Portfolio committee wants action after 'sexist' tweets promoting reading

Parliament's committee chair for basic education has condemned "inappropriate tweets and images" distributed by Elijah Mhlanga in his reading campaign.
Parliament's committee chair for basic education has condemned "inappropriate tweets and images" distributed by Elijah Mhlanga in his reading campaign.
Image: MICHAEL PINYANA

The National Assembly's basic education portfolio committee wants "drastic action" to be taken against the department's spokesperson for "sexist" tweets he posted at the weekend to promote reading.

The basic education department accounts to the committee for all its programmes.

Committee chair Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba "strongly condemned" what she called "inappropriate tweets and images" distributed by Elijah Mhlanga which she said were objectifying women.

"These images of near-naked women must be condemned. Mr Elijah Mhlanga's approach to the 'Read to Lead' campaign for the basic education sector misses his target market completely and does more harm than good," said Mbinqo-Gigaba in a statement on Wednesday.

“Furthermore, SA has made big strides since the dawn of democracy in the emancipation of women.

"The comments and distribution of images of this nature by a person of Mr Mhlanga's stature undermines many of these gains. We cannot but condemn these images of scantily clad women, which attempt to promote reading by making it 'sexy'," she added.

Mbinqo-Gigaba said an apology by Mhlanga was not enough. "We cannot be objectifying women and especially not in Women's Month. What are we teaching our boy children in school by communicating like this? What message are we sending out to our girl learners that their bodies are to be used in this fashion?"

She called on the department to take drastic action against Mhlanga for "his thoughtless, sexist, chauvinist approach to a worthy and noble campaign".

She said her committee would, as part of its oversight responsibilities, take up the matter with the department when it met again.

In a series of tweets with the hashtag "Read to Lead", Mhlanga posted two images which raised temperatures on Twitter and led to a backlash. One was of a woman wearing a skimpy jumpsuit revealing her cleavage and thighs and another was of a naked woman lying on her stomach while reading a book.

Mhlanga has since apologised for the tweets.


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