Political Watch

Woman on the march, Trump and Dlamini-Zuma

It’s Cape Town, not Washington
Woman.jpg

There are probably closer links between political developments in South Africa and global trends than is generally realised.

This was illustrated this past weekend when an estimated five million people world-wide took part in ‘sister marches’ to protest against newly inaugurated United States (US) president Donald Trump’s attitude towards women. Among these five million were people from South African cities like Cape Town and Durban.

And it also happened in at least two other African countries, Nigeria and Kenya. In Europe ‘sister marches’ took place in Germany, Spain and Norway. In Sydney Australia contributed at least 5 000 to the figure, while the United Kingdom delivered some 100 000 to the streets of London.

In all, there were more than 670 marches across the globe with 1.35 million people involved in cities and towns across the US.

US background

The background to what happened on Friday in the US, is that President Trump’s attitude towards women was a hot issue during the 2016 presidential campaign. Despite his claim, during a presidential campaign debate, that no one “has more respect for women than me”, his “p*ssy-grabbing” comments made during a videotaped conversation sparked widespread condemnation.

Whether the whole controversy led to it being created is not clear, but a very sophisticated state-of-the-art US-based website, Women’s March Global, set out to organise worldwide protests for 21 January, the day of Trump’s inauguration, extensively in line with another worldwide trend, making use of social media.

At the end of inauguration day, the site, which incidentally, registers from which country you come to their site and solicits your mobile number, declared: “We did it! On January 21, over 5 Million of us worldwide and over 1 Million in D.C., came to march, speak, and make our voices heard.

“But it doesn’t end here - now is not the time to hang up our marching shoes - it’s time to get our friends, family and community together and make history. That’s why we’re launching a new campaign: 10 Actions for the first 100 Days.”

Events in South Africa

Clearly, a wide range of people and organisations – including the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), which picketed the US Consulate in Sandton and Cape Town human rights lawyer Cherith Sanger – are plugged into what is happening on this front in the US.

Sanger was reported to have said she would be participating in the march to show her solidarity with women‚ children and men in the US in opposing the policy commitments that had been made by Trump.

“These policy commitments undermine and threaten the human rights of not only women but also the human rights of migrants‚ of refugees and of (people who are lesbian‚ gay‚ bisexual‚ transsexual or intersex).

“It is critical that we stand together across the borders against these policy commitments to ensure that there is respect‚ protection and the advancement of human rights for all‚” she said.

It is also interesting to note, that for the 2014 general election in South Africa, the WASP in their election manifesto included a whole section under the heading “Fighting for women’s liberation.”

The ‘sister marches’ also coincide with mounting pressure from within the governing African National Congress to elect its first female national leader in December this year – in the process often challenging the existing power structures within the party, by, among others, the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) who are putting forward Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as their candidate ahead of the party’s prescribed schedules.

Going forward

This past weekend, referring to party procedures, the ANCWL secretary-general, Meokgo Matuba, said: “Once campaigning was in full steam after the ANC top six officials’ processes opened.”

She also claimed that the ANCWL’s “decisions are supported by many, even outside the ANC”.

Expect to hear much more about this subject in the months to the build-up to the ANC’s elective conference in December and to the 2019 national general elections.

by Piet Coetzer

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