By Thabi Myeni
The contestation for the presidential seat has flared up multiple conversations about economic inequalities, black gender disparities and white rule in South Africa ahead of the ANC elective conference in December. The main contenders in the run-up to the conference are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a business magnate whose most famous contribution to the public office is spearheading the Marikana massacre, and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, an activist, a guerrilla, the first woman to chair the African Union Commission but most notably, a Black woman.
Like everyone else, I believe that the best person should be elected president regardless of gender – but only in a world where everyone has fair opportunities, where discrimination, imperialism and white supremacy hadn’t arrived on ships in 1652. However, that’s not the reality that we live in and because of the huge influence of colonisation and white supremacy in this country, the fact that Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) (who has been running a pro-black campaign) is a black woman, is a perfectly legitimate reason to vote for her.
This is an opportunity for decolonisation projects to increase their efforts and begin to create a fair and just society. By challenging the status quo, with a pro-black, black woman in the presidential seat, not only do we dismantle whiteness (Dr NDZ has openly spoken against the white establishment and promises to spearhead economic transformation) but we radically shift from elements that it produced in the black block, like patriarchy, sexism and anti-intersectional culture.
Dr NDZ’s campaign has been engulfed with gross sexism, anti-blackness and racism, largely because of her black womanhood. The way her campaign was received has been a reflection of our colonised patriarchal society’s attitudes about sex, power and the place of elite black women in politics. Black men have occupied the presidential seat for a long time without making remarkable contributions to the dismantling of black oppressive systems. Why would the white establishment risk it all with a black woman? Especially one that is notorious for having a pro-black agenda?
Black women like Dr NDZ, who have played a very big role in resistance movements, fought alongside men and proved themselves capable as enforcers, organisers and leaders; are exactly what we need in the presidential office going forward in the quest for total black liberation. The fact that the mainstream media are dedicating so many resources to undermine her campaign, proves how the idea of a black woman like her, taking over political reigns is powerfully threatening to whiteness. Which is exactly why it’s so important that she does.
Black women fight battles on several fronts in South Africa, including, sexual policing, patriarchal institutions, little or no access to the economy, the fight to get decent healthcare and opportunities for professional advancement without falling victim to exploitation, etc. The pretence that all is fair and well actually perpetuates violence and injustices on black women, black-trans and non-binary individuals. So why must we not trust that a pro-black, black woman can bring about meaningful systemic change when she shares these lived experiences?
Society would no longer immediately discredit the ability of black women to transcend beyond stereotypical gender roles. It’s true that more and more black women have ascended to public offices post-democracy but the affirmation of black women identities in political and intellectual spaces must not be limited to the confines of male dominance anymore if we’re truly going to achieve emancipation from white rule. In a country plagued by colonial social constructs, specifically racial and gender discrimination, it’s extremely important for all black people, to see a black woman in the most important leadership role in the country.
The implication of a black woman president with a black first agenda is important for symbolic reasons as well. Symbols of empowerment are the framework for how we build our own potential. Black women wielding power cannot be an enigma for future black generations, symbols of black power must be visible to them in variety and diversity, from Thomas Sankara, to Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.
We need to take advantage of any opportunity that will dismantle the influence of whiteness on black society and how black women and other marginalized folks within the black block are perceived while simultaneously introducing a black first systemic reform.