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Radical Economic Transformation for Women

20150822 144010-1Speech By The Deputy Minister of the Department of

Telecommunications and Postal Services,

Hon. Prof. Hlengiwe Mkhize

During the Occasion of

Commemoration of Women’s Month

Centurion, Pretoria
22 August 2015

Topic: “Radical Economic Transformation for Women”



Programme director, allow me to start my input by briefly reflecting on what leadership is in the context of our fellow female stalwarts. Taking from our predecessors, we have learnt that leadership has nothing to do with your title, your authority, your seniority, or that you have people reporting to you or that because you have reached a certain pay grade. Instead leadership is about the social influence one has in their space.

The majority of us who are Women in leadership in the present day, stand on the shoulders of giant, brave Women Leaders and unsung heroines of our struggle for freedom & justice in this country, who fit the above description. Amongst others, we salute Women leaders such Charlotte Maxeke, Dora Tamana,  Albertina Sisulu, Lillian Ngoyi,  Helen Joseph,  Raheema Moosa,  Sophia Williams De - Bruin, Frances Baart, Ida Mntwana, Motlalepule Chabaku,  Ruth Mompati, Bertha Gxowa, Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and many other women leaders who participated in the then Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW).

I would like to put a special emphasis on comrade Charlotte Maxeke, an activist, a teacher, politician and founder of the Bantu Women`s League of South Africa, a forerunner to the ANC Women’s League. During her time, she was the first black woman to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree, which was in 1905. In that era, very few women from any population group, not to even mention a black woman, were graduating from university, more so in the field of science. She became a trailblazer among her peers by bravely defying societal expectations and the limitations placed on her by virtue of her colour and gender. Not even the valor of the colonial administration could impede her thirst for education and her leadership aptitudes.

Through cooperation from other women, comrade Maxeke detested pass laws and the manner in which they sought to restrict the movement of women. She organised and mobilised women against pass laws. It was in June 1913, when she led the first anti-pass campaign against the Union government. In this campaign, about 700 women marched to the Bloemfontein City Council in the Orange Free State and burnt their passes. Comrade Maxeke had led a delegation to Prime Minister Louis Botha to discuss the issue of passes for women. The march became a catalyst for women’s active involvement in the liberation struggle and sparked a broad-based mass mobilization.

Comrade Maxeke’s defiance and leadership at the time influenced women from all over the country. When she organised the June 1913 anti-pass campaign, a group of eleven Transvaal Indian women, among them the 16-year old Valiamma Munswami Mudliar, began defiance activities by hawking without licenses in Vereeniging. The militant women defied the anti-Asiatic law which prohibited Indians from entering Newcastle. They crossed the provincial border of Transvaal into Natal and provoked the miners of Newcastle to lay down their picks and strike.


Comrade Valliama Munswami Mudliar and Comrade Maxeke constituted an important historical foundation of women leadership of the modern struggle for freedom. Forlornly Valiamma was detained and fell ill in jail in Pietermaritzburg, unable to survive harsh prison life at the tender age of 16. She died after release from prison. She was indeed a remarkable teenage girl who fought against racism at the same time as Charlotte Maxeke.

The resilience and tenacity of leaders such as Valiamma and Comrade Maxeke built the principled and fearless foundation for the contribution of women in the effort to remove the repressive apartheid regime in South Africa.

This women’s month we also celebrate the sterling work towards women inclusion in the ICT Sector by women leaders such as the former Minister of the Department of Communications, Dr. Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri. During her tenure, she always made sure that within the telecommunications portfolio, there were programmes aimed at women empowerment and inclusion. In every board that she has been part of she always advocated for a 50/50 gender parity. The commitments she has made in the ICT sector talk to concrete commitments of the democratic government. She used her public and political platforms ensuring that government, together with the civil society and social partners, facilitate the provision of opportunities to the marginalised groups through, inter alia, ICT skills and training programmes; initiating ICT SMMEs and rolling out ICT infrastructure to health centres and schools.   

Women Leadership in the Context of Inequality and Exclusion

Given the historic composition of the South African economy women leaders often find it hard to flourish. They find themselves having to first close the wide gender-gap which at first seemed to be almost impossible to close. The main issue they grapple with on a day to day basis is inequality. Of all the countries included in the World Bank’s Development indicators, South Africa has the worst Gini coefficient. The richest 10% of the population gets over two fifths of household income, while the poorest 60% gets only a seventh.
The world renowned economist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, Professor Joseph Stieglitz said: “Societies face a very high price for inequality especially when inequality reaches the high level that it does in the United States and South Africa. Inevitably economic inequality translates into political inequality and that undermines our democracy.”

Prominent authors such as Thomas Piketty a Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics has done major historical and theoretical work on the interplay between economic development and the distribution of income and wealth. He is currently the world’s most recognised academic who has produced substantial new knowledge on the political economy of poverty and inequality in the modern world. Professor Pikettys work has now led to radically question the optimistic relationship between development and inequality, and to emphasize the role of political and fiscal institutions in the evolution of income and wealth distribution.  

In South Africa, joblessness and inequality are still deeply rooted in the economic and social systems left by apartheid. The challenge for us is to restructure these institutions and ensure more equitable access to education, employment and assets while sustaining growth and regional development. These kinds of structural change cannot be achieved overnight, but we need to speed up the pace.
The legacy of apartheid is also that black women are most subject to inequality, poverty and unemployment. The apartheid economy was a gendered system of oppression. A pillar of that system was the imposition of ‘Bantustan’ areas as the basis for migrant labour, with women in particular kept in these impoverished and often remote areas to bear the burden of caring for children and the elderly. This system kept African women far from economic zones and economic opportunities outside the home and exploited women’s unpaid labour by placing the burden of providing the social network the state denied.

The apartheid economy was also centred on mining and heavy industry where women were not highly represented. Furthermore, a host of laws kept black women out of the core economy. In particular, the laws kept black women from equal access to land ownership, credit or quality education.

These deep rooted structural inequalities laid the basis for today’s situation, where black women are on average more economically vulnerable and excluded compared to black men. As I’m sure you’ve experienced, many black women have broken through the many barriers to take leadership positions in our society, from the economy to politics to culture and academia. But the fact remains that on average, black women continue to face worse conditions than other South Africans.

Today, women make up over half the population but they constitute just over a third of the formally employed, while a large number labour in vulnerable jobs. Overall close to half of men who are of working age have paid work compared to a third of women.
Women also generally end up with most of the burden of caring for the ill, cooking and cleaning in the household. These tasks reduce women’s ability to earn an income outside the household. Poor and rural women are most affected by the burden of unpaid labour as they are still more likely to have inadequate electricity, clean water and sanitation. For these women, the burden of care is increased as they must spend hours labouring over collecting water and cooking over wood or kerosene stoves. This also has a bearing on the role they might be playing in leadership, either at a community level or in a corporate setting.

Since 1994, when the transition to democracy was made, the South African economy has grown at a rate equal to that of other middle-income countries if we exclude China and India. That compared with a much slower rate of growth in the 15 years leading up to democracy.

But improved growth in itself proved insufficient to address the deep joblessness and inequalities shaped by apartheid. Although employment creation improved after 1994, it was only enough to match the growth of the labour force, and not to overcome the deep employment deficit left by apartheid. In 1994, only two out of five working-age South Africans had paid employment; the figure has improved only marginally today.  Moreover, many of the employment gains we made were wiped out in the downturn in 2008, and we have only regained some of the ground we lost. Since 1994, the unemployment rate has come down from 30% to 25%, but that is hardly an acceptable figure.

We see a similar picture on inequality: there are some gains, but not enough. The democratic state has improved the position of the poorest by expanding welfare and ensuring more equitable access to government services, including education, school and housing. But income inequality remains amongst the worst in the world.

This is not to say that there has been no progress in the past 21 years. Black women now have the legal right to live where they want, to own property in their own names, and to get bank credit without their husband’s signature – all rights that were denied to most of them before 1994. Black women now can enter any profession for which they are qualified, and it’s far easier for them to get qualifications as well. Many have taken advantage of these opportunities to establish meaningful careers.

Broadband Roll-out

Coming from the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services it empirical that the leadership roles and economic opportunities I shall speak to are within the ICT Sector. You will remember that this was a sector that was initially perceived as male oriented. Findings by a study on “qualities that distinguish women leaders” conducted by an international talent management company Caliper, established that:

•    Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts.
•    Feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude.
•    Women leaders have an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making.
•    Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks.

These findings makes women better business leaders and we all know that most often the starting point of business leadership is from entrepreneurship. There are entrepreneurial opportunities available for women in the ICT sector.

Universal inclusion and active participation in the digital economy are the key forces that underpin all our policy approaches towards a knowledge-based and connected digital society. At the core of building this digital economy is the need to attract more investment into the sector, to create robust, secured and sustainable infrastructure development and to develop broadband demand stimulation strategies, as highlighted in the National Broadband Policy, SA Connect.

Earlier this year, our Honourable President, Jacob Zuma during his State of the Nation Address said that: “The year 2015 will mark the beginning of the first phase of broadband roll-out. Government will connect offices in eight district municipalities.
These are Dr Kenneth Kaunda in North West, Gert Sibande in Mpumalanga, O.R. Tambo in the Eastern Cape, Pixley ka Seme in the Northern Cape, Thabo Mofutsanyane in the Free State, Umgungundlovu and Umzinyathi in KwaZulu-Natal, and Vhembe in Limpopo.”
This does not only come  as an opportunity for government to provide services in places in most dire need but an opportunity is also presented to the business community, particularly women business owners, in terms of the last mile connectivity. As much as we need points of presence in various areas across the country we will still need to deliver broadband to people’s houses, just the same way as we do with water and electricity.

The uptake and usage of broadband will require the delivery of innovative and affordable services, the development of content and applications, procurement of manufacturing of ICT end-user devices and developing a digitally literate nation. These various elements of the value chain of providing broadband services presents good opportunities for women businesses at large and particularly for the development of SMME’s in the sector. The rollout of broadband infrastructure and services demands that business develop innovative and affordable solutions to respond to societal needs and use of broadband service. It also increases the demand for low cost computing devices, which women when organised can form cooperatives which deals with manufacturing. 


Broadband infrastructure also drives e-government and e-commerce, the growth of which is dependent on consumer confidence and the level of trust in the cyber environment. Our policies take cognisance of the potential of the ICTs to change the manner in which government communicates and provide services to the citizens for South Africa to gain efficiencies, save costs and improve public services. The potential of business-to-business, business-to-consumer electronic services has also been amply demonstrated.
In collaboration with the Department of Public Service and Administration, my Department is working on the development of a coherent policy and structure for e-government services. We have noted a need to develop a well structured distributed and secure interoperable e-government framework, that will enable ultimate migration of the frontline government services from paper based systems to paperless electronic systems. These services will be available to all citizens using a variety of access services.

It also has to be noted that in order for the uptake of and implementation of e-government to be successful, there will be a need to identify and explore Digital opportunities. Digital opportunities come in the form of ICT applications development. In order to enjoy complete benefits brought about by Digital Opportunities, we are interfacing all programmes that support the development of ICT applications with formal Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) systems to collaborate, influence and direct efforts towards the development of ICT applications that support e-Administration, e-Health and e-Education, as prioritized in SA Connect.

Open Access Network

The coordination of infrastructure rollout measures to facilitate rapid deployment of this infrastructure and the interventions required to reduce the costs of communications and advance universal access remains central to the policy process.

In rolling out broadband infrastructure, The Department’s Policy, SA Connect, provides for the need to provide a model for the development of an open access national broadband network that would enable infrastructure sharing and promote more competition in the provision of services. This model will open up opportunities for small operators to compete with the incumbents and could therefore assist in driving down the costs to communicate. It aims at producing an effective market structure required to attract sufficient public and private investment in extending broadband, as well as facilitate the efficient management and allocation of spectrum to support the provision of ICT services.


The Internet Economy

Within the telecommunications sector, the role of Internet-related economic inputs continues to grow in significance. The Internet economy contributes 2% to South Africa's GDP. This contribution is rising by 0, 1% per year and it is planned to reach 2,5% by 2016. The total spent by consumers, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and Government on products and services via the Internet as well as on Internet access and infrastructures is estimated to be R59 billion. The internet economy will over time potentially become one of the new building blocks of the South African economy. This opens a flurry of opportunities for industry to be more innovative to create more internet-related jobs and skills.


While transformation has always been the pillar of ICT policy in South Africa, the slow progress achieved to-date seems to present, what Professor Jane Duncan refers to as “a stalled cause”. We need to put transformation back on the agenda. The department has recently conducted a workshop on the empowerment of SMMEs within the ICT sector.
One of the outcomes of the workshop is that the ICT usage can create opportunities for SMMEs to move up the economic value chain, leading to a future economy where a much larger proportion of SMMEs operate in the ‘zone of transition’ towards more sophisticated businesses with higher turnovers, employing more staff; and towards more differentiated businesses engaged in services, construction, manufacturing, and professional pursuits.

Transformation of the ICT sector underpinned by an appropriate regulatory regime and empowerment of South African citizens through skills training also remains pivotal to the policy making discourse as the country needs to develop the skills base that is relevant to the changing technological and developmental environment.

The department has in the previous year launched the iKamva National e-Skills Institute (iNeSI). INeSI is a result of the realignment of three institutions namely: National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA), e-Skills Institute and Institute of Satellite Software Applications (ISSA). It is aimed at the development of local e-skills that are required by the sector and the user skills necessary for social and economic inclusion to secure and create jobs.

iNeSI brings together government, business, schools, Further Education and Training Colleges, universities, civil society and global development partners to advance the development of local ICT skills that will make South Africa globally competitive, facilitate economic and social inclusion and contribute to economic growth. This is a further opportunity for on-going professional and skills development for all of you, offering critical skills, often sponsored by the private sector and government.

The Department is also working with Women in ICT Forum to promote women inclusion as part of women empowerment. We are also calling the industry to take pro-active steps to promote women empowerment including in skills development; in leadership within companies; ownership and control, and other aspects of empowerment. We must work closely together to address inequality in the market and also implement the employment equity policy to ensure that we meet the set equity targets.

Government’s Economic Opportunities for Women

Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment

I am happy that as we celebrate women's month we are also celebrating economic inclusion of women into the mainstream economy. As government we have in the past introduced the Broad Economic Empowerment legislation to address inequality, but later realized that it only benefitted few individuals especially men. We have since amended the BEE legislation to be Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment in order for it to cater for the broader society. The legislation gives preference to women in business to ensure their inclusion in the mainstream economy and full participation thereof.

Support for Small Businesses

We encourage women to voluntarily participate in business ventures such as cooperatives and small businesses whereby they will give each other support. There is also a deliberate move by government to support small businesses and cooperatives which is more reason why women should be encouraged to participate in these business ventures. Government has also introduced a new ministry which will focus solely on the needs for small businesses. This new Ministry is aimed at fostering development of small businesses. We acknowledge that the main issue hindering women participation in the economy has always been access, access to financing and access to the markets.

Business Funding Opportunities for Women

There are funding opportunities provided by government exclusively for women. An example of such funding is the Women Entrepreneurial Fund offered by the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC). This fund applies to businesses with a minimum shareholding by women of at least 50%. The fund can apply to a start-up business or for expansions purposes. There is also the Isivande Women's Fund (IWF) aims to accelerate women's economic empowerment by providing more affordable, usable and responsive finance than is currently available. The IWF assists with support services to enhance the success of businesses. It pursues deals involving start-up funding, business expansion, business rehabilitation, franchising and bridging finance. This just goes to show how committed our government is in ensuring the inclusion of women into the mainstream economy.

Continued Education for Women

The other important factor which will ensure continued inclusion and participation of women in the economy is education. Government has removed all the barriers which were hampering our people to have access to quality education. There are various efforts available to ensure that we are an educated nation. For those who were not able to finish the high school education there are Further Education and Training (FET) Colleges which assists in augmenting those lessons that were not acquired from high school and can act as a stepping stone towards Universities of technology. FETs are an education and training programme provided from Grades 10 to 12, including career-oriented education and training offered in technical colleges, community colleges and private colleges. FET colleges are playing a growing role in the provision of the intermediate to higher-level skills required to support economic growth and development. The other opportunities are available in Universities. There are a lot of bursary opportunities available today than they were in the past. We should always work together to ensure that we succeed and must always remain organized around economic issues.


One of the key economic priorities is industrialization. As women we should be thinking about ways in which we can make every household an industrial centre. I do agree that in most cases a spaza shop is a starting point but we need to think beyond this, we should come up with innovative industrial ideas. We should align ourselves with the priorities of government in order to benefit our societies and also benefit from incentives offered by government. I believe that as women we are capable and we can come up with industrial ideas which can later graduate from being backyard operations into huge firms which will employ the majority of our unemployed society.

As part of government’s radical economic transformation programme of this term of government, we aim to create hundred black industrialists in the next three years, who will participate in the productive sectors of the economy. Other measures include reforms to the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA), customising incentive schemes offered by government and its agencies, launching a new financial support scheme suitable for black industrialists and the establishment of an advisory panel on black industrialists.

Local Production and Procurement

Local procurement and increased domestic production will be at the centre of efforts to transform our economy and will be buoyed by a government undertaking to buy 75% of goods and services from South African producers.



Let us make a commitment to continuously explore business opportunities and innovations so as to escalate the scale of economic participation to women at all levels, including rural women. South Africa needs to re-industrialise off the back of the opportunities   identified in the New Growth Path. We then need to introduce new ways of thinking about how we think about how women should benefit from economic development. Women should identify sectors which they can participate in and identify product niches which they can develop. South Africa has access to a number of markets with which these can be traded.  

We also need to look to achieving substantive gender equality. We need to consider the implications for women in the current push towards industrial reconstruction (rather than economic reconstruction). Work done by women tends to be undervalued. For example, many women are engaged in nursing where technology advances imply and require continuous skills advancement - but there has been no change in the status of nurses or salary increases relative to doctors. Interventions therefore, need to be targeted to prioritise and ensure women not only have equal opportunity to skills that are valued (and the labour market) but also receive equal pay for equal value.

Access to capital remains one of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs, despite the existence of development finance institutions. There are many lessons to be learnt from countries who are growing their economy around financing of small, medium enterprises in an accessible, simple and user-friendly for new entrants.

I thank you.