Women's league has lost 'share of voice' but is not 'in tatters'

ANCWL provinces appear to prefer electing male candidates. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

ANCWL provinces appear to prefer electing male candidates. (Madelene Cronjé, M&G)

RIGHT OF REPLY

  The Mail & Guardian‘s coverage of the ANC Women’s League is light on fact and heavy on half-baked truths (ANC rebukes its women’s league). The reliance of your journalists on anonymous sources leads to the unfortunate conclusion that it is not the truth you seek but a “rent-a-quote” to support pre-formulated conclusions.

The article bases its claims of a “rebuke” given to the women’s league by the ANC leadership on a supposed meeting in the Western Cape last month between the league’s national executive committee and ANC officials.

No such meeting took place. If your journalists had read the league’s media statements they would know that a meeting between ANC and league officials did indeed take place to discuss administrative issues ahead of the national conference – only it was in Gauteng. This could have easily been clarified had the M&G contacted the league for comment.

Given that such a basic factual mistake is the bedrock of the article, one wonders how much inaccuracy and (to be frank) guesswork colour the article.

Claiming I “could not be reached for comment” is, at the least, sloppy and, at worst, highly unprofessional. The sensational claims of the article [are based on] all but a single source unnamed. More should have been done to secure comment, including from the ANC officials said to have “rebuked” the league. Claims of a “succession battle” in the league need greater caution and comment from all the parties referred to, including league president Angie Motshekga.

The M&G should not allow itself to be used as a tool to fight narrow factional battles, with information being selectively drip-fed to journalists to support one or another agenda.

Certain comments are attributed to President Jacob Zuma without regard for whether they were accurately conveyed or said at all. Was the presidency approached to confirm whether these comments were in fact made, and their accuracy tested? It is an unfortunate M&G habit to take hearsay as fact.

It is true that, because of various organisational challenges, the women’s league has lost “share of voice” in articulating its position on the critical issues facing women in South Africa today. This was raised at the Gauteng meeting.

There is a big difference between being “rebuked” and a discussion at an internal party platform. There was certainly a discussion of repositioning the league, but the M&G failed to attribute a single rebuking comment to the president. Instead, unnamed individuals talking at a meeting become “the ANC”, as suggested by the headline.

At no point, informally or formally, has the ANC rebuked the league. The women’s league, like the youth and military veterans’ leagues, are part of the ANC. When there are differences we deal with them through well-defined, functional internal structures. We do not channel them through anonymous sources to the media. We will not discuss internal organisational challenges, the timing of the national conference or the league’s finances in the media.

The article suggests there have been no campaigns or programmes of significance by the league for some time. Again, this is attributed to unnamed sources, which allows anyone to make scurrilous, unfounded claims.

Why did the M&G not contact the league for the facts? It would have been given a list of our campaigns, programmes and advocacy initiatives over the past year. Through the hard work of subcommittees, the league’s national executive led key awareness campaigns during last year’s general elections, revived structures and branches, and conducted educational workshops. We also had a year-long campaign celebrating the centenary of the women’s struggle, conducting memorial lectures around the country.

The ANC Women’s League has been present and vocal at a number of court cases in every province, cases involving sexual violence against women and children – not just the high-profile ones, but also those of faceless, nameless victims. In our humble way, we have taken a stand for these women when no one else, including the media, would. Through various organisational processes, we have produced policy documents for the ANC policy conference, its national elective conference, and our own conference.

The league is certainly not “in tatters”, as the article suggests. The organisational challenges we face are neither unique nor insurmountable.

As we prepare to go into our national conference, we look forward to accurate, factual reporting from the M&G, not the kind of gossipy opinion-masquerading-as-fact we saw in last week’s edition.

The failure to verify facts in reporting on the ruling party not only betrays a fundamental tenet of journalism, it also shows how out of touch and reliant on rumour the M&G‘s journalists are.

  Edna Molewa is minister of water and environmental affairs and the head of communications for the ANC Women’s League

  • The M&G responds: Our report was based on discussions that took place at the ANC national executive committee meeting of March 27-29 in Cape Town. We also made it clear that we had spoken to four people who were in the meeting, one of whom, Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini, had spoken openly to the M&G. We made several attempts to contact Molewa and she acknowledged receipt. We quoted Zuma’s political overview presentation, not “anonymous sources”. – Deputy Editor

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