Not ready for a woman?

2013-10-09 00:00

TAKE a moment and pretend that it is October 1989 and the leader of the ANC announces that South Africa is not ready for a black president.

The leader goes on to reason that the country has been under white rule for so long that a black leader will not be “populist”, and will say things just because they sound politically correct.

Imagine further, black people in general and members of his party agreeing with his assessment of the moment.

If you are wondering why I am making what appears to be an obviously ridiculous proposition, it might be because you missed the announcement by the ANC Women’s League that our macho country could not handle being led by a woman.

If it is absurd that anyone would have imagined that the country was not ready for a black president, it should equally stupefy us as to why anyone would think that we might not be ready for a woman leader.

The party that has enacted laws to ensure better representation of women in public offices and in boardrooms says we just cannot be led by a woman.

It probably sent a letter of congratulations to the Media24 board for appointing Andrew Trench to correct the wrong of appointing a woman, Angela Quintal, to lead the country’s oldest newspaper, which you are reading now.

It does not take a genius to read behind the Women’s League line of thought for what it really means: South Africa is not ready to be led by Helen Zille.

Does the Women’s League believe that the citizens of Gauteng, the Eastern and Northern Cape and North West Province, who have women premiers, grudgingly accept this state of affairs, or do they think that women are only good enough to lead provinces?

Perhaps the league should apologise to the people of the conference for belonging to a party which, as a governing party, imposed on Africans the misfortune of having a woman, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as the African Union commissioner. South Africa prides itself on having the most progressive Constitution in the world and one of the the highest proportions of women in law-making houses. Imagine how countries that some of us view as backwards must feel about having to take political leadership from Dlamini-Zuma.

Having accepted what the country is ready and not ready for, can we expect that we might revisit laws around same-sex relationships, because I know a lot of people who are just “not ready” for men to kiss each other in public, let alone imagine what they do in the privacy of their homes?

How is it that the ANC, which has championed these achievements, then considers that society can opt to accept that there is nothing it can do about the prevailing levels of patriarchy in it?

As I said earlier, women in the ANC who have the ability to lead the party and the country will just have to suffer because they are Zille’s contemporaries. In the ANC’s mind, saying the country is progressive enough to want a good leader, no matter which toilet he or she uses, is too risky.

And until the DA removes the threat, women ANC leaders and the women’s liberation project as a whole, must just accept that they are collateral damage in the fight between the two dominant parties.

• Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is a freelance journalist and former editor of The Witness.

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