When thinking of the ANC Women’s League images of groups of toi- toing women, consoling of grieving mothers at politically charged funerals, loud attendance of court proceedings and annual conferences comes to mind.
Back in 2015 the WL announced that one of the resolutions presented and adopted by the NEC and the lekgotla during their 12th national conference was: “The conference noted with great concern the emergence of foreign tendencies and practices that are destroying the soul and the fundamental foundation of the movement. Comrades the women’s league will not tolerate the formation of factions and cliques that abuse Organisational resources and membership to advance personal and factional interests.” But those “foreign tendencies” seem to have become worse with every year that past.
From the outside it is obvious that a political agenda drives almost every decision taken. The WL president Bathabile Dlamini, who has been leading the League for the past 5 years, is a colorful character to say the least. In September of 2018 the Constitutional Court found, unanimously, that Dlamini ought to be held accountable in her personal capacity for 20% of the costs of the case brought against her relating to the SASSA grants payment scandal during 2017. Further, she was found to have misled the court – that is, she lied under oath – in order to protect herself.
Despite her failures, President Jacob Zuma continued to support Dlamini. She (and by default the ANCWL) in turn supported Zuma’s preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in her campaign to succeed him as ANC leader and South Africa’s president. When she lost to president Ramaphosa in 2017, the ANCWL played this unfortunate card: ” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was used by the men in the ANC to fulfil their own leadership ambitions”. A disturbed NDZ marched out of the plenary hall, flanked by small business minister Lindiwe Zulu who attempted to calm her shortly after her loss was announced.
Then there was the small matter of her (Dlamini) children’s private security she paid from SASSA accounts, luckily that was soon “cleared up” when she told SCOPA “some people understand government more than others”, and that she had to resort to private security due to the fact that “government processes take a long period”.
The Women’s League has been criticised for the “horses” they choose to back often and ultimately they rely on the “racism/apartheid”, “gender bias”, “conspiracy” or “the Judge made a mistake” card when the horses loose and they start crying foul.
Let’s have a quick look at who the ANCWL have been throwing their weight behind over the past months.
Definitely first on the list would be Jacob Zuma. Earlier this year when the judge issued an arrest warrant for Zuma, who missed his date in court and sent an obviously doctored (excuse the pun) doctors note with his lawyer – Dlamini had this to say: “The warrant of arrest against comrade Zuma really flies in the face of fairness and justice. It is a travesty to justice. The warrant of arrest against [former] president Zuma is nothing but a symptom of how blacks and black African lives are disregarded, and treated with disdain”
According the the WL, poor Zuma can do no wrong! If an artist paints him as anything but the formidable, bold and powerful man they believe he is, they throw their toys. When charges of rape are lodged against him, they vilify the woman brave enough to lay the complaint – the actual victim. When his homestead is built with tax money, they put out fires left, right and centre from the fire pool.
Then there is Ace Magashule, who we all know plays the leading-man in Gangster State, the book by Pieter-Louis Myburgh. He has been strongly supported by the ANCWL, who can forget the Free State arm of the League famously declaring in June 2019 “Leave our Ace alone!”.
Earlier this week it came as no surprise that when Dudu Myeni was declared a delinquent director, that the ANCWL threw their full support behind her. Which one of their favorite “cards” did they play? None other than the race-card: According to the WL some attacks directed at Myeni over the years emanate from the fact that during her tenure as SAA chairperson, she challenged the doomed airline’s spending of over R10 billion a year on jet fuel to white-owned companies…forgetting off course that she then decided to rather spend even more at black owned companies. The ANCWL must have forgotten that being a delinquent director means Myeni knowingly gained advantage or willingly caused harm to SAA.
Also this week – as the country has been getting more and more outraged at the National Covid Command Council and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma over the draconian and mostly plain ridiculous rules and regulations being forced on South Africans. After the smoking ban debacle NDZ has become the scapegoat and poster-child for every ridiculous decision taken by the NCCC. As the ANCWL backs almost anything and everything “Zuma” it came as no surprise when in a statement, the league has labelled the backlash directed at the Cooperative Governance Minister, as ‘racist bile’.
The race-card certainly came as no surprise. What is surprising is just how deeply out of touch the ANCWL is with what is happening on the ground. In no way do I dispute that some of the social media depictions of NDZ is offending and most certainly have a racist undertone, but by far the majority of conversations, comments and posts have centred around her (NDZ), the President and the NCCC’s actions over the past weeks. The absolute outrage from the ANCWL –among others – indicates three things:
- The fact that ANC officials hold public positions in Government means that they should be able to accept the fact that they can be criticised They serve because they were elected by citizens, who have the right to criticize, complain and act against Government.
- They obviously only use their own and out-dated frame of record when making assumptions, else they would have seen the astonishing amount of criticizing and outright negative comments directed at NDZ that are not from white citizens. How can this “attack on NDZ” as it is referred to by the ANC in general then be labelled as racist?
- The president, the ANC and the ANCWL are all singing from the same hymnbook, reiterating that every decision taken since the National State of Disaster was declared, was taken by the collective. Perhaps they should be careful, as currently the anger of a very broad sector of society is aimed at NDZ, the poster child for all the job losses, hunger, hurt and frustration caused by the lock-down. Should they wish to rather focus the country’s outrage on the ANC-collective, they might shortly be looking for a scapegoat themselves.
But back to the ANCWL and the horses they back. If this, once very strong organisation did not degenerate into a mere “tool” used by party factions as a mouth piece, the pandemic and national crises that followed could have been the perfect vehicle for them to make a huge and positive impact.
The ANCWL was born, functioned and grew on the universal principles that when women who are oppressed, struggling or when their families are endangered they will rally together, they will rise up together, they will “make-a-plan”, they will organise, they will make the best of a bad situation and they will prevail. Instead of only making their voices heard when seasoned and experienced cadres encountered setbacks in their very public positions they could have seized the moment and made an impact. They could have taken centre stage in communicating health and hygiene issues to women on ground level, from big cities to the most rural areas. What is more natural than women conveying information to each other about the dangers of Covid 19 and how best to keep their families safe? They could have taken centre stage through their far reaching structures to ensure families didn’t go hungry during those terrible first stages of lock-down. Women caring for each other, not along political lines, but because that is what women do. They could have used their united voices to speak out when mothers were crying next to the graves of their children, killed by the SANDF and SAPS. They could have publicly comforted and supported the mothers of Collins Khosa, Petrus Miggels, Sibusiso Amos and Adane Emmanuel, or did it only matter to the ANCWL when it was the Apartheid Police and Defense Force killing their children?
They could have emerged as the heroes of the pandemic, across racial and political lines, uniting the women of SA. But alas they did not; they just backed the same old horses. They managed to prove that they have become nothing more than a toothless mouthpiece to be used, by an ever more unpopular, party faction.