In a virtual meeting, the Committee was briefed by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities on a Bill to establish a National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. The Bill sought to establish a statutory body to coordinate a multi-sectoral approach to GBV and femicide.
Members raised questions about the exclusion of the Department of Higher Education and Training from the Council and advocated for equitable resource distribution to non-governmental organisations. The Department gave an assurance that there would be flexibility in co-opting additional departments as needed. It clarified that the Department, and not the Council, was responsible for distributing funds provided by National Treasury.
Concerns were also raised about the composition of the Council and its independence in decision-making.
The Department of Social Development briefed the Committee on the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons. The Department outlined plans for government to ratify the Protocol and for alignment with it through the Older Persons Amendment Bill.
Committee Members raised concerns about funding for old-age homes, dissatisfaction with service centres for older people and the adequacy of grants for older persons.
The Department responded that there were ongoing efforts to secure additional funding, integrate wellness programmes and eliminate harmful cultural practices.
The Committee adopted a report recommending ratification of the AU Protocol.
Briefing: National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill [B31-2022]
In opening remarks, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, thanked the Committee for taking the time to deal with the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill [B31B-2022] which sought to establish a statutory body on gender-based violence and femicide. This was in line with the strategic plan of the Department of Women, Youth and People with Disabilities (DWYPD).
Ms Nondumiso Ngqulunga, Director: Legal Services, DWYPD, told the Committee that the proposed legislation stemmed from the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (NSP). The NSP was developed in response to the Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in November 2018. This Bill was designed to serve as enabling legislation to implement the institutional arrangements outlined in the NSP, particularly the establishment of the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (the Council).
The Bill would establish the Council and delineate its functions and composition. It would provide for the appointment and term of office of members and the appointment of a chief executive officer (CEO) and secretariat. The primary objective of the Council would be to coordinate a multi-sectoral approach to address gender-based violence and femicide. The Council would be empowered to monitor, review, and advise the Minister on national strategies and action plans in this regard.
The Bill comprised various clauses specifying definitions, purpose, the establishment of the Council, its objects and functions, composition of the Board, disqualification from membership, appointment of the CEO, financial aspects, reporting mechanisms, and other general provisions.
The current allocation for the Council for the 2022 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) was R15 million over three years. The implementation of the Act would be accommodated within funds received by the Council from an appropriation by an Act of Parliament, interest on investments, donations, contributions, and other sources.
The Bill was deliberated on in Directors-General clusters, was presented to National Treasury for input, published for public comment, subject to public consultations in all nine provinces, and submitted to NEDLAC for deliberation.
Provisions of the Bill
Clause 1: Definitions
Outlines the definitions used throughout the Bill.
Clause 2: Purpose of the Bill
Establishes the Council as a statutory body responsible for providing strategic leadership on eliminating gender-based violence and femicide. Emphasises the need for a multi-sectoral and inter-sectoral approach to implement the national strategic plan.
Clause 3: Council's responsibilities
Designates the Council as a statutory body responsible for providing strategic leadership and coordination in the prevention and response to gender-based violence and femicide.
Clause 4: Objects of the Council
Defines the objectives of the Council, including the coordination of a multi-sectoral approach and setting priorities aligned with the national strategy.
Clause 5: Action plan
Mandates the development of an Action Plan within six months of the Council's establishment to implement the National Strategic Plan.
Clauses 6-14: Composition of the Board
Details the composition of the Board, including members from civil society structures, government departments, and the Executive Officer.
Clause 15: Appointment of the Executive Officer
Discusses the appointment, term, and responsibilities of the Executive Officer.
Clause 16: Chief Executive Officer's responsibilities
Outlines the Chief Executive Officer's responsibilities in managing the Council's business affairs.
Clause 17: Head of the Secretariat
Designates the Chief Executive Officer as the Head of the Secretariat and discusses staff appointment and supervision.
Clause 18: Funds of the Council
Specifies the sources of funds for the Council, including parliamentary appropriations, donations, and trust funds.
Clause 19: Financial management
States that the CEO is responsible for financial management in accordance with the Public Finance Management Act, of 1999.
Clause 20: Audit of accounts
Requires the auditing of the Council's accounts and balance sheet in line with the Public Audit Act, 2004.
Clause 21: Use of Council's name and material
Limits the usage of the Council's name, acronym, logos, designs, and material without written authorisation.
Clause 22: Norms and standards
Empower the Minister, in consultation with relevant authorities, to prescribe norms and standards for provincial and local gender-based violence structures.
Clauses 23-24: Delegation and regulations
Grants the Minister powers to delegate responsibilities and make regulations concerning the implementation of the Act.
Clause 25: Name and Commencement
Specifies the name of the Act and details its commencement.
See attached for full presentation
Ms N Ndongeni (ANC, Eastern Cape) referred to Clause 6 (b) of the Bill which indicated that one representative would be drawn from each of various organs of state such as the DWYPD, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Department of Social Development, and Department of Health, among others. The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was not included in the list. What were the reasons for the exclusion of the DHET?
How would the DWYPD ensure that resources were equitably distributed to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to ensure a robust response to GBV?
Ms Ndongeni further remarked that the DWYPD should assume accountability for the allocation of funds to NGOs to eliminate potential opportunities for corruption. In addition, the Department should collaborate with civil society to ensure a robust response to GBV. Therefore, how could the private sector be incorporated into the overall process of the Council?
Ms D Christians (DA, Northern Cape) said concerns had been raised previously about the Bill, specifically that the composition of the Council’s board was in conflict with the targets of the NSP. How did the DWYPD plan to align the composition to provide 51 percent representation from civil society? How would the Department ensure the independence of the board when it came to decision-making about funds allocation and avoid external influences from donors and contributors?
What strategies did the DWYPD have in place to incorporate the private sector in the overall processes of the Council, including addressing GBV?
Regarding accountability and transparency in the allocation of funds to NGOs, how would the DWYPD prevent potential opportunities for corruption?
Adv Mikateko Maluleke, Director-General, DWYPD, said the Council was based on the NSP on GBV as already indicated. When the Bill went to the National Assembly Portfolio Committee, it recommended that there be six representatives from government departments and seven from civil society organisations. However, the Assembly decided that more government departments needed to be involved, hence the inclusion of the Department of Basic Education, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Health, and the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. The Department of Higher Education and Training(DHET) was not included, and that was the reason for the clause that specifically focused on co-opting. The Minister would be able to co-opt the DHET and other departments which might be needed at any given time.
Regarding the distribution of funds, the Bill did not provide for the Council to distribute funds. Currently, the Department of Social Development distributes funds as allocated by National Treasury. If the Council received donor funds, that would be for the Council to do its work and not for distribution to civil society.
Concerning the inclusion of the private sector, the Bill’s definition of “civil society” included NGOs, labour and structures and institutions that represented the interests of citizens in the field of GBV and femicide. It therefore took into consideration the private sector. Also, Clause 6 (1) (b) included private sector participation.
Ms Aadielah Arnold, State Law Advisor, informed the Committee that the briefing by the Department should be followed by the publication of the Bill for public comment. Based on the public comments, there might be amendments.
The Minister said that the Department awaited the comments, insights and guidance of the Committee.
Briefing: African Union Protocol on the Rights of Older Persons
Ms Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, said the Department of Social Development (DSD) took the work of the Committee seriously as this was an important line of accountability. The government and other stakeholders were working to build a stronger nation and this was a process that required constant accountability, including receiving feedback.
Through the adoption in 2016 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa, member states of the African Union (AU) embraced a set of bold collective commitments to ensure the well-being of older persons throughout Africa. The statistics on older persons in South Africa were a guide in terms of understanding the needs of older persons to ensure their well-being. The DSD was aware of the various challenges faced by older persons in the communities and families.
Through the DSD, the Government of South Africa intended to sign and ratify the Protocol to promote and protect the rights of older persons and guarantee that older persons were enabled to contribute to their societies and communities. The Minister emphasised the importance of ensuring that there were concrete plans on the ground to ensure that the well-being of older persons was at the forefront.
Ms Isabella Sekwana, Acting Deputy Director-General: Social Welfare Services, DSD, gave a presentation on the AU Protocol and on the Older Persons Amendment Bill 2022.
She emphasised the ongoing nature of human rights as individuals aged, stressing that these rights extended beyond the age of 60. The AU, established in 1963 as the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and later transformed into the AU in 2002, comprised five regions with an estimated 64.4 million older persons. The AU's objectives were highlighted, including fostering solidarity, defending member states' independence and promoting economic and political stability. The presentation delved into the historical lack of attention to the rights of older persons globally, emphasising a recent shift in the discourse.
The AU Protocol aimed to address this gap. Its objectives were rooted in the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing and the AU Policy Framework on Ageing; They aimed to combat elder abuse, eliminate discrimination, and involve older persons in decision-making. The process of developing the Protocol started in 2012 and was finalised in 2016. The Protocol needed to be integrated into national policies and legislative frameworks.
South Africa's motivation for ratifying the AU Protocol was grounded in strengthening the protection of older persons' rights, fostering collaboration, and promoting active ageing. Proposed legislative amendments in the Older Persons Amendment Bill 2022 aligned with the AU Protocol, addressing gaps and protecting the rights of older persons. The presentation outlined the consultation process, including checks on compliance with national laws. Concerns raised, such as distinctions between nationals and non-nationals, were highlighted. Motivations for ratification included alignment with the Constitution and the progressive legislative framework of the Older Persons Act.
The proposed amendments in the Older Persons Amendment Bill covered areas such as harmful traditional practices, responsibilities of older persons, and services for those with disabilities and chronic illnesses. These amendments aimed to protect older persons' rights and promote their well-being.
The presentation concluded with recommendations, emphasising the need for Cabinet approval of the Protocol, development of implementation plans, and monitoring and evaluation across various levels facilitated by the Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) and the DSD.
See attached for full presentation
Ms Christians said that the Protocol, Amendment Bill and the Department’s commitment to protecting the rights of older persons were all welcome, given that older persons were amongst the most vulnerable in the country.
She referred to a recent visit to old-age homes throughout the country. She noted that there was a concern about the disintegration of old-aged homes and a lack of funding for them. Did the Protocol provide a bird’s eye view on addressing issues faced in old age homes?
Older persons also expressed dissatisfaction with service centres, including food issues. What kind of provisions were made by the Protocol to improve such services?
Human Rights Watch reported that there had been a failure in the provision of basic care services. Although the Department provided some form of grant for the care of older persons, was this enough to cover the costs of caring for them?
The presentation mentioned that the Protocol also aimed to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices, especially those affecting the welfare of older women. This was a good and welcome move. What kind of awareness programmes would go together with this part of the Protocol to prevent such practices?
Ms Sekwana responded to the concerns raised about food, equipment, and general care at service centres. These were human rights, and this was the reason that the DSD funded the service centres. However, it acknowledged that the funding was sometimes not enough. The Department continued to ensure that there were conversations with various stakeholders, such as National Treasury, to ensure improvements in the funding of the centres. The current funding was not enough for all the services that were needed.
Older persons' programmes such as exercising, socialisation, and improved life skills were integrated within the service centres.
She referred to the grant-in-aid provided for older persons in addition to their old-age pension. The old-age pension catered for the general needs of older persons while the grant-in-aid was aimed at ensuring that those who needed 24-hour care were being financially provided for. Although this is not enough, it was at least able to meet the basic needs of older persons who required such services. The Department was advocating for the grants to be increased. However, fiscal space was constrained.
Regarding harmful cultural practices, the Department did not wait for the AU Protocol to create awareness of these issues. It was continuously creating awareness, especially in the provinces where such challenges were known to be prevalent. Since the awareness drive by the DSD, there has been a tremendous decrease in harmful practices in various communities. The Department continued to work to ensure their elimination through legislation and through working together with other government departments and traditional leaders.
Report of the Select Committee on Health and Social Services on the Ratification of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Older Persons in Africa
The Committee adopted the report.
The meeting was adjourned.
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