The Commission for Gender Equality said that the invitation to brief the Committee had come at a time when the country was experiencing disturbingly high levels of human rights violations, including gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide. The COVID-19 crisis was showing increased levels of gender inequality, GBV and a reversal of the gains made in the past two decades. The Commission was presenting its 2019/24 Strategic Plan and Annual Performance Plan for 2020/21.
Reporting on its response to issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, the CGE related a call from a non-governmental organisation, indicating that they were struggling to place victims of GBV, as shelters were refusing to place GBV victims in order to protect themselves from COVID-19 spreading in their shelters.
The Chairperson described some recent incidents involving sexual abuse where she had called upon the CGE for assistance, and thanked them for their prompt assistance. However, she was concerned that since the lockdown, she had received reports from women saying that they were not able to access help, as some police stations were closed, warrant officers were not willing to assist them, and many warrant officers were opting to negotiate on behalf of the perpetrators.
The presentation showed the CGE had an annual budget of R89.9m, of which 71% was allocated to the compensation of employees. It stressed that it had had a constrained budget for several years, even with its vast mandate, and was also expecting possible budget cuts because of the COVID19 crisis.
The Committee said it shared the Commission’s concerns about its budget limitations, particularly as it needed to increase its efforts to deal with the persistent patriarchy and abuse of women in South Africa. Ukuthwala in rural areas was a matter that needed attention -- what was the CGE doing to alleviate and abolish this practice? Was it monitoring the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the training to deal with GBV and sexual assault survivors, to ensure that adequate support was given to the victims? They also wanted to know whether the CGE had mentorship programmes aimed at young boys and men coming from single women headed households, that provided role models for young boys and men in communities, especially in rural areas.
Chairperson on gender-based violence concerns
The Chairperson stressed that she was happy when all the commissioners were present for presentations by the Commission on Gender Equality, as they should be. She shared with the Members and commissioners details of two cases that she had been involved in recently. One of the cases was in Soshanguve, where she had received a report from a victim who was raped by a senior official. When the complainant tried to open the case, she was secondarily victimized by police officers, who further humiliated her and the case was eventually dismissed. The Chairperson had tried to assist her with a second attempt at bringing her case to justice.
The second case involved two girls who were being raped by their biological father, and the Chairperson said she had engaged the Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) to assist these two complainants. She had driven to Soshanguve to interview one of the sisters. The other girl had been impregnated by her father, and consequently was currently in custody of a six-month old baby. She had run away from home and been staying with boyfriends while trying to make ends meet. This young girl told the Chairperson that the father had come to the boyfriend’s place where the girl lived, and told the boyfriend that the baby was his and not the boyfriend’s.
The Chairperson explained that this visit from the father had led to the boyfriend kicking the girl out of his house, which had left the girl homeless. The Chairperson said that she went to the place the girl was said to be living and found the girl, who informed her that she wanted to give the baby up for adoption, as the boyfriend was no longer looking after the child. Her sister had been locked inside the house by her biological father, and was pregnant at 16. The Chairperson said she had called the deputy chairperson of the CGE, Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, to ask what the Commission was doing to assist people in such situations, and she had offered her assistance.
Later, Ms Tamara Mathebula, Chairperson of the CGE, had called the Committee Chairperson back and was briefed on the matter. Ms Mathebula was contacted to assist the girl who had brought the matter to the attention of the Committee Chairperson, as there was no food in the household. The Committee Chairperson had contacted the social worker to follow up on the work of addressing this matter. The social worker had responded to say that they were taking the young girl to the clinic for a medical check-up, and would brief the Chairperson of the Committee on further progress. She thanked Ms Mathebula for having responded to this emergency call.
The Chairperson said that since the Covid-19 lockdown, she was seeing reports from women saying that they were not able to access help, as some police stations were closed, warrant officers were not willing to assist them, and many warrant officers were opting to negotiate on behalf of the perpetrators. She said that when the CGE did its monitoring, these were some of the things it needed to look at. It needed to look at the regular secretariat meetings of provinces, where police sit and describe these frustrations facing women. If there was no one advocating for women at these meetings, this brought the accuracy of the statistics from the police and the Department of Social Development (DSD) into doubt, as many cases were not being registered and women were being turned away.
The Chairperson said she was also concerned about whether the National Command Centre was reporting the calls received, or merely the incidents which they had responded to. She suggested that there should be a focus on Tshwane, as that was where she was finding the problems. She was receiving reports from Soshanguve and Hammanskraal of women saying that there were cults operating that promoted the idea that if one had sex with one’s own child, they would be able to make money. She was planning to meet with women in Tshwane to better understand the issues surrounding the worsening of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and femicide.
She referred to an issue in the Eastern Cape previously raised by Ms T Mgweba (ANC), where there were reports of elderly people being raped by young boys between the ages of 16 and 20. As Chairperson, she could not confidently say that that issue had been dealt with. She was shocked by the issues that had been revealed to her recently, and urged the Commission to deal with them urgently, particularly those in Tshwane. The work needed to happen collaboratively, and the commissioners should thus not be shy about contacting Members of Parliament in the various provinces. At the moment, the government was failing its people, and perhaps the Committee was expecting too much from the CGE. She was not sure if the CGE, on its own assessment, could say that the work it was doing was making an impact.
She made a point of thanking the Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson of the CGE for their interventions on the matters arising in the last week.
Commission for Gender Equality
CGE Chairperson’s opening remarks
Ms Mathebula said that both the annual performance plan (APP) and the budget had been approved internally by the Commission’s oversight committees, including the strategic plan Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) team committee, the finance committee and the plenary of the Commission, which had convened on 26 March.
She said that the invitation to brief the Committee came at a time when the country was experiencing disturbingly high levels of human rights violations, including GBV and femicide. The COVID-19 crisis was showing increased levels of gender inequality, GBV and a reversal of the gains made in the past two decades. The President, as well as the chairpersons of the African Union (AU), the Portfolio Committee and the CGE had made several calls to address this scourge.
Ms Mathebula said the Commission was mandated to monitor the implementation of legislation and policy nationally, regionally and through ratified international instruments. These instruments included the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of-Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a focus on SDGs 3 and 5, the AU agenda 2063 on health, and other regional protocols.
The long-term strategy was developed in 2018 and had been revised to fall in line with the new framework developed by the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation and the National Treasury. The budget of CGE was calculated at R89.9 million per annum. Given the CGE’s broad mandate, which had been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget remained inadequate as the CGE could not cover human resources, emergency and emerging needs, and support service interventions across all nine provinces.
She also indicated that the Chief Executive Officer’s (CEO’s) contract was coming to an end in July, and the CGE had taken a decision to advertise the post and inform the incumbent. This information on the vacancy had been shared with the Committee Chairperson on 8 May, and the process was due to be finalised by 31 July.
She assured Members that the CGE would continue to oppose any practices that went against the founding principles and values of the Constitution.
CGE: APP 2020/21 and Strategic Plan 2019/24
Ms Keketso Maema, CEO of the CGE, said that in light of the GBV and femicide summit from 2018, the CGE had made sure that its strategic thrust looked into some of the efforts that the country was putting in place as a way to combat GBV, and the achievement of equality free from gender oppression. The presentation outlined the vision, mission and values of the CGE.
She said the entity’s mandate was quite broad, and touched on almost every aspect of life, including issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion. Patriarchy was huge and affected many facets of society, including religion, faith, culture, and social and economic class issues. The CGE routinely received complaints about violations from women and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex, asexual and more (LGBTQI+) communities from various sites, including families, domestic spaces, schools, workplaces and public places. Given this vast list of areas where the promotion of gender equality and transformation was necessary, it was clear that the CGE’s task cuts across many aspects of work and life, and makes the setting of priorities burdensome.
The CEO highlighted that the CGE was aware of the communication from National Treasury to look into budget cuts to ensure that there was some contribution towards the R500 million budget on COVID-19 issues. It was aware of looming engagements on the budget and hoping for some protection, as GBV issues and gender discrimination were also at the heart of the COVID-19 crisis, but if there were changes, this would be communicated to the Committee.
In selecting priorities, the CGE sought to focus on issues where it would be able to maximise its strategic impact, with projects that would make a lasting change. It had also identified priorities that could best be addressed through the CGE’s unique accountability powers in tackling gender equality barriers and discrimination. It was important for the CGE to be a catalyst and push others to do the necessary work, whether it be government departments, law enforcers or the private sector.
The presentation outlines the four different strategic objectives for the CGE, including advancing an enabling legislative environment for gender equality; promoting and protecting respect for gender equality through public awareness, education, investigation and litigation; ensuring monitoring and evaluation of issues that undermine the attainment of gender equality; and building an efficient organisation that promotes gender equality. The CEO clarified that the first three strategic objectives needed a base and a capacity to function, and so the fourth objective addressed capacity building within the CGE. The presentation detailed the purpose; outcomes, outputs and performance indicators; the planned performance; and the updated key risks and mitigation for each objective.
Ms Maema pointed out that some of the activities within the strategic objectives would have to be revised in light of the need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of strategic objective 2, the CGE Act allows investigations of the CGE’s own accord as well as mediation, escalation to the equality court and litigation by CGE as an amicus curiae. As part of strategic objective 3, the CGE looks closely at issues undermining the attainment of gender equality. Here the CGE was looking at ensuring that GBV and women’s empowerment was addressed, that representation of women in decision-making and political life was upheld, and that monitoring and evaluation of some of the substantive gender and equality issues was conducted. Strategic objective 4 looks at the CGE internally, to have a strengthened institution that is able deliver on its mandate.
The current APP had been revised to align with the new framework put out by National Treasury. The CGE would continue to look into submissions, in collaboration with the South African Law Reform Commission, of bills passed through Parliament and those passed through s75 at the provincial legislature level, to ensure gender perspective as guided by the CGE. The 6th Parliament had called upon the CGE many times for engagements in this regard. The CGE planned to go through some of the submissions and previous reports, to evaluate whether the submissions and issues had been taken forward in order to guide future engagements on influencing legislation. The CGE had transformation reports that it would be evaluating, and would also be engaging new entities to conduct investigations on transformation issues.
When the plan was put together, the CGE was aware that the Ministry, on behalf of the government, would be presenting at the CEDAW in October and November of 2020, so it had done research through various stakeholder engagements on a vast range of issues. The Commission had a report that it was going to be lodging with Parliament, but this process had been slowed down by the lockdown regulations and access to its printers.
Under strategic objective 2, issues of sexual reproductive and health rights and GBV were concerning, and in response the CGE was planning to create support materials. Gender mainstreaming was a pivotal activity for the CGE, and it would engage with the Committee on reports from the municipalities. As Members were aware, local government was in focus as it was at the centre of service delivery, and interventions at that level would alleviate a number of issues.
The CGE had put a community radio programme in place for education officers and legal officers to undertake some sort of outreach and engage communities in their vernacular languages. The programme targeted rural areas, and would continue to ensure that there was information about rights and the process of vindicating rights for communities that might not be reached physically,. The presentation highlighted that the CGE had been at pains to ensure that it was also able to engage the youth, and was running social media campaigns with particular thematic areas.
The CGE had planned for outreach and advocacy clinics, which was one of the activities that might be affected by social distancing regulations, and had been engaging with the SABC education channel through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the SABC Foundation to ensure education programmes for TV and community radio. The CGE had scheduled a second meeting with the SABC for 29 May, and this project was likely to have budget implications. The CGE would still engage with strategic like-minded organisations, and this activity was unlikely to be compromised by lockdown regulations. In some provinces, this work had already started.
Ms Maema said that complaints were at the centre of the CGE’s work, and this would continue. It had been looking at some systemic issues that had come up. One of these in the last financial year had involved the report into the shelters, and since then the CGE had done more work in taking the recommendations forward. It was also coming up with new systemic investigations, such as those focused on sexual and reproductive health rights, and the Committee would be informed on the progress here. It was still ensuring a proper response by government to combating GBV.
The national strategic plan was now finalised and published, and the CGE was engaging with the relevant parties to check what was going to be done, and how the work would be done differently. Six months ago, the President had indicated that there would be an emergency response plan, and the Commission was looking into this to follow up on the commitments made through this plan.
The CEO commented that in a previous engagement, the Committee had indicated that the CGE should be able to look into the work of the Ministry. It had previously published a status report looking into women’s empowerment, and recently the Ministry had put forward a gender responsive budgeting framework. In light of both of these, the CGE would look into whether the Ministry had done what it said it would do, and whether the other departments were following the gender responsive budgeting framework that had been put in place.
The presentation stressed that from a research perspective, there were two important forthcoming reports. One would address the myriad issues that come up in the winter months regarding deaths in the circumcision and initiation rituals in Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga, and the other would address fatherhood and the rights of fathers.
Strategic objective 4 included monitoring and evaluation, which had been highlighted by Parliament before, and had been identified as important because there were a number of findings and recommendations that the CGE had made that needed to be tracked. It was implementing a tracking tool so that it could follow up on previous recommendations made by the Commission. It was also trying to create some key strategic partnership agreements for some of its work, as required by the CGE Act. Looking at the Commission’s budget, it was important to collaborate and leverage particular partnerships. It had a tool on impact assessment in the media, and this would continue to ensure a much more consolidated report, looking into some of the traditional means of coverage as well. The CGE had done work in the previous financial year regarding knowledge management that had progressed slowly, but this work would continue.
As requested in the invitation from the Portfolio Committee, the presentation highlighted some of its work in responding to the COVID pandemic. The CGE was listed as “essential work,” and had been able to continue some of its work relating to complaints and enquiries. It did have a challenge with how gender-blind the regulations have been, but after being declared “essential,” it had been able to engage government on the CGE’s work. Some of the issues it had been responding to included retailers who stopped selling sanitary pads in Limpopo, baby clothes not being deemed as essential, access to sexual and reproductive health rights services, and access to personal protective equipment (PPE) taking into account that women were at the frontline in the hospitals.
Ms Maema said the Commission was about to finalise its own report on GBV matters from its own statistics. It had been writing to the Command Centre and to the police at the provincial level who had refused to release statistics, citing that they needed an instruction from the national level. It had written to the Police Commissioner regarding this challenge. It had received some statistics from the Command Centre, as well as from Lifeline, and would be collating the statistics from various areas.
With regard to the shelters, the CGE had had a call from one of the NGOs indicating that they were struggling to place victims of GBV. This report highlighted that shelters were refusing to place GBV victims as a way to protect themselves from COVID-19 spreading in their shelters. CGE was happy that the recently disbanded Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) had pushed to have one or two shelters to play an in-between role, taking into account some of the issues highlighted by shelters. It had noted the situation at the Strandfontein camp in Cape Town, and had been engaging with the Human Rights Commission. It had intended participating in litigation, but in order to avoid slowing down the process it had withdraw, but was still doing work to address the challenges. The situation at Strandfontein emphasised the importance of gender mainstreaming.
Mr Moshabi Putu, Chief Financial Officer, said the CGE’s budget translated the strategic objectives and plan into a financial plan. The budget allocation was not a vote in itself, but it was a division within the budget for the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. Thus, for appropriation purposes, the budget line was included as a sub-line under Vote 13. The CGE budget as tabled had been adopted before the lockdown through the internal process of approval, so responses to COVID-19 interventions had not been factored into the presentation.
Mr Putu outlined the different factors that had impacted on how the budget had been adopted. These factors included the macro-economic environment and its impact on the fiscal conditions. At the time of budgeting, there was low GDP growth throughout the economy, and the National Planning Commission (NPC) had announced that the economy was contracting and growth was likely to be negative. These factors would have a direct impact on CGE in terms of the allocations, and the negative impact on the social environment. The mandate of the CGE required them to be activists and address the issues that normally followed a weak economic environment.
Over the years, the CGE budget had remained stagnant. From the preceding financial years and to the outer years of the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF), its budget allocation had been relatively flat and had increased only to accommodate inflation. The budget was based on the CGE’s in-sourced business model, which did not use consultants. It also had a presence in all provinces and an office where it provided service delivery. The nature of CGE services required physical contact and several other modes to do its work, such as technology. The compensation of employees took up 71% of the total budget, and the rest was allocated to service delivery. This covered the fact that the CGE had offices everywhere, used telecommunications and travelled between offices, communities and institutions. Most of the budget line items were fixed, and did not allow room for flexibility.
Outlining the budget, he said the total budget was R89.9m, and the compensation of employees consumes the biggest portion, amounting to R64m. The balance covered auditors’ remuneration, computer and IT-related services, conferences and seminars, upkeep of the offices, report writing, and local and overseas travel. Within the compensation of employees, R15m had been set aside for commissioners for the year.
The Chairperson said she was concerned that the compensation of employees took up 71% of the total CGE budget, but said that the Committee was aware of its frustrations over its limited budget, as well as the government’s limitations in allocating funds. Referring to the strategic plan, she asked how they were planning to influence legislative and policy changes, and whether they were aware of bills that had been brought to Parliament, particularly those coming from the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development on the Sexual Offences Bill.
Ms M Khawula (EFF) said that although commissioners were appointed to deal with women’s issues, after these strategic plans were presented no impact was seen. She also raised a concern that the CGE had a vast mandate that was expected to be covered by a small budget. There were cases of women’s abuse that were concerning, as there was no progress even if they reached the courts. She mentioned a case in Mfuleni, where a mother and child had been killed -- the case had been closed and she had since received reports that the perpetrator was still walking free. She asked that the CGE clarify its role and what challenges it may be facing in following up on these cases. She was also aware of cases where people were struggling to obtain access to land, and were being abused -- having their livestock taken even though they had the wills entitling them to the land. The CGE’s CEO was aware of these cases because of a previous visit, yet the CGE had not followed up.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) asked about the draft commissioner programme sent to the Committee. Looking at the outcome and output performance indicators and targets, one could see that there were planned submissions relating to the Sexual Offences Act amendments, and other submissions for quarter 1. He asked that CGE clarify the planned submissions for quarters 2, 3 and 4, as there was no clarity in the draft programme. He also asked that the CGE clarify what these submissions were meant to achieve, and how they would be guided through the process to ensure impact.
Looking at the programme’s references the CGE’s aim to influence legislative and policy changes, there was a note on attending Parliamentary meetings. It was not sufficient to attend meetings with the Portfolio Committee, as this was what was required legislatively, and was not a measure for reimagining the role that the Commission should be playing to influence policy in a meaningful way. It was clear that there had not been much thinking and articulation on how commissioners could play a role in the strategic objectives of CGE for the next five years. In the plan, commissioners were mentioned only 16 times, which spoke to a lack of clarity on the role of commissioners in achieving strategic objectives, and on their role in both the provincial and national domain.
He welcomed the fact that the case management system had moved online, and asked that a summary of these cases be made available to the Committee so that it could play its oversight role. Since Commissioners were selected through a Parliamentary process, their mandate and job description needed to be clear so that the Committee could provide adequate oversight.
The Chairperson affirmed that Mr Mphithi spoke to the five key thematic areas in the document received, and asked the CGE to clarify how it had delegated for the achievement of the objectives in these areas.
Ms N Sonti (EFF) said she had missed part of the presentation because of ongoing gun violence and looting in her area of Marikana. She said ukuthwala in rural areas was a matter that needed attention, and urged that the movement to abolish the practice of ukuthwala should be made clearer. What was the CGE doing to alleviate and abolish this practice? She was also concerned about the percentage of money allocated to the compensation of employees, and asked if that money could be used elsewhere, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Chairperson responded that the issue of the allocation was a government-wide problem, as the employees in CGE offices across the provinces needed to be compensated, especially as their work was becoming critical during these times when the abuse of women and children was increasing.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) asked what outreach programmes the CGE had with the Department of Basic Education, the Department of Higher Education, and other institutions of learning, to educate, promote and empower young women on gender equity, GBV and gender rights, as GBV and femicide affected women and girls across all ages. Did the CGE include the empowerment of men -- particularly young men -- in GBV and femicide-related issues, as many incidents against women involved men? If it did, what programmes were in place? She also asked for an update on the CGE’s role in advocacy for women in farming, and the allocation of land to women.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) asked about the CGE’s planned and ongoing submissions on new and proposed legislation. Were there any bills that it would be making submissions on? On the CGE’s strategic objective 2 regarding support materials and education programmes on GBV, gender mainstreaming, harmful traditional practices etc., he asked that it confirm whether these materials and programmes would be disability friendly. He welcomed the fact that these materials would be translated into various vernacular languages. He also asked if the CGE had any critical vacancies, and what these vacancies were.
Ms N Sharif (DA) raised a concern on shelters and substance abuse. While working on a case last week, she had found that no shelters wanted to take a 21 year-old girl in because she had a crystal meth addiction. The young girl needed to be placed outside of the house where she was being abused by her father. She asked the CGE to comment on what alternative interventions could be put in place to address such cases.
Referring to the presentation, she said that investigative hearings and reports were very important processes and were needed to hold the government and its departments accountable. The APP had indicated that there were systematic issues that needed to be resolved. What exactly was it looking to be resolved, and did it track these issues to record the recommendations and monitor implementation?
With regard to the strategic objective of reviving gender mainstreaming, she asked how the CGE planned to work in collaboration with Parliament and departments, as they did the same work at various levels. At a previous meeting, the CGE had mentioned the difficulties it was having with the Inter-Ministerial Committee on GBV and femicide. Looking at the APP and the targets presented, she could see that it planned to conduct oversight in putting a plan together for the National Strategic Plan (NSP) during this current quarter. She asked the CGE to comment on whether it had been granted access to these documents and the decision makers in order to get information for the report that the CGE planned to put together.
In strategic objective 2, one of the targets had been labelled as “nine gender machinery interventions to take place in each quarter.” She asked the CGE to clarify what these interventions would look like and provide some examples.
The Chairperson asked for clarity on activities planned on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) for the outer years, as this was not clear in the document, particularly on stakeholder engagements.
Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked the CGE whether it included programmes within its APP to monitor the South African Police Service (SAPS) and employees trained to deal with GBV and sexual assault survivors, to ensure that adequate support was given to victims reporting such cases. She also asked whether it evaluated whether SAPS stations were capacitated to provide support to GBV and sexual assault survivors, particularly in rural areas.
The Chairperson said that it was important that after the CGE had consolidated the statistics from the police, the DSD and Lifeline, it also monitored the cases from the Department of Justice to see whether the GBV and femicide cases had been finalised. She commented that many of these cases were more than two years old.
Ms Mgweba said that she had recently reacquainted herself with the State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2020, and perused through its manifesto priorities to inform her engagement. On issues of partnership with civil societies, and traditional and community leaders, she asked that the CGE clarify whether it had mentorship programmes aimed at young boys and men coming from single women headed households, that provided role models for young boys and men in communities, especially in rural areas. She asked that the CGE clarify how it ensured its reach to outlying rural areas, other than radio, particularly for people who were not close in proximity to Thuthuzela centres, within its limited budget.
The Chairperson suggested that the CGE should perhaps consider billboards to write messages and its mandate in various vernacular languages relevant to the area. Not everybody had access to radio and television, and there needed to be other more inclusive strategies, such as izimbizos.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) said she had noted the improved performance of the CGE across the past five years, particularly with its increased public awareness and outreach programmes. The availability of commissioners when called upon was also commended. She urged the Committee to continue advocating for additional resources for the CGE to continue doing its work. She raised concern as to whether the CGE also monitored legislation through the provincial legislatures, and asked what became of this work if it was done. She said gender transformation in both the public and private sector was broad, and wanted to know what specifically the CGE was referring to as targets for monitoring during this period. She asked whether, during this COVID-19 period, digital platforms were being used to disseminate information. On the matter of social media campaigns, she asked how it would address access to the internet and data for women and young girls who did not have these resources. How was it going to be monitoring the Gender Responsive Budgeting Framework?
The Chairperson asked that the CGE to address issues arising during the lockdown period on sexual reproductive health rights, and whether the programme for men and boys was yielding results. She urged that this programme should be promoted and become widely known.
The virtual meeting was often interrupted by what were likely to be network issues, which frustrated the Chairperson of the Committee and slowed down the meeting, restricting the presenters’ time and making the meeting run longer than planned.
Mr Mbuyiselo Botha, CGE Commissioner, said the work on the programme of men and boys had not been solidified, as there were no male champions in the CGE’s offices dealing with GBV as men. One of the ways it was dealing with this, as it did with its legal clinics and education programs, it factored in men and boys. Another way was through working together with partners like the SAPS, which was a critical partner. What used to work well was having men’s forums in different police stations dedicated to understanding GBV issues. These forums had not been cemented in all the provinces. Police actions were often reflected in what was happening in society, because the men in blue were in the frontline, and frustrate women as they themselves were abusers and manifestations of patriarchy.
The CGE had a huge challenge with resources, and he urged the Committee to work with the Committee on Police to encourage this work and help make it possible. He said that when CGE had better resources, it would be able to roll out programs that were meaningful. The CGE’s Chairperson, Deputy Chairperson and CEO had had a meeting with the Norwegian embassy, which had shown interest in supporting the Commission’s work with men and boys. He was hoping that this engagement with the Norwegian embassy would lead to opportunities to reach schools.
Dr Moleko said the CGE had developed and processed a monitoring and tracking tool that had indices that had been identified as important for looking at the different sectors as an evidence-based approach for tracking. The tool was meant to help the CGE oversee the Departments’ efficacy in the implementation of its reports and recommendations. The commissioners had made sure not to overstep the boundaries with management, and had allowed management to take the report and implement it retrospectively. The CGE had seen that of the hundreds of reports it had published, there was often very little progress with implementation. Since the tool was now in the APP, information on how far the departments were on research outcomes, and the implementation of the recommendations, would be available.
Regarding the GBV index, Dr Moleko explained that it would look at what the GBV incidents were, how police officers were relating, and how the budget was going at the provincial level. There needed to be a monitoring tool for this, and the CGE had proposed this in its plenary. It had given a directive on this in its APP, and was hoping that the secretariat would come on board to execute it.
The Committee Chairperson said the CGE would have to be called again as soon as possible for more detailed responses on its plan, to allow it the opportunity of properly assessing its work.
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, CGE Commissioner, informed Members that during the lockdown period, the CGE had undertaken surveillance and monitoring of various difficulties that people had been experiencing, and she summarised some of the findings. There had been a lack of access to contraception of choice, and many women had been told there was a stock out. There had also been an issue with access to antiretroviral treatments that had been further exacerbated by the issue of lack of access to food by people who were on such medications and chronic treatments.
The Gauteng Department of Health had been one of the departments where the CGE had acted immediately and intervened on specific cases, including the overcrowded maternity ward in Mamelodi and the excessively long waiting periods in Kalafong Hospital for the termination of pregnancy assessments. The CGE had also received sporadic reports from clinics in Soweto and Orange Farm on the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services. The head of the Department of Health in Gauteng had since issued an amended circular, reiterating that access to sexual reproductive rights services were essential, and outlining what they entailed. There were cases that would strategically build on a bigger case for an investigative hearing, or an interrogation for each department.
Dr Mofokeng said the CGE was concerned about the mental health and safety of healthcare professionals across the country, and it was currently working on a communication with the Department of Health, the Presidency and the COVID-19 task team. On the issue of shelters, the CGE last year held investigative hearings and had received progress reports from the DSD, SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Justice and several other civil society organisations. The difficulty lay in the fact that at the moment, drug addiction and substance abuse were viewed as a criminal justice matter instead of a health matter, which encouraged stigma and criminalisation and created difficulties in accessing a shelter. Looking at the transgender population, a lot of transgender women were not able to access hormones, which compromised their mental health, and they were also being excluded from shelters. As had been brought up in the previous investigative hearings, there needed to be a standardised definition of shelter and a standardised admission policy by the DSD. The CGE’s work came in where the policy was discriminatory, to advise and lobby for changes. She assured Members that surveillance by the CGE was continuing and where possible, it immediately reacts and intervenes.
Adv Nthabiseng Mogale, CGE Commissioner, said she was part of the legal sub-committee which did a lot of the CGE’s work, and said the CEO would send a list of the legislation that it had worked on.
One of the projects that the CGE was busy with was their recognition of customary marriages campaign, where they had partnered with Pick n Pay to educate women who did not know their rights regarding customary marriages on issues of consent and estate benefits when their spouse died. The campaign was planned to start in the Eastern Cape and the Free State’s rural areas as a pilot project, where it would use Pick n Pay shop floors, and some of the shop floor leadership, to educate women and encourage them to register their customary marriages. Another project was one planned for September (Heritage Month) as a mafumahadi dialogue, to engage women who were the spouses of chiefs to work with the CGE to bring down patriarchy and GBV issues. This mafumahadi project’s concept paper was currently being reviewed by peers.
Not so long ago, the CGE had 52 women from KZN who had complained about their pay-outs from SARS as widows, where SARS was taxing them to a point where they were left with nothing and in poverty without a supporting spouse. The CGE was looking to review exemptions, and hoping to formalise an exemption that became legislation to allow insurance pay-outs not be taxed as usual for women at a certain age, with certain responsibilities. She had been working with the Chairperson on the issue of ukuthwala, and the CGE was hoping to address the situation, as at this point the matter was dire and urgent. Through this process, it was hoping to have an impact on various issues, including the rape of adults through the practice of ukushisa iphutha, as linked to ukuthwala.
Ms Octavia Lindiwe Ntuli-Tloubatla, CGE Commissioner, explained that their role as commissioners started with the APP, and everything reflected in the APP involved the commissioners up until implementation. Commissioners provide strategic leadership and guidance on the APP, and their role goes down to the provincial level, as each commissioner was assigned a province and was fully involved in the activities aligned to the APP.
At the most recent commissioner’s meeting, the commissioners had realised that as much as they were responsible for the APP, the CGE needed to come up with a commissioners’ programme that was not merely focused on the national sphere, but also on a provincial high-level intervention where commissioners could be involved. Commissioners had a responsibility to influence legislation, as well as policy. One of the key challenges that the CGE was facing was the lack of a national gender policy which disabled it from putting pressure on the private sector.
Ms Nomasonto Mazibuko, CGE Commissioner, answered questions on disability, saying that disabled women were often sidelined. Referring to the CGE’s education and awareness programmes, she said there was no budget and inadequate staff resources, and the DSD did not have adequate staff either. She lamented that issues of disability often came as an afterthought. Through hearings, where the CGE holds discussions with the public and private sector, it was clear that the policy of employing 7% persons with disabilities had not been implemented. Women with disabilities were not being adequately considered in the COVID-19 response. She urged the Committee to look at persons with disabilities in the Members’ own areas to recognise this plight, and highlighted that these issues could not be addressed as a one-size fits all.
Ms O’hara Ngoma-Diseko, CGE Commissioner, said she had been allocated Gauteng, and there needed to be some groundwork on the legislation that had to be focused on, but this legislation would be based on the thematic areas. She flagged the fact that some of these areas were national competencies, whereas the CGE was looking at the provincial level.
The Chairperson expressed concern that the CGE did not have standard operating procedures. Even as the CGE was focused on provinces, they should look at problems from a national perspective. She also made it a point to thank Commissioner Rakolote for his contribution to the Solidarity Fund.
Mr Sediko Rakolote, CGE Commissioner, answered the question on critical vacancies at the CGE, saying that the CGE currently had one such vacancy -- the CEO. The process of filling the vacancy was in motion, and it should be concluded by 31 July.
The Committee Chairperson urged the CGE to inform the relevant parties about the vacancy, and not create issues later.
She said the CGE would have to answer questions that have been left unanswered by the end of the week. Members of the Committee residing in Tshwane would have to meet to strategise on issues in Tshwane.
Mr Mphithi asked for his unanswered questions to be highlighted. The CGE needed to furnish the Committee with a report that clearly stipulated how commissioners’ roles and responsibilities were linked to the strategic objectives.
Ms Khawula also stressed that the CGE needed to respond to how they were going to address the abuse, femicide and rape cases that were not moving forward. She asked it to respond to the government’s recent lockdown regulations allowing alcohol, even though it contributed to accidents and GBV.
The meeting was adjourned.
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