Commission for Gender Equality on Systemic Investigation Report of shelters that accommodate victims of violence
Joint Sitting: Debate on Gender Based Violence
Address to the nation by President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa's Oral Replies to Questions in the National Assembly, Parliament
The Committee was briefed by the Department of Social Development on its plans for the next 6 months to combat Gender Based Violence, femicide, violence and murder of children.
This was in response to the emergency action plan announced by the President in September.
The Department of Social Development, in collaboration with other departments, will drive the roll-out of programmes that will engage with men’s formations, traditional leaders, student organisations, youth groups, offenders inside prisons, officials working in the criminal justice system, and communities at large.
Work is being done to enhance the current legal and policy framework to make it more responsive to the needs of survivors of gender-based violence.
Two hundred social workers will be appointed to provide targeted services to survivors at various social services centres, including at the national network of Thuthuzela Care Centres.
Funding will also be used to support social services for survivors at local and district municipality level.
The Department established the Gender Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) to provide professional psychosocial support and trauma counselling to victims of gender based violence (domestic violence). The GBVCC offers a 24 hour/ 7 days a week telephone call service dedicated to providing psychosocial support and counselling to those affected by gender-based related violence; especially women and children. The Command Centre has an accessible toll-free number (0800 428 428) and a Please Call Me Facility (*120*7867#). In 2016 the GBVCC launched some service enhancement initiatives to cater for People with Disabilities through the use of SKYPE (Helpme GBV) and SMS (‘Help’ to 31531).
In the discussion, a series of concerns were raised. Members felt that the the communication on GBV and the programmes needed to be strengthened. There was a sense that nothing was happening since the President’s commitment. Members expressed concern about whether the call centre was effective and if calls were followed up to conclusion. They asked when they could conduct an oversight visit to the command centre to see how this service is working.
In addition, Members asked about the distribution of the 200 social workers, how many shelters will benefit from the funding, the Victim Support Services Bill, the difference between the National Emergency Response Team and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units, the root causes of the violence, if traditional leaders were included in the programmes and the collaboration between all the relevant departments.
Owing to time constraints, the Department was asked to provide written answers to outstanding questions.
Due to the serious issues raised by the Auditor-General, the Department, Sassa and the NDA were supposed to provide a detailed action plan to the Committee at this meeting. However, the Minister had written to the Committee requesting an extension. This was informed by her assessment that the current action plans lacked pointed responses relevant to the Auditor-General’s report. The Committee the Minister’s explanation and her undertaking to come back before the Committee when she is ready.
The Chairperson said it is important to learn from and listen to others. Leadership is all about conduct. It is not about the position one holds or the school background one has. It is a form of conduct that ought to be used as a reference. A core part of leadership is interacting with members of civil society. In that context, everyone has a contribution to make. Even an HOD can be surprised by a cleaner’s guidance. The future of this country relies on our ability to listen to each other. There are things that bring us together as South Africans.
The Committee Secretary highlighted that there were apologies from the Deputy Minister of Social Development. She further highlighted that 3 Members had submitted apologies.
The Agenda was adopted
Mr Mzolisi Toni, Acting Director General, Department of Social Development (DSD), indicated that the Minister had a submitted a letter to the Committee requesting that the agenda item on the Department and entities presenting their action plans in response to the Auditor-General’s audit finding be removed. The Minister would like to engage more on it before it is tabled.
Briefing by Department of Social Development on its mandate on Gender Based Violence, femicide, violence and murder of children
Situational Analysis: South Africa
Ms Connie Nxumalo, Deputy Director-General: Welfare Services, DSD, explained that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence against women in SA e.g. 37.7% of women in Gauteng have experienced physical violence and 46.2% experienced economic or emotional abuse. Overall between 19% and 33% women have experienced physical partner violence, but in some population sub groups may be as high as 1 in 2 women. Perpetration by men is more commonly reported and population based studies have reported this among 40%- 50% of men. More than half of women murdered (56%) were killed by an intimate partner, which is more than double the rate in the US. South Africa’s female homicide was 5 times the global average. In 2016/2017, SAPS reported approximately 23488 sexual offences against children. In 2017/18 statistics of children affected by violence, child abuse, neglect and exploitation were as follows: Murder 839, Sexual Offenses 24667, Attempted Murder 936, Assault with intent to cause bodily grievous body harm 7589, common assault 10211. 46% of sexual offence complainants are children (Machise et al 2017). According to a community based survey in the Eastern Cape 38% of young women first experienced sexual violence before age of 18.
Ms Nxumalo explained that the #TheTotalShutdown (TTS) emerged in 2018 as an intersectional movement of women, LGBTIQAP+ and Gender Non-conforming Persons (GNC) who came together in June 2018 to galvanize support for national action against gender based violence (GBV). The movement hosted 19 marches across the country and submitted a memorandum with 24 demands for the ending of GBV to the President. One of the points in the first of the 24 demands was for the President of South Africa to convene a multi-stakeholder summit on GBV by the 31st August 2018. This resulted in a successful national Summit on Gender Based Violence and Femicide held on 01st to 02nd November 2018.
The Summit produced a Presidential Summit Declaration Against GBV and Femicide (GBVF Declaration which entailed deliverables that must be taken forward and be implemented in dealing with the crisis of GBVF. One of these deliverables was for a development of a National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF). An Interim Steering Committee (ISC) on GBVF was formed as per article 3 of the Declaration, with the mandate to draft the NSP and establish a National Multi – Sector GBVF Council (NMCS), which will be a Coordinating body that will champion the National GBVF work. The NMCS has developed the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBVF. The Plan sets out to provide a cohesive strategic framework to guide the national response to the GBVF crisis that South Africa finds itself in.
It builds on the work that was undertaken by government in its review of responses to violence against women and children commissioned by the Department of Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) as well as the subsequent review of the National Plan of Action undertaken by the Department of Social Development (DSD).
Emergency Response Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in South Africa
Ms Nxumalo elaborated that on 18 September 2019, the President announced the roll out of immediate measures in the next six months to fast track a more medium term approach to addressing gender-based violence and femicide to be captured in the National Strategic Plan. An Emergency Response Plan, alongside the narrative, budget and M&E Framework sets out the detail of the Emergency Plan. The plan is currently led by the Presidency with the Department of Women, Youth and Children with Disabilities coordinating the activities. The members of the interim committee tasked to execute the plan comprise of the following: Department of Social Development, Health, SAPS, DoJ, NPA, Department of Basic and Higher Education, COGTA, Labour, Transport and Civil Society Organisations.
Ms Nxumalo then clarified the various interventions, indicators, targets, and lead departments that underpin the Emergency Response Plan which covers access to justice for victims and survivors, a change of norms and behaviour through high-level prevention efforts, urgently responding to Victims and survivors of GBV.
The Department is leading on the provision of psychosocial support services that are paramount to the fight against Gender Based Violence (GBV). In addition to the services rendered, DSD provides the following services:
-Prevention services refer to all activities aimed at preventing initial use of psychoactive substances and the delay of the onset of problematic use of such substances.
-This include amongst others: promotion of life skills; opportunities to choose healthy lifestyle; development of supportive parenting and healthy social environment and ensuring equal access to education and vocational training.
The Department of Social Development (DSD) has established the Gender Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC) to provide professional psychosocial support and trauma counselling to victims of gender based violence (domestic violence). The GBVCC offers a 24 hour/ 7 days a week telephone call service dedicated to providing psychosocial support and counselling to those affected by gender-based related violence; especially women and children. The Command Centre has an accessible toll-free number (0800 428 428) and a Please Call Me Facility (*120*7867#). In 2016 the GBVCC launched some service enhancement initiatives to cater for People with Disabilities through the use of SKYPE (Helpme GBV) and SMS (‘Help’ to 31531). The Centre statistics are as follows
Evidence based programming
Ms Nxumalo elaborated on the use of evidence based programming. Two studies namely structural determinants and the diagnostic review on the country’s response to violence against women and children were conducted to determine the root causes.
By way of conclusion, Ms Nxumalo requested that the Portfolio Committee take note of the Department’s efforts in the scourge of GBVF in the country.
The Chairperson stressed that the Department will need to respond to the drivers of change. The Department has to clearly state what it wants to change and be held accountable for. That is the kind of Department that the Committee would like to work with. The Committee would like to know if the Department’s policies are actually making a difference. In terms of the problem statement and diagnostic analysis, it is important that the problem that the Department is responding to is analysed and the changes that the Department is committing to make. In this way, the Department is being honest and transparent. Otherwise, these billions disappear in these policies and papers, while the situation remains the same. The Department is here because of the drivers of change. Everything else is decoration and aesthetics.
Ms L van der Merwe (IFP) highlighted that the situation is depressing and what is worrying is that the Department will be contributing R10 million out of the R1.1 billion. Is that correct? On the call centre and the amount of calls that are received, how many of the calls are followed up to conclusion? How many result in a case being lodged with the police?
The Chairperson indicated that the Committee would like a rate of resolution.
Ms van der Merwe, with regards to January to September 2019, pointed out that there were 76 000 calls and 559 SMS’s. The concern is twofold: How many of those calls were successfully resolved, followed-up, resulted in protection orders or the successful prosecution of the perpetrator? Furthermore, what is the visibility of this call centre? If you walk in the streets, there is not a single woman who knows that number. At what stage do we start saying that it is imperative that every South African women has access to that number on their phone? With small interventions, this number should appear continuously on the SABC. This includes information about where women should go to access the shelters. On the criminal assets recovery account and the R50 million to be allocated to shelters or NGOS, how many shelters will be benefiting from the R50 million and how will they be identified? What will the process be? In terms of the CGE report, the shortcomings of shelters, and the Victim Support Services Bill, will that bill be addressing all the recommendations of the CGE report, namely, the shortcomings in terms of inconsistency in funding across shelters in different provinces? Concerning the shortcomings of the Thuthuzela Centres and the additional allocations of social workers to these centres, if there are 54 Thuthuzela Centres and 200 social worker positions were approved, will 3 social workers be allocated per Thuthuzela Centres? Furthermore, what is the link between the National Emergency Response Team (NERT) and the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units? A recent case suggests that when a child was taken to that unit, the child did not receive any assistance until an MP had to intervene by Facebook. Lastly, in so far as the 5000 social workers that have been trained by the state and have not been absorbed are concerned, to what extent have these social workers been absorbed and can assist South Africa in the fight against gender-based violence?
Ms A Abrahams (DA) said in terms of university campaigns on campuses and institutions, there is a deadline target by the end of December 2019 that is not connected to the March deadline. Universities are having exams now in November and are closed in December. They only open up again in February. How realistic is this target of December 2019, if not March 2020? In light of the Commission on Gender Equality Report on Shelter, in the training that is being given to social workers, are social workers being sensitised to victims’ journeys in the shelters? The victims in these shelters feel that they are not being helped correctly. Lastly, in terms of root causes, at some point the Department needs to look at the root causes in the context of the unemployment of men in households, who feel powerless and who often exert their power over a weaker party. There is also a sense of fear, which can lead either victimhood or perpetrator-hood. One of the root causes that cannot be overlooked is the great need for employment opportunities.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwana (DA) complimented the Department on, among others, the programmes that have been introduced. However, no mention has been made of sporting activities within those programmes. If the Department wants to shape the community and bring justice to the affected people, it needs to utilise sporting activities. Sport brings about a change in the behaviour and the mind. Are there sporting activities in these programmes? It would be wonderful for the drug rehabilitation centres in the Eastern Cape to adopt these programmes. It is concerning that while the presentation was well done, it is very silent on other departments that are affecting the Department of Social Development. At the end of the day, DSD cannot work unilaterally. DSD has to work with the Departments of Basic Education, Health and Police. In terms of the need to engage with the Department of Basic Education, everyday teachers are affected by learners, and vice versa, in terms of rape, stabbings etc. What collaborative efforts have been put in place to work with other departments, like the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Health?
Ms M Sukers (ACDP) said that in terms of the communication on GBV and the programmes that are available, there is a sense that nothing has happened since the President’s commitment in response to the violence that was experienced. There is a concern that Parliament went silent after the marches. Therefore, the Department has to be as responsive as possible. How responsive are the emergency services that are supposed to reach women that are in crisis? Moreover, how effective in reach are the awareness campaigns and is it being tracked? How many people are actually being reached? In this context, technology and innovation in terms of the services are vital. Are strategies being put in place so that when awareness campaigns are launched, people can actually respond back to say that they have read it? It is important to ensure that people are being reached and this needs to be tracked to determine whether there has been an impact. Regarding the awareness campaign, how sensitive are these programmes to the beliefs of millions of South Africans? Are the religious beliefs of people being respected or is a one-size-fits-all approach being adopted? What is meant by the LGBTIQ+-friendly shelter? Which organisations are presenting the programmes? Diversity is required. The role of all faith-based organisations must be noted. If you are approaching a Christian, it is important to use their framework to reach them in terms of gender-based violence. The Springboks are playing this weekend, Is there a strategy in terms of reach whereby the SABC is putting emergency numbers across the screen? This goes back to the responsiveness, awareness and visibility of programmes. Businesses and talented people need to be involved in this process to find solutions. It is very sad when there is a lot of talk but no action. The Department must not give general answers. It must explain what it is doing. If it is not responsive enough, the department should say so.
Ms N Mvana (ANC) queried how the Department would distribute the social workers? Furthermore, in the public domain, it was reported that sex workers were arrested. How far is South Africa from the legalisation of prostitution? Moreover, with all the different names (e.g. Thuthuzela Centres, Kusulekas etc..), does this not create more confusion? The Department practises the district coordination service delivery model. This was not clear, however. Additionally, on youth care centres, there is no break down in the report, for example, in terms of the number of centres in each of the provinces. The Eastern Cape, for example, is extremely rife with gender-based violence. The Committee would like to make a case model to understand the situation. Lastly, while there are numbers to phone, it is not clear if they are working and if there is no answer when calls are made.
Ms D Ngwenya (EFF) highlighted that, in the last two meetings, the Portfolio Committee was told that it would be invited to the Gender-Based Violence Command Centre (GBVCC). The Committee, however, did not get the invitation. Can the invitation be sent to the Committee before the December? Furthermore, patriarchy is the main reason we are facing the situation we are in. It is appreciated that the presentation states that traditional leaders will be engaged where hopefully, among others, forced marriages and ukuthwala, will be dealt with. The key concern is that there does not appear to be much work done with religious leaders. Recently, pastors have taken advantage of young girls. That needs to be dealt with. Where do the Church and religious leader fit into the social behaviour change programme? In Gauteng, these programmes are not seen or heard of and young people are not exposed to such programmes. Where do you find such programmes? Can young people be referred? Where are young people referred to so that they attend such programmes, especially young boys? Regarding the Orange Days on 25th of every month, where will this be taking place in order to take part? In terms of the Kusuleka One-stop centre, while it shows that prosecution happens, it is known that there is a problem with these culprits and perpetrators being prosecuted? If there is a way to ensure that prosecution happens, and there are only 6 centres to ensure that, there is a problem. Concerning the Isialulama outreach programme: What are the hotspot areas? How are they identified? Can hotspot areas be recommended? In terms of the GBVCC, it was said that Skype is used when engaging people with disabilities. Using Skype is more expensive than sending an SMS. How many people were able to use the Skype facility? Is it helpful in any way? There are 45 social workers in the GBVCCs. Are these social workers trained? Are psychologists coming in to help the department in that sector, even if not on a permanent basis? In so far as victim-friendly facilities are concerned, it was previously said that SAPS has 1000 facilities. Does the Department have that information? The Committee would like to visit police stations to see how those victim-friendly facilities are working.
The Chairperson stressed the need to take seriously collaborative departmental efforts. The challenge is that now that the Department has committed to the changes it wants to make, it presupposes that there is a clear concrete problem statement based on which the Department will check if the change is happening. It is always dangerous to commit to change if one does not know where the change needs to happen. There has been a concrete articulation of the problem. When the Department is saying it is making a change, the Committee must be able to resonate with it. The biggest problem we have as human beings is that they feel useless if not loved by others. Human beings have confidence in themselves when they understand who they are. South Africa should be embarrassed to have so many children that are in prison. This suggests that parenting in this country has collapsed. Suddenly, parents depend on prisons to grow their children. This problem cannot be resolved by the Department of Social Development. However, the Department can give education. Most of the time, children will find themselves in criminal activities. They are in pursuit of self-discovery because they have not been assisted by the domestic environment. When children at a young age see things happening as a result of their activities, they discover themselves. When they see changes that exist due to their efforts, those changes explain to the children who they are. However, if a child just sits and watches television, when that child meets other children, he/she has a low level of self-discovery. Because he/she wants to be recognised by the other children, he/she does anything his/her peers are asking to be done. Has the Department ever thought of a pilot community to know what difference psychosocial interventions make? Very often, these psychosocial interventions are so thinly spread. ‘Psychosocial’ does not only imply remedial action, it also applies to proactive, active and reactive actions. What programmes are there to develop proper attitudes towards life? In terms of ‘outcomes’, there are few outcomes in the summary if there are any. ‘Improved access’ cannot be an ‘outcome’. It is the path to an outcome. It is a crisis of a categorization of results. In the modern language of results-based management, access is the Department’s performance level. However, what the Department is looking for is not access. It is what must happen once the access is there. The change that occurs as a result of ‘access’ is the ‘outcome.’ An outcome is what happens as a result of an intervention. As a result of a level of performance, a change occurs. This change is the ‘outcome.’ This must be looked into so that the Committee and the Department can speak one language. An outcome is a type of a result. After providing access, there is a new light that occurs that is positive, which is called an outcome. In terms of the ‘intimate’ partnership, this means a stronger partnership. The stronger the partnership, however, the worse are results. In an intimate relationship, one must feel safe. We live in a very unhealthy society. If the Department makes a commitment to have a certain impact, it means the problem statement is well defined and that the Department has timelines. In this context, if the Department fails, it can have a review. The Committee needs to visit the command centre. If those calls do not make a difference, they are going to lose value to those who call. When particular calls do not get positive results, over time the call rate goes down. Sometimes it goes down because of the rate of resolution. It is important to determine why the call rate is decreasing.
Mr Toni said that the Department would pursue the issue of inviting the Committee to the GBV command centre. The presentation did indicate that, in terms of departmental collaboration, DSD is leading in certain areas.
Ms Nxumalo stressed that some of the comments will strengthen how the Department improves in providing services. The top 5 outcomes are as proscribed by the emergency plan. The Department cannot change it. Furthermore, in terms of the GBVCC, communication is central so that access is improved. The service should be well known. The Department will need to ensure that it strengthens its marketing and communication, including speaking to the SABC, other media platforms, and existing opportunities to market the number. With regards to the impact of the call centre, it is important to indicate that there are challenges. However, in the command centre there are also quality assurers that are monitoring the incoming and the outgoing calls and also the back office supported by the supervisors. In districts, there are social workers that are linked to these command centres that are allocated gadgets to follow-up on the cases. These statistics can be submitted which explain how many cases were referred to 10111, to follow-ups in the provinces, and what the feedback was. The ticket of each case remains open until there is feedback from the social worker that is on the ground. The workers in the command centre have a list of all the police stations, shelters, and NGOs in each province, including the social workers that they are linked to for referral. It is noted that the response is not always quick. Technologically, Vodacom has said that for the Please-Call Me there is a particular time standard. With a call, they have to respond if they are not busy. Unfortunately, when all of them are busy, they cannot take another call because they are busy with the one that is already online. There was an outcry for a speed dial number that is linked to the long number because in the moment that one is in trouble there may not be an opportunity to dial. The department is working with ICASA to create speed dial so that by pressing a particular number one is linked to the Command Centre.
Concerning the Thuthuzela Centres and whether the Victim Support Services bill will resolve the issues that were raised in the CGE report concerning sheltering, Ms Nxumalo confirmed that the VSS bill will deal with this aspect of the findings of the CGE in terms of regulating that environment. Currently, this environment is not regulated. The issue of funding, the funding guidelines and the disparities in provinces is something that will be dealt with separately through the funding policy and guidelines but not necessarily by the bill. In so far as the allocation of social workers is concerned, the 200 social workers were based on the availability of funding. Within the emergency budget, departments were asked to reprioritise to deliver on the emergency plan of the President. There is no new allocation. The amount that has been reprioritised allows the Department to appoint 200 social workers, which is R93 million. These social workers are going to allocated based on statistics on the prevalence of sexual abuse in provinces and districts. There is a breakdown of how the social workers have been allocated: Eastern Cape (25), Free State (16), KwaZulu-Natal (66), Gauteng (172), Limpopo (20), Mpumalanga (18), Northern Cape (16), North West (10). In terms of the difference between NERT and the FCS, they are a group of professionals, including psychologists, that are the first to be seen where there is already an evaluation. FCS is within SAPS and is supposed to work with Department of Social Development and NGOs. They only interface with NERT when they have a case and make a referral in terms of trauma debriefing. They calm the family.
Regarding the training in order to sensitise social workers who are working in shelters, Ms Nxumalo highlighted that there is a number, as per the emergency plan, that the Department has targeted to train. The Department has acknowledged that weakness and that social workers need to be retrained in terms of trauma counselling and debriefing. Social workers need to be sensitised especially concerning the LGBTIQ+ community and also on how to deal with survivors in their space. Concerning the need for sporting activities, the Department takes note that these are not part of the programmes and it will consider how to infuse sporting activities. In terms of the role of religious leaders, the Department has not had a targeted intervention in terms of the programme. This Department will take this into consideration and ensure that it formalises the partnership with the traditional leaders. In so far as collaborative efforts are concerned, this is a challenge that the Department is faced with. There are forums, such as the Child Care and Protection Forum and a Victim Empowerment Forum. There is also an interim steering committee that is led by the Presidency. All forums are trying to coordinate and integrate the services and programmes. However, at times these efforts do not yield the desired results because once meetings have taken place, the departments return to their little silos, even though gender-based violence and victim empowerment had dependencies. There are certain things that DSD can do. However, if SAPS, Health and Education do not bring their part there is no way to succeed. For example, the Thuthuzela Centres are managed by the NPA and Health. DSD is a key role player where it provides psychosocial support. However, if the other elements are not working well, such as the victim impact statement, it does not matter how much counselling and psychosocial care is provided, the case may be thrown out in Court. It is very important that the department continuously forge partnerships. The same applies to victim-friendly facilities which DSD ensures it provides to the community within police stations. Victims are still complaining that they are not treated well. Finally, concerning M&E, this is a very critical area. Without a monitoring mechanism, plans are useless. With the emergency plan, DPME has come up with indicators to this deliverable. All these departments are reporting to the DPME.
On all unanswered questions, the Chairperson asked for a formal response in writing.
Ms Ngwenya requested that the Department also send the Committee the findings on the diagnostic reviews and the structural determinants.
Ms Sukers asked if the written response include the question that she asked around respecting religious beliefs in terms of the programmes and a list of organisations that are being used. Comprehensive sexual education is a very controversial subject at the moment, which links back to religious beliefs. Awareness programmes need to respect millions of South Africans; beliefs.
Ms van der Merwe asked that clarity also be provided on how funds will be allocated to shelters as well as which portion of the R1.1 billion will be allocated to shelters.
Ms Mvana asked for clarity on the progress made in terms of the legalisation of sex work.
The Chairperson gave some detail on the work that was done with sex workers and how their fear was allayed with various programmes in terms of access to healthcare. This was good for them and society. These programmes are not to be taken for granted. But is requires open-mindedness.
The Committee Secretary read the Minister’s Letter of apology which, among others, thanked the Portfolio Committee for the opportunity given to DSD, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) and National Development Agency (NDA) to brief the Committee on their action plan to respond to the Auditor-General’s audit finding for 2018/19 annual report. However, the Minister regretted to inform the Committee that DSD decided to withdraw its presentation. This is informed by the assessment that the current action plan lacks pointed responses relevant to the AG’s report. The Minister takes full responsibility for this report. The Minister is steadfast in realising evidence-based results planning.
The Chairperson appreciated the explanation. It is evidence of a Minister who is at work.
Ms Mvana also welcomed the letter from the Minister. The Department should be allowed to come back to the Committee with a revised action plan.
After some deliberation, it was agreed that the Committee discusses the outstanding presentations the following week when it considers the Quarterly Report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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