Quote of the week

[Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro] possesses, however, few of his predecessor’s resources, lacking not just oil revenue but Chávez’s surplus of charisma, humour and political skill. Maduro, unable to end the crisis, has increasingly sided with the privileged classes against the masses; his security forces are regularly dispatched into barrios to repress militants under the guise of fighting crime. Having lost its majority in Congress, the government, fearing it can’t win at the polls the way Chávez did, cancelled gubernatorial elections that had been set for December last year (though they now appear to be on again). Maduro has convened an assembly to write a new constitution, supposedly with the objective of institutionalising the power of social movements, though it is unlikely to lessen the country’s polarisation.

Greg Grandin
London Review of Books
13 March 2007

Parliamentary skinner…..

It seems the individuals who work as Chief Financial Officers of Parliament just can’t stay out of trouble. Last year, then Chief Financial Officer, Harry Charlton was fired, allegedly for being too open and honest about the Travel gate scandal (but that has not been conclusively established yet).

Now, the halls of Parliament are abuzz because of a remark (apparently made yesterday at a meeting of Parliamentary staff) by the newly appointed Chief Financial Officer. Apparently, addressing Parliamentary staff, she stated towards the end of her presentation that female staff in Parliament invited sexual harrasment because of the provocative way some of them were dressed.

This is, of course, such a horrid, stereotypically sexist, thing to say that it is difficult to imagine that any reasonably intelligent person in 2007 in South Africa would say such a thing with a straight face. Let alone a person employed in such an important position in Parliament. Such talk belongs at Kappie Kommando Rallies and at Jong Dames Dinamiek Bible study groups.

Maybe she was joking? Maybe she is deeply religious and was just channeling the Pope and all the other dead or half-dead reactionary men? Maybe she is a secret supporter of Mr Jacob Zuma or Mbulelo Goniwe and was just showing some solidarity with the trusted old patriarchs?

In any case, the mind boggles. Can Parliament really afford to employ a women who spouts such hateful sexism? It is unimaginable that Parlaiment would not fire a Chief Financial Officer who suggests, say, that all black people are dishonest. This statement is the gender equivalent of such an utterance and if Parliament is serious about gender equality the new Chief Financial Officer should soon be the ex Chief Financial Officer.

Then again, don’t hold your breath. Patriarchy is far from dead in South Africa – even (or maybe especially) in the halls of Parliament.

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