Eye on the Money: Women and Government Priorities in South Africa

On 17 June 2014 President Jacob Zuma delivered his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) for the year, the African National Congress having won the June 2014 general elections.

It was apparent from the second SONA that the ruling party will move full-steam ahead with the priorities already outlined in the first SONA, and further articulated in the national budget, as outlined in February 2014.

The fifth administration has opted to appoint Susan Shabangu as the Minister for Women in the Presidency. In his second SONA, President Zuma stated, “The Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women’s development, Ms. Susan Shabangu, will work with other Government departments, agencies, the private sector and non-governmental organisations, to promote women’s socio-economic empowerment, development and human rights.”

While the appointment of Minster Shabangu and the co-operative spirit of the President’s words are to be welcomed, the second SONA did not cast any further light on how the fifth democratic administration intends to spend its money in a way that will specifically improve the lives of women in South Africa. It was recognised that crime against women and children is a serious and all too pervasive problem, but no detail was provided on how the state intends to better equip the criminal justice system to combat it. The campaign to reduce maternal mortality will continue as part of the national health insurance scheme, but seemingly not intensified. It is government’s intention to generate 1 million jobs in the agriculture sector by 2030, but no mention was made of women as beneficiaries with respect to these jobs, nor prioritizing women’s access to and control of land.

The President also stated that the National Development Plan (NDP) will be the fifth administration’s road map for socio-economic transformation. This does not augur well for women’s poverty and inequality, as the NDP controversially fails to consider or address gender inequality, and there is no scope for re-shaping it now. Over the next five years, the newly constituted parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women in the Presidency will hopefully play an important oversight role in ensuring that government spending reaches women in a meaningful way.

18 June 2014

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Heinrich Böll Foundation
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