March 19, 2012 § 1 Comment
*this article originally appeared in the Cape Times on the 5th of March
The African National Congress has had women activists for almost as long as it has been alive. However, when the movement was born those 100 years ago, there were just men in the room. Perhaps there were two or so women who served these men while they decided the route the struggle against black disenfranchisement would take.
It only made sense back then that men would take the initiative to lead the movement. Women, black or white were rarely given an opportunity to an education. They were essentially second-class citizens almost everywhere. Even white women didn’t have the vote. The prejudices of the day against women prevailed, even though the ANC was fighting prejudice, ironically.
The direction that was taken by the ANC is no different from the one that was taken by the rest of the world. Just as history had been male dominated for thousands of years. If one looks at Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Shaka Zulu and others. War was one sure way of making history – women weren’t allowed to fight wars even though they almost were always casualties. They were often taken by conquerors as slaves, sex slaves and were often raped. They were, unfortunately part of the spoils of war for the warmongers.
Which then brings me back to the ANC’s women problem. Isn’t it time the ANC had female president? Women have contributed a great deal to the organization. They are also respected in a lot of communities. Women have held communities together for a very long time, often, they are the strongest and most resolute members of in many communities.
In the 1980s, many women tried to feed their families by opening spaza shops and even sheebens. Which is where the term sheeben queen comes from. As a result of opening these businesses, these women often became influential members of their communities.
It would appear as though Mbeki was laying down the ground work for a future female ANC and South African president when he ran for a third term as president of the ANC, since the South African constitution wouldn’t allow him to be president for a third term. It was generally accepted that Dlamini-Zuma was his preferred candidate for the presidency even though Mlambo-Ngcuka was his deputy president in the cabinet after he fired his then deputy, Jacob Zuma. In terms of seniority within the party, Dlamini-Zuma would have most likely been elected president of South Africa, then during the ANC’s elective conference later this year, would have been elected president of the party and republic for her second term.
Unfortunately Jacob-Zuma was in a bind and thus set women back when his desperation for the presidency set in. The knock on effect of this has resulted in the re-emergence of hierarchy in the ANC. The next most senior person in the ANC is deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, therefore, if tradition is followed, he will be the next president after Zuma.
It is puzzling then that even though the ANC has many talented women, no one seriously thinks that they stand a chance as far as position of ANC president, and thus of the country. Everyone sings the praises of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, yet no one seems prepared to give her a chance for a run for the presidency. For a while, there were rumours that Lindiwe Sisulu would be in the running for the presidency in the near future. Early on in the presidency of Jacob Zuma it certainly seemed that way.
The way the wheels were turning and the power she seemed to yield within the ruling party seemed to suggest that, but things have changed dramatically since then and now seems to have been left behind by the debate amongst the men. Now even Tokyo Sexwale’s name comes up before hers is even mentioned. It is going to be a while before we get a female president by the look of things. Unless Motlanthe wins the ANC presidency later this year with Dlamini-Zuma or Sisulu as his deputy.