Giving bucks to lame ducks
If only it were autumn. John Keats's autumn, that is -- the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. So mellow, in fact, that South African men would be too chilled to beat their wives and rape their children.
But summer is upon us. A time of year when boredom, booze consumption, holidays and searing heat are shaken into a lethal cocktail.
It's the season when newspapers will be crammed with horrific tales of women and child abuse.
To coincide with wife-battering season, we have the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign.
The campaign's noble intentions are undisputed but its impact remains questionable. Getting the old pay cheque to stretch a bit further doesn't seem to be a concern for some women, namely the Henhouse on the Hill, also known as the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE).
To celebrate its commitment to gender equality, the bluestockings up on Constitution Hill splashed out on a new logo and a champers-soaked launch earlier this year.
Not everyone was consulted on its grand plan, according to a confidential memo leaked to the press recently. Penned by disgruntled staffers, it listed a series of grievances against the CGE's management that had an oddly familiar ring. "Lack of proper consultation." "Interference." "Threats against staff." "Unnecessary activities." "Infighting." "Overspending.
" Scandal, mismanagement and allegations of political meddling have been the hallmark of the CGE's operations, if the headlines are to be believed. But the CGE has an answer for everything. This time, its pearls of wisdom are contained in its latest "strategic plan".
"It would be a canard to present an institution such as this one as unencumbered by politics, policy changes and developments," it reads. The analogy is most useful on the ornithological front: if there's one thing the CGE is good at, it's ducking.
Ducking its responsibility to investigate complaints of gender discrimination; ducking its legally anointed powers of search, seizure and subpoena regarding crimes against women; and ducking its constituents when it comes to explaining what it is actually doing with their millions in government funding.
The strategic plan is crammed with talk about lobbying, creating enabling environments, undertaking quality research and drawing up Memorandums of Understanding.
Then there is the obligatory patriarchy paragraph, the talk about "the embedded nature of patriarchal domination" So there you have it. What the beaten, raped, economically deprived and abused women and children of South Africa need is not the CGE to help them, but a thesaurus.
The recommendations made in Professor Kader Asmal's review of Chapter 9 institutions last year had many knickers on Constitution Hill in a knot. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian earlier this year, CGE chair Nomboniso Gasa was almost believable, talking about how the institution was unafraid of tackling difficult issues.
She also pointed out that the CGE had embarked on a wise-spending "trajectory", and is "very aware that we are using public funds".
The commission's spending on basic operations (excluding staff salaries and actual programmes) will leap from nearly R21-million in the current financial year to more than R26-million by 2012. Though it currently spends around R65 000 a year on "strategic plans and team-building workshops", by 2012 it will need the queenly sum of R83 281,48 for more chick-bonding sessions at taxpayers' expense.
To be fair, the CGE has taken on the odd case of an indigent woman needing water, and chastised a Noord Taxi Rank driver or two, but one wonders whether this justifies its existence.
One is not asking it to hold vigils outside illegal abortion clinics, but to do something proactive rather than reactive to address rising food prices, human trafficking and the other burning issues listed in its report. Tellingly, the so-called gender community appears oblivious of the wholesale fraud being perpetuated in the name of our sex -- perhaps because it doesn't want to upset the tender apple cart.
The CGE spends significantly on consultants. In a touching conclusion, the CGE invites us "brothers and sisters" to "journey" with it, hold it accountable and save it from "the trappings of power, real or imagined".
"This is your organisation," the commission assures South Africa's women. But is it really?
Or is it yet another government body racked, packed and stacked with bureaucrats whose political interests and careerism leave little room for "the common man" (read "woman").
Perhaps it is time the R40-million or so annual budget is diverted to causes that can prove they empower, uplift and protect this country's vulnerable women and children.
We need the gender commission like a fish needs a bicycle.
South Africa targets domestic violence? Source
New legislation comes into force in South Africa on Wednesday in an attempt to combat the high levels of domestic violence. The new Domestic Violence Act aims to increase the amount of help the police and the courts can give to child and adult victims.
But the South African Government has already said it is sceptical of whether it can fulfil the obligations of the Act. The welfare minister says he does not know where the money will come from to provide the services outlined in the act, such as shelters for abused women and children.
Statistics for domestic and sexual violence and the abuse of children are hotly disputed in South Africa.
Arguments rage over whether an adult rape is committed every 36 seconds, every 11 seconds or every four seconds - depending on how police records are interpreted.
Yet only a small proportion of sexual and domestic crimes is reported and even fewer cases are followed up by the hard-pressed police force. Violence rampant There is however little dispute that sexual and domestic violence are rampant.
A woman is killed by her spouse on average every six days. The new act allows protection orders to now be issued free of charge and around the clock by the courts and the police will be able to arrest a suspect without a warrant.
Social workers and police officers are also compelled by law to report possible ill treatment and to tell victims that they are entitled to protection. If they do not, then officers can be fined. The act also widens the definition of abuse to include non-married relationships.
Campaigners argue that changing attitudes is the priority - and not only among the general public. More than 100 police officers have been charged with rape this year, and several judges have caused outrage by failing to apply new minimum sentencing legislation which is intended to deter rapists and child abuses.