By Kay-Dee Mashile
Happy women’s month to all the ladies of South Africa! This month is not only to commemorate the women who made it possible for today’s women to have voices that are loud enough to write articles such as this, but to also acknowledge the women who fight oppression and suppression on a daily basis but still find a way to wake up each day and make a difference in society. I salute you, malibongwe igama lenu makhosikazi amahle! In addition to this, Women’s Month also forces us to go back to the drawing board and reflect on how far South African women have come and how far we are yet to go to achieve optimal freedom and emancipation for all South African women. To this effect, the Honourable Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma states that, ‘If WE elect a female President…’ (hint hint) ‘… WE can look to Her…’ (so much modesty!) ‘… to empower and fast track women’s emancipation.’ which is actually true, in theory.
Well, if we were to look at her resume, Dr Dlamini Zuma, who is in fact a qualified medical Doctor, looks like the perfect candidate for “us” to elect. Having had studied her BSc in Zoology and Botany from 1971 at the University of Zululand and obtained her Medical Degree in 1978 from the University of Bristol in the UK, Dr Dlamini Zuma certainly made an effort to make it regardless of the impossible laws of the time. To her advantage, her expertise opened the door for her to become the first black female Minister of Health in the years 1994 to 1999. After which she served for two terms as Minister of Foreign Affairs between the years 1999 and 2009. And off to the Department of Home Affairs she went from 2009 until 2012 when she was appointed as the first female Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC). She served in the AUC until March 2017. Thereafter, she returned to South African politics to run for Presidency in the ANC. Impressive resume indeed! The irony of this article, however, is not to help the Honourable Dr with her Presidential campaign, but rather to express my opinion on why she is not the “female President” that this country needs.
While Dr Dlamini Zuma has had ample opportunities and positions to ensure that women are protected and, as she says a female President will see to it that women are, emancipated. It is said that charity begins at home, so it was supposed to be during her various terms in parliament that she proved herself capable of becoming the President of the country. As she puts it, ‘If we…’ (women) ‘… can run our homes, we can run the country.’ This comparison may be due to the fact that she has been spending a lot of time in church as it testifies to the scripture that reads, “He that is faithful with little shall be trusted with much.” However, it is one thing to speak, or tweet, it and a totally different story to live it! Let me give you two examples to make this easier to digest.
- Having served as the first Minister of Health in post-Apartheid South Africa, Dr Dlamini Zuma has to have had a weighty voice in the Thabo Mbeki ARVs saga. Since women are the most affected by the virus and subsequent disease, it would have definitely been in their best interest that the Honourable Dr speak up to save the lives of the infected and protect that of the affected. While she was no longer in the Health office, she was still close enough to advice and counsel it. This, she failed to do. Whether or not she tried is what we will never know! Perhaps she was afraid of losing her position because of defying the President’s orders… This too, we will never know!
- As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Dlamini Zuma had access to the legislature that governs foreign trade among other ‘foreign affairs’. This meaning that she would know about most, if not all, major alliances between South Africa and, at least, other African countries. The contacts she made during those two terms must have been very helpful during her term in the AUC. Yet, it was barely two years after she was elected as chairperson that 276 Nigerian girls were abducted. This would have been a great opportunity for our Honourable Doctor to assist in emancipating women, yet she failed once more. And if she did try, then this too we will never know. To top it all off, these girls we abducted by an armed terrorist group known as Boko Haram – whose firearms are allegedly supplied by a South African business. This is only but one of many national disasters that, much like the Zuma household, she could not handle.
Dr Dlamini Zuma is an inspiration to women; she has achieved so much within her lifetime. However, I am not convinced that leading well is one of those achievements. And although it would be good or BBBEE purposes, it would be rather irresponsible to consider her gender and race as enough reason to elect her. While South Africa desperately needs to transform, deploying people into positions that they are not suitable for is the reason why we are in a recession. Women can lead; we are ready for a female president. We have always been. But the Honourable Doctor Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is not the female president we need. The question that we are now left with is who that first female president is… perhaps what South Africa needs is a young person who looks out for the best interest of the country and has not been corrupted by a long political history!
Photo credit: www.nkosazana.com