'Women have no voice' - EFF's gender proposals questioned ahead of key conference

2019-11-03 09:37
EFF party leaders. (Photo: Jabu Kumalo, Daily Sun)

EFF party leaders. (Photo: Jabu Kumalo, Daily Sun)

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While EFF members mull over the party's proposals on gender - contained in its draft discussion document ahead of its National People's Assembly (NPA) - some of the women in its ranks have criticised the plans, saying they only pay lip service to the challenges faced by women. 

"On gender struggles" is one of the discussion points in a draft policy document circulating among members of South Africa's third-largest party as it prepares to hold its second NPA in December when it elect new leaders. Its policy outlook will be reviewed at this gathering.

Around 4,500 delegates will convene at Nasrec in the second week of December to chart a new path for the party. In the draft document, which News24 is in possession of, the 15-page chapter dedicated to gender struggles focuses on the party's policy, should it govern. 

In it, the document discusses key interventions the party plans to implement. 

Some of these interventions include:

• 50% women representatives in all spheres representing economic benefit, political participation, and managerial and leadership responsibility;  

• compulsory gender education and training; education of the police on gender justice and the establishment of specialised law enforcement units to deal with crimes against women;

• strengthening the education of men on patriarchy, sexism and misogyny; engaging custodians of tradition, faith leaders and other cultural practitioners to collectively find means to combat the oppression of women;

• legislation that ensures that domestic abuse and gender-based violence crimes are given special classification to allow the state to intervene without formal cases being opened by victims;

• amending "the Criminal Law Amendment Act and existing legislation to include harsher minimum sentences for 'corrective' rape specifically, or crimes committed with hatred as motivation in general";

• abolishing forced marriages;

• providing free sanitary towels "and alternative sanitary material for menstruation for women and girls".

The discussion on gender equality will take place as the country struggles with high levels of crime against women and children. Several cases of gender-based violence have rocked the country in recent months, leading to protests and mass marches calling for President Cyril Ramaphosa to introduce harsher sentences for sexual violence offenders. 

Two prominent sexual violence cases which have sparked much discussion include the murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana’s by an employee of the Post Office and the conviction and sentence of rapist Nicholas Ninow, who attacked a seven-year-old girl at a Dros restaurant in Pretoria.

A number EFF members have questioned the document, saying its proposals weren't strong enough, calling them "flimsy". 

Chapter 'clearly drafted by men'

Refusing to comment further, EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the discussion document had not yet been made public.

"It is fair and wise to await that to happen first. You may be in possession of a wrong document which you call EFF, when in fact it is not. The EFF always, ALWAYS, fulfils the 50/50 gender parity rule. ALWAYS!," he replied via text message. 

A party member who has seen the draft document, and who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of censure, said the chapter was clearly drafted by men with no insight into the struggles faced by women in the party. 

She said she was disappointed with the research done on gender-based violence. She added the EFF should have gone a step further when grappling with the question of what is to be done.

"It's really a flimsy offering. I think for the team of researchers the EFF has and can tap into, it has done very little in this regard. One can even argue its done a lot more in its manifesto ahead of the elections. This stuff, especially, when speaking on issues of the queer community you can't help but note the party's absence on ground in that regard; I mean we just came from Pride weekend and there was no EFF at all. They couldn’t even think to take advantage of something like that and declare their unwavering support for that community."

'The levels of patriarchy and misogyny in the party are frightening'

Another party leader in the EFF parliamentary caucus said while the organisation is seen as a defender of women's rights, the realities faced by female members are shocking.

"The levels of patriarchy and misogyny in the party are frightening. Women at the highest levels of leadership have no voice. If you look at the composition of the party, you would think that it's doing its best to address the issues faced by women but there is nothing done internally. 

"We can't begin to address challenges in government or the public space without addressing the inequalities faced by women within the party's own leadership. The case of Tebogo Mokwele and Nkagisang Mokgosi are a clear example of the realities faced by women in the party. There was swift action taken with no investigation, but we have done nothing about the damning evidence against our vice president (Floyd Shivambu)."

The senior parliamentary member was referring to the claims linking Shivambu to the fraud and looting of VBS Mutual Bank. Shivambu and the party have denied his involvement or that he benefited from the collapse of the bank.

In the discussion document, the EFF states it is against the oppression of anyone based on their gender expression or sexual orientation.

The party adds that it was against tribalism, religious and cultural intolerance. 

"The EFF will strive to realise women's liberation, through a variety of interventions, from education against patriarchy and sexism, to legislation and close monitoring of the implementation of the same in order to realise women’s empowerment in society, the family and the workplace. The EFF believes that gender-based violence and related antisocial activities are reinforced and even sustained by the deplorable conditions of our people, therefore a key to female emancipation is the emancipation of all," the draft document reads. 

Echoing the parliamentary member, another party official said organisation's leaders did not practice what they preached. 

"They only consider gender when they know it’s something that will be shown in public, they only factor it in when they are compelled, think about Parliament? Representation in the caucuses matter. There are too many incidents of women being suppressed when trying to speak out," the party member said.

Document strengthened at conference

Another woman, also a parliamentary leader, disagreed with the stance saying that the draft document on gender was a great foundation ahead of the conference. 

She added that while she sympathised with those who believe it isn't strong enough to address gender struggles, arguments and different positions on the draft document would be sharpened at conference.

"Those arguments are to be made in the commissions, people are just lazy and want everything handed to them. There is nothing wrong with the way the gender question has been put to fighters. In fact, we went well above our weight, people want to be spoon-fed ideology as if it is manna from heaven."

The parliamentary member said people were just looking to take jabs and criticise without thinking things through properly.

"It's a work in progress, of course we can always do better. I think as a society we are also failing to prioritise issues around GBV and homosexuality, that needs to be strengthened, racism is on a pedestal in terms of things to be fought, the others also need to prioritise and dealt with the same vigour."

She bemoaned comments that females in positions of leadership in the party had no voice, saying that the party’s treasurer-general, Leigh-Ann Mathys and deputy secretary general Hlengiwe Hlope, were doing a lot to move the needle and make progress.

"I think a women’s unit, not structure as in a command team but a unit would also assist the EFF in dealing with issues of GBV and sexual harassment in the organisation. The EFF is also really the only party that suspended members implicated in such things, it doesn’t wait for a court of law to act," she added.

Read more on:    eff  |  gender equality

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