KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE JEFF RADEBE (MP), MINISTER IN THE PRESIDENCY FOR PLANNING, MONITORING AND EVALUATION, ON THE OCCASION OF THE COMMEMORATION OF WOMEN’S DAY; AT STATISTICS SOUTH AFRICA, ISIBALO HOUSE, PRETORIA
18 AUGUST 2017
Thank you, Programme Director:
The Statistician-General, Dr Pali Lehohla,
One of the founding members of Mahotela Queens, Mme Hilda Tloubatla,
Dr Ros Hirschowitz retired DDG Quality and Methodology
Senior anagers and Staff of DPME present here
To all women in the house I say, “malibongwe!”
It is an honour for me to be here today to address you on this special occasion. The moment to celebrate women offers us an opportunity to reflect on the road that we have travelled as a nation in pursuit of a democratic and non-sexist society.
We derive inspiration from the annals of our history, a history defined by the quest to build a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic society. The notion of eliminating all forms of oppression is the bedrock of the total emancipation of our people. Women and children all over the world still face exploitation of untold proportions, especially in the face of war, strife, hunger and famine. In our country, South Africa, the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality continue to weigh heavily on women in particular.
Women are the mainstay of our society. They are the engine that drives the daily functioning of families, communities and societies. They are in the coalface of everyday struggles including poverty, underdevelopment and lack of services. In the words of the late distinguished writer, Mbulelo Mzamane, “they have known the agony and the ecstasy. They have known treachery, rejection, and betrayal.”
Our history of colonial domination, land dispossession and discrimination placed women at the bottom of the hierarchy. They had to grapple with the crudities and brutalities of living in a patriarchal society where women were treated as an inferior species. In addition to contending with national issues, women carry the burden of dealing with the pressures exerted upon them by culture, religion and other societal impositions.
Women in South Africa took the challenge of their emancipation into their own hands when, on 9 August 1956, around 20 000 women across the colour bar marched on the minority racist regime of J.G. Strijdom, saying enough is enough! To this day, we know the mantra that drives us towards progressive realisation for the emancipation of humanity: Wathint’ abafazi, Wathint 'imbokodo… Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi!
These famous words continue to serve as a hallmark – for men and women alike – in South Africa to continue to galvanise the world towards all forms of socio-economic changes that we aspire to achieve as we search for equality of all human beings. The struggle for women has always called upon our leaders to commit to nothing else but a true cause. The late President of the African National Congress (ANC), Mr Oliver Tambo, addressing the Conference of the Women`s Section of the ANC on 14 September 1981, in Luanda, Angola, once said:
“On the other hand women in the ANC should stop behaving as if there was no place for them above the level of certain categories of involvement. They have a duty to liberate us men from antique concepts and attitudes about the place and role of women in society and in the development and direction of our revolutionary struggle… The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle. .. Our struggle is, therefore, both local, regional, continental and global.”
This way OR had planted a seed that would germinate when the ANC came to power in 1994. President Mandela, in his inauguration speech, committed to the emancipation all South Africans and ending all forms of discrimination, especially against women. He understood that our freedom was meaningless if it did not translate to the empowerment of women:
“Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.”
Madiba understood that women played a prominent role in our liberation struggle alongside their male counterparts. The emancipation of women was an integral part of the struggle for liberation. Women never stood on the fringes and waited for men to liberate them. They rolled their sleeves and put their shoulders to the wheel in pursuit of freedom. Women are their own liberators.
Since the dawn of democracy, the government of the Republic of South Africa embarked on a transformation agenda, which includes the empowerment of women as well as the promotion of gender equality. Twenty-three years after the attainment of freedom and democracy, there is a significant increase in the representation of women in parliament, government, judiciary as well as the private sector.
I am proud to say that the DPME is one of the leading Departments with more women both in its employ and in its top management structure. Even our DG is a woman. However, the struggle for the emancipation of women is not yet over.
Our government continues to plan, monitor and evaluate human progress to achieve the prescripts of our National Development Plan (NDP), our Vision 2030. The NDP envisions a better and more prosperous South Africa by 2030. Our road towards Vision 2030 has begun, and the DPME has been tasked with the daunting task of monitoring progress and ensuring that the whole country is on par with the targets of the NDP. The NDP further contributes to the global post-2015 Development Agenda that puts Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the centre of international comparison.
The NDP takes cognisance of and is driven by the underlying vision of a free and democratic society, as enunciated in the constitution of South Africa. Our Constitution remains the centrepiece for human rights and promoting gender equality. It is this Constitution that has given rise to our international commitments, notably, the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) report reminds us that South Africa achieved five of the seven indicators that relate to women. These include achieving gender parity at primary, secondary and tertiary educational levels, improving female literacy levels for people aged 15–24 years and ratio of female to male unemployed aged between 15 and 64 years.
We have since 1994 witnessed the increasing proportion of women in national and provincial legislatures. The report states that at a national level, 42% of all parliamentarians were women at the time, still eight percentage points short of the 50% target. The participation of women at national parliament was only 25% in 1994. The report laments that “women bear a disproportionate burden of unemployment, constitute the majority of casual or contract workers, generally occupy: low-wage job positions, and are poorly represented in senior and top management positions.”
In this month of August, women’s month, I have the honour to celebrate this day at Statistics South Africa and with the women of Stats SA. It gives me great pleasure therefore to talk to some of the key features of the organisation and its women. We lead by example as currently 57 % of the workforce at Stats SA are women, much higher than in the general population where females constitute 51%.
However, at management level females are 41% against 59% male. We have however, made major inroads in women taking the ropes of leadership through population and social statistics and provincial statistics offices, which were newly introduced since 1995 where females are dominant.
Economic statistics and information technology are some of the sectors that have remained largely male dominated. For sixteen years Stats SA embarked on an ambitious training programme that focuses on females and some of these imbalances are due to be eliminated. We are confident that these interventions will yield positive results in augmenting gender parity.
Stats SA provides us crucial information, which leads us to make a few conclusions, including but not limited to feminisation of poverty, unemployment and abuse that continues to challenge us as a country. This is despite women making major strides in educational attainment so the statistics attest to this.
Today we are privileged to come to hear the story of the legendary Mahotella Queens, who around the same time as the Organisation of African Unity claimed that Africa is a country, predicting emphatically what Agenda 2063 should address. In their song they said Africa is a country of misery. But side by side with this they argued that when a child is born in Africa we all feel happy, because the future is theirs and they are the future.
The reputation of Mahotella Queens precedes them. The baritone voice of one Mahlathini Nkabinde would not have had the acclaimed reverberation across the world if he was not in the company of great women in the form the Queens. They remain one of the most endearing groups in the history of music in South Africa. Their tenacity to survive and ability to revive themselves should be a lesson to many of us.
Their music is not seasonal — it remains relevant and enjoyable through different epochs. Every now and then we think of the Mahotella Queens, nostalgia takes us back to the 60s through to the 90s when Mr Simon “Mahlathini” Nkabinde, the basso-profundo with his voice groaning in style sauntered the world: vathi uMahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo. The Mahotella Queens are a living example of success, resilience as well as succession planning into the future. It is for this reason that when Mr Mahlathini Nkabinde passed on, they continued sustain the group and unleashed the musical talent to even greater heights.
Gender equality has always been steeped against societies, in developed and developing countries that are dominated by male chauvinism. Gender imbalance disparities are generally foreign to Africa. Women in Africa have since time immemorial held influential potions; they have transformed and led nations to great success. Women like Mkabayi ka Jama, Nongqawuse of the Xhosa people, Cleopatra of Egypt, Queen Nandi of the Zulu, Queen Nzinga of Ndongo and Matamba, would fill land and oceans.
The pre-industrial subordination of women and workers has done a great damage to our world by creating gender imbalances. The rule of the master created patriarchy in the form of supremacy of the father in such a manner that would ordain a class of people who could control marriage, heritage and sexuality.
As we deal with these societal challenges, we need to transform our society by constructing customs that seek to create a new democratic order of equality. We need to create a new role and image of women by ensuring that they are not only responsible for socio-political matters but also for economic affairs of the world.
We have to eliminate all forms of suppression of female sexuality and elevate the right of women take charge of matters such as setting up a family on their terms. All these can be done if we join hands to make the world a better place for all of us who live in it. In our country, South Africa, the Freedom Charter beckons us to rise to this challenge more than ever before.
In conclusion, let me take this opportunity to thank the Statistician-General and the entire Stats SA management team for arranging and hosting this event. My gratitude again goes to the Mahotella Queens who, not only came to regale us with their music, but have also shared with us their experiences from which many of us can benefit.
I thank you.