The meeting with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) was scheduled to follow-up on the outstanding issues that were discussed in the meeting held on 19 June 2020. It was agreed at the time that the CGE would present a detailed Deployment Plan and the Adjusted Annual Performance Plan to the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities. In addition, a presentation of the Adjustment 2020/2021 budget was also planned.
The briefing was however cut short based on the fact that the plans, as well as the Adjustment Budget, were not yet discussed in a plenary session with all Commissioners and staff of the CGE, prior to the Portfolio Committee meeting. In terms of parliamentary rules, reports needed to be discussed internally to ensure collective ownership of the content before deliberations in Parliament.
The CGE agreed to return and report back to the Committee after the plenary session that was scheduled for 13 - 14 July 2020.
Members were concerned about the numerous cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV), involving girls as young as two- and seven-year-old, that were recently reported in the media. Commissioners were requested to attend to these cases in the areas for which they were responsible.
The Chairperson, after receiving a telephone call, announced that she was just informed about the passing of a Chief Director of the Department of Education in Gauteng. On request of one of the Members, Ms M Hlengwa (IFP), the Committee observed a moment of prayer. The Chairperson made an appeal to Members to keep praying for divine intervention. She was concerned that the prevention of the COVID19 disease would become more difficult after it was identified as an airborne disease. She asked that Members pray for those who lost loved ones and informed the meeting about two members from the Ekurhuleni region who were affected by the disease. They were travelling to Cape Town but it was not clear whether they contracted the disease in Cape Town or at the place where they were residing. She urged the Committee to stay committed to serve the people of South Africa despite the current situation.
The Chairperson welcomed the Commissioners and confirmed that the agenda items included a presentation of the adjustment budget. She however firstly expected feedback on a detailed deployment plan so that Members could engage on the issues that were raised. She referred to a letter that was sent to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) about the contracts of senior managers in terms of when it was ending and the process that would subsequently be followed. The critique about the CGE senior manager structure, in her observation, was that it represented a ‘boys’ choir’. She questioned how the CGE planned to fight equality and gender representation when the organisation itself was not balanced and was failing to implement their own mandate. Oversight should start with the CGE because the organisation would be monitoring other departments and entities.
Apologies were tabled on behalf of Ms M Khawula (EFF) and CGE Commissioner Busisiwe Deyi, who was unable to attend the meeting due to the funeral of her parents.
The Chairperson asked for clarification from the CGE chairperson on whether both parents had died.
The CGE chairperson, Ms Tamara Mathebula, confirmed that she submitted the apology privately as she did not want to deliberate on the matter publicly in respect of the privacy of Commissioner Deyi.
The Chairperson expressed condolences with Commissioner Deyi and her family and acknowledged how painful it was to lose a parent.
The Chairperson indicated that the briefing should commence with outstanding matters from the previous meeting and that it should end with a presentation of the adjustment budget.
Presentation: CGE Annual Performance Plan
The CGE chairperson, Ms Tamara Mathebula, said that the CGE was excited to present the reports and information as requested and hoped that Members would engage with the reports. The delegation, which included the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), was led by the CGE deputy chairperson. She declared that some of the reports still needed to be tabled at a plenary session that was originally scheduled for 9 - 10 July 2020 but because the meeting with the Committee was prioritised, the plenary was rescheduled for 13 - 14 July 2020. The discussion would focus on three issues namely, the detailed annual plan for Commissioners, the roadmap on the recruitment of personal assistants for Commissioners and the report on the process on the recruitment and appointment of the CEO. Based on the number of reports that were submitted during the previous week, she hoped that some of the issues were clarified but the CGE was willing to respond if Members needed more information. The CEO and CFO would be delivering presentations on the implications of COVID-19 on the work and mandate of the CGE as well as on the implications on the budget. She reiterated that some of the issues would be new to CGE members as it would only be presented at the plenary scheduled for the following week.
The CGE chairperson stated that as an essential service, the CGE was working during the lockdown period and developed its own plans on mitigating the response to COVID-19 challenges. The detailed annual plan, which was in respect of the 2020/21 year, would be presented by herself and the deputy chairperson. The highlights of the plan would indicate how Commissioners were planning to do monitoring and oversight. The detailed plan was aligned to the five-year Strategic Plan, submitted in May 2020, as well as to the Annual Performance Plan, submitted in June 2020. The four strategic objectives dealt with operational matters, including the secretariat. The plan was structured in such a way to reflect what was being done by each Commissioner for each objective, separate from the operational role of the secretariat. The guiding principles of the plan were aligned to the programme submitted in May 2020, which was an overarching framework.
The purpose of the plan was to provide guidance and to regulate the functions of the Commissioners. The plan interfaced between the work of the Commissioners and the Secretariat. The CGE had a provincial footprint as Commissioners also worked with the SA Local Government Association (SALGA), provincial managers and legal clinics in provinces. The plan was also aligned with the expertise of Commissioners. For example, the deputy chairperson was well-versed in women’s issues and economic empowerment and would be running those programmes on national and provincial levels. Commissioner Mbuyiselo Botha was responsible for issues of men, circumcision and fatherhood. Engaging stakeholders, such as unions, was the responsibility of Commissioner Octavia Lindiwe Ntuli-Tloubatla. Commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko, with the assistance of other Commissioners, would deal with disability related issues.
The CGE chairperson said that the annual plan consisted of targeted programmes with detailed quarterly interventions and performance indicators that allowed Commissioners to measure themselves on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis and to monitor the progress on each intervention. For example, the first objective dealt with meetings with Parliament on proposed legislation and policies. Five meetings had been scheduled. Based on the Presidential and the new GBV Strategic Plan, the need was identified to review the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual Offences Amendment Act. The idea was to report to the Committee on a quarterly basis. The CGE was also lagging behind with other policies that must be reviewed and presented to Parliament. At provincial level, the CGE planned to engage with SALGA, the office of the Premier and women’s caucuses to influence legislation at a provincial level. Provinces needed to develop their own plans based on the national plan. Structures were in place and were being monitored by Premiers but the CGE needed to play an oversight role.
The CGE chairperson stated that SALGA was doing a lot of work on gender mainstreaming. The CGE piloted a gender mainstreaming programme in all provinces at different municipalities. It was the duty of Commissioners to ensure that the programme was implemented and brought to the attention of the SALGA Women’s Commission and caucus members of provinces. The programme needed to be taken to decision makers to ensure the gender machinery was implemented and monitored at national and provincial levels. The CGE assisted with GBV issues and the Commissioners played a critical role to share the CGE models on national, regional and International platforms at conferences.
The CGE Chairperson concluded that the last objective related to the building and strengthening of the systems and policies of the institution internally. This was important as the CGE would not be able to influence other departments with weak systems and policies. The Commissioners’ programmes and handbook were revised to make sure that systems and policies were updated. Oversight meetings were also scheduled to be held on a quarterly basis.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) requested to a turn to speak before any further discussion took place as she noted that the CGE Chairperson made a disclaimer that reports were not yet discussed in the CGE plenary session. She raised a concern about it not being appropriate to discuss reports that were not yet dealt with internally. There needed to be collective ownership on the detail of reports within the CGE before the Committee could deliberate on the issues. She proposed that the reports first be discussed internally by the CGE.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) agreed with Ms Masiko that the reports be withdrawn if they were not discussed formally within the structures of the CGE.
The Chairperson agreed that all reports be withdrawn if it was not discussed within the CGE structures. In terms of parliamentary rules, the Committee was not allowed to deal with any reports that were not formally discussed. She recommended that the CGE should be given the time to do things in a proper way as the Committee did not want to see a divided CGE as Commissioners must work together as a collective. The Committee would do its level best to protect the Commissioners.
The CGE chairperson expressed her appreciation for the spirit and manner in which the Committee was approaching the matter. She was anxious about presenting reports that were not yet tabled and appreciated the opportunity to follow proper procedures.
The CGE deputy chairperson, Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, agreed with the CGE chairperson and said that an update would be given after the Commission’s plenary session was held.
The Chairperson observed that the team spirit was positive and commended the team for having worked as a team.
Ms N Sharif (DA) raised the issue of the rape a two-year old girl that was reported in the media. The child was in a COVID-19 isolation ward in a Gauteng hospital when the tragedy happened. The hospital management only became aware of the case through media reports. The Commissioner of Police was aware of the matter but a case was not yet opened. The investigation was however underway. She proposed that the Committee should keep an eye on the matter.
The Chairperson replied that she was aware that the Portfolio Committee on Health visited a hospital in Tshwane and that she would follow-up with the Whip of the Health Committee. She suggested that the Commissioners in the Gauteng area should also attend to the matter and requested Ms Sharif to forward the article about the matter to all Members of the Committee.
Ms Masiko reported another case of a seven-year old girl that was sent back home from school by the security guard to go fetch her mask. The Department of Basic Education (DBE) must be requested to make additional masks available at schools. She made a formal request for all reports submitted by the CGE to be withdrawn.
Commissioner Botha remarked that he expected the DBE to have made provision for additional masks. He told the Committee about an incident of a father who poisoned his two children after an argument with his wife/girlfriend.
The Chairperson made a plea to all attendees to protect their families and to not move between provinces as level three restrictions were still applicable. In a recent debate with the Minister of Health, suggestions were made for Gauteng and the Western Cape to return to level five. She did not agree with this proposal as people were losing jobs and most of them were women. It was important to educate communities especially in townships where wearing of masks and washing of hands were not taken seriously.
The meeting was adjourned.
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