March 17 – March 23

Back to the kitchen!

The actions of a few rowdy women in the Jacob Zuma saga have done great harm to the dignity of South African women and deserve harsh condemnation.

On Women’s Day last year at the Union Buildings, female Zuma supporters booed Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and bared their breasts in protest against Zuma’s sacking and her appointment. Last week, more Zuma supporters burnt photos of his accuser and chanted ”Burn the bitch”.

I don’t want to debate whether Mlambo-Ngcuka ”deserves” to be deputy president or whether Zuma raped the complainant. I just want to point out the base manner in which some women have sought to discredit these two women, negating the gains of the struggle for the emancipation of women nationwide.

Both Mlambo-Ngcuka and Zuma’s accuser are a barometer of our progress on women’s interests. The first shows that we have moved beyond lip service to taking action on women’s advancement, and the second that our justice system protects women’s interests and no one is above the law.

Zuma’s supporters, who call themselves ”comrades”, should understand South Africa’s history and be fighting for its improvement. To them I say: get back to the kitchen. Not only are you not ready for your own emancipation, you are hindering ours as well. — Nonkululeko Mohomane, Pretoria

I struggle to comprehend why the so-called friends of Jacob Zuma remain determined to support Msholozi when he has clearly demonstrated in two court cases that he has poor judgement.

Zuma has admitted to sleeping with his rape accuser. He is a married man and should be exemplary, especially when we are confronted by the colossal predicament of HIV/Aids. — Ntwampe Morata, Bochum

ANC Youth League spokesperson Zizi Kodwa blathered on indignantly about not taking lectures from anyone, as the league had made pronouncements against rape. But why were youth league leaders not outside the courtroom telling their lackeys how to behave? — Nigel Lees, Hout Bay

Zuma must ask himself what message the ugly intimidation by his cohorts sends out to the nation. Is it that any woman who dares to speak out against abuse will be subjected to savage public intimidation and vilification?

I have yet to hear condemnation of this by Zuma or his lawyers. And as for the youth league, its leaders rose at a time when black women were fair game for rape in university hostels and ”jack rolling” was fairly common in the townships. — Nozizwe Afrika, Johannesburg

I’m shocked that Zuma’s daughter argues that the complainant’s dress was suggestive, implying that she invited rape. So what if the complainant was wearing a kanga! And so what if she spent a night at their place — has Zuma’s daughter not spent the night out among people she trusts?

It appears the defence is trying to suggest she didn’t resist enough. But women get beaten, even killed, if they fight back. This is South Africa, where a woman who negotiated the use of a condom with her rapist was judged to have wanted sex. When will the victimisation of rape survivors end? — Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Durban

It is to the credit of JZ supporters that they haven’t threatened to harm the M&G editor’s family for calling them ”tsotsis”.

Instead they’ve ignored her because they have been down this road before. They were ridiculed, beaten and arrested under apartheid, but finally triumphed.

These people are attacked every week in your pages, but have broken no law. You believe ordinary South Africans should confine their protests to matters of service delivery. When there are service delivery protests, you do not provide a breakdown of how many participants are unemployed or Zulu. — Sipho Magagula, Leondale

The notion of the ”rule of law” is being abused by those who purport to be objective but who are advancing their own political views.

Some have declared Zuma’s accuser the ”victim” instead of ”alleged victim”. It is for the court to determine who is the victim in this matter.

When People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) publicly challenged the dynamics inside the court, none of the hypocrites ever criticised that as contempt of court. Nor have they condemned Powa’s insulting songs. — Phillip Musekwa

The defence played on the fact that Zuma’s accuser was seeing a psychiatrist. If so, Zuma took advantage of a disturbed person. As a family friend he was well aware of this.

And what was he doing naked in front of someone he raised?

They can grill her until Zuma wins the case. But the fact remains: he was evil to this girl. — Phillimon Mnisi, Johannesburg

Even if Zuma is acquitted tomorrow on all charges of corruption and rape, he is no longer worthy to be entrusted with the leadership of South Africa. — Lesego Sechaba Mogotsi, Tshwane

Hazel deserves lousy officials

Khayelitsha resident Hazel Makuzeni’s advice to Helen Zille — that she ”talk to the people at grassroots level” — is breathtaking in its ignorance (March 10). Zille established her excellent reputation as a public representative by doing exactly that over many years. She was responsible for many improvements, especially in township schools, as a Democratic Alliance MP.

Makuzeni deserves to have the same corrupt, incompetent and uncaring officials imposed on her for the next five years, sworn oaths notwithstanding! — Helen Suzman, Sandton

Makuzeni quotes a 50-year-old Khayelitsha resident, Nodume Lurafu, as saying she fears the return of pass laws and forced removals under a DA-controlled Cape Town.

Of course, the DA’s predecessors did not oppress Nodume — leaders like Helen Suzman and Van Zyl Slabbert spent their days fighting apartheid. And although DA leaders are still mainly white, most of their energy is geared towards diversifying the party and gaining black support.

But Nodume’s generation feels a historical affinity with the ANC, and she will probably vote ANC until the day she dies, no matter how badly it fares in government.

The bankrupt municipalities, housing backlogs, power cuts and general tide of corruption at local level should have been enough for voters to ditch the ANC. South Africa is clearly not there yet.

But one can hope. Nodume’s 28-year-old daughter is not burdened by her mother’s prejudice, and is willing to give a DA government in Cape Town a chance. — Cilliers Brink

Vulnerable

South Africa’s infrastructure is vulnerable, and the Koeberg shutdowns were just an early warning signal.

Neither human capital nor infrastructure has kept pace with economic growth, while massive organisational restructuring has prompted experienced staff to resign or take early retirement.

To invest in single, large suppliers like Koeberg in such conditions invites catastrophe.

Have alternative strategies been considered to improve South Africa’s ability to cope with unforeseen events?

What about investing in several smaller but independent suppliers of electricity and water, involving experienced but retired engineers and managers as advisers and mentors, and launching awareness campaigns to promote reduced consumption? — Christo Fabricius, Grahamstown

Why should the poor sign up?

Your article, ”Why Oxfam is wrong” (March 3), misrepresents Oxfam’s point of view.

Firstly, the authors’ lament for the heyday of the Washington Consensus relies on World Bank analyses that mistakenly say trade liberalisation policies lead to growth. The data reveals only that countries tend to trade more and reduce tariffs as they grow. Oxfam supports flexible WTO rules so that countries can determine their own pace and scope of liberalisation.

Secondly, the authors bandy about big numbers on global welfare gains generated by World Bank trade models. Such models have come under criticism for their unrealistic assumptions and the bank’s selective use of its own results. However, even ignoring these doubts, the multibillion-dollar figure trumpeted by the authors is only for full liberalisation, which is not on offer in the Doha Round.

Thirdly, in our view, the World Bank overestimates the importance of market access, while underestimating the relevance of dumping. It would be suicidal for poor countries to deepen liberalisation while the rules still allow the US and EU to export below the cost of production.

Fourthly, the picture the authors paint of gross protectionism is inaccurate. In the 1990s, south-south trade grew at double the rate of world trade and now accounts for more than a third of developing-country exports.

Finally, promoting infant industries does not mean relying solely on the small domestic market, but on intelligent state support for industrial upgrading, which may include selective tariff protection. Success stories of recent years contradict the authors’ view that poor countries are ”too weak, incompetent and corrupt” to administer good policies. Vietnam, Botswana, Mauritius and Chile, for example, built export power through those policies the authors decry.

The authors’ implication that developing countries or Oxfam are to blame if the Doha Round collapses or falls short of their liberal ideal is wrong. With rich countries offering virtually nothing, why should poor countries sign on? — Adrie Papma, acting head of Oxfam International’s Make Trade Fair campaign, and Shehnilla Mohamed, country programme director, Oxfam South Africa

Gun law shift common sense

I disagree with Anthony Altbeker (”Are Dick’s pals safer in SA?” March 3) that the new firearms dispensation is ”backtracking” and ”a retreat from the original conception”. It is simply a commonsense adaptation to an impossibly cumbersome and unnecessary provision.

The bulk of registered gun-owners do not constitute a problem, except those who got their licences through crooked cops. Few offences are committed with registered weapons, unless they have been stolen.

The amendment will allow the police to concentrate on the real problem — unlicensed or illegally possessed firearms. The requirement that legally registered owners have certificates of competence remains, and no one would object to that.

Logically, there is nothing wrong with making only certificates renewable, since this introduces an element of self-regulation that will also simplify the police task. Without a certificate of competence, a person cannot own a functional firearm.

When the amendments are in place, there will be a workable system that only needs to be administered properly, and that ball is squarely in the police court.

Altbeker is right, though, to say that assessments of the need for self-defence are necessarily subjective. The only way to handle this is to turn the requirement on its head and look for reasons why a licence should not be issued. — Willem Steenkamp, Cape Town

Camps no joke

Tom Eaton (”Koeksusters vs cream pie”, March 3) suggests an Afrikaans writer can publish her manuscript only by adding a ”photograph of the great-great-grandmother who died in the British concentration camps”.

I object to this. Tens of thousands of Afrikaans women and their children were herded like animals into camps to meet their end in malnutrition and despair.

According to physician Wilhelm Vallentin, 35% of Afrikaans women and girls of the Transvaal and Free State, some as young as 12, were subjected to systematic rape by British soldiers. — Hendrik du Plessis, Bloemfontein

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