State of Shelters in South Africa
Accounting for work in Progress? Assessing progress on the establishment of a national coordinating structure on gender based violence
Tabled Committee Reports
The Portfolio Committee was briefed by the Commission of Gender Equality (CGE) on its study report, Accounting for Work in Progress in establishing National Council for GBVF, and its investigative report on the State of Shelters in South Africa.
The lack of cooperation and participation by the Interim Steering Committee (ISC) in the CGE study report was noted with great concern by the Portfolio Committee as it had experienced a similar challenge to oversee the ISC who claimed it reported only to the President. Members asked if they had shared the study report with the Presidency and the Department of Women. They asked about current developments in establishing the National Council for Gender-Based Violence and Femicide and if the Commission has been monitoring this.
As the Department of Women had taken over the coordination role, the Committee Chairperson implored that CGE should work closer with this process. They should monitor the Department of Women in establishing this Council as the process unfolds because the structures must not be established without oversight. There cannot be shortcuts and CGE should scrutinise all documents.
On the investigative report on the State of Shelters, Members asked if CGE had made inputs on the Department of Social Development policy on sheltering services; if CGE had engaged with the National Shelter Movement of South Africa; if the provinces have plan for the implementation of a conducive shelter for all types of persons with disabilities. They asked about CGE's comments on the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure identifying 84 properties for potential shelters.
The Chairperson brought to the attention of the Committee the current student protests at universities which led to the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba. She extended her condolences to his family. She asked for suggestions on what the Committee can do to assist the students. She asked CGE if it plays any role in student financial assistance.
Ms N Sharif (DA) noted she did oversight in KZN. They then realised that a BMW given to Mzamo Child Guidance and Training Initiative was collecting dust in a garage and had not been used since it was handed over which she found very concerning. Mzamo also has three cars apart from the BMW whilst the Thuthuzela Care Centre which is just behind it does not have a car. She was beyond frustrated as there was a ceremony to provide assistance to fight GBV with those BMWs and yet it is over a year now and no work done by these BMWs has been seen.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) said that students cannot be financially excluded when they are doing well. She called for the immediate seizing of ammunition by the police as someone died previous week and this week another person was injured.
Ms P Sonti (EFF) said that children should not be killed because they need education. The children need to be supported and education must become free.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) said that they use violence against students which resulted in the death of Mthokozisi Ntumba who was just a passer-by coming to a clinic. This is tragic. He extended his deepest condolences to his family. The Committee must make recommendations to the Departments of Higher Education and Police. There is a need for NSFAS reforms as he understands the pain of not being able to register. The reforms must also address the missing middle.
Ms C Phiri (ANC) proposed to move a motion for a debate in the House on how the country can have viable financial assistance for students and sustain it to prevent this from recurring. She expressed her disappointment for SAPS allowing its members to come with live ammunition.
CGE Commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko asked the Committee for a moment of silence to pay respect to King Zwelithini. She noted how the King had helped and facilitated people with albinism to be treated equally.
CGE Deputy Chairperson Ntabiseng Moleko noted that financial access through NSFAS is outside the scope of CGE when they look at gender transformation empowerment.
Accounting for Work in Progress: CGE study report
Ms Jamela Robertson, CGE CEO, said that the Interim Steering Committee (ISC) on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) was created as an outcome of the GBV Presidential Summit in November 2018 to set up a permanent multi sectoral structure within six months to coordinate country responses to GBVF and to give attention to other commitments in the GBVF Summit Declaration. The ISC was disbanded on 30 April 2019 with the structure not yet in place.
The CGE study found that the ISC’s focus on tasks/activities that were not contained in the Summit Declaration could have led to delays and the ultimate failure of the ISC to establish the National Council on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (NCGBVF).
For a temporary structure with a limited six-month life span, the ISC’s attention was divided amongst three enormous tasks: establishment of the Council, crafting the National Strategic Plan which was a task allocated by the Declaration to the NCGBVF once in existence, crafting and management of implementation of the Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) unveiled by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 18 September 2020.
The crafting of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) and the ERAP work were clearly outside the ISC scope of responsibilities outlined in the Summit Declaration.
The CGE study found several loopholes and challenges in the setting up of the ISC itself. For example, no document was available that provided details on how the ISC was to be created, its membership, day-to-day operations, office bearer appointments, scope of its powers, size of members, allocation of responsibilities and resources.
This lack of clarity on important details in the ISC creation and operations created friction and fragmentation in the gender sector, with some civil society organisations reporting that the ISC lacked transparency and it was failing to account for its processes and activities to its civil society constituency and to the general public.
It is important to place on record that there were widespread reluctance and fear among some Steering Committee members to be interviewed for this study. As a result, key details on ISC operations could not be obtained.
As a result of this limited cooperation from ICS members, important questions on ISC structural design could not be answered such as the Co-Chairpersons – one from civil society, and the other from the Office of the President (a social policy adviser to the President).
Information was not available on the division of responsibilities of the Co-Chairpersons and if there was joint and equal levels of authority and responsibility for ISC daily affairs.
There was a lack of clarity on the nomination, appointment or election to the office of ISC membership; guidelines governing ISC governance, especially as the authority to amend or extend its term of office when the six-month term limit imposed by the Summit Declaration ran out.
Although the ISC nomination/selection process was never clarified, it is a fact that ISC had a membership composition of various government departments, civil society organisations, development partners, academic institutions, and research institutions.
At some point, the ISC had a membership of 70 representatives, which is a significantly large membership that could have contributed to fairly complex internal operations and procedures, and potentially cumbersome decision-making processes.
The Summit Declaration had mandated that ISC funding be regulated by the Public Finance Management Act. However, details on the extent of public fund allocations to ISC were not publicly made available. Informal conversations with some ISC members indicated that the ISC activities were funded by several government departments and development agencies.
CGE recommended that there should be transparency and accountability in ISC functions in the formation of the National Council in consultation with stakeholders such as civil society and this process should be open to the public and structures like Parliament to provide oversight and inform the public of key developments.
CGE recommended that the ISC mandate be extended, with clear time frames and targets set to assist in critical processes such as the implementation of the NSP and the formation of the NCGBVF. The GBV Summit Declaration must guide this work.
CGE recommended that there should be a formal Terms of Reference (ToR), which is available to the public, that clearly outlines the ISC functions and mandate, scope of its powers; as well as reporting/accounting obligations of its office bearers. The ToR document should be developed in consultation with all – stakeholders civil society, government and developmental partners – so that the process is truly inclusive (see document for all the recommendations).
The Chairperson asked if CGE shared this study report with the Presidency and the Department of Women. If not, why? If yes, she wanted to know the outcomes of the meeting. She asked for CGE observations on current developments in establishing the National Council. Had CGE made inputs into the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill?
Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) noted that CGE identified that no document was available to provide details on how ISC was to be created. She asked if the Summit Declaration mentioned this critical aspect. At the first ISC meeting this aspect was discussed and assigned. One of their recommendations was that there should be a formal guiding document, available to the public, providing the ISC terms of reference which also outlined functions and mandate. Who did they propose should be specifically assigned to do that? This is a key concern but CGE recommendations do not appear to speak to this aspect. CGE stated that it was initially allowed to attend a meeting, but later access was denied. She asked the reason given for this.
Ms N Sharif (DA) said that she is shocked that CGE struggled to get information from the ISC. This reminded her of this Committee requesting the ISC to appear before Parliament many times but to no avail as the ISC claimed that it reported only to the President. The fact that they are secret and not sharing information with the Commission which is an independent Chapter 9 institution that has a right to investigate and report is very concerning and begs the question "what are they hiding?”
She asked if this report has been published. If yes, when? And if not, when will it be? She asked if CGE had a response from the ISC chairperson, that is, have they been given the report and if so, have they had time to comment. She suggested that after this damning report, the ISC should come before Parliament to account.
Ms Masiko asked if the Commission has been monitoring the secretariat itself and its workings. She asked if CGE has been able to a greater extent assess the Department’s GBV prevention strategy. If not, why? And if yes, what were their findings?
Ms P Sonti (EFF) referred to the 9 March CGE presentation on the work of police stations against GBV. She had commented about the failure of the community policing forum (CPF) in communities that should work closely with the police. She did not hear CGE's response. The CPFs should be provided with the resources they need so that work can be performed freely.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) said the lack of ISC accountability and transparency is concerning. The Portfolio Committee should look at this going forward. He agreed with Ms Sharif that the ISC must come and account before the Committee. He asked if CGE has provided the report to all the relevant departments and institutions.
The Chairperson said that the researchers should call the ISC to come and account based on the CGE study report.
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) was worried about who is going to respond to these findings if no one is going to come and account. Additionally, how will they manage the GBV challenges if there is no one to account for these CGE findings.
She supports the CGE report recommendations. One of them is to ensure there is transparency and accountability in the ISC functioning. This is why one or two of them must appear before the Committee to account.
The Committee Chairperson pointed out that the Department of Women is supposed to account on GBV. The Department said that it wanted to establish a council according to the SANAC model. However, if one looks at it, the model is different. It is only a partial SANAC model. Did CGE get an opportunity to look at the proposed structure?
CGE Deputy Chairperson Moleko replied to Ms Mgweba that it is very difficult to hold to account a body that has already been disbanded. On Members' comments about the non-participation of ISC members in the study, CGE had through its researchers write severally to different participants in the ISC. It is unacceptable that the CGE work was hindered but at that time, CGE did not stop what it was mandated to do which is to perform oversight on the efficacy of that process. She thought that the weakness for CGE is the timing of the report as it was after-the-fact and the ISC had actually disbanded so the impact is limited. Most importantly, the responses that they have recommended are now being factored into the NSP process as well as in the actual oversight committee and council which is where she thinks the weakness is. She admitted that sometimes the delay in releasing CGE reports weakens addressing the very recommendations. Hence, CGE need to be more concise in its timing.
The Committee Chairperson noted that there was a proposal of establishing a secretariat. She asked if CGE agrees with that proposal. The Committee's request is that CGE should work closer with this process. They should monitor the Department of Women in establishing this Council as the process unfolds because the structures must not be established without oversight. There cannot be shortcuts, please scrutinise all the documents.
CGE Chairperson, Ms Tamara Mathebula, agreed that CGE needs to work very closely with the Department in looking at what documents are developed and what kind of structures are established and the model. On CGE's thoughts about a proposed trust structure, at the time when the ISC was due to be disbanded, CGE made recommendations that if possible, the ISC should be extended so that it does what it was supposed to do. Unfortunately, it was disbanded on 30 April 2019. CGE was hopeful that there was going to be a long-term National Council on GBVF to which CGE was going to hand over this report with its findings and recommendations. Unfortunately, to date, the council is not in place to share the findings. However, the progress update is that the Department of Women has taken over the coordination role. The establishment of the National Council has not taken place but the Inter-Ministerial Committee on GBVF was established and these are the structures that were coordinating at a national level to ensure that there is a long-term structure. So oversight and follow-up we should all be doing with the Department of Women which is currently tasked to carry out the work of establishing an interim board of trustees and the council. So this is where the oversight focus should be for both CGE and the Committee.
CGE CEO, Ms Robertson replied that this is the first platform that they have presented and shared this report. The report is a continuation of three reports on gender-based violence. The first was on statistics; this one on coordinating establishing the long-term structure and the third is implementation of ERAP. On monitoring and evaluating the implementation of National Strategic Plan on GBV, she asked the Commissioners to respond as she was not aware of a report where CGE is monitoring the NSP.
The CGE Chairperson replied that the National Strategic Plan on GBV was approved last year by Parliament. Following its approval, what CGE has done is to look at the document to familiarise itself with it. The document has six key pillars. CGE has agreed in its planning process that started in November last year that this is going to be one of the key matters that it will follow, and it is part and parcel of the 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan (APP). CGE will need to monitor this which is a five-year strategy. CGE will ensure it is part of its five-year strategic plan.
The Committee Chairperson commented that there had been no financial report about the R1.6 billion made available by role-playing departments for GBVF.
Deputy Chairperson Moleko said that the CGE CEO and management team in the last financial year agreed to report on the efficacy of CGE legal and research report recommendations. The Commissioners have said that CGE needs to look at the implementation of the recommendations of their reports as they found that they were doing too many reports but very few of their recommendations are being implemented. They are tired of doing reports where the recommendations are not implemented. So CGE has put in place a monitoring tool to look at both legal and research reports. Thus far in the CGE Strategic Plan and Monitoring and Evaluation Oversight Committee, management has now reported on the past two financial years for both legal and research reports. This is not enough as they want to look at the reports of the past five to seven years. Instead of doing reports in the new financial year, CGE wants to assess these past reports and review whether those recommendations that were not implemented should be referred back to the custodians responsible. There must be follow-up on the CGE recommendations.
State of Shelters in South Africa investigative report
Ms Jamela Robertson, CGE CEO, said the key findings were:
• The provinces apply inconsistent budget allocation, administration, and minimum standards requirements for shelters
• There are no clear criteria to determine if a shelter is adequately resourced, especially NGO-run shelters
• A sexual harassment policy is not part of the set policies needed for funding the shelter. This is key as survivors are often vulnerable and thus susceptible to sexual harassment at shelters
• Male children over 10 years are often neglected and in some shelters, they are not accommodated. The Children’s Act refers to a “child” irrespective of sex or gender. To this end, failure to admit male or female children over 10 years goes against the object of the Act to provide care and protection to all children
• There is a lack of minimum standards providing for the needs of persons with disabilities, the LGBTIQA+ community, and accredited skills development programmes at shelters
• There are provinces such as Limpopo and North West that have only two shelters which is viewed as inadequate.
CGE recommended that:
a) The National Department of Social Development (DSD) must develop mechanisms to accurately record the funding allocation to shelters. Provincial DSD offices administering NPO funding has been a long-standing concern. Administrative practices vary significantly between provinces
b) The National DSD must develop national policy and guidelines to adequately and uniformly resource shelters. It is accepted that financing of all services in accordance with their true cost may not be immediately possible. In the interim, all subsidies for equivalent positions must be standardised across all provinces. There is no justification for provinces to provide different subsidy amounts to different organisations whose staff have the same qualifications and are performing similar work. It creates inequities between organisations and provinces.
c) The National DSD must develop a national policy providing for the minimum wage to house mothers. Subsidies towards social and social auxiliary workers employed by NPOs vary between 29% and 82% of entry-level salaries in the DSD. The gap between DSD and NPO pay must be closed. The National Minimum Wage panel report recognised that the non-profit social welfare sector faced a very particular set of challenges in finding staff and activities. It is thus recommended that an expert panel be established to find a means to address low wages.
d) A costing exercise be undertaken by the National DSD and Treasury to ensure that no subsidy is below the minimum wage. Moreover, NEDLAC does not allow for the representation of the NPO social welfare sector. This is a serious omission that limits the ability of the sector to engage with the Minimum Wage Commission that is to be based at NEDLAC. A way must be found to recognise and include this sector with NEDLAC so that its particular work circumstances are considered when decisions are made that affect wages, employment and working conditions
e) Shelters need to support most women’s needs in their entirety, including toiletries, food, clothing and travel to health and legal centres
f) Although the Commission observed that there is a draft training and development framework by DSD that will be ready after consultation with stakeholders, it is recommended that all post subsidies for equivalent positions must in the interim be standardised across provinces. There is no justification for provinces to provide different amounts of subsidy to different organisations whose staff have the same qualifications, performing similar work
g) Shelters must provide accommodation for persons with all types of disabilities including, but not limited to, deaf, visually impaired
h) National DSD finalise its plans to identify three existing shelters and pilot the LGBTIQA+ friendly model within six months and provide clear guidelines for them in the shelters
i) Shelter provision must be in accordance with the population and be offered in all municipalities as part of the plan
j) National DSD must host national and provincial consultative processes to implement and finalise all these recommendations.
Ms Masiko noted that the CGE presentation said they are awaiting department responses, especially the Department of Social Development. Is the assumption correct that they have fully engaged with DSD on this report?
The CEO replied that follow-up was mainly done with the National Department of Social Development. When they present this report to DSD, CGE will provide full details in its quarterly report to the Committee.
Ms Masiko said that the Department of Social Development has a policy on sheltering services that was developed by it. She asked if CGE made inputs on this policy. She asked if CGE has engaged with the NGO, the National Shelter Movement of South Africa.
Ms Hlengwa asked if the provinces have a plan for the implementation of a conducive shelter for all types of persons with disabilities. The policy they talk about is good, but she asked if there is a tool for monitoring what is happening. She noted that in some schools there are difficulties in entering the classes because there are steps.
Ms Mgweba proposed that they note what has been presented especially that some NGO-led shelters around the country are not adequately resourced. The Members wish that the Committee can take an oversight visit.
Ms Masiko wanted insight about the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) presentation to the Portfolio Committee on Public Works that it had identified 84 properties for shelters and 57 of them had been visited. Six are in the Western Cape and six in Gauteng. She asked if CGE had any comments about these 84 sites.
Ms Robertson replied about the recommendations on the accessibility of shelters for persons with disability and the underfunding of shelters run by NGOs, saying that the recommendations are there. The good thing about this work is that CGE follows up on the recommendations as far as its mandate allows it. However, at the end of March 2021, CGE will come with a report which will shed some light on the research, the hearings, and the follow-ups and how far the recommendations have been implemented, and what is remaining.
On whether the provinces have plans on types of accommodation, CGE made some recommendations at national level and naturally the National Department is meant to facilitate this process, but they still have to know if that process happened. So when the report comes, CGE will see if the plans recommended are in place and if they are standardising funding and service of shelters as recommended by the CGE study.
The CGE Chairperson added that the report that they are finalising will have a detailed report on Public Works and an update on what has happened. DPWI has identified 84 properties and 57 of them were properties were visited to see if they can be refurbished. Early last year between February and March there were about six identified in the Western Cape and out of those three were refurbished as early as February-March 2020 as a shelter for women who are victims of gender-based violence. In Eastern Cape, some rondavels were identified and changed into comfortable shelters. In Gauteng, six buildings were identified and the report will come with more details on where the process is now.
The CGE Chairperson replied that from the word go, the National Shelter Movement was part and parcel of their investigation on the state of shelters. The National Shelter Movement is a NGO that looks at the kind of shelters that women can ordinarily live in. They were part of their investigations and at the 2019 hearings, the National Shelter Movement was always invited to sit in with CGE to identify and note issues that were raised when they engaged the stakeholders CGE had invited for those investigative hearings. They were also getting advice in terms of the models, the funding, what is relevant and what is supposed to be the ideal infrastructure for a shelter.
Deputy Chairperson Moleko said that CGE found that women who are economically dependent on their partners usually go back particularly due to the dependency factor. Thus the empowerment of women in shelters needs to be strengthened by the economic cluster and SETAs by providing empowerment training and support finance.
Commissioner Mazibuko commented on shelters including persons with disabilities that they have sign language interpreters when needed and there needs to toilets for persons with disabilities in wheelchairs. The shelters should also employ people with disabilities. Where a person stays for more than six months, the shelters should have accredited skills development services so persons can go out having been equipped to fend for themselves.
The meeting was adjourned.
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