Or perhaps not in the case of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), whose cursory commitment to the cause of women’s rights is becoming well-established.

The rich struggle history of the ANCWL is currently all but held captive by Zuma acolytes whose interest in gender justice is preceded by their own political preservation. Had Minister Dlamini believed as she said that the role of the ANCWL is to “fight on the issues of women…(like) gender-based violence”, then she would not have rambled on about other men in the ANC committing worse crimes than Manana, and would have proffered a principled position on the matter in the direction of the law taking its course.

Perhaps she wittingly or unwittingly disclosed knowledge of violence against women as more widespread within the ANC and government when she said, “…there are those that are actually worse than him. They must come out in the open. We must know them. We must know how they are going to be rehabilitated”.

Surely the rich irony of August as Women’s Month is not lost on Minister Dlamini and her posse in the ANCWL. Or the fact that South Africa enjoys the dubious reputation of being one of the most violent societies in respect of women’s safety. Or that violence against women is an under-reported crime because women face an unsympathetic justice system and fear double victimisation.

The irony and sadness is that Minister Dlamini and her ilk are fully cognisant of the perils faced by women in South Africa to enjoy full and unfettered access to their human rights. However,  their own political ambitions are paramount, in a time when political power equates to incalculable economic and material benefits. To throw asunder the lives of women is unfortunate collateral for ambitious and calculating politicians. We have learnt over time not to assume a necessary correlation between political representation, especially women representatives and a progressive agenda, and respect for women’s rights.

In the case of Deputy Minister Manana, the law and not political whims must take its course to ensure justice for women.

By Ms Zohra Dawood: Director, Centre for Unity in Diversity

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