The mayor of eThekwini Municipality in Durban, South Africa, Zandile Gumede, has called on South Africans to rally behind a female candidate for the 2019 general election.
Gumede, who spoke here last Thursday during the Essence Festival Durban, under the theme ‘Enhancing the
Economic Empowerment of Women’, said 22 years after the end of apartheid, women are still lagging behind the rest of society socio-economically and politically.
“We have few women in senior positions. We support [the call for] a woman president candidate. We look forward for South Africa to support a woman president. Why not? We can do it. As women we must emerge stronger and stronger,” she remarked to loud cheers and ululation from fellow women at the five-day festival, which was held in Africa for first time this year.
The only incumbent female head of state in Africa, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, as well as former Malawian president Joyce Banda, have long championed women’s rights and had previously committed to using their positions to improve the lives of women across the continent.
In June, Sirleaf was elected as the chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), making her the first female to occupy that position since ECOWAS was formed.
Without mincing any words, Gumede said the nation must be grateful and respect women who fought tirelessly for South Africa’s independence, such as famed anti-apartheid activist and politician Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, among many others.
Madikizela-Mandela has held several government positions and headed the African National Congress Women’s League. She is also a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee.
Gumede said although some strides have been made in fairer women’s representation, such as the 50/50 gender representation policy, the inequality gap still needs to be bridged.
“We have a 50/50 policy. We have a woman chief whip in parliament. We are thankful to the ANC, but we want to see more women occupy positions in municipalities and parliament. We’re not fighting men. We just want to see women apply for any position,” she noted.
Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu shared Gumede’s sentiments on 50/50 gender representation.
“Issues of women being commanders and commissars were not there when we were fighting in the camps of Angola. Women could not be members of the ANC executive. Women used to go cook food while men make decisions. In the ANC, we had to stand up and say, ‘We can be commander and commissars too.’ If we had to carry a gun and run we had to do it,” she recalled.
According to her, women had to demand to be part of the post-apartheid negotiating process, which she says was a challenging task to achieve, as men were dominant.
“This is the time for men to realise that if women are to succeed, all barriers must be removed. Violence against women is also a problem in South Africa and elsewhere in the world,” she said.
She further urged people to start supporting SMEs by procuring locally manufactured products.
“We have to start clothing ourselves with locally produced clothes if jobs are to remain in South Africa. Let’s start looking to women in the townships [to see] what they are producing,” she encouraged.
Gumede said Durban was excited to host an event of such magnitude, which ran from November 8 to 13, and provided an opportunity for local exhibitors, visual artists and businesses to showcase their work.
Gumede said hosting such a historic and beneficial programme is part of Durban’s plan to create exchange programmes aimed at skills development, focussing mainly on the needs of the youth and women.
The festival attracted more than 500 exhibitors.