Is the ANC Women’s League really feminist?

2018-01-14 06:06
ANCWL President Bathabile Dlamini (file image)

ANCWL President Bathabile Dlamini (file image)

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WATCH: ANCWL expresses disappointment at party over underrepresentation in top 6

2017-12-19 12:42

The ANC Women's is due to have a press briefing. The briefing was scheduled for 10am on Tuesday morning but postponed due to the urgent sitting of the ANC's steering committee over vote counting.WATCH

As the ANC announced the top six in its leadership, I imagined what was going on in the minds of the many ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) ­delegates who had traversed the length and breadth of this country selling their one and only female candidate – Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – to the broader party ­membership.

ANCWL members had believed that, with a Dlamini-Zuma win, patriarchy would be dealt a blow and, voila, history would be made as the 105-year-old ANC elected its first female president.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

Not yet, at least.

Is the ANCWL a feminist organisation that believes in “the social, political and ­economic equality of the sexes”?

The historical and recent conduct of the league clearly illustrates that it does not ­because, if it did, it would not have ­vehemently opposed the candidacies of ­Baleka Mbete and Lindiwe Sisulu.

It would not have castigated the many ANC women who “broke ranks” and ­publicly announced their support for other presidential candidates.

The conspicuous dearth of women in the top six clearly manifests a desire to exclude women in the top echelon of the party.

It has also put paid to the idea of a 50/50 representation in leadership – as espoused by the apparatchiks.

The leaders of the women’s league saw fit to call a press conference to explain to the world the failure of the ANC to elect a ­female president.

They put the blame squarely on the shoulders of patriarchy and categorically stated that two men, Ace ­Magashule and David Mabuza, misled (even abandoned) an apparent agreement they had come to.

One must speculate that such an agreement was a product of an opaque arrangement devised behind closed doors.

As far back as January last year, ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini declared that Dlamini-Zuma would be their preferred
candidate for ANC president.

The processes, if any, that resulted in that decision were neither articulated nor communicated to the public.

Clearly, the ­absence of internal democracy must have led to that decision.

What is more, the ­decision was made when other women in the ANC were interested in contesting the top position.

Several women in the ANC were just as qualified to have been elected as president, but what prevented the ANCWL from opening up a process where all these women would have contested within its ranks and produced a candidate?

Following the declaration of Dlamini-Zuma as the preferred candidate, what strategy was adopted to ensure she would garner the needed support to propel her to the number one position in the ANC?

Did the ANCWL believe that the factionalism at work in the party would deliver a female president?

Did it believe that backroom deals would produce a female president?

Dlamini’s shrill claim that patriarchy caused Dlamini-Zuma to lose cannot be an accurate reflection of the truth.

Dlamini has not been anti-patriarchy.

In fact, she is ­obeisant to patriarchy and, one can safely argue, is a product and beneficiary of ­patriarchy.

To claim that patriarchy is ­suddenly a culprit in her thwarted desire to have Dlamini-Zuma lead the ANC is a ­disservice to all those women who struggle against patriarchy, who want equality and who believe the leadership of the country must reflect its demographics.

Her participation and allegiance to the status quo has produced this result.

She ­cannot escape this fact.

Recently, she even made glib statements about “forgiving” state capture.

She seems to have gone against the grain of the #MeToo movement when she refused to clearly pronounce on the Khwezi question that was posed to all the candidates during the race for the ANC leadership.

When Cyril Ramaphosa stood up against the deafening silence of the ANCWL on this issue, she reprimanded him by ­suggesting he had no right to do so because he had a skeleton in his closet. She did not elaborate.

The idea that the ANC has a women’s league is problematic to begin with and should be queried.

In my view, such ­compartmentalisation of interests contributes to the factionalism that has bedevilled the party in these races.

Why a women’s league and not a men’s league? To even ­entertain the idea of a women’s league is to unlink the universality of membership within the ANC structure.

Abiding with such a ­construct only serves to privilege men.

To build a viable political party whose leadership reflects the demographics of the country, transparency and internal democracy must be one of the controlling principles.

Coercion, factionalism, parochialism, corruption – as in vote buying – and ­patriarchy should be eschewed.

Unless a system is embedded that results in the cream rising to the top, the ANC will continue to be led by men whose claim to leadership is the outcome of backroom deals and other political shenanigans, with the result that the best among us will not have the opportunity to lead.

Madumise is executive chair of the Khomelela Group and a member of the ANC

Read more on:    anc  |  nkosazana dlamini-zuma  |  lindiwe sisulu

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