The Women’s Day holiday brought politicians out to address issues that affect women and children in South Africa. The General Secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Zwelinzima Vavi, took the opportunity to talk about the outcome of his disciplinary hearing and the censure he received thereafter. He gave a speech at a gathering of the South African Democratic Teachers Union in East London, Eastern Cape.
Vavi was caught with his pants down when a junior staff member accused him of rape. The woman later withdrew the allegations during the disciplinary hearing. Vavi denied rape but admitted to having consensual sexual congress with the woman.
Corruption Watch issued a statement expressing severe disapproval of Vavi’s conduct. Vavi is on the board of Corruption Watch and they are disappointed by the actions of one of their members. Corruption Watch acknowledged that a sexual relationship between staff members “is almost inevitably infected by the relationship of power that exists between them”. Vavi has a responsibility to avoid a sexual relationship with junior employees of the organization. He said: “I have accepted that censure, humiliating as that may be. I am not above the discipline of our organisations.” Zwelinzima Vavi is still on the board of Corruption Watch.
Vavi is an advocate for the rights of women and children. “They bear the brunt of the crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality, in a society in which white males still dominate the economy and women form the majority of those without jobs and living on the breadline.” He also referred to the national rape crisis. He recalled the incident where a baby girl and 7 year-old boy were raped by a man who lived with the family in Ceres, Western Cape.
The leader of the Freedom Front Plus, Pieter Mulder, celebrated Women’s Day in Henneman, Free State. He appreciated the hosting of “festivals and gatherings” but called for vigorous action to ensure the safety of women and children. Mulder added: “In this regard, the government of South Africa is failing women from all communities.”
Speaking for the Inkatha Freedom Party, Mangosuthu Buthelezi remembered the women’s protest in 1956. He urged: “As South Africa’s women took a stand against injustice as they did in 1956, let us all rise and stand united.” On behalf of the Economic Freedom Fighters, National Spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi blamed gender-based violence on “colonialism and apartheid”. Ndlozi explained: “In order for the revolution to triumph, it must liquidate the totality of the exploitative and oppressive system, it must liberate all the exploited and oppressed people, and thus it must liquidate women’s exploitation and oppression.”
It remains to be seen whether the efforts and campaigns of this year’s Women’s Month will translate into the development of women and bring about a decrease in the number of vicious crimes committed against women and children.