The ANC Women’s league has come out in defence of Jacob Zuma’s quip about sexual harassment he made while speaking to journalists in Nkandla.
Zuma said to a journalist in Nlandla on Saturday “It’s a pity we live in a white man’s world; you can’t even say ‘Gqezu, Gqezu ntomazane! Nongenazo izinkomo uyayidla inyama’.”
This was a Zulu saying loosely meaning that even if you don’t have enough money to pay lobola, you can still get married.
Zuma said if men could compliment women the way they did in the past, his bodyguards would complement the journalists.
“But when men compliment you innocently, you say it’s harassment. You will miss out on good men and marriage,” said Zuma reportedly said while laughing.
ANCWL National Spokesperson, Toko Xasa commended Zuma’s comments calling them ‘helpful’.
“To shows that our president is one man who understands that women are now speaking out about sexual harassment and what they find uncomfortable.” added Xasa.
The Democratic Alliance, on the other hand interpreted Zuma’s comments as sexist. “It is precisely this patriarchal attitude that allows for women to remain the subjects of high levels of violence and sexual abuse throughout our country” the party said in a statement.
The DA intended to report the comments to the South African Human Rights Commission( SAHRC). They also planned to write to Jacob Zuma and the ANC Women’s League President, Bathabile Dlamini, to ask that they issue an apology to the women of South Africa for their “blatant disconnect from their lived reality across our country.”
But Xasa argues that Zuma was merely raising the issue of sexual harassment and how men have had to grapple with the changing times when it came to how they speak to women. “It would have been a different story if president Zuma had said it to a female journalist. This time he made the comment not saying it to a woman. For us, what was said by him in the article is that such things were no longer done.”
Xasa went on to commend Zuma on the role he has played in putting women’s issue to the fore. “ Women issues are now a priority and we have a voice through (government). The ANC listens to women.” she added.
Zuma has been called out for comments deemed sexist that he had made in the past. In 2015, the Commission for Gender Equality admonished the president for comments he made whilst being interviewed in 2012 on People of the South by presenter, Dali Thambo.
Speaking on his daughter Duduzile’s marriage he said. “I was also happy because I wouldn’t want to stay with daughters who are not getting married, because that in itself is a problem in society. I know that people today think being single is nice. It’s actually not right. That’s a distortion,” Zuma said.
“You’ve got to have kids. Kids are important to a woman because they actually give an extra training to a woman, to be a mother.”