ATC200717: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology on Consideration of the Commission for Gender Equality (Cge) Report on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2018/19, Dated17 July 2020

Higher Education, Science and Technology




The Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology (hereinafter referred to as the Committee), having considered the Commission for Gender Equality’s (CGE) report on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2018/19 on 02 June 2020, reports as follows:


  1. Background

Transformation remains an important aspect of the Post-School Education and Training (PSET) system. One of the founding values of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is non-racialism and non-sexism. The Education White Paper 3: A programme for the transformation of Higher Education (DoE: 1997) explains that the transformation of higher education requires that all existing practices, institutions, and values are viewed anew and rethought in terms of their fitness for the new era. It further states that successful policy in higher education must also create an enabling institutional environment and culture that is sensitive to and affirms diversity, promotes reconciliation and respect for human life, protects the dignity of individuals from racial and sexual harassment, and rejects all other forms of violent behaviour.Additionally, the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training aims to have a post-school system that can assist in building a fair, equitable, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.


1.2 Mandate of Committee

Section 55(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa stipulates that “the National Assembly (NA) must provide for mechanisms (a) to ensure that all executive organs of state in the national sphere of government are accountable to it; and (b) to maintain oversight of (i) national executive authority, including the implementation of the legislation; and (ii) any organ of state”.  Rule 227 of the Rules of the National Assembly (9th edition) provides for mechanisms contemplated in section 55(2) of the Constitution.

The Committee has an oversight role over the Department of Higher Education and Training and higher education institutions to monitor progress towards the achievement of the transformation goals, including implementation of Employment Equity Plans and policies to address gender-based violence.

1.3. Mandate of the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE)

The CGE is an independent statutory body established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. The Commission’s mandate is to promote respect for, and the protection, development and attainment of gender equality. To this end, the Commission for Gender Equality Act (No. 39 of 1996), as amended, gives the Commission the power to monitor and evaluate policies and practices of organs of State at any level; statutory bodies and functionaries; public bodies and authorities and private businesses, enterprises; research and make any recommendations to Parliament. Furthermore, the CGE receive and investigate complaints of gender discrimination; and conduct public awareness and education on gender equality. The CGE has powers to subpoena and to institute litigation.

The Annual Performance Plan (APP) 2018/19 requires the Commission to conduct hearings looking at gender transformation in universities. The hearing serves as a platform to: understand gender dynamics accompanied by a slow pace of transformation within institutions of higher learning; taking into consideration the labour legislations aimed at transformation, more especially, Employment Equity Act (No. 55 of 1998), Basic Condition of Employment Act (No. 75 of 1997), Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act No. 4 of 2000) and applicable common law developments.

1.4. Purpose of the Report

The purpose of this report is to account in accordance with Rule 166 of the National Assembly (NA) for the work done by the Committee in considering the CGE Report on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions Hearings 2018/19 as referred by the Speaker of the National Assembly to the Committee in terms of Rule 338 for consideration and reporting in terms of Rules 339 and 340 respectively.

2. Summary of the presentation on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2018/19

The CGE was represented by its Chairperson, Ms T Mathebula,the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms K Maema and other representatives. In her opening remarks, Ms Mathebula started off by outlining the mandate of the CGE as per section 187 of the Constitution and the CGE Act, 1996 (Act No. 39 of 1996). With respect to gender transformation at institutions of higher learning, the Commission looked at 22 out of the 26 universities and the hearings began in 2016, and 2018 for thisReport. The Commission subpoenaed the Vice-Chancellors (VCs) to the Commission to respond to a questionnaire and submit information on their policy documents. The questionnaire was designed in a manner to determine the transformation within universities in detail. The Commission makes findings and recommendations to the information submitted by the institutions and monitor the progress made towards the realization of transformation.

Ms K Maema: CEO took members through the presentation of the Report on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2018/19. As part of the background, she said the Commission embarked on gender transformation hearings in tertiary institutions, and this was influenced by media reports on sex marks allegations, sexual harassment allegations and the need for inclusion of persons with disabilities. The Commission further sought to unearth the gender dynamics, and the slow pace of transformation within tertiary institutions. The following institutions formed part of the hearings: University of Zululand; Nelson Mandela University; Sol Plaatje University; Mpumalanga University and the Department of Higher Education and Training.

2.1. University of Zululand (UniZulu)

With respect to UniZulu, the Commission observed that there was a total of 1 060 personnel employed by the University, with a breakdown of 534 females and 524 males. The top management positions were dominated by males. A significant number of females were in administrative positions with 389 females and 330 males. The recommendations of the Commission included: UniZulu should appoint sign language practitioners to assist deaf students with interpretation during lecturers with immediate effect; gender transformation should be included as a key performance indicator in the contracts of two executives responsible for gender transformation; the University should adopt GBV policy and recruitment policy to include persons with disabilities.

2.2. Nelson Mandela University (NMU)

The Commission observed that there was progress in respect of gender representation in academic staff from 41% in 2005 to 51% in 2018. The top and senior management positions favoured women, and men dominated in the bands of professionally qualified and mid-management. The Commission recommended that NMU must explore strategies to increase women in the professional bands. The Commission observed that the University fell short in respect of a gender parity of staff members in the faculties of science, engineering and law. The Commission noted that people with disabilities (PWD) were extremely under-represented at the University. Out of 2 451 employees, the University had 36 employees with disabilities. The Commission recommended that the University must actively recruit people with disabilities to increase representation. The Commission also found that policies at the University were not reviewed bi-annually and recommended for compliance in this regard.

2.3. Sol Plaatje University (SPU)

The Commission expressed its concerns around the fact that the University did not employ PWDat all occupational levels. Moreover, all senior management positions were occupied by males and 38% were women and 62% men in academic positions. The University submitted that it struggled in attracting established senior academics to mentor emerging academics. The Commission found that no gender transformation budget had been allocated by the University. The University had no gender policy and that the sexual harassment policy was only applicable to staff and not students. The Commission recommended that: SPU include PWD in their employment; trains lecturers on sign language as a matter of urgency; fence the campus off and improve security on campus and residences; develops policies on gender/success and career pathing/ staff retention; allocates budget to support gender transformation; develops sexual harassment policy for students and develops programmes to support victims of GBV.

2.4. University of Mpumalanga (UMP)

The Commission observed that the University was newly established and this warranted that gender transformation be prioritised from the onset. TheCommission also observed that there was lack of transformation in relation to female representation in top and academic positions. Only two PWD were employed at the University, and there were no measures in place to promote gender transformation. The Commission recommended that: a senior manager be appointed for implementation of the employment equity plan; the University must institute strict measures such as dialogues, workshops or campaigns to sensitise the University community on policies such as sexual harassment, disciplinary code of staff and students.

2.5. Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET)

For 2018/19, the DHET appeared before the Commission to track the progress of promoting gender equality at its institutions. The Commission noted with concern the slow progress on gender transformation at the DHET. The DHET failed to intervene on matters of institutions of higher learning and training despite the powers bestowed upon it. Issues relating to gender equality were not taken seriously within the DHET. The Commission recommended that: gender mainstreaming be implemented in the DHET policies; the DHET must train its cohorts in respect of disabilities, retain women in higher positions; the DHET must have a policy addressing gender equality and equity in higher education with set targets, there is a need for inclusion of Africans and coloured persons at academic level and must have clear target to meet with regard to PWDs.

3. Observations

The Committee, having considered and deliberated on the report on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2018/19, made the following observations:

  • The report of the Commission was welcomed its work as a Chapter 9 institution was commended.
  • Members noted that the report of the Commission was limited in its scope, and focused mainly on gender representation at institutional level, and did not take into account the representation of women, youth and people with disabilities in businesses that have contracts with the institutions. The Commission indicated that it has a specific report which deals with women’s representation in procurement work of the institutions.
  • The under-representation of women in critical decision-making positions at institutions of higher learning was noted as an ongoing concern. The Commission concurred with the Committee’s concern and also noted that there has been transformation taking place in some institutions that were engaged.
  • The Committee noted that it is pivotal to ensure funding of students is accessible for postgraduate studies to ensure increased representation of women in the make-up of institutional management.
  • Members expressed concerns with respect to the manner in which the case of Prof Phendla v Prof Mbati was handled by the Commission. It was noted that the Commission did not follow-up on to the action taken by the University of Venda to implement its recommendations, and the alleged perpetrator was never charged for the alleged misconduct. Consequently, he was appointed as a Vice-Chancellor (VC) at Sefako Makgatho University (SMU). The Commission indicated that the Minister of Higher Education and Training had a specific role to play in the case, and correspondence was sent to the Minister highlighting the issues that needed to be followed up, including the recommendations of the report. In addition, some of the recommendations were for the University of Venda. The Commission had hoped that the Minister would take forward some of the matters raised in its report.
  • The Committee expressed its concern with respect to the disjuncture between internal processes of institutions and the South African Police Service (SAPS) in dealing with GBV related matters.
  • The Committee inquired about the role of the Commission in the Ministerial Task Team on GBV and sexual harassment at universities appointed by the Minister in 2019. The Commission indicated that its role is to monitor the functioning of the Task Team, and has no mandate in its work.
  • The Committee inquired about the progress with respect to the development of a policy by the DHET to guide all the institutions in the PSET system on the development of policy in relation to curb the spread of GBV and sexual harassment. The Commission indicated that it had engagements with the DHET since 2017 on this matter, and as far as its information, the DHET has not yet developed a policy or strategy to guide all institutions on the development of GBV related policies.
  • The Committee inquired about recent reports on gender transformation in higher education. The entity indicated that the recent report of hearings was undertaken in 2019.  Budget constraints limit the Commission’s ability to reach out to more institutions in the PSET system.
  • The Committee inquired about the work undertaken by the Commission in other PSET institutions such as TVET and CET colleges including SETAs. The Commission indicated that, in the past 2019/20 financial year, it conducted a systemic investigation into TVET colleges only, and work had not been undertaken in CET colleges and SETAs.
  • The Committee inquired about the Commission’s plans to have more recent reports on gender transformation at Tertiary Institutions. The Commission indicated that, during the 2020/21, it will embark on the systematic investigation in the following TVET colleges: Nkangala, Northern Cape Urban; South West Gauteng and Waterberg.


4. Summary

The Committee welcomed the report undertaken by the Commission on gender transformation at tertiary institutions 2018/19, and also encouraged the Commission to continue doing good work. The Committee also acknowledged the difficulties experienced by the CGE with respect to expand its work to more institutions in the PSET system due to funding constraints. However, the Committee expressed the view that issues of gender transformation, GBV and sexual harassment cut across the entire PSET system, thus, it is necessary to also focus on other institutions such as TVET and CET colleges, as well as the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).


The Committee expressed its concern with respect to the institutions that are not complying with the gender balance quotas, and called for stronger repercussions against the non-compliance with legislative framework on employment equity. The Committee also added that gender transformation at highest decision-making level in institutions of higher learning should be a norm, not subject to further debate.


5. Recommendations

The Committee having considered the CGE Report on Gender Transformation at Tertiary Institutions 2018/19, recommends that the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology consider the following:


  • The DHET formulates a policy framework on GBV, which will serve as a guiding framework to the institutions in the post-school education and training (PSET) system.
  • The Committee institutes a preliminary inquiry into allegations of sexual harassment by Prof Mbati.
  • There is a need for close collaboration between institutional gender offices and the CGE.
  • Consequence management be implemented against Councils/Boards that do not comply with the gender mainstreaming across the PSET system.


Report to be considered.







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