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JUSTICE AND CONSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
27 March 2007
EQUALITY REVIEW DRAFT REPORT: DELIBERATIONS
Chairperson: Ms F Chohan-Khota (ANC)
Documents handed out:
Draft of the Equality Review Report
Audio Recording of the Meeting
The Chairperson tabled and summarised the Committee’s draft of the Equality Review Report. The first part of the report delineated the role of the Committee and the roles of other stakeholders in regard to equality. The main focus area were the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act, the equality courts and the role of other stakeholders. Further reports would be handed in from the Commission on the Status of Women and the Youth Commission’s hearings in provinces on issues of women, the disabled and equality. There would be a joint debate on the matters raised. The second part of the report covered the key aspects of PEPUDA, and highlighted the Department of Justice’s challenges with the designation and functioning of the equality courts, the training of clerks, the inaccessibility of courts to the disabled and the poor, and low awareness. The South African Human Rights Commission had highlighted the lack of statistics, under utilization of the courts, and problems in training. Members discussed the possibility of setting up circuit courts, the need for better promotion on equality issues, the need to incorporate this specifically in the report, the need for more work on the disabled, the regrettable number of unfunded mandates, the functioning of the Equality Review Committee, and whether the Commission on Gender Equality were doing enough on the Act and Equality Courts. The recommendations made by Members would be added into the draft report.
Draft Report on the Equality Review
The Chairperson tabled and gave a summary of the draft report. She stated that the first part of the report delineated the role of the Committee and the roles of other stakeholders in regard to equality. She informed the Committee that their main focus areas were the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA), the equality courts and the role of other stakeholders. She also highlighted the fact that the Commission on the Status of Women and the Youth Commission, dealing with youth and the disabled, had held hearings in the provinces on the issues of women, the disabled and equality. Even though the reports were going to be handed in separately, there would be a joint debate on the matters raised. The second part of the report covered the key aspects of PEPUDA.
The Chairperson highlighted that point 8 referred to the presentation by the Department of Justice that had focused on vulnerable groups, the challenges of designating the equality courts, the remaining 146 magisterial posts that were yet to be designated, and the problems in infrastructure of courts. Another problematic issue was the training of the clerks and the accessibility of the courts to the disabled and to the poor. The investigations also showed that there was a major gap in people’s understanding of the courts, and that Department of Justice was working to improve on this. Point 9 related to the presentation by the South African Human Rights Commission, which focused on race and the disabled. The Commission cited the main problematic areas as the availability of statistics, the under utilisation of the courts, and the problem of training. The Commission had detailed some cases in which it had been involved and highlighted that mediation was a vital aspect in these cases. Lastly, the report focused on the recommendations made by the Department.
Mr L Joubert (DA) asked whether it was not possible to set up circuit equality courts since there were problems with infrastructure.
The Chairperson replied that she understood his reasoning, but highlighted that the bigger issue at stake was equality. What really needed to be done was promotion of more awareness and education around the services provided by the equality courts, and this would be highly enhanced by success stories, which regrettably were still very minimal at present.
Mr G Solomon (ANC) remarked that there was important legislation in PEPUDA but the indications were that discrimination had not reduced. He agreed that there should be more emphasis on public education, especially on where and how to access the equality courts, and how the vulnerable people were being discriminated against.
The Chairperson agreed and remarked that these points would be emphasised accordingly in the draft report.
Ms S Camerer (DA) remarked that there was not enough emphasis on the disabled throughout the report. She was of the opinion that in order to uphold the Bill of Rights properly these aspects must be further highlighted.
The Chairperson replied that the Committee was aware that there were many unfunded mandates. This was their major problem because each time the Department asked for funding from the National Treasury they were denied the funds, and as a result had to re-prioritize the current funds. However, she did agree that more needed to be done around the disabled’s access to courts. There was not much further that could be done by the Committee in terms of its recommendations. She added that, as earlier mentioned, the Commission dealing with the status of the youth and the disabled would be making recommendations that were going to be debated by the Committee.
Ms Camerer asked whether if the Equality Review Committee was still in existence, since the terms of office had expired.
The Chairperson replied that this committee was no longer in existence. One of the problematic issues with the committee had been the overlap of duties, and one of the issues still to be discussed arising out of the reports was how well the committee had functioned in the past.
Ms C Johnson (ANC) remarked that she was worried about the fact that the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) never mentioned PEPUDA or Equality Courts when they were asked about their mandate during the hearings to review the Chapter 9 Institutions. She was of the opinion this might be one of the reasons why so few cases were being referred to the equality courts. She suggested that the CGE appear before this Committee for extensive discussions on how many matters the CGE were referring to the equality courts and what they were doing in terms of awareness.
The Chairperson replied that she did not want to jump to any conclusions before CGE had presented before the Committee. If indeed they were not fulfilling the mandate on equality then it was a cause for concern, as it meant that there were a number of cases not being attended to. She added that the Committee had requested CGE to submit its reports.
The Chairperson informed the Committee that the recommendations now made would be incorporated into the report. She asked that any further recommendations also be notified to her.
The meeting was adjourned.