Give boring news the middle finger.
17 October 2017 08:13 (South Africa)
Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

Dear President Angie Motshekga, Let’s Talk Frankly...

  • Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
    OnkgeposteBW
    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is one of South Africa’s leading media and communications specialists, as well as a community activist and a business executive. He is currently the Chief Executive of Oresego Holdings an International Advisory Company. His most recent roles were Head of Communications for COPE [2008], Political Advisor to the COPE parliamentary Leader as well as a Corporate Affairs Executive at the JSE listed Altron. He is a member of the University of the Western Cape Council, where he is an appointee of the Minister of Higher Education after serving two terms on the council of the Northwest University. He is an Associate of the prestigious international Institute of Independent Business (IIB). He is a regular columnist for The Sunday Independent and Pretoria News. In 2011 he rejoined the ANC as an ordinary member. Tabane is a PHD Candidate in Media and Journalism Studies at WITS University.

In Setswana, we have a phrase that says mmangwana o tshwara thipa ka fa bogaleng. Loosely translated this means that a true mother holds the knife on its sharpest side.

I know of many who have sympathy for you and were beginning to warm up to some kind of renaissance of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), especially after the support you gave Reeva Steenkamp’s family after their tragic loss of a child in what was a clear cut case of domestic abuse. One of your members, the then Minister of Women etc, even suggested this was part of a cult of sorts, where Afrikaner men think they own women. I know, I know. She apologised for diplomatic and other reasons but we all got the message loud and clear that the Women’s League – under whose auspices she said these things outside the court room – would not tolerate patriarchy in our society, no matter what form it takes.

And so, for a while, the Women’s League was a bit of the flavour of the month, dusting off the moths and actually taking a stance on something. Similarly one has to commend you for making some of the right noises about the girls who were abducted in Nigeria and infants who have been murdered routinely in our land this year. One wondered, however, whether you made good on your promise to go to Nigeria and pursue the tracking down of these kidnapped girls.

I am sure this was not just a publicity stunt on your part.

Nevertheless, these things showed that with all the problems you may have within the ANCWL to remain relevant, at least we could still sleep well knowing you are holding the knife on its sharpest side.

But let’s talk frankly... As they say, it takes a few seconds for a building built over years to come tumbling down. South Africa is probably not ready for a woman president like you. There is no better way of putting this after you have, on two occasions in as many years, made a bungle of positioning women as able leaders of our country and helping them rise to its highest leadership position – that of president of the Republic.

The majority of women who understand the struggles of women and the position of women in our body politic wondered what on earth you were talking about? Many were as puzzled as the rest of us and interpreted the first obfuscation in this regard as being part of the pre-Mangaung fever, where everything was about intimidating anyone who dared challenge Msholozi. An assertion, therefore, that we were not ready for a woman president decoded meant only one thing: that no one should dare challenge Msholozi. I am not quite sure why, in order to express a support for Number One, it had to be equal to desecrating women’s struggles and the heroines it has been able to produce at the highest levels of our country, our continent, and the world. No one said that the Woman’s League cannot support a male candidate to be president. But to do this, at the expense of the truth about the capability of our women citizens to become president, was something to be truly ashamed of.

At the time of your unbelievable utterances, South Africa was already boasting two female Speakers in the National Assembly and two Deputy Presidents of the Republic. One of them, Baleka Mbete, is the chairperson of the ANC, arguably one of the most senior positions in the movement. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is head of the African Union. Several women have been appointed judges of the highest court in our land and another is the Public Protector. Many women are heads of their own political parties, ministers and deputy ministers. They are all holding the knife of our politics at their sharpest side.

But in your books, all these women are not good enough to be the president of South Africa. Put differently, Presidents Zuma, Motlanthe, Mbeki and even Mandela have something that none of these phenomenal women have. This as a consistent sentiment from the president of a Women’s League that leaves me cold.

Indeed, in your small factional world, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is good enough to lead the entire continent of Africa but not good enough to lead our country. As if this was not enough, this lunacy carried on last week at the policy conference of the Woman’s League. The Woman’s League came out of policy slumber (in fact it’s the first time I ever heard you pronounce on policy) to declare with great aplomb how patriarchal our society is and how we have to nurse the men's hunger for power.

These men are not ready to lose power,” you mumbled, “and we can’t just be so rough about it”… and you put even more of a foot in it. After the usual 16 days of activism song and dance where ordinary women are complaining about being at the receiving end of abuse by partners the best message from the President of the Women’s League is ‘Don’t be rough about it … Understand that men are not about to lose their power lying down. Do let them down gently.

Really? What kind of gender politics and activism is this, Mama Angie? What has happened to the Women’s League that sang Malibongwe!? That showed Verwoerd the middle finger? That had the courage to burn the dompas?

Should you not be encouraging women to contest the socio-political space like equals? Should your League not be encouraging programmes that encourage young women not to be defined by the patriarchy of men around them? Should you not be advocating by word and deed the holding of the knife on its sharpest side? If so, how does this utter mollycoddling aid women’s struggle against so much oppression as it is happening daily in South Africa?

When has the ‘loss of power’ by men ever been a consideration in the struggle for women emancipation? Whatever has happened to your tools of analysis? Imagine if in negotiating our political settlement we were more concerned about white people losing power – where would our country be? After the sorry saga of our inability to elect women premiers in this administration, how can the Women’s League emerge with such a weak position about re-affirming the ability and role of women to lead? I am certain the women who marched to Pretoria decades ago did not have this moment in mind and must be turning in their graves to see what has become of their struggles.

If we are frank, the Women’s League does not seem to have a clear political programme to help women break the glass ceiling in this society. No sense of mothering our nation amid the collapsing moral fibre and the emerging disorientation of our young people. No sense of nurturing of the girl-child to stand up to abuse by men. The resorting to the throwing of panties over board at the recent Woman’s League conference in Limpopo is a stark reminder of how the League has degenerated into an insult against women who fought against Apartheid with dignity and revolutionary discipline. Women who honoured the adage of holding the knife on its sharpest side. Unless it does something a lot more radical soon, quite frankly, your current League has no capacity to fight women’s struggles of the future.

Many have now concluded quite rightly that, if it is to be relevant again, the League must rid itself of your kind. In biblical terms, the Women’s League is now like a woman (who upon the dispute over a child’s maternity) said to King Solomon he must cut the child in half as opposed to the woman who held the King’s knife on its sharpest side and insisted that the child be given to the other woman instead. Just in case you have forgotten where this great adage comes from...mmangwana o tshwara thipa ka fa bogaleng. Sorry but this does not describe you.

Yours frankly, Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM

  • Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
    OnkgeposteBW
    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is one of South Africa’s leading media and communications specialists, as well as a community activist and a business executive. He is currently the Chief Executive of Oresego Holdings an International Advisory Company. His most recent roles were Head of Communications for COPE [2008], Political Advisor to the COPE parliamentary Leader as well as a Corporate Affairs Executive at the JSE listed Altron. He is a member of the University of the Western Cape Council, where he is an appointee of the Minister of Higher Education after serving two terms on the council of the Northwest University. He is an Associate of the prestigious international Institute of Independent Business (IIB). He is a regular columnist for The Sunday Independent and Pretoria News. In 2011 he rejoined the ANC as an ordinary member. Tabane is a PHD Candidate in Media and Journalism Studies at WITS University.

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