Elijah Mhlanga in hot water over sexist tweets

Elijah Mhlanga
Elijah Mhlanga

Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has subpoenaed the spokesperson for the department of basic education following his alleged sexist tweets.

Elijah Mhlanga and director-general Matanzima Mlweli were called to a meeting by the CGE following Mhlanga's tweets last month.

Commission spokesperson Javu Baloyi said the CGE met with the two after it had been inundated with lots of complaints as a result of the tweets associated with #readtolead

Last month, Mhlanga posted a series of pictures of semi-naked women apparently in an effort to encourage the public, and particularly young people, to read.

In the first picture of a woman wearing a grey body top revealing her oily breasts and most of her body, @ElijahMhlanga wrote: "Reading for leisure is also therapeutic. It relaxes the mind, body and soul."

The second picture is of a naked woman lying on her stomach and reading a book. He wrote: "Let's make reading sexy. Don't just do it as a habit, you can do it every day. It feels good when you get into it."

In both tweets, Mhlanga tagged the department of basic education and Read to Lead hashtags.

"Following the complaints, CGE resolved to . subpoena Mhlanga and Mlweli to provide oral submission before the commission in response to the sexist tweets and to respond to questions related to the matter. Mlweli was subpoenaed to the hearing as the accounting officer to explain the role of the department on the matter," Baloyi said.

He said as the CGE, they believed that the right to education should be fulfilled free from discrimination, objectification and harassment.

"We further believe that the objectification of women as a marketing strategy contributes to a discriminatory culture where women are hypersexualised and had the power to negatively shape the attitudes of children towards women's role in society."

The CGE then made a binding recommendation for Mhlanga to go through gender-sensitisation training and it will monitor the overall gender transformation, including the culture within the department.

Minister of basic education Angie Motshekga had distanced herself and the department from Mhlanga's tweets.

"As minister of basic education, I didn't authorise nor was informed of such a campaign involving semi-naked women.

"Even if I was informed, I wouldn't have given any permission purely based on principle that women aren't objects. The objectification of women is an affront in our battle against the pervasive nature of patriarchy and the scourge of gender-based violence," Motshekga said when the pictures were posted.

"I distance both the ministry I lead and the department from this naked display of male chauvinism. The objectification of women has no place anywhere in our society, let alone in our quest to promote reading."

Mhlanga has since apologised as he received a backlash from the Twitter community.

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