Speech by the Deputy Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Honourable Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize
During the Occasion of the SACP Gender and Social Transformation Commission of the 13th Congress Central Committee
At The Lakes Hotel, Benoni
13 February 2016
Viva Joe Slovo Viva!
Viva Moses Kotane Viva!
Viva Chris Hani Viva!
Viva SACP, Viva!
Viva ANC Viva!
Comrade Bulelwa Tunyiswa
Comrade Teboho Radebe
Comrade Jenny Schreiner
Ms Keketso Maema, CEO of the CGE
Comrade Reneva Fourie
Central Committee Members Present
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am indeed humbled by the invitation to come and address you on this important occasion of the Gender and Social Transformation Commission of the 13th Congress Central Committee. I stand before you as a dedicated cadre of our movement and undeniably a committed agent of the transformation that commenced in 1912 when our forbearers established the greater movement, the African National Congress.
Coming from the 104th birthday celebrations of the ANC in North West Province, we came out with an important theme, which should also be borne in mind as we approach the imminent local government elections, “The Year of Advancing People’s Power: Local Government is in Your Hands”.
This year will be the 60th anniversary since the women took to the streets on 9th August 1956, marching to the Union Buildings against the pass laws. 2016 also marks 40 years of the Soweto Uprisings which happened in June 1976. During the 104th January 8th celebrations, the President has well-articulated how the youth of 2015 have demonstrated that they can be agents of positive social change. Much as we do not condone the ill-discipline that characterised their struggle and undermined the broader struggle that was fought for and victoriously acquired, we note the discipline of a woman student leader, Comrade Nompendulo Mkatshwa. The manner in which they elevated the plight of the difficulties in financing education in this country was reminiscent of the militant spirit shown by young people during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings. As we pursue our endeavour to go back to the basics in combating challenges at the local government level, in eradicating the lingering vestiges of apartheid, we must harness this enduring activism of young people.
How do I proceed without the recollection of precious moments we had with the iconic leadership of your previous sterling leaders. As I stand here I am reminded of the first-rate leadership of Comrade Moses Kotane. Described as one of the foremost champions of the working class and a future socialist South Africa, he worked interminably to create a unity of all classes and groups to confront racist tyranny. He is further described as a foremost patriot who had his feet firmly planted in the national culture and aspirations of his people. Yet, he remained a shining example of true internationalism and believed passionately in the world-wide bonds of progressive humanity everywhere.
We are reminded of the stewardship of Comrade Joe Slovo who was one of the earliest members of the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC) Umkhonto we Sizwe. A dedicated cadre who was an active member of the South Africa Communist Party (SACP) from the 1940s and, after becoming an advocate at the Johannesburg Bar, became well known for his work as a defence lawyer in political trials.
We fondly remember the astute leadership of Comrade Chris Hani who was an MK commissar; a SACP member serving at its Central Committee and at the politburo and a well-known member of the ANC, who served in the ANC NEC. Comrade Hani was one of the leading examples of a comrade who was a member of the three organisations at the same time and served them without difficulties. He articulated their objectives without contradiction. He was indeed an outstanding cadre to all three organisations. He vigorously defended the policies and programmes of the ANC, and equally defended the ideology of the SACP as well as the Alliance. He always spoke his mind without any hesitation on all the relevant matters.
GENDER EQUALITY AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
Equality right is the first right listed in the South African Bill of Rights. Equality before the law and freedom from discrimination to the people of South Africa is provided for under Section Nine of the Constitution of South Africa guarantees. It prohibits both discrimination by the government and discrimination by private persons; however, it also allows for affirmative action to be taken to redress past unfair discrimination. Section Nine of the Constitution which talks to Equality says:
“ (1) Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.
(2) Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
(3) The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
(4) No person may unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds in terms of subsection (3). National legislation must be enacted to prevent or prohibit unfair discrimination.
(5) Discrimination on one or more of the grounds listed in subsection (3) is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair.”
The debate on gender equality and social transformation has moved into the domain of everyday life. We have seen how the very issues have managed to perpetuate the extent of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment and vis-visa. The most popular living spaces and activities such as the work place, religion, social activities amongst many other different environments that we may find ourselves in are affected if we do not address these. As a comprehensive organisation for women, the PWMSA is constantly fighting a never-ending battle of gender equality and social cohesion.
SOUTH AFRICAN COMMUNIST PARTY’S STANCE ON GENDER AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION
Various women’s movements have over the years enjoyed the support of the South African Communist Party and as one of the biggest women movements we are enthralled by this. We have seen your active involvement during the constitutional negotiations in the early 1990s, when the National Women’s National Coalition (WNC) was formed. This movement played a critical and significant role in ensuring the inclusion of progressive clauses on women and gender equality into our national Constitution. It was also a crucial platform for dialogue amongst women, drawn from different political and social formations in our country.
In your Central Committee Report to the 3rd Special National Congress, you compare the economic challenges that South Africa is facing with those faced by affluent European countries. You say that “Understanding the critical link between social transformation and the patriotic defence of democratic national sovereignty has been the bed-rock of the Cuban Revolution. It is the same challenge that has been playing itself out in Greece - democracy versus German bankers, a national electoral mandate versus perpetual, debt serfdom imposed by neo-liberal technocrats in the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the IMF on behalf of private financial interests”.
Through the words of Comrade Blade Nzimande, your General Secretary, you say that, “the challenges facing us here in South Africa are not fundamentally different”. What is encouraging is that you clearly state your popular mandate as being to “advance boldly on a developmental path based on re-industrialisation, on localisation and beneficiation, on state procurement, on infrastructure development, on land reform, and on major social redistribution”. Pursuance of the before mentioned objectives will indeed assist us in driving the country to attain the much needed social transformation.
The South African Communist Party’s approach to Women’s emancipation is that from an entry point, the critical challenges facing the struggle for women’s emancipation and gender equality must be really understood. The SACP believes that whilst the struggle for gender equality seeks to liberate women from the yoke of patriarchal oppression, sight of the racial and class stratification amongst women themselves, must however not be lost.
What this means according to the SACP is to constantly build the capacity of African working class women as part of the leading motive forces in the struggle for the emancipation of women as a whole.
In your 1962’s Programme of the South African Communist Party document, you say that “The young African states need to abolish illiteracy, backwardness and economic dependence. They need to ‘Africanise’ their civil services and administrations, rapidly to train personnel from amongst their own people to administer and develop their countries….. Only if they can achieve a social transformation, a fast rate of economic and social development, can the African countries ensure genuine independence and equality in the world family of nations…”
It gives us exhilaration to realise that as early as 1962 your organisation already talked about ".... rapid industrialisation and economic development, in order to overcome the terrible heritage left behind by colonialism…”. The same goals and the united spirit must still prevail today for our country to eventually realise gender equality and also be socially transformed.
GOVERNMENT’S ROLE IN ENSURING WOMEN EMANCIPATION
It is true that the expectations of our people in 1994 were very high and rightfully so. The ANC government knew that the task to develop the country and its people was not going to be easy, the question therefore was how to balance the legitimate expectations against the harsh reality of building a country for the benefit all its citizens; How to re-engineer the infrastructure that was designed to serve a few, to work for its entire people.
There are countries in the African continent that were physically ravaged by the colonisers when they realised that the takeover by the indigenous people was inevitable. Whilst not suggesting that this was the case in South Africa when it became inevitable that the ANC would win the 1994’s first democratic elections, it is a known fact and not fiction that the ANC government found the South African Economy in a very bad shape. Someone remarked then that the economy was like a very sick patient that was kept alive through a drip in the fashion of oppressive labour laws and cheap labour. Once these were removed the distortions were exposed. We indeed come a long way.
Looking back at the journey that we took as a country and as a people once burdened by oppressive, draconian laws of apartheid, women have always been at the forefront of transformation. Our contribution to social transformation is often inadequately highlighted and brought to the fore. As a country we have been recognised to be a model for a fair women representation in the national assembly. As early as 2008 we had achieved 43% of women representation in the Cabinet and about 33% in provincial Legislatures including the appointment of the first female Deputy President in 2005.
The government’s women empowerment programme is mainly aimed at addressing gender oppression, patriarchy, sexism, racism, ageism and structural oppression as well as creating a conducive environment which enables women to take control of their lives.
The establishment of the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD) in 2009 was celebrated as a major milestone in the quest for the emancipation of women and their empowerment. The DWCPD is largely meant to champion the cause of women and ensure alignment amongst government structures and between government and social partners on matters related to the emancipation and development of women.
President J.G Zuma, in his state of the nation address in June 2014, committed government to embark on radical socio-economic transformation to encourage an equal society. The President reminded us that change will not come about without some far-reaching interventions. Key to advancing the transformation agenda is the unity of the working class.
The South African Labour Market institutional framework remains sound but we must all accept that the labour market environment is dynamic and a highly contested policy terrain the world over. It is more so in South Africa given our terrible apartheid past and how repressive labour market policy instruments were used.
THE LOCATION OF PWMSA NATIONALLY AND PROVINCIALLY
It is important not to see PWMSA as a women’s programme outside the greater struggle. PWMSA is a further consolidation for all women within various movements fighting the same cause. As such we should avoid the dangers of alienation of women’s struggles from the broader fight against colonisation, imperialism and apartheid which once plagued our country and we now have to intensely deal with their after effects. PWMSA was formed with a conviction that South African society shall one day be truly non-sexist, non-racial, united, democratic and prosperous. Our dream has always been to work towards the realisation of the dream of cohesive, stable, peaceful and truly African society in which all people shall govern and enjoy equal rights and dignity.
It is PWMSA’s view that women are the social group mainly affected by the economic challenges which the country currently faces given their responsibilities at home, workplace and at their children’s schools. South African women are not growing beyond the entry point in the economy and crucial opportunities such as local beneficiation are not at the centre of their movement’s agendas as it should be.
The Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa was launched with the view to create a broad front for development of women of South Africa, one that would enable women to speak with one voice to address their concerns using a single platform of action irrespective of race, class, religion, political and social standing. Our focus is on six thematic areas and these include the following:
• Organisation building
• Economic Inclusion and Empowerment
• Education and Skills Development
• Gender Based Violence
• Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights
• Peace and Security
In an effort to ensure that women are included in the value chain of our economy, we have partnered with the Department of Land and Rural Development to improve women’s economic position in South Africa.
We also acknowledge that there is an urgency to identify programmes and projects that will enable women to participate in economic development.
The UN has also made a call for a quantum leap forward as far as women’s economic inclusion is concerned.
On Gender Based Violence we initiate and support community led initiatives to help reduce gender based violence.
In this country so many women are killed and abused on a daily basis and as PWSA, we believe that the louder our voices get around gender based violence, the more impact we will have.
This goes back to the saying that when people are quite about an issue, the more society concludes that everything is ok, but when we speak out, we alert even those who were not aware that there is a problem that we have to deal with as a collective.
We cannot normalize crimes against women such as rape, physical violence and emotional abuse on the basis that it happens every.
One affected woman, is one too many. Women in this country deserve to be free from all the social ills and we as the PWMSA will continue fighting for gender and social transformation.
Gender and Social Transformation forms part of the integrated revolution age of the eradication of colonisation and apartheid systems that was consistently rejected with all endeavours to dismantle its legacy and architecture. The struggle, therefore, for gender equality and social transformation should be a struggle for both men and women. We must all defend the cause for an equal society and a socially transformed nation.
As the PWMSA we are fully committed to supporting and aligning with the “SACP’s 95 years of Unbroken Militant Working Class Struggles for National Liberation, People’s Power and Socialism”.
I thank you.