18 Aug 2020
The Portfolio Committee received three presentations in a virtual meeting which dealt with current issues involving the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities.
The Minister said she was committed to the national strategic plan (NSP) on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). The ministry had commenced the process of establishing the national GBVF Council, but there had been some reservations from civil society on its composition. While the Council was still being established, an enabling environment for the multi-sectoral implementation of the NSP was being created. She emphasised that GBVF was a social ill that continued to plague South Africa, and the Department remained committed to making the country safe for women of all ages, sexual identities, vulnerable groups and geographic locations.
The Department’s audit and risk committee said that as of March, the Department had resolved about 72% of the audit outcomes that had been presented by the Auditor-General (AG). It had reduced its irregular expenditure by 40% from the previous year. Unauthorised expenditure had amounted to just over R27 million, and because much of it had been incurred in prior years, the Department had applied to National Treasury for condonement. This had not been resolved, however.
The Committee was given a detailed presentation on the implementation of the National Strategic Plan on GBVF, and the six pillars which supported it:
- Accountability and coordination in leadership;
- Prevention and rebuilding of social cohesion;
- Justice, safety and protection;
- Response, care, support and healing;
- Economic power for women and access to finances; and
- Research and information management.
However, Members said they were generally confused about the processes that would be followed in creating the GBVF Council. Much of the confusion emanated from the lack of understanding of its governance structures. They were particularly alarmed by the fact that the Council’s composition meant it would have more civil society members than the government. They asserted that the Committee was not being properly included by the Department in many of its undertakings, creating a gap between what it did and what the Committee knew about. This hampered their ability to exercise their oversight duties and hold the Department to account.
Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, said she was committed to the national strategic plan (NSP) on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). She commented that based on an earlier meeting she had with other commonwealth countries on the African continent, it was common that women who were poor and barely scraping through were the ones who were the most vulnerable when it came to gender-based violence.
At the last meeting, the Department had been asked a number of questions, which had since been answered in writing and sent to the Committee. The Department was ready to answer even more questions that might be posed to it.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, the Minister had convened four inter-ministerial committee meetings to ensure that the virus and the burdens that came with it were dealt with accordingly. At the centre of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) was the power of working together. There were six pillars to this plan:
- accountability and coordination in leadership;
- prevention and rebuilding of social cohesion;
- justice, safety and protection;
- response, care, support and healing;
- economic power for women and access to finances; and
- research and information management.
The ministry had commenced the process of establishing the national Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council, but there had been some reservations from civil society on its composition. While the Council was still being established, an enabling environment for the multi-sectoral implementation of the NSP was being created. To do this, the Department was working hard developing accountability and leadership structures for pillar one. This would be cascaded through districts, the Premiers’ offices and municipalities so it filtered down well into areas where it could become a reality.
The government had also refined its monitoring and evaluation efforts to better account for the successes and failures of the programmes, particularly for resource allocation to the different programmes. Ultimately the programme had to be replicated in all spheres, and all stakeholders like traditional healers, priests and so on, had to be contacted to make sure of their support. There was a technical team that was navigating the engagement of the multi-sectoral scheme to implement short term schemes for Women’s Month. These kinds of interventions would feed directly into the weekly reports that were sent to the President. The activities would be operating for just over 100 days, although the Minister was not unaware of the fact that they should actually be operating for 365 days.
The Minister said she would like to emphasise that GBVF was a social ill that continued to plague South Africa. The Department remained committed to making South Africa safe for women of all ages, sexual identities, vulnerable groups and geographic locations. The success of the fight against GBV would depend on different stakeholders working well with the government. The Department, along with other government departments, were all reporting to the President to gauge the level of success that the different departments had on the matter. At the next meeting, the Department would be naming all of those who were not pulling their weight when it came to this issue.
Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, said she wanted to commend the leadership and pragmatic steps of the Chairperson regarding the catastrophic situation at the Mthwalume community. She said if the Chairperson were to go there, she would see the implementation of the NSP in its totality: police stations, members of the community, like faith-based organisations were there -- basically all the six pillars that the Minister had been talking about. She appreciated the actions of the Chairperson when it came to these issues.
Department’s progress and challenges
Ms Ayanda Mafuleka, Chairperson: Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, presented a continuation of the presentation she had made to the Committee at a previous meeting, looking mainly at the key challenges and the progress that had been made by the Committee thus far. The last time she was before the Committee, it had consisted of four members, and she was pleased to announce that a fifth member joined, so the committee was fully constituted.
There had previously been directives from the Department not to appoint a Director General permanently yet, so there were a number of officials who had taken up positions on an acting basis. The position had finally been filled permanently by Adv Mikateko Maluleke. There had also been a vacancy in the supply chain management chief directorate since the 2018/19 financial year, and this lack of stability in leadership had contributed to the non-compliance of the Department, particularly with regard to irregular expenditure within the Department. This had been raised with the new DG, and she had said that she would make dealing with irregular expenditure a priority. Once this had been sorted out, most of the findings by the Auditor General would have been handled.
The positions of Chief Director for Monitoring and Evaluation, and the Director for Outreach, had been filled in August. Although there were still some issues of capacity within the Department, the Chairperson was comfortable with recent appointments. Along the same lines, the under-resourcing of the Department was a big issue, because it had been entrusted with such a big mandate. The budget, however, did not reflect this. The ARC had made recommendations to the Department on how to best manage this, and the Department had also been engaging the ARC on the progress made with National Treasury on the matter.
The Department had resuscitated independent information communication technology (ICT) governance structures. The challenge with this was that there were still issues with the ICT infrastructure, including information backup systems that were not managing well. This was being flagged as something that could increase the spread of Covid-19, as it could be used by the Department to measure how far the virus was spreading. This once again was an issue faced by the Department because of the lack of funds to carry out its functions.
There had been some progress. The Department was making sure the disaster management was handled well. This was being done with the assistance of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). However, the acquisition of the appropriate infrastructure for disaster management and recovery had not occurred. This would probably occur in the 2020/21 financial year.
As of March 2020, the Department had resolved about 72% of the audit outcomes that had been presented by the Auditor General (AG). Although the Department should ideally have resolved at least 75% of its audit outcomes, one had to look at the fact that there had been an improvement in comparison to the previous financial year in overcoming audit outcomes. The Committee had seen an improvement regarding non-compliance involving irregular expenditure. For this financial year the Department had capped its irregular expenditure around R2.4 million. Although this amount had not been confirmed by the AG, the internal audit had found that the Department had reduced its irregular expenditure by 40% from the previous year. The ARC had recommended that the internal audit team be actively involved in making sure that this number was reduced going forward.
Unauthorised expenditure had amounted to just over R27 million. Because much of the unauthorised expenditure had been incurred in prior years, the Department had applied to National Treasury for the condonement of the unauthorised expenditure. This matter had not been resolved. Management had reported to the ARC that they were still waiting on National Treasury to respond on the matter. In the 2018/19 financial year, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) had decided to meet with the Department to consider the condonement of unauthorised expenditure, but the meeting, had subsequently been cancelled. In the current financial year, the Department had incurred an additional unauthorised amount of only R3.6 million, and this expenditure had emanated from the over-compensation of employees. The ARC had advised management to approach National Treasury for additional funds to circumvent this over-expenditure, but this had been unsuccessful.
There had been progress with the annual financial statements, which had been submitted timeously despite the challenges. She hoped that they would stand the test of the audit from the AG.
Ms N Sharif (DA) asked for how long the process of establishing the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council had been extended. Could the Committee have a copy of the monitoring and evaluation plan proposed by the Minister, because it also had an oversight responsibility over the GBV Council?
Mr L Mphithi (DA) felt the presentation had touched on a lot of issues that needed to be addressed in the Department. He asked about the supply chain management (SCM), the lack of a director creating audit problems. From a meeting in the previous year, he recalled that the Department had been asked to create terms of reference, and where there was a lack of consequence management, it could not be said that the Department had improved without any report on the outcomes. If the requisite action was not going to be taken, there would be no consequence management. If the recommendations the ARC had made last year had no consequence management or outcomes, how could it be said that the Department had improved? From the questions that were sent to the Department, it had been found that it was the Accounting Officer at the time who had been responsible for the mismanagement of the exorbitant amounts. What consequences and outcomes had there been for the Accounting Officer who had been responsible for signing for the use of funds in this manner?
He said it was fine to ask for the condonement of funds from Treasury if there was an admission of guilt on the misuse of funds, but one could not just ask for condonement. How had the Department asked for condonement if there had, in fact, not been a correction on the side of the Department? Had the terms of reference been created by the Department? The DG had mentioned in the previous meeting that there would be training for officials so that they were aware of the procedure, but as far as he was aware, the procedure was clearly outlined within the legislation and within Treasury. Even if officials were not aware of these procedures, then surely senior members of management and directors knew what had to be done according to regulations and what was not, and what constituted a deviation that could be approved, and what constituted irregular expenditure. Even though he welcomed the 40% decrease in unauthorised expenditure, there had still been no outcomes for the people who allowed it to happen.
A Member asked if there were officials in the Department who could deal with any issues pertaining to the independent ICT infrastructure, or if there would be an outsourcing of responsibilities by the Department. What was the responsibility of the independent authority as far as the ICT infrastructure was concerned?
A Member commented that Departments would always wait until the last minute to make sure that their books were in order for the AG. She wanted to know from the chairperson of the ARC how often they checked on the Department to make sure they were following up on their audit outcomes and the risks associated with them, and were implementing the recommendations that had been made. Could the Committee be furnished with a report to make sure the Department followed up on the recommendations that had been made by the audit committee? She wanted to know if the important vacant positions had been filled, and if there had been any interviews for the posts that were advertised on 31 July.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) said the Department’s ICT system seemed to be always having problems, especially with its information backup systems, and he wanted to know when the Department was going to resolve them.
Ms Mafuleka said that in an attempt to address irregular expenditure from previous financial years, National Treasury had issued an irregular expenditure framework which described the procedure that the Accounting Officer should follow when applying for condonement of expenditure. The internal audit had also assisted in the investigation in line with the framework, and the investigation would ultimately go to the executive authority where consequence management would take place. The improvement the ARC was citing was on the control environment that had slightly improved in the current financial year. She was not downplaying the irregular expenditure by the Department – she had even mentioned that the R1.3 million that was recorded as irregular in this financial year was itself very high.
With regard to the ICT systems, she said she was talking about two committees which were the governing structures. The ICT steering committee and the ICT strategic committee had been established because of the Department of Public Service and Administration’s (DPSA’s) ICT governance framework. One committee was being chaired by an independent person, but not an independent authority, so it was not being outsourced. This strategic committee reports to the ARC, and the ARC gets the report from the independent chairperson.
The ARC met with the Department quarterly. During the period under review, they had met many times -- in March, June, July and August. She had taken note of the request to have the reports on these meetings sent to the Committee through the DG.
Adv Maluleke (DG) first responded to the question about the lack of a chief director for SCM which had resulted in irregular expenditure, and whether the Department had developed terms of reference. The Department had not appointed a director yet, but it was willing to accept the transfer of a director from another department. The director would assume office on 1 October.
For consequence management arising from irregular expenditure, the internal audit was still busy conducting an investigation. She had also sent a compliance instruction which would allow for perpetrators to be asked and answer questions during the investigation. Should they refuse to answer questions, they would indirectly be admitting guilt, which would be followed by disciplinary measures. The accounting officer was included in this investigation.
The Department did have terms of reference on financial instructions that were aligned with National Treasury. Regarding the ICT challenges, the Chairperson had already mentioned that the Department was working with the SITA to resolve them. In fact, SITA had appointed someone to assist the DG on any ICT matter. The Department was also migrating to SITA so that they could manage data for the Department, and in that way there would be integrity in the manner in which data was handled.
National Treasury had informed the Department that they would be cutting down on employee compensation. The DG had reached out to Treasury to ask them to rather cut on goods and services, because the Department was already understaffed. Treasury had replied and said they would be cutting down on employee remuneration because they were trying to reduce the number of personnel in government. It had presented the Department with five options, if the Department could not operate with its budget. These included encouraging people who were near retiring age to retire, or to try to transfer personnel to other government departments. If they were still not able to function, then they would have to retrench people. This was a serious challenge for the Department, and they would need help from the Committee to make sure that this did not thin them out entirely to a point where there was negative expenditure on the compensation of employees.
In addition to the terms of reference, the Department had since reviewed the financial note at a meeting that was recently convened, where the Accounting Officer had signed the instruction of note. In addition to this, the Department had also developed a policy and procedure in the 2019/20 financial year on unauthorised expenditure and irregular expenditure. It had also attended training organised by National Treasury. These were measures that had been employed by the Department to curb irregular and unauthorised expenditure.
Ms Khawula asked how the Department was going to account for the unauthorised expenditure, and who the people involved were.
An official responded that the Department had a backlog of undocumented irregular expenditure dating back from the 2011/12 financial year.
Adv Maluleke responded to Ms Khawula that some of the expenditure could have been used within the Department, but the staff then had not followed the correct procedures.
Ms Khawula asked when the mismanagement of finances was going to come to an end, because it had been happening for a very long time.
Implementation of National Strategic Plan on GBVF
Ms Welhemina Tshabalala, DDG, DWYPD, said the presentation would focus on the six pillars of the National Strategic Plan (NSP), and would then look at the response to Covid-19 and the proposed interventions.
To have a solid plan for the NSP, there had to be a solid and seamless monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system. This would be achieved by strengthening partnerships between the government and social partners, and by leveraging on and replicating what had already been established to be working. The Department had adopted a participatory and multi-sectoral approach -- like pillar-based interim technical teams -- to implement and report on the progress that had been made. It was engaging both government and civil society organisations (CSOs) on the GBVF-NSP. It had developed clear plans on how each pillar would be implemented and achieved. Weekly progress reports, co-signed by government and the CSOs, were submitted to the office of the President.
For this plan the Department had its six pillars for implementation
1. Accountability, coordination and leadership
On 11 March, the Cabinet had approved the establishment of an Inter-ministerial Committee (IMC) that would play a key facilitation role in the National Council (NC) GBVF processes. Due to its urgency, the process of legislating the National Council would be considered by the IMC in due course. The Department would also strengthen its communication strategy with a view to clarifying the implications of the legislative process to establish a statutory body. The IMC had met once again on 8 May 2020 to deliberate on the processes for the establishment of the NCGBVF. The advert on the selection criteria Council had been completed and issued on Monday, 31 August.
Currently, efforts were being made to integrate the NSP targets into departmental annual performance plans (APPs), COVID-19 initiatives and resource allocations. Between quarter one and quarter two, nine weekly reports had been submitted. Between 10 and 14 departments were reporting on the implementation of the NSP on a weekly basis. For costing purposes, the Department had engaged National Treasury to mobilise resources for implementation of GBVF-NSP and COVID-19 deliverables.
2. Prevention and rebuilding social cohesion
The purpose of this was to turn the tide of GBVF by focusing on stopping violence before it happened through a national drive towards shifting away from toxic masculinities, restoring human dignity and rebuilding the social fabric.
Among areas of progress, the GBVF and Creative Media Initiative/Workshop was a work in progress.
Social behavioural change interventions to shift attitudes and behaviours had been rolled out:
- The South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) men’s sector had hosted a virtual national men’s dialogue to discuss the role of men towards a healthy nation on 21 June.
- The Department of Social Development’s (DSD’s) virtual dialogue was held by the under the theme, “Youth Power: Fighting the scourge of GBVF,” on 23 June.
- Faith-based organisations (FBOs) were coordinating efforts to implement GBVF preventative measures with the support of UN Women, Sonke Gender Justice, the South African Council of Churches (SACC), Justice and Peace, and the DWYPD. The first message which committed all men of faith to stand against GBVF had been launched on Father’s Day.
The Department of Basic Education (DBE) had started working on a gender transformed Early Childhood Development (ECD) curriculum for boy children. It was finalising eight radio lessons on violence prevention that had been extracted from the 81 Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) scripted lesson plans, which included working with boys. There had also been two interactive radio talk shows connected to over 72 community radio stations on the three GBVF Bills and the court support services to GBVF survivors. There were also three live chats on social media platforms on domestic violence services, safety planning and sexual offences courts’ support services.
Along with these initiatives, the Department had also hosted one webinar on a victim/survivor–centric justice system, in conjunction with the NSP pillar task team. The non-profit organisation (NPO) Mosaic had made a presentation to an audience of about 85 people drawn from the courts, government and civil society stakeholders.
3. Justice, safety and protection
There were a couple of bills that were pending for matters relating to GBVF:
- The Domestic Violence Amendment (DVA) Bill. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development (DOJCD) had received an invitation from Parliament to present this Bill on 25 August, but this date had been postponed until further notice.
- The presentation of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act had been postponed till further notice.
- The presentation of the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill had been postponed till further notice.
- The Traditional Courts Bill. The Select Committee (SC) had been considering negotiating mandates from provinces, as this was a section 76 Bill.
- The Cybercrimes Bill had been adopted by the SC on 10 June and referred to the Portfolio Committee (PC) on Justice and Correctional Services to consider proposed changes.
- The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill was pending before the PC on Justice and Correctional Services.
- The Recognition of Customary Marriages Amendment Bill had been approved by the PC, and adopted by the SC on 23 June, but the provinces had to be consulted since it was s76 Bill. The SC was currently obtaining negotiation mandates from the provinces.
- The Prescription in Civil and Criminal Matters (Sexual Offences) Amendment Bill was presented to the SC on 23 June. The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) had published the Bill for public comment.
- The draft Criminal Procedure Act Amendment Bill (bail) was presented to the SC on 23 June. The NCOP had published the Bill for public comment, with a closing date of 31 July.
- The Victim Support Services (VSS) Bill had been Gazetted for public comments, with a closing date of 15 September.
- The draft Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work had been published for public comment for 60 days on 20 August (Gazette No.43630). The draft had been distributed to over 35 000 employers through the Employment Equity (EE) system database.
Ms Tshabalala referred to the progress made by the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
In the first quarter of the year, the conviction rate in GBV matters had been 70.2%. Sentences of 18 to 43 years had been imposed in 41.9% of cases -- these were for convictions that received life sentences. The Brandfort and Bafokeng courts had been resourced for designation as Sexual Offences Courts (SOCs). There were 235 cold cases being investigated, and 76 of them had been reinstated for prosecution.
Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) had rendered services to 5 050 victims, which was a 36.8% decrease from the number of matters reported during 2019/20 quarter one. There was a high likelihood that the reduction was due to the lockdown regulations and restrictions. In July, 55 sites had rendered services to 1 891 victims of GBV.
4. Response, care, support and healing
The purpose of this pillar was the strengthening of response, care and support services by the state and civil society in ways that were victim-centred, and survivor-focused to facilitate recovery and healing.
Progress included the Solidarity Fund approving R17 million for initiatives that support victims of GBV. The Fund had also resourced the GBV command centre with additional staff and the necessary equipment. The National Development Agency (NDA) had been an implementing partner for the funding of civil society organisations (CSOs). There had also been procurement of rape kits for the national shelter movement and 55 TCCs.
For shelter during Covid-19, public buildings had been made available for shelters and interim housing arrangements for survivors. Site inspections in Mpumalanga, the Free State (FS) and the Northern Cape (NC) had been conducted in July. A “classified” list of GBVF victims in need of housing assistance had been received from the Department of Social Development (DSD). Development of a strategy for the provision of adequate shelter for GBVF victims was in progress. National consultations had been convened between 27 and 30 July with stakeholders in order to develop a list of standard service names and descriptions for each service, in line with the sector funding policy.
Progress had been made with regard to shelters. The DSD had made use of the Salvokop building in Pretoria that had been earmarked for the GBVC. A site inspection had been conducted by the Solidarity Fund on 27 July in relation to the design and furniture for the Centre. The building was technically ready in terms of technology connectivity.
There had been ongoing consultations with internal stakeholders on appropriate policies and programmes to provide housing assistance. The DSD had also held a consultative meeting with the Western Cape provincial department on 7 August to discuss use of allocated buildings as Khuseleka One-Stop Centres and White Door Safe Spaces of Hope, as shelters for abused women.
5. Economic power
The purpose of this pillar was to intentionally transform the structural foundation of GBVF by addressing women’s unequal economic and social position, through access to government and private sector procurement, employment, housing, access to land, financial resources and other income generating initiatives.
The Department had convened two workshops on economic impact. A GBV skills programme had also been registered at the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA) towards a victim empowerment coordination qualification. In a project based in Mpumalanga, 123 learners were to be trained. This would include interventions on GBV and how to conduct a basic needs assessment.
When it came to the Procurement Bill, the Department had reviewed and provided inputs to make it gender transformative. It was mostly covered under the Covid-19 relief measures.
For the month of August, there had been a targeted focus on unpacking the COVID-19 relief funds received by women. There had also been a webinar on 31 August. A baseline analysis of Covid-19 funds was currently being finalised.
6. Research and information management
The purpose of this pillar was to ensure the availability of strategic, multi-disciplinary research and integrated information systems that were nationally coordinated and decentralised to address systemic challenges and facilitate effective solutions and responses.
The DWYPD, as well as the DPME, had developed a framework for reporting by department per pillar. The Department was supported by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA), and was currently working on putting processes in place to develop a monitoring and evaluation system for the GBVF-NSP.
There were other proposed pragmatic interventions. In partnership with Google, the implementation task team (ITT) was developing a heatmap/dashboard that would be shared with the President, and thereafter with the public in September. Information included in the pilot heatmap was on GBVF incidents by province, positive response action by province, and a tracker on Women’s Month focus areas. A review of the identified sources of data had been conducted, and there had been an agreement on priority categories or areas for reporting GBVF using available data from various collecting departments and other institutions.
Response to Covid-19 and GBVF
The response was focused on ensuring integration of GBVF efforts into the national response to COVID-19.
The Department had declared GBVF-related services as essential services. There had been equitable support for relief measures for women. There was the introduction of a COVID-19 social relief of distress (SRD) grant and a temporary increase in other grants, such as the child support grant. There had also been in-depth research into the impact of Covid-19 on women. To add to this, the Department had added a COVID-19 gender tracking system to collect gender disaggregated data.
These were the nominated officials for the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC): Ms Fanani Manugu; Ms. Pebetse Maleka; Lt Gen Tebello Mosikili; Ms Siza Magangoe; Adv Praise Kambula; and Ms Shoki Tshabalala. Their responsibilities were to provide continuous feedback to their principals; to be responsible for periodic reporting on progress at the Forum of South African Directors-General (FOSAD) and various Clusters; to establish an information portal; and to execute the mandate of the IMC.
There were planned programme interventions. There was a mass media campaign that would extend over 365 days. The Department wanted to contribute towards the budget. It wanted to include GBVF on the COVID-19 district dashboards to enable Ministers and Deputy Ministers visiting districts to mobilise communities to fight the pandemic and encourage them to end the culture of silence on GBVF.
The Department also wanted to establish rapid response structures at the community level. It intended to train and support community capacity in changing norms and delivering GBVF prevention interventions, as well as address alcohol and drug abuse.
The scale of GBVF in the country remained an enormous challenge. The Department continued to experience challenges with reporting from other government departments. The current situation was exacerbated by the reprioritisation of resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by departments. GBVF-NSP targets had not been fully included and integrated into the COVID-19 emergency response plans of departments. As a solution, the government and partners were to popularise NSP and use it to raise and heighten awareness on the GBVF scourge. There would be an increase in visibility of the IMC through convening bi-weekly media briefings. The Department and the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluations would continue to assist departments to integrate NSP targets into APPs, COVID-19 initiatives, and to allocate resources for implementation.
Ms Sharif asked when the presentation on the establishment of National Council of GBVF would be presented.
Adv Maluleke said she had actually already touched on that issue in her presentation.
The Minister agreed with her, and added that initially there was going to be an advert for the posts on the Council. The NSP was not a new concept. It had been long established by the President at the Summit, but had been stalled because of the lockdown. The outcome of the Summit had to first be adopted through the Cabinet. Even during the lockdown, the President had appointed an IMC of six Ministers, in anticipation that there would be six Ministers and seven people from civil society organisations. To get these seven people, there had been a webinar. Those who had attended had said they liked the idea of the Council, but had said there needed to be a definite process that was going to get the idea through Parliament within two years. The seven people who would be on the committee could not only be people from civil society -- there also had to be people from government, it had to be a partnership. This would all be in the advert, which would have information on time frames and what was expected from the Council.
The Chairperson said she understood the question from Ms Sharif, because all that the Committee had was an organogram of how the Council was going to function. She requested that before the advert was issued, the Committee should have a document that stipulated the status, the mandate, the purpose and its objectives and rules, so that these were clearly known by the Members. This was important, so that when they were asked about, they were able to defend it. At the moment, the Committee had no tangible information on the matter.
The Chairperson said sometimes these councils were presented in front of a standing committee. If that was to be the case, the Committee should be able to defend it in those spaces. There would be a majority of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), which meant that the government would not be directing what happened in this committee, as it would not have the voting power. She had been getting a number of questions from Members, and had been telling them that they should wait for the Department to make a presentation on the matter. The concern was that there would not be a Portfolio Committee exercising oversight over the Council, so who was going to ensure that they were following procedures and dealing with the right issues if the government was not in power? It was important for the Department to make a presentation on this so that the Committee could see how the Council was going to function, and the powers that would be vested in the different parties in this partnership.
Ms Sharif agreed with everything that had just been said, and emphasised that the Committee would also need an understanding of the selection criteria that were being used by the Department in selecting members that would be sitting on the Council.
She asked why there was such a big difference between the 38 claims that had been processed in four months, and the 402 applications that had been processed because it was Women’s Month.
She said the DDG had made absolutely no comment on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning, intersex, asexual and more (LGBTQIA+) community or gender non-conforming people in her presentation. When one spoke about women, one had to be cognisant of the fact that this also applied to people who identified as women, and those who were non-conforming. There was a lot of violence towards gay, bisexual and transgender people, and the fact that these presentations had contained nothing thing pertaining to these groups was deeply problematic.
The Chairperson commented on the Council, and said that there would need to be a way of authenticating NGOs because when people heard that there was R1.6 billion involved, they would suddenly become NGOs. These NGOs would need to be audited to see when they had applied to be recognised as NGOs.
Ms Khawula said she agreed with the Chairperson 100%. When the Department worked with NGOs, they would be creating a crisis on top of another crisis. These NGOs would have to be monitored rigorously to see what they did with the money that had been allocated. There had been many instances where these organisations were supposed to have worked with people, like providing vouchers that had never reached the people that they were supposed to have reached. She said the Ministry should have contacted the Committee on the matter.
Mr Mphithi said it was important for the Minister not to make statements only when the Committee was not able to engage with her. At some point, she had to be able to answer the questions that the Committee had for her, because the role of the Committee was to ask questions and account for activities happening in the Department. He pleased that the Department was involving the Committee more in its activities, although it seems it was still doing a lot of things in isolation. There had been a gap between what the Department did and what the Committee knew about. An example was the Minister having attended a meeting with other commonwealth countries. This was something that the Committee should have known about. This kind of relationship was important for the Committee to execute its duties. The issue highlighted by the DG on the cutting of salaries was very important, and the Committee needed to figure out a way in which it could assist.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) referred to the building shelter mentioned in the presentation for people that had been approved by DSD. She said this had to be checked, because where she was from, buildings were falling apart and people were having to go to other areas for services. She also seconded the concerns raised regarding the NGOs, the selection criteria, and the authenticating of the organisations to see when they were registered.
Ms B Maluleke (ANC) wanted to emphasise that this matter should have come to the Committee first so that it could have an idea what was going on. She also wanted to know if the advert by the Department was still going to be issued, despite the concerns of the Committee.
Ms Mgweba said the Committee could agree that it had not been sent a document on the Council. Members were also in agreement that the Department had to go back and source this document for the Committee. The Committee also agreed that the advert could not be issued before the Committee had engaged with the document. In terms of the NSP, who was going ensure that it was well resourced? Who would this new Council account to -- was it going to be the President, the Minister, the Department, or Parliament through the Committee? What would be the responsibility of the IMC?
The Chairperson also said she would like to know the rules on everything, and who would account to whom. This would all be answered in the presentation that the Department would be making to Committee.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said there was a document that was almost two years old titled “National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.” The Portfolio Committee had been told that the Council would not be entertained until this document had gone to Cabinet. Cabinet had adopted the document and instructed a six-member committee to carry the matter forward. In the NSP document, on page 58, it clearly sets out the roles and responsibilities of the inter-ministerial committee. It states that it reports to government, the President and Cabinet. The Council on GBVF also had its own role.
She said they could not keep postponing grabbing the current issue by its horns. Now the Committee wants there to be a review of the credentials of these organisations. The NSP was a product of a multiparty summit which had been led by the President himself, but it had been taken to Cabinet so that it could be taken to government. This process in its entirety was going to take two years to go through Parliament, and that would be enough time to quarrel about the ins and outs of the document.
She responded to Mr Mphithi’s comment that she was not around enough for questions to be addressed to her. She also referred to the commonwealth meeting and said that was an important meeting. She had found out about it at the eleventh hour and had had to attend it because it was addressing how women were affected by Covid-19.
The Chairperson also reiterated that the Department must not leave the Committee in the dark. All the concerns that had been raised relating to the selection criteria for the NGOs and other details needed to be addressed. The Committee was not saying that the Department was not doing its work, but it wanted to be involved when processes were taking place so that it was able to account to Parliament.
Mr Mphithi echoed the same sentiments on the matter, saying that Members of the Portfolio Committee were also under pressure to inform constituents of the contents of these meetings. He accepted what the Minister had said.
Ms Sharif also echoed the same sentiments as the Chairperson and Mr Mphithi. She said if the Committee was confused, then the general public was also definitely confused. The Committee had every right to ask the questions that it had asked in order to fully discharge its responsibilities.
The meeting was adjourned.
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