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

09 August 2023

Programme Director;
Honourable Members of the Executive Council;
Honourable Members of the Legislature;
The Executive Mayor of Ehlanzeni District Municipality, Cllr Jesta Sidell;
Our Host, the Executive Mayor of Nkomazi Local Municipality, Cllr Phindile Magagula;
uBukhosi in our midst, led by the Chairperson of the Mpumalanga House of Traditional Leaders, Kgoshi Lameck Mokoena;
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;

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

  2. Today, we celebrate the many great women who have contributed immensely to the birth of our democratic dispensation and affirmed the central role women play in the development of our communities and ultimately to our beautiful nation.

  3. On this auspicious day, we honour all heroines who, through their words and most importantly their deeds, taught us the true meaning of courage, sacrifice and determination in pursuit of equality, freedom, dignity trough the eradication of the crime against humanity that was apartheid.

  4. Programme Director, on this day, 67 years ago, over 20 000 women of all races and creeds displayed unity in purpose to protest against the imposition of pass laws to women.

  5. On that monumental day, the world and the apartheid regime learnt that “wathintha ‘bafazi wathint’ imbokodo”.

  6. The legacy of that fateful day is visible across our beautiful Province. Today, the women of Mpumalanga have equal rights and opportunities that their forebears were denied.

  7. Today, women are at the forefront of the development of our beautiful Province.

  8. Today, more women are registered in institutions of higher learning across the Province.

  9. Today, the Provincial government is one of the few in the country with gender parity in the composition of our Cabinet.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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”.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

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


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

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

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

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. However, it will be remiss not to locate the challenges facing women today in the broader context of our country. Indeed, after almost three decades of our democratic dispensation the life of the majority of the women in the country remain in crisis.

  30. The legacy of the triple oppression, where black women were subjected to national, class and gender oppression, is largely still with us.

  31. Programme director, as our country faces the ever-growing multiple socio-economic challenges, it is the women that have carried and held our societies together.

  32. In the household, for example, the burden of housework is faced by women. The fact that women, just like their male counterparts, are forced to go out and earn a living, has not eased this burden. Often, we come back from work to be faced by more household chores such as cooking, cleaning, homework, bathing children, looking after elderly and sick members of the family while having to take care of the needs of their men. This is what many scholars have characterised as a “double day” for women.

  33. Therefore, it is not enough for us to celebrate Women’s Day without highlighting the plight of women in society. If this will be meaningful, then we must tackle head on challenges such as inequality and safety of our women.

  34. The fact that in 2023, there is still a gender pay gap of between 23% and 35%, despite various pieces of legislation aimed at preventing gender discrimination in the workplace, points to this challenge.

  35. Of course, this has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic despite the fact that many South African households are female-headed.


  37. 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”.

  38. This theme is quite 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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.

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

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

  43. 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.

  44. This is why we have placed a premium on ensuring that employment opportunities we create are directed towards women.

  45. Through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) we continue to create the much-needed work and training opportunities for the poor and unemployed.

  46. In the current financial year, EPWP has created 24 205 work opportunities through the use of labour-intensive methods. The majority of beneficiaries in this regard are women.

  47. Programme Director, we reiterate our commitment, as the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, to use public procurement to promote economic participation in order to transform ownership of the means of production. In this regard, 30% of the provincial procurement spend shall be set aside for enterprises owned by women.

  48. We, as the Mpumalanga Provincial Government, together with its social partners, have launched the Mpumalanga Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan (MERRP), which has taken the issue of gender parity quite seriously.

  49. 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 the Mining Qualifications Authority to ensure that training programs within the Province target women. These training programs will empower small scale miners and provide them with basic tools of trade.

  50. 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.

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

  52. 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.

  53. An important 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.

  54. 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.

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

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

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

  58. I wish to emphasises that all of these initiatives are already being rolled out and have been budgeted for .

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

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

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

  62. 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”.

  63. Yingakho sithi phansi ngokwesula amacala eGBV phansi!

  64. From these dialogues, we shall develop a holistic approach to end the pandemic in our Province.

  65. 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.

  66. 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.

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

  68. 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.

  69. 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.

  70. 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.

  71. We must be at the forefront of levelling 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.

  72. I thank you.
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