Women in ru­ral SA have a pretty raw deal

CityPress - - Voices -

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.

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