By Meokgo Matuba
The African National Congress (ANC) has consistently upheld women issues and provided leadership to society with regards to women empowerment. The advancement of women’s economic empowerment and promotion of gender equality has been an apex priority of the ANC.
We need to acknowledge strides made by the movement in advancing gender equality starting way back since 1956 when Lillian Ngoyi became the first woman to serve on the ANC NEC and in 1984 when the ANC included the “non-sexist” attribute into its constitution for its vision for a new South Africa. Various ANC Conference Resolutions and Policy documents captured the fact that poverty, unemployment and inequality affect women the most and have been identified as serious impediment to radical transformation.
The 50th National Conference in the 1997 Strategy and Tactics document placed high on the national agenda the question of gender: “Much more than any other sector, colonial oppression and a universal patriarchal culture, including socially constructed ‘gender roles’, conspired to degrade women and treat them as sub-human. These gender roles permeate all spheres of life, beginning with the family, and are entrenched by stereotypes, dominant ideas, cultures, beliefs, traditions and laws.” The 51st National Conference of the ANC in Stellenbosch retained this strategic path outlining strategic and tactical paths towards resolution of the class, gender and national contradictions; and creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and united South Africa.
The Strategy & Tactics document of 2007 affirms the strategic goal of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) as the “resolution of the three basic and inter-related contradictions of Colonialism of a Special Type (CST) in South Africa where the (colonised and the colonial metropolis lived within one nation-state): racial oppression, class super exploitation and patriarchal relations of power. These antagonisms found expression in “national oppression based on race; class super-exploitation directed against Black workers; and the triple oppression of the mass of women based on their race, their class and their gender.”
The strategic objective of the NDR is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. There will be no realisation of united democratic society in a patriarchal society. Legacies of colonialism and apartheid in the ownership and management of the economic sectors largely remains intact and majority of women in particular black are in the periphery of the economic activities in the country. Monopolisation on the ownership and management of key economic sectors by minority breeds inequality, unemployment and poverty and thus challenging the political stability of the country and the welfare of the majority of South Africans who are women in particular black.
The primary objective of radical economic transformation which is to eradicate economic inequalities, unemployment and poverty will be realised through fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
What should be the ANC’s priorities be in advancing a programme of radical socioeconomic transformation?
The ANCWL believes that radical economic transformation cannot be advanced in isolation from the fight against patriarchy and total emancipation of women. The ownership and management of the economy is not only having a white face but is characterized by masculinity. The relegation of women to 2nd class citizens by patriarchal systems and structures will hinder achievement of radical economic transformation. Gender equality must be central in advancing radical economic transformation.
Without undermining progress made in women empowerment, we need to urgently plug the gap between policy and implementation. We need to legislate 50/50 gender parity across all sectors at all levels. An advancement of a minimum of 50% black ownership in all economic sectors with equal representation of women at all levels is a necessity. A radical stance towards economic transformation should include provision of banking licences to 100% black owned entities with a minimum 50% of ownership being women. There needs to be minimum 50% of procurement opportunities must be allocated to women.
Failure to close the gap between to close the gap between policies and implementation will delegitimize the movement in its entirety. We should never be comfortable with a poverty rate seating at 53.8 % in a population of 55.7 million which is predominantly women.
Comrade Meokgo Matuba is the Secretary General of the ANC Women’s League