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The ANC Commission on the Emancipation was established in 1992 with the following Comrades as Commissioners:

Cde Oliver Tambo   :   Head
Cde Frene  Ginwala :   Deputy Head

Cde Uriel Abrahamse
Cde Kader Asmal
Cde Jacky Cock
Cde Baleka Kgositsile
Cde Dorothy Mokgalo
Cde Bongiwe Njobe
Cde Thuthukile Radebe
Cde Wally Serote
Cde Bangumzi Sifingo
Cde Arnold Stofile

The Youth League representative : Cde Thabang Magkwetla The Women's League representative : Cde Girlie Pikoli represented the WL temporarily until December 1993 (she was never replaced).

The following are the terms of reference:

  • To promote understanding of the ANC's policy on gender amongst members of the ANC, its allies and within South African society
  • To examine mechanisms for affirmative action policies in political organisations and society in general with specific reference to applicability to the ANC
  • To monitor and promote implementation of affirmative action within the ANC structures at all levels
  • To ensure that women's experiences and perceptions inform ANC strategy and tactics and its decisions at all levels
  • To ensure that all departments, particularly the Human Resource Development Department prioritises the development and training of women in all their programmes
  • To ensure that policy departments take full cognisance of gender issues in the development of their policy recommendations
  • To promote and undertake research on gender issues


The Commission was meant to be serviced by a staff of three persons

The Executive Secretary
The Organising Secretary
The Administrative Secretary

Functioning of the Commission

Since its establishment the Emancipation Commission had  considerable difficulty in locating itself firmly within the ANC and functioning effectively for various reasons that will be given throughout this report.

The inability of the initial candidate to take up appointment as Executive Secretary, and the failure to appoint a successor early on was a serious handicap. As a result, for a long time the Commission did not have an immediate head of department and this affected its functioning. It meant that the secretariat did not have the full time leadership it required.

The Commission began functioning on the 1st of July 1992 with the appointment of Comrade Nomboniso Gasa as the Organising Secretary and later Comrade Saeeda Vally as Administrative Secretary.

Comrade Saeeda Vally left the Commission and was replaced by Comrade Jumaimah Modiakgotla who left in April 1994. Comrade Nomboniso Gasa was  appointed as the Executive Secretary in November 1993 and she left the Commission in July 1994. Since then there have been no staff in the Commission Office.

Programme of Action of the Emancipation Commission

Based on its terms of reference the Commission adopted a programme of action.

Survey on the participation of women

The Commission initiate a survey on the participation of women in the ANC. Although, the survey was never completed due to the fact that not all regions and not all departments responded. However, a majority of regions and departments responded. An analysis of the responses is available. It would be useful for the NEC to look at it at some point if we are to make any headway in the ANC particularly at a local level.

The following are the observations of the participation of Women in the ANC at the time (we do not believe that there are any significant changes)

Head Office

  1. Although many departments had a large number of  women in their staff the majority of them are office assistants and secretaries
  2. Most women are not in meaningful positions in their departments
  3. Only two women were heads of departments at the time
  4. Even in situations where the women were effectively holding and leading their departments there was a male comrade "heading" the department
  5. Even in departments that were headed by women their deputies or senior appointees were men
  6. In all the departments there was nothing done to empower women. Where there was an empowerment programmes it was a general programme, like computer skills which was provided for everybody else as a necessity in their jobs
  7. There did not seem to a department that had clearly worked out how it was to empower women and how best to integrate them into the mainstream policy and political work of the department

ANC Regions

If the picture was not satisfactory at the Head Office the regions were in a far worse situation

  1. Although some regions did try to involve women it was only at the level of having meetings with the ANC Women's League
  2. The attitude of most regions was that if women wanted to participate they must work in the League
  3. There was clearly no thinking of what it meant to be an organisation that is committed to non sexism
  4. In some regions branch executives are dominated by women and they do most of the political work in their communities but that is not reflected at regional level
  5. Again, staffing at regional offices is very much along the sexist stereotypes of job allocation ( women as receptionist or making tea)
  6. There was no commitment to staff development let alone empowerment of women
  7. A worrying observation was that there is no understanding of the term affirmative action. A direct question was asked:" what do you understand by Affirmative Action". Some of the responses were really shocking not only for their implications on gender but also for lack of understanding of ANC policy, positions and perceptions.

Once these responses were received an analysis was done and presented to commissioners in a meeting.  There was no clarity as to what should be done about it.


Following the ANC policy Conference decisions on unpaid labour, the Emancipation Commission together with the Research Department co-hosted an Unpaid Labour international Conference with MERG and CDS. `The main aim of the Conference was to set research agenda on the subject. The workshop was held in Johannesburg on April 15-17th 1993.


As part of its programme the Emancipation Commission identified the need to run educational programmes on the issues of customary law, religion and traditional practices. It considered particularly important to reach and educate activists through a series of workshops which would bring into  the open a number of the related issues on which there is a lack of understanding.

Unfortunately, this has not been implemented yet.


The Secretariat started collecting some data and an amount of literature, especially on affirmative action, sexual harassment, pro creative choice and customary law. However, much more needs to be done.


As a way of responding to the needs of the ANC staff  at Shell House a workshop was held and series of awareness raising posters were put up. The intention was educational and not confrontational. We also realised that we as the Commission could not take up cases of sexual harassment but rather we had to start an educational process that would involve both men and women.

Work still needs to be done in this area in order to ensure that there is an understanding of what is sexual harassment and to promote an environment that does not threaten or undermine women.


The Secretariat collected information on the various voter education programmes and assessed whether they were taking into account the specific needs of women. Our conclusion was that they only dealt with technical matters, for example, ballot box etc. They were not looking at the needs of women.

Where possible we had discussions with some of these agencies, for example Matla trust and CDS. We also reached a conclusion that we needed to come up with our own ANC video that would target women voter.

To this effect we Commissioned Talent Consortium. Regrettably, the video could not be utilised for voter education as it was late and was unsuitable for our needs. This matter still needs to be resolved with Talent Consortium.


Although the battle for incorporation of women in the Negotiating Teams of various parties was won, we noticed that there were gaps. Women negotiators were loaded with work as it was sometimes left to them to see to it that a Women's perspective was incorporated into the negotiations.

We established a negotiations support team which was to provide back up and where necessary forward proposals. Although this was intended to service the whole of the negotiations team it was women who ended up attending these meetings.

We worked with women who were working with agencies outside the ANC for example, Centre for Applied Legal studies Wits. We wrote submissions to the multi party negotiating forum via the ANC, for example, we made a submission on Political violence and its implications for women and a submission on Customary law and Equality.

Due to time constraints and the pace of the negotiations process we were unable to contribute as much as we would have liked.

A few lessons that have serious implications for women and the ANC were learnt in this period. The following are just a few but very serious

  1. That although we always focus on women's participation we do not always look beyond that: for example, often women that are put into structures but no provision is made to support them
  2. The ANC had various teams doing research to back up ANC negotiators, those teams did not necessarily look at the implications the various issues had on Women
  3. Most women negotiators were alternate members
  4. Sometimes due to style of negotiations and "clinching of deals" women were alienated
  5. Multi party talks are very much of a men's domain and our's were in some respects no different, there was no thinking as to how best to incorporate women and to change the style of "talks"
  6. Sometimes horse trading had to be done in order to leap forward .  The gender implications of the agreements were not always heeded,for example, the right to life clause in the Bill of Rights can have a hindering effect on women's choice. Sometimes it is easy for women's equality to be the first to be negotiated "away"

Despite some of the hiccups the Emancipation Commission has tremendous support and cooperation from the ANC negotiations team. ( Reports are "traditionally" meant to thank people but we ought to mention the wonderful work of Mavivi Manzini and Baleka Kgositsile. It is important that we as the Commission for the Emancipation of Women acknowledge other women. We acknowledge their contribution and commitment to women's equality which was demonstrated at the multi party talks).


The ANC Commission on the Emancipation of Women initiated a Conference which was held on the 18-20 February 1994. The Conference was convened to look at how the ANC was to respond to the Charter for effective Equality.

Resolutions of this conference were circulated.


The Emancipation Commission together held a training workshop for women MPs and MPLs. The aim of this workshop was to familiarise women with parliamentary process and jargon so at to ensure effective participation of women in parliament.

The second motivation for this workshop was to afford women the opportunity to talk to themselves. This workshop was a success and it was here that the idea of ANC Women's Caucus was first discussed. However, follow up work needs to be done.


It would appear that when the NWC appointed the Commission it made no financial provision for its work.

In response to request from the Secretariat, SIDA allocated funding to the Emancipation Commission. Unfortunately, we were informed that the funds have been reallocated by the Finance Department. As it is the Emancipation Commission has no funds.

If the Emancipation Commission continues the question of funding will have to be looked at.


In evaluating the work of the Commission we need to look at three main areas:

  • its work within the ANC, regions and departments;
  • its relationship with the ANC women's League;
  • and way forward.


As an attempt to link with ANC regions the Emancipation Commission held a national workshop  to discuss a working relationship and see how best we could serve regions.

The workshop was held in March 1993. What came out of the workshop was that regions are keen to work with the Commission as they felt there is no structure that services them on issues of gender.


At the beginning of its work the Commission had difficulties in establishing itself within the movement.

There was a lack of recognition of the Commission by the departments of the ANC. It took a long time for departments to appreciate the existence of the Commission as a separate entity from the ANC Women's League.

It is important that the relationship with ANC Departments is discussed particularly with the Management Committee.


It is regrettable to report that our relationship with the ANC Women's League has not been good. On our side we have written to the officials of the League and requested meetings to discuss issues of mutual concern.

There has not been a response to our overtures. We feel that the NWC has to give leadership on this matter, to clarify our respective roles.

In addition to our concern about our relationship with the League we feel that the Conference should discuss ANC structures that deal with women's emancipation.


There is a need for a discussion on structures of the ANC and the question of women's emancipation and equality. This discussion has to be broader than consideration of structures. We need to look at the responsibility for women's emancipation generally and to ensure that all structures of the movement take it seriously.

However, it is also essential that we look at the present structures, whose primary responsibility is women's emancipation and look at the ANC broadly and how the question of women's emancipation is dealt with.

It is the view of the Emancipation Commission that the ANC needs to shoulder responsibility for women's emancipation and that we need to ensure an integrated approach.

Emancipation  Commission

The Emancipation Commission meeting is convinced that the Commission should continue to exist.  This is based on previous discussions with comrade Cyril and on our assessment of the ANC and the current political juncture. It is now that the struggle for women's emancipation needs to be consolidated both in the ANC and in the country as a whole. We see the Commission as having an influence on the direction that our transition takes in terms of a non sexist society.

However, the question that we need to address is the nature of the structure as provided for by the restructuring document. Do we need a Commission or a Department? Do we need a Constitutionalised structure? We also need to redefine the Emancipation Commission, to look at its terms of reference and political brief. One other area that we also need to consider thoroughly is the location of the Emancipation Commission.


We feel that the Commission should not be located in the Policy Division (as suggested in the new ANC structure) but should be located in the SGO to ensure dynamic  interaction with all ANC structures and at all levels. In particular, we need to be in contact with the NEC via SGO.

Role of the Commission ( in the future structure)

The Commission is seen as playing a significant role in the near future as:

  • an official and independent voice of the ANC on issues of Women's Emancipation;
  • an organ for educating and training ANC leadership and membership on gender equality;
  • a tool to lobby the GNU on issues of Women's Emancipation and to strengthen the ANC in GNU on policies affecting women.

Role of Commissioners

If the Conference agrees that the Commission should continue it is crucial that we look at the role of Commissioners and ensure a tight and effective participation. To date the Commission has not really worked out a clear way of involving Commissioners in its activities.

Of importance is the consultation process with them so as to ensure that decisions are not taken by individuals on behalf of the Commission but rather ensure that there is an organic link.

The present Commissioners need to be reviewed and if necessary appoint new members. Since their appointment some Commissioners have taken on numerous other responsibilities, do they have the capacity to continue with their task in the Commission. Should we not broaden and appoint other people and ensure that we do not overload the same people?

In a sense answering these questions has serious implications on the nature and future of the Emancipation Commission.It will affect its modus operand and its nature.

Women's League

The future and role of the League is an issue that the ANC Women's League should discuss. There is a sensitivity around this issue and it is important that we respect the right of the League to initiate its own discussion on the matter. We as the Commission cannot prescribe to other structures.

However, it is important for us to initiate debate  on structures that deal with women in the ANC, to review strategies of the movement and comment on what we feel is needed. Whilst it the duty of the League to look at its future, the ANC has a responsibility to look at all of its components within the process of restructuring. In the final analysis, it is the political responsibility of the ANC to look at its components within the process of restructuring and preparing for a new political era.

The League has been the voice of women in the ANC, they have mobilised and drawn women into the ANC. In a sense the League can continue doing that.


Although the ANC has a longstanding commitment to non-sexism and women's emancipation, there is lack of a clear understanding of what this means in real terms for the organisation, its leadership, membership etc. At times it has been viewed in a manner similar to a mathematical formula: - non-sexism + non-racism =ANC.

There is not always a conscious effort to look at the implications of the positions of the movement on women. In actual fact, women have sometimes been left alone to fight for issues of equality in the organisation and at times have been seen as disruptive.

The ANC's principle of non-sexism needs to be strengthened and like non-racialism needs to be sold to the Government of National Unity.  In order to succeed in this we should look at approaches, strategies and tactics of ANC women and improve where we can.

Women in the ANC

It is important to acknowledge the role ANC women have played in the struggle against sexism in this country. While ANC women have not fought alone in this area, they have been the marshals of this struggle and have led the discussions.

However, at times our approach has not always been unproblematic particularly in the movement.

At times we have not been able to convince others of the correctness of our position, at times our approaches have been less than constructive and very confrontational, we have at times lost initiative and pro activity and as a result allowed others to determine our agenda and priorities. Needless to say, we have at times not done our homework.

The tendency has been at times to look only at issues of representation, how many women are in this or that committee and so forth. We have not always looked at women's empowerment beyond representation and we have not always developed ways of empowering women we have put into structures nor have we been able to ensure that those are accountable.

In a sense our objective appears to have been just to put individual women and leave them there. Sometimes we have not looked at why we put women where.

This is not intended to absolve the ANC of its responsibility. By saying this the intention is to ensure that we look at ourselves critically and are ultimately able to come out with a clear strategy of advancing women in the movement and in the country. Perhaps, the question we need to ask ourselves is how best can we advance the Women's Cause as ANC women?

As way of concluding, we need to say that although most of the report focuses on problems there are tremendous gains that this Commission has brought the movement particularly in terms of public opinion.

The Emancipation Commission through its interaction with other women outside ANC was able to have a positive profile and gave the ANC a positive profile in terms of women. It became the public face of the ANC in so far as Women were concerned. That is deeply appreciated by Women's organisations and the majority of South African women.

Through the work of this Commission women were able to understand ANC positions on women and sometimes felt that they able to "talk"to the ANC.