DA's Mpumalanga chief whip demands ANC apology over dress comments

2015-04-21 17:07
Jane Sithole wears her "revealing" dress. (Picture: Supplied)

Jane Sithole wears her "revealing" dress. (Picture: Supplied)

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Mbombela - The DA's chief whip in Mpumalanga, Jane Sithole, led a march to the provincial legislature on Tuesday to demand an apology from ANC politicians who compared her dress to that of a prostitute.

Wearing the same dress, Sithole, joined by DA member of the National Assembly Phumzile van Damme and provincial legislature member Anthony Benadie, handed a memorandum over to the legislature's Deputy Speaker David Dube.

The march stemmed from legislature sitting at the end of last month when Sithole, who was attending a normal sitting in her black dress, which only revealed her shoulders, was told it was inappropriate.

Legislature Speaker Thandi Shongwe ruled that "the dress was not in line with the decorum of the house" after legislature member Vusumuzi Windvoël objected to Sithole's fashion sense.

The memorandum said Shongwe had broken Rule 41 (1) of the legislature, which orders a speaker to preside over proceedings of the legislature in a fair impartial manner and protect the rights, privileges and integrity of the house.

"We, therefore, demand that you Speaker [must] order Honourable Vusimuzi Windvoël to unconditionally withdraw what he said about Honourable Sithole's dress on March 31.

“You as a Speaker and as a woman must apologise in writing to Honourable Sithole for humiliation and making her the subject of public ridicule over her choice of dress, because instead of you ordering Windvoël to withdraw you laughed and ordered Sithole to cover herself up," reads the memorandum.

Although the DA was adamant that the apology be given during Tuesday afternoon's sitting, they accepted Dube's explanation that Shongwe was attending a family bereavement.

"Thank you Honourable Dube for availing yourself for the memorandum, but we know the Speaker is not available today [Tuesday], however, she is going to come back and sit in this chamber. Any day she is here we will need the apology and we will not let this rest for the sake of the women out there who are being undermined," said Benadie.

‘Focussing on the dress’

Sithole said Shongwe and Windvoël robbed the people of the province of the right to have proper discussions in the legislature on that day.

"This is an Honourable House. How can someone talk of prostitution? We were elected here to discuss the issues affecting the people of the province. There are water shortages, hospitals are falling apart, people need houses and the Speaker and Honourable Windvoël stopped talking about all of that and focused on my dress.

"I want to say this, I'm going to wear this dress for the whole year, and if needs be I will wear it for two years. I have received calls from all over African countries, members of parliament and people asking me, 'What's wrong?' When I showed them the dress, they all were amused and shocked," said Sithole.

Sithole said the issue was beyond politics.

"I have written to the office of the speaker, the premier's office and the ANC Women's League just to show that this is not an issue of a party, but respect for all women in the province and the country, but none have responded to me. I have also written to the Human Rights Commission who is busy investigating as we speak.

“So this march is a sign that we cannot stand and watch our women being treated like this, especially in a house where they need to be well protected," said Sithole.

Van Damme told the crowd that ANC members in the house were failing to discuss issues of better service delivery.

"You remember there was Honourable Lindiwe Mazibuko in the national assembly; due to her focus and intelligence, which the ANC doesn't have, they attacked her about her dress and left issues of the country's interests and talked about her dress.

"As for you Sithole, they cannot stand your intelligence on debating constructive issues so they are trying to bring you down by looking at issues that are not important. Don't worry about them; we must keep doing our good work," said Van Damme.

Dube told the DA members that he was going to deliver the memorandum to the house.

"Thank you for bringing this memorandum; I promise that I'm going to hand over the memorandum to the office of the Speaker and we will deal with it appropriately and an investigation will be done and action as required will be taken," said Dube. 

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  mbombela  |  politics

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