Letters to the Editor: August 19

Women sabotage themselves
Like Nikiwe Bikitsha (”It’s time to start campaigning for a female president”, August 12), I am increasingly despondent about the lack of voices in South Africa calling for a woman president. The ANC Women’s League has repeatedly failed to put this subject on the nation’s agenda.

But the responsibility for raising the issue of female leadership in the highest echelons of government is not only that of the ANC Women’s League. It is a matter for all South Africans, across the gender divide.
The former speaker of the National Assembly, Frene Ginwala, once broached the subject. Instead of embracing the idea, some felt she was being driven by personal ambition. Young women, my 15-year-old daughter included, need female role models who stand an equal chance of becoming the country’s president. As Bikitsha suggests, there is “no paucity of talent in the ANC”.

Of course, this call for a female president is a tall order. It might mean having to ask some of the male hopefuls for the position of deputy president at the ANC’s elective conference next year to step aside.—Mandisi Tyumre, Cape Town

I support the call for a female president for our country. But it does not look as if it will happen soon, judging by the intrigues and leadership shenanigans of the ruling party. Indeed, there is a loud silence about it, not only from the leadership-canvassing ANC youth league but also, sadly, from the women’s league. It looks as if there would have to be a change of government and policy for women to have a look-in as far as the presidency of this country is concerned.

As far as “Hair dos and don’ts” goes “Body Language, August 12”, the article by Ayanda Sitole saddens me. To discover that there are still some among us, even among youngsters, who associate attractiveness with fairness and long hair is rather sad.

We need to appreciate our Africanness. African hair is, by its nature, of woolly texture. Even if it grows long, it can never “flow” and allow flicking off the face. It is high time we accepted this and learned to love ourselves as we are. Of course, there is always room to do oneself up. That is why there is a tradition of weaving and plaiting. Western nations must marvel at the way we African women are so eager to wear our hair - even when our features don’t go with it. Bring back the Afro!—Rose Tuelo Leteane, Mafikeng

The “woman for chief justice” lobby, led by the ANC Women’s League, which emerged opportunistically out of nowhere last week as we marked Women’s Day, is not sincere. Apart from the absence of the league on the many serious challenges that affect women in all spheres of our country’s life, it has weakened women’s voices on policy and in leadership debates within its own movement. Even when women, some of them political opponents and others their very own comrades (such as Education Minister Naledi Pandor or President Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser), were being dehumanised and the collective dignity of black women insulted by the likes of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, the league kept silent.

Many have lamented the league’s yielding to a misogynist lobby at Polokwane in the party leadership race, as well as in the configuration of Parliament and the executive. In the recent local government elections, key positions went to male comrades, with women only deputising - even in positions that were previously held by women.

In the whole Constitutional Court saga around the chief justice, the league threw its weight behind what has now been proved to be an unconstitutional attempt to extend Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo’s term of office. Why did the women’s league not see fit to challenge Zuma’s manoeuvre by rooting for a female chief justice? The league was ready to see a male at the helm of the Constitutional Court for another five to seven years.

But when Dikgang Moseneke was proposed by Azapo for the position of chief justice, suddenly the women’s league’s zeal was awakened. This time it was to try to bar a legitimate and deserving candidate, whose appointment was thwarted for his independent mind and “wrong” political history.

The league’s role now seems to be nothing but to back a vindictive male clique whose narrow political and personal egos must be satisfied at all costs, even to the detriment of our public institutions.—Mpumelelo Toyise, communications unit, Azapo department of information, Tshwane

Madonsela for president
If we want to promote democracy in South Africa, we must have a separate and independent executive, legislature and judiciary. It is the executive that must deliver services, not local government penny-pinchers, but the executive is now passing the buck—without the bucks—to local government.

The judiciary must be independent of both the executive and legislature so that the judges and prosecutors cannot be influenced by either. In this way we can eradicate corruption and maladministration. Now members of the executive want Parliament to pass a “Secrecy Bill” so that they can avoid letting people know how corrupt they are.

Public protector Thuli Madonsela should investigate the arms deal. Corruption is stealing from the working class and the poor and those who are corrupt must be dealt with severely. We don’t have enough money to build houses, yet money is wasted on a reactionary president’s homestead.

We will not see the R9-billion earmarked for job creation except to assume that most of the money will go to tenderpreneurs who have connections with the executive. Parliament won’t worry because it is made up of cronies.

Just as we brought apartheid down with mass action, we must reunite and change the present regime. We cannot allow these corrupt gangs to continue looting our resources. This regime should not only be changed, it should be prosecuted for its crimes.

The people should know that they freed themselves from apartheid, but that the ANC is taking them back to colonialism and to backward traditions of patriarchy and polygamy. Likewise, traditional leaders and monarchies have no role in our democracy. Madonsela for president!—Mhlobo Gunguluzi, Gugulethu

We are not ‘white knights’ against unions
I have to correct some statements by Andries Kriel of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu)in “Self-interest is spurring the ‘white knights’ of Newcastle” (August 12). Although Kriel mentions that there are about 13 different prescribed wage scales in the industry to suit different areas, we have never been consulted and are seldom properly informed.

A pamphlet was circulated by Sactwu in Newcastle earlier this year, canvassing workers to join the union and stand together against brutal employers. It claimed that Sactwu would lead them out of Egypt to the Promised Land of higher wages. The figure advertised on the pamphlet is R489 and not the R416.50 mentioned by Kriel in the article.

When the Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry first engaged with Sactwu in the meeting with the bargaining council on August 16 last year, we indicated that our chamber does not condone exploitation or abuse. We proposed that a disciplinary committee be formed in our chamber to monitor and oversee the wages paid by our members. We also proposed to assist the bargaining council in the inspection of factories to prevent any violence that might occur when the sheriff faced revolt from the workers of a factory to be shut down.

We informed Sactwu when this committee was formed on October 12, but it insisted that we should just agree to their closed shop. We have repeatedly asked Sactwu to give us the names of the factories accused of paying R150 to R280 so that our disciplinary committee could deal with them, should they be our members.

We have tried many times to engage the bargaining council and the government to address our issues. Our struggle is simply for the legal status of non-compliant factories and a reasonable wage structure linked to the productivity of workers. We welcome Sactwu’s campaign to bring government assistance and incentives to the sector, but we hope these grants are for workers’ social benefits because our factory operations should not become the taxpayers’ burden.

In 1996 there were more than 367 000 workers employed in this sector; 15 years later the number has shrunk to less than 100 000. There is no “race to the bottom” - we are just trying to be competitive and take back a little more of the South African clothing market, against the 85% held by imports.

The employers in Newcastle had no intention to be heroes or “white knights” in any fight against anybody. We brought our concerns and predicaments to be debated and discussed after the failure of our engagements with parties in the bargaining council.—Alex Liu, chair, Newcastle Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Limp intellectual
Recently, in an interview published in the excellent Saturday Beeld supplement By, your film critic Shaun de Waal described himself as an intellectual. Fair enough. Great was my surprise, however, to read “Eye of the beholder” (Friday, August 5), De Waal’s intellectually flaccid review of the film Skoonheid. Besides spending much of the review on inane comments about film festival audience voting and showings of the filmmaker’s previous offering, Shirley Adams, De Waal observes, oracle-like, that in the title “I for one hear a connotation of cleanliness too”. What insight!

Bizarrely, De Waal then segues into explaining that he means cleanliness as in the adage “cleanliness is next to godliness”, before adding: “To which the joke reply is: No, I looked in the dictionary and it’s next to ‘cleaner fish’. If this is intellectualism, call me Einstein.—Jeanette Serdyn, Johannesburg

Dodge this theory
In his article “Dodge the swinging penises” (Body Language, August 5) David Macfarlane erroneously equates feminist theory with something he calls “lesbian theory”, which, unbeknown to him, does not actually exist as a canon of thought. Is this because Macfarlane thinks all feminists are lesbians? Oops. The only “lesbian theory” I know is that if you kiss the girls well enough their inner lesbian will emerge — but that may just be wishful thinking.—Melanie Judge, Cape Town

Riots are no joke
With reference to the letter from Ines Schumacher last week entitled “Beware of Britain”, it seems she is very pleased with her seemingly witty letter. As a person from London, now living in Cape Town, I was offended by her poking fun at Britain, even if it is in response to the British tabloid’s treatment of South Africa. Several people lost their lives as a result of these riots and many people have lost their businesses. Even the British tabloids don’t “poke fun” at a serious situation like that.—T Mac, Cape Town

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