‘We, vhaVenda women, are doing just fine’

2013-12-22 10:00

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Actress reacts to Zuma’s ‘losha’ comments

Actress Florence Masebe, a proud vhaVenda woman, has a message for people who are worried that she and other women in her tribe are oppressed: don’t panic, we’re doing just fine.

This week, Venda cultural practices made headlines, courtesy of President Jacob Zuma. The Star newspaper reported on Friday that Zuma, speaking at a post-Reconciliation Day event in Impendle in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, had warm words for the vhaVenda – particularly for its women.

In August, Zuma visited Venda to receive the Makhado Bravery Award from King Khosikhulu Vho Toni Mphephu Ramabulana of the royal vhaVenda people.

Zuma reportedly told the audience in Impendle that when he was in Venda recently, he “was so impressed to see how people there express respect for other people?...?A woman would clap her hands and even lie down to show respect.”

He reportedly added: “I was so impressed. If I was not already married to my wives, I would go to Venda to look for a woman.”

His comments outraged Phumla Ndende, the coordinator of the Eastern Cape-based Support Centre, which focuses on women’s rights.

Ndende told The Star: “If you lie down, it means you are scared of the person you are respecting. This means Zuma is overexpecting respect from women, which is a gesture of undermining their rights.”

But vhaVenda women discussing the matter on social networks suggested that feminists in other cultures were getting it all wrong.

Masebe tweeted: “Please find something else to be outraged about. We, vhaVenda women, are doing just fine. Ndo losha. Aa!”

The practice of “losha” refers to the bowing gesture that Zuma observed. Dr John Mphaphuli, an anthropologist from Unisa, says men and women use the same gesture when greeting each other.

Masebe described using “losha” to celebrate one of her proudest professional moments.

She tweeted: “When I won Best Actress at the AMAAs [African Movie Academy Awards] in Nigeria, I got on stage, took my award, lay on the floor nda losha. I was my happiest right then.”

Other women suggested that she was speaking only for herself and that the practice degraded women. But the outspoken actress refused to back down. She tweeted: “Thanks for your uninvited interest in my issues?...?I love and honour my culture. No, I am not oppressed by it.”

She was warmly praised by other vhaVenda women, like Twitter user Tshifhiwa, who tweeted: “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with what the president said, I’m proud.”

» Talk to us: Were the president’s reported comments about the practice of losha offensive?

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