It is polite to congratulate the new leadership of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL). It is also polite to flash a smile, shake hands and wish Bathabile Dlamini well as she completes her first week as president of the women’s league.
Dlamini is, for the next five years, leader of all women – young and old – in the ANC. She is the torchbearer whose reign comes after legendary women leaders such as Lilian Ngoyi, Albertina Sisulu, Getrude Shope and Winnie Mandela.
There is no doubt her challenges are monumental. She has huge shoes to fill. Her challenges, however, do not end there.
As honest South Africans, true first and foremost to ourselves, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and make bold that:
n Dlamini’s election was marred by allegations, so far undisputed, that a delegate was caught with a bag of money for buying votes.
The allegation must mean that the election of the women’s league president was possibly not free and fair.
There is prima facie evidence that wads of money were doing the rounds to determine the result of an election whose outcome would reveal the most powerful woman in the ANC.
The truth about the outcome of the election is not so much about Dlamini and her leadership, but more about the great and powerful woman politicians in the ANC.
The real story is about the big names who are missing.
We have to be fair and recognise that some of them might not have stood for election.
But why are these fantastic leaders missing from the leadership? Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor is arguably the most senior woman in the government and the ANC. The second most powerful woman in government is Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, one of the most experienced politicians, was once thought to be deputy president material. Then there are Environmental Affairs Minister and former North West premier Edna Molewa, Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Transport Minister Dipuo Peters, future star and Deputy Minister of Communications Stella Ndabeni, and Small Business Developmen Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
Perhaps Angie Motshekga did not have a great tenure as president, but her political experience and expertise cannot be ignored or discarded.
It doesn’t make sense that Susan Shabangu, the cabinet minister responsible for women, is not in the top leadership of the women’s league.
It just doesn’t add up that President Jacob Zuma thought she had the expertise to lead this portfolio, but her peers don’t think she is worthy of a place at the league’s top table.
It is also glaringly evident that some of the top ANC women in leadership positions in the private sector and academia are missing.
n The women’s league and the ANC itself would do well to interrogate the very relevance of the women’s body. One of the questions has to be what the true role of the women’s league is and why it has not been fulfilled.
The other has to be why the women’s league, with the depth and range of talent available to it, has been so badly managed.
Why, for instance, was the immediate past leadership of the league unable to hold the conference, as required by the constitution, to hold elections?
Why is it that the league has failed to raise enough money to sustain itself? Why is the league failing to attract multitudes of young woman ANC members, some of whom view it as a sanctuary for older cadres or a place where great minds go to retire or stagnate?
These and many other questions must be answered if the league is to restore the glory of a movement that withstood the worst that apartheid could offer and play a leading role in the liberation of South Africans.
The women’s league also has to confront the question that the outcome of its recent conference is more about the many strong leaders who are missing from the top leadership of the organisation.
The bigger and broader question is for the ANC leadership, which must truly be concerned about the state of the key structures that form the organisation. Serious interventions were required to get the ANC Youth League into a decent political formation, the women’s league has just stumbled past the finishing line, and many ANC branches and regions are struggling to maintain unity and hold conferences.