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It’s time the ANC elected a woman as deputy president


Rebone Tau is a political commentator and author of The Rise and Fall of the ANCYL. She is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Pan-African Thought & Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg. She writes in her personal capacity.

Currently the ANC does not have a single female chairperson in any province. Does this mean there are no capable women in the ANC? It seems like the position of deputy secretary-general was created for women.

The succession debate within the ANC is now something that is being discussed in the different factions of the party. It is becoming clear that we may see a younger person contesting for the position of deputy president. Looking at the history of the ANC since 1991, it is only former President Jacob Zuma who served two terms as deputy president of the ANC.

Will we see the name of a female candidate being discussed in the build-up to the national conference in December? Is this the time for a woman to be deputy president? Given the importance of foreign policy to the ANC, they should look at electing someone who has a clear understanding of the field.

Former leaders of the ANC Youth League (post the unbanning of the ANC) need to ask themselves the difficult question: what role are they playing in the ANC when it comes to the succession debate? Over the years, one can safely say the ANC does not have a clear succession plan. As most ANC leaders have been part of the leadership since 1991, within the same or other structures, and some at national level, we have never encountered the next layer of leaders in the ANC.

As a woman leader in the ANC from this generation, Ambassador Febe Potgieter-Gqubule should be considered for the position of deputy president of the ANC. She has served as the first female secretary-general of the ANCYL and as a leader of the South African Youth Congress. She has previously served as South Africa’s Ambassador to Poland. She has also served as African Union Commission chairperson advisor and as the deputy chief of staff.

A deputy president of the ANC who has a strong understanding of foreign policy will help to drive foreign policy, with a grasp of the importance of diplomacy. Not many in the ANC understand diplomacy nor how complex it can be.

This year marks 31 years since the ANC hosted its first conference in 1991. In that time, the ANC has never had a woman in the presidency. Looking to the future – beyond the era of President Cyril Ramaphosa – the ANC will be forced to look at and do things differently. The dynamics within the ANC building up to December suggest that Ramaphosa will be elected for a second term.

Men in the ANC have created most of the party’s problems, as they are the ones leading the factions within the ANC and women are just there to endorse these men’s decisions, which doesn’t show any vision. It will serve in the best interests of the ANC to find a credible woman to deputise Ramaphosa in order to avoid bringing yet another male leader to the frontline of the party.

The ANC loosely throws around the word “renewal” with little intention to renew the organisation and its leadership. During the ANC’s 2017 conference for the presidency, there were three female presidential candidates (Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Baleka Mbete and Lindiwe Sisulu), which weakened them as they worked against each other. None were elected, with Jessie Duarte being the only one elected to the top six for the position of deputy secretary-general.  

The ANC cannot continue as it was and claim “renewal”. Renewal demands that the party does things differently, including the way it runs its nomination process. People cannot just be voted in because they are on a particular slate, but their views on policies and the organisation are not known by all the members. Slate politics have killed the ANC as some who lead factions do not have an understanding of the organisation they are leading. Some are elected simply due to a slate, though they lack the capacity to change; their strengths are not even known by the members.

The ANC could learn from the American presidential debate, which allows the public to see the leader they are to elect engaging in critical issues. This process should be open to all members who have ambitions to lead in the national executive committee and the lower structures. This will help to deal with those with political ambitions but who lack the capacity to effectively lead, and subsequently become a problem for the country when they are deployed in government.

The 80 men and women who are elected as additional members should have the capacity to help in the renewal – in rebuilding and reuniting the organisation. The ANC does not need a loud-hailer; it needs critical thinkers who are able to find solutions to the challenges faced by the party and society at large. The ANC will need a treasurer-general who is able to articulate a turnaround to the ANC’s financial crises without wanting tender kickbacks, for the party’s survival and to avoid the country being captured.

Will we bear witness to the ANC electing a young female deputy president in our lifetime? The ANC claims its policies are non-sexist and non-racial, however the organisation is conservative. It might suggest that if “Rule 6.1” was removed from the constitution, we would see an organisation run by men that excludes women. Does this suggest women are not worthy to be in the ANC’s top six? How do you talk about fighting patriarchy as an organisation and only have one woman in the top six?

Currently the ANC does not have a single female chairperson in any province. Does this mean that there are no capable women in the ANC? It seems like the position of deputy secretary-general was only created for women. Jessie Duarte was the deputy to Gwede Mantashe. Despite this, they did not consider her for the position of secretary-general. Instead, they had men contesting each other for the position – Senzo Mchunu and Ace Magashule. The question men in the ANC should ask themselves is: would the situation in the party be different if we had elected her as the secretary-general?

One thing to take home from the interviews of the Judicial Service Commission is when Judge President Mandisa Maya said, “South Africa has always been ready to have a female chief justice at inception. As you point out, we had strong capable women in the Constitutional Court. There has never been a shortage of women who could take up leadership. I have had people ask whether South Africa is ready for a black chief justice. If not, why are we not asking about women?”

ANC members should reflect on this comment by Judge President Maya as they go to their 55th national conference.

The ANC has capable women within its ranks who have the ability to lead the party at the level of deputy president. The ANC will need to look towards young women. South Africans have always been ready for a female deputy president. How is it that a party that claims to be progressive and non-sexist has never had a female deputy president or president? The ANC is 110 years old this year – is the party mature enough to give South Africa a female deputy president in 2024? DM

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  • Justin Hall says:

    A person’s sex/gender should have nothing to do with the consideration for being president. Period.

    Any analysis of a candidate, that focuses primarily on their identity, is doomed to repeatedly fail. Why? Because we’re focusing on the colour of their skin and what’s in between their legs, rather than experience, integrity and what’s in their minds.

    If they make that miscreant Bathabile Dlamini president, will that prove they are “progressive”? Garbage.

    I’d love to have Thuli Madonsela as president, because she is a brilliant person of integrity, who has proven her worth.

  • Stephen T says:

    Excellent way of distracting public attention away from the despicable corruption that is the ANC today. This is propaganda 101: when your side is out of public favour, find some arbitrary meaningless metric to focus on in place of what really matters.

    Rebone Tau, you are not impressing anyone with these kinds of articles. Equality for the sake of equality is not “progressive”. It’s just stupid. Do better next time.

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    Jesse’s retirement is probably one of the better things happening in the ANC.

  • Hari Seldon says:

    actually we just want someone who is honest and competent with good morals – that’s all – could be a robot for all I care. Just not the usual dirty rotten scoundrels. BTW – the ANC Womens League is about the most rotten of the lot. PS Read Asimov I Robot last chapter…we need Stephen Byerley – not just as deputy but to run this damn planet

  • Heinz-Werner Höffgen-Berger says:

    It is time the ANC appointed someone capable and halfway honest! Never mind the gender!

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