Gender is a red herring in leadership
THE ANC is undeniably in an intractable situation with regard to its next president after Jacob Zuma. The heat of succession debate is so high because the party’s 54th National Conference, in December, is characterised by something unusual – a gender issue.
Seemingly, those who are still waiting for better service delivery this year will be forgotten by the ANC-led government since the focus is on the ANC’s leadership battle.
It has been the ANC’s modus operandi that any person who is the deputy president becomes the president.
Nelson Mandela was the ANC’s deputy president when Oliver Tambo was the party’s president. Mandela became the party’s president subsequently.
So it was with Thabo Mbeki and Zuma. They were both deputy presidents before they were presidents. It was a natural progression for deputy presidents of the ANC to become presidents.
Unfortunately, the situation is completely different this time, for Cyril Ramaphosa.
Before, gender had not been an issue; it was all about the position, not whether the candidate was a man or a woman.
Things are different today. The party is divided.
For example, the ANC Women’s League is vigorously calling for a female president, and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is its preferred candidate.
Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma are so far the main contenders for the ANC’s presidency.
I disagree with those who claim that South Africa is “now” ready for a female president.
What is it that makes the country ready now, and why was it not ready all along since 1994?
Were there no suitable female candidates before Dlamini Zuma?
It is known that Zuma backs the idea of a female president and that he is behind his ex-wife to ascend the throne.
This can be interpreted as a cynical ploy to denigrate Ramaphosa and at the same time deny him the top ANC position.
I say this because there are those who believe that Zuma is a crowd-puller for the ANC.
He therefore wields enormous influence within the party.
His support for the idea of a female president is likely to strengthen support for his ex-wife. Perhaps it would have been good for Zuma as the current president of the party to have remained silent and impartial on this matter.
Nevertheless, politics is a game all on its own and, hypothetically, Zuma is aware that should his ex-wife become the president, he may be given a government position, either inside or outside the country.
Indeed, many of those on either side of the advocacy issue hope for and expect “a slice of the pie” if their preferred candidate becomes the next president.
While Dlamini Zuma clearly has far more hands-on experience in matters of state than Ramaphosa, I do not agree with those who say this necessarily entitles her to be the next president of the ANC in his place.
That is pure illusion. I believe that political leadership is all about quality rather than experience, regardless of whether that person is a man or a woman.
Let’s not forget Mandela had no experience at all in government before he became president.
Nevertheless, because of the qualities he possessed, he is still admired and respected as one of the most exceptional presidents the world has ever seen.
Whether a man or a woman, the ANC needs a leader with good qualities.
Come December let’s hope that a leader of that calibre becomes the ANC’s president. Temba, Hammanskraal
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CONTENDER: Experience in matters of state does not entitle Dlamini Zuma to be next ANC president, says the writer.