The ANC Women’s League’s endorsement of Jacob Zuma for the party’s presidency is mind-boggling. I just can’t fathom it. I acknowledge that the body can and should support whomever it wants. People accusing the league of missing an opportunity to give a woman a fighting chance at the top seat are blithely missing the fact that there are some men out there more feminist, and extremely capable of representing women’s issues, than some women.
But Jacob Zuma?
One has to question what the agenda of the ANCWL is. Surely its mission statement, to some effect, mentions that it seeks equitable treatment of women in South African society. It must be a call for women to be respected and given a stronger positioning in this patriarchal society. Surely.
I fail to understand how Jacob Zuma could be seen as the league’s champion. The secretary general of the league, Bathabile Dlamini, is quoted in the Star as having said that “those who feel the league should not have nominated him because of the rape case want us to be part of a kangaroo court. The case went through court and everybody knows the outcome.”
It is a sad and dishearteningly short-sighted comment. Zuma was acquitted and, I dare say, rightly so. Not to say I think he was innocent; just that, if I were the presiding judge, I would have acquitted him too. But more emerged from that trial than the judicial ruling. Zuma made comments that, if tolerated, would set the women’s rights movement back 50 years or so. That a women’s dress could do anything to “invite” sexual congress is farcical and completely irresponsible. Ironic that Dlamini should mention not wanting to be party to a kangaroo court.
Mmatshilo Motsei, in her book The Kanga and the Kangaroo Court, spoke to the dangerous consequences of a kangaroo court that brew just outside the courthouse — the kangaroo court that sought to reduce this legitimate criminal proceeding to a personal attention-seeking exercise of one woman. It tried to delegitimise the trial as a mere conspiracy. It incited violence against “Khwezi” and her supporters, calling for the “bitch” to be burnt. Dlamini may have just found herself and her organisation joining the ranks of a kangaroo court in any effect (albeit after the fact) and one that certainly derides the plight of women in this country.
Another piece of irony is this statement from the ANCWL’s webpage. “The ANCWL is a democratic women’s organisation, which is non-sexist and opposed to all form of discrimination and chauvinism along tribal and ethnic lines.” Did Zuma not chalk most of his sexist commentary up to “his” culture?
Further, Zuma is a polygamist. My objection to polygamy is not religious, it’s feminist. Polygamy is a phallocentric practice, catering solely to the male’s desire. It contributes to the objectification of women in that the position as “wife” is replaceable and the commodification of women in that the number of wives (I’m told) becomes a testament to stature.
Which brings me back to my question. How did the league come to see Zuma as its champion? To my mind, it almost seems like this Zuma bandwagon has gone overboard. Cosatu got behind him, the ANC Youth League got behind him and then the MK vets followed suit. I have no idea what kind of leader Zuma will make, but I have to wonder now why everybody besides Mbeki and his camp is so afraid to oppose him. With the ANCWL joining the fray, I have to wonder who might be next: the LGBT community?