Does South Africa “need” a woman president?

What? Isn’t this anti-revolutionary, anti-feminist and anachronistic question in an era where there is a big hoopla in both South-Africa and America about a woman taking the reigns of their countries?

As we speak, Hillary Clinton is hailed as the next choice for the USA and here at home, the hot topic is the ANC Women’s League’s push for a woman president in the next elections. Liberia and Malawi have done it, so surely our country can’t be seen to be lagging behind.

Thus the next big thing is that we are ready for a woman president, and the time to achieve this historic feat is now!

I think what our country needs is not a woman president. What it needs, is a great president regardless of their gender. And by great president I mean someone who is inspirational, transformative, competent and ready to make unpopular decisions to restore our country and build a formidable socio-political and economic legacy for the next generation.

Great leadership knows no gender. Popular culture will have us believe that only men have the inherent physical, mental and tactical prowess requisite to lead a nation. On the other hand, a woman leader is believed will infuse a more humane, ethical and nurturing policy direction to our leadership practices that are currently dominated by brutally aggressive, immoral and power hungry politics.

Thus whereas the time to give women space to lead is long over-due, we also don’t want to push the envelope for the sake of the symbolism. This is not the time to deploy political stooges and clowns of either gender over the destiny of our country.

It is not a woman president that we need. We need transformational leadership and we need it desperately. I believe we have it in abundance from both men and women. Unfortunately, this is not that obvious because our electoral system favours the political and economic elites. Access to leadership in both politics and our economy is fiercely guarded by these strong gate-keepers whose vested interests compels them to dictate and sift out those who are perceived to pose a threat to their grip on power.

However, if we were to put the needs of our country ahead of those of our egos, pockets and stomachs we would be spoilt for choice in identifying suitable leaders. And in finding them, we would not have to worry about which gender’s turn it is at the throne.

A transformational leader will as part of their core style,ensure that the playing field is leveled and that the broken chairs and ladders that prevent women from accessing the golden seats of industry and political power are fixed.

As a woman, I understand the symbolic power that a woman president would bring. However it is obvious at this time that a woman president elect would be propelled primarily by their current political standing in the corridors of power. It then begs us to wonder if their leadership would translate into substantive changes for the country and women at all levels or if it will be just smokes and mirrors.

If we have the kind of a woman who is ready to shake the status quo, then lets do it. But stooges and clowns of either gender belong to the circus, not at the helm of a nation.


Pearl Pebetse


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