Susan Shabangu is the Minister for Women in the Presidency. Photo: Leon Nicholas.
Parliament – It was unacceptable for leaders in South Africa to make remarks that undermine women, Minister of Women in the Presidency Susan Shabangu said on Wednesday in response to her cabinet colleague's sexual overtures to a junior government employee.

During a media briefing ahead of her budget vote, Shabangu was asked about Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Jeff Radebe's explicit text messages to a 29-year-old government communications photographer and the example it set in the light of the way women were being sexually targetted in the country's communities.

"The issue of leaders who make sexual overtures, it's unacceptable," Shabangu said.

"There's no way we can allow leaders who continue to undermine women. This is a matter that needs to be looked at within the relevant structures." Radebe admitted to the text messages in an interview with The Star newspaper on Monday, apologising for his actions, saying it was a moment of weakness.

Shabangu said women remained vulnerable and that such perceptions needed to be eradicated to change the attitudes of men.

Shabangu sought to address criticism of her remarks on Karabo Mokoena – the young woman who was allegedly killed by her boyfriend before being set alight in April.

In an interview with eNCA, the minister was quoted as saying: “While Karabo came across as very strong, internally she was weak; hence she became a victim of women abuse and she tried to deal with her situation in sharing with other abused women; she ended up being a victim of abuse.”

On Wednesday, the minister would not address calls for her to withdraw the statement, rather altering her stance, saying women were “vulnerable”.

“I just want to say, Karabo was vulnerable. Karabo was in a relationship where she thought it would work for her but it led to unfortunately the death of her,” Shabangu said.

“You must also know I am a mother. I am a woman. I grew up in the township and I understand the pain, the pride of a woman, so there’s no way in which I can judge any situation without me understanding the pain and hurt it comes with that situation …it’s within that context that women become victims because they are vulnerable.”