The ANC of today is a patriarchal organization stuck in the past
11 October 2012
Note to editors: This is an extract of the speech that was delivered by DA Parliamentary Leader, Lindiwe Mazibuko MP, today, while addressing a Women in Media seminar as part of the International Women's Forum in Deauville, Paris.
I am delighted to be here and to share a few thoughts on how to challenge and change stereotypes of women in the media. How is South Africa faring?
South Africa enjoys one of the highest rates of female participation in Parliament in the world. I should add that this is not matched by the gender composition of the private and public sector. But we are on the way.
Our first speaker in the democratic Parliament, in 1994, was a woman, Frene Ginwala. After 18 unbroken years of service as health, foreign and home affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma was recently appointed as the first female head of the African Union (AU). Our Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Mandonsela, who is fearless in pursuing corruption and wrong doing by the government, is a woman too.
And, perhaps, uniquely in the democratic world, my party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), the official opposition in South Africa, is led by a trio of women in the three top jobs. Helen Zille, leader of the DA is the premier of the Western Cape, and Patricia de Lille is the Mayor of Cape Town. As the leader of the Official Opposition in Parliament, I am the second woman, after Sandra Botha, to hold the post.
So why do negative female stereotypes persist in the media, despite top-level female participation in the democratic process?
It is important to grasp the grim reality of the lives of many women in South Africa to evaluate how media perceptions are shaped. These then, in a vicious cycle, often reinforce people's behavior.
South Africa, you are likely to know, has the world's highest and most violent rate of rape. One in three women is likely to be raped in her lifetime.
Recent crime statistics for 2011/2012, published last month, reported an estimated 127 sexual offences per 100,000 people. This includes 94.9 rapes per 100 000 in South Africa in one year alone.
While we enjoy top-level female participation in public life, we have not done enough to free vulnerable women and young girls from systemic male abuse and patriarchal dominance. It is about far more than legislation; it is about changing hearts and minds.
I am not going to be delicate or sugarcoat this issue. These attitudes are often bolstered by male figures within the ranks of the party of government, and, sadly, by the media too.
It starts at the top with a President who has institutionalized sexist and negative stereotypes of women, who oversees a ruling party that is deeply patriarchal from the top down.
Two weeks ago in Parliament, President Jacob Zuma referred to me as "Ntombazana", an isiZulu word for a "young girl", when I probed him in questions to the president. He referred to my opposition colleague, Cheryllyn Dudley, the respected parliamentarian and Chief Whip of the African Christian Democratic Party, as "my dear". He spoke to female opposition members as an elderly man would speak to a child.
This is the same man who in a rape trial, in 2008, said that a Zulu man does not leave a woman in a state of arousal. He went on to become President with his popularity, apparently enhanced, among many young male supporters. The ANC Women's League, a supposed bastion of support for women's rights in the ruling party, did nothing to condemn these remarks.
Soon after the conclusion of the trial, the populist, and then-President of the ANC Youth League, Mr Julius Malema, told the media: "When a woman didn't enjoy it [sex], she leaves early in the morning. Those who had a nice time will wait until the sun comes out, request breakfast and ask for taxi money," after Mr Zuma was acquitted of raping a family friend. Again, there was no public rebuke of him by the ANC or their Women's League.
This provides an interesting contrast to what happened here in France - a country famously not prudish about sexuality - last year.
When the former head of the IMF, Dominque Strauss-Khan, was accused of rape in a New York hotel, his presidential ambitions were dashed. The media, for better or worse, shaped public perceptions of Mr Strauss-Khan's unsuitability for office.
In South Africa, however, from the President downwards, the list of sexist and hate-speak female stereotyping in the media is long.
President Zuma recently said of young, South African women in a television interview: "You've got to have kids. Kids are important to a woman because they actually give an extra training to a woman, to be a mother". The DA has lodged a complaint with the Commission for Gender Equality, a Constitutional body, about these remarks.
And you might ask who wrote this: "Who does she think she is. This Ferial Haffajee... Who the devil is she anyway if not a black snake in the grass, deployed by white capital to sow discord among blacks? In the Eighties, she'd probably have had a burning tyre around her neck."
Ms Haffajee, currently editor of the Sunday, City Press, is one of the most successful newspaper editors in recent times, who has transformed every single publication she has overseen into an investigative machine. Her male counterparts, who presented equally critical viewpoints of the ANC did not receive the same backlash.
You might be thinking that the comments about Ms Haffajee were made by an unreconstructed apartheid supremacist.
Almost unbelievably, these comments were made by Eric Miyeni a respected writer, actor, radio and television personality. He was previously a columnist for The Sowetan Newspaper. What leads someone like this, who acted in the groundbreaking Cry the Beloved Country, to utter such depraved words? This is a question hard to answer, and it is heartrending that a respected member of the media made these comments.
Less surprisingly, the former president of the ANC Youth League, Julius Malema, refused to take part in a televised debate with me last year referring to me as a "tea girl". He said "I was never asked to debate Lindiwe... She's a nobody, she's a tea girl of the madam. I'm not debating with the service of the madam (sic)".
This is same Mr Malema who, in May 2009, after Helen Zille led the DA to victory in the Western Cape, said of her: "She, the racist little girl, must remember that Zuma is her boss".
This complemented his colleague, the former youth league spokesperson, Floyd Shivambu's, description of Premier Zille's cabinet appointments: "She has appointed a set of boyfriends and concubines who sleep around so that she can continue to sleep around". To draw a line in the sand Helen Zille, successfully took Messer's Shivambu and Malema to court and received an apology.
These incidents stand apart from the insults that Helen and I have to endure in the blogosphere. One of the worst was when I was described as a "house nigger". This was predicated on the notion that a woman who thinks independently, and stands up to the ANC, is nothing more than an indentured labourer.
I relate these examples to demonstrate the power of the media for good and bad to reflect sexism, prejudice and stereotyping of women. While I am interested in the remarks made about me, I am not hurt by them personally. But I am deeply worried about how they confer legitimising power on hate speak and prejudice towards women who cannot speak with the freedom I can.
I was dismayed to read in The Sowetan this week, that the ANC Women's League believes that women should wait to lead in the ANC. Apparently they are not "ready" yet. This speaks of an organisation which has not moved with the times and which has deeply sexist views of women. Since when must women wait to be told when they are‘ready' to lead?
The real motivation for this is internal ANC factional politics. Women's rights always come in second place, when ‘big man' personality wars are being waged between different male candidates in the ANC.
By contrast, Helen Zille's predecessor, Helen Suzman, daily fought apartheid's injustices from the opposition benches half-a-century ago, when politics was truly a male only game. Carrying the torch of this great legacy, Helen Zille will be standing again for re-election this year, and it is my hope that she will be re-elected overwhelmingly.
I also understand, and would like you to appreciate, that media stereotyping in South Africa is, to a great extent, a function of a broken society with low national self-esteem. The world "breaks everyone", it has been famously said, and "afterward many are strong in the broken places". How true this is of South Africa. We don't need a sociological exercise to make the connection between the seeds of abuse and the cancerous tree of apartheid.
Equally, I empathize that many people act and speak from a place of profound psychological wounds and a distorted world view. While this provides explanatory power, leaders and the media have a great responsibility to challenge negative stereotyping at every time and in every place it raises its head.
Today, the DA, in government and opposition, has taken up the challenges of redress and reconciliation in a nation torn apart by injustices. And we know that the work of redress and reconciliation can only be completed when we change attitudes to women in the media.
We have far to go before we narrow the gap between the gender equality clause in our Constitution and the real lives women lead.
Apart from upholding the rights the constitution ascribes to women, we must construct a capable state where women receive life-changing opportunities, with educational and economic freedom. We must be consistent in word and deed.
I thank you.
Issued by the DA, October 11 2012
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