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.
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.
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.
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.
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.