GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

#NotOurLeaders Case 7 – COGTA

#NotOurLeaders

16 days of activism to end violence against women

 

AIDING AND ABETTING SEXUAL HARASSMENT

CASE 7: Getting away with it, with help from your friends Malibongwe Ngcai and Basil Mase, Eastern Cape Government

On 1 June 2017 Malibongwe Ngcai started his job as general manager of corporate services in the Eastern Cape Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), and Basil Mase the general manager of strategic information management, also in COGTA. Both men had resigned their positions as senior managers in the Eastern Cape Legislature only one day before joining COGTA – so evading any sanctions arising from the disciplinary proceedings against them.

In 2015 an investigation by the Neela Hoosain Commission appointed by the Legislature recommended that action be taken against Ngcai and Mase for demanding sex in exchange for jobs or promotion. But this was not the focus of the disciplinary enquiry conducted during 2016 and 2017. Rather, it was their bringing the Legislature into disrepute by challenging the Commission’s report in court and attempting to prevent implementation of its recommendation that prompted the disciplinary action. While the presiding officer of the legislature’s disciplinary hearing found them guilty of gross dishonesty, gross insubordination and breaching the trust relationship with their former employer, no sanctions could ultimately be ordered as the duo had left the employ of the legislature.

This case raises two issues of policy:

  • Resignation and shuffling of staff as strategies to evade disciplinary sanctions
  • Appointing officials who have resigned in the midst of disciplinary proceedings to another arm of the state

Gender violence specialist Lisa Vetten points to a similar matter involving an unnamed former senior manager at the national Department of Environmental Affairs: “He too simply resigned in August once allegations of sexual harassment by him began being investigated. In October he was employed at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – despite being accused of sexually harassing six junior employees and allegedly raping two women in his unit. Disturbingly, spokesperson for Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise, was reported as claiming that it was ‘not the duty of his department to give references about their former employees to new employers.’”

“A significant policy gap enables this questionable shuffling of staff,” says Sam Waterhouse of the Women and Democracy Initiative. “Staff at legislatures, who are employed in a branch of government and paid with public money, are not governed by any specific law, except the standard labour laws. Interestingly, the regulations to the Municipal Systems Act recognise that some people resign in order to escape the consequences of internal disciplinary action. To address this the Regulations state that the Minister and provincial MEC must be notified if a municipal staff member resigns before the disciplinary hearing is completed. If this clause was applied across the public services and to staff at legislatures, it could assist in monitoring and preventing the movement across different branches of government of people accused of sexual misconduct.”

Said Vivienne Mentor-Lalu of the Women and Democracy Initiative, “The lack of consideration for women’s safety in the workplace shows its low priority. This is rape culture. Women who report sexual violence are sidelined, never to be heard of again, while the men who perpetrate sexual abuse often get to quietly move on and prosper. Is patronage politics at play in these cases?”

Action must be taken

The #NotOurLeaders campaign is calling on the Eastern Cape Department of COGTA to immediately engage in an internal investigation and due diligence exercise with regards to the appointment of Malibongwe Ngcai and Basil Mase. COGTA spokesman Mamnkeli Ngam said in July 2017 that the department “was not aware” of any judgment against the two and thus could not comment on the matter. This is unacceptable.

  • The ANC, which leads both the Eastern Cape legislature and the executive department where the two men are now employed, must publicly condemn the evasion of justice by the pair, and strengthen institutional safeguards preventing those guilty of sexual misconduct from taking up senior positions in government.
  • Parliament must prioritise policy development to address the gaps in law and policy regarding the conduct and discipline of staff at legislatures and within the public service.

 

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

  

Relevant Policy

Municipal staff are covered by the Municipal Systems Act of 2000, and staff in government departments by the amended Public Service Act of 1994. The regulations to the Public Service Act has a four-year prohibition against re-employing someone in the public service if there was a disciplinary finding that they committed sexual harassment. However, it only applies to people who were found guilty – not those who resigned prior to the finalisation of proceedings. The regulations also require any public service employee to immediately report to the relevant authorities any act which constitutes a contravention of any law (not limited to criminal offences) and any act which is prejudicial to the interests of the public which comes to their attention.

But the Public Service Act only applies specifically to those who work the public service, and not those employed in other spheres of the state. This means there is a gap around the appointments and dismissals of staff of legislatures who have been charged with sexual harassment. Staff employed by the legislatures are covered by labour legislation generally, and any internal policy that may have been developed. #NotOurLeaders has been unable to locate internal policies regarding staff at the legislatures.

 

RELATED MEDIA STORIES

http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/politics/2017/07/03/commission-finds-manager-duo-guilty/

http://www.dispatchlive.co.za/news/2017/06/05/top-posts-two-despite-scandals-appointment-sex-pals-jobs-officials-infuriates-union/

https://www.sowetanlive.co.za/sundayworld/news/2017-10-10-alleged-sex-pest-gets-new-job-at-csir-despite-two-rape-accusations/

 

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.

 

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GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

Gender and local government: What needs to change

Nicole Graham, DA, women, councillor
Nicole Graham

By Nicole Graham

I became a local government councillor on 18 May, 2011. At the time, I was a 21 year old university student and wasn’t sure it was something I would do for any length of time. I was studying a post-graduate LLB and had been active in the DA since I was 17 years old.  The opportunity seemed to be a good learning experience and so I took it. I came into the eThekwini Council at number 21 on the DA’s proportional list; not high, but not unimpressive.

Immediately, I was struck with how unsuitable the environment was for young women. I was called ‘girly’ and ‘kiddo’ by colleagues and faced endless comments about my outfits, looks and body. Continuous sexual harassment only came to an end when colleagues realized I was serious about pursuing charges. I received general disdain from politicians and municipal officials, despite my increasingly solid performance in my committee and council meetings.

After a colleague resigned in 2013, I applied to stand in a ward. I had begun to enjoy the challenge of local government and the close relationship with communities. Ward councillors are the only directly elected politicians in South Africa- the rest are effectively elected by their political parties using a list system. I wanted to work on the ground in the community I lived in and loved, and was fortunate enough to be elected to do so. It is a wonderful ward, but a very tough one to work in, plagued by numerous difficult challenges and governed by a municipality that is often unable to tackle them.

Despite improved gender representation in South Africa, women often find themselves moved out of the competitive political space. Democracy and the ANC’s 50/ 50 policy has definitely seen the overall picture improve, with far more female councillors, MPs and even Ministers in office from 1994. This is significant. The political landscape, however, remains overwhelmingly better suited than to men that it is to women. I don’t think a single political party and their policies could have changed that alone. There is definitely room for improvement regarding gender issues across the political spectrum- which is too extensive to discuss here- but I think this issue runs far deeper than elective politics. It is symptomatic of our society, and a broad reflection of how our communities continue to operate.

eThekwini has almost 100 female councillors, but less than 20 are directly elected ward councillors like myself. Men are the ones with their faces on the posters and the women are used to cushion the PR lists.  In the Zimbabwean Parliament, 60 seats are reserved for women that are proportionally elected by their political parties. I once asked a young female MP why she held one of these seats and didn’t contest in her home constituency. Her reply was simple: she didn’t have the money to pay for her campaign. That is real barrier in many of our neighbouring countries that lists and quotas alone cannot change. It is an improvement to have more women in their parliament, but still a massive problem that they can’t always compete in the same way.

Pervasive attitudes, often attributed to liberalism, seem to think that the barriers to women entering local government aren’t real. They seem to think that the problem lies with women, who should be more willing to enter the arena and fight it out with the boys. I am a liberal. I am a liberal who believes that attitudes and barriers that prevent people from operating as equals in any given environment should be tackled, especially when they relate to race, gender and sexual orientation. I am perfectly able to fight it out with the boys, (and regularly do), but I shouldn’t have to. I should be able to function as male colleagues do – without the extra drama, without having to regularly explain to men why they cannot talk about my dresses, without having to face undue criticism because I am young and female.

I do not think all criticism of me is invalid or unfair. Being a councillor is difficult, and I am bound to sometimes drop the ball or say the wrong thing. I accept that criticism when I do as best as I can. Even after many years in local government, I still will not know how to solve everything and may sometimes be confused or disillusioned. It is par for the course. I try my absolute hardest to be available and accessible, to resolve queries and to represent the interests of my community as best as I can. Still, I am often bombarded with strange rumours, bizarre claims and downright rude comments about things that do not affect my politics at all. Often, these come from people who have never met me or asked me for any kind of assistance.

Patriarchy is a complicated thing. It makes women more likely to see other women as threats or competition in a way that does not happen to men. It makes men and women more likely to question the credibility and abilities of women in all levels of government, as well as corporate and academic environments. It also makes women open to intrusions about their private lives that often supersede their actual work.

To this end, I am trying to establish some kind of support and mentoring structure for young women who wish to follow the same path that I have. I will continue to do my work as best as I can, and continue to confront gender-based challenges head on. I will make it a priority to raise matters related to women in the eThekwini Council, even when they are not supported. Local government is a difficult political space, but more so for women. It is vital that we acknowledge this, and move towards meaningfully correcting it.

 

Kameel Premhid
GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

Lindiwe Mazibuko and the Politics of Representation

Kameel Premhid
Kameel Premhid

By Kameel Premhid

Lindiwe Mazibuko’s sudden departure from our political life cannot be understated. Notwithstanding her political views (which are open to contestation), the loss of a powerful female voice in an inherently patriarchal political environment is not a good thing. Irrespective of the reasons as to why she may have left, which are heavily disputed, her departure is not good for women’s progress in politics.

The Numbers

Of the 13 parties that will be represented in Parliament only 3 are led by women. But, that does not guarantee that party leaders will necessarily sit in Parliament (as we have seen before, such as when Athol Trollip was the DA’s leader in Parliament but Helen Zille remained outside of it).  While the caucus demographics of the next Parliament is yet to be finalised, as final seat allocations are still underway, the average percentage of seats held by women from 1997 – 2010 is 28.4%. That is the case despite the fact that women were the majority of the population for that period – and still are the majority today.

Why the Gap?

There are several reasons that explain why women have been kept or stay out of politics. The first has to do with gendered understandings of the roles women and men have in society. Women were – are – considered to be the ones to manage the domestic environment. Cook, clean, look after the babies. Even among different social classes, this deeply conservative idea of women persists. Even though economic necessity – especially after WWII – may have changed that irrevocably and women’s movements have championed the cause of equal access and pay, patriarchy runs deep. Some men see women as only being there in name – not as equals. Frighteningly, some women do too. Patriarchy, like most forms of social prejudice, can be so strong that it even convinces its intended victims of its supposed veracity. Talk about Stockholm Syndrome.

South Africa is no different. Even though women played a significant role in the struggle, for example, the ‘women’s agenda’ was largely ignored in favour of (formal) equality and freedom. Given, however, that women were – and have been – made to be more vulnerable because of the institutional and cultural design which operated against them, formal equality, it can be argued, continues to benefit men more than it does women. While the struggle for substantive equality between black and white people still continues – the struggle for true sex parity still lags far behind. The progress made is not enough. Women are largely underrepresented in the professional class and are even scarcer at the top level of the spectrum.

The slow progress that women have been able to make is, in part, attributable to how co-option works. After the fall of Apartheid, it was not black women that were being welcomed into previously all-male white boardrooms, it was black men. While the colour composition of our country may have improved, its gender balance has not. Politics is no different. Neither is economics. Provided that strong vested interests do just enough to seem as though transformation is being achieved, they have been able to escape true societal scrutiny. And so the cause of a sex-balance is lost.

And that has an impact on the way women can integrate into these environments. Putting the systemic obstacles aside, the institutional culture of these places remains largely male-oriented. Whether that has to do with flexible working hours, sanitary facilities or institutional culture, the ability for women to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ and remain there is inordinately more difficult than it is for their male counterparts. Much like how black professionals have to work doubly hard than their white ones in order to avoid the ‘token appointment’ label, so too must women.

The Politics of Representation

That is why Mazibuko’s departure is worrisome. Her presence in Parliament and in our collective consciousness achieved the two aims of transformation: on one hand, it created an immediate and physical embodiment of the desired change and, on the other, it represented that the ingrained modes of exclusion were being challenged. The two are linked and it bears merit exploring.

Whether Mazibuko liked it or not, she was a standard bearer for women, and young black women especially. Margaret Thatcher once infamously quipped that she owed nothing to ‘feminism’ because, I suspect, she saw herself as an equal (or in her case, superior) to men. That she was born a woman was secondary. But, Thatcher’s comment belies her misunderstanding that even if she thought she owed nothing special to being a woman, millions of women, and men, respected her for that: she rose above the predetermined trajectory for those of her sex. And in so doing she made it possible that others may do so too. The same is true with Mazibuko.

It is understandable why prominent women like to ‘downplay’ that they are women in positions of power. Because, ironically, by praising them for that we engage in a process of reductionism that does not see beyond biological sex. The same applies with, for example, race and gender. It is a danger that we must be careful of. But it is also a feat that we cannot ignore. Having a woman at the table counts. But thinking that the only reason she got there is because she is a woman is as unacceptable as excluding her for her sex.

And, the fact that Mazibuko was not just present at the table but, to a large extent, determining what was discussed at it is worthy of praise too. Her role was a demonstrable positive example set to millions of other (young) women that sex parity is possible. The nuance she brought to the discussion of issues, within the DA and outside of it, means that the all-male culture of the institutions in which she served was affronted. Admittedly, when such conservativism is confronted, it can either harden (despite a women being present) or give way to something better. While it is too early to tell whether Parliament – and parliamentary caucuses – will go back to being ‘old boy’s’ clubs remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that in being true to herself and taking it all on Mazibuko has inspired other women, and men, to take up the cudgels and shake sexism – wherever it may exist – to its very core. And when she returns, I am sure she will do the same.

Silver Lining

Although Mazibuko is departing, there are women who remain involved in politics that can do what she did. And one hopes that they do. But, all is not lost. Mazibuko’s securing a place at Harvard University’s prestigious Kennedy School of Government to read for a Master’s in Public Administration is not only indicative of her impressive intellect and profile but, again, an inspiration to many others. It is rarely the case that when one exits the political stage they do so on a high. Enoch Powell once quipped that all political careers end in tears. Whether Mazibuko cried when she resigned I am not sure. If she did, I hope they were tears of joy. Harvard is a unique achievement that not many, let alone those from South Africa, will achieve. And I for one sincerely hope that upon her return she will continue trail-blazing as she so memorably did.

This article was first published here:  http://voices.news24.com/kameel-premhid/2014/05/lindiwe-mazibuko-politics-representation/ (News24 Voices)

CURRENT AFFAIRS

20 March – feminist reading list for the morning

read me

1. A guide for foul mouthed feminists – click here

2. Gender angle for premiership race – click here

3. Have you ever used sex to get something that you want – click here

4. Men that rape are our fathers, lovers – click here

5. ANC Women’s League – what have you done for women’s rights lately – click here

6. Will the new Global Development Paradigm do anything to improve the lives of young women? – click here

7. The feminist declaration for the Post 2015 development goals – click here

8. New website on sex, rights and the internet – click here

9. Why we have too few women in leadership – click here

10. On catcalling – no I’m not asking for it, and no it’s not a fucking compliment – click here

Kameel Premhid
GENDER POLITICS, POLITICS

Say Yes to the Dress?

Kameel Premhid
Kameel Premhid

By Kameel Premhid

Perhaps it was the decided lack of content or reality displayed by President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address last week that allowed for picking on Thandile Sunduza, MP, to become the country’s favourite pastime.

SONA is the high theatre of politics: red carpets, swanky clothes, obscure figures and even more nebulous promises. This year was no different – save in one crucial aspect. South Africans participated in the character assassination of a female MP, who happens to seven months pregnant, with such ferocity that Sunduza landed up in hospital due to the emotional torment she suffered at the hands of internet trolls and serious newspapers alike.

I have seen various arguments attempting to mollify the sheer horrific impact that this has situation had. They have all, in various ways, attempted to justify and underplay what this was: the objectification and denigration of a woman for how she dressed. Had Sunduza not collapsed and had the life of her unborn child not been threatened, I wonder whether the same people would have attempted to blithely justify their mob-mentality in attacking her so. But, for those of us who monitor these things, attacking a female politician for anything other than how she does her job is commonplace in South Africa’s political discourse.

Some of the more amusing arguments I have seen have included: (a) that she was being criticised for her choice of fashion against an objective standard – not that she was female; and (b) that being an MP means she is expected to set an example and her choice, which was an allegedly poor one, made criticising her fair game.

The first argument is flawed on two grounds.

Firstly, the objective standard is hardly objective like all. As I wrote in an article about whiteness and excellence, our understanding of what is acceptable and what isn’t is as a result of socialisation and prevailing dominant cultural attitudes. These cultural attitudes are not value-free: they are as a result of complex power relations which shape our views on things like rights, culture and even fashion. That a ‘fat’ woman should not wear something ‘figure-hugging’ is as a result of the hyper-marketised projection of only people ‘in shape’ being allowed to wear such clothing. That in previous times, women ‘with curves’ were considered as being desirable and encouraged to show off their curves – and tin women were looked down upon – is indicative of how fickle, and thus unreliable, these ‘standards’ are.

This also covers the pithy argument that she must set an example. In any case, if we were going to criticise her for anything, shouldn’t we be focusing on her track-record and performance in Parliament as opposed to whether her dress fit her? If we are trying to set examples, this episode basically tells young women that they must be seen and heard to say and do the right things and they’ll be okay: dare to be different and you’ll be crucified. Imagine how this is viewed in hindsight. On the occasion that the biggest policy speech was being made in our political year, a few months before the election, most people were frothing at the mouth over how a largely-unknown MP looked. So much for wanting to create a new generation of female leaders in South Africa.

Second, the fact that she is a woman cannot be separated from the criticism levelled at her fashion choice. While I loathe essentialisation of this kind, this inseparability comes about in two respects.

On one hand, no man would ever be subjected to this kind of scrutiny. Even if they were, it would be transient at best. Women seem to be in a special class: that we can criticise them for what they wear because women are concerned with fashion and that makes it okay. Actually, women should not mindlessly be associated with fashion. Like with everything, some care and others don’t. Similarly, if we create fashion to be reserve of women, what does it say about a fashionable or fashion conscious man? That he is womanly? Hmm, think not.

On the other hand, the aggressive way in which Sunduza was belittled is representative of the wider societal problem we have with women in South Africa. It is no coincidence that women are the most disempowered and the most brutalised: we live in a society where women are treated as the lesser, inferior beings and where we – as men but also as a society – can treat them as they wish. For all our lip service to the Women’s march of 1955 and 16 days of activism, we spend a lot of time letting women know where they belong: at the bottom of the pile. It may be hyperbolic of me to suggest that Sunduza’s treatment is in the same vein. Perhaps. But it symbolises how even if we don’t hit women physically, we continue to allow them to be broken down in other ways as well. We objectify them in the worst way. 

I hate to take on the role of moraliser-in-chief. But something has to be said about how Sunduza was treated. For the harsh criticism that she was subjected to is not only about her. It is about how we view and treat women in politics and in general. South Africans should take a long hard look at themselves and realise that we have no right nor place to judge. Certainly not in the way that it transpired nor over what we all got worked up over. We deserve better. And so does Sunduza and countless other women.

This article first appeared on News24.com Voices