The Portfolio Committee convened virtually to be briefed by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on the National Strategic Plan (NSP) implementation on Gender Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF). During the presentation, the CGE reported that in its monitoring process of 2020/2021, the data collection process revealed that there were plans of initiating a board of trustees that would establish the Council. Although some of the participants in this year’s study shared that these plans fell through, some revealed that a 15-member board was in place
Members were taken aback by the existence of a 15-member board as they claimed to have no knowledge if its existence. When the Committee met with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), both the Portfolio Committee and National Treasury were against the existence of a board of trustees – hence the questions being raised at the meeting. Members were expecting a Bill be developed to guide the establishment of said board. Members emphasised it would be problematic if such a board was in place without their knowledge as the board did not have permission to work. Members suggested the CGE was not aware of the disbandment of this board and this led to further discussion around the legitimacy of information the CGE presented to the Committee. The Committee was unanimous in urging the CGE to only present information which was processed and not still preliminary as Parliament used these reports to hold entities and departments accountable. Members felt the meeting was a waste of time as the information presented as still in a preliminary stage. It was highlighted that this was not the first time this had happened.
The Committee resolved to withdraw the report and have it presented again when it was ready at a later stage. This should be done within three weeks. It was said next time the CGE presents to the Portfolio Committee, they should do their due diligence so that the work they present is accurate and satisfactory. This would foster trust between the parties.
The Chairperson opened the virtual meeting, welcoming the Members, support staff, delegates from the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and other guests. She then mentioned the passing of Mr K Maphatsoe, ANC MP, and how this has been an unfortunate time of many Members of Parliament passing on.
She then reminded Members to continue adhering to COVID-19 regulations, and urged them to advise others to get vaccinated.
She noted the two apologies of absence from the CGE Commissioners, Ms O’hara Ngoma-Diseko, and Ms Nomasonto Mazibuko, who were attending Ms Khabonina Mkhonza’s case.
Members had also attended Ms Mkhonza’s case with Ms T Mgweba (ANC), and were glad CGE has been following the case. She thanked Ms Tamara Mathebula, CGE chairperson, and Dr Nthabiseng Moleko, CGE deputy chairperson, for consistently sending their Commissioners to keep up to date with the case.
The Committee Secretary said that she had received two apologies of absence from Ms P Sonti (EFF) and Mr L Mphithi (DA).
The apologies of absence were noted.
The Chairperson asked Ms Mathebula to give the next items on the agenda.
Ms Mathebula said that the meeting is for the CGE to brief the Portfolio Committee on the progress made in the implementation of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF).
According to the agenda, CGE will brief the Portfolio Committee on the performance of the Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP). How it was implemented was assessed through rapid assessment done by the Commission.
The second item on the agenda is a briefing on the performance for reestablishment of the GBV Council, following the briefing on 09 March 2021, where the Portfolio Committee was briefed on a national coordinated structure for GBVF.
She said that at the summit, it was concluded that Members wanted one nationally coordinated structure that would monitor the implementation and responses of GBVF programmes. This would be the third item on the agenda.
Lastly, the Portfolio Committee will be updated on the GBV National Strategic Observatory Working Group, where most meetings have been taking place. Their efforts have accumulated in a concept document of collaboration between CGE and Hlanganisa Institute for Development Southern Africa (HIDSA). The deputy chairperson that was participating at this level will give more detail on this point.
CGE Briefing on progress made regarding implementation of NSP on GBVF
Ms Jamela Robertson, CEO, CGE, said that the findings demonstrated that out of 81 targets across five thematic areas, only 17 targets (21.25%) were achieved within the Emergency Response Action Plan (ERAP) six-month timeframe, and 12 targets (15%) were only partially achieved. The majority, 51 targets (63.75%), were not achieved within the six months lifespan of the plan.
The CGE has made follow-ups with the respective 22 departments and entities that were allocated responsibilities, on the initiatives they put in place to ensure effective implementation of the ERAP. Of the 22 implementing government departments, only seven have responded, but the total later increased to eight responses from departments. Departments that responded are the following: the SA Police Service (SAPS), National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), National Treasury, SA Local Government Authority (SALGA,) the Department of Basic Education, Department of Correctional Service (DCS) and Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA). An interim report on the review of the implementation of ERAP was completed in July 2021 and submitted to plenary, together with a memo proposing follow up options to hold stakeholders accountable. The continuous monitoring of the implementation of ERAP targets by department is one of the planned outputs in the CGE 2021/2022 Annual Performance Plan (APP). Work in this regard is being conducted as planned in and reported on quarterly. The final output will be a report that will be produced as part of research reports produced annually and printed in March at the end of each financial year. The first ERAP implementation monitoring report was launched in April 2021
Performance report: Re-establishing the Council on Gender Based Violence
The establishment of a national coordinating structure on gender-based violence fell under the responsibility of the Women’s Ministry from 30 April 2020 when President Cyril Ramaphosa formally announced the disbandment of the Interim Steering Committee (ISC). From the 2019/20 financial year, the CGE has fulfilled its role of monitoring the process and a report was produced in March 2021. As such, the monitoring of this process also continues to be one of the CGE’s 2021/2022 APP targets, on monitoring the implementation of GBVF programmes by implementing departments. Currently the CGE is in the data collection phase of this project and the following can be reported:
• To date, the multisectoral body on GBVF has not been established. Before its disbandment the ISC had not established the NCGBVF Council within the six months from the date on which the summit declaration was signed. The ISC had also not established the Council through the Emergency Response Action Plan, which was scheduled to be implemented between October 2019 to March 2020
• As indicated earlier, the Women’s Ministry took over the responsibility of establishing the Council. In this regard, the Women’s Ministry recently reported that the process of establishing the Council was halted until the Bill that regulates the mandate and operations of the Council is put in place. The draft legislation is currently undergoing cluster processes
• In the CGE monitoring process of 2020/2021, the CGE’s data collection process revealed that there were plans of initiating a board of trustees that would establish the Council. Although some of the participants in this year’s study shared that these plans fell through, some revealed that a 15-member board was in place. The CGE is yet to see a list of this said 15-member board. Nevertheless, this lack of clarity speaks to the disjuncture that currently exists within the sector
• At the end of the financial year, the CGE will release another comprehensive report of findings on the establishment of the NCGBVF Council. As indicated above, this work is currently at data collection stage for the 2021/2022 financial year, thus, no conclusions have been drawn, until the study is completed, and a full report is published in March 2022
The Chairperson interrupted Ms Robertson on page four of the presentation, and asked for clarification on which 15-member board she was referring to.
Ms Robertson responded that the information being presented is research from interviewing people. CGE is unsure of the members of the board, but it is using the information provided by people that have been interviewed thus far. At the end of the financial year, when the research has been completed, the CGE is hoping that the existence of the board will be clear.
The Chairperson asked if the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) knew about this board to which she is referring to in the presentation. She let Ms Robertson know that the Portfolio Committee does not know of the board she has been referring to. The Portfolio Committee should have known if there was a board; Members know it as non-existent.
When the Committee met with the DWYPD, both the Portfolio Committee and National Treasury were against the existence of a Board of Trustees. Hence, she was asking for clarification on which 15-member board she was referring to. The Portfolio Committee not knowing about the existence of this board is problematic.
As a Portfolio Committee, Members expect a Bill submission from the entity, on the establishment of a GBV Council. The Committee will, however, move forward and submit an enquiry to the DWYPD.
As far as the Portfolio Committee knows, the board of trustee was disbanded, and there has been no other interim structure put in its place. It is problematic if there is one in existence and the Portfolio Committee has not been informed.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Robertson and reiterated that the Committee will send an enquiry to the DWYPD.
Ms Robertson indicated that the report consists of “raw information” because the monitoring year had not come to a close. Only then will there be a finished report that gives clarity. The CGE key informants’ information still needed to be verified by the monitoring period. She thanked the Chairperson.
Ms N Sharif (DA) said that the previous time the Committee spoke to the DWYPD, it was informed that four people had been appointed to run the GBV secretariat. The board of trustees did not get permission from National Treasury to work. She empathised with CGE that perhaps it was not aware of the disbandment of the Board of Trustees because of how information is communicated.
The Chairperson thanked Ms Sharif, and added that she was bringing up this concern in case the CGE is unaware of the disbandment of the board of trustees – to help it ensure the legitimacy of the team that identified the information in the presentation. What the Portfolio Committee would do in response is to send an enquiry to the DWYPD.
She thanked Ms Sharif for seconding her point on what the Portfolio Committee is aware of.
Ms F Masiko (ANC) agreed with the Chairperson and Ms Sharif on their points regarding the establishment of the board. She is concerned about how information is flowing. There is miscommunication on the existence of the board, and this relates to a lack of transparency. Some know the board as non-existent while others know of a 15-member board. If the DWYPD says there is no board, where is the information being sourced from?
Ms N Ntlangwini (EFF) agreed with all the concerns raised by the Portfolio Committee, and added onto Ms Masiko’s point. She said it was problematic that the CGE was not clear with the information it was presenting. The CGE needed to be clear with its information of the 15-member board and, in this case, say it was not aware of how the board of trustees came into existence. The information presented by CGE should be coherent processed information, not information that is a “tool”.
She added that the matter of the board should be investigated. There cannot be a 15-member “fly-by-night” board that has been established unknowingly. A board needs to be held accountable, especially with regards to such a serious matter.
The Chairperson said they could not allow illegitimate structure handle public money on behalf of government. What the Committee is aware of is that administrative posts were advertised, and four of them were filled. This would then help with the establishment of the offices so that the new council moves forward steadily. It is incorrect that there is a disconnection in what is being done in different groups.
Ms Tamara Mathebula, CGE Chairperson, clarified that there was no Interim Steering Committee (ISC) after the board was disbanded. The information being presented is information that was collected by researchers. There is no definite assurance that there is a structure. The participants in the research were interviewees from different areas and understandings. She proposed they talk to the Ministry or DWYPD.
She responded to the Portfolio Committee that CGE is also aware that there is no formal structure put in place, but there is a Bill waiting to be passed, which will allow the board to formally work.
She added that the information presented is not a true reflection of what is currently happening. It is unprocessed research. The Portfolio Committee should feel free to question the information presented.
Ms Ntlangwini found Ms Mathebula’s response problematic. Work presented to Parliament should be a true reflection. As before, the CGE is presenting unsatisfactory work to Parliament and justifying it with excuses. And, as last time, CGE is changing the narrative of what is being said.
CGE cannot present a draft they admit will change, because the Portfolio Committee will accept this, and it will be portrayed in the media. This information is what Parliament will accept as truth in the Department, and it will inform the kind of structure that will need to be formed.
She then asked Ms Mathebula to state which information is correct from the presentation and which is not. She urged Ms Mathebula not to protect the Department by saying the information is unprocessed. Her actions show that she undermines the Committee and wastes their time. She pleaded with her to take the Portfolio Committee seriously.
Ms T Masondo (ANC) asked for clarification if ‘raw’ means that the CGE did not discuss this in its plenary, or if it means it will process the information after this meeting.
She asked who the said board accounts to - the CGE or the DWYPD?
She also asked for clarification on how much the presented information will change. Would the whole document change or just some of it?
Ms G Mukwevho (ANC) indicated that most of her concerns were raised by the Committee. She asked if the Committee would continue to hear the presentation since it has been concluded that the information was unsatisfactorily presented in Parliament. If so, what would that say about the Portfolio Committee? Since the information is unprocessed, why did they meet to receive the report? Is it to adhere to protocols expected of the CGE to report to the Portfolio Committee, or is it for their amusement?
Ms Sharif indicated that page four of the report spoke of the continued monitoring of the ERAP. She reminded Members that, at the Women’s Multiparty Caucus in Parliament, it was said by the DWYPD that the ERAP would no longer be implemented. Moving forward, the focus would be on the NSP.
She agreed with Ms Ntlangwini that it is a problem if there is difference in what the Portfolio Committee and CGE knew.
The Chairperson agreed with the points made by the Members. She urged Ms Mathebula and Ms Robertson to be cautious of information brought to the Committee. Accepting information without questioning puts the Committee in a bad position.
She likened this to the forced sterilisation report that had previously been presented. She had asked if the participants of the research programme had been examined at by medical doctors. This provides Members with proof. This would make the reports produced by the CGE researchers satisfactory.
She said that this is worrisome, as illegitimate persons could also draft work on behalf of the CGE, and it would be presented to Parliament as truth. The CGE would have to be accountable for unreliable information.
Reports that are presented to Parliament should be processed to satisfaction. There should be an assurance that the information is accurate. Because the research was not done by Ms Mathebula or Ms Robertson; they do not know how the research was conducted or where the test group came from. In the possible case where the test sample was not eligible to be part of the research, they should have followed up.
She emphasised the point of the importance of due diligence so that there is proof of information.
As the Committee, they need to protect the CGE as an organisation. Next time the CGE presents to the Portfolio Committee, they should do their due diligence so that the work they present is accurate and satisfactory. This is to prevent a stale relationship where one party believes the other is not doing what they should and the other believes the other misrepresents facts. CGE should deal with how to verify information given by researchers, and how to process it, especially in the plenary. Continuing like this will put everyone in a bad position.
The Chairperson made the example of the Commissioner Deyi report and how it is still not finished. The CGE was given three months to ensure it had enough time to process its information. The CGE should keep in mind that it will be held accountable for whatever information was presented to Parliament, and the media will know about it. Information should be handled properly so that when presented, the Portfolio Committee is not left with more questions.
Ms Mathebula responded by assuring the Portfolio Committee that the Commission takes it seriously. It is not their intention to make it seem otherwise.
She reminded the Portfolio Committee that there was disclaimer at the beginning of the presentation. The CGE indicated that the report is in its developmental stage, and the information is thus still raw. She indicated that, on page four of the report, the last bullet point stipulated that the final comprehended report on the establishment of the council will be available at the end of the financial year. She reiterated that the report does have a disclaimer that it is unprocessed information.
She also informed the Portfolio Committee that there is a process in place at CGE. Information is collected through the research unit where research is done or a legal unit where investigative work is done. CGE gets its reports from these two units and then consolidates a unified report. There is also an internal process of discussion and adoption by the oversight committees. Thereafter, the report is cleared at plenary.
According to the processing of CGE, this report does not meet the standards of a finalised report. It has not been finalised and adopted by the oversight committee. This report was at the initial stage of collecting information.
Perhaps the CGE should not have presented the report at this stage to the Committee. She apologised on behalf of CGE for presenting an unsatisfactory report.
The Chairperson proposed a way forward, since the report was still being processed and facts were not yet verified. The Portfolio Committee will allow the CGE to withdraw the report and present it again to Parliament at a later stage, once it has been finalised. This will ensure their protection as an organisation. To avoid being criticised the CGE can go back and follow their procedure.
She suggested three weeks as enough to finalise the report, as municipal elections are coming up. CGE should go back and verify the information given to it by their researchers so they can present information they are confident of. This will save the integrity of the CGE.
She added that the Portfolio Committee is not interfering. Rather it is doing what is expected of it as an elected committee, on behalf of Parliament, which is oversight.
She asked for input from other Members of the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Ntlangwini thanked the Chairperson for correct representation of their concerns. She agreed with the withdrawal of the report and the CGE presenting again when it can report on information it can be held accountability for. It is unacceptable for people to present information they admit to not being processed, and then refuse to take accountability for. People should present information they can be held accountable for. There should be no disclaimers that information presented is unprocessed. This is not how parliamentary work is done, and it should never happen.
She said that it was fortunate that this happened on Zoom. It would have been a waste of money if there were travel expenses to Cape Town, yet such mistakes were happening. At this level, where a sensitive matter is being handled, “clumsy and clownish behaviour” is unacceptable. The Portfolio Committee has plenty of work to do as Members sit in many Committees and Parliament is closing on Friday. She said that the meeting was a waste of time, with Members listening to a “clownish arrangement”. She reiterated that this should never be allowed to happen again; the report should be withdrawn, and that there was no time for “clownishness”.
Ms Sharif agreed the report should be withdrawn and brought back with updated and finalised information. She said CGE would be in the media again for not having updated information to report on.
She made it clear that the Portfolio Committee should be taken seriously. The Committee’s work is to represent women on the ground. Suggestions saying that the Committee is interfering, when relevant questions are being asked and subpar reports are being given because information is not being updated, are uncalled for. The CGE is said to be a mess in the media, and Commissioners are naming victims in their reports without their consent; this is also a problem. These problems are manifesting in the Portfolio Committee, and it should be unacceptable.
If any department, whether it is the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), CGE or the DWYPD, does not have a satisfactory report, it is best they not present it to Parliament. It cannot be accepted in the Portfolio Committee. She reiterated Ms Ntlangwini’s point that this should never happen again.
Ms Masiko agreed that the presentation of the report should be done after the research has been concluded.
Mr S Ngcobo (DA) agreed that the report should be withdrawn and the CGE can present when the information has been processed.
Ms A Hlongo (ANC) agreed with Ms Masiko.
The Chairperson accepted Ms Mathebula’s apology. She asked Ms Robertson if she is sure that her researchers can produce quality work, as this is not the first time the CGE has been under criticism because of unsatisfactory research. She described her process of sifting through her researchers for the Portfolio Committee.
The Chairperson excused all delegates of the CGE.
Consideration and Adoption of Minutes
The Chairperson said Members must have read the minutes since they should have been adopted last week.
The Portfolio Committee minutes from 11 August 2021, 17 August 2021, 19 August 2021, 24 August 2021 and 31 August 2021 were all considered and adopted.
The Chairperson urged Members to read reports as there is danger in adopting things that are not understood. She thanked the Members for their participation, and reminded them that they will be notified if there are urgent meetings.
The meeting was adjourned.
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