Johannesburg - Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has criticised the ANC’s "patriarchy" and power-hungry men, who she says "manipulate" women to serve their own interests.
The ANC Women’s League president, who is hoping to retain her position during the league’s elective conference this week, says she will rally her troops to remove the dominant "politics of egos" from within the party, which is threatening the chances of a woman being elected to lead the party in 2017.
"Even some men in the ANC, you expect them to be a bit progressive, but not so when it comes to their interests. They want to influence anything that has a voice for their own personal power. So it is not about a female president; it is about them," she said.
"It is also the environment itself. Sometimes it gets stacked against women. An environment where every chairperson in the ANC is a man. It is a problem. Every secretary is a man.
"Even at regional level – and you can imagine how many regions there are – I am told that only three women are regional secretaries, not even chairs. That is three nationally, and there are more than 23 ANC regions. Those are the things that we have to fight against."
In an interview with City Press, Motshekga said the women’s league would lobby strongly for a female president at the ANC’s 2017 elective conference.
Motshekga said the league would need to strategise using a candidate with a proven track record and who would gain the support of the party from branch level to Luthuli House.
"People are looking for a president. You have to say that we think it will be nice to remove the politics of ego from the table. You have to convince them of the importance of women and why women are strategic to have at the top."
She said lobbyists would have to stress their preferred candidate's capabilities and achievements, and not the fact "that she is wearing a dress".
"You can’t just say it is time for women. You need to sell your person because even women will not just buy the cat in the bag," she says.
Last year, President Jacob Zuma gave his blessing for a female president, saying in a speech before Women’s Day that "it could happen sooner than you think".
Two names have already been raised: that of African Union Commission chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete.
Mbete is already on record saying she would contest for the top position if nominated by branches. This has sparked speculation in ANC circles that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa could face a fierce challenge for the presidency.
However, Motshekga said the ANC first needed to fix what she called its "pecking order", where those already in office stood better chances of being propelled to the top.
"The ANC also has a hierarchical system. If you have been a deputy, there is an expectation that you will become the president," she says.
Motshekga came under fire ahead of the ANC’s Mangaung conference in 2012 for saying the country was not ready for a female president. Last week she explained that, at the time, the branches had failed to nominate one.
After years of being accused of being voting fodder in ANC palace politics and failing to influence major policy decisions in the party, the ANC Women’s League, in it’s organisational report released last year, admitted that it had been treated like a women’s desk and that its autonomy was ignored.
Motshekga said there were instances where chairs of provinces would alter decisions made by female structures.
She also warned against falling into the trap of being manipulated into believing that the support of a female presidential candidate by their male counterparts had no strings attached.
"You may find that the men will champion women if they are going to get the candidate that will give them the things that they want. So it is not about gender when it comes to manipulation; it is about power. If they can use you, they will champion you," she says.
Motshekga is contesting the league's presidency against Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
The league’s Free State provincial chair, Sisi Ntombela, was nominated by most provinces for the deputy presidency position.
Motshekga said it was wrong to believe that the league was going to the elective congress united.
The league has failed to hold a congress for the past three years amid disputed nominations, the disappearance of registers, and the exclusion of some candidates from branch and provincial general meetings