SA ready for female president…
The ANC Women’s League next week holds its first national elective conference since 2009 amid concerns that its top leadership has abandoned pressing issues relating to the advancement of women to political expediency and patronage. Political writer Lebogang Seale spoke to the ANCWL president Minister Angie Motshekga.
Lebogang Seale (LS): With less than 10 days before the start of the ANCWL conference, some provinces are still racing against time to finalise their delegate lists and to meet the requisite 70 percent threshold to qualify. Are you worried?
Angie Motshekga (AM): Fortunately, in our road map we deliberately created space of two weeks where we can do the mopping up to deal with disputes and BGMs (branch general meetings) which might have to reconvene. Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are still behind, but the ANC will definitely deploy members to go and clean up and deal with all the disputes.
LS: Are you concerned that the conference could degenerate into chaos?
AM: We really hope it doesn’t degenerate to that level; 60 percent of our constituency are mothers and grannies and not young people. We don’t think it will degenerate to that point.
LS: What in your view is crucial for this conference? What are you hoping to achieve?
AM: The main thrust is making sure the drive for the implementation of policy is realised. Unless we liberate women, all this talk about eradicating poverty and economic emancipation of women won’t be real. There must be a way to consolidate the work we do as government to empower women so that they become the catalyst of economic empowerment. The 50/50 gender representation often only translates into women in leadership and does not pull out the majority of women out of the quagmire.
LS: Part of the criticism about the ANCWL has been that it is increasingly becoming voting fodder for the ANC and abandoning problems affecting women to political expediency.
AM: I am not sure, honestly. It could be that there are people with perceptions. What we have been very clear (about) as the ANCWL is that we are the voice of women, both inside and outside of the ANC. We claim without any doubt that most of the victories and the programmes that the ANC has been able to achieve in relation to women is our own work.
LS: Let’s talk about the ANC succession battle. There have been conflicting messages about your stance, whether you advocate for a female president and if the country is ready for that.
AM: I don’t know how that arose… What I can tell you is that when we were launching our election campaign last year, one journalist asked me if we were going to campaign for a female president. My response was that at that stage, a decision would already have been made in 2012 at Mangaung (ANC elective conference). I said I could play politics and say ‘yes we want a woman president’, but all I know is that that issue had long been resolved. Moving forward in 2019, we want a female president. But that would have to be processed at the right time so that we don’t discuss it at the end when the horse has bolted.
LS: You now have an opportunity to lobby for a female president, starting from the ANCWL conference next week.
AM: The ANC president is not elected in the ANCWL conference, but you can raise it as an ANCWL policy… The real time is going to be at the ANC 2017 at their (elective) conference.
LS: So you are already looking forward to that conference so that you can lobby for a female president, right?
AM: If a debate arises, it arises because that would be the time to discuss leadership.
LS: Meaning what? What is your view about having a female president?
AM: Actually, it would be good for us as women because that’s what is expected of us. It would be good for us as, even before 2017, to start sensitising women about the desirability of having a woman as president. We have advocated for 50/50 (gender parity), we have advocated for women in positions of power and for women as premiers, we failed where we failed, we advocated for women as mayors, so it’s been ongoing work as the women’s league.
LS: AU chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is punted among the female candidates to become president? Will you be in support of her candidacy?
AM: We support her; she is one of the best women that this country has produced… I am very confident about her abilities.
LS: You often like to refer to the dangers of patriarchy and stereotyping of women. Yet you are among the ministers so overeager to defend President Jacob Zuma, even when he makes utterances that seem demeaning to women.
AM: No. That arose when the president was saying he didn’t want to stay with unmarried girls and it was therefore said he was disrespectful of women. I said you can’t make one statement and conclude entirely on everything else what the president stands for. The president respects women and has been at the cutting edge of ANC policy and is not anti-women. I just think that it’s unfair…
LS: You are widely seen as among the cabinet ministers who are President Zuma’s loyalists; are you?
AM: No, I will tell you I am one person who is very comfortable respecting leaders, not only the president. I have been taught in life to respect leaders, from a religious perspective. I have been taught that if you respect leadership, there is order. When Thabo Mbeki was president, I gave him all the respect. But respecting authority doesn’t mean I am not able to raise objections.
LS: I see…
AM: I have never been a “yes person…” I know I am a great person and stand my ground to raise things I don’t agree with. So I don’t need to impress anybody to say I am radical. I respect President Zuma and I must say with my background, that I admire him as a leader, as a human being and as a politician. I have lot of admiration of his interpersonal skills.
AM: I have never seen in any situation comrade President Jacob Zuma being abusive to anybody verbally, being rude to anybody, being cruel to anybody. I have got lot of admiration for him as a leader. I think he is a very smart, brilliant person. I always tell people that our cabinet is full of Doctoral and Master’s degree holders and between himself and Comrade Kgalema Motlanthe, when he was the deputy, they were able to lead with lot of wisdom.
AM: And as an ex-teacher, I have never failed to appreciate how a person who has never been in a formal school can be so smart. So I really have lot of admiration for him. I have lot of respect for him, of his personality, but I have never failed to disagree with him; it’s just that I don’t take a stand to make a noise to please anybody. I am not going to start doing it because I want to be seen as radical, to be seen on TV or (heard on) radio.
LS: Even in the face of the many scandals associated with him?
AM: No, even with those difficulties, we are all human. I am not an angel myself. Even (Nelson) Mandela himself, with all the integrity, if you look at his early days, they will tell you that he was very radical and beat up people. So we all have things that we bring to politics. There are good things about him, but I also accept that he is not an angel.
* Angie Motshekga is ANC Women’s League president and Basic Education Minister.