Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cosatu Says Vavi's Statement on Gender Parity Was 'Misunderstood'

JOHANNESBURG 11 December 2007 Sapa


Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's "sexist" remarks about women's equity were misunderstood, the trade union federation said on Tuesday.

"It was for some reason interpreted as an attack on women and this we totally reject," said Congress of SA Trade Unions spokesman Patrick Craven.

"It was an attack on people, mainly men, exploiting the genuine concern of promoting women's rights in order to advance a particular agenda in the [ANC] leadership contest," he said.

Vavi allegedly said men who supported the proposal for gender parity were "legendary womanisers who want the 50/50 representation so they can take advantage of the women they voted into power".

The national executive committee (NEC) of the African National Congress condemned the remark as sexist and demanded an apology from Vavi.

It said the statement was "not only based on ignorance" but
exemplified "the worst and most backward aspects of sexism".

Vavi's comment implied all women were mindless, easily manipulated, and incapable of rising to positions of political leadership without dispensing sexual favours.

Craven said some people used the "50/50 argument when it suits them", adding that Vavi was unapologetic about the comments he made.

The ruling party may change its constitution at the national
conference to make provision for gender parity in its ranks.

Gender equity has been described as "the backbone" of President Thabo Mbeki's bid for the ANC presidency.

At least three women candidates would feature in Mbeki's executive should he win in Limpopo, while the Zuma camp, avidly supported by Cosatu, boasted only one woman.

Craven said Vavi was merely attacking men who wanted to manipulate women.

His comments in no way suggested women were open to being "taken in" by these manipulation tactics.

Earlier on Tuesday, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe
described Vavi's statements as "a bit reckless".

"History will judge him. I would expect a leader of his stature to be more circumspect," Motlanthe said.

He said women's emancipation was a very important issue in the ANC and need not be made "a ball game".

ANC NEC member, Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi on Tuesday called on Vavi to apologise to all women of South Africa.

She said the issue of gender equality was one of principle and not of "political expediency".

"It is truly a sad day in our country when the fight for the
equality of women is reduced by a man to the age old stereotypes of women as unthinking sexual beings unconcerned with their own liberation and emancipation.

"Shame on you Zwelinzima Vavi. Apologise unconditionally to all the women of South Africa!" she said in a statement.

Vavi's remark spoke "volumes" about his views on women and his "unwillingness" to accept the principle of gender equity.

"Is this Vavi's way of saying that the ANC should not accept gender parity because the women in our movement are simply pawns at the disposal of males?

"Is this his way of saying that the emancipation of women and the struggle for gender equality are irrelevant because women as the weaker sex are incapable of operating on the basis of principle to advance the struggle for the rights of women?" she said.

Fraser-Moleketi said it was "singularly unbecoming" of a national leader of Cosatu to "perpetuate and reproduce myths about women as sex objects at the disposal of men".

"Views of this kind constitute verbal violence against women and, in a democracy like ours where we cherish the equality of all and where we obligate the state to advance the equality of men and women, do immense harm to the cause of woman's rights in our country."

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