Mangosuthu Buthelezi’s Online Letter
Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
As Women’s Day approaches, we are reminded of the women who changed the world; women like Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Rosa Parks and Emily Pankhurst.
We also think of women of great courage who have shaped the destiny and cast the character of our nation and continent as a whole. We think of great heroines such as Helen Suzman, Albertina Sisulu, Bertha Mkhize, Dorothy Nyembe, Helen Joseph, Queen Nandi, Queen Labotsibeni Gwamile Mdluli of Swaziland, Ella Nxasana, Nokukhanya Luthuli, Dorothy Adelaide Tambo, Princess Helen ka Solomon, Princess Mnkabayi of Zululand and many others, too numerous to mention here.
Great women have influenced every sphere of society and history is replete with their contributions. In all our struggles women have been in the forefront, at the very coalface of the suffering. In facing all the evils – such as the pernicious problems of domestic violence, rape and abuse – it is women who have borne the brunt of it all.
History records that both white and black women have been subjected to discrimination over many decades; but it is unfortunately black women who have suffered more than their white counterparts here on South African soil.
As leader of the IFP I feel proud of the modest corrective legislation that I introduced as Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu government. As soon as we had limited legislative powers in KwaZulu, we tackled the Code of Zulu law. The Code enshrined that women were regarded as perpetual minors. We immediately removed that from the Code. For the first time most black women in this Province were granted property rights. Before that, a woman could only own the ngquthu beast and her apparel. As a result of their minority status, our women would be ejected from their homes once their husbands had died. Widows could not own homes.
We abolished that provision and for the first time in KwaZulu, including townships such as Umlazi, KwaMashu and elsewhere, women could own their homes. The code of Zulu law also made provision that a husband had a right to administer corporal punishment to his wife. We also expunged such barbaric provisions from the Code of Zulu law.
This was long before addressing the gender issue became fashionable.
We were very aware that this was not enough, though there were practical benefits for our women at the time.
These, and many other achievements for gender equality, clearly show that I am not sexist. But I do adhere to the Christian concept that God designed the sexes differently, as complimentary rather than exact replicas. I have no doubt that we are created with equal dignity, having equal value and being equally gifted in the higher ideals of man; such as the capacity to philosophize, analyze, create and lead.
Women’s rights and gender equality have walked a long road in the last century. When we speak about gender equality and the rights of women, we need to bear in mind that the playing field is still far from level, and in all likelihood it never will be. In many instances there has been steady but slow progress towards gender equality in the corporate world.
It is safe to say that gender disparity in the work place is easing, but it still exists. Statistics show that where men and women fill the same senior positions, men’s take home pay was found to be higher than that of women. Although the government has made great strides in gender transformation, the top positions are still dominated by men and, in terms of the salary scale, men are paid more than women.
It is therefore not enough to write into law that a woman must receive the same compensation and benefits for work done as her male counterpart. We need to deal with the social mindset that still subjugates women in the workplace, in the home, in the Church and in the marketplace, even in the intangible ways of expecting less from a woman or considering her less committed.
Often, when it comes to the crunch, we in South Africa still prefer to send a man to do the job. I say this, not as a chauvinist, but as a realist who has worked and served in our country for more than half a century. Throughout the liberation struggle, there were heroes and heroines who fought side by side to attain freedom. But when we reached the negotiating table; when the time came for us to finally hammer out a democratic dispensation, parties largely sent their men.
The IFP was the one exception in the male dominated talks at the World Trade Centre. Our delegation had proportionally more women, because our commitment to creating a new South Africa in which everyone could claim an equal stake was more than just talk.
For the IFP, it has never been just about race or just about politics.
To us, liberty, democracy and equality are an inheritance owed to every South African. Since its inception in 1975, Inkatha enjoyed overwhelming support from women. The majority of our members have always been, and still are, women. I have often declared women to be the backbone of this Party, knowing that they are more active in mobilizing political support.
While the IFP has always relied on the strength and support of its women, so too have I relied on the support of one great woman – my wife Princess Irene. I have always been in awe of my wife’s remarkable strength and resilience. Just as she suffers when I suffer, she has shared every small victory and every great triumph along the path of my lengthy career. She has advised me, warned me and prayed for me.
She has celebrated with me and suffered with me. A man could not hope for more in a wife. This Women’s Day, I celebrate her more than anyone.
It has also been my particular pleasure to see my wife establish a deep friendship with my mother, the late Princess Magogo kaDinuzulu.
These two women worked hand in hand to raise our children, and blessed me with their camaraderie. It is well known that my mother substantially influenced my life, my faith and my political career.
Knowing what she contributed, I pay tribute to her; and through her, to all mothers who are selflessly sacrificing to raise the next generation.
The former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan once remarked that "when women thrive, all of society benefits, and succeeding generations are given a better start in life."
It is my hope that we will use this month, Women’s Month, to do an honest assessment of how far we have come as a country to create an environment in which the women of South Africa can truly thrive. We must ask ourselves how far have we come in creating a society where women and girls are treated equally and with respect, and how far do we still have to go in achieving these ideals?
South African women have the right to education; the right to live in dignity; the right to freedom and personal security which are safeguarded by law; and those laws must be respected. On the 9th August 2010, as we celebrate and honour all the great women of our nation, let us recommit ourselves to making these ideals a reality. I pledge the IFP’s and my support.
Yours in the service of the nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe,
Press Secretary to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, 082 729 2510.