Commission on Gender Equality Annual Report 2006/07 & Budget 2007/08

Meeting Summary

A summary of this committee meeting is not yet available.

Meeting report


1 June 2007

Ms M Morutoa (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Presentation by the Chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality
Commission on Gender Equality Budget Report 2006/07

Audio Recording of the Meeting

The Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) briefed the committee on its mandate, strategic plans, activities, challenges and financial performance during 2006/07 and submitted its budget for 2007/08. Achievements included the submission to the ad hoc committee reviewing all Chapter 9 bodies, and initiatives taken to strengthen South Africa’s gender machinery. The Commission was represented in all nine provinces and had improved partnership relationships. Staff had been increased and various administrative issues improved. An unqualified audit report was received. Major challenges were insufficient resources, the budgeting process whereby funding was received through the Department of Justice, and the reporting structure, which potentially compromised its independence. The budget for 2007/08 was R39.7 million, and there was expected to be a shortfall of R3.9 million, which would be made up by donor funding. Despite increases in personnel there were capacity challenges, preventing outreach to all areas. The most pervasive gender equality concerns and the challenges emanating from the Act were listed, as were the major achievements. Members were concerned about the commission’s ability to reach the people at grass-roots level and it’s functioning at the provincial level. Questions were raised regarding the accessibility of the Commission and the predominance of English in the commission’s publications, and concern was expressed on the continuing violence against women and children, the increase in violent incidents at schools and the overall culture of violence in the country. Further questions related to the steps taken to address the A-G’s comments in the previous audit report, which were explained in detail, the Commission’s involvement in removing gender discrimination from the statute books and the strengthening of the national gender machinery.

Commission on Gender Equality Annual Report briefing 2006/07 and Budget 2007/08
Ms Joyce  Piliso-Seroke, Chairperson – CGE, noted that the Commission on Gender Equality was a statutory body set up under Chapter 9 of the Constitution, with the responsibility to monitor all organs of society to ensure that gender equality was respected, to assess all legislation, to conduct research, to inform the public, to investigate complaints and to monitor progress towards gender equality and compliance. It would also interact with various institutions and other authorities and civil society.

The strategic objectives followed the mandate, and its regular corporate were outlined. It highlighted its
submission to the ad-hoc committee tasked with the review of all chapter nine bodies and the initiatives taken to strengthen South Africa’s gender machinery. Ms Piliso-Seroke reported that offices were now established in all nine provinces and the scope and depth of relationships with partner-organisations were widened. The staff complement was increased to 101, and the staff leave system was revised. An unqualified audit report had been received. Major challenges remained as insufficient resources to carry out its mandate, and the budgeting process whereby the CGE received its funding allocation through the Department of Justice. She expressed concern that this reporting structure compromised the fundamental independence of the CGE.

Ms Chana Majake, Chief Executive Officer – CGE presented the CGE’s budget report for the period 2006/07 (see attached document). She reported that the budget allocation for 2007/08 was  R39.7 million, an increase from R37.8 million in 2006/07. She pointed out that the shortfall in funding was reduced to R1.5 million in 2006/07 but was expected to be R3.9 million in 2007/08. The CGE continued to make up the shortfall in its required funding by means of donor funding, but felt strongly that it should be allowed to make direct representation to National Treasury for its funding requirements.

A summary of the personnel expenses budget for the years 2005/06 to 2008/09 was provided. Although the number of officials increased from 94 to 101 over the previous year, and the CGE was represented in all the provinces, it lacked the capacity to reach the more outlying areas of the country. The presentation included pie charts of the percentage distribution of funds for the Commission’s main activities, expenditure per programme and division of funding amongst the provinces.

Details of the sub-programmes under each of the main public education and information, research and legal services programmes were provided. Current research included the gender implications of widowhood, the Department of Education’s attempts to infuse gender in the school curriculum, a survey on gender, HIV/Aids and the Elderly, country compliance monitoring through the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, infusion of gender into national, regional and international processes developing treaties, and review of the National Gender Machinery. The most pervasive gender equality concerns were listed, including rape, femicide, sexual abuse of children, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, boy-to-boy violence in schools, witch hunts and ritual murders, exploitation of widows and the elderly, sexual harassment and unfair labour practices and gender-based violence against people with disabilities. The public information and education interventions were listed. The activities of the legal services division were described. The main challenges from the CGE Act were listed as attempting to overcome entrenched gender inequality and patriarchy, the relationship with the Executive, alignment of roles of National Gender Machinery partners, and the difference between the broad mandate and limited resource allocation. General challenges were the monitoring implementation and enforcement to state agencies, amendment of old statutes and availability and flow of information from Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for monitoring purposes. .

Major achievements included an increased awareness and assertion of women’s rights, an increase in the participation of women in political decision-making, an increased awareness of the CGE and an increase in the championing of women’s rights by men. The CGE participated in international meetings and conferences, improved the extent of its outreach and accessibility and had strategic impact on matters of policy, legislative framework, access to justice, Government and public sector programmes, service delivery, effectiveness of civil society and the identification and removal of discriminatory practices, customs and beliefs.

Mr D Mabena (ANC) wanted to know if the Commission’s employment criteria allowed for absorbing the youth and capacitating them.

Rev Bafana Khumalo, Commissioner – CGE,  replied that the CGE had appointed the youngest commissioner in the country, a young woman from the Northern Cape province. He added that the average age of the Commission’s staff was very young and that the youth made a significant contribution to the CGE.

Mr Godfried Kruger, Chief Financial Officer – CGE, added that the Commission had a successful intern programme for the youth.

Ms E Mabe (ANC) asked if the names of the provincial commissioners and the offices where they were based could be provided to the Committee.

Ms Piliso-Seroke explained that Commissioners were appointed on a national basis and not on a provincial basis. It was planned that all Commissioners were based at the CGE’s head office in Johannesburg. Commissioners were deployed to provinces where their skills, experience and expertise were needed.

Ms Mabe asked what the current relationship was between the CGE and the provincial legislatures.

Ms Majake replied that the CGE cascaded the activities performed at the national level to the provincial level as well. The Commission made submissions to both national and provincial committees in the preparation of bills. Although the CGE had no formal provincial reporting structure, it was invited by the provincial legislatures to provide input into their processes.

Rev Khumalo added that although there were women caucuses at provincial level, these did not function very well and the Commission suggested that they should rather operate as a standing committee in order to be more effective.

Ms Mabe asked for an explanation of the discrepancy of 68 cases between the numbers of complaints received (407 cases), finalized (153 cases) and pending (186 cases).

Ms Mavis Monama, Head of Department: Legal – CGE,  explained that the majority of cases dealt with by the CGE were cases where a person’s rights as defined by the Bill of Rights were violated. Most were sexual harassment cases in the workplace where, although companies had procedures and policies in place, these were not adhered to. She explained that 153 cases were finalised before the end of the last financial year, by 31 March 2007. 186 new cases were reported since April 2007 and were in the process of being dealt with. The difference of 68 cases were those reported in the previous year which were still in progress.

Ms C Zikalala (IFP) commended the CGE for the work it was doing. She felt that the campaign of 16 days of activism against violence to women and children should be extended to 365 days per year. She asked if the CGE observed any improvement in the incidents of domestic violence, rape and human trafficking. She referred to recent media reports of violence amongst children and asked what could be done to stop the violence in schools.

Ms Nomboniso Gasa, Commissioner – CGE, replied that the 16 days of activism campaign was intended to raise awareness of the issues of violence against women and children, to sensitise society and to change people’s attitude to a culture of violence. She explained that the issue of violence was of ongoing importance but campaigns over long periods tended to lose their momentum as the levels of interest and energy were reduced.

Rev Khumalo conceded that the general culture of violence in our society needed to be addressed. He pointed out that violence in schools was also present in the United Kingdom and United States of America. He said that it was important to identify the root cause and that it was a major challenge to address this issue.

Dr Maretha de Waal, Head of Department: Research – CGE, reported on the progress made by the CGE in the research and analysis of issues of gender in the education system. The Commission had engaged with the Department of Education and planned to conduct further research at the schools level. She mentioned that boy-to-boy violence was identified as one of the critical gender issues and that this needed to be included in the range of programmes offered in schools. She added that the Commission was aware of the problems related to violence in schools and was including this issue in its systematic approach to dealing with violence as a whole.

Ms Rosieda Shabodien, Commissioner – CGE, agreed with Dr De Waal that violence was a systemic problem in society and that the media reported the symptoms of this problem. She added that the rape, sexual harassment and sexual bullying of girls and teachers were of major concern and that the problems were exacerbated by the lack of suitable policies and programmes in schools.

Ms B Ngcobo (ANC) noted that some provinces received 4% of funding while others received 5%, as listed in slide 14 of the budget presentation. She asked for further information on how the division of funds was made. (This question was not answered).

Ms Ngcobo enquired about the Commission’s website.

Ms Majake replied that the CGE’s website was not yet completed and certain sections were still under construction. She expected it to be completed within the next few months.

Ms Ngcobo asked what was meant by the “tradition/culture” type of complaint referred to in slide 23 of the budget presentation document.

Ms Majake explained that the CGE’s approach was to divide the work done on gender issues along themes, such as traditional or cultural themes.

Ms Janet Semple (DA) noted the research done by the CGE into the effectiveness of the national gender machinery and the progress that was made so far. She expressed concern that much was being talked about yet there appeared to be little work actually taking place.

Ms Semple noted that a surplus of R2 million was reflected in the 2005/06 annual financial statements. She asked if the Commission had the capacity to spend all the funds allocated to it.

Ms Majake asserted that the CGE had sufficient resources to spend the allocated funds. She confirmed that a Human Resources Manager, Communications Manager and Office Administration Manager were appointed but the growth in the activities of the CGE had put pressure on the human resources and information technology departments and more capacity was needed in these areas. She added that the funds allocated in previous years were less than the budgeted amount and the commission usually had a shortfall, which it made up by soliciting donor funding.

Ms Semple noted that English was used for much of the CGE’s information programmes and she was concerned that the information did not reach rural women. She wanted to know if the Commission was making attempts to reach such women by using their own languages in the information that was being distributed.

Ms Majake replied that the CGE managed a number of publications such as results from research and monitoring activities, pamphlets, posters, leaflets and training material. She conceded that the Commission was unable to translate the material into all the official languages, as well as Braille, due to limited resources. She pointed out that the selection criteria for the appointment of Commissioners included knowledge of different languages as well as an understanding of the people and dynamics in the provinces.

Rev Khumalo added that the CGE conducted interviews on the non-English language radio stations.

Dr De Waal explained that although information was provided in English to ensure consistency and accuracy across all the provinces, the material was translated and disseminated in the relevant languages spoken in each province.

Ms Semple noted the work done by the Commission on ensuring gender equality was removed from older legislation. She asked what was still outstanding in this regard.

Ms Gasa replied that the Law Review Commission (LRC) determined in 2002 that there were 899 laws in conflict with the Constitution. She proposed that the CGE work with the LRC to flag the laws that needed to be amended, to examine the framework of the legislation and to bring the interpretation of the laws in line with gender equality.

Dr De Waal explained that the CGE’s approach to identify discriminatory legislation was to conduct research into social categories, groups and issues, such as widows, the elderly and HIV/AIDS.

Mr F Maserumule (ANC) remarked that South Africa was one of the most sophisticated countries in terms of infrastructure yet still experienced problems with high levels of crime and violence against women and children. He felt that the necessary legislation and policies were in place but that there was a problem with delivery and implementation. He asked what mechanisms needed to be in place to address these issues.

Ms Gasa acknowledged the members’ frustration with the amount of talking that was done in relation to the amount of action that was taken. She felt that it was also necessary to obtain clarity and to formulate implementation strategies by holding discussions with affected parties before taking action. She assured the Committee that the CGE was action-oriented.

Ms Morutoa asked what the relationship between the CGE and the constituent offices was. She added that members were obliged to disseminate information to their constituents and asked what items they could place on the agenda.

Rev Khumalo applauded the way the President’s imbizos were employed to disseminate information down to grass-roots level. He encouraged the manner in which officials and departments were held publicly accountable.

Ms Piliso-Seroke replied that one of the ways to reach the people on the ground was the relationship formed between the CGE and the parliamentary committees. The committee members were in a position to relate the information provided by the Commission to their constituents.

Ms Morutoa confirmed that the CGE had received a qualified audit from the Auditor-General (A-G) for the 2005/06 financial year. She asked if the vacant post of Human Resources Manager was filled and if the other audit comments were dealt with.

Mr Kruger advised that, since his appointment in December 2006, he had ensured that the issues raised in the A-G’s report were addressed. He had enquired about the surplus and had put mechanisms in place to return the funds. In her later response to another question, Ms Majake informed the committee that the surplus resulted from moneys accrued for the rental of office space from the Department of Public Works and the provision made for the appointment of Commissioners to the five vacant posts the commission had at the time.

Mr Kruger confirmed that a system was put in place to determine the leave due and the amounts of leave pay. The Human Resource Manager and Administration Manager posts were filled. A supply chain management policy was approved and a database of service providers was in the process of being compiled. The Commission implemented a balanced scorecard, based on the Government’s empowerment policies for BEE, women and the disabled. An asset count was done at the year-end and the Commission’s assets were in the process of being bar-coded for an electronic asset control system. The reconciliation procedures for cheques and petty cash were implemented and he had taken over the responsibility for journal entries. All senior personnel were required to submit declarations of interest for auditing by the Auditor General (AG) A procedure was implemented to process payment for travel claims only upon receipt of the proper documents, an order form and an invoice. The filing system was revamped to ensure that all contract documents could be found.

Ms Morutoa wanted to know if an office was established in Mpumalanga province.

Ms Majake explained that the Mpumalanga and Gauteng offices were only established after the end of the reporting period and will be reflected in the next financial reports. She conceded that, although the CGE had offices in the main cities and larger towns, it needed to be more accessible in the remoter areas. She suggested that satellite offices may address this need in future.

Ms Morutoa asked how many workshops were held in each province and what the focus of the workshops was. She asked for an explanation of the discrepancies in the attendance figures between the different provinces.

Mr Maserumule asked how accessible the offices were to ordinary people and persons with disabilities.

Mr Maserumule asked if there was adequate information available on traditional courts and suggested that these courts were included by the CGE in the application of gender equality matters.

Ms Morutoa suggested that the next round-table conference with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries was held in South Africa.

Ms Zikalala asked for an explanation of what was meant by “the gender nature of widowhood”. She asked for more information on the progress made on the witch-hunting and killing of old women in Limpopo province. She also wanted to know what progress was made on the issues around child maintenance payments.

Ms Morutoa regretted that the meeting had to be cut short at this point. She concluded the meeting by noting the appointment of more Commissioners and looked forward to their future attendance at meetings between the Committee and the CGE. She repeated her earlier concern that there was an overlap between committees and suggested that both Committees and the CGE meet on a regular basis. She stated that there was a need to start empowering the national gender machinery. From the briefing, it was clear that the CGE had identified the gaps and were in the process of addressing these matters. She expressed the Committee’s hope for a clean audit of the last financial period and requested a written report on the actions taken to clear the issues raised in the last audit report.

On behalf of the CGE delegation, Ms Piliso-Seroke thanked the Committee and the Chairperson for its continued support. An invitation was extended to Ms Zikalala to attend the commission’s conference on the gender nature of widowhood, to be held on 19 September 2007 in Limpopo province.

The meeting was adjourned.


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