Opposition MPs questioned the reason for a Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities in the Presidency in the light of the high prevalence of gender-based violence in South Africa.
But, according to Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Person’s with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa is lauded internationally for its policies.
Nkoana-Mashabane presented her department’s budget vote speech to a virtual mini-plenary of the National Assembly on Wednesday.
“Gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF), which has been declared a second pandemic, remains a dark stain to our country’s image,” she said in her prepared speech to start the debate.
“We must continue to speak out and report any instances of GBVF.”
She said the department was committed to eradicating the “pandemic”, and that this required a collective effort from all sectors of society.
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“Since the launch of the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on GBVF in April last year, the department is working tirelessly to coordinate and monitor the implementation of this plan.”
She mentioned the following six indicators of “progress” in the implementation of the NSP:
Monthly progress reports on the implementation of the NSP were submitted to the president;
National departments have integrated the NSP priorities in their Departmental Annual Plans and have been reporting against their annual targets;
Multi-stakeholder collaboratives supported by UN Women are fully functional and meet regularly to support the implementation of the NSP;
The department is working with provinces and districts to integrate the NSP into their Provincial Departmental Plans, District Development Plan and establishment of District Rapid Response Teams;
“The Inter-Ministerial Committee on GBVF continues to oversee the implementation of NSP by playing a key facilitation role;
We have developed a draft bill to establish a National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide that will coordinate the implementation of the NSP to ensure that as a nation, we eradicate gender-based violence and femicide in this decade. We will be consulting on this bill soon.
This did little to impress opposition MPs.
EFF MP Ntokozo Hlonyana said: “This department is nothing more than an employment agency for a few ANC comrades.
“It means and does absolutely nothing for women’s empowerment. You have driven no visible and impactful programmes. You have done nothing to align the work of various government departments in the fight against oppression and exploitation of women.”
FF Plus MP Tammy Breedt said the department had squandered money that could have had a positive impact on South Africans’ lives.
“This department should actually not even be a department, because if government… totally has followed its mandate, accomplished targets and set out to achieve true equality for women, youth and people with disabilities, it would be unnecessary.”
‘Literally killing people’
DA MP Nazley Sharif said the scourge of GBVF had not decreased, and that there was no evidence that there was “any fight against this pandemic and that more lives are being saved”.
In fact, I would argue that most of the interventions that government fails to implement, since 2019, is literally killing people. This is a direct result of poor planning, poor leadership, and a complete lack of any accountability on the part of the Department and other key implementing departments across government.
“A clear and damning example of this is the department not meeting any of its targets in the implementation of the Emergency Response Action Plan. The department and its leadership should hang their heads in shame.
“The way you speak about GBVF in the House is absolutely perfunctory,” Sharif told Nkoana-Mashabane.
“You lead an entire department of over 100 officials and a budget of R201.1 million to make an actual change in the lives of woman, the LGBTQIA+ community, youth and persons with disabilities, but you simply don’t.”
The ANC MPs who participated expressed their support for the department’s programmes and hailed Charlotte Maxeke.
Nkoana-Mashabane responded to the debate in a somewhat convoluted fashion.
“As for painful issues of gender-based violence and femicide, all over the world, nations respect South Africa’s policies, even with the Beijing plus 65 in New York (sic), the clarion call word was: South Africa, you’re doing very well.
“Everywhere else, remember, countries are talking about gender-based violence. It is us who add, ‘and femicide’. Why? Because when our president saw this, he said, ‘because of the height of femicide’,” she said.
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“One day, at twelve at night, the minister of police called me and asked, ‘are we now being requested that we put a policeman at the doorstep of every adult couple because people who are supposed to love and protect women are the ones who are slaughtering them in a peaceful South Africa?’
“So, that’s why we’ve gone beyond that. Yes, we have NSP, yes, we have looked at other mechanisms, yes, we will be moving a bill soon, which will bring about a council.”
After she spoke, an ANC MP said: “Long live, minister!”
“You are out of touch. You’re out of touch, minister!” said an unidentified male MP before the feed was cut.