HRC worried as more mud flies
The Human Rights Commission (HRC) on Wednesday criticised the political mud-slinging between the African National Congress (ANC), its allies and the Democratic Alliance (DA) after a minister and MK veterans launched further attacks on Helen Zille.
“The tone of the debate, if you look at it, both sides have not conducted themselves well. The language of the ANC itself needs to be examined,” HRC media officer Vincent Moaga said.
“The country does not need this right now.”
Moaga said the HRC feared “it is not going to stop” and might call all parties involved to a meeting to ask that they tone down the rhetoric that has in the past two days descended to slurs of sexual irresponsibility and promiscuity.
The ANC on Wednesday rebuked the ANC Youth League for what it termed a “deeply embarrassing” attack on DA leader Zille after she accused President Jacob Zuma of putting his three wives at risk of contracting HIV.
“The African National Congress distances itself from comments by an ANC Youth League spokesperson yesterday [May 12 2009] about DA leader Helen Zille and her provincial Cabinet,” secretary general Gwede Mantashe said.
He said while the ruling party strongly objected to Zille’s remarks on Zuma, it could not tolerate the outburst by the ANCYL, which accused Zille of sleeping with her colleagues.
Zille was quoted in the press on Tuesday as saying: “Zuma is a self-confessed womaniser with deeply sexist views, who put all his wives at risk by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman.”
She was reacting to criticism from the minister of women, youth, children and people with disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, for appointing only men to the provincial executive in the Western Cape, where she became premier this month.
Zille said the minister had “a nerve” because the ANC has never been led by a woman, adding that the party’s “professions of support for women’s rights ring hollow indeed against this background”.
The youth league hit back: “Zille has appointed an all-male Cabinet of useless people, majority of whom are her boyfriends and concubines so that she can continue to sleep around with them [sic], yet she claims to have the moral authority to question our president.”
Said Mantashe: “Zille’s statements earlier in the week about President Jacob Zuma were indeed reprehensible and, quite correctly, were roundly condemned.
“But this does not justify the comments by the ANC Youth League. These comments are deeply embarrassing to the ANC, and reflect a marked departure from the ANC’s approach to political engagement.”
But in the meanwhile, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande questioned Zille’s sanity and the youth league said it stood by its views on the premier.
“I’m worried if Helen Zille is still together upstairs,” Nzimande, also general secretary of the South African Communist Party, told a trade union meeting in Johannesburg.
He added that she was running a “Bantustan of special order” in the Western Cape.
Youth league spokesperson Floyd Shivambu said the organisation believed “Helen is a racist girl who does not respect women, African people, cultures and traditions”.
“We further believe that her behaviour and sentiments are symptomatic of someone who was dropped on her head when she was a child.”
The Western Cape branch of the ANCYL also joined in the fray.
“Her continuous attacks on President Jacob Zuma attest to her deep hatred and disregard for black people.
“The arrogant exclusion of women in the Cabinet of the province, which is mostly populated by skilled and intelligent women, is the reverse of the gains that the women of this province and the country have gained in the last 15 years of democracy,” it said.
The MK Military Veteran’s Association (MKMVA) weighed in with a threat to render the Western Cape ungovernable.
“Should Helen Zille not refrain from this anti-African and racist behaviour, we are not going to hesitate, but craft and launch a political programme aimed at rendering the Western Cape ungovernable,” MKMVA chairperson Kebby Maphatsoe said.
Maphatsoe said veterans could not sit back while Zille attacked Zuma for polygamy and added: “Just recently, she appointed half her sex boys into the Western Cape provincial Cabinet to keep them close enough to satisfy her well-evolved wild whore libido [sic].”
Zille has been unrepentant about appointing only male provincial ministers, saying she did so on the basis of “fitness for purpose”.
The HRC confirmed that it has received a formal complaint from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) about the composition of her executive. Cosatu has also taken the matter to the Equality Court.
Moage said though some of this week’s invective could be grounds for legal action he believed the matter might be better resolved through dialogue.
The row erupted less than a week after Zuma held out an olive branch to the opposition, saying he hoped his term will be marked by better relations and cooperation.
ANC slams ‘pale male’ Cape executive
The Western Cape ANC said in a statement on Friday of Zille’s male-dominated executive council: “Her Cabinet could not be less representative of the people of the Western Cape: six white men, three coloured men, one African man —and no women.”
The appointments reflected a party that was fundamentally opposed to affirmative action, and held gender and racial equality in contempt.
“The composition of the Western Cape Cabinet is a disgrace,” the ANC said.
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said the announcement was a slap in the face for women.
He also said he doubted whether the appointments had much to do with ability “as I know them to not be the sharpest knives in the drawer”.
“I would have expected more of Helen Zille, but clearly the old boys’ network has taken over,” he said.
Responding to a reporter who said he could not see a single female in the executive, Zille, who will head the body, replied with a grin: “Last time I looked I was a female.”
However, she conceded the question was fair and valid.
“There are lots of positions the DA has to fill in this government, and I may have not got the fit perfect in terms of other peoples’ analysis. But in terms of my analysis, for what is needed I’ve got the best fit with the jobs and the people that I could.”
She said the gender ratio could well swing in the other direction with DA office-holders in other spheres of government.
Although nine of the provincial ministers were drawn from DA ranks, Zille gave responsibility for cultural affairs and sport to Independent Democrats provincial chairperson Sakkie Jenner.
“We have included Sakkie Jenner on the basis of our drive towards inclusivity and realigning politics in South Africa over the next five years,” she said.
Jenner said he had accepted because the ID’s mantra in the recent election campaign had been that its members should be “part of the solution”.
“That is the basis of this decision,” he said. “I have come here to make a difference.”
Zille said she had also talked to the Congress of the People about a possible post, but the party had indicated it wanted to remain independent “at this stage”.
The DA, which Zille leads, won a clear majority in the 42-member legislature in the elections, and does not need to enter into alliances to govern.
The other members of the executive council, who were sworn in by Constitutional Court judge Yvonne Mokgoro, were: health, DA provincial leader Theuns Botha; agriculture, Gerrit van Rensburg; safety, former provincial police commissioner Lennit Max; transport and public works, Robin Carlisle; social development, Ivan Meyer; finance, Alan Winde; local government, former mayor of the award-winning Swartland municipality Anton Bredell; housing, Bonginkosi Madikizela; and education, Donald Grant.
Grant, a former Bitou (Plettenberg Bay) local councillor, said it had been “with shock” that he got the call from Zille on Thursday offering him the post.
“I did a crash course on the internet last night to check up on what the DA’s education policy is,” he admitted, to laughter from his colleagues.
“Fortunately there is a wonderful road map.”
Zille said her executive faced a huge challenge in governing the province.—Sapa