The Minister of COGTA, Hon Nkadimeng
The Deputy Minister of the DWYPDs and ANCWL President, Hon Sisisi Tolashe
The NEC Members of SALGA present, led by the Deputy President Hon Flora Boltman
The Chairperson of SALGA in the GP, Hon Jongizizwe Dlabathi
The SWC Commissioners and the MPWCs
Executive Mayors, Speakers, and Cllrs on the online platform
Our Colleagues from the United Nations Women
Hon Mayor Maria Helena LANGA of the Network of Locally Elected Leaders in Africa (REFELA), connected online.
Our Colleague from Sweden online Hon Anne Scheffer Leander-
Distinguished Guests and our partners
The SALGA officials led by the CEO, Mr Sithole Mbanga
Municipal officials connected online
Ladies and Gentlemen
We meet, a year after the SWC National Conference held in Birchwood Hotel, on the 24-26 August 2022, where women entrusted me with the responsibility of leading this commission. A lot has happened since then and as we meet in these two days, we will interact as women and other colleagues in the sector and other sectors to unpack the current challenges of women representation in local government and pave a way forward to how we hope to influence the change we want to see. This National Lekgotla and master class series is convened in line with the national Women’s month theme: “Accelerating socio-economic opportunities for empowerment of women.” The SWC is a mechanism to institutionalise advocacy processes as the voice of women in local government and to ensure progress at a local level as well as supporting the national, regional, and global goals of women empowerment and gender equality and equity. The strategic objective of the Women’s Commission is to increase the representation and participation of women in local government to parity. This strategic objective is supported by a range of specific objectives that will ensure that women’s representation and participation become more than merely a quantitative exercise.
This lekgotla and masterclass series will meet the following objectives:
To debate the shifts and trends of women’s political representation in municipal elections in South Africa.
To reflect and assess progress of local government in meeting regional and international commitments for achieving gender equality by 2030.
To acknowledge and strengthen the leadership role that women play in running municipalities and the state of the gender machinery in municipalities.
To discuss current affairs pertinent to women empowerment and gender equality debate.
To introduce women leaders to one of the modules done with the Swedish International Centre for Local Democracy (ICLD) and discuss current debates on the legislation affecting women.
To build a knowledge base to strengthen and enhance effectiveness in the participants’ leadership roles.
The master class series fits into the lekgotla program as a mechanism to empower women with knowledge and for them to encourage more participation on the programs as well has understanding work we do with our partners as SALGA.
The year 2023 marks 67 years since the united march by women in 1956, against pass laws. This significant occasion commemorates the remarkable accomplishments of women who courageously fought against oppression, subjugation, and disenfranchisement in history.
It also acknowledges the ongoing efforts towards women's empowerment, progress, and the realization of gender equality. Unity of purpose, strength and power is what sets apart our forebears, who defied race, class, tribe, and political party interests, to join forces to fight a system of oppression.
The conditions politically, socially, and economically by then were very unfavourable compared to today.
Before we speak of socio-economic empowerment, we need to identify the challenges confronting women today. We need to ask ourselves, what will we unite for as women of South Africa today? Why are our voices on and off, and so fragmented against present day injustices faced by women and girls? What will our generation be known for? We need to respond to these questions circumspectly. Despite South Africa having an abundance of robust laws and policies aimed at promoting women's rights and achieving gender equality, women still bear the brunt of various hardships of poverty, unemployment, and inequalities. They remain marginalized from mainstream economic opportunities and face challenges in accessing financial services. Furthermore, women are usually outnumbered by men in the workforce and tend to be concentrated in low-skilled and low-paying jobs. We are proud of the women that have achieved beyond their imagination, including us, who have been elected to these positions of responsibility, as President Ramaphosa said on women’s Day, “women are taking charge of their destinies, inspiring others, and driving change. They are excelling in areas once closed to women; as engineers, scientists, managers, pilots, farmers, judges, magistrates, athletes, marine pilots, and soldiers.” We need these numbers to grow.
The 1994 democratic dispensation ushered some reforms through pieces of legislation and policies which seemed to address disparities of the past which we need to jealously guard and enforce.
Some of these policies are not implemented, and at times mischievously used and misinterpreted and we need to deal with this.
From now onwards we need to take stock of all policies we have and clearly understand them as to whether they talk to the challenges we are confronted with. SAWID as our partner is working with us on some of the legislation, but we need to go back to our municipalities to assess the policies we have.
Women today are confronted with the following challenges:
GBVF, crime and wars, and in South Africa, GBVF has reached pandemic proportions
Lack of access to Water and Sanitation
Exclusion in economy and value chain
Exclusion in decision making positions in all spheres of government
Exclusion in Managerial positions in workplaces
Disparities in salaries with male executives
On the above allow me to draw your attention to the Constitution of the Republic in relation to women participation.
The right to vote is one of the core values that underpin South Africa's democracy. Section 1(d) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides for universal adult suffrage, a national common voter’s roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness.
The Constitution also guarantees women the freedom from any form of discrimination based on their sex. In addition, the Constitution emphasises the need for substantive equality.
Women must not only be seen to be treated equally but must be progressively promoted to be on an equal footing with men.
It must be made clear that 50/50 is not a favour to women of this country but a critical policy instrument for advancing equity, equality, and progress. Women fought for the ANC 50/50 policy as part of the struggle against patriarchy and the process towards engendered democracy and the transformation agenda. This policy must be defended, and all political parties influenced to adopt 50/50 representation. Once political parties agree, they will find women to lead, the pretence that women are not available or not able should not be used when the environment for them to avail themselves is made not to be conducive and is worsening at every election.
Equality is defined to include the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms and the state must promote equality through legislation and other measures.
Section 19 of the Constitution enshrines the right to political participation.
It confirms the right to make political choices; to enjoy free, fair, and regular elections and the right to vote and stand for public office.
The Constitution does not provide for quotas to ensure adequate representation of women in elected public bodies, nor are any legal quotas established for national or provincial elections.
The Constitution does, however, create an enabling framework in which women’s equal participation can be realised. South Africa is also a signatory to many international and regional treaties that promote the equality and rights of women, but women continue to be confronted with barriers that prevent them from fully enjoying their political rights.
The electoral system for local government is regulated in at least four different statutes:
the Electoral Act 73 of 1998, the Local Government:
Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998,
the Local Government: Municipal Electoral Act 27 of 2000
the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000.
The Municipal Structures Act, for example, states that “every party must seek to ensure that fifty percent (50%) of the candidates on the party list are women and that women and men candidates are evenly distributed through the list”.
These acts together with the guiding principles in the Constitution require that women have fair representation and participation in the local government leadership.
Equally important is that as women we must not appropriate these institutional power positions for their sake but bring the desired change. As someone aptly put it, "It`s not about simply mainstreaming women. It`s not about women joining the polluted stream. It`s about cleaning the stream, changing stagnant pools into fresh, flowing waters".
This means as we represent women in all decision-making structures for such representation to have a lasting impact, it must qualitatively change for the better the conditions of girls and women in rural and township, the downtrodden and marginalized. The 37% women representation in local government in the 2021 elections is a drawback we must redress.
Programme director we must look at the role and programmes of the MPWCs and SPU currently.
The MPWCs as section 79 committees, are the legislative arm of Council and exist to oversee gender mainstreaming and monitoring and evaluation of gender responsiveness in the programs implemented by the municipality.
Does this currently assist women towards the socio-economic empowerment? The answer is no because we have programmes which are not sustainable because the budget is not enough, and we do project for compliance and reporting.
They MUST ensure that the Employment Equity targets on gender representation at all levels in the administration of municipality are realized. We need to work with the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities to capacitate municipalities in the implementation of gender responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluation.
The SPU or Social development ensure the inclusion of vulnerable groups in the programs of the municipality and help to amplify their voice though creating their structures from the community to influence the programs they wish the municipality undertakes on their behalf as well as resource these.
We therefore call for the following:
Proper coordination of social cluster departments through IGR but to reflect on projects for women and children in communities we lead. Sometimes we get a sense that departments do as they wish as they are not informed by contextual factors on the ground nor influenced by local government.
We need to strengthen gender structures, formations and ministry and establish them in all spheres of government with enough funding.
We need to make it a point that Gender mainstreaming becomes central in all spheres of government as a vehicle towards women emancipation.
Empowerment means building capacity, provision of resources and provision of sustainable services. This will make women realise the vision of the developmental state.
As women constitute majority in our country and are majority voters, budgets must be biased towards women empowerment to change their socio-economic status. Majority of women are in deep rural areas, so we need more of our programmes and projects in those areas.
Full implementation of DDM to address the challenges of water, sanitation, Health, Housing etc.
We also call for the full implementation of National Health Insurance to address some of the health challenges like access to quality health system.
We call for the redefinition of the scope of SPU and MPWCs
We call for the roll out of the mass food production as September is the mass food production month. DRDAR must roll out this programme through capacity building of women, establishment of women cooperatives in all wards.
LED in each municipality be able to roll out the plan towards realisation of one household one garden and many other projects.
To have a full understanding and development of programmes which talk to LGBTQIA+
Security cluster to strengthen all community forums to safeguard the lives of women and right of women to life.
Even if the representation of women is equalled to men it may not result in the direct improvement of women’s lives.
The question then is whether gender representation in the local government elections remains significant for women.
The simple answer is yes. There cannot be a reality where women, who make up the majority of voters, remain under-represented.
From a gender standpoint, the positive influence that women leaders have is not always quantifiable, but this does not mean their contribution should be underestimated.
This Lekgotla should also address issues of young girls in terms of naturing them towards being responsible and empowered future citizens.
This should include the curriculum design which seek to address a girl child's future. A future that will make them self-sustainable and socio economically empowered.
As I step down, Tata Rolihlahla Mandela once argued that “The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outdated ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.”
May we embark on this journey of empowerment and transformation together so that we can leave behind a legacy of progress and gender equality for generations to come. May we have fruitful deliberations that will map a clear way forward for local government contributions to achieving SDG 5 through strong MPWCs.
Malibongwe igama Lamakhosikazi!