ANCWL subservient to male counterparts, writes ERIC NAKI

Liberation stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's interest to enter the ANC's leadership race has brought into the spotlight the disturbing subservience by the women in the organisation's male-dominated race.

Liberation stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's interest to enter the ANC's leadership race has brought into the spotlight the disturbing subservience by the women in the organisation's male-dominated race.

The ANC Women's League (ANCWL) has become a shadow of its former self by shying away from its original objective to assert women's role within the party.

The fight for women's rights envisaged after its formation in 1948 seems to have diminished.

The women seem to be incapable of shaking off their subservience to their male comrades. The silence of the league's leadership on the succession issue has been deafening, to say the least.

The fact that presently, the league's leadership is juggling men's names for leadership instead of women's, is an indictment on the organisation.

Though the league recently indicated that it preferred Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the top job, they were not at all forthright.

Independent political analyst, Sanusha Naidu, attributes this attitude of keeping their cards close to their chests to the uncertainty as to the outcome of the Limpopo ANC conference.

"The uncertainty of what is going to happen in Limpopo is greater than the uncertainty that is projected through media speculation," said Naidu.

She said media reports on the ANC race has been narrow and speculative and tended to "compartmentalise individuals into camps. And that is misleading."

She does not believe that the leagues' timidity in pronouncing on their preferred candidate has anything to do with being unsure about who to choose between the main contenders, Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.

"The stakes are so high in the leadership race and the fluidity of the situation makes speculation very difficult," said Naidu.

But she conceded that there is fragmentation in ANC structures. Women have failed to seize the moment to vigorously push for a female as a compromise candidate.

Dlamini-Zuma's name kept coming up for both the presidency and national chairman among all factions until Winnie Madikizela-Mandela expressed interest in joining the race.

Doubtless, both are very popular in the ANC and for many years both won most votes on the NEC list at national conferences.

Since members squabbled about who should lead the league during the reign of Madikizela-Mandela, the body never recovered. One group favoured Madikizela-Mandela while another wanted Dlamini-Zuma to lead them. Madikizela-Mandela's side won and she led the league for two terms.

Naidu said Madikizela-Mandela's decision to avail herself could add an interesting dimension.

"Madikizela-Mandela has some valuable support at grassroots level and her nomination might bring a new dimension to the debate," said Naidu.

The ANC is blessed with many strong women - Dlamini-Zuma, Madikizela-Mandela, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Thoko Didiza, Naledi Pandor and Brigitte Mabandla among others.

Any one of these women can be the ANC's president or deputy president, but instead of uniting as women, they are touting for a men to lead them.

Madikizela-Mandela, who was a symbol of black people's resistance to apartheid, was once everybody's hero until the Stompie Seipei saga destroyed her reputation.

Once regarded as the Mother of the Nation, many people feel that post-apartheid South Africa has not treated her fairly. Some believe that she was treated more shabbily than known killers, Wouter Basson, Eugene de Kock, apartheid police and army generals and their ministers Adrian Vlok and the late Magnus Malan.

The fact that this freedom fighter suffered while apartheid masterminds got away, boggles the mind.

She deserves to be rewarded by the ANC for her role in our liberation. Recently, she has been associated with Tokyo Sexwale's election campaign, but has not confirmed it.

Dlamini-Zuma: Though she has been aligned to the Mbeki camp, she is liked by all ANC factions, hence they nominated her for deputy president or national chairman. She has done a good job on the foreign affairs front.

On the international affairs front, South Africa has excelled, not only to the benefit of the country, but of the entire continent. She would make a good president for the ANC and the country.

Mapisa-Nqakula: An ANC heavyweight. But under her leadership, the ANCWL has become too tame and subserviently subjected itself to male-domination in the organisation. Obviously, she is aligned to the Mbeki camp. For now, Mapisa-Nqakula can be categorised as deputy-president material.

Mlambo-Ngcuka: Had Jacob Zuma not wanted to be president of the ANC, Mlambo-Ngcuka could easily have replaced Mbeki as the country's president and by proxy, the ANC president. But she is seen as being too close to two hated men - Mbeki and her husband Bulelani Ngcuka, the former NPA head who is believed to have started all the trouble for Zuma.

Mlambo-Ngcuka is credited for having championed the growth of the country's second economy, the skills-development initiatives and most of all, the successful Mining Charter when she was minerals and energy minister. She fits in well as both the deputy president and president of the ANC and the country.

Didiza: She seems to have taken a backseat in the succession debate, probably because of the confusion about who should lead among the ANC men. She, Mapisa-Nqakula, Mlambo-Ngcuka and Dlamini-Zuma have always been seen as "the Mbeki women".

She is party deputy president material.

The women's league of the ANC will officially nominate its leadership candidates on November 26.