The ANC rather protect their own than protect the rights of women and children

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities:

The following motion without notice was delivered by DA spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Jane Sithole MPL, during a sitting at Ehlanzeni District Council Chambers today.

This was out-rightly defeated by the ANC. It has become clear that the ruling party is hell bent on protecting their own rather than to protect and promote the rights of women and children.

Honourable Speaker.

I rise to move a motion without notice on behalf of the Democratic Alliance, noting that:

The 16 days of activism for no violence against women and children started on 25 November 2016.

Further noting that a 33-year-old man, an African National Congress’s (ANC) director of corporate services in the Tokologo local municipality appeared in court on 2 December.

He allegedly pushed his 26-year-old wife against the wall where she hit her head and then collapsed. He then put her body in the boot of his car and drove to his parents’ home in Winburg, Free State where he spent the weekend at his parents’ home while the body was still in the car.

On Sunday morning, he decided to drive his wife to a dumping side and burnt the body, where he was spotted by two homeless men who alerted the police.

I move that this house:

Condemns the behavior of the 33 year old man, who is a director of corporate services, and all violence against women and children in totality.

I further move that this house sends its heartfelt condolences to the family of the victim who lost her life at the hands of her attacker.

I so move.

Women and Children continue to suffer under the ANC-led government

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities:

The following debate was delivered by DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Jane Sithole MPL, on a snap debate on World Aids Day, during a sitting at Ehlanzeni District Council Chambers today.

Honourable Speaker.

As we commemorate the 16 days of activism against the abuse of women and children in this last sitting of 2015, let me remind this house that the DA will continue the fight through this house and other means until we build a nation where all women and children can experience the freedoms of democracy, and we will continue to do so without any fear or favour.

One of the most disturbing trends in our country today, is that those who are supposed to be the vanguard of the women and children’s struggles, are the ones perpetuating all sorts and forms of abuse against women and children.

The ANC Women’s League, nationally is led by Mme Bathabile Dlamini, who pleaded guilty to fraud involving an amount of R254 000.  She was sentenced to a fine of R120 000 and five years’ imprisonment suspended conditionally for five years. In the end, it is the poor women in the rural corners of every province that bear the brunt of actions such as this, which are obviously rewarded in the ruling party.

The Women’s League has become completely ineffective in promoting women’s issues. How do you become the key driver of issues affecting women in our country when all you do is pay lip service with no action?

As Minister of Social Development, Mme Dlamini introduced the culture of using food parcels for political gain and that was quickly adopted in the country as we see this in our own province. Women who have exercised their freedoms and are affiliated to other political parties are side-lined by our government and are told in their face “go and ask your political party to give you a food parcel”.

Yet, every year political leaders stand behind podiums such as this one saying that more needs to be done to promote and protect the rights of women and children.

How can this become a reality, when those who are in the front line are increasingly failing to defend these rights, opting rather to look out for themselves?

Hon. Speaker, it is our duty to promote and protect the fundamental rights of all women and children from any form of abuse, irrespective of their political affiliation.

Those who come from Mpumalanga, when they got to parliament, they excelled in corruption. Our very own former communications Minister Mme Dina Pule, was found guilty of lying to parliament after dishing out foreign trips and business deals to her acquaintance.

How will you become the vanguard of women and children’s struggle when you steal from the poor of the poorest?

Like Chris Hani once said “what I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benz’s and use the resources of this country to live in palaces and gather riches”

Hon. Speaker, just because a person doesn’t put hands on you, doesn’t mean they are not abusive. Abuse comes in various forms.

Behaviour such as the one displayed by Senior Members of the ruling party like Mme Bathabile Dlamini should be punished, not rewarded.

I thank you.

Learners with disabilities are being sidelined in Mpumalanga

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities:

The following debate was delivered by DA Spokesperson on Women, Youth, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Jane Sithole MPL, during a sitting on questions for oral reply to the MEC’s at Ehlanzeni District Council Chambers.

Honourable Speaker.

Mpumalanga has 19 schools that cater for learners with disabilities and over 3 682 learners with mild to severe learning disabilities.

Hon. Speaker it is very disturbing that all schools that cater for children with learning and physical disabilities in Mpumalanga currently have long waiting lists. A mother in Bethal has been struggling since 2013 to find a school for her disabled child due to severe shortages of schools for children with disabilities in our province.

At the end of the day, this mother has no choice but to keep her child at home. Hon. Speaker, this learner and many other learners in our province lose out on years of development which is vital for them to function in society.

Hon. Speaker in 2014, the department of education opened a new school called Tsakane for learners with special needs in Bushbuckridge, as we speak, this school already has a long waiting list.

What is even more concerning is the fact that the department only managed to spend 65% of the budget allocated for special need schools infrastructure in the last academic year. With such a desperate need from these parents and their children, how does the department fail to spend money allocated for this purpose?

Hon. Speaker, may I remind this house that in the last three financial years, learners with disabilities lost over R27 million due to the department’s underspending or re-allocating their budget to other programmes in the department.

A learner with a disability has the same rights as all other learners, their right to education should also be prioritised in order for them to reach their full potential.

Like Nelson Mandela once said “it is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of a farm worker can become the president”

I thank you.

16 days of activism: declare war on rape

By Bobby Stevenson (MPL), Shadow MEC for Safety and Security:

The high levels of sexual voice against women and children are a sad reflection of how skewed our moral values have become in South Africa today.  Once again, another 16 days of activism of no violence against women and children has been declared, but can one honestly say the situation is getting any better?

Women and children want real freedom:   this means to wear what you want and to walk where you want without feeling unsafe and without being objectified as a potential sexual trophy. 

Over the last five years, according to the SAPS official crime statistics, over 45 000 sexual offences have been reported in the Eastern Cape.   This means at least 25 sexual offences are reported each day in the province.  The vast majority of which are rapes.  If one considers that rape is highly under-reported, with some statistics suggesting that only one in nine rapes are reported, one gets a picture of a society whose moral values are in tatters, with young women in particular, living in fear.  We need a total war on rape to deal with this barbaric onslaught.

As a society and as a province we must start taking greater responsibility.  Some steps that will make an impact are:

  1. An intensive education campaign at school level to instil value and respect for women.  Religious and civic leaders in society need to also take up the issue of patriarchy.
  2. The annual statistics released by the SAPS must make provision to specify rape. Research and legislative requirements must be put in place so that the annual reports reflect not only how many rape cases are reported but how many cases go to court and how many lead to conviction.  As small minority of reported cases are successfully prosecuted.
  3. Police officers must receive training annually on the sexual offences act.   They also need to make women feel comfortable in reporting cases and that they will be treated humanely.   Women don’t want feel abused twice, once by the perpetrators and secondly by the SAPS.
  4. There must be strong provincial funding for NPOs that deal with gender-based violence.
  5. Policies must be put in place within department s to deal with sexual violence and abuse.  The sex-for-jobs investigation in the Eastern Cape has simply petered out.
  6. There needs to be effective coordination and professionalism in the chain between reporting the case, the hospitals and the forensic laboratories and to the court room.  Many cases fall between the cracks and are weakened as a result of the chain being broken.

Dealing with sexual offences against women and children requires a holistic approach.  This means society as a whole needs to be mobilised to deal with this scourge.

Vigilantism not the solution to Limpopo crime

By Katlego Suzan Phala (MPL), DA Spokesperson on Women , Children, Youth and Disability:

The DA is outraged about the recent scourge of violent crime and brutal murders of women and children across the province.

The ”16 days of activism” campaign will start on 25 November and we are not close to achieving its aims.

In two separate incidents less than five days apart this week, a three year old toddler and a woman were brutally murdered in Limpopo. This raises a concern around the safety of women and children especially in the rural areas.

In the first incident, a 48 years old man from Thohoyandou stabbed his wife and chopped off her hand with a panga during a lovers’ tiff on Sunday and she later succumbed to her injuries.

Later in the same week , a three year old boy was brutally murdered with a grinder in Eldorado village in Senwabarwana on Monday and his genitals were mutilated.

The suspect  was  killed by the angry community while the “panga man” was rescued by the police in the hands of angry  community and is expected to appear before court for a formal bail application before the end of this month.

It is clear that vigilantism is creeping into our societies and we call on the police commissioner Lt. Gen. Fanie Masemola to resource and capacitate these police stations and to prioritise crimes against women and children to re-establish trust our men in blue in rural areas.

The DA has been calling for specialised rural safety units within SAPS in parliament  for years and hopes that after these tragic deaths our proposal will be taken seriously.

The DA extends our deepest condolences to both families and we will be embarking on a massive door to door campaign in both villages and the surrounding areas in order to encourage the communities to break the silence of any kind of abuse against women and children.

DA wants justice done

By Safiyia Stanfley, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Gender, Youth and Persons with Disabilities:

The Democratic Alliance calls for the harshest possible punishment for Rudolf Coetzee, who has plead guilty to 45 crimes.

The charges constitute a range of crimes against children, including

rape and sexual assault.   The court must send a strong message to the

community that crimes against children are unacceptable and will be punished severely.

It is unacceptable that anybody preys on our children, who are a vulnerable segment of our society and must be protected. As a photographer, Mr. Coetzee had contact with many young children. He abused his position to gain and then destroy their trust.

The fact Mr. Coetzee has plead guilty and has shown some willingness to accept responsibility for his actions is welcome, but he cannot escape punishment for his many crimes.

We hope that the sentence will bring closure for his victims and their families.

Women who exercise their freedoms and are affiliated to other political parties are side-lined by our government

By Jane Sithole MPL, DA Spokesperson on Women and Children:

The following speech was delivered by DA Spokesperson on Women and Children, Jane Sithole MPL, during a Women’s day debate in the legislature today.

Honourable Speaker.

Women’s day in South Africa marks the remarkable demonstration that took place in 1956.  We dedicate this month to all the heroines of our beautiful country and the rest of the world who stood up and some even surrendered their lives so that we could be free.

This ground breaking protest represented women’s bravery, courage and strength and I stand before you today in honour of those women who have inspired, who have paved the way and has given hope to so many of us.

Hon. Speaker, the sad reality is that in our province, our government food parcels are used for political gain. Women who have exercised their freedoms and are affiliated to other political parties are side-lined by our government and are told in their face “go and ask the DA or EFF to give you food parcels”.

Yet, every year our political leaders stand behind podiums such as this one saying that more needs to be done to empower the women of South Africa and to redress the injustices of our society.

How can this become a reality, when those who are in the front line are increasingly failing to defend these rights, opting rather to look out for themselves. Our’s should be to enhance the freedom of other women and not stifle it for our own selfish reasons or political gain.

Hon. Speaker, it is our duty to promote and protect the fundamental rights of all women, irrespective of their political affiliation.

Hon. Speaker, the sacrifices made by women like Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi, Ruth First, Rahima Moosa and Sophie Williams to name a few, were geared towards fighting against unjust policies. A massive number of women in our rural areas are victims of economic and social crises that they had no part in creating.

Women form the backbone of our society and majority of single parent headed families are women. Denying them a government food parcel or a government blanket simply because of their political affiliation? It is such actions that makes women’s day just a sham. It is not fair and no amount of rhetoric can justify this.

I thank you.

Are police doing enough to find missing eight year old Salima Nhlengethwa?

By Jane Sithole, MPL, Spokesperson on Women, and Children:

Eight year old Salima Nhlengethwa from Mbombela has been missing for more than 10 days and despite footage obtained by the police from which an adult man was identified approaching Salima, nothing has come of this and the SAPS has remained mum on the developments in this case.

With the availability of the footage of the crime, the SAPS must bring in National Crime Intelligence to assist in this case and they must use expert video analysis to identify the suspect.

Nhlengethwa was reportedly sent to a nearby shop located between Mbombela Stadium and the N4 and never returned home. His mother Mimita Nhlengethwa opened a missing person’s case the next day.

According to the South African Police Missing Persons Bureau one child goes missing every five hours in South Africa.  What is concerning is the required time to wait before families can report a loved one missing, which means the police can only assist once that timeframe has lapsed. For many families this is the time where they find themselves helpless as during this period the SAPS are just hoping for the victims voluntary return.

In most cases, children are the victims therefore, immediate action by the SAPS is of utmost importance in order to fulfil their mandate to protect and safeguard the most vulnerable citizens of our society.

The DA has asked MEC for Social Development, Nomsa Mtsweni to engage the Provincial Commissioner Lt-Gen Mark Dumisa Magadlela, to ensure speedy investigations into this matter and to put a plan in place that will assist the turnaround time of missing children in Mpumalanga going forward. The family sits desperately waiting for answers. We need to know if our provincial government is capable of dealing with such cases or not.

All citizens want to live and raise their families in safe communities.  Strong social structures such as families, in all their different manifestations, must be given an opportunity to flourish in our communities. Missing children, child abuse and various other forms of abuse against women and children should not be tolerated and must be dealt with swiftly.

We have a duty to do everything in our power to strengthen and support the building of durable social structures that promote cooperation in our communities. By so doing, we will eliminate various social ills.

Women must be given opportunities to be free

By Safiyia Stanfley, MPL, DA Provincial Spokesperson on Gender, Youth and Persons with Disabilities:

The following extract is from a speech delivered today by the Democratic Alliance’s provincial spokesperson on Gender, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Safiyia Stanfley, during the Women’s Day Debate in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature.

Women cannot be said to be truly free when there is still widespread inequality, unemployment, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

We need women’s networks which are oriented to realising the rights of women, not movements protecting the patriarchy which still robs women of their opportunities. A movement may have noble intentions, but it cannot be quiet and refuse to comment when its own leaders are at fault. It is hypocritical to pretend to the masses that you have the interests of women at heart when you fail to regard the violence and abuse perpetrated against women seriously. You cannot be satisfied by merely requesting a meeting when men are setting their wives on fire, kicking them in their genitals or running them over with cars.

The Democratic Alliance believes that women must be given the opportunity to be truly free and to live lives that they value.

Firstly, we must give social assistance to women who are the victims of poverty, domestic abuse and sexual violence. There has to be a system of social security to protect women from extreme poverty.

Secondly, we have to enforce maintenance laws and ensure that absent fathers pay their papgeld. Research has shown that more than 90% of maintenance defaulters are male, which implies that women are suffering disproportionately from some men’s refusal to acknowledge their parental responsibilities.

With South Africa’s support, we have been successful in paving the way for an amendment to the Maintenance Act. Clause 11 now stipulates that a finding by a court that a parent is in arrears will enable black-listing. Due to the tireless work of the Democratic Alliance Women’s Network and our national petition to blacklist maintenance defaulters, we have triumphed.

We know that this victory is a victory for all women who struggle to receive their child support payments. This is what a women’s network does when it is serious about protecting the rights of women.

Thirdly, we need to empower women through the sustainable creation of decent jobs which pay a living wage. The release last week of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2015 shows that the expanded unemployment rate is at 41.1%. And the labour market report on employment amongst the youth, as published in June by Statistics South Africa, shows that youth unemployment in the province is the highest in the country.

The Democratic Alliance believes that, when women are deprived of the opportunity to work, their independence, their dignity and their ability to provide for their loved ones is undermined. We need to create an economy which is conducive to the creation of jobs.

And finally, we need to ensure that young women are given equal opportunities in the labour market.

The June youth employment report shows that, at 52%, the Northern Cape has the highest unemployment rate among young women than any other province. As a result, women are more likely to become discouraged from seeking employment than men. Nationally, about one in ten women give up their dream of becoming gainfully employed.

If we do not act today, we will have a financial and social crisis tomorrow.

Government must implement a Youth Wage Subsidy which incentivises companies through a state-funded tax rebate to appoint young people.

With this subsidy, we give the youth – especially young women – an opportunity to obtain experience in the labour market and thereby enable them to apply for more advanced positions. It is also a critical intervention for the young women who no longer qualify for the child grant, but have no other means of income.

We have to foster a spirit of entrepreneurship through empowering SMME’s owned by women and by reducing the bureaucratic burdens placed on those applying for government assistance. Some countries roll out the red carpet for their entrepreneurs; we roll out the red tape.

The Democratic Alliance supports a Business Voucher Support Programme, which provides a voucher that beneficiaries can exchange for business, management and financial skills or relevant technical programmes at accredited institutions. Through this training, we improve the chances of young women seeking employment or who want to open their own businesses.

To realise the great potential of all our young women, we must address the scourge of unemployment and we must give the necessary social support to families in need.

Throughout our programmes, dialogues, interventions and debates, we need to remember – women are inherently strong and we do ourselves a disservice by viewing women as merely the perpetual victims of male dominance.

It is not for nothing that the popular Setswana saying goes – The mother is she who grasps the knife by the blade.

Let us celebrate the strength and wisdom of our women in this month.

Parents must educate their children about sexual health

By Jane Sithole, MPL, Spokesperson on Women, Children and People with Disabilities:

With the recent signing into law of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, it has become vital for parents and caregivers to take charge of educating young people about sex.

The law was amended so that consensual sex between two children aged between 12 and 16 years would not be regarded as a criminal offense.

Teenage pregnancy in Mpumalanga is already a growing concern as the province recorded one of the highest school pregnancy rates in the country for the 2014 academic year. 130 primary school learners fell pregnant, while 3 196 teenagers fell pregnant in high school.

The DA believes that with this amendment, teenage pregnancies are likely to increase and it is therefore vital for parents to educate their children from an early age on all matters relating to sex.

While many schools do include sexual education in their curriculums, the duty to educate our children rests on parents now more than ever, they should be teaching their children about the risks involved with drugs, alcohol and sexual choices.

Pregnant girls often drop out of school to care for their babies but sadly, not all of them return to complete their studies.

Coupled with teenage pregnancies, the youth of Mpumalanga face a bleak future, according to a recent report by Stats SA, the current unemployment rate among youths aged 15-34 is sitting at 38.8%.

The DA strongly believes that social behaviour, recreational facilities in our communities and functioning sports programmes in schools are some of the issues that should seriously be addressed in order to assist our teens and school children.

If parents champion the drive to educate their children about sex in an open and frank manner, young people will be empowered to make better choices therefore, giving them hope for the future.

The DA believes that we need to address the societal circumstances within which many teenagers find themselves in, namely:

  • The breakdown of family structures, family values and moral norms;
  • The breakdown of community values and the increased exposure to social ills such as drug and other substance abuse;
  • The existence of abusive relationships, inter-generational relationships and multiple partners;
  • Inadequate sex education before the age of 14;
  • Severe lack of extramural activities such as sport and cultural activities that provide a safe haven for children to develop mentally, socially and emotionally; and
  • Poverty and the lack of employment opportunities and insufficient motivation to advance one’s life and career.

With this recent Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill, parents need to be more vigilant as we cannot allow teenage mothers to become part of a lost generation.