The best of South African literature
SA deserves better leaders than Angie Motshekga, who has yet to free her mind from the shackles of male domination, says Mamphela Ramphele.
Johannesburg - TWENTY years into our democracy and the ANC Women’s League is taking us back to the politics of male domination. Women, in their view, need to prove themselves before being worthy of the country’s highest office.
And the country, we are told, is not ready for a woman president.
I was rudely reminded of how white domination and exclusion of black people from political decision-making was justified. Black people were not ready to govern and had to focus on their own affairs in their own areas and leave the rest of the country to more experienced and knowledgeable white voters and leaders. To hear my fellow citizens saying proudly in the media that “women leaders have to emerge from inside the system before they can have the credibility to lead” is so wrong, so ill-informed and so patronising.
The whole world, including the private sector, has woken up to the value that women leaders bring to any enterprise, public or private. The feminine in the human race brings attributes of greater empathy, willingness to collaborate even as they remain competitive, future orientation, and higher social intelligence and skills to handle conflicts. Progressive companies and societies are doing better than their competitors by leveraging greater participation of women in leadership in the boardroom and cabinet room.
As young student activists we had to free ourselves from the inferiority complex that white racism inflicted on us. Steve Biko captured it poignantly when he said: “The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” As black people we had to liberate ourselves from that inferiority complex in order to become more effective change agents.
In the process, we helped liberate white students who also suffered from a superiority complex that imprisoned them in their privileged white society.
As women students we also woke up to the need to free ourselves from all other oppressive relationships, thus opening the door to women’s liberation in a deeper sense. The struggle for liberation would never have succeeded without the power that this psychological liberation injected into activists – black and white as well as men and women.
The ANC Women’s League’s statement reflects their failure to undergo this freeing of the mind to enable them to be fully what God created them to become. They have accepted the male dominance of the ANC political culture and want to project it on to our society as a whole.
They have no right to do this. Our society has committed to a different path – a path of human dignity and equality to banish all forms of discrimination. Their statement is a betrayal of our foundational values and the ideals so many fought and died for.
The ANC Women’s League has become an apologist of male chauvinism instead of being the forceful change agent it was during the heroic leadership of Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Albertina Sisulu and many women who stood up against apartheid.
These are the women who defied their men who were too afraid to confront that racist system. They were the Mbhokoto’s who rolled into the Union Building’s lawns and challenged Prime Minister JG Strydom. Today’s ANC Women’s League is focused more on staying in the good books of the male-dominated party leadership to secure political patronage.
The statement that South Africa is not ready for a woman president is a betrayal of the spirit of our democracy and undermines the aspirations of girls and young women who are the majority population in our country.
For a Minister of Basic Education to be associated with a statement that basically suggests that women must defer to the “traditions” of male domination raises serious questions about her fitness to head such a key formative ministry.
What kind of role model is she presenting to girls? What kind of message is she sending to young men and women who are wrestling with how to live in a gender equal society in a way that draws on their complementary strengths?
South Africa cannot afford to be taken back to politics of exclusion that characterised apartheid. We have committed to a society that celebrates men and women as equal partners, not as unequal partners in which men dominate.
It is the quest for domination that leads to violence.
What our society needs are leaders who model the behaviour that reflects our democratic values of dignity, equality and freedom. We cannot afford the continuation of a socio-political culture that has no place in a society committed to ensuring that each citizen is enabled to be the best they can become, and to know they have the power to do so
This country deserves better leaders than the likes of Angie Motshekga, who has yet to free her mind from the shackles of male domination and the inferiority complex that goes with it.
She and her fellow ANC Women’s League members have no right to project their own sense of inadequacy and poor self-worth on to the rest of the country. The next generation must be protected from leaders such as these who lower the bar on aspirations and expectations of excellence in all we do.
South Africa is a country of enormous potential for greatness. We can only realise it by expecting much more from ourselves and our leaders. We dare not continue with leaders who drag us down and steal the hope and aspirations of our children and grandchildren. Our country and our children deserve better.
* Mamphela Ramphele is leader of AgangSA.
** The views expressedhere are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.