African National Congress Women's League

The African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) is an auxiliary women's political organization of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa.[1] This organization has its precedent in the Bantu Women's League, and it oscillated from being the Women's Section to the Women's League from its founding, through the exile years, and in a post-apartheid South Africa.[2][3] After women were allowed to become members of the ANC in 1943, the ANCWL was created as the means by which Black South African women could contribute to the national liberation struggle by channeling Black women's political activity into the ANC by way of the ANCWL.[4] From its founding until the present the organization's structure, internal debates, and activity have been influenced by critical events in the national liberation struggle and by the ultimate authority of the ANC.[5] Although the ANCWL was established as a way to incorporate women and their issues into the ANC, there are conflicting accounts over the extent to which women and their issues were represented by this organization, the degree to which organizational autonomy was desired, and the organization's relationship with feminist politics.[6][7] After the ANC was allowed to return to South Africa in 1990, the ANCWL returned to being a formal organization within the ANC.[8] The current president of the ANCWL is Bathabile Dlamini.

African National Congress
Women's League
PresidentBathabile Dlamini
Secretary-GeneralMeokgo Matuba
Founded1948 (1948)
HeadquartersLuthuli House
54 Sauer Street
Johannesburg
Website
womensleague.anc.org.za

HistoryEdit

Bantu Women's LeagueEdit

 
Viola Hashe, blind trade union leader, speaking at a 1952 rally during the "Defiance Campaign". Photo taken in Fordsburg, Johannesburg; poster designed for African National Congress South Africa in Lusaka, to commemorate 1984 as "Year of the Women"

The Bantu Women's League (BWL) was founded in 1913 by Dr. Charlotte Manye Maxeke as a part of the ANC but without full membership rights.[9] It was founded to give organization to women's issues and to channel women's politics into the ANC's nationalist struggle.[10] The organization operated on the ANC's patriarchal nationalist conception of women's political interests as solely issues that inhibited women in their roles as wives and mothers.[11] A central issue that led to its formation were the attempts by the Orange Free State province to require Black women to carry passes.[12] Passes were documents that were used as a means by which local state authorities and white capitalists could regulate the movement of Black South Africans, most of whom were migrant workers.[13] The pass was seen as a symbol of racist oppression and the Bantu Women's League was built to channel women's militancy in order to protest the passes.[14] Black men had already been required to carry passes. Whites did not have to carry passes.[15]

In 1912, the BWL obtained 5000 Black and Colored women's signatures.[16] The petition was sent to Prime Minister Louis Bothaasking, requesting the repeal of the pass laws. The women received no response. In response and led by Maxeke, the members burned their passes in front of municipal offices while chanting, protest and even fighting with police. Many members were arrested in Jagersfontein, Winburg and Bloemfontein. This militant action by the women resulted in the exclusion of women from the pass laws until 1956 when the South African government attempted to subject women to pass laws again.[17] The mass mobilization of the women caught the ANC by surprise; this high level of political activity continued throughout the interwar period, prompting the ANC to reconsider the role of women in the nationalist struggle.[18] The women made up a powerful political constituency, and the ANC was building a mass base to achieve its goal of national liberation.[19]

Pre-1960 ANCWLEdit

The interwar period was marked by an increase in Black women's mobilization against apartheid. The increase in secondary industry and the reduction of the reserve economy prompted the mass urbanization of women into townships, creating the conditions for a massive wave of resistance in the 1940's amd 1950's.[20] In 1943, the ANC decided to allow women to join the organization as full members. In 1948, the ANC created the Women's League, the organization that was to be the home for women members of the ANC and the mechanism through which their politics and participation would be directed.[21] Madie Hall-Xuma became the first president of the auxiliary organization, and the organization was allowed to govern itself within the boundaries set by the ANC.[22]

Almost immediately following the creation of the ANCWL there began debates within the organization about whether the ANCWL should be a more autonomous or decentralized organization for advancing women's politics and position within the nationalist movement and in the future post-apartheid state.[23] In 1945, the Executive Committee of the ANCWL passed a resolution to allow itself to establish branches wherever the ANC already had a presence, indicating a step towards building up a political organization for women in the ANC.[24] This was rejected by the ANC on the grounds that it would be promoting a parallel feminist organization that could foster divisions within the nationalist movement.[25] The tension between feminism and the nationalist movement was a constant struggle that ultimately resulted in a cyclical pattern of "double militancy" for women in the ANC; women had to struggle against the patriarchal notions of women's roles in the ANC's nationalism, struggle for a political space for women, and struggle against critiques or attacks from their mostly male comrades when they tried to seek autonomy for the ANCWL.[26] Despite this, women's own political strength would push against assumed gender roles within the ANC.

The ANC had asked it to help in organizing the 1955 Congress of the people, where the Freedom Charter was adopted. Then secretary-general of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, remarked that the "Women's League is not just an auxiliary to the ANC and we know that we cannot win liberation or build a strong movement without the participation of women."[27] This remark was made coming off of the heels of the ANCWL's large involvement in the Defiance Campaign, which saw women members taking important roles and leading massive actions.[28] Women saw the leverage this gave them and took the opportunity to demand that their demands be incorporated into the charter. On August 9, 1956, league members representing the Federation of South African Women, confronted Prime Minister J. G. Strydom with a petition against pass laws.[29]

The experience of the Defiance Campaign also led to the ANCWL's role in creating the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), a parallel organization that the ANC could bring into the national liberation struggle through the ANCWL's key membership and leadership in the federation.[30]

Post-1960 ANCWLEdit

On March 22, 1960, in the township of Sharpeville, South African police forces open fired on a demonstration of Black South Africans against the pass laws. 69 people were killed by the police, and riots spread across South Africa in response to the massacre at Sharpeville. The National Party government declared a state of emergency and moved to ban the ANC and the Pan African Congress, among others. While the organization was banned, some members created organizations such as the Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW), Natal Organisation of Women (NOW) and United Women's Congress (UWCO) in the Western Cape.[31] Many ANC members went into exile and the ANCWL was disbanded, but it turned into an informal "Women's Section" with multiple branches across different exile states.[32] The formal roles of the women in the Women's Section was to act as "social workers" for the members in exile. However, women in exile also took on roles of diplomats, like in the case of Florence Mophosho, or they were able to rethink their politics and incorporate a feminist politics into their nationalist struggle through encounters with feminists in other countries, like the feminists of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola.[33] This was an important period for ANC women in exile because when they were allowed to return in 1990, they would bring the lessons from these political exchanges into advocating for advancing the status of women in a post-apartheid South Africa and its new constitution.[34]

ContemporaryEdit

ControversyEdit

The ANCWL in the North West has suspended three of its members. The League’s Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) placed three of its executive members on leave on January 21st, 2022 due to fraud accusations.[35]The accusation being that the three individuals were plotting to illegally take money from the party.[35]

The issue allegedly lies with provincial secretary Briget Tlhomelang, who at the time was not the secretary but still accessed the ANC’s bank accounts.[35] The suspended chairperson, Fetsang Molosiwa, claimed only the party’s executive committee could suspend the three and not the PEC.[35] An investigation is currently underway.[35]

In 2022, President Bathabile Dlamini was convicted on perjury charges. Dlamini faces a fine of R200,000 or four years in prison. Johannesburg Magistrate's Court has imposed a R200 000 fine or a four-year prison sentence, with half of either of the two suspended, for ANC Women's League president Bathabile Dlamini.[36]

Notable PersonsEdit

In 1956, Lilian Ngoyi became the first elected female member of the ANC National Executive Committee.[37]

Another notable figure of the ANCWL was Florence Mophosho. Prior to the South African government’s banning of the ANC, Mophosho was an active and prominent member of the ANCWL’s branch in Alexandra— a stronghold of the ANC.[38] After Mophosho and her comrades were forced to leave South Africa she dedicated much of her work in exile to being a diplomat for the ANC.

In this role she took on promoting the ANC to the international community to secure diplomatic recognition, moral, and material support for the ANC.[39] She became an example of the women who, through exile, were able to deepen their politics and build links with women's struggles around the world. Mophosho attempted to link the ANC’s struggle against apartheid to the broader anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements around the world through her participation as an ANC representative in international women’s forums or organizations like the Women's International Democratic Federation.[40] Mophosho passed away in 1985, years before the end of apartheid.[41]

Among the activists and politicians who were allied with the ANC during the apartheid decades are:

Many of these women were members of the ANCWL or worked with them in organizations like FEDSAW to advance the national liberation struggle.

CriticismEdit

South African artist Ayanda Mabulu once created a painting called The Pornography Power, portraying then-president Jacob Zuma receiving oral sex by an African American women in a circus tent. "Of  late, the organisation has failed time and time again to check misogyny within the ANC and has made shallow attempts at best to check misogyny outside of it."

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Brown, Julian (2 July 2016). "Diversity without Unity: Fragments of the History of the ANC". South African Historical Journal. 68 (3): 464–478. doi:10.1080/02582473.2016.1224269. ISSN 0258-2473.
  2. ^ Ginwala, Frene (1990). "Women and the African National Congress 1912-1943". Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity (8): 77–93. doi:10.2307/4065639. ISSN 1013-0950.
  3. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  4. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  5. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  6. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  7. ^ Brown, Julian (2 July 2016). "Diversity without Unity: Fragments of the History of the ANC". South African Historical Journal. 68 (3): 464–478. doi:10.1080/02582473.2016.1224269. ISSN 0258-2473.
  8. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  9. ^ Ginwala, Frene (1990). "Women and the African National Congress 1912-1943". Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity (8): 77–93. doi:10.2307/4065639. ISSN 1013-0950.
  10. ^ Ginwala, Frene (1990). "Women and the African National Congress 1912-1943". Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity (8): 77–93. doi:10.2307/4065639. ISSN 1013-0950.
  11. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  12. ^ "The 1913 Women's anti-pass campaign in the Orange Free State | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  13. ^ "The 1913 Women's anti-pass campaign in the Orange Free State | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  14. ^ Ginwala, Frene (1990). "Women and the African National Congress 1912-1943". Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity (8): 77–93. doi:10.2307/4065639. ISSN 1013-0950.
  15. ^ "The 1913 Women's anti-pass campaign in the Orange Free State | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  16. ^ "The 1913 Women's anti-pass campaign in the Orange Free State | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  17. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  18. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  19. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  20. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  21. ^ "History of Women's Struggle in South Africa | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  22. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  23. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  24. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  25. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  26. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  27. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  28. ^ "History of Women's Struggle in South Africa | South African History Online". www.sahistory.org.za. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  29. ^ "History of Women's Struggle in South Africa". South African History Online. Retrieved 11 May 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  31. ^ sahoboss (31 March 2011). "ANC Women's League (ANCWL)". South African History Online. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  32. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  33. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  34. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  35. ^ a b c d e Mahlati, Zintle. "Tit-for-tat over suspension of ANC Women's League North West leaders amid fraud allegations". News24. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  36. ^ Chabalala, Jeanette. "ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini gets 4 years in jail or R200 000 fine, partly suspended". News24. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  37. ^ Hassim, Shireen (2006). Women's organizations and democracy in South Africa : contesting authority. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press. ISBN 0-299-21383-8. OCLC 229432968.
  38. ^ Sandwell, Rachel (2018). "The Travels of Florence Mophosho: The African National Congress and Left Internationalism, 1948–1985". Journal of Women's History. 30 (4): 84–108. doi:10.1353/jowh.2018.0043. ISSN 1527-2036.
  39. ^ Sandwell, Rachel (2018). "The Travels of Florence Mophosho: The African National Congress and Left Internationalism, 1948–1985". Journal of Women's History. 30 (4): 84–108. doi:10.1353/jowh.2018.0043. ISSN 1527-2036.
  40. ^ Sandwell, Rachel (2018). "The Travels of Florence Mophosho: The African National Congress and Left Internationalism, 1948–1985". Journal of Women's History. 30 (4): 84–108. doi:10.1353/jowh.2018.0043. ISSN 1527-2036.
  41. ^ Sandwell, Rachel (2018). "The Travels of Florence Mophosho: The African National Congress and Left Internationalism, 1948–1985". Journal of Women's History. 30 (4): 84–108. doi:10.1353/jowh.2018.0043. ISSN 1527-2036.
  42. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  43. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  44. ^ Ginwala, Frene (1990). "Women and the African National Congress 1912-1943". Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity (8): 77–93. doi:10.2307/4065639. ISSN 1013-0950.
  45. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  46. ^ Sandwell, Rachel (2018). "The Travels of Florence Mophosho: The African National Congress and Left Internationalism, 1948–1985". Journal of Women's History. 30 (4): 84–108. doi:10.1353/jowh.2018.0043. ISSN 1527-2036.
  47. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  48. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  49. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  50. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.
  51. ^ Lundin, Emma Elinor (4 March 2019). "'Now Is the Time!' The Importance of International Spaces for Women's Activism within the ANC, 1960–1976". Journal of Southern African Studies. 45 (2): 323–340. doi:10.1080/03057070.2019.1605738. ISSN 0305-7070.

External linksEdit