Why the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) sucks

I did not want to hear who the ANCWL’s presidential candidate was when the evening news bulletins kept announcing over and over again that the League’s deliberations were ongoing. However, this morning I could not keep my head buried in the sand for much longer because as I listened to Redi Direko on Radio 702 on my way from a meeting to the office, I almost cried. Yes, I love Redi Direko’s show. But my feelings had little to do with what she said this morning. She asked her usual unwaveringly insightful stuff. No, it wasn’t that the ANCWL chose Jacob Zuma as their candidate when they should have chosen Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma instead. I suspected that they would choose him which is why I did not want to hear before bedtime that yet another supposedly progressive structure had chosen a man like that as someone they think can and should be a leader. I had been ashamed in anticipation about how the most powerful grouping of women in my country would not come out blatantly in support of a presidential candidate I can be proud of. This the stuff of nationalism, isn’t it? Even though I declare repeatedly that I am not a nationalist, these decisions matter to me at a level I cannot always explain intellectually or politically. Shame is such a South African cliche, after all; yet, ashamed of the ANCWL I most definitely am today.

What is utterly depressing to me is that I listened to Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the president of the ANCWL defend the position of the League she presides over. I have never heard her sound less convinced of what she was saying. Perhaps I am projecting because I neither know her personally, nor attended the ANCWL meeting yesterday. All I know is that this morning as I listened to a woman who usually makes sense even when I disagree with what she says, I heard a woman I read as feminist go around in circles. Perhaps I was projecting because I wanted to believe that she could not have voted for Jacob Zuma in the presidency. Perhaps because my heart bleeds often for the handful of feminists in the ANCWL surrounded by a gangrenous sea of MaMKhizes, I needed to feel more than shame, so I chose empathy for Mapisa-Nqakula. Maybe I am in the middle of a romantic feminist moment. Maybe something even more sinister is going on.

This is a woman who usually sounds like nothing can phase her in public, whose voice sounds like it does what she wants it to do. Today, her voice shook. She repeated herself and became increasingly inarticulate. She made a few arguments that sounded slightly off and each time she said “we, in the Women’s League” there was a suppressed sigh in her voice. I felt like I was witnessing a woman speaking under duress.

Now, I am not saying she is anybody’s victim. She is not. She is also not a superwoman – but a human being. Whatever happened at those lengthy deliberations held by the ANCWL well into last night sounds scary to me.

So, why the title of my blog entry today? The ANCWL sucks because the last thing South African women need is a powerful women’s organisation saying that Jacob Zuma is acceptable as presidential hopeful. The ANCWL sucks because in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism against women and child abuse, we have to spend time thinking about Jacob Zuma in very unpleasant gendered ways. We have barely survived last year’s brutalisation by this man at the same time of year. The ANCWL sucks because it ingrains itself into our feelings even though we should all look away like we do with the other ANC League whose leadership is filled with babbling misogynists. The ANCWL sucks because it has those handful of feminists who appear to be fighting a losing battle, but because of them we keep looking and listening. The ANCWL sucks because it frightens the hell out of me to think about the extent to which patriarchal women will go to defend their man. The ANCWL sucks because it has a more interesting herstory than it is living up to.


Posted on 27 November 2007, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Why is that the League voted in this fashion Pumla? What causes them to suck?

  2. kagiso l. molope

    i was actually planning to keep my head in the sand for at least a few more days and didn’t realise your blog would force me to look. all of yesterday i kept avoiding the BBC headline and getting more depressed as i forced myself to look instead at random pictures that have nothing to do with this…to think that ex-VP-rapist is gaining more power by the minute makes me want to slash my wrists…great blog. ag! ma**pa fela.

  3. I listened to Nosiviwe Mapisa-Ngakula wriggling like the bug on the end of a pin on SAFM this morning. Its time that women in the ANC own up to the fact that the Women’s League has been reduced to being little more than the handmaidens to the ANC patriarchy. To my mind, there are very few REAL feminists or women who love women sufficiently to forfeit the comforts of being on the receiving end of political patronage. Am disgusted & disillusioned! They’re fiddling while women die.

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. It truly does break my heart that this MOTHER organisation, designed to uphold and protect the voices, choices and liberations of our women would choose to not only condone, but go as far as endorse a man who so clearly stands opposed to all this. This same man who publicly added to the degeneration of traditional, communal father-daughter relationships has managed to charm strong willed, well-educated, revolutionary woman…and now we are what we are left with little hope that campaigns such as the 16 Days of Activism will ever have the impact we desire them to have.

    As a young black woman of the 21st centaury, I also feel let down by omama bethu. It feels like we are going back to times when mothers told their daughters to nyamezela the abuse their husbands put them through. Women’s Lib (and sadly this is the same organisation that was at the forefronts of this movement) had taken 1 step forward by seeking 50/50 representation, but has now taken 2 (if not 3) back by placing their stamp of approval on Zuma. It truly is a shame. But we live in hope. Hope that our movement towards liberation and equality will be taken seriously. Hope that people will not laugh when statistics soar and women’s voices are buried under the sounds of rotten apples. We are disappointed, but remain hopeful that enough women in the VOTING public will not allow this to happen. Then again, when you avoided the radio all of Saturday and Sunday, you were also hoping… look where that landed you.

  5. In 2009, should I be faced with a ballot with JZ’s face and Helen Zille’s face, I shall have no conflict about where to put my X. Cool.

  6. This is the same ANCWL that refused to support an investigation into what happened to women in the ANC camps during exile. I guarantee you a number of those women who voted for Zuma are women who have experienced some form of gender based violence at the hands of their comrades, brethren, lovers and colleagues. MaMhkize told me to my face that Khwezi served her vagina to Zuma on a platter, and she should have been honoured that he tasted. We are a damaged society, and clearly we don’t have aspirations of getting better. Those women in the ANCWL spent last night voting for their dysfunctional relationships with equally dysfunctional men. South African women have got to start believing that we deserve better. I am spoiling my ballot in 2009.

  7. It is such a shame and a major let down. I’ve lost all hope that women’s rights can be protected by ‘liberation’ movements.It feels more like the old is reborn, we are taking big strides back to where we started.

    They suck big time indeed!!!!!!

  8. What are we as the young women of SA to do how come we dont have a say much in this and is This how the older generation of women in South Africa see things as fit for the yonger generation to be ruled by a man who continual decieve his fellow combrades!!!!!!

  9. I am so sad and depressed for South Africa, its women in particular. I lived in SA for 18 months and was there during the horror of the Zuma trial. I am not so up-to-date with the latest political happenings, but I cannot fathom how this group of powerful women could possibly endorse Zuma after his conduct during the trial.

  10. The ANCWL sucks!they are a bunch of ‘slaves’ that love their chains.They have spit in the face of progress made as far as gender-equality and women’s liberation issues are concerned.They have no balls.No intergrity.If these are the kinds of women leaders we have, black women will remain at the bottom of the food chain-the face of abuse,neglect and humiliation.If the ANC is offering Zuma for President,i will not be voting for the ANC in 2009.

  11. the question we need to ask is that are we trully liberated, when the whole zuma trial was going on and the mysogony that surrounded the trial, were was the women’s league at that time are we surprised when the leader of the ANC women’s league is being thumped by her husband and all the women’s league could say was that she was dealing with the abuse through ANC structures…basically a lot of work has to be done to undo how women are raised….they will fucking stand by patriachy at all costs!!!!! and patriachy is there to put women in their place and the ANC women’s league is in their place!!! lets not be romantic about yester year what sucks about South Africa today is the money talks and bullshit Walks ( however it is said you get my gist!!!!)do i think the women’s league is still powerfull not for the last decade coz some of these sisters are with partners ( if one can call them that ) who are deep in these money grabs, power , position and they have to protect their blaquazi lifestyles that is what it has all boiled down to we are for sale comrades that is the deal!!!!!

  12. i do not usually write blogs but having visited this site and read xoliswa sithole’s comment I feel compelled to clarify one or two things. The woman who is the President of the ANCWL, Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula was never thumped by her husband, Charles Nqakula. Mavivi Myaka-yaka Manzini, the Deputy President of ANCWL was. The Women’s League took up the issue within the ANC structures- not to stop Myakayaka from following her own personal processes, which she did by the way. Just a minor detail, an important one in this discourse measured in broad-brush strokes-Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula fought very hard within the ANC to have Mavivi’s issues addressed by the National Working Committee, which was done. Why? Don’t we feminists say ‘the personal is political’? Mavivi, by the way, pursued the matter in her own way, in addition to the political process that was taken up by some of her sisters and comrades in the ANC. She no longer lives with Manana Manzini. She is battling, as all of us who lived or experienced abuse of one form or the other do- but she is moving on and her struggle continues. For that, I support her. Much has been said about the ANCWL’s decision to put Zuma forward as a presidential canditate. I too, share too, much of the anger, pain and sadness. But above all, I wish to recall again, the details that seem to get lost in these discussions. Zuma won by two votes. Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula is on public record by the way, saying ‘I did not vote for Zuma’. About two months ago, she was one of a handful of women (and the first to state categorically) that the ANC Women’s League could not put Jacob Zuma forward as a candidate. She has paid dearly for those comments and has taken much too much flak-she is already down folks-ayibethwa xa iwile- you do not hit the snake when it is already on the ground. Is she a victim? She would be the first, I think, to to say NO. Be that as it may, I believe an appreciation of the complexity of her location is important- even if we do not agree with her choice to remain in there…Maphisa-Nqakula is also on public record supporting a different candidate, neither Zuma nor Mbeki. I am not a member of the ANCWL and never have been. But I am acutely aware of the shifting sands in there and how dangerous these are… What am I saying? Simple- struggles are won and lost everyday. At times some battles loom too large for us to fathom the real shape and texture. But it is women’s blood that has congealed on the floor – yesterday, today and tomorrow…i do not know about you sisters but i am learning to understand the truth in Bernice Johnson Reagon’s song ‘when the world moved against me with a disapproving frown/It was sister put the ground back under my feet’…nomboniso gasa

  13. xoliswa sithole

    thanks for the clarification nomboniso and i stand corrected.

  14. mhm, xoliswa- the point was not really to correct. i am also fumbling for ways to understand what is happening… i do however feel it is important for us at least to start wit what we know- and the clarificaton comes from that space. on the larger political questions, i think it is complex. for me, understanding compexity will assist us, i hope…peace

  15. sipho Mtutuzeli

    I am not surpprised that Lebo Mashile wud be on this one too. Sisi, hlomphang basali babang. Lebo went on and on on TV during JZ’s rape trial. Basali have voted, freely,voluntarily,democratically.SA is learning the true test of so-called intellectual definitions of leadership, and the people’s definition of their leadership. Nna I salute basali ba, they are not myopic. They appreciate matters beyond what they seem, and responded like sheroic cadres.

  16. Simphiwe Mngadi

    We are all, as human being, feel that when things does not suite us we label as sucking. I may be wrong because that’s how we most of us were raised (sucking milk).

    In the same way we may be sulking. Be as it may we just have to swallow what life gives us and make the most out of it.

    Maybe we should not complain that life sucks, but rather let life suck us in; where we can be shaped in anyway we choose. Otherwise we will break.

    This sounds like a bunch of meandering bull. Hey, what can I say, life sucks. Get used to it.

  17. Simphiwe Mngadi

    We are all, as human being, feel that when things do not suite us we label as sucking. I may be wrong because that’s how we most of us were raised (sucking milk).

    In the same way we may be sulking. Be as it may we just have to swallow what life gives us and make the most out of it.

    Maybe we should not complain that life sucks, but rather let life suck us in; where we can be shaped in anyway we choose. Otherwise we will break.

    This sounds like a bunch of meandering bull. Hey, what can I say, life sucks. Get used to it.

  18. tebello ralebitso

    these women have clearly forgotten that they are women and i don’t think it’s because they lack ‘consciuosness’, they just don’t care, period.

  19. Nosingqala Phesheya

    I came across this blog while browsing the book sa site. This is an interesting site. Congratulations to you Pumla.

    Now regarding the nomination in favour of Mr Zuma, I find the reflections here quite refreshing and the anger of some quite understandable (Simphiwe Mngadi wena uzokubhoxa apha. Kutheni ingathi imbeko yakubaleka kudala nje? Okanye kudala wabasisixhaphaxhapha?)

    But I think the reaction by Lizeka Mda that she will vote for the DA’s Ms Zille is not the right way to go. Who is Ms Zille? Another Mrs Thatcher? Just because she leads the DA does not mean the DA has better women-friendly policies that the ANC. Also, voting comes once in 5 years and what will you do with the DA in-between? Will you join them and seek a political position? Or what?

    Every cloud has a silver lining. I accept the explanation by Nomboniso Gasa that the vote in favour of Zuma was margina. The political effect is definitely not. But what is the silver lining here? It is that there is a limit to charitable giving in politics by men. Understanding this limit means that women must identify the areas, perhaps outside of politics, where they have a competitive advantage and cannot be challenged by men. Politics is a game of power and only the tough get going. What is the area where women can build their own power base? Is it in literature? In business? In the professions? Do they also need their own political forum independent of any political party? Or is it all of these things.

    The silver lining here lining is that illusions of charitable politics have been shattered and reality needs confronting. Men will not change by themselves. With no hope of charitable treatment under a Zuma presidency, something needs to be done by women for women. It’s a wake up call Sisters.

  20. Conference is underway.

    Don’t even know what to think and what to feel.My ears are literally blocked. Somebody told me they’ve been praying, hard and that God knows what the right thing is.And that made me realise that we don’t have control over what is happening there. The way I am now I don’t even think that I make sense. Don’t even want to make sense. I never thought that the ANC mattered so much to me but now that we may not even have an ANC we are proud of, it does.

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