What began as a protest to remove the minister of education due to lack of performance and delivery has turned vile and completely out of order. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has been under fire for several months with issues ranging from the textbook issues in Limpopo, lack of teachers and resources, and teachers’ salary increases. Her failure to deliver on the issues is rightfully a cause for concern for scholars, teachers and pupils. Her performance thus is bad and the call to have her removed a decision that the department must make. Then again ‘undressing’ her in public is another issue of sexist, violating and demeaning behaviour to many women like Motshekga.
Whilst we can freely protest as citizens for what we feel is rightfully being denied to us, we also need to be wary of what messages we send when we regress in the manner the trade union has. The call for peaceful demonstrations has been heard over the last weeks and the people marching, striking teachers and protests students were well in order for it is their right to call for change. Though once it became personal, shifting her performance to attribution of undergarments the paradigm changed drastically. The service delivery and salary increase protest turned into violation of rights and dignity. Male and female protests held the supposed underwear in the streets, a day after she had been depicted as a donkey in the same paper, the Star. I read the story with shock and not understanding the relevance of showing this under wear.
I do not understand what relevance this has to delivering services. I know that it threatening, demeaning, disrespectful and degrading women’s bodies that this clothing item is shown in public. None of the failing male ministers have had their under pants shown in public in protest to their inefficiency. Why does it seem so normal to do this to women? In a South Africa on its knees calling for end to violence on women’s bodies, this is a blow to women and girls who are represented in this manner as just a panty.
Motshekga is not only a woman- she is a mother, a sister, an aunt and grandmother to someone. Her rights have been violated and those in protesting in this disgraceful manner are brought to book. What happens to her freedom and all our freedoms as women when the work we undertake is attributed to underwear? We are just a few hours from freedom day celebration in South Africa, and yet South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) chooses to declare oppression of this kind to women. It is shamefully disgusting that what I had actually thought was a civil and principled protest as come to end on personal attacks of women. The fact that trade unions played as great role in the struggle from the oppressors are the ones using the same tactic to undermine women in every way is disgraceful.
I am saddened by this development and wary that we are fighting a different struggle as women were when we fail we are reduced to a piece of underwear and depicted as useless. By virtue of showing this underwear it shows the struggle women still have in the work place to tackle discrimination and bias. It is evident that the sexist and rape culture in this country reigns in areas unimagined. Attributing to having taken the Minister’s underwear implies anyone could have done it without her consent and implying she is being punished for being bad and not delivering by rape. Why else would one display one’s underwear, other than it being a token for having done harm to someone?! This is sheer lack of better judgement on the people protesting and teachers we rely on to teach our children. They have failed. Whilst we hoped that we would progress to getting out teachers being the ones to teach the leaders of tomorrow. It is really concerning and I feel that the teachers as much as they have as good intentions have revealed a bad side that any parent must be wary of as to what they teach children in these schools. Perhaps some of the teachers are not deserving of the salaries they demand after all with this kind of outright violation of rights and human dignity. There is no smoke without a fire…