Republic of South Africa Ambassador to Italy Thenjiwe Motshekga. She is also a leader in the African National Congress Women's League., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
by Thenjiwe Mtintso
The clock is ticking
I originally drafted this article as a substantive, powerful, highly intellectual and political (as much as I could ever claim to be intellectual and political) one to engage in the discourse /debate about the ANC and leadership at this "conjuncture". Then my eyes wondered around and focused at my proud possession namely, the ANC centenary clock with the faces of all the ANC Presidents majestically hanging on my office wall.
It suddenly hit me that actually there was no need for intellectual, academic, political and philosophical debates on the "issues" I wanted to raise as we prepare for the ANC Conference in Mangaung since "we had been there, done that" so to speak. All that was necessary were small reminders to the ANC members about some facts, uncomfortable and sensitive as they may be. The clock tells it all!
For its exciting yearlong Centenary celebrations, the ANC has produced lots of beautiful paraphernalia, a bold and moving testimony of its glorious history. These include t-shirts, jackets, coats, dresses, banners, and clocks with faces of its Presidents in the 100 years. There are many other worth- buying- articles that are a reminder of who we are and where we come from and where we are going.
These are also important because many of us are unlikely to celebrate 200 years of the ANC. These are also a testimony to some of us of how fortunate we are to have been part of the struggles for and liberation of our country under the leadership of the glorious Movement of the people, the African National Congress and its tripartite Alliance.
What hit me was that the beautiful commemorative clock depicting the faces of the twelve Presidents of the ANC in its first century. The clock is literally ticking from the first President John Langalibalele Dube at one o'clock to the current President Jacob Zuma at twelve o'clock and. The comrade brothers have led us gloriously in the last ten decades. This is a simple even if sad reminder that in its 100 years the ANC has never seen fit to elect a woman President. HAWU Bantu, is it true that in the ONE HUNDRED YEARS there has never been a politically astute, capable, competent woman of integrity ready and willing to lead the ANC?
We, ANC members and leaders, will be the first ones to confirm the outstanding leadership capabilities of women in the ranks. To prove a point, we can rattle an unending list of women leaders including the two former women State Deputy Presidents. What we may not mention is that the latter were not elected, but appointed as stop gap measures at difficult times and that their tenures were very short because at election time we did what we do best, elect our male comrades.
For good measure we can throw in our own brand new Chair of the AU, but not mention that it may be difficult for her to avail herself as a candidate for President from Addis.
Many theories exist on why women should be at all levels of political decision-making and activity in society. These include quantitative/parity; fair and just; democracy and participation; nature, life experience and perspectives; economic sense and developmental needs; transformation of power relations theories as well as a large body of feminist theories of all shades. The ANC and its Alliance partners, informed by one or a combination of all of these has concluded that there can be no real democracy and freedom if women are still excluded from the highest echelons of power.
The ANC has Constitutionalised gender parity, passed resolutions, formulated policies, set up structures, designed programmes for women's emancipation and gender equality. Are we not at the top of the list for women's representation in parliament and government passing even the so-called established democracies? Malibongwe! So what do these women want ke ngoku? Answer, WE WANT TO SIT AT THE HIGHEST TABLE. A WOMAN PRESIDENT.
Now I am on a very rocky path. Many women and men gave the same response in previous Conferences and loudly at Polokwane. Yhooo!!! The backlash, from comrades, women and men. But why does this question arise only now? Simply because the nominations were not yet OFFICIALLY opened never mind the hectic unofficial lobbying.
But why do women do a disappearing act when it is time for nominations for the highest office. One of the challenges for us in the ANC and the ANCWL are the so-called slates/ amakhasi. Towards Conferences and especially since the 1997 Conference these slates appear from "nowhere" but spread like wild fire throughout the ranks. Provincial and regional leadership especially chairs and secretaries play a prominent role in these never mind their stringent denials. Worth noting is that there is not a single woman Provincial chair or Secretary in the nine ANC Provinces.
So the 18 male comrades have a field day in trying to influence the outcomes of elective Conferences. Sometimes the ANCWL provincial leadership is involved but on the terms of their Provincial ANC leadership.
The NEC always warns us against "slates/amakhasi" but these have become the life of the ANC towards elective conferences at all levels beginning with the branch. Though women and the ANCWL usually participate in these slates. There never seems to be any specific women's lobby group even of the ANCWL. The ANCWL follows the ANC slates even if not necessarily as an organisation.
Just a small reminder to all of us on the "watershed" Polokwane Conference. At first some leaders in the ANCWL made significant noises about a woman for President then watered down the statement to woman in the Presidency and finally became silent on the matter. At the Conference itself, some of the ANCWL leaders fought very successfully against the quota being adopted for the "Officials".
Some of them even went so far as to declare that the women who wanted a quota were motivated by self interest in that they were likely to be candidates for those positions. Interestingly the proposal to have a quota on the "officials" was from a man. The argument, supported by some women who seemed to be supporting a particular slate which did not have the 50% women was that the "officials" are not a constitutional structure but an informal group composed of the officials.
A correct if academic interpretation, in that most of the time the "Officials" at the national level and the "Top Five" at the Provincial level do act as a de facto structure. But the interesting point is that we, women in the ANC and the ANCWL have never, since the 1991 Conference at which some of the women quota protagonists lost the quota campaign have never openly produced a list and lobbied for our own. We have always been useful appendages to male produced lists. I do not sing praises to lobby lists and groups. However, the reality is that they exist and most of the times are successful.
If we become part of those as we are, let them work for our gender agenda otherwise we should not be involved as these work against women. We the women of the ANC have the power to either eliminate the "slate" practice or to let them benefit the women's struggles. Let us not deliberately and consistently declare a vote of no confidence in ourselves with a lot of help from our male comrades. We should love ourselves enough to believe in our ability to lead our country and our glorious movement at the highest level.
True theories abound about the myth of universal interests and sisterhood /women homogeneity etc. but we have to wage a struggle for gender equality in the ANC itself. Women and men in the ANC should recognise the internal workings of patriarchy that threaten the gender equality. Women should not allow themselves to be used for or by patriarchy in whatever form, leadership positions included.
The ANC is a patriarchal organisation particularly because as said elsewhere, patriarchy, the amoeba and lizard it is, adapts to any system or organ taking its form, shape, and colours and spreads throughout and coexist with that organ, progressive as it may be.
It has successfully done that in the ANC. We can attack it systematically beginning with using our numbers for the benefit not of women but of the gender agenda. At some point in the 100 years of the ANC the gender struggles were subsumed to the national and even class struggles. That time has passed. A Woman President will be but one stop in the path to real gender equality.
Back to the ticking clock - the ANC women and ANCWL have responsibility to ensure that women's emancipation is achieved. This, as OR Tambo once said, is not their responsibility alone. However, at the moment they have to lead. For starters, they can produce a list of women candidates for President dismissing the silly excuse of "there are no capable women". There is no special school for ANC Presidents except in the struggle for freedom.
Most of the ANC men and women have gone through that furnace at different times, conditions and contexts and many women comrades would, if given a chance, fulfil the imperatives of the ANC LIVES! THE ANC LEADS!
Another reminder: As per ANC Constitution not less than 50% of the voting delegates will be women. The ANCWL will also have its own women only delegation. The Youth League should also have its not less than 50% women delegates. Let the 50/50 work for gender equality.
Lobbying for women candidates as President is not passing a vote of no confidence on anyone. It is just stating a fact that the clock is ticking and the ANC is ready to move with the times. Of course leadership in the ANC is earned in the furnace of the struggle…as they used to say eMkhontweni " sizobapheka ngebhodo elincane"… happily both women and men are cooked in the same political pot and they are indeed tampered and steeled in the struggle.
Let our generation leave a legacy of gender justice to our coming generations. Having a woman as a President is only a small part of Gender Justice.
MALIBONGWE!!!!!!!! A WOMAN FOR PRESIDENT
Thenjiwe Mtintso is an ANC NEC member and South Africa's ambassador to Italy.