Gender commission staffer lodges complaint against portfolio committee over alleged interference

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A gender commission staffer lodged a complaint against a portfolio committee.
A gender commission staffer lodged a complaint against a portfolio committee.
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  • The Centre for Applied Legal Studies has filed a complaint with National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula against the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disability. 
  • It claims the committee is allegedly interfering with the Commission for Gender Equality's independence. 
  • The centre filed the complaint on behalf of its client, part-time commission commissioner Busisiwe Deyi.

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies has laid a complaint against the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities with National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula over alleged interference with the Commission for Gender Equality's independence.

The complaint was submitted by the centre on Wednesday on behalf of Busisiwe Deyi, a part-time commission commissioner, it said in a statement on Thursday.

"The complaint relates to the portfolio committee's interference with the independence and/or independent functioning of the Commission for Gender Equality," the centre added.

"The Commission for Gender Equality is a Chapter 9 institution established by the Constitution as an independent body to promote gender equality and to monitor, investigate and report on issues concerning gender equality.

"While Chapter 9 institutions are required to report on their activities to Parliament, no organ of state is permitted to interfere with the functions of these institutions and must instead ensure they remain impartial and perform their constitutional duties without fear, favour or prejudice."

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The centre said the complaint outlined a number of instances where the portfolio committee had interfered with the functions of the commission, including in the appointment of staff and in the commission's processes for handling complaints and reports.

"Over the last year, the portfolio committee has, for example, instructed the commission not to appoint provincial and senior managers until it had approved the process, demanded the commission review decisions on whether to investigate individual complaints and even warned the commission against releasing a report it had not yet finalised," it said, adding:

Our client has become concerned that the hiring and complaints processes of the commission have become subject to the control, review and approval of the portfolio committee, and in particular its chairperson. This is a significant overreach of their mandate and threatens the commission's independence. Interference in the administrative duties of the commission is not only concerning, but unconstitutional.

Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was asked to intervene and introduce policies that regulate the relationship between the commission and portfolio committee.

An attorney at the centre, Thandeka Kathi, said it was significant the complaint was made during Women's Month.

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"We need functioning systems for dealing with issues like gender-based violence and other markers of gender inequality. We know that the processes in place often fail the very people they are meant to protect, so we need to have somewhere to turn when this system lets us down. 

"It is essential that the Commission for Gender Equality remains independent and can perform its function and promote structural change without fear or favour."

Comment from the portfolio committee will be added once received.   

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