When President Jacob Zuma dished a little joke to female journalists in Nkandla on Saturday, little did he know that his loosely made comments would raise thick dust all over the country.
Buzzsouthafrica gathered that shortly after checking his name on the registration list last Saturday, President Zuma said that modern women were too quick to say they were being harassed when men were innocently complimenting them.
Zuma who was in a jovial mood spoke to the female journalists in Zulu saying, “It’s a pity we live in a white man’s world; you can’t even say ‘Gqezu, Gqezu ntomazane! Nongenazo izinkomo uyayidla inyama.”
His comment is a Zulu saying meaning that even if you don’t have enough money to pay lobola, you can still get married.
Zuma said if men could compliment women the way they did in the past, his bodyguards would compliment the journalists. “But when men compliment you innocently, you say it’s harassment. You’ll miss out on good men and marriage,” said Zuma, laughing.
His comments provoked the fury of the female spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Alliance, Phumzile van Damme, who said they were “outrageously sexist and an insult to every single woman in our country”.
Damme said Zuma’s comments will be reported to the South African Human Rights Commission and that the DA will write to Jacob Zuma, demanding for an apology.
She also said the ANC Women’s League President, Bathabile Dlamini, would be urged to tender a request seeking an apology from Zuma.
It is not enough to issue remarks to the media, it is incumbent on Dlamini to show her commitment to women across the country and demand an apology from the president.
Damme, described Zuma’s comments as “outrageously sexist and an insult to every single woman in our country, especially those who are survivors of violence and sexual abuse”.
It’s precisely this patriarchal attitude that allows for women to remain the subjects of high levels of violence and sexual abuse throughout our country.
On the other hand, Sonke Gender Justice spokesperson Nonhlanhla Skosana said on Sunday that “the president is really undermining the laws of this country that seek to protect the citizens of this country and deal with sexual violence against women and children.”
The ANCWL also expressed dismay at Zuma’s comments. The body reacted via its spokesperson Toko Xasa. Xasa told News24 that “this is not being too sensitive… women have been subjected to lots of harassment which has made them feel uncomfortable, but that was quoted under the pretext of culture”
Xasa further reiterated that men need to realise they can no longer play any form of sexual hanky-panky with modern women and opined that “In a modern age men need to change whether they like it or not.”
“Women must continue, if things make them uncomfortable, to report them, and make it serious to be harassed,” Xasa concluded.