30 March 2007, Johannesburg
President of the ANC, cde Thabo Mbeki
Deputy President of the ANC, cde Jacob Zuma
Comrade Phumzile Mlambo Nqcuka, Deputy President of the Republic
Fellow Members of the NEC of the ANCWL
Members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC
Members of various Provincial Executive Councils of the ANC WL
Delegates from all our Regional, Zonal and Branch Structures
Guests representing the Tripartite Alliance, and fraternal organizations
Comrades and Friends
On the morning of 17th of February, we all said a deserved goodbye to one of the stalwarts of our organization and a champion of our struggle for liberation in her own right, cde Adelaide Tambo. As we all paid our respects to one such as her, who had given a lot to her own people, each one of us recommitted ourselves to those values that have guided her own life in struggle- a genuine true love for her people, unsurpassed humility and a servant of her people to the end.
We have felt then, as always, that our involvement in the struggle for liberation and our continued membership and association with the ANC, should be about our people, their aspirations and their yearning for freedom. It was with this commitment that the ANC was born and it will be the same commitment that will continue to justify our continued existence as a Movement that is relevant to the lives of our people.
Accordingly we have made an undertaking that as long as we do not betray that which she stood for, and spent her whole life teaching us, then MaTambo can never be dead.
As we remember the recent death of MaTambo we also pay tribute to most our leaders and cadres who passed on recently, including the late comrade Kate Mxakatho, Joyce Kgoali, Fatima Mabuza, Ray Alexandra
Today, in the16th year since the formative Conference of our organization in Kimberly, we meet for our National General Council. We are meeting here during a time when our Movement, the ANC and our country, are going through a number of political developments that have an impact on both our role and contribution towards the cohesion of the masses of our people behind the objective of building a better country and a better society.
Over the past 18 years since the unbanning, together we have made great strides in charting our society on the path to democracy, freedom, non sexism, non racism and prosperity of our nation. We have realistically recognized that the space within which we engage this struggle is one that we contest with a number of social forces, and that it was necessary for us to read these forces correctly as well as to continuously understand how they impact and influence the nature of challenges we face in that engagement.
The past two decades have seen changes in the political landscape, both domestically and globally, as a result of the contestation to which I have referred. Inherently therefore, these changes have also had an impact in the organizational make up of Movement. Significant political developments continue to force and challenge us to adopt organizational and tactical changes that have, in turn, impacted on the organization and its engagements, particularly over the past two decades or so.
The political environment under which we hold this NGC and the developments of the past two years within our Movement, should therefore be understood and tackled with the appreciation of this political reality. The response of the Women's League of the ANC to these developments, should accordingly be consistent with our understanding of the underlying political reality that continues to impact on our Movement.
The Movement should be assisted to emerge out of any challenges much stronger, united, and with an ever deeper resolve to refocus on the tasks at hand. These tasks can never be compromised for organizational and tactical adaptations that we employ from time, and thus they constitute our strategic thrust as a Movement.
Collectively we defined these tasks overall in our Strategy and Tactics document of the ANC:
".the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. This, in essence, means the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female."
We have correctly asserted that the ANC Women's League should play a uniting role in strengthening the Movement's ability to fulfill the objectives of our struggle as defined above. For a united ANC is a strong ANC. We have determined this to be our prime consideration above all the rest, thus we form a strong basis to deal with our internal organizational challenges as a united movement. This approach should not only apply to certain or selected organizational challenges, but apply as a matter of principle.
At an organizational level, the NEC has taken seriously the decision of conference to build a stronger organization whose foundations should be dynamic branches that are capable of taking community issues at ward level.
The organization needs to enhance its organizational and political capacity to take advantage of the space created by the gains of the revolution to push forward the cause of women emancipation.
In this regard we the Women's League should be right at the fore front of the task to mobilize and strengthen the hand of civil society, forging partnerships to advance the aspirations of millions of women, the fight against poverty, and the transformation of our society, while placing women as key contributors in the programme to rebuild their own country.
The launch of the Progressive Women's Movement has been an important achievement in this regard. We will need to ensure that the momentum of this development is maintained and sustained, including the task of replicating this structure at provincial and local levels.
The WL, as the leader of this process, needs to be very sure about areas where we need to forge these partnerships and continue to determine what the minimum programme for the Movement should be.
On the other hand efforts to strengthen civil society should also serve to enhance the ability of the state gender machinery in playing its role more effectively. It is for this reason that we have supported the steps to review some of the institutions in the current gender machinery of the state, with a view to identify the gaps and to further strengthen and position the current institutions, as an effective machinery for gender transformation.
Chairperson and Delegates,
We are meeting here today almost to the month before our country marks 13 years since that historic political breakthrough ushering in freedom and democracy from our people. Mindful of this therefore, this General Council should pose and answer the question whether these 13 years of freedom have had any meaningful impact in the lives of women of our country.
To honestly assess our short comings and their nature as well as clearly identifying the challenges that will face us from here onwards as the ANCWL, the ANC, the broad liberation movement, the state and our society as a whole. Crudely put, the question that we will ask is: To what extent has the democratic forces utilized the political space created by the attainment of freedom to advance the plight of millions of our women thereby empowering them to play a role in the reconstruction of our country.
If these millions of women to whom we refer, majority of whom constitute the bulk of the poorest of the poor, were to be asked to join us directly in conducting this assessment, they would have made quite divergent observations. Many of them would point out the amount of progress that has been made in the area of social delivery. They will point to tangible progress in the provision of housing, water, electricity, healthcare, social security and education.
They will attest to the impact that these levels of delivery has had on women and that it has emancipated many of them from literally being hewers of wood and drawers of water, thereby altering social and gender relations in our communities. They will point to visible empowerment.
Some of them will refer to the difference in their lives that has come as a result of their involvement in Extended Public Works Programmes. They will say that not only did these programmes provide them with job opportunities but also given them greater potential through skills training and real involvement in community development initiatives in their own communities. They will say that they are the drivers of their own development.
On the other hand, Comrades, there will still be many more women who will attest to a totally different picture. Many who are yet to be reached by the social delivery to which we refer. Women continue to constitute the bulk of the masses of unemployed people. They continue to suffer trauma as a result of seeing their children die of curable diseases because the healthcare facilities to which we refer, are yet to reach them. They suffer and wilt in the winter cold as decent accommodation and housing is still yet to come their way. An even greater number amongst them continue to suffer in silence at the hands of those who brutally abuse and assault them.
I am confident, Chairperson, of the ability of this gathering, to deal with this question in a manner that puts this stark reality into a context of our strategic thrust as outlined, the current stage of our struggle and the challenges that remain for us as an organization, as a movement, our government and society as a whole.
It also follows therefore Chairperson that as we have correctly assessed the women of our country are not just a homogeneous entity sharing similar concerns; social standing (in terms of race and class); and therefore the same level of conscientisation. The challenge for us is our ability to build this organization as a platform in which all of them can feel comfortable. This is because despite this difference in social standing, the majority of women we are talking about, across the racial divide, remain potential beneficiaries in the successful conclusion of our revolution and can therefore be regarded as a motive force of such a revolution.
The NGC should engage on these challenges also mindful of the fact that we will soon gather on the occasion of the National Policy Conference of the ANC and where we should place on the agenda some of the policy interventions that should be in place to advance the struggle for the total emancipation of women.
At its February Lekgotla, the NEC adopted a number of policy proposals for the consideration of the NGC and the ANC policy conference. These proposals have mainly addressed the policy initiatives that we need to adopt in enhancing the fight against poverty. The commissions of the NGC will engage in detail with these proposals.
We should also assess the qualitative impact as a result of the political empowerment of women and the space created to play a more meaningful role in the leadership structures of the ANC and government.
Looking back from 1991, when the motion for a quota was first placed before the Conference of the ANC to now when we have moved to a 50 percent representation in local government, we need to assess whether the quota has brought about the desired political space for women and whether certain aspects can be improved.
Although the quota has become a reality, 50 percent ratio should also be reflected in the highest level of our structures of leadership, including the officials of the ANC and the indeed within the Presidency.
As members of the ANC and the ANCWL, we should have an opportunity at this Council to address the political impact of the developments and events that have engulfed our organization over the past two years, particularly those that relate to the pronouncements of the NEC of the Women's League on specific positions of principle.
The matter of debates regarding leadership issues in the ANC is a matter that the NEC has left to structures of the Movement to discuss and we believe that the organizational processes of the ANC will address this matter. The ANCWL is however obliged to lead society in pronouncing its principled positions on the vulnerability of women, particularly on issues of rape and abuse. During the period since our last Conference the NEC correctly had to lead the rest of society on these issues. Our principled pronouncement have however, within the ambits of our laws, also recognized the fundamental rights of alleged perpetrators to a fair legal process while offering support to women who have come forward to report cases of abuse. It must remain a fundamental matter of principle that the ANCWL, as an organization championing women's rights, should the loudest in supporting victims of abuse, while subjecting ourselves to the provisions of our laws and constitutional rights of all people. This principle we should project even more decisively, without fear, without favour and without prejudice.
In the same vein, the NEC has adopted a similar approach in dealing with the issues of leadership succession in the ANC leading to our 52nd National Conference to be held in Polokwane later this year. We have maintained that all members of the ANC are entitled and obliged to democratically engage in issues of leadership within the organization. We hold the view that any collective of leadership that we emerge with should be one that is capable of leading the organization in addressing the current challenges faced by our country and the movement, to advance the gains already named by the revolution and to navigate the varying forces that continue to influence the course of our struggle and its tactics.
For its part, the ANCWL should continue to advance this principle, ensuring that at all times the movement is united and that our actions and pronouncements should never serve to increasing tensions within the movement.
We believe that this approach is capable of moving us beyond the current organisation challenges faced by our movement.
The NGC should also address itself the global political trends and the extent to which they impact on the struggle for women emancipation all over the world. We should be concerned that the world political order that exists today continues to pose dangerous threats to a conducive environment for the struggle for women emancipation and empowerment all over the world.
Decades since the end of the cold war, the world we live in has regressed into an unsafe place for women and vulnerable communities globally. The resultant social consequences have been growth in abject poverty, diseases, squalor, homelessness and destitution.
The globally growing instability, conditions of war, and the increasing numbers of people living in poverty should be a course for concern and should be a matter that Council engages with during the course of our meeting here.
Council should express itself on the raging conflicts affecting the peoples of Palestine, Dafur region of Sudan and Iraq. This is because in any situation of war, women and children tend to be the primary social victims.
We indeed should speak against wars of greed, particularly as they create conditions that undermine socio economic development, security and rights of all people, women in particular.
We should express our solidarity with women of all nations affected by strife and war, particularly the recent resurgence of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is regrettable that in spite of the progress made with the conclusion of a successful general election, events of the past few days might erode potential for advancement and return the people of the Congo into bloodshed.
We should pledge support for the women and children of the Congo, constituting the biggest number of civilians, and we urge African and world leaders to put more pressure on the warring parties to find peaceful solutions to their conflict.
Closer to home, we have noted with concern the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe. As the world woke up to images of a woman whose body was burnt as a result of the ongoing violence in that country, it was further demonstrated that no matter which side of the conflict is right or wrong, women become victims of war and strife.
We have appreciated the position of the South African government that the only lasting solution to the problems of Zimbabwe depend on Zimbabweans themselves and that South Africa will continue to engage with the key parties to bring them to lead Zimbabweans towards such a solution. We call on women of Zimbabwe to unite across the political and social spectra to speak in one voice in committing their leaders to finding a sustainable peaceful solution.
As resolved by Conference, we have continued to strengthen our participation in international structures where our input on these and other issues facing women around the world has been significant. This has included our participation in the WIDF and the Socialist International.
The ANCWL has taken seriously its leading role in the resuscitation of PAWO both at continental and regional level. The next conference of PAWO will be hosted here in South Africa during the course of this year.
We have also noted the ascension of South Africa to the Security Council of the United Nations and the subsequent assumption of the Presidency. We sternly believe that this positive development further widens the space occupied by progressively occupied within the current political order globally.
It is our view that this space should be utilized, in part, to add impetus in the course for the struggle for women empowerment all over the world.
We will take forward discussions, both with the ANC and government, on how this space can be further utilized for advance global women's struggles following deliberations of this NGC.
In this regard, we should also note and appreciate the amount of progress we have made as a country surpassing most of our targets in implementing the programmes outlined in the UN millennium development goals. Most of these programmes, particularly those that are centred around social delivery, have had a major impact in the lives of women.
South Africa should continue during its membership of the Security Council and beyond to lobby for the strengthening of the voice of the progressive component of the UN in order to push towards the goal of building a better world.
Chairperson and delegates,
The NGC gives us an important opportunity to analyse the current political environment within which our organization conducts its work. It will assess our own capacity as an organization to address the challenges emanating from this political environment and chart a programme of work that we need to implement in this regard.
We do not have an option to be casual, self serving or fail in this regard. The aspirations of millions of women and our people in general are dependent on the work that we are about to engage in here today.
In my view, we are equal to the task.
Ke a leboga