Minister Angie Motshekga: Ethiopian Church of South Africa Women's Conference

7 Aug 2019

Speech by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the Women Conference of the Ethiopian Church of South Africa, held at the Philipollis High School, Free State, 07 August 2019 

Programme Director: Provincial Deputy Chairperson, Cde Zodwa Zwane
Provincial Secretary, Cde Nomarashiya Caluza
Acting Mayor of EThekwini, Cllr Fawzia Peer
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs
Ms. Nomusa Dube – Ncube
Provincial Gender Convener, Cde Hle Lekoma
General Secretary of ELRC, Miss Nolusindiso Foca
Provincial Deputy Chairperson, Cde Zodwa Zwane
Chief Executive Officer of SACE, Miss Ella Mokgalane
CEO of Durban and Chamber, Miss Palesa
SACP Central Committee Member, Cde Jenny Schreiner
Comrades and Compatriots

Cde Deputy Chairperson, it is indeed an honour and privilege for me to address you today as we officially kick off the Women in Leadership Conference.

I will be failing in my duty if I don’t shout out loud and say, Revolutionary greetings to all SADTU Women Collective!!!  

As we know SADTU is and remains a truly disciplined force of the left. Cde Chairperson, SADTU has always been on the right side of history.

SADTU is a product of rebelling against the status quo. SADTU was born out of struggle. It is not a sweetheart union.

The next frontier of struggle that SADTU must intensify and win, is a war against patriarchy, gatekeepers of patriarchy and those who derive profits from our subjugation.

It’s open season against women all over the world. It’s time for a pushback.

We call upon all SADTU women leaders in particular and all progressive trade unions in general to be the force to be reckoned with in the fight against patriarchy, gender discrimination, and high levels of poverty.

Poverty which as I will argue still bears a face of a woman.  A black woman to be specific.

We meet here today on the back of sad news that the unemployment rate has reached -29% in the second quarter of 2019. It is a shocker: Almost 7 million people are now without jobs.

In April, we celebrated 25 years of democracy, peace and social progress. In the times of crisis like the unemployment nightmare, we still have a duty to count our blessings.  

We live in a constitutional democracy. Our Government derives its mandate from the people. Every five years we hold peaceful general elections.

One such occasion that calls for champagne and roses occurred on the 30th of May 2019, when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his cabinet to steer the ship of the 6th Democratic Administration.

In his televised address to the nation, the President made a momentous and historic announcement. He said: ‘For the first time in the history of our country, half of all ministers are women.’

South Africa also broke new ground in the 2019 elections with 46% women in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures and 50% women in cabinet.

This represents a four percent increase, up from 42 percent after the 2014 elections.

The 46% women’s representation in Parliament puts South Africa in eighth position in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) rankings for women’s representation in lower houses or National Assembly.

Currently, Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia have surpassed the 50% mark for women’s representation in national parliaments.

The provincial legislature with the highest women representation is Mpumalanga, where half of the legislators are female.

The provincial legislature with the lowest gender representation is the Western Cape, where just 35.71 percent of representatives are women.

Obviously, the African National Congress is not a leader of government in the Western Cape.

All the speakers in the national and provincial legislatures are women. 

The representation of women in provincial legislatures mirrors the national level at 46%: a thirteen-percentage point increase from 2014. This is the highest proportion of women since 2004.

The anomaly of course is that in actual fact more women voted in the last elections, that number stands at 55 percent.  

Perhaps, not frightening is that as a percentage, fewer women were quoted in the news media during the 2019 national and provincial elections.

According to the findings of the Gender Links (GL) Gender Audit of the 2019 South Africa elections, there was a decline in women sources in the news media, from 25% in the 2014 elections to 20% in the 2019 elections.

Is it time to pop champagne and celebrate, not so fast. Yet, we can indeed celebrate these recent developments.

At the heart of women struggles today here at home and internationally is the pervasive nature of patriarchy.

One of the struggles that underlies all of our policy battles is the continued lack of women in positions of power writes a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota recently.

She says from corporate boardrooms, to the courts and political leadership around the world, the lack of women in senior positions continues to stymie progress on issues from pay to humanitarian aid to discrimination in all its forms.  

Most importantly, she argues that the sooner we understand that the lack of women in leadership roles holds back not only women, but all people, the sooner we will be able to advance society as a whole.

She might as well could have been talking about South Africa.

The sooner South Africa realises that there’s a 50 percent wealth of knowledge that is systematically and routinely excluded from key issues/positions that pertains to society, the sooner we will realise that any advance towards a normal, and more cohesive society will remain elusive.

There’s no reason for women in a constitutional democracy to fight to be included in the opinion forming discourse, knowledge production, political leadership and boardrooms, and the proverbial inheritance regime. Yet, we must fight. Yet, we must rebel. The struggle is far from over.

This is despite our Constitution which turns 23 years this year enjoining all of us to recognise the injustices of the past and to build a new society on based on liberty and social justice.

We cannot overemphasise the importance of our Constitution because it occupies an important space in the life of this nascent democracy.

When President Nelson Mandela signed the Constitution into law, he on behalf of all South Africans entered into us into a sacred covenant.

The Constitution is a set of values upon which our democracy is founded. The Constitution is our overarching vision for the society we sought to create on the ashes of apartheid, that society forbids discrimination, advances non-racialism and non-sexism.

These as we know have been the central pillars of the African National Congress (ANC) for decades.

Comrade Chairperson, the next frontier in the war against patriarchy is the persistent wage inequality. Its men made, excuse the pun.

According to the Global Wage Report 2018/19, South African women who are permanently employed earn 22.7% less than men do.

South African women who work part-time earn 39% less than men do. South Africa came in as the second worst country surveyed for part-time wage inequality; Pakistan came in at 77.4%.

The Report found no real evidence that the level of education alters the gender pay gap. It indicated that that women are as educated as males and in some cases are in fact more educated than males such as in the technical occupations.

Similarly, the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Global Wage report’s 2018/19 made similar depressing findings.

According to the Report, South Africa has the world’s highest wage inequality overall.

This comes at a time when the legislative framework and the Constitution arbours such discrimination.

The Constitution seeks to address inequality through section 9 in Chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights, which provides for equality and equal protection of the law to everyone.

On the other hand the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998 seeks to provide redress to protect and advance persons, or categories of persons who were disadvantaged by unfair discrimination, of which women are a majority.

It’s about time that women activists, women lawyers and progressive civil society organisations must prioritise equal pay for work of equal value.

Let’s take the campaign into the streets, boardrooms and courts.

Every employer, Government included must be held accountable where differentiations in pay are glaring.

This injustice can no longer be tolerated, it’s inimical to the values of our Constitution.

The fight for equal pay for work of equal value starts for women long before they are employed.

In 2018, the Statistics South Africa pointed out that the South African labour market is more favourable to men than it is to women.

The Report also concluded that men are more likely to be in paid employment than women, regardless of race.

But we know that both the wage gap and lesser pay bears a face of black woman.

Chairperson, even more egregious is that although by 2018, some 43 percent of women were in paid employment, only 32 percent made into the boardroom as managers.

This is despite the fact that over 40 percent women are heads of households in this country.

The 2017 survey found the biological fathers of 61.8% of children younger than 18 were absent from the household.

So in theory, these men who earn more than women aren’t supporting their children.

Cde Chairperson, this is an unmitigated disaster, women heads households, often struggle to find work, if they do find work are paid less, if they do work, a group of men/or a man decide(s) against appointing them as managers.  Its men made, pun intended.

These are the same people (women) who through unpaid work and sustenance living (17.4 percent) look after the children, orphans, unemployed and the sick, yet there aren’t good enough for the South African boardroom.

Something doesn’t add up.

Something has got to give. The situation is untenable. 

Add to the vortex, the scourge of femicide. South Africa’s femicide rate is five times more than the global rate.

The published study mainly from the South African Medical Research Council’s Gender and Health Research Unit indicated that the police could identify the perpetrator in 1,792 of an estimated 2,363 cases based on 2009 autopsy data of women aged 14 years and older from mortuaries across the country.

Of the cases where a perpetrator had been identified, more than half of the murders (57.1%) were by an intimate partner.

More recently, the data from the South African Police Service and Statistics South Africa shows that the femicide rate increased from 13 murders per 100,000 women in 2015/16 to 14 murders per 100,000 women in 2016/17. This is an increase of 7.7%.

We as women are under siege. Even land ownership patterns show that women only own only 13 percent of land, according to land audit done by the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform.

Cde Chairperson, the struggle for women emancipation has been around since time immemorial.  For example, 151 years ago, in his Letter to Kugelmann, penned on December 12, 1868, the German philosopher, and perhaps the greatest social scientist of the nineteenth century, Karl Marx wrote:

“Anyone who knows anything of history knows that great social changes are impossible without feminine upheaval.  Social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, the ugly ones included.”

Another finest revolutionary, Lenin in the autumn of 1920 told an interviewer that, ‘We must create a powerful international women’s movement, on a clear theoretical basis.’

In his view, Lenin said: ‘In Petrograd, here in Moscow, in other towns and industrial centres the women workers acted splendidly during the revolution. Without them (women) we should not have been victorious.’

One hundred and fifty one years later since Marx and 99 years later since Lenin spoke out against patriarchy, the position of women remains precarious at best. 

Successive generations of governments and revolutionaries are yet to grasp the mettle of understating that social progress can be measured by how society treats its women and children as eloquently argued by Cde Oliver Tambo amongst others.  

It’s time to change gear. Let’s rebel. Let’s take the war to the gatekeepers of patriarchy. Let’s cause an upheaval across the nook and cranny of our land.  

President Mandela came and is now gone. The movement and society is yet to understand his words that just like Karl Marx did 151 years ago that, “social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex…”  

Nonetheless, let’s not lose heart. ‘It is a law of life that problems arise when conditions are there for their solution,’ so argued Comrade Walter Sisulu.  

Well with a favourable legislative regime and new media, the time is ripe for a feminine revolution.  

Reflecting on the 1956 Women’s March, our stalwart Comrade Sophie de Bruyn said she felt a lump in her throat because she saw an army of women: dignified women, courageous women.

She said: ‘I felt so humbled to be part of such bravery.’

Where is the army of women today to stand up for women emancipation, and against the pervasive nature of patriarchy?

One day I too want to feel a lump in my throat when masses of our women pick up the spear, and rebel just one last time for equality, against femicide, wage inequality, women exclusion from the SA boardrooms, poverty and subjugation.

I too want to be part of the brave ones, the Talented Tenth, SEND ME.

I thank you.

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