Malibongwe – Bi-Annual Journal for the ANC Women in Parliament: Volume 2 – August 2008



The liberation of women is the responsibility of us all

This edition of Malibongwe comes out at a time when the Women’s League of the African National Congress has just concluded its National Conference in Mangaung, Bloemfontein in the Free State province.

The robust discussions of Conference and the decisions, demonstrate that the women in the ANC remain critically aware of the tasks Comrade President O R Tambo referred to when he said “women have a duty to liberate us men from the antique concepts and attitudes about the place and role of women in society and in the development and direction of our revolutionary struggle.” The resolutions taken at the Conference represent our resolute and consistent effort to cement the place of women in our movement, government and society. We salute the Women’s League on its successful National Conference.

Furthermore, we remain cognizant that the best way to pay our tribute to these heroines is to defend the gains that have been made in the struggle for women’s emancipation and also in action, to work to change the lives of those who have yet to taste freedom in real terms, the majority of whom are black, poor, rural and working class women.

The 52nd Anniversary celebrations of the Women’s March to the Union Buildings provides us with the opportunity to reflect on the advances that have been made over the last fourteen years and, in particular, to reflect on the profound contribution that women have made to the struggle for national liberation, towards a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

In his opening address to the Conference of the ANC Women’s League last month, the President of the ANC said, “Women’s Day reminds us of the centrality of women in our struggle and tells us of their heroism. That day firmly put the women’s struggle at the centre of the people’s struggle against apartheid and oppression.

We remember the contribution of 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings to present their petition against the extension of pass laws to women and they stood in silence in the forecourt of the Union Buildings before they sang in unison: “Strydom Wathint’ Abafazi! Wathint’ Imbokodo! Uzokufa!.” The August 9 anniversary celebrations will also be a moment for us to reflect on the sobering reality that South Africa remains a patriarchal society, in which the oppression of women takes various and numerous forms, ranging from the crude to the seemingly innocuous.

The prevalence of violence against women is just one among many harsh reminders of the challenges that still lie ahead. As part of the manifestation of this challenge, our country, including the ANC,Parliament and civil society at large, have recently had to raise our collective voice to condemn the actions of some who abused a young woman simply for wearing a mini skirt.

Women continue to be disproportionately affected by poverty, unemployment, disease and underdevelopment. Unequal relations between men and women still exist in almost every area of personal, social, political and economic life.

Throughout our history women in South Africa have emerged as primary catalysts for change, having been found at the forward trenches of the struggles against apartheid colonialism.

With all the disabilities and devastating effects of apartheid and patriarchy on their status, women have never lost sight of the fact that meaningful change for them could not come through reform but only through the total destruction of the apartheid system and its replacement by a just, non-sexist, non-racial and democratic system.

The women of our country have learned through their life experience that patriarchal oppression is embedded in the political, economic, social, religious, cultural, family and other relations in all communities, and that its eradication cannot be an assumed consequence of democracy.

All manifestations and consequences of patriarchy – from the feminisation of poverty, physical and psychological abuse, the undermining of self-confidence, to open and hidden forms of exclusion from positions of authority and power – need to be eliminated.

Critical in this regard is the creation of the material and cultural conditions that would allow the abilities of women to flourish and enrich the life of the nation.

That great son of Africa, Comrade Samora Machel said, “The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, the result of a humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity for the Revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition for its victory. The main objective of the Revolution is to destroy the system of exploitation and build a new society which releases the potentialities of human beings… This is the context within which women’s emancipation arises.” The 52nd National Conference of the African National Congress adopted an amendment to our Constitution that instructs and binds the organization to ensure the equitable representation of women in all decision making structures of our movement.In this regard Conference said, “In the endeavour to reach the objective of full representation of women in all decision-making structures, the ANC shall implement a programme of affirmative action, including the provision of a quota of not less than fifty percent of women in all elected structures of the ANC to enable such effective participation.” The implementation of these corrective measures will ensure that we continue to move beyond references to general political rights, and progressively execute a systematic programme to correct the historical injustice and affirm those deliberately excluded under apartheid -on the basis of race, class and gender – this as a continuing element of a thorough ongoing process of democratic social transformation.

Addressing the Conference of the Women’s Section of the ANC in Luanda, Angola in 1981, President OR Tambo said, “The mobilization of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, as comrades in struggle.” Accordingly, as we welcome the new leadership of the ANC Women’s League, we need to guard against any tendency that regards the task of building a non-sexist South Africa as being the responsibility of women alone. It is one of the central tasks of the national democratic revolution, and as such, is a task that falls on the shoulders of all South Africans.

It is a mutual responsibility for males and females. All of us must engage in common struggle to fight against patriarchy, to strive for gender equality, and to build a society that belongs equally to all who live in it, men and women, black and white.

Transformation will only have real meaning if it addresses the plight of the oppression suffered by women. The ANC must, as it has always done, continue to lead the effort aimed at eradicating the oppressive power relations in our society. And within our own ranks and society, we must and will continue to entrench gender awareness and appropriate practices.

The courage, determination and message of those women who were the representatives in the Women’s League National Conference should continue to activate and inspire us all in pursuit of the goal of a better life.

We congratulate the Women’s League and wish the new leadership success in its task of mobilizing and organizing the women of our country to deepen the process of democratic transformation.


Women in Financial Sector and Economy
Louisa Mabe

First woman Hosi of the Valoyi community
Interview with Nwamitwa-Shilubana

Women and the Media
Nthibane Mokoto

Impact of Climate Change on Poverty and its Devastating Effect on Africa
Sibongile Manana

A selfless revolutionary
Tribute to Ncumisa Kondlo

The Revolutionary Giants for Women’s Emancipation
Frene Ginwala

Challenges still lie ahead for women
Bertha Gxowa

Maternal and New Born Child Health
Mmaphefo Matsemela

Women in Governance and the IPU
Dorothy Ramodibe

Women Parliamentarians in the NEC

Produced by ANC Media and Communications Department

Moloto Mothapo
Head of Media & Communications Unit
Moegsien Ismail
Publications officer

Special thanks to the ANC Women’s Caucus

Women in Financial Sector and Economy


Since 1994 the ANC government has consistently ensured that women play a crucial role in various aspects of life e.g. politics, economy and civil society. The impact of the democratic government policies has positioned women on a higher pedestal in critical areas of life. It must be understood that this picture is a result of the struggles of progressive women, and in particular women in the Tri-partite alliance.

Gender struggles are a rocky path that women have to travel to reach their destination, need perseverance and review of tactics from time to time. In instances where tactics do not yield the expected results, women must go back to the drawing board to review their strategies.

Although much has been done by the ANC – led government to advance the course of women struggles and for women to play a meaningful role in our democracy, we are far from reaching our destination. This article is intended to continue with a discussion post Polokwane conference on meaningful participation of women in the economy. How far are we, what additional strategies can we employ to achieve our objectives? To what extent has transformation of economy created space for women to play meaningful role in the economy? In South Africa, colonialism of a special type imposed oppression on women in 3 ways, black women as part of a working class in society (working class women), as a racial group (black people) and as women in a male dominated society (patriarchy).

This triple oppression of women in a male dominated society relegated them to the periphery of society in all aspects of life,particularly in the economy. Therefore, the South African liberation struggle had at its centre, the gender struggle with three interrelated contradictions, namely gender, class and race.

Within this societal arrangement, women had no right to any form of ownership or higher stature in society. There were few exceptions in certain communities which would as part of their culture approach this matter in a different way. It is through the quota system adopted by the ANC towards 1994 elections that this situation could be confronted and addressed.

It is through the first group of ANC MPs elected to the first Democratic Parliament that they put active participation of women in various sectors of the society as a priority to be part of decision making processes.

Currently it appears that people ignore the fact that it is through the effort of the ANC Women’s League and Women in the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) that South Africa has made strides in advancing the gender struggles. It is through this collective effort that women can now take an active part in the economy. Indeed women in South Africa participate in the economy, but the challenge is that the majority of women are still not integrated into the economy. It is these poor women, especially those from rural areas and informal settlements or townships that have not been taken on board.

The Strategy and Tactics states that: “precisely because patriarchal oppression was embedded in the economic, social, religious, cultural, family and other relations in all communities, its eradication cannot be an assumed consequence of democracy”.

Not withstanding what has just been stated, the Strategy and Tactics elaborates that “all manifestations and consequences of patriarchy, from the feminization of poverty, physical and psychological abuse, undermining of confidence, to open and hidden forms of exclusion from positions of authority and power, need to be eliminated.” The Strategy and Tactics emphasises the reality that we are still far from broadening the number of women who can play a meaningful role in the economy. You empower the woman; you empower the nation because an economically active woman can easily embrace a number of other people to exit the life of poverty. As women, we must not abandon our solidarity networks to bring other women on board as we climb up the economic ladder.

Women in the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) were selfless as they fought for the space to be created in the economy for women to take an active part, not only as consumers but also as producers. This solidarity must be strengthened to avoid creating a huge income gap between the rich and the poor women in anticipation of unintended negative consequences.

Although our economy has been transformed, the majority of women, in particular African women, are still left behind.

Financial institutions have not fully transformed to create a fertile ground for African women to access finance in order to increase their participation in the economy.

It cannot be overemphasized that the ANC in Strategy and Tactics states that we must “build and strengthen development finance and non-financial institutions, which are accessible to the people, are able to effectively channel financial and institutional resources towards a variety of economic transformation objectives.


The ANC-led government has put into effect a lot of changes that impacted positively on the lives of women. Women now have freedom to participate actively in the economy as workers, owners of production and as consumers with economic means.

A lot still lies ahead of us as women in the society (alongside with men), government and private sector to improve the socio-economic lives of women through their active participation.

South Africa has skills that can be utilised at various levels of the economy e.g. women with low skills can be productive in agriculture through government or private sector support.

There are many challenges that face black women, in particular African women in the economy and finance sector. Since 1994 white women have emerged as the main beneficiaries of government efforts to uplift women from economic oppression.

Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) companies increased the number of female executive managers but appointed more men than women in executive management positions.

(Nedbank report on Women in Corporate Leadership Census 2006).

There is a view that there is still a culture of prioritising men for leadership positions. Unless criteria and selection processes are monitored, it will be difficult to maintain the momentum of improvement of women representation in positions of power.

Women are seen as the second best option to men, irrespective of how good they are and what value they can bring to the organisation. Therefore, the struggle is far from victory.

Another challenge that women face is that women who have made it in the economy are reluctant to pull along others out of poverty and act as mentors. As one uplifts other women when one advances in the economic ladder, these women will act as shock-absorbers during trying times. Women still find it difficult to access finance because of gender stereotypes. Finance institutions need to be transformed as they can undermine the efforts of government’s transformation agenda.

In some instances women with high potential to progress in the economy are drawn backwards due to lack of financial support.

Although finance houses may have policies on gender transformation, they must still be assessed and monitored because gender marginalisation may not be easily identifiable. The necessary mechanisms of redress need bold and strong leaders to influence implementation of decisions of a transformation agenda.

Tokenism is another challenge that women face.

Men may deliberately choose weak women whose role would be to divert the transformation agenda from gender objectives but opt for permanent occupation of positions to the detriment of the majority of women. We therefore need more mentors across all strata of the economy. Some institutions try to uplift women participation in the economy and to overcome the stereotypic approaches of those in decision making positions. For example, does the company deliberately target women for leadership positions or prioritise them in procurement of services in their companies? But some companies provide training to women in procurement, leadership and financial management to cite a few, in order for women to make meaningful contribution in their companies. This arrangement may be of much benefit to black and (African) women whose figures are dismal in comparison with white women. It is critical that empowerment of women should not necessarily target white women to further widen the income gap between white and black women.

The employment equity report indicates that the main beneficiaries of transformation of the economy are white women.

[Why do African women continue to be marginalised? Is this reflective of a society that is not ready and lacks confidence in their abilities? Gender and racial discrimination can take various shapes in a society that is unwilling to transform in various ways. Commission for Employment Equity (2006) indicates that African females represent 2, 9%, coloureds 2%, Indians 1, 7% and white females 14, 7% of all employees at the top management level.

The question that confronts us as a society is, what should be done to reverse this situation because African women are the majority at lower levels of the economy whereas whites (white women in particular) dominate participation and decision making levels (female comparison and not gender comparison because our economy is controlled by white men). African women are the majority of the South Africa population but are the least shareholders in our economy The public sector performs much better than the private sector on gender representation figures. It is important in a developmental state to focus on gender transformation in the economy in both government and the private sector. Transformation goes beyond representation in boardrooms. “While women make up 52% of the adult population, they constitute only 16, 8% of all executive managers and only 11, 5% of all directors in the country”, p.10.

The report states that “the perception that only a few powerful women hold a majority of all directorships held by women in South Africa is not based on fact”. This statement needs more scrutiny. It furthermore states some interesting points that need some reflection by both men and women that: Women as decision makers contribute significantly to the well being of the country and its people. They are responsible both legally and morally for the balanced direction and proper reward of all participants in our enterprises.

Women are a potential source of competitive advantage. They are a source of independent board candidates as required by corporate governance. The presence of women on boards is a powerful indicator of a company’s intentions and environment.

Before I close this section I must indicate that women have made great strides in various aspects of life since 1994, but must broaden the space in the economy to include a large number of women. Our political victory as women must translate into economic emancipation for the stability of our country. If you give a woman a plate of food, she will share it with her family.

Consequently, let us teach more women how to fish so that we can have more economically sustainable families and communities.

I will reflect more on challenges related to accessing finance in the next publication.


Once I started putting my pen on paper, I then realised how broad the debate on participation by women in the economy is. The core of economic empowerment of women is economic literacy or education and access to finance. This empowerment will be incomplete without women having a clear understanding of the importance of their participation in the economy and acquiring sound financial literacy to keep their projects or companies sustainable. Therefore, economic and financial literacy are the basis of uplifting women out of poverty.

The market cannot regulate itself to open up space for more women to participate in the economy. It is vital that government must intervene through policies that can increase this participation over the medium to long term. Without proper monitoring mechanisms of implementation of the said policies, the battle is far from being won. It may continue to be the survival of the fittest (few) women. The developmental state must consciously put more effort to uplift the lives of the majority as a priority to create a politically and economically stable society without frequent instabilities.

Access to finance remains a major challenge to advance the empowerment of women in an economic arena. Financial institutions in our country have not entirely transformed to accept that women are a comparative advantage in the economy. Institutions or structures e.g. Gender Commission that monitor implementation of gender policies with regard to directorship on boards, “the existing directors must limit the number of boards they sit on to open up space for more women to take an active part.” Participation in a few boards allows directors time and space to add value to the work of the boards they serve in. Some of the proposals of the document on Engendering ASGISA are as follows: Introduce a national procurement training course for women, identify government procurement areas that can be reserved for women (this should not promote few women in all sectors at the expense of the majority).

The majority of South African black women do not have high academic skills. They have strengths and skills which need to be nurtured in African languages and be turned into a comparative advantage to accelerate Shared growth in the economy. They need various forms of support to nurture their entrepreneurship.

There are various ways in which both the public and the private sector can assist this sector of the society to contribute more and to narrow the high income gap of South Africa. An Irish coffee arrangement is not the solution to drastically reduce unemployment and poverty in our country.

These are several initiatives undertaken by both government and the private sector with clear recommendations that will be elaborated on in the next issue. The focus of this input is to create a space for dialogue on increasing the number of women who are actively involved in the economy, not only as workers but also as owners of production. Furthermore women in rural areas must be taken on board in larger numbers to have a positive impact on poverty reduction in those areas of our country. White women as the main beneficiaries of previously disadvantaged individual’s policies must immediately graduate from this group.

My task of stimulating a dialogue gets complicated as I write this input because a new group of already empowered people (Chinese) are to be part of BBBEE! There is a need to review some of these policies. This discussion space compels me to drop my pen in exclusion of divergent views that prevail in the society.


  • The department of Trade and Industry: Draft Strategic Framework on Gender and Women’s Economic Empowerment, 2006.
  • The dti: Proposed strategy on Engendering the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative in South Africa (ASGISA), 2006
  • Commission for Employment Equity report 2006-2007
  • Isivande Women’s Fund
  • SA Women in Corporate Leadership Census 2006: Business Women Association
  • S. Friedman and I. Chipkin: A poor voice? Politics of inequality in SA 2001 Johannesburg.
  • ANC Strategy and Tactics 2007
  • ANC 52nd National Conference resolutions

First woman Hosi of the Valoyi community

Interview With Tinyiko Nwamitwa-Shilubana

In June the Constitutional Court upheld an appeal by Tinyiko Lwandhlamuni Philla Nwamitwa-Shilubana against the High Court ruling that disqualified her to become a leader of the Valoyi traditional community in Limpopo, as customary laws did not permit a woman to assume a position of Hosi (Chief). The Constitutional Court ruling is the culmination of years of dispute between Nwamitwa-Shilubana and her uncle Richard Nwamitwa and later, her cousin Sidwell Nwamitwa, on who should be the rightful heir for the position of Hosi, following the death of Nwamitwa-Shilubana’s father, Hosi Fofoza.

The outcome of the Constitutional Court paves way for Nwamitwa-Shilubana to be finally installed as the first woman Hosi of the Valoyi community. The position will be an addition to the many responsibilities she already has, including as ANC Member of Parliament, member of the parliamentary committees such as Public Works and Provincial & Local Government and ex-officio member of the provincial and regional executive committees.

Nwamitwa-Shilubana spoke to MALIBONGWE on the significance her court victory has on the struggle for the emancipation of women in this country.

This landmark ruling is a culmination of a decade long dispute within the Valoyi royal house that sought to reject the legacy of the apartheid era Black Administration Act that preferred men over women for the chieftainship. How did it all start?

I was already an adult when my father, Hosi Fofoza of the Valoyi tribe, died in 1968. But because customary law at the time did not permit a woman to become a Hosi, my uncle Richard Nwamitwa took over the chieftainship. According to the Black Administration Act, women were considered as minors. So even though I was already an adult and married when my father died, as a black woman and as a black person I was discriminated against.

Although it was culture they were purporting to follow, they in fact disregarded it. What they should have done then was to go to my mother’s family to marry what is called a ‘candle wife’. The ‘candle wife’ would have then gave birth to a son, who in terms of the custom, would belong to my father and would take over the throne. My uncle then would have acted as a regent. But that did not happen. My uncle decided to usurp the position.

A challenge of this nature is historic in that it is the first of its kind in the country. How did you arrive at the decision to institute such a legal challenge?

It is correct that it is a first of its kind in this country. Women who are currently serving as traditional rulers are acting as regents on behalf of their children, who are regarded as minors. My contention has always been that I am not a regent, chieftainship is my birthright.

It is for this reason that I, together with my Royal Council, decided after the adoption of the first interim constitution in 1996 to lodge a challenge. We felt that the installation of my uncle was against the correct line of succession. It was therefore a relief for the royal family and the Royal Council that finally we could use the democratic constitution of the country as a reference point for the legal challenge. The constitution is unequivocal on its protection of the rights of women. So we felt it was necessary that our custom should be developed in line with the constitution. A meeting of the Royal Council was convened in 1996 where we resolved to approach the Ralushai Commission, which was appointed by the ex Premier of Limpopo to look into the disputes around traditional leadership. However, on the insistence of my uncle (Richard) that the matter be taken back for the royal family to resolve, we decided to withdraw from the commission. In 1997, a resolution was then arrived at in the presence of the senior magistrate of the police station commissioner, members of the royal family, and members of the royal council on the basis of my uncle’s declaration that he wished to relinguish the position. He said that he understood that indeed he was not the rightful successor.

An agreement was then reached among us that, given my Parliamentary involvement, he should act as Hosi until I am ready to take over. He acted on my behalf until his death in November in 2001.

After his death, the Provincial Executive Committee wrote to me a letter of appointment that indicated that, based on the 1997 agreement on the issue of the rightful heir; I should immediately take over as the Hosi of the tribe. This paved way for arrangements towards a formal ceremony to get me installed in November 2002. The process was however halted after my uncle’s son, Sidwell Nwamitwa, filed an interdict with the Pretoria High Court to prevent the installation ceremony. That is how the court challenge started.

We went to the High Court where we first made oral evidence for the whole week and thereafter the actual court case began. I should stress my reservation at the hostile attitude displayed by the white judge who presided over the case. He kept on addressing me in a sarcastic manner as an “ANC Member”, which I formally objected as I was not appearing before the court in that capacity. I suspect that such rebuke irked him as he later ruled that in a Shangaan culture only a man, not a woman can become a Chief. He mockingly asked me since when did I discover that as a woman I have a right, to which I retorted, “since the new constitutional era “I was not going to accept the judgement without a challenge.

I lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein, which was heard by five judges. The court dismissed the High Court ruling on the basis that a court cannot appoint traditional leaders. It said that my cousin, Sidwell, must revert to the traditional processes of installing a leader so that he can be installed as Chief if he so deserves. I was not satisfied with this ruling as I felt it did little to resolve the dispute. Firstly, the case was dismissed with costs and that there was no clear direction regarding the matter. I took the matter to the Constitutional Court to appeal the decision. The Concourt ruled that there should be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race or creed. It said that the two lower courts failed to apply their mind sufficiently as they ignored the wishes of the royal family. According to the court, the royal family has a right to determine who should lead the tribe.

In essence, what this means is that Sidwell did not qualify to be a Hosi as he was not born of the royal blood and that I, the daughter of my father’s principal wife, I remain the rightful heir.

My resolve was to fight for justice and justice is what I got eventually.

Certain traditionalists argue that your ascension to the role of the first woman Hosi of the Valoyi tribe is an aberration from the established and long-held customs governing traditional leadership. What is your view?

I have noted various statements refuting the Concourt judgement, including those of Contralesa (Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa), which has indicated it did not accept the decision as it believed it diluted the culture.

Contralesa also sought to submit the paper during the court hearing in opposition of my case.

I have stressed during the radio debate with the leadership of this organisation that tradition is not rigid and therefore it should be allowed to develop. Traditional leaders such as the Zulu and Swazi kings can customarily marry as many wives as they wish, but there are other traditional leaders who opt for a single wife. Men culturally should not be wearing suits and ties as they do today; and women should not be allowed to eat eggs or seat on chairs, but they nevertheless do. This is an indication that culture is developing and evolving, it is not static. So why should the traditional leadership be the sole terrain for men? Such cannot be correct. I am however humbled by the support that I enjoy from my community. When I went home following the ruling my whole tribe had organised a celebration and many people, including the Indunas were in attendance.

As an ANC member, a rural woman and a gender activist, what does this victory mean?

Some of the formations that supported me vigorously were the National Movement of Rural Women and the Gender Commission. As a rural woman I view this as significant achievement for all facing discrimination as it will surely give women in this country and elsewhere in the world leverage in their daily challenges. There are women who have been disadvantaged and discriminated against because of their gender and I believe the ruling will encourage many of them to stand up and say “I want to defend my rights!” Already we have read about a young woman in North Westwho has indicated that she will be fighting for her right to be a Kgosi, after being overlooked for the position in favour of her younger brother.

Women, especially those living in rural areas like you, have fo r years borne the brunt of triple oppression (oppressed as workers, as women and on the basis of race). Surely this ruling gives a significant impetus to the women’s struggle?

Definitely, I have been involved in many women’s organisations and other progressive formations in my life and I know what women, especially those living in rural villages, go through in their daily lives. The country has passed a number of progressive legislations that sought to liberate women of this country. We women should not be complacent, but should stand up and defend the rights that our constitution has provided us with. I am glad that women, especially those living in rural areas are beginning to understand and defend their rights. I got an opportunity to interact lately with rural women through public forums, such as International Movement of Rural Women, which I addressed in March. It was unbelievable. After the address in which I shared my challenges as a woman in relation to this case, they just went down on their knees and said my battle was their battle as women coming from rural areas. They really found and inspiration in my situation.

It is shared challenges such as these that urged rural women to travel hundreds of kilometres from all over the country to support my case during the court challenges.

Will the impact the ruling is likely to have on the cause for the total emancipation of women among other things also see the emergence of more women Chiefs in various tribes?

I believe so. We have already read a story recently in the City Press of one young woman from North West who believes she is being discriminated against on the basis of gender after her younger brother took over the chieftaincy instead of her. There are many other women in similar situations who have indicated to me that they intend challenging such discriminatory practices. I think what we beginning to see is brave women beginning to stand up to say enough is enough.

In your view, what could be the reason for mixed reactions to this constitutional court ruling?

I believe this has a much to with the prevalence of patriarchal culture within most communities in our society. We have seen even leaders within democratic institutions, who are custodians of our constitution, publicly rejecting the ruling. The Constitutional Court was unambiguous in its decision that no court has authority to oppose the wishes of the Royal Council.

Culture itself continues to evolve and to develop. The royal family has the sole right to decide who it wants as a leader.

Our country is currently sitting with a situation whereby certain individuals who are currently serving as Chiefs are not the rightful heirs to those positions. Some of these leaders were installed by the apartheid regime’s homelands through devious means. This is the reason we have today commissions such as those of Nhlapo (established by the President of the country) and Raloshai to intervene in these disputes.

Tsonga people historically had female chiefs. My clan arrived from Mozambique in the 1800 and settled in Lydenburg in the Transvaal under the leadership of a woman, called Nxalati, incorrectly pronounced by colonialists as “Selati”. It is a result of the interference of the colonial and apartheid regimes that today people believe traditional leadership is exclusively for men. So people who dispute the ruling should note the historical background of my tribe, which is quite different to those of other tribes.

Also divided on this issue is the tribe which you will lead as the first woman Hosi, how do you plan to mend these divisions?

I have enjoyed the support of the majority of my tribe during and after the court challenge. I continue to enjoy such support, with the exception of few individuals. I hold no ill feelings against my uncle’s son and her family.

Your ascension to the position of the most senior member of the Valoyi Tribal Authority adds to many responsibilities you already have as a Member of the National Assembly and other various organisations. How do you plan to deal with all these roles?

It is a challenge but it is not impossible. I have been a teacher, a school inspector, women’s leader and I have even been involved in many rural development projects. I was able to do all that while I was a teacher and I believe that I will continue to manage. I am currently responsible for three offices including the one in Parliament. I currently have an acting Chief, but because he is old, I have to perform many of responsibilities in the village.

Women& the Media

Nthibane Rebecca Mokoto

The media in South Africa, as anywhere in the world, has continued to play its role of shaping the public thoughts, culture, and behavioural patterns. This includes the role it plays with regard to the perpetuation of gender stereotypes, despite the many national and international campaigns taking place to raise awareness and improve the status of women and promotion of women issues with society.

Generally, the increased sensitivity and a slow shift towards gender focused agendas by even democratised governments, aggravated by the abusive power of the media and its negative impacts on gender has for many years remained a challenge the world over.

The perpetuation of cultural stereotyping and gender oppression through the media has only recently been given a suitable platform and attention internationally by governments and legislatures.

The media should not be allowed to abuse its excessive power to entrench particular stereotypes in our society, particularly in a country like South Africa, where the media played a critical role as a tool in entrenchment of oppressive practices against the majority by the minority.

The African National Congress recently resolved at its recent national conference that the introduction of the Media Appeal Tribunal should be investigated in order to strengthen, complement and support the current self-regulatory institutions (Press Ombudsman/Press Council) in the public interest. The investigation around the tribunal, according to the resolutions, must take into consideration “the mandate of the Tribunal and its powers to adjudicate over matters or complaints expressed by citizens against print media, in terms of decisions and rulings made by the existing self-regulatory institutions, in the same way as it happens in the case of broadcasting through the Complaints and Compliance Committee of ICASA”.

The tribunal is necessitated by the need to balance the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the media, with the right to equality, to privacy and human dignity for all.

The 52nd national conference resolutions reaffirm that the ANC does not need a lapdog media, but it needs a media that is responsible and is able to exercise proper self regulation mindful of the democratic laws contained in our constitution.

The media mirrors reality, but it must play a developmental role to promote fairness and balance, peace, equality and unity in the society. As with any industry, the media must also be held accountable for its own actions.

The women of the world continue to suffer the effects of hundreds of years of the apartheid rule, colonialism and other repressive forms of governance that entrenched gender inequality and oppression of women. The struggle to eliminate this legacy in all its manifestations is hampered by the negative role played by the media in its daily coverage of women’s issues.

As the fourth estate, the media has a moral responsibility towards the marginalised sections of our society. It should advance the interest of the people and defend them where the need arises. However, the media over the world has elected to dance to the wrong tune, which has resulted in the gradual erosion and abdication of the very basic functions of the media, i.e., to educate, inform, foster debate and entertain the society.

The media has exploited its ability to influence the set agenda to, directly or indirectly, reinforce and entrench some of the worst societal stereotypes, particularly around the roles and functions of women in the society. The current situation where the media wields so much power, to an extend that we have learned to accept as inevitable that the media can “make or break you”, is an indictment on the part of the society and a unfortunate reflection of our complacence.

Television and newspapers have, in certain instances, allowed themselves to serve as breeding ground for the perpetuation of stereotypes by broadcasting or publishing content that depicts women in a negative manner. For example, it cannot be correct that the mostly roles of witches in television production, such as “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” are played by women. In a survey conducted on various newspapers in the USA during the Bill Clinton administration, his wife was referred to as a witch more than 50 times. Most of the writers of the articles surveyed were found to be men, which also throws the spotlight on a number of things, i.e., the gender balance within the newsrooms and difficulty by many men to appreciate women holding high position.

Insofar as the role of women in the newsrooms is concerned, it is unacceptable that certain responsibilities should be the inherent reserve of dominance by only women. In my view, columns such as ‘Agony Aunt’, ‘Cooks Corner’ and ‘Shwashi’ (gossip column) undermine women’s journalistic ability and growth.

Although ours is not a feminist society, we nevertheless should agree with the feminists’ dictum during the 1960s that “it matters who makes it. This is because when it comes to the mass media, it is men who continue to who make it.

Research conducted across the world within the developed, developing and under-developed countries indicates that of all the television or radio interview programmes surveyed within a specified period found that the majority of guests who appeared were men, with only 15% being women. The interviewees included experts and professional commentators. Women continue to be marginalised by the media, regardless of their proficiency on the topic under discussion.

This can also be attributed to the concentration of men in ownership of the media industry and other industries that act as financiers of the media institutions.

This situation continues to derail women’s struggles to transform gender stereotypes and discrimination against women.

We must appreciate that women working in the media have made some great strides to empower themselves in the industry.

But to what extent does this draw us closer to our objectives is a question we should ask.

In 2001, the International Federations of Journalists reported that around the world, 38 per cent of all working journalists are women. In Canada, 28% of newspaper journalists and 37% of television journalists are women.

Besides the growth in visibility and presence of female journalists in most media houses, it has been noted that only a sizeable number of them really ascend to the echelons of leadership and management.

We will continue to call for the effective partnerships among various key stakeholders to ensure the eradication of this entrenched oppression of women. In South African front, we must appreciate efforts taken by SA National Editors Forum to further advance the position of women in the newsrooms. This will go a long way in alleviating the plight faced by women.

The media industry must strive towards complete transformation in order to reflect adequately, in content and form, the realities and challenges facing women. Women’s rights are human rights.

Impact of Climate Change on Poverty and its Devastating Effect on Africa


Climate change is a general term, used to denote warming or cooling of the global climate. In the recent years global warming has rapidly emerged as a serious problem affecting all countries. Climate change is a new threat on a global scale and poses an enormous burden upon South Africans and Africans, due to their vulnerability to the effects of climate change. The risks to the poor are the greatest.

There is a general agreement that the World is rapidly moving towards a point where rising temperatures will result in dramatic and irreversible climate related impact that will have dramatic effect on human society and on our natural environment.

The ANC’s vision has sought to embrace a transformative environmentalism based upon the idea of sustainable development, which is built upon the inter-connection of environmental, social and economic justice.

The ANC-led Government with other progressive forces ensured that environmental rights were firmly entrenched in our constitution so that both individuals and communities are able to defend their rights to a safe and sound environment.

The ANC Government has played a leading role in shaping of global debates on environmental justice through participation in Rio Earth Summit in 1992, followed by the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002.

The hottest temperatures recorded in the world history have been measured in the last decade. These have resulted in most intense storms especially in Africa, the most destructivefloods and the longest lasting droughts. These unusual and unpredictable weather events jeopardise human settlements, livelihoods and infrastructure particularly in low-lying coastal areas.

Poor communities will bear the brunt of the costs resulting from climate change in direct inverse to their contribution to the phenomenon of global warming. Scientific research predicts that in all of this the African continent is likely to be one of the most seriously affected parts of the world.

Africa continues to face the challenge of high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment, low levels of infrastructural development and high reliance on primary commodities and agriculture.

In South Africa the impact of climate change are predicted to include a reduction in rainfall and increase in droughts in the western side of the country. This will exacerbate water scarcity and have potentially devastating effects on agricultural production.

Climate change can impact on our tourism industry, and many new industries developing around the use of natural products – affecting as a result jobs, and livelihood opportunities for the poor. Consequently, loss of incomes, jobs and investment will undermine existing investments and initiatives.

The South African economy is growing rapidly. A growing economy also means that as people become more affluent private transport will increase. We are already seeing an increased number of cars on our roads, and the consequences in terms of traffic congestion and pollution are all too evident.

We therefore, need to mobilise the public, business and other players to act responsibly and save energy both as collectives and in their individual capacity, including through a mandatory national energy efficiency Programme.

Further, it is our responsibility as all South Africans to escalate our efforts to encourage efficiency in the consumption of energy, including through the integration of energy-saving technologies into our social programmes and by leading campaigns to encourage environmental and energy-conscious consumer behaviour. Again, we must encourage and increase efforts to raise public awareness about energy saving.

In order to have a sustainable development initiative, which will have a positive impact in the lives of all South African, then it will be required of us to introduce environmental studies and the appreciation of nature in the school curriculum, and, build partnerships between state institutions, business, trade unions, civil society and communities to address these challenges together.

In conclusion, as a collective we need to recognise that the evidence for climate change is indisputable and that immediate action by all governments and the public as a whole is needed. Our vision of the future includes a sustainable economy where all South Africans, including present and future generations realize their right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.

A selfless revolutionary

In April the people of South Africa bade farewell to one of the country’s outstanding leaders, Ncumisa Kondlo, who died after a short illness. Kondlo was the chairperson of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus and a committee Whip. She served our country and its people with dedication in various capacities, including as a Member of the ANC National Executive Committee, ANC National Working Committee, MEC, Parliamentary Whip, SACP Deputy Chairperson and as a member of its Central Committee.

ANC Chief Whip Nathi Mthethwa pays tribute to her.

On 5 April this year our people converged in their thousands at the Eastern Cape village of Ndwayana to pay final tributes to one of the outstanding daughters of our revolution and an esteemed Member of this august tribunal of the people, comrade Ncumisa Kondlo. On behalf of the African National Congress, to which comrade Ncumisa proudly served for many years, I would like to take this opportunity to convey our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to her family, friends and comrades. Her passing is indeed a huge loss to the broader revolutionary alliance and its continued battle for the victory of the national democratic revolution.

The many who had a privilege of being present when she was laid to rest at this humble and unassuming village that connects her umbilical cord, heard the moving orations pertaining to the extraordinary life of this dear daughter of our people.

These orations, from the leadership representing the tripartite alliance, spoke in identical terms of a true patriot, a combatant, a socialist, a fearless fighter, a caring servant and a hero of the people. Those who knew comrade Ncumisa know quite well that such descriptive accounts were no mere proverbial expressions that are habitually accorded the departed, but were a true and befitting account of a remarkable and inspiring life.

Such was said because hers was a heroic life. It was thus symbolic, not an accident of history, that comrade Ncumisa was laid to rest during the month that the ANC has declared the Heroes’ Month, in which we commemorate the lives of some of the heroes of the struggle. Comrade Ncumisa’s funeral took place in the month in which 15 years ago, a martyr and stalwart of our protracted struggle for liberation, Chris Thembisile Hani, was assassinated amid intensive national negotiations towards a peaceful and democratic settlement. She was laid to rest in the very same month in which in 1979 Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu was executed by the ruthless apartheid regime, as part of a concerted and brutal clampdown on those who challenged the oppressive order.

These heroes of our struggle, whose deaths we commemorated during the month of April paid supreme sacrifices for the freedom we enjoy today. It is thus a fitting tribute that the natural circumstances dictated that comrade Ncumisa’s final journey from the land of the living should take place in this particular month.

Perhaps we should, as we have done with these other heroes of the history of our revolution whose lives we celebrated during that particular month, pause and ponder on who comrade Ncumisa was and what she stood for. This, as the President of the ANC comrade Jacob Zuma said during her solemn funeral, will enable us as a nation “to pay tribute to her by learning from her life and rediscover and remain true to the values that guided her life”.

Comrade Ncumisa was born into the struggle in which she spared neither strength nor courage in her contribution to the attainment of the democratic majority rule. Like Solomon ‘Kalushi’ Mahlangu, Comrade Ncumisa belonged to a generation of the defiant and brave young activists who spurred the cause for the national liberation through the country’s radical youth movement. She cut her teeth in student politics and played a leading role in South African Youth Congress (SAYCO) in the 1980s as well as in the formation of the ANC Youth League in the Eastern Cape. She was uncompromising in her abhorrence for racism and inequality, and dearly cherished the ideals for freedom and equality for all South Africans.

Comrade Ncumisa was a unifier and a humble servant of the people. She personified the characteristics of the kind of a leader and cadre our movement and country needs: a cadre that is ready to serve the people in whatever capacity, that is sympathetic to the poor and dedicated to the improvement of the quality of life of all the people. The people of this country shall always remember her for the passionate commitment in which she served them as a member of this august parliament and as a provincial minister in the Eastern Cape. She despised the philosophy of self-enrichment, but remained steadfast in our revolutionary mission of eradicating inequality, poverty and joblessness and the construction of a prosperous and truly democratic nation.

Death, which the 18th century poet John Donne curses as not mighty and dreadful in his sonnet, “Death Be Not Proud”, has indeed robbed us of a gender activist, a worker and a true communist.

As a youth, comrade Ncumisa served on the executive of the Border Youth Congress and represented the region in the Women’s Desk. She was among thosewho led the re-establishment of the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa. Her activism in the gender struggle was acknowledged internationally when the Swedish Socialist Party awarded her an international award for her role as one of the champions of the country’s young women’s struggle.

Like Thembisile ‘Chris’ Hani, comrade Ncumisa was a communist to the end who simultaneously served both the Party and the ANC with diligence. She was always guided by her Marxist-Leninist ideological outlook in her defense of the Congress Movement. Long-time friend and close comrade, SACP Treasurer Phumulo Masualle, fondly remembers her: “She will always insist on communists guarding jealously the working class bias of the movement and rejected any attempt on the part of the working class turning its back on the ANC”.

Those who had the privilege of working with her testified of her quiet and reserved personality, behind which lay an astute visionary with an acute political acumen. Such is a character that enabled us to sit in this democratic institution today.

Her unmistakable leadership skill and exemplary personality made the membership of the tripartite alliance entrust her with positions of leadership, which she loyally served, among others, as a NEC Member and Caucus Chairperson of the ANC, Deputy Chairperson and member of the Politburo of the SACP and a member for the Cosatu-affiliated union. She was an embodiment of the Alliance and fully understood and lived by its traditional values.

We in the ANC had hoped to continue gleaning from the wisdom of her leadership for many more years.

In the same manner the millions of our people were propelled by the blood of comrades Chris Hani, Solomon Mahlangu and others to intensify the war against the apartheid order, we will pick up comrade Ncumisa’s spear and fight for the realization of a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

I wish to join the people of this country in bidding farewell to the humble daughter of our people. She will indeed be sorely missed.

The revolutionary giants for women’s emancipation

Dr Frene Ginwala

This year the African National Congress commemorates, among other key events on its calender, the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Bantu Women’s League (BWL) and the 60th anniversary of the formation of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL). The BWL asserted the central role of women in the struggle for liberation and served as a seminal moment in the course of struggle for women’s emancipation; while the ANCWL organised to advance the interest of women within the ANC and society.

In this article, Dr. FRENE GINWALA gives an outline of some of the political events within the context of the liberation struggle that led to the formation of the two organisations.

The SANNC leadership had encouraged the formation in 1918 of the Bantu Women’s League (Wells, 1982) to organise women against proposals to extend passes to women throughout the Union. The Constitution adopted the following year, provided that Auxiliary Membership of the SANNC “should be open to all Women of the aboriginal races of Africa over the age of 18 years, who shall be members of the Bantu Women’s National League of South Africa… auxiliary members under the auspices of the League whenever required shall provide suitable shelter and entertainment for member or delegates to meetings of the Association.” (Constitution of the SANNC, 1918) There were two significant changes from the 1912 draft. The original reference to “wives of “ members… and other distinguished African ladies” was altered to “women”, and there was an acknowledgement that women were entitled to organise politically.

The Bantu Women’s League pursued an independent course, and did not affiliate to the SANNC9. Nor did it function as expected. In Charlotte Maxeke it had a leader of national standing among the African people and one who was capable of dealing directly with legislators and officials. Women no longer had need of interpreters or spokesmen, but could articulate their demands and make their own representations. At a National level, the League made representations to authorities through delegations meeting with the Prime Minister and other officials, appearing before Commissions and Inquiries (Walshe, 1970: South African Outlook, 1921).

At the grassroots, women’s militancy was being encouraged by Charlotte’s appearance and statements on the platforms of the Industrial Commercial Workers Union (ICU)10 and the radically orientated Transvaal ANC of the post war period. The League formed branches across the country, some of the most active being in the Transvaal and OFS. These took up local issues and participated in the campaign initiated by political organisations and trade unions at local and national level.

Within days of the inaugural conference of the ICU, the Bantu Women’s League of Pietersburg drew up a list of grievances of women farm workers. Examples were cited of farmers making women do exceedingly heavy physical labour, even when they were in advanced stages of pregnancy and detailed the case of a farmer who forced women workers to stand in a pool of cold water for half a day as punishment for complaining about conditions. The workers also objected to being forced to work until midnight without time off for meals.

The League’s representations were sent to Pretoria, where no action was taken, as the complaints were considered to be “exaggerated” (Kimble & Unterhalter, 1982).

Little is known about the other leaders or members of the Bantu Women’s League, except some names. Clearly Charlotte Maxeke was dominant. To a greater extent than the SANNC, the Bantu Women’s League suffered from organisational weakness: the bulk of women were rural, poor, non-literate and inexperienced in western style politics and organisation. There was little financial support – money was raised from teas etc – quite literally in pennies and occasional shillings. There were not full time officials, and leaders had to find the time from their employment or professions, and frequently also had to fund their planned activities themselves.

After the death of her husband in 1928, Charlotte Maxeke devoted more time to her career. She established an Employment Bureau and was later employed as a probation officer by the Johannesburg Municipality. She devoted more attention to welfare work and less to politics. The League remained in existence for some years, though mainly in the person of Charlotte Maxeke.

She participated in the All African Convention, where the decision was taken to establish a new women’s organisation which became known as the National Council of African Women, with Charlotte Maxeke as its President.

The ANC Women’s Section

It has not yet been possible to ascertain the date and manner of formation of the ANC Women’s Section, nor to locate its constitution.

It is likely that as the Bantu Women’s League asserted its independence, the Women’s Auxiliary was revived as a subordinate body within Congress and renamed the Women’s Section.

By the 1920’s the Women’s Section had branches in a number of centers and announcements of the officers of the Congress, often included the names of the Chairwomen of the ‘Women’s Auxiliary’ or ‘Women’s Section’.

The Annual Conference also appointed a Chief Organiser for the Women’s Section.

The Women’s Section was represented on the Executive through the Provincial President of their Sections (National Gazette, 1927) and branches were supposed to be self-financing and self-sufficient. Members paid an annual subscription of 3 shillings on which branches could draw for their expenses.

After the Transvaal ANC had incurred a debt of 110 pounds in 1926 to fight the imposition of passes on women through the courts, a circular letter was sent urging Women’s Section branches to send whatever monies they had in their possession to pay off “this debt incurred on their behalf”. (Circular letter to Provinces and branches, own emphasis) The Women’s Section and the Bantu Women’s League operated as separate organisations, but had an overlap of members and leader. Charlotte Maxeke was considered to be an ANC leader, taking full part in proceedings and appearing on platforms at public meetings. The African Yearly Register published in 1930 by the Secretary General of the ANC, Mweli Skota, lists a number of women who were founder members or officers of the ANC Women’s Section, and a number who were also active in the Women’s League. Mrs. Nuku of Beaconsfield Kimberley is described as a social worker and a leading member of the church temperance movement who had been “Chairman of the local branch of the Women’s League and Women’s Section.” (Skota, 1930: 230). Two sisters, Mrs. M. Kondile and Mrs. M.

Bobojane were foundation members of the “Women’s Section of the African National Congress” (Skota, 1930: 166 & 133).

The elder, Mrs Kondile, who at one time was in charge of a grocery store and a news agency, is described also as a “prominent member of the Women’s League” and one of the best women’s organisers in the Transvaal. Charlotte Maxeke who assisted in preparing the biographical sketches for the volume is described as “founder and President of the Bantu Women’s League” (Skota, 1930:195) In the late 1930’s in the context of the attempts to revitalise and reorganise the ANC, the role and function of the Women’s Section was also debated.

Women in the ANC

As we have seen women were active in the provincial congresses before the formation of the SANNC, and continued to be involved at branch level particularly in the Free State and the western Cape. Women participated in the Annual Conference which was the highest decision making organ. The majority were elected as part of the provincial Congress delegates.

Others represented affiliate women’s groups such as Daughters of Africa and Zenzele.

They spoke on a range of issues, rarely on matters affecting women exclusively. On the first day of the 1937 Session, celebrating the 25th Jubilee, the lone woman speaker criticised the Congress for its extensive attention to festivities when it had no money for organisation (Bunche, 1937)12. Later in the same session a Mrs. Peters moved a resolution urging that The Wages and Conciliation Act be amended to make all wage determinations apply to African workers in all industries. The following year, Mrs. Benjamin leading the debate on National Policy of Congress appealed for support for the low paid African workers in the Bloemfontein water works who were earning only 1/9d per day.

Their contributions particularly in these years, made constant reference to the need to reorganise and strengthen the ANC.

The Conference Minutes of 1938, report the intervention of a delegate of the Cape African Congress, Mrs. LP Nikiwe of Port Elizabeth, who advanced “several interesting arguments to prove that the African women were interested in Politics.” Amongst their recommendations was: “To acquaint Congress with the Masses.”

Women also served on important Conference Committees such as Resolutions and Finance and voted on all resolutions as well as for the Officers. The extent to which women’s de factor participation in the ANC was considered unremarkable is illustrated in the course of disputes over the re-election of Pixley ka Seme as President in 1933. Three years earlier he had ousted the radical James Gumede, who, on his return from the Soviet Union, had proposed radicalising the ANC by organising mass demonstrations and forming an alliance with the Communist Party. In the interim the ANC had become moribund. In 1993 when Seme was due to stand for re-elections, he packed the Annual Conference. Thirty seven of the 69 delegates were from Bloemfontein, the majority of them women. Of the 27 delegates who voted to re-elect Seme, 22 were women. The Speaker declared the proceedings unconstitutional, but Seme continued in office. Seme was attacked and accused of not getting the necessary votes from all provinces, but non of his critics challenged the right of women to vote and determine the leadership of the organisation. (Cape Times 22 April 1930. Umteteli wa Bantu 29 April 1933).

As the ANC went into decline, so did the Women’s Section. But many of the women who were prominent in ANC conferences, appeared in the meetings of the All African Convention (AAC) in 1935-38: Charlotte Maxeka, Minnie Bhola, Mrs. Mahabane.

The National Council of African Women and the revival of the ANC Women’s SectionOver 30 women attended the AAC in 1935. Among the women’s organisation in the participant were the Pimville Women’s League and the Africa Women Self-Improvement Society.

The women delegates met separately during the Convention and resolved:

“that the time has come for the establishment of an African Council of women on similar lines to those of the National Councils of other races in order that we may be able to do our share in the advancement of our race.” Their decision was later endorsed by the AAC. In the following years, several branches were set up and a national organisation launched in 1937, called the National Council of African Women (NCAW).

The NCAW did not regard itself as primarily a political organisation, but rather one involved in “non-European welfare”. Most of its members were teachers or nurses. It took up issues of teachers salaries, education, provision of creches, widows rights of inheritance, delinquent children, etc. The NCAW immediately came under the influence of white liberals such as Mrs.

Rheinhald-Jones, and many African women attacked it as being run by white women (Walker 1982)13.

The AAC had expected the new organisation to be responsible to it. In 1936 the Convention resolved “that women be authorised to form branches of the NCAW in terms of the decision of the last Conference”. (AAC, 1936, own emphasis). However, the NCAW did not affiliate to the AAC, though some of its branches did. The reluctance to affiliate arose from the NCAW desire to speak for itself, and not subordinate itself to the AAC. The AAC had not approved of the women making direct representations to the authorities.

Divisions within the AAC almost led to Mina Soga losing her seat on the Council (AAC, 1940)14. Mina Soga was a founding member of the NCAW and its first Secretary General and Organiser.

The ANC welcomed the formation of the NCAW, but eventually found itself with the same difficulties as the AAC. The NCAW send greetings to ANC Conferences and promised to work together, but steadfastly retained its independence. In May 1939, the ANC invited the NCAW to participate in the Joint Deputation to the Minister and Secretary for Native Affairs.

ANC President General Mahabane voiced his concern, as not only had the NCAW not come to Cape Town and joined the delegation, but he had learnt that Charlotte Maxeka had been there earlier and seen the Minister independently (Cape Times, 16 May 1939).

When the NCAW was formed there was some uncertainty about the continuation of the Women’s Section. The appointment of the Chief Organiser of the Women’s Section in 1937, was deferred until the final constitution of the new organisation was known. The following year brought a significantly larger number of women15 to the ANC conference and Mrs. Nikiwe spoke on “The Organisation of African women as a section of Congress”. A suggestion that the Women’s Section affiliate to the NCAW was not taken up.

Even before the formation of the NCAW a debate begun among women, about the nature of a new women’s organisation. Some like Charlotte Maxeka had been calling for an organisation dealing with the growing welfare needs of the African people in the 1930’s. Others felt that priority should be given to an organisation with a strong political orientation. Josie Mpama was the most articulate spokesperson for this view. Following the Urban Areas Act of 1937, which further restricted the mobility of African women, she urged:

“We women can no longer remain in the background or concern ourselves only with domestic and sports affairs. The time has arrived for women to enter the political field and stand shoulder to shoulder with their men in the struggle.” (Umsebenzi, 26 June 1937) She also attacked the NCAW for its ineffectiveness and called for an effective organisation that would bring women into the general political struggle.

In 1941, the ANC resolved to revive the Women’s Section, and that women “be accorded the same status as men in the classification for membership.” The resolution recommended further:

“That the following means be made to attract the women (a) to make the programme of the Congress as attractive as possible to women, (b) a careful choice of leadership.” (ANC, 1941) The revival of the Women’s Section was part of the process of reorganisation of the ANC. A draft document on organisational structure dated 1942 indicates that the Women’s Section was seen operating “under the supervision and direction” of the parent body (ANC Draft Constitution).

In 1943, the ANC resolved that a Women’s League be formed.

The debate on the status of the League continued with the women calling for autonomy and the men wanting greater control. In 1945, a resolution from the Executive read: “that the women of this Congress be allowed to organise autonomous branches wherever they desire within the ANC.” led to protests from some men, and statements of appreciation from women delegates. (ANC, 1945)

But the following year, the ANC Bulletin (194)warned that the granting of permission to women to set up the League “does not mean parallelism, but co-operation and mutual assistance in the building up of membership and funds for both sections.” When women were accepted as full and equal members of the ANC, there was a consensus that women’s mobilisation was necessary to strengthen the organisation. While recognising some of the practical problems faced by women in participating fully, there appears to have been limited understanding of the inherent problems of at the same time providing for a separate women’s organisation.

In 1945, a draft constitution explained the need for a women’s section:

“In the Congress women members shall enjoy the same status as men, and shall be entitled to elect and be elected to any position including the highest office. Notwithstanding this fact, however, and without in any way diminishing the rights of women members, the Congress may, recognising the special disabilities and differences to which African women are subjected and because of the peculiar problems facing them, and in order to arouse their interest and facilitate their organisation, create a Women’s Section within its machinery, to be known as the ANC Women’s Section.” Further on the same document contains this telling sentence “…the relations between the Women’s Section and the men’s section shall be on the basis of co-operation and…” In the 1943, the constitutional hurdle had been overcome, but there was, and is today, a long way to go towards realizing that: “…

the socialist revolution needs women’s creative participation at least as much This is an extract of the article published in Umrabulo 13, 2001, titled Women and the African National Congress 1912-1943.


  • All African Convention Minutes, 1936-1940
  • African National Congress. Minutes of the Annual Conferences. 1941 & 1945.
  • African National Congress Draft Constitution 1942
  • The ANC Bulletin. Our Task for 1946.
  • African People’s Organisation 6. April 1912
  • Bradford, H. 1987. A Taste of Freedom, Yale.
  • Bunche, R. 1937. Unpublished Diary of visit to South Africa in 1937.
  • Hassim S, Metelerkamp J and Todes A. 1967. “A Bit on the Side? Gender Struggle in the Politics of Transformation in South Africa”, in Transformation, 5 pp 3-22
  • Karis T & Carter G 1972. From Protest to challenge. Documents of African politics in South Africa. 1882-1964. Vol. 1, Stanlord, Calif: Hoover Institution Press.
  • Kimble J & E. Unterhalter 1982. “We opened the road for you, you must go forward”ANC Women’s Struggles 1912-1982, in Feminist Review, 12.
  • National Gazette – A record of Congress activities, resolutions and decisions. 1(2), September 1927. Johannesburg
  • South African Outlook. January 1921
  • Odendaal, A 1984. Vukani Bantu! The beginnings of black protest politics in South Africa to 1912. Cape Town: David Phillips.
  • Skota, M 1930. The African Yearly Register, African National Congress.
  • Walker, C 1982. Women and Resistance in South Africa. London: Onyx.
  • Walshe, P 1970. The rise of African nationalism in South Africa. The African National Congress 1912-1952. London:Hurst.
  • Wells, J 1982. “The history of black women’s struggles against pass laws in South Africa 1900-1960. Ph. D. Columbia University.

The ANC Women’s League this year commemorates the 60th anniversary of its formation

Mama Bertha Nonkumbi Gxowa

To mark this important milestone, Mama Bertha Gxowa, one of the country’s veteran women’s rights activist and a member of the ANCWL for many years, shares her life as an activist in this edition.

Bertha Gxowa was born on the 28th of November 1934, in Germiston Location where she spent her early childhood. She went to school at the Thokoza Primary School and then the Public Secondary School, both in the location. Her father was a garment worker who had become the first black person to work on the cutting floor, work that was previously reserved for white labourers only. Her experiences in the Germiston location triggered her interest in opposition politics because permits were required to live and to move in and out of the location. As a result, Bertha volunteered to be in one of the first groups of Defiance campaigners who went into Krugersdorp without permits. She was arrested for this and she spent ten days in prison after refusing to pay a fine.

Mama Gxowa started her working life, working as an office assistant for the South African Clothing Workers’ Union, where she collected subscriptions from factories and participated during wage negotiations. As a result, the union sent her to a commercial college where she studied bookkeeping and shorthand.

Signing up to join the ANC youth league during the anti-Bantu education campaign strengthened her involvement in politics, but her involvement was quickly shifted to focus on women’s issues. She became a founder member of the Federation of South African Women, which organized the historic women’s march against pass laws in 1956. Bertha traveled the entire country with Helen Joseph, collecting petitions that were to be delivered to the union Buildings during the march, 20 000 petitions were collected.

Between 1956 and 1958, Mama Gxowa was a defendant in the Treason Trial and in 1960 she was banned under the Suppression of Communism Act, a status she remained in for eleven years. Once her banning order was lifted, she joined the South African National Tuberculosis Association doing community work. She also went back to her church, the African Methodist Church which as she believed that this was the only church that stood for the cause of black people. In 1990, after the unbanning of all political parties, Mama Gxowa was called upon to re-organise the ANC’s Katlehong branch. She started a women’s social club that was invited to participate in voter education during the 1994 election campaign. She currently is a member of parliament, serving her second term and is still actively involved with the ANC Women’s League where she is National Treasurer and chairperson of the Gauteng Province.

Mama Gxowa’s other activities involve sitting as chairperson on the boards of two women’s skills development projects, Malibongwe and Kwazekwasa, both these projects are committed to the total emancipation of women. – SA History Online

Challenges still lie ahead for women

My early days as an activist

The early days of my struggle activism were charecterised, among others, by my involvement within the South African Clothing Worker’s Union as one of its workers in the 1950s. The trade union had as one of its affiliates the Union for African Male Workers, which operated within the same industry. The African male workers were not allowed to be direct members of the Union and were not recognized by the Industrial Act.

During that time I also worked closely with the Garment Worker’s Union and took part in its activities, including participating in meetings of its shop stewards. Among the recruits of the Garment Workers Union were Africans who played leading roles in the trade union and liberation movement such as Gama Makabeni, who also served as the General Secretary of the South African Clothing Worker’s Union. The Garment Worker’s Union was composed of two sections, the European section and Non-European section. The European section was led by Anna Scheepers

It was during my involvement in the Garment Workers Union that I met Lillian Ngoyi, who was serving as the union’s shop steward for Kareen ‘n Fordsburg. I later worked with Helen Joseph, at that time the General Secretary of the clothing industry medical aid and Violet Weinberg, the Secretary General of the industry’s Provident Fund. These courageous women inspired me to take an active part in the struggle for the liberation of women.

My involvement in the Defiance Campaign

It was the inspiration by these two women which strengthened my political activism and persuaded me to play an active role in the Defiance Campaign and mobilized women in a fight against the oppressive system of governance. The Defiance Campaign launched by the African National Congress and the South African Indian Congress on 26 June 1952, resulted in the arrest of more than 8,500 volunteers or ‘defiers’ for their peaceful resistance of the unjust apartheid laws. The campaign propelled many in our country into political activism.

Women and the ANCWL

The ANC Women’s League, whose 60th anniversary of its formation we are marking this year, was very instrumental in organising and teaching women about their rights and the role of women in the liberation struggle. Women are the care givers and they play the role of a father in many households. They bring up children, yet women still have the courage to organize and mobilize against all discriminations that are against human rights.

Women of this country were among those at the forefront of mobilizing against the introduction of Bantu Education, which was designed to destroy the African child. They fought tooth and nail, and deplored the apartheid architect Verwoerd’s infamous assertion he once made: “What is the use of teaching the Bantu child mathematics which it cannot use in practice? There is no place for him above the level of certain forms of labour…We should not give the native an academic education….

we should so conduct school that the native will know that he must be a labourer in this country.” The ANC Women’s League must today continue to defend our democracy and educate women about their rights and the issues of emancipation of women and the girl child in South Africa and the African continent.

The 1956 March

As a member an activist and member of the ANCWL, I was among those in 1956 who mobilized women against the apartheid system and the pass laws. We went from village to village, province to province to organize the women of this country to stand up against the evil system.

We managed to mobilise over 20,000 women, of all races, blacks, indians, coloureds and whites. We were made up of women from rural areas and non rural areas. Amongst us were professional women and non professional women, all brought together by the spirit of fighting for the liberation, equality and freedom of all women in South Africa. We marched through the streets of Pretoria to the Union Buildings to hand over our petition to JG Strijdom, South Africa’s prime minister, over the introduction of the new pass laws and the Group Areas Act of 1950, which enforced different residential areas for different races and led to forced removals of people living in the ‘wrong’ areas. Strijdom had conveniently arranged to be elsewhere, and the petition was eventually accepted by his secretary.After our representatives had delivered the petitions and finished reporting to the march we all broke into an impromptu song

Wathint’ abafazi:
Wathint’ abafazi,
Wathint’ imbokodo,
Uza kufa!
[When] you strike the women,
You strike a rock,
You will be crushed!

The Strijdom Square, where the Union Buildings in Pretoria are, is today named after one of the leaders of the historic march, Lilian Ngoyi Square – which is an honour to all who took part in that march.

Although the 1950s was characterised the height of resistance against apartheid in South Africa, it was largely ignored by the apartheid government. Subsequent protests against passes for both men and women culminated in the Sharpeville Massacre.

Pass laws were officially and finally repealed in 1986.

Current roles

In 2003 I got involved with Cell C’s s “Take a Girl Child to Work” campaign. The campaign was meant to bridge the gender gap that still exists in our communities. The girl child is still marginalised, abused, discriminated, ignored, subjected to unjust labour practices (trafficked), and deprived from education opportunities. This initiative collaborates to what was also noted by the Polokwane Conference in December 2007, that poverty is still feminised i.e. women are the most people who suffer the pains of poverty.

Girl Child Bursary Fund was then established with the aim to allow companies and citizens to contribute towards further education and training of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Today I still serve as a member of the National Assembly in Parliament and actively involved with the ANC Women’s League as the Treasurer General . I also serve as a board member of two women’s development projects, Malibongwe and Kwaze Kwasa which are totally committed to the Emancipation of Women.

Maternal and New Born Child Health

Mmaphefo Matsemele

The African National Congress in its 96 years of existence has put the interest of all the people of SA at the top of its agenda. A people’s contract in 2004 demonstrated that the journey we have thus far traveled gives us confidence that we shall reach our goal of a society that cares by building a healthier nation with programmes to defeat TB, Malnutrition, Malaria and other diseases and turn the tide against HIV and AIDS so as to achieve a better life for All.

Thus in 2004 ANC Manifesto, President Mbeki once said “Today SA has a caring government with clinics being built too close where people live”. This literally says Health makes development possible and in turn development contributes to health.

This dialectical relationship informs the policies of this government and those of the Department of Health.

Looking at the improvement on maternal mortality rate and reduction of it by three quarters between 1990 and 2015, it is important to focus much on eight health related MDG’s with special reference to goal 5 i.e. Improve Marten Health because reducing maternal and neonatal mortality and morbidity are some of the key indices in meeting the MDG’s.

The improvement of health of women and children has always been key in the healthcare planning of our democratic government.

In 1994, the major critical policy decision taken was free healthcare for pregnant and lactating women as well as children under five years.

Furthermore, we have constructed more than 1600 clinics which the majority of those historically marginalized people have access to. Presently, more than 94% of mothers attend antenatal care (ANC) at least once during pregnancy and over 84% give birth in these healthcare facilities. Family planning packages are also available and women no longer have to suffer complications or even die. Indeed today is better than yesterday and tomorrow will definitely be better than today, said by the President of SA in 2006.

The programme for PMTG of HIV has been expanded to 90% of facilities with an uptake of 60% because HIV and AIDS is an extraordinary global epidemic. Treatment protocol has been improved to include dual therapy and this intervention is being expanded. PMTCT serves as an entry-point for women to access comprehensive package of care for HIV and AIDS including nutrition, treatment and opportunistic infections and ART.

Reducing maternal and neonatal mortality are some of the key indices in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

For instance, Sub-Saharan Africa is mostly hit hard by HIV and AIDS epidemic. An estimated 25million people are living with HIV in Sub-Sahara Africa. Give this, women are at greater risk, becoming infected at an earlier age than men. Contrary to popular brief, SA is on track to decrease Maternal and Infant Mortality given the paradox of being a developing and yet middle-income country. Most importantly, is the reporting of enquiries into maternal deaths and this is relatively new in SA.

The first report has been published in 1999.

The maternal mortality ratio in a country such as the UK is 10 per 100 000 maternities while in poor countries it is as 650 per 100 000. In SA, a middle-income country, the National Committee on Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths reported a Maternal Mortality ratio (MMR) of 150 per 100 000 conducted through the Demography and Health Survey in 1998.

In 2002, statistics SA reviewed all registered death and estimated MMR to 124 per 100 000 “ a figure that I don’t think we can be proud of. I’m sure we can still bring it down drastically, and we must do that” said the Minister of Health.

This was followed shortly by the Perinatal Problem Identification Programme in 2000 and the child Healthcare Problem Identification Programme in 2003. These audit tools are of extreme importance in that they not only identify causes and trends of these deaths but also modifiable contributing factors at various levels of service delivery. Of significance is that the latter reports have included both the recommendations as well as the intervention strategy. While significant progress has been made in addressing the challenges of maternal mortality in the country, there is still more that needs to be done because women need not die in birth.

Women must be given information and support they need to control their reproductive health, help them through their newborn well into childhood.

South Africa compares favorably with other middle-income countries such as development counties like Australia, Canada and Denmark because the confidential enquiries into maternal has given SA a status of the only country that has instituted and sustained confidential enquiries into maternal death.

Considerable progress has been done over the past ten years in determining the causes of maternal mortality through the work of the National Committee on Confidential Enquiry into maternal deaths. The work of the committee which is published every three years in the saving mothers ‘s report, has enriched the process of assessing deaths in an effort to improve the quality of care through clinics, hospitals, professionals and doctors.

WHO is committed to achieved the Millennium Development Goal of reducing maternal deaths by three-quarters. South Africa is also committed to the objectives of the MDG by improving the health of women as part of the contract we have entered into with the people of SA.

The vast majority of maternal deaths could be prevented if women have access to quality family planning services, skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth and the first month after delivery. 15% of pregnancies and childbirths need emergency obstetric care because of risks that are difficult to predict.

Therefore a working health system with skilled personnel is key to saving these women’s lives.

Women in Governance and the IPU

Mapula Ramodibe

The International Parliamentary Union (IPU) was formed in 1889. South Africa, which became a member of this body in 2004, had an opportunity to serve as a host country this year. Over the many years, the IPU has transformed itself from an association of individual parliamentarians into the international organization of Parliaments of Sovereign States. It prides itself as the centre for dialogue and parliamentary diplomacy among legislators representing every political system and all main political leanings of the world.

The main areas of activity of IPU are representative democracy, human rights and humanitarian law, international peace and security, sustainable development, education science and culture and women in politics.

South African parliamentarians need to ask themselves questions pertaining to the level of their engagement in the dialogue within the IPU. Given our late entry into the body, are we playing catch up with other member states or are we finding our ground? We as South Africans are still in the process of understanding and having a full appreciation of how we interact and engage with this body. We need to ensure that our own achievements are reflected in the work that gets produced by the IPU.

In the field of women’s political empowerment, our country has seen a significant increase of women in leadership positions such as ministers, premiers, mayors, and MPs. While numbers are important, it is equally important that women use these positions of influence to contribute substantively to the policy making process. Our parliament must at all times be sensitive to the issues of women. Mainstreaming gender equality in committee work and parliamentary outputs is essential in entrenching the rights of women in this country.

For this country to realise a society that is fully free of gender discrimination, parliamentarians should be at the forefront of deepening the practice with regard to the manner in which we conduct ourselves in our respective communities, political parties, parliamentary committees etc. We have a responsibility to ensure that norms promoting equal opportunities for women and men are translated into national laws. We have a duty to ensure that legislations we pass and their implementation do not violate our resolve to uproot gender discrimination and sexism within our society. Our engagement in public debates should at all times raise messages that promote gender equality and help forge national consensus.

We also have an additional role to play in raising public awareness about the Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We must remain vigilant in ensuring that we monitor government work insofar as CEDAW is concerned and ensure that relevant legislations are reviewed to bring them in line with CEDAW principles. There is no doubt that based on the many interventions we have made, it is clear that gender equality spanned all policy areas as it is at the core of society’ s well being and development.

Despite the policy interventions we have made, we still face immense challenges such as addressing poverty, poor health care, low levels of education violence and HIV/AIDS. Top of these challenges is the violence against women.We need to move beyond mere criminalization, prevention and assistance measures to include initiatives aimed at changing the environment in which women live ( health care, housing, security, stereotyping in the media). The Noord taxi rank incident is a case in point. Our role as parliamentarians must not only to debate incidences such as this, but to agree on a multi-sectoral approach, awareness, education, etc.

Women make up more than 50% and their adequate involvement in the decision making processes will provide a necessary balance to strengthen democracy and promote proper functioning.

This will not only promote democracy but will surely demonstrate the interests of women in society. Integration of the equality dimension in government policy making will not be feasible without equality in political decision-making.

Participation and incorporation of women’s perspective at all levels of decision-making will ensure tha goals of equality, development and peace can be achieved.

Women are workers, organisers, managers, educators and nurses, yet even those countries that have underwent fundamental political, economic and social changes still have an insignificant increase in the number of women represented in legislative bodies. The unequal division of labour and responsibilities within household based on unequal power relations also limits women’s potential to find time in developing skills required for participation in public forums.

The Beijing platform of action women took a resolution for 30% women representation in decision making bodies. This has since been implemented by the South African government. The ANC needs to be commended for having adopted a resolution on 50% representation of women in all its structures.

Women Parliamentarians in the NEC

The National General Council of the African National Congress resolved in 2005 to increase the representation of women in the leadership structures of both the organisation and government. The decision was immediately implemented during the local election during the same year and has since informed the manner in which the organisation deals with deployments and leadership changes. The decision was formally adopted by the 52nd national conference, when it resolved that: “In the endeavour to reach the objective of full representation of women in all decision-making structures, the ANC shall implement a programme of affirmative action, including the provision of a quota of not less than fifty percent (50%) of women in all elected structures of the ANC to enable such effective participation.

” The ANC now has two women, National Chairperson Baleka Mbete and Deputy Secretary General Thandi Modise, in the top six positions, and has drastically increased the number of women in its National Executive Committee. At least 17 women members of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus are among those elected into the NEC. The NEC is the highest organ of the ANC between national conferences.

Other roles: ANC National Chairperson; ANC National Working Committee Member; ANC Parliamentary Political Committee Chairperson; ANC Women’s League NEC Member; National Assembly Speaker
Other roles: ANC National Working Committee Member; Chairperson of the NEC Sub-Committee on Social Transformation; Minister of Housing; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: Minister of Justice & Constitutional Development; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: Member of the ANC National Working Committee; NEC Deployee for the Western Cape; ANC Member of Parliament since 2008
Other roles: Member of the ANC Parliamentary Political Committee; Member of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications; ANC Member of Parliament since 2004
Other roles: Chairperson of the ANC Parliamentary Caucus; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994; Member of the SACP Politburo and Central Committee
Other roles: Minister of Foreign Affairs; ANC Women’s League NEC Member; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: Member of the ANC National Working Committee; NEC Deployee for the Free State Province; Deputy Minister of Safety & Security; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: Deputy Minster of Environmental Affairs & Tourism; Member of the Limpopo ANC Provincial Executive Committee
Other roles: Member of the ANC Parliamentary Political Committee; Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works; ANC Member of Parliament since 2004
Other roles: ANC National Working Committee Member; Member of the Parliamentary Political Committee; Chairperson of ANC Parliamentary Caucus; ANC Whip for Public Enterprises; Member of SACP Politburo
Other roles: Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; ANC Member of Parliament since 1996
Other roles: ANC Women’s League NEC Member; Minister of Health; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: ANC Women’s League NEC Member; Member of Parliamentary Portfolio Committees on Health and Water Affairs & Forestry; ANC Member of Parliament since 2004
Other roles: ANC Women’s League NEC Member; Minister of Home Affairs; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: Minister of Education; ANC Member of Parliament since 1994
Other roles: Deputy President of the ANC Women’s League; ANCWL NEC and NWC Member; Member of the ANC Parliamentary Political Committee; Chief Whip of the National Council of Provinces