ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini delivered a stinging attack on the mother body for failing to uphold its own policy on gender parity at a special media briefing. Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency (ANA)
The election of Jessie Duarte as the only woman on Monday night to the male-dominated ANC Top Six has angered women's organisations in the country.

Gender activists who The Star spoke to on Tuesday called for a special indaba to discuss the paucity of women elected to the party's top structure, despite the ANC's official commitment to gender parity.

Former AU Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma failed to become the first woman president in the ANC's 105-year history, after being defeated by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in a bruising electoral contest.

The ANC Women's League was the first to react, in a specially arranged media conference at Nasrec.

The league's president, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, blamed Dlamini Zuma’s loss on what she called the patriarchal tendencies of ANC members.

The ANC had failed, she said, by electing five men and only one woman to its top structure.

“We cannot be proud of this outcome. Patriarchy has once again reared its ugly head in the ANC,” Dlamini said.

She called on the party to establish a “commission on the emancipation of women”, to look into issues of women empowerment in the ANC and the country.

Nonhlanhla Skosana, of the women's rights organisation Sonke Gender Justice, echoed Dlamini: “Are women incapable of leading?” she asked.

“It is not satisfactory. We need to have a discussion to find out whether the decision of the ANC to elect one woman in their executive meant that as women we are incapable of leading in society. It is a concern and they need to deal with it,” Skosana said.

Video: Karen Sandison/ANA

Political analyst Tasneem Essop described the male-dominated ANC Top Six as “more of the same and going backwards”.

In the Top Six in the past, Duarte served alongside Baleka Mbete, who was the ANC's national chairperson.

Essop said the composition of the Top Six meant that the party paid lip service to gender equality.

“Its representation of women is less than it was during its past executives."

Essop also agreed with women activists that the ANC was a patriarchal organisation, but she was equally scathing about the women's league, accusing it of having largely failed to champion women's issues.

She said the league lacked a strategy to deal with patriarchy in the ANC.

“They must reflect on themselves and go about developing a strategy in the next five years of increasing the involvement of women in senior positions in the ANC,” she said.

“They can do better and they must."

Earlier, the league launched a veiled attack on the party's newly elected deputy president David Mabuza and secretary-general Ace Magashule, who managed to secure positions in the top six. Mabuza and Magashule had featured on Dlamini Zuma's slate.

Dlamini and ANCWL spokesperson Thoko Xasa took a swipe at the two for having ridden on, as she claimed, Dlamini Zuma's coat tails.

“We feel that men made it as officials on a campaign that had the face of a woman. We thank comrade Nkosazana for making herself available, even though she was reduced to being an ex-wife”.

Dlamini Zuma, she said, had been betrayed and defeated by institutional patriarchy.

Nonetheless, Dlamini committed herself and the ANCWL to working with Ramaphosa and supporting him.

There had been fears that the league might challenge the results of the poll, following its bitter disappointment when several of its members, including Dlamini and her executive, expressed their dissatisfaction.

But things calmed down after Dlamini and the league's executive pledged their support for Ramaphosa.

“I am a woman. Women are very loyal in their nature. We are not going to form another organisation. We will remain in the ANC. The ANC is our home,” she said.

The Star