Nelson Mandela Foundation

Marking Women’s Month always leaves me wondering what we would be doing in a liberatory world that had become fundamentally pro-women. A wondering that very quickly reminds me how ubiquitous in our society is the use of neat binary categories. Women and men. More on this in a moment.

The Foundation marked Women’s Month in three more or less conventional movements. We supported the Association of Independent Publishers and Quote this Woman+ in setting up the Innovation Fund, an initiative designed to promote and empower women’s voices in media, especially community media. We encourage friends of the Foundation to give their support to this important initiative. (Please see the download at the end of this letter).

On Saturday 26 August we partnered with Afrika Tikkun in hosting a seminar on Climate Change and Food Security at the Foundation. The seminar showcased the work of a number of women who are passionate about food security, urban farming and agricultural processes and practices. Eighty young women representatives from Diepsloot, Alexandra, Orange Farm and inner-city Johannesburg attended the event, in order to gear up their advocacy plans for the upcoming annual 16 Days of Activism.

In August we also took time out to look in the mirror, with a first step being a session for our management team with Crystal Dicks, a gender justice practitioner and specialist in assisting institutions to dismantle patriarchy in all its forms and manifestations. Understanding appropriateness in relations between men and women in the workplace is a priority for us. As is finding a way to grow into a non-binary frame for thinking gender.

We are painfully aware that vectors of oppressive power, whether they be patriarchy, or white supremacy, or hyper-extractive capitalism, are rooted in what bell hooks calls Western dualism. It could be argued that this dualism, now dominant globally for the best part of the last five centuries, determines the degree of coloniality of societies – like South Africa – which like to think of themselves as postcolonial.

These were the lines of enquiry I was mulling over as I tried to make sense of the devastating taxi strike in Cape Town in August. The binary public-private unravels quickly in any analysis of the taxi industry. Here are private interests running what is effectively a public transport system but is opposed to any form of public regulation. Indeed, these interests are radically anti-formalisation and have the capacity, with or without violence, to close down a city if their interests are being threatened. And those who matter most in terms of public policy, our commuters, are turned into pawns in a brutal game.

My sense is that we need to do differently, and we need to find a different language for that way of doing.

During Women’s month I heard any number of times the refrain Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’Imbokotho. I long for a different sensibility and formulation – if you strike a woman you hurt her; if you strike a person, you hurt them. Stop striking!