Women in rural SA have a pretty raw deal
It was a rough start to the week for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – for all the wrong reasons.
Her attempt to win over ama Xhosa King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu during a visit to the Nqadu Great Place on Tuesday backfired when the monarch told her: “South Africa is not yet ready to be led by a woman president. Women are sensitive by nature. The country’s problems have overwhelmed leaders who are men, how much more for a woman?”
The village men, of course, were thrilled and enthusiastically voiced their approval.
Then, on Thursday, the king’s little brother, Prince Xhanti Sigcawu, tried to make things better, but instead made them worse. He told News24 Dlamini Zuma may be too “delicate” to lead. “Men have been struggling with the job ... This was not directed purely at Dlamini-Zuma, it’s to all women,” he said. Wooo shem! It is clear we live in a two-stream society where different rules and standards apply to women in rural and urban areas. “Luxuries” such as women’s rights to equal treatment remain the preserve of those in cities.
And the ANC-led government is helping to entrench this. The justice ministry has twice tried to table the deeply flawed Traditional Courts Bill, which would see women’s access to justice in rural areas determined by the say-so of her chief. This has been seen as a thinly veiled attempt by the party to win support from the chiefs, a key party constituency.
When they tabled it recently for a third time, it was amended to allow rural residents who don’t recognise the customary system to opt out of it.
Although touted as a major victory for the nongovernmental organisations who fought the bill in its previous forms, it remains to be seen whether the amakhosi will recognise a woman’s right not to be judged by them and refuse to subject to their rule.
So, it was a good thing that Dlamini-Zuma’s week got off to a bad start.
Perhaps now she will know how rural women feel.