Keynote address by the Honourable Premier R.M.Mtshweni-Tsipane on the occasion of the Provincial Commemoration of Women’s Day

09 August 2022

Programme Director;
Honourable Members of the Executive Council;
Honourable Members of the Legislature;
The Executive Mayor of Gert Sibande Cllr Walter Mngomezulu;
Our Host, the Executive Mayor of Dipaleseng Local Municipality, Cllr Brenda Khethiwe Moeketsi;
Senior Managers of the Provincial government, led by the Director General, Mr Makhukhu Mampuru;
Abaholi boMama benhlangano ebusayo and other representatives of women organisations in our midst;
Leadership of broader civil society
Good Morning;

Programme Director, it is a singular honour for me to join the beautiful people of Dipaleseng as we commemorate one of the most significant days in the calendar of our beautiful nation.

On this auspicious day, we pay homage to all our heroines who, through their words and most importantly their deeds, taught us the true meaning of courage, sacrifice and determination in pursuit of the noble goal of equality, freedom and the conferment of dignity to all.

It was on this day, 58 years ago when over 20 000 women of all races and creeds displayed unity in purpose to protest against the imposition of Pass laws to women. On that monumental day, the apartheid regime learnt that “wathintha ‘bafazi wathint’ imbokodo”.

As part of our commemoration today, we acknowledge the immense legacy of our heroines who, throughout the long years of struggle for the emancipation of our people, demonstrated relentless fortitude in confronting the most difficult conditions of organising women under societal oppression.

We pay homage to the legacy of uMama Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu who embodied courage in the struggle for the emancipation of South African women of all races.

Her selflessness and unwavering determination resulted in her building structures that defended the African National Congress during the dark days of apartheid. She was the first woman to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act.

What the apartheid dispensation did not realise is that you can physically imprison a person, but there is no prison that can arrest an idea or ideology whose time has arrived.

Her imprisonment did not deter her courage and determination. Instead it galvanised her determination and she was one of the brave women who organised the Women’s march of 1956.

Programme Director, this year also marks 101 years since the formation of the Bantu Women’s League, which eventually birthed the African National Congress Women’s League.

Its first President was Charlotte Manye Maxeke, who exemplified the spirit of defiance and an indomitable will, in the face of an oppressive, racist and patriarchal regime. She had a clear understanding of non-sexism and was not conservative. She recruited to the ANC, Reverend Mahabane who went on to become the President of the glorious movement, umbutho wabantu.

These are but 2 examples of the indomitable spirit inherent in all women. These examples show how central women have been in the operations of the African National Congress and the liberation of the oppressed majority who call this beautiful land, home.

These heroines paved the way for the mainstream participation of women in the creation of a democratic country premised upon the pillars of a non-racial and non-sexist society. In essence women across the length and breadth of this nation affirmed the principle that there shall be “nothing about us without us”.

Our Constitution is the apex law of our country and is widely revered around the world for its recognition of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Indeed, we are fortunate as a country that as the long night of Apartheid came to an end, the struggle for the emancipation of women was elevated.

As a provincial government, we are mindful that the prominence we give to women’s issues must translate into a better reality for women in their daily lives.

This endeavour, when achieved, would be a fitting tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

Challenges facing women today

Programme Director, our commemoration of women’s day is blighted by the wide array of challenges women face today.

The recently published Mid-Year Population Estimates from Statistics South Africa show that 51.1% or 31million of our country’s population is female.

Sadly, all evidence show that women continue to bear the brunt of our society’s major challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

This is despite our efforts and implementation of many policies and programmes that were aimed at giving expression to the Constitutional rights of women and girls to equality, human dignity, freedom and security.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic intensified the development challenges facing our province and, sadly, its socio-economic impact disproportionately affected women and the youth.


Programme Director, the theme for this year’s commemoration of women’s month is “Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Improved Resilience”.

This theme is perhaps fitting because it recognizes that as we enjoy 28 years of a democratic constitutional dispensation, the journey for gender equality and women’s empowerment is just beginning.

With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us we are now able to focus on driving a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery that creates more jobs.

The emphasis on a sustainable recovery reminds us of the importance of us being mindful of our impact on the environment, the reality of climate change, and the imperatives of a “Just Transition”, as we move towards a low-carbon economy.

This economic recovery must be “inclusive”, where no one is left behind.

Unfortunately, as we all know , the structure of our economy is such that women are often “left” behind.

In the labour market, barriers for women include structural and cultural factors, ranging from occupational and sectoral sex segregation to workplace discrimination and gender stereotyping.

Women are often more likely to be in the ‘informal’ sector and have fewer opportunities such as access to services, skills, finance and market opportunities.

The Mpumalanga Provincial Government, together with its social partners, will soon be formally launching the Mpumalanga Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (MERRP), which has taken the issue of gender quite seriously.

In addition to a number of bursaries and internships we make available to young women, the Provincial Government in collaboration with our Municipalities is also working with the Mining Qualifications Authority to ensure that training programs within the Province are targeting the women and the youth, to train as small scale miners and provide them with some basic tools of trade.

Indeed, our provincial government has continued to support women through a number of initiatives such as incubation programmes, youth development centres, artisan development training, and youth empowerment programmes.

For example, the Mpumalanga Stainless Initiative (MSI) was established to beneficiate stainless steel and assist and support SMME’s with business skills within the stainless steel and steel industry. The MSI Incubator is situated within the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality but assists SMMEs from across the Province, especially those who have a connection to the stainless steel industry.

Youth and women owned SMME’s are undergoing training and supported on stainless steel in order to start their own manufacturing operations.

We also have the Furniture Technology Incubator which was established to train people in furniture manufacturing and upholstery and assist SMMEs to participate in the furniture manufacturing sector.

Young women, are trained in small scale furniture manufacturing and upholstery to increase the skills in this sector to support the planned Forestry Industrial Technology Park.

Part of the MERRP, is a commitment to the Employment stimulus which will see the province provide many hundreds of working opportunities for women through programmes such as the National Youth Service, Contractor Development programme, the paving of township and municipal roads, and the Social Enterprise Development Programme .

Through the Employment Stimulus pillar of the MERRP, we will further intensify public employment programmes, such as the Expanded Public Works Programme in order to create a large number of jobs in the shorter term and support increased procurement spend for women and youth.

For example, we have in place the Siyatentela Roads Maintenance Programme which has achieved more than thousands of work opportunities for poor local households.

We also have in place the “Women in construction program (Sakhabakhi) which is aimed at ensuring better inclusion of women in this economic mainstream.

Agriculture and Tourism are other sectors where we have programmes that target women for involvement through incubation, such as the Fortune 40.

Most importantly, the provincial government has established the Mpumalanga Youth Development Fund (MYDF), which is intended to also benefit young women.

In this financial year, a total budget of R60 million is set aside for the Youth Fund to cater for the successful applicants in this phase.

These are initiatives that are already being rolled out and are budgeted for .

Programme Director, The Mpumalanga Provincial Government is firmly committed to ensuring that women are empowered to participate meaningfully and sustainably in the provincial economy.

We will continue to constantly review and assess the impact of our policies and programmes on the lives of our intended beneficiaries.

As I conclude, allow me to also add my voice about Gender-Based Violence and Femicide (GBVF). This phenomenon has reached pandemic levels and is a thorn in the flesh, not only of Mpumalanga but the country as a whole.

In the weeks ahead, I will convene dialogues with women across the three Districts to get a better sense of where we are lacking in our efforts to effectively aid victims of gender based violence. We want a society where victims are not influenced to sweep gender based violence under “the proverbial carpet”.

Yingakho sithi phansi ngokwesula amacala eGBV phansi!

From these dialogues, we shall develop a holistic approach to end the pandemic through a strategic plan.

Programme Director, I wish to reiterate my calls to law enforcement agencies to ensure that GBVF is treated as a priority crime and that all perpetrators face the full might of the law.

The fight against GBVF needs us to tackle all its multiple ‘drivers’ which include gender inequity, poverty, poor communication, and marital conflict, and societal ills such as substance and alcohol abuse.

Most important of all is the need for us to recognize that GBVF stands as a barrier for women’s full participation in our society.

If we do not address this pandemic, it will rob us of mothers, sisters and pillars of our communities. We have a responsibility to break the shackles of gender based violence at all levels in our beautiful Province.

In celebrating Women’s month and paying tribute to those heroines of 1956, we must constantly be reminded of the quality of leadership that has emerged from the African National Congress Women’s League.

As descendants of the movement that gave us stalwarts like uMama Winnie Mandela, uMama Albertina Sisulu, Ruth First and countless others, we must acknowledge the baton that has been handed over to us. We must be at the forefront of eliminating societal ills such as gender based violence.

We must be at the forefront of leveling the economic playing field so that the economic transformation is centred on women and young people. Let us once again roll our sleeves and leave no stone unturned in advancing the development of women in our Province.

I thank you

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