Sex scandals should reset ANC thinking

Image: PHILLIP NOTHNAGEL

We are well and truly in the grip of the silly season that is an election year. Seeing the difference between the smokes and mirrors and what is really going on is not as distinct as day and night.

A case in point is the drama around the party spokesmen at Luthuli House, the headquarters of the governing ANC.

The first of the two tales of the spokesmen to grab the headlines was that of Pule Mabe, who stands accused of sexual harassment by his former personal assistant.

Mabe stepped down from his lofty perch after the news broke and had to face the charges in front of a disciplinary panel set up by the party. It announced last week that Mabe had been cleared of the charges and was free to retake his post.

His accuser was to be accommodated elsewhere in the organisation. But she was having none of it and threatened to fight on - even doing open interviews with the media - in pursuit of justice.

Then came this immediate past weekend when the news of a rape allegation against Zizi Kodwa, the head of the presidency in the ANC and, ironically, the fellow entrusted with speaking for the party when Mabe faced his troubles.

The letter written by Kodwa's faceless accuser - at least publicly - made for tabloid-fodder stuff that has put the ANC firmly back in focus with observers waiting to see how it would handle yet another instance of a party leader accused of women abuse.

The party has not exactly covered itself in glory whenever it encountered this kind of a problem down the years. On the evidence of what unfolded yesterday, it seemed the grand old lady of liberation movements is yet to grasp this one.

News in the morning was that both Mabe and Kodwa have been asked to step aside from their party duties. In Mabe's case it smacked of toing and froing that betrays a lack of clear policy to deal with the problem. Actually, the initial ruling after his hearing called for the formulation of party policy around sexual harassment.

In Kodwa's case, we hope having someone facing such serious criminal matters step aside will guide the party going forward.

That's not what we witnessed when a former deputy president of the ANC was charged with rape.

Maybe, just maybe, there is a silver lining in the dark clouds hovering over Luthuli House.

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