Lebo Keswa is a businesswoman.
Lebo Keswa is a businesswoman.

Why we don’t need #WomensMonth

By LEBO KESWA Time of article published Aug 20, 2017

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Johannesburg - Having been a victim of abuse, my sense of cynicism is always heightened on days dedicated to reflecting on the role of women in our society and, more importantly, the reflection of what society should be doing to combat the abuse of women.

It is therefore a sad day for the women of the ANC when men and women in this month of celebration of women, demonstrate the utter disregard for the agenda for the liberation of women through action and omission .

The recent controversy engulfing the Deputy Minister of Higher Education, who is now a self-confessed woman beater, exposed the charade that normally accompanies these commemorations of Women’s Month and so called 16 Days of Activism.

They are a waste of public time and space.

After years of these being on the calender you would think that at least someone as a deputy minister so high up in the food chain of governance will respect and observe some behaviour that at least gives an impression this observance of Women’s Month means anything.

Deputy Minister Mduduzi Manana, who clearly has done this as a habit, if reports emerging in the wake of his current case are anything to go by, needs to hang himself in shame.

He should have done the honourable thing and quit, but instead he was hiding from the law for almost a week before he could make a VIP appearance in court - an appearance that he made after much persuasion and begging from some of his colleagues.

Given the high-profile nature of the case and the fact there was a confession circulating for all to hear, there was no reason for him not to be arrested instantly.

The Minister of Police instead called a press conference saying the arrest was imminent.

The Minister of Women also issued a statement condemning the attack some two days after it happened.

Between these two ministers there was a disregard of this matter as urgent, and, given it was one of their own, there was no hurry to arrest him. And this is the heart of the matter.

The fact that two officers of the SAPS were with this deputy minister when he assaulted the young lady is abominable, and one wonders whether the Minister of Police will act on it.

I could have lived with this state of affairs, even given the weak explanation the minister gave about his reluctance to bungle cases under public pressure, but I can’t live for another day with the utter despicable conduct of the ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini. Her utterances that Manana must not be acted upon because there are some who are “worse abusers”, left me cold. This leader of ANC women knows of abusers in the ranks of the ANC, and has done nothing about it?

What is more shocking is there are reports of other public figures like Shaka Sisulu and Marks Maponyane, among others, who have allegedly assaulted women this month.

It is time the South African public sees these kind of leaders for what they are.

The fact that there was little or no condemnation against Bathabile from cabinet and ANC leaders says a lot about whether she represents the death of gender politics in the ANC.

This is the same person who arranged a march to defend Zuma at the Union Buildings and stated that everyone has a small skeleton when society was calling for action against the president.

She has become a master of the narrative of the lowest common denominator in ANC politics.

As long as the ANC harbours such leaders in its midst, it is far from convincing the public that the ANC can self-correct.

Not only is this minister declared incompetent by the highest court in the land, but she has endangered the support of the ANC’s biggest constituency by bungling the social grants management, putting the country on tenterhook with a risk of rebellion from 17million grant recipients.

She still cruised through it as if there was no crisis.

There can’t be a worse abuser of the vulnerable in our society.

With a face like this representing the latter-day ANC gender politics, who needs sexists?

What this saga has revealed sadly shows that government programmes to highlight gender issues are mere lip service and should be scrapped, and that money wasted on song and dance and useless events be directed at building shelter for abused women or some other useful purpose that could better contribute to the empowerment of women or the fight against abuse.

One of the crucial interventions that requires resources is a dedicated court for abuse and the retraining of police men and women on how to best handle cases of abuse.

This can go a long way in salvaging the public perception of how seriously the state takes the question of women abuse.

I wish I knew what the Ministry of Women does on a daily basis if some of these basic interventions are not in place.

Do we even need a ministry like this if it has failed to even make cabinet members take women issues seriously? How will this ministry influence society to change its ways if it needs to issue a media statement against a cabinet colleague instead of precipitating stern action to be taken against that colleague?

Gender awareness and interventions are sadly far from being mainstreamed.

Even government remuneration like private sector is still reflective of gender disparity. Surely something like that can be fixed by a directive from the ministry of public administration now under another incompetent woman as in Faith Muthambi.

You can just imagine how long a journey is going to be before anything serious happens.

All of this is disheartening and seriously begs the question “do we need a Women’s Month?” Do we need charades and platitudes or do we need action that will revive the kind of gender politics that saw 20000 women from all walks of life march to the Union Buildings for a serious cause?

* Keswa is a businesswoman. She writes in her personal capacity. Follow her on Twitter: @lebokeswa

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent

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