'Sexy reading' tweets: gender-sensitisation training ordered for department spokesperson

2019-09-10 17:34
Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga must undergo gender-sensitisation training after he tweeted sexist images on Twitter as part of a #ReadToLead campaign in August, the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) has recommended.

The recommendation comes after the commission met Mhlanga last Wednesday.

"The CGE was inundated with lots of complaints as a result of those sexist tweets associated with #ReadToLead. Following those complaints, the CGE resolved to use Section 12(4)b of the CGE Act as amended, to subpoena Mr Mhlanga and [director general Dr Mantanzima ] Mlweli to provide oral submissions before the CGE in response to the sexist tweets and to respond to questions related to the matter," the commission said in a statement on Tuesday.

After an uproar on social media, Mhlanga issued an apology in a series of tweets: "Contemporary audiences that consume media tend to be open about sex and sexuality. I therefore have a full understanding of representation and metaphoric content.

"And in this context, I pushed the boundary slightly in order to play around with meaning, and push a narrative about reading as an activity that can be done for fun and leisure," News24 reported.

ALSO READ: Education dept apologises after backlash over 'sexy reading' tweets

Mlweli was subpoenaed to the hearing as the accounting officer to explain the DBE's role in the matter.

The CGE is of the view that the right to education should be fulfilled free from discrimination, objectification and harassment.

"We further believe that the objectification of women as a marketing strategy contributes to a discriminatory culture where women are hyper-sexualised and has the power to negatively shape the attitudes of children towards women’s roles in society. Where objectification exists, violence against women is more likely.

"This is not the society we want to build and we cannot support this," the commission added.

As per the CGE's request, the DBE has furnished the following information:

  • the report Mhlanga issued following the alleged incident;
  • the report the director general prepared in relation to the hearing;
  • the department's sexual harassment policy;
  • the department’s external communication policy and/or guidelines; and 
  • details of the #ReadTo Lead campaign.

There is, however, one document outstanding - the final outcome of the investigation report as well as the cost implications of the said investigation, due before October 15.

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