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SA’s first fe­male pres­i­dent will in­herit a of prob­lems that a can­di­date out­side the women’s league is bet­ter suited to han­dle

CityPress - - Voices - Ferial Haf­fa­jee voices@ city­press. co. za

hen she ar­rives, it might be best that South Africa’s first fe­male pres­i­dent does not emerge from the ANC Women’s League.

Don’t get me wrong. I know the league’s role in our lib­er­a­tion; in mine. Those brave women who marched to the Union Build­ings in 1956 to pe­ti­tion against the pass laws – with the ral­ly­ing cry that those who struck a woman struck a rock – laid the foun­da­tion for a sea change in the lives of many women.

The strug­gle they led strength­ened the foun­da­tions of a women’s move­ment that would en­sure that gen­der equal­ity was en­shrined in our Con­sti­tu­tion.

From it, the em­ploy­ment eq­uity and em­pow­er­ment laws un­furled, all of which have given a new gen­er­a­tion un­dreamed-of op­por­tu­ni­ties. Un­tram­melled hon­our be­longs to the women in green and black.

But this week’s league con­fer­ence re­vealed that the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s role is now largely his­tor­i­cal.

League pres­i­dent Angie Mot­shekga was vo­cal this week, de­cry­ing the pa­tri­archy in the ANC and warn­ing that the party’s cowboys were us­ing the women as vot­ing fod­der.

By her ac­count, women have be­come mar­i­onettes of men in power.

This is why the so­ci­etal as­sump­tion that a fe­male pres­i­dent will come from, and be en­dorsed by, the women’s league is not a prospect that fills me with joy.

If, for ex­am­ple, a fe­male can­di­date emerges only to add gen­der fuel to a fac­tion that wants to stay in power when the ANC chooses its next leader in 2017, then what is the use?

It mat­ters noth­ing for women and mat­ters all for the group, which may be us­ing her can­di­da­ture to seal their po­si­tions and ac­cess to re­sources.

The ANC is Africa’s old­est lib­er­a­tion move­ment and it gave birth to the demo­cratic era, but it is now sad­dled with cor­ro­sive crony­ism where the lu­cra­tive public pro­cure­ment sys­tem and all-pow­er­ful state have be­come the or­gan­is­ing im­pe­tus in the party. Cor­rup­tion has eaten at its soul and the party’s pro­gres­sive agenda has been con­sumed by glut­tony and the heart­burn brought on by over­con­sump­tion.

Take this ex­am­ple. The fall­out of Nkandla – the R246 mil­lion spent on up­grad­ing the pres­i­dent’s res­i­dence in north­ern KwaZulu-Natal – has over­shad­owed all as­pects of state.

The pres­i­dency, the depart­ment of public works, the po­lice min­istry and Par­lia­ment have spent months en­gag­ing on a se­ries of re­ports in var­i­ous com­mit­tees as the ANC des­per­ately tries to end the scan­dal.

This time could have been fo­cused on im­ple­ment­ing pol­icy and en­gag­ing a jobs and eco­nomic cri­sis that is so­cially dis­as­trous and po­lit­i­cally risky.

Like Brazil’s gov­ern­ing Work­ers’ Party, the ANC spends more time de­fend­ing it­self against cor­rup­tion and scan­dal than it does gov­ern­ing.

Though I would love an inau­gu­ral fe­male pres­i­dent, it will be a tough in­her­i­tance for her. In Brazil, Pres­i­dent Dilma Rouss­eff car­ries a rocky in­her­i­tance as she bat­tles a graft scan­dal that not only pre­dates her, but far eclipses Nkandla.

Pol­i­tics in the gov­ern­ing ANC does not al­low the cream to rise to the top. Elec­toral bat­tles are Byzan­tine and Machi­avel­lian – ex­er­cises in power play usu­ally built around a sig­nif­i­cant re­source base. Al­le­ga­tions of vote-buy­ing at all lev­els of party con­fer­ences are com­mon, but dif­fi­cult to prove. Un­less this sys­tem is cleaned up, South Africa will not get the woman it needs and de­serves. And our first fe­male pres­i­dent will not sur­vive.

The first pre­scrip­tion to al­low her to rise is to change the vot­ing sys­tem. A mixed model with a di­rect pres­i­den­tial elec­tion will turn up dif­fer­ent lead­er­ship can­di­dates.

It would be good if the coun­try had a say in elect­ing its pres­i­dent, although the pro­viso is that such a sys­tem also al­lows pop­ulists to rise.

I think our coun­try needs a mix­ture of po­lit­i­cal sass and tech­no­cratic ex­per­tise in its leader. A glob­al­ist will be good, but some­body has to be able to be good at pol­i­tics. A plat­form that re­volves around con­sti­tu­tional val­ues will en­sure a pro­gres­sive can­di­date. A mod­ernist af­ter 10 years of tra­di­tion­al­ism will be a pro­pel­ling force – and it will be nice if she only had a sin­gle spouse.

Our con­fused eco­nomic pol­icy and de­clin­ing econ­omy point to a 21st-cen­tury re­quire­ment for lead­er­ship – you have to be able to ne­go­ti­ate through shift­ing sands, and tech­ni­cal skill is im­por­tant or you will be pulled in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions like Pres­i­dent Zuma.

In the ANC, this is nei­ther Mot­shekga nor Batha­bile Dlamini (this was writ­ten be­fore the women’s league elec­tions). Her per­for­mance at Par­lia­ment this year surely dis­qual­i­fies the ANC’s poet, chair­per­son and par­lia­men­tary Speaker, Baleka Mbete. Liv­ing un­der her will feel like be­ing back in school.

There is noth­ing that says the league pres­i­dent will be the can­di­date, so the ANC can fish in deeper wa­ters. It looks like it is do­ing so, be­cause ev­ery time you turn around, African Union chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is in town. There is now more than a whis­per that she will be per­suaded to run in 2017.

A global diplo­mat who speaks French and does not coun­te­nance fools gladly, her no-non­sense style is per­haps what our rud­der­less coun­try needs now. I am dead scared of her, but maybe a lit­tle fear is a good thing. We need fix­ing and the fear of do­ing wrong has been lost in our so­ci­ety.

Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­is­ter Naledi Pan­dor has run a se­cu­rity depart­ment (home af­fairs) and knows her way around a te­le­scope. Science and tech­nol­ogy skills are vi­tal to the fu­ture now that min­ing is reach­ing the end of its life.

My ANC favourite is Min­is­ter of Hu­man Set­tle­ments Lindiwe Sisulu, who is un­end­ingly stylish, has served in de­fence and public ser­vice and comes from a lin­eage that guar­an­tees po­lit­i­cal smarts.

The ANC has cor­nered the po­lit­i­cal mar­ket. The women in Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers doeks are not as po­lit­i­cally im­pres­sive as their male hon­ourables and the DA man­aged to lose the bril­liant Lindiwe Maz­ibuko, so pick­ings are slim out­side the gov­ern­ing party. I’ve al­ways thought busi­ness­woman Wendy Luhabe is un­der­utilised in public life.

Public Pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela is go­ing to get the big­gest pri­vate sec­tor post you can imag­ine or any chair at any univer­sity she wants when her term comes to an end. If she chose pol­i­tics, she would be a pop­u­lar can­di­date. Why is this? I think she co­heres around a strong set of prin­ci­ples and be­liefs that res­onate with or­di­nary South Africans. Most of the daily grind of her work is at the grass roots – although she is a media dar­ling only for her big-ticket find­ings. Madon­sela is a lawyer (which is al­ways a good qual­i­fi­ca­tion for the num­ber one spot – look at US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama) and she counts pen­nies very well – per­haps the defin­ing qual­ity we need in any pres­i­dent right now.

South Africa has able women ga­lore – but the way in which we choose pres­i­dents needs tweak­ing so that the best can rise.

PRES­I­DEN­TIAL MA­TE­RIAL From top: Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Naledi Pan­dor and Thuli Madon­sela

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