A Letter to the President

President Cyril Ramaphosa
The Presidency of South Africa

Dear Sir,

RE: RESPONSE TO THE APPOINTMENT OF MINISTER BATHABILE DLAMINI AS MINISTER FOR WOMEN IN THE PRESIDENCY

Firstly, we congratulate you on your appointment as the President of the ANC and President of the Republic of South Africa. We have noted with much interest the presentation of your State of the Nation Address and welcome the commitment you made to address corruption, in particular, for taking seriously the former Public Protector’s State Capture report, including considering engaging civil society through coordinated seminars and meetings.

The Shukumisa Coalition, the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC) are institutions that work hard to ensure that social justice and human rights are a reality for all people in South Africa. In particular, we work to ensure that women’s right to live free from violence, particularly sexual violence, is enjoyed by all people living in South Africa.

We hereby express our disappointment and concern at your appointment of Mrs Bathabile Dlamini as the Minster for Women in the Presidency.

Minister Dlamini is currently fighting a constitutional court order that seeks to hold her personally liable for costs related to the failure of the South African Social Service Agency (SASSA) to deliver social grants using a corruption free payment process. Since women are the main recipients of social grants in order to care for their children, as a result of this failure the poorest and most vulnerable are at risk. Her refusal to accept advice or obey court orders against the Department of Social Development show a lack of accountability that we believe she would take with into her new appointment. For this reason we believe that her appointment shows that you do not place value on holding your cabinet ministers accountable for their poor performance and that you do not value the role of women in society.

The Department of Women has a very important role to play in the Integrated Programme of Action to Address Violence Against Women and it is evident from her track record at the Department of Social Development that Minister Dlamini’s performance was not sufficient to ensure that this Action Plan was in fact implemented within the proposed time frame. She also did not consult with civil society. We believe that Mrs Dlamini’s appointment as Minister for Women in the Presidency will undo all the efforts made to address gender stereotypes and gender based violence, and that our government will not take sexual offences seriously going forward. This is despite you, Mr President, stating that violence against women is an epidemic.

We believe that the person mandated with leading the Department of Women needs to be an exemplary and visionary leader, and a gender rights activist who is open to working collaboratively and hearing the voices of many different stakeholders. She must stand firm in being accountable to those she claims to represent. The Minister for Women must have a solid grounding in issues pertaining to violence against women and must conduct herself in a manner that does not rationalise or exacerbate violence against women. There is no room for error in this regard.

In light of the above serious concern that the Presidency is very aware of we request that you reappoint a capable and qualified Minister to take the responsibilities of this office seriously in the best interest of the women, children and vulnerable groups as you commit to rebuilding the country and restoring the human dignity of people, which we believe you are capable of doing.

We look forward to your favourable response. In addition, we will also avail ourselves should you require more clarity or further details concerning issues we raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely,

The Shukumisa Coalition
The Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA)
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC)
The Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC)

To get in touch with us, please contact the Shukumisa Coordinator, Aniela Batschari:
Tel. 021-447 1467
Cell. 082-546 4261
Email. shukumisacampaign@gmail.com

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#NotOurLeaders

by Lisa Vetten, Vivienne Mentor-Lalu and Sanja Bornman

Tomorrow, 25 November, marks the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women. Activities led by government emphasise the importance of taking action to end gender-based violence but do political parties walk the talk?

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Mduduzi Manana has resigned from his position as the Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training and been convicted and sentenced for committing assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. But he is neither the first nor the only political representative to behave violently towards women. During this year’s 16 Days of Activism, the Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape, Lawyers for Human Rights, and gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten turn the spotlight on political representatives and the protectors and keepers who enable their sexual misconduct and abuse. Each day the group will release the name and facts of a different case of a leader embroiled in sexual abuse charges. The aim is to reflect both on the incidents themselves, as well as the responses of the political parties to which these men belong, their actions proving a litmus test of their true commitment to addressing sexual violence.

South Africa’s political representatives are the guardians of the Constitution and rights it contains, including the right to gender equality and the right to be free from all forms of violence, whether from public or private sources. It is their responsibility to develop laws that advance these rights, hold government departments to account for their (in)action in this regard, and approve budgets that make these rights realities. But political representatives’ ability to improve women and men’s lives is compromised when they appoint abusive men to positions of power.

“Political parties that appoint these men, then fail to act against them, or protect them, are hypocritical. Over the next 16 days, we will hear a lot of public condemnation of violence against women and children from various leaders, but this campaign turns the focus on what politicians and parties actually do, not what they say,” said Sanja Bornman of the Lawyers for Human Rights’ Gender Equality programme. Parties undermine efforts to address gendered forms of violence when they fail to develop systems and procedures addressing sexual violence, or fail to put their policies and procedures into effect. They also hamper South Africa’s efforts to meet Goal 5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Target 5.5 of this goal is to “ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.” Yet women’s political participation and representation is undermined in environments where sexual violence and abuse go unchecked.

Says Lisa Vetten: “These problems are not new and if they are allowed to persist there is a risk they will become permanent features of our political landscape. As the country currently debates the quality of its political representatives this dimension of their conduct should not be overlooked.”

The individuals we will be focusing on are #NotOurLeaders and we demand that political structures act decisively and urgently to tackle the problems we will be highlighting during the 16 Days.

 

Lisa Vetten is a gender violence specialist based in Johannesburg, Vivienne Mentor-Lalu works at the Women and Democracy Initiative of the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape and Sanja Bornman works for Lawyers for Human Rights.

Women’s Month: A Sham

It’s an annual play and we have all seen it before….

Every year in South Africa, we celebrate Women’s Month to commemorate the thousands of women who fought so bravely for equality during apartheid.

But it has become a month of lip service. Government departments praise their programs to end the scourge of gender based violence and spew dialogue about the initiatives that exist which put the needs of South African women first.

But let’s look at a more accurate test. The importance placed on women’s rights can be measured when a political figure is involved in the act of violating women. Enter, former deputy Minister of Higher Education, Mduduzi Manana.

Mduduzi Manana

Former deputy Higher Education Minister, Mduduzi Manana. CC Image courtesy of Agência Brasil Fotografias on Flickr.

For most of this month, South Africans have been consumed with the story of Manana, after a video was released on social media, showing him beating a young woman as the men around him watched this. He later, in an audio clip, admits he slapped this woman. The media feasts on this story and it makes headlines everywhere.

And then came the grand moment when the ANC Women’s League had the stage to condemn this violence and represent the voice of all women in the country.

And all I can do is sigh as I write this…..

Questions are posed to the ANCWL President,  Bathabile Dlamini, on the Manana incident. An audio interview with the Sunday Times newspaper is published. This is what she says:

“Don’t start from him. If we want to say everyone who occupies a senior position in government we must know his track record because there are people who are worse than him….”

So this makes his actions okay then, because it’s just assault?

“As ANCWL it is our role to fight about issues of gender based violence. I don’t want to be part of those games of saying whether he should resign or not. In other parties there is sexual harassment and it is not treated the way it is treated in the ANC. I refuse that this issue be made a political tool. It is not a political tool….For now we have been saying Umuntu is innocent until proven guilty…”

Dlamini refuses to take a stand on the issue. She has disappointed thousands of South African women yet again. Many of us begin to have flash backs of the Jacob Zuma rape trial and the manner in which Khwezi was vilified.

On the one hand we have Dlamini saying she will not be dragged into this case which directly involves violence against women. On the other hand, you have her preaching that South Africa is ready for a female president as she announces that Nkosazana Dlamini- Zuma will be one of the candidates running for the ANC presidency.

In an address where she announced  Dlamini -Zuma as the candidate backed by ANCWL, she says, “We need to be very vigilant…If people respect us, they must stop doing clandestine things during our month. Every year in parliament, we discuss women’s issues during this month….South African is a patriarchal country even the storyline is meant to use us as weapons or objects.”

Now let’s get back to Manana, who resigns from government.

In his carefully crafted PR statement, he apologises for his actions. “There is no excuse in the world that can justify what I have done and as much as I am utterly and completely shameful of the act, it’s not even about me,” he says.

But Manana’s resignation brings no justice for the woman who was slapped or for South African women who are constantly fighting against violence. It is merely an act, which was as a result of mounting public pressure and because of the impact it would have on the ruling party. Ultimately it was about saving face in a country where politics always takes precedence.

For me it’s just another reminder of how little we value women and their rights in our country. There is no political accountability for the actions of elected officials, from Bathabile Dlamini to Mduduzi Manana and many others.

Something else that gives me sleepless nights is the tendency of political heads to show more concern in Women’s Month. Why is it that if something is committed in this month it is made out to be ten times worse? Beating a woman is a horrific and an unjustifiable crime, whether it happens in January or in August. It shouldn’t be happening. Nor should we leave issues of women to be discussed in this month only.

What was once a month of celebrating women, is now a month for opportunists to express outcry and outrage.

I am glad it’s almost over. Because the truth is that once the month is over people go about and continue to violate the rights of women.

 

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TheJusticeLady

TheJusticeLady is a writer who wants to give a voice to the voiceless. She is an advocate for the rights of rape survivors. She keeps a close eye on the courts, the media and the role they play in shaping the manner in which society sees rape.