Guest Column

Time for a new state of mind

2017-03-05 06:10
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

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Magdalene Moonsamy

Current global electoral politics are engrossed in a fearful gender contestation over traditional male leadership having to contest and possibly relinquish power to what they perceive as a weaker opposite sex. We witnessed an intense campaign trail in the US election. The global spillover of women contesting presidential elections may come at a catastrophic price to the feminist struggle, in an attempt to sustain patriarchy.

On the dawn of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, we find ourselves approaching an epoch-making milestone in the struggle for gender equality – the entrance of women wanting to contest political power in one of the oldest liberation movements the world over.

Be Bold for Change is the theme for International Women’s Day this year. The boldness that is necessitated, is a boldness to effect change in the state of mind. Patriarchy is the state of mind that dominates politics. The change of mindset may afford victory to the feminist struggle; a victory of cumulative significance to the revolution of the oppressed and liberation of women from triple oppression.

Mama Winnie Mandela makes an assertion: “While the ANC accords women equal status, it is highly improbable that under an ANC government, women will, in fact, enjoy equality of status with men, for equal relations emanate from a state of mind and not from laws.”

My observations lend truth to her assertion and confirm that it is indeed the state of mind that will free the gender struggle and war on sexism. However, this is not the case in the current dilemma facing the governing party in respect of its highly contested upcoming elective conference.

Doomsayers profess that the ineptitudes of a female contender are based on her former relations, and this formula is totally and absolutely responsible for the ultimate collapse of the ANC. A scare tactic, unscientifically premised on non-inheritable traits of a former partner (as was the case of Hillary Clinton).

South Africa finds itself in a quagmire, with 52% of its population being women. The boldness for change therefore cannot be simplified to the assumption of the creation of a dynasty or factions, but lies in the strength of representation of the majority.

The resolution of 50-50 representation of women has propelled women who have made notable contributions to the country’s political, social and economic landscape. However, the manipulation of the feminist struggle by pseudo-feminists has miscalculated this as a means of “keeping her in her place” and they fear losing grip of the ship’s wheel to a female. She ought to remain both the rhetorical and anatomical backbone of the struggle.

It reaffirms that the gender struggle has been used as the most convenient politically motivated tool in times of leadership contestation and mass mobilisation in order to ensure that women maintain their relegated responsibilities and never challenge power relations to shift in their favour.

Many occupy the media space, grandstanding their ridicule and exposing their fear of the same gender struggle that they have been purported to be the torchbearers of. The insatiable desire for the capturing of power and access to resources has sent shock waves across the world by the very pseudo-feminists who roll out the red carpet for a female president and unleash venom in times when they have lost control. Such have been the experiences of Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia and President Dilma Rouseff in Brazil.

The state of mind that Mama Winnie refers to is one of the “emasculations men most fear – [being] insubordinate to women”. The evidence of such is the attack on organisations advocating gender equality and propelling the path of victory in the feminist struggle.

Feminists asserted that, despite their exclusion from the patriarchal autocracy of the ANC in 1912, the formation of the Bantu Women’s League in 1918 would force acknowledgment of their cause and contribution. Women eventually gained acceptance as members of the ANC in 1943 and subsequently formed the ANC Women’s League as a means to avoid being outside the organisation (and, of course, for purposes of control).

The state of mind can therefore currently be premised on the experience and convictions of 99 years of unbroken commitment against oppression and sets the trajectory for victory against triple oppression.

Triple oppression cannot be defeated if factional battles that draw power lines do so in terms of allocation of tenders (a practice apparently reserved for the male caucus). It fails dismally at realising true gender equality and who ought to be the dispensers of positions.

Pseudo-feminists call for unity in the same breath as they disrupt the feminist agenda; intended to propagate principle at the footstool of political expediency.

It can only be the efforts of the collective to be bold for change and resolve on integrity and not narrow, sexist innuendos that will rejuvenate the entire body politic of South Africa. Organisational integrity should be the basis of renewal and not part of a degenerative organisational culture.

True revolutionaries will not flip-flop from time to time out of political expediency, but advance the feminist revolution as an equal pillar – politically, socially and economically – in the ambition to change the state of mind in the continent and on the globe.

To shift the mind-set means changing the attitude from women being “numbers” and only being convenient voting cattle in elective conferences. It requires altering the decorative 50-50 to genuinely sharing power, as opposed to assuaging women’s lobby. The radicalisation of the state of mind towards the call for a female president is the radical economic freedom that will emancipate the majority in South Africa, being women.

The lesson of Polokwane was the failure to heed the caution of a lobby in the women’ league about the macho assertions of power, attitudes of sexual entitlement and homophobia displayed by President Jacob Zuma during his rape trial. This nourished patriarchy reverted the role of women to the patriarchal autocracy of 1912.

It cannot be that the state of mind remains unchanged for over a century. It must be that we afford the leadership contestation and the call for a female candidate to be premised on her sterling credentials and contribution.

Moonsamy is an attorney and founder of Women’s Justice Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @MaggieMoonsamy

Read more on:    anc  |  gender equality
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