These are the women who rock

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

In this month of August, it would be more than jus­ti­fied – nay, re­quired; nay, nec­es­sary; nay, com­pul­sory – to salute two women who rep­re­sent the idea of an un­break­able rock much bet­ter than the faux lead­ers who will be dam­ag­ing our ears with chants of “Wathint’ Im­bokodo” over the next few weeks.

For­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela and par­lia­men­tar­ian Makhosi Khoza have aptly played the role of the boul­der block­ing the march of cor­rup­tion, malfea­sance and the nor­mal­i­sa­tion of bad pol­i­tics. Like the tough rocks they are, they have stood firm as the el­e­ments have bat­tered them and sought to erode their be­ing. They have with­stood the chis­elling away at their dig­nity.

The sim­i­lar­ity be­tween these women is that – other than the usual in­flu­ences of fam­ily, re­li­gion and com­mu­nity – their stand­points were shaped by the po­lit­i­cal move­ment that now con­sid­ers their mar­riage to ethics and pro­bity as trea­sonous. They were cooked by the Mass Demo­cratic Move­ment, a po­lit­i­cal school that was grounded in so­cial jus­tice and ser­vice to oth­ers.

Madon­sela spent much of the 1980s in the trade union move­ment and anti-apartheid ac­tivism, suf­fer­ing ha­rass­ment and in­car­cer­a­tion at the hands of the apartheid se­cu­rity po­lice.

Madon­sela was a sur­prise choice for Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor in 2009, with many be­liev­ing that newly elected Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was de­lib­er­ately pick­ing a light­weight who would go easy on him. At the time, her pub­lic profile was only slightly higher than that of Kjell Jonevret when he was un­veiled as the coach of the mighty and glo­ri­ous Buc­ca­neers six months ago.

In­stead of be­ing the lamb that peo­ple feared she would be, she turned the in­sti­tu­tion into a for­mi­da­ble watch­dog. Her ar­rival could not have come sooner. The Of­fice of the Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor had been gut­ted of any bold­ness and forthright­ness un­der her pre­de­ces­sor, Lawrence Mush­wana, a for­mer MP who just wanted to play nicely with his for­mer com­rades.

Dur­ing her ten­ure, Madon­sela earned her­self un­de­served en­e­mies, not least the man who had ap­pointed her. Rather than cel­e­brate her breath­ing life into the in­sti­tu­tion, they scorned her. In­sults, death threats and con­spir­acy the­o­ries fol­lowed her.

Khoza is an­other “child of the revo­lu­tion” who has found her­self be­ing os­tracised for speak­ing in de­fence of that very revo­lu­tion. An ac­tivist since her teens, she also suf­fered at the hands of the apartheid sys­tem and had her home de­stroyed by forces loyal to the can­tan­ker­ous chief from Ulundi.

She is al­most cer­tain to be kicked out of the po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion whose core val­ues she is es­pous­ing and will lose her seat in the Par­lia­ment where she has been an ex­em­plary rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple.

For be­ing a good South African and for speak­ing out against the rot in the ANC and in gov­ern­ment, Khoza has been re­warded with death threats, in­sults and con­spir­acy the­o­ries.

But she has been stead­fast. She de­clared that her “re­fusal to sup­port all that which is in­con­sis­tent with the ANC mis­sion has re­sulted in in­sults, threats on my life, con­dem­na­tion”.

“They threat­ened to kill me. I ex­posed them. They tried ev­ery­thing to si­lence me. They failed. They ac­cuse me of hav­ing po­lit­i­cal al­le­giance else­where be­cause I hate cor­rup­tion be­cause of its dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects on the poor. I refuse to al­low the ANC of Nelson Man­dela, Lil­lian Ngoyi and Ahmed Kathrada to be syn­ony­mous with cor­rup­tion,” she said.

In this Women’s Month, we will be sub­jected to speeches and pro­nounce­ments from some of the worst women lead­ers the pro­gres­sive move­ment has ever had.

The ever-chew­ing leader of the ANC Women’s League will be in our faces, telling us why her pre­ferred pres­i­den­tial can­di­date is South Africa’s weapon against gen­der in­equal­ity, pa­tri­archy, misog­yny and other ills. We will be hear­ing from said pres­i­den­tal can­di­date, a once fine in­di­vid­ual who has al­lowed her stand­ing to be de­meaned and cor­roded by the com­pany she keeps. The min­is­ter who once told the na­tion that it is fine for the rand to fall be­cause we can just “pick it up” will also be blud­geon­ing us with her fongkong wis­dom.

Dur­ing the month of August there will be a ca­coph­ony of voices of peo­ple who will be try­ing to con­vince us that they are the cus­to­di­ans of the legacy of Char­lotte Max­eke, Rahima Moosa and Frances Baard. These will be the voices of women who hoisted an unashamed misog­y­nist to the na­tion’s high­est of­fice. A man they have been cheer­ing on through the years as he de­meaned women with his ac­tions and words.

These in­di­vid­u­als who will be lead­ing our Women’s Month cel­e­bra­tions are the very same ones who ei­ther joined in or looked on as the women of courage were abused by the men­folk in their party. To them there will no con­tra­dic­tion be­tween their pro-women rhetoric and their prac­ti­cal sup­port for misog­yny and pa­tri­archy.

At least we do have some­thing to cel­e­brate in these two ex­em­plary cit­i­zens, who do not prize com­fort, per­sonal re­ward and up­ward mo­bil­ity above prin­ci­ple. They are by no means ex­cep­tions to the rule. There are mil­lions of South African women just like them in dif­fer­ent spheres of so­ci­ety, women who daily show courage and in­tegrity. The ex­cep­tions to the rule are the com­pro­mised and amoral.

So, in cel­e­brat­ing Madon­sela and Khoza, we are cel­e­brat­ing the South African woman.

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