Boesak, women's rights group weigh in on Zille row

There is a vast difference between vigorous debate and the “petty viciousness” of the row between Helen Zille and the African National Congress (ANC) Youth League, according to Congress of the People (Cope) leader Allan Boesak.

Boesak, who leads a three-person Cope team in the Western Cape legislature, said the barrage of accusations and insults did not bode well for the dignity of political discourse in the country.

In a statement issued on Wednesday night, he cautioned both Zille’s Democratic Alliance (DA) and the ANC that outbursts of this nature were dangerously damaging to a still fragile non-racial society.

“What South Africa and her people do not need now is political discourse conducted at the level of personal attacks rather than responsible arguments,” he said.

“There is a vast and very important difference between vigorous debate and the petty viciousness that the country is now forced to endure.”

He said it had to be kept in mind that Jacob Zuma had been elected president by “the vast majority” of voters through open and fair elections.

“Even if one dislikes him personally or does not agree with him politically, one must inculcate respect for the office which he holds.”

The league claimed Zille was having sex with her provincial executive council, after she described Zuma as a womaniser who had put his wives at risk of contracting HIV.

Women’s rights group slams Zille, youth league
Women’s rights group Gender Links on Thursday “deplored” both opposition leader Helen Zille and the ANC Youth League for their “sexist slurs”.

Its executive director, Colleen Lowe Morna, criticised both Zille and the ANC Youth League for their mud-slinging match.

“While it is true that President Jacob Zuma behaved in a highly irresponsible manner by having unprotected sex with an HIV-positive woman ... using attack as a form of defence for appointing an all-male Cabinet, as Helen Zille has done, is lame and inexcusable,” said Lowe Morna.

“To say that she has appointed a Cabinet ‘fit for the purpose’ in her choice of a virtually all-white, and no-woman Cabinet suggests that there are no capable blacks or women in the Western Cape,” said Lowe Morna.

She added that Gender Links supported the action taken by the Congress of South African Trade Unions to lodge complaints with the Human Rights Commission, the Public Protector and the Equality Court about the composition of Zille’s executive.

Lowe Morna said the ANC Youth League had behaved “equally unacceptably”.

Lowe Morna said: “We welcome the fact that the ANC head office has distanced itself from these comments and called for a return to civility in political discourse.”

She called on the Commission on Gender Equality to voice concern over discrimination against women.

Lowe Morna also called on Zuma to invite his rape accuser, who is living in exile, back to the country and guarantee her safety.—Sapa

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