The chairperson of parliament’s portfolio committee on basic education, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, has released a statement saying she “has strongly condemned inappropriate tweets and images distributed by” department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
It was reported on Tuesday that tweets sent out by Mhlanga, featuring scantily clad women with books as part of an attempt to “make reading sexy” as part of the Read to Lead campaign to promote reading, had caused offence.
According to Mbinqo-Gigaba, Mhlanga’s tweets “objectify women”.
“These images of near-naked women must be condemned. Mr Elijah Mhlanga’s approach to the Read to Lead campaign for the basic education sector misses his target market completely and does more harm than good.
“Furthermore, South Africa has made big strides since the dawn of democracy in the emancipation of women. The comments and distribution of images of this nature by a person of Mr Mhlanga’s stature undermines many of these gains. We cannot but condemn these images of scantily-clad women, which attempt to promote reading by making it ‘sexy’,” the statement continues.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said Mhlanga’s response to the tweets, which was first to justify them and then apologise, “is not enough”.
“We cannot be objectifying women and especially not in Women’s Month. What are we teaching our boy children in school by communicating like this? What message are we sending out to our girl learners that their bodies are to be used in this fashion?
“We urge the department to take drastic action again Mr Mhlanga for his thoughtless, sexist, chauvinist approach to a worthy and noble campaign. The committee will, as part of its oversight responsibilities, take up the matter with the department when it meets again during its next scheduled meeting,” she concluded.