Can Patricia De Lille Become South Africa’s First Female President?

It was through the intervention of women that former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was propelled to the country’s top position. The issue of women assuming the highest governmental position continues to be a thorn in the side of the world in general and Africa in particular. This seemed like it might be the case with former Deputy President Lungile Mlambo-Ngcuka, but it appeared that as soon as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the novelty of “first woman elected as President”, the commotion and excitement of a first woman president in South Africa died down. Only to be reignited in Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, but even in that case it was a clear matter of factional desperation other than the intention to install a woman into the top position.

The Republic of South Africa Flag

With elections just over the horizon. The question of, will a woman ever occupy this position in South Africa? Remains not only a relevant issue but an emotive one

Globally there is a need for a drastic paradigm shift to align the imbalance that no one is in doubt, has rendered politics dysfunctional, if not altogether pointless. The question that continues to baffle many, is the reason behind the exclusion of women in politics in a meaningful way, because many are the pundits that have dissected the matter but there is still no clear understanding why women always get side-lined especially in government influential positions.

Regardless of the fact that research proves over and over that the meaningful inclusion of women would propel government to a state of more productive governance. The evident reality is that there is a lack of political will to make this move. The question then becomes, if that is the state of affairs in Africa, how did Ellen Johnson Sirleaf manage to ascend the Presidency? It is understanding her ascent to the top political position that we might try to ascertain the chances of the only woman Presidential candidate in the coming South African National and Provincial elections and is the leader of the recently formed political party, The Good Party, Patricia De Lille.

Former Mayor of the City of Cape Town Patricia De Lille
(Photo by Simon Mathebula)

The answer to how Ellen Sirleaf Johnson became president is, WOMEN. In Liberia it is women that served as intermediaries between the rebels and government. It is the contribution of women that saw Charles Taylor being exiled. It is also the contribution of women that increased the chances, if not being the very reason of how Ellen Sirleaf Johnson became the first woman to be elected as a democratic president of an African country.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President of Liberia
(Photo by Spencer Platt)

Being a brand spanking new political party, it is doubtful that The Good Party can propel Patricia De Lille to the country’s top position, but it is befitting to yet again, look at the issue of the potential of having the first woman president in South Africa. It will be curious to see if we women see the potential that Patricia De Lille presents, because the logical reasoning for women would be to garrison around her but suffice it to say that this logic hasn’t been the order of things in the past.

Patricia herself couldn’t be regarded as a personality that inspires hope. Looking at her background of crossing the floor from the Pan African Congress of Azania (PAC), to forming a political party, the Independent Democrats (ID) and then presenting it, in Abrahamic fashion to the Democratic Alliance, an organisation that hasn’t been too eager to prove that it has cut ties with its slippery past. One would be forgiven for not being overly optimistic on her candidacy. But regardless of her sparky and somewhat unpredictable personality, she has harboured a reasonable amount of discontent with the prevailing politics of corruption, and shows a level of integrity on her part as she was the whistle blower of the Arms Deal.

Regardless of Patricia’s shortcomings she has to some level stayed clean off of the prevailing culture of being “one of the boys”. Which, in my opinion has also added to the challenge of advancing women into influential positions. This culture is so prevalent that one would not need to look beyond key women within the African National Congress (ANC) and how they have time and again chosen the comforts of the boys’ club when championing women’s issues could have been more productive. But yet again, this is not an exclusively an ANC weakness. As such is the culture in other political parties and more robustly so within the corporate establishment.

What also does not give hope on Patricia’s Presidential campaign, is the lack of a coherent women structured movement to back her. Appreciating the unique case of Liberia, and how women have contributed to peace in other parts of the world, and many other cases, one of which being the shear force women were in the liberation of South Africa. It becomes logical to conclude that a woman President can only be realised when women back each other, especially in Africa. In acknowledgment of the hold that patriarchy still has on mainstream politics, and on almost any given social structure. Men can try to appreciate and propel a woman into power but they will always be impeded by experiential limitations, which boils down to the reality that men are not women and that they can never fully know what it is to be a woman and the challenges women face on a daily bases.

The women that have the greatest potential of realising that dream are those within the youth bracket presently, hence the inculcation of a proactive attitude is the bow that plays the violin. The installation of a woman President will most likely be the product of being proactive to this issue, other than being reactionary to some patriarchal sentiment presented as women’s empowerment at every instance there is factional uncertainties and political manoeuvrings within political formations.

It then behooves us as young women to self-enlighten on such events as the Liberian issue, and the many other events that have seen women advance the quality of governance. As, it is through such awareness and proactive attitude, that women will really begin to assume influential positions. 

The Union Buildings
The official seat of the South African Government and also house the offices of the President of South Africa. 

It is unfortunate that the candidacy of Patricia De Lille lacks the clear potential to spark a coherent movement that can meaningfully plant the seeds for women’s involvement, not only in politics but in every social structure. It would also not be prudent for young women to assume that her candidacy is devoid of lessons and potential. For the very reason that it yet again raises the issue of a woman President warrants a closer look and better scrutiny on how this seemingly colossal mountain can be overcome.

It is my strong belief that for women to assume influential positions, the greatest potential of this becoming a reality lies in women backing women, women applying their feminine energy on the distorted patriarchal construct. Women fully believing that regardless of the odds it is possible to overcome them, and most importantly, that women deserve equal input into affairs that directly and indirectly impact them.

It would be highly erroneous to assume that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s ascent to the top position was some coincidental happenstance. It might seem so from observing its uniqueness and its seeming to be the exception from the rule. When viewed in conjunction with other events of similar bent, like how the involvement of women in peace processes have contributed to a favourable outcome, the power of a woman cannot be denied.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Cry, the Beloved Mzansi

Increasingly crime and violence in South Africa has been brought to my attention. It has gotten to the point where we hear horrific stories in the news that make us feel both outraged and demoralised at the same time. We live in a sea of distractions, just as you focus on something, something else happens and draws your attention to it making it difficult to remain focused on the big picture.

What is the big picture for South Africa?

Well, the big picture is as Nelson Mandela said, “I dream of an Africa which is at peace with itself”. A harmonious, loving and dynamic Africa. In fact, sometimes it seems like the whole world is on fire, not only our beloved continent and there are so many things going wrong globally. In the spiritual community they say focus on the positive, what can you learn from the chaos?

Well, I think in South Africa’s case we can learn to be united even as a people of diverse backgrounds. Apartheid and colonialism, were violent crimes against humanity and their legacy has left South Africa very fragmented. It is within the fragmentation that lawlessness is able to thrive as we are not meeting the societal challenge head on but rather are choosing to deal with crime separately yet it affects us all.

Apartheid functioned in such a way that it purposefully created tears in the social fabric of the community. With policies such as the Group Areas Act, and the migrant labour system that intentionally destroyed the bedrock of African familial structure. These tears caused many silent tears.

Apartheid policies separated south Africa according to race, the affluent areas were the white areas. A small portion of land that was inarable was designated to black people far away from the urban economic centres. So, the black man who in a patriarchal society is the head of the family, had to leave the home and live temporarily in urban areas away from his family and send money home, as the family wasn’t allowed to live in white areas.

Photo by Evan Kirby

Relocation (among other state interventions) was therefore seen as part of a broad state agenda of dividing (and therefore weakening) the common bonds between dominated classes by the location and relocation of black people into ethnically-divided Bantustans or homelands. Disorganisation and fragmentation are depicted as essential to the maintenance of class exploitation by preventing unified resistance, blocking claims to common citizenship, and keeping wages low

T. Emmett of the Child, Youth and Family Development Research Programme, Human Sciences Research Council.

With the family structure broken women too had to go seek work as domestic servants of white people. Leaving the black child vulnerable and isolated.

With the disruption of families and communities, children were the main victims, as they had to cope with the absence of parents, neglect, malnutrition, domestic violence and abuse

T. Emmett

At the hands of the apartheid state these broken-down children, grow up to be broken adults who do not support their children. And so, we have generations of broken adults and young people who grow up thinking brutality and social alienation is normal. Its normal to live in a community that is not connected. But disintegration is the opposite of the word community. Apartheid dehumanisation created inhumane living conditions and we are still dealing with the repercussions of this crime against humanity. Ironically, it is apartheid that was uncivilised as it intentionally disorganised civil society. Although the removal of the oppressive system has been implemented legally. Socially, we still live in a divided society and an uncivil, civilisation.

photo by Heather M Edwards

So, we need the return of a humane, humanity. Where we see ourselves within each other, that another person is not a separate entity that I am disconnected from. But that you are another myself. I think when we change our perspective to this, we will naturally uplift ourselves and one another. No one enjoys living in fear and mistrust. Building higher walls, gating neighbourhoods, erecting electric fences and setting alarms is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. Paradoxically, increasing private security is not going to create the desired sense of safety. You still feel vulnerable to violent crime within your guarded home.

Inequality is the known instigator of violent crime. Everyone needs to contribute to the economic development of South Africa; however, the high unemployment rate puts the burden of this task, on employed people.

How are we to address inequality?

I don’t have all the answers but I know that love is the answer to our cries of distress. We need to heal from the past, love our children, all of them not just the ones from your home, or neighbourhood. The adults who are walking around broken committing these violent crimes, need to choose for themselves to heal internally, and unify their thoughts, actions and intentions with love. This is the true meaning of empowerment. When you are in alignment with love, everything in your life shifts for the better. The government is not going encourage self-empowerment cause then they will lose voters who are relying on the government to empower the community.

“The miracle is this, the more we share, the more we have”

Leonard Nimoy

So, altogether as individuals we need to address inequality this is quote in mind. We need to find work that is both empowering to oneself and the community at large. Dedicate our lives to this mission, and I know this will create personal happiness and the harmonious community we all want to live in.

Photo by Sidharth Ba

How to make sense of all the cents: 2019 Budget speech analysis

Its 2019 and we want financial freedom. It is no secret that South Africa has been performing economically poorly of late. With the downgrade rating from S & P and Moody’s, the arbitrary changes of finance ministers, of which the last two had links to the Guptas and state capture. Currently, we have Minister Tito Mboweni, the trusted former governor of the South African reserve bank. He was personally requested by the President to come out of retirement and help put the country’s finances back on track. With all this on his shoulders, Minister Mboweni addressed the National Assembly and the republic on the 20th of February. This is an analysis of the National Budget speech of 2019.

Let’s get straight to it then

In 2018 we experienced a technical recession. This means that we had negative economic growth for at least 6 months, (two consecutive quarters). The Finance Minister in the National Budget Speech, predicted that in 2019 GDP will rise by 1.5 % and in 2021 by 2.1%. That’s very slow and close to stagnation, but you know what they say about the proverbial tortoise, slow and steady wins the race.

There will be no change to personal and corporate income tax brackets, but there is what is known as bracket creep, which means you will be paying more tax due to inflation. Bracket creep is expected to raise R12.8 billion. There is an increase in sin tax. There will no longer be Value Added Tax on “white bread flour, cake flour and sanitary pads” from April 1, 2019, according to the National Treasury’s Peoples Guide to the Budget.

Unfortunately, “fuel levies will increase by 29 cents per litre for petrol and 30 cents per litre for diesel”. There is also an introduction of a carbon tax on the 5th of June 2019, which will further increase the price of fuel and electricity. Therefore, we need to start finding renewable sources of energy.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) such as SAA, SABC, Denel and Eskom…etc “pose a very serious risk to the fiscal framework” as many of them have requested “state support just to continue operating.” Minister Mboweni thought “isn’t it about time the country asks the question: do we still need these enterprises?” What is implied by this question is that if push comes to shove, many SOEs might become privatised. The Minister seems to differ on ideology with his fellow partisans. By saying “the private sector is the key engine for job creation” and at the pre-budget briefing said, “emotional attachment to SOEs in the post-Soviet era is meaningless”. State-owned enterprises are companies in which the South African state owns 51% (majority shareholding) in order to ensure that these businesses have the average citizens interest at heart as they provide core services such as electricity.

Eskom is receiving a R23 billion a year for the next three years (a total of R69 billion) bailout from government, whose money is mainly the tax payer’s money. This is the biggest bailout in South African history. This money is to assist in the institutional separation of Eskom, into three subsidiary entities, “the fiscal support is conditional on an independent Chief Reorganisation Officer (CRO) being jointly appointed by the Ministers of Finance and Public Enterprises”. Currently, the energy company is R419 billion in debt. If an SOE seeks financial assistance from the state, they will be assigned an external CRO who will “undertake a full operational and financial review” of the company.

This year South Africa is expected to make R1.58 trillion but spend R1.83 trillion, “that means we will spend 243 billion more than we earn”. Therefore, South Africa is in debt and will continue to be until 2023/4 according to the finance minister who added, “restoring our finances and fixing our state-owned enterprises will take great courage. But it can be done”.

South Africa’s financial woes isn’t good news for the average taxpayer as there is what is referred to as ‘black tax’, which is what the 2018 Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor described as “South Africans are financially under pressure, with many supporting their extended families”.

The national budget is redistributive meaning “taxes raised in wealthier areas fund poorer provinces and municipalities”. And that, social grants will increase by 5%. There are 17 million social grants given every month in South Africa and the state has portioned R567 billion for this, this year. These efforts are to alleviate the horrors of poverty.

Government plans to save R27 billion over the medium term (next three years) by reducing the number of public servants by means of encouraging older civil servants to retire early. The minister also mentioned in the pre-budget briefing that he thinks government employees are being paid too much.

It is estimated that in the next three years the state will spend R5.87 trillion, “the largest allocations are R1.2 trillion for learning and culture, R717 billion for health services (including National Health Insurance) and nearly R900 billion for social development.

The Minister agrees “Data costs must fall!” and will provide funding to ICASA (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) for “the licensing of spectrum”. This means there will be state subsidised internet, this is good news.

R19.8 billion from the national budget is going to industrial business incentives, “of which R600 million has gone to the clothing and textile competitiveness programme” this will “create about 25 000 new jobs over next three years”.

On land, R1.8 billion is set aside for land reform for the medium term. R3.7 billion is to be assigned to “emerging farmers seeking to acquire land to farm”.

The government will spend R30 billion on maintaining and building new schools this year. R2.8 billion is to be spent replacing pit latrines (long-drops) in schools, as a few precious South African children from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen in them and died, this is a disgrace.

There will be a maths and science grant to encourage future technological innovation. We hope young Girl Bosses will be encouraged by this and step boldly into these historically male dominated fields.

There will now be free sanitary products “to girls in the country’s poorest schools” through the Sanitary Dignity Project.

For the next three years, “the government will spend R111.2 billion to ensure that 2.8 million deserving students from poor and working-class families” can go to university and TVET colleges. R105 million will be allotted by government to the Student Housing Infrastructure Programme, to provide public student accommodation.

In exciting news, money is going to be invested in developing arts and culture in the country. The minister announced plans for “a new national theatre, a new national museum and also consider financial support for the National Archives” and a national orchestra and ballet troupe.

Informal settlements will be upgraded to “enable these households to have access to basic amenities” this will cost R14.7 billion. I can’t help but feel a sense of justice as living conditions for the poorest South Africans have to improve for us to be truly free from the injustices of apartheid and colonialism.

There is going to be a Help to Buy grant for “first-time home buyers” and government will spend R950 million over the medium term on this.

As a kid from parents who grew up in the rural areas, I am happy to hear that “R625 million is allocated to the Development Bank of South Africa, the Government Technical Advisory Centre and the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission… on a speeded-up basis, projects based on rural roads and water will be prioritised” If one would like more information on government spending check out the Vulekamali online portal.

Government has pledged R100 billion on infrastructure for the next 10 years. Currently, R526 billion worth of infrastructure projects are in the works. The state is looking to work with the private sector in the building of South Africa.

There will be a new Public Procurement Bill, announced by the National Treasury in the People’s Guide to The Budget whose amendments “will allow for greater participation of black, youth and women-owned businesses”. Seems like the government is for us Girl Bosses making ‘money moves’ in 2019.

On the other hand;

these sweet words, depending on whose ears it falls, can, however not detract from the wide budget deficit and huge debt that the public sector is struggling with: PwC sees a high probability of Moody’s Investor Service downgrading South Africa to non-investment grade this year

Lullu Krugel and Christie Viljoen, strategy and economists at PricewaterhouseCooper.

As South Africans and global citizens, we must take control of our destinies, individually and collectively. Hopefully, this information will empower you to do this.

What’s the Tea on the State of Nation Address 2019

It’s been 25 years since South Africa realised its dream of democracy however, to the marginalised and dispossessed, the current state of affairs is a living nightmare. President Cyril Ramaphosa, earlier this month addressed the nation and its chosen representatives in parliament in what is known as the annual State of the Nation Address. It is where the leader of our country speaks on the failures and successes of the past year and how government seeks to remedy those failures and promote growth and prosperity for all.

As a country, 2018 showed us flames. There was a technical recession, political instability, a water crisis, wide-spread unemployment, the epidemic of cash in transit heists, violent protests and the negative results of rampant corruption took their toll on state owned enterprises. Under these circumstances, our President Cyril Ramaphosa began office in the beginning of 2018. He promised a New Dawn for South Africa and momentarily there was an increase in confidence for the government.

However, as the year progressed South Africans were demoralised by “the effects of state capture on vital public institutions including our law enforcement agencies, whose integrity and ability to fulfil their mandate has been eroded”. Key institutions were compromised such as the National Prosecuting Authority, the South African Revenue Service, the State Security Agency and the South African Police Service.

Crime and violence in South Africa become an issue that we could no longer ignore with horrific accounts highlighted across news. The president spoke of how he was aware of the failures of government in protecting citizens who deserve to live in a free, safe and fair country.

Why pay attention to the SONA?

If you are interested in the livelihood of South Africa and its future then it is important to know what the plans are for our state. In order to ensure the safekeeping our democracy, it is imperative be cognisant what has been pledged by government so we can hold our leaders accountable. And, to see whether the state is responsive to the needs of its citizens. It is also empowering to know what services are available to you as a resident of South Africa.

Here is a run-down of the key issues addressed.

  • The president spoke of how measures are being taken to increase direct foreign investment, expanding the export rate of South Africa as well as taking actions aimed at “reducing the consumption of imports”.
  • President Ramaphosa said, “given the key role that small businesses play in stimulating economic activity and employment… we are focusing this year on significantly expanding our Small Business Incubation Programme.” This programme offers upcoming entrepreneurs with “physical space, infrastructure and shared services, access to specialised knowledge, market linkages, training in the use of new technologies and access to finance”. In order to aid this programme “township digital hubs will be established, initially in four provinces, with more to follow.” President Ramaphosa affirmed that these hubs are to “provide most needed entrepreneurial services to small and medium enterprises in the rural areas and townships but more especially to young people who wants to start their businesses.”
  • In order to redress unemployment; in which the youth are most adversely affected, the government has launched a Youth Employment Service which places “unemployed youth in paid internships in companies across the economy”. The government itself has extended a helping hand by removing work experience as a minimum requirement for entry-level jobs in state institutions.
  • The state remains steadfast in its commitment to land reform as this is said to increase “agricultural output and promote economic inclusion”. By the end of March 2019, a report written by “an advisory panel of experts headed by Dr Vuyo Mahlathi”, will be released.  It is to advise government on how to conduct land expropriation without compensation. The president mentioned that the government has subsequently “invested significantly in comprehensive farmer development support to ensure that restituted and communal land is productively utilised” and “will continue to prioritise targeted skills development and capacity building programmes for smallholder and emerging black farmers”.
  • Recently there was a discovery of an oil and gas reserve off the coast of South Africa by French multinational oil and gas company Total. The president thought “this could well be a game-changer for our country and will have significant consequences for our country’s energy security and the development of this industry”. 
  • The infrastructure of South Africa needs to be further developed and maintained, therefore “R1.3 Trillion has been invested to build hundreds of schools and two new universities, to build hundreds of thousands of new houses, to electrify more than a million homes, generate new electricity and expand public transport”. Government has already begun the task of building state funded student accommodation.
  • “New boards with credible, appropriately experienced and ethical directors” have been installed at a number of state-owned enterprises, including Eskom. As we are all too aware, of how Eskom is failing to provide the country with adequate electricity. The president admitted that this “could severely damage our economic and social development ambitions” and announced that there would be an increase in the price of electricity to help Eskom cover its losses. It was also disclosed that Eskom would be split into “three separate entities- Generation, Transmission and Distribution- under Eskom Holdings”.
  • In order to increase the quality of basic education there will now be “two years of compulsory Early Childhood Development for all children before they enter Grade 1”. Internationally acclaimed education expert Professor Jonathan Jansen has said “if you want to change the education system in a country you don’t go to universities – less than 20% of our young people go to universities – you start with the preschools.”

Prof Jansen has also stated that “almost eight out of 10 children cannot read in Grade 4 – for understanding.” The president admits that quality education is “possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality” therefore the government will be “expanding the availability of early reading resources across the foundation phase of schooling”.

Our head of state, announced that the government plans to “provide every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device” over the next six years.

In order to give South Africa a competitive advantage in the world of technological innovation new subjects will be introduced, these are “technical mathematics, technical sciences, maritime sciences, aviation studies, mining sciences and aquaponics”. And, that “several ordinary public schools will be transformed into technical high schools”.

  • The government also promised to “take a significant step towards universal access to quality health care for all South Africans”
  •  The president also noted that “every day, South African women are faced with discrimination, abuse, violence and even death, often by those they are closet to”. Therefore, the government is increasing its funding to Thuthuzela Care Centres which are a “critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy, aiming to reduce secondary victimisation and to build a case ready for successful prosecution.” And, Khuseleka Care Centres which is an initiative of the Department of Social Development that “provides support services to women and children who are victims of crime and violence under the Victim Empowerment Programme.”  The Government has pledged to “improve the quality of services in shelters and ensure they also accommodate members of the LGBTQI+ community”. As there is the indignity of “corrective” rape where members of the LGBTQI+ are sexually violated by mainly toxic men, to cure them of their homosexuality.

These efforts to end inequality, poverty, discrimination and unemployment will all be rendered useless if government does not take major steps to eradicate corruption and state capture.

  • In efforts to improve the “capabilities of public servants, the National School of Government is introducing a suite of compulsory courses, covering areas like ethics and anti-corruption, senior management and supply chain management”. There will be “harsher penalties, including fines and/or prison sentences for officials that transgress.”

President Ramaphosa declared that the date of the national and provincial government elections is the 8th of May 2019, it is an opportunity to practice our democratic right “to determine the direction of this country”.

Personally, I am unimpressed with the efforts government plans to make; to allow the flourishing of South Africa and her economy. I think there is a lack of creativity in the schemes said to be deployed. If you would like a more detailed account, consider reading the SONA on the South African Governments website

Stay tuned as Girl Boss will be analysing tomorrow’s budget speech given by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni.

The Chibok Girls – Book Review

On April 14 of 2014, 276 schoolgirls from Chibok, Nigeria where taken by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram. The Chibok Girls (2017) by Helon Habila is an account of what happened that night and the backdrop of this horrible event. Habila is a Nigerian author and associate professor of creative writing at George Mason University in the US. His works include “Waiting for an Angel” and “Oil on Water”. The fact that the author is Nigerian, who wrote the book whilst/after travelling Nigeria, made the book more credible in my eyes.   

Michelle Obama
Former First Lady of the United States

This book explains the rise of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad (The People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) commonly known as Boko Haram. Boko Haram translates to “Western education is abhorrent”. Nigeria is a vast country with a population of about 200 million. The north of Nigeria is majoritarily Muslim whereas the south is predominantly Christian. One of the aims of Boko Haram is to trigger a war between these two religions in Nigeria, as they believe in Jihad, a holy war. Boko Haram believe they are carrying out Gods will, and they seek to establish a Caliphate in Africa. This is an Islamic state and they advocate for a harsher version of Sharia Law. As, I was surprised to find out that “by 2012, all twelve northern states including Kaduna, Niger, and Gombe, all of which have significant Christian populations had declared Sharia as the official state law… Christians were assured that Sharia was just optional and applied only to Muslims.” Therefore, Boko Haram are Islamic fundamentalists with links to Al-Qaeda and ISIS. They have been known to blow up churches and mosques. For them it is not enough to be Muslim, you must be their version of Muslim to be safe from their persecution.                                                                       

Malala Yousafzai, female education activist

In Boko Haram’s rhetoric, there is an element of religious decoloniality. They believe that “whatever came from the West must have Judeo-Christian provenance and so must be rejected in favour of Sharia.” Sharia is the laws stipulated from the Quran, and it is believed that this is how Allah intends his people to live. Therefore, Boko Haram believe that western education and democracy is sinful and blasphemous. To them, “true Islamic reform would require an overturning and overhauling of all institutions of British inspired government.” They particularly hate, the education of girls. As, it is said; “if you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate a nation”- African Proverb.

Photo by Andre Hunter

Chibok is a Christian town in a Muslim state of Nigeria, many of the school girls kidnapped are Christian but some were Muslim. When interviewing one of the girls who escaped Boko Haram that night, she says “They called us kafirai [infidels] and said we ought to be married.” I found it so interesting that the terrorist organisation called the girls kafirai, which in South African history is the derogatory word white settlers called Africans, Kafir (non-believers). It’s fascinating how people do horrible things in the name of God.

Personally, I don’t think God cares whether you believe in them or not. If you do believe in God, I think that pleases God but if you don’t, I don’t think that offends God. God is Great, all the time, and doesn’t need our human validation to be satisfied. God isn’t rejoicing that more people have been oppressively converted to worship God through a specific religion.

The kidnapping and raping of young girls is never righteous. And real talk, Boko Haram’s insurgency has nothing to do with God. I think the stealing of the Chibok girls was more of a military tactic than a religious proclamation. In order to declare an Islamic state, separate from the Nigerian State but on Nigerian territory, Boko Haram need a population to occupy that land and fight for their cause, long after its current leaders are dead. I can imagine terrorism doesn’t have a long-life expectancy.

Forcibly taking girls as ‘wives’ is not to please God, but rather to have sex slaves that are easy to control because they are young and will unwillingly bare children of Boko Haram fighters. Some girls escaped, they’re even some who where released due to negotiation with the Nigerian Government but as of today 112 girls remain missing. Some of their parents have had funerals and have asked the government to declare their girl child dead. Some parents have “died of stress-related illnesses like heart failure, stomach ulcers and hypertension.” There is a father who lost his mind, and calls out his daughter’s name convinced she can hear him. Boko Haram have caused so much pain in their campaign for power.

When reading The Chibok Girls, I understood why avid readers say their favourite pastime is to be curled up with a good book. If you enjoy history and politics, you will like this work of non-fiction. Although the subject of this book is heart breaking as we’ll never know if these girls will be found. There is a sense of justice as I felt, now I know a part their story and they won’t be forgotten. By writing this book, Habila immortalises the Chibok girls. Hopefully girls in the liberated future free from toxic masculinity, will read of the Chibok Girls story, as a relic of the oppressive past.    

Girl Boss rating: 4/5

Photo by Iiona Virgin