Investigating DWYPD comments on the certification of the National Council on Gender Based Violence and Femicide Bill

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

29 November 2022
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


In a virtual meeting, the Portfolio Committee met to discuss the correspondence received from the Parliament bill’s office and the Office of the State Law Adviser on the certification of the National Council on the Gender-based Violence and Femicide Bill.

The Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disability had informed the Committee that the Bill had been certified. In addition, the Department had informed the Presidential Summit on Gender-based violence that the bill was before the Committee. The Committee investigated the claims and found that they were both incorrect.

Members expressed concern that the Department was circulating incorrect information and advised the Committee to invite the Department to present the reasons behind their intention. They called for strict consequence management to be implemented against those involved.

They noted that the public had an interest in the bill and urged that it be tabled soon given the levels of gender-based violence in the country.

Meeting report

"16 Days of Activism" campaign

The Chairperson reminded the Committee about the "16 Days of Activism" campaign led by the Department of Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities (DWYDP). She anticipated that this campaign would be more productive due to the constant news about domestic violence and femicide. She narrated a case of a toddler’s rape experience and the community’s assistance in arresting the alleged criminal. She gave another incident about the murder of a girl by her partner, who was responsible for her university upkeep. There had been numerous cases of abuse and gender-based violence (GBV) in the country. She expressed her concern about the increased cases of GBV, despite the campaigns, which were not peculiar to South Africa. Although the government of South Africa was being strategic in the fight against it, the outcome was still unsatisfactory.

There was a delay in the outstanding cases at the Department of Justice (DoJ), but cases had been abandoned by the courts due to insufficient evidence and forensic outcomes. These backlogs posed a challenge to the achievement of justice by the victims. There had also been instances where arrested people were released after a few days for reasons unknown. These released perpetrators then went and carried out more crimes.

The Chairperson expressed her worry about victims not getting justice, because the murders of women were indeed worrisome. She reiterated the reality of femicide and violence against women, and wished that the DWYPD, Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), and the DoJ could engage with women and families who had suffered from injustice. Some perpetrators also threatened and intimidated the families, making them live in fear in the community. She prayed that these families got strength and comfort to help them pass through life. The Department would provide the outcome and impact of this campaign in 2023.

Certification of National Council on GBVF Bill

The Chairperson said that the purpose of this meeting was to discuss the correspondence received from Parliament bill’s office and the Office of the Chief State Law Adviser about the certification of the National Council on the Gender-based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) Bill. Last week, together with some staff, they followed up with the National Council and Parliament to review the Department’s presentation's confirmation that the bill was certified, irrespective of her request for the Department to reassess and review the bill. The Director General (DG) and a Departmental official had affirmed and confirmed to the Committee that the bill was indeed certified. She, with other staff, had further interrogated to understand why the bill was not brought to the Committee as stated in the Presidential Summit. It had eventually been confirmed that contrary to the DG’s testimony, the bill had indeed not been certified.

In a management meeting with Ms F Masiko (ANC) and Mr L Mphithi (DA), she shared the outcome of her investigations on the state law advisor’s advice. Emails were sent to the Department from the state lawyers about the bill. The Department had previously confirmed the certification of the bill to the Committee before its submission on 17 November. The Committee and the public must be aware that the delay was from the Department, and that the President and everyone in attendance at the Summit had been misled by the Department.

The Chairperson was seeking a way forward, with inputs from the state law advisers, on the best way to address this situation. She asked Ms Kashifa Abrahams, Committee Content Adviser, to summarise the emails.

Ms Abrahams read out an email from the state law advisors about the status of the revised bill to establish the bill's certification. The revised bill had been sent on 17 November, whereas the meeting with the Committee had been on 15 November. She disclosed the implications that the bill had on the Committee’s programmes in 2023, as it was in the process of introduction.

Ms Neliswa Nobatana, Committee Secretary, stated that the email from the Department said that the state law advisors indicated that the certified bill would be received on 22 November. The subsequent email on 24 November from the state law advisors to the Department had attachments of the certified bill, the final bill, and the memorandum of the objects. The last email received on 28 November from Parliament’s bill office indicated that the bill was still between the Department and the state law advisors. All emails would be forwarded to the Members

The Chairperson requested Members' comments

Ms F Masiko (ANC) expressed her disappointment and said that this caused problems between the Committee and the Department which would lead to decreased trust in them. A Presidential summit on gender-based violence had been closely monitored by the public to check on the progress of the bill. She mentioned how worrisome it was for the Department to circulate incorrect information and advised the Committee to invite the Department to present the reasons behind their intention. This matter deserved an urgent resolution. She recalled a similar situation with the CGE and asked if the same method of resolution could be applied to this issue. The correct processes of accountability and consequence management must take place if departmental officials had misled the DG.

Mr L Mphithi (DA) supported Ms Masiko’s sentiments and inquired if the Department had been informed about the communication that the Committee had just revealed. What had their response been to the information shared? The Committee needed to be direct, and the Department must answer why untrue information had been maintained for a long time. It had a far-reaching consequence that must be emphasised. He requested that the identity of the responsible person be known. Who had informed the DG that the process had been completed? What consequence management would be applied to such person(s)? The rules must apply to all involved, and a deadline for the execution of the consequence management must be made. He emphasised that the final accountability rested with the DG, and she had to take the responsibility for the errors committed by officials as well.  

Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) shared her concern about public perception of the Committee and commented that consequence management must be applied to the officials who had misled the Committee and the President.

The Chairperson asked the Committee how best to address this matter.

Ms N Sharif (DA) suggested that the Department should be provided with the opportunity to make its case. She guided the Committee to issue a media release, indicating that the Committee would not accept this situation, and to give a stern warning to the Department about this action. This untrue information was inexcusable, as it had a high implication on the lives of people, especially with the increase of GBV cases. The Department must be held accountable for its actions.

Ms T Masondo (ANC) recommended seeking further clarity in writing from the Department about the untrue claim of bill certification.

Ms G Marekwa (ANC) voiced her support for all the suggestions from the Members and emphasised the need for an internal inquiry in the Department.

The Chairperson said that Dr Herman Tembe, Legal Officer: Office on Institutions Supporting Democracy, Parliament, had advised the Committee to obtain a legal opinion from Parliament’s legal services. She directed Ms Abrahams to acquire a legal opinion about this problem and provide feedback to the Committee. In addition, Ms Abrahams should write to the Speaker about the Department’s claims of the bill being with the Speaker, and mention that the information the Department had supplied to the Committee and the Summit had been false and misleading and that it was important for the bill to be brought to the Committee.

Committee Minutes

The Committee adopted the minutes of its meeting on 22 November.

The meeting was adjourned.


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