The Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency could not adopt its Legacy and Annual Reports because they were incomplete and would be adopted in the new year. The Committee agreed this would be regarded as work in progress.
The Committee further voiced its extreme dissatisfaction and disappointment over the cancellation of a study tour to the Scandinavian countries. Members felt that Parliament had been embarrassed because of inefficiencies and this process had been disrespectful to the countries they planned to visit. The notice for the cancellation of the trip was given very late to the members after they have been informed all the documents for the trip were signed. Members were of the opinion the fault was not theirs, but fell squarely on the Office of the Speaker. The members agreed the office of the Chairperson should take the matter up with the Speaker because they felt Parliament has undermined them, and that the budget allocated for the cancelled trip should be used for the planned January 2019 study tour.
Members said the study tour had to happen before 7 February otherwise MPs will not be released by their parties after then as it was close to election time.
Cancellation of Study Tour
The Chairperson asked members if they had accepted the cancellation of the trip to Norway and Sweden. She said the Office of the Speaker did not sign some of the important documents. The documents were signed at the last minute. She indicated the timing for the trip was wrong though that was not the fault of the Committee. It was because of meetings called by parliament unceremoniously. The Committee would send a letter to the Chair of Chairpersons to acknowledge what happened and ask that the Committee be given a chance to go overseas at the beginning of the year when there are fewer meetings.
Ms D Robinson (DA) said she was concerned about the inefficiency of the Office of the Speaker. Many documents were lying in that office unattended to and notices were being given very late. As members they accepted what happened, but with objections. She seconded the proposal that the Committee should go to Norway before SONA and not interrupt the work of Parliament. The Committee needed to do what it had to do before 7 or 14 February 2019 because if it was closer to election time, Members’ respective parties would not release them. She added that there were many lessons to be learnt from the Scandinavian countries, especially on decriminalisation of sex workers and violence against women.
Mr T Nkonzo (ANC) agreed with Ms Robinson’s idea.
The Chairperson stated that the cancellation of the trip at the last minute infuriated the Committee and they were extremely disappointed.
Ms Robinson remarked this was extremely disrespectful to the nations they planned to visit and now everything has been cancelled. Parliament has been embarrassed due to inefficiency and this was not acceptable to the countries they planned to visit.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) commented there were always problems when they have got to visit other countries for study tours to learn about what makes women dignified in the countries they planned to visit, especially to know challenges facing them in terms of sexual abuse, sex work, and violence against women. She suspected the problem was when they submitted the requests or proposals for the study tours. If research was made in time and the purpose of the visit was scrutinized, they would not have cancelled the trip. She supported the idea to go on the study tour next year in January.
Ms G Tseke (ANC) agreed with the members and suggested the office of the Chairperson should be allowed to take up the matter with the Office of the Speaker because Parliament was undermining the Committee. Going to Sweden has to be part of the legacy report. The budget that was meant for the trip has to be used in January for the study tour.
Ms Khawula wondered whether the Office of the Speaker had researchers to find out what they plan to do in the countries they would be visiting before they leave South Africa because it looked like there was no real decision taken for them not to go to Norway and other countries.
Ms Neliswa Nobatana, Committee Secretary, pointed out the initial trip was postponed. Norway wanted to accommodate the Committee on 8 November 2018, but the date had to be changed because of meetings in Parliament.
Ms Khawula stated she got the impression that when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died, it was then decided they could not leave the country for the study tour. But now they were told the Norwegian Parliament was in recess. She wondered whether the decisions taken were in favour of the members or decision-makers.
Ms Nobatana explained that communication was relayed to the Swedish Embassy, but the problem came when the Committee changed the date. Sweden replied that it was not available for the date proposed by the Committee.
Ms Khawula stated it was important to be informed in time when trip logistics have been finalised. She added that study tours were very important because they learned a lot from other countries.
The Chairperson stated when the changes were made, the Committee was notified. It was not the fault of the Committee, but that of the powers that be. Sweden was having its elections, so the Committee could not go there. There has been constant communication with the Embassy. The Chair of Chairpersons and Speaker were aware of the challenges. The shocking thing was the last minute decision taken for them not to go after they were told all the documents were signed.
Committee Legacy and Annual Reports
Ms Nobatana informed the Committee the Legacy and Annual Reports were not completed and the Committee would not be able to adopt them. She said the Legacy Report mentioned no study tour has been undertaken, but that would be noted once the study tour has taken place. She asked members to forward her any information they would like to add to the reports.
Members agreed in unison that this was work in progress, which would be adopted next year.
The meeting was adjourned.
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