Deputy President, Cde. David Mabuza, at the 150th Anniversary of Cde.
Charlotte Mannya Maxeke Assembly, Limpopo Province
7 April 2021
Theme: “Organising Campaigns and Mass Mobilisation”
Programme Coordinator, Cde Nomvula Mokonyane,
ANC Provincial Secretary, Cde Soviet Lekganyane,
Comrades and Compatriots
Greetings to you all on this important occasion to mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, a freedom fighter and stalwart of the ANC.
Deservedly and rightfully so, Charlotte Maxeke is the seed and mother of our freedom in South Africa and the first African woman in our country to obtain a science degree.
Today, we remember her pioneering actions, her fearless campaign for women and her fight against unjust pass laws in the early 20th century. We also remember her courageous mobilisation of women working as domestic and farmworkers, to fight for better working and living conditions.
Among the most important organisation of her creation, was the Bantu Women’s League, a forerunner to the ANC Women’s League, whose aims were the protection of African Women’s rights. As its president, the League succeeded in many petitions drawn up to defend the black women’s rights.
The most important of these petitions, was one against the system of apartheid that required black women to carry passes including fighting against medical inspection of black women before entering domestic service. This practice subjected women to much abuse and humiliation.
To understand the life of Charlotte Maxeke, we ought to look at her generation and the struggles they confronted, more especially at the time of land dispossession.
The Cape Argus once described her as someone who “lived in close touch with her own people, many of whom she has been able to help”. For example, when a mother of a young family was sentenced to imprisonment, it was Charlotte Maxeke who saw that the little ones were cared for during their mother’s absence.
She was one of the few women whose voice was heard among men in the chief’s court, and one who had influence in council of Inkosi Dalindyebo of the AbaThembu.
Charlotte Maxeke and her generation of women freedom fighters, set the tone for gender equality and empowerment. It is due to their selfless acts of struggle that today South African women have taken their rightful place in society.
Since 1994, our country under the able leadership of the ANC, has ensured that women empowerment and gender equality is not just words, but is something inscribed in policy and law. Significant progress has since been made in the area of education, business, employment, property, inheritance and justice.
Even as we have made these strides, the agenda for the promotion of gender equality and women empowerment is not over, and it remains central to combating poverty and stimulating sustainable development.
Gender equality is one of the fundamental principles enshrined in our country’s Constitution. It is not just a nice to have, but an imperative towards the realisation of true ideals of freedom and equality.
It thus cannot be, that we have not moved with required speed in implementing the 50-50 gender parity in government and private sector, which as the ANC we adopted and committed to. For instance, a 2019 report by Statistics South Africa, indicates that in the country’s 257 municipalities with sitting mayors, of these, 90 or 35% were female whilst 164 or 65% were male.
Similarly in the private sector, the picture is not taking us closer to this strategic objective. For instance, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa census on women in leadership in the same period, paints a grim picture where 22% of board directors are women, but only 7% are executive directors and only 10% of South African CEOs are women. This has to be corrected and changed urgently!
Charlotte Maxeke understood plainly, as far back as a hundred years ago, that investing in women in small and large economic enterprises, was and is, to secure the economic fortune and future of the family and society. We emphasise economic emancipation, for it is synonymous with gender equality and women’s representation.
Comrades and Compatriots
As the ANC Celebrates 150 Years of Charlotte Maxeke, it is befitting to draw inspiration on what can be learned from this freedom fighter and stalwart of our struggle. This anniversary coincides with many challenges facing our nation at economic and political level. Notwithstanding such challenges, the task and responsibility before us is clear.
We are called upon, in various components of the Alliance to organise, mobilise society, and to listen to the urgent plight of the people with the sole intention of providing lasting solutions to their circumstances.
The life of Charlotte Maxeke shows us what a great unifier with impeccable and remarkable character she was. This made her near and dear to the high and the low; to the uneducated and educated.
Through her life, we learn of the importance of ensuring that our political actions and judgement, must be intimately grounded on lived experiences and aspirations of the people.
Our organisation, the ANC has always been about the attainment of the National Democratic Revolution, whose strategic objective is to attain a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
Therefore, the task we are confronted with, is of building unity of purpose around that core historic vision of our Movement not only within our own ranks, but across the nation.
The people of South Africa must see their hopes and aspirations finding expression in what we do, in how we behave and conduct ourselves, more especially those of us in every aspect of leadership.
The unity of the ANC is paramount in ensuring that our country achieves its noble goals of building a prosperous society as enshrined in the Constitution. In this regard, comrades must stand firm against corruption, factionalism, dishonesty, and any and all other negative practices that threaten the objectives and unity of the ANC.
These tendencies and practices if left unresolved, will undermine and damage our mission to serve the people and to put to use the country’s resources for the development and transformation of society.
More significantly, the ANC cannot afford to be perceived as lacking in integrity or moral authority to lead our country to a prosperous future that guarantees a better life for all.
The ANC has always enjoyed the people’s trust and confidence. We have always risen to the occasion even in the face of difficulties. We have done so by placing our people, their interests, and their aspirations at the centre of our programmes. At this moment, that is what should pre-occupy us, and this is what should define our daily conduct.
In engaging in our political programme of transformation of society, we cannot afford to be indifferent to the plight of the majority of our country who remain poor and are on the margins of mainstream economy.
Drawing from the selfless life of Charlotte Maxeke, our current generation must seize the task and arrest these practices. ANC cadres have a responsibility to be the custodians of high moral virtues in society, be it in ANC structures or when executing government policy.
We must be resolute in our pursuit for socio-economic transformation so that the ideals of freedom and democracy that Charlotte Maxeke struggled for and hoped to achieve, are enjoyed by all.
Our task is to ensure that the ANC does not lose credibility in the eyes and minds of the people. Our actions must not lead to hopelessness in society thereby leading to loss of state power, which is important in achieving socio-economic transformation.
As we learn from the life of Charlotte Maxeke, the ANC must be seen with the masses, ensuring that the state and all its organs effectively and efficiently perform their functions with integrity and fairness. For that is a revolutionary act expected of a national liberation movement.
It is our revolutionary duty to confront those tendencies and practices within the ANC and in society, which are the antithesis of what Charlotte Maxeke and her generation of freedom fighters stood for and fought against.
In the same vein, we cannot speak of freedom and democracy, when women and girls in our country have their rights to life, dignity and security being violated.
We are mindful that women have been the worst affected and impacted by this pandemic. In fact, the coronavirus has not only worsened the existing gender inequalities, but also, it has widened economic disparities and opportunities. Therefore, our combined efforts and programmes towards Covid-19 recovery and reconstruction, must prioritise women as care-givers and care-workers.
As the governing party, we remain committed to women empowerment, which is why measures to support and invest in women enterprises is being prioritised. In that way, women would be adequately capacitated to support their households and uplift their families as well as communities at large.
Our land reform programme will also ensure that women, youth and people with disabilities including our veterans, are prioritised through the land allocation policy.
Comrades and Compatriots
As a leader in the battle of ideas and the vanguard for freedom and democracy, the ANC remains steadfast in working to remove barriers to justice for survivors and victims of gender-based violence and femicide.
To this end, some of the structural barriers needing attention are:
Ensuring that the criminal justice system does not inflict secondary trauma on GBV victims when they report cases of abuse,
Ensuring law enforcement authorities such as police officers, treat seriously and with respect reported complaints of gender-based violence,
Work to remove the stigma and discrimination associated with sexual violence which contributes to underreporting of gender-based violence incidents,
Challenge and denounce cultural practices that perpetuate gender inequalities, and
Organise targeted community outreach and dialogues on solutions towards a gender equal society.
Doing so, will be a befitting memory to the selfless contribution of Charlotte Maxeke, to the freedom and democracy we enjoy today. Her name, legitimately deserves honour since her light and spark continues to inspire and illuminate South Africa in 2021 and beyond.
In the words of her teacher at Wilberforce University, W.E.B Du Bois, Charlotte Maxeke not only had a “clear mind and the straightforward honesty of character”, she also embodied qualities “to lead a people, in the face of prejudice, not only against her race, but against her sex”.
As the ANC, in this year of Charlotte Maxeke, we must draw lessons from her selfless life and in her honour, organise campaigns and mobilise society to work for unity, renewal and reconstruction.
Let us remember that no challenge can be big enough for the ANC not to resolve when we are united for the good of the people and society. Our success towards building a united and prosperous South Africa, is possible only when we are united, and we put the interests of the people first above all else.
The ANC lives! The ANC leads!