In June, what was once the department of women was renamed to include youth and people with disabilities in the portfolio. People have joked that this is the department for everyone except an able-bodied man. But this department works to build an inclusive society.
Its mandate is to “ensure that the socioeconomic empowerment and rights of women, youth and persons with disabilities are mainstreamed across all sectors of society”. The minister will do this through monitoring decisions (such as laws, policies and practices) and facilitating skills development.
To execute her mandate, Nkoana-Mashabane’s department was allocated a total of R244.5-million. Although this is the smallest budget across all departments, its size is justified by the nature of its purpose: to liaise with and ensure that all other departments are inclusive in their plans of action.
One of the department’s most questionable decisions was how its budget prioritised staff over serving the public. Its largest expense, R85.4-million, went towards compensating its employees. Coming in second was its R85.2-million allocation to the Commission for Gender Equality, leaving a mere R69.9-million for goods and services.
A portion of what was left over went toward establishing a national council to put an emergency response plan into action. This plan involved tackling the backlog of cases while ensuring that jail sentences for convicted offenders are made harsher. Apart from this, the department saw it fit to address gender-based violence by launching a national pledge that pleaded with men to help women to deal with the problem.
The ministry has promised to spend the next five years developing disability law that will leave public and private entities no choice but to grant reasonable and supportive access to those who are differently abled.
On the youth front, the department has busied itself with amending the National Youth Development Agency Act to further its reach of servitude. We await the amendments’ outcome.
But apart from showing up and giving speeches when the calendar said it was time to raise awareness about the people that concern her ministry, the department delivered few tangibles. This department sounds like a good idea, but there’s not much to show for it.