Women, stop playing nice

2014-05-26 14:00

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Sisters in the ANC need to do it for themselves if they want to rise in the echelons, writes Carien du Plessis

South Africa’s women need to man up. Crying and hand-wringing after each disaster? No good.

It really wasn’t too difficult to foresee the “strange outcome”, as ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte put it this week, of the appointment of seven male premiers in the eight ANC provinces this week.

In 2009 it worked fine. Women in the ANC held their breath when the party’s eight provinces put forward their male chairpersons for the job as favourites, but women were appointed in four provinces.

President Jacob Zuma was fresh and secure in his power and he managed to get his way when it came to premiers like Gauteng’s Nomvula Mokonyane.

Former Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane (left) with Ntombi Mekgwe, the woman many thought would be the new premier. Picture: Lerato Maduna/Foto24

He also had to prove he was as sympathetic to the gender cause as his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.

In 2009, the ANC’s performance at the polls wasn’t too disastrous and it weathered the threat posed by the Congress of the People. It was easier to be magnanimous and progressive.

But in the past five years discontent has grown and protests picked up. According to Municipal IQ, there were 27 protests in 2008, 107 the following year and 173 at their peak in 2012.

The ANC’s electoral support dropped from 65.7% in 2009 to 62.2% this year, but in Gauteng it saw a shock 10 percentage points drop to 53.6%.

This is one of the reasons Gauteng’s preferred candidate, provincial secretary David Makhura, won out over three women – two short-listed by the province (Barbara Creecy and Ntombi Mekgwe) and one preferred by national leaders (Nomvula Mokhonyane).

The party couldn’t risk a fight. And Zuma, entering his second and final term, doesn’t wield as much power now. Provinces got their way.

The ANC has a good gender policy. Because of the party’s 50-50 gender quota, lesser known women have nudged men off the party’s 80-member NEC.

Unlike the men who lobby and fight and play dirty, women are given the opportunity to lead on a platter – but for years they have been relegated to less powerful positions like deputy secretary by way of political window-dressing.

Instead of forming caucuses and lobby groups, women have been hangers-on to men and petty factions.

The ANC Women’s League supported Zuma to such an extent that leader Angie Motshekga, declared that the country wasn’t ready for a female president.

Like a stokvel hungry for publicity, the women’s league holds the hands of abuse victims without actually addressing the problem of patriarchy.

It holds vigils for the abducted Nigerian school girls as if South Africa’s defence and international relations ministers (both women) have no power or state resources to actually act and help make the situation better.

Same goes for African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Duarte on Tuesday told journalists: “We have capable women in this country who don’t need grooming to lead. No man is ever groomed to lead anybody. They assume leadership is their God-given birthright.”

They are now talking of putting up foolproof structures to address the problem in future. But women should stop asking for favours and start fighting for power. We hold up half the world.

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