​ANC women out of their league

What a joke: Who needs men when the ANC Women’s League is doing such a sterling job of attacking women? (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

What a joke: Who needs men when the ANC Women’s League is doing such a sterling job of attacking women? (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

Interesting news, women of South Africa. Absolutely nothing of significance appears to have befallen us, collectively, since February 3 this year. What happened after that? Apparently zero. Niks. Nada. It’s as if the Rapture happened and God decided to spirit away all South African women to live on a cloud.

That’s the situation, according to the website of the ANC Women’s League, which I like to pop by once a year or so. A very short annual visit is all it takes to bring you up to speed.

As a multitasking woman, you can easily fit it in between scrubbing pots and driving badly. Before the February 3 statement, the last women’s league missive posted online was in November last year.

Let’s give credit where it’s due. The February statement is a perfectly sensible condemnation of the practice of forced virginity testing. It’s authored by women’s league president Bathabile Dlamini, allegedly “from the desk of the president”. I think that might be code for “from my king-sized bed in the penthouse suite of the Oyster Box Hotel”, given what has emerged this week about Social Development Minister Dlamini’s expenses.

Her department managed to spend more than R120-million this year on travel and subsistence. Subsistence generally refers to keeping oneself alive at a minimal level. That’s why the term “subsistence farmers” refers to peasants who eke a handful of beans out of tiny plots. They do not own lavish wine farms. Johann Rupert is not a subsistence farmer, as I understand it.

One does not intuitively associate the word “subsistence” with a bill of R120-million.

You might also have expected the department of social development to be able to keep minds and bodies ticking over on slightly less, given that Dlamini famously told Parliament in May that a social grant of R753 a month was “enough to buy adequate food as well as additional nonfood items” for a family.

And what kind of additional nonfood items, pray tell? Sunshine? A handful of crushed dreams?

The minister did not elaborate. Nor did she accept the invitation from the Democratic Alliance to go shopping with them at Shoprite in Soweto for groceries worth R753.

That was a pity, because it would have been the first chance for many DA MPs to experience a Shoprite.

Having to juggle the ministry of social development with the leadership of the women’s league must be no joke — except that league is a joke all by itself. It’s no surprise that the league’s website is languishing like a discarded rag, given that the organisation’s leaders struggle to distinguish fact from fiction online.

They were forced to issue a grovelling apology last month after sending condolences to Desmond Tutu’s family on the death of the very much alive Archbishop — that’s after they’d read a fake news article on the subject. When it comes to trawling disreputable corners of the web, the spirit of Thabo Mbeki is clearly alive and well in the ANC; at least the women’s league’s dodgy online browsing only leads them to kill off one archbishop, as opposed to about 300 000 HIV-positive South Africans.

The league reached new heights of absurdity last week, however, in its attacks on public protector Thuli Madonsela. You would think that an organisation ostensibly dedicated to uplifting South African women would be reasonably pleased about the very existence of Madonsela: a powerful black woman who overcame the overwhelming odds of apartheid to become one of the most respected figures in the country.

If you thought that, you would be wrong. The league has made no secret of their contempt for Madonsela.

In their broadsides against her, they keep some unflattering company: the frankly unhinged Umkhonto weSizwe veteran Kebby Maphatsoe and the attention-hungry ANC Youth League. 

Grown-ups in the ruling party have, by and large, avoided vicious public attacks on Madonsela, however irksome her position as media darling must be to them.

The women’s league exercises no such restraint. In their latest rant against the public protector, they accuse her of investigating state capture “to ensure that she doesn’t disappoint vivid [sic] Israel supporters i.e. Democratic Alliance”.

Is it possible that “vivid” was a typo for “livid”? If not, I can only suppose that the DA would take vivid as a bit of a compliment, given that previous attacks have focused on them being monochromatic.

The statement concludes with an appeal to Madonsela to not allow herself to be used as a tool by “the Israelites supporters”.

Whether or not the DA does indeed harbour a fondness for the ancient Hebrew nation, circa 12th to 6th century BCE, is a matter for another day.

More relevant is the women’s league’s advice to Madonsela that she turn her steely gaze instead on ... Maria Ramos, one of the few women to climb to the top of the old boys’ club of business. Women-on-women violence: Who needs men? 

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Davis has a master’s in English literature from Rhodes and a master’s in linguistics from Oxford University, UK. After a stint at the Oxford English Dictionary, she returned to South Africa, where she has been writing stories and columns for various publications, including the M&G. Her first book, Best White (And Other Anxious Delusions), came out in 2015. Read more from Rebecca Davis

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