The Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) held an engagement with two youth organisations that were lobbying and advocating for the institutionalisation of youth development.
The Local Government Youth Development Forum (LGYDF) indicated that, as a multi-stakeholder organisation partnering with state-owned entities, it was planning to institutionalise youth development and was battling to implement youth-oriented programmes with partners like the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), because youth officers in municipalities spent much of their time merely running errands. Through the youth development integrated strategy, they had found a way of integrating the approach because the only time they were seeing energetic youth was during service delivery protests, because they were unemployed. Such energy could be used to build the country through various forms of activities. All the stakeholders they had brought together had been there for a long time, but working in silos, and when one looked at what they were doing, there was no impact on the ground. They were just ticking boxes as a public relations exercise.
The partnership was about institutionalising youth development within municipalities and the House of Traditional Leaders to ensure the initiative saw the light of the day. This would help the economy to flourish and enable South Africa to compete globally. The forum was a partnership to ensure youth development, and partners had to ensure that young people were in charge of their own development in a sustainable way. The forum was also planning to facilitate partnerships between various institutions so that the impact could be seen on the ground. Young people could not be expected to be developed if no investment had been made
The LGYDF pointed out the current ad hoc approach to youth development was not developing people because the youth focus was only around June 16. Youth development should happen for 365 days. The youth structure in municipalities should be shifted from the mayor’s office to the municipal manager’s office so that even when the mayor had left office, the youth development institutions would continue to do their work.
Lead Afrika said radical economic freedom referred to the liberation of the mind, empowerment and intuitive intelligence. Youth unemployment was standing at 53.5%, and these were the people the government, parents and communities were spending money on in order to equip them to be able to participate in the economy. Unfortunately, they were not able to participate.
The organisation said young people had to have a mindset that stated they were the architects of their future. They should not be conditioned, but be independent and innovative thinkers who created their own paths. In order to empower the young, they were going to give them capacity by applying knowledge. Research had shown that 35% of graduates were sitting at home unemployed. Lead Afrika said they wanted to move away from graduates that were looking for jobs to those who were creating jobs out of the knowledge they had acquired during their years of study. They wanted to create new ventures and business people, and impart knowledge to other up and coming youths.
Regarding intuitive intelligence, the plan was to develop wisdom. Because they were a developmental and leadership academy, the kind of leadership they wanted to impart was developmental and collaborative. The breed of youth that would be coming from their institute would be different, because they were going to provide them with intellectual capacity whilst giving them on-the-job experience. They would also provide leadership skills, because it was impossible to be employed or run one’s own venture or business without such skills.
The Committee deliberated on the Customary Initiation Bill. Some of the areas it touched on were around the age requirements for the care-givers and initiates, and compliance with Children’s Act and Constitution; the definition of a medical practitioner; what relevant experience meant; the involvement of medical doctors who had not undergone initiation in the initiation process themselves versus those who had done so; and the involvement of women in oversight committees. Other technical amendments were also discussed.
The Chairperson said the Local Government Youth Development Forum (LGYDF) and Lead Afrika wanted to have a discussion with the Committee as they moved around the country because local youth development was being driven by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), to see what the Committee could do to address some of their challenges, proposals and how they planned to work with COGTA.
Briefing by LGYDF
Mr Thapelo Maleke, President: LGYDF, informed the Committee that his organisation was a multi-stakeholder partnership of state-owned entities and was launched during 2017. It was established because it had been found that youth development within municipalities was non-existent. Municipalities did not have youth development officers or coordinators. Those that were employed were doing the mayor’s personal or private duties, like picking up the child of a mayor from school or taking the car of the mayor to a car-wash. This was an insult to young people.
Through this partnership, the Forum was planning to institutionalise youth development and was battling to implement youth-oriented programmes with partners like the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) because youth officers in municipalities were running errands. Through the youth development integrated strategy, it had found a way of integrating the approach because the only time the Forum was seeing energetic youth was during service delivery protests, because they were unemployed. Such energy could be used to build the country through various forms of activities. All the stakeholders they had brought together had been there for a long time, but working in silos. But when one looked at what they were doing, there was no impact on the ground. They were just ticking boxes for a public relations exercise.
What was important now was the impact, because if they missed it, the country would explode. People were talking of voter apathy amongst the young, forgetting these young people had been sitting at home with diplomas and degrees, while that was allowing the economy to sink. The partnership was about institutionalising youth development within municipalities and the House of Traditional Leaders to ensure the initiative was seeing the light of the day. This would help the economy to flourish and enable SA to compete globally. The forum was a partnership to ensure youth development, and partners had to ensure that young people were in charge of their own development in a sustainable way.
Mr Maleke said inspiration should be drawn from the first president of the democratic South Africa, especially by young people. This inspiration was guided by the five thematic areas of the National Youth Policy 2020. He indicated that when they were visiting provinces, they found that young people knew nothing about the existence of the National Youth Policy. Since 2016 up to now, there had not been any impact because the agencies were working in silos. The focus had been on key performance indicators (KPIs). The forum had been launched at a local government youth development conference, even though the conference was not for the youth, but for youth practitioners. The partnership was about youth development practice to ensure the skilling of young people in order to participate in the economy.
The strategic focus had been derived from this conference. It was clear that everyone was looking for an environment where youth development should be institutionalised at all levels of government. The current ad hoc approach was not developing people because the youth focus was only around June 16. Youth development should happen for 365 days. The youth structure in municipalities should be shifted from the mayor’s office to the municipal manager’s office so that even when the mayor had left office, the youth development institution should continue to do its work. This strategic focus was derived from the resolutions taken at the conference, including issues of professionalising youth work. There must be youth development qualifications, so that skilled people could be hired to do the work. People who were not wanted in the system should not be dumped into youth work, because that had had serious results. This was a critical sector that should be given attention before the situation exploded.
He indicated the programmes would be delivered by partners, not by the forum itself. What the forum wanted to see were programmes that had an impact. The forum would continue with its advocacy work and engage with various institutions like the House of Traditional Leaders and Parliament. It was also planning to focus on capacity building, because people working at these youth development institutions should know what their job entailed and not just draw a salary and run errands. That was why they were engaging with the sector education and training authorities (SETAs).
The forum was planning to facilitate partnerships between various institutions so that the impact could be felt on the ground. Young people could not be expected to be developed if there had been no investment made. They were approaching the Committee to hold entities accountable for their allocations, because there was no money spent on youth. Money was spent only on venue hire and catering during rallies for June 16. Research was another area of focus, because a lot still needed to be done, and that was why they had partnered with academic institutions. Monitoring and evaluation would be done in collaboration with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).
Briefing by Lead Afrika
Advocate N Ntebe, Head of Academy: Lead Afrika, reported there were many leadership academies in the country. What was special with theirs was that it was identified as the leader in local government development for youth. When President Ramaphosa had launched the Yes Programme, he had indicated young people were the ones grappling with misery of unemployment. The focus now needed to be on young people. The chairperson of the forum, in preparing for the youth to take over, had said that procurement should be given to young people because that was meaningful participation in the economy. She said they wanted young people to participate effectively in the economy. When they dissected the meaning of radical economic freedom, it referred to the liberation of the mind, empowerment and intuitive intelligence.
Currently, youth unemployment stood at 53.5%. These were the people on whom the government, parents and communities were spending money on in order to equip them to be able to participate in the economy. Unfortunately, they were not able to participate in it. Lead Afrika felt this was the responsibility of the entire community, not just a specific segment of the community of SA. That was why they were approaching Parliament to say they had new ways of empowering communities. Because they wanted to liberate the mind, it must be remembered the youth were not the prisoners of the past. They must have a mindset that stated they were the architects of their future. They should not be conditioned, but be independent, innovative thinkers who created their own paths.
In order to empower the young, they were going to give them capacity by applying knowledge. Research had shown that 35% of graduates were sitting at home unemployed. They wanted to move away from graduates who were looking for jobs to those who were creating jobs out of the knowledge they had acquired during their years of study. They wanted to create new ventures and business people, and impart knowledge to other up and coming youth. She said the seat they had at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had given them access to all forms of science and innovative technologies. People should make use of these resources availed by the government to ensure economic development. This had given them the advantage, because they were in the innovative hub. They were also a multi-disciplinary university, because they were partnering with all the universities according to the needs they had.
Regarding intuitive intelligence, the plan was to develop wisdom. Because they were a developmental and leadership academy, the kind of leadership they wanted to impart was developmental and collaborative. The breed of youth that would be coming from their institute would be different, because they were going to provide intellectual capacity whilst giving them on-the-job experience. They would also provide leadership skills, because it was impossible to be employed or run one’s own venture or business without leadership skills. The focus was on collaborative leadership, where one would be able to engage at any level and absorb skills from other people so that one could be competitive, and experience knowledge from other avenues to be able to integrate it and develop. Because they would be breeding the youth, they young would experience on-the-job training. Whatever technical skills they would have acquired, they would experiment on how to do what was necessary. By the time they finished their course, they would have been capacitated from both angles.
She pointed out the academy would be working with the SETAs because it had identified there were skills that had not been tampered with in SA. Even though the SETAs were in existence, they were not doing what they were supposed to be doing. They were not even known in rural areas. The only SETA known in rural areas was the Information Technology SETA, though there were various SETAs to capacitate the diverse range of skills within the youth.
The local government sphere, which was at the coal face of service delivery, was in need of all the skills, especially technical skills. They would be feeding this sphere of government with the breed that already existed for on-the-job training, because they had been exposed to technology. Because they were a multi-disciplinary institute, the breed could interact with the professors and mentors in academia who were actually experts in those fields, in order for them to acquire more knowledge where they lacked the know-how or where they needed clarity.
This would bring to the country a secular economy, social cohesion, and environmental development and protection. The local economic development (LED) strategies would now be properly informed and implementable, because most of the time municipalities abandoned projects on the pretext they were not going to be sustainable or that impact assessments were not the right ones. These interventions would capacitate the municipalities and, in turn, benefit the youth by creating new ventures, tapping into the Yes Programme, developing small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs), and participating meaningfully in the economy of the country.
A Member of the Committee asked how the LGYDF was interacting with youth in rural areas because the presentation appeared to be focusing on youth in the urban areas. He further wanted to know how they were intending to interact with youth in different tertiary institutions, to ensure they participated in the economic development of the country when they finished their studies. He remarked the initiative should be on-going until people understood what it wanted to achieve.
Mr Maleke said they had approached the House of Traditional Leaders because they realised that some partners in the partnership were focusing on cost-saving measures which were not clear, because it was disadvantaging young people. They were saying Treasury was telling them to fly in and out the same day and not sleep over. What this meant was that programmes had to be staged closer to airports. This was doing nothing for youth in rural areas who were far from the airports. Interaction with young people in rural areas was hampered by various issues, like youth rallies held closer to the airports because the officials were not allowed to sleep over. The engagement with the House of Traditional Leaders was to ensure that agencies in the partnership were focusing on youth in rural areas. They realised that the focus on urban youth was increasing rural-urban migration. For instance, when the land was given back to the people, there would not be anyone to work on the land because all the young people would be in the urban areas. They were working on memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with the House of Traditional Leaders to ensure programmes were taken to youth in rural areas.
He also added that one of their key strategic areas was research. They had learnt that not much research was done in the youth development space. Most departments had been using desk-top research which was very superficial and not addressing the real issues affecting people. He emphasised that anything that had got to do with youth should be given serious attention, even though people were seeing that as expensive, and that meant people should expect nothing in the future.
Adv Ntebe added that Lead Afrika were using the current resources within the government that had not been utilised effectively. That was why they had a partnership with the NYDA, the Yes Programme, and the SETAS. These were entities that were dealing with youth issues. For instance, they had statistics in terms of unemployed youth and demographics. The forum was using this information from these partners and universities it was working with for outreach and lobbying. That was how they were interacting with the youth.
Mr E Mthethwa (ANC) remarked that the presentation had brought up good issues that had exposed Members to the gaps that were existing in the market. The academy was in a position to conduct research on municipalities that had successful youth programmes and indicate why others were failing. This would help the Committee with facts when it engaged with municipalities.
Another member of the Committee wanted to know if Lead Afrika was a parallel structure of the NYDA, and wanted to know the funding model of the organisation.
Mr Maleke said they had approached the Committee to introduce the forum and its intentions, and to request the Committee to assist them with their partners who were failing to spend their allocations. The forum was not funded, but people were expecting miracles. He further indicated the annual conference had been postponed because their partners had not finalised their commitments for the conference. The youth development programme was not on the KPIs most of the entities. That was why they were requesting the Committee to engage the entities about taking youth development programmes seriously.
A representative from Lead Afrika said the forum was not a parallel structure to the NYDA, but there was an existing partnership between these two organisations to avoid working in silos. Silo operations did not have an impact on the broader community, but ended up satisfying only the KPIs or one’s boss. Silo operations were a waste of resources. The partnership was there to reduce duplication and save resources. The partnership was focusing on impact. As a result, the organisation had indicated to the NYDA that all its (NYDA) offices should be located in municipal offices by 2020, but not in malls, as that was a waste of money. The NYDA could not behave like other government agencies that had big budgets. It did not have money. There was no parallel structure.
Another Lead Afrika representative added their focus was on providing statistical information on youth which would be submitted to the President every five years. That information would speak about the status of young people in the country. This meant that next time they came to the Committee they would need to have information at their finger tips about youth development programmes in different municipalities. Part of the work they were doing was to supplement the work of other entities and point out inefficiencies and failures on the ground, because when most of these entities came to Parliament, they wanted to look good and hide failures. Another area was to reduce the duplication of the work done by other agency partners.
The Chairperson commented that the youth in South Africa was in a developmental stage. They were not doing anything, and that meant they were ready for any action. He said the LGYDF was not alone in addressing this matter -- everyone was concerned about issues facing young people because it was not a good thing to have a population of young people loitering around. If they did not act together, the problems of the young would not be resolved. It was a good thing that the LGYDF and Lead Afrika had met the Committee so that the Committee could lobby on their behalf. He encouraged them to coordinate their activities well.
Mr Hennie Cronje, Director of Lead Afrika, asked if the Committee could assist them to get support from the Obama Foundation, because they were interacting with the Nelson Mandela Foundation with the aim of turning their youth leadership academy into the Nelson Mandela Leadership Academy. The relations Mr Obama had with Mr Mandela were known, and this might open possibilities for approaching the Obama Foundation to fund their initiative, especially if the Obama Foundation had an assurance that the SA government wanted this to happen.
The Chairperson said the Committee would look at the proposal and would try to approach other foundations in the country. He commented that many youth clubs in the townships had collapsed, even though they had given a start to many high profile people, and recreating them would be a good idea.
Mr J Dube (ANC) asked the LGYDF to give the Committee a clear organogram, because it would be difficult for the Members to help secure them funding without it. The Committee would like to see the LGYDF funding structure, the breakdown of funding and where the business operated from, so there was clarity about the organisation it was dealing with.
The Chairperson remarked that dealing with young people was critical. The LGYDF was doing well and as a young organization, it would grow. It was important to address the concerns of the young because they could not be avoided, and Parliament would not exist without young people.
Customary Initiation Bill: Deliberations
The Committee went through the Customary Initiation Bill clause by clause.
Members agreed on the title of the Bill.
Mr J McGluwa (DA) referred to the definition of medical practitioner, and pointed out that during the public hearings in Port Elizabeth people had wanted to know how the Committee was going to ensure that this would not involve a dentist. None of the health legislation used the term ‘doctor,’ but the legislation (Act) categorised health practitioners according to the bodies they belonged to with different regulations. The one that related to the medical doctors that they wanted to be involved in the initiation process, was called Regulations Relating to the Registration of Persons as General Practitioners and Family Physicians. He said they would be proposing a new definition for medical practitioners linked to the Act and regulations, to ensure they were talking of medical doctors for the process they were interested in.
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, said this was something they had noted in respect of the Traditional Health Practitioners Act. There were similar things in appearance. They had found that there were two pieces of national legislation that were similar in nature, but the definitions would be looked at.
Mr McGluwa said traditional health practitioners, according to the Traditional Health Practitioners Act, were supposed to have been registered, but the provisions had not yet come into operation. This was forcing them to use interim clause 41 to arrange for the interim registration of traditional health practitioners.
With regard to the clause that stated that the traditional health practitioner should be 40 years of age and have relevant experience, Committee Members wondered what was meant by ‘relevant experience.’
Mr McGluwa suggested this should be left to the provinces to decide, because some would say five years while others would prefer 10 years.
Ms Ngema said there was a proposed insertion to reconsider the issue of 40 years, because it might exclude those already practising and having the required relevant experience. The age could be reduced to 35, but this was something the Committee had to decide on.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) said one could be 40 years old, with no relevant experience, while there could be a person younger than 40 but with more relevant initiation experience.
A Member suggested the Committee should go for the 40 years and relevant experience requirement, because people were mature enough at the age of 40. He also suggested the 40 years’ requirement should not be applied to the traditional surgeons.
The Chairperson said that during the public hearings, people indicated that if the age requirement was put at 40, many of the people who were doing this job already would be excluded and disqualified because they were young and had been to the mountain already. Many provinces were against 40, because being 40 did not mean one was experienced. It was only Limpopo that had accepted the 40 years’ requirement. The requirement of the relevant experience was there to cover everyone, because it had been indicated there were young people who were successful in both these areas of initiation. It must be remembered there were oversight committees that were tasked to look at both the age and experience of the care-givers and traditional surgeons. The legal minds should just find a way of crafting the matter of age and relevant experience better. The matter of 40 years would disqualify many young, successful people who were practising the one or other area of initiation once the Bill became law, especially in a province like the Eastern Cape, where people had been vocal about it. He suggested the Committee should stick to the 40 years’ requirement, but what was more important was experience.
Mr Mthethwa said the matter of experience should be linked to the number of regimens or seasons one had overseen, because one could never be a principal without being a care-giver first. To be a principal, one had to know what the care-giver was supposed to do. The legal advisors should draft it in such a way that the principal should be knowledgeable of the processes taking place, because if they said three years’ experience, for example, the calculation of three years from the KwaNdebele side would differ with that of the Eastern Cape, because in KwaNdebele the initiation happened once in four years, while in the Eastern Cape it was done during the winter and summer periods. The principal in the Eastern Cape would be getting experience more quicly than the one in KwaNdebele. The one in KwaNdebele would see the next initiation after four years, and that would be his first experience, so the calculation of the years had to consider the dynamics of the communities.
Mr McGluwa suggested the Committee should consider the issue of relevant experience in terms of, or by the calculation of, the number of seasons that one had served, and that would cover everyone.
Many Members were of the view the legal advisors should also state that one had to go through the required stages to become a principal to avoid or limit contestation of the position, because everyone would want to become a principal and that would cause a lot of havoc.
Mr McGluwa suggested the 40-year requirement should not apply to medical practitioners, but the requirement that stated that all medical doctors and practitioners involved in initiation should first have undergone initiation themselves, should remain as it was.
A Member indicated they should be careful about the issue of involving medical doctors who had not undergone initiation, because that would cause serious problems. While it would be a good idea to work with those medical doctors who had undergone it themselves because they knew what that process meant to the people, the state should not be stopped from deploying a medical doctor who had not undergone initiation in case of emergencies, if the preferred one was not available. He suggested that the clause on that requirement should be removed or reworded.
The Chairperson indicated it would be unfair for initiates to wait for a medically trained doctor who had undergone initiation and who was, for example, in Cape Town, while there was a medically trained doctor available at Qumbu where the initiates were. No state would accept such a requirement.
The Committee agreed.
Another Member informed the Committee about an incident in the Eastern Cape, where initiates had refused the involvement of police and medical practitioners when one sick initiate had had to be removed from the initiation site until public order police were called. He said a lot of work needed to be done to educate the communities while, at the same time, taking into consideration the dynamics of the communities.
A Member wanted to know what the view of the Department of Health was regarding the Bill.
A Parliamentary legal advisor indicated the Department had done nothing, but only commented on general issues regarding circumcision and health matters. It hadh indicated it had not had enough time to go through the Bill.
The Chairperson stated there were provincial oversight committees to coordinate and ensure that all important things were available and done properly during the initiation period.
Regarding the involvement of women in initiation, Members agreed that women could not be involved in all the structures governing initiation, even though there was initiation for young girls. At least their number in the oversight committees should be kept to three.
The Chairperson said that during public hearings, many women had participated in the discussions. There had never been an issue about their participation in the matter, but it had been indicated they could not go where there was a huge presence of men. At the national level, at least, three seats should belong to women.
Mr McGluwa suggested that the line “information related to the nature and cause of death of the initiate” should be changed to “information relating to the nature and cause of hospitalisation and any loss of life of the initiate,” because it appeared that it was encouraging people to die.
The Committee agreed on these issues.
A Member wanted to know if water provisions were going to be made if a water stream near the initiation site had contaminated water.
The Chairperson said that should be left to the oversight committees, the municipality, COGTA, and the district health department, to ensure no one was abused.
Mr C Matsepe (DA) suggested the clause that dealt with the payment that should be made to the municipality for municipal services should be revised, because during the public hearings most people were not clear about it. Currently, no municipal services were rendered to the initiation schools, especially in rural areas.
Mr McGluwa said the principle was that the traditional principal had to pay if services were rendered.
A Member indicated that if a traditional principal was conducting an initiation school, it was his responsibility to request assistance from the municipality if some of the initiates were indigent, because no one was allowed to be kicked out of an initiation school. There would then be an engagement with the municipality.
Mr McGluwa pointed out that from the discussions they had with municipalities, it had been agreed it was the municipality that should decide on the nature of assistance to be provided, depending if it had the resources to do so, because some of the municipalities were very poor. The rule stated one was expected to pay, but if one was not able to, one would be exempted.
The Committee agreed to look at the clause, and indicated that if the traditional principal could not pay, the traditional principal would be exempted. However, it would be difficult to determine how much one would have to pay.
Ms Ngema indicated the concerns raised by Members were covered in the Bill regarding exemptions and the person responsible to get into an agreement with the municipality when assistance was required.
A Member pointed out that before one started an initiation school, one had already engaged with the relevant stakeholders in time. Where he came from, they always engaged with the municipality, and it would make sure the road to the initiation school was driveable so that it could be visited when needed. The municipality would give them water at a reduced fee if there was no water stream nearby. Those were the agreements that were entered into with their municipality (Thembisile Hani Municipality), even though it was poor. What was important was the time for submitting the application so that things could be arranged in time, three months before the initiation school started.
The Committee agreed that the cap on the amount to be paid by the traditional principal would be determined by the Minister if the rendered services were used, especially for those who had money. It felt that not everything should be paid by the government. Those who were millionaires should pay, because it was appearing that the establishment of initiation schools was a money-making business.
The Chairperson referred to the clause dealing with traditional surgeons, and said there were concerns during the public hearing that the Bill was making them inferior if they had to work under the supervision of a medical doctor. That was an issue where the Committee had to find a balance.
A Member suggested that operations should be done by certificated and registered traditional surgeons. Those who were not registered should be trained and be certificated.
Ms Ngema informed the Committee the Bill covered their concerns regarding traditional surgeons and the involvement of medical doctors.
The Chairperson said the Committee should ensure there was a balance of the forces in the society, and should look at the dynamics of the communities.
Ms Ngema referred to the consent and 16 years’ requirement, and said the Bill ensured there was compliance between the Constitution and Children’s Act. It was therefore safer to maintain the status quo for the requirement of 16 years of age for initiation. She reasoned that the Children’s Act was a piece of legislation in place dealing with issues related to children. There was a principle in law that stated that a specific law on a specific subject or portfolio trumped all the other laws, should there be a conflict. Unfortunately, Section 146 of the Constitution did not go as far as to indicate when there would be a conflict between two national laws. The Children’s Act was already stating that customary initiation in terms of culture was prohibited, unless the person was 16 and above. The Children’s Act, in terms of issues related to children, therefore trumped any other provision. However, with it there were issues in terms of section 12 that gave an upper hand to circumcision in terms of religion, as opposed to circumcision in terms of culture. South African law had given an exemption, that religious circumcision to under 16s could be done, but for purposes of culture it had been curtailed or prohibited, and that was the legal issue. That was the legal issue that had been created elsewhere, but in her view, there was that specific legislation that overrode any other conflict. There was not much the Committee could do at the moment, because the Children’s Act did not fall under the domain of the Committee. Because it was existing legislation, the Committee could not come up with new legislation contrary to it, and it would not be able to legislate against it, even though it had been acknowledged that it had brought unconstitutionality to life. So the Bill had to be compliant with the principles of the Constitution. The issue of the age of 16 and conditions attached and the way the Bill was crafted, was to ensure the Bill was compliant with the Constitution and Children’s Act. Therefore, it would be safer to maintain the status quo.
The Chairperson said that large parts of the country would continue doing what they had been doing, whether the law was there or not, and that was the dilemma they would face as a Committee. He reminded the Committee there was a reason why the Children’s Act was strict about 16 years.
Mr McGluwa said the Children’s Act was making provisions for medical circumcision to prevent something that might happen, but there were parents who were taking their children to medical doctors for no medical reasons.
Mr K Sithole (IFP) said the Bill should be explicit about other things. He had observed that some parents took their children to hospitals for circumcision and then later took them to an initiation school. The traditional principals had reservations about such things, and he had had fights with people who were into those practices.
Mr McGluwa stated the matter was covered by the Children’s Act. He added that the age issue was very important and that the Committee had to adhere to it and report the matter to the Justice Committee for consideration.
The Chairperson said this would consume a lot of the Committee’s time, because it could not lower the age limit. The Committee had to retain what was there in terms of the existing law. For the purpose of assisting future Members of Parliament, they could look into that. Some of the traditional laws had been signed, and there were declarations already. The problem was that the northerners would continue doing things they way they had been doing them before, even though there were laws in place. Policing them would cause havoc in the society, because they would explain very well the rationale for sending 12 and 14 year-olds to the initiation school. What they would be saying could not be rejected. The only thing the Committee could do was to retain the status quo as per the advice of the legal advisor, and take the matter to be discussed in the Chamber.
Mr Dube said that the matter of retaining the status quo was undermining African culture. Laws should not be regulated for regulation’s sake, because at the end of the day there would be no compliance. For instance, in Kokstad they would continue doing things the way they had been doing them because they did not have casualties. Processes were smooth for them. Religious people were also allowed to do the very same thing the way they had been doing it. Politicians should try to look at this matter from various angles.
The Chairperson said there were many reasons for this process – medical, religious and cultural purposes. He highlighted that many parents preferred the medical route for clinical reasons when the child was three years old and initiation would come later, because one could not initiate a three or seven-year-old boy to be a man. That would be a disaster. That was the problem the Committee was facing, because the majority of South Africans were going for this practice, and it should be left like this. There were other processes and procedures to decide on, outside of what the Committee was trying to do now.
Mr Mthethwa referred to the clause on offences, and wanted to understand if the Committee was correct to impose penalties for offences because it was not its job, but that of the judges.
Ms Ngema clarified that this provision created an offence, and an offence had to be an offence when it arose out of common law-- and that was the duty of the legislature. What a court implements and enforces arises out of the mandate of the legislature. Every other offence and its punishment arises out of the national legislation, and if it is on provincial terrain, it arises from provincial laws, just like by-laws of local government. In this instance, the legislature was within its mandate to establish or create an offence and regulate and express how a punishment should be. But the safer route was to allow the legal team to look at this matter again, and should there be a necessity, an amendment would be done to address the concerns of the Committee.
A Member pointed out that there were already people who were not recognised as traditional leaders who were giving out permission for the establishment of initiation schools. Before a person underwent initiation, there must first be a school established before one attends it. The first offence was that of a person conducting a school under the guise of being a traditional leader, and that was what they wanted to curb. The only way to curb that was to come up with stricter means of punishment. It was not about establishing an initiation school, but breaking the social fabric of the affected community. Initiation schools should be seen as structures promoting social cohesion in the communities. The Children’s Act was another problem that dictated a specific age limit, from which they could not run away. However, the problem he was raising was around unqualified people conducting initiation schools without permission, and that was why one would find under-age children who were dying in these types of initiation schools.
The Chairperson concluded that it seemed clear the Committee had wrapped up what it needed to do, even though there were still matters that would be reviewed by the legal team which would improve those areas the Committee had agreed to, and then adopt the Bill. The Committee would meet again with the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) on the Bill, and was confident there would be no major amendments.
The meeting was adjourned.
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