Tag Archive | Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill

Gender Equality Bill goes out of the door

Minister cans idea of gender equality bill…..

susan shabanguMinister Susan Shabangu, minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women’s Affairs, says she will not be re-introducing to Parliament the Gender Equality Bill which lapsed at the end of the last term of Parliament and has remained unsigned by President Zuma since.

The controversial and totally impractical Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, to give it it’s full name, has now been totally scrapped by Minister Shabangu and at recent parliamentary media briefing she announced that it will not be resuscitated in any form in the future.  

The legislation would have obliged companies to progressively achieve 50% representation for women in top levels of management, business and industry representatives quickly pointing out that this was both impractical and unenforceable.

President Zuma not signing

Originally tabled by former Minister of the old department of women, children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, the Bill was surprisingly hammered through Parliament with a hefty ANC majority in the last government despite being rejected by all social partners in Nedlac due to its “vagueness and ambiguity.   

In the meanwhile it has sat unsigned by President Zuma, new Minister Shabangu admitting to Parliament that it was tabled without sufficient consultation and would be re-introduced when more consultation had taken place.

The Bill stipulated that all public and also “designated bodies” nominated by the Minister at the time would have to submit plans for progressively achieving 50% representation for women in their decision-making structures.

Criminalising non-achievers

The proposed fines were stated as a maximum of 10% of annual turnover for continuous offenders, whilst the directors or CEOs of designated bodies could be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.   The Bill, as it was worded, overrode other laws dealing with empowerment.

Now sense has prevailed.  In her parliamentary briefing, Minister Shabangu confirmed that the current Equality Act covered the same territory and her department was now going to establish whether this Act was “delivering on its promises” as far as women’s empowerment was concerned.

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Women Empowerment Bill gets new minister

Women Empowerment Bill in the queue….

Under the previous government, the improbable Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which contemplates tough laws to enforce gender transformation compliance in the private and public sectors, was virtually bulldozed through the National Assembly (NA) to be implemented as early as 2015. The Bill was promoted by former minister of women, children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, and looked suspiciously like a last minute attempt to retain her cabinet post.

The Bill now sits for enactment but it may be some time before the new minister of the newly formed ministry of women, Susan Shabangu, who takes over the re-named ministry, gets around to implementing it by regulation should President Zuma add his stamp. The new ministry of women is attached to the President’s office.

Decision making women

Under the new proposed legislation, government departments and private entities will be required to fill a minimum of 50% of all senior and top management positions, described in the Bill as “decision making positions”, with women.

As Parliament closed, the Bill went to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) for concurrence, the NCOP running to extended period of a fortnight to allow the passage of some ten Bills to finality and presidential assent before the elections.

Unusually, this particular Bill had been returned to the NA portfolio committee for approval in respect of a couple of minor alterations.   Consequently, the Bill still remains as outstanding business for the President to consider signing.

Limping through

Opposition parties have described the Bill as “unworkable and unachievable” and voted against the Bill in the NA after the Bill had to be introduced twice by the Speaker, the chamber initially failing to form a quorum.   ANC members had to be found to put their hands up.

This Bill, with a number of others, represented a handful of pieces of legislation that were “fast tracked” before closure, ANC party whips using their majority position in the NA.

Resources limited

As far as the practicality of the Bill is concerned, opposition members have repeatedly pointed out that there is neither the labour pool in many industries and sectors to meet such targets as envisaged, either now or in the future, and have queried the fate of male black employees, already under siege in the job market to provide for families.

Nevertheless, minister Xingwana was furiously attached to her objectives after Cabinet’s approval of the Bill, despite a Nedlac rejection.
ANC chief whip, Stone Sizane, issued (unusually for a party whip) a statement following the Bill’s approval by the NA before it went to the NCOP, having so energetically guided the legislative voting.   He said, “The Bill represents a significant turning point in our endeavour to liberate women from all forms of discrimination and oppression.”

“It is firmly in line with the provisions of our constitution and will enforce 50% gender representation, thereby empowering women by ensuring that they participate meaningfully in our economy.”


Sizane concluded, “Unlike the existing legislation on women empowerment and gender equality, which has suffered challenges such as lack of enforcement and implementation, this Bill provides for a fine of about 10% of companies` annual turnover and/or imprisonment for non-compliance.”

The Bill also requires the relevant minister to annually publish a report to recognise those who comply with the Act and name and shame those who do not.”

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Parliament stays open for business

The way it works

NA smallFor the last three weeks, Parliament has been clearing a vast quantity of legislation and parliamentary committee oversight deadlines in order to bring down the curtain on the fourth government of South Africa and to prepare for elections.  It has hardly been possible to keep up with the pace of legislation being passed and the manner of its passing.

In fact, the National Council of Provinces will stay open for an extra two weeks to give concurrence to a number of the Bills on the legality they require before they pass to the President’s office for assent. When they become law is a matter for gazettes to publish. Or they could call Parliament back to sit if there are disagreements on the provisions.

Critical Bills

The last sitting of the National Assembly was a difficult affair, perhaps because of the overtone of electioneering – a fact which was evident in a number of Bills which were clearly passed in time for the elections but which could have done with a lot more aforethought applied before they went to the NCOP, namely the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Amendment Bill, the Private Security Amendment Bill and the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill – if not the Land Restitution Bill.

Once the election results are known, the first sitting of the new, the fifth government of South Africa, will take place. Technically, all Bills outstanding at the end of the fourth government fall away but each time a government has ended in the past, a certain number are revived by proposal from an MP in the early portion of the first new session.

What is important to recognise is that with the closing of Parliament, the parliamentary world does not go into cold storage. Much of what goes on in Parliament is about government policy and government departments use this period to often re-set the clock on certain matters where it is evident that a minister will change or policy matters need a clarion call for a new cabinet to heed.

New blood

With Cyril Ramaphosa returning as deputy president and head of the NDP drive, a ray of hope returns to what has been a messy affair in parliamentary circles in the last few months, political opportunism having been the order of the day.

Stalwart ANC Joan Fubbs, chairperson of the trade and industry portfolio committee, put it succinctly to all members of her committee, the governing party and opposition members alike, when she said that South Africa deserves lot more from Parliament than it is getting and if she has anything to do with it, members will be working a lot harder for their stipend in the coming session.

Whether Parliament will be recalled for impeachment procedures before elections is not a concern that we shall report on, and, in any case, every detail and every word uttered will be covered by newspaper reporting.

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Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill

50% equity Bill for women headed for law….

black white womenThe Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, drafted by the department of committee on women, children and people with disabilities and tabled before Parliament, demands 50% equity in all businesses for women where “decision making processes” are concerned.

The Bill  appears to have been passed by cabinet, although not making it through first base with NEDLAC. Having had such a response by cabinet, presumably from the President himself, it is highly possible that the Bill will be powered through this last parliamentary session of the present government. The Bill was tabled by minister Lulu Xingwana.

BUSA strongly objected

In its parliamentary phase after tabling, Business Unity SA (BUSA) objected to the Bill in a submission stating that there was absolutely no need for such legislation when laws were already in place covering black equity in which the subject of gender equity or equality was adequately covered.

BUSA argued that in terms of the suggestions made in the Bill, called the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, such a Bill would attempt to override legislation already in place such as the B-BBEE Act and Employment Equity Acts, this particular Bill calling for 50% equity for women in “decision making areas”.

No labour pool for such law

BUSA called the Bill “unacceptable and unrealistic”, adding that in most cases the labour pool from which the particular type of work envisaged would not even contain a 50% reserve of women. The DA said the Bill was probably unconstitutional.

Some attempt to justify the Bill was made by the department on women, children and people with disabilities at committee level when they said the Bill would not have been approved by cabinet unless government was serious about the fact that only 20% of top posts in business were occupied by women.

A spokesperson said for the department subsequently said that the Bill might initially apply to possibly as yet undefined bodies such as state boards and political formations, which again the DA referred to as “cannibalising” existing state institutions.

The Bill never made it past the NEDLAC process last year but in the last days before Parliament closed in 2013, the Bill appeared on the tabled list and comments were called for by Parliament in the early portion of the 2014 session.

The Bill has now been debated in Parliament, that debate and the issues involved being with our clients before posting on this site. The Bill will undoubtedly be passed in the light of the passion by the minister for the Bill, with opposition members across the spectrum voting against or abstaining.

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