State of Shelters: Implementation of CGE Recommendations

Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

27 February 2024
Chairperson: Ms C Ndaba (ANC)
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Meeting Summary


The Commission on Gender Equality presented its 2018/19 Report on the State of Shelters in South Africa and its 2022/23 Report on the Implementation of Recommendations for Shelters by National and Provincial Departments of Social Development.

The Commission reported that provinces had for the most case partially implemented the recommendations. The Committee was informed that the North West Department of Social Development had been uncooperative failing to provide the required information during the investigation and follow-up. Many of the recommendations for provinces included increasing the number of shelters but provinces said there was no budget or if there was budget, implantation had not yet started.

The Committee was concerned about the lack of implementation of the CGE recommendations; non compliance by provincial department with CGE information requests; shelters embracing persons from the LGBTQIA+ community; turning away male children over the age of 12; addressing the Kwazulu-Natal flood victims; and duration of stay at shelters.

Meeting report

Opening remarks
The Chairperson offered the Committee’s condolences to the families of the comrades who lost their lives in a tragic accident on their way back from the ANC election rally in Mpumalanga. The date for elections had been announced as 29 May 2024. Therefore Committee members would cease to be Members of Parliament on 21 May 2024. She urged the Members to prepare for any eventualities and wished them the best in the elections.

The Committee needed to finalise the outstanding work with the Commission on Gender Equality. She had had a lengthy meeting with the parliamentary lawyers and those appointed by the Speaker because Corruption Watch wanted the Constitutional Court to nullify the appointment by the President of the commissioners. She expressed her confusion why those appointments should be nullified stating that the CGE would not be able to function. Such a decision would affect other Chapter Nine institutions which was using the same process to make recommendations to the President for appointing commissioners.

The Chairperson stated that due to the upcoming elections, the Committee would not have oversight visits or study tours. They had received an invitation from the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) to accompany it to New York but due to the elections, that will no longer be possible. They might go in the Seventh Parliament. Parliament had directed the Committee to finalise all reports and submit the committee legacy report and prioritise legislation which this Committee does not have as it had dealt with their legislation. The department wanted to bring another Bill but due to lack of time before the elections this cannot happen as the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) also has to process it. The NCOP still has to pass the two bills that they have passed in the National Assembly.

She warned some of the CGE Commissioners to stop calling Committee members telling them about things that were happening in CGE. They had already experienced enough of those issues with the previous commissioners. Regardless of political parties, Members always inform her when one of the commissioners called them. She asked CGE not to drag the Committee into their internal wrangles. The Committee was united and worked as a collective. She advised the commissioners to go through the proper channels should they wish to bring an issue to the attention of the Committee.

State of Shelters in South Africa: Commission for Gender Equality report
Dr Dennis Matotoka, CGE Acting Chief Executive Officer, said that in line with the mandate of the Commission and the Annual Performance Plan, the Commission instituted a systemic investigation into the state of shelters in South Africa in 2018/19, following the receipt of several complaints from victims of gender-based violence (GBV). From the issues that were unearthed during the investigation, the Commission had made various findings and recommendations aimed at creating a healthy, enabling environment free from harassment, indignity, secondary victimization and inequality.The report published in 2022/23 summarizes the Commission’s investigation into the state of shelters in South Africa and provides successes and challenges in the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission’s 2018/19 report. In its investigation the Commission analyzed information submitted by the provincial and national departments of social development, the department of public works, the national department of health, department of human settlements, the Gauteng department of community safety and the South African Police Service.

After the CGE investigations, its recommendations for the Free State Department of Social Development (FDSD) included that it provide clarity on the remaining shelters for which funding was sought from provincial department. FSDSD was to also conduct an internal audit on the current number of operational shelters versus the need for more shelters. At the time of the 2022/23 report FSDSD had not yet developed or implemented a funding model.

The Northern Cape Department of Social Development (NCDSD) appeared before CGE on 03/12/2019. The Commission made six recommendations including the establishment of shelters in the Namakwa District and the increment of the stipend for housemothers. NCDSD reported that they had been unable to establish a shelter in Namakwa as it did not have buildings for utilising as shelters. It had however managed to increase the stipend for housemothers from R3 500 to R5 000 which the Commission commends.

For the Western Cape Department of Social Development (WCDSD), CGE recommended that staff training focusing LGBTQIA+ needs be implemented within six months following the hearing. WCDSD had further conceded that access to shelters for persons with disabilities (PWD) was not initially a considered standard but after the hearing, it initiated a process of funding allocations.

For Eastern Cape Department of Social Development (ECDSD), CGE made three recommendations that included the department preparing and sharing its GBV action plan with it once finalized. ECDSD informed them that the plan was drafted/developed and handed to the Office of the Premier for approval and that they were advised that the plan was “in principle” approved. Although the plan was said to be approved in “principle”, the plan could not be recovered from the Office of the Premier, despite numerous requests made by ECDSD to the Office of the Premier requesting the approved plan. Therefore, as it stands, no approved plan has been provided to the Commission.

For Mpumalanga, the Commission had eight recommendations including the development of a code of conduct, a sexual harassment policy, and the provision to CGE of the skills programmes offered in the shelters and proof of their accreditation.

The North West Department of Social Development (NWDSD) had not submitted the required information before and during the investigative hearing. The required information was supplied after the hearing. CGE made two recommendations including the provision of a plan with proper timelines on how the late payment of funding will be addressed so shelters and survivors are not adversely affected by the late payment of funds. The NWDSD implementation report advised that it was still experiencing challenges with late payments due to non-compliance by the organisations. The challenges faced included inconsistent addresses on business and bank details, incomplete sign-off of business plans and non-compliance with the Central Supplier Database requirements.

For Gauteng Department of Social Development (GDSD), CGE recommendations included that it properly define the criteria for admission of children who did not meet standard criteria. GDSD was to ensure that its guidelines are gender sensitive and to provide sensitisation training to the GDSD staff to ensure awareness. In 2020/21 GDSD revised admission requirements for children who did not meet standard criteria. Gauteng has 22 shelters, but only two had family units that could accommodate children. The shelters have their own criteria for accommodating children and boys over 12 years. GDSD had reported that it was in discussion with shelters identified with sufficient space on their property to admit boys under the age of 18. The structure of most shelters is such that beneficiaries share bedrooms as well as bathroom facilities. Five shelters were identified and funded to modify the space/add additional structures to accommodate families with boys under 18. GDSD had advised that shelters in Gauteng were now admitting PWD as well as people from the LGBTQIA+ community but due to the lack of medical personnel, psychiatrists or psychologists in Gauteng shelters, victims with profound mental disabilities were not admitted.

Limpopo Department of Social Development (LPDSD) recommendations included that it provide clear plans to establish new shelters as it had only two for the entire province. LPSD claimed that it could not comply with this recommendation due to an inadequate budget. In its progress report, LPDSD confirmed that five buildings were identified and construction was expected to start between March 2022 and March 2023. Currently however there was no indication from LPDSD that the intended construction has started. Therefore, LPDSD still does not have enough shelters for its population.

KwaZulu-Natal Department of Social Development (KZNDSD) had two recommendations. Dundee Crisis Centre must move the recycling business and the feeding scheme to another site as both businesses cause a huge threat to the shelter. Secondly, the House of Hope shelter should prioritize erecting a proper fence before it is allowed to continue its services. KZNDSD had reported that they had managed to implement both recommendations and additional renovations were effected to improve the standard of the shelter.

For the National Department of Social Development (NDSD), CGE had made a number of recommendations including the launch of a pilot program for the inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons as well as providing an Intersectoral Shelter Policy for Victims of Crime and Violence. In complying with the CGE recommendations on sector funding policy, NDSD submitted the Intersectoral Shelter Policy for Victims of Crime and Violence and confirmed the adoption and implementation of the sector funding policy. Chapter 5 of the Intersectoral Shelter Policy addressed admission and referrals to shelters for LGBTQIA+ community victims of crime and violence. NDSD also furnished the Commission with a draft Victim Empowerment Training and Development Framework Plan.

The Chairperson asked if Dr Matotoka had been formally appointed or if he was still Acting CEO.

Dr Matotoka replied that he was still the acting accounting officer.

The Chairperson asked if they had advertised for the position.

Adv Sepana Mogalethe, CGE Board Chairperson, replied that the position had been advertised and Dr Matotoka was one of the candidates. Shortlisting of candidates as well as interviews had already happened. They had shortlisted three candidates and were awaiting psychometric assessments to happen within the next week. Once they get the results, they will take the results to the CGE plenary for the recommendation of the candidate.

The Chairperson welcomed the State of Shelters report and thanked the CGE for the work they had done so far. She was concerned that some of the investigations went as far back as 2019. She reminded the CGE that both spheres of government were supposed to implement the CGE recommendations. She asked if each and every CGE commissioner was delegated to deal with shelters in the provinces or were specific commissioners delegated to focus on shelters. She asked what the CGE planned to do about non-compliance and asked that they elevate this to NDSD and in some of instances even the Department of health. Who had been assigned to follow up on the implementation of CGE recommendations. What was CGE’s working relationship with the Minister of Social Development because the expectation following the investigations was that there would be meetings on this? The issue of shelters was critical and it seemed that in some provinces one was unable to determine if the shelters exist or if they are in a good enough state. She asked for the CGE recommendation was made to NDSD about children especially boys 16 years and above being turned away from shelters so that whatever plan was applied is uniform across all provinces. She asked if CGE offered guidance to provinces in implementing the recommendations.

Ms N Sharif (DA) said that it was always concerning to see departments not taking the implementation of CGE recommendations seriously. Therefore what had CGE put in place to deal with non-compliance to ensure that it does not impede the CGE mandate. There was not a single LGBTQIA+ shelter. CGE needed to keep going back and ensure that the LGBTQIA+ sensitisation programmes were working. It was very problematic when a member of LGBTQIA+ community goes to a shelter and they are treated so badly and that they would rather stay on the streets than go to such shelters. LGBTQIA+ was a gender issue which the CGE needed to take up and hold government accountable to ensure that its community members are being protected and their safety is a priority. She wanted to know what were the CGE plans to ensure that actually happens. She asked for the progress on ensuring Gauteng shelters cater to families specifically boys over the age of 12. Was this functional and working? She asked if CGE had looked into situations where a GBV victim was turned away from shelter because of substance abuse. Rehab centres are sometimes not well equipped to deal with the trauma suffered by the victim.

Ms M Khawula (EFF) gave her condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in the accident and to those wounded. She asked what action was going to be taken against NWDSD who failed to give out information because they should be reporting to the CGE. Shelters were an important issue.

She asked if CGE accounted for KZN flood victims who were displaced and taken to shelters. Were they aware about the living and safety conditions and how long they had stayed in those shelters?

On funding, she disputed the CGE report that the shelters were not receiving the funds that were available. In Richmond in KZN when the shelters complained about not been paid and not having basic necessities they would be informed that there was no money. Other racial groups had it better because there were some organisations that provided food parcels while they wait on the government funding. There were not enough shelters. She recently had a case of a gentleman who she had assisted. He was supposed to go to a shelter but there were no shelters for men. Western Cape still has apartheid and CGE does not follow up on that issue. She did not understand what stopped CGE from doing so. There must be ongoing reports that explained the status of the shelters and how it treats the people who were victims of floods.

In the Eastern Cape there was a problem where the situation on the ground differs from what is captured on paper. They do not offer any assistance to elderly people with disabilities in the areas where they are located. People are opening shelters but do not want to actually do the work they are supposed to do as shelters. Older ladies in the Eastern Cape are being murdered on the false claim that they are witches. These were ladies who are just sometimes going senile or suffering from dementia. She witnessed one woman being burnt inside her house. The conditions in which people in shelters are living were quite deplorable. She suggested that if after the elections the Committee goes to such shelters and have the people running those shelters arrested if they are not functioning.

CGE needed to ensure that the women in the shelters have skills to earn money so that they can be independent and not end up stuck in bad situations because they are financially dependent on the man who is abusing them.

Ms Khawula said that the shortage of shelters is exactly the same as the shortage of high schools. The report is painful. She referenced the criminality in Dundee. There was a lot of criminal activity in Kwazulu-Natal. In her opinion the government must give enough money to the owners of shelters so they can protect and uplift the victims. KZN was full of crime wherepeople commitcrimes without considering that they might need the help of the people they commit the crimes against in future. She requested that CGE tell the Committee about the status of all cases lodged through CGE.

She asked CGE what the legislation says about people affected multiple times by floods. Did it say that these families are to be put in a shelter or tin houses and for how long?

Ms N Sonti (EFF) was concerned that CGE had not said much about KZN where a lot of people needed the assistance of shelters. Many people affected by the floods still lived in halls with their families. She agreed that there needed to be oversight as well as training programmes for those who ran shelters. She questioned if these shelters had the necessary skills because most of them just start the shelters with no discernable skills. Someone must assist them on how to complete the forms and reports required by DSD so there would be no complaints of shelters not having received funds.

Ms Khawula made a statement in vernacular (3:11:11).

CGE response
Adv Sepanya said that CGE had been doing a lot of work for people displaced by the floods in KZN. They were monitoring the situation closely to a point where some people had actually returned to rebuild their homes after government gave them materials. However, there were some who were still in the shelters and had not been relocated back home. There was also a third group that were relocated to a flats on Point Road on Durban CBD but these groups experiencing problems as the allocated flats were for women and girls. The men and older boys were not allowed to live there and could only visit their families there. A lot of the women had to leave their male children at the dilapidated places. The other reason was the men and older boys had to watch over the patch of land they were occupying before the floods because people were anxious that their land would be grabbed by someone else.

CGE had been liaising on an ongoing basis with the Office of the Premier and the municipalities and through about school transport for the Point Road children who were found to be far from their schools. They were now getting school transport to their original schools. CGE had also put pressure on the heads of departments (HoDs) to the point where the HODs held a meeting and went on a site visit to see the status of the shelters.

Ms Khawula interjected in vernacular.

Dr Matotoka said that what they had agreed with the CGE Chairperson that there was need to find within the Annual Performance Plan (APP) work which they will be allocating to commissioners which will amplify the CGE strategic plan. They will identify specific programmes going forward that will be handled and led by commissioners. With this in place they would be able to spearhead the outstanding recommendations with the provincial stakeholders.

He explained that even in 2010 when the Department had been taken to court, the justification it had provided was that it was unable to do certain things because of the lack of availability of resources. The Court said that the lack of resources could not always be the reason that they are not providing the basic needs. There should be a progressive realisation of the basic rights. The CGE approach was to identify the challenges thus far and make an array of recommendations. What was clearly coming out of CGE report was that availability of resources was a factor in increasing the number of shelters in the country. They had indicated to the Eastern Cape and Limpopo to increase the number of shelters and those provinces said that they did not have a budget. Unfortunately when one looks at the manner in which the Constitution is crafted, certain rights were subject to the availability of resources. There should be some steps towards recognising the progressive realisation of rights in increasing the current capacity but the reality based on what had been presented to the CGE was that the limitation was largely informed by the lack of available resources. However where resources have been allocated like the Northern Cape, it was able to work with that budget and ensure that shelters are established there. This would be an area where he hoped that at a high level between the Ministry and CGE they would be able to address what was outstanding as what was clearly coming out was that it could be done. What they needed was the intentional commitment from the leadership.

On North West, the Chairperson had in a previous meeting provided guidance on how to deal with non-cooperation or non-compliance. There was partial implementation of the CGE recommendations and it was not a matter of NWDSD choosing not to wholly comply. There was certain information that North West gave to CGE and other information it decided not to give CGE. That on its own led CGE to indicated that in its report as non-compliance because CGE was unable to establish the progress made. This was one of the items that once centralised to a CGE commissioner they would be able to determine what to do alongside the accounting officer. CGE had written to NWDSD and it had chosen not to respond. It was now for CGE to take the matter forward and decide if it was instituting a case at the courts or otherwise.

CGE is currently confirming the powers of CGE to impose sanctions at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) because thus far the judiciary has held that CGE does not have the power to enforce its recommendations. There is the need to confirm CGE's powers. If one looks at the CGE Act and compare it with the Human Rights Commission as well as the Public Protector Acts, there was something missing there. On the basis of the Nkandla judgment CGE can read certain powers in CGE Act but it has been told by the judiciary that it cannot work like that. This was why CGE was at the SCA hoping it will lead to the Constitutional Court. Once CGE powers are clarified, this would mean that CGE would not have to cajole stakeholders to comply with its reports. One of the greatest limitations thus far was the non-compliance. CGE hopes that through the courts it will gain better clarity.

He agreed that as CGE they should be going back to track if the training programs were working and to what extent. He would have to check but they have on LGBTQIA+ shelter in the Western Cape but he requests the Committee’s indulgence to come back and confirm if they do not have one in the Western Cape but for the training program they are monitoring those. They hadindicated to the Western Cape thatwhen they do training sessions to invite CGE and partake in those because they wanted to observe the blind spots in terms of the training materials or their deliver of training to the staff Members and so forth they were able to do that in the Western Cape.

The Chairperson interjected that what CGE should be telling the Committee was their holistic plan that they have recommended or will recommend to the DSD regarding LGBTQIA+ because training alone was not enough. They need to have a comprehensive solution with regard to that. their recommendations as CGE needed to be reconsidered by them in terms of LGBTQIA+ must not be discriminated. There should be a uniformed approach in all provinces that CGE was going to monitor its implementation. She asked that they agree that they will have to deal with the issue of LGBTQIA+ in a comprehensive mannerwhich should be given to the DSD to implement nationally and holistically. Provincial departments should also be implementing such recommendations in the right way because provinces have been found wanting so far.

Dr Matotoka agreed fully with the Chairperson’s sentiments and said it was for that reason that they indicate to the national department that they need to develop a victim empowerment program framework as that would apply across the board without any subjective implementation. It should be there and accessible to the department as well as to the Members of the public and if they are able to see non-compliance then there should be a way to report the transgressions to either CGE or the department but that framework plan was what they think would assist address the issues going forward to avert an secondary victimisation.

On Gauteng, he said that they believed that the establishment of intersectoral shelter policy for victim and violence which would also address salient issues around the discriminatory practice over children age 12 or 16 and so forth. That uniformity was required as far as age was concerned. It was unfair discrimination wherethey areturn awaychildren on the basis of their age and mothers with children based on their age. The issue of family rooms was the best way to deal with issue of age restriction in shelters and that was why they recommend instead of just determining the age they would rather have designated family rooms and family rooms will be able to cater to children irrespective of their age. That was a clear recommendation they had given. However thelimitation comes in the form of availability of resources and practicality surrounding thatconsidering theinfrastructure that the department of public works had allocated to them. He believed that there was still room for that engagement between CGE, the ministry of public works as well as the ministry of social development to try and develop more family rooms depending on need.

He said that they had yet to do an in depth study on the challenges on substance abuse but they noted the Member’s concern and will look into it.

The Chairperson interjected again saying that there was a North West shelter for GBV victims called the Grace Help Centre. During their site visits they found eight undocumented foreign minors. On speaking to the children, they learnt that the mother was somewhere in Cape Town and they were in active communication with her. She asked if CGE had visited the site.

Adv Sepanya said that CGE was with the Committee during that particular oversight.

Dr Matotoka responded that in the report it included the Grace Help Centre as a shelter that needed follow up. The Head of Department did not provide the information if that specific shelter was still operational when CGE asked for feedback.

The Chairperson asked if CGE could take the HoD to court for refusing to provide information.

Dr Matotoka replied that they were unable to do anything for the moment. They were not going to have a piecemeal approach to the shelter in North West. They need to have a holistic approach where they identify all the challenges emanating from the report and develop an action plan to deal with the specific challenges in each province. The biggest challenge CGE has is non-compliance and not responding to emails.

The Chairperson remarked that they do not treat CGE with seriousness because they are aware that there will not be any consequences. In her opinion CGE needed to change how it does things.

Dr Matotoka agreed and responded that CGE was working on that and in the coming months people would see some progress. The primary one was for them to have a little more ‘bite’ without the fear of wasted costs in acting outside or beyond their mandate. The biggest issue was that they had been told that they are to advice government and not to have teeth and what they were saying was that as along they do not have teeth the stakeholders would continue to not comply. This was an area where they needed a pronouncement by the court because as long as the situation remains as it was they can rely on persuading them or the intervention by the Committee to get cooperation which should not be the case. CGE was a chapter nine institution and when theysentcorrespondence there should be immediate response to it. There are those that study the legislation quite well to pick up CGE's limitations and exploit them

The Chairperson replied that it therefore meant there was need to amend the Act. CGE could have a meeting with the Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disability and propose the amendments he had highlighted

The issues raised by Ms Khawula were serious and CGE needed to have a meeting with the Minister of Human Settlements. The Committee has previously interacted with the Minister of Human Settlements who had been able with its intervention to resolve some urgent issues during the Committee visit to KZN. She continued in vernacular (3:58:39).

Adv Sepanya confirmed that following their visit to the Grace Help Centre, the centre was closed and the children moved to a different centre in Brits. Therefore that place was not working as a shelter anymore and the children had been relocated.

Dr Matotoka said that the skills CGE provides relate to its public information unit who is always available to provide necessary guidance particularly from a gender point of view.

Dr Matotoka said that the feedback CGE had received from DSD on the late payment of funding to shelters was because certain documents were not submitted in time or were submitted incorrectly or there was mismanagement of funds. He therefore agreed that it became important for DSD to take responsibility to actually educate these owners.

On the duration of stay for persons in shelters, Dr Matotoka replied that should be dealt with on a case by case basis based on the merits of the matter. If the risk or reason that the person was running away still exists then they should continue to stay in the shelter; but where the risk has been mitigated, the person should be re-capacitated and reintegrated into society. This was where the skills program became important.

Ms Khawula interjected again in vernacular (3:54:51) about a case she had sent to Commissioner Mazibuko and Adv Sepanya.

The Chairperson asked CGE to follow up on the issues raised by Members including Ms Khawula case. Due to time constraints the Committee should perhaps reschedule the outstanding reports.

The Committee decided to receive the CGE report on teenage pregnancy on 5 March.

The Chairperson said that it would be the last report from CGE but the Committee secretariat noted that there was another CGE report referred to the Committee.

The Chairperson asked the CEO to highlight the important points in the next meeting rather than reading the presentation word for word.

The Chairperson noted that the shortlisted candidates for the CGE vacancies had been published and after getting the State Security Agency reports and the verification of qualifications they will do the interviews. The Committee will have to present the report on its recommended CGE candidates in the National Assembly before 28 March 2024.

She thanked the Members and CGE for attending the meeting and closed the meeting.

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