As the political campaigns gain traction, one cannot help but encounter posters on lampposts across the country. Almost every street, every major thoroughfare, and I dare say even roads leading to nowhere, the imposing images of presidential wannabes confront our sights, our views and indeed our anxieties.
Yet in all this public display seeking our support there are a number of issues that are conspicuous by their absence. I found myself dumbfounded by this realization and have to speak to two of these issues that are important but not on display in these public spaces nor are they part of the discourse we have been offered by those who are seeking to be entrusted with the authority of the state.
Driving in and around Johannesburg one gets to see the faces of the various political parties. Without any exception the faces of the political parties on these posters, on this important election are all males – not a single woman is the face of any political party. This is telling for a country which prides itself in gender representation and whose constitution talks about an inclusive political order. Seems like our reality is stating other wise.
Second the messages are varied but there is not a single message on this route related to the scourge of gender-based violence that has marred our social landscape. Politicians have postured about the need to fight gender-based violence but not one of them, who is the face of a party, has said we should vote for them because they will fight gender based violence. Clearly the message to us all women is that we are on our own.
The ruling party, the ANC has prided itself on its achievements and is seeking voter’s support to “grow” South Africa. Clearly, it does not mention its dismal record on successful prosecution of alleged rapists or any decline in the violence that is meted against women every day and all the time. Some of its senior members are alleged to have committed abuses against women and are yet to be sanctioned.
The opposition parties are seeking voters’ support to end corruption, to give ‘’back” the land, to deal with unemployment. Some are even talking about fighting “back” and building a country for “all”. None of the messages on any of the posters on display around the country by all of the political parties mentioned gender based violence. This is not too surprising as men wield power; they exercise such power against women. Violence against women is an expression of male privilege, and as such not bothered with the prevailing conditions to which more than half of the South African population, women are subjected to. Incidentally, women are majority of registered voters for these elections.
Meanwhile, on a daily basis, women continue to bear the brunt of a male dominated system which insist that they must suffer in silence, that their plight is not a priority, that their role in society will be determined by men and the sooner women realized this, the better they would be.
This is why we must stand up and fight for justice for all. This election is not about justice for women. It is about men making sure that they continue to rule and abuse women. This is unacceptable and that message needs to be stated loud and clear in this electoral season. Women cannot be set-aside as voter canons but not leaders who can seek the highest office in the land. We should make it clear that women deserve to be in leadership and would fight tooth and nail to make this happen.
The era of male domination, ignoring the plight of women must come to an end and that is a mission that would not escape us. Would it not have been revolutionary just to see one or two posters of the various parties read: EFF: Violence against women is crime against humanity; SWRP: zero tolerance to sexual harassment in the workplace; UDM violence against women has no place in political process; ACDP: No to religious practices that perpetuate discrimination and gender inequality; APC: violence against women perpetuates inequality, COPE: Rape is not a game; ANC- F–k Patriarchy and toxic masculinity and DA: Male privilege must fall. That would have been ideal and I am still allowed to be an idealist in a country where I can still have an opinion and a voice.
Brenda Madumise-Pajibo is Commissioner, an admitted and non-practising advocate with extensive experience including, but not limited to, government and the private sector in various capacities, pioneering policies for gender equality, telecommunications, broadcasting, mining and serving on several boards.