Appointments betray gender struggle

IT was with sadness I witnessed the ANC, which has been the champion of the gender struggle, announcing the names of the eight provincial premiers. Some within our ranks are justifying the decision to appoint only one woman premier, citing the erosion of two centres of power – what a politically bankrupt statement.

There is one centre of power and that is the ANC. Although I can concur with some reasons provided about enhancing service delivery, the fact of the matter is that we have reversed the gains in affirming women.

Gender struggles were waged by women in the fight against colonialism and apartheid and were also encapsulated in the Women's Charter of 1954. Women again drew up another charter in 1993, prior to the 1994 elections.

Our constitution as a republic in its quest to protect and promote gender equality drew largely from these documents. This country has also ratified a number of international and regional instruments that promote gender equality.

Our ANC's constitution articulates non-sexist policies. The ANC constitution and the country's constitution recognise women as equal citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities.

Why now are we reversing gains in representation by women by questioning their ability, capability and thinking ability by snubbing them for key positions such as premiers? We as ANC members and leaders would be the first to confirm the outstanding leadership capabilities of women in the ranks. We can rattle off an unending list of woman leaders, including the two former women deputy presidents (Pumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Baleka Mbete).

Our ANC and its allies (Cosatu and the SACP) have concluded that there can be no real democracy and freedom if women are still excluded from the highest echelons of power. Look at the composition of ANC officials – women have been deputy secretary generals for the past 20 years.

We had Cheryl Carolus, Thenjiwe Mtintso, Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele, Thandi Modise and now Jessie Duarte. It looks like the being deputy secretary-general is the women's role.

But another dimension is that those women who fail to grow up in the ranks of our movement are those who are not independent, who always align themselves with powerful men. I think women's psyches also get highly manipulated and interfered with by men with an interest of ascending to leadership and preserving the patriarchal status quo, hence some women end up not voting for each other and we end up with few women in top positions.

Some men abuse the gender approach and 50/50 allocation by anointing their own preferred men in positions and thereby creating conflicts among women. Women must not deliberately and consistently declare a vote of no-confidence in themselves with a lot of help from male comrades.

They should love themselves enough to believe in their ability to lead our country and our movement at the highest level. All of us have to wage a struggle for gender equality in the ANC itself.

Women and men in the ANC should recognise the internal workings of patriarchy that threaten gender equality. Women should not allow themselves to be used for or by patriarchy in whatever form, leadership positions included.

At some point in the 102 years of the ANC the gender struggles were subsumed by the national and class struggles. Those times have long gone.

Women have to lead the agenda and produce a list of women candidates for president in 2017, dismissing the silly excuse of "there are no capable women" or "South Africa is not yet ready to have a woman president". Lobbying for women candidates as president, deputy president or secretary-general is not passing a vote of no-confidence in anyone.

It is just stating a fact that the ANC is ready to move with the times.

Gift Siphiwo Ngqondi, ANC and Samwu member, Nelson Mandela Bay region