Commission for Gender Equality 2020/21 Quarter 3 performance

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

02 March 2021
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

In a virtual meeting, the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) presented to the Committee its Quarter 3 performance report for 2020/21. The CGE Chairperson highlighted that the Commission had continued to improve, reaching most of its targets during the quarter. The CEO said that CGE would fulfil all its outstanding targets from previous quarters and meet its Quarter 4 targets. She outlined the Quarter 3 activities for each programme. Two full-time Commissioners had resigned over the past year and two part-time commissioners would be applying to fill these.

The Commission's adjusted budget due to the pandemic and the South African Airways rescue meant a further reduction of R10 million. Despite this, due to vacancies and the pandemic slow-down, the Commission did not spend all its Q3 budget. The Auditor-General findings were discussed.

Committee members asked how the Commission had restructured its programmes after the budget reduction; why it had not applied its unused budget to key activities; why it had not been given more details of its audit action plan and how it was raising awareness about CGE. They requested updates on the work of the Commissioners in the provinces; developments in the Mtwalume case; investigation into the accessibility of rape kits at police stations; and progress on various CGE reports.

Meeting report

Commission for Gender Equality Chairperson remarks
CGE Chairperson, Ms Tamara Mathebula, wished the Portfolio Committee a good year despite the pandemic and gave condolences to Members who had lost a loved one.

Under the CGE’s first strategic objective, the CGE made submissions on the three bills addressing gender-based violence as well as addressing the criminal justice system including the Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill.

The second strategic objective focused on increasing awareness about CGE. More investigations were conducted during lockdown level three. Webinars were held on the social impact on women and people of disabilities in society, COVID-19 and gender-based violence and women empowerment and gender equality, looking at women's inclusion in the economy. These webinars were hosted by Commissioners along with experts and organisations such as the Department of Women, South African Police Service, Statistics SA with the Statistician-General and NGOs such as Sonke Gender Justice, SADAG and SEDA which spoke about how women could directly or indirectly benefit from small businesses. CGE raised awareness at the provincial and national level during 16 Days of Activism on gender transformation, behaviour change and ensuring respect for gender equality and the values of social justice against gender-based violence.

Under the third strategic objective, CGE monitored issues that undermine ensuring gender equality attainment. They were able to contribute to the 1994 Women’s Charter review and worked in a number of provinces. In the last three months from October to December 2020, CGE had made presentations and interventions in municipalities and districts in Gauteng and Limpopo.

The fourth strategic objective was an internal review of CGE’s processes. This included monitoring its risk register and it proposed risk mitigating strategy. There were no COVID-19 deaths reported amongst its staff members.

CGE started its strategic planning process during the quarter for the annual performance plan (APP) and budget. CGE planned to have all its plans finalised by the end of the current financial year and ready to present to the Portfolio Committee in due course.

CGE implemented its own internal oversight committee as well as hosted internal plenary meetings. This will be continuous to ensure CGE improves its processes.

The Commissioner, Dr Mofokeng had resigned in December 2020 and had served her three-month notice. Her contract had officially concluded on 25 February 2021.
She concluded her remarks by saying that CGE would continue its monitoring and oversight work in Quarter 4 and into 2021/22.

She noted that Commissioner Mbuyiselo Botha asked to leave the meeting as he was not feeling well and needed to go to the doctor.

CEO presentation
Ms Jamela Robertson said that overall CGE was able to meet its goals in Quarter 3 and that progress was being made to ensure that Quarter 4 produces similar results.

Advance an enabling legislative environment for gender equality
CGE had met its target on collaborating with other institutions supporting democracies (ISDs) in meeting with the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs on how such institutions can support the Department’s lockdown regulations in fulfilling the ISD mandates. CGE made submissions to address gender-based violence and criminal justice reform. Following the submissions, they were asked to work on three related bills which increased their submissions from three to six.

Promote gender equality through public awareness, education, investigation and litigation;
In addition to the webinars held with stakeholders, CGE held three consultative meetings with institutions of higher learning and TVET colleges. There have been consultative engagements with public and private entities to increase the outreach of CGE. It was able to expand its reach in promoting respect and upholding gender equality through digital and traditional media. The use of radio stations had been helpful in expanding its reach and each Commissioner would formed part of the radio slots with their area of expertise. There were currently talks with the Film and Publication Board in forming a potential partnership.

Monitor and evaluate issues that undermine the attainment of gender equality
In addition to the high-level consultative sessions about the 1994 Women’s Charter Review in Gauteng and Limpopo, there were continued engagements with the SA Human Rights Commission and Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers on gender equality indicators and engagements with the University of Pretoria and the University of KwaZulu Natal on the Caster Semenya discrimination case. There were continued monitoring of sexual and reproductive health rights violation during the COVID-19 lockdown and work done in communities and municipalities to address the violations that were reported.

Build and efficient organisation to effectively promote and protect gender equality
CGE created a Monitoring and Evaluation plan which is being drafted and consulted on. This is in response to the audit findings and the Portfolio Committee recommendations to ensure CGE remains a functioning entity. It had drafted its Risk Register and mitigation strategies. It drafted its Strategic Plan and its APP which are being reviewed and will be submitted to the Committee once this process had been concluded. During this period there was also an internal quarterly oversight meeting as well as ordinary and special plenaries.

CFO presentation
Mr Moshabi Putu, CGE CFO, reported that the CGE budget had been reduced by R10 million by National Treasury due to the SAA rescue being prioritised as well as the budget adjustment in response to the COVID-19 lockdown.

CGE had several line items that it underspent on due to the lockdown and vacant posts. R60.2 million was the total income for spending. While the entity underspent on certain items of its budget, its assets exceeded its liabilities by R18.7 million due to the cash resources resulting from surpluses reported in the current period and two previous financial years.

One supply chain management contract could be considered irregular expenditure by the Auditor-General (AG) however there were no performance defects by service providers or CGE. This spoke to CGE's improved control management tools in trying to curb irregular and fruitless expenditure. CGE had its last two branded vehicles delivered and it is auctioning two old ones.

There were no material issues reported on the 10 offices owned or leased by CGE except for its ConHill and Free State offices which are being followed up by DPW. The use and condition of its vehicle fleet was satisfactory and costs were relatively low due to lockdown under-use.

CGE instituted a risk management strategy which is being implemented. There is also a risk assessment for the budget reduction due to cuts from National Treasury and also to factor the possibility of incorporating an automation system to track financials of each project.

In the audit, it was recommended CGE look into its sick leave management which it is currently reviewing. Past irregular and fruitless and wasteful expenditure is being finalised. It was recommended that CGE fill key vacancies especially its legal services function. This is being focused on during the fourth quarter and likely to be completed in the first quarter of 2021/22.

The Audit Action Plan is being monitored for effective corrective action by management and investigations into allegations of maladministration have been completed and are being processed internally before being submitted to the Portfolio Committee

The Chairperson asked what progress had been made by CGE its monitoring tool it was developing with the Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME).

She asked what progress CGE has made in monitoring outstanding cases on gender-based violence and femicide in the justice system. Why are such cases being dismissed by the courts? She raised the concern that women who opened such cases complain that their cases are being dismissed and asked if the issue could be prosecutors or police officers are not writing victim statements correctly. She asked if CGE has monitored police stations to evaluate if women are satisfied with the process of opening a GBV case.

The Chairperson asked about the status of expired and expiring contracts of senior executives at CGE. What posts are these? What is CGE doing to address these contracts?

When CGE presents to the Committee, it must give a provincial breakdown of its information such as GBV cases to provide context. The Committee was still waiting for an update on the case in Mtwalume, KZN and its follow-up by Commissioners who had visited the area. CGE must provide detailed information on all its cases, including outstanding ones.

Training was still an ongoing concern since it was first raised in the Quarter 2 report. CGE must change its strategy to reach out to rural communities as the Committee had travelled to various communities and they looked out for billboards that explain what CGE was about. She asked in which provinces were the billboards located.

The Chairperson asked what rape and domestic violence cases had CGE dealt with, considering the large number of cases being reported on by the media.

She asked for clarity about the Commissioner resignation as the Committee had spoken about the resignation of Commissioner Jennifer Smout. This was so they knew who to speak about when engaging with the National Assembly Speaker about appointment of commissioners.

There were vacancies that needed to be filled but were paused up until the CEO was appointed to take responsibility of the hiring process. Now the CEO had been appointed, she asked for an update on the vacancies.

Ms F Masiko (ANC) agreed that the Mtwalume matter had hardly had follow-up once the media and public interest died out. A CGE follow-up must be provided to the Committee. She clarified that the resignation was of another Commissioner resulting in two posts now open.

The Chairperson requested an update on the AG findings on CGE finances.

CGE response
CFO Puto replied that the AG had found there was irregular expenditure for non-adherence to the strict procurement rules on its contract management. CGE had taken steps to improve its internal systems in line with the AG’s recommendation. These included checklists, consequence management, and following National Treasury’s guidelines in conducting liability investigations. CGE had created a loss committee to serve this function but it needed to be re-convened due to the resignation of two Commissioners.

The Committee Chairperson reprimanded the CFO saying that the Committee no longer wanted general statements from CGE. This is something the Committee would no longer tolerate. The Committee wanted specifics so it can deal adequately with challenges that arise. The AG findings  fell under his portfolio. The Committee had given the CFO numerous extensions to present his reports which were expected to be detailed. She reiterated that going forward, the Committee does not want to hear general statements from any CGE official.

The CFO noted the Chairperson's remarks. He would send the AG report with detailed findings and the audit action plan after the meeting. He agreed that specific details were imperative for the Committee especially about contract management and supply chain management. He would share a list of detailed irregular expenditure transactions. The AG did not find negative consequence interventions against any CGE individual for the transgressions. The reasons for the transgressions were due to collective action that was being addressed.

CGE had acted on the AG findings and recommendations and the CGE internal auditor had verified the extent to which the implementation is being carried out. He would share the internal auditors report with the Committee. CGE does not foresee recurrence on most of the findings.

The Chairperson said she was not happy with CGE sending its audit action plan for this meeting. According to the BRRR resolutions, CGE was supposed to develop and submit its audit plan before the first Committee sitting of 2021. She asked the CFO why the plan was not submitted timeously as it made it difficult for the Committee to be effective in its oversight.

The CFO said he took responsibility for failure to submit the audit plan. He would submit all requested plans to the Committee by 9am the next day as well as the quarter updates of its audit action plan and how it plans to keep tight control of its finances to avoid over expenditure in 2021.

The Chairperson said that she was not satisfied that CGE saved money on a funded programme when it should have been used to reach communities. CGE must work with GCIS to work on its billboards and other communication aspects. She travelled various parts of the country such as Tzaneen in Limpopo, Mahikeng in North West and Emphangeni in KZN and did not see a single CGE billboard. She spoke to people in those communities about what CGE does and she did not get a sense that CGE was doing enough ground work. She wanted the Commissioner of each province to explain what they have done to expand the reach of CGE especially if there is money for it. CGE should be using other platforms like community radio stations and speaking about pertinent bills such as the Customary Marriage Bill and the Section 25 amendments on land ownership and how it affected women.

She had not heard CGE talk about the rolling out of sanitary pads in schools or communities where some girls cannot afford them. Inequalities were important to the Committee and CGE needed to be on its toes. Issues cannot be overlooked and CGE must regularly inform Members of Parliament of assistance it requires in ensuring matters are addressed.

Ms Masiko agreed that CGE needed to be proactive and address items not adequately addressed in previous meetings and to raise issues with the Committee it feels should be addressed. Rape kits was one such matter that required urgent attention. Commissioners were tasked with monitoring the number of rape kits in police stations.

Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked what progress had CGE made in implementing resolutions from its Quarter 2 meeting with the Committee. What progress had been on the BRRR recommendations? What challenges have been faced by CGE? What impact did CGE programmes in Quarter 3 have on government goals outlined in the NDP, MTSF and SONA 2020?

Ms Masondo said that CGE should be commended for the work done with TVET colleges such as Waterberg TVET College in Limpopo, Southwest Gauteng College and Northern Cape Urban TVET College. The outcomes were similar to what was previously reported by CGE. She asked why CGE legal department was only compiling its report during the fourth quarter.

Ms P Sonti (EFF) asked what CGE was doing in ensuring GBV cases were being followed up as there were many cases opened pre and during lockdown. Victims report that their cases go missing, resulting in perpetrators being released and returning to their communities.

She asked about the relationship between CGE and the Department of Social Development (DSD). Recipients struggled to receive their COVID relief grant and would sleep outside Post Offices. Some officials were charging recipients to assist them. She asked if CGE was aware of this. She asked how CGE felt about its budget being reduced by R10 million and the reasons for it.

The Chairperson clarified to Ms Sonti that CGE had explained the budget reduction was due to the President asking departments to reprioritise their budgets to address GBV and femicide at the start of the pandemic. She made reference to the NYDA having its budget reduced by R100 million to align with the President’s call.

Ms A Mhlongo (ANC) asked CGE how confident it was in reaching all unmet targets by the end of the fourth quarter. How would CGE meet its Quarter 4 targets with this backlog of unmet targets? She asked the reasons for the irregular expenditure on contract management. How far was CGE in developing its audit action plan as recommended by the AG and requested by the Committee? She asked for progress on CGE’s implementation tool given DPME's expert advice on the tool.

Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) noted the budget reduction and asked how CGE restructured its work in line with the reduction. How does this affect its service delivery process?

She asked CGE what steps they follow if their recommendations from investigations are not enforced and are simply gathering dust or they are not satisfied with how their recommendations are being implemented. She made reference to the CGE investigation on forced sterilisation of HIV-positive women.

She had not seen any billboards that CGE was mandated to put up to inform the public of its work. CGE should tell the Committee where the billboards were so that they could visit sites and ensure that CGE is doing the work budgeted for. The Committee does not mind stepping in to ensure that suppliers erect the billboards as this was crucial to CGE work.

She raised the insufficient number of rape kits at police stations. Police commissioners say that they have rape kits however when Committee members do oversight visits, they find the contrary. This placed undue stress on rape victims who had to travel to different police stations to access a rape kit. This needs an iron fist as this is an injustice to women.

Ms N Sharif (DA) commended CGE for continuously improving its targets in the first three quarters and hoped that they will continue. CGE had now set a high standard which it has to maintain.

She touched on the complaint cases as 605 cases was too much of a backlog and cases were taking too long to be finalised. The low case turnaround takes away trust in CGE being able to address GBV and finalise cases in a timely manner. She asked if CGE had a standard operating procedure in trying to close cases at a quick yet effective rate. Part of the reason CGE is possibly not able to finalise cases is that it does not get adequate funding and resources nor does it get enough support from government departments. The Committee had a wish list of what is required from CGE but is difficult for it to fulfil due to finance limitations and lack of support.

Ms Sharif said the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities should be scrapped and its resources given to CGE as it was doing work the Department should be doing. The monitoring and evaluation of rape kits should be done by DWYPD. The work of the Department is now being expected of CGE with half of the resources that DWYPD has.

DWYPD should be held more accountable as they are the custodians of the national strategic plan in ensuring that all departments across the country implement its strategies. The Department needs to be ensuring oversight of victim empowerment centres, rape kits and that victims do not experience secondary trauma when looking for assistance.

She made reference to her trip to the North West and she found a victim empowerment centre that caters for 600 000 to one million people which suggests a lack of oversight by the Department. The stakeholders she spoke to did not know what the National Strategic Plan was and the plan has not materialised on the ground. While CGE had lots to do DWYPD should be more accountable to the Committee.

The Chairperson replied to Ms Sharif that CGE has offices in all nine provinces with staff responsible for carrying out its mandate. She asked what staff were doing at these offices if it was not to register cases. CGE work could not solely depend on the physical visits by Commissioners. What was the point of employing staff if they do not actively work to fulfil the mandate?

When the Portfolio Committee raises concerns with CGE, it is not to pressurise CGE to fulfil the full mandate of DWYPD. CGE is part of the mandate which it has a role to fulfil. The Committee wants to understand the CGE role in the Department’s mandate.

When Commissioners are deployed to do work in each province, a budget is determined to enable them to do so. The Commissioners need to tell the Committee what they are doing and the findings they made while conducting their work.

When the CFO mentioned budget savings and a surplus of about R12 million, CGE should have applied for virement so the surplus could be used on key activities such as training and ommunity awareness. This should have been done prior to the money being given back to National Treasury who reduced the surplus to R6 million.

The Committee acknowledges that CGE has financial constraints however if CGE is able to save money within these constraints especially on funded projects, Treasury will not see a need to increase the CGE budget. Treasury will likely not take into consideration the critical work CGE does. She called for CGE to holistically use its budget so that more funds can be motivated for.

Mr L Mphithi (DA) made a recommendation that CGE send a detailed spreadsheet of all complaints they received along with an update of each case. The spreadsheet did not need to name the complainant. This would help the Committee establish the type of cases CGE deals with and the reasons certain cases are not being closed.

When Committee members seek assistance from CGE on certain issues and do not get a quick enough response, it indicates how CGE responds to complaints brought before it. He raised a case where a particular Commissioner had not acted in good faith as the family had to date not heard from the Commissioner. CGE must respond to matters raised by the Committee as they pertain to vulnerable women who look to CGE for assistance.

He raised the importance of the Commission's independence, stating that CGE must not be seen as political in any fashion. There have been instances where CGE had been seen to take certain positions which were deemed political, especially about certain Members of Parliament. This overshadows the good work of CGE as the public will deem that it will take sides on those who hold political positions. This will make CGE seem less objective.

He noted complaints about Deputy Minister Masondo and CGE had not handled the case against him in a proper way. He asked for an update on the Deputy Minister case because the complainant has complained to the Committee that CGE has treated the complainant unfairly. This speaks to the broader issue of the case backlog and how it is without a standard operating procedure in place for the manner in which CGE approaches its cases.

CGE should be applauded for meeting its targets but they need to be careful in how they administer their work especially towards those who come to CGE for assistance. If CGE is seen to not listen to victims or at least ensure they have a seat at its table, it will create a negative image of the work that CGE does.

He asked the CGE Chairperson to respond to the Deputy Minister case as she had been extensively involved so that CGE can clarify this and be seen to be an objective, fair and independent institution.

Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) asked about the cases of forced sterilisation on HIV positive women. She asked what CGE has done at provincial level about such cases and what recommendations were and if they have been implemented and monitored. There is no smoke without fire if such cases are being raised and that ought to be addressed.

She asked CGE for clarity about the Mtwalume case in KZN which was a hurtful matter for her constituency in the province. Initially the case had gathered much public attention but now the attention has dwindled as if the matter never happened. Was the case simply closed like similar cases around the country?

She asked about awareness as where she stays in Ulundi, she has not seen awareness-raising done by CGE. There is a lack of awareness in schools. She stressed the importance of learners being educated about the work of CGE so that if something happens to them or to someone they know, they are able to go to CGE for assistance.

Mr S Ncgobo (DA) asked the strategic objectives for support materials that CGE has produced. How accessible were the materials? How have they been authorised? Are they disability friendly and translated into Braille?

He asked how many cases have been opened at CGE's 28 legal clinics and how many cases have been referred as a result?

He asked about the report about traditional male circumcision, fatherhood and the rights of fathers.

In CGE’s assessment, was government implementing the Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluating and Auditing (GRPBMEA) Framework?

CGE responses
Ms Mathebula replied that Commissioners Mofokeng and Smout had resigned. This has opened up two full-time Commissioner positions which the National Assembly Speaker would need to be notified about. She apologised for the oversight in the team not submitting a detailed finance report and a progress report on the BRRR.  

The Committee Chairperson recommended that the current part-time Commissioners should apply for the two full-time positions. The advert should be for  two part-time Commissioners once the full-time posts have been filled by the current part-time Commissioners.

Ms Mathebula replied that the two part-time Commissioners had already applied and CGE CEO had informed the Office of the Presidency and DWYPD to process this. They will update the Chairperson once a decision has been made by those departments.

The Chairperson said she will write to the National Assembly Speaker about advertising the two part-time Commissioner vacancies.

Mr Mphithi had stated that the PAIA Act empowers CGE to hand over minutes of meetings under category B of the Act. The CEO had previously on record stated that CGE was not able to do so when indeed they can under this category. He asked the CEO to respond to this in her responses.

Ms Mathebula replied that the Finance Deputy Minister case was controversial as it involved three people and various institutions investigating the matter. She acknowledged the case has dragged on. CGE had been trying to gather all the necessary information. CGE had not finalised the case and the preliminary report needed to be first shared with the complainant and respondents to gather responses before making the final findings available to the Committee and the public.

Ms Robertson explained that the Commission had given the complainant access to the PAIA document. The minutes requested by the complainant were not on record as the meetings were not formal engagements. CGE had informed the complainant twice about the informal engagement and had provided the PAIA form to the complainant as required by law.

Mr Mphithi acknowledged that while the Commission was not able to disclose the nature of the report regarding the Deputy Minister, CGE cannot be seen to be taking sides despite the report findings. The Commission should not be seen to be meeting only one side and not the other as this creates the perception that it is not objective. It must not feed into the perception that if a person occupies a high office, they are able to solicit a meeting with the CGE Chairperson whereas ordinary members of the public cannot do the same. He did not want the report to be marred by accusations of political nepotism as this had far-reaching consequences beyond this case and compromises the legitimacy of the institution. This places the Committee at a disadvantage in having to try to rectify the potential consequences that emanate from such a compromise.

Ms Mathebula thanked Mr Mphithi for his words of caution and assured him and the Committee that the Commission will take his warnings seriously.

Commissioner Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale provided an update on the CGE work in the Free State. Adv. Following the Minister of Police's announcement of the 30 worst performing police stations in the province, CGE had embarked on its own search using the benchmark test used by the Department of Police. They identified 16 of these stations and had thus far visited 6 before the December 2020 lockdown. They will continue these visits in March 2021.

Certain police stations were in a dire situation as they had stretched resources and a lack of coordination and communication with other departments. Some stations would say they had rape kits but could not show CGE where they were. There was no monitoring system that could track how many kits stations had or when they would be ordering kits if they ran out. Some police stations have been cross-giving each other rape kits if one station does not have any available.

Adv Sepanya-Mogale said that trauma counselling rooms were used as sick bays and not for their intended purpose. The Thabong police station in Welkom had shown CGE a room that had a red cross over it and CGE was told this was their trauma room when it looked like a sick bay. They found a group of people being interviewed on the bed which served as an alternative to an interview room and not a trauma counselling room. When CGE visited a police station in Bromville, they had found a police officer who had been sleeping upon their arrival. The Commissioners felt that they were taking two steps forward and three steps back.

The most concerning aspect of these visits was that police officers stated that they had difficulty working with the forensic team from the Department of Health. The nurses would not stay longer than their prescribed working hours of 8am to 4pm. When victims visited a forensic unit close to knock-off time, they would be told to come back the next day or the following week if it was on a weekend. They would be told not to wash and should they wish to relieve themselves, they should do so in a way that does not lose any evidence. Health workers are not willing to work longer than their prescribed working times as they are not being paid overtime.

The lack of coordination between the police and forensic teams has resulted in women washing and never going back to the police station. In cases involving children, some parents do not want to keep their children in dirty clothing for a long period of time, subsequently washing them and not returning to the stations.

In some areas, there were a few forensic nurses that would have to service a huge area. Lejweleputswa district which included Welkom, Virginia and surrounding areas, had only two forensic nurses. The nurses would have to work in all the clinics in the area and as a result, it was not guaranteed that victims would be assisted on the day they report to the police station or clinic.

When CGE met with the NPA to assess the low conviction rates, this was attributed to poor evidence being gathered. There was a recognition that there needs to be a multidisciplinary team where the Department of Health is on board to train more forensic nurses and allocate them to more clinics in the area to serve more people. The lack of specialised staff affects the conviction rate and jeopardises cases.

CGE met with the head of SAPS Sexual Offences unit for both Bloemfontein and Welkom and they were told that there was a direct link between sexual offences and alcohol abuse in informal settlements. The officer told them that they had dealt with instances where an intoxicated woman would be sexually violated by multiple men and not know what had happened to her. This was linked with the patriarchal culture of the country of men taking advantage of women.  The officer said that sexual violence was becoming a form of entertainment thus encouraging lawlessness, abuse and misuse of culture in communities. She mentioned an informal settlement in Thabong where many cases occurred. The country needed to review the whole structure of society and not merely be reactive to the problem of gender based violence.

CGE had met representatives from the police stations and were told that female university students were running brothels in their residence rooms. Most reported cases were the students not being paid for their services, being assaulted or being handled in a rough manner. It was hard for the police to ascertain the reason for running brothels in residences or being sex workers and that there needs to be urgent intervention.

Ms Masiko asked the Commissioners that in stating the challenges they found in their provinces, they should outline tangible interventions that can be implemented.

Adv Sepanya-Mogale replied that CGE developed the tool to identify and visit the hotspot police stations. Once all the identified police stations have been visited, particularly those in the Free State, they will write a report with recommendations on how to address key challenges. She hopes that this work will be completed by May 2021.

The Chairperson asked what CGE was planning to do in the interim until it concluded its work in May. In the case of student residences, CGE should bring on board the Department of Higher Education and provincial government and brief them on this. Parents pay lots of money to send their children to university. In the case parents do not have money, it should not mean that their children should resort to sex work. There needs to be immediate intervention which simply cannot wait for CGE to conclude its visits. Some of these brothels may be syndicates that engage in drug activities. Part of the high university dropout rate could be attributed to this. By the time CGE finishes its work, there will be bigger crises to solve.

Commissioner Dibeela Mothupi added that CGE had a meeting with the Free State MEC for Social Development on 26 February 2021 and one of the main issues raised was that social worker reports on GBV cases took a long time to be finalised. There was a shortage of police vehicles to respond to incidents, particularly when they need to transport rape survivors to Thuthuzela Centres which take forever to arrive due to vehicle shortages. There is a shortage of police stations in various areas which is an challenge country wide. She made reference to the Thabong area where there was one police station servicing a huge area, limiting the SAPS ability to respond quickly to cases.

Victims and survivors sometimes would not return to police stations because of the high cost in getting to the stations. The SAPS provincial management had agreed to engage with CGE to try and establish satellite offices especially on the east side of the Thabong area in Welkom which require police services. The NPA reported that the manner in which statements were written by SAPS would lead to the eventual dismissal of cases. It was agreed by the NPA to re-train SAPS members on how to write detailed statements so that it can be sufficient enough to use in court. CGE will raising the matter of J88 forms on medical evidence.

The Committee Chairperson said that CGE needs to have its own proposed interventions when it meets with stakeholders. This helps with formulating a checklist that can be referred to when it performs its oversight. Based on what CGE is reporting, a joint Portfolio Committee meeting is needed with the Departments of Police and Social Development.

Ms Masiko said that it is important to have a joint Committee meeting between departments. She did however say that while this is necessary, CGE must inform provincial police Commissioners of the challenges they come across as many do not know what is happening in their jurisdiction. This will help provincial Commissioners hold meetings and to draft reports in response to what they have found at their police stations.

Ms Ntlangwini said that the Justice Department must give an update on when statements training of police officers will begin and conclude. This is essential in ensuring that justice is served to victims. The Chairperson added that social workers should be included in this training.

Ms Sharif said that in her visits to police stations in the North West and in Gauteng, she found similar findings as reported by CGE in the Free State. The police stations would get their stock from Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units. She suggested that the Commission should include the FCS units in its research in sourcing and distributing rape kits.

She noticed that Thuthuzela Care Centres do not have access records of where to access rape kits. She made reference to the one in Bara Hospital not having such access and said that if they were to access rape kits, it would help ease their workload in being able to assist victims. This would allow them to get the necessary information from victims, even after hours so that they are able to wash and start the healing and justice process.

The state of victim protection rooms across the country were in a bad state. They were dark and uncomfortable and looked like cold police rooms. This does not align to regulations that these rooms should offer comfort and a safe space for victims to give their statements.

Rape is about power and it is not about what a women is wearing or how much alcohol she is drinking. The specific issue pertaining rape is that there is a power struggle by men in the country and not necessarily that women must protect themselves from being violated by men if they have been drinking.

The question that Ms Sharif said the Committee should be asking is why men in various communities are prone to abuse of power and where does it stem from so that the root causes can be dealt with and not just the symptoms of GBV. She cautioned the Committee about potential bias Members might have about the brothels being run by university students in their residences. The Committee should remove their bias to sex work and to assess why it is they are in sex work in the first place and if they are operating in a safe environment.

The Commissioners should speak directly to women university students and find out what the root cause is of them being in sex work to verify the information CGE has. Often times, due to the lack of opportunities in the country, these students have no choice but to resort to sex work. She reiterated that the core issues needed to be dealt with to find tangible solutions.

Commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko provided an update on CGE work in KZN and Gauteng. Responding to Mr Mphithi, the case he referred to was dealt with successfully. The family of the girl was spoken to and CGE had done all that it could to assist the family. They had engaged with the Department of Social Development on the case. She had taken the case that Ms Sharif had referred to her at Douglasdale Police Station and the case had been transferred back to Komatipoort Police Station. CGE is monitoring the case in Tsakane with a visit to Tsakane Police Station last week. The trip to the police station was with the CGE Chairperson and Commissioner Ngoma-Diseko. They will be revisiting the police station on 8 March 2021. The case of Keitumetse Banda in Hammanskraal is receiving urgent attention from CGE.

Ms Mazibuko said in some cases, the CGE mandate limits its involvement. This does not mean they do not wish to offer support to cases outside the mandate; they do their best where they can.

The concern about the billboards was valid; however, the cost of billboards is expensive. She agreed with the Chairperson that CGE should find more ways of raising awareness of CGE besides the billboards. CGE works closely with the Departments of Social Development, Health and Education and other NGOs to accompany them whenever they do visits where they can speak about the work of CGE. One such example is when stakeholders facilitate a sanitary pad drive in schools which CGE accompanies to spread awareness.

Ms Mazibuko said the Mtwalume case was being closely monitored by CGE. They had a partnership with the KZN Council of Churches funded by UNFPA with the Department of Social Development and had traditional and religious leadership in the province involved. CGE is working closely with provincial police stations as well as the Mtwalume community which has resulted in a decline of cases reported in the area.

CGE held a GBV workshop which spoke to men and young boys, reminding them that they should respect women as they are fundamental in the development of society and deserve dignity. The work done by the CGE KZN office was extensive and they are doing all that they can.

Ms Mazibuko said that there was paid radio time with GCIS for further outreach. They were working with community radio stations such as North Coast FM, Intokozo FM, Nongoma FM, Inanda FM, Vibe FM, Ugu Youth Radio FM, Umgumgundlovu Community Radio Station, Vuma FM, iKhwezi FM, and Izwi Lomzansi FM.

They have spoken to district and municipal offices and find that people are treated badly because they do not have a sexual harassment policy. Some are afraid to speak out because they fear they will not find work. Parents of children who have been sexually assaulted are scared to open a case due to fear of discrimination. CGE’s role is to hear their pleas and try to assist them but they cannot do it on their own. There needs to be broader support with other departments. There is currently a case being investigated of rape victims of a church in the province. CGE is trying to assist in some way but some of the work that is beyond their scope and capacity.

The Commission is concerned that unspent money went back to National Treasury but she attributed it to certain posts not being filled. Despite its limited capacity and the pandemic slowing down its work, CGE is working tirelessly. With the guidance of the  CGE Chairperson, they are advocating for the police throughout the country to be a core partner and the current Police Commissioner in Gauteng is in communication with CGE on how such a partnership can work.

CGE is committed to continuing its work to address GBV and on empowering children, especially girl children who are disempowered from receiving an education.

Ms Mazibuko said she is currently involved in an albinism killing case involving 13 year-old Gabisile Shabane who was killed in Emalahleni. The cases had recently gone to court after a three-year delay and she will attnd as the CGE representative. Shabane was buried without her body parts and this needed to be accounted for. There is an area of concern where mostly men and foreign nationals kill people with albinism. This endangers their lives, especially children, and adds to an already unsafe society.

Commissioner Lindiwe Ntuli-Tloubatla gave an update on the Mtwalume case. CGE is constantly monitoring the case and events that take place in the area. CGE was liaising with social workers dealing with the case. The alleged perpetrator is deceased and this caused the case to stagnate. However, this did not stop CGE from working on the case.

Ms Robertson spoke about the CGE monitoring and evaluation framework. The Committee had allowed CGE to submit its framework by the end of March when it submits its fourth quarter report. They could not enlist the help of DPME due to conflicting schedules so they had enlisted experts from higher education institutions that were willing to assist. The draft had improved since the last one submitted to the Committee. The updated framework is being processed internally between management and Commissioners and the Committee will get the finalised framework.

On the case backlog, most of the cases are old cases that are being revisited but there is a move to reduce this. There are other factors at play in these cases such as jurisdiction of cases and capacity needed to handle the cases. There is not enough capacity in all provinces to deal with caseload which adds to the current backlog. CGE wants to resuscitate its information and knowledge management strategy which would automate the complaints process as this would help dealing with new and old cases and prevent backlogs. CGE at times is limited by jurisdiction on what it can and cannot do in certain cases.

A CGE report about women in correctional services is available on the CGE website including other reports compiled by the Commission.

On staff recruitment, Ms Robertson announced that a recruitment plan is underway to fill more than 20 vacant positions. Some of the posts had been filled and interviews were to continue for the week. An internal process was underway where contracts that ended in March could be extended to ensure continuity of work. CGE had given itself until the end of the first quarter of 2021/22 to fill all vacant positions, including the Commissioner posts. Processes at a higher level will determine if the Commissioner posts are filled within the that timeline and they will plan forward should that not be the case.

The findings on fatherhood and traditional circumcision were available in the report and this could be accessed on the CGE website.

A register of complaints is available in presentations and in a report on the CGE website. The report outlines section 11 cases that CGE has dealt with according to the CGE Act. There is more discussion about the improvement of the register of complaints and hopes that the automation of cases will make this information accessible. These discussions are in the conceptual phase but it will soon try to fill the gaps that are unsatisfactory to the Committee.

She noted the concern about the billboards. She noted availability plays a part in being able to put up the billboards. Despite this, this does not stop CGE from ensuring the boards are erected. She read the former communications officer’s handover report that the relevant department was responsible for allocating locations for billboards. There needs to be more visibility. When the country is in a better financial state, they will make a case to Treasury to request more funds to ensure there is more visibility about CGE throughout the country.

The CGE Deputy Chairperson, Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, had thanked the Committee for reminding CGE to remain independent as a Chapter Nine institution and that there must be clear guidelines when CGE engages and meets both the complainant and respondent.

DWYPD had drafted a Gender Responsive Framework which has not been implemented. CGE had been appraising municipalities with a gender mainstreaming framework to demonstrate to DWYPD the importance of implementing the framework. Commissioners had implemented the framework in the provinces while awaiting the Department’s guidance.

CGE had decided that they would include the framework within its APP to create a standard that enables better oversight and having its indicators align to Treasury’s guidelines as all departments report to them for accounting purposes. The Committee was correct in its assessment that CGE needs to improve its operating procedures so it is not seen to take sides when working on cases.

The Emergency Response Action Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide (ERAP) Report will be released at the end of March which will outline the five key areas for intervention as raised by the President. 21% of the targets have been implemented by DWYPD. A section had been included in the Report to look at the Justice cluster. The Report will make key recommendations on how government and the Justice cluster can effectively respond to poor GBVF case management and convictions. This report will be presented to the Committee in due course as it is critical for all oversight bodies to understand the findings.

CGE had adopted a new business model to improve efficiency in service delivery as a Chapter Nine institution and to perform better for all who need CGE services.

The Chairperson thanked CGE and the unanswered questions can be responded to in writing. She thanked the Chairperson for her presentation. She reminded the CFO to send the Committee the AG report, internal audit report and the audit action plan as promised.

She asked Commissioner Sepanya-Mogale to send the plan they are using in conducting their visits in the Free State so the Committee can note it and see if there are any changes the Commissioners would like to make to the plan. The plan must outline what interventions the Commissioners planned for their visits.

The meeting was adjourned.

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