Budget Debate On Vote 13: Women In The Presidency

Old Assembly Chamber
Remarks by the Hon. Ms LL van der Merwe, MP

Agbare Voorsitter –

Let me at the outset state that I wish to pay tribute, to the brave students, of Rhodes University, who recently spoke-out against the rape culture at their campus. We applaud them, not only for their bravery, but also their activism.

However, our collective fight against gender-based violence has been dealt a severe blow by the recent utterances of Justice Jansen. We join our nation in its collective outrage. I too, have, on behalf of the IFP, submitted an affidavit to the JSC, asking them, to deal decisively with this matter.

Hon. House Chair, during the past year, more than 53 000 women were victims of abuse or rape. This amounts to approximately 147 cases, per day in the past year.

It remains an appalling state of affairs, that each year we come to this podium, to debate this budget without being able to report on any progress in our fight against gender-based violence. It is time to admit, that Government’s approach to this crisis, is completely ineffective.

Then, we must ask ourselves the question: if this, is truly, a caring Government, why do we ignore their plight of the millions of schoolgirls, who miss a week of school each month, because they do not have access to sanitary products?
Honourable Minister, it cannot be that we continue to label sanitary products as luxury goods. We call on Government to reclassify women’s hygiene products as necessities, therefore exempting them from VAT or what is referred to as “tampon tax”. Your Department, must take the lead in this regard.
But let me make it clear. Removing VAT from these products might be a step in the right direction, but the IFP calls for the provision of free sanitary pads for those who cannot afford it. It is possible.

Our Government spends millions on the provision of free condoms, even flavoured ones. Yet, our girls are deprived of their dignity, and education. Let us declare 2016, the year, in which we right this wrong!

Chairperson, this Department receives a miniscule budget.

But to make matters worse, the bulk of this budget, more than 60% of it will be spent on administration, leaving less than R40m for this Department, to achieve, its core goals.

If we consider these numbers, it is clear that the system is failing us.

Let me also state, that we cannot simply claim that we have succeed in empowering women, just because we have more women in Parliament and Cabinet. This does not reflect our reality.

In reality, women are not safe in their own homes, and in their own communities. In reality, women still bear the brunt of poverty and many in rural areas remain excluded from the economy.

Minister, this must change. Despite your mini budget, you and your Department must use every cent to effect change. And you must become a strong voice for our women.

We want to hear you give guidance on the ‘blesser’ phenomenon, sugar daddies and teenage pregnancies. We want to hear you give guidance when President Zuma claims that women are too sensitive, when they mistake compliments for sexual harassment. We want you to take a more aggressive approach in holding to account Departments and Entities that fail our women.

But for this to happen, this Department must become more than an employment agency. We need a ‘back to basics’ approach. We need to spend less time on talkshops, workshops and conferences.

We need to focus on ensuring that this Department’s monitoring and evaluation tool is finalized as matter of urgency. And we must ensure that gender focal points at the various levels of government are operational.

In conclusion, Hon. Chair, we have made some strides in our collective pursuit of women’s empowerment and gender equality. But we still have a long road to walk.

I thank you.

Ms LL van der Merwe, MP
082 729 2510
IFP Media, Parliament