Outcomes of 2019 Women’s Parliament; Caucus mandate and its possible redefinition

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

19 September 2019
Chairperson: Ms N Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Caucus was first briefed on the outcomes of the 29 August 2019 Women’s Parliament. The theme for the Women’s Parliament this year was Gender and Institutionalism and the Women’s Parliament tried to look at the gender machinery as a response to gender-based violence. Within this theme, the Women’s Parliament said that it wanted to look specifically at issue of resourcing gender based violence, because it had become a very critical issue in the context of the economic constraints and the cuts that government has had to make in service delivery. The Women’s Parliament wanted to think about creative ways of how it could specifically resource the National Strategic Plan on gender-based violence and Femicide.

The briefing also touched on the presidential summit on gender-based violence and femicide that took place in November 2018. The briefing noted the challenge of resourcing and budgeting, key areas of agreement around strengthening of the National Gender Machinery, action areas emerging from the Women’s Parliament, priority areas of the Women’s Parliament, political accountability and oversight mechanisms.

Members were then briefed on the Focus Areas as suggested by the Steering Committee on 25 July 2019. The suggested focus areas were informed by the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus Legacy Report, the Sixth Term Government Priorities as well as taking into consideration other instruments. The Steering Committee had suggested the following as areas of focus for the sixth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, which were in no order of preference decriminalisation of sex work; Women in politics; sanitary dignity project; Gender based violence and Femicide; strengthening of the national gender machinery; Gender responsive budgeting; Women and health; and Building relations with stakeholders. The briefing then elaborated on these suggested focus areas.

The Caucus was briefed on its draft programme for the third term covering 9 October 2019 to 6 December 2019. 31 October 2019 and 28 November 2019 were secured as meeting days for the Caucus. The Steering Committee would meet on Thursdays before party caucuses.

Members engaged in robust, at times chaotic, discussion with some expressing that the issues highlighted should be engaged as they were well known while other Members first had input to make to the documents. It was said the Caucus could not sit and talk shop when work was needed on the National Gender Machinery, holding government accountable and work done by the SA Police Service.

The Chairperson requested that Members be patient and that enough time is given for Members to study the documents presented including the Legacy Report of the previous Caucus. Input can be given on these documents and Members could then engage on the substantive issues to do the process justice. It was said it was important that the documents were well consulted by Members in their constituencies and parties and when the Caucus reconvenes, the focus areas can be finalised and a five-year plan developed. Members urged that documents be received timeously so that Members had ample time to engage them and time was not wasted at Caucus meetings. another Member requested that women and children with disabilities were also adequately covered by the focus areas presented.

Members said everyone was serious about tackling gender-based violence with urgency. It was urged that Members of the Caucus put aside their political affiliations to work together as a unit.

The Chairperson resolved that Members need to go back and engage with the document and ensure tht by its next meeting, the Caucus was ready to engage the issues.

Meeting report

Before the meeting began, the Chairperson proposed that a moment of silence be observed and a short prayer be said for Deputy Minister Bavelile Hlongwa who had passed away on the weekend. She said that what makes her want to say a short prayer is that the country is facing a lot of challenges. She was aware that it may not be the belief of everyone present, but as a woman and mother she felt that sometimes God needs to be invited through prayer to help with certain situations that individuals cannot overcome alone. The Chairperson extended an invitation that any woman present at the meeting could lead everyone in prayer. She hoped that she was not inconveniencing anyone with her request.

Before the prayer, a Member raised a point that it was important that everyone’s religious beliefs be recognised and that anyone who was from a different religious denomination should be consulted about whether or not they were comfortable with a prayer being said or if they would prefer doing something in line with their own religious belief during the time of prayer. Because everyone agreed with the proposal put forward by the Chairperson she then asked everyone to rise so that the prayer could be said. A prayer was said by a Member present.

The Chairperson said that as women it was important that they ask themselves questions as to whether they were women enough, whether they were being good mothers to their children and giving guidance to their children husbands and country. She said that if women did not do that, the pain of the consequences would be felt by women.

The Chairperson said that it was her hope that as women of the caucus and as parliamentarians they would join hands and stand together to get rid of gender-based violence and femicide. She said it was the responsibility of women to educate everyone around them about gender-based violence because every day they were losing children and women because of it.

The Chairperson brought it to the attention of the Members that the day before the meeting, the President had called for a joint sitting in order to address Members of Parliament and the country about gender-based violence and that he had said the following in the meeting: “I have called this special joint sitting of the Houses of Parliament, because there is a dark and heavy shadow across our land. Some people may take this lightly, because it is happening next door or somewhere else but this is a serious thing that it happening. South Africa used to be the best country, where each and every person will feel that they belong, but now there is something emerging and it needs us, all of us. It needs every one of us. Not here in Parliament only even outside. Our country, you as women and our children are under siege. Let us put our political differences aside. Let us put the colour of our skins aside and fight together this animal and I believe that if we can be united, we can be focused and give it our all and at the end of the day we will see the fruits of this.”

The Chairperson said that with those few words Members were welcomed. She asked everyone present at the meeting to feel free and participate. She said that as people, everyday is a learning experience and that the capacity of understanding issues is not the same and that it is important to give one another an opportunity to learn because learning is a process. Before turning to the agenda, the Chairperson reminded everyone present that they should remember that the House had lost a Member, the Deputy Minister who passed on. She said that she was aware that she was not the only one who passed away and that there were four other people who were present at the accident scene who passed on. Those four people were not Members of Parliament.

Turning to the agenda, she began by saying that there are women and children who are being raped and killed and cognizance needs to be taken of this. She said that the Members needed to dedicate the Caucus to those women and children, meaning that the Members present need to come up with solutions that will get rid of gender-based violence in reference to what the President was talking about the day before. She said that the caucus was going to implement and oversee each and every department and institution to make sure that progress is seen by South Africa as a whole. This will instill pride in the women of Parliament because they will be able to say that they did something to bring about change in the country and different communities.

The Chairperson thanked everyone for coming to the meeting and said that she hopes the Caucus will deliberate on how to address the challenges that are being faced by women in South Africa. She strongly felt that the second item on the agenda should be apologies, which was not included. She checked with the Secretary to see if there were any apologies received and the Secretary confirmed that 16 apologies were received so far. The Chairperson said that the caucus only needed 15 apologies from Members to curate and that the apologies were accepted as they were. Members were asked if they had anything to say concerning the apologies and there was no response indicating that the Members were fine with the tendered apologies.

Looking at item three of the agenda which was the outcome of the 29 August 2019 Women’s Parliament, the Chairperson said that the overview would be presented by the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus Researcher.

Briefing on the Outcome of the 29 August 2019 Women’s Parliament

Ms Joy Watson, Senior Researcher, Parliament, thanked the Chairperson and greeted all Members and guests present.  She began by saying that it was very strategic that the women’s caucus was being held to discuss the issues that came out of the Women’s Parliament; the morning after the President addressed everyone on the issue of gender-based violence because the Women’s Parliament dealt with the issue of gender-based violence at its heart.

The theme for the Women’s Parliament this year was gender and institutionalism and the Women’s Parliament tried to look at the gender machinery as a response to the gender-based violence. She said that within this theme, the Women’s Parliament said that it wanted to look specifically at issue of resourcing gender based violence, because it had become a very critical issue in the context of the economic constraints and the cuts that government has had to make in service delivery. The Women’s Parliament wanted to think about creative ways of how it could specifically resource the National Strategic Plan on gender-based violence and Femicide.

She said that this plan, as Honorable Members may know, came from the Presidential summit on gender-based violence and Femicide that took place in November 2018. The caucus had participated in that summit and helped craft the declaration from the outcomes. What the summit committed to was that in October 2019, the President would release the National Strategic Plan. She said that for the first time, what was very exciting is that there is a plan that is written by a cross-sector of departments, but importantly that it is written very closely in consultation with people outside government, from civil society. Some of the people that took part in the Total Shutdown march are very involved with helping to craft that plan.

Ms Watson said that the summit sought to look at the responses to gender-based violence and to look at what the challenges are that are being faced by women and how the Women’s Parliament can look at new and innovative ways to address that. Members were referred to page two of the resource pack which had the objectives of the summit set out there. The Women’s Parliament came from the summit with the establishment of the interim committee on gender based violence. She said that the committee was comprised of people from government and civil society and that they were the ones busy drafting the National Strategic Plan.

The idea that was adopted by the President at the Summit, was that going forward, there would be a fulltime committee on gender based violence that would be established. There is an interim structure until October 2019. But as from October, Ms Watson said that there will be a fulltime committee that would lead and co-ordinate the committees’ responses to gender-based violence.

She said one of the things that the interim committee has been grappling with is that while resources are a challenge, what research in fact shows is that if the committee spends money, as expensive as it is on addressing gender-based violence now, in the longer term the committee would save money because the cost to society in terms of what violence costs to it –  things like access to services, healthcare, the days lost when people are not well and cannot go to work and cannot contribute to the economy. Finding the resources is a cost saving device for society in the long term and it is just better for the psyche and well being of our society.

Ms Watson said that she wanted to briefly mention some of the key areas of agreement around strengthening of the National Gender Machinery (NGM). The previous Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had held a very strong view, that if it dealt with the problems that are  currently making the NGM unable to deliver on its mandate, fixing that problem would result in fixing a lot of other problems because if that structure was working properly it would be the structure that takes care of everything else. She said that the caucus is aware of what some of those challenges are. There has been work done by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) to review the machinery. The Department of Women had also done some work to review the machinery.

She said that, the caucus had had different structures within the machinery say to them over the past few years that there was no co-ordination and that they were not meeting anymore. The structures said that they had an overlap in their mandates, lacked authority and that they do not have adequate resourcing.

Ms Watson said that all the action areas she was talking to now, come from the Women’s Parliament and were in fact the basis for the speech by Ms Sylvia Lucas, the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). Ms Watson said that after the President’s address, the Chairperson of the NCOP committed Parliament to look at some of these action areas. The action areas around the NGM were that Parliament should facilitate the review of the NGM and draw on the work that it has already done – the work of the CGE and Department of Women. This must be pulled together,  as well as the inputs of civil society in trying to understand what it is that is blocking the work of the machinery .In doing this she said that Parliament has a responsibility to engage further with the structures of the NGM, meaning that Parliament needed to create a space for having this conversation.

Ms Watson said that those were the two action areas around the NGM in terms of addressing gender-based violence and in terms of the national strategic plan. Participants at the Women’s Parliament made it very clear that the extent of gender-based violence in our society has become a national crisis that can be described as a form of war on women’s bodies, but very specifically they are starting to expand on the definitions of how we see women. She said that Parliament needed to look specifically at the violence on people in the LGBTI groups – bi-sexual women, transgender women and ensure that in Parliament’s own plans they are taking congnisance of the issues of those groups.

The priority areas that come from the Women’s Parliament that were mentioned by the Deputy Chairperson of the NCOP the day before, that cut across the groups of LGBTI persons, were as follows; in the first area of legislation and policy, there was a very strong sentiment, that what they do not need is Parliament to focus on developing new policy and legislation. One comment in this regard was that the process of rewriting the women’s charter which the Parliament had been thinking about was not necessary. Two woman’s charters already existed that served that purpose. Instead, the key challenge that was facing Parliament was making sure that the policy and legislation that they have is properly implemented because the problem is with the implementation.

She said that there were in fact two specific areas of legislation that they talked about for new legislation. The one around femicide which is the killing of woman by her intimate partner and to make sure that it is a crime in its own right. The second area that had emerged during the discussions was the need to have legislation that establishes the Steering Committee on gender-based violence, because when Parliament previously had a council for gender based violence it fell apart because it did not have any real oversight team, and so to avoid that going forward, they needed to give the new structure a mandate to co-ordinate gender-based violence legislative power to take on this role.

Then there was the issue of political accountability, where people felt that there was a need for improvement of political accountability and leaders being held accountable for delivery and at a Parliamentary level one of the ideas generated was that it might be a good idea to think about having a specific committee that is a one stop shop for gender-based violence. So instead of having the Portfolio Committee on police dealing with the policing aspects and justice dealing with the justice aspects, there would be one committee that looks across all those issues – shelters, healthcare services and everything else and that that might facilitate their own progress in Parliament.

Ms Watson said that they then looked at the issue of oversight mechanisms and it was felt in the discussions that the oversight that are provided to victims of gender-based violence has got to be strengthened. She said that they heard this in many of the responses that the President gave that services such as police, healthcare and social development need to be strengthened and the very specific suggestion made, is that up until now, the way in which oversight was being done is that the different committees were doing different things. The police committee will go look at the services in police and justice will go look at the services in court .Parliament has never had their own oversight plan over a five year period to look at how they co-ordinate their oversight.

Ms Watson said that the idea was that if Parliament is going to have a national plan for government which is released in October, the question is what will it do if Parliament has its own plan that mirrors that plan, which says that over five years as Parliament this is how we are going to do our oversight and how we are going to co-ordinate it and give it teeth.

Then there was the issue of linking service delivery to the government budget. There was a view to this that Parliament needs to improve on how they engage in gender responsive budgeting and hold government accountable to providing services and integrating combating gender violence into their budget. The work of the previous fifth Parliament, the previous Portfolio Committee on Women as well as the previous Multi-Party Women’s caucus, really struggled with this because the National Treasury was very reluctant to do it and kept saying that they cannot do it because they need a policy framework that needed to come from the Department.

At this point a Member interrupted to ask where Ms Watson was reading from.

Ms Watson responded to say she was reading from page four bullet point five, where it said that service delivery should be linked to government budgets.

Ms Watson said that there was tremendous frustration in the Portfolio Committee (PC) and the Women’s Caucus from trying to really make this work, but having officials in government that had counter responses around why it was complicated. But now that the President has said that it must happen, Parliament must pick this issue up and find ways of re-engaging with Treasury especially if the President has announced that there was going to be an additional fund of R1 billion set aside for services. Parliament needs to be able to see where that money is going in terms of how they oversee and monitor it. If they do that, government has to budget in a way where Parliament can track that money. She admitted that it has been very difficult to track where the money goes up to this point, unless the departments are called in and asked specific questions.

She said that that relates to the last bullet point on page four, which was to ring fence budgets for gender based violence. She explained that what they meant by ring fenced is that, if money is allocated for gender-based violence it must be kept in a line item for that specific thing. What was discovered through the work of the Committees in the previous Parliament is that sometimes departments will have a line item like training and then in that line item on training you will get the line training for sexual offences or domestic violence. But they cannot tell how much they spent on the gender-based violence training specifically because it is in a broader item for training. So what the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus is saying, is that they need to be clearer and detailed in being able to track that money so that Members of Parliament are able to exercise their oversight in this regard.

The last point around the budget was that Parliament needs to start engaging with the costing of providing services for both addressing violence, but also looking at prevention.  If Parliament engages with the costing then it will know on the one hand what it costs and then be able to cross tabulate that against what government departments are budgeting. Parliament will then be able to see that, for example, such amount is needed for shelters vs. what has actually been allocated – this will strengthen oversight.

When the proposed focus areas for the caucus are presented, Members will be able to see that gender-based violence is number one on that list and that the reason for it was so Members can tell the task team whether these should be the focus areas. She said that this specific one has been mandated specifically to the Caucus, saying that when the President responded to the marches that happened to Parliament, he said that he would ask Parliament to take up the matter and that he had said this again in his speech the day before. The President had handed it over to the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, and that it was a matter of priority to think about how to specifically make the ideas happen and take them forward and give them the urgency that the President has asked them to be given going forward.

The Chairperson thanked Ms Watson and went on to address the Members. She explained that the presentation Ms Watson had given was an overview of what the Members of the caucus were expected to do. Referring to item number two on the agenda the Chairperson said that it will be the Content Advisor who will present the focus areas. The Chairperson suggested that after the Content Advisor does her presentation, it will be advisable that the Members of the Caucus go back and reflect on the presented focus areas, because this will assist Members to have a better understanding of what is expected of it as a Caucus.

Presentation of the Focus Areas by the Content Advisor

Ms Tembakazi Mpapela, Multiparty Women’s Caucus Content Advisor, presented the focus areas as suggested by the Steering Committee on 25 July 2019 and confirmed on 4 September 2019. The suggested focus areas were informed by the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus Legacy Report, the Sixth Term government priorities as well as taking into consideration other instruments like domestic laws and regional and international obligations.

She said the Steering Committee had suggested the following as areas of focus for the sixth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, which were in no order of preference:

  • The decriminalisation of sex work
  • Women in politics
  • Sanitary dignity project
  • Gender based violence and femicide
  • Strengthening of the national gender machinery
  • Gender responsive budgeting
  • Women and health
  • Building relations with stake-holders

Ms Mpapela said the she will start by giving brief background information about each suggested focus area.

Decriminalisation of sex work

This is one of the projects that are from the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. She said this project is about advocating for a legislative reform that decriminalises sex work. The fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus was mandated by delegates during the 2015 and 2016 Women’s Parliament sessions to advocate for decriminalisation of sex work. The women came out and voiced their support for the decriminalisation of sex work and chose to use the term sex work in preference to prostitution. Ms Mpapela said they advocated for the release of a report by the South African Law Reform Commission that was more than ten years overdue. When the report was finally released, there was a majority of people that were very unhappy with the recommendations that were contained in it because the recommendations were not in support of decriminalisation.  

The fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus decided to have an Imbizo in Parliament for all stakeholders to gauge their responses on the recommendations of the South African Law Reform Commission.

Women in Politics

Women in politics is about increasing the number of women participating and represented in politics. It is also about advocating for a gender sensitive Parliament that provides an environment conducive for current women Members. The fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had engagements with the Independent Electoral Commission to advocate for the reviewing of electoral laws to cater for the legislative quotas, but no positive results were yielded from that. The fifth Multi-Party Women’s caucus also launched the United Nations He for She programme advocating for male parliamentarians to be champions of gender equality. They also engaged with various stakeholders inside and outside the country in relation to women in politics.

Sanitary Dignity Project

This project was also inherited from the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus. The project was two-fold. The first phase was the removal of VAT from sanitary towels, which was successful because it came into effect as of April 2019. The second phase of the sanitary dignity project is the provision of free sanitary products to indigent women and girls. It was the desire of the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus to ensure that during the roll-out of free provision and that women-owned business should either benefit as manufacturers or distributors of the sanitary products. She said that the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had various engagements with civil society, National Treasury as well as the Department of Women on this issue.

Gender Based Violence and Femicide

Ms Mpapela said that she will elaborate on this focus area a little later, but in the interim, the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had various engagements with various stakeholders, such as the SA Police Service (SAPS), on issues related to human trafficking, the Department of Social Development on its plan of action on violence against women and children and various stakeholders. Also the members of the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus were part of the delegates that attended the Presidential summit on gender based violence and femicide.

National Gender Machinery

The National Gender Machinery (NGM) was established by the national policy framework for women in Parliament and gender equality, aimed at transformation toward gender equality in all sectors. The fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had engagements with the Department of Women about identifying challenges facing the NGM with the view of strengthening them.

Gender Responsive Budgeting

This issue is about a budget that takes into consideration the needs of women, men, girls and boys in order to promote access and gender equality. Again for this focus area, the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus had various engagements with the Department of Women about this issue as it was planning to develop a gender-responsive planning and budgeting framework.

Women and Health

This was a new focus area and as such there is no baseline work, but it was suggested that there is a need to focus on various health issues that are affecting women, for example, termination of pregnancy, teenage pregnancy, cancer etc.

Strengthening and building relations with stakeholders

Decriminalisation of sex work

Activities suggested included a study tour to New Zealand, where sex work is legal, and engagement with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services. On the last engagement that the Department had with the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, it had promised to table a legislative proposal in Parliament, during the second half of 2018, but the Department has not done that as yet.

The sixth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus can engage the Justice cluster and SAPS about current human right violations of sex workers as well as building relations with organisations working within the sex work industry. Perhaps the caucus could escalate the South African Law Reform Commission’s recommendations to provincial Multi-Party Women’s Caucuses, so that a broader number of women’s caucus are interacting with the recommendations.

Women in politics      

In the focus area of women in politics, suggested activities include a study tour to Rwanda because Rwanda is currently ranked as number one by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) with more than 60 representatives of women in Parliament where there was lobbying for legislated and mandatory gender quotas for local, provincial and national government elections. Currently South Africa does not have any legislated mandatory quotas but the Members are based on voluntary based quotas set by different political organisations. Another activity should be to lobby for a gender- sensitive Parliament as well as adopt strategies aimed at supporting and capacitating current women Members so that they are able to stay in politics longer as well as engage and hold other women caucuses inside and outside the country.

Sanitary dignity project

Activities under this focus area include a possible study tour to Botswana or Kenya, engagement with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities about the roll out of free sanitary products and engagement with the Department of Small Business about the empowerment of women owned businesses to manufacture and or distribute sanitary products.

Ms Mpapela said that currently there are sporadic attempts by various provincial departments to provide free sanitary products. The task team thought maybe the caucus could engage with those various provincial departments already providing free sanitary products to also market the idea of ensuring that women-owned business do benefit from the manufacturing and distribution of sanitary products as well as engaging with stakeholders that are advocating and providing free sanitary products

Gender Based Violence and Femicide

Ms Mpapela said that as she had previously mentioned that the Members of the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus were part of the delegates of the Presidential summit. The task team thought that maybe the sixth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus can follow up on declarations undertaken during the Presidential summit on gender-based violence and femicide. And the sixth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus can start by engaging the interim Steering Committee on GBV and femicide on the draft strategic plan.

Another suggested activity under gender-based violence is to focus on safety of women and girls in school.

The next suggested activity under this focus area is the implementation of the National Assembly motion referred to the fifth Parliament. In 2018, the National Assembly called for the fifth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus to develop, adopt and implement a comprehensive education and support programme for all women. This stemmed from media coverage that exposed women being abused in religious and cultural settings. Ms Mpapela thought the motion is part of the package. The issue that dealt with the abuse of women in religious and cultural settings was a motion that was never implemented because it was towards the end of the first term and was then referred to the sixth Multi-Party Women’s Caucus for implementation.

At the start of the current Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, engagement with the Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CLR) Commission is suggested on practices within religious and cultural settings that make women more vulnerable to abuse within this setting.

Strengthening of the National Gender Machinery

Activities suggested include a possible study tour to Uganda and engagements with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. The Department promised it was undertaking a diagnostic review of the National Gender Machinery. It would be a good idea for the current caucus to interact with the Department on those challenges raised during the diagnostic review.

It was suggested that the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus assist the Department in addressing those challenges. Another suggested activity under this focus area is that the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus can take an initiative and convene sessions with all the NGM including woman formations, such as the progress women organization, because they are also part of the national gender machinery.

Gender Responsive Budgeting

A suggested study tour to Rwanda or Kenya, bearing in mind that Rwanda has a financial policy that provides for mandatory gender responsive planning and reporting. Engage with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities about gender responsive planning and budgeting framework. The Steering Committee thought that while these processes are going on the, caucus can source funds for empowerment of women on gender responsive budgeting so that Members can really understand what gender responsive budgeting means so that when they scrutinise departmental budgets and programs in their various Committees, they are able to ensure gender responsiveness.

Women and Health

The Steering Committee suggested that various health awareness could be implemented as per the South African Health calendar. For example, October is Breast Cancer and Mental Health Awareness month. Therefore the committee can have programmes around those health areas as well as establish relations.

Building Relations with Stakeholders

Draft Term Three Programme

The Chairperson suggested that since the document pack had only been received this morning, the Steering Committee felt it needed to give the Caucus time to go back and look at the documents in order for Members to provide sensible input.

Ms Mandy Balie, Multiparty Women’s Caucus Secretary, took Members through the daft programme which covered the period 8 October – 6 December 2019. For that term, the Multi-Party Women’s Caucus secured 31 October and 28 November as meeting days for the full caucus.

The Steering Committee has also secured permission to convene its meetings on Thursdays, before party caucuses, if there is a need to. The programme is drafted based on those approved dates for the Multi-Party Caucus. The breakdown of the draft program was as follows:

  • 17 and 24 October have been set aside for Steering Committee meetings
  • 31 October has been set aside for a full caucus meeting. The proposed agenda is the briefing by the interim Steering Committee on gender based violence on the status of the draft national strategic plan and the briefing by the Commission on the protection of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Rights on the abuse of women in religious and cultural settings. In addition to this the Caucus will also adopt its minutes and receive a report back on matters arising from the previous meeting
  • On 7, 14 and 21 November there are Steering Committee meetings.
  • On 28 November there would be a full caucus meeting again. The proposed agenda is the gender responsive budgeting and national gender machinery together with the caucus’s consideration of its 2020 first term programme, matters arising and the adoption of minutes.

Parliament made provision for oversight for Committees from 2 December to 6 December 2019, so there has been a slot included for any visits that Members would like to undertake during that period.

The Chairperson emphasised the dates of the Caucus’ proposed meetings. Parliament permitted the Caucus to meet once during the last week of the month on a Thursday. This meant that on each and every Thursday, in the last week of the month, the Multi-Party will be sitting and the Steering Committee will be sitting before the Caucus. The Steering Committee can also sit on Thursdays if there are issues that needed to be attended to by the Caucus.

The Chairperson said the Steering Committee decided that Members need to give themselves time to familiarise themselves with the documents looking into the focus areas presented. Some of the things that have been taken from the fifth Parliament needed to be attended to now by the Caucus. The agreement is that Members must go and look into the focus areas and if there is something the Caucus nneds to add or subtract, or even prioritise, Members must do that. If Members would like to add anything, they should contact the Secretary in order to filter it in so that when the Caucus meets on 31 October, it will be dealing with the document that has the changes included.


The Chairperson requested that Members say their name before speaking so that the Caucus can get to know each other.

Ms M Siwisa (EFF) thought the Chairperson would give Members an opportunity to give input on the National Gender Machinery issue that was spoken about. If this program has been running for so long and is not helping, then the Caucus needs to change the way it is going to be run. The Caucus cannot just sit and have talk shows and workshops when it knows there is actually a serious issue out there on gender-based violence.

Ms Siwisa said that the gender-based violence issue was very serious and the Caucus needed to change the way things are done when addressing this issue. One of the things that can be done is for the Caucus to establish a call centre at Parliament where those cases can be reported. She emphasised that one of the duties of the NGM is to hold government accountable. If it is to hold government accountable, it needs to know how many cases are reported, how many cases have been followed up and how many cases have gone to court and the Caucus needs to know the progress of those cases. This can only be done if the station commanders and every single member of SAPS is held accountable. As part of its service, SAPS needs to come before the Committee and give a report on how many cases have been reported, investigated and how many have gone through the court system on a weekly basis.

She said that as part of the progress report, SAPS should give feedback about whether it is counselling victims and their families. The Caucus needed to do that because it is clear that whatever has been done by the NGM in the past was not helping society. She emphasised that the Caucus needed to change the strategy of the NGM.

The Chairperson asked that Caucus Members be patient and give themselves time to deal with the document with sober minds.

The Chairperson said that everyone who gave a presentation in the meeting was just giving a brief overview and that the report was received by all Members this morning. The Caucus was not only going to deal with issues that were presented in the meeting but also issues that come out of the Legacy Report. According to her understanding not everyone present at the meeting went through the Legacy Report and not everyone present was familiar with the issues contained in the document. The appeal of the Steering Committee is that everyone goes through the Legacy Report thoroughly and then put in what they think is necessary.

An Honorable Member (ANC) thanked the Chairperson and said that she would like to work with the first proposal that the Chairperson made, that Members first familiarise themselves with the documents. She found the comments made by Members out of order. The meeting and the reason for it was serious and that as activists they had to make sure they lobby and advocate for gender issues. The reason why they were all at the meeting is so that they can strategise around a responsive document that is outlining what has not been happening properly.

She said Members should not act as if what is happening with gender-based violence is something that other Members are not concerned about. Everyone was concerned and felt that attending to gender-based violence must be done with urgency. No one was suppressing anything that had to do with services focused on gender-based violence.

The Member noted there was a proposal by an EFF Member for a call centre. Gender issues are crosscutting and must be mainstreamed. There is no need to have a call centre specifically for gender based violence because there already was a call centre in Parliament. The President, in addressing correctional services, said that from now on, nobody should be getting bail if the accused has violated the rights of any other person.

The Honorable Member requested that Ms Siwisa withdraw whatever she suggested and allow Members to engage the document because it would be so premature for Members to make comments. Further, most Members would make comments based on general knowledge without quantified input.

Another Member (ANC) supported the view that the Chairperson proposed that if Members were to be honest with themselves and communities they represent, they would not be doing justice to the document and to gender-based violence. Members cannot sit and conclude what needs to be right now at this very moment. Individually, Members had responsibilities to their communities especially as Members represent a constituency. It does not mean that the Caucus can take decisions and implement them that very day.

She re-iterated that she supports the idea that everyone goes back and familiarises themselves with the document and tries to establish what it is that their communities would like them to do. She suggested that Members call women forums in their communities and join hands with the women in the communities so that they can do justice when they come to Caucus meetings and address gender- based violence.

A Member (ANC) said that Members fighting amongst themselves about whether to agree or disagree on the document will not help because all Members were departing to go to their constituencies tomorrow. There was no need for the matter to be opened up for discussion because the Chairperson had come to a conclusion on how to handle matters going forward. It was advisable to adhere to this conclusion if Members really intended to do justice to the Caucus.

The Chairperson asked that Members not suppress views. The Caucus started very well with a prayer.

A Member said that she respects the Chairperson and the position she occupies but that it would be unfair for the Caucus as women to disrespect one another. It cannot be correct for Members to raise their hands while the Chairperson was trying to provide clarity and present proposals. She requested that Members be patient with one another as women and allow the Chairperson to chair the meeting.

Another Member interjected to raise a point of order that the Chairperson needed to recognise all hands.

The Chairperson pleaded for a chance to chair the meeting. She said she would now suppress all hands raised.

The Chairperson said she knows that when Members come together from different political parties, they may end up bringing up issues that are uncalled for. She said she is not against any one, that she is a woman and needs to be respected as a woman. The Chairperson said she was trying to be fair to give all Members a chance to make their points even if they were contrary to one another.

A Member proposed that Members engage the document contrary to what has been proposed as the document was read out and covered issues currently faced by women. It was ironic that it was being proposed that Members go back and reflect on issues they already know about.

She said Members know what is lacking in the document, what should be removed and what should be added. Work should not stop because there were a few Members that did not have any additions to make to the document. The Members who did not have additions to make should consider that there are Members who would like to add to the document and they should not be stopped.

Members then started arguing amongst themselves and the Chairperson intervened and asked them to be orderly. No one said there are Members who do not know what additions to make. All the Members have something to add.

A Member said additions should be made when there is time to do so but time should not be wasted.

The Chairperson said all Members have something to add and that is why they are at the meeting. Those that wanted to include additional information in the report should make this input available to the Secretary.  

A Member said Members of the Steering Committee were given the responsibility to develop a program for the strategic plan for the next five years. They met and came up with the document and proposed areas that the Caucus needs to focus on. The issue of gender-based violence was number three in the document provided. Because this was a Multi-Party Women’s Caucus, every woman had to make an input in the program. It was for this reason that the Steering Committee developed the document so that it can be given to Members so that they can interrogate it as the different political parties and constituencies. Members can then come back to the Caucus with input that will help develop a strategic plan.

She explained that when putting together a strategic plan, Members have to consult those that matter most. The purpose was not about whom can read first and faster - it is about consulting and making sure constituencies are taken on board. The Steering Committee is saying Members of the Caucus must take the document and engage it and come back in the next Caucus so that Members can finalise the focus areas and develop the five-year plan.

A different Member urged everyone to calm down because there was too much tension in the room.  Members need to leave their political hats at the door and respect each other as women. The way political parties were conducting themselves in the meeting was unacceptable. She said she would like to check all Members present but especially the lady who said ‘voetsek’ to Ms Chirwa. It was unacceptable and uncalled for.

A Member confirmed that she heard the swearing come from the back somewhere.

There were further disruptions and the Chairperson called for order.

The Member continued speaking and said that if Members cannot respect each other, then there should not be a Multi-Party Women’s Caucus because there was nothing that was going to be achieved. She felt documents should be sent timeously, like a week before the meeting, so that Members had ample time to engage. She concurred with Ms Chirwa that the Caucus continuously delaying the discussion means the Caucus’s work is delayed. She hoped the point she raised was a message to whoever is responsible for the distribution of the document, to make sure they are circulated in time so that Members have enough time to go through it and do not waste time at the Caucus meetings.

The Chairperson responded that all parties are represented in the Steering Committee and when Members of the Committee come up with ideas, they must evaluate if they did justice by their party. If one Member is absent from a Steering Committee meeting, the meeting will proceed without them. It is wrong if a Member of the Steering Committee rises up to point out an issue that would have been dealt with in the Steering Committee meeting.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) said the one thing that was problematic in the meeting is that when Members walk through the door, they cannot leave their political agendas at the door. When Members are in a meeting of this nature, political identities need to be put aside because in order for the Caucus to be able to tackle challenges it is faced with, it is going to have to stop the fighting.

She said another thing that does not sit well with her is that she has not been given the platform to contribute what she would have liked to see being added in and taken out. She requested that the Member who pointed out that Ms Chirwa was sworn at, identify who swore because this too did not sit well with her. in the Caucus, all Members must be patient with each other and bear in mind that everyone comes from different walks of life and backgrounds.

Ms Khawula said the country is as chaotic as it is at the moment because of women not being able to get along and having a lack of respect towards each other. The country will go back to its proper state onse women get it out of their heads that one is better than the other. Another contributing factor to societal ills is that mothers are too quick to come to the defence of their children even though they are unsure of their children’s movements. It is important for the progress of the Caucus to come into these meetings as women and not political parties.

A Member said there is nothing wrong with the men in this country, even the ones who rape. She insisted the problem is with the women because they are the ones who give birth to these rapists and marry the abusers and let them get away with whatever they do.

The Chairperson said it was wrong for Members to insult each other. She tried to identify who swore at Ms Chirwa.

There were again disruptions.

The Chairperson requested Members respect one another and not fabricate things that are not true. She agreed with Ms Khawula that it is important to forget about political affiliation for unity of the Caucus – Members need to think of each other as women of Parliament and women of South Africa.

A Member requested the Chairperson guide Members and make a ruling in terms of the way forward.

A Member noted that the documents and presentations did not make mention of people with disabilities. The work of the Caucus also needs to cover women and children with disabilities as they also faced gender-based violence. Going forward, she requested this be included in issues to be dealt with by the Caucus.

The Chairperson agreed further additions need to be made to the documents even though other Members already wanted to engage on the issues. She resolved that Members need to go back and further engage the documents to ensure that on 31 October 2019, the Caucus is ready to engage and ensure the country will get rid of what it is experiencing now.

The meeting was adjourned.




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