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 16 Days of activism, African Women, anti-apartheid struggle, Black women, gender based violence, South Africa. Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.