JOHANNESBURG, July 5 – Delegates at the African National Congress’ (ANC) 5th national policy conference (NPC) disagreed strongly over a proposal by the Gauteng members to decriminalise the activities of sex workers, the chairperson of the social transformation committee Lindiwe Sisulu said on Wednesday.
“You will find an issue that has arisen in the plenary as a contentious issue. The province of Gauteng has proposed to us that we decriminalise sex workers and they put it across as a proposal and a recommendation until we found that the plenary was not too happy with that proposal,” Sisulu told a media briefing at the NPC in Johannesburg.
“In the discussion, we had actually indicated that before we have something placed before conference, it should have gone through the necessary discussions … but this one was sprung on us at the conference without going through the necessary consultation,
“So we did expect that we would have a fallout with the plenary. So when you come across these documents and there is this matter of sex workers being decriminalised, it is a proposition of Gauteng.”
Sisulu, who is also the minister of human settlements, said Gauteng is of the view that South Africa is “unduly harsh on people trying to make a living” and it should be men’s involvement in the sex escapades which must be penalised.
“In Gauteng’s perspective, this sex work is an executive pleasure so their proposal is to turn it around so that we criminalise the men,” said Sisulu.
Moving on, Sisulu said her committee expressed deep concern over what it termed the breakdown of the social fabric in South Africa.
“We believe that government has done exceedingly well in the delivery of services in this sector, however we are very concerned about the breakdown of our social fabric as a society. This is one area which remains stubbornly backward in the way we define it and we are very concerned about that,” said Sisulu.
She said to address the crisis, delegates at the NPC recommended speed in the creation of a national identity “so that we all relate to the country and to each other as one”, and dealing with the issues of that breakdown in the social fabric and its manifestation in the high crime levels including abuse of women and children, and other hate-driven crimes.
“We would like all branches of the ANC to be effective agents of change as leaders in our community. We would like to see the ANC at the forefront of radical social transformation and our agenda to achieve social cohesion and nation building. To this end, we would like to urge all ANC members to be exemplary in their conduct and make sure that at all times they reflect the ANC ideology and the fact that we ANC members are leaders of society,” said Sisulu.
The delegates also recommended that South Africa categorises hate crimes as a priority.
“In this case we would be in a difficulty because we have to first confront the fact that we have not yet got beyond dealing with the issue of racism. We spent a lot of time dealing with the issue of racism. We got to legislate against racism, we got to make sure that we understand it in all its finer and newest manifestation. We are also very concerned about the possibility that as we do this, we are not paying attention to the resurgence of tribalism,” she said.
“We are concerned about patriarchy. We believe that if we are going to have a truly transformed society, we have to deal with patriarchy.”
The commission also expressed concern about the massive unemployment particularly among the youth and “we found that it is part of the cause why they are so anti-social sometimes and why they resort to anti-social behaviour”.
Buti Manamela, also of the social transformation commission added that there was a strong recommendation by delegates that the State must tighten the noose around individuals who damage public infrastructure, particularly during protests.
“There was a strong views from the conference, that we need to put in strong legislation that will deal with people who damage public property and that we must educate the public on the consequences of damaging the public property,” said Manamela.
“We have seen recently where communities protesting and as part of those protests we see the destruction of schools and other public property. We really want to call on all our communities to ensure that we protect those institutions.”