The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) said it had been a challenging year for the nation, particularly the poor and the vulnerable. The scourge of gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) is on the increase despite numerous measures by DWYPD to contain this. The COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns worsened circumstances as many women lost their means of livelihood and were forced to stay in abusive relationships in order to survive. The country saw an increase in pregnancies and abortions in young girls, which is a concern.
The pandemic impacted the ability of DWYPD to implement some of its targeted objectives. A proportion of the budget was returned to National Treasury as it was not spent. Department officials lamented that DWYPD is under-resourced in human resources and finances. DWYPD, according to its officials, noted that DWYPD has a broader mandate to that of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) which is better resourced in all respects. The lack of sufficient personnel necessitated the utilization of consultants on a massive scale, which gulped a significant amount of the Goods and Services budget. DWYPD is collaborating with all role-players to provide lasting solutions to the challenges confronting vulnerable people in the country.
Members expressed concern about the inability of DWYPD to achieve its targets. They asked why the unachieved projects in the previous year were not included in the current Annual Performance Plan; why it had failed to provide written answers for matters raised in the previous meeting; about the costly number of consultants, their roles and about skills transfer. They asked about adequate education on sexual and reproductive health for the youth; how it reaches municipalities so the vulnerable are at the core of its operations.
In response, DWYPD said the budget cuts, department structure and the lockdown were mainly responsible for its inability to achieve its targets. Some unachieved targets were not included in the next APP due to realignment of its programmes. Consultants were used to make up for the lack of personnel. DWYPD uses all available tools, including radio talk shows in the 11 official languages and various role-players, to reach women in local areas. It is important to upskill women as this empowers them to seize opportunities, including the proposed 40% allocation of all government procurement. Despite the challenges, DWYPD is determined to ensure justice for women, youth and people with disabilities.
DWYPD Annual Performance Plan
Ms Val Mathobela, DWYPD Chief Director: Strategic Management, said that the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s response to the pandemic placed the Department under serious strain. This negatively impacted the implementation of its intervention strategies to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on women and other vulnerable groups. Many women lost their jobs during the lockdown which worsened the impact of the pandemic. Government interventions, especially distribution of food parcels helped to ameliorate the negative effects.
DWYPD ensured that sanitary products were dispatched along with food parcels. Most poor women who lost their jobs during the pandemic could not access UIF as they were not registered on the system by their employers. It was unfortunate that Gender-Based Violence, especially femicide increased during the lockdown despite police records pointing to the contrary. During lockdown, South Africa implemented the National Strategic Plan (NSP) to address GBVF including referral pathways and safety plans, prevention, treatment and care and increased awareness among the vulnerable. Three pieces of legislation, aimed at addressing GBVF, are being processed by Parliament.
DWYPD programme plans
There are five DWYPD programmes: Administration; Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment; Policy Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management; Rights of Persons with Disabilities; National Youth Development.
DWYPD, through the MTEF baseline allocation, has 141 funded posts and over 94% were filled. At the end of 2020/21, it had unspent funds of R204.6 million due to its inability to implement some projects as a result of lockdown restrictions.
Programme 1 Administration: Its 2021/22 performance indications include maintaining a vacancy rate of less than 10%; develop and implement the Human Resource Plan; have the Master Information Technology Strategy and Plan approved. Its sub-programmes (Ministry, Departmental Management, Corporate Services, Financial Management and Office Accommodation) received a total of R288.9m over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) 2021/22 - 2023/24.
Programme 2 Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment: DWYPD will develop a research report on the development of a socio-economic index and implement an intervention to support economic empowerment and participation of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (WYPD). It plans to establish three Rapid Response Teams and monitor three National Departments, three Provincial Departments and two municipalities on the implementation of the GBVF-NSP by the end of the fourth quarter. Further targets are approval of the Comprehensive National GBVF Prevention Strategy, Integrated Gender, Youth & Persons with Disabilities Framework and the GBVF-NSP Monitoring and Evaluation Framework.
Programme 3 Policy, Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management): Planned targets include the development of a revised National Gender Policy Framework; Regulatory Framework for mainstreaming; Integrated Knowledge Hub Technical Design; research report on government priorities; report on government compliance with international and regional commitments; progress report on implementation of Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Auditing (GRPBMEA) Framework; annual performance monitoring report; evaluation report on empowerment of women; WYPD International Relations Strategy; two international engagements; Stakeholder Management Framework; three stakeholder engagements and one hybrid community mobilisation initiative.
Programme 4 Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Planned targets include the Development Framework on Disability Rights Awareness Campaigns for Persons with Disabilities; Framework on self-representation for persons with disabilities; reasonable accommodation framework; universal design and access framework; status report on national/international obligations on rights of persons with disability; status report on disability inclusion in DWYPD APP for 2021 to 2024; and research report on the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
Ms Desree Legwale, DWYPD CFO, said that the 2021/22 budget of R763.5 million decreased by 1.9%. Administration (R98 017 000) increased by 5%, while Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment (R124 241 000) reduced by 0.4%. Policy Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management (R40 632 000) reduced by 17.3%, Rights to Persons with Disabilities (R17 358 000) reduced by 12.8% and National Youth Development (R483 291 000) reduced by 1.9%. In terms of Economic Classification, there was a drop in the original budget allocation to Compensation of Employees, R111 284 000 (8.2%) and Transfers & Subsidies, R562 561 000 (1.1%) but the budget for Machinery and Equipment (R3 887 000) increased by 1.1% as did Goods & Services (R85 807 000) by 5.6%.
DWYPD forecast a slight increase from R778.45 million in 2021/21 to R781.9 million in 2023/24. It received a budget allocation of R15 million to establish and implement the National Council on GBVF as well as the National Strategic Plan as contained in the Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment Programme.
Budget cuts by Treasury led to the reduction in Compensation of Employees (CoE) from R121.2 million in 2020/21 to R111.9 million by 2023/24. DWYPD stuck within the budget ceiling given by Treasury by unfunding certain critical posts and this led to a reduction in CoE fund allocation. This led to a decrease in human resources. Therefore, it had mainly used consultants for certain projects in the 2021 MTEF. DWYPD would transfer R279 million to the Commission for Gender Equality (GCE) and R1.4 billion to the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) over the 2021 MTEF.
Adv Mikateko Joyce Maluleke, DWYPD Director General, lamented that the Department is underfunded and under-resourced, which impacts its service delivery and could lead to failure to achieve set targets.
Mr Andre Coetzee said that the National Macro Organisation of Government (NMOG) facilitated the establishment of DWYPD in 2019. The 2021 MTEF caters for only 142 functional positions in DWYPD compared to 418 functional posts in the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME). This represents a 34% reduction in human resources and greatly affects DWYPD capabilities to thoroughly execute its mandates, which are similar and sometimes exceed those of the DPME. DPME had 180 (51%) positions for the Administration Programme and 206 (49%) positions for four Core Programmes, whereas DWYPD had 77 (54%) positions for Administration and 65 (46%) positions for four Core Programmes.
Adv Maluleke corroborated this and said that the current organisational redesign indicates that the Department needs 109 additional positions to reach optimal capacity. DPME appears to be more favoured in resource allocation despite her Department having a bigger mandate. DWYPD works with various role-players including government departments, civil society and the private sector. DPME has the systems and resources in place to achieve targets almost effortlessly, whereas DWYPD still conducts some of its processes manually.
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane lamented the various challenges confronting DWYPD and all South African women in general. Like 2020, the current year is riddled with challenges including the COVID-19 pandemic, massive job losses and the spike in the murder of women. It is unfortunate that the killing of women continues in the country despite the decision of the country to celebrate the 105th anniversary of Charlotte Maxeke’s birth, which was targeted to raise more awareness about women’s rights. She spoke of the murder of 23-year old final year LLB student, Nosicelo Mtebeni, at Fort Hare University and 93-year old Cynthia Doubell in Bellville, Western Cape. DWYPD’s effort to reduce GBVF does not appear to be yielding its expected fruits at the moment. She, however, pledged to continue to fight to control this and work with stakeholders to bring perpetrators to justice. She urged Parliament to process urgently the three GBV Bills before it as this will further help to address the matter.
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) expressed concern about the significant portion of the Goods and Services budget (20%) that went to consultants. Why does DWYPD rely so much on consultants? Are there plans to upskill Department employees to reduce the cost of consultants? Are the consultants involved in skills transfer and what exactly are the consultants doing for DWYPD? She agreed with the Minister that violence against women is getting out of control. Most women now live constantly with fear. Prevention of violence against women should be given the urgency it deserves. Between 2019 and 2020, there were 42 000 reported rape cases and more than 7 000 assault cases, making South Africa the “rape capital” of the world. Yet, this is not treated with urgency.
She asked what DWYPD is doing about adolescent sexual reproduction health and rights. Gauteng province saw more than 23 000 pregnancies with 2 976 young women, between the ages of 10 and 19 terminating their pregnancies in less than a year. What kind of communication assistance and education are in place to help the young women? Measures should be in place to tackle these risky behaviours, especially given the HIV/AIDS situation in the country.
Ms S Luthuli (EFF, KZN) asked how long it will take DWYPD to develop the tools to achieve its mandates. The framework and policy development should have been achieved in the first year DWYPD was established. Why has the Department failed to give the number of consultants used and the number of days they worked? Does it have the capacity to achieve its mandates in 2021/22?
Mr M Nchabaleng (ANC, Limpopo) said that DWYPD needs to work with other departments in the Social and Security clusters and the South African Police Service (SAPS) to curb the violence. Organised community groups should be encouraged, as members of communities tend to look after one another better. DWYPD should coordinate with all stakeholders to address the matter. Financial constraints and organisational structure remain a major limitation for DWYPD. He urged it to update the Committee on the matters raised in the previous meeting.
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) asked if DWYPD has offices in rural areas. This knowledge will enable local women to seek timely help. If there are no rural offices, does DWYPD have plans to establish offices there? She sought clarity on the role of the consultants. What is the role of the business advisors in Programme 5? She requested the timeframe for Programme 4.
Ms S Lehihi (EFF, North West) expressed concern about discrimination against people with disabilities. Does DWYPD have plans to address this?
The Chairperson was concerned about the inability of DWYPD to achieve some targets in the previous and current years. The massive utilization of consultants and the enormous amount of the Goods and Services budget allocated to consultancy services remain a concern for the Committee. What exactly are the roles of these consultants? It is also concerning that DWYPD is yet to finalise the Master Information and Technology Strategic Plan as well as Women and Gender Equality Plan, among others. She agreed with Ms Christians that most women are more scared of GBVF than COVID-19. She expressed doubt about the Department's ability to achieve its targets in 2022/23. She asked if DWYPD coordinates with the Departments of Health (DoH) and Basic Education (DBE) in the area of sexual and reproductive health among learners. If it does, is there evidence to this effect as DoH and DBE are better suited to deal with the matter.
Ms Christians noted the exclusion of the term “inclusivity” in the DWYPD Strategic Plan and Vision. What is it doing to actively cater for women, youth, persons with disabilities as well as the LGBTQ community?
Director General Maluleke replied that DWYPD is putting measures in place to ensure dignified sanitary products for young girls. Any products approved would have to integrate the dignity of the person in its design and distribution.
One of the roles of consultants is the development and implementation of sign language for persons with disabilities. The consultants are working on various other measures to better the lives of persons with disabilities. The Department Audit and Risk Committee members are also regarded as consultants. Consultants also undertake research activities and are involved in competency testing. A skills deficit is not actually a DWYPD challenge but rather the lack of human resources. Few people are available to undertake the massive work. For instance, the Minister, according to her Performance Agreement, is expected to conduct research on the pay gap for women in the public and private sectors. This is a tall order as the Department lacks the capacity and the resources to undertake such research. DWYPD thus focuses only on the public sector as this is easier to accomplish.
The Director General replied that the GBVF legislation has been delayed due to discrepancies in the views of government and those of National Treasury and Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). National Treasury opposes government's opinion to put a trust in charge of the legislation as this could hamper accountability and transparency. DWYPD has come up with draft GBVF legislation which will be tabled to Cabinet on 7 September 2021. The draft GBVF Bill will be open for public comment and there are other required processes before it can sent to Parliament for consideration. She expressed optimism that the GBVF legislation will be finalized before the end of 2021/22.
In response to Ms Lehihi, the DG said that victims of discrimination due to disability should report the culprits to the Equality Court in their vicinity. There is no basis to discriminate against persons with disabilities.
On the absence of DWYPD offices in municipalities, the DG agreed that this represents a major challenge for the Department and it is working on measures to address this. She lauded Mr Nchabaleng’s suggestion to work actively with communities and other role-players to reduce GBVF. The Department is actively collaborating with National Treasury to augment its budget so as to better implement its programmes effectively.
Ms Welhemina Tshabalala, DDG: Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment, replied that DWYPD is actively looking into sexual and reproductive health rights and it is investigating the impact of age appropriate and comprehensive sexuality education. This investigation is limited to South African public schools. DWYPD mainly looks at Life Orientation as it is critical for the menstrual management of learners. Menstrual education should address issues like menstrual pain, product safety, product disposal and understanding the menstrual cycle in girls. Most girls are oblivious about puberty and many parents fail to educate them about this. Therefore, the government has the responsibility to adequately educate learners to improve their dignity and avoid negative consequences. DWYPD is actively working with DoH and DBE on this.
Clinics for young people were fully functional. However, most women and girls could not reach healthcare facilities because of lockdown. This, amongst other factors, had led to increased pregnancies. DWYPD is developing measures to deal with such problems in case the country needs to be on Level 5 lockdown once more. The Minister has constituted a team that works with teachers in schools to address the matter. The Minister is elevating the matter at a very high level and executives of the Department will deliberate on the matter in their next meeting.
The Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework is premised on the principle of choice. DWYPD recommends both disposable and reusable sanitary products, with the latter drawing serious criticism. Parents are skeptical of reusable products, particularly the insertion of foreign objects into the girls. Therefore, research can help to find ways to communicate, engage and educate all persons involved. The use of the menstrual cup is still under consideration. It is not yet approved for use in girls.
DWYPD is working with stakeholders, including other departments, civil society, communities, the private sector, provinces and municipalities to address the GBVF scourge. It is committed to the implementation of the six pillars of the GBVF National Strategic Plan. The Department, through the Director General and the Presidency, will ensure that the funds are spent on the intended targets. DWYPD will ensure its programmes align with its Annual Performance Plan and benefit women. Provincial and municipal officials play vital roles in the implementation of these programmes. The will act timeously and appropriately on matters referred from provincial and local levels.
Ms Legwale, CFO, lamented the financial constraints faced by the Department. Its request for additional funds from Treasury was not successful. She hoped that more funds would be given to DWYPD at the end of the three-year cycle.
Mr Mbhazima Shiviti, Chief Director: Corporate Management, said that the Human Resource Plan was developed in line with the strategic targets. The Draft HR Plan is currently being considered and will be finalized soon. Most of the plans for the IT Unit were negatively affected due to the demise of the Director responsible for the Unit. However, DWYPD has appointed another official, who understands the IT environment and most of the plans will be finalized in the second quarter of the current financial Year.
Ms Ranji Reddy, DDG: Policy, Stakeholder Coordination and Knowledge Management, replied that the Knowledge Hub project was discontinued in 2020 due to budget reprioritization on the part of Treasury. The Knowledge Hub is a technical engagement, which had to be outsourced due to lack of expertise in the IT Unit. The project is long term and it is designed in collaboration with the University of Johannesburg IT Department. The project is to be executed in phases due to its technical and financial implications. The project is being mapped in line with DWYPD requirements. It is expected to integrate various levels including national, continental and international.
On the removal of the National Gender Machinery from the 2021/22 APP, DDG Tshabalala replied that DWYPD is working together with role players to finalise the NGM as soon as possible.
Ms Mathobela replied that DWYPD could not achieve some of its targets in 2020/21 due to COVID-19. However, DWYPD returned the unspent funds to Treasury. One of the reasons some unachieved targets in the previous APP did not make it into the current APP is because there was some strategic realignment for some targets. Further, circumstances changed in some cases.
The DG agreed on the importance of involving community groups in reducing the scourge of GBVF. However, DWYPD does not have a presence in most municipalities. DWYPD uses radio talk shows to achieve the targets in the six pillars of the GBVF National Strategic Plan particularly Pillar 5 which deals with economic empowerment of women and persons with disabilities. The economic empowerment of women is vital as this enables women to be more self-reliant and walk away from abusive relationships. Inheritance by women is also being addressed on the radio talk shows, which are hosted in all 11 official languages of South Africa.
Minister Nkoana-Mashabane said the President constituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee, involving six departments and SAPS to develop measures to curb GBVF in the country. Women, both poor and well-to-do, are victims of GBVF. It is important to get women skilled as this empowers them to seize available opportunities including the proposed 40% portion of all government procurement. This empowers women to walk away from toxic relationships. DWYPD has a presence in all Premier offices, districts and police stations.
The Chairperson urged everyone to encourage people to get vaccinated. Research shows that vaccinated people are more protected from the virus and rarely seek medical intervention. It is important to note that all South Africans are equal and every life matters. DWYPD should get that message out to women, youth and persons with disabilities across the country. People experiencing difficulty in getting vaccination should contact the Department of Health in their province. It is also important to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.
The meeting was adjourned.
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