With the ANC having only one female premier among the eight in the provinces it controls, the ANC Women’s League is pushing the party’s national general council to take a resolution to change this as well as ensure that women will be elected as mayors in metro municipalities next year.
In a move that appears to go against the ANC’s determination not to have two centres of power – with one person being the provincial chairperson and another the premier – the league wants the party to find a mechanism to introduce gender parity at top provincial level.
In an interview with City Press, league president Bathabile Dlamini said the party could introduce “a rotation system” to ensure that women held senior positions in government.
“We did not want to go there, but women have been left out for a long time, and we think the time has come for us to bring in new things for the ANC.”
Dlamini said the league wanted to see half of the provinces headed by female premiers. She stressed that 50-50 gender parity must be achieved at government level among directors-general and heads of departments. The ANC has a quota system commonly referred to as a “zebra system” where the constitution of the party declares a minimum of 50% female representation.
Since the introduction of the 50-50 gender policy in 2007, the ANC has achieved this target in almost every election, but this is often achieved by mechanically manipulating the lists of candidates for elections.
There is nearly parity in the national executive of the ANC, and President Jacob Zuma’s Cabinet comprises about 46% women.
“If we want to test our ability, we have to start with municipal elections and ensure there is a 50-50 representation – and we must ensure we have female mayors in the metros,” she said.
Buffalo City is the only ANC-run metropolitan municipality that has had a female mayor, but she was removed after allegations of corruption.
“When women do something wrong, they are quickly removed, but they are not replaced by other women; they are replaced by men,” said Dlamini.
“These are the things we have to look into and which will have to be part of the rules and regulations when it comes to elections” she added.
Dlamini said that as a party with a 60% female membership, the ANC had to separate the positions or find “mechanical ways”.
This included introducing a rotation system where, if a man was deployed as a premier in one term, then a woman should take that position in the next.
“We need to find out how we can come up with a system that will be rotational. I don’t like it, but we have to come up with different tactics.
“What has happened is that the leaders at party level are aligned with the leadership at government level.
“We need to separate the two because right now they go together – the chairperson doesn’t automatically become a premier,” she said.
But Dlamini sought to defend Zuma’s gender track record by saying: “I have never seen President Zuma so frustrated … because he was committed to having women as premiers, but we ended up having them as speakers.”
The league also wants the ANC to do more about addressing gender issues, instead of relegating them to the women’s league.
She said when the ANC had its first committee on female emancipation, it was started by then ANC president Oliver Tambo, who served on the committee “because he was serious about the issues of women”.