Opinion | Holding government and parties accountable on GBV and LGBTI+ issues

On a sunny day in October 2017, my mother took her last breath, she fell and died. Her life was marred with violence both structural and intimately. As I recently cast my vote on 8 May, I thought about her and many people whose lives are marked with this heinous reality of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

This week, as new members of Parliament were sworn in, increasing the number of womxn in Parliament, I find myself thinking about her again and wondering if she would be pleased with this year’s results. More importantly, what would she have thought of the various political parties’ manifestos as a Pan Africanist womxnist?

I do not know her thoughts and cannot begin to articulate or speculate about them. Instead, I will articulate mine regarding the manifestos of the top political parties, which comprises of the African National Congress (ANC), Democratic Alliance (DA), Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) following this year’s results.

During the campaign season, the parties released their various manifestos and made certain promises covering a myriad of issues. The manifestos had a particular focus on GBV. This is largely owed to the tireless work of people, especially womxn rights movements involved in the #TotalShutDown march on 1 August 2018 to the Union Building, to present the President with 24 demands that would go a long way in reducing the scourge of GBV. Following the success of the march, a two-day GBV and femicide summit was held to traverse pertinent issues pertaining to GBV.

I read the various manifestos with interest. I also spent some time reading the Dullah Omar Institute’s feminist analysis on ANC, EFF and DA manifestos, which focused on GBV, unemployment, housing, the wage gap and land, to name a few. Sonke Gender Justice also compiled a short analysis of the manifestos of nine political parties contesting the 2019 National Elections. The analysis addresses traditional gender issues such as female representation, gender equality, and issues relating to the LGBTI+ community and sexual and reproductive health – while sex work, as well as migration, were included to broaden the spectrum of themes reviewed.

Escalating reports of employers sexually harassing employees

The ANC’s manifesto laudably had a very prominent focus on GBV and outlined plans to implement the National Plan of Action against GBV. It also promised to place a focus on education programmes aimed at offering psychological and social support for vulnerable learners, and to advocate for stricter bail conditions and harsher sentences when it comes to offences involving GBV. In terms of LGBTI+ issues, the manifesto only included queer people in the context of hate crimes and social security.

The DA’s manifesto indicated that it would focus on a better implementation of criminal laws, in particular plans on how sexual offences cases should be reported and investigated. It proposed a Femicide Watch (a programme that collects data and releases reports on gender-related killings annually), institutions that provide counselling and rehabilitation of victims of GBV and for more Sexual Offences Courts as well as a multi-sectoral National Council on GBV. The manifesto further stated that the party would ensure sensitisation training in various spheres of government and to ensure that there is no discrimination against queer people.

The EFF’s manifesto focused on what they find to be the root causes of womxn’s oppression, namely patriarchy and sexism. The manifesto, in dealing with these root causes, proposed gender education at various levels of society. The manifesto also focused on sexual harassment, a unique feature noticeably absent in most of the other manifestos, in the workplace. This addition is important, especially in the last year, in which there have been escalating reports of employers sexually harassing their employees. Sonke Gender Justice recognised the importance of this heinous phenomenon and focused on this last year as part of the 16 Days of activisms campaign.

The EFF proposed that workplaces create a safe mechanism to allow people to report sexual harassment and all other sexual-related offences. Additionally, the manifesto – like the DA’s manifesto – proposed for more specialised courts dealing with sexual offences. It also recommended units be established on campuses to deal with sexual related offences. Arguably, the EFF’s manifesto is the most comprehensive when it comes to queer people and their rights. The manifesto proposed, amongst others, the amendment of laws to ensure harsher punishments for hate crimes against queer people. It also proposed amending laws to ensure that the Department of Home Affairs expedites alteration of identity documents for transgender persons.

The IFP manifesto recognised the alarming rates of GBV in South Africa. It echoed the DA and EFF’s recommendation for the creation of special courts to address GBV cases. It furthermore proffered trained SAPS officers to deal with GBV. Regrettably, the manifesto does not address queer issues.

Promises are important but they cannot be achieved without money

These are the promises of the top four political parties for the next five years. These promises are important. However, they cannot be achieved without money. Money talks. Money enables us to do the things we need to do. We need a fully costed National Strategic Plan on GBV. We need the Minister of Finance – unlike the beginning of this year – to allocate money towards reducing, preventing and responding to GBV. Allocating the necessary budgets to GBV is how we will know that government is serious about GBV. This is important as President Ramaphosa signed the Declaration against GBV and femicide acknowledging the brutal reality of GBV and plague to tackle the scourge.

In the upcoming five years, I hope that we will use these manifestos as a blueprint to elevate policies, monitor implementation and hold parties and government accountable to ensure that we are not given empty canisters masked under election manifestos.

Over the next five years, let us become active citizens who hold our parties, government, and members of Parliament accountable to their promises. Let us make our voices heard through the media, public participation in the legislative process, participation in the Integrated Development Plans process, and let us ensure that we live in a South Africa free from violence or discrimination of any kind.

Over the next five years, let us act in remembrance of womxn like my mother, Lerato Moloi, Nonki Smous, Lesley Makousa, Pitso Tsheleng, Pascalina Malemu, Tebogo Mkonto, Zoliswa, Phumeza Nkolonzi and those whose names we do not yet know and may never know.

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane is a social justice attorney and works at Sonke Justice Gender in the Policy Development and Advocacy Unit.

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