Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s formerly all-male cabinet has two new female additions, which she says translates into “200 percent more women” in her cabinet.
Anticipating a possible backlash over her cabinet’s gender ratio, Zille hit back at her critics, saying: “Whether they’re male, female, black, coloured, Indian or white, they’re going to be good.”
Announcing that she was retaining continuity, experience and institutional knowledge, Zille said she was keeping all her previous MECs with the exception of Robin Carlisle (transport) and Gerrit Van Rensburg (agriculture), who both retired.
“It won’t surprise you to know they are men,” she said, referring to criticism of the DA’s gender representation in the legislature.
Appointing Nomafrench Mbombo and Debbie Schafer as MECs for cultural affairs and sport and education respectively, Zille said: “I did make absolutely sure that because I had two vacancies and because I knew you would be like a pack of bloodhounds… I chose two people who happened to be born with X chromosomes.”
Pointing to the eight male MECs around her, Zille said the public wanted good services and didn’t care if that service came from a man.
“The bottom line is that every single one of those men worked as hard as they could, put their backs into this job, and made a difference to the people.”
And she stressed that she would never fire anyone because they were a man.
“If they did a good job, I’m certainly not going to fire them for a Y chromosome. They couldn’t do anything about their Y chromosome, just like I cannot do anything about my X chromosome.”
She added that the two new MECs were appointed primarily because they were good at what they did
“I would never demean somebody by saying: ‘I’m appointing you because you are a woman.’ ”
Zille said she was delighted to see controversy developing around the ANC’s choices around the country, “because it takes a bit of the heat away from me”.
Commenting on Zille’s cabinet, ANC leader of the opposition Marius Fransman said he was unimpressed.
“We think it’s just more of the same. The hard reality is that the premier has not fundamentally changed her team or tactics.”
ANC Western Cape chief whip Pierre Uys pointed out that the MECs were, again, six pale and eight males.
“Surprises include the appointment of an academic like Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, but not to a position of her expertise, like health or education. Instead, Debbie Schafer is sent to the ailing Western Cape Education Department, while she has no known education experience or knowledge.”
Zille was elected as premier for a second term on Wednesday while the DA’s Sharna Fernandez was elected as Speaker of the provincial parliament and Piet Pretorius was re-elected for a second term as deputy Speaker.
Zille has selected a predominantly all-male cabinet – with only two women MECs – so that she can be the “one-eyed queen in the land of the blind”, says Cosatu.
The labour federation said it would take Zille to the Equality Court for being in contempt of a prior agreement about equality and equity.
Cosatu leader Tony Ehrenreich said the composition, announced just days after mayor Patricia de Lille made changes to her top leadership, was indicative of a DA trend of favouring white and male candidates.
“Zille herself will continue to appoint incompetent people in her cabinet so that she can be the one-eyed queen in the land of the blind that has been the DA cabinet. This is why Zille avoids national Parliament at all costs as she won’t have a biased Speaker there to protect her from people exposing her weaknesses that have been so obviously paraded by the media in the last few weeks.”
The Commission for Gender Equality was also disappointed with the lack of representativeness in government across the country, saying the principle of 50/50 gender representativeness in the appointment of premiers and other senior office bearers was a non-negotiable principle. The Western Cape was “no exception”.