Mlambo-Ngcuka will surely make a plan

2013-07-14 14:00

Last week, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka resurfaced from a long “hibernation” (she went back to school) following the fall of president Thabo Mbeki in 2008, as the new head of UN Women, trouncing a long list of hopefuls to replace former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

African women have welcomed her appointment because it places the continent on centre stage, and ushers in a leader with a track record on women’s rights, especially economic empowerment.

Armed with the belief that what works for women is good for the nation, Mlambo-Ngcuka has left a gender footprint in all her posts.

In trade and industry, she created the SA Women Entrepreneurs Network as well as the Technology for Women in Business Award.

She championed the Broad-Based Socio-Economic Empowerment Charter for the South African Mining Industry, now commonly referred to simply as the Mining Charter.

From a zero starting point, the charter set a “baseline” target, over five years, that 10% of all people employed in mining would be women and mining industry assets would be 26% held by historically disadvantaged South Africans within a decade.

Further provisions covered procurement and beneficiation. She also established women’s associations in mining and energy.

As deputy president, Mlambo-Ngcuka drove the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of SA, holding special consultations with women to ensure they got a piece of the action.

A keen supporter of gender initiatives in

the Southern African Development Community (SADC), she gave the keynote address at the recent SADC Gender Protocol@Work summit.

The 57-year-old will need all the power she can to keep moving the UN boys’ club down the road to modernity, together with its motley crew of 192 nations, including one or two where women hold no positions of power.

One of her favourite stories is how, when she broke the news about the charter to a mining magnate, he asked: “Where will I find the women?” To which she responded: “I am sure we can make a plan!” – Colleen Lowe Morna

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