13 April 2013
Programme Director Comrades and Colleagues All Delegates, Disciplined members of the Women`s League (WL) of our glorious movement, the African National Congress (ANC), do accept our revolutionary greetings on this occasion of the North West Provincial Conference.
We bring our salute from your national office, at Luthuli House, relieved as it is that you were indeed able to pull this important operation together in spite of all challenges. Building a strong organisational structure This provincial conference is important for fulfilling democratic processes within our organisation. This is important for the sake of the women of the province and country who need a strong representative, driven by unity in struggle, to champion the cause for gender equality and women`s emancipation. But most importantly, serious challenges lie ahead even as we draw close to the 2014 national elections.
Learning from our comrades in China, in the days of Mao Tse Tung, we would not want to fight any battle unprepared. For such, is a recipe for disaster. It would resemble sending a disintegrated army to the front ranks, for outright annihilation. Thus the need for us to prepare our forces as we are doing. Clearly we need a strong organisational structure, from branch, region to national, all united under the banner of the WL, driven by the collective mission to end the historical gender injustice.
In the 2013 January 8 Statement, the ANC National Executive Committee declared 2013 "The Year of Unity in Action Towards Socio-economic Freedom!" With a strong organisational structure, we can unite the women of this province, analyse and say clearly what the role of women should be in advancing this clarion call from the leadership of our movement, that says, ‘let us all work for unity, and in unity, advance socio-economic freedom.` As a strong organisation, with a clear revolutionary purpose, united in all we do, we can better mobilise support outside our fold, in the country at large for this drive for a better life for all our people, the African people in particular.
Without a strong and united movement, clearly it would prove tough to unite others outside our fold. "Charity begins at home!" With a strong organisational structure, we can drive programmes of women. With a strong organisational structure, we can make a meaningful input in advancing the national democratic revolution whose aim it is to create a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. Since the ANC was formed in 1912, and the Bantu Women`s League in 1918, we have distinguished ourselves as a movement commanding moral supremacy. We speak here of the women`s movement that gave us extraordinary leaders like Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Dorothy Nyembe, Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn and others. On this tradition, we must build. That`s why we`re here! Setting the gender agenda South Africa requires a strong women`s voice to influence agenda setting on matters affecting women in particular.
Nothing about us without us as women. In spite of the work done to transform qualitatively the lives of women, there is much to be done to sustain the strategic positioning of gender and women`s issues high on the agenda of economic transformation and development. Many strategists say the best way to tackle a problem is to study it first, to analyse it first, to conduct what Paulo Freire calls a "strategic reflection" in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. As the late President Samora Machel has said, the question of women`s emancipation, that constitutes our content and political programme, is "a very serious question.
It requires study and clear ideas" (Speech, 1973). You know the pertinent challenges on the ground the North West as a province has had to contend with, both internally as the ANC and, in broader terms, as society. As a case in point, our people in the province and country were traumatised by events in the mining sector. The Marikana tragedy, where we lost 44 people, continues to make headlines. These developments make stronger the case for a speedy transformation of the sector and our economy as a whole. It is women who lost breadwinners and children, thus the need as women to play a role in finding a lasting solution to the conditions that trigger such unfortunate events.
We all felt the pain. But, in the words of Cde Mongane Serote, "to every birth, its blood." The pain hit us hard, so to speak. In recent times, we`ve also seen a disturbing pattern and nature of service delivery protests from these parts of the country and elsewhere which, as we know comrades, government is doing much to address. Many expect to hear our voice in this respect, as we try hard to do so as an organised league of women. Back in April 2011, the Independent Electoral Commission noted in its voter participation survey 2010/2011 that there was a high dissatisfaction expressed with municipal performance (45%).
As you know, government has acknowledged the challenges in rolling-back the apartheid legacy and backlogs we have inherited with regard to the provision of services. This month, in a letter to public servants, President Jacob Zuma confirmed that there is evidence that our strategic interventions as government, working in partnership with communities, are bearing fruit. The President said although there is room for improvement, we have hard-working public servants. The public service should help us stem legitimate protests by working even much harder, smarter and better.
The President reminded us that: "In today`s global and competitive world, a country`s success is determined by many things. "Key among these is a patriotic, effective, caring and efficient cadre of public servants that translates government policies and programmes into tangible benefits." Comrades, you are better placed to use this conference to analyse carefully and respond to all these challenges you also see in the province. You are better placed to understand and thus tackle challenges within our structures here, some of which, if not addressed, go to erode morale within our ranks and they water the poison tree of disillusionment and undesirable divisions among comrades.
We don`t need that. With a strong organisational structure, we will be able better to find a clear role for women for dealing with current challenges here. We have a historical role to play. At the First Conference of Mozambican Women in March 1973, President Samora Machel reminded us that: "The liberation of women is not an act of charity. It is not the result of a humanitarian or compassionate position. It is a fundamental necessity for the Revolution, a guarantee of its continuity, and a condition for its success." As a formidable force we will be able to implement a programme for empowering women to taste of the fruits of freedom, ensuring they are not left in perpetuity on the margins as the country surges on towards socio-economic freedom. With a strong organisational structure we can galvanise support and field the very best of our volunteers for an overwhelming ANC victory in the upcoming general elections. Such an election victory will put in the hands of the working poor a powerful instrument for driving social and economic transformation -state power. Women are the majority. Census 2011 confirmed that women made 51% of the 51,8 million South Africans.
We are a country of 25 million males and 27 million females. We need a strong voice in the state and economy. The majority must govern. How you conduct this conference, both in terms of policy discussions and deployment of cadres to lead the province, will help in preparing ourselves to govern, as dictated by objective conditions within our movement and our country. But all these things macomrades we can best discharge when we are better organised and ready to act. Only a strong WL can set and shape the gender agenda for qualitative empowerment.
Preparing for 2014 national elections As I have said, elections are another terrain of struggle. How we go to them is fundamental in shaping the future and direction of this country. We cannot be complacent. We cannot assume on the basis of the overwhelming support that we enjoy in the country, that all else is a walk in the park. Far from it. Kgololosego, Freedom, e ya sebeletswa comrades. Consolidating the young women`s desk We have talked over time of intensifying our recruitment drive. We have agreed over time on prioritising the young women`s desk for our League. This has got to be done. Young people are the future.
They are the inheritors of our future. In this spirit, we welcome the National Task Team for the ANC Youth League. You have a role in building a better youth structure that`s more formidable, more thirsty for education and, most importantly, more driven by the revolutionary consciousness and high discipline that would have made Chris Hani the most happiest. Building unity in action Comrades, Allow me to take this opportunity to salute revolutionary lives of the legendary Oliver Tambo, Cde Chris Hani and the young militant Solomon Mahlangu. When we observed this week the 20th Anniversary of the death of Cde Chris Hani, we all said he was a humble cadre, a unifying leader, a darling of the South African revolution, a patriotic leader prepared at any time to sacrifice his life for the people. In memory of Cde Chris Hani, let us make this Provincial Conference a success and complete the revolutionary task he had advanced - the noble task of building a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
It is only in this way that we can lay a solid foundation for the development of the new cadre alive to the meaning of self-sacrifice, and ready to say, as Hani did say, and I quote: "What right do I have to hold back, to rest, to preserve my health, to have time with my family, when there are other people who are no longer alive - when they have sacrificed what is precious, namely life." This is the type of patriotism and selflessness we need to build unity so that, as a strong and united force, we can intensify the ensuing battle for socio-economic transformation. It is this vision that guides our resolve in the National Development Plan to mobilise all our forces and resources to tackle and end poverty, inequality and unemployment.
You built the mines, you brought gold and platinum to the surface, you lost many lives in the process, and so, you all must share in the country`s wealth as we say in the Freedom Charter. The sweat and blood of children of this province went into making South Africa the world`s largest platinum producer. It is only when we are organised that we can share information. It is only when we are organised that we can point women to areas where they can benefit from the gains of democracy. It is only when we are organised that working with communities, we can identify economic opportunities for women, and assist in overcoming barriers to opportunities and funding.
With this vision, of creating a better life for all women, men and children, we should be able to look beyond all else that serve to derail us from our road to economic freedom, equality and opportunities for all. It cannot be ourselves in the era of freedom who perfect such destructive and fascists divisive strategists seen at the height of apartheid repression. Unity and organisational renewal are key to our success. Batswana ba bone maungo a kutlwano le tshwarisano ya bana ba mpa ga ba tla gatella mosola le matla a ngatana ya dikgong. In the same breath, the giants of the struggle we have honoured on the occasion of 100 Years of the ANC`s selfless struggle (2012) and whom we honour during Freedom Month, understood clearly the value of standing together as a people - jaaka bana-ba-mpa ba ba ngathelanang tlhogo ya tsie.
And it was in this context that Cde Oliver Tambo characterised the revolutionary alliance as a "living organism that has grown out of struggle," and not as "an accident of history" or a "paper alliance." Though OR died of a stroke, in April 1993, exactly two weeks after Hani`s assassination, all three of our heroes, OR, Chris, and Kalushi who was hanged by the racists in April, gave their lives to nourish with their blood the tree of freedom. And so comrades as we celebrate freedom in the month of April we do so while paying tribute also to the heroes of our struggle. Consolidating our gains We have clear challenges making it the more fundamental to consolidate the gains of democracy. Stats SA`s Quarterly Labour Force Survey report for the last quarter of 2012 is revealing. Between October 2011 and December 2012, the number of unemployed women increased by 150 000 or 7,0%, while the number of unemployed men increased by 107 000 or 5,1% (QLFS, 2013: xiv).
The unemployment rate for women was 27,1% in Q1:2008, while the rate for men was 6,6% lower, and by Q1:2012 this gap had narrowed to 4,6%. The Survey says that the unemployment rate for women remained higher than the national average between Q1:2008 and Q2:2012. The unemployment rate for Q4:2012 was 24,9%. Celebrating our achievements Our triumphs we must talk about so that our people are not made to believe that there is only little change. Much has changed since 1994 and continues progressively to change. The 24,9% unemployment rate is a decline from 25,5%, showing a decrease of 0.6% in unemployment in the 4th quarter of 2012.
By province, the biggest decrease in the unemployment rate was in Limpopo (2,6%) and North West (1,7%). The ANC constitution articulates non-sexist policies that have indeed influenced South Africa`s Constitution, the supreme law of the republic. The two constitutions do recognize women as equal citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities. It is under this democratic space that we are succeeding, albeit with challenges and many triumphs, to transform the ANCWL into a formidable political home for progressive women. What is to be done?
What we want to see is for comrades to familiarise themselves with the ANC Gender Policy Discussion Document that served at the last National General Council and was instrumental in shaping discussions and resolutions on gender in Mangaung. It is our task, as a League that`s integral to the ANC, to contribute to the implementation of Mangaung resolutions.
Last month we held a very productive meeting of the WL`s National Executive Committee in Gauteng, at St George Hotel. We highlighted some of the key priority areas for the League and adopted a Programme of Action for the year ahead whose effective implementation depends largely on the North West WL and other provinces.
We need strong branches to do this. We resolved to celebrate 2013 as the "Centenary of the Women`s Struggle for Liberation." This year is therefore not like any other year for the ANCWL. 2013 marks the 100 anniversary of the first organised march of women against the 1913 Land Act, led by Charlotte Maxeke. We will embark on a campaign to celebrate struggle heroines on all fronts.
We depend on your creative work in this regard. We will embark on a campaign encompassing memorial lectures in honour of heroines of the struggle, starting with a lecture dedicated to Charlotte Maxeke. Other events will follow on a month-to-month basis in the various provinces where women from each province will be honoured in a similar manner. After each lecture, we will conduct interactive sessions with young women about pertinent issues that they face in a modern and patriarchal society that remains stubbornly prejudiced against women. Such engagements with young women of our country will enable us to look at ways to assist each other in combating these social maladies.
The theme of these events will be "Inspiring young women by remembering our heroines." When we look back at the rich history of the ANCWL, it becomes apparent that our movement has in the main comprised young, active energetic women who analysed critically the social and economic situations they found themselves in and decided they had no option but to be a part of the struggle for liberation. As I said earlier, we therefore need to really build very strong young women desks for the WL. Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, who is still an active member of the ANCWL NEC, was just 20 years old when she wore her green blouse and led 20 thousand women to the Union Buildings alongside other leaders of the historic Women`s March. Challenges that inspired women like Charlotte Maxeke and aunt Sophia to take action are very different from the issues facing 20 year old women of today.
Frantz Fanon said: "Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it." This challenge we extend to all of you, particularly to young members of the WL. We want the youth to be assured we are listening to the needs of young women and are encouraging them to get involved in the ANCWL. We want them to feel welcome in the organisation. Thus the need to have a well-oiled young women`s desk. Comrades, before I close, I challenge you as a province to give us a practical plan outlining realistically how you are going to go about drawing young women in the North West into the ANCWL. A burning issue on which we should resolve equally strong is gender based violence that has recently reared its ugly head on our shores. It is continuing to plague our society making it difficult for women and the girl-child to lead decent lives.
We have agreed as national to engage on a national back-to-back campaign that will be characterised by a series of build-up events leading to a major occasion towards the end of the campaign. But any message of hopelessness we must reject. We think our work in this area should assume a multi-faceted form embracing educational initiatives around gender-based violence and rape as well as pickets in the various provinces, regions and branches. We will work with the Department of Police to deal with issues around substance abuse which seem to be a major contributing factor to many of the inhumane acts our women and girl-children are subjected to.
Comrade Chair, In this context, partnerships are very crucial. We challenge you as a province to intensify community engagement, from branch level upwards. Initiate and accelerate the 360 degree, know your neighbourhood campaign. With strong branches, we can better ensure that women play an active role in identifying issues and challenges affecting communities, and in this way we can ensure that women set the agenda of change and development. It is ourselves, as disciplined members of the ANC, who should serve as a rock-solid bridge between government and communities.
Conclusion Lastly, not only do we look forward to democratically elected women leaders for the province. We also look forward to revolutionary ideas and programmes. I have confidence in you. For a better world order, for peace and for prosperity, we need unity, collective action and sisterhood within our ranks. On behalf of the National Executive Committee and loyal members of our League, I wish you all a dynamic and memorable Conference.