The Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities was briefed by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on its 2021/22 Annual Performance Plan (APP). In the meeting CGE noted its April release of its Review Report on Government’s Emergency Response Action Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide. What they found was that 64% of what government had committed has not been implemented. In the APP they CGE plans to ensure that the 22 departments recommended for execution of GBV programmes are monitored to see how recommendations have been taken into account; how many are doing sufficient work on the lack of access to justice for victims; the courts and the support that the state offers.
Before the Committee discussed the APP they raised concerns about the attacks that especially the elderly women are facing in the villages in Eastern Cape. The Committee wanted to know what the commissioners deployed there are doing to assist in this matter. Members also asked if the concern raised by Commissioner Deyi who said they (preferred pronoun) had been prevented from doing their work by Eastern Cape traditional leaders due to their gender had been investigated.
Members' concerns raised about the APP included why the strategic plan has changed from 'advancing' to only 'enabling' a legislative environment for gender equality; why CGE would aspire to wanting only 50% of its submissions on bills to be adopted; why the evaluation aspect has been omitted in the amended strategic plan; the report on CGE education and information programmes; status of ICT and knowledge management in CGE; commissioners' role in the implementation of APP and how the Commission will ensure that the Commissioners are held accountable; submissions on legislations currently in Parliament; how they will be monitoring and evaluating the National Strategic Plan and the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide; and which 40 courts are being monitored. Some Members raised concern that the targets are not SMART and this will impede the Committee’s ability to provide oversight of CGE work.
Members noted that there is a misalignment between what the Committee and the Commission thinks the Commissioners are responsible for. When the Committee raises concerns about the state of GBV and victim-empowerment facilities and centres and that the relevant departments are not doing enough to support these centres, that responsibility might not be operational, but it is a roles that they can assist with.
The Committee requested a response as it had received an anonymous call that there were job interviews that were done by the CGE CEO that did not follow the policy of a panel constituted of people outside of CGE. Other questions included the purpose of submitting a report to the President and the Speaker on the implications for oversight and accountability by the Committee; what other visual platforms were used to disseminate information to people; what the 36 workshops on gender and development entail; plans for dealing with bullying in schools and discrimination against the LGBQTI+ community; how CGE will ensure the audit findings will be addressed; and the nature of the ‘higher level meetings'.
The Chairperson noted the Committee wrote to CGE last week requesting outstanding responses from the last meeting. This included instructing CGE to investigate Commissioner Busisiwe Deyi being prevented from being able to work by Eastern Cape traditional leaders.
Over the weekend the Committee received complaints from the Eastern Cape and she was called by a pastor who complained that old people are being raped and harassed and have young people stealing from them and they are living in fear.
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) said that the Commissioners do understand what is happening in the Eastern Cape. In 2020 they reported an attack on elderly people in Tsembeyi village in the Eastern Cape called They never got a progress report from the Commissioners. She asked the Commissioners deployed in the Eastern Cape to present on the developments of this case. Secondly, in Lady Frere women are being killed and murdered. It is not a new as it was reported sometime last month. She received a call from a villager last week that three women had been killed. These gender-based violence and femicide incidents must be taken seriously. More so, it is not happening only in the Eastern Cape, but across the whole country.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) noted that there is a huge problem in the rural areas particularly for elderly women. The request is how does the Committee navigate through CGE to put work into developing mechanisms to deal with this. He asked what is being done by the CGE Commissioner allocated to the Eastern Cape to address this matter.
The Chairperson noted these incidents have been raised since 2019. She does not understand what Commissioners are claiming hours from government for. She asked for a full report because it will be unfair for government to pay Commissioners for hours which they are not working.
The second item that the Committee wanted CGE to report on was Free State political oversight visit by Mr Mphithi, Ms Sharif and Mr Ngcobo went to do their political oversight checking on the centres. They were told that the centres did not know Commissioner Dibeela Gertrude Mothupi. CGE was asked to follow up on this.
CGE Chairperson Tamara Mathebula read a letter by Commissioner Busisiwe Deyi addressed to the Portfolio Committee Chairperson. The letter dealt with the Committee observations:
- Committee concern at the report of the part-time Eastern Cape Commissioner who experienced GBV because of their (preferred pronoun) gender in conducting their work for CGE.
- How often the Commissioner deployed to the Eastern Cape visited the province.
- Whether CGE was monitoring the Omotoso case.
- A lack of monitoring and evaluation tools.
- Urban police stations were more resourced than in the rural areas.
Commissioner Deyi 's response was that the duties of the Eastern Cape Commissioner are governed by the CGE Act number and the Commissioner’s Handbook. The role of the Commissioners assigned to a province is to provide support to province. Each province is assigned a lead Commissioner and backup Commissioner for provincial interventions. The Eastern Cape has Commissioners Deyi and Botha. The Commissioners work closely with the CGE provincial manager in escalating policy issues within that province to provincial stakeholders and the national sphere through the Office of the Chairperson. The Commissioners provide support, participate in provincial interventions and activities as requested by the provincial manager such as giving keynote addresses and presentations, chairing meetings, and facilitating discussions. The last role is about strengthening networks with key stakeholders in the province.
On the discrimination based on Commissioner Deyi's gender when conducting their work in the Eastern Cape, the matter was raised in plenary by Commissioner Deyi, and it was indicated that they (preferred pronoun) did not lodge a complaint or want any intervention as this would comprise their ongoing relations with key stakeholders in the province. The plenary decided to do a gender sensitisation workshop with traditional leaders in provinces on how to respond to members of the LGBIQT+ in general. It is something that is going to be in their APP.
The Chairperson said discrimination whether by race, sexual orientation is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Commissioner Deyi not being able to execute their duties because traditional leaders did not want them to the work in that province. No one has the right to prevent someone from doing their job and this is the reason that the Committee had instructed the Commission to investigate this so that whoever is preventing people to work is accountable for their actions.
Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) appreciated the letter. This is not only about Commissioner Deyi; it is a vast issue. She did not feel the issue was properly dealt with. The letter and the report-back are incoherent and does not address the issue. With the rise in violence the Committee cannot accept a letter that just says they will do gender sensitisation workshops. The Commission in the Eastern Cape does not take them seriously.
The Chairperson noted to CGE that the behaviour of covering up for others will not work for the Committee. When CGE is asked to investigate it means just that. They should not distort what was said in the meetings. She closed the matter and this matter should be fully investigated and a report presented to the Committee on who was obstructing Commissioner Deyi to do their work.
On the Free State, the Chairperson noted that when they ask for an investigation to be done, they do not expect the Commissioners to do it because they will be investigating themselves. She noted to Commissioner Dibeela Mothupi that it was not acceptable that she investigates the concerns because there will be a conflict of interest and the truth will not come out.
The Committee Chairperson requested the CGE CEO or Chairperson to do a proper investigation commissioned by them and report to the Committee on the Free State and Eastern Cape.
Commission for Gender Equality 2021/2 Annual Performance Plan
CGE CEO Ms Jamela Robertson noted that the overall thrust of this plan is to place CGE at the centre of South Africa’s efforts to combat gender-based violence and deliver the goal of an equal society, free of gender oppression. They have carefully identified specific strategic objectives to maximise achieving this daunting task of delivering a society free of gender oppression.
She noted that they do at all times engage with their stakeholders and partners within the gender sector, that the Commission's mandate is broad, and touches on almost every aspect of life in South Africa. Many South Africans of all races, genders, sexual orientation, religion and faith, cultures and traditions, social and economic class backgrounds, and political affiliations do experience at one time or another, gender discrimination or prejudice.
The rights of women are routinely violated as women, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transsexual, intersex, asexual, or other beings. This happens in a variety of places and spaces – in private intimate spaces of monogamous and polygamous relationships: in family homes, communities, workplaces, schools, spaces for social engagements, recreation, and entertainment; points of public and private sector service delivery; the social media and even in places of worship.
The promotion of gender equality has to happen. It is patently clear therefore that this task cuts many areas of life and work, thus making the setting of priorities a burdensome responsibility. Nevertheless, setting priorities is essential and unavoidable for a public institution operating under the current economic challenges and budgetary constraints.
In selecting priorities, the Commission seeks to focus on issues that will maximise its strategic impact to achieve lasting change. They decided to identify the priorities that can be best addressed through the use of the Commission's unique accountability powers to enhance their institutional strength and capacity to tackle the serious barriers of gender inequality and discrimination. (See document for pre-determined targets for 2021/22).
CGE CFO, Mr Moshabi Putu, noted that National Treasury had allowed CGE to retain R6.8 million from 2020/21 surplus funds specifically earmarked for:
• R2,4 million on Administration projects such as procurement of laptops for working from home, an ERP system upgrade, Knowledge Management.
• R2 million – Newly conceptualised projects in 2021/22 APP at R500 000 each whose feasibility must be finalised: Working with Men and Boys; SRHR national Round Table – dialogue; Legacy programmes on transformation in the Judiciary; Digitisation of systems/operations to leverage on technology (respond to COVID conditions, 4IR opportunities)
• Total establishment at 110 personnel, including 12 Commissioners positions. 17 vacancies existing, including two Commissioners
• The cost of the establishment (funded positions) is R68 million i.e. all vacancies costed in
• The 2021/22 Compensation of Employees (CoE) budget set at R63,5 million absorbing the anticipated underspending due to the time lag anticipated in the recruitment
• The excess R4,5m will be a virement into the operating budget, providing cushion under the context of reduced allocation (an amelioration/reprioritisation).
Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked why the strategic plan has changed from 'advanced' to only 'enabling' a legislative environment for gender equality. She asked why CGE would aspire to wanting only 50% of its submissions adopted. Why had the evaluation aspect been omitted in the amended strategic plan and what is meant by 'one consolidated report on education and information programmes conducted'?
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) asked about the status of ICT and knowledge management in CGE. He asked what the role of the Commissioners will be in giving effect to the entire APP and how the Commission will ensure that the Commissioners are being held accountable. He asked what submissions they will be making on the legislation currently in Parliament.
Under Strategic outcome three, he asked how they will be monitoring and evaluating the National Strategic Plan (NSP) and the National Council on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).
On the outcome that speaks to 40 courts being monitored, which courts will be monitored?
Ms F Masiko (ANC) said that she did not expect the presentation to be so brief. She felt that they had missed some content that they were expecting to hear from the CEO. The targets for the outcome indicators and the five-year plan are not SMART and it will impede the Committee’s ability to provide oversight of CGE work. The technical indicator descriptors lack the requisite detail, and this will not assist them in holding CGE accountable for the work they do. Targets must be specific, measurabe as well as time-bound.
Strategic outcome 1 speaks to an enabling legislative environment for gender equality and the annual target is a consolidated report to the President and the Speaker. She asked what the purpose of the report would be. There is also an annual target for monitoring engagements and a report on the outcomes of the engagements. Details are lacking on the nature of the monitoring engagements. She asked which government institutions CGE will be engaging with. The four webinars and policy briefs to follow up on commitments made lacked detail about their nature. She asked CGE to provide details on what the webinars and the policy briefs will cover.
Strategic outcome 2 speaks to gender equality with an annual target of 36 stakeholder engagement with like-minded institutions. Detail is lacking on these stakeholders.
The Chairperson said that she thought the CEO was going to present the monitoring and evaluation report which is outstanding. CGE needs to report on how far it is with its monitoring and evaluation tool.
Ms N Sharif (DA) agreed that information lacked detail within the strategic objectives which makes it very difficult for the Committee to do oversight and hold CGE accountable. She asked what CGE means by the target of 50% of its submissions on legislation adopted. She asked how the Commission will hold the Commissioners accountable for implementation of the APP. She noted that there is a lack of information on what the monitoring and evaluation reports will entail and to whom they will go.
It is very important for the Committee to do oversight on CGE even though they are a Chapter Nine institution and not a government department. This becomes very difficult when there is a lack of communication between the Committee and CGE. She has been trying for about three weeks now to meet with the CGE CEO and Chairperson but to no avail. She got a response two weeks later saying that they cannot meet with her because they have an ongoing legal case. When she responded asking about the legal case, they did not respond. Therefore it becomes a problem when there is a lack of communication or a lack of wanting to communicate with Members of Parliament that sit on the Committee to which CGE directly reports.
Ms Sharif expressed her gratitude to every Commissioner that she has worked with who have been amazing especially on the GBV cases she has worked on. They have returned her phone calls, come to meetings, and gotten back to clients, victims and survivors that she has put them in touch with. She hoped that the CGE CEO and Chairperson can extend the same courtesy to Members of Parliament.
Ms P Sonti (EFF) noted that she could not attend the previous week meeting because of problems she is facing. She has not seen her grandchildren since 28 November 2020 who left with her son-in-law. She does not know where he and the children are but last she heard they were somewhere in Durban and at some point in the Eastern Cape. Their mother who is her daughter is ill and is in and out of the hospital since last year. One of her grandchildren who is 17 years old has a chronic illness and does not have medication and she has not had seen her doctor in Cape Town since November. She does not know what to do and requested the assistance from the Commission.
The Chairperson asked the Commissioners deployed to the North West, Mr Sediko Rakolote and Adv Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale to talk to Ms Sonti after the meeting to try and assist her.
Mr L Mphithi (DA) noted that there is a misalignment between what the Committee and what the Commission itself thinks the Commissioners are responsible for. When the Committee raises concerns about the poor state of GBV and victim-empowerment facilities and centres that are supposed to be protecting and helping victims, broken toilets might not items that CGE from an operational perspective can fix but when you look at their mandate, it speaks to protecting victims. Surely there must be some responsibility from the Commission’s side. That responsibility might not be operational, but it can be sitting down with the centre manager and deciding where to direct this to the right place or present a report that the relevant departments such as the Department of Justice are not doing enough to support these centres. That is how he understands their roles and responsibilities to be. CGE needs to tell them what the role of the Commissioners is. If this is not made clear, Members do not know who is accountable and to whom to direct these issues.
In the Strategic Plan and APP, the Commissioners are mentioned only four times, and this brings into question what the role and responsibility of the Commissioners appointed by Parliament are.
The Chairperson noted that over the weekend she received an anonymous call telling her that there were CGE interviews done by the CEO. In setting out the panel, the CEO did not follow the policy as the panel constituted of people outside of CGE. She asked for a response. Has the CEO violated the policy on how interview panels should be constituted and if so, why? She asked if they have filled all the senior manager vacancies.
The Chairperson requested a detailed report on how each Commissioner is deployed in the programmes they have. When they do oversight to monitor their performance, they need to hold them accountable based on what is written in CGE reports. If it is missing from the reports, it makes it difficult for the Committee to hold the Commissioners accountable.
She asked how they approved the APP presentation and were confident to appear before Parliament to present such a non-detailed report.
Ms T Mgweba (ANC) on Strategic Objective 1, noted the annual target included a consolidated report to the President and the Speaker on the submissions CGE made on legislation. She asked the purpose for submitting the report to the President and the Speaker vis-à-vis the implications for accountability to this Committee and its oversight.
On Strategic Objective 2 on conducting education and information programmes, what other visual platforms will CGE use to disseminate information given the move to a paperless system and embracing the fourth industrial revolution but keeping in mind people who do not have access to digital information.
She asked what the 36 workshops on gender and development entail. What the CGE plan is for dealing with bullying in schools and discrimination against the LGBQTI+ community.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) asked if the CGE has addressed the Committee's 2020 Budgetary Review and Recommendations Report. Has CGE ensured the concerns raised by the Auditor-General will be addressed within 2021/22?
Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) said it was not acceptable for the CFO to present figures to the Committee that he says are contrary to what other reports state. This is her first time in seven years as MP to hear a CFO saying the presentation figures differ. This should be the last time this happens. People watching this meeting all over South Africa do not have access to the other documents. CGE is not taking them seriously as Members of Parliament. They probably see the Committee as a joke and do not think that they read the documents. If this is their attitude, then they are going to have a hard time during their term of office because the Committee takes its work seriously and wants the problems of their constituencies solved.
She asked in which province the 40 monitored courts are.
She wanted clarity on the nature of the meetings they call ‘higher level meetings' and what kind of topics are discussed at these meetings. This is because the highest-level meeting should be the meetings with the Portfolio Committee that they report to. However, according to CGE this meeting is not higher level and they do not regard it as such. What higher-level meetings will CGE be attending with taxpayers' money?
The Chairperson agreed that the CEO define what they mean by 'higher-level meetings'. She asked how they classify meetings.
Ms Tamara Mathebula, CGE Chairperson, sympathised with Ms Sonti and said she has sent an email to the North West Commissioners to assist her.
She apologized to the Committee if the Commission appeared as if they are not taking the Committee seriously. This is not intentional.
She noted that the APP has its own template that they take from National Treasury. This is what they are presenting but they will go back and sit down and draw their own activity plan that is aligned and harmonised to the APP. This activity plan will be much clearer on what they will be doing and the targets.
They are constantly having a conversation internally to determine what police stations they will be looking at and what Thuthuzela Care Centre and so on they will be monitoring per Commissioner per province. Hopefully when they present 2020/21 Quarter 4 performance, the activity plan document will be ready. They are currently doing that work that will clarify exactly what each of the the Commissioners will be doing in implementing the APP.
CGE has made written submissions and were invited to give oral submissions on three Bills: Domestic Violence Amendment Bill; Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act Amendment Bill and the Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill to the Justice Portfolio Committee.
CGE will be monitoring and evaluating the NSP and the National Council on GBVF as adopted by Cabinet as part of its plans. When CGE presented to the Committee the previous week, they stated that currently there is no existing National Structure coordinating GBVF activities since the interim steering committee was disbanded. There is no structure now but as soon as it is established, CGE will monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of the structure in coordinating GBV activities and matters in the country.
She noted to Ms Sharif that they have been trying to coordinate their diaries to ensure their meeting with her takes place but unfortunately for the past weeks their schedules have not allowed them to do so. But they will coordinate and ensure the meeting will take place.
Commissioner Sediko Rakolote noted that the Commissioners identified some policy gaps and made recommendations including putting on hold the interviews for senior managers. They recommended addressing those policy gaps before the interview process started. The plenary adopted the recommendation that the CEO must put on hold the interview process. Days later he was informed by the CGE Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson that the CEO went ahead with the interviews despite the plenary resolution and that there were external parties on the panel. Their policy states who is supposed to be on the interview panel and it does not allow external parties. He informed the HR Committee about this and has requested the CGE Chairperson raise the matter with the Good Governance Committee. If indeed there was a disregard by the CEO, a consequence must happen through following its internal policies.
The Committee Chairperson asked if the CEO indeed disregarded the decision, does that mean the interviews are now null and void.
Commissioner Rakolote replied that everything that is done outside of policy is illegal and cannot be regarded as valid. If external parties attended the interviews when this is prohibited, this means that the process was illegal.
The Committee Chairperson said that they need a detailed report in two weeks from the CEO explaining why she went against the decision of the plenary of the Commissioners.
CEO Jamela Robertson replied about the target of a final consolidated report on its education and information programmes. This will be a product after the strategy is implemented involving a combination of ‘modules’ that they would have developed over the five years.
She agreed that CGE will go the route of reducing paper and making its communications electronic which it started due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
On 50% of submissions being adopted, she explained that when they make submissions on bills, they are cognisant that not all their proposals are incorporated into the bill. This was an estimated baseline so that going forward, they know what a more realistic target is on whether their proposals are accepted or not and become law.
About the 40 courts, these are sexual offences courts. When they do their implementation plans and the Commissioners do their activity plans, they will then outline which courts in which provinces based on what is happening in the country and target those courts relevant to implementing the plan.
On the role of the Commissioners, she pointed to page 29 of the APP quarterly targets, which is where they have highlighted the role of different internal stakeholders in CGE. There they have indicated the roles of the Commissioners.
The Committee Chairperson asked how they plan with the Commissioners after an APP is approved and how they decide which courts must be monitored. She also asked for a response on the M&E tool and how CGE is with this.
CEO Robertson replied that they have started breaking down the targets into activities. The Office of the Chairperson coordinates the Commissioners’ activities and then CGE supports them administratively where needed.
On the M&E framework, CGE has completed the tool, and the framework was presented to the internal oversight structures following some review by management and it was adopted in the last plenary meeting. The framework has been submitted to the Commission and they are ready to present it should the Committee want a briefing.
The Chairperson asked what informed their decisions on the 40 courts.
The CEO replied that in their discussions they were informed that there are 40 sexual offences courts in South Africa. They then proposed this to the Commissioners through the Internal Oversight Committee while developing the APP.
The Chairperson asked if this is budgeted for and the CEO replied that it was.
CGE Deputy Chairperson, Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, replied about the Strategic Objective 3 target that talks to monitoring and research investigations. On monitoring those government programmes that are in place now, the Committee may be aware that CGE recently released its Review Report on Government’s Emergency Response Action Plan on Gender-based Violence and Femicide. What they found was that 64% of what government had committed has not been implemented. They then published this report where they said that in the APP they have to ensure that the 22 departments recommended for execution of GBV programmes must be monitored to see how recommendations have been taken into account; how many are doing sufficient work on the lack of access to justice for victims; the courts and the support that the state offers to the different departments.
Dr Moleko replied that they do ensure that their targets are SMART. Their internal audit checks their indicators to see if they are specific and measurable. However, she asked the Committee to identify those that they think are not SMART and they can rectify them.
On the details of the webinars, in 2020/21 the webinar topics included health, mental health, alcohol and GBV, statistics-related issues, and economic empowerment. The following webinars will be follow-ups on these as the recommendations made from these need to be implemented.
On Commissioners being held accountable and the role and responsibility of Commissioners, Dr Moleko replied that the APP is for the whole organisation. They are working from the same document as an institution, but the responsibilities are different for the Commissioners. The emphasis for the Commissioners is mainly on the monitoring, oversight and governance side.
What they mean by high-level meetings are those that deal with international instruments such as the Belgium Protocol.
On ensuring that the work they do reaches people, they have a mix of platforms which include social media campaigns and direct groundwork which includes community radio stations and outreach campaigns.
CFO Moshabi Putu replied about the BRRR recommendations saying they contain three components on finances, governance, and on programme performance of the institution. All the audit findings identified by AGSA in the last audit have been addressed continuously.
On the status of CGE ICT and knowledge management, Mr Putu replied that they now have a long-term knowledge management strategy which is also supported by a plan. The plan will be implemented as part of the new APP. Funds had been made available for digitisation and the like. What they have identified as key activities in 2021/22 will be to begin to improve on automation and development of the document management process. The details of the key activities will be in operating plan.
Mr Putu stated that the key strategic resource remains the CGE officials and Commissioners and the delivery of the APP depends on them. They are the key success factors. Therefore as part of the approach going forward, training, recruitment, staff performance will be actively managed.
On the figures in the slide needing to be revised, Mr Putu noted that he wanted to ensure that the figures he is reporting should be accurate and whenever there is a departure from that requirement, out of prudence he had to note this. This is an exception and CGE always endeavours to inspire confidence in all their stakeholders and take responsibility for accounting
Deputy Chairperson Moleko replied about the CGE report to the President and Speaker that they get the mandate from section 15(2) of the CGE Act which states that the Commission must report to the President once a year on their activities and achievement of objectives. The President then tables that report to Parliament. However, they do not get involved in the interaction of the President tabling the report to Parliament.
The Chairperson noted that she did not see anything in the report that deals with research. Therefore she asked on what they base their reports.
Deputy Chairperson Moleko replied that they do research. In the Strategic Plan and APP there are specific indicators that talk to the research that is done. This is done by the research unit and not Commissioners. Where Commissioners do research it is on what they call concept notes. These are then tabled and inform some of the programmatic work. The other level is when they review legislation and other work, Commissioners based on their expertise make written inputs internally.
The Chairperson noted to them that they should not stay with reports for a long time but should come before the Parliament and report on them.
The Committee adopted minutes from previous meetings and the meeting was adjourned.
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