Is SA ready for a woman president?, Saturday Star

Date: January 1, 1970
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The article, written not long after South Africa?s 2004 elections and the appointment of 42 percent women to cabinet, picks up on a comment made by President Thabo Mbeki that he would ?not mind? being replaced by a woman. The analysis centres on whether the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is ready for a woman president, and who that would be.

This article may be used to:
  • Show how gender can be brought into mainstream political debates, in this case the “hot” issue in on who will succeed President Thabo Mbeki.
  • Show how an off-the-cuff comment by the President can be turned into a news analysis that opens new areas of public debate for advancing gender equality.  
Training exercises
1)      In groups or in pairs do some quick vox pops wherever you are on how long it will take your country to have a woman president. Compare the responses of women and men. What do the responses tell you about where your country stands on gender equality generally, and women in leadership specifically?
2)      With reference to the case study:
  • What sparked off this article and in what way can it be regarded as a news analysis.
  • Who are the main sources? What other sources could have been consulted, and with what effect?
  • How is the story packaged? Is this effective?
  • Is a story like this likely to spark debate? In what way are debates of this nature important? How do they help to advance gender equality? Does the media have a role to prompt such debates?
Trainer’s notes
General: The fact that South Africans are debating how soon they might have a woman president – and that this is more than just a hypothetical debate – is a measure of how far the gender discourse has come in the short period since the first democratic elections in 1994. This is a good example of not just allowing a comment by the President to go unexplored: he says he would “not mind” being succeeded by a woman (there could be a debate on his choice of words here!) but more important, its time for a public debate on the matter. This is what good journalism is all about: helping to set the agenda and providing space for a robust debate.    
Exercise one: In any country (the and other “vanguards” of democracy included) vox pops on how long you think it will take to have a woman president are a good barometer of public attitudes towards gender equality generally, and women in leadership specifically. Many who subscribe rhetorically to the notion of gender equality will be stumped when asked if they are “ready” for a woman president because politics has been such a male preserve. This response will come from men and women. Others will outright say they are not ready; others will say that it depends on the person in question; while others will say women certainly can’t do any worse than the men! Whatever the mix, it is a good way to get the discussion going.
Exercise two: Use the case study to draw out both issues and skills learning points as follows:
  1. This is a good example of moving away from events to issues; using a comment by the President to explore the deeper issues at stake.
  2. The sources in the piece, though varied, are all women experts. The piece could have been enriched by interviewing a) some of the women politicians (especially those cited as contenders and b) male politicians and experts.
  3. A strong feature of the packaging is the side bar with the examples from the international arena of women in high political office. A weak dimension is that some of the women mentioned in the photos and captions do not feature in the story (eg women who fell foul of the ANC; Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka). It is possible that these were mentioned in a longer original story that later got cut because of space constraints. This is an example of the importance of a smooth inter phase between the writing and sub-editing of a story.
  4. The story is deliberately provocative and it is pieces like this that take our societies out of their comfort zone and prompt them to think. As mentioned in the piece, ten years ago men in the ANC balked at the idea of a quota for women, but they have come to accept that this in fact is just a minimum. Ten years later the parameters of the debate have shifted to the possibility of a woman president. This is how transformation comes about. The media has a critical role to play not only in reporting what is, but also what could be.    
Other training resources

In the Gender Links website, under the section on Gender and Governance/ Gender, Elections and Media resource centre is a wealth of material on gender and politics in Southern Africa that may be of use in this session. In particular, there are ten fact sheets based on the GL study: “Ringing up the Changes: Gender in Southern African Politics.”  Fact sheet 8, “Do Women in Politics Make a Difference” (LINK) would be one way of taking this debate forward: looking not just at whether the time is right for more women in leadership, but also at whether this would make a qualitative difference.   


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7 thoughts on “Is SA ready for a woman president?, Saturday Star”

Lifa says:

I think SA should be ready for a President woman because woman are most give love and joy to men’s life also include children.

South Africa is ready for a female President because woman know how to impower people they can respect the country as well as the law meaning they will be able to keep the court room in silent or piece ,since the EFF has been disrespecting the law …

Keya says:

give me facts about SA is not ready for a woman president

Kupa says:

Yes definitely. If South Africa gets a female president I feel the economy would drastically rise, and people would have jobs.and this eskom problem would be fixed

leejoy says:

woMen can become president cus they have they have the knowledge that not even man can ever think

Lusani says:

I think that south Africa is ready for a female 🚺 president

Tebogo Langa says:

Full information please

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