Thu Oct 20 23:33:36 SAST 2016


By unknown | Mar 11, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Mbuyiselo Botha and Sandile Memela

Mbuyiselo Botha and Sandile Memela

The most depressing feature of Carl Niehaus's public confessions of corruption was neither his addiction to the high life nor his betrayal of struggle ideals.

Both reveal the predictable inability of liberation movement heroes to live up to the high principles they espoused before they tasted the juicy fruit of power.

Rather what needs to be fleshed out is his pointing the finger at a woman - his former wife Linda Thango - as the cause of all his woes.

"His wife wanted all the best toys: holidays, jewels, clothes, shoes and shopping, shopping, shopping," said one of his former ANC bosses.

"Carl got sucked into that lifestyle, loved it and lived way beyond his means."

Niehaus confirmed this himself when he said: "I thought this is the way you keep love - you buy it."

The pressure on men to become super-achievers has always been manifest in our material-worshiping and money-driven world.

If we are to be honest, this is not surprising as men are always under pressure to live beyond their means because women are attracted to powerful and successful men.

Few people, especially gender activists, would have the courage to admit publicly that Niehaus's choices and decisions were, largely, influenced by his desire to become what he thought women wanted - and demand from their men.

In fact, he is a product of a patriarchal society.

Of course, it is an open secret now that ANC president Jacob Zuma is not the only man who cannot manage his finances in a manner that can satisfy the needs of his wives and . er, children.

Niehaus has provided yet another example of a man who has left a string of debts behind his back because he wanted to give his woman what she wanted.

To paraphrase the title of Gary Baker's book, they were both Dying to be a Man in a society that sends subliminal messages that to be a man, you must have money, money and more money.

In fact, Baker's book is a necessary but sobering intervention in a world where a man is only judged by what he has and not who he is.

The very fact that no one has come out publicly to explore and acknowledge the real pressures behind Niehaus's choices shows how captive society is to what a man should be.

The point here is not to say Niehaus should not be held responsible for the poor choices he has made as a man.

What needs to be shouted from the rooftops is that he succumbed to the temptation and pressures to be a man who is considered successful - by what he has rather than who he is.

Of course, some men are reeling under the pressure of debt but will not point fingers at their women.

There is widespread social pressure in the idea that a man who cannot provide for his family, especially the material needs of a woman, is less than what he ought to be.

In fact, it is still taboo - in a supposedly non-sexist society that upholds equality between men and women - for a man to depend on his female partner for material support.

This undermines the Constitution which has not only enshrined non-sexism but promotes the ideal of equality between the sexes.

How did men like Niehaus get in this bind?

Why are men willing to pretend to be successful when they are not?

Until such time that women discourage men from material worship and pressure inflicted by society on what their role should be, it will be difficult for men to accept that money is not a measure of success.

Finally, it is only when men and women form a coalition to shatter this myth - that man must always be boss - that there can be progress.

Unfortunately, most men - just like Niehaus - are still caught in this thickset of patriarchy that puts unnecessary pressure on them to be super-achievers.

And yet, as Baker says in Dying to be a Man, it is okay to be just an ordinary and simple bloke who accepts that in the global economic meltdown, the days of male domination and power are now over.

Men and women must fight together to bring about a truly non-sexist society.

l Botha is general secretary of SA Men's Forum and a gender activist. Memela is a government spokesperson and cultural commentator.


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