Kabanje forced me to resign-councilor, The Monitor

Date: January 1, 1970
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A woman ward councilor says a Member of Parliament for the ruling party forced her to resign her councilor seat and join the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in exchange for funds to settle her campaign debts.
A woman ward councilor says a Member of Parliament for the ruling party forced her to resign her councilor seat and join the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy in exchange for funds to settle her campaign debts.

This article may be used to:
  • Highlight the portrayal of women in politics.
  • Focus on the need to address issues in-depth when reporting news.

Trainer’s Notes

Women in politics

Women in politics and decision making receive little coverage in the media, and when they do appear it is often in stories involving controversy, corruption, women fighting women, or women underachieving in the posts they hold.
The media, through its negative portrayal and coverage of women in high level positions within governance structures, sends a message that ‘women should stay out of a male’s domain’. This message is taken to heart by many women who shy away from politics because they say they do not want the publicity that comes with being in the public domain.
Women are more vulnerable to the message that the ‘media can make or break’ politicians, because they have been socialised to remain in the background; to be seen and not heard; to view men as leaders; and to not step into areas dominated by men.  When women enter into politics in fewer numbers they capture the media’s attention by virtue of being new, and the open scrutiny of the public lives impacts differently on women’s private lives than it does on the private lives of male politicians. In fact, the media tends to combine the public and private for women in politics and governance, while strictly keeping the public and private separate for male politicians and leaders.
The Zambian case study on ward councilor Gracious Songiso illustrates how and when women in governance make news. The news criteria that has propelled Songiso to the news agenda is controversy. A rift between Songiso and a male MP who was expelled from the same party she belongs to leads to his forcing her to resign from her post.
The story portrays women in governance at a certain level as vulnerable to victimisation by men in senior positions within a party or within a governing structure. Songiso is portrayed as a victim, who although a ward councilor in her own right, has no power to resist her more powerful male colleague’s demands. Gender power relations, as well as political power relations are illustrated in this article.
Songiso is depicted as an ‘unseasoned’ politician, who managed to win the ward seat, but who is now in debt, and unable to withdraw her resignation. It is not clear in the story why Songiso is forced to resign; nor, why she took the money and resigned from her council seat. Also the story has not been set within a context that helps the reader to understand the political dynamics between Kabanje and Songiso in Mwandi.
Songiso is portrayed as ‘a honest’ politician since she did not use the money for her own use, but ensured that it was divided among the wards in her area. Kabanje is depicted as a corrupt politician, who also is a political opportunist who is not loyal to any one party.
The main source in this story is Songiso. The male vice president of UPND is also accessed but his voice adds no insight into the incident between the ward councilor and the MP.
Lack of depth
This story lacks depth because the extent of investigation and inquiry into the event is limited only to Songiso’s voice. The reporter does not go further to talk with women and men within the communities or within the party to give context to the event reported. The gender and political power relations, while evident, also are not examined to cover the hidden story which led to the incident which has become news.
Training exercises
Exercise one: Portrayal of women in politics
Refer to the article and discuss the following:
  1. Why do you think this story became news? What news criteria were used? 
  2. Who are the sources in the article?
  3. How is the female councilor portrayed?
  4. What stereotype about women politicians is evident in the story? 
  5. Is there a subtle message conveyed about the female councilor’s character? If yes, what message is conveyed? 
  6. How is the male MP portrayed?
Exercise two: In-depth reporting
Discuss the following:
  1. What information is missing from the story?
  2. What facts reported in the story remain unclear? 
  3. Is the background to the story sufficient? Why or why not?
  4. What context is missing from the story?

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