Bathabile Dlamini at ministry of women is 'abuse - gender activists

27 February 2018 - 12:58 By Nivashni Nair
Bathabile Dlamini. File photo
Bathabile Dlamini. File photo
Image: Alaister Russell/Sunday Times

A slap in the face. That's what South African gender activists are calling President Cyril Ramaphosa's appointment of Bathabile Dlamini as the country's Minister of Women in the Presidency.

Some have even gone as far as suggesting that the ministry be scrapped altogether.

Gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten explained that as minister of social development‚ Dlamini showed "scant regard for women‚ being willing to gamble with the country's grants - many of which‚ the child support grant and the foster care grants in particular‚ are received [mostly] by women".

"The 2013-2018 Integrated Programme of Action to address violence against women and children has never been put into effect and was never consulted around. On her watch‚ little has been done to improve the working conditions of NPOs which provide a significant number of social welfare services."

"The fact that the vast majority of those providing these services are women‚ many of whom are paid subsidies below the minimum wage for farm workers‚ only underscores her lack of commitment to improving women's position‚" she explained.

Vetten said she could only hope that Dlamini's appointment was a precursor to the closure of the ministry of women.

"It's a lacklustre ministry that has accomplished nothing of note. Its budget would be better spent on assisting universities and colleges to develop and implement policies on gender-based violence; fund post-rape care and domestic violence services to an extent that will enable them to be effective; and develop effective job skills and livelihood training programmes for women."

Samantha Waterhouse‚ head of the Women and Democracy Initiative at the Dullah Omar Institute‚ explained that the issue was more about what the appointment said about the ministry.

"We can have a long conversation about how suitable she is or how effective she will be but I don’t think that’s the most important conversation. I think that the question is: what is the political intention of having a ministry on women and in my opinion‚ that intention is mainly populist."

"It's mainly to be seen to take women seriously. We haven't seen [results] in the years that we have had that ministry and it's certainly underlined by placing Bathabile there that that ministry has not concerned itself with the systemic discrimination against women in our society‚" she explained.

Sonke Gender Justice co-executive director Dean Peacock believes the appointment represented the ANC over the country.

"In her position as social development minister‚ Bathabile Dlamini has shown contempt for the law‚ the South African Constitution and parliament. And most importantly‚ complete disregard for the millions of women who rely on social grants every month to ensure their families' survival."

He said the appointment was a "grave mistake". "Cyril Ramaphosa just undermined our confidence‚ particularly with regard to his commitment of addressing violence against women."