- “We did not just wake up and throw stones, the protest was planned, then police came and started shooting to disperse us,” says Bhayiza Miya, a community activist in Thembelihle, Gauteng. Miya is referring to the community’s 2011 protest, which led to him being arrested five times. During one of these arrests, the 46-year old father was arrested with his five-year old daughter who was kept overnight in a police holding cell with him.
During the protest, Miya was singled out as a community leader and was detained as a ‘preventative measure’ to stop protests- evidencing how community activists are targeted, bullied and criminalised by the state.
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) latest research output, An Anatomy of Dissent and Repression: The Criminal Justice System and the 2011 Thembelihle Protest documents the lead up to the protest, including the state’s refusal to engage with the community, the protest itself and how in the aftermath thereof; activists and protesting community members were ensnared in the criminal justice system for participating in a legitimate and effective protest action.
This highlights the intimate relationship between socio-economic rights and civil and political rights. This is due to the manner in which the community utilised their civil and political entitlements to local democratic participation and protest to assert their socio-economic demands, and was reinforced by the state’s clamp down on the civil and political rights of protestors in an attempt to suppress such demands.
According to Michael Clark, legal researcher and advocacy officer at SERI, the report tries to understand the protest in Thembelihle specifically, but also rising dissent South Africa more generally. For SERI this is crucial as the existing narratives in relation to protest action in South Africa are almost always informed by the moment of protest and is rarely informed by a more comprehensive investigation into the events leading up to the protest and that take place in the aftermath.
Clark goes on to note that, “The arrest, detention and failed prosecution of the Thembelihle protestors clearly exposes the way in the state apparatus, and particularly the criminal justice system, is utilised to silence dissent and harass and intimidate communities advocating for socio-economic development.”
Key findings of the report include:
- We are facing an increasingly unresponsive and remote state which refers specifically to the failure of formal participatory mechanisms to address the concerns of communities. This frequently leads to communities becoming isolated and frustrated, and means that turning to informal and more direct means of engaging, namely protest;
- When protest occurs, the criminal justice system is not used for the genuine prosecution of criminal activity, but rather to deter and suppress popular dissent; and
- Most importantly, the report highlights that without civil and political rights, and specifically the right to protest and mobilise collectively, it will be increasingly difficult for poor communities to assert their socio-economic rights.
Through telling the story of this particular community, SERI manages to underscore the fact that communities often have long histories of failed attempts at engaging with different levels of the state. In Thembelihle’s case, there were decades of engagement and struggle which provided little relief to the community.
- Koketso Moeti is the national coordinator of Local Government Action, a loose alliance of organisations working to promote democracy, accountability and delivery at local government level.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that tens of thousands of Angolans living in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are set to return home, for some after more than 50 years in exile.
UNHCR spokesperson, Celine Schmitt, points out that a first group of 500 people left Kinshasa by train and are expected to stay overnight at a transit centre in Kimpese in the southeast on the way to the border.
Schmitt, who says the rest of the journey will take place by bus, adds that about 48 000 Angolans are estimated to live in the DRC, and some 18 000 of them wish to remain.
To read the article titled, “Angolan refugees return from DRC,” click here.Source:News 24
- It may have been just a four percentage point drop in women’s representation in parliament in the May 2014 South African elections. But that drop sent tremors across a region hoping to at least show some progress on this front by 2015, the deadline year for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, signed here in 2008.
On 9 August - Women’s Day in South Africa – it is a sobering thought that we not only let ourselves down by failing to reach gender parity in one key area of decision-making: we took all of SADC down with us.
South Africa is the most populous nation in the SADC and a torch bearer for gender equality. Half the region’s MPs reside in this country. Achieving 44 percent women in parliament in the 2009 elections shot South Africa to the top of the chart in SADC and to the global top 10. The drop to 40 percent in May 2014 dealt a crippling blow to the 50/50 campaign.
With less than one year to go until 2015, no country in the 15-nation region has reached the 50 percent target of women’s representation in parliament, cabinet or local government. Over the six years, women’s overall representation in parliament hit its highest at 26 percent in 2014, increasing by two percentage points from 24 percent in 2013.
However, best predictions in the 2014 Southern African Gender Protocol Barometer are that even with five more elections by the end of 2015, this figure will at most rise to 29 percent, meaning SADC will not have achieved the original 30 percent let alone 50 percent target by 2015. Women’s representation in local government slid from 26 percent to 24 percent in the last year, and may just claw back to 28 percent by the end of 2015, but will also fall shy of both the 30 percent and 50 percent targets.
During the 2014 SADC Protocol@Work summits, the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance held working meetings on the 50/50 campaign and came up with country-specific strategies. The strong message that emerged from these consultations is that without specific measures - quotas and electoral systems - to increase women’s political representation, change will remain painfully slow.
The 2014 Barometer reflects the global reality that women’s political representation is highest in Proportional Representation (PR) electoral systems (38 percent in parliament and 37 percent in local government) and in countries with quotas (38 percent in parliament and 37 percent in local government). Countries with First Past the Post Systems (17 percent women in national and 14 percent women in local) have the lowest level of women’s representation, as do countries with no quota (17 percent national and eight percent local).
However, SADC countries with the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system have shown innovation over the last few years by following the Tanzania example of adopting to a mixed system, with women able to run for the openly contested seats, and be awarded an additional 30 percent of seats on a proportional representation basis in accordance with the strength of each party.
The Zimbabwe elections in July 2013 provided a stark example of the possibilities and pitfalls of gender and election strategies. Zimbabwe witnessed an increase of 22 percentage points in women’s representation in parliament from 16 percent to 38 percent thanks to the constitutional quota that created a mixed system and guaranteed women a minimum of 22 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. However, in the absence of similar provisions for local government the proportion of women in this sphere of governance declined from 18 percent to 16 percent in the same election.
In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) became the first political party in SADC to adopt a voluntary 50 percent quota (the South West Africa Peoples Organisation in Namibia has since followed suit). The danger of voluntary quotas, long raised by activists, is that they are linked to the electoral fortunes of political parties. This proved to be the case in the South African elections. The decline in women’s political participation in the May elections is directly attributable to the decline in the ANC’s proportion of the vote, from 66 percent in the last election to 62 percent in the 2014 elections.
Malawi had a spirited 50/50 campaign but no constitutional or legislated quotas in FPTP system. The elections took place at a turbulent time, marred by charges of foul play. As often happens in such circumstances – and despite an incumbent woman president contesting the elections - the proportion of women dropped significantly to 17 percent from 22 percent. For a moment too brief, the SADC regions marvelled and celebrated the first female President, Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi. She lost to Peter Mutharika (brother to the late former leader, Bingu Mutharika) during the May 2014 elections.
With 44 percent women in parliament, Seychelles has come closest to achieving the parity target in this area of political decision-making, while Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo (10 percent) are the lowest. Seychelles is unique in that it is the only country in the SADC region to have achieved a high level of women in parliament without a quota, and in FPTP system. The island, which has a long tradition of men leaving in search of work, has a strong matriarchal culture.
Between August 2014 and the end of 2015, five more SADC countries – Botswana (local and national); Mozambique (national), Namibia (national), Mauritius (national) and Tanzania (national and local) are due to hold elections. Madagascar’s long overdue local elections may also take place during this period. With primaries already past in Botswana, there is a danger of further backslide in the October 2014 elections. Mozambique (39 percent) and Tanzania (36 percent) already have a high representation of women in parliament. Mozambique has a proportional representation system and the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) has a voluntary quota. Tanzania has a Constitutional quota, and this is being raised from 30 percent to 50 percent. Gains are likely in both countries.
There are moves afoot in Namibia to legislate escalate the legislated quota at local level to national level, but it is not clear if this will happen in time for the October 2014 elections. Mauritius is debating a White Paper on Electoral reform that is likely to result in the quota at local level being escalated to national level but not in time for the 2015 national elections. It is therefore likely that only modest gains will be registered in both countries.
Detailed projections in the Barometer lead to the unavoidable conclusion that by the end of 2015, the region will not make even the 30 percent mark. This should however give impetus to a much more strategic approach to the 50/50 campaign, with emphasis on electoral systems and quotas, accompanied by strong advocacy campaigns, rather than simply training women for political office.
- Colleen Lowe Morna is Chief Executive Officer of Gender Links and editor-in-chief of the Southern African Gender Barometer. She formerly served as Chief Programme Officer of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa in the run up to the 1994 elections. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special series on Women’s Month.
- Gender equality and women’s rights are guaranteed in most Southern African constitutions but these do not result in substantive equality for women. Among other struggles, women remain unequal, under-represented at all levels of decision-making and experience high levels of gender based violence (GBV). These conditions obstruct women from realising their human rights.
On paper, all countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have strong provisions on gender equality and equity. In addition, 13 countries, except Mauritius and Botswana have signed and ratified the SADC Gender Protocol (SGP), and are in the process of domesticating the provisions. SADC countries have also committed to other continental and global instruments promoting human and women’s rights. These include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW 1979), the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000) that spells out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In practice however, these instruments and their clauses are compromised by a lack of political will, slow implementation of key pieces of legislation that promote gender equality, and flagrant abuses of human and women’s rights.
As South Africans observe national Women’s Day on 9 August 2014 the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill that aims to give effect to gender equality provisions in the Constitution is currently on hold. WEGE’s key provisions address the “social development’ of women, via education and training aimed at eradicating gender-based discrimination and violence and increasing education around access to healthcare. The other key focus area is equal representation and empowerment of women through the progressive realisation of a minimum of 50 percent representation and ‘meaningful participation’ of women in public and private decision-making structures, including businesses and political parties. There are specific provisions that address the socio-economic empowerment of rural women and women with disabilities.
Recent developments on the WEGE are of concern. The Bill has been referred back to Parliament from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The NCOP asked how the Bill was linked to other legislation meant to address women empowerment as previous legislation had failed on that objective. What then, was the guarantee that the Bill would be effective?
The 2014 Human Rights Watch World Report highlights concerns about human rights abuses in Angola that contradict the provisions in the Constitution as well as other human rights commitments made by the country.
In early April 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Angola at the invitation of the government. During her visit, Pillay raised a wide array of human rights concerns, including media restrictions and freedom of expression; the state’s use of excessive force to repress protests; mistreatment and sexual violence against migrants; forced evictions; and violations of economic and social rights. Pillay’s visit shone a spotlight on Angola’s human rights record, which is mostly ignored by regional and international partners in favour of strengthening trade links.
Another key challenge in most SADC countries are the contradictions emerging from dual legal systems either through the formal recognition of customary law or common practice. As a result women are treated as minors and do not enjoy the rights guaranteed in the countries’ constitutions. Muna Ndulo, professor of law and director of the Cornell University's Institute for African Development, also chairperson of the board of Gender Links, discusses the impact of dual legal systems in the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies.
The sources of law in most African countries are customary law, the common law and legislation (both colonial and post-independence). In a typical African country, the great majority of the people conduct their personal activities in accordance with and subject to customary law, which has a great impact on matters such as marriage, inheritance and traditional authority. Customary laws were developed in an era dominated by patriarchy, some of its norms conflict with human rights norms that guarantee equality between men and women.
While recognising the role of legislation in reform, it is argued that the courts have an important role to play in ensuring that customary laws are reviewed and developed to ensure that they conform to human rights law and contribute to the promotion of equality between men and women. The guiding principle should be that customary law is living law and therefore cannot be static and must account for the changing lived experiences of the people it aims to serve.
Ndulo states that many constitutions recognise the application of customary law without resolving its conflict with human rights provisions. He uses the Zambia Constitution as an example to illustrate ‘claw back’ clauses that qualify and compromise constitutional provisions on equality and non-discrimination.
The new Tanzania Constitution is proposing far reaching changes including press freedom; the public's right to access information; education for all; greater representation for women in politics; and the adoption of a federal system of government.
The draft guarantees women 50 percent representation in Parliament, an increase from the current 30 percent quota. At present, women parliamentarians are appointed to special seats by parties. Under the proposed Constitution, political parties would lose the power to nominate women to parliamentary seats and instead, voters in every province would elect two parliamentarians, of who one has to be a woman.
Moving forward all SADC countries must make constitutions living documents that change women’s lived reality and ensure equal rights for women.
- Kubi Rama is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special series on Women’s Month.
Learners who trashed the Johannesburg City Centre during a protest blame supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters for the scuffle with vendors and shop owners.
The march led by the Congress of South Students (COSAS) deteriorated after their memorandum of grievances relating to improvement of school conditions was handed over to the Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi.
COSAS president general, Collin Malatji, says they are not certain if the four learners who were taken to hospital were their members, despite the organisation being known for such behaviour in the past.
To read the article titled, “COSAS causes havoc in Joburg CBD,” click here.Source:SABC News
Former Azanian People's Liberation Army (APLA) director of operations, Letlapa Mphahlele, says having the second phase of the Truth and the Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is like a call for another fuss and a call for another circus.
Mphahlele, who argues that the first phase of the TRC was seriously flawed, points out that: "Over 80 percent of the applicants for amnesty were actually indigenous Africans. What does it tell you? It tells you that we were our own oppressors and we were our own exploiters."
He maintains that the real culprits did not appear before the TRC.
To read the article titled, “Second phase of TRC is a call for another circus: Mphahlele,” click here.Source:SABC News
- Do we live in a world where powerful men in government, powerful men in business and powerful men in army uniforms conspire to smash popular dissent to the growing inequality?
When the Forbes magazine - not the representative of the world's poor - quotes an Oxfam report, released at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos meeting this year, that raises the obscenity of inequality - then it is time the world’s rich and powerful stand up and answer some serious questions.
Is this just a cyclical crisis or is it a systemic one? Are the following statistics driving the crises we face today, from economic to ecological, from financial to food and burgeoning youth unemployment and to the many resource conflicts and corruption scandals that plague our world?
- Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population;
- The wealth of the top one percent – the richest people in the world – amounts to US$110 trillion. That is 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population;
- The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world;
- Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.
- The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.
Where does the remaining 99 percent feature in this new age?
I am struck by the ferocious reaction to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) strike. It is described as irresponsible after the economy contracted 0.6 percent in the first quarter after it was alleged that it was caused by a five-month long platinum miners’ strike. Forgotten is that collective bargaining, which includes the right to strike for a living wage, is enshrined in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In South Africa, it is in the Constitution and has been a cornerstone of the institution of democracy.
Forgotten is the latest employment data, which indicates an unemployment rate of 25.2 percent in terms of the narrow definition and 35.1 percent if the broad definition is used. So is the fact that youth unemployment in the 18-35 range is today over 60 percent. So how has the ratio of dependents to a single breadwinner changed since 1994? I am sure that a single worker is supporting many more dependents than in the 80s.
Forgotten is the fact that many of our public health facilities are in a state of collapse, with civil society organisations like the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) reporting in provinces like the Free State that the crisis means some facilities have no equipment and supplies to conduct life-saving tests and monitoring of conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease; stock-outs and shortages of drugs for many chronic conditions such as tuberculosis (TB), HIV, diabetes and epilepsy are the order of the day.
The same applies to many of our township and rural schools. The collapse of public services in many areas means that the extended families of workers incur more expenses going to private health facilities or sending their children to former model C schools in cities.
I can empathise when the NUMSA president, Andrew Chirwa, says that “NUMSA has an obligation to ensure a better standard of living for its members. We have no intention to send South Africa into a recession… but workers are permanently living in a recession even today.”
Similarly, a demand to Eskom for a salary increase of 12 percent should be seen in a context where there is great speculation on how the budget for the Medupi power station has burgeoned from R52 billion in January 2007 to an estimated R145 billion with an overall delay of 48 months today.
How have the companies such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, providing engineering and project management support; Hitachi, supplying the boilers; Alstom, providing the steam turbines; construction companies Murray and Roberts, Basil Read and Aveng; ThyssenKrupp Materials, handling contractors of the coal stockpile yard, benefited?
Can we have a public audit of all these companies, including those whom they have paid, and the names of the shareholders? Many want to know how public money is spent and whether part of that could have gone into improving the workers' wages and working conditions.
Workers in South Africa live in townships like Bekkersdal or Alexandra, in the heart of the richest real estate in Africa. I have been there. It will break your heart: the poverty, the overcrowding, the battle for survival. These residents feel left behind by democracy, surrounded by piles of garbage, exploding slums and dysfunctional schools and clinics.
Families of the poor do not want charity. They do not want a scenario of one in three South Africans living on a social grant. They want the dignity of their labour. Their desperation, as they fail to meet the obligations of a breadwinner, drives wage pressure and is reflected in high levels of alcohol, drug abuse (which leads to high levels of interpersonal violence), the spike in youth delinquency, among other indicators.
We have to redefine our growth path, our governance and our democracy. True democracy must be built through open societies that embrace the rule of law and where public institutions protect the interests of citizens. Our struggle for freedom was a struggle to have a voice. If avenues to free and open dialogue and meaningful participation are closed off and people lose trust in public institutions, then collective bargaining will become politicised.
That is what happened in the past. I see it happening again. The strikes and protests we see sweeping South Africa reveal a fault line in our society - between a small insider elite and the majority. Our new battle is against inequality, lest we forget the fact that the Gini Coefficient (a measure of inequality) reports the stark statistic that South Africa is today the one of the most unequal countries on Earth.
This is the time for a new dialogue in South Africa. A roadmap back to the contract we made with our people in 1994 to ‘deliver a better life’ to all our people, based on our Constitutional commitment to human dignity and justice.
There are tough choices we need to make, before it is too late.
- Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Congress of South African Trade Unions, former Minister in the Mandela Government and Chair of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). You can follow him on Twitter, or visit his Facebook Page or www.jaynaidoo.org.
- Barely a year into his tenure as South Africa’s National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), Mxolisi Nxasana is embroiled in a highly public scandal.
Early media reports stated that shortly before new cabinet ministers were appointed, the former justice minister, Jeff Radebe, had asked him to resign because he failed to reveal that he had previously been charged and acquitted of murder.
Nxasana has reportedly also been accused of nepotism, has two criminal convictions for assault to his name, and has been charged with resisting arrest related to ‘serious traffic offences’. While there should be a transparent and fair process that enables Nxasana to explain these revelations, there is no denying that this debacle will only further dent public trust and cast another ominous shadow over the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).
Public trust in key criminal justice institutions such as the NPA, the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) needs to be restored, and a vital first step in doing this is ensuring that a competitive and transparent process takes place when appointing leadership of these entities.
It should be remembered that for 18 months the NPA had an acting NDPP in the form of Advocate Nomqcobo Jiba. It was only after the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) took legal action against President Jacob Zuma to force him to make a permanent appointment, which went all the way to the Constitutional Court, that Nxasana was appointed. Considering the December 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court of Appeal stipulating that Zuma’s previous appointment of Advocate Menzi Simelane as NDPP was ‘inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid,’ it is fair for the public to have expected far greater circumspection regarding the current appointment.
Similarly, the opaque appointment of Riah Phiyega, a person with no policing experience, as National Commissioner of the SAPS, also corroded the morale of police officers and reduced public trust in the police.
In his inauguration speech on 24 May 2014, President Zuma stated that the National Development Plan (NDP), a product of the National Planning Commission, would underpin all efforts to move the country ‘forward to prosperity and success’.
To his credit, Zuma stated that for the NDP’s targets to be realised - for instance, in terms of economic growth, jobs, infrastructure and ensuring the safety of citizens - it is critical for the performance of the state to improve and for public service corruption and inefficiency to be eradicated.
Indeed, with South Africa having just celebrated 20 years of democracy, Zuma has an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by ensuring that over the next five years, there is a revitalisation of various state institutions - including those with a mandate to tackle corruption, such as the NPA, the SAPS and the SIU. As a starting point, it is crucial to address the issue of appointments to these important agencies.
It is time for the country’s political leadership to heed the calls for such appointments to be made according to a transparent, competitive and non-partisan process. There is already a precedent for this, considering that the heads of Chapter Nine institutions such as the Auditor-General and the Public Protector are appointed after being interviewed and recommended to the president by a multiparty parliamentary committee. The NDP, adopted by the previous cabinet, supports the principle that a transparent, non-partisan body should vet and interview candidates for key positions in the police before appointment, where necessary, by the president. This could be adapted to other criminal justice institutions.
The NDP recommends that a national policing board consisting of expertise from various sectors and disciplines should be established to set standards for recruiting, selecting, appointing and promoting police officials. Regarding the national commissioner of the SAPS and the deputies, the NDP suggests that appointments be recommended to the president following panel interviews based on a clear set of objective criteria. This is intended to ‘ensure the incumbents are respected and held in high esteem by the police service and the community’.
This cogent set of recommendations should similarly be applied or adapted to the position of the NDPP, particularly considering the vital importance that this person be ‘fit and proper’ - and also independent. Indeed, there would be many benefits for these institutions - and also for applying the rule of law - if such a transparent and competitive process were to be followed. This would invariably result in heightened public scrutiny of the applicants and include rigorous background checks of the candidates. Any subsequent concerns would be raised and engaged with throughout the process. Arguably, this would go a long way in preventing instances where key appointments are made only for serious problems to arise later on, to the substantial detriment of both the appointee and institution involved.
A competitive and transparent appointment process will also allow competent candidates to raise their public profiles before they are appointed. Therefore, when they take up their positions, the public and public servants should know that appointees do indeed have the experience, skills and integrity required to head their departments with authority.
Let us imagine that South Africa decided, for instance, to follow Kenya’s example, where prospective candidates for the position of the chief of police and attorney-general (similar to the NDDP) were rigorously interviewed on national television. Indeed, if the current head of the NPA had been appointed following such a publicly transparent process, the recent revelations would have emerged sooner, and he would have had a fair chance to publicly resolve them and ensure that there would not be a shred doubt concerning his suitability to head the organisation. It is deeply disconcerting and unfair - not only to him, but also to the many honest and hard-working men and women in the NPA - that yet another period of uncertainty will have to be endured, which will only serve as a distraction from their core business.
The country’s political leadership should urgently and publicly ensure that the current NDDP debacle is resolved fairly and speedily. Any future leadership appointments to key criminal justice institutions have to be preceded by a robust, publicly transparent and impartial vetting and interviewing process. This will revitalise these entities and spark a process of restoring staff morale and public support, which would be immensely beneficial for efforts to tackle crime and corruption while enhancing the rule of law in South Africa.
- Hamadziripi Tamukamoyo, Researcher and Kaveshnee John, Research Intern, Governance, Crime and Justice Division, ISS Pretoria. This article appeared in the ISS Today.
- Following the elections and President Jacob Zuma's recent cabinet appointments, South Africa has missed its last opportunity - so tantalisingly close - to achieve gender parity in politics ahead of the 2015 deadline.
The 50 percent target for women's representation in all areas of decision-making is enshrined in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development adopted in South Africa in 2008.
South Africa came under the spotlight at the SADC Protocol@Work summit on 27 May 2014, under the theme, ‘50/50 by 2015, and a Strong Post- 2015 Agenda’. The summit brings together 350 activists and government officials from across the region in the final countdown to 2015 - the deadline for the 28 targets of the Protocol.
Women's representation in parliament dropped from 44 percent in the 2009 elections to 40 percent in the 7 May 2014 polls, while that of women in provincial legislatures dropped from 41 to 37 percent. Following the announcement of the new cabinet at the weekend, women in cabinet remain at 41 percent. The proportion of women premiers dropped from 55 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2014. In the 2011 local elections, women's representation dropped from 40 percent to 38 percent.
"South Africa is the one country that should have hit the bull's eye," said Gender Links chief executive officer, Colleen Lowe Morna. The reason for the drop, she noted, "is that South Africa has steadfastly refused to adopt a legislated quota, leaving this to the whims of political parties."
The relatively high numbers owed to the ruling African National Congress' [ANC] 50 percent quota. "But the ANC has not always stuck to its quota. And as its majority has declined, both at national and local level, so has the representation of women," Lowe-Morna noted. "We rest our case: the issue is too important to leave to the fate of political parties."
The ANC adopted a voluntary 30 percent quota for women in 2002, and upped this to 50 percent in 2009. However, the party did not live up to this quota nor did they stick to the zebra proportional representation on the party list, since the first three people on the ANC party list are men.
Out of the 249 ANC seats at national level, 115 (46 percent) are held by women. This is a four percent decline from 2009.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has always been averse to quotas. Helen Zille came under fire for appointing an all-male cabinet in the Western Cape in 2009. Women hold only 27 of the 89 seats (30 percent). At provincial level, women's representation in the DA declined by four percentage points from 35 percent in 2009 to 31 percent in 2014.
In her Western Cape cabinet, Zille boasted that she had increased women's representation by 200 percent as she now has two women in cabinet. She added that she would not discriminate in favour of women because they have X chromosomes or against men because they have Y chromosomes.
"This is simplistic and it is disappointing, coming from a woman leader," commented Lowe Morna. "Zille completely ignores the historical imbalances between women and men. Nowhere in the world have these been corrected without deliberate measures to do so."
The new kid on the block, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) got a whopping 25 seats in parliament of which only nine (35 percent) are held by women. At provincial level, the party has 38 percent women. During Women's Month last year, the EFF said they "view the deplorable condition of the majority of women as a slap in the face for women who sacrificed so much for our liberation". With that in mind, although higher than many other parties 35 percent of women is still a slap in the face to gender parity.
In another show of blatant gender blindness, the Inkhatha Freedom Party (IFP) continues to demonstrate a disturbing decline after each election. Out of the 10 seats in parliament, only two seats (21 percent) are held by women. This is a one percent decline from 2009, and a 14 percent decline from 2004. The decline also extends to the provincial level, down from 35 percent in 2009 to 20 percent women in 2014.
Agang, led by a woman, only got two seats. However party leader Mamphela Ramphele, said she is not going to Parliament because she wants to reflect on her party's disappointing performance, and is putting forward two male MPs.
In the 2009 elections, the ANC managed to get 50/50 representation of premiers. In 2014, of the eight provinces that the ANC won, men lead seven, while one province is led by a woman (13 percent). Nationally, there are seven (78 percent) male premiers and two female premiers (22 percent).
Cabinet is where women's representation should be equal to that of men as the President has absolute control. But women now constitute 15 (41 percent) of the 37-member cabinet, and 16 (44 percent) of the 36 deputy ministers.
Just before the elections, the national assembly passed the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill. If approved by the National Council of Provinces, the bill will oblige both public and private entities to ensure gender parity. South Africa could have made a head start with its just ended elections. "Missing the mark at this place and time sends out the sad message that patriarchy is still alive and well," noted Lowe Morna.
- For more information about the Gender Summit underway as well as the figures of women in government, contact Katherine Robinson on 076 227 6517. A multimedia newsletter with pieces suitable for online radio, video will be sent out for your usage shortly.
Swaziland’s Chief Justice, Michael Ramodibedi, threatens the managing editor of a major daily newspaper with immediate arrest if his paper continues to comment on the trial of another top newspaperman.
In addition, young activists were arrested and charged with treason at the trial of Makhubu and Maseko last month for showing solidarity and wearing T-shirts of the banned Peoples United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO).
Fear has therefore gripped the nation, to the point that journalists are shying away from reporting on vital issues affecting the rule of law and political dissent.
To read the article titled, “New crackdown on Swazi media,” click here.Source:Mail and Guardian