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By Lunga Simelane

Journalist


Breaking the glass ceiling: Is SA ready for a woman president?

Woman can lead, they are just not given the chance. Are the men in South African politics ready to be led by a woman president?


Our country has always been ready for a woman president but the real question is: are the men in politics ready to be led by a woman?

What are men scared of?

Looking at SA’s beleaguered ruling ANC, the rise of a high-calibre female leader should surely now be considered, because it would signal a turning of the pages and transform the party.

When woman take power

While female national leaders have existed on all continents, Europe generally has the highest concentration of female-led nations.

It is understood all the countries that have had three or more female leaders (with the exceptions of New Zealand and India) are located there.

The one which has had the most females at the helm is Switzerland – and it is thriving.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf served as president of Liberia (2006–18), the first woman elected head of state of an African country.

As president, she secured millions of rands of foreign investment and established a truth and reconciliation committee to probe corruption and heal ethnic tensions.

Ivy Florence Matsepe-Casaburri

In SA, Ivy Florence Matsepe-Casaburri was the second premier of the Free State and minister of communications from 1999 until her death.

She served briefly as South Africa’s acting president in 2005, when both former president Thabo Mbeki and the then deputy president were out of the country.

She was the first woman to have held the post of president in South Africa and the first woman to be head of state of South Africa. This just proves that if South Africa wanted to, it could.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka as deputy president in 2005 was the closest we have come to having a woman lead the country on a permanent basis.

The likes of Winnie Mandela showed women are capable and brave enough to be leaders.

And, might I add, there were even more who were the real fighters on the ground and very courageous.

A multi-party problem

This is not just an ANC problem – other political parties don’t seem to consider women to lead their parties. The EFF? No one.

The DA in 2015 last had a woman as leader in Helen Zille.

It recently had its federal congress to elect new leadership and, despite Mpho Phalatse’s mayoral position in Joburg, her own party did not fight for her to lead.

We do not know what Phalatse could have done for the party as leader but she surely would have had great plans for it…

Political parties nowadays simply fail to push for nominated female candidates.

Mandisa Maya

Another worth mentioning is Mandisa Maya, the first female deputy chief justice. She was also initially recommended for the position of chief justice.

I still can’t think of any reason for her not to be the chief justice.

And despite the fact that Maya has become a symbol of gender transformation and a role player in the promotion of cultural and gender rights and equality, she delivered a considerable number of judgments during her judicial career.

SA’s ideal candidate

President Cyril Ramaphosa would have been the first president in this country to elect a woman to be chief justice and could have received good credit for his decision.

What kind of a woman could our president be? The kind that is strong and intelligent, with integrity and self-respect.

She is a person who is not just fully aware of the struggles and tribulations of her people, but also one who has a big and compassionate heart.

One with leadership skills and previous experience to hold office.

One who will not be swayed by money or public funds and one who will be brave enough to make bold and hard decisions and not fall into the web of being captured.

I believe there are women who can lead. They are just not given a chance.

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