What are women doing?

What is the role of women’s leagues in patriarchal Africa? This was a question asked in a blog I read during my undergraduate years at university.

The question came after the Botswana Women’s League had taken it upon themselves to find a wife for the president, Ian Khama who, to date, at age 64 is still not married.

His bachelorhood is of great concern to the people of Botswana, not only because he is the president of the country, but also a chief of one of the largest ethnicities in the country.

 

This proved problematic, as the president was asked in parliament what he looks for in an ideal wife. His responses were beyond the physical, but went as far as to denigrate current female members of his cabinet.

The incidences were laughed off, and would have continued to be funny had the women’s league not shown further interest by attempting to suggest a slew of women for his picking.

 

This then begs the question, does the country not have tough enough issues, especially those affecting women, that the women’s league must keep themselves busy with such mundane tasks? Or do they simply choose not to engage?

Our own ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) is not any better. It formed in 1918 because the women of that era believed that they had something to contribute to the struggle and bring about a change in the country.

Their greatest feat is one that we celebrate today; their march to the Union Buildings on August 9, 1956 protesting the enforcement of pass laws on women.

More than 60 years later we can only stand and revere the hard work of the women of the past. This considering the fact that the current ANCWL has taken it upon them to protect the men of the main party with their bodies.

More like their buttocks, according to Water and Sanitation minister, Nomvula Mokonyani. And they have done so countless times by protesting outside of President Jacob Zuma’s rape trial calling his accuser all kinds of names.

10August 2017. Four days after Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Mduduzi Manana, seen leaving the Randburg Magistrate court, was accused of assaulting three women‚ he has finally appeared in court and has been granted bail of R5‚000Picture: Solly Mokoena.

She was threatened to the point where she fled the country. Upon her return and later death, I waited with bated breath to hear their statement. I was disgusted as it was shrouded with irony after irony.

Why even bother? I asked myself. My loss of respect for them goes to back across all my 5 years of journalism where in the court cases involving women and children, you could never miss the green uniforms sitting by the family in support.

Yet let us discuss unequal opportunities for women, gender based violence, femicides, pay discrepancies between men and women and a myriad of other issues. What would the league do? Call sangomas and burn incense.

Yes, because such issues can be tackled through incense. A further ironic moment was the response to the for deputy minister of education minister, Mduduzi Manana’s incidences. The most recent, only known because there was video footage, was his attack on a woman allegedly because she called him gay.

So what if you are gay? And if you are not, was it necessary to defend your character through violence?

Women’s League president and social development minister, Bhatabile Dlamini stood up, at an official Women’s Day celebration nogal, and said that there were worse matters. Thank goodness I was alone when I screamed, “The irony,” at my television.

If that was the case Ms Dlamini, why not deal with them? Oh, but they can’t. A great weakness, which irks me to no accord, is how the league treats the male counterparts in the same reverence as “husband/father” figures.

That Africanness of ours that say, you will revere the man and his decisions are correct. We don’t question our fathers/husbands because they are the authority.

But as a tax-paying woman of voting age, I will question authority. Call me a “clever black”. Call me what you will, but I have issues and concerns.

“The Women’s League has lost its direction,” said Sakina Mohamed from GRIP in a recent sit-down with her.

“If you know something is wrong and you don’t do anything, that is collusion,” she adds. Bathabile Dlamini, according to her, has colluded with the wrongdoers, adding the matter to the many “smalanyana skeletons” she speaks of.

She says we need to go back to the drawing board, and I agree. We need to redefine ourselves and our position in society as African women. I don’t mean black, I mean women in Africa. We can no longer, in the 21st century, with all opportunities afforded to us, still be bending over backwards while atrocities against us persist. The “husbands/fathers” can find a corner and sit and Bathabile can join them.

  AUTHOR
Bombi Mavundza
Journalist

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