/ 28 March 2017

​ANC men must toss patriarchy and accept that women can lead

Angie Motshekga supporters at the ANC Women's League 12th national elective conference in August 2015. Bathabile Dlamini ultimately won the presidency.
Angie Motshekga supporters at the ANC Women's League 12th national elective conference in August 2015. Bathabile Dlamini ultimately won the presidency.


South Africa was once not ready for a black president and then it had Nelson Mandela as its first and the dividend out of that was stability — not only for the ANC but for the country as a whole.

Out of this political realisation of the inevitable, half of the problem was solved during the upheaval at the time. Remember, we were just recovering from the death of South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani.

Our country is what it is today because it earned credibility, stability and international respect, because that which was feared by so many white people had become an acceptable fact.

Today there are doubts about a woman president, astonishingly sometimes by women themselves. Our future, culture and value systems are being tested and we must dismantle deeply entrenched patriarchy, especially the role of men in the ANC. In the 104 years of the ANC’s existence not a single woman emerged as an elected president or deputy. Would the sky fall if the next president was Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or Lindiwe Sisulu or Baleka Mbete or Naledi Pandor?

These are women who are politically senior to their male contenders to the throne. Maybe it could be asked who is more competent than the other.

Democracy and genuine humanism, according to Lenin, is equality. At the age of 18, Adelaide Frances Tambo was the chairperson of the ANC’s George Goch branch and, guess what, Oliver Tambo was an ordinary branch member. He was led by a woman, but history is always written by winners — men.

When Joice Mujuru was made the deputy president of Zanu-PF she held out the hope of a new breed of trailblazers that brought home the possibility of a woman president. Her credentials stood her on firm ground to contest that patriarchal organisation. The election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia as the first African woman president opened wider the reality of other female presidents. Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the United States exposed the deep-seated chauvinism in that country. Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, in her determination to prove her manly side, invaded the Falklands whereas Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel showed her sensitive side by allowing refugees into the country.

The predecessors of women’s struggles today — Charlotte Maxeke, Ellen Khuzwayo, Sophie Mpama, Adelaide Tambo, Epainette Mbeki, Ruth Mompati and others — must be anticipating the election of a woman to the throne.

The women contenders have many compelling attributes including their intellect and experience in the ANC. They are leaders in their own right. These voices should push back the frontiers of masculine culture based on historic arrogance and mistaken notions.

These women have been ready for a long time. If we were to entertain this issue of tradition when we elect a president, then we should bear in mind that there is another lateral tradition — that of political seniority in the ANC. This tradition is not even in the ANC’s constitution.

Marxist-Leninist theory teaches us to be in constant check of the existing material conditions, especially of sensitive trajectories of electing a leader for a particular cause.

In South Africa, women forget that they don’t need men to ascend to power but men need women to ascend to power.

It will take women more than 20 years to lead if ANC men don’t strategically give women an opportunity to lead the ANC in December.

South Africa is evolving with speed and the ANC must consider transitional leadership. More importantly, the ANC needs a winning team for the 2019 general elections.

Political foresight is crucial, especially if the leaders are serious about bequeathing an ANC for future generations.

Mphumzi Mdekazi is a former fellow of Appalachian State University, North Carolina, United States.