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​Jackson Mthembu


Keynote Address by the Hon. Jackson Mthembu, MP, Minister in the Presidency, on the occasion of the NDP Public Lecture; UNISA, Pretoria


4 October 2019


“The Role of the National Development Plan Vision 2030 and its Impact on the Transformation of the Socio-Economic and Political Life of Women in Post 1994 in the Republic of South Africa"


The Vice Chancellor and Principal of UNISA, Prof Mandla Makhanya

Members of the UNISA Council and the Executive Management

The Deputy Chairperson of the NPC, Prof Malegapuru Makgoba,

The Secretary of the NPC and Commissioners present here

Senior Government Officials, Academics and Students

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen




I am pleased to deliver the Fifth Annual NDP Lecture on the 25th anniversary of freedom and democracy in South Africa. This lecture is at an opportune time for us to assess progress since 1994 and the impact of the NDP; to identify areas that need focus and action towards advancing us to the prosperous South Africa we all espouse.


The topic chosen for this lecture, “The Role of the National Development Plan Vision 2030 and its Impact on the Transformation of the Socio-Economic and Political Life of Women in Post 1994 in the Republic of South Africa" is extremely significant for a number of reasons.


It compels us to assess progress made in the emancipation of women and girls from all forms of discrimination and the deeply embedded systems of patriarchy. It also provides us with opportunity to assess how far we have come in dealing with the triple oppression of black women in particular who have for centuries been oppressed as a result of their race, their class and their gender due to our history of the discrimination against black people and their exploitation in South Africa.


It directs us to boldly confront the many contradictions facing women and girls living in South Africa. Post-1994 South Africa is lauded for having one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world, in which women's human rights are linked to their socio economic rights. The right to human dignity is provided, in Section 10 of the Constitution and it states that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. Therefore, the bodily integrity and sexual and reproductive health and rights of all persons are protected and ought to be upheld.


Not only has our government provided for progressive legislative framework as enshrined in the Constitution, it also established the Commission for Gender Equality, which has the power, as regulated by law, necessary to perform its functions, including the power to monitor, investigate, research, educate, lobby, advise and report on issues concerning gender equality.


Women must feel safe and liberated to play an active role as equal counterparts in the growth and development of our nation. Yet we live in a society where the opposite is true. We live in an anti-thesis of the society we envision, where women are not safe in the work place, in the streets, in the post office, in their communities and in their own homes. Women and girls, who are 52% of our population, experience every day the brutality of exploitation, violence and violations of their most basic human rights.


The National Development Plan: Vision 2030 (NDP), adopted in 2012, is our country's lodestar for inclusive prosperity. The core priorities of the NDP are to eliminate poverty; reduce inequality and unemployment through inclusive economic growth; building human capabilities so that people can lead lives they value; enhancing the capacity of the state; and promoting leadership and active citizenship throughout society. While not conceived with an explicit gender perspective, the NDP includes many aspects and proposals that would promote the transformation of the socio-economic lives of women. 


The emancipation of women and their human development is influenced by multiple and contradictory social, economic, political and cultural factors. On many levels, South Africa's transformation challenges are rooted in colonialism, racism, patriarchy and other cultural factors. The explosion of violence against women and girls combined with a history of abuse and brutality under the former apartheid regime has left the country questioning our basic underlying values, our national focus and our agenda for transformation.

In developing mechanisms to address this unacceptable anomaly, it is essential to understand the forces underpinning gender inequality.


Because of patriarchy, men have previously been in a powerful position in society, and women played a largely subordinate role. These socially defined gender roles have therefore generated expectations from both sexes, men and women, in terms of what it means to be a man or a woman. Society expects men to be masculine natural leaders, decision makers and providers beginning within the family structure while women are the feminine care-givers, supporters and followers of men.


As a result, the role of women in society is unequally rewarded and their participation in economic life undervalued. Despite our recognition of these multiple roles and burdens of women, recent evidence gives us a worrying picture of the marginalization and disempowerment of the majority of poor women in post-1994 South Africa.


The 2017 Poverty Trends Report of Statistics South Africa and other research shows that black African women suffer the most from poverty, along with children (17 years and younger), with people from rural areas, and those with no education left most vulnerable. The Feminisation of poverty has also affected the girl child's ability to receive quality education which would otherwise provide her with an opportunity to break the chains of poverty in her family.

The latest employment data released by Statistics South Africa indicate that although strides have been made in the economic emancipation of women in society, women still constitute less than 50% of South Africa's Economic Active Population (EAP) nationally and that unemployment among women is at 31.3%, which is higher than the national unemployment figure of 29%.


In addressing gender-based oppression we must however not be narrowly only economistic. Other discriminatory practices, social norms and stereotypes all play a role in perpetuating gendered oppression. We need a deeper analysis and understanding that research by the likes of UNISA can assist with. We need answers to questions such as why is it that as society progresses and the fight for the emancipation of women reaches new heights, have we seen a manifestation of increased brutality against women and girls?  What could be the psycho-social causes and wounds that may be festering in society, and yet are not visible in our ordinary course of life?


One of the mistakes we have committed in the past, was to focus on the victim, and considering what the victim might have done to attract violence unleashed upon them. In that way, we inadvertently became accomplices by exonerating the perpetrators of violence, and therefore became unintentionally complicit. It is therefore our collective responsibility to arrest and bring an end to gender based violence. We must focus on changing attitudes and perceptions among men, the potential perpetrators of violence, so that they learn to respect women.


All government interventions take guidance from and contribute towards the attainment of the goals of the NDP Vision 2030. We are left with only ten years to achieve Vision 2030, and unless we engage on a higher gear, we are not likely to meet most of the targets. It is against this backdrop that government has adopted the spirit of Khawuleza, which seeks to ensure that we achieve our goals expeditiously.


We must have programmes that improve the employability of women. Women must also be owners of industry if we are to respect the wisdom of every human being.

We cannot reach our NDP goals of unemployment, and economic growth without a specific focus on women. In fact, the oppression of women in our society is a self-engineered disservice against our pursuit of building a developmental state as we have denied ourselves the opportunity to tap into their innovation as a result of gender oppression.


At a global level, numerous of examples of women in leadership positions with countries led by women such as Liberia and Germany have proven that in fact, women are better leaders. It perhaps begs the question; would we have war in a world where super powers are led by women?


Programme Director, there is empirical evidence revealed by our Review of the first 25 Years of a democratic government that women have made significant strides in the various areas of the civil service. This ranges from the number of women serving as members of Parliament and legislatures; to holding mayoral positions and serving on local councils; women serving in leadership positions in the judiciary, the military, etc.

This 6th Administration of Government has ensured that South Africa joins a handful of countries who have a 50/50 gender parity within its Cabinet.  Our Legislative Arm of the State is led by a woman and progress is also evident in the Judicial Arm of the State.


While there is rapid progress in terms of gender transformation in the public sector, unfortunately in the private sector the trends are not the same. There is gradual increase in the appointment of women CEOs and board directors in the private sector, but the progress is slow compared to the public sector. Therefore, the private sector must equally be held accountable for the lack of gender transformation within their boardrooms as the country will not reach gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls by 2030 to reach our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target.


The President has announced that he is going to include the implementation of the Gender Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Auditing Framework in the performance contracts of Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Directors' General and Senior Management in government. This is a game changer and it should be extended to the Private Sector.


The challenge for government over the years has been to ensure that women are not only integrated into the formal economy, but also equipped with the education and skills required to participate in a modern economy. It is imperative, therefore, that institutions like UNISA be more deliberate in equipping young women with digital skills and knowledge to confront the challenges of the 4th Industrial revolution.


Gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women has always been of paramount importance to the government of the democratic South Africa. This has achieved relative success, as evidenced by the indicators I alluded to earlier, but the culture of patriarchy and toxic masculinities have been entrenched in our society.

We can enact legislation after legislation, adopt progressive policies and programmes like the National Development Plan (NDP), but it takes much more to change perceptions, attitudes and behaviour. Incidents of bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace are prevalent, and these must be thrashed whenever they manifest.


We must therefore establish appropriate structures in all departments and municipalities focusing on deliberate interventions to ensure that we change patriarchal relations in the public sector to ensure that we remove barriers for women's advancement in the workplace especially as it relates to abusive practices of sexual harassment and sex for jobs.


We must also appeal to men, in particular, to treat women as their equals. It is now time more than ever before, for men to lead in the campaign #NotInMyName against the GBV and femicides.

Most of the referred incidents are just criminal, as our President refers to them as “a dark and heavy shadow across our land" and our justice system must act hard against them.


Following the #TotalShutDown march last year, President Ramaphosa convened the Presidential National Summit Against Gender-based Violence, which resolved, amongst others that:

  • Government must set up an Interim Structure which will eventually lead to the establishment of a national Multi-Stakeholder Council which has already been established. The Interim Steering Committee is finalising the National Strategic Plan to End Gender Based Violence and Femicide which will be submitted to government at the end of October 2019.

Coupled with the resolutions of the Presidential National Summit Against-Gender Based Violence, President Ramaphosa called a Joint Sitting of the Houses of Parliament to address the nation on matters relating to the recent violent attacks on women and children in the country.


Government outlined the following immediate intervention measures to address the GBV, femicide and violent attacks:


  1. The establishment of an Interim Steering Committee to coordinate rapid response at national level to respond to challenges faced within the criminal justice system. This will result in the introduction of Specialised Units within our Police Service to deal with Gender Based Violence.
  2. Government will also strengthen our centres of refuge for victims of gender based violence through adequately resourcing our Thuthuzela Centres and increasing our Sexual Offences Courts from 94 to 102 by the end of this financial year.
  3. The imposition of the maximum sentence to the perpetrators of gender based violence and femicide. Government will also introduce legislation to amend the Sexual Offences Act to provide for broader definitions of sexual offenders and allow for the Register to be made publicly available.
  4. The improvement of our Life Orientation subject content in schools to introduce women's rights and gender power relations especially at the level of early childhood development phase to ensure the socialisation of our boy children is linked to the non-gendered society we wish to achieve.
  5. This will also be linked to a mass media campaign to target communities, public spaces, workplaces, campuses and school, recreational places like taverns, to create awareness and interventions against gender-based violence. We must equally join hands as all sectors of society to fight gender based oppression in society. It is only through working together, that we will be able to arrest this scourge.


    Whilst government has put in place these measures in an effort to combat the stubborn phenomenon of gender oppression in society, the National Planning Commission (NPC) is embarking on an independent review of the NDP which will focus on the following aspects where the gender question is concerned:

  • What progress has been achieved in terms of women's development and gender equality?
  • What are the obstacles to women's emancipation and gender equality?
  • How do we address the existing gaps on women's development and gender equality within the NDP?
  • What needs to be done to ensure that goals and targets set on women's emancipation and advancing gender equality are progressively achieved?
  • What should an implementation plan on priority issues related to women's emancipation and gender equality for the country include and who would monitor this plan?

This review is expected to provide an evidence based analysis on what has changed and what remains the same or in some instances what has worsened since 1994. When it comes to issues of women's economic, social and political transformation and violence against women we are robustly reviewing the implementation blockages that prevent women's emancipation. We will thereafter provide a medium and long term strategic implementation plan to the President as part of our review.


This NDP review also provides opportunities for Universities and research think tanks to share perspectives and experiences of those whose voices are ignored and highlight a plurality of voices and experiences that would not gain prominence.


As intellectuals and thought leaders we would encourage scholars to interrogate and sharpen debates on issues and factors affecting women and gender equality. Universities ought to reclaim the spaces in the public sphere and boldly propose policy positions that advocate for transformation of gender relations and women's emancipation. Institutions of higher learning and other organs of civil society are invited to submit reports and policy briefs and research report that assess implementation of government and society wide efforts to advance gender equality and women's emancipation to the NPC.


We have demonstrated what the Constitutional framework provides, what Government has been doing, let's use these forums to add on what our social partners have been doing, can do and must do around the NDP implementation. We need to “up the ante" on reflecting the body of work done by all and grow South Africa together.


We must join hands, and work towards the attainment of these imperatives as enunciated in the NDP. We must move away from glib descriptions and concepts that have become meaningless buzz words to a more nuanced and context specific understanding of what it means to be a South African girl and women living in the 21st century, in a rural area, in conditions of extreme poverty and with all the contradictions of modernity and obscene wealth around us.


As we begin to write a new chapter on women's emancipation and gender equality we must also fundamentally challenge patriarchal orthodoxies and the new forms through which these are being reproduced. We must also ask ourselves the question how do we all, as social partners, galvanise, coalesce and commit to implementing the NDP.


After all, it's our future. Let's make it work!


I thank you. ​

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