

Ms Nare stated that there is a disconnection between what students, lecturers and vice chancellors are saying around inspections. In terms of transformation regarding female academics, there seems to be a glass ceiling. Women are not being promoted in this field and are not getting equal opportunities. A budget should be in place to track women and put them through the processes to become academics. This must be a priority. Most female academics are lecturers and are not in top management positions which need to be addressed. Male students have an entitlement and expect female students to do the domestic duties. This occurs especially when they are in relationships. There was an incident where a male student raped a female student with the reason being that he was sexually frustrated. The university excluded him without the necessary consequences and did not report him as a rapist. There is a disjuncture with how universities work with the police. Rape is an extreme form of violence against women. Universities should start thinking upfront about how to deal with rape in their campuses which should involve the police. At Rhodes University, students said that police are not helping as the police see rape as a problem facing young people. The CGE has prescribed to vice chancellors that their key performance indicator must have and be weighted on gender transformation. This must occur specifically for women’s development and promotion in the workplace. This is to ensure adequate training and protection to support female academics. Universities must bear in mind the challenges women might face in the workplace.  

Department of Higher Education and Training  

Ms Sesi Mahlobogoane, Director: Social Inclusion and Equity Unit, DHET, stated that most of the hearings conducted by the CGE were attended by DHET.  She acknowledged what was brought about by the report presented. There is a policy framework for the realisation of social inclusion that was gazetted in 2016. It has been in operation since the beginning of last year.     

Discussion

Mr Kekana thanked the CGE for the presentation. He stated this is an enormous task to be given. What is being dealt with is overriding a patriarchal society which exists nationally and internationally. It is everywhere so this is not an easy task. It is unsurprising that there have been some difficulties. Is there a quota system? For example, in government there is a quota at every level whether it is national or local. At the level of practicability if you do not have an instrument to force transformation, progress either does not happen or it occurs at a slow place. Does a quota have to be put in place for gender and disability? Secondly, the other university that needs to be investigated is Stellenbosch University. For example, in 2016 female students had to carry whistles to alert authorities if they were being attacked. Carrying a whistle and blowing it at university is not normal. This measure needs to be checked. Thirdly, is the CGE interacting with institutions that work in similar fields such as the Women and Gender Desk in the President’s office? Gender and disability used to run on its own. How is the monitoring and evaluating doing in the President’s office? Is the Department of Labour monitoring compliance with the EEA? Would it not be better for medical centers at different institutions to have psychological clinics so that when young women are traumatised there is someone they can confide with immediately? Has there been comparison between university transformation and private and government sector transformation?              

Ms H Bucwa (DA) concurred with the notion of blind spot default. How do we become more proactive? Often people are praised for catching a rapist or perpetrator and it is celebrated. However, these injustices should not have happened in the first place. Strategic avenues need to be put in place to ensure these injustices do not happen. What can we as lawmakers do to assist on the ground? Are the policies and laws being drafted not effective? Are the issues not understood correctly? How can lawmakers ensure that the laws and policies passed are able to be implemented respectively within the departments themselves? Are the institutions public entities? If so they are in service to the public. The fact that public institutions have to be subpoenaed in such a critical matter is problematic. There is a broad framework used to redress and bring transformation yet, these institutions are hindering this. What are consequences of this? What can be done if institutions do not adhere to the laws and processes that are there? What are the recommendations for this? She stated that she believes in equal opportunities fundamentally. More bursaries and opportunities are needed to include women in these spaces. However, even if the vice chancellor is female the rest of management comprises of men. How can this be rectified? Even if there is a female vice chancellor she is a symbolic figure and the decisions are made by a predominantly patriarchal society. She said she is aware that there were institutions that were given the recommendations by the CGE.  Is there a time frame in place for institutions to respond? It is crucial that this happens as there have been rape incidents at Rhodes University, Nelson Mandela University and the University Of Fort Hare. These are universities that have been called yet these incidents persist. Maybe a time frame can be proposed to them. Can a module be enforced to dismantle the patriarchy and the way people think about issues? The focus should be on men and women. Can the minds of perpetrators be tapped into? How can transformation occur?  A student leader recently stated that if security is too strict at residences then it causes sexual frustration. This is unacceptable. The student sent out an apology in the Times Live. Nothing has been done. This is someone who has served in the SRC who young people look up to. The reason these safety measures are enforced is to protect young women. This also helps young men from difficult backgrounds who seek to change the circumstances of their birth. Can the DHET respond to this?                     

Mr R Mavunda (ANC) stated that sometimes the victims withdraw their cases. The case is reported and in the process of investigation the victims withdraw. What does the CGE do about this? One of the committee members indicated that the main students’ needs to be targeted. These students are also causing social disorder in the universities. Another challenge is the lack of enforcement strategies for the policies. Even if they are good policies they need to be implemented. In the list there is a multitude of challenges. However, there must be a starting point. He thanked the CGE for what they have done.  

The Chairperson stated that there needs to be a joint program together with the DHET and the CGE. You cannot make gender equity a lesson aspect of transformation. Both from the HRC report and the CGEs report, one must be careful that this issue is not further relegated from where it is now. The Committee will support the CGE and DHET to ensure that both organisations work together to make this aspect become mainstream in a range of areas. Equity is a range of different things. If the institutions entire culture is not in support of gender equity, then there is a problem. If the institutions budget does not speak gender equality, there will be a lot of reports, but no progress will be made. The majority of students at institutions are women. This fact cannot be underestimated. However, what does this mean and what support can be given? The Committee can give the CGE a long list of things to do, yet the CGE must go further than what has been reported. Monitoring will not necessarily work. If the CGE needed to use a provision of the law to make institutions come forward, then this is an attitude towards what is happening at the institutions. On the transformation part, the Committee will make more proposals to the CGE. In terms of transformation, the proposals will arise out of the Committee’s oversight. For example, what are the different things that students study at institutions? What impact do gender relations have on this when students are struggling on the study side? What can be done? There should be no difficulty in seeing whether these buildings have conformed to all the different equity aspects that should have taken place. Monitoring alone will not work. How many times has the CGE monitored in the last 24 years? Where has this taken to? Does the CGE have enough power to enforce that which is recommended? What steps are being taken to follow through on these recommendations? The worry is that the CGE repeats the monitoring process. On the second part, she admitted that female students have been failed. Sufficient care and support has not been given to young women. In 2018 a young woman committed suicide because she had no support. This must bring shame to everyone. This is not a new issue. It is not the first time that GBV has been experienced at institutions. There is nothing in place at any institution that directs any staff member, vice chancellor or students on what needs to be done. She agreed that during orientation, students need to be informed about gender issues. Where are the policies? What enforcement is being put in place? It must say that firstly there is a constitution that states we must have a society that is safe for everyone. For example, Stellenbosch University does not have adequate measures in place for gender-based violence. This is horrible. What they have stays hidden which cannot be the case for the future. Can we follow the law, and can we find out what the policy is? Furthermore, can we find out by when this policy will be delivered? By when will the DHET give instructions to institutions that the policy will be available in a months’ time.  How many deaths and unsafe situations need to occur before change happens.   Does the CGE have any data on the prevalence currently at all these institutions? This includes the colleges. She applauded the CGE for incorporating colleges. However, the investigation at colleges needs to be done quickly as she has heard horrifying stories. She noted that the Police Committee is having an amendment to the Domestic Violence Act. Can the CGE have input so that higher education is represented in the possible changes? What is the CGEs relationship with the justice system? Does it stretch as far as to say that justice has been given? In the alternative, has the justice system failed young people? Committees can interact with the justice system in Parliament if necessary. The CGE has not spoken about contributing factors. For example, in any township where there are no lights and lots of bushes, crime will be very high. At the beginning of the year, the Committee visited Walter Sisulu University. Accommodation is not adequate. There are other people staying with students who do not belong there. There are strange things being sold where students live. The entrance and exit to the university does not work. Anyone can exit or enter at any time. There is no mention of contributing factors which needs to be discussed. Why is Walter Sisulu University not on that list? Why is the University of Zululand not on that list? All 26 institutions must be investigated. There have been many incidences at Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town. These institutions need to be held to account and the policies need to be enforced. An incident happened at Wits University which was rectified by the Vice Chancellor. The Vice Chancellor instituted a quick response. This does not change the fact that there is no policy. What happened during the 2016 fees must fall protests? Women were pushed through the periphery. There were horrible stories which are not spoken about. Both organisations must come back on the basis that they adequately answer the questions set before by the Committee.

The Higher Education Act talks about an institutional forum. There are structures in place in the institutions that are supposed to be dealing with that. The DHET needs to look at the act. The main vehicle that drives transformation is the institutional forum before it gets to the senate and other bodies. The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education and Training has pointed this out to the DHET when the HRC presented. This important forum is not being picked up on. The Chair and Vice Chancellor are always present at this forum. How is transformation not being affected when the law says otherwise? She asked to clarify what was meant by revive the forum. How can the forum be revived when it’s a legislative aspect?

Response by the Department of Higher Education and Training

Ms Mahlobogoane, stated that there are no consequences for institutions that do not comply. Institutions have their own internal policy framework to work and develop their own policies. If they do not comply, the CGE indicates in the Annual Report who has not complied. However, there are no harsh consequences. On the question of empowerment programs to change mindsets for male and female students, the DHET does not have programs on their own. Individual institutions do have their own programs. The DHET is unsure how effective these programs will be. When institutions report, most of the time they report what makes them look good. Usually challenges are not reported. For example, if you ask institutions to give statistics on sexual harassment that have been reported, they do not respond, because it will make them look bad as an institution. The DHET has requested gender policies from institutions on a number of occasions. Most institutions did not have a policy. The institutions that did have gender policies said they were in a process of review. When the DHET asked institutions for part of the gender policy that was not being reviewed, institutions did not respond. Institutions of higher learning especially universities are required to report to the DHET once a year. The DHET cannot spot challenges immediately after they have happened. Getting a report at the end of year is not as helpful as regular reports. Regular reports will allow the DHET to identify certain problems and enforce interventions. Another challenge observed from the social inclusion and equity unit is that transformation managers in universities do not occupy positions of influence or power. What transformation managers do at the end of the day does not support or “carry water”. They do not sit in high management positions to influence decisions. The DHET needs to look at what positions transformation managers have and what are their powers.      

Ms Sontenjwa stated there has been a challenge with regard to the institutional forum. The DHET has taken notice of this. It is now in the process of reviving the forum so that it can be equipped with the powers it held. There has been meeting with all the chairpersons of the institutional forums to revive the forum. There has been a challenge with how active the forum is within the institution. Some institutions have not given the forum a platform act in terms of the legislation.  

Response by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE)  

Ms Pinkie Sobahle, Commissioner. CGE, stated that when the transformation hearings happen, the CGE starts with numbers first. There a number of women in lower positions rather than higher positions. The question the CGE asked was how women can be promoted. A number of institutions have gender academic programs that promote women up the ranks. The chairperson of the CGE mentioned the contributing factors to what is happening at institutions. What was found at the transformation hearings is that there are some good practices. The whistle practice at Stellenbosch and the 24-hour ringing system at Rhodes University are good practices. These practices improve the institutions environment. What is lacking is institutions sharing good practices with one another. On the question of monitoring, some institutions do not have policies. However, after the transformation hearings, institutions are assisted with bringing in policies. After some time, institutions will be called back to check on their progress. The CGE is introducing a new strategic system where action occurs after monitoring. At some institutions some learners are let down by the police. The CGE follows up all these cases and works with the police.       

Ms Maema stated that it’s going to be in the interest of Parliament to introduce specific legislation for issues surrounding quota. The CGE is a signatory to the SADC protocol which envisaged that as a country across all spheres, South Africa would have reached 50% transformation by 2015. This has not happened. The CGE does transformation across all spheres. It is important that South Africa comes up with specific legislation for quota. She agreed with Mr Kekana’s point on medical centers at institutions opening psychology clinics for support. There are some institutions where there are psychological services. The CGE will look into this to see how much more substantive it can be to ensure all the universities utilize their medical spheres. On the question of comparing private sector transformation to university transformation, the CGE has not done any research. Usually the CGE will zoom into a particular area. The public and private sectors are identified but nothing further happens. Further work needs to be done in this area. The CGE does interact with likeminded institutions. This can be seen in the CGEs budget. When looking at transformation, the CGE works closely with the employment equity commission on some of the processes undertaken. The CGE works with the women’s ministry on programs relating to GBV. CGE engaged with the DHET and the higher education network. On the question of the time frame for recommendations, the CGE usually gives institutions 6 months. Engagements will usually happen every financial year and after the six-month period. The DHET will still need to ensure that there is co-ordination between institutions. This fragmentation is not assisting the CGE on moving forward.            

Ms Nare stated that there is an issue regarding the autonomy of universities. That is why the CGE subpoenaed universities. This happens especially when universities refuse to engage with the CGE by using documentation. The CGE will build on what the Committee has recommended. Furthermore, the CGE is currently pursuing a sampling process at universities to find out what is happening. All 13 universities have been sampled. When a university cannot give information, the CGE will use a subpoena to get the information that is needed. Importantly, the CGE has meditation powers. When the CGE gets into a university, findings are released, and the universities are given six months and thereafter a year to improve their situation. On the question of the quota system, the primary source of information used is the employment equity report. What has been found is that universities put the employment equity reports requirements aside and they have their own recruitment process. Most of the recruitment and selection is male dominated. Stellenbosch University is 73% male. The University of Johannesburg and the University of Witwatersrand are better. One of the concerns at Stellenbosch University is that there is a pay gap. Men are paid better than women. There is secrecy around who earns what. The students at Stellenbosch University want a public health facility at the campus. The CGE will work closely with this. At the University of the Free State, there has been talk about the racial and gender composition of the senate. This is a stumbling block for hindering transformation at the university. The CGE has given certain recommendations. For example, the EEA is very clear on designated groups. Universities do not follow these groupings during recruitment. There is an underlying preference for foreign nationals and discrepancy needs to be answered. These are difficult questions that the vice chancellors have to answer. Furthermore, the council itself must play a role in making sure the quota system complies with the Employment Equity act and that it is implemented in universities. This is because of the role they play in overseeing transformation. On the question of monitoring at the Presidency, South Africa lacks gender disaggregated data and budgeting. For example, Rhodes University’s response to academic support, gender and transformation support is that they cannot afford it. One of the worst institutions that showed up at the Commission through a subpoena was the University of Venda. Only one of the members was female. The CGE had to force them to release a gender transformation plan by saying they could not leave. Sexual harassment of female lecturers is a problem at the University of Venda. Furthermore, there is little support. The University of Venda, University of Free State and Stellenbosch University have problems regarding the protection of LGBTQI students. These students feel vulnerable on campuses and residences. The University of Venda is an ongoing concern. On the question of the withdrawal of cases, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is looking at the withdrawn cases. The CGE has proposed that transformation becomes a key performance indicator for vice chancellors. Transformation must focus on race and gender and other categories stated in section 9 of the Constitution. TUT has adopted this and the University of Johannesburg has improved. Furthermore, the CGE has worked with the University of Witwatersrand to improve their response to sexual harassment and assault. The CGE has approached the Magistrates Commission and the Chief Justice. The CGE can support victims and engage with the magistrate and ask questions specific to a case, but the CGE has been asked not to influence the judiciary. However, the CGE has appealed to the Magistrate’s Commission and the Chief Justice was a moral suasion on the patriarchy. Because patriarchy is a societal issue, South African judges and magistrates will be affected by it. The CGE is asking for the judiciary to morally persuade what is happing in courts. For example, the CGE is working on a case where a 13-year-old was raped. The defense then stated that she was not a virgin. According to law this is secondary discrimination. Sometimes in court lawyers ask, “What were you wearing”. If this is allowed in the precinct it constitutes discrimination. This question implies that the victim is at fault. Furthermore, this inculcates further unconscious hatred toward women by society. The CGE have been raising further issues around the training of the legal fraternity to the Deputy Chief Justice and the Magistrates Commission. The legal fraternity must respond to issues of gender transformation. There have been strong responses by the Deputy Chief Justice and the Magistrates Commission. Police that operate in populous areas who have connections to higher education precincts needs to be looked at. In other universities there are initiatives to address the shebeens around schools. This includes the closure of shebeens around where the university is and what is happening in communities. Perhaps higher education can ensure that there is an established relationship of security around universities. Where a university is in the middle of a populous area such as Soshanguve, the police station needs to be able to function to assist the universities around them. The CGE appreciates the Domestic Violence Act and contributions will be made. On the question of Fees Must Fall, it brings in an influx of vulnerable young women from lower class backgrounds into the universities. The CGE does not only investigate what happens at universities. Universities are worked on to improve what is happening in their precincts. Work is done with vice chancellors. When young and vulnerable women from lower class backgrounds come into the university, they become a vulnerable cohort that universities must be responsible for their protection. The CGE appreciates the initiative of working with the police. Furthermore, first year students, who are vulnerable, should be looked at. This is one of the contributing factors to these students dropping out.                               

Concluding remarks

The Chairperson reiterated that this will not be the last time the transformation and GBV issues will be dealt with. She stated that everyone is in agreement that young women have been failed at the various institutions. She was agreement that the Committee will engage with other committees relevant committees. DHET will have to engage with institutions and come back to the Portfolio Committee to discuss what emergency plan will be put in place stop what is happening at institutions. The Committee will write to all institutions to inform the Committee on why there is no policy framework. This does not mean DHET has no role and function to ensure that can actually happen. You cannot have this policy document floating in the air and it is not landing somewhere. “A lot of money must have been paid to people like Lisa Vetten”. DHET must inform the Committee what plans are being put in place with regards to the fact that the Nelson Mandela University is on strike because of GBV. What is being done to engage with the institutions? She acknowledged what the CGE said about the judiciary and the Magistrates Commission. She stated that she serves on the Magistrates Commission; however, if a magistrate or a judge has made a ruling you must follow the law. TCGE must help those who appeared in court that did not get justice. In this context, the overall person that looks after both the courts and magistrates is the Chief Justice. Therefore, you must engage with the Deputy Chief Justice. The CGE must engage with the institutional forums at institutions. Lastly, what has happened at the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University cannot make people feel that things must be the same. In both instances there were deaths, and these deaths were caused by specific things at the institution. There are more instances that have not reported on other than the two that have been mentioned. This should encourage everyone. Hopefully in the future there will be a far bigger improvement. The CGEs budget is way too small. Furthermore, the Committee hopes that both organisations will come back.           

Mr Kekanastated that the CEO of the South African Engineering Council said that women are not suited for engineering as they are better suited for caring and health services. This had a tone of discrimination. There are women who are very good at math and sciences. There was one woman who completed her qualification in civil engineering but could not find a job. She eventually found a job after two years and faced difficulties. This CEO cannot be left alone. If women are talented they should be absorbed into these skills. Nobody should discriminate against them because they are women. We must eliminate stereotypes    

Ms Bucwa echoed the sentiments of Mr Kekana. She appreciated the work of the CGE regarding developments with the Chief Justice and Magistrates Commission. She recalled shadowing an advocate in her second year of law school. During a rape case, horrible things were said. The fact that this Department has been identified and have noted how vulnerable people can be must be commended. The fact that we are trying to change the system not just legally but also within the judiciary must also be commended.

The meeting is adjourned

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