Dear women of Mzansi: Sisulu comes to Mkhwebane’s defence
"As an African woman, ANC veteran, a member of the ANC’s NEC and a member of the ANC's Women's League, it becomes very difficult to stay quiet on the reprehensible treatment of our Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane."
Lindiwe Sisulu. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
Former cabinet minister Lindiwe Sisulu has come to the defence of late African National Congress (ANC) MP Tina Joemat-Pettersson and suspended Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, saying both women are “victims of a system that lives off the subjugation of women, where women are treated very differently from men”.
In an op-ed titled “Dear Women of Mzansi,” Sisulu said from the first day that Mkhwebane took office, she was treated with huge scepticism.
“Unlike her predecessor, she didn’t have the wholesale support of white media and couldn’t wait to prove themselves right; that maybe she is not ‘fit’ for the job. That’s where she finally entrapped with all manner of justification to establish a committee to check her fitness to do her job, and she was never going to get out of there alive.
“Similarly with Tina, a victim of her own compassion, maybe she thought she was reaching out to another woman to ‘save’ her. All who know Tina, know her as a gentle kind caring soul. Both these women are caught up in a society that judges them, looks at women as objects to be used and patriarchally entrenched,” said Sisulu.
Sisulu said the silence of women in the “persecution of Mkhwebane makes all women complicit”.
“As an African Woman, an ANC veteran, and a member of the ANC’s national executive committee and the ANC’s Women’s League member, it becomes very difficult to stay quiet on the reprehensible treatment of our Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
“Silence is tantamount to a brazen betrayal of the values instilled in me by my parents, the ANC and above all the values enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa,” she said.
Fighting the system
Sisulu added that Mkhwebane has been fighting a system that “intends to block her from doing her mandated job effectively against all odds for years”.
“Despite stellar performance including achieving historic clean audit in 26 years and maintaining that in two successive years, Mkhwebane has been dragged across the proverbial burning coals by the racist DA, some top ANC officials, some members of parliament6 and captured corporate media in an orchestrated smear campaign against her.
“Her unwavering stance against corruption, strength and commitment to justice has remained resolute in the face of this visible and vindictive campaign that seeks to paint her as incompetent, lacking in intelligence, and ignorant of the law,” said Sisulu.
Sisulu said Mkhwebane’s reputation is being tarnished.
“Her once outstanding reputation is shredded daily as vindictive and factional embedded journalists, some even women journalists, continue constructing and selling a grossly false picture of her to the gullible public.
“She is painted as a criminal and faces daily ridicule. None of what the orchestrated factional newspapers report is a true reflection of her valour and capability. It is simply because she is determined to do her job without fear or favour,” Sisulu added.
Sisulu said she has also been attacked by some ANC officials after penning her article about the shortcomings of the judiciary last year.
“I have felt the suffocation of attack from my party in collusion with the press where they seek to squeeze the breath from your body and reconstruct you into a shred of what you know yourself to be.
“My credentials, physicality, and style were all scrutinised and soiled with vitriol and spite. You ask yourself what was political about those labels. When I went in and out of jail, as far as exile, where were these derogatory labels?” she asked.
Sisulu said it is “incongruous for the ANC leadership to pontificate about women’s and human rights when they have witnessed and assisted those who have stripped Mkhwebane of all her magnificence and human dignity”.
“The abuse of Mkhwebane is a disgrace to this democracy. It is a disgrace to South Africa. It is a disgrace to the judicial system and exposes its lip service to impartiality.
“It shows up the contradictions in constitutional law and its propensity to bend in favour of business and white privilege at the expense of the landless majority. It speaks to how profits are put before people and how devalued the Black Woman is in the neoliberal framework that underpins the constitution,” she said.
Constitution fails women
Sisulu said constitution “fails to recognise that African women are a precious resource”.
“It is a grave injury to all women when one woman is subjected to a cruel and unusual attack. This happens all too often. It is time to call it out.
“I call on all women to say ‘no more’ with me. No more structural, systemic, and institutional abuse of women. We must not stand on the sidelines and watch women such as Mkhwebane being destroyed when they challenge the status quo and speak truth to power,” Sisulu said.