‘Umkhokheli’ Hlobsile Congratulated in Parly – Swazi Observer

Date: April 13, 2011
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This article is about a congratulatory message passed in the House of Assembly following the engagement of a female politician to a pastor and the comments drew on gender stereotyping.

A male Minister, Patrick Mamba, congratulates his colleague, Minister of Sports, Culture and Youth Affairs Hlobsile Ndlovu on her intended marriage to a South African Pastor, Sam Fidelis. He comments that it’s laudable and that her marrying was an “achievementÀ and something that was not an easy feat in: “getting the love of your life, especially one that is a pastor.À The message received mixed reaction from other members – some felt the standing order privilege was abused. Some members of the house, however, thought the message was in order.

This report is an example of a subtle gender stereotype. While the story is presented as the report of a simple event, it carries a subtle message about a woman’s place in society. It is actually surprising that a government minister’s engagement can be a subject for discussion in parliament and in the media. This is part of larger efforts, consciously or otherwise, by media and society at large, to define a woman’s place. While Ndlovu is a minister, media do not miss the opportunity to dig into her personal life.

The author captures the diverse views and places the spotlight on parliamentarians À“ and revealing stereotypical views on women prevail. For example, the author quotes the Labour Minister’s view of the marriage as an “achievementÀ for the minister. There is however no critique of these statements. The role of media as social commentator is not present as this report merely narrates what people said.

This events-based story quotes several male parliamentarians expressing their views on the congratulatory message to Minister Ndlovu. Four male MPs, including the Speaker of the House of Assembly, comment on the Labour Minister’s congratulatory message and on Ndlovu’s engagement.

The way Mamba talks makes “being a wifeÀ is as if its Ndlovu’s supreme life achievement. This is in line with society’s stereotypical view of women’s place in society. Even for a successful woman like Ndlovu, she still needs to be a wife before her professional achievements can be acknowledged. While Mamba’s message is supposed to be positive, it carries subtle stereotypes which the writer of the article does not question.

The second source, Minister Gamedze, dismisses Mamba’s message as abuse of parliamentary privileges, stating that such discussion should be heard outside the house.

The third source, Parliamentarian Motshane Magongo, is the most stereotypical as he predicts that Ndlovu and her fiancé will split up in the not so distant future. This loaded statement, which is said to have drawn scorn from Ndlovu, seems to imply that she is not capable of sustaining a relationship. This makes readers wonder about her morals.

Ndlovu does not comment.

Visual images
The picture shows the minister holding a microphone and a bible. This subtly captures her two roles, one as a political figure and one as a pastor’s wife. This is supposed to remind the readers of her personal relationships outside her political duties. She may be a public figure but she is also a wife, is what the picture seems to be implying.

Despite MPs congratulating the Minister, their comments project a subtle stereotype in that the Minister’s role as “the pastor’s wifeÀ and the presumed quality of her relationship to the pastor is the predominant angle parliamentarians address. The author could have balanced the report by providing background information on the Minister and/or a brief input on her ministerial capacity. It could have added value to a story that highlights and exposes gender bias.  

This story appeared on page three of the news section of the Swazi Observer.

Further, the title of “UmkhokheliÀ is given to wives of reverends and pastors. In this story the minister is referred to as the “wifeÀ of a pastor. There is no regard to her own political standing.

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