ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) president Bathabile Dlamini says she is pleased with her new appointment as minister of women in the Presidency, and she doesn’t think she was demoted by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
In her first major interview since Ramaphosa reshuffled Cabinet last month, Dlamini had praises for the president, saying he had tried his best to have an inclusive executive team despite widespread criticism to her selection to head the ministry tasked with championing women’s socioeconomic empowerment and gender equality.
“I think people want to see it as a demotion because even in their own families, they undermine women, and therefore everything that has women is inferior. If you are in that ministry you are demoted, that is not how I feel,” Dlamini told SABC News in New York on Wednesday, where she is currently attending the sixty-second session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations.
The former social development minister – who swapped ministries with Susan Shabangu – said the past year had been challenging for her as she grappled with the protracted process of transferring the payment of social grants to more than 10 million recipients from Cash Paymaster Services to an inhouse Sassa payment system.
“Right now I feel I am placed where my heart is, and the ANC is giving me an opportunity to cool off and try and focus on my work. Mine is not to look at those who are saying I have been demoted, mine is to look at women and girls in South Africa that are still in poverty.
“In the past year I have been going to bed maybe for two hours because I would try and go through reports and the literature on how to change the payment system and read what is happening in various countries. I did not have a life altogether,” she said.
Ramaphosa tried his best with reshuffle
According to Dlamini, Ramaphosa did his best in selecting his new Cabinet after he was installed as the country’s president following Jacob Zuma’s resignation late on Wednesday, February 14, after the ANC recalled him from office.
Dlamini said this was notwithstanding a “campaign” to discredit her and newly appointed Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. She said their only “sin” was to support Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the ANC presidency at the party’s elective conference in December last year.
“I think he [Ramaphosa] has tried his best to ensure that some of us are there [appointed to Cabinet], even if there was a strong campaign against, for instance Nomvula and myself, and people forgot about the worst things that were done by others. Our sin was to campaign for a woman candidate. The week running to the reshuffle, the campaign escalated and nothing was able to block the president from taking his decisions,” Dlamini said.
“I think whatever we want to say, he has proven he has two ears. A leader must have two ears because if you’re a leader and you have one ear, you will end up destroying the whole organisation. Secondly, I think we all need to be given a chance, and he must be given a chance, there is a long road ahead of us,” she added.
Asked about the composition of the ANC’s top six officials, which includes Jessie Duarte as the only woman representing the party at a national level, Dlamini said the ANC was backsliding on gender parity.
“We need to ensure that in branches, regions, and provinces we have women as chairpersons, not presidents only. It’s a bottom-up approach, but one other thing that is important is that women must not hate themselves. They must love themselves and be resilient enough to stand defeat and not play the blame game,” she said.
Dlamini also admitted the coming general elections next year would be challenging for the ANC as the governing party to convince the electorate to vote for it.
“South Africans understand elections, and they know what they want, which means we must also upscale our campaign and ensure that we win the minds and hearts of our people. Our people are not going to be like in 1994 when Madiba [Nelson Mandela] went out and campaigned [for the ANC].”