GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

Case 4 #NotOurLeaders – Political parties don’t suspend members charged with rape against children

#NotOurLeaders

16 Days of Activism to end violence against women

Press Release

 

POLITICAL PARTIES DON’T SUSPEND MEMBERS CHARGED WITH SEXUAL OFFENCES – EVEN WHEN CHARGED WITH RAPE AGAINST CHILDREN

CASE 4: Unnamed ANC Councillor, JS Moroka Municipality

In May of this year an unnamed ANC councillor was accused of raping a 16-year old girl. He was released on bail of R5 000 by the Mdutjana Magistrate’s Court in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga and the next court date set for 23 June. Rather than suspending the councillor, the ANC in the Nkangala region chose to place him on special leave pending the outcome of the case. Spokesperson Sello Matshoga indicated that the councillor would only have been suspended if the state had succeeded in opposing bail and presented evidence in court of a strong case. No further information about the progress of this case is available.

ANC is inconsistent in its approach

“The ANC is inconsistent in its stance towards members who are accused of sexual offences,” said Lisa Vetten, a gender violence specialist. “On Monday 27 #NotOurLeaders highlighted the case of Winterveldt councillor Sipho Maselane who is appearing in the Ga-Rankuwa magistrates court today (30 November) on multiple counts of rape and robbery. He has neither been suspended, nor placed on ‘special leave.’ We’ve also highlighted how the ANC acted against Marius Fransman even though the criminal investigation had not been concluded,” she said.

Another very recent example is Simon Mofokeng, the mayor of Emfuleni who distributed pictures of a semi-nude 14-year old girl to other ANC leaders via WhatsApp in October of this year. Although Mofokeng has not been formally charged with a criminal offence yet, he was placed on ‘special leave’ on 30 October and an internal investigation launched into the matter. Although Mofokeng resigned on 20 November he is not necessarily off the hook, as the ANC is reported to be still considering further disciplinary action against him.

Reluctance to suspend party members accused of sexual offences is evident across parties

The ANC is not the only party to take the path of least resistance when confronted by party members charged with sexual offences.

“On Tuesday #NotOurLeaders highlighted the case of a deputy mayor, Mncedisi Maphisa, who has been charged with sexual assault. He has not been suspended or placed on special leave by the IFP. In yet another example a DA councillor from Clanwilliam in the Western Cape was accused in March of sexually assaulting a 13-year old girl and arrested. The DA also said they would not suspend him until the criminal case has been concluded. They’ve since been able to duck the issue as the councillor had not paid his membership fees and is therefore no longer a member of the DA,” said Sanja Bornman of Lawyers for Human Rights.

Avoiding internal disciplinary procedures while criminal cases are pending

“Criminal charges are serious. It’s unacceptable that parties claim – and only in some instances – that they must wait for the outcome of a criminal trial before they can act. This is a cop out. They are not powerless to act,” says Vivienne Mentor Lalu of the Women and Democracy Initiative. “Legally, there is no requirement to wait. In fact, political parties (like employers) should run internal processes as soon as they are aware of the allegations against their members regardless of the criminal justice process. That would show that they are serious about addressing sexual violence.”

The ANC must act

  • The #NotOurLeaders campaign calls on the ANC to provide further information on the progress of the case against the Mpumalanga councillor.
  • We also call on the ANC make clear its position on the processes to be followed when a member is accused of a sexual offence. A statement must be issued in this regard and every effort made to ensure that this policy is routinely and consistently applied.
  • #NotOurLeaders reiterates its call to immediately suspend Sipho Maselane and undertake an internal disciplinary investigation of his conduct. The national office should also investigate the Tshwane ANC’s handling of Maselane’s matter.

All parties must act

  • The #NotOurLeaders campaign challenges all parties to develop procedures for suspending political representatives accused of sexual offences.

 

For comment contact:

  • Lisa Vetten, gender violence specialist, 082 822 6725
  • Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, Women and Democracy Initiative, Dullah Omar Institute, 082 494 0788
  • Sanja Bornman, Lawyers for Human Rights, 083 522 2933

 

About the #NotOurLeaders campaign

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 (LHR), and gender violence specialist, Lisa Vetten, turn the spotlight on political representatives accused of sexual violence and the practices that protect and enable their sexual misconduct and abuse. By contrasting the range of incidents reported with parties’ inconsistent – even non-existent – responses, the campaign aims to demonstrate the chasm between political-speak and political actions on sexual violence.

The campaign emphasises the need for strong political leadership by all political parties and representatives in tackling the pervasive problem of sexual violence in South Africa.

CRIMINAL CASES AND INTERNAL DISCIPLINARY ACTION

Criminal trials and disciplinary actions are separate processes, with different purposes and levels of proof needed. This is why withdrawal of charges, or an acquittal in a criminal court does not always mean an incident did not happen. It means that the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it happened. The purpose of an internal disciplinary process, in most cases, is to maintain behavioural standards and create a safe working environment – which employers are required by law to do. The onus of proof is lower in internal disciplinary processes than it is in criminal trials. In these processes the case must be proved on a balance of probabilities – so they look at what is more probable. Internal disciplinary processes can and should run at the same time that a criminal trial is running. They also can and should be run, when the allegations constitute misconduct, even when there is no criminal case.

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Kameel Premhid
GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

We should all care about sexism

Kameel Premhid
Kameel Premhid

By Kameel Premhid 

If you know much about Twitter, you will know what trolls are. For those that don’t, they are (usually) faceless, anonymous people, hiding behind their Twitter and social media accounts. They spew out the most atrocious opinions parading as public opinion that you will ever see.

A few months ago, these trolls took to defaming Lindiwe Mazibuko, saying the vilest things about her physique. Many people were happy when this distastefulness ceased. Regrettably, Buti Manamela and John Jeffery, both leading ANC MPs, have reduced themselves to the ranks of trolls by attacking Mazibuko along similar lines.

What makes their remarks even less acceptable however, is that Manamela and Jeffery dishonoured the Houses of Parliament by reducing the arena of national discourse to a place where their insults qualify as debate.

Sandy Kalyan MP, the DA’s Deputy Chief Whip, has issued a strong statement condemning the ANC MPs’ behaviour and has called upon the ANC Chief Whip, Dr Mathole Motshekga MP, to bring his colleagues to order. Whether Motshekga will do so will be instructive.

For this is not the first time that the ANC or its acolytes have reduced themselves to engaging in base character assassinations. Not too long ago, it was Mazibuko’s hairstyle that threatened to turn Parliament’s third reading on POSIB into a mud-slinging match. Having watched that debate I would suggest that it did.

Whilst many people will shrug off this latest attack and put it down to unimaginative and unintelligent politicians, it must be identified for what it actually is.

The continuous belittling of Mazibuko and her office, the nasty personalised nature of the attacks against her and the attempts to deride her appearance are a blatant display of the ANC’s chauvinism and misogyny. It stands to reason why: in its 101 year history, the ANC has never had a female leader. Indeed, in the words of the ANCWL, it is not even ready for one.

The attacks against Mazibuko are an illustration of the ANC’s utter contempt for credible female leaders. That Mazibuko is black and a youngster who is not shackled by the ANC’s singular interpretation of history must cause them even more concern. And Mazibuko is not alone. Zille, de Lille and no doubt many other opposition female leaders have had to deal with more than their fair share of criticism.

Tony Leon was detested by some in the ANC and the ANCYL, but the depths to which his opponents sank are lofty heights by comparison.

I have seen some in the media suggest that Mazibuko is an African woman and that explains her curvy-ness. I have even seen some who think that Manamela and Jeffery have a point and that a serious conversation is needed about Mazibuko’s weight. What both fail to realise is that it is none of their business what Mazibuko weighs. Reducing all African woman to having curves is unfair to those that don’t. Those who want to have a serious conversation about obesity in South Africa are holding the wrong person to account (not to mention conveniently ignoring the scores of obese male politicians abound). Mazibuko’s credibility should not be measured by her body mass but rather by her contribution to the development of our country. And if people want something weighty to consider, they should direct themselves to her legacy and nothing else.

Body weight is a personal affair and should be treated as such. It should certainly not be used as proxies for measuring value and worth. Manamela and Jeffery’s latest insults if anything show just how much the ANC has moved away from being the movement it once was. And the ANC is in even greater danger of losing its sense of self if these are the people who are in charge.

Manamela and Jeffery are a sampling of the deeper-set sexism that besets the ANC. All of us, whatever our political beliefs, should be concerned by this. Not only because their sexism against an individual is worthy of opposition, but because their mindset of sexism threatens to fail us all. After all, how do we expect government ministers to tackle poverty and crime (both phenomena which disproportionately detrimentally affect women) when they themselves perpetuate sexist institutional thinking?

Those who came before Manamela, Jeffery and even Zuma staked the ANC’s feminist credentials on the slogan “Wathint‘ Abafazi Wathint‘ imbokodo.” The ANC of today would do well to learn from the ANC of yore.  

This post was originally posted on The Chirp Room 

GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

ANC Press Release: ALLEGED “SEXIST” REMARKS AGAINST DA’S MAZIBUKO

13 June 2013

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip has noted the media statement by the
Deputy Chief Whip of the DA, regarding her intention to write to ANC
Chief Whip Dr Motshekga to complain about what she describes as ³sexists
and chauvinistic² attacks in the House against DA parliamentary leader
Lindiwe Mazibuko by ANC MPs Buti Manamela and John Jeffery.
Comrade Jeffery is alleged to have said ³Šwhile the Hon Mazibuko may be
a person of substantial weight, her stature is questionable². Manamela
is alleged to have questioned her sense of fashion during yesterday¹s
debate.

We are aware that a point of order has been recorded against Comrade
Jeffery¹s remark and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly is
scheduled to rule on whether it was parliamentary or not.

We understand from Jeffery¹s¹ explanation that although his reference to
Mazibuko during the debate on the Parliament budget vote was a pun, it
had more to do with her influence and power associated with the position
she holds than her physical weight. Jeffery has carefully reflected on
the ambiguity of the statement and accepts that they it may have been
understood to refer to Mazibuko¹s physical outlook. In this regard, he
will unconditionally withdraw the statement when the presiding officer
gives him an opportunity to do so in the House and apologise to
Mazibuko. We commend him for this voluntary decision. Having dedicated
his life to the struggle for non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South
Africa, Jeffery finds the claim that his remarks were intended to be
sexist and chauvinistic insulting and mischievous. The same pun could
have been directed at even a male in similar position as Mazibuko.

Similarly, we reject the claim that Manamela¹s reference to Mazibuko¹s
dress style at yesterday¹s debate on the presidency budget vote was
sexist or chauvinistic. The Multiparty Chief Whips Forum earlier this
year emphasised the importance of Members of Parliament, whether male of
female, dressing in a manner befitting of the decorum of the House. We
have no desire of playing fashion police in this institution, however,
the inappropriate manner in which Mazibuko was dressed yesterday showed
total lack of respect to the debate and the decorum of the House. As the
leader of the opposition, Mazibuko ought to lead by example in ensuring
that her MPs conduct themselves decently and civilly in this
institution. There is nothing ³sexist² or ³chauvinistic² about this
principle.

We are pleased that Jeffery is intending to voluntary withdraw his
remarks against Mazibuko. We challenge the DA to equally show its
commitment to the rules of orderly and civil parliamentary engagement by
calling on its leaders in the Western Cape legislature to withdraw their
abusive, offensive and sexist language against ANC MPLs. In March this
year, Western Cape premier Helen Zille referred to ANC MPL Zodwa Magwaza
as an ³elephant² while former DA leader Theuns Botha once likened ANC
MPL Lynne Brown to a ³hippopotamus². Both these DA leaders are yet to
withdraw and apologise their remarks. The DA¹s outcry rings hallow
considering its deafening silence when such abuses were directed at ANC
MPLs by its representatives in the legislature.

We remain firm in our stance that robust and lively debates, which are
the cornerstone of a democratic parliament, should always be conducted
civilly and orderly.

ISSUED BY THE OFFICE OF THE ANC CHIEF WHIP

Enquiries
Moloto Mothapo 082 370 6930

GENDER POLITICS

Do women leaders necessarily mean better things for women?

Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

By Jen Thorpe

This week at the Mangaung conference the new ANC top six leaders were elected. Despite the ANC’s own 50/50 gender quota policy, only two of the six were women – Jessie Duarte, who will fulfil the role of Deputy Secretary General, and Baleka Mbete who will fulfil the role of National Chairperson. No women contested the position of President, Deputy President, or Secretary General. Are we to be critical of the ANC for a lack of women leaders? Does the high number of women leaders in the DA mean better things for women?

At a recent public dialogue hosted by the CGE Monitor[1] to assess the efficacy of the Commission for Gender Equality over a period of 100 days, Lisa Vetten[2] expressed concern that there were many women in government, as well as many gender focussed structures, yet these did not always have feminist aims. She continued that there was a lack of clarity around what the term ‘gender equality’ actually means. These statements make clear two questions we must ask ourselves:

  • do we know what we want from gender equality and what it actually means in practical terms, and
  • do we do enough to empower the women leaders we do have in government to further feminist aims?

These questions are relevant to the ANC, as well as all other political parties. They essentially force us to ask ourselves whether women leaders necessarily mean better policy, legislation, and livelihoods for the women of South Africa.

Without a doubt, ‘gender equality’ has a nice ring to it. But what does it mean? There is more than one type of equality[3], and in a South Africa where women face multiple and varied forms of oppression (race, class, sexuality, age, disabilities, health status etc), it’s possible to use the term gender equality as a rubber stamp, or a marker that the issue of ‘women’ has been dealt with in government.

What we have seen a lot of is ‘formal equality’ or the right to be equal to men, for example by occupying political office. This is valuable in itself, because the very fact that women occupy office makes it theoretically easier for other women to envisage themselves in roles similar to this. This is particularly important for young women in South Africa, who need powerful female role models to assure them that they can break the barriers and glass ceilings that still exist. Yet, often female parliamentary representatives feel compelled to vote according to their political party’s requirements, and not necessarily in the interest of furthering women’s rights. Gender equality should not be limited to this narrow definition.

Real and meaningful gender equality requires something more of our political representatives across all parties – it requires that we aim for substantive or lived equality. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)[4] recognised that formal equality structures, whilst important, are not always enough to ensure that women can actually enjoy the same rights as men. For example, if I have the right to freedom of movement, but I am constantly threatened by the risk of sexual violence when I do move about, then it cannot be said that I enjoy the full expression of my rights. Unless women political figures are able to vote against the male-orientated policies and legal preferences of their parties, for example the traditional courts bill, they cannot be said to enjoy the full expression of their right to hold political office.

Feminism thus becomes incredibly important. If we look at feminism in an extremely broad way, as a “movement to end sexist oppression”[5] we must ensure not only that women occupy meaningful political positions that have clout, but also that they occupy them with the intention of improving the lives of women. Women in politics should not be tokens.

Thus, we shouldn’t then be looking at simple numbers, or only to criticise political parties based on these, though those numbers are certainly a start. Without the freedom to make decisions that impact law and policy, or its implementation, in a way that truly improves the status of women, our women MPs, members of the executive, or judiciary, will not make a difference for women. What we need therefore is feminists in office who are going to take this risk, and push the interests of women, even at the expense of their party.


[1] A group made up of women’s rights, gender equality, and human rights organisations across the country.

[2] For more on what happened in this discussion, follow the twitter hashtag #CGE100

[3] For more on the various forms of equality, follow this link http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/equality/

[4] For an interesting discussion of equality in relation to this convention, follow this link http://www.iwraw-ap.org/convention/equality.htm

[5] From bell hooks, Feminism is for Everybody.