Deputy Speaker, the ACDP is acutely aware of the struggles women have faced throughout the ages, and struggles far too many still face them today. We know that it is extremely important to ensure that women have the protection and support they need, and we commend the objectives of this Bill to promote gender equality and to empower women.
The ACDP was, like many others, very concerned about the threat that the Bill in its original form posed to religious freedom and the autonomy of religious and charitable organisations to govern their own affairs. Given the broad definition of private bodies to which the Act would have applied, this would have included churches and religious or charitable organisations.
The ACDP, on behalf of many organisations, including those that made oral presentations to the committee, commends and expresses its gratitude to the portfolio committee, to the department and to the Minister. They really did listen and applied their minds to the submissions on this issue - amending the Bill to exclude public benefit organisations from the application of the Act.
We believe that much of the potential harm that could have resulted from this legislation has now been averted, that religious organisations will no longer be forced to exercise a choice between obeying their faith and obeying the law, and that this is a victory for democracy.
The ACDP still questions, however, whether South Africa really needs additional equity legislation. Doesn't it rather need a greater commitment to implementing existing laws? During the public hearings that none of the presentations that I heard - although for very different reasons - were actually in favour of this legislation, and all appealed for the Minister to go back and consult more widely. Gender groups were particularly offended and did not see this legislation as addressing any of what they understood to be the real concerns. Business also expressed grave concerns, not to mention political parties.
During the portfolio committee deliberations the department assured members that this legislation called for plans only, and that businesses would not be expected to comply with targets overnight. Designated bodies would have a year in which to submit a plan on gender education, etc. These plans would set new targets where necessary for progressive implementation and give reasons why this was necessary.
Despite these explanations, the ACDP is still apprehensive about the broad powers given to the Minister in this Bill to interfere in the affairs of private business and political parties. No disrespect to the Minister is intended, but apart from broad powers being a concern, this department is not a department that is geared to addressing the needs of business and entrepreneurial initiatives, which are vital to the development and success of our country, and will impact enormously on the quality of life of women.
The ACDP previously pointed out that the original draft would most likely attract a constitutional challenge which would be costly, wasting time and money, while achieving very little. Changes to this Bill, in our opinion, have significantly lessened potential anomalies. However, we are not convinced that it will stand up in the face of a constitutional challenge and this is problematic. For these reasons, the ACDP will not be supporting the Bill. Thank you. [Applause.]
Mrs G K TSEKE Deputy Speaker, hon Members of Parliament and guests in the gallery, let me start with the hon Lamoela. You were just making a lot of noise and not telling the public about the advantages of this Bill. It is because you are representing the voices of the few. The ANC will pass this Bill with or without you. [Applause.]
Dingwaga di le masome a mabedi tsa kgololosego mo nageng ya rona di tlisitse diphetogo tse dintsi mo matshelong a MaAforika Borwa. Bomme ba ne ba gateletswe thata mo dingwageng tse di fetileng. Ke ka moo re le Puso e e eteletsweng pele ke mokgatlho wa batho, mokgatlho o o tsayang tsiya dikgatlhego tsa batho, bomme ba ba leng kwa metseselegaeng, bomme ka kakaretso le bana ba basetsana, o tlileng ka molaokakangwa o, gore matshelo a bone a fetoge.
Gompieno, re le Ntlokgolo ya Boset?haba re tla fetisa molaokakangwa o, o o netefatsang e bile o bona gore ditshwanelo le tekatekano ya bomme le borre mo nageng ya rona e a lekana le gore bomme ba tseye karolo mo ekonoming ya naga. (Translation of Setswana paragraphs follows.)
[The 20 years of freedom in our country have brought many changes into the lives of many South Africans. During the previous years women were oppressed too much. That is why, as the government which is led by the party of the people that takes into consideration the needs of the people and the women who are in the rural areas, including women in general and girl children, we have come up with this Bill to change their lives.
Today in this national House we will pass this Bill that guarantees the rights and equality of males and females in our country and ensures that they are the same and that women take part in the economy of our country.] Hon Deputy Speaker, over the past 20 years the ANC government has put in place legislation and protocols to fight gender-based violence. We cannot have gender-based violence as part of our heritage under the ANC government.
Our girl children would never be proud to inherit, and have to pass on, this legacy from us as their forebears. For as long as gender-based violence continues, we cannot proudly celebrate the value of equality, which is enshrined in the Constitution, much as we cannot proudly celebrate our freedom in the face of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, commonly known as the Wege Bill, provides for a legal framework to deal with the above constraints which inhibit the full potential of women. The Bill compels designated private and public bodies, among others, to develop and implement plans and measures to educate the public on practices that unfairly discriminate on the grounds of gender, including gender-based violence.
The Bill presents an opportunity for the public to mobilise and educate the boy child and the girl child on the one hand, and patriarchy on the other hand, that the place of the girl child and that of the woman is everywhere, including in leadership of corporate society, political parties and academia. The boy child must not be socialised into believing that he has a right over a woman's body. People's sexual orientation also cannot be a basis for their vilification and humiliation.
Deputy Speaker, 32 years after they were uttered, the words of the late former ANC President, Oliver Tambo, still ring true. He said:
The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle.
I'm referring to the hon members on my right side.
Hon members, the above-mentioned provision on public education on prohibited practices, including gender-based violence, will also enable the enforcement of previously adopted legislation on measures to eliminate gender-based violence. In this regard the Bill is addressing genuine concerns that were expressed by advocacy groups that have the genuine interests of women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people at heart.
These concerns relate to their observation that, despite the good legislation that has been championed and initiated by the ANC on gender equality and combat against gender-based violence, there are still huge gaps in implementation. The ANC government has heard these concerns and through this Bill we have addressed them.
Hon Deputy Speaker and hon members, the Bill moves the struggle for the economic emancipation of women forward. The ANC-led government acknowledges the women who are occupying strategic positions in government and the public sector, and specifically those from previously disadvantaged communities, but this is not enough. Hence, clause 10 on economic empowerment provides that -
Despite any other law, targets for women in all laws and policies on economic empowerment shall be at least 50%.
This opens the way for the enforcement of the equality principle of the Constitution, namely section 9(2), by those private businesses and similar public institutions which regard executive positions and ownership stakes as the exclusive preserve of white men. Of course, hon members, the DA is opposed to this provision because it touches business interests, their holy cow. The DA's strategy is all too familiar by now. They raise points of objection to a piece of legislation and they will never concede to the sincere attempts by the ANC and the progressive opposition to engage on and address the objections. Only the DA can persuade the DA to admit to a rational and persuasive view of the ANC. So, once they disagree, that is it. For them it is okay, because they don't represent the majority view. [Applause.]
Of course, we know that this is a thinly veiled ploy to protect the interests of big business. They cannot accept that the private sector should be held accountable for the serious lack of strategies and plans for women's empowerment, in particular those from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
The DA raised objections which relate to what is perceived to be a duplication of the mandate of the Commission for Gender Equality, CGE, particularly as it relates to monitoring, evaluation and public education. The ANC has responded to these objections at every turn, stating that the mere reference to monitoring and evaluation, for instance, does not in itself suggest duplication. Monitoring and evaluation by the CGE is different to the overall oversight monitoring and evaluation role of the department. The ANC has also repeatedly made the point that Cabinet would not have approved this Bill if the perception of the duplication of mandates were justified. [Applause.]
Hon members, the DA also argued that the Bill lacks strong enforcement provisions. One asks oneself the question: What is it that they are doing as Members of Parliament? As a reminder, hon Lamoela, your task is to conduct oversight over this department. It is funny that the DA is speaking the very same language as those people who have made submissions in our portfolio committee, and this leaves us with a question mark.
We took them seriously and, forgetting for a while that they merely play games with important national issues, we made amendments and included strong enforcement. Thus, in clause 17 of the Bill we inserted a subsection which states:
A designated private body who fails to comply with the relevant provisions of this Act, including failure to comply with a request by the Minister in terms of section 15(2) or a recommendation by the Minister in terms of section 16(b), commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 10% of the total annual turnover of the designated private body. And further:
A director or chief executive officer of a designated private body, as the case may be, fined in terms of paragraph (a) is liable on conviction of that designated private body to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.
Of course, the DA is opposed to these enforcement measures. Listen to what they say:
... the sanctions in the Bill are too harsh and a Bill of this nature should rather incentivise behaviour in order to facilitate compliance.
You see, now they have changed their tactics. That's what happens with the DA when the ANC makes the private sector accountable to the people of South Africa.
Hon members, there have been other objections to which the ANC has responded in detail, but what they are doing is just scoring cheap political points. We have been so reasonable that we have accommodated them even after their raising petty issues that will not assist us in moving South Africa forward.
In conclusion, the history of the struggle for a democratic, nonracial and nonsexist South Africa would be incomplete without mentioning the names of Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophia de Bruyn - and there were many other women too numerous to mention - who contributed immensely, sometimes by paying the ultimate price, to bringing about the freedom that we all enjoy. We must never forget our heroes and heroines. They have bequeathed to us the heritage of the democracy that we are enjoying. Let us remember them on 7 May 2014.
The ANC will support this Bill. [Applause.]