Alet Janse van Rensburg

It was never about women for Bathabile and the ANCWL

2017-12-20 10:08
Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press)

Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini. (Leon Sadiki, Gallo Images, City Press)

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In the ANC you don't cry, you go back to the trenches — Zulu

2017-12-19 13:25

Senior ANC member Lindiwe Zulu on Tuesday said they will be going back to the drawing board as the party cannot afford to not have women in key positions. Watch. WATCH

Let's talk about Bathabile Dlamini.

The woman at the helm of the Department of Social Development stole the limelight in her capacity as the president of the ANC Women's League this week – for all the wrong reasons.

First, she expressed vintage Bathabile exasperation at the fact that South Africans just can't seem to forgive and forget state capture when they were able to so easily get over apartheid.

Apparently, we are too quick to label people when what we should be doing is giving them the opportunity to change before writing them off.

Then, after the defeat of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Women's League preferred presidential candidate, she went on to say that patriarchy had once again reared its ugly head, preventing the election of the first woman to stand for the ANC presidency.

For good measure, she added that Oliver Tambo was turning in his grave over this development. (We'll let it go for now that OR has probably been spinning in his grave for a while because of problems much greater than the one Bathabile is raising.)

When asked whether she voted for female candidate Lindiwe Sisulu, who stood for the position of deputy president on Cyril Ramaphosa's slate, Dlamini went on an incoherent tangent about how some women are opportunistic and should not be trusted.

The fact is, the ANC will once again be dominated by men. The only woman who made it into the party's top six was Jessie Duarte, who stays in her position as deputy secretary-general.

Missed opportunity

If Dlamini-Zuma's campaign was sincerely about her becoming the first female president, it was disappointing. She failed to unite the women in the ANC behind her and some have bemoaned the fact that there was never a democratic process in the Women's League to elect her as their candidate.

When former ANC chairperson Baleka Mbete was asked why she endorsed Ramaphosa, instead of throwing her weight behind NDZ, she said that she was never approached by her camp and has never even had a discussion with Dlamini-Zuma.

Surely if you really had a women's agenda top of mind, you would rope in the woman chairperson of the organisation you are intending to lead?

While the Women's League championed NDZ in the run-up to the election, they struggled to communicate why it was relevant that she was a woman.

This despite the fact that there was ample opportunity this year for Dlamini-Zuma to grab the women's issues baton and run with it. But there was barely any mention of the violence against women and children that seemed to have reached an all-time high this year, even when men with very public profiles were exposed for sexual harassment.

The truth is women's issues had very little to do with Dlamini-Zuma's campaign and patriarchy had even less to do with her defeat. Instead, it had everything to do with the slate politics she immersed herself in.

So when the Women's League says the ANC has failed the ordinary South African woman, they are taking us for fools. By backing Dlamini-Zuma they have shown that their only interest in this election has been to protect President Jacob Zuma and ensure the continued looting of state resources.

Never mind the fact that our president is a man during whose tenure government systems designed to protect women's rights – including commissions, special units and desks – have been weakened or removed. In their place, he gave us a ministry of women's affairs that has been nothing but a paper-pushing exercise.

The opposite of equality

If the Women's League really cared about South African women they would have formulated a strategy around getting a woman into the presidency long ago, and worked exclusively towards that goal. That would mean promoting women through the ranks of the provinces to the national executive committee and the top six so that come the next election, they would have the right people in place.

Instead, they played faction politics to the detriment of all women, who will now, once again, be governed by a ruling party with a leadership of men.

So it is not the ANC that failed South African women, but the Women's League and Dlamini, who have been mandated to promote women's position in the party.

In the wake of Hillary Clinton's defeat in the US presidential race her supporters claimed that being a woman ultimately worked against her.

The argument, inevitably, was that Clinton couldn't get a fair shake with media coverage of the election dominated by misogynist men and an electorate that prefers men in leadership positions.

These voices gathered momentum as she did media for her new book, What Happened, and from the #MeToo movement on the back of the Harvey Weinstein harassment scandal.

Women have hit back, saying it is an insult to them to say that her failure was due to the fact that she was a woman. The same applies to Dlamini.

When tough criticism or the failures of female public figures are met with cries of sexism, it promotes the opposite of equality. The Women's League and Dlamini should be ashamed of themselves.

- Alet Janse van Rensburg is opinions editor at News24.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    bathabile dlamini  |  anc  |  anc women's league
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