The Star Late Edition



THE interim role assumed by ANC Deputy Secretary-General Jessie Duarte will, over the next few weeks, serve as a litmus test of how serious the governing party is on matters of gender equality.

It will be interestin­g to observe whether many of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) members and those at branch level afford Duarte the same respect they have shown suspended Secretary-General Ace Magashule.

In his closing remarks on Tuesday after the NEC concluded its meeting, ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa maintained that the NEC “condemned the unwarrante­d attacks” on Duarte and staff members stationed at Luthuli House. He said the committee reaffirmed its confidence in Duarte and “supports her in carrying out her duties as per the ANC’s constituti­on”.

However, this reassuranc­e leaves much to be desired, particular­ly at a stage where intimidati­on and threats are involved. The NEC has not provided a detailed plan on what decisive action it will take in protecting Duarte.

It would serve the ANC well if branches would fight for the inclusion of women in the top echelons of the party. For instance, at the end of the ANC’s 49th national elective conference held in 1994, Cheryl Carolus was elected as deputy secretary-general.

In 1997, Thenjiwe Mtintso assumed the same role. In 2002, Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele was appointed as deputy secretary-general, at the 51st national conference in Stellenbos­ch.

In 2007, an attempt was made to integrate more women with Baleka Mbete nominated and installed as the national chairperso­n, while Thandi Modise served as the deputy secretary-general. Mbete and Duarte are the only women over the last 27 years to occupy the same roles for two consecutiv­e terms. More interestin­g is the fact that since 1994, no woman has clinched either of the top two positions in the party, namely president and deputy president of the ANC.

While the ANC has vowed to self-correct and rid itself of corruption, the senior leadership should also encourage party members to align themselves with new ways of thinking and bring an end to patriarchy.

This can only be done through action, and not the spoken word.

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