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08 April 2021 | Story Nonsindiso Qwabe | Photo Sonia SMall

How has COVID-19 further widened the gender inequality gap in the workplace?

This was the central question addressed during the first instalment of a webinar series on Gender and Social Justice hosted by the Unit for Institutional Change and Social Justice at the University of the Free State (UFS). The webinar, which was hosted on the UFS Qwaqwa Campus on 29 March 2021, featured Prof Pearl Sithole, Qwaqwa Campus Vice-Principal: Academic and Research; Advocate Nthabiseng Sepanya-Mogale, Commissioner at the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE); and Tholo Motaung, skills trainer, moderator, and gender activist at the Vaal University of Technology as panellists. 

Prof Sithole said COVID-19 revealed the disparity that still exists between men and women in the workplace. “COVID-19 has been the magnifier. We’ve modernised quite a lot, but we’re still unequal in terms of gender. Why are we not progressing in terms of women moving forward towards equality when there has been so much progressive thinking in the political space, social justice space, as well as in the kind of feminism we have had in academia? Why are we actually not winning the battle of just regarding each other as equals?” 

Women hardest hit by COVID-19 lockdown

Advocate Sepanya-Mogale said the lockdown revealed the gender gap mostly through the significant impact it has had on South African women.

In 2020, 34% of the country’s workforce comprised women – a sharp decline of 9,8% from 43,8% in 2018.
“This decline is alarming and a clear indication of who becomes the first victims, but that is hardly talked about. A lot of women have experienced resistance from industries they had been serving diligently,” she said. She said women were often faced with the burden of integrating their work with increased care responsibilities for their children and sometimes also the elderly as primary caregivers. The double responsibility placed on women continues to re-enforce gender roles in our societies and further pushes away the success of closing the gap on gender equality prospects in our society.

Advocate Sepanya-Mogale said women were the hardest hit in most industries. In the beauty and tourism industry; air transportation; informal trading; and healthcare sector to name a few, women bore the brunt the most. “Women are the biggest employees on all economic levels in South Africa, especially the low-income and unskilled levels,” she said.
She said as the spread of the virus was likely to continue disrupting economic activity, all sectors of society needed to get involved and play their part.

“As disease outbreaks are not likely to disappear in the near future, proactive international action is required to not only save lives but to also protect economic prosperity. Academic institutions are authorities in terms of opening up new discussions, leading new debates, and putting critical issues at the centre of the table. Let us all do what we can so that we empower our people relevantly for the times we’re living in.”

News Archive

The UFS issues a statement regarding the outcome of recent court case
2014-09-15

A significant number of reports appeared in the media the past week regarding this alleged attack, which happened on the Bloemfontein Campus of the UFS on 17 February 2014.

Although the senior leadership of the UFS is always in favour of good and objective journalism, we find it unfortunate that some of the facts are reported in a misleading and/or inaccurate way by some of the local media.

It is important to us that the true facts are stated. Not only for the sake of those involved, but also for our staff, students, alumni and other important stakeholders.

Here are the facts:

1.    The university was not the complainant. The alleged incident was reported to the South African Police Service (SAPS) by the victim, Muzi Gwebu, and the charges were laid by the State.

2.    At no point did the university management in any of its public statements describe this incident as a case of racism; not once. Charges of racism, then and now, must be proven, not assumed to be true simply because someone alleges racism. That is our standard approach, then and now.

3.    Cobus Muller and Charl Blom were suspended by the university, not expelled – pending the results of the court case. Emotions were running high among members of the student body and, on grounds of the evidence available to the university management at the time, as well as concerns for student and campus safety, they were suspended pending the outcome of a court hearing. This is normal procedure. Suspension does not mean you are guilty; it means you have a case to answer, either according to the university's disciplinary procedures or in the courts. For these reasons the university management will not apologise for the suspension.

4.    The university awaited the outcome of the court case before deciding whether disciplinary action should also be taken against Cobus Muller and Charl Blom. In the light of both the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and the Regional Court rulings, the university management subsequently decided to lift the suspensions of both Muller and Blom from all campuses of the university with immediate effect.

Muzi Gwebu laid serious charges with the SAPS almost immediately after the incident, and the university management believed, on the evidence then available, that the students had a case to answer.
 
5.    As the Director of Public Prosecutions decides on who will be prosecuted and who not, there are no grounds for the university to pay the legal fees of any of the students in this case.
 
Finally:
The University of the Free State will not be fazed by inaccurate and distorted information, rumour and exaggerations. We are still striving to become a truly excellent university, with a focus on the academic, but also the human development of our students.

Issued by: Lacea Loader (Director: Communication and Brand Management)
Tel: +27 (0) 51 401 2584 | +27 (0) 83 645 2454
E-mail: news@ufs.ac.za

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