The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has noted with dismay the recent unfortunate utterances attributed to King Mpendulo Zwelonke Sigcawu about women’s abilities to lead the country on Tuesday this week. It was reported widely in the media that King Sigcawu, hosting a delegation of members of the ANC Women’s League at his royal palace at Nqadu, Eastern Cape, made statements that appeared to impugn the integrity and ability of women to serve the country as political leaders. The King is also alleged to have stated that South Africa is not yet ready for a women President, and that women are too sensitive to lead.

King Sigcawu’s utterances clearly constitute a violation of some of the basic human rights principles contained in our Constitution, including the right to gender equality, the right to dignity and the constitutional prohibition against discrimination on the basis of gender. Section 9 (3)(b) of the Constitution provides that every adult citizen has right to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office. This right extends to any citizen of the Republic, irrespective of gender. In addition to our Constitution, the country has promulgated a range of legislations, and adopted numerous policy frameworks guaranteeing the right to gender equality.

The country has also signed up to many international and regional protocols, conventions and treaties recognising the right to gender equality. One of these is the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It commits the Republic of South Africa to putting in place measures to end all forms of discrimination against women. Among others, the Convention also obliges the country to incorporate the principle of equality between men and women in its domestic legal codes, to abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women; to establish tribunals and other public institutions to ensure the effective protection of women against discrimination; and to ensure the elimination of all acts of discrimination against women by persons, organizations or enterprises.

The Convention further calls for the realisation of equality between women and men through ensuring women’s equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life including the right to vote and to stand for election. State parties to the Convention, and by extension Leaders such as King Sigcawu, are therefore obligated to observe and respect these provisions by putting in place appropriate measures including legislation, to realise the rights of women to enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Commission therefore finds it disappointing and unfortunate that a leader in King Sigcawu’s position has to be reminded of his duties and obligations to observe the fundamental freedoms afforded to South Africans as outlined not only in the country’s Constitution, but also in numerous domestic laws and policy frameworks, as well as in international treaties and conventions that our country’s leaders have ratified.

The CGE is fully aware of some of the challenges that continue to women’s fight for gender justice in this country. Among these obstacles are the entrenched patriarchal values and practices that continue to underpin and sustain our political system, including our traditional leadership structures in communities across the country. The CGE has therefore been conducting a nation-wide programme of engagements with the political, religious and traditional leaders in the various provinces precisely to educate and conscientise them about our Constitution and its specific provisions on gender equality and human rights issues.

The CGE wishes to state categorically its respect for the King as part of our constitutionally recognised system of traditional leadership, while at the same time re-committing itself to its current programme of dialogue with various leaders such as King Sigcawu and the others in order to prevent such unfortunate utterances as those recently reported in the media and attributed to the King.

The CGE implores members of the public to the use our Toll Free Number 0800 007 709 to report any discriminatory and gender related cases.

Source: Government of South Africa

News Reporter