National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill: briefing
Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities
28 February 2023
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
A delegation from the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) briefed the Portfolio Committee on the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill (B31-2022). The Bill seeks to establish a statutory body known as the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, in line with the national strategic plan (NSP) on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) that Cabinet approved in March 2020. The main objective of the Council is to provide strategic leadership and political guidance towards the elimination of GBVF in South Africa.
The Committee raised questions on why the Bill indicated that the Council would do the monitoring and evaluation, when it was the Department's role to ensure that the Council was held accountable in executing its duties, including the management of funds. It therefore questioned whether this was not a duplication of roles, or if the DWYPD still had to define the various roles and iron out any possible duplications.
Some Members of the Committee noted that the Bill was important in intensifying efforts to combat GBVF, and urged the Committee and the Department to ensure that it was implemented and put into practice. There should therefore be due diligence when writing the Bill to ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, specifically women, children and people identifying with the LGBT+ community.
It was pointed out that the Bill was not specific on who constituted the Council in respect of age groups, gender and/or disability, and since the focus of the Department was on marginalised groups such as women, children and persons living with disabilities, these people must be well represented on the Council.
Appointment of CGE Commissioners
The Chairperson said this was the Committee’s first sitting on the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill. After the sitting the Committee would have to decide on the type of engagements on the Bill, including travelling to the various provinces for public hearings and having oral and written submissions.
She commended the appointment of commissioners to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). With these appointments, she was confident that the CGE would be able to fulfil all its mandates.
She pointed out an error around the term of appointment for the commissioners, highlighting that the memorandum sent to the Presidency had missed one person who was supposed to be appointed as one of the commissioners. Ms Lindiwe Khonjelwayo must be signed by the President as a part-time commissioner for the half term, as it was no longer an appointment for the full five years. Therefore, it was important to start counting from 1 March until the end of the term for the commissioners, which ended next year.
She added that two part-time commissioners were supposed to serve for two terms. However, the memorandum indicated that these appointments were for five years, which was incorrect. This contradicted the Committee’s report to Parliament on these appointments, including their duration. She recommended that the Department ought to discuss this further with the legal team of Parliament to ensure the correct appointment of commissioners in regard to their numbers and terms of office.
Briefing on National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill (B31-2022)
Ms Nondumiso Ngqulunga, Director: Legal Services, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), said that the Bill sought to establish a statutory body to be known as the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, in line with the national strategic plan (NSP) on gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) that Cabinet approved during March 2020. The main objective of the Council was to provide strategic leadership and political guidance towards the elimination of GBVF in South Africa.
According to the NSP, the Council would be legislated and derive its mandate from the Constitution, international and regional instruments -- the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) -- the Maputo Protocol, the Cabinet Instruction of 2012, and the Declaration of the Presidential Summit on GBVF of 2018.
Ms Ngqulunga took the Committee through the clause-by-clause provisions of the Bill, starting from Clause 1 to 25, covering issues such as the key definitions, the purpose of the Bill, the role of the Council, how the NSP would be implemented, the composition of the Board, and the provisions for the appointment of the executive officer. She said it was recommended that the Portfolio Committee note the presentation and approve that the Bill may proceed to the next stage, in line with the parliamentary processes.
See presentation attached for further details
The Chairperson asked the delegation of the DWYPD why the Council would do the monitoring and evaluation, when it was the DWYPD’s role to ensure that the Council was held accountable for executing its duties. Therefore, was this not a duplication of roles, or was the DWYPD still to define the various roles and iron out any possible duplications?
How would the funding for dealing with GBVF be managed? She expected the Department to be responsible for the funding, as the Council would not be expected to oversee the funding for GBVF to avoid issues of corruption and mismanagement.
Was it necessary for the Council to have a chief executive officer (CEO)? Who would hold the CEO accountable for their responsibilities? She was concerned that the CEO should not duplicate the work that the Council and the DWYPD were already doing to ensure that there were correct accounting measures.
How would the Department ensure that resources were equitably distributed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure a robust response to GBVF? She added that the Department should be responsible for the funds disbursed to NGOs, to close possible loopholes for corruption. Further, while including NGOs and civil society, how would the private sector be included in the overall process?
The Chairperson asked what the requirements were for a person to qualify as a member of the Council. She recommended that members of the Council should not be persons who owned NGOs or non-profit organisations (NPOs), to ensure that there were no conflicts of interests. She asked for clarity on what the Bill said about the disqualification of members of the Council.
She said that Clause 20 (4) of the Bill stated that “the Board may, through the Minister, make recommendations to the President regarding legislative and other interventions which have a bearing on the prevention and combating of gender-based violence and femicide.” She asked if the “may” in this clause should be changed, as it did not seem to be binding and this left a gap in terms of accountability.
Clause 6 (b) of the Bill referred to the various departments that would be represented on the Board, and the Chairperson suggested that the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) should be included, as one of the key organs of the state.
She asked what the term of the chairperson and deputy chairperson of the Council should be, and, considering the financial constraints that prevailed, whether the positions would be full-time or part-time. She added that it would be a challenge to have the chairperson of the Council on a part-time basis, as it would be hard to execute key responsibilities, thus making it hard to ensure that they accounted to the Department.
It had to be ensured that those appointed to be members of the Council were those who were not after remuneration benefits, but must have a passion for serving vulnerable communities. The Department had to ensure this was looked at during the appointment process.
Ms C Phiri (ANC) said that the intention of the Bill was good. She emphasised the issue of delegation of the Department’s key duties to the Council, indicating that this must be reviewed thoroughly. The Department should take full control of its Constitutional mandate so that the Portfolio Committee could hold the Department accountable for any issues in respect of the running of the Council.
She pointed out that the Bill was not specific about who constituted the Council, including the age group, gender and/or disability. Since the focus of the Department was on marginalised groups such as women and persons living with disabilities, these people must be well represented on the Council.
How would the Council be classified according to the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and how would this influence the accountability of the Council?
She added that the Council should be representative of the various provinces and communities. Having seven members of the Council might not be a representative number, as this had a shortcoming in ensuring representation of all the provinces.
What would be the relationship of the new Council be with the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) in dealing with GBVF? How would the Department ensure that these two entities could collaborate to effectively execute their responsibilities?
Ms N Sharif (DA) said it should be noted that this Bill was important, and the Portfolio Committee and the Department should ensure that it was implemented and put into practice. There should therefore be due diligence in its writing to ensure the protection of vulnerable groups, specifically women, children and people identifying with the LGBT+ community.
Would the Council be classified as Part A, Schedule 3, of the PFMA, and how would that work?
How would reporting of the implementation of the NSP be ensured? She suggested that the reporting time frame in Clause 20 should be specific and detailed, to ensure that the Council and the Board were held accountable.
On the work of the CEO and the secretariat of the Council, how would this relationship work with the already stipulated roles and responsibilities of the Department to ensure that roles were not duplicated? Who would hold each person accountable?
She pointed out that there was no mention of vulnerable groups who constituted the Council, such as women, children, and people who were part of the LGBT+ community. The Bill should be specific about its work in ensuring inclusivity. What structures did the Department envisage to respond to GVBF, and did this fall into the ambit of the Council?
Ms Sharif said that this was the right time to respond to the challenges of GBVF in South Africa and this should be done with all due diligence.
She commented that the NSP was what gave the Board its mandate, and expressed concern about how the Bill was not detailed about its integration with the NSP, and this should be corrected. Were there going to be terms of reference (TORs) regarding civic society organisations working with the Council?
Referring to the inter-ministerial team, she asked about the maintenance of a working relationship with the various stakeholders. How did the Department envision the role of the Council -- would it be similar to that of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) or the CGE? Furthermore, what would give the Council teeth to ensure that entities such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) were held accountable for issues affecting survivors of GBVF?
Ms M Khawula (EFF) commented that the discussion on the Bill could not overlook the issue of the management of the funds. Therefore, how would the Department ensure the funds reached the right communities affected by GBVF?
The Department should be specific about the number of NGOs that benefited from the funds, including the amount they received and how they were using these funds.
How would the Department ensure that investigations of cases of sexual abuse were completed, including ensuring that test kits were available to ensure police investigations were completed with enough evidence?
She added that flood victims in KwaZulu-Natal had not been re-settled. There were also sexual abuse cases in the Western Cape that should be followed up, and the Department should ensure this.
Ms N Sonti (EFF) said that the Bill would intensify the fight against GBVF, and she was happy that the Bill had been tabled.
In the provisions of the Bill, in Clause 17, she suggested that the Department should not forget to include communities in rural areas, as they were often not included. Also, the funds should be extended to the NGOs helping survivors of sexual abuse.
Ms G Marekwa (ANC) said that the tabling of the Bill would empower communities, especially in the rural areas, to respond to GBVF. The Bill would also help communities to better understand the roles and responsibilities of the Council.
In the presentation, it was mentioned that the objective of the Bill was the elimination of GBVF. She stressed that the Council and the Department must put this into practice to ensure that vulnerable communities such as women, children and members of the LGBT+ community were protected, living lives free of fear and violence.
Currently, many NGOs are working in silos, and some of them do not even exist. What was the plan to ensure that the NGOs worked in collaboration?
Adv Mikateko Maluleke, Director---General (DG), DWYPD, referred to including the DHET as one of the organs of state represented on the Board, and said the Department could not recommend the number of representatives, as the NSP already had a stipulated number. The Department had therefore included the key departments which would feed into the inter-ministerial machinery to ensure that the mandate of the Board was carried out. However, where necessary, the Bill stipulated that the Department could delegate to other departments, such as the Department of Education, to meet the responsibilities of the Council. The Department of Social Development (DSD) would also be engaged. However, the final report following further engagements would ensure that departments were included according to what South Africans wanted.
Concerning the appointment of members of the Council, the DG said that when comparing it with the CGE and the NYDA, CGE commissioners executed their duties, while in the NYDA, the Board did not execute such full-time duties. When the Board executed full-time duties, this ended up having conflicting roles with the full-time CEO. She said that the Council would be voluntary, and this should be evaluated and determined by the Portfolio Committee.
Ms Ngqulunga directed the Portfolio Committee to Clause 10 of the Bill on the payment of members of the Council and the Board, including the determination of the applicable payment rates and criteria of the remuneration and allowances.
On the issue of having nine members of the Board, representative of all the provinces, she highlighted that there were already departments and organs of state with the sole duty of addressing GBVF, and this should at least be representative of all the various departments and entities across the country when disaggregated. The Council's duty would be to coordinate on these issues, but there were already designated entities with a specific mandate to address GBVF.
She stressed that the core mandate of the Bill was focused on prevention, and promoted engagement with civic society and the community to ensure that GBVF was prevented.
The Department thanked the Committee for the engagement and highlighted that further engagements were necessary to ensure the Bill was polished.
The meeting was adjourned.
Ndaba, Ms CN
Khawula, Ms MS
Marekwa, Ms GP
Masiko, Ms F
Masondo, Ms TS
Mphithi, Mr L
Ngcobo, Mr S
Phiri, Ms CM
Sharif, Ms NK
Sonti, Ms NP
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