We must first have more women participating in ANC branches and leagues, before we talk about provinces and national, says the writer. File photo: Tracey Adams

We must first have more women participating in ANC branches and leagues, before we talk about provinces and national, says Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha.

Johannesburg - There has been a gender outcry after the ANC announced the names of its premier for the eight provinces it governs. Those belching rebuke argue that the ANC is digressing from the progress it made a few years ago. If one looks at the numeric mechanics, this argument might have merit but politically, it doesn’t.

This outcry, which I think is unfortunate and opportunistic, bemoans the drop in the number of female premier candidates.

Unfortunate and opportunistic in the sense that it is only raised as an issue when we deploy comrades to these positions.

All of us in the ANC are unhappy that we only have one female premier but there is nothing we can do about that now. We can only encourage a solution for the future and for the cabinet appointments.

We must frankly discuss reasons leading to the current situation we all face. Anyone who has observed pre-ANC elective conference lobbying for positions will agree that, since 1912, there has never been a woman touted for the Presidency and there has been very few for the chairperson position.

This is wrong but not only that, it could be revealing how women within the ANC have failed to push themselves to positions of leadership. Without their own effort, it could be difficult for them to be elected to these positions.

I hold a view that anything not pushed and driven by women could be a sympathetic act and not an act of leadership affirmation.

Imagine if all lobby lists ahead of each conference had an equal number of women and some led by women. We never had this. We are likely not to have it in the near future.

For us to think of having more women premier candidates, we must learn from previous instances where we had female premiers outside the leadership structures such as in the provincial executive committee (PEC). There were serious gaps between the ANC and government, causing serious delays and limitations in delivery.

But when we look at instances where female premiers were in the PEC, even leading, there was a potent stability of maturity. The same can be said about municipalities.

My argument is, if we want to have equal gender representation in leadership structures, we must first encourage a similar activism in the ANC structures like branches and leagues before we talk about regions, provinces and national.

There is no doubt that patriarchy could contribute to lesser participation and deployment of women but conscientising our society includes women – for them to be emancipated from thinking only men can lead.

The ANC has many women with leadership qualities but we must not assume that they should be put into positions of power because of their gender.

The democrats in us must encourage women participation in ANC structures; elective conferences to a point where they don’t become king-makers but queens or kings themselves.

The ANC Women’s League must take the lead in this but, if it doesn’t as it has been the case since its inception, female comrades outside the league will have to step up to the plate and engage for leadership positions.

There are scores of young and old female leaders who can lead this internal revolution within the ANC. It is a shame in fact that they have not yet done that.

The Eastern Cape has had two female premiers, both outside the PEC and leadership structures. That had its pros and cons. So as the province we can’t be blamed when we nominate Phumulo Masualle to be premier.

A proper analysis of demographics and psychographics of members of the ANC Women’s League could help us understand the extent of the challenge we face.

The manner in which the league is structured is that it appeals more to elderly black women than to all areas, races, ages and levels of women, including young girls.

When you have this perception about the league, more young women will participate in the youth league and in the mother body only, leaving the women’s league with mamas and gogos who can only go to anti-domestic violence, rape, murder, child, women abuse court cases and marches.

While these are noble causes, we need our female comrades to be more visible in all facets of society under the banner of the Women’s League and that of the ANC.

We have skilled women in governance, finance, law, politics, journalism, business, arts, academics, research, entrepreneurship, health, education, families, local government and in many other sectors.

What this signals is that we have a pool of credible leaders we can draw from at any given time.

ANC structures have to embrace the fact that women are as good leaders as their male counterparts.

Electing credible women to be chairpersons of branches, sub-regions and regions will influence the election of women to provincial and national structures as well as leagues.

As the ANC has declared, this a decade of the cadre, this is one of the cadre development aspects we must all deal with.

Beyond producing a female president, the ANC has to develop a cadre of competent and confident female leaders to help provide leadership where they are deployed, employed and appointed.

These comrades ought not to only focus on women issues but have to broaden their leadership focus to balance their leadership to properly resolve challenges facing society.

Those who argue that having a female premier is likely to lift only gender issues into prominence are as wrong as those who thought having a black US president was going to lift only issues of black communities to prominence.

Leadership is not about one issue. It is about holistically dealing with all issues in an integrated approach synchronising your responsibilities.

We can’t when we have not asked questions about the election of women in lower structures demand to have them deployed to upper structures. Let’s fix the base for an effective deployment.

Putting more women in top positions will never be a curative solution to patriarchal challenges we face.

* Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha is a member of the ANC and a public servant.

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

Sunday Independent