Politic-enke: Mrs. President, do we dare?!
By Jarrod Delport
On August 1st 2012, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma took over the reins of the African Union as the Commissions first female chair. Not only was this a victory for South Africa, cementing our influence in the continent, but a victory for African women across the board. Dlamini-Zuma (63) the ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma, served as Home Affairs Minister, previously served as Health and Foreign Affairs Minister, and she’s been in every cabinet since Mandela’s starting in 1994 – not to mention her numerous accolades, degrees and doctorates from some of the world’s finest institutions. She was also Thabo Mbeki’s running mate in 2007 and came very close to succeeding her husband as Deputy President in 2005. All in all, Nkosazana is the textbook example of a female African leader, yet one spot has eluded her for most of her political life – the presidency. Which brings me to my main point in question: ‘Why has South Africa never had a female president?’.
Two female deputy presidents, countless ministers and deputy ministers, ambassadors, MP’s, MPL’s and Premiers have happened to be women. Two have been Opposition Leaders and one now heads up the International Commission on Human Rights. South Africa has some top brass female leaders, but none have ever risen to the highest echelons in the land to sit at the Union Buildings as President of the Republic. Perhaps it is the mentality of South African political life that deprives us of that female leader, after all in 2008 when President Mbeki resigned (followed by his Deputy who was also a woman), many expected Speaker of the House Baleka Mbete to become South Africa’s first female Commander-in-Chief. It was not to be, instead the ANC did a sidestep around the legal rules of succession and nominated Kgalema Motlanthe as the nations new president (it is legal to do this under the Act of Succession). Mbete was offered the consolation prize and appointed as Motlanthe’s Deputy President. We were robbed of the opportunity of having our first female president!
Countries like Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand and Malawi are just a few places that are run by women. If Malawi can have a female president what is stopping us? Are we afraid that a female touch might spoil our chances of proving that South Africa is now a ‘big boy’ on the world stage?
We have some of the most remarkable female leaders in the world, Sisulu, Ramphele, Mazibuko, De Lille and Mokonyane are a few names that are tossed around as possible presidential candidates. Of course from my end Helen Zille is the top (albeit not only) candidate that I would vote for as our first female president. The women of South Africa are ready to take the highest office in the land… now, we have to ask, why hasn’t it happened yet?