2005 was an interesting year for South African politics. (It was also an eye-opening time for gender relations in
More alarming, perhaps, is the more than occasional revelation of the alleged involvement of top political leaders and government officials in corruption cases. Alarming, or encouraging? Corruption most likely occurs in most governments around the world and it is certainly not new to
It was our former Deputy President’s alleged involvement in the Schabir Shaik corruption case that led President Thabo Mbeki to fire Zuma - the man widely considered to be Mbeki’s most likely successor in 2009 - in June last year. Enter the first event that was a milestone of particular, personal significance to me: the appointment of our first woman Deputy President, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. A proud day in South Africa’s democratic history and one that had many of us – women in particular – saying to ourselves and each other, “How far we have come!”
Then the news broke: a 31-year old AIDS activist, reportedly a family friend of the former Deputy President, had brought a rape charge against 63-year old Zuma – alleging that the attack took place in November during the 16 days of activism against women and child abuse campaign.
Following the rape allegation, reports began to indicate that support for Zuma, still strong despite the corruption charges, was dwindling.
And yet: shortly after the new year dawned came the announcement that Zuma would still be allowed to campaign for the ruling ANC in upcoming local elections on 1st March (with temporary suspension of this participation in February when he stands trial for rape) . With Zuma facing two charges of corruption and one of rape, and Mbeki having just announced that the ANC will up its efforts in stamping out corruption in local municipalities, one reporter has quite aptly commented that “the situation is not simply confusing, it is bizarre” .
“Without role models and little social support for constructing different practices, appealing to culture may represent as much an avoidance of anxiety as a defense of privilege. Cultural constructions of what it means to be a man not only legitimize male authority but also provide men with a set of regulations that spell out the rights, duties and obligations that accompany paternal authority. Reverting to this framework is one way of escaping the personal uncertainty that change induces” (Sideris, 2004, p.30). And what about existing role models? What about Zuma and his masses of loyal supporters? An indication of the entrenchment of these cultural attitudes (towards women and their secondary status in society) in the population at large is evident in the support that continues to rally around Zuma, in spite of (or, shockingly, because of?) his rape charge. The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) remains loyal to Zuma still, promoting that the ANC and the country should be headed by the same person - and that person should be Zuma.
Political support for a leader is one thing; support for the perpetration of violence (sexual or otherwise) against women entirely another. Does such support exist?
Abrahams, N., Jewkes, R., Hoffman, M., & Laubsher, R. (2004). Sexual violence against intimate partners in
Mail & Guardian online – see links above
Memela, L. (2005). The role of culture and society in shaping gender inequalities. Agenda Special Focus: Gender, Culture and Rights, 96-99.
Jobson, M. (2005). 5,25 million minutes: Gender and culture after 10 years of democracy. Agenda Special Focus: Gender, Culture and Rights, 14-23.
Sideris, T. (2004). “You have to change and you don’t know how!”: Contesting what it means to be a man in a rural area of
Sideris, T. (2005). Post-apartheid
The Witness online – see links above