The 2022 bill emanates from the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) produced by the interim steering committee established in April 2019. Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers

Cape Town – Anti-gender based violence and femicide activists and civil society organisations have welcomed the establishment of a national council tasked with responding to the violent and pervasive scourge in South Africa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the National Council on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Bill on May 24, which will see the establishment of the statutory body responsible for the prevention and response to gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.

The council, comprising 51% of civil society representation, will provide for a multi- and inter-sectoral approach towards the implementation of the National Strategic Plan at national, provincial and local level.

The 2022 bill emanates from the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF) produced by the interim steering committee established in April 2019.

Anti-gender based violence organisation Ilitha Labantu said it welcomed the recent action, describing it as a positive step towards effectively addressing GBVF in South Africa.

“However, our primary concern remains the implementation of these legislative measures. While South Africa is renowned for its robust legislative frameworks, the challenge often lies in their execution,” Ilitha Labantu communications manager Siyabulela Monakali said.

“As an organisation, we strongly believe in prioritising proactive prevention strategies through education and awareness. A significant concern is the insufficient resources allocated to educating communities about their rights and teaching men and boys about gender equality.”

Another key concern was the inadequate training of police and for the need for sensitivity and urgency in handling cases of GBV and femicide.

Monakali said greater collaboration between the government, private sector, civil society, and communities was also crucial.

“This also underscores the need for increased funding for service providers offering essential services to communities with high levels of GBV. Through greater collaboration, all sectors can work towards sustainable solutions in the fight against GBVF.”

Callas Foundation executive director Caroline Peters also welcomed the news stating that this was way overdue, but stressed that the council should be democratically elected.

“This council represents a unified and concerted effort to address a pervasive and deeply rooted issue that affects countless lives.

“A response to GBVF that excludes community-based organisations is a response that will fail.”

Peters said the council’s core focus should envelop survivor support and protection; GBVF prevention and education; legal framework and enforcement; research and data collection; community involvement and advocacy; and intersectional approach.

Ihata Care Group chief operations officer Nuraan Osman said a national council is required, but effective implementation of this should be seen.

“We need real results but with the cut in funding from the Department of Social Development to GBV shelters, we have become sceptical.”

“The core focus should be efficient and effective resources to combat the problem. Government-funded safe spaces run by those of us who’ve been working in the fraternity for many years are seeing the actual impact and effects of GBVF on society. The justice system should also become a focal area for the council.”

The council which will act through its board, must develop an action plan within six months of its formation for the implementation of the National Strategic Plan; ensure resources are equitably distributed and develop programmes and measures for education and training, among other functions.

It must also review the National Strategic Plan and its action plan within five years after the date of the commencement of the act and at least once every five years thereafter.

Amendments to the National Strategic Plan and its action plan must be made should the need arise, with the amendments to be approved by Cabinet.

The Council’s Board must consist of no more than 13 members, with 80% women representation and should comprise seven people from civil society organisations and one representative of the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities; Department of Justice and Constitutional Development; Department of Social Development; Department of Health; the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs; the South African Police Service; and CEO.

Members of the civil society organisations must be appointed by the Minister and through participation by civil society in the nomination process. The Board will be expected to submit an annual report to the Minister by August 31 of each year.

The current allocation for the Council for the 2022 MTEF (three-year period) is R15 million, allocated in tranches of R5 million per financial year.