The Committee convened virtually to be briefed by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure on its progress made so far in Memorandum of Agreements (MOA) with national departments, provincial governments and municipalities to secure properties for shelter to house survivors of gender-based violence and femicide.
The Minister assured Members that the Department would pick up the pace in identifying properties and engaging with municipalities and provincial governments in areas where there are no properties belonging to the Department. The reporting format to the Committee will also be changed to reflect the new district development model (DDM). The Department has been tasked to ensure that there is at least one gender-based violence and femicide centre for survivors in all 258 municipalities, the 44 districts, as well as sufficient centres in the metropolitans.
The Department also presented on progress made so far in the shelters for gender-based violence and femicide survivors. On using public buildings to do prevention messaging, the Department indicated that it has identified 171 state-owned buildings that will be used for advertisement of gender-based violence and femicide messages.
On using public buildings as shelters for interim housing for survivors, the Department has made progress by identifying 83 state-owned properties for use by the Department of Social Development (DSD). 57 properties were visited by both Departments to ascertain the suitability; 26 properties are yet to be visited; the Department confirmed 22 properties to be suitable for use by Social Development.
Members were concerned with the delay in the process of the Memoranda and asked the Department to explain what is being done to fasttrack the process. They asked about acts of harassment of female staff occurring within the Department itself.
Another area of concern was the Immovable Asset Register, which was still incomplete; Members felt that it is necessary for the Department to also consider digitising the register. The Committee asked about the relationship that the Department has with other departments and provinces, since the work requires collaborative effort with other government agencies. While the Department presented that they planned to have one centre per municipality, Members felt that this was not enough since some municipalities are very big, thus the Department needs to consider geographical distances.
They also asked the Department to ensure that rural communities are not left behind. Members proposed that some properties, which were previously identified as Covid-19 quarantine site but are currently not being used, be turned into centres to house survivors of gender-based violence and femicide.
The Committee asked what the Department would do about economic empowerment of women, considering that a recent court ruling concluded that the Preferential Procurement Regulation was illegal.
Opening Remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming Members, the Minister, and officials from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to the meeting. She said that while some Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted to alert level one, the pandemic is still there and there are fears of a third wave. Members should continue to keep safe, stay indoors and wear masks in public.
She said that the meeting would deal with a matter that touches many people’s hearts, as the President once said that while there is the Covid-19 pandemic, there is also a second pandemic of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). It was announced earlier by the Minister that some properties would be released to Department of Social Development (DSD) to be utilised as safe houses for victims. This meeting would deal with progress of this programme.
Apologies were received from Ms L Shabalala (ANC), who was not feeling well, and Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) who was attending another Portfolio Committee meeting. The Minister would leave before the end of the meeting to attend another meeting, but the Deputy Minister would be present.
The Chairperson announced that after the presentation from the Department, Members would have to review the programme, especially on public hearings. 28 February was the last day of written submissions. There are many submissions that have come in. Members should review the decision that was taken, because it was made at a time when the restrictions during in alert level three and gatherings were not allowed. Gatherings are now allowed, and the expectation is to have 100 people in-doors, and 250 people outdoors. Members should consider how the physical public hearings could be done since the country is now under Level one of restrictions.
Remarks by Minister
The Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Ms Patricia de Lille, supported the Chairperson’s remarks about the fight against GBVF. She said that she had a meeting with the Department on the previous day, and it was agreed that urgency is what is lacking in the implementation of the programme. A special task team has been established within the Department, and the Minister is also a member of it. The team will meet weekly because the urgency of the situation requires a quick response from Government.
She assured Members that the Department would pick up the pace in identifying properties and engaging with municipalities and provincial governments in areas where there are no properties belonging to DPWI. The reporting format to the Committee will also be changed to reflect the new district development model (DDM). The Department has been tasked to ensure that there is at least one GBVF centre for survivors in all 258 municipalities, the 44 districts, as well as sufficient centres in the metropolitans. The Department is scooping the rollout of GBVF centres across the country. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) will be engaged. The Minister will have a meeting with all the Members of Executive Councils (MECs) later this month to discuss GBVF. There will be continued feedback given to the Committee. The scope is being broadened to try and cover all municipalities in the country.
Remarks by Acting Director-General
Mr Imtiaz Fazel, Acting Director-General (ADG), DPWI, said transformation is one of the seven outcomes of the Department, in which gender empowerment is an important component. A full-time incumbent has been appointed at the chief directorship level to deal with gender issues and drive the gender programme in the Department. He asked the Chief Director Rev. Naledi Stemela to present on the Department’s response to dealing with the shelters for victims of GBVF.
Presentation by DPWI
The DPWI presented on progress made so far in the shelters for GBVF survivors. On using public buildings to do prevention messaging, DPWI has identified 171 state-owned buildings that will be used for advertisement of GBVF messages. There was a challenge of an absence of a clear strategy; a strategy will be put in place by 31 March 2021. On using public buildings as shelters for interim housing for survivors, the Department has made progress by identifying 83 state-owned properties for use by the Department of Social Development (DSD). 57 properties were visited by both DPWI and DSD to ascertain the suitability; 26 properties are yet to be visited; 22 properties were confirmed to be suitable for use by DSD.
On Pillar five of Economic Empowerment: to facilitate economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs including women living in shelter, the Department made progress as 21% contracts were awarded to designated groups; 26 contracts were awarded to Contractor Women Majority Owned. The Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and the Gender Unit, through the CIDB Empowerment and Recognition Women in Construction Awards (ERWIC) are working on the proposed Women Empowerment Programme. However, the challenge was that the Department would not be able to achieve the 40% procurement spent without set-asides. Preferential Procurement Regulation 2017 has been declared unconstitutional. National Treasury has been tasked to issue some guidelines in that regard to support the Presidential pronouncement. Engagements with Treasury and Presidency are ongoing.
The Minister said that there was good news that the Department would receive R15 million from the Criminal Asset’s Recovery Account (CARA). This is a national revenue account where money is recovered following judicial forfeiture or confiscation order. This contribution will go towards renovation of the centres. The Department will also engage the newly established Private Sector Solidarity Fund to see what funding can be gotten and how to work together. The President launched the funding three weeks ago. There are some lessons learned out of phase one of the process, before the announcement about leasing properties to the provinces or municipalities. It was learned that in the Western Cape it took many months just to get a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed, and more months to get the paperwork done for lease of the properties to the provincial government. In the process, renovation of the buildings started, but the handover only took place on 24 and 25 February 2021. The lesson is to refine the process and ensure that before beginning any renovations, the Department should have put all arrangements in place.
On economic empowerment, the Department will have to look at the judgement by the Supreme Court of Appeals on the 2017 Preferential Procurement Regulations that were declared unconstitutional. This regulation allowed setting aside 30% of the value of a tender to designated groups, including women, youth and people with disabilities. This is another area where a lesson has been learned and it is being worked on. To speed up inspection of properties, all 11 regional offices across the country will be instructed to go and inspect the buildings that have been identified by National for the purposes of GBVF centres. The regional offices must then give a report about the status of the buildings. In the current process, there is a joint inspection by national social development, provincial, and national DPWI. It involves a lot of people and takes much time to coordinate diaries. The identification of buildings in cities and rural towns will speed up and hopefully the second phase of the roll out will go much quicker.
The Minister also instructed the Department to reprioritise the budget because it is unacceptable to give the excuse of government not having money without even trying to reprioritise within the Department’s own budget. For the new financial year starting on 01 April, the Department will reprioritise on GBVF as the President calls it “a second pandemic”. Hopefully the Department will be able to give the Committee more good news and ensure that the issues are attended to quicker. It is very painful to hear almost daily about how women and children are being abused in the country. While government, civil society, and communities need to work together, Government must take the lead in the fight against GBVF.
Ms S Graham (DA) thanked the Department for the presentation and said what the Department is doing is admirable and it is thrilling for Members to be part of this fight against GBVF. She echoed the sentiment that the processes take far too long to implement and there needed to be a way to speed things up. The need for shelter and places for women to go and be safe and protected is immense. She said her question would be slightly off the topic but still relevant. Rev Stemela has been the Chief Director of the Gender Unit of the Department for some time now. The Gender Unit has been there as far back as 2017, which has spoken about things like gender champions and pushing the gender parity within entities and departments. It does not help that there is development of externally mechanisms to support women who are victims of GBVF. In line with what is being done on an external basis with clients, what is being done within the Department by the Gender Unit in conjunction with work that is being done on external methods to address potential gender issues including victimisation?
Ms M Hicklin (DA) thanked the Department for the presentation and agreed with Ms Graham’s question. She asked about internal capacitation. What is being done within the Department to deal with bullying and harassment of female employees within various entities of the DPWI? There is definitely a problem. She agreed with the Minister that there seems to be a serious lack of urgency, which is a great concern. If things will only be done between now and 31 March, how many lives are going to be lost? How many women, children and LGBT members of society are going to find themselves victims of violence between now and 31 March?
There was a commitment from the President to addressing GBVF in 2019, but there is not much evidence of that. While it is not the primary focus of the DPWI, there is an incomplete Immovable Assets Register, which makes identification of potential habitable buildings more difficult. Although it is a DSD-DPWI joint venture, it needs to be approached differently in getting the Immovable Asset Register comprehensively documented, so that buildings that are immediately available can be identified. When the DSD requests a facility with a specific number of bedrooms and number of bathrooms, there should be an electronic system to do the matching in specific locations. That can only be achieved if there is a comprehensive well-planned electronic system that identifies the available buildings. When dealing with GBVF issues, the Immovable Assets Register should also be addressed, as it is hopelessly incomplete.
Mr E Mathebula (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson on the need to comply with health protocol in avoiding the spread of Coronavirus. In one of the speeches, the President said GBVF is a second pandemic. One needs to appreciate this initiative of making buildings available for victims and survivors of GBVF that has been taken. However, according to the report, there will be a person appointed at a director level within the Department. What will be the job description of that person? Will this not be duplication with the Department of Police and the Department of Social Services? Has this not been motivated by cases of GBV within the Department? If it is so, can the Department provide the number of cases of GBV that take place within the Department, if any?
It has also been reported that there are sites that have been visited. When the Minister spoke, she indicated that there would be one centre per municipality. In Mpumalanga, for example, it is said that nine properties were visited. But there are far more municipalities in Mpumalanga than the nine reported. On the properties that were referred to in Mpumalanga, does this mean that victims will be housed in Nelspruit? What about what the Minister said about each municipality having a centre to accommodate survivors of GBVF?
He appreciated that the Department is heeding the call of ensuring that women must benefit 40% terms of procurement. This will go a long way in ensuring that women who are victims of GBVF, who may not come out and report cases because of the fear that they might lose support from their partners, will be able to fend for themselves and be independent financially. As such when a GBV case takes place, the woman will be able to walk out of that relationship and report to police without the fear of losing any support.
Ms A Siwisa (EFF) said that she missed part of the presentation because of network problems. She said it is very difficult to give support to women in the public if women within the Department cannot be supported. In the past, there was a problem in dealing with quarantine sites provided by the DPWI. Private properties were found to be better than public properties, which was a concern since there is a Department that supposed to look into that. There are several buildings available but only 22 were confirmed to be suitable, and there are still 26 that need to be visited. There are many cases of women, children, youth and LGBTI community who are subjected to physical, emotional, sexual and other forms of abuse. This initiative was supposed to be done in 2019, but in 2021 there are only 22 properties that have been confirmed to be suitable. According to the presentation, there are no challenges that have been presented, yet are only 22 properties but every municipality needs to have one. In the case where there are not enough suitable properties for victims to go to, can the Minister explain what intervention will be made without going to private properties? What intervention will be done to ensure that those properties that are not suitable are going to be suitable? Many victims do not even know where to go. The Minster could hopefully even give the Committee names and the towns where the shelters are, so that victims would know where to go when they have a problem. What is the role of police officers in these shelters? Police, DPWI and DSD need to work hand in hand in each municipality.
Ms S Van Schalkwyk (ANC) welcomed the urgency the Department in trying to address this great initiative with, amidst all the challenges being experienced. Progress needs to be fast-tracked in implementing. Members acknowledge and appreciate that the Department stepped in when the President spoke and tried to do to deal with the issues. But as Ms Hicklin said, the Immovable Assets Register needs to be completed, as it will assist in moving forward.
The Minister spoke about some lessons learned, which includes Memoranda of Understanding (MoU’s) taking long. What interventions are being taken to fasttrack the finalisation of the MOUs? Members welcome the initiative where the Department is engaging some provinces where national buildings are not available like in the Northern Cape, because it is really a challenge in some vast rural provinces, which also have large municipalities. She said in her constituency in Northern Cape there is in Rietfontein in the Kalahari, which is the largest municipality in the country in terms of geographical spread; the closest centre for GBVF is 264 kilometres (km) away. Although the Department is envisioning one centre per municipality; they should also look at the distances and further strengthen that initiative.
On the statistics, it is a matter of concern and there is need to fast-track the work, because the statistics are showing that majority of these transgressions are taking place within the people's own households. There is need to ensure that the survivors are taken out of those households.
On economic empowerment, women and designated groups need to be prioritised for women emancipation. On the lessons learned as stipulated by the Minister, are those the only challenges that have been experienced? Do they have other challenges, especially in cooperative engagements with other departments, which need urgent attention to fasttrack the roll out of this programme? Members appreciate that the Department is taking this initiative very seriously by appointing a full-time person to deal with gender issues.
On a more personal note, seeing that Members of this Committee share the same vision as the Department, she would be appreciated that whenever there are rollouts taking place within provinces and constituencies, Members attached to those areas should be contacted to see if they are available to take part in those programmes. That would help strengthen and spread the message more widely.
Mr W Thring (ACDP) thanked the Department for the presentation and offered condolences and prayers to the Minister on her loss. Members support the call to address both the internal and external gender-based violence cases. Internally, within the Department and what is being done to address GBVF cases, outside of the Department. Members support the call to fix challenges with the Immovable Asset Register and considering the ratio of private versus public buildings to be used. The Minister expressed some frustration with the length of time in obtaining MOUs, which should be something simple. What has been done to shorten those time periods? How will this be mitigated where problems have been identified of wastage of time in obtaining an MOU to roll out this important strategic plan of addressing GBVF? Often many departments tend to focus a lot on urban areas, forgetting rural communities. How will the Department ensure that rural communities are not left behind? What interactions are there with other sister departments in helping those that have faced GBVF, who are housed in a safe house, but after a period of time return to their communities or the place where the violence took place? This requires an inter-ministerial and interdepartmental effort. What interdepartmental and inter-ministerial efforts are in place to ensure the future safety of those who have been victims of GBVF?
Ms L Mjobo (ANC) said that Mr T Mashele (ANC) was supposed to be in the meeting but could not attend because of fibre challenges in Acacia. Can the Minister explain on the progress of fibre challenges in Acacia? It has been raised several times that there are challenges in Acacia.
Ms Van Schalkwyk said at the beginning of the Covid-19 period, the Department presented that they had identified public buildings as quarantined sites. Some of these buildings needed renovations, but when Members saw how the buildings have been used, clearly many of those buildings have not in use. Can some of those buildings that were identified as quarantine sites be used for this initiative?
The Chairperson said that South Africa is one of the countries with a high crime rate. The crime statistics show that violence against women and children is escalating daily. Comparing the figures for 2017 and 2020 shows a drastic hike in violence against women and children. It is a correct start for DPWI collaborating with other departments. GBVF needs to be fought now to ensure that South African children have a future. The country needs to win this war. The signing of the MOAs very crucial, and the Minister must ensure that before signing, everything should be in order. There should not be issues coming up after signing. Proper procedure for the contract should be taken. While working with other departments, there should be a stage of not just talking about strategies but implementing. One of the properties that were handed over to DSD in Eastern Cape in OR Tambo is in Mthata, Lusikusiki. Crime statistics show that Lusikisiki is among the five with the highest reported rape cases in Eastern Cape. But there are also those that are not reported. As such, the handing over of the house to DSD will do a lot. The regional office in Eastern Cape is in Gqeberha and Mthatha, and the identified properties are in these two areas. It is worrying because the Department has said all municipalities have to be provided with the properties, but there is another municipality, Buffalo City, which is leading in the province in terms of violence against women and children. This is one of the areas to be considered in Eastern Cape, not only the two areas of Mthatha and Gqeberha, where the regional offices are. East London should also be considered. There are many properties of DPWI that are not being used but are still in good condition. This fight cannot be won only by providing the safe houses and properties; there should be consideration of empowering women economically to assist them.
Many women in wrong relationship continue to stay because the man is providing for her. They are punching bags daily, but they remain in that relationship because they do not see a life outside that relationship. They know that they should get out of those relationships; maybe they will sleep on the street and starve. As such, all the departments should be talking about empowering women. It is worrying to hear what the Minister said that there was a judgement that came out, that the 30% set aside is wrong. Treasury needs to come up with a clear Act on this. In municipalities, the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) stipulates that 30% should be given to designated groups, which include women, children and people with disabilities. Treasury should look at this judgement, but the Department should ensure that whatever procurement is being made should consider service providers who are women, young people and people with disability. They are many, but they are not asked to provide the services. Even for the identified properties, the women who are staying there can be utilised to paint or clean, probably using the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) programme, so that they can get some money to use even when they move out.
The Minister thanked Members for the questions. She asked if the Members have the list of properties being referred to. The list of properties, as presented, goes to the point raised by Mr Mathebula. This was the first phase, and the second phase is now being refined. The next report to the Committee will reflect all 258 municipalities, 44 districts and eight major metros. The first phase was to check the Immovable Assets Register for properties that could be possible houses for centres for survivors of GBVF. This is now being changed to include all the municipalities, districts and metros, so that on the Immovable Assets Register, one can look for a specific area. Where DPWI does not have a property, the Department will work together with the municipalities and provinces that must also release buildings. The next report will be clearer with not just with information about what has identified but including what has been inspected and progress of renovation of those buildings. The view is that it is not only houses, but bigger buildings can also be repurposed for use as centres for GBVF survivors. Currently, the Department is only looking at houses, but in the metros, for example, there can be bigger buildings that are central. Even the Metropolitans are very big. The Department is changing the way buildings are identified. The Department is not identifying private sector buildings. The contribution of the private sector, in terms of buildings will be discussed at a meeting with the Private Sector Solidarity Fund, to ask them to also identify and make buildings available. The Department is only working on public-owned buildings and not on private ones. The next report will be much clearer to all Members. One important area is not only to begin to work closely together with the different spheres of government, but to also share the information of the shelters with Members of Parliament, Members of the Legislature, Councillors, and district champions appointed by the President. They must all have this information. Public representatives must also be able to provide information about available buildings that can be used as safe places to remove the women from abusive relationships. Normally women stay and then get killed because they have nowhere to go.
On the question about that South African Police Services (SAPS), she confirmed that the information of the centres is shared with SAPS. Normally when a woman comes to report to SAPS about abuse, SAPS will either take the woman to the centre or refer the woman to that centre. As one of the Members said, GBVF is happening inside the house by people who are known. SAPS come in after the incident when the woman has been abused already.
There is a serious breakdown of the social fabric of society in our country. Everyone has a role to play to strengthen the family unit. Families are dysfunctional, where there is women abuse, and drug abuse among others.
On the social aspect, there is need to get more social workers, and for everyone to rebuild the family unit. The Gender-Based Unit that was in the Department in 2019 was not really a unit set up to actually act and respond to gender-based violence. It was more a unit for advocacy. There was just a small budget for advocacy. This has now been changed to place this Gender-Based Violence Unit within into intergovernmental relations department. It used to be in the Department of Human Settlements before. There was some restructuring, so that more funding can be allocate to the Unit.
On gender balance in the Department, the situation is that there are just over 30% women in the Department, and over 50% men. In all the advertisements being put now, it is stated very clearly that there is a bias towards women, especially in the senior posts and lower levels that are very male dominated. Currently, there is a strategy to bring the balance back.
On the incomplete Immovable Assets Register and the need to digitise the register, the Department has, on some occasions, briefed Members about the slow implementation of the ARCHIBUS model. It is more than eight or nine years ago when this model was adopted by the Department, but all the modules of this model have still not been implemented. The Department has now sought the help of National Treasury to assist in digitising the Immovable Assets Register.
As earlier mentioned, the buildings that were identified for quarantine sites were from both private and from public sectors. However, since Government is no longer responsible to provide accommodation for people to go in isolation for 10 to 14 days, the cost of isolation must now be borne by the people coming from overseas; they must pay for their own accommodation for isolation. The list is still there, and it will certainly be revisited to see from the public sector side some of those facilities that could possibly be used. The Department is sending out a notice to all regional offices that by next week Friday; they need to make time to go and inspect all those buildings. They do not need to send 10 or 20 people from five different departments. The regional offices must do that and work together with the respective provinces, instead of having big teams going around all over the country.
There is an inter-ministerial committee (IMC) chaired by the Minister of Women, Youth, and People with Disabilities. Through this IMC, the National Strategic Plan has been finalised. It is now past the policy stages, and most of the implementation and transversal management of departments working together is being discussed.
Many Members asked about the MOAs. In the case of the Western Cape, it was the first time that this was being done. But the Department now has a draft of MOAs, which can be standardised. The provinces have been asked to make input, so that there should not be a different MOA for different provinces, but it will be standardised. The Department is only providing the building, but the provincial Departments of Social Development and the National one deal with what happens inside, including the programmes and funding. There are also several existing gender-based violence centres all over the country.
Members spoke about how to economically empower a woman when she needs to go out of centre. There is centre in Cape Town called the Saartjie Baartman Centre that is using an amazing model. The Department is working together with the centre to help it to clean the place and also made donations of computers. DSD and the provinces will come in with plans on the actual programmes to empower the women economically.
She completely agreed with Members that there is need to find ways to empower women, especially to do maintenance and repairs. DPWI must ensure this in terms of the EPWP, women teams can be employed to do maintenance and repairs like painting. Women can do that, and the Department is already looking at establishing women maintenance teams to use in EPWP. Members can be assured that the next report will be completely different from what has been presented now because of the lessons learned in the first phase. In the current second phase things are being done differently to speed up the process.
On victimisation of women within the Department, she said she would ask the Acting DG to respond, but the Department will certainly speed up performance because of the capacity. The Minister has joined the task team, which will be meeting weekly. Members can be assured that the Department is we are trying its best. She thanked Members for the all condolences messages.
Rev. Stemela responded on internal efforts to combat GBV. There was a programme in the Department with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), where there was the review of the Sexual Harassment Policy. The Department engaged with Labour Relations. CGE gave training on sexual harassment, and several workshops and awareness on the policy on sexual harassment were held within all the regional offices. The Department reports the number of cases to Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) twice a year. This is mandatory reporting by all the departments. This is done together with Labour Relations. The last report on cases on sexual harassment was in November, and the next one will be at the end of March. There are a lot of awareness campaigns and awareness programmes within the Department that are driven from the Gender Unit.
On bullying within the Department, she indicated that there have been a lot of cases. A workshop on bullying and wellness was held in partnership with Labour Relations. There are many activities done on an annual basis and these are highlighted in the calendar month. The awareness campaigns are ongoing whether it is Women's month, or World Aids Day, among others. The full information on this was not prepared, because the Department thought this meeting would only be talking about the lease agreements. As the Minister said, a comprehensive report on what is done within the Department will be presented next time. The approach that the Department will be taking now, as instructed the Minister on capacitation of the Gender Unit, is to ensure that this spreads not only within the Department but also beyond into the sector itself. Hence the move of the Unit to the Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) branch, to also focus on the public works sector. Engagements have already started. Last year, a workshop was held with gender focal persons of provinces of Public Works to discuss the programmes and how to ensure synergy, so that there is a uniform approach in the sector and to learn from each other. The capacitation and realignment of the Unit will also assist. It is not only about the Gender Unit raising issues of gender mainstreaming, but the actual receiving from the implementing branches, because most of the work will be done by different branches within the Department. The importance of the task team and the Minister’s involvement will also assist, because the Gender Unit can come up with ideas, but implementation requires interdependence, which has also been a problem. This is being worked on, and hopefully with task team support by the Minister, the Unit will be able to work better and produce more results.
On the list of properties, as the Minister mentioned, the presentation might not cover all the places where the shelters or buildings are. But the Department has also provided a list of properties, which shows that it is not only in the urban areas. The presentation only mentioned those areas because they are regional offices that are responsible for the rural different areas. In the Excel spreadsheet provided, Members will be able to see the township where the shelters are.
On the Nelspruit, Mpumalanga centres, the Department said that the buildings are not necessarily in Nelspruit; some are in Delmas, Camden, Ermelo – the list shows the spread of the properties. But the Department is not denying the fact that it is not able to reach out to all the municipalities and districts, as the Minister said. Therefore, there is engagement with the provincial departments to ensure that more areas are reached. This is done with guidance of the Department of Social Development because there already exist shelters in some areas, and DSD will assist to show where the gaps are.
The Department noted that the Chairperson mentioned her concern on economic empowerment; it said that it is trying to engage with Treasury. This initiative is already in place through Presidency and Treasury. Two meetings were already held with the Treasury, the Presidency and Department of Women, where there was discussion on the 40% pronouncement by the President. The departments made presentation of how they will ensure that 40% is reached; hence the Woman Empowerment Programme will be put in place. Branches have also been engaged to review their procurement plans to ensure that they are targeting designated groups for the next financial year. Interventions have been put in place to ensure the 40% is reached, because currently it is 21%. At a technical level, there is an inter-ministerial team where there is engagement with SAPS, Department of Health, DSD, and Department of Women with discussion on issues of operationalisation and services within the shelters. DPWI provides the buildings, but the other departments must provide services within the shelters. Meetings are held to talk about strategies and how the departments can support each other to ensure that the shelters are complete because without the services, then the shelters will just become the building. These meetings, called the Social Impact Workstream are held every week. Funding is also discussed, and Department of Women managed to facilitate the funding by CARA.
Mr Mathebula said that the previous speaker was referring to Members as “somebody”. This is not appropriate according to the rules. Members should be referred to by name or as “Members”. Saying “somebody” is belittling and should be corrected.
Rev Stemela apologised to the Committee and said it was her first time speaking in this kind of platform.
The Chairperson said this Committee has been in existence since 2019, and Rev Stemela has been in the Department. The apology must be unconditional.
Rev Stemela unconditionally apologised to the Committee. It was not meant to be like that.
Mr Solly Ncoane, Immovable Asset Manager, National DPWI, responded to the question on the quarantine sites. One of the properties that were identified as a quarantine site, in Salvokop, was being handed over to the Department of Social Development as a centre. It is currently operational. He agreed with the Minister that at the beginning of the programme, the focus was on the residential properties, but with the specifications now they are leaning more towards functional accommodation. In the next phase the Department will identify properties that are more of office space that can be converted into accommodation. In engagement with DSD, the Department is getting to know more about DSD’s accommodation specifications, and in the next list more functional properties will be identified. As Members highlighted that the Department needs to identify properties located in rural areas, such as Lusikisiki, in the next visit which will happen not later than 12 March, as the Minister indicated. Certain properties in the Eastern Cape province, including those in Lusikisiki, will also be visited to verify whether they suit the requirements. For selection in the future, the Department will ensure that more properties in rural areas are identified, not only limited to residential properties.
The Acting DG said that there were several comments about the Immovable Assets Register, and while he was not defending the register, he wanted Mr Ncoane to comment there about fitness for purpose of the register in identifying the shelters. The Asset Register was qualified in the last financial year by the Auditor-General (AG) on the grounds of valuation in some respects that some of the properties were not adequately valued. But the Department has moved beyond that challenge of completeness. The AG now concluded that the Asset Register is substantially complete and no longer warrants qualification on that basis.
On interaction with sister departments, Members mentioned the need to appreciate inter-governmental relations in providing these facilities. The Department has allocated this programme in the Intergovernmental Relations Unit. The intergovernmental relations now drive the whole programme. They coordinate the initiative with the understanding and appreciation of the interaction with other Government departments, particularly DSD at provincial and national level, which is key.
On the lengthy process of the MOAs, one of the key interventions that the Department has made and needs to continue to make is to manage the expectations that the Department is responsible for and owns its properties. These properties must be properly maintained, repaired and renovated to make them set for the purpose of serving as shelters for victims of GBV. But what transpires in terms of the Immovable Asset Management Act and the Department’s own business processes is that the Department then runs on the user charge, where the user must pay. In the process, the Department must recover repairs and maintenance costs, capital expenditure and service charges like rates in taxes. This has been a challenge to manage that with the user departments, especially provincial departments who are not usual clients since the relationship with them is somewhat new. DPWI needs to manage the expectation of the provincial departments so that they know that DPWI provides the facility, but there is also a user charge involved. Once this is done, the MOU can be sped up.
The Deputy Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, Ms Nxolo Kiviet, said she wanted to comment on two principles, which would talk to the drive to win the war. When information is shared with the district champions, it will be easy to reach the various municipalities where work is being done. Communication of the sites to the district champions will speed up the process. The Ministry already held a meeting with all provincial Members of Executive Council (MECs) of social development, and all MECs of Public Works and Infrastructure in all provinces to try and fast-track the work. This is because it is at the lower levels where the rubber hits the tar. In the quest to win the war, the role of the Department is to ensure that there is sharing of information. Members of Parliament as public representatives need to drive the messaging. In the quest to ensure that provision of the facilities, there has not been much emphasis on the messaging. While the Department has identified several sites across the country, Members should work together with the Department to ensure that messages on the boards across the country should have an effect of arousing one's conscience, being educative and transformative. This is to educate and transform the attitudes, especially of men, because violence against women is limited on women against women, as it is usually men against women. Therefore, driving that messaging and education, identifying the sites where those messages must go, and identifying the actual messages need the support and input of Members.
On empowerment, the Minister earlier commented on the question of the court case that declared the current set asides as illegal. It is interpretation of legislation that has caused that. Members need to work together with the Department to find a suitable legislation that will help to drive the intended results. The Department set up a collaborative forum where the Council for Built Environment (CBE), Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB) and all that work for the transformation of the industry, especially as women. They were set up in groups where they will help the Department look at the laws, not only on preferential procurement, but also other laws that may pose a threat in the process of wanting to drive transformation and empowerment of women. It was heart-warming to hear from the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities around the work that those Collaborative Forums are doing. It was a very pleasing and positive report, because what the Department feel that those who are affected are the best to come up with solutions. This approach is working. They have worked together with Treasury and are consulting on proposals that must be included in the legislation in reviewing the Preferential Procurement Act. Members need to get involved in this. Although the court says preferential procurement is unconstitutional, the objectives of the Act are to ensure that the status quo of women is changed and to create an environment where women are empowered. The set-aside is not just a window dressing exercise but a step that was thought to be necessary to give meaning contribution to transforming economic relations.
The issue of geographical locations will be addressed once all municipalities have GBVF centres. This is because the key decision taken is for all municipalities to have the centres. She is aware that in some municipalities, especially in the Northern Cape, some small towns are 200 kilometres apart. Obviously, in such cases, the municipality cannot just have one centre, but the one municipality one centre approach is to propel the Department to try and covered geographic space in a manner that responds to the current challenge. However, where conditions require more centres, the Department is not limited to not having more. In the cities, there is more than one centre. Members should be reminded that the work of safe centres has been there as conducted by NGOs. It is not that there are no centres where DPWI has not yet identified buildings. Centres were there, but they were not covering the whole country. What the Department is now doing is to ensure that the whole of South Africa is covered through the building and facilities.
She said that as the political leader in the Department, she apologised for the earlier comment made. There is a particular way of addressing Members, and it is unfortunate that Rev Stemela is attending the meeting for the first time. The apology not to justify the statement, because the meetings are on TV and the Department participates; this is not the first time the Department is coming to the Committee. She apologised to Members on half of the Department and appealed to the Acting DG to drill people before coming to the Committee, especially those coming for the first time. This work is very close to the heart of the leadership of the Department since they are women themselves. They see and feel the pain that women feel in abusive relationships.
She appealed to all Members as leaders, as the Minister of Social Development said during the opening of one of the centres that the government should not have been spending money on the centres, had society and homes been normal. All leaders have a responsibility to ensure that the actual messages that seek to stop the GBVF and messages that leaders carry everywhere they go must join hands in preaching that violence is an absurd way of life. Young men and boy-children must be educated. It will take a generation to stop these acts. Young men must be educated to recognise that violence is not accepted, and therefore desist from actions of violence against women.
She appreciated the contribution and comments from Members, especially on considering government-owned buildings that were meant for quarantine sites. The Department needs to up its game and act faster. She hoped that the senior management was listening to the urgency, which is always spoken about. It is not just those in the Department who feel that there is not enough being done, but the overseers also feel that the Department is not acting in a manner that reflects urgency. She appreciated the support and positive comments from the Committee.
Ms Hicklin urged Members not to share the addresses of the safe houses with anyone and everyone, because that is guaranteed to lead to a second round of abuse for women who go into those shelters, since the perpetrators of violence would know exactly where to find them. Members should be very circumspect how that information is shared.
The Chairperson said the ruling party declared this year as the year of Mama Charlotte Maxeke, the first black woman to obtain a decree. She was an internationalist, humanitarian, and she looked after many people doing good work. It is therefore crucial in the fight against GBVF. Secondly, the Department is the owner of all the properties of Government. “We dare not fail the woman who could have been the country’s President had there been no patriarchy, which has its roots embedded in the communities and systems.” It is crucial that the Department plays its role to change the lives of women and young people. Many departments do not trust DPWI even though it owns all the properties. This mistrust could be because of past failures and misdeeds, especially on repairs and maintenance. There are many properties of DPWI in provinces that are lying idle; they need repairs as they are vandalised. Criminals are housed in those properties. For example, in the Eastern Cape there are properties where Department of Justice used to house magistrates, prosecutors and staff of the magistrate offices. But those houses are being used by the criminals who even rape people there. The people who were living in those houses previously were told by DPWI to vacate them, but now the houses are lying idle. Can the Department ensure that these houses that are not being utilised are donated to municipalities? Some municipalities even lack offices. These houses can be donated for use as safe houses because the Department is failing to maintain them. “We dare not fail Mama Charlotte Maxeke in this year that has been declared the year of Mama Charlotte Maxeke.” She could have turned 150 years on 07 April if she was alive, but she is no more. As the Department that is being led by women, as the Deputy Minister earlier indicated, the Department should not fail women. GBVF is a fight for everyone, not only women. This war must be won. She hoped that the next report would show much work done, especially on what Members highlighted.
The Chairperson said the Deputy Minister and officials from the Department could leave the meeting but were free to remain until the end if they liked.
The Deputy Minister said that the Department would leave so that they could also quickly have their own discussion to follow up on the issues raised by Members.
Consideration and adoption of minutes meeting on 17 February 2021
The minutes were adopted without amendments.
Consideration and adoption of minutes meeting on 24 February 2021
The minutes were adopted without amendments
Adoption of Updated Committee Programme
The Chairperson said that as Members were aware, the Committee had planned to have public hearings set for the beginning of March. When it was agreed to extend the date of written submission to 28 February, it was agreed to begin the public hearings 15 March. But when the President extended alert level three restrictions on Covid-19, it was felt that 15 March would be too early to go on public hearings. Members then agreed to come up with a date. Many written submissions have been received by 28 February, including requests for oral submissions. A management committee was set the previous day and it came up with the plan being presented today.
[Connection lost between 2:16:57 and 2:17:42]
The Committee Secretary said that meetings for oral submissions would be held from 24 to 25 March 2021. 13 organisations and individuals have expressed interest to present oral submissions to the Committee. This will also be done virtually as is the case with the Committee meetings. Public hearings in provinces would take place from 8 April to 6 June 2021. These meetings in provinces will be held every weekend from 8 April beginning with Limpopo. The approach is to target four districts in each province for four days, with one day spent per district. Since the President has announced level one, the restriction is that there can be 100 people inside a venue. The proposal is to have the 100 people inside, and have people to rotate to come in and make their submissions. This is because within the 100, there could only be 20 people making their own presentations through public hearings, hence the proposal for the rotation to maximise public participation.
The Safety and Health Environment Unit within Wellness in Parliament was consulted, and the Department are eager to assist in this process to curb the spread of Covid-19 during the public hearings. The hearings in Gauteng will run from 29 April to 3 May. The reason for this length of time is that there is a May Day public holiday. The Committee will work on 29 and 30 April, break on 1 May for the holiday and then proceed on 2 and 3 May. After the hearings from 3 to 23 June, the Committee needs to consider the report as stipulated in the rules. This period is for Members to have enough time to draft a final report of written submission, oral submissions, and the public hearings. Thereafter, there will be formal consideration of the Bill clause by clause, and it will be adopted. No dates have been indicated yet because these are depended on the change in the wave of the pandemic.
The Chairperson commented on the 100 people in the public hearing and the rotation. She said she was part of the adhoc public hearings, with the last one held in November when the country was in Level one of Covid-19 restrictions. At the time, 250 people were allowed, but it was found that more than 500 people would be outside the venue. It was found that there would be people outside that would like to speak, and groups of ten people were allowed to come inside and speak and then go out. Thus, ensuring that the number inside the hall was only the number that is allowed according to health protocols. That is why 100 people will now be allowed for the planned public hearings. But if there are people outside who would like to speak, ten people will be allowed to come in groups, so that all who would like to speak should be able to do so. The reason for having the public hearings in four days is that the Committee will go to four districts in each province. She asked Members to comment on the updated plan.
Ms Graham asked if Parliament would pay for her divorce because she only gets to see her husband on weekends, and he may leave if she is away for two months or three months. She asked if the entire Committee would be expected to attend every single public hearing or if the Committee would do alternate weekends. Most Members would find that attending every single weekend would be almost impossible. The weekend of the Northern Cape, for example, is her and her husband's birthday; she has already made plans and cannot be available that that weekend. Other Members certainly also have other commitments. Can the Committee be split in half and alternate weekends to make it easier? It would also be more affordable for Parliament and would be easier for Members to be plan around an alternate weekend, as opposed to every weekend.
Mr Mathebula appreciate that the Committee is finally finalising this important process of engaging with the public to resolving Section 25 of the Constitution. In trying to save time, money, and marriages, is it not possible that instead of spending four days in one province the Committee spends only one day? Can Members spread to the different districts in a province instead of all Members going to one district and moving to the next?
Ms Hicklin said, in responses to Mr Mathebula, if there were at least four Members per political party in the Committee, then it would be possible to split and go to four different districts at once. But that is not feasible, since there are some parties with only one or two Member. She agreed with Ms Graham that it would be beneficial to all Members to share the load because this is one of the most important bills to go before Parliament. The Committee needs to make sure that there is adequate representation, yet at the same time all Members have other duties to take care of in their constituencies, not considering the toll on personal lives. It is not feasible for Members to be away every single weekend from April to June. It just does not make sense.
Mr M Nxumalo (IFP) spoke in isiZulu. He greeted the delegation…He expressed that he had no objections to whatever ruling the Chairperson would make regarding the Committee’s oversight work in relation to public hearings. He would be available to attend whenever and wherever the Members would be expected to attend, barring any other major commitment he might coincidentally have.
Ms Van Schalkwyk said that she felt the pain of the newlywed Mr Nxumalo. As much as Members want to see this programme speed up, she agreed with other Members and proposed that the Committee goes out for two weekends and then skip one weekend, so that Members can have an opportunity to be with family. She said she did not support the notion of splitting the Committee because while the adhoc committee has done this, the composition of the adhoc committee is different because there are more members involved. While it was suggested that splitting the Committee would result in less expenses, yet it would be more expensive because Parliament must then provide added security and staff. It is important for Members to be present in each public hearing to properly capture what is discussed and for smooth running of the affairs. There are already vast areas, especially for rural provinces. It is the mandate of the Committee as Parliamentarians, and for making provision for the bills, to have sufficient consultation by visiting all regions as much as possible. Visiting four regions per province would be seen as sufficient consultation. The Committee should not open itself for litigation when the project is not even finished. Can the whole Committee go to each region, and stick with the four days per province, but only skip one weekend before moving out for another two weekends?
Mr Thring said that in looking at the ad hoc committee in Section 25, the provinces are broken up into two groups, thus having two groups covering the nine provinces together with the districts. If the Committee were able to do this, the work would be complete in a shorter period. This is where the saving of costs comes in. It would not be more expensive, but actually a saving if there are two groups. Another possibility is that for smaller provinces where the districts are not that far apart, would be to have more than one meeting per day if it would be possible. This would be done by having an early start at 9am, and perhaps a break from 12-noon to 1pm, and then travel to the next meeting from about 2pm. He acknowledged that logistics may not render this possible, and this would be a stretch. However, where possible it would reduce the time, so that Members are not away from family for lengthy periods.
Ms Mjobo agreed with Ms Van Schalkwyk on not splitting as this would help. On saving marriages, one weekend should be skipped for Members to be with families; this is very important.
The Chairperson said that Ms Van Schalkwyk explained on the composition, size and number of staff supporting the adhoc committee in comparison with this Portfolio Committee. Mr Thring was also part of that, and he knows that there was a lot of support coming from departments and committees. For example, for Public Works, there was support from agriculture and rural development, among the others, that were tasked with being secretary of the adhoc committee. As such, it is going to be a challenge to split this Committee. She agreed with the proposal made by Ms Van Schalkwyk. Mr Nxumalo is the youngest to wed in the Committee, as he had his wedding last year. He had invited Members but they could not honour the invitation due to COVID-19 to restrictions. Other Members have been married for a longer time, but the Committee supports that Ms Graham must celebrate her birthday and the one of her husband in that weekend. The Committee can take three provinces, take a break in one weekend, then take another two provinces, break, and then finally take another two provinces to complete all nine provinces. However, if Ms Graham is not able to attend in a particular hearing, she may skip because they are two Members from their party. But all other parties are supposed to have alternates in the Committee, who do not vote but are alternates. If Ms Graham is not attending, she must ensure that Ms Hicklin attends. This will be the same for other parties, where if a Member is not attending, they must indicate an alternate who will attend. This alternate must be an individual who is known by the Committee as an alternate. There will be breaks for Members to rest and meet with family.
Members must remember that they took an oath when South Africans voted for them to be public representatives. As such, Members must be present when a call is made of such an important Bill that all South Africans are looking forward to, as shown by the overwhelming response seen in the written submissions. When the dates are finalised, communication will be made to Members so that they can campaign in their constituencies for people attend the public hearings. The plan will be to go to Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, then take a break; Gauteng, Free State and KZN, then break; Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and Western Cape, and then a break. Members must try to fit their family programmes according to this plan. Once the actual dates are set, the Secretary will communicate with Members.
The public hearings involve security officials, health officials to ensure that health protocols are adhered to, and the registration staff. It involves a lot of people and splitting into two groups would mean doubling the support officials and doubling the budget. The public hearings should be done in one group with breaks so that Members can have time with families. Ms Mjobo, Mr Mashele, Mr Mathebula and the Chairperson, herself, are not committed to any spouse and they can go for one week. The weekend that Ms Graham wanted is now is free, and she can enjoy herself. That weekend will also be Ms Hicklin’s wife's birthday. All the best in advanced to the spouses of Members in the celebrations.
Closing remarks by the Chairperson
The Chairperson said the next meeting would be next Wednesday, and the Committee would be considering dates in which to invite people for oral presentation. If there are many requests, they will be grouped into two and meet them for four hours each day for two days. This will ensure that there is time allocated to each group for presentations.
She thanked Members for their input during the meeting, and reminded them to stay safe, stay indoors and wear the mask all the time because Covid-19 is still out there. Members should join the Department in fighting GBVF since it is the duty of everyone to ensure that the country is free from crime, that women and children are not afraid to walk on the streets or to go to their homes because they are staying with the abuser. They are not afraid to go to church because the Pastor or the Reverend is the abuser. They are not afraid to go to work because the boss or immediate supervisor is an abuse. It is a fight for all Members to join so that our children and grandchildren live in a free society.
The meeting was adjourned.
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