The Select Committee on Petitions and Executive Undertakings received a collective petition on gender-based violence (GBV), in which the petitioners called for the assistance of the National Council of Provinces to respond to the Presidency’s alleged failure to respond to two petitions they had submitted at different times.
The Committee noted and welcomed the petition. It also guaranteed that it would ensure that the petition went through all the internal processes, and that they would also interact with the Presidency. The Chairperson pointed out that it may not be correct to imply that government had not been doing anything in the fight against GBV. The slow response from government departments may be an issue of inefficiency, but in no way showed government’s lack of commitment to fight GBV.
The Chairperson said that since Members had received the presentations prior to this meeting, the presenters may just take the Committee through the essence of the presentation. The presenters would have 15 minutes to make their presentation.
There were two petitions related to gender-based violence (GBV), and were brought forward and presented jointly by three presenters. They were:
Ms Lee-Anne Germanos, Co-founder: the Embrace Project, Ms Bronwyn Litkie, Founder and Director: South African Women Fight Back, and Ms Laura-Lee Gillion, Centre for Gender Studies.
Petition one was submitted by Ms Gillion and SA Women Fight Back on 6 March 2020, asking for fulfilment of 16 undertakings made by the President in September 2019.
Petition two was submitted by the Embrace Project on 30 August 2021, calling out government’s lack of political will to combat gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF). It also asked the President to account for the rising rate of GBVF and poor implementation of legislation, and the Presidency’s emergency response action plan on GBVF.
The 16 undertakings were outlined in the presentation. The presenters also presented their solutions to those 16 undertakings. The highlight was that various undertakings had not been fulfilled and government had not shown much effort in implementing those undertakings, despite the rising rate of GBV cases.
Petition two asked the President to account for three things:
- The President needed to account for the rising rate of GBVF, despite legislative reform;
- He needed to account for the poor and total lack of implementation of the Presidency’s emergency response action plan on GBVF; and
- He needed to account for the United Nations (UN) finding on the elimination of violence against women, which described South African society in systemic and grave violation of Article 8 of the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
The petitioners also described how their consistent efforts and appeals to the Presidency and the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities were not being responded to. Given that South Africa had been ranked as the most dangerous country by the World Population Review in 2021, the presenters urged the Committee to exercise its oversight function and ensure that the executive authority address the GBV issue.
[please see documents attached for further details]
The Chairperson thanked the presenters for their concise presentation, and opened the floor to Members to engage on the presentation's content, but no Member asked a question.
Ms Litkie asked the Chairperson what steps the petitioners could still take if they did not get any feedback from the Select Committee after this meeting.
The Chairperson replied that now that the presentation had been formally made, the Committee would process this petition through the internal processes of Parliament and interact with the Office of the Presidency.
He said that although he understood where the presenters came from, the Minister responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities was also a Minister in the Presidency, so he could assure them that the South African government took the GBV issue very seriously, with various measures in place. Therefore it would not be fair to “throw the child out with the bath water” by accusing government of not doing anything to change the situation. He asked people to understand the nature of violence in South Africa society, which could be traced back to the country’s history.
Nevertheless, he commended the organised way in which the presenters had made their petition and exercised their political rights, because it was the right of every citizen in South Africa to address such important issues for the well-being of the country.
The Chairperson guaranteed the presenters that this Committee would come back to presenters with feedback. He did not think that the highest office of in the land, such as the Presidency, could in any way deliberately undermine gender equality and the importance of tackling GBV. He appealed to them to understand that the President’s Office must be extremely busy, which may result in the delay of response.
After his remark, the Chairperson invited the presenters to make their conclusive remarks.
Ms Germanos commented on the Chairperson’s remark on government’s commitment and the assurance of a dedicated department to address GBV. What she and the other two presenters had meant was that although government had good policies dedicated to tackling the issue, the implementation was poor on the ground. The poor implementation of those policies was why they had to appear at this Select Committee to appeal to it to either take the issue up to the Presidency or whichever was the appropriate government department. Her evaluation of the poor implementation and inadequate allocation of resources emanated from a report compiled by a Chapter 9 institution, the Commission for Gender Equality.
The second point she wished to make was the lack of response from government departments. It may be true that the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities was the appropriate department to handle such matters, but so far their petitions had received no response from any of the government departments. She called it problematic.
Ms Litkie said that they needed the Committee to use its influence to urge government to not delay in addressing GBV issues, and to ensure that policies were being implemented. She added that organisations such as theirs were there to help committees and Parliament to do their work. Currently, her organisation was dealing with 20 to 30 GBV cases on a weekly basis. She observed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) had shown a poor response to GBV calls, and there was poor training on GBV issues. Victim support rooms were non-existent at many police stations. Her organisation had cases where they had been talking to some rape victims with rape cases ongoing for two years.
The Chairperson appreciated the constructive feedback from the presenters and the unified message which they had highlighted in the fight against GBV. He concurred with the presenters that there was a great need to improve on the implementation of GBV-related policies in order to achieve the optimal effect.
He said the Committee could assure the presenters that Members were working behind the scenes tirelessly. The reason why the presenters had been able to get an audience from the Committee in such a short time was the result of Members’ work. He said that the Members were trying to get to all the relevant departments on board. However, he asked the presenters to bear in mind that although many policies related to GBV were initiatives of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, the implementing bodies could sometimes be the Department of Social Development and other entities of state, for example.
Nevertheless, the Committee would process the petitions, and it truly appreciated the presenters’ effort in working with government to address the GBV issue. If the situation allowed, the Committee would facilitate an engagement between the presenters and government stakeholders to discuss the issue again, in order to come up with better solutions to address the GBV issue.
That concluded the briefing with the presenters.
The adoption of minutes could not proceed, as there was no quorum for that.
The Chairperson highlighted the importance of fast tracking a response from the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities to the petitioners. He said that government should avoid leaving the matter for too long, as government’s actions must match their words. The Committee must respond to those presenters with feedback more speedily.
The meeting was adjourned.
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