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EFF’s public flogging of its own MP is at odds with its feminist assertions

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Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist and columnist at Daily Maverick and is part of the founding team of Maverick Citizen. Prior to Daily Maverick she worked as a communications and advocacy officer at Public Interest Law Centre SECTION27.

It is wrong that a young woman is being publicly shamed instead of supported by her party. This is what we should not lose focus on as we weigh in on MP Naledi Chirwa’s public apology and the EFF’s position.

Imagine being a young mother juggling a demanding public office job and political career. Your four-month-old child suddenly gets sick and you have to take care of her. You send correspondence about this to your political party, but forget to also send it to your public office representative and are publicly flogged for it.

This is what happened to EFF member of Parliament Naledi Chirwa, who was told to write a public apology detailing why she missed the Budget speech and what her punishment for this “offence” was.

As I read the apology, as a woman I felt shocked – not only at the EFF’s lack of compassion, but also because, for all the party’s feminist posturing, the response felt misaligned with a feminist ideology. In addition, the act of public shaming is in bad taste and demonstrates an uncaring organisational culture and leadership.

Ironically, Chirwa is known to have posted on Twitter (now X) in 2019 that “the EFF is a feminist organisation and we are unapologetic about that”. She later went on to say that the party is the only one that had made “a bold assertion that feminist discourse and gender mainstreaming be absorbed from primary education”.

If this is to be believed, then it would imply that the EFF’s practices are guided by this and also that the party, as all other parties in government, is subject to the public sector policies aimed at gender mainstreaming that seek to “promote the rights of women to gender equality and protect them against unfair discrimination in the workplace”, as defined by the Commission for Gender Equality.

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One wonders, then, what was to be gained by such an act, which is at odds with these feminist assertions. I have also been struck by the various responses to the incident and the rallying not necessarily based on who she is, but on the principle. And the principle is that it is wrong that a young woman is being publicly shamed instead of supported by her party. This is what we should not lose focus on as we weigh in on Chirwa’s public apology and the EFF’s position.

It is particularly significant as we observed International Women’s Day on 8 March that the incident forces us to address the issue of how women bear the double burden of being the primary parent and having to work in unsupportive working environments, an issue that a “pro-feminist” party like the EFF should be sensitive to.

What this has shown is that the claim of gender mainstreaming, which would recognise the pressure of being a mother in the workplace, particularly in the first few months, is in fact not a reality in the party.

There can never be a situation where a mother is made to choose work over the well-being of her child, and a caring work environment would recognise this.

Hopefully, this incident provides pause, not just for the EFF but for us all, to examine just how supportive our workplace is when it matters most. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    There can never be a situation where a mother is made to choose work over the well-being of her child, and a caring work environment would recognise this.

    mother only? are fathers afforded the same rights? and if not, why not?

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    Being a member of the EFF or supporting them immediately and sadly indicates you have an underlying personal problem, especially if you remain a member after such treatment. For anyone to expect any mature, adult, first world behavior from the EFF, defies logic. I would suggest Naledi gets professional Psychiatric help for this stockholm syndrome she obviously suffers from. This article seems to indicate that the EFF shows bias unevenly toward woman. I imagine many men are also victims of the EFF’s bullying tactics although the specific circumstances may differ. If Naledi wishes to further a political career, particularly one that can positively make a change to our unequal society, there are other parties she can join that make that positive difference and are not just a loud mouth bunch of disruptive thugs.

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