The line-up was packed with people of substance.
Among them was former public protector Thuli Madonsela and former first lady Zanele Mbeki who has been in the belly of this beast.
The theme of the conference was gender based violence - especially in the workplace, and the structure of the programme was solution focused. I could only be among these luminaries through Skype as I was in the freezing cold New York at the time.
Yet I could not help but wonder how, five decades later, in much more modern South Africa this violence against women has escalated to proportions that leave us asking questions of where and how did we go so wrong?
At stake is a structural and perpetual economic gender based violence. This is actively socialised through patriarchy based cultural practices, filial responsibilities and mores.
As Karl Marx said, independent of our consciousness we enter into social relations of production. In South Africa these relations have entrenched an intolerably dysfunctional superstructure of behaviours.
Starting with economic transgressions, there is significant evidence from the fact finder of the nation, StatisticsSA, that points to men appropriating resources from women without compensation.
For instance if it is carried on the head such as firewood and water - it is a woman’s world. But if it is on a cart and has commercial value, then it has to be collected by men.
Women have to plaster rondavels with a mixture of dung and earth. But once it involves a scaffold, a spade, cement and it is commercial, it becomes a man’s terrain.
If it is brewed thick and not clear it is a woman’s responsibility, but if it is clear and produced to scale, men take over. No woman features in the boardrooms.
A summative statistic is that whilst in 2001 almost 60 percent of small self-employed business people were women, the number had unsurprisingly dropped to 44 percent in 2013. Men have successfully pushed women out of that space, particularly in manufacturing and trade. Men have also rapidly extended their lead in agriculture.
Moving to social violence, the divorced and separated women in particular continue to be significant victims. Four in ten suffer such abuse. Girl children are not spared the scourge. They are burdened with family responsibilities. This is a euphemism for falling pregnant and as a consequence drop out of school. This phenomena affects 18 percent of girl children. They ultimately are bound to be part of the poor women who bear the brunt of sexual abuse and assault.
The situation mutates into nuptial violence where 60 percent of fathers say that they are married against 31 percent of mothers who claim the same status.
The fallacious claim of fathers to nuptial privilege is negated by the fact that only 38 percent of birth certificates have the details of fathers.
The sad part of this crucial statistic is that the policy position of free higher education important as it is, will not materialise.
This is not because of adequacy of resources or policy appropriateness. It is simply because of an ecological fallacy of a misplaced implementation plan that will serve to humiliate mothers and children as fathers deny parenting responsibilities.
For 24 years South Africa has boasted rightly of the best constitution and policies any country can have.
And for as many years it has unfortunately gone into degenerative reflective arguments that go as follows “only implementation is a problem”.
Another 23 years will come and go for as long as policy makers, planners and implementers continue to keep their elbows in their ears and their thumbs in their retinas in order not to hear the rich storyline that should guide policy and see the high quality evidence and statistical data that generates the storyline.
We have for far too long chosen to continue unashamedly to give our women any crap.
For as long as we do so William Golding teaches us: we should expect to receive a ton of s**t.
The junk status that South Africa is today in is enthusiastically man-made ton of stuff we have now received.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
- BUSINESS REPORT