South Africa is stuck in a space where women politicians are the target for unfair gender-based criticism and humiliation.
This was the subject of a discussion at Wiser on Thursday called“The trouble of being a female in politics” with a panel composed of Rebecca Davis from the Daily Maverick, Eusebius McKaiser from Power FM and journalist and Wiser fellow Khadija Patel.
Davis wrote an article for Daily Maverick last week on the special problems for women in politics. The article, which caused wide debate, addressed the way the South African media and society as a whole dealt with the merger between the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Agang and their respective female leaders, Helen Zille and Mamphela Ramphele.
The press conference was marked with a kiss between Zille and Ramphele, demonstrating their long friendship. But the panelists pointed out that the kiss soon became a meme, and was compared to acts of lesbianism and sexual provocation.
The merger soon failed but Davis noted that criticism of Zille and Ramphele made hay of the two leaders being women.
“Let’s face it, the DA-Agang merger was disastrous, but the fact that they were women should have been irrelevant.”
“This suggests that there is an illegitimacy to women owning the public space in South Africa,” said Davis.
Both the DA and Agang have also been criticized for being too “top heavy” with female leadership.
However, Davis said a political party with an all-male leadership is never recognized for its “weirdness” or criticized for being “too masculine”.
McKaiser believes that South African politics does not have a problem with a lack of female representation. He argues some of the best performing politicians are female, a fact that is often overlooked. McKaiser uses African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as an example of a woman succeeding in politics. But McKaiser adds that she has yet to make a public mistake and therefore has been spared gendered criticism.
Patel said she was personally pained by the gendered discourse used on women. “It is already hard for a woman to be in politics without these remarks hoisted on you.”
An example of this would be the press referring to Ramphele as “gogo”, a term which helped describe her as an old and confused woman, when she is actually younger than President Jacob Zuma. The fact that he is old is seen as a political advantage and an indicator of accumulated wisdom instead of senility, Patel said.
Helen Zille debates why SA is at a crossroads. Photo: Caro Malherbe
POLITICAL analyst and businessman, Moeletsi Mbeki said the ANC has merely “put a plaster over poverty” in the last 20 years.
Mbeki joined Democratic Alliance (DA) Premier, Helen Zille for a discussion with young professionals at the Crowne Plaza in Rosebank on Tuesday. The topic of the discussion was “Is South Africa at a Crossroads?”
Mbeki said that while South Africa is not at a crossroads, the ANC is.
“The ANC is a political party, South Africa is a country”, said the younger brother of former president Thabo Mbeki.
Mbeki said the past few weeks South Africa has seen the launch of new political parties, who have been breakaways from the ANC such as the Economic Freedom Fighters and SA First—which was founded by veterans of uMkhonto we Sizwe.
He said the reason for the breakaway parties was that the ANC has been in power for 20 years and hardly dented poverty. He made a comparison with China’s progress as they managed to get 20 million people out of poverty, within the last 20 years.
Zille addressed the 300-odd crowd by disagreeing with Mbeki’s argument and said: “South Africa is at a crossroads because the ANC’s politics are South Africa’s politics.”
She said if the ANC is at a crossroads then “willy nilly” South Africa is too.
However, she believes that South Africa now has a much better chance of overcoming these crossroads than 20 years ago.
She also touched on corruption when she said: “The ANC is still such a dominant presence in the state, in institutions that are supposed to be independent that are no longer and in business.”
Zille went on to agree with Mbeki and she said the core fault is that there is a “dividing line right through the middle of the ANC” which creates visceral crossroads for South Africa.
Mbeki and Zille both agreed that there is need for a strong competitive party to oppose the ANC. Zille said a party will only perform when they are scared of voters “firing” them. She said the ANC is not threatened because they are playing on race.
She said that it is up to voters to make a difference by voting out politicians who under perform. “South Africans get the government they vote for.”
A DA supporter is carried away by paramedics on Bertha Street Photo: Jan Bornman
Photographs and story by: Jan Willem Bornman, Lisa Golden and Jay Caboz
Protesters and journalists were tear-gassed by police after Democratic Alliance (DA) and Cosatu supporters clashed in Braamfontein today over proposed youth wage subsidies.
The march turned violent after blue-shirted members of the DA and red-shirted Cosatu supporters met on Jorissen Street. The Johannesburg Metro Police made a human chain to keep the two groups separated as they shouted insults at each other. This did not stop supporters from both sides throwing rocks, bottles, bricks and placards at each other across the police chain.
DA leaders were seen at the front of the march Photo: Lisa Golden
Fighting also broke out on Stiemens Street after police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. A 30-minute stand-off ensued while the DA leadership urged their supporters to maintain a non-violent stance, shouting “we want peace”, amid renditions of the national anthem.
DA members chanted "We are peaceful" when confrontations began Photo: Lisa Golden
One of the first protesters hit by a rock Photo: Jan Bornman
Rocks and bricks were hurled from both sides injuring protestors and journalists alike, among them Nickolaus Bauer from the Mail and Guardian, who was photographed with a bloodied face. A number of injuries have been reported in the media.
Journalist Nickolaus Bauer was injured in the clash Photo: Jan Bornman
DA national leader Helen Zille, parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, youth leader Makashule Gana and national spokesperson Mmusi Maimane led the march which was in support of the implementation of youth wage subsidies; a proposal rejected by Cosatu.
Competing lines of Cosatu and DA members, in red and blue respectively, are surrounded by media and police Photo: Lisa Golden
Mazibuko and Zille addressed the crowds calling for Cosatu to “join the DA” and saying “that they were stealing jobs from the youth.”
The two groups clashed repeatedly on several Braamfontein streets with the police, who appeared largely disorganised, responding with tear gas and water cannons.
Police used water cannons to disperse the crowds Photo: Jay Caboz
Windows of a BMW in Braamfontein were broken by protesters Photo: Jan Bornman
DA and Cosatu members arguing Photo: Jay Caboz
The police struggled to contain the situation as tensions increased Photo: Jay Caboz
A tear gas cansiter lies on the ground close to Cosatu members Photo: Jay Caboz
For more photographs go to Jay’s blog, Lisa’s blog and Jan’s blog
WITH Women’s Month coming to an end, Vuvuzela spoke to two well-known alumni to get their views on Women’s Month and why Men’s Month is not in South Africa’s future.
Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance
Helen Zille, leader of the DA, has made a name for herself in South African politics. She obtained a bachelor of arts degree at Wits and says Women’s Day (and month) allows South Africans to remember the women who made difficult choices in the past so we can have a more equal society today.
“It [Women’s Month] is also a time when we should recommit ourselves to opening up more opportunities for women and address the challenges women face in South Africa,” Zille says.
She says women should do whatever they feel like doing in Women’s Month and “not only what they have to do”.
“Women’s Day is significant but also slightly patronising. It enables society to compartmentalise women’s issues, rather than dealing with the underlying causes…
“So many men think it is their right to have multiple concurrent sexual partners…and young girls are often forced into their first sexual experience.
“Let’s deal with those core issues every day and not compartmentalise women’s issue into one day or month each year.”
Zille’s ultimate spoiling experience would be a meal with her family and she says there is no Men’s Day in South Africa because “every day is Men’s Day”.
Samantha Cowen, presenter on 94.7 Highveld Stereo's Breakfast Xpress team. Photo: courtesy samcowen.com
Samantha Cowen’s voice is well-known in the wider Joburg area. She has hosted the Rude Awakening and the Breakfast Xpress on 94.7 Highveld Stereo for about 10 years now. She is also an ex-Witsie and says Women’s Month gives a chance for women to regroup and identify challenges.
“The maternal mortality in this country is still too high, as is HIV transmission among women and there’s a lost generation of women in their late 40s and early 50s who haven’t had the education and opportunities the rest of us have.”
She also thinks women should “not do anything” on Women’s Day or Month.
“I think women do too much on a daily basis. We’ve forgotten how important it is to have a nice cup of tea and a little sit down. And exhale.”
Her ultimate spoiling experience would be an afternoon where she has to do nothing at all and to “not think about anything at all”.
She does however think there should be a Men’s Day and Month. “I think men are in a very difficult position at the moment. Perhaps a day to reflect on the various talents we should be celebrating in the male gender would give both sexes a chance to acknowledge those.”
And why does she think there is no Men’s Day or Month in South Africa? “I have no idea! Find me a parliamentary suggestion box and I’ll pop it in!”