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Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces and parliament member – Sylvia Lucas

This week on Womanity-Women in Unity, Dr. Amaleya Goneos-Malka talks to the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Sylvia Lucas from the African National Congress, who was formerly the Premier of the Northern Cape.  Firstly, she differentiates between the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) from the National Assembly, emphasising the NCOP’s mandate to ensure provincial interests are taken into account. We discuss the nationwide review of the Women’s Charter, which addressed aspects of equality, fighting violence against women and girls and the state of implementation of articles in the Women’s Charter. Unfortunately, lack of implementation remains an ongoing concern. We discuss women in political leadership, remarking on the importance of pipeline processes to draw women through political structures and how the effects of patriarchy negatively impact on women’s perceptions of each other. The Deputy Chairperson highlights an example of the under representation of female ward councillors, in part attributed to the fact that female voters voted for male candidates over female candidates, which illustrates a lack of confidence or belief in their abilities. We consider ways to help encourage women to pursue leadership roles, from support, to mentorship and recognition. Paraphrasing her grandmother the Deputy Chair reminds us that, “Flowers can grow in the ghetto”.  Tune in for more…

DR. MALKAJoining us on the line today is the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms. Sylvia Elizabeth Lucas, from the African National Congress.  She was formally the Premier of the Northern Cape and she has served the African National Congress as well as the African National Congress’s Women’s League in various capacities, including the Provincial Working Committees.  Welcome to the show Deputy Chairperson!
DC LUCASGood morning Dr. Amaleya and good morning also to your listeners and thank you very much for having me on the show.
DR. MALKAYou know Deputy Chairperson, this is the first time that we have actually had an interview with someone from the National Council of Provinces and as I understand it, the NCOP is one of two houses of parliament, the other being the National Assembly.  A primary role of the NCOP is to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account within the national sphere of government; please can you tell us more about the NCOP?
DC LUCASThe NCOP, as you have already said, is one of two houses of parliament.  The one issue that I have realised is that very people really have a clear understanding of the second house; the National Council of Provinces.  The National Council of Provinces in the make up thereof is made up of delegates or representatives from provinces to ensure that provincial interests are taken into account in the national legislative process.  It does this mainly by participating in the national legislative process and by providing a national forum for public consideration of issues, particularly where it is affecting provinces.  You will find that there is some sections in the constitution that make provision for legislation and there is a specific section; Section 76, that is taking into account provincial interests into legislation and that is where the National Council of Provinces actually features.  The NCOP also coordinates and integrates and aligns across the spheres of government, because that remains a challenge.  In all our engagements we usually have special delegates from the provinces as well as organised local government.  Now how do we do it as the NOCP?  We usually have debates and recently we introduced a new form of engagement, what we call Ministerial Engagement or Ministerial Responses, to respond to the specific issues where just recently we had an issue around the looting, the crime system and gender based violence and we brought in the Minister of Police and other, the MEC’s from provinces to respond to the safety issue, but what we also use as a platform to make sure that we extend the issue of accountability, of oversight; we then have what we call Central Parliaments or Central Work, where we also create across provinces, districts and localities through public participation and we also use that as a platform for feedback on progress made in implementing development priorities, we track the implementation progress across provinces, districts and localities.  For instance, I know that will be the next question but I can use it as an example; when we did the Women’s Charter Review, we actually did it at a district level, we went through almost all the districts in the country to make sure that we engage structures, NGO’s and other stakeholders a well as the general public, particularly women.
DR. MALKAYou’ve certainly provided an overview and looking at how it integrates across society, across the three different spheres within the government structures and yes you’re right, I definitely want to ask you about the National Women’s Charter Review Process.  I was very intrigued when you said that it went down to a district level and just to explain aspects of the Women’s Charter; we are looking at equality, fighting violence against women and girls as well as progress on implementing articles of the Women’s Charter.  Can you talk us through some of the key elements that you are leveraging in this space and how the communication forums have been taking shape?
DC LUCASIn 2019 we realised that it’s already 25 years of the Women’s Charter that was actually adopted in 1994, based on about 12 articles, but we realised that in the 25 years, it’s not necessarily that we went back to the Charter to see whether the way government responded, was it in line with what the women of 1994, as they had also reviewed the 1954 Charter, is it actually in line with what their expectations were because that was like a document of demand to say that this is…we are going into a democratic dispensation, are we really taking into account the issues of women and some women, the Federation of South African Women sat together and they decided on 12 articles that they set, more or less, education, culture, violence, infrastructure, media, social services, that is the kind of things that they sat around and they set our minimum demands that we want to be responded to, taking into account women.  Possibly the women at that stage had a lot of faith in the fact that the men will be able to actually respond because remember we are from a very patriarchal background and why is that women’s issues had to come almost through the back door.
DR. MALKASure and in 1994, if I’m not mistaken, memory serves that before we came in as a fully fledged democratic parliament, there was only 2.7% of parliament were made up of women, so it just shows that we didn’t have a voice in the legislature.
DC LUCASSo that’s why I always say to them when we say break the silence, we’re not only speaking about issues of violence, we are speaking of issues of disregard, the fact that women were just like, just an extension of whoever, particularly the male that was in charge and that is the reason why we said let us look into this Women’s Charter and it became a resolution of that Women’s Parliament of 2019, let us see how far we are and we also said let us base it on the following issues, let us do a proper gender analysis at local government level, how the integrated planning and whether it includes gender responsive planning or budgeting, as well as how gender is service provision at the local government level.  That was the one area, the other area was then we said let us look at province, you find in provinces they say yes, we’ve got a Women’s Desk or say we’ve got  Women’s Office on the status of women, so in terms of their planning processes, because provinces have got provincial growth and development strategies; do they have gender responsive planning, budgeting, how is provincial government responding to issues of gender.  We actually had a session where we called provinces to the NCOP to make a thorough analysis of the national gender machinery on all levels, because you find that there are gender focal persons and that is something that we’ve been complaining about, in departments they will appoint as an assistant director and say you will be the gender focal person and that is like malicious compliance, saying that we do have someone that is responsible and then there’s a gender focal person and that person becomes responsible for all special programmes, everything that is not necessarily in the mainstream will be then shifted to the gender focal person, but that person doesn’t have resources, that person doesn’t even have a proper position from where she can actually…he or she can actually be in a position to speak truth to power and that is why we said let us do a proper analysis and we did that analysis, we did a review of the systems, of the institutional arrangements at all levels, so that we can see what is weakening, what we want to achieve, what is exclusionary of these systems and in the process and really we found that in 25 years, we haven’t made a lot of progress.  We have all the legislature in place, people are making policies, but it is not necessarily implemented and one major weakness is that budgets across all spheres of government are not necessarily responding to gender issues.  For the past two years we were putting pressure on the different departments through our process of making sure that departments are called to respond, we had a law reform seminar where we called the justice department, social development, home affairs and we looked into the specific legislation that are supposed to make sure that we address the issue of gender equality.  Gender based violence has been one of the major issues that we started to address, so one of the things that we, in terms of this charter, that we really wanted is to make sure that we develop a charter that is responsive to the challenges that women are facing and that we also take cognizance of the effect of poverty as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s quality of life, because if you say that many people have lost their jobs, many more people are poorer than before, then imagine the face of poverty in South Africa is black and it’s female.  The majority of them doesn’t have one economic active person, in fact Statistics South Africa was a major partner in our process of reviewing the Women’s Charter, together with Commission on Gender Equality as well as the Finance and Fiscal Commission, because in terms of budgeting and that is the other major issue.
DR. MALKADeputy Chair you’ve raised some really interesting points, the first piece that I want to address though is the aspect of implementation, you know, we’ve been doing this programme for going on eight years and it’s something that keeps repeating, that we have the right legislation in place, we have the right policies in place, but we still let things remain as paper rhetoric and we are not able to get implementation off the ground to really see strong gains being made and the second piece that I wanted to almost conjoin as a way of trying to accelerate some of the gender machinery and gender agenda, is the issue of fiscal policy, because nothing seems to be really working to date, otherwise we would have seen extensive change, but I always wonder about the ability of using fiscal policy as a potential mechanic to accelerate change by the way that you direct expenditure at a government level to benefit women, because after all, every year government receives new budget and how that money is spent can and will affect women.  So, given your experiences, the role you occupy to date; what are your views on that point so that we can really start driving real change, that we don’t have another 25 years or 30 years to review the next women’s charter and discover that we’re off track again?
DC LUCASI think the issue was all the time, approach, because when you start to speak about gender responsive budgeting everyone thinks that you speak about the budget that will benefit women.  They don’t understand that what you are speaking about is that if you budget for houses, then you need to begin to budget for houses that will say it will be the same concept, but it will make provision for all the different groups and the provision that I’m speaking about, for instance, look at rural women; rural women have got the responsibility to make sure that they access water.  Now if in the rural areas they have to walk 10 kilometres or 8 kilometres to get water from a water source, they are not protected, they are not necessarily having access to hygienic water and so on; women’s needs differ from a man’s needs.  All departments or local government or whoever, whenever they plan for anything, they plan one size fits all and that is why I put emphasis on the issue of planning, because usually you will resource your plans, but if your plans is not inclusive, which means the resources that you put to that plan will be exclusive by nature, isn’t it, I hope I  make sense.
DR. MALKAYes you do and I mean this also speaks to aspects about when buildings are being constructed on universal design and how you’ve got the correct flow so that persons who are disabled, how do they access those infrastructure, how do they access buildings and that’s where this concept of universal design comes into the space and as you mentioned, using that perfect example of responsibilities of rural women where water is one of those duties that falls into their daily chores; how is water made accessible to them, how is water cleansed, etcetera, so that does certainly bring in the gender lens.
DR. MALKAToday we’re talking to Member of Parliament, Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms. Sylvia Elizabeth Lucas, from the African National Congress.  We would love to receive your comments on Twitter: @WomanityTalk.
DR. MALKADeputy Chairperson, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is the statistics and representation of women in parliament, according to the latest figures from the Inter-Parliamentary Union, it shows the global average of female representation across parliaments is only 26%.  The same source rank South Africa in ninth position, out of a hundred and ninety, with 46.5% representation, so we’re nearly at half.  Please can you share with us some of the challenges associated with becoming a member of parliament from a woman’s perspective?
DC LUCASIf I can respond the way I experienced it or the way I know it.  First of all, to become a member of parliament there is a proportional representation system, which means that women get into parliament through their parties.  Now if I can share an experience that we just had now and all parties have got this problem, that in wards, women does not necessarily emerge as candidates to become ward councillors, so parties had to make other ways and means to make sure that there is women’s representation.  The unfortunate part of this thing is that the majority of people that goes to this forum to nominate people are women, but because of our patriarchal inclination the majority of women will not necessarily support a woman to become a candidate.  So why am I mentioning this as an example?  Because it’s exactly what is happening in the way we are getting into parliament, we do want quotas and we do need quotas, if we really want to make sure that we have women representation.  The unfortunate part is that through popular nomination you will not necessarily find the women emerging, because women, I don’t know but I think across the world, we are our own biggest enemy, we don’t see how we can develop other women, we don’t see how we can actually make other women to progress and the biggest impediment for us as women is the fact that we don’t trust one another enough to put ourselves in these different positions.
DR. MALKADo you see this as part of almost a conditional mindset, for instance, when you spoke about the ward councillor aspect of if you don’t, because that’s where it starts in politics, you build up through the ranks, but if you don’t have women at the ward councillor level and if the face of the ward councillors are generally male and you’ve got people voting, that if you’re only presented with a male option or a male view that you become conditioned to thinking that women can’t be ward councillors, it’s a role of a man; do you think that is part of the reasoning here?
DC LUCASI think it takes on different dimensions.  I’ve experienced that women tend to be very harsh.  I must say that some of us is getting it right to make people change their perspectives, it depends also on how, as a woman, you stand your ground and I’m telling you, men can boldly do wrong things and say wrong things, but women should even be very cautious, even if you are doing a correct thing and you are proposing a correct thing, that is my experience and unfortunately some of us became like seen as we are in Afrikaans they say “mannetjie is reg” (men are right), as women that is too bold, you are too forward, you are too what, everything is too much, but you don’t have a choice, so now you have to prove yourself and you have to prove yourself so much more.  Remember I was a premier, I was a MEC of environment before I became a premier, no-one ever before I became the MEC of Environment, went out in my province preaching the issues around climate change, around the importance of planting trees.  I just in one or two years as an MEC of Environment, in this water scarce province, we succeeded in planting more than three thousand trees, which is something that is a major achievement, people thought so what, what is it about planting trees and then the same person will come and tell huh ha the mayor, which is a man,  today we planted trees and things and so on, you become so sceptical and you ask yourself, I’ve done this thing in a scale that is unprecedented in this province, but it didn’t become a big issue.
DR. MALKAYou’re showing how different perceptions of men doing things versus women doing things and how they’re being received and perceived by communities.  Given what you know today and your experiences and obviously you’ve had this of enduring the fact that women haven’t supported you enough nor other women; what are you doing as a female leader to try and ensure that the mindsets shift, that women do support one another and help them climb the ladder of success?
DC LUCASLet me just give you a recent example.  When we started with the review of the Women’s Charter, I actually spoke to the women in the NCOP and I asked them please can we own this process and there was about three or four of them that were very consistent, one lady from the opposition, from the Democratic Alliance and the other three from the ANC.  So last week we had an event and one of the ladies was asked to do the vote of thanks and the next day she came to me, she said to me, Ma Lucas, I am coming to you to say thank you very much for how you make me develop as a person and I said Audrey you will have to explain, and she said to me, when we had the Women’s Charter Review Process, every time when I logged on,  the first thing that you did is to give me responsibility to lead a section of the programme, if I didn’t lead a section of the programme, you allowed me to do the vote of thanks or the closing remarks.  When I came to parliament I was a very shy person and I didn’t like to speak in front of people, but in terms of speaking in front of so many people, it is something that you allowed me and today I am so confident of standing in front of people and speaking to them. And there is another lady, she is a bit older and you know in the current society, older ladies begin to feel that they don’t have a role, they are just sent to parliament to be there, no-one respects them and no-one actually believes that they can make a difference and she came to me and she said to me, can you please speak to this person, I asked why, she said no, whenever I speak to this person I get the feeling that he is undermining me and I don’t have the courage to speak to him, I said to her okay, I’m going to sit next to you, we call him and you speak to him.  After that she said it’s the first time that this person is treating me with this respect.  So what I’m saying is that we are trying and even I was saying to someone, when I was the chairperson of the ANC Women’s League in my region, the person that was elected as a secretary was a young woman with all the ambition, but not the knowledge and I took them and I said to them let’s sit down, let’s discuss our responsibilities from time-to-time and get someone that can actually teach you how to write minutes and things like that.  When I was the premier I went out to companies like the Mine Managers Forum, like the solar companies and all of that and I requested them to give bursaries and I said to them, even if 60% must be young women, but I want the young women of this province to be able to go to university, to go to college, wherever they want to go and we succeeded.
DR. MALKAThat’s a lovely story and in fact several there, the points that I really take out on this when we go to the question of how we try to encourage more women to be involved and accept women in leadership, is the aspect of giving one another support, of helping them when they’re confronting challenges, of encouraging them to be involved and assume leadership positions, that they’re being recognised in their achievements for their contributions.
DR. MALKAToday we’re talking to Member of Parliament, Deputy Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces, Ms. Sylvia Elizabeth Lucas, from the African National Congress.  We would love to receive your comments on Twitter:@WomanityTalk.
DR. MALKADeputy Chairperson, one thing that I really have to ask you, because as you’ve described to us, politics is tough; please tell us about your journey, what put you on this trajectory?
DC LUCASBefore democracy I was an activist, I was very much involved in areas like the educare sector and when democracy dawned, because of our involvement, the majority of us since 1992, after the unbanning and all of that, we started to become political activists and also one thing that I can really credit for my development, is the Catholic Church, because in our church we were involved in all the different structures, they actually built leadership.  I literally grew up having a non-racial concept in me because the priests were white but they never treated us differently, but then when you go out in life you find that this issue of being discriminated against is big; it’s major.  My grandfather, being a man from Xhosa origin and had to do much more to be accepted, even change his surname and we carrying a different identity as our real identity, if you look at all those things, freedom didn’t come free, it didn’t come easily.  So what you have to do is to make sure you work hard and you plough back into your community, so that is the one thing that made me join, people started to do boycotts do delegations to the local authorities, I became part of that and then now we were actually becoming members, full members of the ANC whilst we’ve been community activists and you’ve been identified and you’ve been recruited and so on.  I was then recruited to become a councillor on the PR list and after some time I was taken out of the council and put into the administration.  After some time we had a provincial general council, at that provincial general council I was one of the women that was nominated to go to the provincial legislature and that is how I evolved into the issue of legislature and later became an MEC and 2013 I became the premier of our province.
DR. MALKAYour history, from a political point of view, is a reflection of our country’s political history in itself; from your roots in the activism space and then evolving through the different organs at a provincial level and then coming in at a national level.  You also seem to have been strongly motivated by social justice and the impact of our unjust society and the various discriminations that the majority of our population experienced.  As we’re coming towards the end of our show today, I wanted to ask you about what you consider to be some of your factors of success.  Some of our guests have spoken about hard work, perseverance, discipline; in your view, what would you say have been some of the key drivers to your success?
DC LUCASI had a grandmother who believed that flowers can grow in the ghetto, because the socio-economic circumstances in which we grew up was not wonderful, but my grandmother believed that you must be the best that you can be.  The issue of discipline was very important, because we had a very strict grandfather, because my mother died when I was twelve, so she was the one that was responsible for me.  For instance, every night…every morning there should be prayer and my grandmother, particularly when she grew older, everyday, whenever you visited her, you will find her in her room praying the Rosary and like I’ve said already, the church played a very important role in actually establishing my belief system.  I remember for a fact that when we were still young, but not too young, some of the boys or the girls that we called Freedom Fighters, was harboured by my priest, this American that actually gave us an opportunity, like for instance say, I know at home there will not necessarily be money to go to college, but go and do this computer course, because that will assist you in your life coming on, others went for teachers and whatever, it’s not what I necessary wanted to do, but all of us got an opportunity and if you didn’t grab that opportunity, where would you be in life.  So that is the value system that was put in us is that should you…you take opportunities but you don’t discriminate against other people that doesn’t have the same opportunities that you have and if wherever you are, be the difference that you want to see in the world.  So I have been growing up with that kind of mindset and that kind of belief, that you must always do the best that you can and I can identify with the phrase that they say came from Charlotte Maxeke, “wherever you can, take someone with you if you develop” and that is some of the values in my life that I believed in.  There is one thing that I also want to, just a little bit of I think I’ve got bragging rights on that one, you know that I was the only woman ever that became a regional chairperson of the ANC in my region and in the time that I was the regional chairperson together with the secretary, it was the first time that the membership in this region exceeded twelve thousand, I mean it’s not a big number, but at that stage it was a very big number.  So I worked very hard and I know people are not acknowledging always what you did, but sometimes we can also speak about our own achievements. [laughs]
DR. MALKAOf course, it paves…but it paves your path, so I always think that our lives are constructed on dependencies, that the positions and the roles that we occupy today is because of what happened in our past, that was the map that got us to this point.  Deputy Chairperson we are now at the end of the show, please can I ask you to use this platform to share a few words of inspiration that you’d like to pass onto girls and women who are listening to us on the continent?
DC LUCASThank you very much Dr. Amaleya.  I want to say to, particularly to young women and to young girls; the value of education cannot be underestimated.  Every day we need to make sure that the opportunities comes our way, we need to grab it and the issue of self-development, it is so important, because in many instances you’ll find that people have got…are well-educated with very little emotional quotient, because they don’t develop themselves physically and spiritually.  It is a difficult journey and you have to stand your ground, you can get wherever you want to be by developing yourself and also have positive role models.  I can say that there are many women in the organisation that I look up to, because they are people that have got their own self-worth and they don’t allow other people to determine who they should be to make sure that they get somewhere.  It’s very difficult in life, particularly if you are a woman, even today.  I wish that most of the African countries can look into women’s empowerment the way Rwanda do, because remember Rwanda was the first country where you got, in parliament and in legislature, 50/50 representation of women, that is something that I always admired, I always said to myself if Rwanda can do it, we can do it in South Africa.  So I want to say to our young women across the continent, the sky is the limit, if you really make sure that you align yourself with positive involvement and positive engagement.  Develop yourself, believe in yourself and believe in your fellow women, because that is the most inhibiting factor, that women doesn’t believe in women themselves.  Thank you very much Doc.
DR. MALKAThank you for that great message; it’s been a pleasure having you on the show today, thanks for participating.
DC LUCASThank you very much and thank you to those that listened to us.

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