Columns 16.8.2018 09:00 am

Where do all the promising female politicians go?

Magdalene Moonsamy during the EFF's 2nd anniversary on July 25, 2015 at Olympia stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa. Hundreds of EFF supporters flocked the stadium to celebrate the second-year anniversary of the party. (Photo by Gallo Images / Thapelo Maphakela).

Magdalene Moonsamy during the EFF's 2nd anniversary on July 25, 2015 at Olympia stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa. Hundreds of EFF supporters flocked the stadium to celebrate the second-year anniversary of the party. (Photo by Gallo Images / Thapelo Maphakela).

The examples of Magdalene Moonsamy, Makhosi Khoza and many more suggest the best and brightest rarely last at the top.

The burgeoning wealth of talent, experience and education among South African women is wasted and barely welcomed in politics.

Over the past five years, we have seen female politicians of notable intelligence rising through the ranks only to slowly fade out of the spotlight, rarely on good terms with their ailing, bumbling septuagenarian male counterparts who will remain political leaders until they die.

In the case of the EFF, there are younger and angrier alpha males who are only slightly more tolerant of breathing the same air as an intelligent woman with ideas and opinions.

To be a black female politician in South Africa, with a voice that doesn’t submit to the droning, crackly old male voices, is usually a very shortlived but interesting adventure and, seemingly, nothing more.

In a society that still giggles at the thought of a female president (unless it is part of an ominous plot to run a gangster administration by proxy), I imagine it must have been difficult to get where the likes of Magdalene Moonsamy and Makhosi Khoza were about two years ago before being vacuumed into the female-politician-sized wormhole from which no one ever returns.

The former left the ANC after the expulsion of ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema in 2012 and was an integral part of the subsequent formation of the EFF. I first met her when I was a radio producer at Power FM in 2014 when she was to present a three-hour show as part of a Women’s Day weekend.

Not being much of a rocket scientist myself, I found her fascinatingly articulate, poised and smart.

Khoza once told me about that new political party whose name we have all forgotten, and that South Africa was ripe and ready for a political party with a feminist agenda.

I agreed with her at the time. She had just quit the ANC and was to hit the ground running with a bold new political career. I found it exciting that after the disappointingly brief firework that was Mamphela Ramphele’s moment with Agang, another female political leader was taking it upon herself to put gender politics in the mainstream.

Moonsamy and Khoza have since both made a quiet exit from politics to pursue professional careers, seemingly because they were simply too “loud”, “naggy” and “emotional” for the sensitive ears of the men who remain in power despite being equally loud, naggy and emotional.

They have joined a growing list of women who have been elbowed out of politics after being described at some point as some version of bossy, irrational and difficult to work with.

Lindiwe Mazibuko was ostensibly described as arrogant and autocratic by members of the DA parliamentary caucus she led before resigning in 2014.

Similarly, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille, who is about to be between jobs, is now facing disciplinary charges by the DA. De Lille was described by members of the DA Cape Town caucus as bossy, autocratic, impossible to work with and “scary” (someone literally described her as scary).

What strikes me about this description is that it outweighed the very serious allegations against her as the main bone of contention the caucus has with her. It played an integral role in the two motions of no confidence she recently faced.

People simply do not like her for apparently the same reasons they do not like Mazibuko, Khoza, Ramphele and possibly Moonsamy.

This plague does not seem to affect the formidable Helen Zille, who will not be told what not to tweet by any man, ever.

That is an interesting dynamic I think I will leave up to the reader’s discretion to speculate upon.

Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni.

 

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