Lindiwe Mazibuko rising high on South African political index

Date: December 13, 2011
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Name of the stories: “A Young MP with an Eye on the Country”, Sunday Times, 30 October 2011; “Can Mazibuko Change DA’s DNA”, The Mail & Guardian, 7 October 2011; “DA Leadership – It is a Matter of Style”, The Mail & Guardian, 21 October 2011; “DA’s Mazibuko vs Trollip Today”, The New Age, 27 October 2011

Name of journalists: Marianne Merten, Verashni Pillay, Eusebius McKaiser, Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

South Africa

Theme: Politics

Skills: Perspective, language, portrayal, fairness

Genre: News, opinion and analysis

GEM Classification:
Blatant stereotype (M & G – Can Mazibuko change DA’s DNA), gender aware with missed opportunities (The New Age and Sunday Times) and gender aware (M & G – DA leadership-it is a matter of style)

Lindiwe Mazibuko’s campaign and subsequent appointment to a position of parliamentary chief for Democratic Alliance (DA) had the public, but mostly the media and fellow members within her party wondering if she was the right candidate for the job. Her move also unearthed divisions within the DA with some members questioning the motive behind DA leader’s support for the rising female politician. This media highlight offers a comparative analysis of media reportage of Mazibuko’s aspiration and her subsequent promotion. Of the articles analysed, two focussed at the politician’s campaign, appointment and disunions within the DA. However, the pieces were silent at her capabilities and qualifications she was vying for. The other two, despite ignoring the gendered implications of her move, are more gender aware and make an effort at acknowledging the legislator’s capabilities through which she has earned her recent promotion.


The Sunday Times: “A Young MP with an Eye on the Country” summarises the content of the story fairly. The headline focuses on the main gist of the article, Mazibuko’s plans for the country after her appointment.
The Mail & Guardian: “Can Mazibuko Change DA’s DNA?” is also another gender neutral headline that does not give the impression that the questioning of her capabilities to “effect” change within the DA is based on her sex.
The Mail & Guardian: “DA Leadership – It is a Matter of Style” is also another gender neutral headline reflecting the content of the story fairly. Further, the headline is relevant to the story considering that the author is commenting on this issue basing on his opinion. From the author’s own observation and understanding of the two candidates, he concludes in a sub-headline that “despite Athol Trollip’s experience, Lindiwe Mazibuko’s approach to political discourse counts in her favour.” Since the article is an opinionated analysis, the sub-headline is also appropriate.
New Age: “DA’s Mazibuko vs Trollip Today” is another gender neutral headline that presents the two candidates as equals in all aspects. The headline reflects the content of the story fairly.


The Sunday Times’ “A young MP with an eye on the country” has no gender balance in as far as sources are concerned. Of the two female sources used in the story, only Mzibuko is directly quoted as opposed to two male experts who are directly quoted. Experts approached for comment are both men and one wonders why the journalist did not interview female political analysts or experts. Considering that Mazibuko’s appointment has gender implications socially and politically, women’s opinions on Mazibuko’s appointment would have been ideal. The women could either be gender experts, political commentators or even ordinary women.
The Mail & Guardian: “Can Mazibuko Change DA’s DNA”, much like the Sunday Times, the only female voices heard are those of Mazibuko and Zille. The article begins with a slightly racist quote from a Twitter that implies that Mazibuko’s most redeeming quality is her accent. One wonders why the author thought that this would be a good opening for the story as that has very little to do with Mazibuko’s ability to do the job she was eyeing.
In addition, the story quotes seven other sources of which four are male and three are anonymous. Despite some of sources highlighting good qualities about Mazibuko, the ratio of female to male sources makes the article a blatant stereotype in as far gender-balance of sources is concerned. The article is portraying men as better commentators on political issues compared to women. Sorting the views of female experts to comment on whether Mazibuko “can change the DA’s DNA” would have added value to the article.
New Age’s article makes use of two female expert sources, Amanda Gouws, Head of Politics at Stellenbosch University and Susan Booysen of Wits University. Although they do not look at the issue from a gendered perspective, their comments show that women experts can also give a credible point of view on political issues just like men. Nevertheless, the writer could have also sorted the views of male experts in order balance the sources. Further, adding male expert sources would avoid questioning the comments made by the two female commentators both of whom endorsed Mazibuko.
Mail & Guardian: “DA Leadership – It is a Matter of Style” has no any other sources except the two candidates themselves. This makes the article a gender aware as both subjects of the issue have an equal opportunity to express themselves.


Sunday Times fails to use a gender neutral language while making reference to positions in DA party. The article reads, “…the party would appoint a new spokesman shortly.” This reinforces stereotypical beliefs that men are better suited for most political positions. But besides this, the article uses no sexiest language in its content.
Mail & Guardian: “DA Leadership – apart from using neutral language throughout, the article is very analytical.
Mail & Guardian’s “Can Mazibuko Change the DA’s DNA?” uses derogatory language to address Mazibuko, calling her a “poster girl” in a sentence that states her age clearly showing that she is a woman and not a girl. The tone used by the writer is also very denigrating and sarcastic. Through the negative tone prevailing in the article, the writer gives an impression of disrespectful towards the rising politician. He writes, “…she [Mazibuko] was used on the election poster earlier this year…” This portrays Mazibuko as a mere pawn in the DA which could not be the case. Mazibuko’s rise on a DA’s political index testifies that she is a capable politician and including her on the said poster would not have been using her as the writer puts it but rather acknowledging her potential and abilities.
New Age: “DA’s Mazibuko vs Trollip Today” uses gender neutral language, with terms such as “spokesperson” and “leader.” Further, the writer maintained the neutrality in portraying the two competing candidates.

Visual image
Mail & Guardian: “Can Mazibuko Change DA’s DNA”, has an image of Mazibuko in her office at her desk. The picture shows her in her professional capacity. Considering the position the politician was vying for then, the picture was relevant to the article. As a leader of opposition in parliament, Mazibuko would be expected to be handling a lot of office work hence making this picture suitable for this story. Further, the caption of the picture is relevant to the story and her political life.

Sunday Times’ article uses a picture of Mazibuko and DA leader along with a man to their far left. Mazibuko with a bold, focussed and determined presence dominates in the picture making the image relevant to the story. Further, the caption of the picture anchors the picture well in accordance to the main gist of the article, a young MP with an eye on the country.
Mail & Guardian: “DA Leadership – It is a Matter of Style” has a caricature of both candidates with neither of them being portrayed in a derogatory or secondary position to the other. Tis makes the image relevant to the article.
New Age: “DA’s Mazibuko vs Trollip Today” has an element of subtle gender stereotype as the image portrays Trollip speaking at a professional platform and Mazibuko standing outside of a building smiling into the camera. This does not do justice to Mazibuko’s competence neither does it do any justice to Mazibuko as a capable politician and professional.

Story angle and perspective

Sunday Times makes an attempt of looking at Mazibuko’s rise to the top and portraying her in her professional light. It highlights her plans for the party in her new position and the article makes a lot of use of Mazibuko’s own voice. And at the end of the article, the writer highlights some of Mazibuko’s political shortfalls and how the opposition ANC would capitalise on such. However, the inclusion of her shortfalls is not meant to degrade this rising politicians but rather foreshadowing what she should expect and how best she can prepare for such instances.

M&G’s “can Mazibuko change the DA’s DNA” article is much worse as it has a multitude subtle and blatant stereotypes and does very little in exhibiting Mazibuko’s abilities. It starts off with citing a quote from a social networking site that implies that the only thing that Mazibuko brings to the table is her strong command of English language. Not long after this, instead of looking at her professional qualities, the article looks at what Mazibuko likes. Part of the article reads, “to unwind she likes to watch Black Adder reruns. She buys vintage clothes in Long Streets, sips cabernet sauvignon at hip Societi Bistro and cooks Italian pasta.” The author also makes more use of male sources and includes patronizing quotes that really serve to diminish Mazibuko’s credibility. Overall, the article portrays Mazibuko as a mere pawn in the DA and that she possess no leadership qualities on her personal capacity that would impact on her party.

M&G in the article “DA Leadership – It is a Matter of Style”, the writer looks critically at both candidates as equals and tries to decide which of the two he supports based on their professional qualities and principles. In this respect he is gender aware as he does not distinguish between the candidates based on their sex or gender.
New Age in “DA’s Mazibuko vs Trollip Today” looks at the two subjects of the article’s professional and political history analysing the climate surrounding both candidates during the campaign process. However, the sources quoted in the story commented very much on Mazibuko as opposed to Trollip.
Overall, none of the stories looks at how Mazibuko’s appointment will impact on political and social lives of women in South Africa or how it will affect gender discourse and empowerment within the DA as well as parliament. This somehow makes all the articles somewhat gender insensitive as they ignore the gendered implications of Mazibuko’s move.

Training questions
– How do language, sources and image use reinforce gender stereotypes in print media? List a few examples from the analysed articles.
– In an issue that involves two or more parties, the media is always encouraged to be objective by sorting views of all concerned parties. From the analysed article in this media highlight, list instances where the writers were not objective and explain how this affected the article?
– The media plays a pivotal role during any political elections in a modern democracy. However, the media has also been accused of portraying women in a stereotypical way a thing that has disadvantages many women vying for political positions. From the analysed media articles in this media highlight, pick out any article(s) which you feel portrayed Mazibuko in a stereotypical way and discuss how that could have been avoided

Other training exercises
– Media and Elections: a handbook, written by Ammu Joseph
– Women in Parliament: Beyond number (A revised edition), written by Julie Ballington and Azza Karam


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