National Council on Gender-based Violence and Femicide Bill: DWYPD briefing

Multi-Party Women’s Caucus

25 May 2023
Chairperson: Ms K Bilankulu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Multi Women’s Caucus met on a virtual platform to receive a briefing on the National Council on Gender-based Violence and Femicide Bill [B31-2023], and discussed its provisions with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities.

During the Caucus’s interaction with the Department, Members unanimously agreed that the Bill was moving in the right direction, and urged that it should be passed without delay. As the Sixth Parliament was nearly at the end of its term, the Caucus should at least leave its legacy and contribute towards the fight against GBV.

Several Members expressed confusion and uncertainty about the composition of the Council and questioned its representation. In particular, they questioned whether Parliament, civil society and vulnerable members of the population would be adequately represented on the board.

A Member enquired about the conditions that were attached to donations and contributions made by donors, and pondered the possibility of those donors exerting undue influence over the Council through their financial contributions.

Some Members sought more clarity on the roles and functions of the Council. They emphasised that it should not be another advisory structure with no power to act or take the implementing bodies to account, and merely duplicate the functions of many existing structures on the ground. They emphasised that the Council must play a coordinating role to ensure that all efforts to fight GBV were focused in one direction.

They also stressed the importance of training police officers on how to deal with GBV cases, as police stations were usually the first port of call for GBV victims. It was also suggested that GBV councils at the local level be headed by officials who had more time to focus exclusively on the issue, rather than officials like mayors who were busy with service delivery matters.

Meeting report

The Chairperson greeted Members in attendance and outlined the agenda of the meeting.

National Council on Gender-based Violence and Femicide Bill [B31-2023]

Ms Shoki Tshabalala, Deputy Director General (DDG): Social Transformation and Economic Empowerment, Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD), and Ms Esther Maluleke, Chief Director, DWYPD, briefed the Committee on the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill.

The Bill seeks to establish a statutory body to be known as the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (‘‘the Council’’) in line with the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (“ the NSP”) that Cabinet approved during March 2020.

The Council's main objective is to provide strategic leadership and political guidance towards the elimination of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.

According to the NSP, the Council will be legislated and derives its mandate from the Constitution, International and Regional Instruments (CEDAW, Maputo Protocol); Cabinet Instruction, 2012; and the Declaration of the Presidential Summit on GBVF, 2018.

All the provisions of the Bill can be referred to in the attached presentation.

Director-General’s comments

Adv Mikateko Maluleke, Director-General (DG), DWYPD, noted the areas where Members were uncertain about the functions of the Council, as this issue had arisen during the last engagement. She referred Members to s5 of the proposed Bill. The complaint was about the lack of coordination of the many gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) structures at the provincial level, whilst the Council itself did not have funding. She responded that this Council exactly plays that coordinating role in order to implement the national plan on GBV.

She addressed the criticism from civil society that they would object to the Bill because there was no provision to financially support those civil society organisations. She said it was the responsibility of the Department of Social Development (DSD) to provide such resources, as the budget lay with that department. She highlighted that the Council played more of a facilitating role in making every sector of society work together in the fight against GBV.

The National Council would also submit a report to the Minister annually to be tabled in Parliament.


Ms M Khawula (EFF) commenced the discussion, speaking in Zulu. No translation was provided. Please refer to attached audio timestamp 30:50—33:39.

Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, standing in for the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disability, said that this was a platform for the women’s Caucus of Parliament. She urged women to be united in times when one needed one another. She highlighted the issues the DG had raised about there being too many structures under the DWYPD, which did not have sufficient budget to operate and sometimes had to split the budget to deal with the increasing demands from the people. She replied to the public criticisms about the slow progress on the ground, and said that this was the process government had to go through to enact a law.

She said Minister Dlamini-Zuma had asked her to inform the Committee that although the Department had developed an accountability structure to take each governmental department to account on issues related to women's emancipation and empowerment, etc, very few had cooperated. From her own experience of steering the Department of Social Development, everyone needed to be a part of the fight against GBV. They should mobilise society as a whole and support each other. She cautioned against a finger-pointing approach, and rather focused on what should be done.

Ms J Mananiso (ANC) wished everyone on the platform a happy African Day. Given what the Bill was trying to achieve, she acknowledged that the country was moving in the right direction. The passing of the Bill should not be delayed. The Committee now needed to take this Bill to the National Assembly to be adopted so that it would be the legacy of this Sixth Parliament as its contribution to the fight against GBV.

Ms M Hlengwa (IFP) was puzzled by the composition of the board of the Council. Her understanding was that there had to be one or two Members from this Committee to serve on the board so that they could brief this Committee about what needed to be done. She spoke in an indigenous language again. Some of the Member’s comments were made in Zulu and no translation was provided. Please refer to attached audio timestamp 42:20—43:20.

Ms N Sharif (DA) supported her colleague’s concern about the board's composition, since it contradicted the target given in the National Strategic Plan, which stated that 51 percent of the board members must be from civil society.

She expressed concern about the conditions that donors and contributors may attach to their donations and consequently exerted their influence at the policy level as a result of clause 18. She suggested removing this clause, as the board should have the independence to determine how its funds were going to be spent.

She noted that statutory bodies dealing with GBV issues were often playing an oversight role, instead of being an implementing agency. She thus wanted to know how the Department would ensure that the Council would do what its mandate required it to do. She expressed her impatience at seeing the DWYPD and other statutory bodies producing reports, rather than taking real action to stop GBV. There was a need for Members to legislate so that the Council would have the authority to directly hold the Departments of Police, Social Development and Justice accountable.

She commented that GBV was ravaging this country, and the biggest challenge which the DWYPD had was that it played only an advisory role, and thus had no power to stop GBV. She would not want the Council to be just another one of those bodies that had no power to effect real change.

Ms W Ngwenya (ANC, Gauteng) asked the Department if it had conducted any benchmarking studies against countries internationally and regionally that faced similar GBVF issues. If so, which countries were those?

She asked the Department if the Minister would appoint the board of the Council with the principle of fair representation and promote those who were vulnerable, such as those living with disabilities, and members of LGBT communities, to serve on the board. She felt that the Bill should be specific in addressing inclusivity.

She enquired about the relationship between this anticipated new Council and the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE), and sought clarity about their different roles in dealing with GBVF. She also wanted to know what the Department planned to do to ensure that both worked together to fulfil their responsibility for combating GBV.

Ms K Mkhonto (EFF) expressed her concern about discharging the roles and responsibilities of this Caucus at the local government level, since that was the front-line level of having to deal with GBVF. She asked how it could be ensured that those GBVF structures at the local and provincial levels would consist of the same multiparty women’s caucuses. She commented that most structures, such as the AIDS councils, were often headed by executive mayors, who were burdened with too many other responsibilities such as service delivery. She questioned whether delegating such GBV tasks to people with fewer responsibilities would be more effective.

Ms S Lucas (ANC, Northern Cape), Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), highlighted the importance of coordination among the various proposed GBVF structures. In her observation, the assessment of the various existing structures pointed to weaknesses in coordination. She stressed the importance of seamless integration of those structures, and emphasised that the Caucus needed to be clear about where it was moving from, where it wanted to be, and what it was going to do.

Ms Khawula spoke in Zulu and no translation was provided. Please refer to attached audio timestamp  58:22—1:02:16.  

Department's response

Ms Maluleke clarified that Minister Zulu would be representing the Department as the Minister today.

She then explained to the Committee that given the limited resource of the Department, its presence was not everywhere at the provincial level, despite its best efforts to push for more footprint in provinces. However, the CGE did have provincial branches and a few numbers in those branches.

She said the GBVF Council gets its funding from National Treasury, which currently was budgeted at R5 million. She complained that the budget would not allow the Council to do anything, and the Department was thus negotiating with Treasury to get a bigger budget. The Council had to have a presence in the provinces to ensure coordination of its various structures.

She assured the Committee that the Council could not accept donations not meant to combat gender-based violence. For some donors, they would even have conditions that the funds must be spent within a certain period of time.

The national strategic framework (NSF) stipulates that six board members must be from governmental departments, and seven must be from civil society. She clarified that it was not the responsibility of board members to represent stakeholders. Board members had a fiduciary duty to the board and performed responsibilities such as reporting budgets, etc. The structure which performed monitoring and evaluation (M&E) would consist of stakeholders that had an interest, and it was through that structure that everyone would be able to make inputs on GBV. She reiterated the point that the Council on its own would not be able to end GBV -- that would have to be through the efforts of everyone in South Africa.

She was sceptical at a Members’ suggestion to formalise the Council’s power over the South African Police Service (SAPS) since there was already the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) which exclusively deals with GBV matters. She reminded Members that the government reports to the Council on issues related to GBVF, and six of the identified governmental departments sit on the Council. The Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities was also able to bring to account any department that had a role to play in the matter.

She indicated that other countries, such as Nigeria, wanted to learn about the country’s GBVF strategies, and were benchmarking against South Africa on the issue of GBV, since South Africa was making a real effort to address the matter. The Department had not benchmarked against similar practices of other countries, since the whole fight against GBV had started when civil society had called on the government to come and account for the rising incidence of GBV in the country.

On the relationship between the DWYPD and the CGE, she reminded Members that the CGE Act clearly defines the Commission’s role in promoting gender equality and GBV issues. The Commission could participate in some of the Council’s structures, but it would not be in the Council, as it was mandated to play an oversight role as an independent Chapter 9 institution.

She told the Committee that local government had started to work with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), the Department of Social Development and the SAPS, to develop a rapid response team in municipalities. Those task teams would be responsible for quickly responding to GBV incidents and educating and directing people to the right resources in GBV cases.

She reiterated that the composition of the board was included in the Bill, and people could make inputs into the Bill.

Further discussion

Ms P Marais (EFF) commented that this was her first time joining this Caucus. She noted that among organisations in civil society, many non-profit organisations (NPOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) were working on the fight against GBVF on the ground as well. Despite that, she emphasised the importance of equipping and training police officers, since police stations were the first place people who encountered GBV would go to.

Ms Maluleke reiterated that the 51/49 split guided the composition of the board. The Department had consulted with the public regarding how they envisaged this Council. The responses from women in both urban and rural areas indicated they did not want a huge structure since it would be resource-consuming. Instead, they wanted a small structure that would drive coordination, as many of the structures that respond to GBV were already on the ground.

She added that compared to the Department, which could not get reports from civil society organisations, the Council would be mandated to get reports from all sectors of society.

Minister Zulu commended the proud work that the Women’s Caucus did to promote women’s interests and well-being. Minister Dlamini-Zulu, who was currently in Addis Ababa, had been one of those pioneers that had led the revolution in Kempton Park, demanding that women be included in the negotiation process at the end of apartheid. She encouraged more Members to go out and use their influence to encourage women to make inputs during the upcoming public comment process on the Bill.

Ms Hlengwa spoke in Zulu and no translation was provided. Please refer to attached audio timestamp  1:27:48—1:28:50.

The Chairperson agreed with Ms Hlengwa, and indicated that the issue she had raised would be discussed in this Caucus in the future.

Adoption of minutes

The minutes of 23 March were duly adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

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