8 August 2017

South Africa: A Twist in SA's Presidential Elections

Johannesburg — The African National Congress presidential elections has gained momentum on finding a suitable successor for the ruling party. Three women are officially contesting for presidency of the party.

The gradual increase of female representation to run office particularly the national presidency seat shows that the events are taking a major turn especially because women's role in politics was overlooked for years. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of the African Union (AU), Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, and Baleka Mbethe national chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) gained a vote of confidence by the branches to lead the country.

These women are contesting against the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa supported by Cosatu members, Zweli Mkhize ANC's treasurer-general, Malusi Gigaba Finance Minister, Mathews Phosa former Premier of Mpumalanga Province and former ANC Treasurer-General and Jeff Radebe cabinet minister.

Under representation of women in high level positions seems to take its turn for South Africa, having three African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) members to run in the presidential race. All these women occupy powerful positions in government.

Despite South Africa's extensive body of laws, policies and programmes for protecting women's rights the gap between principle and practice is often wide particularly in politics. The proportion of women in parliament for Southern African Development Community (SADC) based on the survey conducted on the 2016 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer is 50%.

Meanwhile South Africa comprises 42% of women in both parliament and cabinet and 41% in local government. Women are even assigned department transitionally led by men such as Defence, Foreign affairs, Science and Technology and Energy. Moreover, in a recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey by Statistics South Africa 2017 " More than half of white and Indian women were employed in the skilled occupations, compared to 18,0% of black African and 20,2% of coloured women".

Last year during an interview with the South African Broadcasting Commission, Bathabile Dlamini Minister of Social Development said "A women president is not going to be a president for women in the ANC but a member who has grown organically in the structure of the ANC and has been part of the women struggle for emancipation and who understand gender sensitivity and the struggle, which South Africa facing".

Defying the orders of the National Working Committee (NWC) that there should be no campaigning allowed yet, the ANCWL brought fourth its candidate Dlamin Zuma as being suitable. Political analyst Stephen Friedman speaking in an interview with the SABC said that the ANC said there should not be any indorsement of any candidate meanwhile the ANCWL is busy endorsing contenders and surprisingly there is no reaction towards that as they do as they please.

Dlamini-Zuma addressed people at a church service in Khutsong, which focused on "Women Leadership" saying "in Africa there should be female presidents as now there is only one in Liberia where her term is ending soon" thus encouraging people to beg people to push for a female president.

Sisulu launched her campaign at Kliptown called "IT IS A MUST" where she said people should stand with her to earn something, which is more valuable than money in order to save the ANC, by stopping corruption that cause harm and unshackle all the strongholds of undemocratic processes in the party. She says the killings in KwaZulu-Natal, women and children abuse and corruption need to stop.

However, being considered as suitable candidates many disputes rise concerning the roles these women such as, Mbethe as a speaker of parliament and the mistakes that she did, and on the other hand the relation which Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is alleged to have with the Gupta family concerning the leaked Emails. While Sisulu is riding on her family name and knows nothing.

Other people's reaction on putting these women in power seems unsteady. Wherein Lindiwe Sisulu is said to be one of those who are suggesting that Zuma must be given amnesty for stealing our money. Meanwhile Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is said to be an indemnification for President Jacob Zuma to still be in power and a license for the corrupt Guptas to continue ransacking resources.

The Xhosa king Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu, rejected Dlamini-Zuma's endorsement when she payed homage. He said, "South Africa is not yet ready to be led by a woman president. Women are sensitive by nature. The country's problems have overwhelmed leaders who are men, how much more for a woman".

While Baleka Mbethe received reprimands from Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) president Julius Malema saying that "her conduct has failed her to be a candidate of the ANCWL, she is irrational, impatient, and partisan which resulted in her being dumped by the party and slaughtering a cow to her ancestors ".

This backlash show that there is no vote of trust neither support on women leading the country especially in the era where women hold impressive portfolios and accomplishments on the work they do. Rather than being viewed in stereotypical notions such as being weak or having emotions.

In a recent article written by Gender Links "women candidates deserve to be treated fairly and equally. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that gender biases in the public psyche affect women candidates disproportionately.

This means that women's full participation within politics in South Africa is essential if gender equality and equity, grooming other women to be better individuals and growth can be achieved

Although historically women were shielded with stereotypical notions on being leaders, these created numerous barriers to their engagement in politics. Breaking these barriers can help increase the employability and participation

This increase in women's interest for the presidential race clearly highlights that the patriarchal norms are changing in the country. The visibility of the roles played by these individuals marks the greatness that is yet to be experienced by South African, having their own personality and tough management style in advocating women's rights, as they challenge the status quo placed in government.

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