Your Africa is not ready to lead, but mine is.

2014-03-14 08:07

Yesterday, my favorite drive time show on MetroFM ended in a good joke that went too far. The 17:35 slot started with the question of ‘what would have happened if Africa and Africans had been the ones to colonise the world’. Of course, the two male DJs attempted quirky jokes and scenarios of what they thought might happen. While some of the banter and leads to jokes that Tbo Touch and Joe Mann shared were funny and really offered social commentary on the state of the world and its perception of Africa. As well as Africa’s own perceptions of itself, its priorities and the role of culture and how it impinges on the professional life of many black Africans.

One of the jokes was that heads of states from developed countries would be calling African leaders, presumably black, for food and financial aid. The African leader would fail to deliver the aid timeously and when asked to answer for their tardiness, they would then respond by saying “sorry I attended a funeral” or “my brother had returned from initiation school and we were therefore busy all weekend slaughtering goats”. There is a long list of examples that these two then went with. They then turned their attention Angela Merkel, who is Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. According to Tbo Touch and Joe Mann, she would be calling an African leader for child support or ‘pap geld’ as they called it. One of the most powerful woman in the world was reduced to a baby-mama chasing her baby-daddy for pap geld and these grown men saw absolutely nothing wrong with that. African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, was likened to a greedy first wife, would have built the AU offices in Limpopo.

Refilwe Mpakanyane, their female co-host, laughed sheepishly throughout the incident. That act in itself speaks volumes of their dynamic as a team and her role and influence on her colleagues.

It took me a few minutes to understand why I was bothered. It wasn't the fact that an African leader running the world was perceived to be a party animal who would attend a Friday night gig in Angola carrying 8 billion rand’s worth of EU’s aid money from Africa. Nor was I bothered by the fact that Obama would be sending President Zuma (I presume) a Please Call Me message to chase him for the aid to the US. Although, very problematic examples in themselves, what they betray is the value that these two well-educated black men place on women, women in power and by extension the female listeners of the show. The fact that two grown, influential men were able to reduce two of this generation’s most influential women on the political and economic landscapes to mere cash collectors of pap geld and greedy first wives is a problem for women and girls in South Africa and the continent. It is a problem for our democracy that we find influential men, who by the way host an afternoon show on Tuesday dedicated to women cannot in a million years find examples that are empowering and defy the mainstream devaluing of women’s achievements.

I thought to myself, where else have I encountered this phenomenon? How else has this narrow minded manifested itself? Where else have I seen this form of patriarchy and misogyny? It dawned on me that I had seen it among my learned friends in the pearly towers of academia. I had witnessed over the years, with my all senses, incidences of sexism and outright abuse that relegated accomplished women to similar roles that these two DJs likened Ms Merkel and Dr Dlamini-Zuma to occupy in a world colonized by Africa.

Here we have two well educated, worldly but yet uncritical, narrow minded misogynists given a public platform that reaches millions of people daily and yet we allow them to go unchecked and unregulated. I find it equally problematic that those two young men, nearly 20 years into our democracy, still do not believe in Africa’s potential to be a world leader nor that women have a greater value than simple baby-mamas in our society. In my Africa, many women are leaders and Africa has shown itself to lead in many instances on the global scale.

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