Women’s rally or po­lit­i­cal cam­paign?

CityPress - - News - SETUMO STONE setumo.stone@city­press.co.za

An in­ter­nal memo cir­cu­lated in a North West govern­ment de­part­ment last week dur­ing the days lead­ing up to its na­tional Women’s Day com­mem­o­ra­tion event on Wed­nes­day. It ended with a brief and un­ex­plained re­quest: “You are also re­quested to wear black skirts or pants.”

Lit­tle did they know, said some dis­grun­tled public ser­vants who had re­ceived the note, that on their ar­rival at the of­fi­cial event in Kim­ber­ley in the North­ern Cape, they would be pa­raded as part of the match­ing blackand-green-clad ANC Women’s League co­hort.

The tele­vised govern­ment-funded event, where Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma gave the key­note ad­dress, turned into an ANC Women’s League rally to lobby sup­port for one of the party’s pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – com­plete with a song-and-dance in which Zuma also took part.

“It was a false pre­tence of a women’s day com­mem­o­ra­tion and a sin­is­ter strat­egy to prop up the ANC Women’s League numbers,” said a North West public ser­vant, who spoke to City Press on con­di­tion of anonymity.

She said public ser­vants from the Free State and the North­ern Cape also at­tended the event.

Thapelo Dithebe, chair­per­son of the ANC in Kim­ber­ley’s Frances Baard re­gion, who is also the face of the Dlamini-Zuma cam­paign in the North­ern Cape, said the govern­ment event was at­tended by any­one who wanted to show up.

He in­sisted that “no one is pre­scribed what to wear”. Dithebe said the lo­cal women’s league had in­vited their col­leagues in the Free State, North West and KwaZu­luNatal to come and sup­port the event.

He said the women’s league had made no se­cret of their pref­er­ence for Dlamini-Zuma to be the next ANC pres­i­dent and that, when mem­bers saw that she was in at­ten­dance, they were nat­u­rally ex­cited.

The ANC branch in the Frances Baard re­gion has also an­nounced its sup­port for Dlamini-Zuma, break­ing rank with the pro­vin­cial ANC.

Govern­ment in­sid­ers in the North West said at least six de­part­ments – in­clud­ing fi­nance, public works, health, ed­u­ca­tion, hu­man set­tle­ments and eco­nomic devel­op­ment – had funded travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion ex­penses for staff to at­tend the Women’s Day cel­e­bra­tions. They had been prompted by a sim­i­lar memo from na­tional govern­ment.

Among the staff mem­bers were sec­re­taries, in­terns and clean­ers.

An­other em­ployee said: “We did not ask why they wanted a dress code. But to our sur­prise, when we got there, we found that we had ac­tu­ally ac­com­pa­nied peo­ple to a Zuma cam­paign event be­cause we found ev­ery­one wear­ing the same black and green.

“Maybe they wanted us to look like ev­ery­one else and not dif­fer with the oth­ers who sup­port Zuma, be­cause black and green was the colour of the day. I did not see the im­por­tance of our go­ing there, ex­cept for Zuma and his women’s league.”

But an­other em­ployee said it was not un­usual for govern­ment to pre­scribe a dress code, and so staff did not ques­tion the di­rec­tive. She added that they vol­un­teered to go on the trip and were not forced.

“But what hap­pened there was not what we ex­pected, so we used the trip as an out­ing to get some fresh air.”

North West govern­ment spokesper­son Brian Setswambung said the na­tional Women’s Day gath­er­ing was a govern­ment event and de­part­ments that sent em­ploy­ees to rep­re­sent them paid for their trans­port, like they would do for any other govern­ment event.

“There was no pre­scrip­tion for em­ploy­ees who at­tended to wear black skirts,” Setswambung said.

Dithebe said women came in their numbers to cel­e­brate. “The event was suc­cess­ful and was graced by the pres­ence of Dlamini-Zuma. The women of this country and the ANC branches have pro­nounced that it is time for a woman pres­i­dent.”

Un­for­tu­nately, one or two peo­ple tried to mar pro­ceed­ings, he said. “They wanted to dis­rupt the event but did not suc­ceed. They or­gan­ised ser­vice de­liv­ery protests and de­stroyed our beau­ti­ful flags, but they did not suc­ceed. We are un­stop­pable.”

Re­fer­ring to the op­po­si­tion’s mo­tion of no con­fi­dence against Zuma on Tues­day, he said: “The spirit of the country was also lifted af­ter the failed coup in Par­lia­ment.”

PHOTO: KOPANO TLAPE GCIS

CEL­E­BRA­TIONS, ANC STYLE Women came from across the country to com­mem­o­rate na­tional Women’s Day at Galeshewe Sta­dium in Kim­ber­ley in the North­ern Cape. Among those at­tend­ing was pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

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